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Newsline - October 16, 1998




YELTSIN ISSUES INSTRUCTIONS ON KOSOVA...

Meeting with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 14 October, Russian President Boris Yeltsin "gave instructions on how to act to settle" the situation in Kosova, Ivanov told reporters the following day, before departing for Paris to attend a meeting of the International Contact Group. Interfax quoted him as saying that the instructions were "not to slacken attention or vigilance" because the threat of the use of force in Kosova has not been fully removed. Yeltsin called for "Russia to take a most active part" in the OSCE mission in Kosova, Ivanov said, adding that it was Russia's idea to send the OSCE mission to the province. JN

...WHILE DEFENSE MINISTRY DECLARES READINESS TO PARTICIPATE IN OSCE MISSION.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the international military cooperation department of the Russian Defense Ministry, told reporters in Moscow on 16 October that Russia is ready to participate under the auspices of the OSCE in monitoring Belgrade's implementation of the UN Security Council's resolution on Kosova. But he said it would be premature to speak about the specific forms of Russian involvement because the subject is still under negotiation. Ivashov said the Defense Ministry is ready to offer AN-30 aircraft to participate in air monitoring. He did not rule out sending Russian officers as international observers to Yugoslavia, Interfax reported. JN

RUSSIA PLANS TO STEP UP ITS ROLE IN PALESTINIAN- ISRAELI TALKS.

Ivanov also told reporters that Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov has been instructed to step up Russia's participation in the coming Palestinian- Israeli talks in Washington, D.C. During his recent visit to Moscow, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invited Russia to take a more active part in the talks. Ivanov said Vorontsov has "received corresponding instructions," Interfax reported. JN

RUSSIA RATIFIES MILITARY SECURITY AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS

The Russian Federation Council on 14 October ratified a Russian-Belarusian agreement on joint efforts to ensure military security in the region. The agreement defines the procedure to create a regional unit, Interfax said, adding that the document outlines structures responsible for the formation of the military group, strategic planning, and the use of air space and military infrastructure. The agreement supplements the clauses on collective security in the Union Treaty of Russia and Belarus and the Union Charter and is in accordance with the CIS Collective Security Treaty. The Federation Council also ratified an agreement on defense cooperation with Belarus that includes preparation of government defense production orders and the planning of joint defense operations. JN

FOREIGN TRADE DOWN

The State Customs Committee and the State Committee for Statistics announced on 16 October that Russia's official foreign trade totaled $81.6 billion during the first eight months of 1998 or 7 percent less than in the corresponding period of last year, PRIME- TASS reported. The volume of trade with CIS countries shrank by 5.1 percent. Russian exports dropped by 14 percent to $47.3 billion while imports grew by 4.7 percent to $34.3 billion. Imports from foreign countries were almost three times higher than those from ex-Soviet republics. JN

GRAIN HARVEST BELOW LAST YEAR'S

As of 12 October, Russia's grain harvest totaled 49.7 million tons, which is 46.7 percent below the 1997 level, according to an official report of the State Committee for Statistics, PRIME-Tass reported on 15 October. Agricultural enterprises, which account for some 90 percent of farmland sown to grain crops, have so far harvested 70.7 percent of the crop, compared with 90 percent at the same time last year. By 12 October, potato output was 30 million tons--down 10.7 percent on 1997. However, the vegetable harvest was 7.4 million tons, up 3 percent on the previous year, while sugar beet output exceeded the 1997 level by 22.9 percent and sunflower seeds output was almost double last year's level. JN

GAZPROM SIGNS DEBT SETTLEMENT ACCORD WITH FUEL MINISTRY

Gazprom, the Fuel and Energy Ministry, and the State Tax Service on 15 October signed an agreement on debt settlement by the gas monopoly and the Fuel Ministry. Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov told reporters the accord also covers payment of current tax debts to the federal budget, ITAR-TASS reported. Generalov said the agreement will remain in effect until Gazprom and the state pay their mutual debts for 1998. JN

FORMER SOVIET, RUSSIAN JUSTICE MINISTERS ORGANIZE

Russia's Justice Ministry announced on 16 October that Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov has issued an order founding a Council of Domestic Justice Ministers consisting of former Soviet and Russian Federation justice ministers. These include Vladimir Terebilov, Sergei Stepashin, Aleksandr Sukharev, Nikolai Fedorov, and Veniamin Yakovlev. ITAR-TASS said the council will help to ensure continuity of juridical policy, promote the development of legal awareness, foster legal culture, train young legal staff, and monitor the activities of the Justice Ministry. JN

SHABDURASULOV NAMED ORT DIRECTOR-GENERAL

Igor Shabdurasulov was unanimously elected director- general of Russian Public Television ORT, at a 15 October shareholders' meeting in Moscow, Interfax reported Shabdurasulov has been acting director-general since 15 September. He is a member of the ORT board of directors and one of the state's representatives at ORT. He succeeds Kseniya Ponomareva who resigned on 1 September after nine-and-a-half months in the post in protest at not having been consulted when Sergei Dorenko, chief producer of the ORT information programs directorate, was made an anchorman on "Vremya." JN

MOSCOW PLANS TO ENFORCE BAN ON HARD LIQUOR SALES

The city of Moscow plans to enforce a ban on the sale of hard liquor at produce and wholesale markets. Moscow municipal official Vladimir Malyshkov said the ban, which took effect 16 October, is needed because 80 percent of alcohol sales infractions occur at those markets. He said the city will set up a new network of 100 wholesale and retail alcohol distributors. Meanwhile, the Federal Tax Service announced on 15 October it will audit the tax returns of alcohol producers and revoke the licenses of those who fail to settle their tax debts. The government established a state monopoly on alcohol sales and distribution last month in the hope of boosting tax collections. JN

SOBCHAK INCRIMINATED IN FOUR BRIBERY CASES

Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said that an investigation into the case of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, currently in France, "has established four incidents of bribery" in an interview with the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 16 October. Skuratov said "forces in opposition," many of whom are convinced of his innocence, have seriously impeded the investigation. The prosecutor-general declined to explain the origins of Sobchak's alleged wealth, saying only that "we have materials that might shock and cause confusion among normal people." JN

NEW MAYORAL ELECTIONS IN VLADIVOSTOK SLATED FOR JANUARY

Vladivostok's Municipal Election Committee on 16 October scheduled new mayoral elections for 17 January after declaring the 27 September vote invalid, ITAR-TASS reported. The number of votes cast against all candidates exceeded the combined total in favor of office-seekers. This was an apparent protest after the incumbent, Viktor Cherepkov, was struck from the list of candidates just hours before polling began. The Election Committee ruled that Cherepkov can run for office again but banned all other contenders who competed in the 27 September ballot on the grounds they are untrustworthy. JN

URALS LEADERSHIP CHALLENGED?

A possible competitor organization to the Urals interregional economic association, set up by Sverdlovsk governor Eduard Rossel several years ago, has emerged, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta Regiony" reported on 13 October. The "Edinenie" organization held its first conference in Perm, which was attended by representatives from Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Perm. Heading the organization are directors of large local factories. The next meeting will be held in October in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia. JAC

TATAR OPPOSITION ADVOCATES VOLGA-URAL REPUBLIC

The Tatar Public Center (TOC) unveiled its new draft program at a press conference on 12 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. TOC chairman Gayal Murtazin summarized the new program, which calls for the creation of a Volga-Ural Republic uniting the national republics of the Volga region. (An Idel-Ural Republic existed briefly in 1918-1919 before the creation of the Bashkir and Tatar ASSRs.) The program also calls for the national and state independence of Tatarstan and for designating the Tatar language as the only state language of the Republic of Tatarstan. Murtazin denied that this latter provision is aimed at curtailing the rights of Tatarstan's Russian population or downgrading the status of the Russian language, which is currently the second official language in Tatarstan. LF

ELECTION IRREGULARITIES IN KALMYKIA?

The office of the Russian prosecutor-general has predicted that the 18 October elections to Kalmykia's parliament may be declared invalid, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 October. The newspaper reported that candidates loyal to Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, have had an unfair advantage. One opposition candidate, Yurii Oglaev, an assistant professor at the State University of Kalmykia, received a court order requiring election authorities to register him. However, just days before the election is scheduled to take place, they told him to wait for an invitation. Meanwhile, local law prevents his supporters from campaigning until he has certification of his candidacy. JAC

POLICE IN ALTAI ARREST SUSPECTED TAJIK TERRORIST

Police in Altai Krai, southern Siberia, have arrested a Tajik citizen on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attacks, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. Amridin Zubaidov had been wanted by the Tajik Prosecutor- General's Office for an attempted overthrow of the constitutional system, involvement in paramilitary groups, and committing violent acts against civilians. Discussions on extraditing Zubaidov have begun. JN

FEDERATION COUNCIL CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE TO DAGESTAN

The Federation Council on 15 October addressed an appeal to Prime Minister Primakov to expedite the transfer of funds to Dagestan, Caucasus Press reported. The appeal noted that over the past five years, the republic has been subjected to an "economic blockade," which led to economic disaster and the impoverishment of the population and changed the republic's status from "a donor region into a disaster region." The repeated orders of the Russian president, resolutions of the Russian government and both chambers of the Russian parliament aimed at improving the situation in the region have been ignored by the Ministry of Finance, the appeal claimed. On 14 October, Dagestan's president, Magomedali Magomedov, had appealed to the Council and expressed the hope that the new Russian government will render Dagestan economic assistance. LF

BASAEV STEPS UP CRITICISM OF CHECHEN PRESIDENT

Speaking on Chechen Television on 14 October, former acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev accused President Aslan Maskhadov of striking secret agreements with members of the Russian leadership, Interfax reported. Basaev claimed that Maskhadov had assured former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed that he would refrain from pushing for Chechnya's formal independence for an unspecified period. Basaev also accused Maskhadov of holding covert talks with Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin on supplying Russian arms for Maskhadov's personal bodyguard. Together with fellow field commanders Salman Raduev and Khunkar-pasha Israpilov, Basaev last month accused Maskhadov of violating the Chechen Constitution and called for his resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). A parliament commission created to investigate the allegations against Maskhadov dismissed them as groundless on 12 October. LF

RUSSIA SURPRISED BY INCLUSION OF NORTH CAUCASUS REGIONS IN POLISH FORUM

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed surprise that the list of countries participating in an international human rights conference under way in Warsaw includes "Russia's territories" of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, Interfax reported on 15 October. A Foreign Ministry statement said the admission of those territories to the conference contradicts international conventions, including "the letter and spirit of the OSCE, which Poland chairs this year." The statement termed the Polish move "provocative" attempts to present the status of certain Russian territories as unclear. Chechen President Maskhadov is among the participants in the conference. JN




Aliyev CONFIRMED AS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT

The Central Electoral Commission released the final results of the 11 October presidential poll on 15 October, Turan reported. Those data differ only slightly from the preliminary returns and confirm the reelection of incumbent Heidar Aliev, who polled 76.11 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Etibar Mamedov, received 11.6 percent and Independent Azerbaijan Party chairman Nizami Suleymanov 8.6 percent. The remaining three candidates each polled less than 1 percent. Reuters quoted Mamedov as saying the results were falsified and that he does not recognize Aliyev as president. He predicted that the Azerbaijani people will demand that Aliyev step down. Mamedov's representative on the Central Electoral Commission, Fuad Agaev, said that he was barred from participating in the protocol tally and that commission chairman Jafar Veliev refused to accept documentation giving details of vote falsification. LF

DASHNAK PARTY CALLS FOR PRE-TERM PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Meeting on 15 October with Robert Kocharian, leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD) again urged the president to dissolve the parliament and convene pre-term elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The HHD representatives argued that the July 1995 parliamentary elections, in which they were barred from fielding candidates, were "undemocratic" and that the present parliament "does not reflect the correlation of political forces." To date, Kocharian has consistently rejected calls for pre-term elections by either the HHD or other opposition parties, reasoning that such elections should be held only in an "emergency situation." LF

KAZAKH AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON POTENTIAL OPPOSITION

Leaders of several of Kazakhstan's opposition parties and movements were taken into custody on 15 October and some were fined and/or jailed, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Pyotr Svoik of Azamat, Irina Savostina of the Pokoleniye [Generation] Movement of elderly citizens, Mels Eleusizov of the Green Party, political activist Dos Koshim, and others were all accused of "taking part in sessions and mass gatherings of an unregistered movement." That movement is called For Fair Elections. Eleusizov and Svoik were sentenced to three days in jail, while Koshim and Savostina were fined 6,600 tenge ($82) and 3,300 tenge respectively. Under Kazakh law, no one who has been fined or imprisoned is eligible to run for public office. JC

OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FOR KAZAKH PRESIDENCY RUN INTO DIFFICULTIES...

Murat Auezov, a former leader of Azamat, announced the same day that he is unable to run as a candidate in the January presidential elections. Auezov was found guilty of and fined for organizing an unsanctioned demonstration. There are also reports that former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin is wanted for questioning by law enforcement authorities. Kazhegeldin announced his candidacy for the presidency on 14 October. BP

...WHILE A NEW CONTENDER EMERGES

Kazakhstan's ambassador to Turkey, Baltash Tursynbayev, announced his candidacy for the presidency on 14 October, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Tursynbayev made the announcement in Moscow. At the same time, he said he is stepping down from his post as ambassador to Turkey. Tursynbayev is also the former governor of Kostenai Oblast. BP

BOMBS GO OFF IN TAJIK CAPITAL

Three bombs exploded in Dushanbe on 15 October, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The first went off outside the building that is the headquarters of the National Reconciliation Commission. The other two exploded 30-40 minutes later in suburban districts of the Tajik capital. No casualties have been reported to date. BP

MORE "WAHHABIS" ON TRIAL IN UZBEKISTAN

Fifteen men from the eastern Uzbek city of Andizhan went on trial on 15 October on charges of, among others, terrorism, possession of arms and drugs, robbery, and extortion, Interfax reported. The men are allegedly Wahhabis, the religious group held responsible for several murders in eastern Uzbekistan last December. Five other men, also reported to be Wahhabis, went on trial in Tashkent the same day on similar charges. All suspects face five to 15 years in jail if convicted. These are the first trials involving Wahhabis since early summer, when a series of trials resulted in 26 people receiving prison terms and one being sentenced to death. BP




HALF OF UKRAINE'S BUSINESSES NOT PAYING TAXES

The Ukrainian Economic Ministry has said half of Ukraine's businesses have paid no taxes so far this year, Ukrainian Television reported on 15 October. To prevent such losses in the future, the ministry proposes to lower tax rates in a tax reform that is to be debated by the Ukrainian parliament during its current session, dpa reported. The ministry urges lawmakers to decrease value-added tax from 20 to 15 percent and cut taxes on company profits from 30 to 20 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT PARLIAMENT TO FORM GOVERNMENT

Communist leader Petro Symonenko told journalists on 15 October that the Communists are ready to enter the government and "shoulder all the responsibility" provided that the parliament rather than the president forms the cabinet, Interfax reported. Symonenko said the constitution must be amended so that the government reports to the parliament. He added that the Communist caucus has enough members for two cabinets. Symonenko's remarks follow Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko's proposal to lawmakers to form an "intercaucus" cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998). Pustovoytenko's proposal did not extend to the Communist caucus. JM

KUCHMA IN AUSTRIA

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma held talks with his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, in Vienna on 15 October. "We note with great joy that Austria...supports our efforts to be integrated in Europe," Reuters quoted Kuchma as saying after the meeting. Klestil, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told journalists that "there is a long-term European prospect also for Ukraine." Ukraine is seeking EU associate membership as the first step toward integration into European structures. JM

BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FACES LOSS OF LICENSE

The Belarusian Justice Ministry has told Vera Stremkouskaya, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, that she is to be reprimanded and her license to practice law revoked, according to the International League for Human Rights in New York on 15 October. Last month, Stremkouskaya and Mikhail Pastukhou, former judge of the Belarusian Constitutional Court, had briefed the league on the human rights situation in Belarus. The ministry accuses Stremkouskaya of violating legal ethics by presenting a distorted view of the situation in Belarus. Two members of the Belarusian mission to the UN who attended the briefing in New York notified the Belarusian authorities about Stremkouskaya's statements. According to Stremkouskaya, the Justice Ministry proposed that she formally denounce Pastukhou to avoid reprisals against herself but she declined that proposal. JM

BELARUS, YUGOSLAVIA DISCUSS JOINT SECURITY MEASURES

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Lilic met in Minsk on 15 October to discuss joint measures to ensure the security of their countries, Interfax reported. Lilic later told the agency that he informed the Belarusian president about the situation in Yugoslavia and discussed "a wide spectrum of issues related to the economy, the international situation, and security." Lilic added that he expressed "profound gratitude to the Belarusian president for his statement on support to Yugoslavia." Commenting on the possibility of creating a union between Yugoslavia, Belarus, and Russia, Lilic said it would be "premature" to discuss Yugoslavia's integration into the Russian- Belarusian Union. JM

TURKISH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS ESTONIA'S NATO ASPIRATIONS

Suleyman Demirel told his visiting Estonian counterpart, Lennart Meri, on 15 October that he supports Estonia's aspirations to join NATO, ETA reported. "Despite Russia's statements that NATO cannot expand to the territory of the former Soviet Union, I have supported Estonia's wish to become a full member of NATO," he said, adding that he intends to support Estonia's NATO aspiration at the alliance's 1999 Washington summit. The two presidents also discussed regional cooperation as well as bilateral and trade relations. JC

LATVIAN PRESIDENT PUTS PRESSURE ON LEADING PARTIES

Guntis Ulmanis has said he will stick to plans to name a candidate for prime minister by 3 November, regardless of whether the deadlock between leading parties over that post has been resolved, Reuters reported on 15 October. Latvia's Way wants Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans to be the next premier, while the People's Party, which won the elections, favors its leader, Andris Skele, in that post. A statement issued by Ulmanis's office said that "the president urges parties to be more active to come to terms about the new head of government." Also on 15 October, Ulmanis met with leaders of the Social Democratic Alliance, who expressed their support for Kristopans to take over the premiership. At the same time, they made clear their support is conditional on receiving cabinet posts proportional to their party's showing in the 3 October elections, according to BNS. JC

DISMISSED LITHUANIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS BLACKMAIL CHARGES

J. Gaudutis, the former chief of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service, has rejected charges of blackmail made by Internal Affairs Minister Stasys Sedbaras, BNS reported on 15 October. In an interview with the newspaper "Respublika" the previous day, Sedbaras claimed that on being dismissed, Gaudutis demanded unusually high severance pay and threatened to publicize compromising information against Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. Gaudutis, in an interview with "Respublika" on 15 October, rejected those claims and said he had collected no information on the Lithuanian leadership. According to BNS, the 52-year-old Gaudutis's dismissal has prompted widespread speculation within some political circles. Initially, the ministry cited Gaudutis's age as the reason for his dismissal. Later, it mentioned "errors in selecting subordinates" as additional grounds for relieving him of his duties. JC

POLAND SEES NO NEED TO RESTRICT LABOR FLOW AFTER JOINING EU

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said in Brussels on 15 October that Poland's economic reform may prevent the need for restrictions on the movement of Polish workers after the country joins the EU, Reuters reported. Buzek added that his government's policy will lead to "a strong and stable economy" that will reduce unemployment and remove the need for Polish workers to seek work in EU countries. European Commission Jacques Santer said after meeting Buzek that the Polish government has carried out "remarkable work" in its EU membership preparations. The European Commission pledged 30 million ecus ($27 million) to help Poland restructure its coal and steel sector. JM

CZECHS INITIAL GAS DEAL WITH GAZPROM

Czech natural gas importer Transgas signed a long-term contract with Russian gas giant Gazprom on 15 October, CTK reported. Transgas Director Miroslav Grec said the state- owned company will import some 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia every year for the next 15 years. Russia was the primary supplier of natural gas to the Czech Republic until last year, when the Czech government signed an extensive contract to import natural gas from Norway. Some 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas transit the Czech Republic every year en route to Western Europe. PB

CZECHS MAY ALSO NEED VISAS FOR BRITAIN

British officials say that a further increase in the number of Czech Roma applying for asylum in Great Britain could lead to the imposition of a visa regime for Czech citizens, CTK reported. London reimposed visa regulations for Slovak citizens last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1998) because of the high number of Roma from Slovakia requesting asylum in Britain in August and September. The British Home Office said on 14 October that in those two months, 1,611 Slovak Roma and 460 Czech Roma requested asylum. The issue is expected to be a major topic of discussion when President Vaclav Havel, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, and Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl make an official visit to London next week. The British ambassador to Prague, David Broucher, was recently quoted on Czech television as saying that Roma have no reason to leave the Czech Republic. PB

HUNGARY, ROMANIA SET UP MORE JOINT COMMITTEES

A Hungarian-Romanian governmental committee, chaired by Hungarian Foreign Ministry state secretary Zsolt Nemeth and his visiting Romanian counterpart, Mihnea Constantinescu, have decided to set up another two "expert" groups, Hungarian media reported on 15 October. One of the committees will deal with Church and religious affairs and the other with health and social affairs. A protocol passed by the committee proposed seeking a resolution to the financial problems of schools for ethnic Romanians in Hungary, restoring Orthodox churches, and ensuring parliamentary representation for minorities. The protocol also urges Romania to ratify the language charter of the Council of Europe, enact a minority law, approve a government decree on language and education, and resolve the issue of the restitution of Hungarian Church property. MSZ

INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES ABOUND IN HUNGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

Of the 101,633 candidates running in the 18 October local elections, some 48,000 are independents. Nearly 40 parties, some 600 public organizations, and 160 ethnic organizations are fielding candidates for 41,000 posts in municipal, county, and minority local governments, Hungarian media reported on 16 October. The opposition Socialists have some 5,700 candidates, followed by the coalition Independent Smallholders with nearly 4,300. The major coalition party, the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party, has 2,600 candidates. The campaign media blackout starts on 16 October. MSZ




ANOTHER REPRIEVE FOR MILOSEVIC?

An unnamed NATO diplomat told Reuters on 16 October that alliance ambassadors will agree later that day to extend by 10 days the deadline for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to comply with international demands that he withdraw his forces from Kosova and let refugees go home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1998). Originally, 17 October was the deadline for Milosevic to show that he had seriously begun to meet the demands. Other ambassadors told Reuters that it is unclear whether Milosevic will get the10-day reprieve, which some unnamed smaller member states have reportedly requested. PM

SOLANA SAYS MILOSEVIC NOT COMPLYING

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told Milosevic in Belgrade on 16 October that the alliance knows he is not complying with international demands and warned him to do so lest he face air strikes. Solana said that NATO knows of "many army and special police units that...remain in [the province] even though their barracks are outside [it]..., these units must be withdrawn immediately." He also warned the Yugoslav leader that "any attack with hostile intent against NATO verification aircraft will have the greatest consequence." Solana signed an agreement allowing NATO to overfly Yugoslav territory as part of the package Milosevic agreed with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke earlier this week. Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic, NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, and General Klaus Naumann, the chairman of NATO's military committee, signed the overflight agreement. PM

PLANS TAKE SHAPE FOR VERIFICATION MISSION

Polish Ambassador to the OSCE Adam Kobieracki, whose country holds the rotating chair of that organization, told Reuters in Vienna on 15 October that the first of 2,000 civilian verification experts should have arrived in Kosova by 24 October. He did not say how large that initial contingent will be. In related news in New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that a "mission" of unspecified size will arrive in Kosova on 17 or 18 October to be able to inform Annan firsthand of conditions on the ground there. Annan had recently complained that he could not evaluate the situation in Kosova because he does not have his own sources of information in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1998). PM

KOSOVARS BLAME U.S. FOR 'SELL-OUT'

Several Kosovar spokesmen said in Prishtina on 14-15 October that Holbrooke knowingly sold out Kosovar interests in order to reach an agreement with Milosevic. One spokesman referred to the Milosevic-Holbrooke pact as "peace in our time" in a reference to the 1938 Munich Agreement. Bardhyl Mahmuti, a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told Reuters in Geneva on 15 October that "certain elements in the U.S. administration are lying. They are hiding the facts on the ground to pretend the peace deal is working. But there's no progress.... There is no sign of a withdrawal by Serb forces. The truth is there's shelling every day. U.S. satellite pictures would easily confirm that.... The Americans know what's going on. The Serbs are setting up new positions.... Milosevic is continuing his policy of ethnic cleansing, shelling and barbarism. But there is deafening silence" from the West, he concluded. PM

SURROI WARNS OF BANNING

The Serbian Information Ministry on 15 October banned the independent daily "Nasa Borba." This is the third daily to be shut down this week under a decree forbidding the dissemination of "fear, defeatism, and panic" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998). In Prishtina, Veton Surroi, the editor in chief of the leading Kosovar daily "Koha Ditore," wrote on 16 October that he expects his newspaper will also be banned. He added: "I would not be surprised if the regime would torch this office. A regime that eliminates women and children-- victims of a war against the civilians--knows no shame and does not have scruples or conscience." Surroi concluded: "If they ban us...this will pass. If they ban us, we will try to get around it. This is a law of struggle against censorship.... Those who will ban us today will be in a rubbish basket tomorrow. And we will call in our newspaper for a ban on allowing them entry into Kosova, even with passports." PM

ANOTHER TUDJMAN AIDE QUITS

Franjo Greguric on 15 October submitted his resignation to President Franjo Tudjman as the representative of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to the mainly Muslim and Croatian Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is the third leading representative of the HDZ's moderate faction to quit a top post recently in the wake of an apparent victory of the Herzegovinian hard-liners over the moderates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998). PM

UN ENDS MISSION IN EASTERN SLAVONIA

UN officials formally ended the world organization's civilian police mission in eastern Slavonia on 15 October. The OSCE will now assume responsibility for the international police presence in the region, which the local Serbs consider essential to ensure their safety from ethnically motivated incidents. The UN completed its temporary administration of eastern Slavonia on 15 January, when Croatia reasserted control. Many remaining Serbian civilians now fear that Croats will take revenge on them for destruction, ethnic cleansing, and atrocities that Croats suffered during the 1991-1995 conflict. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES PARLIAMENT DECISION ON NATO REQUEST

Emil Constantinescu praised the Romanian parliament's approval on 14 October of a NATO request to have access to the country's air space in case of military intervention in Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1998), Rompres reported. Constantinescu said the vote is proof of parliament's ability to overcome political disputes and biases out of concern for national interests. In other news, a 31-year-old woman was in critical condition after attempting self- immolation in front of the city hall in the southern town of Pitesti on 16 October. A crowd of several dozen people witnessed the event. The woman was protesting the failure of the state to provide her family with an apartment. PB

ROMANIAN TRADE MINISTER ON GAS PRICE HIKES

Radu Berceanu said on 14 October that the government-imposed increase on gas prices is needed to prevent the Romanian National Oil Corporation from sustaining huge losses, Rompres reported. The Trade Ministry announced the previous day that a nearly 5 percent increase in the price of gasoline would go into effect on 15 October. Berceanu said taxes and duties make up 70 percent of the price of a liter of gasoline, which now costs 4,600 lei (about $.50). PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SENDS BACK LAW ON JUDICIARY

Petar Stoyanov vetoed a proposed law on reforming Bulgaria's judiciary on 15 October, AP reported. Stoyanov said the legislation would give the government too much power over judicial officials and would fail to promote greater efficiency in fighting organized crime and corruption. Stoyanov said he particularly objected to the provision that would allow the justice minister to discipline judiciary officials as well as approve the judiciary's budget. Currently those rights are held by a 25-member Higher Judicial Council. PB

BULGARIAN PREMIER UPBEAT ON COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC FUTURE

Ivan Kostov predicted on 14 October in Sofia that Bulgaria will enjoy economic growth for the next several years, BTA reported. Kostov, speaking at the closing of the Bulgaria Investment Forum, said he forecast that the country's economy will grow by 4.5-5.5 percent annually over the next two years. Kostov said an increase in consumption, already noticeable, along with an increase in the percentage of private business in the Bulgarian economy, are the main factors behind the projected economic growth. Kostov added that far from suffering from the economic crisis in Russia, Bulgaria could benefit by regaining a market share there with such goods as tobacco and foodstuffs. PB

CORRECTION:

In "RFE/RL Newsline" of 15 October, it was incorrectly reported that Bulgaria had acceded to the International Monetary Fund's Article 4. It had, in fact, acceded to the IMF's Article 8.




MACEDONIA TO ELECT NEW PARLIAMENT


by Patrick Moore

Macedonian voters go to the polls on 18 October to elect a 120-seat parliament. The main issues are whether the present coalition, led by the Social Democrats, will continue in office and what the impact of the vote will be on Macedonia's future as a multiethnic state.

Voters in this country of just over 2 million people opted for independence in September 1991 under President Kiro Gligorov, who spent long years in Belgrade and would have preferred to have kept the former Yugoslavia in tact had that option been realistic. The last Yugoslav troops left in spring 1992, but real possibilities to enjoy the fruits of independence began to emerge only in the fall of 1995, after Greece agreed to end the blockade it had imposed in 1993 during an acrimonious dispute over Macedonia's official name and national symbols.

The first free vote for a legislature in the history of Macedonia took place at the end of 1990 and the second in October 1994. Most of the many political parties were established in 1990 and are rooted in the former League of Communists of Yugoslavia, because communist Macedonia did not have a significant dissident movement. The country is multiethnic, and most parties target their appeal primarily to one ethnic group, particularly to the Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, or Roma.

The leading Macedonian parties include the Social Democratic League of Macedonia, which is led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and which has held power in coalition with various smaller parties throughout most of this decade. It currently holds office with the Socialists, whose political platform is very similar to that of the Social Democrats.

Their main competitor for the vote of ethnic Macedonians is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of Ljubco Georgievski. His party claims to be the successor of the VMRO that dominated much of Macedonian politics at the beginning of the century and, like its predecessor organization, has focused on appealing to nationalist sentiments since it was founded in 1990.

But Georgievski's main appeal now is economic. He charges that the Social Democrats and their allies are holding back economic development through over- regulation and corruption. He told "RFE/RL Newsline" recently that he will do away with both burdens, as well as cut taxes and customs rates. He also pledges to encourage foreign investment and set up three free-trade zones.

To underscore this change in approach, Georgievski has formed an electoral coalition with Vasil Tupurkovski's small Democratic Alternative, which is committed to the principles of a civil society. The Democratic Alternative's membership includes persons of many ethnic backgrounds including prominent Albanian intellectuals. Tupurkovski, who first made his name in Belgrade during the last years of the former Yugoslavia, is widely regarded as a possible successor to Gligorov in next year's presidential vote. Some observers suggest that Tupurkovski made his current electoral pact with Georgievski in order to secure the VMRO's backing for Tupurkovski's 1999 presidential bid.

But the key to political stability are the ethnic Albanian parties. The Albanians constitute about 23 percent of the total population and live mainly in western Macedonia in areas bordering Albania. The Albanians claim that they are grossly underrepresented in state institutions and demand a greater share of political and economic power.

They also want an Albanian-language university and possibly the transformation of the present unitary state into a federal one. Many Macedonians, however, suspect that such claims are really a prelude to a demand for full independence. Consequently, mutual mistrust is widespread, ethnic tension frequently high, and political and social life highly polarized.

The more moderate major Albanian political group is the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which participates in Crvenkovski's coalition government. Georgievski charges that the PPD has become part of the corrupt establishment. The PPD's hard-line rival is the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH). Arben Xhaferi, leader of the PDSH, frequently uses militant rhetoric but at other times adopts a conciliatory tone. Few observers in Skopje are willing to predict what course he might take after the election.

Polls suggest that no party has a clear majority among either main ethnic group and that as much as 40 percent of the electorate remains undecided. This will be the first election according to rules that allow for only 85 of the 120 seats (instead of all 120, as was previously the case) to be elected on the majority principle. The remaining 35 will be selected by proportional representation following a concession by the government to the smaller parties.

The PPD and PDSH have formed an electoral pact to field joint candidates in some districts to ensure that competition between them does not lead to the election of a non-Albanian. A spokesman for Xhaferi told "RFE/RL Newsline," however, that the pact will expire after election day and has no bearing on future coalition talks.

Regardless of the composition of the new government, the ruling parties will face the daunting tasks of overcoming high unemployment and attracting foreign investment. Many observers have long noted that prosperity is the key to peace and stability in the Balkans- -demagogues and war came to the former Yugoslavia only after a decade of economic decline. The key challenge to the next government will be to boost Macedonia's standard of living so that all its citizens can feel they have a stake in both that state and its future.


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