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Newsline - April 20, 1998




YELTSIN, HASHIMOTO MEET "WITHOUT NECKTIES" IN KAWANA...

Russian President Boris Yeltsin met with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at Kawana resort, 130 kilometers south of Tokyo, on 18-19 April. The two leaders, who were meeting for the second time "without neckties," reviewed progress on implementing agreements they had concluded in Krasnoyarsk last November. The two leaders agreed that a joint investment fund will be established involving both the two governments and private companies. Yeltsin proposed that a Japanese automobile factory be built in the Moscow region. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. has already expressed interest in such a project. Yeltsin and Hashimoto also agreed that the joint commission on drafting a peace treaty between the two countries to end World War II must speed up its work. Yeltsin said he favors expanding the treaty to make it a "friendship" document as well. BP

...WHILE TWO VIEWS ON FOUR ISLANDS REMAIN

During their talks, Yeltsin and Hashimoto also discussed the four Kuril Islands, which both Russia and Japan claim as their territory. ITAR-TASS on 20 April reported that Japan was "flexible in discussing the line of the border in the South Kuril area." But the same source quotes Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii as saying "the Constitution of the Russian Federation declares Russian territory inviolable and indivisible." Yeltsin proposed joint projects on the islands, in particular fishing ventures. Hashimoto, for his part, proposed re-drawing the Russian-Japanese border between the islands of Iturup and Urup, in accordance with the dividing line in the 1855 treaty of Shimoda. The Japanese premier is also reported to have made another proposal about the islands, but the details are being kept secret until later this year. Yeltsin, however, revealed that it is "an interesting proposal," Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. BP

KIRIENKO SAYS CABINET POSTS NOT ON NEGOTIATING TABLE

Acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has repeated that he will not use cabinet posts as bargaining chips in his battle to be confirmed by the State Duma. On 17 April, soon after the Duma rejected his candidacy for the second time, Kirienko said he is willing to hold more meetings with Duma members but will neither engage in "political discussions" nor "agree to any conditions," ITAR- TASS reported. In an interview with NTV on 19 April, Kirienko said he believes he has a "sufficiently high probability" of being confirmed in the third ballot. Even if the Duma rejects Kirienko on 24 April, he will become prime minister unless Yeltsin decides to withdraw his nomination. The constitution obliges the president to dissolve the lower house and appoint a prime minister if his nominee for that post is rejected three times by the Duma. LB

SELEZNEV SETS OUT TO SAVE DUMA

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a member of the Communist Party, announced on 17 April that he will definitely vote for Kirienko in the third ballot, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In an interview with Russian Public Television the next day, Seleznev argued that "Russia will not forgive us if we sacrifice the State Duma over a nomination for the prime minister." On 19 April, Seleznev told Russian Television that at a meeting of the Communist Party leadership later this week, he will argue that the Communists "do not have the right" to "leave Russia without a legislative assembly" by rejecting Kirienko. Seleznev added that new parliamentary elections would require at least 2 billion rubles ($326 million) in government funds and suggested that the costs would be at the expense of teachers, doctors, and soldiers. LB

ZYUGANOV SAYS STANCE ON KIRIENKO UNCHANGED

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told NTV on 19 April that his party considers Kirienko "not acceptable" for the post of prime minister and will not support him in the third vote. Kirienko could be confirmed without the support of most Communist Duma deputies if the Agrarian and Popular Power factions back him. Four Agrarian deputies and five members of the Popular Power faction voted for Kirienko on 17 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Nikolai Kharitonov, the leader of the Agrarian faction, has called on Yeltsin to come to the Duma on 24 April to present Kirienko in person. A similar gesture by Yeltsin last December was credited with securing the approval of the 1998 budget in the first reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). LB

ZHIRINOVSKY AGAIN DEMANDS GOVERNMENT POSTS

Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has said his faction will support Kirienko in the third ballot if two or three "professionals" nominated by the LDPR are appointed to cabinet posts. Kirienko is unlikely to be confirmed without the support of the 51 LDPR Duma deputies. LDPR opposition is primarily responsible for Kirienko's relatively poor showing in the 17 April vote in the Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In the first vote on Kirienko's candidacy on 10 April, most deputies from Zhirinovsky's party voted to confirm Kirienko. LB

YABLOKO NOT TO BACK KIRIENKO

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 18 April, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii confirmed that his faction will not support Kirienko on the third ballot. He criticized Yeltsin for insisting on a prime ministerial candidate who has so little support in the Duma. He also called on the president to solve the political crisis by nominating someone for prime minister who does not belong to any political party and does not plan to run for president but has the experience to manage the economy. Yavlinskii declined to name possible candidates who, in his view, meet those requirements. LB

REGIONAL LEADERS WEIGH IN FOR KIRIENKO

Several regional leaders have called on Duma deputies to approve Kirienko on the third try, Russian news agencies reported on 17 and 18 April. They include St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev, and Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin. Before the Duma voted on 17 April, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said Kirienko "will be useful to Russia as prime minister" because he "is intelligent, can listen to others and find solutions," Interfax reported. Kirienko secured Luzhkov's support in part by signing a deal on transferring shares in the Moskvich car factory to the Moscow city government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). LB

RUSSIA OFFICIALS SAY COOPERATION WITH IMF ON TRACK

Yevgenii Yasin, acting minister without portfolio, on 17 April said Russia's economic program for 1998, negotiated with IMF officials, will be implemented on schedule, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). At the same press conference, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said Russia's 1998 budget meets 90 percent of the IMF's new code of principles for fiscal transparency. Yasin and Dubinin said the Russian political situation was not discussed during the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, and Dubinin told Interfax that the Duma's rejection of Kirienko will not affect talks between Russia and the fund. However, "Russkii telegraf" on 18 April quoted an unnamed Russian government official as saying it took a long time to persuade IMF officials that the Russian delegation in Washington has sufficient authority to conduct talks, given the uncertainty surrounding the next government. LB

RUSSIA CHAFES AT SECOND-CLASS MEMBERSHIP IN G- 8

Russian officials in Washington skipped a 15 April meeting of G-8 finance ministers because they were not invited as full participants, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 16 April. It was the first time in five years that Russian officials did not attend the annual spring meeting of the finance ministers. As in previous years, they were invited only to report on economic reform in Russia. In explaining his intention to stay away from the meeting, Central Bank Chairman Dubinin called for Russia to be treated as a full member of the G-8 in economic as well as political matters. The next G-8 summit is to be held in the United Kingdom in May. Several member states believe Russia is not ready for full membership concerning economic matters. LB

LUZHKOV DISPUTES COMPARISON WITH LEBED

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on 17 April denied that there any political similarities between himself and former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Russian news agencies reported. The influential businessman Boris Berezovskii announced the previous day that he is supporting Lebed's gubernatorial bid in Krasnoyarsk Krai in order to boost Lebed as a viable competitor with Luzhkov for the nationalist vote in the next presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1998). Luzhkov described himself as a "citizen of my country" and an outspoken patriot but claimed that Berezovskii had confused "sincere patriotism" with "chauvinism and nationalism." The mayor charged that Lebed is a "dangerous" and unpredictable politician who might impose "ruthless and bloody" dictatorial rule if he came to power. In addition, Luzhkov again denied that he harbors presidential ambitions but claimed that Lebed is running for governor only as a springboard for a future presidential bid. LB

LEBED RULES OUT PRESIDENTIAL BID IF HE LOSES IN KRASNOYARSK

Lebed told the network TV-Center on 19 April that his performance in the upcoming gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai will determine whether he runs for president in 2000, Interfax reported the next day. Lebed said that if he loses the governor's race, he "will not waste either the time or the nerves" on running in the next presidential election. Many Russian media have predicted that Lebed will lose in Krasnoyarsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1998). He finished third in the first round of the 1996 presidential election with some 15 percent of the vote. LB

FORMER GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL WINS DUMA SEAT IN KAMCHATKA

Aleksandr Zaveryukha, former deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, won a 19 April by- election for a State Duma seat from Kamchatka Oblast, Russian news agencies reported. Zaveryukha won some 20 percent of the vote, followed by Vladislav Shved of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (17 percent) and Communist candidate Yurii Golenishchev (13 percent). According to ITAR-TASS, some 20 percent voted against all the candidates. Zaveryukha was a founding member of the Agrarian Party of Russia, but that party revoked his membership in March 1996 after he supported a presidential decree giving farm workers the right to own and sell farmland (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 12 and 14 March 1996). Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov won the Kamchatka seat in 1995 as a Yabloko candidate, but Yavlinskii's party failed to come up with a strong contender for the by-election. LB

FACTORY OFFICIAL WINS DUMA SEAT IN SVERDLOVSK

Dmitrii Golovanov, a 25-year-old deputy director of a factory in Yekaterinburg, has been pronounced the winner of a controversial by-election for State Duma seat from Sverdlovsk Oblast. Golovanov gained more votes than his rival, but a plurality of voters--some 40 percent--cast their ballots against all candidates, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The Central Electoral Commission pronounced Golovanov the winner, "Segodnya" reported on 18 April, even though the 1997 law on guarantees of voters' rights calls for elections to be declared invalid if more votes are cast "against all" than for the leading candidate. The newspaper also criticized Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko for supporting the decision to annul a mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod, despite the fact that no court has ruled on alleged violations during the campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 8 April 1998). LB

STEPASHIN BLAMES CHECHENS FOR ATTACK ON RUSSIAN MILITARY

Acting Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin has demanded that Chechnya extradite to Moscow Jordanian field commander Khottab, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 18 April. Stepashin claimed that Khottab masterminded the 16 April ambush of a Russian military convoy on the North Ossetian-Ingushetian border. Lieutenant-General Nikolai Mukhin, who was wounded in the attack, told "Noviye izvestiya" that he is not certain that the attackers were Chechens. At the same time, he said he is convinced that they had been notified by an informer of the convoy's planned route. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 18 April rejected accusations of Chechen involvement. He suggested that subordinates of former Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov perpetrated the assault in the hope of taking advantage of the Russian government crisis to come to power, Interfax reported. Russian President Yeltsin blamed the attack on the "irresponsibility" of local military commanders, who, he claimed, failed to take the necessary security precautions. LF




KOCHARIAN NAMES NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT

Armenian President Robert Kocharian issued several decrees on 20 April approving the new cabinet of Prime Minister Armen Darpinian. Acting Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian was confirmed as foreign minister, while Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian and Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sargsian (no relation to Vazgen) retained their posts. Eduard Sandoian, the head of the Armenian Central Bank Department for Control, Regulations, and Licensing, was named to replace Darpinian as finance and economy minister. Levon Mkrtchian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which was legalized by Kocharian immediately after the February resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrossian, was appointed minister of education and science. Addressing the parliament last week, Darpinian had said his ministers will be selected on the basis of their professionalism, regardless of their party affiliation. LF

ABKHAZIA ASKS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT TO RECOGNIZE ITS INDEPENDENCE

The Abkhaz parliament on 17 April issued a statement requesting that the Georgian parliament formally recognize the region's independence, Interfax reported. The statement said that no lasting peace is possible until Georgia abandons its "unjustifiable and unworthy" claims on Abkhazia. The following day, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba criticized what he termed Russia's policy of agreeing to all Georgia's demands to increase pressure on Abkhazia. Shamba rejected as "unacceptable" measures outlined in the draft document "Decision on Additional Measures for Resolving the Conflict in Abkhazia," which is to be discussed at the upcoming CIS summit. In particular, he rejected the proposed creation in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion of an interim administration that would include representatives of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF

GEORGIA SAYS BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE TO BE COMPLETED ON SCHEDULE

Two Georgian companies engaged in repairs to the Georgian sector of the Baku- Supsa oil export pipeline issued a statement on 17 April denying press speculation that completion of the project may be delayed, Russian agencies reported. The statement affirmed that the pipeline will be completed on schedule by the fourth quarter of 1998, but it conceded that a decision has still not been taken on whether to expand the pipeline's capacity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1998). If such a decision is taken, the schedule for completion of the project will be amended, the statement added. Also on 17 April, a spokesman for the Turkish company repairing the Azerbaijani sector of the pipeline told Turan that work on that sector is 80 percent completed. LF

U.S. AGAIN AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR CASPIAN ENERGY CORRIDOR

U.S. Ombudsman for the Newly Independent States Jan Kalicki and U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary Robert Gee held talks in Baku on 17 April with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov, and Azerbaijan state oil company chairman Natik Aliev. The U.S. officials underlined Washington's support for the planned construction of an oil export pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and of Trans-Caspian oil and gas pipelines to complement the existing northern pipeline from Baku via Grozny to Novorossiisk and the Caspian pipeline from Tengiz via Astrakhan to Novorossiisk, Turan reported. Heidar Aliyev said Azerbaijan will "speed up" implementation of both the Baku-Ceyhan and the Trans- Caspian projects. But a final decision on their construction has not yet been taken, and it is unclear how they will be funded. LF

TURKMEN OPPOSITION LEADER DETAINED IN ASHGABAT

Turkmen authorities took opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev into custody upon his arrival in Ashgabat on 17 April, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Kuliev was accompanied by his wife and Russian human rights activist Vitaly Panamarov. Kuliev's wife was briefly detained also, but Panamarov was put on a airplane back to Moscow. Kuliev is charged with trying to organize a coup, extortion, and organizing an unauthorized protest rally in July 1995. He told RFE/RL correspondents in early April that he would return to Turkmenistan following President Saparmurat Niyazov's announcement to the parliament in February that he is prepared to allow opposition parties in the country (see also "End Note"). BP

RAKHMONOV ELECTED PARTY LEADER IN TAJIKISTAN

President Imomali Rakhmonov has been elected chairman of the Tajik People's Democratic Party, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported on 18 April. Rakhmonov, who has been president since November 1994, is not a member of any party. His membership in the party paves the way for his nomination to the presidency in 1999 elections. BP

RUSSIAN RADIO BECOMES VICTIM OF UZBEK CENSOR

State censors in Uzbekistan are prohibiting the dissemination of information about the launching of the radio station Evropa Plus Tashkent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 April. The station is an affiliate of Moscow's Evropa Plus, and its broadcasts are in the Russian language. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the radio station is not the first Russian organization to have problems with the Uzbek censor. Articles about Uzbekistan in the Russian newspapers "Argumenty i Fakti" and "Trud" (which are also printed in Uzbekistan) are regularly cut by local censors and replaced with "Uzbek advertising blocks." BP




UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER

Leonid Kuchma has appointed Borys Tarasyuk, until now ambassador to the Benelux countries and NATO, as foreign minister. The 17 April appointment follows the resignation of Hennadiy Udovenko, who won a parliamentary seat and is reportedly seeking the post of speaker. Tarasyuk said after his nomination that he will "do everything possible to help integrate Ukraine into European and European-Atlantic structures and strengthen the country's independence by means of foreign policy," ITAR-TASS reported. He also affirmed that one of the Foreign Ministry's goals will be developing "normal and fruitful relations" with Russia. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES CABINET RESHUFFLE

Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 17 April said that a number of other changes will be made to the cabinet within the next few days, ITAR-TASS reported. "Now it is necessary to considerably reinforce and improve the government team in order to speed up structural changes in the Ukrainian economy," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. JM

UKRAINE TO DESTROY 40 STRATEGIC BOMBERS

Ukraine will destroy 40 Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers following the U.S.'s pledge to pay for their destruction, Reuters reported on 17 April, quoting Volodymyr Horbulin, secretary of the Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense. Ukraine currently has 44 such aircraft, which are able to carry long-range nuclear missiles and stay in the air for 18 hours without refueling. "Two [planes] will be used as models to be put on display and two will be retrofitted for other uses," Horbulin told journalists. JM

LUKASHENKA MAKES ANNUAL ADDRESS TO LEGISLATURE...

In his yearly address to the National Assembly in Minsk on 17 April, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed that Russia is a "top priority" in Belarus' foreign policy, Belapan and ITAR-TASS reported. He said integration with Russia is demanded by Belarus's fundamental interests. "In case of need, we will defend on the Western frontier not only our Belarus but also our common fatherland, the Union of Belarus and Russia," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. Lukashenka vowed the Belarusian economy will return to the Soviet- era level in 2001, adding that the state will continue controlling prices for oil and gas, public utilities, and transport. JM

...REJECTS CRITICISM OF HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

In an interview with the German newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" on 19 April, Lukashenka rejected criticism from the Council of Europe over human rights violations in Belarus, dpa reported. Lukashenka said other former Soviet Union countries with records of bloodshed and violation of civil rights have not come under fire because they are "strategic partners of the West." JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES GUIDELINES OF 1999 BUDGET

The cabinet on 19 April agreed that budget priorities next year will include ensuring law and order, regional and rural development, and increasing the salaries of workers in the spheres of education and culture, ETA reported. Economic growth is predicted at 5.5 percent and inflation at 8.5 percent. Increased revenues are planned from the sale of automobiles and luxury goods, excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products, and the sale of state property, according to a government spokesman. JC

EU WANTS RIGA TO ACT QUICKLY ON CITIZENSHIP LAW

In a statement issued on 17 April, the EU urged Latvian lawmakers to quickly enact amendments to the country's citizenship law agreed on last week by a government working group, Reuters and BNS reported. "The EU has a strong interest in a satisfactory resolution of the differences over the treatment of non-Latvian citizens in Latvia," the statement said. Noting that it had earlier raised the issue in the context of Latvia's bid to join the union, the statement added that the EU considers it essential for the "government's program to match fully the standards established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in this area.... The [EU] hopes that the Latvian parliament will take early action to adopt the government's decisions." JC

GERMANY REPORTEDLY BACKS CHANGES TO LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW

Following talks with his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, in Halle on 17 April, Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that Germany supports the government's proposals for changing the citizenship law. Birkavs told BNS that at the same time, Kinkel had stressed Germany will insist that Latvia comply with the recommendations of the OSCE. By the same token, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said on 17 April that he backs the proposed amendments, adding that "the criteria that should be followed are the recommendations of the OSCE, nothing more." And earlier the same day, Latvian Premier Guntars Krasts told Reuters that the only way to dispel the current tension between Moscow and Riga is to launch talks. Krasts underlined that Latvia is "open to dialogue." JC

POLISH PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM

Aleksander Kwasniewski met with cabinet ministers and leaders of Poland's four major parties for some seven hours on 18 April to discuss administrative reform and local elections, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. A declaration issued after the meeting said that efforts will be made to launch administrative reform as of 1 January 1999. But no compromise was reached on the scope of the reform. The ruling Solidarity and Freedom Union bloc wants to replace the current 49 voivodships with 12 powerful and better-funded ones and to introduce a middle tier of local government. The opposition Democratic Left Alliance proposes creating 17 provinces instead of 12, while the Peasant Party wants to keep the current 49 provinces, invest them with greater powers, and hold a referendum on the issue. JM

HAVEL UNDERGOES SURGERY AGAIN

Doctors at the University Clinic in Innsbruck have again operated on Czech President Vaclav Havel--the second surgical intervention in four days--to clean up the president's bronchial tubes. Havel remains in drug-induced sleep, the doctors told journalists on 19 April. The doctors said Havel's life is not in danger and his vital organs are working "impeccably," although his breathing is still assisted by a respirator. The condition of his lungs has "dramatically improved," they said, but Havel will have to undergo treatment to clear them three times a day. Bronchial problems are frequent in patients with a history of lung problems, particularly after surgery to the abdomen, the doctors stressed. MS

SLOVAK LOCAL COUNCIL DEFIANTLY HOLDS REFERENDUM

Ignoring Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's warning, the local council in Sturovo held a referendum on 19 April on electing the country's president by popular vote and on joining NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). Mayor Jan Oravec said that turnout was some 50 percent and that of the 5,000 people who participated in the plebiscite, 70 percent voted in favor of direct presidential elections. He provided no other details, Reuters reported. Sturovo has a large Hungarian ethnic majority, but the local authorities deny accusations by pro-Meciar forces that Hungarian nationalists were behind the non-binding referendum. The central authorities in Bratislava refrained from dispatching police forces and the army to prevent the plebiscite from taking place, although they were publicly urged to do so by Meciar supporters. MS

MECIAR SIGNALS READINESS TO LEGALIZE MONEY LAUNDERING

Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 17 April said tax evaders might be offered the chance of "laundering" illegal earnings if they invest in a three-year state bonds scheme, TASR reported. Meciar said "anyone" can invest in the bonds, even those whose earnings originated in "dirty money," and "no questions will be asked." In other news, Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova, who was on a visit to Dublin on 17 April, said Slovakia will continue seeking admission to the EU, NATO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Kramplova said the Slovaks "want to be the same as other Europeans," enjoying the benefits of secure borders and joint European security. MS

MORE HUNGARIAN CANDIDATES REGISTER AT LAST MINUTE

The Central Electoral Office on 17 April announced that with the deadline for registration now passed, a total of 1,603 candidates representing 26 political parties have been registered for the upcoming elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April Only the Socialists and the Smallholders will field candidates in all 176 constituencies. The Free Democrats are running in 175 electoral districts, followed by the Young Democrats-FIDESZ (173) and the Democratic Forum (172). In another development, People's Party chairman Ivan Szabo on 17 April announced he is suing Democratic Forum chairman Sandor Lezsak, who recently told the weekly "168 Ora" that before Szabo left the forum in 1996, he had "robbed it." MS

HUNGARY, ITALY, SLOVENIA SET UP PEACEKEEPING FORCE

Italian Defense Minster Benjamino Andreatta and his Hungarian and Slovenian counterparts, Gyorgy Keleti and Alojiz Krapez, met in Udine on 18 April and signed an agreement on establishing a joint peacekeeping brigade, Hungarian media reported. The three countries' parliaments must ratify the accord. Keleti said the force will be ready for deployment by mid-1999 at the earliest. It will be under Italian command, while the deputy commander post will rotate between Hungary and Slovenia. MS




CHIRAC PLEDGES SUPPORT TO MONTENEGRO

French President Jacques Chirac told his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic, in Paris on 17 April that he is "concerned by the attitude" of Yugoslav officials and that France fully supports Montenegro, AFP reported. Chirac said he will initiate a request within the EU to grant aid to Montenegro. He stressed that dialogue is the only way to resolve the crisis in Kosova. Djukanovic said Chirac also pledged to try to spare Montenegro from any sanctions that may be imposed on the former Yugoslavia for its handling of the crisis. The Montenegrin president added that he had "extremely satisfactory" talks with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. PB

BELGRADE, TIRANA ACCUSE EACH OTHER OF PROVOCATIONS

The Albanian parliament has called for NATO troops to be stationed along Kosova's border with Albania after reported incidents there, AFP reported on 18 April. The parliament voted unanimously that troops be sent to Kosova to prevent an "expansion of the conflict and [to protect the] civilian population in the province." The resolution came after ethnic Albanian groups reported that the Yugoslav army had moved troops near the Albanian border and that they were involved in shooting incidents there on 16 April. Meanwhile, a Yugoslav army statement said there was a "serious border incident" in which Albanians had fired shots at a joint Albanian-Yugoslav commission sent to investigate a shooting incident at the site earlier the same day. PB

TALBOTT RULES OUT U.S. TROOPS IN KOSOVA

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said on 18 April that the U.S. does not envision deploying troops in Kosova. Talbott made that statement after meeting with Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Premier Fatos Nano in Tirana. But Talbott did stress that the U.S. will maintain its military presence in Macedonia. Talbott is in the Balkans for meetings ahead of a report to be given to the Contact Group in Rome on 29 April. Talbott said he hopes the Albanian government will persuade ethnic Albanians to refrain from violence during the crisis in Kosova. PB

PLAVSIC ACCUSES MILOSEVIC OF INTERFERENCE IN BOSNIA

Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic accused her Yugoslav counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, of attempting to install nationalist politicians in the Bosnian Serb government, AFP reported on 18 April. Plavsic said in an interview with B-92 radio that Milosevic pressured Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik to use members of the Serbian Democratic Party and the ultra-nationalist Radical Party to replace certain ministers in Dodik's government. Plavsic accused Milosevic of attempting to halt the work of Dodic's moderate government. She added that she is opposed to further sanctions against Yugoslavia, which, she said, could result in hundreds of thousands of refugees returning to Bosnia. PB

DEPUTY MAYOR SACKED AFTER DEATH OF SERBIAN COUPLE

Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has dismissed the deputy mayor of Drvar in response to the murder of a Serbian couple in the Croat-controlled town, AFP reported. Westendorp said "hardliners...will not stop the return process and we will not tolerate any obstructions or violence." Drago Tokmakcija, a Croat, was fired from his post on 17 April for failing to uphold the Dayton peace accords, which allow for all refugees the right of return to their homes. Tokmakcija said on Bosnian television that his sacking is an attempt to "spread fear among Croats." Westendorp also ordered that 15 Serbs be added to the police force in the town. The couple was among some 1,000 Serbs that have returned to the northwestern town of Drvar--which was overwhelmingly Serb before the war--to reclaim their homes. The mayor of Drvar is an ethnic Serb. PB

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES RETURN OF SERB REFUGEES

Deputies on 17 April began to review a government plan on the repatriation of ethnic Serbian refugees to Croatia. Deputy Jadranka Kosor said the plan is based on the simple right of each person to return to the home they had before the war. saying this is provided for by the Croatian constitution as well as the Dayton accords. As many as 180,000 Serbs fled Croatia in 1995 when it recaptured Croatian territory that had been seized by Serbs. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has said that Serbs are welcome to return to Croatia but that a huge influx of them would create an unstable situation that could lead to violence. PB

MACEDONIAN OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER AFFAIR ALLEGATIONS

Katerina Kocevska, the cultural adviser to Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, resigned on 17 April over allegations that she had an affair with Gligorov, AFP reported. Gligorov said the press reports, which referred to him as the "Macedonian Clinton," were an "unscrupulous attempt" to hurt his reputation ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. Kocevska, a former actress, said the allegations have damaged her and her family and forced her resignation. PB

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF PROVOKING CRISIS

Fatos Nano said on 18 April that President Rexhep Meidani is throwing the country into a political crisis after he refused to approve most of Nano's new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle, Reuters reported. Meidani agreed the previous day to only two of the nine ministers presented to him by Nanos, whose Socialist Party called on the president to correct "this absurd situation." Nanos argued that Meidani should have jurisdiction only over the nomination of the prime minister and that his rejection of the ministers "without necessary explanations" put the country into an "institutional crisis." A statement from the President's Office said there is no power vacuum as a result of Meidani's decision because previously sacked ministers would maintain their posts until the president approved a new cabinet. Also on 18 April, Meidani sacked Interior Minister Neritan Ceka, ATA reported. He was replaced by Perikli Teta, until now a deputy defense minister. PB

ROMANIAN CABINET SWORN IN

President Emil Constantinescu on 17 April swore in the members of Radu Vasile's cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Constantinescu said the government cannot afford to fail in its task. He added that while Victor Ciorbea's government had been "one of hope," Vasile's "must be one of certainty," because following the recent political crisis, reforms and privatization have slowed down and have negatively affected Romania's image and attraction for foreign investors. A government "can lose a battle, but the population cannot afford to lose the war [for reform and economic recovery] and it will not lose it," the president said. In a televised address marking Orthodox Easter on 19 April, Constantinescu called on the country to "overcome the moral crisis" that runs parallel to the economic one by "rediscovering its traditional Christian values." MS

OPPOSITION PARTY CHOOSES CANDIDATE FOR BUCHAREST MAYOR

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 17 April selected surgeon Sorin Oprescu as its candidate for mayor of Bucharest, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The mayoralty became vacant after Ciorbea resigned both as premier and as mayor of Bucharest last month. The Greater Romania Party has already announced it will back police-general Niculae Nitu for the job. The Democratic Party said it will not back the candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania, who is likely to be acting Bucharest Mayor Viorel Lis. The PDSR says the Democrats may back Oprescu if the race is decided in a runoff. The date of the election has not yet been fixed. MS

LUCINSCHI, SNEGUR ON COALITION PARLEYS

Returning to Chisinau from Germany, where he recently underwent surgery, President Petru Lucinschi said he "regrets" the fact that the parleys under way for setting up the new coalition have "stalled over the distribution of portfolios." Lucinschi said he intends to re-establish contacts with the leaders of all factions elected to the new parliament in order to give new impetus to the talks, BASA-press reported on 17 April. Meanwhile, Mircea Snegur, the co- chairman of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, told "Nezavisimaya Moldova" on 17 April that he is "worried" about rumors that Lucinschi would like the coalition to include all parties represented in the legislature. Snegur said reform will not be possible if the Communists are in the coalition, adding that the only viable alternative is a center-right government. MS

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIALS RESIGN

Two state secretaries at the Ministry of Interior and the chief of the border police resigned on 17 April, BTA reported. They offered no reason for their resignations, but the media reported that the two secretaries, Liutskan Liutskanov and Georgi Georgiev and the border police chief, Georgi Teterekov, were suspected of having tolerated violations of border and customs regulations, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. MS




WHEN INTERESTS COLLIDE


by Paul Goble

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to the U.S. this week highlights the difficulties Western countries often face in combining the economic, political, and geopolitical interests they have in many of the post- Soviet states.

At the same time, his visit calls attention to the dangers of pursuing one set of interests to the exclusion of others. It consequently highlights the need for an approach that takes all those interests into account.

As media coverage in advance of Niyazov's arrival has made clear, Turkmenistan now presents three very different faces to the world, some extremely attractive to the West and others precisely the opposite.

First, Turkmenistan has one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world. Because of that, Ashgabat has already attracted enormous Western interest. Several former senior U.S. officials have taken up the cause of developing the gas fields there. And many of them have suggested that U.S. interests in securing access to this energy source should define U.S. policy toward Turkmenistan.

Indeed, while some of those former officials have argued that the development of Turkmenistan's natural gas sector will lead to economic and later political change in that country, most have suggested that the stability provided by the current regime is so valuable that it should be exempt from the kind of withering criticism that its political system would seem to invite.

Second, the Turkmen government is one of the least democratic in the entire region. Not only does Turkmenistan have a dismal record on human and civil rights, as documented by the U.S. Department of State and human rights groups, but the Turkmen authorities continue to show their contempt for both Western public opinion and the rule of law.

With an eye on his upcoming visit, Niyazov said on 26 March that he would be willing to yield some of his enormous political powers to the parliament and that he favors giving the citizens of his country an expanded role in the government. He even announced plans to amend the constitution to do so just that.

Not unexpectedly, Niyazov's promises were greeted by many in the West as an indication that "Turkmenbashi," as Niyazov styles himself, really plans to change. But any optimism on that score must be tempered both by his own statement and by the more recent actions of his officials.

While the Turkmen president said he was prepared to devolve power to the parliament and the people, he noted that he would introduce the necessary constitutional changes only after the December 1999 elections. And on 17 April, on the eve of Niyazov's visit to the U.S., Turkmen officials detained Avdy Kuliyev, the former Turkmen foreign minister and leader of the opposition in Turkmenistan, as he attempted to return to Ashgabat from Moscow.

Third, Turkmenistan--by virtue of its geographic location--will play a key role in the establishment of a new, post-Soviet balance of power in Central Asia and the Caspian basin. How Ashgabat relates to Russia, Iran, and the other countries of this region will define not only the direction Turkmenistan is likely to go but also the status of other countries as well.

If Turkmenistan remains dependent on Russia for pipeline routes to the West, then Moscow will be able to project power far more easily across all Central Asia. If it reaches an accommodation with Iran, the geopolitical balance will tilt in a different direction. And if it moves its gas in another direction, that balance will again shift.

Because the consequences of Turkmenistan's decisions are so fateful, many foreign policy analysts have urged that they should be at the center of U.S. and Western concerns and should determine how the U.S. and other Western countries deal with Ashgabat on economic and human rights concerns.

Advocates of giving primary attention to one of these three areas--economic, political, and geopolitical--often take positions that suggest the West should virtually ignore the other two. For example, supporters of economic involvement urge that the West downplay its human rights concerns, and human rights advocates sometimes dismiss the West's obvious economic interests.

While superficially attractive, a Western approach to Turkmenistan or other countries in the region that reflects only one of these sets of interests will almost certainly prove self-defeating, just as has happened elsewhere when Western countries have focused on only one of the three and neglected the other two.

Consequently, President Niyazov's visit offers an opportunity to demonstrate that the West's interests in Turkmenistan are far broader than natural gas: they include a commitment to the democratic transformation of that country and a new geopolitical arrangement that gives the Turkmen people the chance to have a better future, both politically and economically.


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