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Newsline - March 31, 1998




DUMA WANTS YELTSIN TO SUSPEND NOMINATION OF KIRIENKO

The State Duma Council has scheduled a 1 April vote on a resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin to suspend his nomination of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 31 March. All Duma factions, except for Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, support the resolution, which also asks Yeltsin to convene roundtable talks to discuss cabinet appointments with representatives of the Duma and Federation Council. Reuters quoted Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov as saying Yeltsin could "ease tensions and improve Kirienko's chances to be approved" if the president heeds the Duma's appeal. Ryzhkov belongs to the Our Home Is Russia faction. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that if Yeltsin does not respond to the resolution, the Duma may postpone its consideration of Kirienko's candidacy, which has tentatively been scheduled for 3 April. LB

YELTSIN TO RETAIN FOREIGN, FINANCE MINISTERS

Yeltsin has confirmed that he intends to keep Yevgenii Primakov and Mikhail Zadornov as foreign minister and finance minister in the new government, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 31 March. Like most cabinet members, Primakov and Zadornov became "acting ministers" following Yeltsin's 23 March dismissal of the entire government. Primakov has headed the Foreign Ministry since January 1996, and Zadornov became finance minister last November. Yeltsin has also suggested that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will not be replaced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin cannot formally appoint the new cabinet ministers until the Duma has confirmed a new premier. LB

SHOKHIN SAYS COMMUNISTS MULLING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS

Aleksandr Shokhin, the head of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, said on 30 March that the Communist faction may launch impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin in the Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. There would be no hope of removing Yeltsin from office, since the constitution outlines an arduous impeachment procedure. But by beginning proceedings, deputies could temporarily shield the Duma from dissolution. Article 111 of the constitution grants the president the right to disband the Duma if the lower house rejects his nominee for prime minister three times, but Article 109 states that the Duma may not be dissolved once it has begun the process of seeking to remove the president from office. According to Article 93, the Federation Council would have to consider the Duma's impeachment motion within three months. LB

LEGAL UNCLARITY OVER SUCCESSION PROCEDURE

Kirienko's current status raises questions about whether he could assume presidential powers if Yeltsin's term ended early. Article 92 of the constitution stipulates that the prime minister becomes acting president if the incumbent president resigns, is incapacitated for health reasons, or is removed from office. No further line of succession is specified. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, a prominent member of the Communist Party, told Interfax on 30 March that an acting prime minister who had not been confirmed by the Duma would not be eligible to become acting president. Constitutional Court Judge Ernest Ametistov told Interfax that other interpretations are possible and argued that the court should consider that issue soon. He called on the government or parliament to submit a relevant inquiry. LB

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA NOT INVITED TO HELP DRAFT PROGRAM FOR KIRIENKO

Shokhin on 30 March expressed disappointment that no experts from Our Home Is Russia have been asked to help draft a new economic program for acting Premier Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Russian news agencies reported the same day that the working group to draft Kirienko's upcoming report to the Duma includes Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, economist Aleksei Ulyukaev, deputy head of Gaidar's Institute of Economic Problems of the Transition Period, Minister without portfolio Yevgenii Yasin, and Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute of Economic Analysis. Shokhin said time will tell whether those experts will draft a "radical-liberal" economic program or a "balanced" program that would be embraced by all Duma factions. LB

ANNAN WRAPS UP VISIT TO RUSSIA

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, concluding a two-day visit to Russia on 30 March, received praise from Russian officials for his part in mediating the Iraqi crisis in late February. After addressing the State Duma, Annan met with Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to discuss the situation in Iraq and peacekeeping operations in Georgia and Tajikistan. Annan also met with Yeltsin, who told the secretary- general he is pleased with "the way we played the Iraqi game," according to Interfax. Yeltsin also said he favors an even larger role for the UN in "the modern world." AFP quotes the Russian presidential office as saying "the UN secretary-general said he would continue to be vigilant on the situation of Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia." Annan is now in China on the next leg of his tour of the five countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council. BP

GAZPROM ADVISER SAYS COMPANY CAN TAKE PART IN ROSNEFT AUCTION...

Former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, an adviser at Gazprom, says the gas monopoly has the right to participate in the upcoming auction for a controlling stake in the Rosneft oil company. A Menatep Bank executive recently charged that 40 percent state-owned Gazprom has no right to bid for Rosneft, since Russian law prohibits companies with more than 25 percent state ownership from taking part in privatization sales (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). But Vavilov said there are "legal methods that allow [those] restrictions to be circumvented," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March. Last November, Gazprom formed a consortium with LUKoil and Royal Dutch Shell to prepare a joint bid for Rosneft. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS on 31 March quoted Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev as saying that the government has set too high a minimum price for the Rosneft stake. LB

...HINTS CHERNOMYRDIN MAY RETURN TO GAZPROM

Vavilov announced on 30 March that Chernomyrdin may take up a senior post at Gazprom, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chernomyrdin was chief executive of the company before being appointed prime minister in December 1992. Vavilov said Chernomyrdin is concentrating on preparing for his presidential bid in 2000 and may take a job at the gas monopoly if he decides that such a move would fit into his campaign plans. Gazprom is expected to be a major source of financial and organizational support for Chernomyrdin's presidential bid, although the company has not yet given its official backing to Chernomyrdin's candidacy. LB

LUZHKOV OUTLINES TASKS FOR NEW DAILY

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov described the goals of the new daily newspaper "Rossiya" at a 27 March ceremony to launch that publication. Luzhkov called on the newspaper to promote better economic cooperation among federal, regional, and local authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. He also expressed the hope that "Rossiya" will "write about the end of the era of monetarism, which is leading our country to an economic crash," and will discuss problems faced by Russian- speakers outside the Russian Federation. The Moscow city government is helping finance "Rossiya." Like TV-Center, the television network founded by the city government last year, "Rossiya" is likely to become a vehicle for a future presidential bid by Luzhkov. LB

SURPRISE OUTCOME OF DUMA BY-ELECTION IN DAGESTAN

According to preliminary results, Dagestani Deputy Finance Minister Magomed Fazil Azizov won a 29 March by-election for a State Duma seat in Dagestan with some 53 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. Many local observers had expected Magomed Aliyev to win the race. Aliev, who finished second with some 35 percent, was considered the favorite candidate of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, who vacated the Duma seat when he joined the government last year. But Azizov had the backing of the Dagestani authorities. Observers note that Aliyev is an ethnic Avar, while Azizov is a Lezgin. Lezgins have long sought to play a greater role in Dagestani politics, and Azizov's victory in the Duma race may shrink the field of challengers to Magomedali Magomedov, the top executive official in Dagestan, who faces an election this summer. LB

CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE ELECTED MAYOR IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD...

Entrepreneur Andrei Klimentev, who was convicted of swindling in 1982 and embezzlement in 1997, won a 29 March mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod with some 34 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported. The outcome is a blow to First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who had supported former Mayor Dmitrii Bednyakov, the third-place finisher with 24 percent. Last year, Nemtsov filed a slander lawsuit against Klimentev, who along with Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has accused Nemtsov of taking bribes when he was governor of Nizhnii Novgorod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August and 14 October 1997). Klimentev's victory is also embarrassing for the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast authorities, who had backed acting Mayor Vladimir Gorin. Most opinion polls had predicted Gorin would win the race, but he came in second with 31 percent. LB

...BUT RESULT MAY BE ANNULLED

Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko told Russian Public Television on 30 March that the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral election may be declared invalid because of "crude violations" of the law during the campaign. Ivanchenko charged that Klimentev's supporters sought to bribe voters to support the entrepreneur, Interfax reported. At the same time, Ivanchenko noted that a person who has been convicted of crimes is allowed to run for office. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 31 March that Yeltsin is "deeply concerned" about the victory of a candidate with a criminal past in Nizhnii Novgorod. Yeltsin has asked his staff to analyze the election result and draft proposals on how to react to Klimentev's victory. Meanwhile, acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told NTV on 30 March that "it is a shame for the country and law enforcement agencies" that a "criminal" was elected mayor in Nizhnii Novgorod. LB

FORMER DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER EXCLUDED FROM ALTAI CAMPAIGN

The electoral commission of the Altai Republic on 30 March denied registration to Andrei Vavilov, the former first deputy finance minister who sought to compete in a by-election for a State Duma seat, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission said Vavilov had violated the electoral law by beginning campaign activities before his official registration as a candidate. He is reported to have already met with voters at local enterprises, and his campaign team had begun to publish two weekly newspapers: one in Russian and one in the Altai language. Vavilov was considered a strong contender for the Duma seat and had the backing of the head of the Altai Republic, Semen Zubakin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). At a Moscow press conference on 30 March, before the commission's decision was announced, Vavilov expressed confidence about his electoral prospects, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB

SUPREME COURT DEMANDS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN BASHKORTOSTAN

The Supreme Court on 27 March ruled that legislation in the Republic of Bashkortostan places unconstitutional limits on the rights of citizens to elect their local leaders, "Kommersant-Daily reported on 28 March. The federal constitution guarantees the right of citizens to participate in local elections, and federal law requires elections to select the heads of local government. But the constitution of Bashkortostan allows the president to hire and fire the heads of city and raion administrations, who in turn have the power to appoint the heads of villages. Local law also empowers the Bashkortostani president to appoint federal judges (a power reserved for the Russian president under the federal constitution). A resident of Neftekamsk, Farit Valeev, appealed to the Russian Supreme Court after the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan had rejected his suit demanding that mayoral elections to be held in Neftekamsk. LB

KOMI COURT REJECTS ATTEMPT TO RESCHEDULE LOCAL ELECTIONS

The Constitutional Court of the Komi Republic has rejected an appeal to move up local elections to June 1998, according to the 26 March edition of the "IEWS Russian Regional Report." Earlier this year, the Russian Constitutional Court struck down portions of Komi laws and the republic's constitution and demanded that local elections be held. Komi President Yurii Spiridonov criticized the ruling, and the Komi legislature subsequently set the local elections for February 1999, when elections for the republican legislature are scheduled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). The Komi branch of the Communist-led Popular Patriotic Union of Russia then appealed to the Komi Constitutional Court, saying the legislature's decision violated the rights of voters. But the court ruled against moving the local elections up to June of this year, citing both legal and budgetary reasons. LB




KOCHARYAN APPEARS SET TO BECOME ARMENIAN PRESIDENT

With almost 50 percent of the ballots counted, acting President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan is leading Soviet-era communist party chief Karen Demirchyan with 62 percent to 38 percent, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 31 March. Most election observers, including those from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have not reported any cases of large-scale voting fraud. Demirchyan's supporters claimed on 31 March that Kocharyan's organization has engaged in electoral fraud, Interfax reported. Kocharyan's spokesman has responded that the charges are false and an attempt to provide an excuse if Demirchyan loses, as now seems likely. PG

SHEVARDNADZE SAYS CIS MUST RECOGNIZE GEORGIAN TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

In his weekly radio address on 30 March, President Eduard Shevardnadze said he plans to demand that CIS leaders acknowledge their "respect for and recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity." He said he will make this demand because of the statements of some CIS leaders about Abkhazia. The Georgian leader added that his government will never annul the autonomy of Adjaria. And he said he has called on law enforcement organizations to protect him not only from terrorist attacks but also from officials in the Georgian government itself, ITAR-TASS reported.

RUSSIA READY TO COMPROMISE ON STATUS OF CASPIAN

Speaking in Baku on 30 March, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov said Moscow is prepared for a compromise on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Reuters reported. The Russian government would recognize the rights of littoral states to coastal zones but would continue to insist that the Caspian be treated as a single system "from the point of view of shipping and ecology." Meanwhile, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have resumed their discussions on the status of the Caspian, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March. The two countries began the current round of discussions in Ashgabat a month ago and are continuing those talks in Baku. PG

MORE CAPTIVES RELEASED IN TAJIKISTAN

Armed groups that captured more than 100 government soldiers last week have freed all but 20, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 30 March. Those groups continue to demand that the government abide by an agreement whereby all armed forces are to be removed from the area. Officials from the government, the National Reconciliation Commission, and the UN observer mission to Tajikistan oversaw the release of the government soldiers. BP

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS IN TAJIKISTAN

Andrei Kokoshin, secretary of Russia's Security Council, and Nikolai Bordyuzha, head of the Federal Border Service, were in Dushanbe on 30 March to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov said he favors a continued Russian presence along the Tajik border with Afghanistan. But the number of Russian border guards in Tajikistan has been cut to just over 14,000 since the Tajik peace accord was signed in June 1997. Guards along the border are primarily occupied with apprehending drug smugglers. Bordyuzha noted that since the beginning of 1998, border guards have seized 500 kilograms of narcotics, 60 kilograms of which was pure heroin. BP

AKAYEV APPOINTS HEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on 30 March appointed Omar Sultanov, until now ambassador to Germany, as head of the presidential administration, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Sultanov replaces Kubanychbek Jumaliev, who was recently appointed prime minister. BP




UKRAINE'S INDEPENDENTS WIN MAJORITY OF SINGLE- MANDATE SEATS

According to the Ukrainian Central Electoral Committee, 114 independents have been elected to single-mandate seats in the parliament, AFP reported on 30 March. The committee said 37 Communists and 13 candidates from the pro-reform Popular Democratic Party have also been elected to such seats. Results for some 40 of the total 225 single-mandate seats have not yet been announced. The strong showing by independent candidates means that at least one-quarter of the parliament will be made up of deputies with no party affiliation. Many of the independent deputies are businessmen, and some analysts say they may offset the large number of Communist and other leftist deputies. PB

EXIT POLL GIVES COMMUNISTS THE LEAD IN PARTY- LIST VOTE

An exit poll by the Gallup organization shows the Communist Party as having won 26 percent in the vote for party-list mandates. The nationalist Rukh party gained 11 percent support, followed by the Green Party (7 percent), the Hromada party (6 percent), and the Popular Democratic Party (5 percent). The Central Electoral Commission said the United Social Democrats, the Socialist/Peasants' Bloc, the Agrarians, and the Progressive Socialist Party may also pass the 4 percent threshold needed to enter parliament. The committee said final results may not be available until 3 April. PB

COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER STILL WANTS TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY

Petro Symonenko says he expects his party to receive 30-35 percent backing in the party-list vote. He commented that preliminary results show that "we must cast off this ruinous [reform] course." Symonenko accused President Leonid Kuchma of "bringing Ukraine to the brink of economic collapse" and he reiterated his call to abolish the presidency. Symonenko has also strongly criticized international aid organizations, saying they treat the Ukrainian economy like a "marionette." The Communist Party, which was banned from 1991-1993, has 80 seats in the outgoing legislature and is likely to improve on that figure. PB

BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS BAN PROTESTS ON UNION TREATY DAY

Minsk city officials said on 30 March that two opposition parties will not be allowed to hold demonstrations on the first anniversary of the signing of the Belarusian-Russian Union Treaty, Belapan reported. City authorities denied the Belarusian Popular Front and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party permission to stage demonstrations on 2 April, which were planned to take place in different parts of the city. City officials said the demonstrations would interfere with official festivities to take place in the city marking the signing of the treaty. PB

UK'S COOK SEES NO OBSTACLE FOR TALLINN OVER RUSSIAN MINORITY

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the 30 March "Postimees" that concerns over Estonia's large Russian minority are unlikely to hinder Tallinn's progress in EU entry talks, Reuters and ETA reported. The U.K. currently holds the rotating EU presidency. "Estonia has recently taken serious steps to ease conditions to get Estonian citizenship," Cook said. He also that it is important for the EU that Estonia has followed the recommendations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. Estonia, along with 10 other applicant states, begins formal talks on EU entry in Brussels on 31 March. JC

LANDSBERGIS SAYS RUSSIA WAGING COLD WAR AGAINST BALTICS

Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis told journalists on 30 March that Russia is waging a Cold War against the Baltic States and is trying to also involve the leaders of influential Western countries, BNS reported. He added that Moscow is seeking to create the impression that the Baltic States' future is "entirely dependent on Russia's will." His comment followed Russian media reports quoting Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii as saying French President Jacques Chirac had expressed opposition to Baltic membership in NATO during the recent summit outside Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 1998). Those reports were later denied by French diplomats. Landsbergis added that Russian accusations that Latvia and Estonia collaborated with the Nazis during World War II are also "a sign of a Cold War." JC

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER TO LEAVE POLITICS?

Both Milos Zeman, the leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD), and President Vaclav Havel's spokesman Ladislav Spacek are refusing to "either confirm or refute" a report in the weekly "Tyden" that Zeman informed Havel last week of his intention to leave politics, CTK reported. The report comes in the wake of the so- called "Bamberg affair," in which Zeman is alleged to have offered Jan Vizek, a Swiss businessman of Czech origins, influential posts in the government in exchange for advantageous loans for his party. Zeman continues to deny the allegations. Vizek claims he wanted to help the CSSD because he disliked former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, but he says he now fears that if Zeman becomes premier, he will resort to "purges." Vizek explained that for this reason, he had published documents on the agreement he had with Zeman. MS

BOEING BUYS INTO CZECH AIRCRAFT PLANT

The Czech government on 30 March approved an agreement whereby a joint venture of Boeing and the Czech national airline CSA will acquire a 34 percent share in the Aero Vodochody aircraft factory for $28.3 million. Minister without portfolio Vladimir Mlynar told journalists in Prague that Boeing will have a 90 percent share in the joint venture and that CSA will own the remaining 10 percent, CTK reported.

SLOVAK PETITION DRIVE MARRED BY INCIDENT

One of the organizers of the drive to gather signatures in support of the election of Slovakia's president by popular vote was physically attacked in the town of Cada on 29 March, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The identity of the assailant is not known. The Slovak Democratic Coalition organized the drive, which has so far collected 40,000 of the 100,000 signatures needed for the petition to be submitted to the parliament. MS

HUNGARY'S YOUNG DEMOCRATS COMPLETE NATIONAL LIST

The opposition Young Democrats (FIDESZ) have completed their national list for the May general elections, Hungarian media reported on 30 March. Party chairman Viktor Orban heads the list, and Peter Tolgyessy, a former leading figure of the junior coalition party, the Free Democrats, is among the top 10 candidates. Meanwhile, Independent Smallholders' chairman Jozsef Torgyan said his party will complain to the National Election Committee because the satellite Duna TV plans to air a debate between Orban and Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn on the evening before the deadline for election campaigning in the media to cease. Moreover, Duna TV intends to dispatch broadcasting units only to the Socialist and FIDESZ headquarters on election day, he said. In this way, it will be supporting the idea of a Socialist-FIDESZ coalition, Torgyan concluded. MSZ




RUSSIA, CHINA BLOCK YUGOSLAV ARMS EMBARGO

U.S. and U.K.diplomats said at the UN in New York on 30 March that Russia remains opposed to a British-sponsored resolution that would reimpose an arms embargo on President Slobodan Milosevic's federal Yugoslavia. U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson added that he is optimistic that a solution can be found: "I believe that...we are close to imposing an arms embargo on Serbia [on 31 March}. We are close to language that would accommodate both sides." Russia is Yugoslavia's main foreign arms supplier and may have recently concluded a major arms deal with Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Beijing also opposes the embargo or any international involvement in the Kosovo question, presumably because it perceives the problematic Serbia-Kosovo relationship to be similar to its own relations with Tibet. PM

RUSSIA DENIES KOSOVO THREAT

Speaking at the UN in New York on 30 March, Russian Deputy Representative Yurii Fedotov said that agreement on a Security Council resolution remains a long way off. "In particular, we believe it is unfair to determine the situation in that part of the world as constituting a threat to international peace and security. It is simply not true.... [There are] much more threatening situations and hot spots in the world which represent a real threat." He added that there is currently no fighting in Kosovo and no flow of refugees. Fedotov stressed that Russia wants the resolution to more strongly condemn "support of terrorism and [providing] illegal supplies of weapons" as well as the "arming and training of terrorists." PM

GELBARD SAYS SERBS HELPED UCK

U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard said the Serbian authorities are themselves to blame for the publicity that the international media have recently given to the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" wrote on 31 March. Gelbard stressed that Serbian strategy and tactics in the province have helped draw international attention to the UCK, which was little known until recently. The Serbian authorities recently blamed several foreign radio and television stations, as well as Yugoslav stations that rebroadcast the foreign programs, for misrepresenting events in Kosovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 1998). A spokesman for Deutsche Welle, which was among the stations that Belgrade criticized, dismissed the charges and added that the Yugoslav authorities have resorted to "language from the Cold War" in making their accusations, "Danas" reported. PM

SERBIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL ALBANIAN CITIZEN

Yugoslav border guards near Gorozup shot dead a man from the northern Albanian village of Pogaj on 29 March. The man had already crossed the border into Albania after leaving Prizren, in Kosovo, with three other Albanians, "Koha Jone" reported. Elsewhere, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on 30 March opened a field office in the crime-ridden northern Albanian city of Bajram Curri, close to that part of Kosovo where Serbian paramilitary police launched a crackdown on 24 March. FS

SESELJ AGAINST FOREIGN ROLE IN KOSOVO

The Serbian Radical Party of Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in a statement on 30 March that it is opposes any foreign mediation in the Kosovo dispute, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). Also in Belgrade, Ljubisa Ristic, the head of the Yugoslav parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told visiting French legislators that "we will strongly oppose anyone, inside and outside [the country], who tries to provoke war in this Serbian province." PM

CROATIA, BOSNIA SET UP COOPERATION COUNCIL

Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Bosnian counterpart, Jadranko Prlic, an ethnic Croat, signed an agreement in Zagreb on 30 March to institutionalize frequent, regular contacts between leaders of the two countries. Under the accord, the Croatian president and the members of the Bosnian joint presidency will meet at least twice a year. Granic and Prlic praised the agreement, but Mirza Hajric, who is Muslim presidency member Alija Izetbegovic's chief adviser, said it lacks substance, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. PM

UNIFIED RAILROAD FOR BOSNIA

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and his federal counterpart, Edhem Bicakcic, agreed in Doboj on 30 March to form a joint corporation that will restore a unified rail system to all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A final agreement will be signed later this week. The prime ministers said they hope to reach similar agreements on restoring the power grid and telecommunications systems in the near future. PM

OSCE SAYS BOSNIAN PARTIES MUST HAVE PROGRAMS

A spokesman for the OSCE, which will carry out the Bosnian general elections slated for 12-13 September, said in Sarajevo that all parties and independent candidates participating in the vote must submit in advance a program that states the party's or candidate's views on key issues. Such topics include refugee return, economic reconstruction, minority rights, and social issues. Parties must pay a deposit of $550, and independent candidates half that amount. Deposits will be returned to parties or candidates who are successful in the poll. Post-communist elections in the former Yugoslavia have frequently been plagued by a plethora of tiny parties that have no clear political profile and little chance of winning. PM

RAIL STRIKE HITS CROATIA

Many of the 8,000 employees of Croatian Railroads staged a two-hour warning strike on 31 March all across the country. Only international trains and trains used by the military were not affected. The workers want a 20 percent increase in their wages, which currently average about $300 per month. Management says it cannot offer more than 4.6 percent. Croatia has been hit by a series of strikes since the beginning of the year, when the government introduced a 22 percent value-added tax. PM

ITALY WANTS CHANGE IN ALBANIAN WEU MISSION

Unnamed diplomats told AFP in Brussels on 30 March that the Italian government wants to change the mandate of the Western European Union (WEU) police mission in Albania when it runs out in mid-April. Italy wants a larger role for its police in the 60-strong force and any renewal of the mandate to be limited to two months. Other WEU members dismissed the proposal. Unnamed non-Italian WEU police said in Tirana that they are not satisfied with the Italians' performance in putting a stop to smuggling. FS

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS

In a bitter speech broadcast live on radio and television on 30 March, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea announced his resignation both as premier and mayor of Bucharest. He accused his former political partners of indulging in "diversionsim" and said he is convinced that their "so-called victory" will prove temporary and that "history" will judge them harshly. Ciorbea also noted that he had tried to be " a different type of premier, maybe ahead of history" and that the new cabinet will inherit the basis for a reform program that can be continued. Ciorbea thanked only his own colleagues in the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and the ministers representing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania for their cooperation. He made no mention of the other parties that had made up the coalition. MS

CONSTANTINESCU NAMES INTERIM PREMIER

President Emil Constantinescu, who spoke on radio and television immediately after Ciorbea, refrained from thanking the former premier for his achievements in that capacity. Constantinescu said he has appointed Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu as interim premier until consultations on forming a new cabinet are concluded. He added he will announce a new head of government on 2 April following talks with the parties represented in the outgoing coalition and with the parliamentary opposition parties. Observers say the fact that Ciorbea is not to continue as premier until his successor is appointed demonstrates the rift between the two men. Under the constitution, the new premier has 10 days following his appointment to secure a vote of confidence for his cabinet in the parliament. MS

U.S., ROMANIA SIGN ANTI-WEAPONS ACCORD

Outgoing Romanian Defense Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, meeting in Washington on 30 March, signed an accord for the prevention of the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear arms, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Under the accord, which is the first of its kind that the U.S. has signed with an Eastern European country, Washington is to provide expertise, equipment, and training to Romanian border control guards to help detect such weapons and hinder their delivery from East European countries to terrorists and rogue states. Cohen said Romania remains " a strong candidate for NATO membership" if reforms are pursued. He declined, however, to say when it might be invited to join the alliance. MS

ELECTION COMMISSION ANNOUNCES MAKEUP OF NEW MOLDOVAN LEGISLATURE...

The Central Electoral Commission on 29 March announced that the Party of Moldovan Communists has 40 seats in the legislature elected on 22 March. The Democratic Convention of Romania has 26 mandates, the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMDP) 24, and the Party of Democratic Forces 11 mandates. The figures reflect calculations eliminating parties that failed to pass the 4 percent threshold and redistributing the votes cast for those formations among the parties that passed the threshold, BASA press reported on 30 March. MS

...WHILE COMPOSITION OF COALITION STILL UNCERTAIN

President Petru Lucinschi said in an interview with Moldovan state radio on 30 March that there are "two options" for forming a future majority coalition in the legislature and that he would accept either: a government based on an alliance between the Communists and the PMDP or one composed of the PMDP, the Democratic Convention of Moldova, and the Party of Democratic Forces. Lucinschi said any new government will have to continue pursuing market reforms and privatization and a foreign policy based on neutrality and good-neighborly relations. PMDP leader Dumitru Diacov said after meeting Lucinschi that an alliance with the Communists is possible if they make an "unambiguous pledge" to support reform. Communist leader Vladimir Voronin said his party does not want to be in the opposition, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONTRADICTED BY ACADEMY REPORT

Nadezhda Mihailova told the 30 March meeting of foreign ministers from the EU and the 11 candidates seeking membership that her country has achieved "financial stabilization" and made "sufficient progress" to fulfill the "criteria for membership" by the year 2001, Reuters reported. But a report released in Sofia by the Academy of Sciences' Economic Institute the same day predicts that Bulgaria will be unable to meet economic conditions for EU membership before 2030 "at best," AFP reported. According to the report, Bulgaria, Russia, and Ukraine will have a GDP in 2010 equal in size to what they had in 1990. MS




TOUGHER SANCTIONS: A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD IN CURRENT YUGOSLAV CRISIS


by Christopher Walker

With top U.S. and European diplomats giving very different interpretations of Yugoslavia's response to the punitive measures recently proposed by the International Contact Group, a final resolution to the Kosovo crisis remains elusive. Many European officials claim that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has made significant progress in meeting the Contact Group's demands. U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and special Balkan envoy Robert Gelbard have indicated that Yugoslav behavior continues to be unacceptable, thus requiring consideration of more severe measures, including further economic sanctions. It is worth examining what increased economic sanctions regime might mean for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

NATO and the UN are reluctant to employ a military solution, though a debate in the U.S. continues. Russia has strongly objected to the use of force, as well as several other tough measures considered at the meetings of the Contact Group.

The investigation of atrocities in Kosovo by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is a new step that has been added to pressure Milosevic. The implication to some observers is that he himself is a direct target of that probe. To demonstrate its serious intention to be involved in this effort, the U.S. government announced a $1 million contribution to help the tribunal do its work and send independent investigators to Kosovo.

If the Contact Group's proposed steps--the tribunal's investigation into the Kosovo incidents, mild diplomatic and economic sanctions, and an arms embargo on Serbia-- prove insufficient to change Belgrade's behavior, the Contact Group or certain member countries of that group may make use of another option: harsh economic sanctions.

Economic sanctions against the FRY were first imposed in spring 1992 and lifted after the signing of the Dayton accords in September 1996. Combined with Milosevic's own economic polices, those sanctions wreaked havoc on the country's economy and pushed a majority of Serbs below the poverty line. The embargo rattled the Milosevic regime but did not dislodge it; on the contrary, a shadowy new pro-Milosevic elite emerged, whose members became rich by smuggling and profiteering. At present, there remains only an "outer wall" of sanctions, which denies FRY access to key international financial sources, such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The imposition of sanctions similar to those in place before the signing of the Dayton accords could have the dual effect of intensifying the economic misery of the average Serb, while reinvigorating conditions for black market activity. Moreover, it is unclear whether average Serbs would hold Milosevic responsible for their economic woes, despite leading officials' lining their pockets. Milosevic may be able to lay blame for domestic economic misery at the door of the West, as he did during the Croatian and Bosnian wars.

More important are the longer-term implications of further sanctions. As long as sanctions are in place, the conditions in which corruption flourishes will be prolonged and the establishment of the rule of law delayed.

In the case of Kosovo, the chaos, inevitable human misery, and the immense flow of refugees that would result from armed conflict in the Southern Balkans weighs heavily on the minds of European and U.S. diplomats. But if the steps proposed by the international community prove incapable of curbing Serbian behavior in Kosovo, there may be few options, short of military measures, other than tougher economic sanctions. In such a case, the long term impact of economic sanctions on FRY's democratic development will be need to be considered

The international community must thus choose from various, unpalatable policy options aimed at modifying the parochialism and isolationism fostered by Milosevic over the past decade. The author is based in Prague and is manager of programs at the European Journalism Network.


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