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Newsline - November 2, 1998




GOVERNMENT APPROVES ANTI-CRISIS PLAN...

After much delay, the government of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov approved the broad outline of its "anti-crisis program" on 31 October. Details of the plan, however, will not be "finalized" until 5 November, Interfax reported. Primakov said the plan is more "a system of measures" that could be continually revised than a fixed program. The program calls for regulation of prices on essential foods and medicines and a gradual reduction of the value-added and profit taxes. Exporters will continue having to sell 75 percent of their hard currency to the government, while the Central Bank will implement its plan to restructure the commercial banking system. JAC

...AS SOME CRITICS LABEL IT INFLATIONARY

The IMF mission, according to Interfax, called the plan "a step backward in the process of moving toward a market economy." Chairman of the Duma Budget Committee Aleksandr Zhukov of the Russian Regions faction told Ekho Moskvy that the program does not contain "actual figures" and "its effectiveness cannot be judged." He added that the program outlines "many measures that require additional expenses or lead to temporary cuts in revenue." Federal Securities Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasiliev also criticized the plan, suggesting that its inflation forecast of no more than 5 percent a month for the rest of the year needs to be revised upward. Echoing Zhukov's criticism, Vasiliev said that the plan would require the government to undertake some significant expenses, including wage and pension hikes. JAC

REVENUES RISE, WAGES ARE PAID

The government collected 13 billion rubles ($812 million) in tax revenues last month, up 40 percent from the September level, the State Tax Service reported on 30 October. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told Russian Television the next day that the government has collected more than 17 billion rubles "in real money" for the budget. Zadornov did not explain what portion of the 17 billion rubles was accounted for by tax collections. According to Interfax, the IMF mission called on the government to return to the practice of accepting tax payments only in cash. Both Zadornov and Primakov declared that all wages to government workers--both civilian and military--were paid for October. JAC

YELTSIN'S FINGER STILL ON NUCLEAR BUTTON

Primakov told reporters on 31 October that the transfer of presidential powers to the prime minister during Boris Yeltsin's leave is "strictly out of the question" (see "RFE/RL Newsline 29 October 1998). He added that the "nuclear briefcase" remains "reliably in the president's hands." The next day, Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of presidential administration, told NTV that the "Financial Times" misquoted him as referring to a possible limitation of the role of the president. He added that the political role of the president would gain strength only until 2000, although the president's responsibilities vis-a-vis the economy might be reduced. JAC

YABLOKO TO SEEK NO ALLIANCES...

Yabloko members wrapped up a plenary meeting of the movement's Central Council on 1 November with public statements that the movement will not create any blocs or coalitions for upcoming State Duma and presidential elections. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told council members that Duma elections are more important than the presidential ballot and that Yabloko will participate in those elections entirely on its own. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, also said a national coalition with the Communist Party is impossible and that Yabloko will consider concluding separate agreements with the Communists on a regional level only under a worst-case scenario. JAC

...AS COMMUNISTS PROMISE THE SAME

At its plenum on 31 October-1 November, the Communist Party passed a motion calling for the party to present its own party list in Duma elections rather than form an election bloc. Earlier, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov downplayed recent talk of an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1998). He told reporters on 31 October that "we've already got an left-center bloc--it's called the People's Patriotic Union." The same day, Luzhkov told Russian Public Television that he is not involved in negotiations for the creation of a center-left coalition. JAC

RUSSIA TO SELL 5 PERCENT OF GAZPROM

Yeltsin has signed a decree authorizing the sale of 5 percent of Gazprom, the presidential press service reported on 2 November. Earlier, Russian agencies reported that between 2.5 and 3 percent of the company would be up for sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 26 October 1998). JAC

IMF, RUSSIA TO STAY IN TOUCH

The IMF mission to Moscow wound up its most recent visit on 30 October saying that while there is a "common view on the desirable objectives for economic policy through the end of next year, the necessary policy measures are still under consideration in important areas." According to Russian agency reports, the mission may return to Russia in mid- November. Prime Minister Primakov told reporters that the fund objected to measures calling for state regulation of the economy but that such objections run counter to the statements of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus that macroeconomic policies alone are insufficient to manage an economy. Primakov added that although a portion of money provided by the IMF to Russia has "gotten into the hands of dishonest people, the majority of the money has been used properly." JAC

RUSSIA CAUTIONS BAGHDAD

In a statement issued on 1 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep concern" at Iraq's decision the previous day to stop limited cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, Russian agencies reported. The statement called on Baghdad to "weigh scrupulously" the possible consequences of that decision and to renew its cooperation as the sole path to resolving the Iraqi problem and creating a normal life for the country's population. A Russian State Duma delegation headed by deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev is scheduled to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on 2 November. LF

POLL ON RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS

A poll conducted by ITAR-TASS and the Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" shows most Japanese and many Russians do not think a formal peace treaty will be signed between their two countries by the year 2000. The poll was conducted in September-October and involved 2,400 people on the Russian mainland, 300 on Sakhalin Island, 300 on the Kuril Islands, and 3,000 in Japan. Most respondents did not think relations between Russia and Japan are developing "successfully," and the majority felt issues other than the territorial one should be a priority. However, most Russians polled said the four disputed Kuril Islands should not be given back to Japan under any circumstances, while most Japanese favored gradual transfer of those territories. If the islands were to be handed over to Japan, 49 percent of the residents on the islands said they would move to the Russian mainland. BP

YUGOSLAVIA 'OBSERVES' BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN ASSEMBLY

The parliamentary assembly of the Union of Russia and Belarus holds its ninth session in Yaroslavl on 2 November. A delegation from the Yugoslav parliament led by Vojislav Seselj, Serbian deputy prime minister and leader of the Serbian Radical Party, is expected to attend, ITAR-TASS reported. The assembly is expected to grant the status of "permanent observer" to Yugoslavia. Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin of the People's Power faction suggested that Yugoslavia be asked to join the Union of Belarus and Russia during a recent visit by Russian Duma members to Belgrade. JAC

NIKITIN'S LAWYERS PRESS FOR ACQUITTAL

Despite a judge's decision to return his case for further investigation by the prosecution, Aleksandr Nikitin, who is charged with espionage, and his lawyers plan to file a complaint with Russia's Supreme Court and the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, according to a Bellona Foundation press release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1998). Nikitin's lawyers contend that their client should be formally acquitted since no crime can be proven and that not to do so is a violation of their client's human rights. Nikitin's lawyers also want the Russian Supreme Court to lift travel restrictions imposed on their client. JAC

VOTERS TURN OUT FOR CHUVASH ELECTIONS

All seats on the State Council of Chuvashia may at last be filled following by-elections in 23 districts where voter turnout--25 percent--was sufficient to declare the ballot valid, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November. In July elections, only 64 out of 87 vacancies in the council were filled. JAC

GLENN'S COMEBACK TO TRIGGER SECOND SPACE RACE?

Following former U.S. Senator John Glenn's return to space, former Russian Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, 64, told Interfax on 1 November that he is ready to make his own space flight. He suggested that a two- week rather than six-month stay on space station "Mir" would be appropriate. Meanwhile, fellow space veteran German Titov, 63, told ITAR-TASS that he would like to beat the 77-year-old Glenn's record as the oldest man in space, pledging to maintain his excellent physical condition over the next 15 years and hurtle into space once again. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT, RIVALS REACH AGREEMENT

Aslan Maskhadov on 31 October met with a group of elders representing the three field commanders who have been demanding his impeachment and resignation, ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev said that Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev, and Khunkar- pasha Israpilov agreed to withdraw those demands and meet for talks with Maskhadov. Maskhadov then canceled a rally planned for 1 November at which he had intended to explain his domestic and foreign policies to the Chechen people. Also on 31 October, Maskhadov named former parliamentary speaker Akhyad Idigov as foreign minister. Idigov accompanied him to Vladikavkaz last week to meet with Russian Prime Minister Primakov. Idigov replaces Movladi Udugov, who served as foreign minister since February 1997. The government of acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev resigned in July. LF




GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS TO MEET

Following talks in Tbilisi on 29-30 October with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, Abkhaz presidential envoy Anri Djergenia told journalists that the long-anticipated meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba will take place in the first half on November, probably in Sukhumi, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Lortkipanidze said the two sides made significant progress toward an agreement on the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and the renewed hostilities in May 1998. He added that at their upcoming meeting, the two presidents will sign the repatriation agreement and another abjuring the use of force, according to Reuters. But they will not discuss the future political status of Abkhazia. On 29 October, two bombs damaged the premises of Abkhaz State Television in Sukhumi and a mobile television transmitter, the Netherlands-based Abkhaz Documentation Centre reported. LF

SHEVARDNADZE MEETS WITH DISPLACED PERSONS

Shevardnadze on 31 October addressed a Tbilisi congress of some 1,000 delegates representing ethnic Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze appealed to those fugitives to "be patient," assuring them that within a few years, Georgia will "restore its territorial integrity." Shevardnadze said that if talks with Abkhazia on a peaceful solution to the conflict become deadlocked, the UN will consider a Bosnia-style peace enforcement operation. But two days later, in his weekly radio address, Shevardnadze ruled out that option. Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili told the fugitives' congress that the only way Georgia can restore its jurisdiction over Abkhazia is by force. On 1 November, a group of 250 homeless fugitives failed in their attempt to occupy a Tbilisi hospital, Interfax reported. The leader of those fugitives, Boris Kakubava, denounced the 31 October congress for failing to defend the fugitives' interests. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT OVER OIL TRANSIT DECLARATION...

Both on 30 October and in his 2 November radio address, Shevardnadze expressed confidence that the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil will be built. Shevardnadze and the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan signed the so- called "Ankara declaration" on 29 October pledging their support for construction of that pipeline. Shevardnadze estimated that construction will take four or five years and that Georgia will receive $10 per metric ton in transit fees for Kazakh oil exported via the Baku-Supsa pipeline. But Kazakh presidential spokesman Asylbek Bisenbayev told journalists on 30 October that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be economically viable only if both Kazakh and Azerbaijani crude is exported via that route, according to Interfax. LF

...WHILE IRAN, CHECHNYA REMAIN SKEPTICAL

Iranian Foreign Ministry press secretary Makhmud Mohammedi on 30 October deplored what he termed the "politicization" of the choice of the Caspian export pipeline, Turan reported. Mohammedi said that the pressure currently being exerted on the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia over the optimum pipeline route is counterproductive, adding that raising the funds to finance the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will hinder those countries' economic development in other spheres. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov stressed that he agrees with the Russian argument that the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline, which transits Chechnya, is the most economical route, according to Interfax. Meanwhile in Kyiv, Stephen Sestanovich, special aide to the U.S. secretary of state on the Newly Independent States , said that U.S. support for Baku-Ceyhan does not preclude the export of some Caspian oil via Ukrainian territory. That oil would be shipped by tanker from Supsa to Odessa. But Sestanovich added that Kyiv must convince potential investors of its attractiveness as an alternative export route. LF

DASHNAKS DEMAND CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN

More than 10,000 people attended a rally in Yerevan on 30 October convened by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speakers called on the Armenian leadership to officially condemn corruption and mismanagement by the previous administration, which they claimed are the cause of persisting economic hardship. Specifically, they accused a number of former leading officials of taking advantage of the privatization process to embezzle public funds. Although the HHD supports President Robert Kocharian, speakers at the rally stressed that it is not a "ruling party" in an apparent bid to distance the HHD from unpopular officials in central and local government. LF

TWO PARTIES QUIT ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL

Ruben Vartanian of the center-right Self-Determination Union told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 31 October that his party will quit the presidential council created earlier this year by Kocharian. Arguing that the council has not met expectations, Vartanian deplored the fact that other parties represented on the council have retreated from an earlier agreement that the council's chairmanship should rotate every three months. On 29 October, the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) announced its withdrawal from the council, which it claimed failed to discuss a single major problem facing the country, according to "Hayk." HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian told "Aravot" that there is no point in his party remaining a member of the council as no "serious forces" are represented on it. Nine parties are still members of the council. Those parties do not include the Communists or Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED

Azamat co-chairman Petr Svoik was arrested by Interior Ministry troops on 30 October, Interfax reported. One of the leaders of the Kazakh Workers Movement, Semen Grobovskii, said Svoik was charged with slander, inciting "national conflict," and insulting an official. In other news, Interfax reported the same day that another candidate for the January presidential elections, vice president of the Munai research and production center Zhaksybai Bazilbayev, has passed the necessary Kazakh language examination. He joins President Nursultan Nazarbayev, former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Communist Party candidate Serikbolsyn Abdildin and independent candidate Engels Gabbasov in clearing that hurdle. BP

IMF TO EXTEND LOAN TO KAZAKHSTAN

The IMF is prepared to loan Kazakhstan between $400 million and $440 million as part of an Extended Fund Facility "to support National Bank reserves," Interfax reported on 30 October. IMF official Willy Kiekens said at a news conference on 30 October that IMF figures show Kazakhstan's trade with Russia, its leading trading partner, fell by 50 percent during the last few months. Planned budget revenues from the sale of metals to southeastern Asia will fall far short owing to the financial crisis in that region. Kiekens praised Kazakhstan's "strict budget and fiscal policy" as well as its tax and pension reform for keeping the country afloat without an IMF Extended Fund Facility loan. At the same time, he noted that IMF forecasts show Kazakhstan will fail to achieve the planned 3 percent GDP growth this year and that there will be "no growth" in 1999. BP

KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN UZBEKISTAN

Nursultan Nazarbayev wrapped up his first official visit to neighboring Uzbekistan by signing an "eternal friendship" treaty with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 31 October. The two leaders also signed an agreement on economic cooperation for the years 1998-2005. Karimov later said that the current level of bilateral cooperation is insufficient, adding that it is necessary to work with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are partners in the Central Asian Economic Union. The two sides also signed accords on cooperation in customs, education, culture, and health care as well as on combating crime. BP

UZBEK PRESIDENT URGES CIS REFORM

At a press conference with Nazarbayev after the signing of agreements, Karimov said "the structure of the Commonwealth should be seriously reformed," ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov said the CIS's main objective should be "widening the economic interaction" of member states to include the creation of free trade zones. Karimov also commented on Kazakh-Uzbek relations, saying it is incorrect to described them as "cold and strained," Reuters reported. Karimov said he thinks relations are such "when Moscow wants it." However, Nazarbayev noted "this is not the policy of Russia" and that both presidents are "strategic partners" of Russian President Yeltsin. BP

U.S. SUSPENDS EMBASSY WORK IN TAJIKISTAN

The deputy U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, Francis Culpepper, announced on 30 October that all embassy activities in Tajikistan have been suspended, ITAR-TASS reported. Culpepper said the move is in response to terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa and concerns over security at the embassy in Dushanbe. The embassy will resume work as soon as a new, more secure building is found. The embassy has been working with a skeleton crew since late September. BP




IMF APPROVES LOAN TRANCHE TO UKRAINE

The IMF on 29 October approved a $78 million tranche of the $2.2 billion three-year credit to Ukraine, Ukrainian News reported on 2 November. A statement issued by the IMF's Kyiv office on 30 October says the Ukrainian government remains committed to the IMF's loan program and that the recent restructuring of Ukrainian short-term bonds to foreign creditors enables the authorities to concentrate on economic and financial reforms. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv to analyze and monitor the implementation of the loan program by Ukraine. President Leonid Kuchma on 30 October said that Kyiv wants to discuss with the IMF a possible money emission to alleviate an acute shortage of cash. JM

KUCHMA ADDRESSES UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN BUSINESS FORUM

The Ukrainian president told a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian businessmen and industrialists in Kharkiv on 30 October that Ukraine and Russia must undertake joint actions during the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma stressed that while political contacts between the two countries are "full of mutual understanding," it is very important to develop economic relations. The Kharkiv forum spoke out against the "politicization of economic relations" and urged the Russian State Duma to ratify the Ukrainian-Russian treaty and the Ukrainian Supreme Council to approve accords on the Black Sea Fleet. JM

BELARUSIANS COMMEMORATE VICTIMS OF STALINIST EXECUTIONS

Some 2,000 people, including many opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, marched on 1 November from downtown Minsk to the site of mass executions during Stalin's regime at Kurapaty, AP reported. The march took place on Commemoration of Ancestors Day, which is officially a national holiday in Belarus but has been deprived of its work-free status by Lukashenka's government. The Belarusian opposition says more than 200,000 people were killed at Kurapaty during Stalinist purges from 1937-1941. In a recent bid to downplay the scale of Stalinist repressions, Prosecutor- General Aleh Bazhelka said no more than 7,000 people were buried in mass graves at Kurapaty, adding that there is no evidence that they were Stalinist victims. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TO CONSIDER RESIGNING?

The daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reports that at its 2 November session, the government will consider the possibility of resigning following the parliament's rejection of the 1999 draft budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 October 1998). Justice Minister Paul Varul told the daily that if lawmakers reject the draft budget for a second time without debating it, the government will be unable to continue in office. In an interview with "Eesti Paevaleht" two days earlier, Finance Minister Mart Opmann said the opposition's arguments against the budget are "emotional rather than rational," pointing out that no figures have been submitted to prove what the opposition claims is the draft's "excessive optimism." JC

END IN SIGHT TO LATVIAN COALITION IMPASSE?

The Fatherland and Freedom party has said it backs the candidate of Latvia's Way for premier, Reuters reported on 31 October. "Our council has decided to recommend that [President Guntis] Ulmanis nominate [Transport Minister] Vilis Kristopans as candidate for prime minister," a party spokesman told the news agency. The People's Party, which won last month's general elections, wants its leader, Andris Skele, to take over the premiership. Filling that post has been the main sticking point in coalition negotiations over the past four weeks or so. Ulmanis has said he will name a candidate for prime minister on 3 November. JC

LITHUANIA RAISES CUSTOMS DUTIES ON SOME GOODS

ITAR-TASS reported on 1 November that Vilnius has increased duties on some imports from countries with which it has no free trade agreement. According to a government resolution, the higher tariffs are to remain in effect until the "financial-economic stabilization [of] neighbor-countries." Import duties on beef, poultry, and pork have been increased by 30 percent, 25 percent, and 20 percent, respectively. Tariffs on cheese and butter are up 20 percent and 15 percent, while those on grain and sugar have risen by 10-20 percent and 87 percent. Lithuania has no free trade agreement with Russia or Belarus. JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT SUMS UP FIRST YEAR'S SUCCESSES...

Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz told Polish Radio on 30 October that Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet has managed to shield Poland's economy from the current global crisis and has stabilized public finances. Balcerowicz recalled that the current government, which took office on 31 October 1997, has launched reform in the administration, health care, pension, and taxation systems. He added that Buzek's cabinet has accelerated privatization and begun the sale of Poland's telecommunications monopoly. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski assessed the first year of the present coalition as "very positive" but criticized the government for an ineffective information policy. JM

...WHILE OPPOSITION LISTS FAILINGS

Meanwhile, Leszek Miller, leader of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, criticized Buzek's cabinet for an "excessive degree of ideological commitment," Polish Radio reported on 30 October. Miller said Buzek's health reform was based on a 1996 law adopted by the previous left-wing government and "amended in a wrong direction" by the current cabinet. Jaroslaw Kalinowski, leader of the opposition Polish Peasant Party, said the four systemic reforms launched by Buzek's cabinet are "a dubious success." And Adam Slomka from the right-wing opposition Confederation for an Independent Poland commented that Buzek's first year in office was a year of "wasted chances." JM

HAVEL, KLAUS CLASH ON CZECH RADIO

Former premier Vaclav Klaus told Czech President Vaclav Havel during a Czech Radio broadcast on 31 October that their differences "are of a deep philosophical, ideological character." Havel said he believes the state must "show greater solidarity with the people," and he criticized Klaus for failing to introduce "an adequate legal framework for privatization" when he was premier. Klaus, for his part, reproached Havel with "insufficient support" for his cabinet. He also said that Havel's office "pursues certain political interests of its own," a charge denied by Havel, who said there is "no such thing as "the policy of the [presidential] Castle," AP reported. MS

NEW SLOVAK GOVERNMENT POSTPONES LOCAL ELECTIONS

One day after being sworn in, the new Slovak cabinet rescheduled the local elections from 13-14 November to 19 December, AP reported on 31 October. The postponement will allow the government to submit to the parliament amendments to the electoral law. The Supreme Court has ruled that the law is "unconstitutional" because it discriminates against ethnic Hungarians. The cabinet also agreed to draft a new law on the broadcast media. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said state television was abused by his predecessor, Vladimir Meciar, for political purposes. MS

DZURINDA ON HUNGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN CABINET

Speaking to MTI on 30 October, Dzurinda said the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) "represents a major democratic force" in Slovakia. He added that the country needs "peace, tranquillity, and good relations" and that these objectives can be achieved only by cooperation among all parties represented in the government. And he noted that he would welcome the opportunity to meet with Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban "as soon as possible," pointing out that Hungarian- Slovak relations are an "important element" of his government's policy. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BUDAPEST

Andrei Plesu and his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, met in Budapest on 30 October to discuss, among other things, bilateral relations and regional affairs, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. Martonyi said Hungary supports Romania's quest for integration into the EU and NATO, as well as Bucharest's demand that the EU abolish entry visas for Romanian citizens. Plesu said Hungary is Romania's "number one trading partner" and called on Budapest to increase investments in Romania. With regard to the Hungarian-language university, Plesu said the Romanian government has made its decision, but he added that it is "risky" to predict the outcome of the imminent parliamentary debate on the relevant law. MS




MACEDONIAN SOCIALISTS CONCEDE DEFEAT

Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, who has held that office for most of the 1990s, said in Skopje on 2 November that his Social Democrats lost the second round of parliamentary elections the previous day and will now enter the opposition. Ljubco Georgievski, who heads the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and his coalition partner, Vasil Tupurkovski, who heads the Democratic Alternative (DA) have begun talks aimed at forming a new government. Final results are expected later on 2 November. Observers report that the VMRO-DA coalition should have little difficulty attracting the support of some smaller parties and putting together a working majority in parliament. PM

NEW GOVERNMENT TO STRESS ECONOMY

The key immediate question facing the new VMRO-DA government is whether Georgievski and Tupurkovski will ask one of the two main ethnic Albanian parties to join their coalition in order to ensure a broad base of support. Georgievski told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Skopje recently that he wants to focus his government's attention on economic development and not be "distracted" by ethnically related disputes. He added that he is willing to let the ethnic Albanian minority have its own university if the ethnic Albanian leaders agree in exchange not to make additional demands on the government. Georgievski stressed that ending corruption and attracting foreign investment are in the interest of all Macedonian citizens. In the weeks since the first round of parliamentary elections on 18 October, he added that he will maintain "continuity" in Macedonia's international obligations. PM

SOLANA WARNS MILOSEVIC

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told "Der Spiegel" of 1 November that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic should not forget that NATO can launch air strikes within 48 hours if the Atlantic alliance concludes he has not met his obligations to the international community. Solana added that the international community will not allow "any more Bosnias." PM

UCK SENTENCES TWO SERBIAN JOURNALISTS

The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement on 1 November saying that a guerrilla military court has sentenced two journalists from Serbia's state- run Tanjug news agency to 60 days' imprisonment. The two men, who disappeared in mid-October, received the sentences for "violation and disregard of [unspecified] rules on civilian and military organization" laid down by the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). The statement added that the two can appeal their sentences but did not say where or to whom. PM

KOSOVARS NOT BOUND BY MILOSEVIC-HOLBROOKE PACT

Unnamed Western diplomats told Reuters in Prishtina on 1 November that the Serbian forces and UCK are testing the limits of the interim settlement in Kosova. The diplomats said that the Serbs have reentered unspecified areas they are supposed to have left and replaced stationary road checkpoints with mobile ones, instead of removing the checkpoints entirely. The UCK has gradually returned to areas that the Serbs forced them to leave in recent weeks. The guerrillas, who did not participate in either set of talks, do not feel bound either by the pact in October between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke or by the follow-up agreement between the Yugoslav president and NATO officials. In Prishtina on 31 October, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said that the Kosovars have not agreed to any settlement on Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BERGER STRESSES DEMOCRATIZATION OF SERBIA

U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said in Washington on 30 October that the U.S. government will continue to support what he called "the democratic forces in Serbia." He added that the democratization of Serbia is vital to the long-term stability of the Balkans. In Belgrade the following day, Serbia's Independent Union of Journalists appealed in a statement to individuals and organizations at home and abroad to support the independent media, which have been closed or are under pressure because of the recent media law (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 29 October 1998). The journalists stressed that the law is unconstitutional, while the authorities responded by urging the journalists to "respect the rule of law," the BBC reported. PM

DJUKANOVIC BLASTS 'SERBIAN HEGEMONISM'

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 1 November that his republic's integrity is under threat from Belgrade's "Serbian hegemonism" and from Milosevic's allies within Montenegro, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. Djukanovic charged that the federal authorities do not consult his government or the public when making important decisions on Kosova and other issues. He was speaking at the convention of the governing Democratic Socialist Party, which elected him party president. PM

ARGENTINA EXTRADITES NADA SAKIC

Accused war criminal Nada Sakic arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, on a flight from Buenos Aires to Croatia on 2 November. Argentine authorities had extradited her the previous day. She will face trial for war crimes in connection with her activities at concentration camps run by the pro-Axis Ustasha regime during World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Argentine authorities earlier extradited her husband, Dinko Sakic, to Croatia to face similar charges. An Argentine judge told Reuters that the departure of Nada Sakic concludes what he called "perhaps the most important extradition from Argentina in history." PM

INTERNATIONAL LEADERS URGE ALBANIA TO CONTINUE REFORMS...

Officials from 25 countries attending a development conference in Tirana on 30 October issued a joint statement urging "the government...to take concrete measures to restore law and order throughout the country [and protect] private investments and foreign personnel." They pledged continued support but added that "the government should...assure an appropriate climate for private business activity," stressing in particular the need to fight corruption and smuggling as well as to reform public administration and the judiciary. Western European Union representatives said they are considering whether to increase the duties of their multinational police contingent in Albania, which has been training Albanian police officers since 1997. Austrian Foreign Minister and current EU presidency chair Wolfgang Schuessel said the domestic situation has "dramatically improved" since the appointment of Prime Minister Pandeli Majko's government last month, but he added that security continues to raise concerns. The EU has given Albania $830 million since 1990. FS

...CALLS ON OPPOSITION NOT TO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM

OSCE Chairman Bronislaw Geremek told the conference that the opposition Democratic Party should end its boycott of the parliament and participate in the 22 November referendum on a new constitution. Geremek stressed that "one has to respect the rules of democracy," AP reported. The Democrats have said they will boycott the referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1998). Greek European Affairs Minister George Papandreou said that "the opposition has chosen the road of isolation," adding that the boycott will not stop the "process of democratization and development of Albania." He proposed setting up an Institute for Democracy to educate a new generation of politicians. The next day, the Democratic Party issued a statement claiming that the conference participants called attention to "the complete failure of the Socialist government...[and] openly denounced [it] as a government of corruption." FS

BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTIONS STILL UNDECIDED

The results of the 1 November repeated ballot show that a run-off will be held on 8 November between National Peasant Party Christian Democratic candidate Viorel Lis (44.6 percent) and Sorin Oprescu, the candidate of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (27 percent). Turnout was 36.2 percent, only slightly higher than in the ballot recently invalidated because of insufficient voter participation. Meanwhile, Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar on 30 October said he will accept the offer of Greater Romania Party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor to become the party's secretary-general, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

NEW 'ULTIMATUM' IN ROMANIAN COALITION BICKERING

Democratic Party leader Petre Roman says his formation has given an "ultimatum" to its coalition partners. The Democrats threaten to reconsider their participation in the coalition by the spring if reform steps are not implemented by then, Romanian Television reported on 1 November. Meanwhile, chief IMF representative for Romania Poul Thompsen and his designated successor, Emmanuel Zervudakis, have arrived in Bucharest to discuss resuming IMF loans to Romania. But figures released on 31 October by the Central Statistics Board show that the Romanian economy continues to worsen. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER ENDS MOSCOW VISIT

Visiting Premier Ion Ciubuc and his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, said in a statement on 30 October that they have agreed to "speed up preparations for signing a program on economic cooperation" for the years 1999-2000, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. Within this framework, particular attention will be paid to partly clearing Moldova's debt to Russia and the gas company Gazprom by barter. The statement also said the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldovan territory will "continue as the necessary conditions [for it] are created." Russia and Moldova will "continue efforts envisaging a political settlement of the Transdniester conflict," including granting a "special status" to the region while preserving the "independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova." MS

BULGARIA PROTESTS MACEDONIAN BAN ON SOFIA JOURNALISTS

Angel Dimitrov, Bulgarian ambassador to Macedonia, has protested Macedonia's refusal to allow two Bulgarian journalists to enter the country to cover the second round of the Macedonian general elections, AP reported on 1 November. Marinela Mircheva, a state radio journalist, and Antoaneta Maskrachka of "24 Chasa" were denied entry although Bulgaria says both had the necessary accreditation. Dimitrov said the move may indicate Macedonian Prime Minister Branco Crvenkovski's intention to "block relations with Bulgaria if [his government] remains in power." Bulgarian media have reported that Crvenkovski is "waging a wild anti- Bulgarian campaign" and accuses the opposition of being ready to "sell off Macedonian interests" to Bulgaria. MS




WHEN MOSCOW LOOKS BEYOND THE CIS


by Paul Goble

Moscow's use of military power in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States may have less to do with the situation within the individual member states than with Russian policies toward countries and alliances further afield.

That possibility, seldom considered in the West, was raised last month by Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev during his meeting with visiting representatives of the North Atlantic Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on NATO Expansion and Assistance to the Newly Independent States. Speaking to that group on 24 October, Aliyev said that various Russians had told him Moscow is providing large-scale military assistance to Armenia both to help Yerevan in its conflict with Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh and to put pressure on Turkey and NATO's southern flank.

On the one hand, Aliev's remarks were most immediately intended to try to involve more West European countries in finding a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. By suggesting that Russia's de facto military alliance with Armenia meant that Moscow could no longer be a neutral arbiter as co- chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with resolving the Karabakh dispute, Aliyev clearly hoped to convince the West Europeans to play a new and larger role in securing peace in the region.

Aliyev also repeated that his government is prepared to "grant a high degree of self-rule to Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan" but suggested that "we can give nothing more than that." He appealed to the West Europeans to "indicate strongly to Armenia that its additional demands are unfounded and will never be accepted." And the Azerbaijani leader responded to European concerns about human rights by noting that some international organizations focusing on the violation of human rights in Baku have done little or nothing about what he called the "mass violation" of the rights of more than 1 million Azerbaijanis forced to leave their homes because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The UNHCR estimates the number of displaced persons at 860,000.

But on the other hand, Aliev's comments call attention to a broader issue that so far has received relatively little attention either in the countries of the region or in the West: the possibility that Russian actions in what many in Moscow still call the "near abroad" are in fact directed at countries in the "far abroad."

With the exception of discussions of so-called flank modifications in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, most analysts in Russia's neighbors and the West have considered Russia's military involvement in former Soviet republics almost exclusively in terms of Moscow's interest in maintaining its influence there. Thus, Russia's military assistance to Armenia and its establishment of bases there have generally been considered only in terms of Moscow's desire to play a major role in the Caucasus. And Russian involvement in the Transdniester region of Moldova or in Tajikistan has been discussed only in terms of Russian interests in those countries or in their respective regions.

While such attention to Russian actions is entirely understandable both in these countries and in the West, it has three consequences that may prove more significant for international security.

First, focusing attention on the influence of Russian actions in the CIS states often distracts analysts from considering the ways in which these actions may have a broader impact. Sometimes they will, sometimes they will not. But Aliev's observation may help to sensitize people to this possibility.

Second, such attention inevitably increases the concerns many non-Russians feel about Moscow's intentions. To the extent they see themselves as the target, they may draw one set of conclusions. To the extent they see Moscow's aims as broader, they may draw very different conclusions, possibly leading them to seek different solutions than would otherwise have been the case.

And third, such attention inevitably deflects Western attention away from Russian moves throughout the region as a whole. To the extent that what Moscow does is seen only through the prism of the CIS or the concept of "newly independent states," many Western governments may be inclined to play down the implications of what Russia intends.

Moreover, if they view Moscow's goals more broadly, as Aliyev suggests they should do, Western governments may conclude that they should pay closer attention to Russia's involvement in the former Soviet republics than they previously thought.

Clearly, Aliyev hopes that Western countries will reach that conclusion about Russian involvement in Armenia and the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. But his analytic point clearly applies across the board throughout this all too unstable region.


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