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Newsline - April 2, 1999




YELTSIN OUTLINES PLANS FOR CIS REFORM

Addressing his fellow CIS heads of state in Moscow on 2 April, Russian President Boris Yeltsin endorsed plans to proceed with the creation of a CIS free trade zone. A framework agreement on establishing such a zone was signed in April 1994 but has still not been implemented. Former CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii had worked out, and secured CIS presidents' support for, a detailed plan to implement that agreement (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). But Yeltsin rejected a second component of Berezovskii's plans for reforming the CIS, namely the creation of a supra-national Coordinating Committee. Yeltsin affirmed that such a body is not necessary at the current stage of intra-CIS integration. Yeltsin added that problems within the CIS should be resolved on the principle of equality, stressing that "there are no younger or elder brothers among us," according to ITAR-TASS. LF

NEW CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY ELECTED...

Also on 2 April, CIS heads of state approved Yurii Yarov's appointment as CIS executive secretary. Since last December, Yarov had served as President Yeltsin's representative in the Federation Council. Yarov, who was born in Leningrad exactly 57 years ago, is a technocrat-turned-CPSU-activist whom Yeltsin appointed as his representative in St. Petersburg in 1991. He subsequently served as a deputy premier under Viktor Chernomyrdin. LF

...IN PREDECESSOR'S ABSENCE

Berezovskii, who had told Interfax in a statement on 1 April that he would return from abroad to attend the CIS Moscow summit at the risk of being arrested, was prevented from taking off for Moscow from Kyiv, where his plane stopped to refuel, on the morning of 2 April, according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii was summarily dismissed as CIS executive secretary by Yeltsin last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999). He had been appointed to that post at the last CIS summit, in late April 1998. Describing Yarov as "a professional," Berezovskii expressed satisfaction that the 12 CIS presidents managed to agree on his successor, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives financial support from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, reported on 2 April that its correspondents have been denied accreditation to cover the CIS summit. LF

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SIDELINED AGAIN...

A day after Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov sent a letter to President Yeltsin calling for the creation of an ad hoc governmental commission to recover Russian money kept abroad, Yeltsin signed a decree on 2 April suspending Skuratov from his duties pending the outcome of a criminal investigation into Skuratov's alleged abuse of office, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin also sent a letter to the Federation Council asking its members to dismiss Skuratov. According to Interfax, Skuratov said his direct phone line to the government has been disconnected and his bodyguard team changed. Skuratov called the president's action "absolutely illegal" and vowed to stay on the job, while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called Yeltsin's move unconstitutional. Zyuganov also said that the Duma may appeal to the Federation Council to convene an emergency session on the Skuratov issue. JAC

...BUT HIS INVESTIGATION TO CONTINUE?

One member of Federation Council, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, similarly called the president's action unconstitutional, adding that as soon as the prosecutor-general "began to fight against corruption seriously, they tried to fire him.' Fellow Senator and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told Interfax that even if Skuratov is dismissed, the glaring criminal cases of corruption that he has investigated will be placed under control of the Federation Council. "We will demand from the new prosecutor -general a full investigation of all evidence of corruption," Titov said. JAC

RUSSIAN INDUSTRIALISTS WILLING TO BANKROLL VOLUNTEERS TO YUGOSLAVIA?

As one of Russia's warships left for the Mediterranean, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 April that the Russian government will examine the question of sending air defense advisers and military inspectors "in the near future." The newspaper, which cited unofficial sources in the government, said the range of specialists could be widened in the event that NATO introduced ground troops. Moreover, "Russia's major financial and industrial groups are offering to sponsor volunteers," Andrei Manilov, head of the Liberal Democratic Party's youth section, told the daily. According to Manilov, 56,000 people have already registered in Liberal Democratic Party headquarters across Russia and battalions are being formed. He claimed such troops would have to be sent to Budapest by air and the rest of the way overland. JAC

RUSSIA SEEKS MULTILATERAL, BILATERAL DEBT FORGIVENESS...

The Russian government has reopened negotiations with the Paris and London clubs to restructure debt inherited from the Soviet Union, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov announced on 31 March. According to Zadornov, this move was possible because of the announcement of an agreement in principle with the IMF. The same day, First Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters that Russia wants its foreign creditors to write off three-quarters of the debt and restructure the remaining 25 percent. Meanwhile, the government has also contacted countries such as Algeria and South Korea asking them either to pay their debt to the Soviet Union, as is the case with Algeria, or to forgive old loans, AFP and Interfax reported on 29 and 30 March. Seoul, for example, extended $1.47 billion to the Soviet Union in 1990, which Russia would rather repay in submarines than cash. JAC

...AS RESERVES SINK TO THREE-YEAR LOW

Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 1 April that new money from the IMF must be immediately used to replenish diminishing hard-currency reserves, which have dropped to about $10.9 billion. Reserves declined by almost $1 billion in March alone. According to Gerashchenko, Russia paid $2.1 billion on its foreign debt in the first quarter of 1999. JAC

RUSSIA-UKRAINE TREATY COMES INTO EFFECT

President Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met in Moscow on 1 April to exchange documents ratifying the Russian-Ukrainian treaty on friendship, cooperation, and partnership between the two countries. The treaty, which formally took effect with the document exchange, is valid for 10 years. Under the treaty, each country agreed to respect the other's territorial integrity and not use force against the other. The two presidents also discussed the situation in the Balkans, NTV reported, which President Yeltsin said "makes the task of such a partnership even more vital." JAC

ATTACK ON U.S. EMBASSY REALLY ATTACK ON POWER MINISTRIES?

The unknown participants in the attack on the U.S. embassy on 28 March were likely "former members of the MVD or former military men," an unidentified staffer from the MVD central apparatus told "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 April. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin called the group "very well prepared" and noted that "the very strange thing is that the grenade launchers did not work. It looks as though this was more an attempt at a show of strength than a terrorist act proper." In fact, "the aim of the action was to show that federal authorities are unable to maintain order even in the very center of the country," the Moscow MVD directorate told the daily. Sergei Bogdanov, spokesman for the directorate, told the "Moscow Times" on 2 April that his agency is not certain that the Skif (Scythian) group, which claimed responsibility for the attack, exists. JAC

WEST THINKING ABOUT NEW NUCLEAR NATIONS WITHIN RUSSIA?

"Izvestiya" reported that some Western analysts, none of whom are identified by name or affiliation, are predicting that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are likely to expedite centrifugal processes in Russia. As a result, regions or regional associations may decide to form their own military units and may even develop "nuclear ambitions." In order to prevent the possibility of Russia's nuclear weapons falling outside the control of Moscow, these analysts have suggested that Russian nuclear weapons be put under international control of either NATO or the UN or both. One alternative proposed, according to the newspaper, is to deploy the naval forces of the U.S. and other Western countries along Russia's border and establish a special regime to monitor the country's nuclear weapons. JAC

MORE INTRIGUE IN SVERDLOVSK LOCAL ELECTIONS

Masked gunmen raided the office of a local newspaper in Yekaterinburg and seized all copies of its 1 April issue, which reportedly contained a revealing interview with Yuri Altshul, a candidate in upcoming elections for Sverdlovsk's legislative assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. Yuri Altshul, 33, leader of the branch of the Fund for the Social Defense of the Handicapped, was slain in an apparent contract killing on 30 March. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day, he was one of the most active opponents of the Uralmash crime group. German Korobeinikov, editor of "MK-Ural" told ITAR-TASS that Altshul had disclosed the name of a man who had tried to have him killed earlier. Korbeinikov said that the press secretary for Uralmash suggested that his newspaper either pull the page on which the interview would appear or name the price to cancel the whole issue. JAC

KOMMERSANT EDITOR REINSTATED

"Kommersant-Daily" editor-in- chief Raf Shakirov was reinstated on 1 April after being dismissed on 25 March. Shakirov was fired after he apologized to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov for a highly critical article that was published without his knowledge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 1999). Prime Minister Primakov praised the decision to return Shakirov to his old post, saying it "will undoubtedly contribute to the development of mutual understanding and trust between the government and the mass media." JAC




MORE ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS TO BOYCOTT ELECTION

Twelve members of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and four members of the Liberal-Democratic Party, which also belonged to the former ruling Hanrapetutiun coalition, issued a statement in Yerevan on 1 April declaring their "flat refusal to participate in this election farce," Noyan Tapan reported. Two of those 16 had appended their signatures to an earlier statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 1999). By the 30 March deadline, 15 parties and six electoral blocs informed the Central Electoral Commission of their intention to contest the poll and are currently collecting the required 50,000 signatures in order to register. LF

GEORGIA REHEARSES RESPONSE TO PIPELINE EMERGENCY

The Georgian Pipeline Consortium, which is responsible for operating the Georgian sector of the Baku-Supsa oil export pipeline, conducted the first of a planned series of exercises on 31 March aimed at dealing with the aftermath of sabotage or accidental damage to that pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. Two days later, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry delegation arrived in Tbilisi to develop plans for joint exercises by the Georgian-Ukrainian-Azerbaijani force that is to be created to guard the pipeline. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS IMPOUNDED MIGS INTENDED FOR BOSNIA

Askar Gabdullin, director-general of the Metallist plant in Kazakhstan, told Interfax on 1 April that the six obsolete MiG-21s the plant sold to the Czech firm Agroplast were destined for Bosnia. He added that the sale contract had been approved by the government of Kazakhstan. The MiGs were impounded in Baku on 19 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). CTK on 1 April quoted RFE/RL's Slovak Service as reporting that since 1993, Agroplast has used Bratislava airport (the alleged destination of the Russian cargo plane that transported the MiGs) for illegal arms shipments. It added that Agroplast has delivered arms from unnamed CIS states to third countries. LF

LAWYERS STRIKE IN KAZAKHSTAN

A spokesman for Kazakhstan's lawyers announced on 1 April that some 2,500 of his colleagues will not work for the state until the government pays their back wages for the past six months, AP reported. He estimated the total wage arrears at some 80 million tenge ($919,000). Addressing a joint session of Kazakhstan's parliament the previous day, President Nursultan Nazarbaev claimed that both pensions and state employees' wages in Kazakhstan are paid on time, in contrast to other CIS states. Also on 1 April, 400 police in the town of Kentau prevented some 100 women from beginning a march to Almaty to protest the authorities' tardiness in paying child benefits, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. LF




BELARUS SUSPENDS CONTACTS WITH NATO

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikalay Barysevich said on 1 April that Belarus has recalled its permanent mission from NATO headquarters in Brussels and will suspend its participation in the Partnership for Peace program. In response to NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia, Belarus has broken off bilateral contacts with the U.S. and other NATO members. It has also evacuated 18 of the 19 Belarusian observers from the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosova. JM

OSCE, U.S. URGE BELARUS TO FREE OPPOSITION LEADER

OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek on 1 April called on Belarus to immediately release former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, who is a candidate in the alternative presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). Vollebaek said Chyhir's arrest is an "unjustified political maneuver against the opposition, designed to quash its presidential election efforts." U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin on 31 March expressed "deep concern" over the situation in Belarus. He urged Minsk to release Chyhir and appealed to the Belarusian authorities to start a "constructive and equal dialogue" with the opposition. JM

RUKH APPOINTS ACTING CHAIRMAN

Following the death of Vyacheslav Chornovil in a car accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999), former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko has been appointed acting chairman of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, Ukrainian Television reported on 31 March. Udovenko, who is Rukh's candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, was granted a Rukh membership card at the same time as his election, since until now he has had no party affiliation. UNIAN reported that Udovenko was also elected leader of the Rukh parliamentary caucus. Meanwhile, a group that split away from Rukh and is led by Yuriy Kostenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999) has announced it will sue the Justice Ministry for its decision to recognize the Udovenko-led Rukh as the only legitimate successor to the party originally set up by Chornovil. JM

TURKMENISTAN SUPPLIES GAS TO UKRAINE, DESPITE DEBT

Berdymurad Redzhepov, head of the Turkmenneftegaz state company, told ITAR-TASS on 1 April that Turkmenistan will continue gas deliveries to Ukraine, despite the latter's growing debt. The contract between Ukraine and Turkmenistan envisages the delivery of 20 billion cubic meters of gas in 1999. Redzhepov was speaking in response to Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko's announcement that Ukraine may suspend its Turkmen gas imports because it cannot afford them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 1999). JM

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE

During his three-day state visit to Kyiv from 30 March to 1 April, Irakli Menagharishvili met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, President Leonid Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, and Premier Pustovoytenko, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Topics discussed included implementation of previously signed agreements on expanding bilateral relations, the TRACECA transport corridor, and the transportation of Caspian oil to international markets via the Odessa-Brody pipeline. Menagharishvili described the Ukrainian export route for Caspian oil as the most realistic one, Ukrainian Television reported on 31 March. Special focus was also given to expanding cooperation within the GUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). Georgia has advocated developing a free trade agreement and economic security system between the four GUAM countries, Caucasus Press reported on 30 March. LF

ANTI-NATO PICKETS CONTINUE IN TALLINN, RIGA

An estimated 200 ethnic Russian youths took part in an unsanctioned rally outside the U.S. embassy in Tallinn on 1 April, ETA reported. Police blocked access to the embassy, and the protestors retreated from the area. Meanwhile, a smaller group continued its protests outside the U.S. embassy in Riga. Most members of that group are elderly ethnic Russians, LETA reported. JC

LATVIAN GDP GREW 3.6 PERCENT LAST YEAR

Quoting the head of the Central Statistical Office, "Diena" reported on 1 April that GDP grew by 3.6 percent in Latvia last year. Original forecasts had put that figure at 4-6 percent, but following the August economic crisis in Russia, GDP sank by 11.9 percent in the fourth quarter. The Ministry of Finance predicts growth at 2 percent this year, while the Bank of Latvia puts the figure at 3 percent. Also on 1 April, following a meeting with the president, premier, and parliamentary chairman, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs announced that his ministry will inform international institutions about Russia's unfair trade practices against Latvia in the banking sector as well as with regard to customs and railway tariffs, LETA reported. JC

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES OMBUDSMAN...

Valdas Adamkus on 1 April issued a decree nominating Audrius Rudys, a financial consultant and a member of the Social Democratic Party, for the post of ombudsman, LETA reported. Adamkus said he decided on Rudys for the post after meeting with representatives of the parliamentary factions. The ruling Conservatives have expressed their opposition to Rudys's nomination on the grounds of his party membership. Under Lithuanian law, an official must cease to be a member of a party on taking up a position within the State Control Department. JC

...TO MEET WITH LANDSBERGIS

Adamkus is scheduled to meet with parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis on 2 April to discuss the political situation in the country, ELTA reported. Originally, a meeting between the president, the parliamentary chairman, and Premier Gediminas Vagnorius was planned, at the initiative of Landsbergis. The Lithuanian news agency quoted a spokesman for Vagnorius as saying that the premier would not attend the meeting because there had been no such arrangement between himself and the president. Officials from the President's Office, meanwhile, told BNS that plans for the three-way meeting have been shelved for the time being and that Adamkus doubts whether such a "get- together" would be "constructive" under present circumstances. JC

POLES SUE GERMANY FOR TIME SPENT IN NAZI CAMPS

Some 22,000 Poles have filed a nearly 2 billion mark ($1.1 billion) lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Germany for time spent by them in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, dpa reported on 1 April. Dieter Wissgott, a German lawyer representing the claimants, said he expects a quick decision. "We are demanding that the justice system take action and do something that the legislative branch has failed to do," he commented. The 2 April "Rzeczpospolita" reported that Polish lawyers doubt whether a German court will support the claim. Under Germany's 1956 compensation law, Polish nationals are excluded from those entitled to compensation and 1969 is set as the deadline for filing compensation claims. JM

NEARLY HALF OF ALL POLES SUPPORT NATO'S STRIKES IN YUGOSLAVIA

According to a poll held by the CBOS center in late March, 48 percent of Poles believe that NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia is justified, while 36 percent oppose it and 16 percent are undecided. However, only 32 percent of the respondents said Polish troops should take part in the intervention, while 54 percent were opposed to such participation. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER 'WARNS' PRAGUE AMBASSADOR TO NATO...

Jan Kavan has "warned" ambassador to NATO Karel Kovanda in connection with the latter's criticism of statements made by Czech politicians on the NATO air strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told CTK on 1 April that Kavan "reminded Kovanda" that he is a state official who "has to represent the government's interests." The ambassador "accepted the warning that his remaining in post would be untenable if a similar incident occurs in the future," Pospisil added. MS

...WHLE HAVEL COMMENTS ON REPRIMAND

President Vaclav Havel on 1 April said he considers the incident involving Kovanda as "solved by the reprimand" and that Kovanda "acted disloyally" when he first informed the public, rather than the government, about criticism at NATO headquarters of the Czech Republic's position, CTK reported. Havel added, however, that "a civil servant cannot be denied the right to freedom of expression." Speaking after a meeting with Milos Zeman, Havel said he and the premier have "identical positions" on the strikes, which, he said, "must prevent violence and a humanitarian catastrophe and bring the sides back to the negotiating table." Zeman said in the parliament on 1 April that NATO is a democratic institution and not a "Warsaw Pact" requiring "monolithism." NATO is "not opposed to the expression of varied opinions," Zeman said in response to opposition criticism of the cabinet's position on the strikes. MS

GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATING REPORTS ON TAMARA ANTI-RADAR SYSTEM IN YUGOSLAVIA

Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told CTK on 1 April that the ministry is trying to trace dozens of "surplus" Tamara anti-aircraft systems, following a German report that the Yugoslavs are using that system against NATO aircraft. Repka said the ministry was not able to verify whether such systems have been re-exported by countries that bought them. Before 1990, the system was exported to Warsaw Pact countries. A former employee of Tesla, which produced Tamara, told CTK that if the system is in Yugoslavia, it can be operated only by Russian experts trained in the Czech Republic. MS

SLOVAKIA, GREECE WANT END TO NATO STRIKES

Visiting Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told journalists in Athens on 1 April that their countries have a similar view on the necessity to put an end to NATO air strikes and find a political solution acceptable to both sides involved in the Kosova conflict, AP reported. Hamzik said that people "are perishing irrespective of whether bombs are being dropped on Serbs or Kosovar Albanians" and that "military operations are only speeding up ethnic cleansing in Kosova." MS

HUNGARIAN EMBASSY IN BELGRADE 'SUSPENDS ACTIVITY' AFTER ATTACKS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 1 April said the Hungarian embassy in Belgrade has "suspended activities" and evacuated the two technicians who stayed behind after diplomats were withdrawn earlier this week. Earlier that day, a group of about 50 people attacked the embassy, smashing windows, damaging the facade, and threatening personnel. The ministry has filed a protest with the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest. MSZ




SERBS STEP UP DEPORTATIONS

Serbian forces continue to "systematically empty Prishtina at gunpoint," the BBC reported on 2 April. The previous day, Serbs sent thousands of refugees to the Macedonian border after packing them into at least two trains. Serbian officials took from the deportees money as well as passports and other documents proving Yugoslav citizenship. In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on 2 April that the situation has reached "nightmare proportions." She noted that 40,000 Kosovars arrived on the Macedonian frontier the previous day alone. She stressed that "people were...crammed onto the trains like sardines." PM

REFUGEES FLOOD INTO ALBANIA

More than 22,000 refugees crossed the border into Albania on 1 April, bringing the total there to more than 120,000, representatives of the UNHCR told Reuters in Tirana. A lack of transport has slowed down plans to ease the chaotic situation in the remote town of Kukes, which is swollen with 90,000 refugees. An OSCE spokesman said that "we urgently need 200 trucks to move these people elsewhere." To date, the government has transported some 40,000 refugees out of the border region aboard requisitioned buses. Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta warned that "the overall number [of refugees] will climb to 200,000 if things go on at this rate." He added that aid and equipment is too slow in arriving in the area. Meanwhile, some 700 refugees arrived in Shkodra from Montenegro, Albanian public television reported. FS

ALBANIA CALLS FOR HELP

Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told local representatives of the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU in Tirana on 1 April that his country needs urgent help to support its trade balance. He warned that the humanitarian catastrophe will turn into an economic and financial crisis unless the international community gives Albania financial support. Meanwhile, 16 planes loaded with aid supplies arrived at Tirana airport at the beginning of a major international air supply operation. French Cooperation Minister Charles Jossein promised to send four or five planeloads daily. An Italian navy supply vessel laden with water-carrying trucks and military field kitchens arrived in Durres, Reuters reported. Sweden sent a plane loaded with blankets, tents, and cans of drinking water. In Seattle, William Gates Sr., who is the father of Microsoft's Bill Gates, said that their family's foundation will donate $1.5 million for Kosovar refugee relief. FS

BRITAIN: MILOSEVIC PREPARING COUP IN MONTENEGRO

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London on 1 April that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic should not try to destabilize the Montenegrin government of President Milo Djukanovic: "Milosevic should know now not to create trouble in Montenegro. He already is in enough trouble himself. He does not have the resources or the time to fight on another front. Do not think of trying to open up another front in Montenegro." In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "A Belgrade takeover in Montenegro would destroy the most credible and potent democratic force in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and have negative implications throughout the region." The next day in London, a Defense Ministry spokesman said: "We have evidence to show that he is preparing a coup against Montenegro." Milosevic recently replaced the top army commander in Montenegro, where rumors of a coup have been rife for some time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). PM

CLINTON TELLS MILOSEVIC TO RELEASE SOLDIERS

President Bill Clinton on 1 April called on Milosevic to release the three captured U.S. soldiers immediately. A Defense Department spokesman said that the Yugoslav authorities should treat the three as prisoners of war under the terms of the Geneva Convention. He objected to plans of the Yugoslav military to try the three before a military court on 2 April, which he called a "kangaroo court." Defense Secretary William Cohen said "there should not be a trial. They should be entitled to have the Red Cross or some other organization visit them. I think it's very clear from the photographs at least one has been beaten." Serbian officials say the three were captured on 31 March on Serbian territory and may be tried for espionage, which can carry the death penalty. NATO officials maintain that the three were 2 miles inside Macedonian territory. PM

DID VILLAGERS PLAY ROLE IN CAPTURE?

Many of the people who live in the area of Macedonia where NATO says the three U.S. soldiers were captured are either ethnic Serbs or pro-Serbian Macedonian nationalists, AP reported on 1 April. Other soldiers told the news agency that many of these locals often threw stones at or showed other unfriendly attitudes toward U.S. military vehicles after they recently were repainted from the white of the former UN peacekeeping mission to a military green. PM

MILOSEVIC 'HOSTS' RUGOVA

Serbian state-run television reported on 1 April that "Milosevic has received [Kosovar leader] Ibrahim Rugova in Belgrade. They discussed the problems in [Kosova]. They came to a joint stand on a mutual commitment to a political process and [agreed] that problems can be resolved successfully and in the long-term only through political means." The footage also showed a document with both men's signatures. It is unclear what is in the text. Serbian police have been holding Rugova under "protection" in Prishtina. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT, UCK DENOUNCE MEETING

A government spokesman told Reuters on 1 April in Tirana that "if Rugova has held this meeting of his own free will, then he has acted in an irresponsible manner." But President Rexhep Meidani said he has doubts that the meeting was "genuine," adding that "it is hard to believe" that Rugova would have met Milosevic unless he were under duress. Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci told public television in Tirana that Rugova's participation in a meeting with Milosevic, if voluntary, was tantamount to "treason." Thaci also said the UCK is close to putting together a new Kosovar "government" in which he will be prime minister. FS

ALBANIAN PREMIER SUGGESTS INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVA

Majko told Reuters on 1 April that independence from Yugoslavia has become a serious option for Kosova in response to "one of the most radical ethnic cleansings that the world has ever seen." He stressed that "this is an option that can be discussed very clearly now." Asked if Albania will support the UCK, he said "we will support people who are suffering genocide. " FS

U.S. EXTENDS GUARANTEES TO CROATIA

Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Bonn on 1 April that unnamed U.S. officials gave him guarantees of NATO support if the conflict in Kosova spreads elsewhere in the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. During that same recent trip to Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Granic that Croatia must reform its election law if it wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace Program. Granic replied that he hopes that the government and the opposition can agree on new legislation within six weeks, "Novi List" reported. PM

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON KOSOVA CONFLICT

Andrei Plesu told RFE/RL on 1 April that as a result of the NATO intervention in Kosova, "we can expect...changes in international law that will see us enter the next millennium with a different legal background and a different political philosophy than the one in place today." Greek Defense Minster Akis Tsochatzopoulos told journalists that in talks with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, there was agreement that the crisis in Kosova necessitates a political solution guaranteeing autonomy within existing borders and that military intervention "cannot provide a lasting solution." Babiuc said both sides "support the NATO action aimed at stopping ethnic cleansing" and "ending the humanitarian catastrophe we are now facing." Also on 1 April, the government decided to grant Macedonia $600,000 in aid for the Kosova refugees. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS BLOCK PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION ON KOSOVA

A special all-party parliamentary commission set up to formulate a declaration on the Kosova conflict failed to reach agreement on 1 April, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Vasile Nedelciuc, who was the commission representative of the Party of Moldovan Communists, opposed including in the draft a section expressing "regret" that the Yugoslavs had "rejected the peace accords, despite the efforts of the international community" to persuade them to do so. MS

NATO OFFICIAL VISITS BULGARIA, ROMANIA

General Rupert Smith, deputy commander of NATO's Allied Forces in Europe, met with President Petar Stoyanov and Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev in Sofia on 1 April, BTA reported. Smith told Stoyanov that incidents such as the landing on Bulgarian territory of two NATO missiles, "will not reoccur." He and Ananiev agreed to "exchange operative information" on NATO's actions to avoid the recurrence of such incidents and to dispatch for this purpose two liaison officers to the Bulgarian air staff. Also on 1 April, Smith met in Bucharest with Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, with whom he "exchanged views on the present situation in Kosova," and with chief of staff General Constantin Degeratu, Mediafax reported. MS

KOZLODUY INCREASES PRECAUTIONS AGAINST DEBRIS FROM SERBIA

Kozloduy nuclear plant director Krasimir Nikolov on 1 April said a floating barrier has been installed in the River Danube to divert any possible oil slicks and other debris from the nuclear plant, Reuters reported. The cooling system of the plant's reactors use Danube water, while Serbia's main oil terminals are at Belgrade's industrial suburb of Pancevo. That area has been targeted in several NATO bombardments and cruise-missile strikes. MS




NATO'S EMBRACE OF FORMER ENEMIES


by Michael J. Jordan

In the shadowy world of espionage, there is no fool-proof system for preventing the betrayal of an Aldrich Ames, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, or, now, allegedly, of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, who has been accused of leaking nuclear-warheads research to China. Such a system would require the technology to read an individual's thoughts.

So it was with a leap of faith last month that NATO-- which stared down the Soviet Union during 40 years of the Cold War--admitted three ex-Soviet satellites as new members: Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. This strategic embrace of former enemies, one decade after the collapse of Communism, means that the three countries' military and political elite are now privy to NATO's deepest, darkest secrets. And though these countries have purged most of their hard-line Communist officials, their historical ties and geographic location make them perhaps more vulnerable to infiltration than, say, some NATO officials.

Many Warsaw Pact military officers were trained in places like Moscow and Kyiv. Trade relations at that time were cozy with countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Libya. Not surprisingly, then, when NATO officials speak privately of "hostile" intelligence agencies, they identify three regions- -Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans--as the primary threats.

"There's still the residue of contacts and relationships between Central Europe and those parts of the world," said one NATO official in Budapest. "You can presume that if Russia, for example, wished to seize classified NATO material, it might be easier to do it here than, say, in London or Paris."

But there is a second side to this coin, says Tamas Wachsler, a state secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Defense. "While these countries know us, we also know them and their tactics," said Wachsler. "So from this standpoint, NATO shouldn't view us as a deficit, but as an asset."

Today, much of what was once secret is now easily accessible on the Internet. Yet the most sensitive NATO data continue to be those on the alliance's weapons of mass destruction, air-defense system, storage depots of fuel and ammunition, and communication and transportation systems.

So despite their new status as "full and equal" partners of NATO, the Central Europeans will learn NATO secrets in line with the "need-to-know" principle. And under instructions from NATO, each newcomer has taken both legal and practical steps in recent months to do what it can to prevent classified material from falling into the wrong hands.

According to NATO specifications, all three established new systems for the handling of classified material--such as secure telephone lines and storage facilities--and a screening process for those who will have access to such material. Candidates submit to a rigorous questionnaire and interviews. These probe for potential liabilities like family, financial, or psychological problems that might expose the candidate to bribery or blackmail.

But after six years of intensive cooperation, NATO officials already seemed satisfied with their new partners. "It's like a marriage," said another Western officer in Budapest. "Hopefully, from that first day you have the same level of trust, and it continues to grow.... If the trust and confidence weren't there, they never would have been invited to join."

When it the time comes to keep a NATO secret, national pride will be at stake, according Lt. Gen. Lajos Urban, the number two in Hungary's armed forces. "We want to be seen as contributing to NATO's strength and trusted as a new military ally," said Urban, who was trained in Moscow during the communist era and in London and Rome since 1989.

A further motivation is to avoid the national humiliation that befell France last November, when it was revealed that a French major working at NATO headquarters in Brussels had passed along to Serbia NATO's plans for military strikes in Kosova.

So, if even longtime NATO allies are vulnerable, what about the Central Europeans, who continue to unearth their share of skeletons? Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, for example, resigned in January 1996 amid charges he had been a long-time spy for the Soviet KGB. The case was ultimately dropped for lack of evidence.

Another issue is the fate of those Hungarian, Czech and Polish agents who for years operated covertly in the West. Are they still active, or have they found new employers? Either way, it seems accepted as a given.

"You think there aren't American agents in Paris or French agents in London? Everybody still needs good intelligence," said a third NATO official. "Why should they stop? It's completely natural to want to confirm information you receive. Yes, we're allies and partners, but in other areas we're also competitors."

The NATO neophytes will be under pressure not only to meet NATO's expectations but to perform well enough to enable a second wave of expansion eastward. "NATO has never rejected an alliance member," said one of the NATO officials in Budapest. "But if a member brought the alliance into ill- repute or dragged it down, there's no reason why we wouldn't." The author is a U.S. journalist based in Budapest (michaeljjordan@csi.com).


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