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Newsline - October 29, 1998




PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR MORE STATE REGULATION OF ECONOMY

Speaking in Vladikavkaz on 29 October, his 69th birthday, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that his government has "resolutely opted" for increasing the role of the state in the regulation of the economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said that "the state must determine the parameters and trends in industrial restructuring" in order to restore "order and discipline" in the country and protect "all forms of property." He also suggested that foreign investments should be "channeled to us" so that production can be increased. PG

MOSCOW SCRAMBLES TO DEAL WITH ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

In order to service its foreign debts--which officials on 28 October said Russia can do--the Russian government is expanding its exports of oil, Russian agencies reported. The Russian government also acknowledged several other problems: a budget deficit of $3.4 billion during the first nine months of the year and only 11.4 percent of expected privatization revenues in the same period, according to Interfax. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said that Moscow will seek to force five or seven foreign countries to pay their debts to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Meanwhile, Russian officials met with the Paris Club to discuss debt management, and Primakov appointed Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants as the country's coordinator for securing EU assistance, Interfax reported on 27 October. PG

YELTSIN RESTS AT BARVIKHA

Houston heart specialist Michael DeBakey told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 28 October that Boris Yeltsin is not that sick and is resting comfortably at the Barvikha sanitarium. Yeltsin aides said that the president may go to Sochi to convalesce. Meanwhile, Russian officials said that Yeltsin's meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has been postponed, although they indicated that his November sessions with top officials from China, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Holland are still scheduled to take place. But Yeltsin cannot have been cheered by a recent poll showing that only 5 percent of Russians approve of his work, while 93 percent disapprove, according to Interfax on 28 October. PG

YELTSIN'S ILLNESS PROMPTS CALLS FOR POLITICAL CHANGES...

Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told ITAR-TASS on 28 October that Yeltsin has transferred most day-to-day tasks to his prime minister but will remain in office until the end of his term. The State Duma, however, has announced that it will debate a law on presidential health in early November, while other politicians suggested more radical solutions. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said in Beijing on 27 October that Yeltsin should transfer power temporarily while he is ill, and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested that the constitution be changed to allow Yeltsin to transfer power to Primakov for the remainder of his term, Interfax reported. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, for his part, called for Yeltsin's resignation and the election of a new president by a special constitutional assembly. PG

...AND PROPOSALS FOR CHANGES IN ELECTION PROCEDURES

A proposal by Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev that the president be elected by a special electoral college consisting of the parliament and local electors drew support from Seleznev but was opposed by Central Election Commission chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. Yavlinskii told Interfax on 28 October that such a shift would be like "using the guillotine to cure a headache." PG

IVANOV SAYS RUSSIA 'TOO BIG' FOR NATO, EU

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told "Izvestiya" on 28 October that Russia is simply "too large" to ever join NATO or the EU. Were Russia to try to join, "neither NATO nor the EU could remain the same," he commented. At the same time, Ivanov said seeking membership in those organizations is something Russia will not do. PG

PRIMAKOV SAYS EU BACKS MOSCOW'S ANTI-CRISIS ACTIONS

Following meetings with European Commission Chairman Jacques Santer and Austrian Federal Chancellor Viktor Klima on 27 October, Prime Minister Primakov said that the EU supports Moscow's efforts to overcome the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov also said he reached agreements with Austrian firms and organizations that will attract some $600 million in Austrian investment to Russia, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 October. PG

YAVLINSKII SAYS CORRUPTION THREATENS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT

In an interview with London's "Daily Telegraph," Yabloko leader Yavlinskii said that corruption threatens to undermine Primakov's government, Russian agencies reported on 28 October. Yavlinskii's remarks were sharply criticized by both government officials and his parliamentary opponents. Yavlinskii indicated that he still supports Primakov as prime minister. PG

MOSCOW PLEASED BY NATO'S DECISION NOT TO USE FORCE IN KOSOVA

Russian officials on 27-28 October both expressed pleasure at and took credit for NATO's decision not to use force in Kosova, Russian agencies reported. But the Foreign Ministry made it clear that it is still concerned about the possibility that NATO might change its mind in the future. Meanwhile, Viktor Ilyukhin, the chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, said on 28 October that approximately 10,000 Russian volunteers are "ready to help the Slavs in the Yugoslav Federative Republic." But a Public Opinion Fund poll found that only 16 percent of Russians support the Serbs, 4 percent support the Kosovars, 43 percent back neither, and 37 percent say they have no opinion or do no know anything about the conflict. Moreover, 63 percent they said they oppose Russia providing military assistance to Yugoslavia in the event of a NATO attack, Interfax reported. PG

UNEMPLOYMENT RISES TO 11.5 PERCENT

The Labor Ministry told ITAR- TASS on 28 October that it estimates that some 8.5 million working age people are now unemployed in Russia, some 11.5 percent of the work force. That number is significantly larger than the official numbers of 1.75 million or 2.5 percent that Russian officials have given in the past. PG

MOSCOW STREAMLINES ARMS TRADE, MISSILE SYSTEMS

Former Russian Economics Minister Yakov Urinson told Interfax on 27 October that Russia's system for promoting arms sales abroad is a good one because it does not allow arms producers to enter the market directly or one company to monopolize that trade. Meanwhile, Commander Vladimir Yakovlev, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said that his forces will be armed with a single modernized missile system Topol-M instead of its current six types of missiles, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Such an arrangement, Yakovlev said, will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his forces. PG

LUZHKOV URGES CREATION OF EAST EUROPEAN MARKET

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has proposed establishing a new East European market modeled on the EU, Interfax reported on 28 October. He said such a group would promote trade and that it is probably not yet the right time to talk about broader political ties of the kind associated with COMECON. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER COMPLAINS ABOUT BANKS

Oleg Mironov, Russia's commissioner for human rights, has spoken out in support of depositors who are suing the country's banks for failing to give them back their deposits in a timely manner, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. And he has asked the chairman of the Supreme Court to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of depositors' rights. PG

ATOMIC MINISTRY SAYS THEFT OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS HAVE CEASED

Nikolai Redin, the deputy chief of the Atomic Energy Ministry's security department, told ITAR-TASS on 28 October that there have been no thefts of nuclear materials in the Russian Federation during the last three years and that there have never been any thefts of weapons-grade materials. He said that there was a wave of thefts of sub-weapons-grade materials earlier because the mass media had featured stories about a "black market for nuclear materials with incredibly high prices." Redin denied that there was such a market, and he noted that the ministry is installing a new computerized control system at its 23 plants around the country. PG

NIKITIN TRIAL CONTINUES

The trial of retired Naval Captain Aleksandr Nikitin continued in St. Petersburg on 28 October, Interfax reported. Nikitin is accused of betraying state secrets in an environmental report on pollution caused by Russia's Northern Fleet that he wrote for the Norwegian Bellona environmental organization. A Defense Ministry official testified that Nikitin's report had inflicted 4.5 billion rubles in damages on the Russian state. If found guilty, Nikitin could face up to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, the "Russian Securities Market News" reported on 26 October that Bellona has experienced difficulties with its E-mail to Russia since the trial began. The publication commented that these problems may be "a purely Soviet coincidence." PG

PRIMAKOV PLEDGES TO SUPPORT DOMESTIC PRODUCERS

While attending a meeting of the Greater Volga Association Council in Saransk on 28 October, Prime Minister Primakov said that his government will do what it can to support domestic production, ITAR-TASS reported. The association, created to improve cooperation among the various political units in the Volga region, is considering ways to overcome the country's economic crisis. Meanwhile, the leaders of the seven major industrial cities in this region signed an agreement on 28 October establishing an association of their own, the Russian news agency reported. PG

YELTSIN SAID CONSIDERING LIMITS ON REGIONAL AUTONOMY

Oleg Sysuev, Yeltsin's first deputy chief of staff told "Segodnya" on 28 October, that the president is considering changes in the constitution that would limit the power of regional officials. "Our misfortunes on the road of economic reforms," Sysuev said, "are largely linked to the weakness of the executive branch. We have 89 regional units that, to put it bluntly, are not accountable to the center." He thereby echoed Prime Minister Primakov's recent proposals for legislation that would allow Moscow to oust elected officials in the regions if they violated central policies. PG

KURIL RESIDENTS WANT JAPAN TO LEASE THEIR ISLAND

Some of the 3,800 residents on Shikotan Island, which belongs to the Kuril chain, are sending a petition to President Yeltsin to lease their home to the Japanese for 99 years if the central government does not provide them with aid by the end of November, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. They have also appealed to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. The petitioners cited Yeltsin's 1992 decree that gave local governments in the region the right to lease portions of their territories to foreign investors for a 99-year period. PG

RUSSIAN-SOUTH KOREAN NAVAL MANEUVERS GET 'EXCELLENT MARKS'

Russian-South Korean naval exercises in communications and maneuvering received "excellent marks" from the Russian Navy's Pacific Command, ITAR-TASS reported. The exercises, held in Peter the Great Bay on 27 October, involved the Russian destroyer "Admiral Vinogradov" and the South Korean frigate "Seoul" as well as support ships. In other news, representatives of the South Korean government and the Red Cross arrived in nearby Sakhalin on 28 October to discuss the repatriation of ethnic Koreans deported to that area by the Japanese authorities more than a half century ago, Interfax reported. BP/PG

DUDAEV SAID TO BE STILL ALIVE

Aleksei Mitrofanov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Geo-Politics and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, told journalists on 28 October that former Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev faked his death in a rocket attack in April 1996 and may now be living in Istanbul. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is currently trying to locate him in that city, Reuters reported. But former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov rejected Mitrofanov's claims as "ravings." There were no witnesses to Dudaev's death, and his place of burial is kept secret. LF




CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION TO BE DELAYED

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told journalists on 28 October that the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) will make its recommendation on the optimal route for the so-called Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil on 12 November, Interfax reported. That recommendation was to have been made public on 29 October. Following talks with AIOC head John Leggate on 27 October, Aliyev had expressed concern that under the terms of the contract signed with the AIOC in September 1994, construction of the pipeline should have been completed within 54 months. Aliyev reaffirmed his determination that the Baku-Ceyhan route should be chosen. Aliev's son Ilham, who is deputy president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR, denied on 28 October that Baku will endorse an alternative route for the MEP. LF

ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION 'NOT A THREAT'

Smbat Ayvazian, leader of the majority Yerkrapah group within the Armenian parliament, has rejected Azerbaijani President Aliev's claim that Russia is arming Armenia against NATO, Caucasus Press reported on 27 October. Ayvazian said that Aliyev has emerged "weaker" and "more vulnerable" from the 11 October presidential elections, according to "Aravot." The Azerbaijani president had told visiting NATO officials in Baku on 23 October that they should make a serious effort to prevent the "militarization of Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, visiting Yerevan on 1 October, had said that Armenian-Russian defense cooperation is not an obstacle to closer NATO-Armenian cooperation. LF

ARMENIAN, KARABAKH PRESIDENTS MEET

Kocharian met with the president and prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian and Zhirair Poghosian, on 27 October to discuss the economic and social situation in the enclave and the Armenian state budget for 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian had discussed economic issues with Armenian Prime Minister Darpinian in Yerevan on 23 October. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER BLAMES UPHEAVALS ON CASH SHORTAGE

Djemal Gakhokidze told Interfax on 27 October that budgetary constraints had precluded implementing what he considered essential changes in the country's security system. Those changes, he suggested, might have prevented the assassination attempt on President Shevardnadze in February and last week's mutiny in western Georgia. He also said that his resignation following the failed mutiny was voluntary, and he endorsed the nomination of Vakhtang Kutateladze, whom Shevardnadze has proposed as Gakhokidze's successor. Kutateladze, who is a 43-year-old KGB veteran and has been the head of Shevardnadze's bodyguard since 1994, told journalists on 28 October that he accepted the nomination as security minister reluctantly. Like his predecessor, he stressed that the Georgian security system needs reorganizing. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES AT AIRPORT

National Security Committee authorities at Almaty airport sought to prevent presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from boarding a Lufthansa plane bound for Germany on 27 October, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Officers confiscated Kazhegeldin's passport but returned it when they learned they were being videotaped. Kazhegeldin was allowed to depart but the flight was delayed 30 minutes. Also on 27 October, the court that found Kazhegeldin guilty of participating in "a session and mass gatherings of an unregistered organization" upheld its verdict, ordering Kazhegeldin to appear before the court. BP

KAZAKH NEWSPAPER REPORTS ON NAZARBAYEV'S PROPERTY ABROAD

The independent newspaper "DAT" reported in its 28 October edition that President Nursultan Nazarbayev owns a villa in Saint Tropez, France, worth $119 million, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty. The newspaper published a picture of the alleged Nazarbayev villa. BP

AKAYEV ENDS JAPAN VISIT

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev wrapped up an unofficial three-day visit to Japan on 27 October, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Akayev and Japanese Prime Minister Keidzo Obuchi signed a document aimed at boosting economic, political and cultural ties. Interfax reported on 28 October that Japan will loan Kyrgyzstan $40 million to improve the Bishkek-Osh highway. BP

UZBEKISTAN REPORTS GDP GROWTH

According to a government report on 27 October, Uzbekistan's GDP increased by 4.4 percent in the first nine months of 1998, Interfax reported. Industrial output grew by 6.1 percent and agricultural output by 4.9 percent. Capital investment also increased by 13.1 percent and services by 12.4 percent. The budget deficit is on target, and less money was printed than planned. Some cabinet members criticized the delay in utilizing foreign credits for small and medium -sized businesses and the slow pace of agricultural reforms. BP




KYIV ORDERS DEBT PAYMENTS FROM DEBTORS' BANK ACCOUNTS

The Ukrainian National Bank has ordered commercial banks to transfer money from foreign currency accounts of the companies that owe money to the government, AP reported on 28 October, citing the "Fakty" daily. The banks were told to pass on the money to the state budget and the pension fund as soon as tax authorities notify them which companies are debtors. The order applies to both state-run and private companies. According to the daily, banks refusing to obey the order will face sanctions from the National Bank. As of August, there were more than 100,000 debtor companies in Ukraine, owing more than 8 billion hryvni ($2.3 billion) to the central and regional budgets and 3 billion hryvni to the pension fund. JM

BELARUS READY TO ALLOW EVICTED AMBASSADORS BACK AT DRAZDY?

Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich told national television on 27 October that Belarus is ready to discuss the return of Western ambassadors to their residences at Drazdy, near Minsk, from where they were evicted in June. Antanovich was commenting on Belarus's invitation to Turkish Ambassador Shule Soysal to return to her fully renovated residence at Drazdy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). "If other ambassadors came and asked questions now, then we would be able to hold talks with them as well," Reuters quoted Antanovich as saying. Japan's charge d'affaires in Belarus told Reuters that the offer is "absolutely unclear" and that the evicted diplomats still demand that "Drazdy's previous status" be restored. JM

BELARUS WANTS TO BROADEN TIES WITH RUSSIAN REGIONS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress in Minsk on 28 October that Belarus would like to broaden cooperation with the Russian regions by establishing contacts with regional groups, in particular with the Siberian Agreement group, headed by Kress, Interfax reported. Lukashenka added that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had "at last reacted very positively" to Belarus's contacts with Russian regions. Belarusian Television suggested that Yeltsin's response may have been prompted by Lukashenka's support to Yeltsin during the Belarusian president's recent visit to Kemerovo and Omsk Oblasts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). JM

BELARUSIAN LAWYER WARNED AGAINST SPREADING INFORMATION

The Minsk City Collegium of Lawyers has warned Vera Stremkouskaya about the "undesirability of disseminating professional information through international organizations" and has advised her "to be correct while giving interviews," Belapan reported on 28 October. The Justice Ministry has threatened to disbar Stremkouskaya, who is a prominent lawyer and human right activist in Belarus, for what it called her distorted briefing on the human rights situation in Belarus during her recent trip to the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). Stremkouskaya told Belapan that following the warning her activity will now be "under special control" and that "any trivial reason may be used for her disbarment." JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS 1999 DRAFT BUDGET...

Lawmakers on 27 October voted by 38 to 36 to reject the government's draft budget for 1999, ETA reported. Many parliamentary deputies had criticized the draft, which provided for a budget volume of 18.451 billion kroons ($1.4 billion), as overly optimistic, particularly with regard to revenues. The government must now revise the draft and resubmit it to the parliament. JC

...VOTES TO COMPENSATE FARMERS FROM STABILIZATION FUND

The previous day, lawmakers proposed to the government that some 250 million kroons ($19.2 million) be borrowed from the country's stabilization fund to compensate farmers for losses incurred this year owing to bad weather, ETA reported. At the same time, deputies said they are prepared to accept alternatives suggested by the government. Both Prime Minister Mart Siimann and the Bank of Estonia responded that they do not consider it advisable to use money from the stabilization fund for this purpose. By taking such a step, "we would weaken the trustworthiness of the economic policy that has been the basis for Estonia's success," Siimann said. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER REQUESTS DEFENSE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION

Guntars Krasts on 27 October requested the resignation of Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis, citing "numerous irregularities" within the leadership of the armed forces, BNS reported. Krasts said that the recent resignation of armed forces commander Juris Eihmanis over the widely publicized acquisition and furnishing of an apartment was only one factor behind his decision. The premier is to consider punishing several top military leaders in connection with the apartment scandal. Noting that the outgoing government will not have enough time to improve the situation in the defense sector, Krasts pointed out that the new defense minister will have his work cut out for him. JC

KALININGRAD SEEKS CLOSER TIES TO LITHUANIA

Leonid Gorbenko, the governor of Kaliningrad Oblast, visited Vilnius on 26-27 October to seek to boost relations with Lithuania, Russian agencies reported. It was Gorbenko's first essay into foreign relations since the central Russian government criticized him for acting too independently during the country's economic crisis. PG

POLAND PLEDGES TO HELP MOLDOVA RESOLVE TRANSDNIESTER PROBLEM

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, in Warsaw on 27 October that Poland will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the ethnic conflict between the secessionist Transdniester region and Chisinau, PAP reported. Kwasniewski said foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Poland plan to meet before the end of the year to discuss the Transdniester problem. He offered to hold preparatory talks in Warsaw before the meeting. Both presidents also agreed to boost Polish-Moldovan economic cooperation, which, they said, are lagging behind political ties. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION CRITICIZES 1999 DRAFT BUDGET

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has criticized the 1999 draft budget adopted by the cabinet on 24 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998), PAP reported on 27 October. SLD leader Leszek Miller said the draft budget shows that Poland's economic situation has deteriorated, arguing that the government's proposed measures will lead to a further economic slowdown. Miller accused the government of cutting wages, pensions, and expenditures on agriculture. Marek Borowski, another SLD leader, said Poland's main problem is its foreign trade deficit. The government, Borowski argued, has taken no measures to reduce imports and stimulate exports. JM

MUNICH DAILY DENIES BLACKMAILING HAVEL

"Sueddeutsche Zeitung" journalist Peter Brod has denied "blackmailing" president Vaclav Havel into withdrawing an award to former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). Brod told CTK that he talked to Ivan Medek, head of the president's office, on 23 October and informed him of his newspaper's intention to publish documents allegedly demonstrating Zilk's collaboration with the Czechoslovak secret police. Medek confirmed to the newspaper that the presidential office was not blackmailed and that Brod's behavior was "perfectly objective from the journalistic and human point of view," according to the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 28 October. Medek reportedly told Brod that the presidential office had similar information from "an absolutely reliable source." MS

SLOVAK PARTIES SIGN COALITION AGREEMENT...

The chairmen of the four opposition parties that defeated outgoing Premier Vladimir Meciar in the September parliamentary elections have signed a coalition agreement. RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau on 28 October reported that Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) leader Mikulas Dzurinda is to head the new cabinet, in which the SDK will have nine seats. Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) chairman Rudolf Schuster is likely to be the coalition's candidate for president, and the SOP will have two ministers. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) chairman Jozef Migas will be parliamentary chairman, and six SDL members will be in the cabinet, including Brigitta Schmognerova as finance minister. The Hungarian Coalition will have three portfolios, including one deputy premiership in charge of human rights and minority problems. MS

...AS MECIAR DISMISSES INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

Meciar's outgoing cabinet on 27 October dismissed Ivan Lexa as director of the Slovak Intelligence Service, CTK reported. No reason was given for the move. Last week, the Slovak press speculated that Meciar would give up his mandate as a deputy in order to make room for Lexa, a close ally, and thereby ensure Lexa's parliamentary immunity. Lexa is widely suspected by the opposition to have been involved in the 1995 abduction of the son of former President Michal Kovac. MS

HUNGARY, UKRAINE STRENGTHEN BILATERAL TIES

Ukraine hopes that once Hungary is admitted into the EU and NATO, it will be more effective in helping Ukraine's quest for Euro-Atlantic integration, visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goncz, on 27 October. At a joint news conference Kuchma accused the EU of discriminating against his country by barring it from associate membership. Ukrainian and Hungarian officials signed documents on, among others, confidence-building measures in the military sphere and developing the Hungarian-Ukrainian border region. MSZ




KOSOVARS RETURN AS SERBS LEAVE

Kosovars returned to their homes on 28 and 29 October following the withdrawal of most Serbian forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1998). Individual Kosovars told journalists on 28 October that they are happy to be going home before the winter sets in. They added, however, that they are concerned that the Serbs will return and harass them. In Prishtina, the pro-shadow state Kosova Information Center reported that Serbian forces have not withdrawn from several areas of Kosova, including Klina and Suhareka. There has been no independent confirmation of KIC's report. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the EU and U.S. warned the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not to occupy checkpoints and fortified positions that the Serbs have abandoned. In Washington, a State Department spokesman added that the U.S. has told the UCK "very clearly that they have to abide by the cease-fire and meet their obligations." PM

CLINTON URGES 'NO ILLUSION' OVER BALKAN PEACE

U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 27 October that the withdrawal of Serbian forces provides a "hopeful moment" for peace in Kosova. He added: "We should be under no illusion. There is still a lot of hard road to walk before hope can triumph over hatred in the Balkans." The next day, special envoy Richard Holbrooke said that there was a "60 percent chance ... of an air war" between NATO and Serbia before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew his troops at the beginning of the week. Holbrooke cautioned that "fighting could break out at any time [as the refugees return and that] is one of our main concerns." He maintained that the OSCE will be free to carry out its verification mission in Kosova with 2,000 unarmed civilians and with flights by unarmed aircraft. "We will fly there, when and where we want," Holbrooke added. PM

NATO SUSPENDS THREAT TO BOMB SERBIA

NATO officials agreed in Brussels on 27 October that Milosevic had sufficiently complied with UN demands for him to withdraw his forces from Kosova. The alliance consequently agreed to "suspend indefinitely its threat to launch air strikes" against Serbia, the "International Herald Tribune" wrote. NATO had given Milosevic a deadline of 7 p.m. local time on 27 October to pull back his army and paramilitary police forces or face the possibility of air strikes. In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the following day that "we are maintaining our threat of force and not letting our guard down." She noted that 400 NATO aircraft will remain on indefinite alert for possible air strikes if the alliance concludes that Milosevic has sent his forces back into Kosova. Albright added that the allies are preparing to station a rapid-reaction force in Macedonia to assist the unarmed verification mission if those monitors find themselves in danger. PM

'SERBIAN ADOLF' PLEADS GUILTY TO 12 MURDERS

Goran Jelisic, who called himself "the Serbian Adolf" during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, told the Hague-based war crime tribunal on 29 October that he killed 12 Muslims and Croats near Brcko during a two-week period in 1992. He added: "It was my good will that I admitted the crime and cleanse my soul. There is no reason for me to keep it within myself." In January, he said that the murder charges and an additional charge of genocide are "all lies and fabrications." He must now face trial for genocide. PM

THREE BOSNIAN SIDES UNITE AGAINST NATO

Muslim, Croatian and Serbian civilian and military leaders said that they cannot accept a recent ruling by NATO-led peacekeepers that all generals on each of the three sides must be approved by SFOR before they take up their appointments, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 28 October. Leaders from all three sides added that the peacekeepers' ruling violates the Bosnian Constitution. A SFOR spokesman argued that vetting by the international community of all top military appointments is an essential step toward depoliticizing the three armies. PM

GRANIC HAILS AGREEMENT WITH BOSNIA...

Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 28 October that the new agreement between Croatia and Bosnia's mainly Muslim and Croatian federation will enable Zagreb to provide funds for Croats in the neighboring republic in a legal and transparent manner. This, he added, will mean that Croatia will "get support...[instead of] pressure" from the international community, which has been critical of Croatia's hitherto secret funding for the Croats in the neighboring republic. The agreement is part of a package that includes a document governing Bosnia's use of Croatia's Adriatic port at Ploce, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. Croatia wants the package in order to reaffirm its legal links to the Croats in the neighboring republic. Bosnia seeks affirmation of its right to use Ploce. PM

...BUT REGRETS 'MISS CROATIA' SCANDAL

Granic also said in Zagreb on 28 October that he regrets the recent public dispute over the winner of the Miss Croatia contest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). He denied that the government had played any role in the controversy and blamed the organizers of the contest for the negative publicity that Croatia received as a result. The dispute over whether to award the crown to an ethnic Muslim or an ethnic Croat ended on 28 October, when contest organizers ruled that the Muslim will represent Croatia in the Miss World pageant later this year and that the Croat will fill that role in 1999. PM

TUDJMAN TO SUE FORMER AIDE FOR SLANDER

A Zagreb district attorney asked a district court to begin an investigation of Slaven Letica on possible charges of slandering President Franjo Tudjman, AP reported on 28 October. If the investigation results in a trial, a jail sentence of up to three years could be imposed. Letica recently told the Slovenian weekly "Mladina" that "Tudjman loves deviant types. He feels a certain attraction to...criminals, paramilitary criminals, prostitutes. These people fascinate him, because they bring some fun into his boring, bureaucratic life." Letica is a professor of medicine and a prominent political analyst. He was Tudjman's chief aide in 1991 but subsequently broke with the president over Bosnian policy. PM

ITALY DISPATCHES POLICE TO STOP ALBANIAN ILLEGAL MIGRATION

Italian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino told journalists in Tirana on 28 October that Italy will soon dispatch a police force to Vlora to clamp down on the smuggling of refugees. The force will help Albanian colleagues intercept refugees before they embark. Jervolino said that Albania and Italy "agreed to put up greater resistance to illegal immigration on the ground because it's easier to stop them on the ground than at sea." She added that Italy also plans to send a coast guard force to the island of Sazan, which overlooks the main route speedboats use to smuggle illegal migrants to Italy. Jervolino said she was prompted to visit Albania by the recent drowning of five Albanians as they attempted to cross the Otranto Straits (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 27 October). She held talks with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Interior Minister Petro Koci. FS

PARTY QUITS RULING ROMANIAN COALITION, ALLIANCE

The Romanian Alternative Party (PAR) on 27 October announced it is leaving both the ruling coalition and the Democratic Convention for Romania (CDR). RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PAR chairman Varujan Vosganian said the decision was prompted by the country's worsening economic situation, the delay in reforms, and the lack of respect for election campaign promises. In the past few months, the PAR has sought to turn itself into the main representative of the right. It was also expected to lose one of its two ministerial posts in an envisaged government shuffle. Mediafax reported on 28 October that three of the PAR's six parliamentary deputies have said they will not quit the CDR. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO MERGE

Spokesmen for the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the extraparliamentary Romanian National Party have confirmed their intention to merge. Meanwhile, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 27 October ruled in favor of the PUNR, which had appealed against the registration of Gheorghe Funar's new Party of Romanian Unity Alliance. The tribunal had ruled against the party's registration in June, but Funar had contested that decision. Meanwhile, leader of the chauvinist Greater Romania Party (PRM) Corneliu Vadim Tudor repeated the invitation to Funar to join the PRM as secretary general, saying the offer will be "open till 31 December," Mediafax reported on 28 October. MS

IMF TO EVALUATE MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

An IMF delegation headed by Richard Haas began a two-week visit to Moldova on 28 October aimed at evaluating the country's economic performance and the possibility of resuming loans to Chisinau. The same day, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu said Moldova is on the "brink of crisis" owing to lower than expected revenues. Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza warned that unless the government approves a "realistic budget," the cabinet will have to "announce Moldova's bankruptcy," Infotag reported. For the first time in its five- year history, the national currency has dropped below 6 lei to $1. MS

BULGARIA HEADING TOWARD ECONOMIC STABILITY

Bulgaria currently has a budget surplus of 326 billion leva ($200 million), whereas last year it had a substantial deficit, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 28 October, citing officials in Sofia. Annual inflation is below 3 percent, compared with a monthly inflation rate of 2,000 percent during the 1996-1997 crisis. The IMF says it expects inflation this year to be about 9 percent. National Bank foreign-currency reserves have risen from $ 81 million in early 1997 to 2.9 billion in June 1998. On 26 October, the Bulgarian government approved a privatization program for 1999 envisaging $607 million in revenues, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT HEEDS PRESIDENTIAL VETO

The parliament on 28 October announced it will reconsider recent amendments to a law on the judicial system that President Petar Stoyanov vetoed earlier this month. it was the second time in a week that deputies agreed to heed Stoyanov's veto rather than overrule it, Reuters reported. Earlier, Stoyanov had vetoed a media law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). The amendments passed to the law on the judiciary aimed at making the struggle against corruption and crime more efficient. Stoyanov, however, opposed some of the changes, saying they infringed on the principle of the division of powers. MS




IS GEORGIA INHERENTLY UNSTABLE?


by Liz Fuller

Georgia hit the headlines again last week, when an army lieutenant identified as a former supporter of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia apparently attempted to overthrow the country's leadership, only to abandon the undertaking later the same day.

The failed insurrection was the fourth major upheaval the country has experienced this year (following the botched assassination attempt on President Eduard Shevardnadze in February, the abduction 10 days later of four members of the UN observer force in western Georgia, and renewed hostilities in Abkhazia's Gali Raion in late May). The circumstances surrounding all four crises remain nebulous, and official explanations have generally been contradictory. That lack of clarity, in turn, creates the impression that the country is inherently unstable. Yet while that impression is accurate, the upheavals are not the cause of the malaise, rather merely a symptom of it.

Three factors make Georgia vulnerable to subversion. Two of those factors are internal: the domestic political power structure and centrifugal tendencies in regions on the periphery. The third is the vested interest of some circles in Russia in preventing the export of Caspian hydrocarbons to international markets.

Georgian domestic politics are dominated by Shevardnadze, who since his return from Moscow to Tbilisi in March 1992, following Gamsakhurdia's violent ouster has systematically neutralized almost all political figures who could pose a challenge to him. He has simultaneously crafted a personal power base in the form of the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), currently the largest parliamentary group, in which former nomenklatura apparatchiks with whom Shevardnadze worked in the 1970s and early 1980s vastly outnumber the energetic young reformers whom he has selected and promoted over the past few years.

As a result of that personnel policy, many people, both in Georgia and abroad, have come to perceive Shevardnadze as the embodiment and guarantee of a tenuous stability. But that stability is at the same time threatened by endemic corruption within the central government and at the local level, where councilors stubbornly resist any reform plans that might circumscribe their personal power.

This "crisis in the reform process" has, in turn, alienated many of the young reformers who last summer threatened to quit the SMK and form a "loyal opposition" within the parliament. Popular disillusion with the ruling SMK is so great that domestic observers believe the party's only hope of winning the majority of seats on local councils in 15 November elections lies in resorting to large-scale falsification.

The anticipated beneficiary of the erosion of support for the SMK is Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Supreme Council of the autonomous Republic of Adjaria on the Black Sea coast bordering Turkey. Abashidze's individualistic and autarkic policies (which many Tbilisi observers believe have Moscow's support) have resulted in a markedly higher degree of stability and economic prosperity than elsewhere in Georgia. A strong showing in the November local elections by Abashidze's All- Georgian Union of Revival, which is the second-largest parliamentary group, could lead to an open power struggle between Abashidze and Shevardnadze.

Nor is Adjaria the only region in Georgia over which the jurisdiction of the central government does not extend. Tbilisi effectively forfeited control of South Ossetia in 1992 and of Abkhazia a year later. The former is now financed almost solely by Moscow, which nonetheless refuses to condone its unification with the Republic of North Ossetia within the Russian Federation. As for Abkhazia, it is de facto an independent statelet.

Only minimal progress has been made at negotiations on formal agreements that would define the relationship between those former autonomies and the central government as well as pave the way for the return to their homes of those forced to flee during the hostilities. The estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia are increasingly exerting pressure on the Georgian government to secure an internationally guaranteed settlement that would enable them to return home and protect them from anticipated reprisals from the Abkhaz. The ethnic Armenian population of the southern region of Djavakheti, bordering on Armenia, is reportedly lobbying aggressively for autonomous status. And the population of the west Georgian region of Mingrelia, Gamsakhurdia's ancestral home, tends to regard Shevardnadze as a usurper.

This alienation of much of the periphery from the capital constitutes the ideal leverage with which to plunge Georgia into chaos, a fact of which the Georgian leadership is acutely aware. Who precisely would have a vested interest in doing so is less easy to say.

Several prominent Georgian politicians have hinted that last week's failed mutiny by Lieutenant Akaki Eliava (like the assassination attempt on Shevardnadze in February) may have been orchestrated in Moscow by individuals who recruited supporters of Gamsakhurdia who still refuse to acknowledge Shevardnadze's legitimacy. The identity of the instigators may be unknown, but most observers are convinced that they are motivated by the determination to contain the growing U.S. presence in the Transcaucasus and to prevent the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia.


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