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Newsline - January 15, 1999




IMF, RUSSIA ADVISED TO START FROM SCRATCH...

Russia and the IMF should develop an entirely new Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program in order to end their present stalemate, former presidential economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits argued in a memorandum obtained by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 January. According to Livshits, the Russian government needs to "recognize that is impossible for it to fulfill the 'big loan' program ratified last year." One advantage of a new EFF program, which could be concluded by March according to Livshits, would be that the IMF could make "a positive assessment of the holding of preliminary consultations with Russia by the Paris and London clubs." JAC

...AS FUND FINDS GOVERNMENT BUDGET TOO OPTIMISTIC

The newspaper noted that it is not known whether First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, who met with IMF Managing Director on 14 January, will put forward any suggestion similar to Livshits's, but it concluded that without this proposal, "the government will be powerless to win over the Washington officials." After his meeting, Maslyukov told reporters that the IMF believes the government is too "optimistic" in its budget deficit forecast, and that "we cannot agree with their opinion." IMF Moscow office head Martin Gilman told Interfax that the EFF program for 1996- 1998 can no longer be implemented, but "at this stage it is early to speak about whether [a new credit] will be an EFF or another possible form of credit." JAC

YELTSIN TAKES A SICK DAY?

Russian President Boris Yeltsin failed to appear for work on 14 January, but his press spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin declined to give a specific reason, according to Reuters. Admitting that he himself has not seen the president since the end of last year, Yakushkin told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin's "voice [over the telephone] was very lively and he is feeling very energetic." Yakushkin added that a decree on reorganizing the presidential administration will probably appear next week. "Segodnya" reported the same day that Pavel Borodin, head of the presidential affair department, may be asked to leave. Borodin's department has already been "re-subordinated" to head of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha, the daily noted. JAC

RUSSIA LABELS U.S. THREATS 'BLATANT BLACKMAIL'

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 14 January said that U.S. sanctions against Moscow for allegedly offering sensitive missile technology to Iran are "counterproductive," adding that "any threats or allusions to sanctions are outdated instruments contradicting the current [state] of our bilateral relations." The next day, the official government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" was less mild, calling the U.S. threat to pull Russia's access to commercial space launches "blatant blackmail." A spokesman for the Khrunichev Space Center said that Russia could lose as much as $280 million if launches were cancelled, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin noted that curtailing the space launch program would negatively affect not only Russian organizations but also U.S. aerospace companies. Meanwhile, an Atomic Ministry spokesman told Reuters that Russia is planning to triple its staff of nuclear workers at Iran's Bushehr facility. JAC

IS LEBED LOSING FAVOR?

News reports about declining political support for Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed continue to appear. Members once loyal to Lebed are leaving his party, complaining of "being squeezed dry," "Izvestiya" reported on 14 January. The paper also noted that "the absolute majority of the parliament," which is said to back Lebed's former backer, Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov, "is today in opposition to the governor." The next day, 24 legislators from the krai sent Lebed an open letter accusing him of failing to effectively manage the government as local industry flags, the agricultural sector worsens, and living standards continue to fall, according to ITAR-TASS. The legislators called on Lebed to coordinate his personnel policy with the legislature. "Izvestiya" noted that many of "Bykov's people" will soon be dismissed from the krai's administration. JAC

GOVERNMENT TO IMPOSE PRICE CONTROLS ON DRUGS

Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 14 January pledged to regulate the price of medicine, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said the pharmaceutical industry is plagued by crime and speculation and that an upper limit for drug retail prices will be set. Primakov also noted that the industry once created many new medicines of a high quality but is now mostly producing Western analogues. Minister of Health Vladimir Starodubov told reporters the same day that his ministry will undertake a series of measures, including the registration of prices for domestic and imported medicines, designed to lower the price of medicine by 25 percent. JAC

MORE DEFECTIONS FROM NDR...

Another key member of the Our Home is Russia (NDR) party is quitting. Duma Deputy Valerii Grebennikov, who was also the party's treasurer, has announced that he is leaving the NDR, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 January. The newspaper called Grebennikov's resignation "as significant an event as [former NDR faction leader and Duma deputy Aleksandr] Shokhin's departure" because "Grebennikov was considered one of the most influential figures in the NDR and close to [former Prime Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin." According to the daily, Grebennikov now believes that the NDR resembles the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s "with its conformism, secrecy, and the indiscriminate power of its apparatus." Citing a "reliable source," "Segodnya" reported the previous day that Chernomyrdin considers [Duma deputy speaker] Vladimir Ryzhkov the most suitable candidate for leader of the party's Duma faction. JAC

...AS MIKHALKOV DECLINES TO RUN

Acclaimed film director Nikita Mikhalkov said on 14 January that he will not run as an NDR candidate in either parliamentary or presidential elections, as Shohkin had earlier suggested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Mikhalkov added that he will participate in presidential elections "only as a voter." JAC

OTECHESTVO, BABURIN SLAM TREATY WITH UKRAINE

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] movement is calling for the Federation Council to reject ratification of the treaty with Ukraine because the document "rules out Russia's right to call Sevastopol a Russian city," according to a statement by the movement's political council on 14 January. When the State Duma ratified the treaty, the document argues, it acted "against the background of the policy of forced Ukrainianization of 12 million Russians whose civil rights continue to be disregarded." Duma Deputy Speaker and member of People's Power Sergei Baburin wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day that the treaty "should not be ratified at any price" because the treaty undermines the "future of close-knit Slavic peoples" and "opens the way for Ukraine to join NATO." JAC

IRAQ GOES SHOPPING IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD

Iraq will spend at least $2 billion on cars, and possibly ships and planes as well, that are produced in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, according to Interfax on 14 January. "Izvestiya" the previous day noted that the "Russian White House was extremely surprised by news of the [sale] agreement" but added that "many companies sign documents on cooperation with Iraq that both sides pledge to fulfill only after [UN] embargo has been lifted." Also on 13 January, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the idea of sending another UN mission to Iraq to assess on-the-spot developments there. Albright is scheduled to visit Moscow on 25-27 January. JAC

RUSSIA TO REQUIRE TOURISTS TO SIGN UP FOR HEALTH INSURANCE?

The Russian Health Ministry announced on 14 January that tourists will soon be required to take out medical insurance before receiving a visa, AFP reported. The measure is still being drafted and would apply to all visits of less than six months. JAC

CHECHEN SECURITY MINISTER ESCAPES ASSASSINATION...

Aslanbek Arsaev escaped uninjured when two men opened fire on his car in Grozny on 14 January, Western agencies reported. Arsaev's bodyguards apprehended the two attackers. LF

...AS PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS THREAT OF CIVIL WAR

Meeting on 14 January with local administrators and imams of rural mosques, Aslan Maskhadov again said that he will not permit a civil war in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Maskhadov tasked local officials with identifying reliable individuals who would be prepared "to support law and order." On 13 January, former Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that Maskhadov's opponents may shortly attempt to oust him, thereby unleashing a new war in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). LF




ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES NOT TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE

The seven Armenian political parties that in March 1998 formed the Justice and Unity bloc to back Robert Kocharian's presidential candidacy are unlikely to set up an electoral alliance for the May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 January. Aleksandr Aghamalian, one of the leaders of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM), told RFE/RL that the seven parties have "rather different approaches" and that while some still support the present Armenian leadership, others, including the GAKM, are more critical. He predicted that Justice and Unity will split into "two or three" electoral alliances to contend the May poll. The Yerkrapah Union, seen as the main pro-government force in Armenia, has already said it will not form such an alliance. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation is also likely to field its own list of candidates. LF

U.S. AMBASSADOR ASSESSES ARMENIA'S ECONOMIC POTENTIAL...

Michael Lemmon told journalists in Yerevan on 14 January that he believes Armenia can become the "economic engine of the Caucasus" if it proceeds with economic and political reform and establishes closer ties with neighboring countries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lemmon said that the economic reform process is probably more advanced in Armenia than elsewhere in the region, adding that "I believe there is incredible wealth of human talent in this country that is not being fully utilized." But he also warned that "halting or reversing the reform process is...no solution" to the country's current economic difficulties. Lemmon emphasized the importance of economic integration in the South Caucasus and praised the expanding cooperation between Armenia and Georgia as a first step in this direction. He added that the U.S. has a "strong interest" in opening a commercial route linking Azerbaijan to Turkey via Armenia, which, he said, would bring "very, very real economic benefits." LF

...CALLS FOR FREE, FAIR ELECTIONS

Lemmon also urged the Armenian authorities to ensure that the May parliamentary elections are free and fair, which, he said "Armenia needs more than anything else. It is absolutely necessary for the [electoral] process to be free, fair, transparent, and acceptable in its conduct to all the parties and voting public." International observers termed the 1995 parliamentary elections "free but not fair" and registered shortcomings in the conduct of the 1996 and 1998 presidential polls. LF

AZERBAIJAN POSTS RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998

Azerbaijani state counselor for economics Vakhid Akhundov told a press conference in Baku on 14 January that Azerbaijan's 10 percent GDP growth in 1998 was the highest in the CIS and Eastern Europe, Interfax reported. Akhundov said that industrial production increased by 22 percent, agricultural output by 4 percent, and trade turnover by 12 percent. LF

TURKMENISTAN TEXTILE SECTOR STRENGTHENS

President Saparmurat Niyazov told a recent government session that Turkmenistan registered more than 5 percent GDP growth in 1998, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 January. Industrial production increased by 15 percent, primarily in those sectors not related to oil and gas, and agricultural output by 20 percent. Niyazov expressed particular satisfaction at progress in the textile industry, noting that the country now processes 35 percent of its cotton, compared with only 3 percent in the early 1990s. Interfax reported on 13 January that Niyazov has approved a program for the phased privatization of agricultural, construction, and processing enterprises in the agro-industrial complex. Meanwhile, the Turkmenbashi Blue Jeans Plant has been awarded an international certificate in recognition of the outstanding quality of its output. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES INTEREST IN JOINING RUSSIAN-BELARUS UNION

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqayev has issued a statement saying that while Kazakhstan respects the decision by the presidents of the Russian Federation and Belarus to create a union with a joint currency, parliament, army, and citizenship, Kazakhstan will never join such a union in view of its geopolitical location and the present level of integration with other CIS states, Interfax and RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Toqayev dismissed as groundless rumors that Kazakhstan is planning to join the Russia-Belarus Union. In his weekly radio broadcast on 11 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze likewise denied that Georgia would join that union, according to Interfax. LF

ALMATY OBLAST GOVERNOR ISSUES DEBT ULTIMATUM

Zamanbek Nurkadilov, governor of Kazakhstan's Almaty Oblast, has warned local administration heads that failure to pay overdue wages and pensions will be construed as actions aimed at undermining recently re-elected President Nursultan Nazarbayev, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15 January. Nurkadilov said that about 20 percent of the electorate in Almaty Oblast did not vote for Nazarbayev in the 10 January presidential election because of wage and pension arrears. LF

KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER REPORTS ON MOSCOW VISIT

Addressing a press conference in Bishkek on 14 January, Jumabek Ibraimov assessed his visit to Moscow on 12-13 January as "very successful," Interfax reported. Three inter-governmental agreements were signed during that visit: on sharing information, cooperation in developing small, and medium businesses, and avoiding dual taxation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two sides also agreed that the conditions for repaying Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Russia will be discussed in 2000 and that Bishkek will pay no interest on that loan this year. Russia will give Kyrgyzstan new IL-76 and AN-12 aircraft to replace 12 aircraft donated in 1992. The Kyrgyz delegation also reached an agreement with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov whereby Kyrgyzstan will supply Moscow with ecologically pure foods (including grain and honey). LF

KYRGYZSTAN INTENSIFIES CONTROL OVER DANGEROUS CHEMICALS

The Ministry for Emergency Situations is to assume control over the transportation of poisonous chemicals on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 14 January, quoting Deputy Minister Tilekbay Kyshtobaev. The Interior Ministry had previously been responsible for that task. Kyshtobaev said that an average of 16 tons of poisonous chemicals are imported daily from China. Four people died and some 5,000 were hospitalized last summer after the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company spilled 2 tons of natrium cyanide near Barskoon village in the region of Issyk-Kul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1998). LF

UZBEKISTAN REFORMS MILITARY, UPGRADES BORDER GUARDS

Uzbekistan has launched the restructuring of its armed forces in a bid to create a mobile, well-equipped, and well-trained army capable of defending the country's independence, Interfax reported on 13 January, quoting Defense Minister General Khikmatulla Tursunov. The reform foresees cuts in personnel and improved training of reservists. On 14 January, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov issued a decree creating a new border defense unit, Reuters reported. LF




KUCHMA APPOINTS TWO DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS

At a 14 January cabinet session, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko introduced Volodymyr Kuratchenko as newly appointed first deputy prime minister. Kuratchenko's main task is to "enforce order in the oil and gas sector," Ukrainian News quoted Pustovoytenko as saying. Kuratchenko, who was governor of the Zaporizhzhya region prior to his appointment, replaces Anatoliy Holubchenko. Pustovoytenko also said President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Mykhaylo Hladiy, former governor of Lviv Oblast, to the newly created post of deputy prime minister for agricultural issues. The prime minister added that the cabinet changes have not ended and that upcoming ones will be "significant." Also on 14 January, Kuchma dismissed Education Minister Mykhaylo Zhuravskyy and several deputy ministers. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO BEGIN ABOLISHING PRESIDENCY...

In a third attempt, the Supreme Council has passed a motion that provides for abolishing the Ukrainian presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 January 1999), Interfax reported on 14 January. By a vote of 237 to 26, the parliament decided to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the parliamentary motion on abolishing the presidency conforms with the constitution. In the event of a favorable ruling, the parliament can vote on a constitutional amendment abolishing the post of president. A two- thirds majority (300 votes) is required for a constitutional amendment to be passed. JM

...RESORTS TO FISTICUFFS OVER VOTE TO JOIN CIS BODY

The same day, Communist and Rukh nationalist deputies came to blows over a vote whether Ukraine should join the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, Reuters reported. The clash occurred after an electronic display in the legislature showed that the motion to join the CIS body had been rejected. Only 174 left-wingers voted in support of the motion. Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko ordered a two-hour recess following the incident. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION BRIEFS OSCE ON UPCOMING ELECTIONS

Anatol Lyabedzka and Uladzimir Nistsyuk, deputies of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet, which was abolished by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 1996, took part in a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Standing Committee in Vienna on 14 January, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. In his opening speech, OSCE chairman and Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said Belarus is not observing basic principles of the OSCE. Lyabedzka and Nistsyuk informed the session about the Supreme Soviet's decision to hold presidential elections on 16 May. They also said that the 4 April local elections in Belarus will take place under an undemocratic election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1998). According to Nistsyuk, some 300,000 Belarusians fined for minor offenses or detained for participating in protest actions are prohibited from running in the elections. JM

BELARUS TO PAY CASH FOR 20 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES

The 14 January "Izvestiya" reported that Belarusian Premier Syarhey Linh has agreed with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev on Russian gas supplies to Belarus in 1999 as well as on supplies transiting that country. An agreement is to be signed after experts resolve the issue of Belarus's paying its $220 million gas debt. According to the daily, Linh promised to pay cash for 20 percent of Russian gas supplies. "Izvestiya" recalls that Belarus has already failed to fulfill its April 1998 obligation to pay for 26 percent of gas supplies in cash as well as to pay off a $225 million gas debt incurred before last April. "In actual fact, Belarus in 1997 paid in hard currency only for 8 percent of Russian gas supplies, while in 1998 [it] by no means [paid for] more" in cash, the daily concluded. JM

ESTONIA'S CENTER PARTY, RURALISTS SIGN COOPERATION MEMORANDUM

The Center Party and the Country People's Party (EME) on 14 January signed a cooperation memorandum that may pave the way to those parties' forming a government coalition after the March general elections, ETA reported. Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar said the memorandum is non-binding and keeps open the possibility of cooperation with other political forces. In the latest poll conducted by the Saar institute, the Center Party led the field with 10.7 percent of the vote, while the EME came fifth with 9.5 percent backing. At the end of last year, four rightist opposition parties concluded a post-election cooperation agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). JC

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WANTS RETRACTION OF FABRICATED NATO INTERVIEW...

Latvia's Russian-language newspaper "Respublika" has said that the "interview" with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana that it published earlier this week was, in fact, a "compilation" of remarks allegedly made by Solana during his visit to Latvia last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). On 14 January, the newspaper published an explanation by Mikhail Mamilov, the author of the "interview," along with a letter from Solana in which the NATO chief denies either giving an interview to "Respublika" or making the comments attributed to him as well as Mamilov's apology to NATO's press office and Solana's staff, BNS reported. The Latvian Foreign Ministry, however, wants "Respublika" to fully retract the interview, saying that the newspaper's explanation is "not enough." JC

...WHILE AUTHOR DISMISSED AS LATVIA'S WAY SPOKESMAN

Meanwhile, Mamilov has been dismissed from the post of spokesman for Latvia's Way, the party of Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans. Latvia's Way Chairman Andrejs Pantelejevs was quoted by LETA as saying that even though Mamilov wrote the article as a reporter for "Respublika," the article is "perceived as written by Latvia Way's press secretary." He added, however, that Mamilov will most likely not be expelled from the party. The party's board is due to discuss the issue on 18 January, "Diena" reported on 15 January. JC

LITHUANIAN PUBLISHES LISTS OF JOBS OFF-LIMITS FOR FORMER KGB EMPLOYEES

The government on 14 January released a list of jobs that former KGB employees are barred from holding under the controversial lustration law passed last year, BNS reported. The list includes Lithuanian Railways, the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, electricity and energy suppliers, communications companies, the state-run Klaipeda seaport, air traffic control, and the oil and gas industry. The cabinet has also approved amending the criminal code to provide for fines on employers who refuse to fire former KGB agents from such companies. Meanwhile, a ruling by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the lustration law, which President Valdas Adamkus has refused to sign, is expected next month. JC

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DEFENSE BUDGET INCREASE

Lawmakers on 14 January voted by 80 to 12 to pass legislation that will incrementally increase defense spending to 1.95-2.00 percent of GDP by 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999), BNS reported. Parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, who proposed the bill, said that Vilnius is "giving a signal" to Western states about its "serious intentions and preparedness for membership in Euro-Atlantic structures." Lithuania is regarded as a leading candidate for a potential second wave of NATO expansion. JC

ISRAELI OFFICIAL PUTS PRESSURE ON VILNIUS OVER NAZI TRIALS

Israeli parliamentary chairman Dan Tichon said in Vilnius on 14 January that Lithuania must be "more vigorous" in prosecuting alleged Nazi war criminals. Tichon said that he had used meetings with President Valdas Adamkus and parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis to press the issue. His official visit comes just one week after the trials of Aleksandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas, both accused of handing over Jews to Nazi execution squads during World War II, were suspended pending medical tests to determine whether they are well enough to appear in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 January 1999). JC

BALCEROWICZ ACCUSES COALITION PARTNER OF 'DESTROYING DEMOCRACY'

Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, who is also leader of the Freedom Union (UW), told Polish Radio on 14 January that parliamentary deputies of the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) are acting against the interests of the AWS-UW cabinet. "This practice is quite simply the destruction of democracy," he said. The UW has recently demanded that the AWS dismiss two ministers who, in the UW's opinion, opposed government policy by supporting a bill that slows privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski appealed for an end to mutual accusations, saying on Polish Radio the same day that the current "coalition storm" can be overcome by discussing appropriate provisions of the 1997 coalition agreement. JM

POLISH MILITARY DELEGATION REVIEWS CZECH FIGHTER PLANES

A Polish military delegation headed by First Deputy Defense Minister Kazimierz Dziok visited the Aero Vodochody aircraft company on 14 January to discuss the possibility of producing the L-159 light attack jet and its L-139 trainer in both countries, Reuters reported, citing the company's president, Scott White. U.S.-based Boeing took over the management of the loss-making Aero Vodochody in 1998, acquiring more than 30 percent of the company as part of a consortium. Aero Vodochody, which has upgraded the Czech- producesd L-159 with Western avionics, has been looking for new export markets after winning a contract to deliver 72 of the upgraded planes to the Czech airforce through 2002. MS

CZECH PARLIAMENT REJECTS ABOLITION OF LUSTRATION LAW

By an overwhelming majority, the Chamber of Deputies on 14 January rejected a motion moved by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia to rescind the lustration law. The law was passed in late 1991 for a five-year period and was later extended to 31 December 2000. It bans former Communist Party officials, communist secret police members, and members of the People's Militia's paramilitary units from holding senior state and business posts. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

The parliament on 14 January amended the constitution to provide for the election of the country's president by direct popular vote. The bill was supported by 93 out of the 108 deputies present, exceeding the necessary two-thirds majority in the 150-seat legislature by three votes. The bill stipulates that if no presidential candidate is backed by a majority of voters in the first round, a runoff between the two best-placed candidates is to be held two weeks later. Observers said presidential elections could take place in late April, CTK reported. MS




SHOOTING REPORTED ALONG PRISHTINA-PRIZREN ROAD

Police on 15 January prevented a Reuters reporter from leaving Prishtina on the road south to Prizren. The police told the journalist that the road is "unsafebecause of the shooting [by] terrorists," which is the Serbian term for the Kosovar guerrillas. Later, Reuters quoted unnamed "eyewitnesses" as reporting "heavy fighting" in the Shtima area. An OSCE spokesman added that monitors are trying to verify reports of shooting in the Suhareka and Shtima areas along the Prishtina-Prizren road. In Prizren the previous day, unidentified gunmen killed two ethnic Albanians, who the state-run Tanjug news agency said were loyal to Serbia. PM

UNEXPLAINED MILITARY MOVEMENT IN KOSOVA

OSCE monitors told AFP on 14 January that Yugoslav security forces carried out "significant" but unexplained troop movements in the Podujeva area in northern Kosova. A spokesman for the monitors said that tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, and jeeps were involved. The vehicles traveled northward from Podujeva early in the day but later returned. The spokesman added that "it is too early to tell" what the purpose of the movements is but that he is "perplexed" by them. PM

NATO'S CLARK PESSIMISTIC ON KOSOVA

General Wesley Clark, who is the Atlantic alliance's supreme commander in Europe, said in Sarajevo on 15 January that "both sides [in Kosova] are preparing for a conflict should negotiations fail. There is a strong possibility, absent diplomatic agreement or some implicit understanding in the next six to eight weeks, that we will see resumption of very wide-scale fighting," Reuters quoted him as saying. PM

UCK THREATENS TO 'CLOSE DOOR'

Bardhyl Mahmuti, who is a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told reporters in Geneva on 14 January that the guerrillas expect the Serbian authorities to free nine Kosovar prisoners following the UCK's recent hand-over of eight Serbian soldiers to the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). Mahmuti added that "if the Belgrade authorities refuse to free them, it will be the last time the international community or the people who come from the international community knock on our door. Our doors will be closed," AP reported. UCK officials maintain that the guerrillas freed the eight soldiers as part of a deal that the OSCE negotiated with the Serbs. Serbian spokesmen insist that Belgrade will never deal with the UCK, whom the Serbian authorities refer to as "terrorists." PM

OSCE SAYS MILOSEVIC 'NOT COOPERATING'

Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who holds the rotating OSCE chair, said in Vienna on 14 January that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his government "do not provide the [OSCE verification] mission with all the information, access and support it needs" in Kosova. Referring to the mission's problems, Vollebaek stressed that "not only have the practical challenges been tremendous, but the political obstacles are serious" as well. The Norwegian minister added that he recently told Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic that Belgrade faces "continued isolation" if it fails to cooperate fully with the OSCE in Kosova. For several years, Milosevic has been seeking membership for Yugoslavia in the OSCE. That body has barred Belgrade because of its role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. PM

VOLLEBAEK INVITES KOSOVARS TO VIENNA

Vollebaek also said in Vienna on 14 January that he wants representatives of all the main Kosovar factions to come to the Austrian capital for talks "very soon." He stressed that "the first and crucial step [in obtaining a political settlement in Kosova] is to bring the [ethnic] Albanians together in one unified negotiating approach." The Albanian government has invited the Kosovar leaders to Tirana for the same purpose (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1999). PM

SIMITIS SAYS EUROPE HAS NO POLICY ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

Greek Foreign Minister Kostas Simitis told the Madrid daily "El Pais" of 14 January that the fact that the U.S. has assumed the leading diplomatic role in the former Yugoslavia is "proof that Europe has yet to develop a common foreign policy," independent Belgrade Radio B-92 reported. Simitis added that "conflicting [national] interests" between individual EU member states are responsible for the lack of a unified policy. He pointed to the joint action of Greece and Italy in helping Albania overcome its security and other problems in 1997 and 1998 as an example of what EU countries are able to achieve in the Balkans if they put their minds to it. PM

'FERAL TRIBUNE' CLAIMS AUTHORITIES TRYING TO SHUT IT DOWN

The editors of the independent Split-based weekly "Feral Tribune" said in a statement on 14 January that the authorities are seeking to force the newspaper out of business by barring the state-run newspaper distributor, Tisak, from paying its debts to the weekly. The statement added that the debts for November and December alone amount to nearly $200,000. It concluded that "independent media in Croatia have been in an extremely difficult situation in the past--exposed to numerous lawsuits and police surveillance of journalists. Now their destruction is being prepared through the state's monopoly over newspaper distribution." Reuters quoted a spokesman for Tisak as saying that all the distributor's accounts "have been blocked" and that it is not able to pay its debts to all its clients, including some to whom it owes more than it does "Feral." PM

ALBANIAN POLICE INCREASE SECURITY AROUND U.S. EMBASSY

An Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters on 14 January that the Albanian police have stepped up their guard around the U.S. embassy in Tirana. The spokesman said that "there have been security problems," but he did not elaborate. "Shekulli" reported the previous day that the U.S. embassy "suspended operations" temporarily after receiving unspecified reports that it had been under "threat of attack" over the past week or so. According to "Albanian Daily News" of 14 January, however, an embassy spokesman has denied that report. The embassy has been closed to the public since shortly after the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Some observers have linked those bombings to the prior arrest in Albania of agents of suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). FS

UN DISARMAMENT PROGRAM READY TO START IN GRAMSH

Bashkim Kozi, who is the chairman of the Gramsh district council, told ATSH on 14 January that a UN-sponsored disarmament program is ready to start in the second half of January. In cooperation with the OSCE, the UN plans to invest $500,000 in local infrastructure, employment, and telephone lines. In exchange, the government "hopes" that most local people will voluntarily surrender illegally held weapons. Gramsh is one of the most heavily armed towns in Albania because its citizens plundered a large arms arsenal there in early 1997. FS

ROMANIAN MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE

Miners in the Jiu Valley have announced that they are suspending their strike until 18 January and that negotiations in Bucharest are to be resumed later on 15 January, Romanian Radio reported. The previous day, strikers dismantled two barricades set up by police on the road between Petrosani and Bucharest. Police left without opposing the miners, who then returned to Petrosani. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu said the strikers are "testing" the police and denied that he ordered opening fire on the miners. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), who accused Dejeu of giving such an order, is demanding that the minister's parliamentary immunity be lifted. Strike leader Miron Cozma said that more than 11,000 strikers have agreed in writing to march on Bucharest and that Oltenia region miners have pledged to travel to the valley in support of the strikers. MS

LIBERAL PARTY SUSPENDS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OVER STRIKE NEGOTIATIONS

Liberal Party chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said on 14 January that the party's Central Standing Bureau, meeting two days previously, announced it is "suspending for one year" deputy chairman Viorel Catarama for having conducted negotiations with the striking miners in Petrosani last week. Ionescu-Quintus said Catarama "had no mandate" to do so. The government, too, has said that Catarama, who is chairman of the Senate's Economic Committee, was not empowered to negotiate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). Observers say the move may have more to do with the struggle in the Liberal leadership over Ionescu-Quintus' succession than with the strike. According to party statutes, the National Council must still approve the bureau's decision, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. MS

MAVERICK ROMANIAN SENATOR TO JOIN NATIONALIST PARTY?

The anti- Hungarian Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) has officially invited maverick Senator George Pruteanu to join it, saying that Pruteanu may be nominated as its candidate in the 2000 presidential elections. Elected to the Senate on the list of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) in 1996, Pruteanu spearheaded efforts to hinder the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's demands for amending the education law in 1997. He was expelled from the PNTCD in March 1998 for "lack of discipline." Pruteanu told Mediafax he has also received offers to join the junior coalition Democratic Party, the opposition PDSR, and the Alliance for Romania, but he added that he has made no decision so far. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN SWITZERLAND

Petru Lucinschi and his Swiss counterpart, Ruth Dreifuss, met in Bern on 14 January and signed an accord on avoiding double taxation. Lucinschi also met with Foreign Minister Flavio Coti, Flux and ITAR-TASS reported. A Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman said Bern will encourage investments in Moldova. Lucinschi then traveled to Geneva to meet with World Trade Organization (WTO) chairman Denis Belisle. Chisinau Radio said the purpose of the meetings is to accelerate the process of Moldova's European integration and its adherence to WTO principles. In other news, AP reported that the Moldovan government on 13 January decided to reform the debt-ridden energy sector to attract foreign investment. To this end, it froze the state electricity company's 1. 3 billion lei ($152 million) debt to the state budget in order to make it more attractive to prospective investors. MS

OIL SLICK BY-PASSES KOZLODUY

A spokesman for the Kozloduy nuclear plant on 14 January said the oil slick moving along the Danube river has passed Bulgaria's nuclear plant at Kozloduy without affecting its safety, Reuters reported. The Bulgarian authorities have requested that Yugoslavia provide information on the spill. They were told that its cause will be clarified by 15 January. MS




CROATIAN HARD-LINERS SEEK TO EXPLOIT HAGUE TRIBUNAL AS POLITICAL ISSUE


by Andrej Krickovic

In recent weeks, relations between the Croatian government and the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have dramatically worsened. Croatia's political leadership has claimed that the ICTY discriminates against Croatians and has called into question its further cooperation with the tribunal. The ICTY has criticized the Croatian media for its "aggressive rhetoric" and has dismissed Croatian criticisms as baseless. Yet the ICTY's inability to bringing certain suspects to justice may be playing into the hands of hard-line forces in Croatia that are looking to make the "anti-Croatian bias" of the ICTY an issue in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Tudjman triggered the anti-Hague debate during a speech to Croatian generals at the opening of the Croatian Military Academy in December. He claimed that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is preparing to issue warrants for the arrest of "five or six" Croatian generals who headed the 1995 offensive to retake territory seized by Serbian forces in 1991 and whom many Croats regard as heroes.

Anti-ICTY feeling has also been bolstered by various subsequent events, to which Croatian state-run media have given an anti-Croatian spin. Bosnian Croat Anto Furundzija received a 10-year sentence for his role in the rape of a Muslim woman in 1993, and indictments have been issued against other Bosnian Croats, Mladen Naletilic "Tuta" and Vinko Martinovic "Stela", for crimes committed against Muslims in Mostar. Meanwhile Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin, and Miroslav Radic, the three Yugoslav generals indicted by the court on charges of committing war crimes against Croatians during the Serbian siege of the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991, were recently cleared of all criminal charges by a Belgrade Military court and live freely in the Serbian capital.

In a recent interview in "Jutarnji List," Ivic Pasalic, President Franjo Tudjman's hard-line adviser on domestic politics and one of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community's (HDZ) leading politicians, said that an indictment of the Croatian generals would raise questions about Croatia's cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal. Pasalic pointed out that while 12 of the 26 suspects held in custody by the tribunal are Croats, none of those 26 suspects are charged with crimes against Croats. He went on to say that the tribunal is trying to relativize Serbian crimes and present Croatia as the worst aggressor in the war in order to force Croatia into future political associations with its Serbian and Bosnian neighbors. And he also announced that the issue of Croatia's cooperation with the court will soon be reviewed by the Croatian parliament.

For her part, Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor of the ICTY, has been quick to defend the record of the tribunal and has criticized the Croatian media for its "aggressive rhetoric" and for publicizing "pathetic inaccuracies about the court." She has said that it would be highly cynical of the Croatian leadership to cooperate with the court over indictments that do not threaten those in power and to withhold such cooperation over indictments of high-ranking Croatian officials. She has pointed out that Croatia has not fulfilled its obligations to provide the court with evidence and has claimed that the ICTY has done everything within its power to make Yugoslavia surrender suspects to the court.

Yet, the ICTY has not been successful in this endeavor. Yugoslavia is an international pariah state subject to a host of sanctions by the international community The threat of further economic and diplomatic sanctions seems to have little influence on a leadership that is already isolated. It has been much easier for the ICTY and the international community to exert pressure on Croatia, which has much more to lose from sanctions and worsening relations with the international community.

The ICTY has no police force of its own and depends on the international community to bring suspects indicted by the court to justice. In many cases, the political will on the part of the international community has been lacking, even when the tribunal has been eager to go after certain suspects. So far, the international community has been unwilling to turn up the pressure on Yugoslavia in order to bring its war criminals to justice.

Tudjman has been looking to rattle his nationalist saber as Croatia gears up for parliamentary elections. In recent speeches, he has railed against internal enemies, threatened to use force against SFOR during the border dispute with neighboring Bosnia at Martin Brod, and praised the balancing role Russia plays in international politics. Croatian cooperation with the ICTY has become a convenient issue for Tudjman and his nationalist cronies to exploit for their own political purposes.

The Court's failure to arrest anyone for crimes against Croatians has played into the hands of its pro-Tudjman critics. As long as the international community is unwilling to put pressure on Yugoslavia to extradite suspects indicted for war crimes in Croatia, the ICTY will be an attractive target for Tudjman's nationalist outpourings. The author is a freelance journalist based in Zagreb.


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