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Newsline - April 27, 1999


Finance ministers from the G-7 member countries have again urged the Russian government to reach an agreement with the IMF, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 26 April. In a communique issued after the ministers' meeting with Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, the G-7 expressed concern about continued instability in Russia. On 24 April, "Izvestiya" argued that Russia's "inflexible stand on Kosova," along with "the rapid growth of anti- Western attitudes among both the Russian masses and elite, appear to have really scared the world's leading economic powers." The daily cited a recent speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that the West cannot watch Russia teeter on the edge of an economic abyss. It also pointed to a statement by U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin that the "U.S. should do everything possible to help Russia stabilize its economy." JAC


While Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus agreed in principle on a agreement on 29 March, lower level officials have so far been unable to iron out the remaining details. On 26 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov flew to Washington to lead one of the largest delegations to the annual spring meetings of the IMF/World Bank, Russian Television reported. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's finance department, told ITAR-TASS on 26 April that Maslyukov was taking with him some "tough and serious documents." The next day, "Izvestiya" reported that the Russian delegation will submit a number of "radical new measures for privatization (of the electric energy industry in particular), agricultural reform, a balanced budget, and tax policy." JAC


"Izvestiya" reported on 27 April that commanders from Russia's strategic nuclear forces are preparing proposals for a "drastic" overhaul of their forces to increase Russia's combat-ready nuclear strength. The proposals will be presented at a Security Council session later this week, according to the daily. The decision will be implemented by "upgrading and extending the life-spans of strategic weapon systems of the last Soviet series." In addition, the navy's commander-in-chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, ordered that all nuclear submarines remain on combat duty and any accident involving them be considered a crime. In an interview with "Krasnaya Zvezda" on 27 April, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that Russia and Belarus will be forming a joint regional grouping of conventional armed forces. According to Sergeev, Russia is already providing Belarusian troops with weapons. JAC


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told Reuters in Moscow on 27 April that he had "extremely intense [and] constructive discussions" with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov the same day about the Kosova crisis. Talbott declined to say whether Ivanov gave him details about the latest peace plan of President Boris Yeltsin's Yugoslav envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin. He said, however, that "I learned even more about Russian perceptions of the situation and I'm convinced that the U.S. and Russia are continuing to work together along with many other countries to try to bring peace to the region," Reuters reported. Talbott began talks with Chernomyrdin after meeting with Ivanov. This is the first of several meetings Chernomyrdin plans to have with high-ranking Western leaders this week. FS


Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS before meeting with Talbott that "it is necessary to stop the missile and bomb strikes, at least for a certain time, so that there is a chance for talks. Negotiations are impossible without that." He added that the oil embargo planned by NATO and EU countries "does not suit us" and that he will discuss the issue with Talbott. The previous day, Chernomyrdin conducted telephone conversations with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Chernomyrdin's adviser, Valentin Sergeev, said the two sides "thoroughly discussed" possible ways of settling the Yugoslav crisis and agreed to maintain permanent contacts to "promote the search for mutually acceptable" settlements of the conflict. The same day, Yeltsin talked by telephone to French President Jacques Chirac, who urged Russia to keep up its mediation efforts. FS


Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov on 27 April sent a report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan detailing the "possible ecological consequences of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia," ITAR-TASS reported. According to that report, NATO's intensive bombing of military and industrial targets has caused "extensive pollution of the natural environment with highly toxic agents, oil, and oil products." The report added that "the dispersal of toxins" could reach as far as the Middle East and North Africa. It concluded that "there is a transition from localized military action to large-scale environmental warfare," AP reported. FS


Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), head of the State Duma's international affairs committee, told ITAR-TASS on 27 April that NATO, led by the U.S., will "decide which zone of their interests to choose, and they will do there what they want." He added that "at last, it has become clear to all in the world: bearers of the last-instance truth are [the] 19 [NATO] states." He added that "this is nothing but a return to medievalism: the strongest side is always right." Lukin also charged NATO with following a "philosophy of cannibalism." FS


The Office of the Prosecutor-General has filed criminal charges against business tycoon Boris Berezovskii for money-laundering, illegal entrepreneurship, and lobbying business interests while in government service, Interfax reported on 26 April. Berezovskii's lawyer, Genrii Reznik, told reporters that Berezovskii is restricted from travelling outside Moscow. After a four-hour meeting with Prosecutor Nikolai Volkov, Berezovskii himself repeated accusations against Yevgenii Primakov, suggesting that the prime minister's "spirit, the spirit of arresting everyone," is behind the charges against him. "Primakov gave a signal when he said in Davos [Switzerland] that the 94,000 jail cells about to be vacated will be filled," he said. On 27 April, Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS that he had met with Primakov for more than two hours the previous evening, but he declined to comment on the discussion. JAC


Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin pledged on 26 April that the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Oblast "will be closed for gangsters, not for civilians. This will effectively be a war zone," Interfax reported. Stepashin added that four combat helicopters will patrol the border constantly with orders to eliminate gangsters who are uncovered. Stepashin is visiting Kursk Raion in Stavropol, which has recently experienced a rash of kidnappings and killings, including the slaying of four policemen on 6 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). Following those killings, Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov announced that the border would be closed, a move that some analysts interpreted as infringing on the jurisdiction of federal authorities. JAC


Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said on 27 April that he believes the explosion outside the U.S. and U.K. consulates three days earlier was not linked to developments in Yugoslavia, RIA Novosti reported. Security officers from the U.S. embassy in Moscow arrived in Ekaterinburg on 26 April to investigate the incident, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) believes that terrorism was the most likely motive behind the bombing, but investigators are not ruling out the possibility of a malicious attempt to destroy private property. JAC


A bomb left a large hole in the Intourist Hotel, located close to the Kremlin, on 26 April. An explosive device was left in an elevator on the 20th floor of the hotel, near the offices of a firm headed by State Duma deputy and popular singer Iosif Kobzon, "The Moscow Times" reported. Kobzon said that he had an appointment at the hotel around the time the explosion occurred but had been delayed, according to AFP. Kobzon called the act "just an ordinary terrorist act, a terrorist act in the center of Moscow." JAC


Chernomyrdin, presidential envoy to Yugoslavia, was reelected leader of Our Home is Russia (NDR) on 24 April. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and NDR Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov were elected first deputy chairmen of the movement's 170-member political council, ITAR-TASS reported. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, informal leader of Golos Rossii, decided not to join the political council, according to the agency. But "Izvestiya" reported on 27 April that Titov was "ousted," as were all "gas specialists" and "Northerners" who had belonged to the movement's political council. In addition, Vladimir Babichev, chairman of the executive committee of the political council, was replaced by Yevgenii Trofimov. According to the newspaper, major changes are unlikely to follow since Trofimov is "known as Babichev's creature." JAC


British businessman Peter Llewellyn has offered to infuse the struggling Russian space station "Mir" with $100 million in exchange for a place on the rocket flying to the station this August, Interfax reported on 26 April. Llewellyn will begin training next month at a facility near Moscow, Russian Space Agency Director Yurii Koptev told reporters on 27 April. Llewellyn's contribution may cover all the station's annual maintenance costs: Koptev said that expenses for the station had dropped to less than $100 million from $200-$250 million before the devaluation of the ruble in August 1998, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the space agency celebrated the completion of the living module for the International Space Station, whose construction was running some 18 months behind schedule. It is now likely to go up in November. JAC


Campaigning for the 30 May parliamentary elections began on 26 April, one day after the Central Electoral Commission formally registered 21 parties and blocs that will participate in the poll, Noyan Tapan reported. Of the 131 seats in the new parliament, 56 will be allocated under the proportional system and the remaining 75 in single candidate constituencies. More than 800 candidates are contesting those seats. Also on 26 April, the 21 members of the Central Electoral Commission resigned in accordance with the electoral law. A new commission, three of whose members are appointed by the government and the remainder by the five parties or blocs that collected the largest number of signatures in their support, will be named on 27 April. Outgoing commission chairman Khachatur Bezirjian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that his successor will be subjected to public criticism if even a single irregularity in the voting procedure is reported. LF


Speaking in Washington on 26 April, Heidar Aliyev called for greater U.S. engagement and investment in the Caspian, a correspondent for RFE/RL reported. In a clear reference to Russia, Aliyev criticized attempts to undermine political stability in Azerbaijan and to call into question the size of its untapped oil reserves. He also again expressed his displeasure at Russia's deployment of S-300 missiles and MiG-29 fighter aircraft at its military base in Armenia. He argued that Russia's policy of military cooperation with Armenia undermines Moscow's efforts, in its capacity as one of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF


Aliyev has telephoned his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev. to apologize for the impounding at Baku's Bina airport last month of six obsolete MiG fighter aircraft being transported from Kazakhstan to a firm in the Czech Republic that had purchased them for training purposes, Interfax reported on 26 April, citing the Kazakh weekly "Panorama" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March and 21 April1999). That publication quoted a senior Kazakh transport official as blaming the incident on the over-reaction of Azerbaijani intelligence. LF


Rovshan Ismaylov, a correspondent for the journal "Ganun," was detained by police on 13 April, beaten, and held in custody for two days before being charged with resisting arrest, Turan reported on 26 April. According to the annual report of the Paris-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres, at least 24 journalists were arrested in Azerbaijan in 1998 and 40 beaten by police. Ten newspapers were subjected to total or partial censorship in 60 separate incidents. LF


Abkhaz Prosecutor-General Anri Djergenia met with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze outside Tbilisi on 26 April to discuss the "Decision on Further Measures Toward a Settlement of the Conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia," adopted by the CIS heads of state at their 2 April summit, Caucasus Press reported. That document advocates the withdrawal from Abkhazia of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed there if Tbilisi and Sukhumi fail to agree by 2 May on the texts of two agreements, one of which is on preventing a resumption of hostilities and the other on the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons and measures to restore the region's economy. Lortkipanizde said the meeting "was not a success." He said he and Djergenia had focused primarily on the fate of the Georgian fishing crew detained in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April, but they had failed to agree on the conditions for the crew's release. LF


Central Electoral Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said in Bishkek on 26 April that the Legislative Assembly--the lower chamber of parliament--has passed in the first reading a new election code drafted by the government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A special Conciliatory Commission, formed by the parliament and government, will consider the bill next month. The draft provides for 15 out of a total of 60 members of the new Legislative Assembly to be elected on party lists. Interfax on 23 April quoted Communist Party chairman Absamat MasAliyev as saying he backs that provision, which he said will ensure a democratic approach in adopting crucial legislation. Imanbaev also announced that local elections will be held in Kyrgyzstan in October,1999. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for 23 March 2000, and the next presidential poll will take place in the fall of that year. LF


In a statement released on 23 April, the United Tajik Opposition criticized President Imomali Rakhmonov's refusal to endorse constitutional amendments agreed on by the Committee for National Reconciliation, which is composed of both government and opposition representatives, AP-Blitz reported on 27 April. The UTO said Rakhmonov's intransigence is paralyzing the work of the committee, and it called on the president to adopt the proposals in order to ensure its continued functioning. It also urged international organizations and the Contact Group for Tajikistan to exert pressure on Rakhmonov, according to Interfax. On 25 April, two Tajik border guard officers were shot dead by unknown assailants in a suburb of Dushanbe. LF


The head of the Asian Development Bank's Tashkent office, Nagaradja Gnanathurai, predicted on 26 April that Uzbekistan's industrial output will decline in 1999, Interfax reported. Gnanathurai noted that while the impact on Uzbekistan of the Russian economic crisis was less severe than on other countries in the region, GDP grew by only 2.8 percent in 1998, compared with 5.7 percent the previous year. In addition, the Uzbek som lost in value, while the country's foreign debt rose to $2.8 billion. The ADB approved loans to Uzbekistan last year totaling $110 million. Uzbekistan's GDP increased by 2.9 percent during the first quarter of 1999, while the budget deficit was on target at 1.1 percent, Interfax reported on 19 April, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Bakhtiar Khamidov. LF


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Belarusian Television on 26 April that his talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 28 April will touch upon the preparation of a draft union treaty between Belarus and Russia and the implementation of agreements reached earlier. Meanwhile, an unidentified Belarusian source told Interfax the same day that Belarus has drafted a treaty that envisions the post of president as well as a joint government and parliament for the union state. According to unnamed experts working on the draft treaty, the document is of a "radical character in terms of integration" and calls for a single power structure and administration within the union. Belarusian experts argue that Belarus should hold a referendum on the formation of a union state with Russia and on the necessary constitutional amendments. JM


The Belarusian president has hailed the Ukrainian Supreme Council resolution condemning the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia and urging the government to restrict cooperation with the alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999), Belarusian Television reported on 26 April. At the same time, Lukashenka expressed his regret that President Leonid Kuchma participated in the NATO summit in Washington. Lukashenka made these comments to a visiting Ukrainian Supreme Council delegation, led by Communist leader Petro Symonenko. JM


"Despite all difficulties, the state is trying to pursue every opportunity to help and support those [affected] by Chornobyl," UNIAN quoted President Kuchma as saying at a 26 April ceremony to open a new wing of the Center for Radiation Medicine. The same day, some 1,000 people laid wreaths at the Kyiv memorial to those who died after taking part in the Chornobyl clean- up. According to a Health Ministry report, a total of 4,365 people of those involved in the clean-up have died since the 1986 accident. The same report says 167,653 Ukrainians have died as a result of diseases either directly caused or exacerbated by the accident. JM


Borys Tarasyuk on 26 April began an official tour of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru, UNIAN reported. On arriving in Caracas, Tarasyuk said that Latin America is not "terra incognita" for Ukrainian foreign policy. Tarasyuk argued that the region is an important market for Ukrainian products and that Ukraine should actively develop contacts with Latin American countries. Tarasyuk is accompanied by a group of Ukrainian businessmen. JM


Pyotr Kalachev was expelled from Russia on 26 April following his arrest last week on charges of spying for Estonia on the Russian military. According to Russia's Federal Security Service, Kalachev was caught while "receiving secret information" at an air force base near the city of Pskov, ITAR-TASS reported. The Estonian intelligence service has denied the charges, saying Kalachev was not working for it and may have been in Russia on private business. This is the second such incident in the past six months. Last October, another Estonian national, Ville Sonn, was arrested outside Pskov on suspicion of spying and was subsequently deported. Estonian intelligence similarly denied Sonn was in its employ. JC


The Estonian Foreign Ministry has revealed that OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel sent a letter to Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves last month pointing out that some provisions of Estonia's language law are not in keeping with European norms, ETA reported on 27 April, citing "Eesti Paevaleht." In particular, Van der Stoel took issue with provisions requiring parliamentary and local government members as well as those in the service sector to be proficient in Estonian. According to Ilves, Stoel did not demand that the law be amended but rather noted its "deficiencies." The letter was not made public until recently. JC


Russia's Gazprom is continuing to supply Lithuania with gas, albeit at reduced levels, despite its threats to cease deliveries beginning this week, ELTA reported on 26 April. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius confirmed that the government is ready to approve state guarantees for a 25 million litas ($6.25 million) loan to Lietuvos Dujos so that the company can settle its 75 million litas debt to the Russian concern. Because of that debt, Gazprom cut its gas deliveries to Lithuania by 50 percent earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). Also on 26 April, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry announced it has joined the EU stance on banning oil supplies to Yugoslavia. JC


Jerzy Buzek said in Warsaw on 26 April that the Washington NATO summit confirmed the three principal objectives of the alliance: defense of its borders, defense of human rights, and opening up to new countries. "Lithuania and Slovakia are on the list of the countries that have a chance to become NATO members in the coming years. The credit for this goes to Polish diplomacy," PAP quoted Buzek as saying. According to Buzek, the summit showed there is a need to step up air strikes in Kosova and impose an oil embargo on Yugoslavia. He added that Poland will grant NATO access to its airports if the alliance requests it. JM


An Interior Ministry official said on 26 April that Poland will spend 10 million zlotys ($2.5 million) in 1999 on the repatriation of Poles from Kazakhstan, Reuters reported. The number of Poles deported to Kazakhstan by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s and 1940s is estimated at between 60,000 and 100,000. So far, local governments have absorbed some 100 Polish families from Kazakhstan, providing them with housing and jobs. "Gazeta wyborcza" reported last week that the upper house of the Polish parliament has prepared three draft bills that will give repatriated Poles the right to education and health care free of charge. With regard to those repatriated from the Asian part of the former USSR, the proposed bills guarantee them housing and jobs or farms in Poland. JM


Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said in Prague on 27 April that the Czech Republic and Russia are not working on an agreement to end the fighting in Kosova, CTK reported. Several hours earlier in New York, Kavan was quoted by AP as saying that Prague and Moscow are "informally preparing" a plan to resolve the crisis. "We don't want to be just passive members of NATO," he was quoted as saying. In New York on 26 April, President Vaclav Havel said he found it "utterly embarrassing and a large step on the path toward losing our credibility that the Czech government declares" that its troops will not take part in a ground force even before NATO has made such a decision. Kavan has said that Czech forces will participate in a peacekeeping force only after the hostilities have ended. PB


Former Premier and current parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus said on 26 April that he considers the results of the NATO summit in Washington to be "weak," CTK reported. Klaus, who was in Washington during the summit, said the opinion "that bombing should be intensified and an oil embargo imposed...seems rather weak to me. Such an opinion could have been voiced by a meeting of deputy foreign ministers of NATO member countries." In other news, a poll by the IVVM polling showed that confidence in Zeman's government has fallen to 31 percent, down from 44 percent in September. President Havel was supported by 52 percent of those polled. PB


Mikulas Dzurinda said on 26 April in Bratislava that he is satisfied with the results of the NATO summit, stressing that Slovakia wants to be a part of the next enlargement of the alliance, TASR reported. Dzurinda said the government will immediately start working on an action plan listing criteria and conditions that Slovakia needs to meet to qualify for NATO membership. In other news, the Slovak Statistics Office said the country's trade deficit for the first quarter of the year was 12.647 billion crowns ($299 million), down nearly 28 percent on last year's level. Some 51 percent of all imports came from EU countries. PB


The Hungarian Foreign Ministry said on 26 April that NATO can use its military airfields to carry out air strikes against Yugoslav targets, AFP reported. Some Hungarian politicians said they are unsure if a motion passed by the parliament last month allowing NATO unlimited use of its air space also gave the alliance permission to use them to conduct bombing missions. Zsolt Lanyi, the chairman of the parliament's defense committee, said he believes that parliamentary approval is needed for all foreign soldiers, even NATO pilots, to be on Hungarian territory. The Hungarian government has contested that view. PB


The Yugoslav army on 26 April deployed 1,500 troops to Montenegro, some 500 of whom were reservists sent to the port of Bar. The remaining 1,000 soldiers went to other places in the mountainous republic, including the border region with Croatia. The deployment follows reports that some Yugoslav army officers in Montenegro have refused to obey orders from Belgrade to "stoke up tension between the army and the Montenegrin police," who are loyal to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, "The Independent" reported. A legislator representing Bar told the London-based daily that the soldiers may try to take control of Bar's oil storage facilities and port. Bar has oil reserves sufficient for two months. Many of its 1,800 port workers have received army induction notices, "The Daily Telegraph" reported. Elsewhere, Djukanovic appealed to Western countries to exempt Montenegro from any oil embargo they may place on Serbia. PM


EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 26 April to tighten some existing economic sanctions against Belgrade. These include a travel ban on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his associates, banning export credits guaranteed by private banks, tightening restrictions on investments, and preventing companies from providing services or technology to targets destroyed by NATO. The ministers agreed to end all commercial air links with Belgrade, AP reported. They also approved a ban on shipments of oil and oil products to Yugoslavia but left to NATO the question of how to enforce the prohibition. Italy and Greece, which have important business interests in Serbia, agreed to the ban only reluctantly. They succeeded in blocking a proposed prohibition on sporting contacts with Yugoslavia. The ministers also discussed German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's long-term plan for promoting political and economic stability in southeastern Europe. PM


Several hundred Kosovars arrived at Macedonia's Blace transit camp by bus on 27 April and more are continuing to come to the camp, Reuters reported. Some 3,000 arrived the previous day, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. She added that the UNHCR has run out of land on which to accommodate new arrivals. She noted that additional refugees arrive as soon as the UNHCR succeeds in sending people from Blace to other camps. A further 800 Kosovars arrived at Lojane, which is not an official border crossing but has become a point of entry for Kosovars seeking to avoid Macedonian soldiers or police. Some refugees at Blace told the UNHCR that "thousands" of additional displaced persons are en route to Macedonia from the Ferizaj area. The refugees added that Yugoslav trains carrying Kosovars are often so full that they do not stop at some stations, which are filled with displaced persons. PM


UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva on 26 April that some refugees report that "women and children are being held in a three-storey building in Prizren, where the first storey is being used to store ammunition for troops, the second storey as living quarters for the military and the highest floor is full of hostages." He added that these and other refugee reports of the Serbian forces using Kosovar civilians as human shields "have substantial foundation." In Blace, aid worker Van Generen Stort told Reuters that Serbian forces have surrounded up to 20,000 Kosovars in Stuble, just north of the Macedonian border. She added that some refugees reported that Serbian forces killed up to 100 people in Slavina. PM


An aid worker for the UN's World Food Program told Reuters in Skopje on 26 April that many refugees fled Kosova because they had no food. She added that Serbian shops will not sell food to ethnic Albanians. The aid worker stressed that this year's harvest is lost and that any Kosovars who go home will be dependent on aid. PM


A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva on 27 April that ICRC representatives will soon begin discussions with authorities in Belgrade to enable Red Cross representatives to return to Yugoslavia. The spokeswoman noted that "all parties will have to be informed of our return. It is a country at war and we will need security guarantees" from the Kosovars and NATO as well as from Milosevic. The previous day, Milosevic promised ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga that Red Cross officials will be able to move "freely and safely" throughout Yugoslavia to aid civilians. Sommaruga also met briefly with the three U.S. soldiers held by Serbian forces. PM


Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov told CNN on 26 April in London that some European countries, which he did not name, have broken promises to the Macedonian authorities to take in Kosovar refugees. He praised Germany, Turkey, and Norway for accepting refugees. Elsewhere, Economics Minister Zanko Cado announced his resignation to protest what he said is the failure of the international community to make good on its promises to provide Macedonia with financial assistance. PM


A spokesman for the Atlantic alliance said in Skopje on 27 April that security has been tightened at the Kumanovo military base following "two large explosions" during the night, AP reported. NATO officials said that hand grenades caused the blasts, which produced neither damage nor injuries. French troops are stationed in the area. Macedonian police are investigating. PM


Yugoslav soldiers and Albanian border guards exchanged fire near Qafe e Prushit on 26 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Albanian officials said that the skirmish, which lasted for several hours, began after Yugoslav troops entered Albanian territory. They later withdrew. Yugoslav forces also fired several mortar shells at Tropoja. Meanwhile, the last six of a total of 24 U.S. Apache helicopters arrived in Albania. They will target mobile units in Kosova. One helicopter was destroyed when it crashed during a training mission north of Tirana airport that night. The two crewmen sustained only minor injuries. FS


Paskal Milo told Reuters in Luxembourg on 26 April that "it is necessary now to start [NATO] ground operations," adding that "the international community [must] act much more strongly [and] much faster, because Milosevic is again trying to gain time." Milo welcomed the proposed oil embargo against Yugoslavia but said he suspects some neighboring countries will not respect it. He did not name any of those countries. Milo added that "maybe some Mafia will try to profit in an illegal way from this black trade" and called for strict controls to prevent violations of the embargo. Albanian gangs smuggled large amounts of oil to Montenegro during the Bosnian war from 1993-1995 and Albanian authorities did not stop that illicit trade. FS


"Al- Ittihad" reported in Dubai on 26 April that the United Arab Emirates' armed forces will reconstruct a disused airport in Kukes to speed up the flow of aid to Kosova refugees, AP reported. The airport will be capable of receiving 150 tons of aid a day. It has a 3,000 foot runway and will be equipped with a mobile control tower and an area for storing cargo. Meanwhile, no refugees arrived in Kukes on 26 April. The total number of refugees there is currently estimated at 90,000. Elsewhere, Deputy Minister of Local Government Liri Jani on 26 April denied earlier press reports about theft of foreign aid, dpa reported. Police officials in Tirana, however, said last week that police have seized four truckloads with aid diverted from refugee camps to private homes in Durres and Tirana. FS


Tourism Minister Ivan Herak said in Zagreb on 26 April that the government will spend an additional $10 million to help the tourist industry minimize its losses stemming from the reluctance of many tourists to travel to Croatia on account of the Kosova crisis. Herak said that the industry, which is one of the main sources of hard currency, expects losses of up to 50 percent compared with 1998, "Novi List" reported. Herak noted that Croatian hoteliers will seek to attract customers through low prices. PM


The Croatian Helsinki Committee, which is a prominent non- governmental organization, said in a statement on 26 April that at least 410 Serbian civilians died during the Croatian army's Operation Storm against Krajina Serb forces in August 1995, "Novi List" reported. At least 24 Serbs died in ethnically motivated violence between 1996 and 1999, the study added. Croatian troops burned, destroyed, or mined some 22,000 homes in the Krajina region in 1995. PM


Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu said on 26 April in Washington that he is "partially satisfied" with the results of the NATO summit, Rompres reported. Plesu said Romania has upgraded its status in the eyes of NATO members. At the same time, he said Romania had hoped to receive a more detailed evaluation of its status and a list of political, economic, military, and legal criteria that it needs to meet in order to be accepted as a member. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu said the same day that "an admittance date some time beyond 2002 is an unjust and far-away prospect for our countries, which have assumed the same risks as any other NATO countries." He called for the quick admission of Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia to strengthen the alliance's southern flank. PB


Michel Camdessus said on 26 April that Romania is committed to the economic reforms contained in a new IMF lending program for the country, Reuters reported. Camdessus said he "totally trusts" President Constantinescu in guiding the implementation of the agreement. Romania and the IMF agreed on a $500 million IMF standby loan last week. In other news, the government announced that several trains will be made available for Catholics in Transylvania to take them to Bucharest during Pope John Paul II's 7-9 May visit. PB


Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov urged Western countries on 26 April to increase their economic and political support for democracies in southeastern Europe. In an interview with the daily "Standart," Kostov said that "poverty is the common cause of Balkan problems." He said "it will be tragic if [the West] doesn't understand that, they will never be able to cope with problems here." A poll by the National Public Opinion Center released on 25 April showed that 60 percent of respondents supported Bulgaria's granting NATO an air corridor along its western border. Other opinion polls have shown a majority of Bulgarians opposed to the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. PB


Bulgarian Deputy Premier Evgeniy Bakurdzhiev and his Macedonian counterpart, Dosta Dimovska, held talks on 26 April, BTA reported. The two sides are seeking EU funding for the construction of a railway line from Kyustendil to Kumanovo as well as technical aid to establish a power line between the countries. Dimovska also appealed to Bulgarian companies to purchase Macedonian goods that normally are bought by Serbia, which accounts for some 40 percent of Macedonia's total exports. Bakurdzhiev said Sofia is determined not to let the war in Yugoslavia "stamp out the fragile democracy in Macedonia." He also pledged to help build pre-fabricated shelters for Kosovar refugees in Macedonia. PB


By Paul Goble

Even as NATO continues its air strikes against Yugoslavia, ever more Western leaders are beginning to focus on what the Western alliance should do in the Balkans after the bombing has stopped.

Such discussions are likely to intensify now that the alliance has issued a communique that suggests its member states are at least as interested in a diplomatic resolution of the conflict as in continuing to use military power to achieve their original aims.

So far, most of the discussions have centered on some kind of Marshall Plan for the Balkans. Such a program, named for and modeled on U.S. assistance to Western Europe after World War II, would apparently involve massive, multilateral aid from NATO countries to the war-ravaged states of the former Yugoslavia.

By invoking the name of the largest and most successful foreign assistance program in history, officials in NATO countries clearly hope not only to put additional pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to reach a settlement but also to redirect the efforts of the Western alliance in a non-military direction.

But there are at least three reasons why a new "Marshal Plan for the Balkans" will have to be very different from its model if it is to help bring peace and stability to that turbulent region.

First, the original Marshal Plan was funded and directed by one country, the U.S. A new such plan for the Balkans would be funded and directed by a group of states and thus subject to the kinds of decision by committee that appear to govern much of NATO's activities. That would almost certainly guarantee that any program announced would suffer from inevitable differences of opinion within the alliance and might even make it impossible for any program announced ever to be realized.

Second, the original Marshall Plan took shape to counter a single, overriding threat to Western Europe. While the U.S. had hoped to extend assistance to all Europe, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's veto dashing that hope probably had the unintended consequence of making the Marshall Plan more successful than it would otherwise have been.

On the one hand, it meant that U.S. assistance was focused on a smaller number of countries and thus had a bigger impact than would have been the case if it had been spread more widely. On the other, Soviet opposition had the effect of generating more domestic U.S. support for it because Washington was able to point to the way in which the Marshall Plan was contributing to U.S. security interests in Europe.

Any aid package to the Balkans will not have that external disciplining factor. Not only will that mean that the domestic constituencies in many countries will be reluctant to fund a new plan at the levels that would be needed; it will also mean that the lack of an external threat will almost certainly guarantee that the members of the alliance will stay less united on this issue, just as they are on so many others.

Third, the original Marshall Plan was intended to restore the economies of the countries of Western Europe, not to create something fundamentally new. Any aid package to the Balkans would have to address the far larger and more complicated issues of nation- and economy-building, issues that few foreign aid programs have been successful at resolving.

In many ways, the discussions about a new Marshall Plan for the Balkans reflect the difficulties of finding a solution to the conflicts in that region. Obviously, the people there will need massive amounts of aid to overcome the tragedies visited upon them by Milosevic and his supporters.

But before the West can design an aid package that will help them, these conflicts will have to be addressed and some resolution found. Once that occurs, a genuine assistance program can be developed to meet the specific needs of the people and political structures that will then be in place.

In thinking about the future, those proposing a new Marshall Plan for that region should remember that the original Marshall Plan was not proposed until more than two years after the bombs had stopped falling.