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Newsline - June 11, 1998




RUSSIAN STOCKS FALL FOLLOWING NEWS OF NO NEW AID

Stocks on the Russian Trading System fell more than 6 percent on 10 June amid concern that Western nations will not offer Russia a comprehensive financial aid package. The lack of confidence comes after senior officials from the G- 8 ended two-days of talks in Paris that focused on Russia's financial situation. The officials praised Russia's austerity measures and pledged support through international lending institutions. But they offered neither new aid nor new initiatives to help Russia out of its current financial turmoil. AW

FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTS FURTIVE RUSSIAN BORROWING

Russia has secretly borrowed at least $200 million from Western commercial banks over the past week to help finance its stabilization program, the "Financial Times" reported on 11 June, quoting unnamed Western bankers. The Russian Finance Ministry told the London business daily that it cannot confirm the loans, which follow a $1.25 billion eurobond issue last week. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said on 10 June that "the most severe financial crisis" is still not over and that the government will finish drafting an anti-crisis program in the next few days, Interfax reported. The government is due to present that program to the State Duma on 17 June, according to "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 11 June. AW

RUSSIAN OIL, GAS WORKERS SAY PREPARED TO STRIKE

Following an extraordinary conference, Russia's main oil and gas workers' trade union adopted a resolution on 10 June calling for "mass protests including a national strike" if the government fails to meet its demands within two weeks, Reuters reported. The demands include cutting electricity, rail, and oil pipeline tariffs, freezing the sector's debts to the budget, a six-month moratorium on tax payments, and a general overhaul of the national tax system. "The market crisis in southeast Asia and the collapse in oil prices have weakened oil companies," union leader Lev Mironov said after the conference. "Now even big companies are unable to pay workers' wages on time." AW

DUMA DEBATES BILL ON PRESIDENT'S DISMISSAL

The lower house on 10 June debated a bill that would require the head of state to undergo a medical exam if he is unable for more than four months to work full time or if doctors order the president to reduce his workload, Russian press reported. In such a case, either the Duma or the Federation Council would be authorized to ask the Supreme Court to appoint a team of doctors to examine the president and, based on their findings, rule whether he could remain in office. The Russian Constitution says a president must step down if he suffers a "lasting inability to exercise his powers." However, the constitution does not explain the process for removing the president on those grounds. AW

YELTSIN FIRES STATISTICS CHIEF ARRESTED IN TAX SCANDAL

Yeltsin on 10 June fired Yurii Yurkov, the director of the country's statistics service, who the previous day was charged with helping companies evade taxes, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. AW

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES ADOPTION BILL

The Federation Council on 10 June ratified amendments to the adoption law that would tighten control over foreign adoptions and encourage more Russians to adopt children. The changes were passed by the Duma on 5 June and must still be approved by Yeltsin, who has not publicly stated his opinion on the subject. The amendments were proposed by the head of the Duma's women and family affairs committee, Alevtina Aparina of the Communist Party, who argued the changes are needed to better protect children's rights. The bill would allow foreign adoption agencies to operate in Russia only after their country signs an agreement with Russia establishing rules of conduct. AW

HUNDREDS MOURN SLAIN JOURNALIST

Hundreds turned out for the funeral on 10 June of Larisa Yudina, a journalist and Yabloko member who was found murdered two days earlier in the Republic of Kalmykia. Speaking on Russian Television the same day, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin described the slaying of Yudina as "a contract murder, a political murder," and vowed a thorough investigation of the case, Reuters reported. ITAR-TASS quoted the presidential press service as saying Yeltsin has ordered the security services to investigate the case. It said Yeltsin will personally monitor the inquiry. AW

OIL OFFICIAL KILLED IN SIBERIAN TOWN

Yurii Zinin, the head of Sibneft Company, was shot dead on his way to work in Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, on 10 June, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Zinin's company is a local branch of the oil producer Sibneft, controlled by Boris Berezovskii. It runs a network of gas stations in the region and also deals in coal. Officials declined to comment on possible motives for the murder. However police say the killer fled the scene leaving his gun behind, a recognized sign of an organized crime killing. AW

SERGEEV PROPOSES MOSCOW FOR SOME NATO- RUSSIAN COUNCIL MEETINGS

Defense Minister Igor Sergeev proposed in Brussels on 10 June that some of the sessions of the new Russian-NATO council be held in Moscow, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The joint permanent council, set up last year as part of the Founding Act between Russia and NATO, holds consultative sessions of its foreign and defense ministers semi-annually. It also holds monthly meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels at ambassador level. Sergeev also praised the council's work, saying Russia has succeeded in making its voice heard by NATO members. AW

RUSSIA TO BURY TSAR'S REMAINS, DESPITE PATRIARCH'S ABSENCE

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov expressed regret on 10 June that Patriarch of All Russia and Moscow Aleksei II will not attend the burial of the Nicholas II and his family in St. Petersburg next month, Interfax reported. The Church's Holy Synod said on 9 June that no member of the Church hierarchy will take part in the ceremony but that local priests will conduct a requiem over the remains, which were unearthed in a forest in Yekaterinburg in 1991. The Church has expressed lingering doubt over the identity of the bones. Nemtsov said the government commission that conducted extensive tests to identify the remains was ready to allow anyone who wished to undertake a further examination, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Nemtsov aide Viktor Aksyuchits told Reuters on 10 June that Yeltsin will "probably not" attend the Czar's reburial. Analysts say that without the patriarch, it would be awkward for Yeltsin to attend. AW

RUSSIA SEEKS TO SELL OFF OLD MILITARY JETS

In a bid to boost the military's budget, the head of Russia's air force, Anatolii Kornukov, announced on 10 June that the country is planning to sell off some 600 old military aircraft, Interfax reported. Kornukov said the arms export firms Rosvooruzhenie and Promexport will organize the sales. Military jets such as the MiG-27, MiG-23, and Su-22 could be put on offer, as well as L-39 training jets or some of the air force's military transport planes. Russia's S-200 and S-125 anti-aircraft missile systems and accompanying instruments and equipment could also go on sale, Interfax quoted Kornukov as saying. AW

DEPLOYMENT OF S-300s TO BE DELAYED?

The Greek Cypriot National Council has decided to postpone the deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missiles on the island until this fall, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 11 June, citing Anatolia News Agency. Rosvooruzhenie has repeatedly said that the missiles will be shipped on schedule, in August 1998. Russian and Greek Cypriot spokesmen on 9 June denied a "Segodnya" report that the missiles have already been sent to Cyprus. Russian air force commander General Kornukov told journalists in Moscow the next day that Greek Cypriot military officials will test S-300s at a base near Astrakhan later this month, Interfax reported. LF

INGUSH PRESIDENT WARNS OF NEW VIOLENCE

Meeting with senior Russian officials in Vladikavkaz on 10 June, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev complained that the implementation of measures to expedite the repatriation to North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion of some 20,000 ethnic Ingush forced to flee the district in 1992 is being delayed, Interfax reported. Those measures were agreed upon in Moscow last August Aushev warned that tensions are increasing following the abductions of five Ingush and six Ossetians in North Ossetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 June 1998) and that "the situation may snowball," according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 June. Aushev criticized his North Ossetian counterpart, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, for failing to take action to prevent hostage-takings. Dzasokhov has blamed members of both ethnic groups for trying to sabotage the repatriation process. LF




ARMENIA DENIES INTERFERENCE IN KARABAKH DOMESTIC POLITICS

Interviewed by RFE/RL on 10 June, a spokeswoman for Armenian President Robert Kocharian said that accusations made the previous day by a senior member of the parliament of the undeclared Nagorno- Karabakh Republic are "nonsense." That official had charged that Yerevan is interfering in the enclave's political affairs in order to gain full control over Karabakh. Similarly, Armenian presidential adviser Aram Sarkisian told RFE/RL the same day that Petrosian's accusations are "groundless," but he added that Armenia is concerned about the ongoing leadership crisis in Karabakh and cannot remain "indifferent." Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian traveled to Stepanakert on 10 June for talks aimed at overcoming differences within the enclave's leadership, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

ARMENIA TO STORE FRENCH NUCLEAR WASTE?

Union of Greens chairman Hakob Sanasarian told a human rights seminar in Yerevan on 9 June that radioactive waste from French nuclear power stations will soon be transferred to Armenia and stored in a special facility at the Medzamor nuclear station, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sanasarian said the construction of a special storage facility for nuclear waste, due to be completed this month, is part of a "secret deal" between the French and Armenian governments, whereby France's Framatome company participated in the reactivation of the Medzamor facility in exchange for storing nuclear waste there. LF

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Irakli Menagharishvili met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on 10 June to discuss the situation in Abkhazia. No details of the meeting were made public, but Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the Georgian National Security Council had instructed Menagharishvili earlier the same day to demand the immediate implementation of articles of the 25 May protocol that deal with the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia's Gali Raion during last month's fighting, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhazia wants repatriation pegged to the relaxing of restrictions on its border with Russia. It also insists that fugitives may return to Gali only if they accept Abkhaz citizenship, which is not internationally recognized, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 June. Georgia argues that the border restrictions should not be lifted until all fugitives have returned and joint local administrative bodies have been established in Gali. LF

UN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ABKHAZ SITUATION

Some two weeks after 35,000-40,000 ethnic Georgians were forced to flee from Abkhazia, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern at persisting tensions in Abkhazia, Reuters reported on 10 June. Annan called on both sides "to settle their dispute at the negotiating table and not through armed confrontation." Caucasus Press reported on 11 June that the unarmed UN observer force in western Georgia has refused to continue monitoring the situation in Gali because of inadequate measures to ensure its members' safety. LF

CONTROVERSIAL GEORGIAN ELECTION RESULTS TO BE REVIEWED?

The Lagodekhi local election commission has applied to the Georgian Central Electoral Commission to review the voting results in two districts where the Socialist Party candidate far outpolled his rival from the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia in the 7 June by- election, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. Leading Georgian politicians have charged that "every conceivable sort of violation" was committed during the voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1998). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS NO MORE DANGER FROM TOXIC SPILL...

Askar Akayev said on 10 June there are no longer any dangers posed by spill of sodium cyanide near Lake Issyk-Kul, Interfax and RFE/RL correspondents reported. According to Akayev, who was speaking in Astana, Kazakhstan, "the lake is alive and well and is looking forward to tourists." He added that Issyk-Kul is "absolutely not contaminated" as the chemical "dissolves into harmless components" when mixed with water. The same day, officials from the Kumtor gold mining project told a news conference in Bishkek that experts from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and the World Health Organization have reached the same conclusion. BP

...BUT LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES NOW AT ISSUE

At same the news conference, the new president of Kumtor, Len Homeniuk, and the head of Kyrgyzstan's state gold company, Dastan Sarygulov, admitted that the spill of sodium cyanide was Kumtor's fault and that the company was negligent in informing the population of the area as to the possible danger, RFE/RL correspondents reported. However, opinions differ over who should pay for the cleanup and compensate residents of the area. Kyrgyz officials, including Akayev, say the Canadian company that is a partner in the joint venture, CAMECO Corp., will pay all compensation. CAMECO officials, however, say that since the company has only a one-third share in the project, it will pay only one-third of the costs. BP

ANNAN WANTS BAN LIFTED ON TAJIK POLITICAL PARTIES

UN Secretary-General Annan, meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in New York on 9 June, expressed the hope that the Tajik parliament's ban on religious parties will be lifted, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Annan noted that the ban violates the "spirit" of the peace accord, signed in Moscow last year, which calls for all banned political parties to be legalized following their disarmament. The UN acting special envoy to Tajikistan, Paolo Lembo, told the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission on 10 June that credit worth $515 million promised by an international donors conference in Paris last month, will be delivered only if there is progress in the peace process. BP

KAZAKHSTAN CELEBRATES NEW CAPITAL

A large ceremony in Astana on 10 June marked the transfer of the Kazakh capital to that city. Attending the festivities were the heads of state from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Ukraine, as well as Russian Deputy Premier and special envoy to the CIS Ivan Rybkin, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. and officials from the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the decision to move the capital from Almaty, in southeastern Kazakhstan, to Astana, which lies in the approximate geographical center of the country, was "the result of a centuries-long search, lengthy contemplation, and heated debates." BP




AMBASSADORS TO MINSK WANT TO REMAIN AT DRAZDY...

The Belarusian government's 10 June decision to postpone for one week the eviction of diplomats from their residences at Drazdy has averted a mass diplomatic protest. France, Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. said they will keep their ambassadors in Minsk for the time being, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. U.S. Ambassador Daniel Speckhard told an RFE/RL correspondent that Western governments have offered to help with necessary repairs to the compound "in a way that would not require the eviction of resident diplomats." The British Foreign Office expressed the hope that the postponement "gives a period for Belarus to reconsider [its decision] and to find a mutually satisfactory solution," Reuters reported. France and Germany said they reserve the right to take tough action if Belarus continues to insist on the eviction. JM

...WHILE LUKASHENKA SAYS THEY MUST MOVE OUT NEXT WEEK

At a 10 June news conference, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed that he has given the ambassadors only a temporary reprieve. "Ambassador Speckhard, in the name of 12 or 14 embassies, asked me to give them three to four days to collect their belongings; I gave them a week," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Lukashenka as saying. The president also hinted that the real reason for the eviction may be his own uneasiness about living in close proximity to Western diplomats. "Drazdy is the residence of the leader of the government. Today, only 50 meters away from this residence, are the diplomatic residences of the U.S., France, Italy, and India," he said. ITAR-TASS reported that the Belarusian authorities intend to cut off water and electricity supplies to Drazdy next week. JM

KIRIENKO URGES 'SOLID ECONOMIC FOUNDATION' IN RUSSIA-BELARUS RELATIONS

During his 9-10 June visit to Belarus, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, who is also head of the Executive Committee of the Russian- Belarusian Union, called for a "solid economic foundation" and "broad production cooperation" between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. While visiting the Kazlovichy border checkpoint, near Brest, Kirienko said transit shipments to Russia should be cleared at the Belarusian border in accordance with Russian legislation. At a news conference following his meeting with Lukashenka, the Russian premier said that Belarus should pay its debt for Russian deliveries of oil, gas, and electricity, which now amounts to $430 million. At the same time, he expressed his satisfaction with the growing trade turnover and the pace of integration between the two countries. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT

The Supreme Council on 10 June passed a resolution whereby it will postpone for one month debating a motion of no confidence in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998), Ukrainian Television reported. Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, who attended the parliamentary session, thanked the deputies for their "manifested confidence" in his cabinet and pledged that he does not want to be "entangled in the problem of electing a parliamentary speaker." "I have made no agreement on the candidacy for speaker with any parliamentary caucus leader," he asserted. Later the same day, the parliament made another futile attempt to elect its head. Former speaker Oleksandr Moroz was the only candidate and failed to obtain the necessary number of votes.. JM

KUCHMA DECREES HARSH SPENDING CUTS

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has issued an edict introducing strict limits on budget expenditures and other state outlays in a bid to avert a financial crisis, Ukrainian Television reported on 10 June. The government has been given two months to work out a plan to find additional funds to pay wage arrears. The edict prohibits the Cabinet of Ministers from granting tax exemptions or postponing budget payments to any ministries, social organizations, local authority bodies, and enterprises, among others. Political observers view the move as another attempt by Kuchma to introduce order into Ukraine's economy while the country negotiates a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF. JM

ESTONIAN RULING COALITION WANTS CENTRAL BANK HEAD TO STEP DOWN

Members of the ruling coalition have said they expect the resignation of Bank of Estonia President Vahur Kraft over the collapse of the Rural Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998), ETA reported. There has been no direct call from the coalition parties for Kraft to step down, but representatives of those parties believe the bank's collapse resulted from the passivity of the Central Bank. Reform Party Secretary-General Heiki Kranich argued, however, that the rural parties' influence over the Rural Bank, which had been used to finance a number of agricultural projects, had prevented the central bank from effectively controlling what was Estonia's sixth largest bank. JC

LATVIA DRAWS UP PLAN FOR NATO INTEGRATION

The Latvian Foreign and Defense Ministries have drawn up a plan for the integration of Latvia into NATO, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told reporters on 10 June. That plan outlines the sequence of tasks to be performed in order to attain the goal of joining the Atlantic alliance. "Essentially, we want to raise the issue of accession to NATO to the same current level as [that of] integration into the EU," Birkavs said. The draft is to be submitted to the government for consideration next week. Also next week, NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana is due to visit Latvia. Military experts have criticized Latvia for its small defense budget. JC

POLAND, WORLD BANK DISCUSS LOAN FOR RESTRUCTURING COAL INDUSTRY

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz has said Poland may borrow some $1 billion from the World Bank over several years to finance the restructuring of the country's coal mining sector. That statement followed a two-week visit by a World Bank mission to Poland. The bank gave the Polish government two weeks to present a detailed plan for improving the sector, whose debts total almost $4 billion. In a restructuring plan published in April, the government intended to cut nearly 130,000 jobs in coal mining over the next four years. JM

HUNGARY CONCERNED ABOUT ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN ROMANIA

The Hungarian government's Office for Hungarians Abroad released a report on 10 June that expresses concern about the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Romanian state radio reported the next day. The report says the participation of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) in the ruling Romanian coalition provides an "organizational framework" for respecting the rights of the Hungarian minority there. But it adds that UDMR leaders are "worried" by the wide- spread anti-Hungarian campaign in the media, which, the report said, presents the UDMR as a "revisionist, separatist...and destabilizing" organization. The report also says the problem of setting up a separate Hungarian- language university in Transylvania "is turning into a key- issue" in relations between the ethnic Hungarian minority and the Romanian majority. MS




CONTACT GROUP AGREES ON PROPOSALS

Officials from the six-country Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia, meeting in Paris on 10 June, have agreed on a package of proposals to deal with the crisis in Kosova, Reuters reported. The officials met ahead of the Contact Group's foreign ministers, due to meet in London on 12 June. AFP reports that the package includes the threat of force if Yugoslav officials fail to implement the measures outlined in the package by a stipulated date. British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in Brussels that "days rather than weeks is the timetable" because, he added, lessons from Bosnia have been learned. No other details are available. In Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and his Italian counterpart, Beniamino Andreatta, agreed that when NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels on 11 June, force will not be ruled out as a way to help bring an end to the violence in Kosova. Cohen said the ministers will seek a "unified political position." PB

U.S. SEEKS TO SECURE "CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES"

State Department spokesman James Rubin said the U.S. is trying to ensure some guarantees that will allow Yugoslav officials and ethnic Albanian Kosovar leaders to resume talks, Reuters reported on 10 June. Rubin said such measures could include security guarantees for ethnic Albanians, the return of refugees, and an agreement to deploy observers in Kosova. Also on 10 June, Canada announced that it will join the EU and the U.S. in freezing Yugoslav assets on its territory and banning investments in Serbia. PB

HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVA NOT ANOTHER BOSNIA

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said in New York on 10 June that the violence in Kosova is serious but not yet at a "general war level," as was the case in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported. Holbrooke added that the situation in Kosova is different because while the components of former Yugoslavia became independent countries, Kosova is a Serbian province and the international community does not back independence for it. PB

NATO GENERAL SAYS AIR POWER CAN END KOSOVA FIGHTING

General Klaus Naumann, NATO's top military officer, said in Brussels on 10 June that air power could be used in Kosova to bring a halt to the fighting, Reuters reported. Naumann, who is in Brussels to advise NATO defense ministers about military options in Kosova, said the deployment of troops in Albania and Macedonia would not stop the fighting and that air strikes would have to be used against Serbian forces and the Kosova Liberation Army to achieve that end. Naumann added that if NATO takes the first step of using force, it "must be prepared to go all the way to the very end." PB

HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO LOOK INTO POSSIBLE WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA

The International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague announced on 10 June that the court has begun investigations to determine if war crimes have been committed in Kosova, Reuters reported. Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt said the court will "examine the ethnic cleansing" that occurred during the recent armed conflict to see if any crimes against humanity were committed. PB

LULL IN FIGHTING, REFUGEE EXODUS

Reports from Kosova and neighboring Albania on 10 June spoke of reduced fighting in western Kosova and a decrease in the number of refugees crossing the border into Albania. The Albanian government said the refugee situation has improved and that only 100 or so refugees arrived on 10 June. The UN High Commission for Refugees said that on the same day, less than the recent flow of 250-300 refugees per day arrived in Albania. The UNHCR estimates a total of 15,000 Kosovar refugees are in northern Albania. In Prishtina, organizers of daily protests there said they are calling off future protests for the time being. Some 20,000 people marched in the capital on 10 June chanting support for the Kosova Liberation Army as well as for Kosova shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova. PB

BOSNIAN PRESIDENT SAID HE MAY SEEK REVISION OF DAYTON

Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnian joint presidency, said on 10 June that he will request a revision of the Dayton peace agreements if "obstructive forces" come to power after the September parliamentary elections. Izetbegovic, speaking in Luxembourg at a session of officials overseeing the Bosnian peace accords, said there must be either "full implementation" or a revision of those accords. Izetbegovic said he fears that if nationalist parties win the elections, they will not abide by Dayton. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, called the peace process a "success" but said there have also been several disappointments. In Sarajevo, the Bosnian Central Bank said it will delay the introduction of the new Bosnian currency for one week because of a printing problem. PB

ARGENTINA REJECTS YUGOSLAV EXTRADITION BID

Argetinian President Carlos Menem on 10 June published a decree refusing Belgrade's extradition order for Croatian concentration camp chief Dinko Sakic, Reuters reported. Menem refused the request because he said it "is based on the same events for which he will be tried in Croatia." Croatia's extradition order has been granted. Zagreb officials have until the end of June to return Sakic to Croatia. He is currently being detained in Buenos Aires. PB

MORE RAIDS ON TIRANA MILITARY DEPOTS

In two separate incidents, groups of armed gunmen attacked military depots in Mezez and Sauk, near Tirana, on 10 June, "Shekulli" reported. A Defense Ministry spokesman said both groups withdrew after short exchanges of fire with guards. Nobody was injured. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 35 attempts of armed robbery at military depots, all of which have failed. FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO EXAMINE WAYS TO SET UP HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY

Prime Minister Radu Vasile, Education Minister Andrei Marga, and the leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) have agreed to set up a government commission to examine establishing an independent Hungarian-language university, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 10 June. They also agreed to set up a Hungarian language and literature department within the Babes-Bolyai Cluj university. The new commission is to present its report by the end of next month, while the government will draw up by 25 June a document on how to modify the education law in line with the government program and the protocols signed by the coalition partners. This month, the executive is also to draft legislation on the return of Church property confiscated from the Hungarian community by the Communists. MS

ROMANIAN "SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC POLE" IN OFFING?

Traian Basescu, deputy chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, and Adrian Nastase, first deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), have agreed that their formations will cooperate in the parliament on pending legislation, Romanian state radio reported on 11 June. Nastase said that the agreement could mark the beginning of a process leading to the setting up of a "social democratic pole" in Romania. Basescu stressed that cooperation between the two parties is a departure from past practices, adding that such cooperation is both "possible and necessary." He added that in a democracy "today's opposition is tomorrow's government." MS




VATICAN'S "OSTPOLITIK" ARCHITECT DIES


by Jan de Weydenthal

Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who was widely considered an architect of the Holy See's policy of rapprochement with the communist East, died earlier this week in Rome. He was 83.

In a commemorative message to the College of Cardinals, Pope John Paul II said that Casaroli was "a passionate builder of peaceful relations between individuals and nations and, by employing the utmost diplomatic sensitivity, made brave and significant steps, especially in improving the situation of the Church in Eastern Europe."

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches, said that Casaroli "managed to extract concrete, tangible results" in bilateral dealings with individual communist regimes.

Casaroli came to prominence in the early 1960s, when Pope John XXIII initiated a policy of gradually expanding contacts with communist countries.

In 1964, Casaroli achieved a partial accord between the Vatican and Hungary. Seven years later, this accord paved the way for anti-communist Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty to leave his "voluntary exile" in the U.S Embassy, where he remained for 15 years following the Soviet suppression of the 1956 popular revolt against the communist rule.

In the late 1960s, Casaroli was appointed head of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church--or the Vatican's "foreign minister." In this capacity, Casaroli successfully negotiated in 1970 the restoration of relations with Yugoslavia. And in 1971, he visited Moscow to conduct religious talks with Soviet officials, becoming the first senior Vatican official to do so.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Casaroli frequently traveled to Poland to talk with communist rulers there. During those visits he became closely acquainted with the future pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. Following his election as Pontiff in 1978, John Paul confirmed Casaroli as the Vatican's chief diplomat and a year later appointed him as secretary of state, the Church's top official after the pope.

In 1988 Casaroli visited Moscow again. He was subsequently credited with successfully persuading the Soviet officials to allow greater religious freedom for Catholics in Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Russia itself. A year later, in December 1989, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul met in the Vatican. Less than four months later the Vatican and Moscow exchanged ambassadors.

In December 1990 Casaroli resigned as the Vatican's secretary of state and was replaced by his long-time associate, Monsignor (now Cardinal) Angelo Sodano.

Casaroli was universally acknowledged as a consummate diplomat and skillful negotiator who was absolutely loyal to the Church. His role was essentially that of a facilitator--expanding the Church's work in the ideologically hostile communist environment, while negotiating a place for the Church under those difficult conditions.

The election of Pope John Paul resulted in major changes to that approach. This became particularly noticeable during the papal visit to Poland in 1979, the first to a communist country.

During his visit the pope presented an uncompromising critique of the authoritarian government, focusing his attention on moral issues and human rights rather than diplomatic exchanges with the leaders and appealing directly to the public.

The impact of the visit on Poland was dramatic, undermining the authority of the established leadership and encouraging popular self-organization. Just one year earlier, the first popular social movement, Solidarity, rose to prominence through a popular rebellion against the power of the state. While that movement was subsequently crushed by force, the spirit of public independence and social autonomy from state control survived and spread to other countries and societies.

The activist approach to "pastoral" issues, which originated in the Polish visit, has characterized the pope's subsequent visits to other communist and/or authoritarian states.

Casaroli, once so dedicated to gradualism and caution, adjusted to the new situation. His appointment to the powerful position of Secretary of State confirms that. And Pope John Paul clearly appreciated the skill and devotion of the veteran Vatican diplomat.

Following Casaroli's retirement, the pope was reported to have said that it was "providential" to have worked with him during the times of "historic" change in European and world politics.

Speaking in Moscow on 9 June, Anatolii Krasikov, former head of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's press office, said Cardinal Casaroli was a statesman of international stature "who like few others left his own mark on the time in which we live." The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.


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