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Newsline - May 10, 1999




YELTSIN CALLS EMBASSY BOMBING 'VANDALISM'

Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 8 May called the accidental NATO bombing of China's Belgrade embassy in the night from 7 to 8 May "an act of vandalism [and] further flagrant violation of international law," ITAR-TASS reported. The following day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov cancelled a scheduled visit to London. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told AP that the cancellation of the trip "does not reflect any difficulty in our bilateral relationship, but the additional pressure on him which requires him to remain in Moscow following last night's tragic accident." Cook added that "Ivanov has assured me that Russia stands by those Principles it agreed to" at a G-8 meeting in Bonn last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, issued a statement saying the bombing was of a "criminal character." FS

CHERNOMYRDIN VISITS BEIJING...

Yeltsin's envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin left Moscow for Beijing on 10 May. An unnamed government official told AP that he will discuss the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade and ways to end the Kosova crisis. Yeltsin earlier talked by phone to his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin (see related items in Part 2). Observers suggested that Chernomyrdin will urge the Chinese leadership not to obstruct a draft Security Council resolution on Kosova based on the G-8 principles. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's foreign policy advisor Michael Steiner said in Bonn on 9 May that Foreign Ministry officials from the eight countries will start drafting the resolution there the following day. Newly-appointed UN special envoy Carl Bildt, however, cautioned that "one must unfortunately expect that [the embassy bombing] will make the work in the Security Council more difficult." FS

...'ENCOURAGED' BY MILOSEVIC

Chernomyrdin returned to Moscow from Bonn on 9 May and told Reuters that "there are some encouraging results from [a telephone conversation between him and Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, but I will not say anything yet." He added that he told Milosevic about "new circumstances" in the negotiations, and that Milosevic was "very satisfied." He did not elaborate. An unnamed German government official told AP that Schroeder and Bildt urged Chernomyrdin to postpone a trip to Belgrade originally scheduled for that day, because the proposed peace plan was still "relatively abstract." FS

RUSSIA MARKS VICTORY DAY

After commemorating on 7 May the anniversary of the founding of the Russian Armed Forces, Russians this weekend marked the 54th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. On 7 May, President Yeltsin stumbled while laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Reuters reported. Speaking at a parade on 9 May in which 5,000 soldiers took place, Yeltsin said that victory in World War II "unifies Russians, regardless of their beliefs and political inclinations." He added that "all countries should not forget the main lesson of war. The rule of power may spark a big fire." And he said that the war showed that "Russia was not only a good fighter but also a skillful peacemaker." According to ITAR-TASS, more than two million Russians took part in 2,747 Victory Day festivities across the country.

RUSSIANS COMPARE CLINTON TO HITLER

One Russian told Reuters correspondents on 9 May that "Clinton and NATO are worse bastards than Hitler." Another said that "between Hitler and Milosevic there is a world of difference and it's absurd to compare them. There is a complete parallel between Hitler and NATO." PG

NATO MAY USE FORCE AGAINST RUSSIA, GENERAL WARNS

The former intelligence chief of the Russian armed forces told "Krasnaya zvezda" on 7 May that NATO might use the strategy of force it is employing in Kosovo against Russia. But Col. Gen. Fyodor Ladygin acknowledged that such an outcome was in fact "unlikely." In other comments, he suggested that Moscow's ability to affect outcomes in the Balkans is extremely limited and urged that Russia not get into a situation in which others will simply ignore it. PG

ITAR-TASS SAYS "ALL THAT CAN BE STOLEN IS STOLEN"

In a story about the theft of copper pipes from the house of Tobolsk Archbishop Dimitry, the Russian news agency on 7 May said that "all that can be stolen is being stolen." In other crime stories over the weekend, Russian news agencies noted that thieves in Omsk had robbed the Victory Day memorial and that someone had stolen a World War II-era bread ration from a St. Petersburg museum. PG

MIXED ECONOMIC NEWS

Russia's industries produced 0.2 percent less in the first quarter of 1999 than they did in the same period a year ago, Interfax reported on 9 May. Meanwhile, consumer prices rose 3.0 percent in April compared with only 0.4 percent in April 1998. Tax collections rose to 41.9 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) in April, but the Russian government failed to cover its expenses and spent 1.9 billion rubles more than it collected. Because of this mixed picture, some 48 percent of Russian company managers told pollsters that they expected the country's economic situation to worsen in May, according to a poll reported by Interfax on 8 May. Nonetheless, Russian Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants told Interfax on 7 May that G8 countries were supportive of Moscow's desire to join the OECD. He noted that "figures do not always reflect the specifics of Russia's economy." PG

RUSSIANS DRINKING MORE...

Sales of vodka climbed 10 percent and beer sales rose 19 percent in the first quarter of 1999 compared to a year earlier, Interfax reported on 9 May. But the sale of champagne fell 13 percent. Because these figures cover only official sales and not illegally produced liquor which is estimated to make up 50 percent of all alcohol consumed in the Russian Federation, the actual shifts may be much greater. PG

...PRAYING MORE...

Meanwhile, ever more Russians are turning to religion, according to a Public Opinion poll reported by Interfax on 7 May. A mid-April sampling of 1,500 Russians showed that 55 percent now consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians, up from 34 percent in June 1991. Nine percent more, down from 10 percent in 1991, say they are followers of another religion. The number professing atheism has fallen from 40 to 31 percent. PG

...AND MORE CRITICAL OF THE WEST

More than seven out of ten Russians believe that Moscow is excessively dependent on the West, according to the results of a Public Opinon Poll reported by Interfax on 7 May. Over half (51 percent) now think that relations with the United States have deteriorated over the past year, up from only 33 percent who felt that way in January 1999. PG

LUKASHENKA SAYS CIS HAS NO FUTURE

Speaking in Volgograd on 7 May, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that "the CIS has absolutely no prospects for development." He added that "in practice, there is no CIS; it doesn't even fulfil the role of a political club." PG

RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR TIES TO INCREASE?

Iran has formally proposed expanding its cooperation with Russia in the development of nuclear power, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told Interfax on 8 May. PG

JAPANESE DIPLOMAT TO VISIT SAKHALIN

Minoru Tamba, Japan's deputy foreign minister, will visit Sakhalin on 10-13 May, ITAR-Tass reported on 10 May. He is scheduled to meet regional governor Igor Farkhutdinov as well as other officials. On 12 May, the Japanese diplomat, 61, will visit his birthplace in Penzenskoye on Sakhalin. PG

MOSCOW, SEOUL AGREE TO INCREASE EMBASSY SPIES...

The Russian Federation and South Korea have agreed to increase the number of intelligence officers assigned to their respective embassies from two to eight, Korean officials told AP on 10 May. This action follows a spy scandal in July 1998 when Moscow expelled a Korean diplomat, and precedes a visit to Moscow later this month by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. PG

...BUT MOSCOW HAS NO COMMENT ON POLISH ARREST OF SOVIET-ERA SPIES

The Russian intelligence service declined comment on 7 May concerning the 4 May arrest of two retired Polish officers whom Warsaw has charged with spying for the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 May 1999). But ITAR-TASS suggested that the Polish media are using the case to try to whip up anti-Russian passions. PG

MOSCOW SOURCES SAY OSCE SPYING FOR NATO IN KOSOVA

Interfax reported on 9 May that unnamed military and diplomatic sources have said that NATO country representatives on the OSCE mission in Kosova are engaged in espionage for the Western alliance. These sources singled out the nationals of the United States, Canada and Germany for special criticism. PG




DETAINED ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER RELEASED

Former interior minister Vano Siradeghian was released from custody on 7 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He had been detained four days earlier in connection with several murder cases on returning to Armenia after a four-month absence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). Siradeghian is chairman of the board of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement and a candidate in the 30 May parliamentary elections. Election candidates may not be held in custody for longer than 96 hours without the consent of the Central Electoral Commission, but the Procurator-General did not request permission from that body to extend the detention period. Also on 7 May, two people arrested on trumped-up charges on Siradeghian's orders, and relatives of two of the men in whose murder Siradeghian is implicated, held a protest rally in Yerevan to demand a full investigation of his actions during his tenure as minister in 1992-1996, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

IRANIAN CUSTOMS DENIES DETAINING AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST

The head of the Iranian customs post at the border crossing of Astara has denied that his subordinates detained Ganimat Zahidov, editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper "Ekspress," on 3 May, Turan reported on 8 May. He explained that an earlier report by one of his subordinates that Zahidov had been detained was based on a case of mistaken identity. Zahidov was due to return to Azerbaijan on 3 May after a trip to Iran during which he conducted a lengthy interview with Mahmudali Chehragani, who is a professor at Tabriz university and a representative of Iran's ethnic Azeri community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). Zahidov's present whereabouts are unknown. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT PEACEFUL MARCH TO KARABAKH

Police in Baku twice used violence on 8 May to disperse and detain an unknown number of people who intended to participate in a peaceful march from Baku to Nagorno-Karabakh and Horadiz, south- east of the disputed enclave, Turan reported. The march was organized by the Geyrat party, which is headed by defeated presidential candidate Ashraf Mehtiev. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PATRIARCH, DISCUSS STUDENT PROTEST

Eduard Shevardnadze met with Catholicos Ilia II on 7 May to discuss the planned exhibit in four U.S. cities this autumn of historic Georgian icons and other religious artefacts, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian church opposes allowing the relics to leave the country, as do several dozen students who have declared a hungerstrike in protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 May, 1999). Shevardnadze informed the patriarch that he intends to create a commission to draft legislation regulating the temporary export of the valuables. Ilia II subsequently tried, but failed, to persuade the students to abandon their hungerstrike. Shevardnadze and the patriarch also agreed to invite Pope John Paul II to visit Georgia at an unspecified date. The Georgian church had not done so earlier in the belief that the country was spiritually and materially unprepared for such a visit. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO INSIST IMPORTS BEAR LABELS IN KAZAKH, RUSSIAN

Under a decree issued by the office of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, as of 1 October 1999 all imported goods must bear labels in both Kazakh and Russian detailing their country of origin, date of manufacture and expiry date, Reuters and Interfax reported on 7 May. The move is seen as a further attempt to protect domestic manufacturers from an influx of cheap foreign goods following the April devaluation of the tenge. LF

ANOTHER MILITARY HELICOPTER CRASHES IN TAJIKISTAN

Ten people were killed on 6 May when a Tajik military helicopter crashed in mountains north of Dushanbe, AP reported. Eighteen Russian border guards died in a similar crash in early April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). LF

AFGHAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES RESUMPTION OF PEACE TALKS IN TURKMENISTAN...

An Afghan delegation headed by Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Abdur Rahman Zahid met with Turkmen government officials in Ashgabat on 6-7 May to discuss the possibility of holding a third round of peace talks in that city between representatives of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance of Ahmed Shah Massoud, Reuters and Interfax reported. An unnamed Turkmen government source told Interfax that both sides want to resume the talks. Hostilities had broken out again following the last meeting between the two rival factions in Ashgabat in mid-March. But during talks in Tashkent last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Uzbek leaders advocated that the Contact Group comprising Russia, the U.S., China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan should mediate a solution to the Afghan conflict under the aegis of the UN (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). LF

...AND PIPELINE PROJECT

The Turkmen and Taliban officials also discussed economic cooperation, including the planned construction of a gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Iran, Reuters reported. The U.S. company Unocal, which held the largest stake in the consortium created to build that pipeline, pulled out of the project late last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). LF

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS UZBEKISTAN

Petar Stoyanov and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov discussed expanding bilateral cooperation during talks in Tashkent on 7-8 May, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov expressed particular interest in the transport of Uzbek exports to Europe via Bulgaria and the Danube. Inter-governmental agreements on cooperation between the two countries' national airlines and in fighting organized crime were signed during the visit. LF




LUKASHENKA CONDEMNS U.S. 'HEGEMONIC PLANS'

Some 5,000 veterans gathered in Minsk on 9 May for a march and military parade to celebrate Victory Day, AP reported. Some 2,000 rallied at the Yama memorial built in the former Minsk ghetto to commemorate Jewish victims of World War II in Belarus. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka addressed the veterans, condemning the "hegemonic plans" of the United States which in his opinion is trying to impose its rule on the world, Interfax reported. He denounced NATO's strikes in Yugoslavia, saying that this Balkan country is defending "not only itself, but other countries as well." He also expressed his confidence that Belarus will enter the 21st century "strongly united" with Russia. "Our army has the appropriate strength for the NATO aggressor quickly to loose the desire to dictate conditions," Polish Television quoted Lukashenka as saying to the veterans. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CHAIR PLEASED WITH PRESIDENTIAL POLL

Viktar Hanchar, chairman of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, has said he is satisfied with the course of nationwide presidential polls launched on 6 May in defiance of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Minsk on 9 May. According to Hanchar, the opposition presidential campaign is "quite normal and well on course," with some 760,000 people (10 percent of the voters) casting ballots from 6-8 May. JM

UKRAINE CELEBRATES VICTORY DAY WITH VETERANS' PROTEST MARCHES

Veterans and Communist hard-liners across Ukraine marked the 54th anniversary on 9 May of Nazi Germany's defeat with parades and protest marches, AP and dpa reported. Some 5,000 people took part in a demonstration in Kyiv, carrying old Red Army banners and red flags of the former Soviet Union. The demonstrators denounced NATO for its strikes in Yugoslavia and protested the policies of President Leonid Kuchma's government. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS TALKS WITH IMF SUCCESSFUL

"We once again discussed the issue of extra financing with the IMF and I think we'll be able to meet all our obligations [to the fund]," AP quoted Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko as saying on 8 May after a meeting with the visiting IMF team in Kyiv. The government is asking for some $300 million in addition to the $2.2 billion loan approved by the IMF for Ukraine last year. The IMF mission chief, Mohammed Shadman-Valavi, said Ukraine is currently complying with IMF requirements much better than in previous months and can count on further loans. Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said the IMF will decide on disbursing loans for Ukraine in late May. JM

CORRECTION:

The 7 May "Newsline" incorrectly identified Crimea's capital as Sevastopol. The peninsula's main city is Simferopol. JM

MERI MEETS WITH VAN DER STOEL

Estonian President Lennart Meri met with visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 7 May. Discussing the future work of the OSCE in Estonia, President Meri suggested that the country's progress over the years should be taken into account. Earlier, Meri had written in a newspaper commentary that the OSCE should alter its mission in Estonia to promote public education (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). Van der Stoel stated that "This is a question which we will discuss with Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek of Norway, the current OSCE presiding country," and "From my position every new project which deepens the co-operation between the OSCE and Estonia is welcomed," according to "Postimees." "Postimees" on 8 May stressed that the three-party governing coalition would like to see the OSCE conclude its mission to Estonia. MH

ESTONIA'S LAAR PLEDGES TO BACK LATVIA, LITHUANIA FOR EU, NATO

At the end of a visit to Riga on 7 May, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar said Tallinn will seek to help its two Baltic neighbors join the two Western bodies together, BNS reported. Meanwhile, meeting in Tartu, the three Baltic defense ministers signed a joint statement committing themselves to expanded cooperation with each other and with NATO. PG

IN LATVIA, RUSSIANS AND LATVIANS MARK VICTORY DAY DIFFERENTLY

Approximately 2,000 people, mostly ethnic Russians, marched in Riga on 9 May to mark Victory Day, Interfax and BNS reported. Meanwhile, some 1,000 Latvians gathered in Lestane to commemorate those Latvians who fought on the German side during World War II. Meanwhile, in Lithuania, Interfax reported that "only war veterans and the staff of the embassies of the CIS countries" marked the anniversary. PG

POLITICAL CONSULTATIONS CONTINUE IN LITHUANIA

Lithuanian politicians continued their consultations about the formation of a new government. Lithuanian Parliamentary Speaker Vytautas Landsbergis told BNS on 7 May that suggestions that there should be early general elections are "worrying." He added that he does not believe such an early poll is necessary. PG

POLISH PARLIAMENT RECONFIRMS LAW ON FORMER NAZI DEATH CAMPS

The lower parliamentary house on 7 May approved the law on the protection of former Nazi concentration camps in Poland, rejecting the amendments proposed by the upper house (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 23 April 1999). President Aleksander Kwasniewski signed the law the following day, AP reported. The legislation is widely seen as an effort to provide legal grounds for removing some 300 crosses erected by radical Catholics at the Auschwitz death camp site in defiance of protests by Jewish communities. Meanwhile, Premier Jerzy Buzek has said the so- called papal cross erected near the camp site in 1979 will remain in its place. JM

POLAND'S RIGHT-WING PARTY WANTS TO CREATE 'THIRD FORCE'

The opposition right-wing Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland (ROP) wants to set up a "third force" opposed to both the ruling coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)/Freedom Union and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, Polish Television reported on 8 May. The main intended task of the new force is to run a joint candidate in the presidential elections in 2000. ROP leader Jan Olszewski said he will propose cooperation on launching the new force to the AWS and the opposition Polish Peasant Party. Olszewski declined to say whether he will run in the presidential elections. JM

CZECH-AUSTRIAN DISPUTE OVER TEMELIN

Austria's Commissioner for nuclear facilities, Radko Pavlovec, said Czech ambassador to the EU Josef Kreuter should be dismissed for his inappropriate criticism of a European Parliament resolution, CTK reported on 7 May. Kreuter had said that the European Parliament resolution criticizing the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear plant contained a "number of half-truths and downright untruths" and a "load of lies and deliberate misinterpretations." Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan acknowledged on a 7 May Radio Frekvence I broadcast that Kreuter's comments were "inappropriate," but added that it was up to him to decide whether or not Kreuter should be dismissed. VG

SCHUSTER MAINTAINS LEAD IN OPINION POLLS

Slovak presidential candidate Rudolf Schuster is running at 33 percent of the vote in the latest public opinion poll conducted between 26 April and 2 May, TASR reported on 10 May. Former Slovak prime minister Vladimir Meciar is running second with almost 23 percent of the vote and former Czechoslovak ambassador Magda Vasaryova is third with 14 percent. The first round of Slovakia's first-ever direct presidential elections will be held on 15 May with the top two candidates advancing to the second round. On 9 May, former president Michal Kovac said on TV Markiza's "Na Telo" program that "if necessary" he would renounce his candidacy in favor of one of the other candidates, provided they support the current governing coalition and maintain the country's current political course. The poll found that only 4.6 percent of respondents would vote for Kovac. VG

FIDESZ CALLS FOR "INTERNATIONAL SUPERVISION" OF VOJVODINA

Fidesz, the senior party of the Hungarian governing coalition, called for the restoration of autonomy to Yugoslavia's northern province of Vojvodina as part of any settlement of the conflict in Kosova, Hungarian media reported on 10 May. A declaration approved by a weekend Fidesz party conference also called for "international supervision" of areas of Vojvodina inhabited by ethnic Hungarians after the end of the Kosovo conflict, without specifying what kind of international supervision it considers necessary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told RTL TV that any post-war conference on the Balkans must not end without adopting measures to improve the status of Vojvodina's 350,000 ethnic Hungarians. Hungarians account for 17.5 percent of that region's 2 million population. VG




CLINTON APOLOGIES FOR EMBASSY BOMBING

President Bill Clinton sent a "message of regret" to his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin on 9 May to apologize for NATO's "unintentional" bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the night of 7-8 May. NATO spokesmen in Brussels and Washington stressed that the missile attack was an "accident" and a "mistake" due to faulty intelligence supplied to the pilots, which led them to believe that the embassy compound was really the Yugoslav army's supply and procurement offices. The spokesmen added that the Atlantic alliance has had very few "mishaps" in the course of the current bombing campaign. The spokesmen stressed that the air strikes will continue until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic meets the alliance's demands for ending the crisis in Kosova. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Belgrade on 10 May that the embassy was "completely destroyed" and that three Chinese were killed and some 20 injured in the attack. PM

CHINESE 'FURY' FOLLOWS DESTRUCTION OF BELGRADE EMBASSY

Jiang told his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin in a telephone conversation on 10 May that the U.S. must bear "all responsibility" for the embassy bombing, which Jiang called an example of "gunboat diplomacy," Xinhua reported (see related items in Part I, above). The government broke off discussions with Washington on arms control, security and human rights. Western news agencies reported from Beijing and several provincial cities on 10 May that anti-U.S. and anti-Western demonstrations are in their third day. Crowds chanted: "Long live Chairman Mao," "Kill Americans," "Go home U.S. pigs," and "A debt in blood must be repaid in blood." The U.S., U.K. and Albanian embassies were damaged. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" commented that "the outrage is well organized." Other observers noted that the Chinese authorities do not usually show patience with unauthorized demonstrations, and that the current protests are the worst anti-American violence since the two countries established diplomatic ties over 20 years ago. PM

A CHINESE DIMENSION TO THE BALKAN CRISIS?

Serbian officials reacted to the bombing of the Chinese embassy with concern but also with "undisguised glee" in hopes of drawing China into the Kosova imbroglio on Belgrade's side, the BBC reported on 8 May. Observers suggested that Russia and NATO alike may have reservations about any possible increased Chinese role in the crisis, which Beijing may seek to exercise through its veto in the UN Security Council. China has consistently opposed intervention in Kosova as a violation of Yugoslav sovereignty. Observers note that its ultimate concern is that any precedent arising from outside intervention in Kosova could eventually be applied to Tibet or Taiwan. Taipei has been present on the sidelines of the Balkan crisis. Macedonia recognized the Republic of China in January, following which Beijing broke off ties with Skopje. Taiwanese aid agencies and military engineers are active in refugee relief work in Macedonia. Taiwan has promised its new friend generous development aid. PM

REFUGEES DEMAND NATO TAKE OVER CAMP

A growing crowd numbering 2,000 and chanting "UCK, UCK" (in reference to the Kosova Liberation Army) demonstrated at the Stankovic refugee camp on 10 May to demand that NATO take over control of the camp from the Macedonian authorities. The incident arose following what ethnic Albanians said was the unprovoked beating of two refugees by Macedonian police. An unnamed police officer told AP that one of the two men was "doing something" to a fence around the camp when the police detained him. Refugees told the news agency that the man had been talking to his relatives over the fence, which is made of tape similar to that used by police at the scenes of accidents. In Geneva, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that unnamed persons are extorting money from refugees in Macedonian camps by promising places on flights to third countries. He added that the UNHCR is investigating. PM

NEW SERBIAN OFFENSIVE DRIVES REFUGEES INTO ALBANIA

About 16,000 refugees arrived in Albania following a Serbian offensive in the areas of Peja and Gjakova over the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. They told stories of continuing violent expulsions. Meanwhile, the UNHCR continued to evacuate refugees from the northern town of Kukes at a rate of over 4,000 per day. In Brussels, NATO Military spokesman Walter Jertz on 9 May thanked engineers of the United Arab Emirates for finishing an airport in Kukes to deliver humanitarian assistance for the refugees there. FS

UCK SKEPTICAL ABOUT G-8 PROPOSAL

In Tirana on 8 May, Hashim Thaci, who heads the UCK-backed Kosovar provisional government, welcomed "every effort for reaching a solution" to the Kosova crisis. He added, however, that "we have reservations about [the G-8] declaration, including [its call for] the demilitarization of the UCK," Reuters reported. He stressed that the UCK demands firm security guarantees from NATO before its members will turn in their arms. Meanwhile, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo in an interview with "Shekulli" appealed to the UCK and the moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) to "leave aside their differences and become united in the name of higher interests of Kosova." He stressed that "all [Kosovar] leaders should be united on a joint platform for the expulsion of Serbian forces, the return of displaced [ethnic] Albanians and the building of democratic institutions." FS

WESTERN OFFICIALS CHARGE SERBS WITH KILLING AGANI

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Foreign Policy Advisor Michael Steiner and NATO spokesman Jamie Shea accused Serbian forces on 9 May of killing senior LDK politician Fehmi Agani. Serbian police took Agani from a refugee train between Prishtina and Macedonia on 6 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Serbian media later reported that his dead body was found near Lipjan on 8 May. Serbian authorities blamed the UCK for the killing. German government officials demanded an investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. During a conversation with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema the following day, LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova "expressed feelings of indignation and deep sorrow at the murder," Reuters reported. Rugova also met Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin in Bonn on 9 May. Chernomyrdin told AP later that "Rugova opened my eyes to several things" regarding a possible settlement in Kosova. FS

ALBANIAN PUBLIC ORDER MINISTER THREATENS TO RESIGN

Petro Koci resigned on 8 May, but withdrew his resignation one day later, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Koci said he disagreed with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko over the sacking of the police chief of Vlora, which Majko had requested after a sharp increase in refugee smuggling across the Otranto Straits. Koci also said he does not have sufficient support from his Socialist Party. Koci later said that Majko urged him to stay in office. FS

NATO: UCK PROVIDING 'POCKETS OF SANCTUARY'

A spokesman for the Atlantic alliance said in Brussels on 9 May that "as Serbian military units are destroyed or driven into hiding, there is a resurgence of UCK activity." He added that the locations where displaced people have taken shelter in Kosova "very often coincide with many of the UCK-controlled areas." A spokesman for the UCK noted, however, that the guerrillas' ability to protect civilians is limited when the Serbs use tanks and other heavy weapons. PM

BONNINO WARNS OF 'HUMAN BOMB'

EU humanitarian aid commissioner Emma Bonino said in Skopje on 9 May that in Kosova "there are at least 690,000 displaced people, which means that the human bomb is fully loaded" and can explode at any time. She noted that the Yugoslav authorities have not allowed any Kosovars to cross into Macedonia for four days. Bonino had praise for the "people and governments of Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia" for their efforts in taking in refugees. She concluded that their work has been successful, and that any attempt by Milosevic "to destabilize the region...has failed." PM

DJUKANOVIC, DJINDJIC SAY DEMOCRACY MUST COME TO YUGOSLAVIA

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in a joint statement from Montenegro on 9 May that "military intervention [in Kosova] gave way to new problems whether or not that was intended. With intervention, the West has now taken on part of the responsibility for finding the solution to these problems. The international community must throw its weight behind a program of political and economic reconstruction." The two leaders added that "it is impossible to imagine that democracy can be established in our country without a complete political transition in Serbia and Yugoslavia. If the war ends with a signature on a peace agreement and the same political leadership remains in power, with Slobodan Milosevic at the helm, the tragedy and violence will continue." Djindjic and Djukanovic also appealed for free and fair elections, the "isolation of undemocratic forces," and rapid economic development. PM

WESTENDORP CALLS FOR PROTECTORATE IN KOSOVA

Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's outgoing chief representative in Bosnia, told the Madrid daily "El Pais" of 9 May that the international community must not repeat in Kosova the mistakes it made in Bosnia. He argued that Kosova must become a "full-blown international protectorate" with foreign control over "the judges, the police and the army." PM

ANNAN NAMES BILDT, KUKAN

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended to the Security Council on 7 May that it approve his nomination of Sweden's Carl Bildt, who was Westendorp's predecessor in Bosnia, and Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan as the UN's special envoys in the Balkan crisis. Former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky had been considered a top contender for one of the two posts but recently took himself out of the running after Belgrade objected to his nomination. Vranitzky coordinated international stabilization efforts in Albania after the massive unrest in 1997. PM

POPE, ROMANIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH PRESIDE OVER JOINT SERVICES

Pope John Paul II concluded his historic three-day visit to Romania on 9 May with an open-air mass held in a park in downtown Bucharest, international agencies reported. The pope told a crowd of nearly a quarter of a million people that Romania's major Christian faiths should reconcile their differences, and called for an "international dialogue between the Catholics and the Orthodox world. " The pope also recalled the suffering of Romania's Catholics under the communists. Earlier, he attended an Orthodox service on Union Square presided over by Romanian Patriarch Teoctist. At the end of his service, the pope also invited Patriatrch Teoctist to the Vatican. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu thanked the pope for blessing Romania and said his country is prepared to act as "bridge between the West and the East," Rompres reported on 9 May. VG

POPE PRESIDES OVER GREEK CATHOLIC MASS

The pope also presided over a service for Greek Catholics on 8 May. Hundreds of Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic clergy as well as hundreds of lay worshippers attended the service. The mass was also attended by Alexandru Todea, the last surviving Greek Catholic cardinal in Romania, who was imprisoned for 16 years under the Communist regime. Before the mass, the pope made an unexpected visit to a cemetery where victims of the 1989 revolution are buried, RFE/RL reported. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the chief Vatican spokesman, said he is hopeful that issues such as restitution of property seized from the Greek Catholic Church by the former Romanian communist government will eventually be resolved. VG

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS BULGARIA

German Foreign Minister Joschka Ficher on 9 May discussed a proposed postwar stability and reconstruction pact for the Balkan region with Bulgarian leaders in Sofia, AP reported. Fischer said NATO would resolve the conflict in Kosovo by political means if possible, and military means if necessary. He called Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a "criminal" and said the deportation and massacre of Kosova Albanians threatens the entire Balkan region and would have security repercussions for all of Europe. VG




PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BALKANS


by Patrick Moore

A number of proposals for the post-Kosova Balkans have appeared recently, most notably German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's plan for a Southeastern European Regional Roundtable. His and other ideas will be fleshed out in the coming weeks, especially at a conference that the German government will host in Bonn on 27 May. The time is certainly ripe to review some principles that might underlie any future regional development plan that would embrace Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, and perhaps Moldova as well.

The goal of most of these proposals is to put an end to Balkan regional instability. The various plans are comprehensive and directed not only toward repairing wartime damage (much of which was done to obsolete communist-era or even older infrastructure) but toward thoroughly modernizing and developing the respective economies, societies, and political cultures to bring them up to contemporary European standards.

Such a comprehensive regional development project is unprecedented in the Balkans. It will require long-term planning and commitment for at least 20 to 30 years, not only by the U.S., Canada, and the EU but also by Turkey as a relatively prosperous regional power. Turkey and EU member Greece, in particular, stand to gain not only by providing and acquiring markets but also by carving out their respective niches as regional leaders.

The developed countries, for their parts, must be prepared to give the countries of the region a series of carrot-and-stick incentives to help bring their economies, societies, and political cultures into line with modern Western standards. This means guaranteeing serious prospects for admission to Euro- Atlantic structures for those who comply, and negative incentives for those who stubbornly refuse to observe European norms.

If regional development as a whole presents one set of problems and opportunities, the role of Serbia involves another set of issues. The Serbs occupy a strategic position at the center of the Balkans. Their leaders, moreover, have been the ones most responsible for the destruction of the former Yugoslavia and for the subsequent wars. No program for regional development can afford to exclude Serbia.

But the international community can no more afford to leave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in power than the architects of post-1945 Europe could tolerate the idea of keeping Hitler in office. Each of those two dictators rose to power by exploiting and fueling a national persecution complex during troubled economic times, and each stayed in power by appealing to nationalism. Each man received broad support at home and precious little domestic opposition. Each waged a bloody war of expansion and genocide--albeit on vastly different scales--against his neighbors. And each brought great misery and suffering upon his own people, who nonetheless proved unable or unwilling to rid themselves of their tormentor.

Hitler was destroyed by the combined land, sea, and air might of a powerful coalition. Whether Western leaders care to admit it publicly, this is how Milosevic is likely to end, too. And just as the Germans had to pay for their wars with the loss of East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, and other territories, the Serbs have lost or will likely lose their control not only over large areas of Croatia and Bosnia but also over all of Kosova, which is the scene of their most vicious campaign of genocide.

Furthermore, like Austria after 1945, Montenegro seems all but certain to go its own way as a separate state in a post- Milosevic Balkans. And like Austria, it will try to deny that it had anything to do with the dictator, who was its own son and whom it had supported as long as the going was good.

The German analogy is also worth considering for the post- war picture. The allies introduced tough measures of de- miltarization and de-Nazification in their respective zones, and they tried and punished war criminals. The international community could now provide a similar program of tutelage until a democratic, non-nationalist culture has taken root in Serbian politics, education, and the media.

It is not easy to predict who might lead a future democratic Serbia. The current Serbian opposition has repeatedly shown itself to be opportunistic or ineffective. The Serbian public seems oblivious to the sufferings of the Kosovars and united in its opposition to what Milosevic's propaganda machine calls "NATO aggression." Only 27 intellectuals signed a recent petition that even mentioned ethnic cleansing in Kosova (the petition primarily railed against "NATO aggression"). The students--in whom foreign democrats recently placed so much hope--now seem more interested in jiving to music provided by Milosevic's bands while wearing his anti-NATO propaganda symbols than in protesting genocide against their fellow citizens. The once-independent newspapers and broadcasters have gotten into line or been forced into submission.

Germany's political future looked pretty bleak in 1945, too, and very few people had heard of Konrad Adenauer or Kurt Schumacher. But Germany relied on its own democratic traditions and generous tutelage from the Western allies. Eventually, the Federal Republic took its place among the leading democracies of modern Europe.

Similar patience and dedication by the international community could soon help return the Serbs--who have at least as much a democratic tradition as any of their Balkan neighbors--to their place at the figurative as well as literal center of southeastern Europe.


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