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Newsline - July 21, 1999




RUSSIA-NATO COUNCIL MEETING POSTPONED

Russian and NATO officials postponed a meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council due to take place in Brussels on 20 July, following disputes over the agenda of that meeting. It was the first scheduled gathering of ambassadors to the joint body since Russia suspended relations with NATO in March to protest NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. NATO and Russian diplomats intend to draw up an agenda that will ensure the council presents a joint statement at the end of the meeting, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from Brussels. The meeting is now expected to take place on 22 or 23 July. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told AP in Moscow that the meeting will not mark a formal resumption of full relations with NATO. He stressed that "we have resumed our contacts with NATO [only] in one clearly defined sphere: interaction within the framework of [KFOR]." FS

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DENY CAPTURING PRISHTINA AIRPORT TO SEIZE CLASSIFIED ARMS...

Unidentified officials of Russia's Foreign and Defense Ministries told Interfax on 20 July that Russia did not send its troops into Prishtina on 10 June, ahead of the arrival of NATO troops, in order to secure classified weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1999). The officials were reacting to a report in "The Times" on 19 July quoting journalists from "Jane's Defence Weekly" as saying that Russia's surprise move may have been designed to withdraw Russian SA-10 surface-to-air missiles and Czech-made Tamara devices, which are capable of tracking stealth bombers. FS

...BUT RAF OFFICER SAYS RUSSIANS WITHDREW LARGE AMOUNTS OF ARMS

Also on 19 July, "The Times" quoted an RAF officer at Prishtina airport as saying that during the first few days of Russian control in June, "the stuff [military equipment] was pouring out of here." He added that the Prishtina airport was one of the most impressive military facilities he has seen. Already on 24 June, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported that Russian paratroopers had orders to stop British forces from accessing a Yugoslav storage area at the airport that included unspecified "radar devices," missiles, and laser-guided bombs. FS

GOVERNMENT TO SELL OFF MORE STAKES IN ENERGY COMPANIES...

The State Property Ministry plans to sell a 9 percent stake in LUKoil and 2.5 percent of Gazprom shares before the end of the year, Igor Shuvalov, chairman of the Federal Property Fund announced on 20 July, Interfax reported. According to "The Moscow Times," Shuvalov said that two 0.5 percent stakes in LUKoil are likely also to be sold off. First Deputy Property Minister Yurii Medvedev said the same day that the government may have to sell the stakes at below market rates, but he stressed the sales are necessary to help finance the budget. JAC

...DESPITE PAST FAILURES TRYING TO UNLOAD ROSNEFT, SLAVNEFT

According to Shuvalov, tenders for stakes in Rosneft, Slavneft, and Tyumen Oil company will be announced in August or September. Twenty-five percent plus one share of Rosneft and a 19.68 percent stake in Slavneft will be available, Shuvalov said. The government has twice failed to sell stakes in Rosneft and Slavneft in earlier privatization rounds, but Shuvalov expressed confidence that the sales will be structured in such a way as to attract investor interest. He also noted that Sibneft has already expressed an interest in the Rosneft stake, ITAR- TASS reported. "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 July was less optimistic, arguing that the proposed package of shares is too small to allow the potential buyer to effectively influence company policy. An additional concern is the conflicting announcements by members of Sergei Stepashin's government about their intention to form a national oil company composed of Rosneft and Slavneft. Foreign investors are likely to want to wait and see what happens, according to the newspaper. JAC

RUSSIANS' FAITH IN BANKS REVIVING?

The Ministry of Finance is a new combatant in the struggle to control the restructuring of Russia's banking, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 July. That struggle already involves the Tax Ministry, the Central Bank, and the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organizations (ARK0). According to the newspaper, the Finance Ministry has gotten Tax Ministry officials to submit for approval a list of banks whose debt to the federal budget is eligible for restructuring. Overall, banks owe around 35 billion rubles ($1.4 billion). The daily concluded that the addition of a new bureaucratic player could prove decisive for the sector, particularly if the Finance Ministry decides to side with the Central Bank and ARKO and lobby for a reduction in the sector's debts. "Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 13 July that Russians appear to be returning to commercial banks. As of 1 May 1999, the volume of accounts in rubles increased by 15.4 percent, compared with the beginning of 1999, and accounts in hard currency by 3.1 percent. JAC

RUSSIA TO TRIM WISHFUL LEGISLATION

The government plans to submit draft legislation to the State Duma in the fall that would suspend laws mandating programs that cannot be financed by the 2000 budget, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 21 July. First Deputy Prime Viktor Khristenko described the measure as one "forced [by circumstances] but necessary." According to ITAR-TASS, Khristenko added that in order to finance all social programs called for by various laws the government would need a sum equal to two or three annual federal budgets. Khristenko thinks that the legislation will find strong support in the Federal Council since it will give regional authorities the opportunity to choose which programs they want to be fully financed. JAC

REAL INCOMES FALL AS UNEMPLOYMENT RISES

Russian's real incomes shrank by 25.6 percent in the first half of 1999, compared with the previous year, according to the Russian Statistics Agency, Interfax reported on 20 July. Real incomes in June also slipped 22.9 percent, compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, the ranks of the unemployed swelled by 28.9 percent during the first half of the year to 10.443 million. JAC

ROUGHER SAILING PREDICTED IN LONDON CLUB NEGOTIATIONS

Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, predicted that once the boards of the World Bank and IMF approve their respective programs for Russia at the end of July, Russia will be able to conclude an agreement with the Paris Club in only a few days, "Vremya MN" reported on 20 July. According to the daily, both sides have few objections to a current plan for restructuring Russia's debts. But negotiations with the London Club will be difficult and protracted, according to Zadornov. The daily attributed that assessment to the presence of U.S. investment banks in the London Club that "are more aggressive toward Russia." However, the newspaper commented that the worst that can happen is that London Club creditors can declare Vneshekonombank in default: "To bankrupt Russia they will have to prove in court that the Russian government is legally responsible for the debts of the Soviet bank." JAC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON TROPHY ART LAW...

The Constitutional Court on 20 July ruled that parts of the so- called trophy art law are unconstitutional, but it stopped short of declaring the legislation invalid. The court determined that cultural valuables seized from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II and now located on Russian territory should not be returned to former "aggressor- countries." At the same time, it said that countries that fought against Hitler as well as victims of the Holocaust and the Hitler regime are entitled to the restitution of their cultural heritage. The court also ruled that parliamentary procedures were violated when the law was passed. Russian President Boris Yeltsin had been forced to sign the law in April 1998 but simultaneously filed an appeal with the court challenging the law's contents and the procedures used to adopt it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). JC

...GERMANY'S RUHRGAS HELPS FUND AMBER ROOM RESTORATION

One day before the Constitutional Court ruling on the trophy art law, the Germany company Ruhrgas announced it is donating some $3.5 million to help restore the Amber Room of the summer palace at Tsarskoe Selo, whose panels were plundered by Nazi troops during World War II. Work on the project was recently halted because of a lack of funding. JC

RUSSIA MAY SUPPLY SYRIA WITH AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS...

Russian military-industrial enterprises have begun preparing a contract on the delivery to Syria of S-300 (SA-10) anti- aircraft defense systems, Interfax reported on 19 July, citing an unidentified "informed source." The contract is to be drawn up by the Russian arms exporter Rosvooruzhenie and fulfilled by the Moscow-based Almaz central design bureau. The source did not specify when the document would be signed or how many systems delivered. JC

...WHILE HELPING CHINA, SOUTH KOREA DEVELOP AIR DEFENSE

The Almaz bureau is currently developing parts of air defense systems for China and South Korea, the bureau's director, Nikolai Polyashev, told Interfax on 20 July. He noted that these activities are being supervised by the federal authorities, in particular the Russian Defense Ministry, adding that "numerous countries" have asked Almaz to develop various elements of their air defense. Also on 20 July, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who oversees Russia's military cooperation with foreign countries, told Interfax that the Russian and Chinese Defense Ministries are expanding contacts in two spheres--defense and military technology. He stressed that all weaponry delivered to China is of a defensive nature. JC

U.S. ASKS MOSCOW TO RESPOND TO Y2K TRANSITION PROPOSAL

A U.S. Defense Department official told Reuters on 20 July that Washington has again asked Moscow to participate in an effort to minimize the risk of misunderstandings over missile launches at the beginning of the year 2000. The official said that the latest "U.S. overture" was made fairly recently but that Russia has not yet responded. Washington wants Moscow to take part in a temporary "early warning" center in Colorado that would keep missile-launch commanders informed about what the other side sees and does on New Year's Eve, the agency reported. Meanwhile, Norway's Bellona environmental group has said that Russia's Northern Fleet lacks funds to deal with the Y2K problem and that its warning systems may report non-existent missile attacks at the start of the millennium, AP reported. The Northern Fleet, for its part, has said its nuclear weapons can be launched only manually. JC

ARMY CLAIMS LITTLE AFFECTED BY ELECTRICITY SHUT-OFF IN FAR EAST

The Strategic Rocket Forces press service denied that any "direct danger" resulted from electricity being shut off to "objects of secondary significance" at the 11th Army of the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defense Forces based in Khabarovsk Krai, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 July. News agencies had reported the previous day that an electricity cut-off resulted in radar units losing their ability to monitor the country's air border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Ionov, acting chief of the Air Force Main Staff, told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" the same day that the power outage did not affect the 11th Army's combat capability and the air border remained sealed. According to a Unified Energy Systems spokesman, the 11th Army has not paid for electricity in Khabarovsk for the past three years, which has put Khabarovskenergo on the brink of bankruptcy, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 July. JAC

CHECHNYA MOVES TO REPAIR PIPELINE

Transneft Vice President Oleg Gordeev told ITAR-TASS on 20 July that Grozny is working to restore its section of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. Since 7 July, Russia has been bypassing Chechnya by shipping oil to Dagestan via pipeline and from there by train. PG

INGUSH PRESIDENT APPROVES POLYGAMY

Ruslan Aushev on 20 July issued a decree permitting male residents of the Republic of Ingushetia to have up to four wives, Caucasus Press reported. Aushev said he took the decision in response to "the current demographic situation in the republic" and he added that he is appealing to the Russian State Duma to make the necessary modifications in the country's family code. PG

NORTH OSSETIAN LEADER URGES RUSSIA TO COMBAT OUTSIDE INFLUENCES IN CAUCASUS

North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov told Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS on 20 July that Russia must expand its influence in the North Caucasus via diplomatic and special services means. "The day has come," he said, "when Russian diplomacy must ensure that the Caucasus is an area of Russian and not North Atlantic national interests." And he complained that the Russian Foreign Ministry has been slow in responding to the U.S. challenge in this region. PG

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PREMIERS AGREE TO MEET MONTHLY

Following their session in Moscow on 20 July, Russian Prime Minister Stepashin and his Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sarkisian, agreed to meet approximately once a month "not to start chattering about problems but to settle issues in a working environment," Armenpress reported. PG




AZERBAIJAN'S Aliyev WELCOMES TALKS WITH KOCHARIAN

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 19 July told U.S. Ambassador to Baku Stanley Escudero that he felt his 16 July meeting with Armenian President Robert Kocharian was "very significant," even though the two sides remained far apart, Turan news agency reported on 20 July. "I feel we are both trying to understand each other, and I want this to yield results and bring peace," Aliyev said. PG

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS MOVE AGAINST OPPOSITION

During the last few days, the Baku authorities have moved against several opposition figures and groups. On 20 July, the trial of Geyrat Party chairman Ashraf Mekdiyev on charges of insulting President Aliyev continued, Turan reported. On 19 July, Baku police prevented United Azerbaijan Movement leader Ashdar Tagizade from flying to Switzerland. And on 18 July, officials in Ganja prevented Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) activists from holding a meeting by briefly detaining 10 DPA members, Baku's "525 Gazet" reported on 20 July. PG

IRANIAN ENVOY REFUSES BAKU POST

Abdulnaser Himmati, who was recently named Tehran's ambassador to Azerbaijan, has refused to take up his position, "525 gazet" reported on 20 July. An ethnic Azerbaijani from Iran's Hamadan, Himmati reportedly cited personal reasons. This is the second time an Iranian appointee to Baku has refused to serve there; the first was in 1994. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan's Space television reported that various Azerbaijani opposition groups have picked the Iranian embassy in Baku to protest what they say is Iranian repression of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran. PG

GEORGIAN ANGER AT LEBED COMMENTS GROWS

Revaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense Committee, sharply criticized Aleksandr Lebed, the governor of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Krai, for his comments in Ajaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 19 July 1990), Prime News reported on 20 July. Part of the reason for this reflects Tbilisi's concern about unsettled conditions in that region, the Georgian news agency reported. PG

KAZAKHSTAN POLICE ARREST SUNNI FAITHFUL

The authorities arrested 70 people in Zhambul region on 19 July, Kazakh Khabar television reported on 20 July. Originally suspected of being Wahhabis or escaped prisoners, those arrested proved to be Sunni Muslims, a group permitted by Kazakhstan's legislation. PG

FIRST CENSUS RESULTS IN KYRGYZSTAN

The Kyrgyzstan authorities on 20 July released the first results of a census conducted there last spring, Interfax reported. The country's population now stands at 4.856 million, up 13 percent since 1989. Final results from this first post- independence count are to be released by the end of the year. PG

TAJIKISTAN BANS CARRYING ARMS IN PUBLIC

The Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition on 17 July agreed to ban carrying arms in public, Interfax reported on 20 July. The Russian news agency said the order seems to have had an effect almost immediately in Dushanbe. PG

NIYAZOV RENAMES TURKMENISTAN CITY

On 19 July, President Saparmurad Niyazov renamed Chardzhou Turkmenabad, Interfax reported. He said he took this step to ensure that the names in the country reflect its rebirth. PG

NO AFGHAN ACCORD AT TASHKENT TALKS

Two days of talks in Tashkent between Afghan factions and the six countries supporting a peace effort there have ended without significant progress. The meeting concluded with a declaration that a military solution is impossible and that there must be further talks, Interfax reported on 20 July. PG




EU SAYS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S LEGITIMACY EXPIRED...

The French Embassy in Minsk has circulated a statement on behalf of the EU saying that 20 July was the last day of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's legitimate presidency. The statement stresses the need for free, democratic, and fair elections to restore the legitimacy of Belarus's political authority. It also urges all the concerned parties to begin a dialogue and expresses the hope that Lukashenka's agreement to a dialogue with the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 July 1999) will be backed by concrete proposals on holding democratic parliamentary elections in 2000. JM

...U.S. ALSO QUESTIONS LUKASHENKA'S LEGITIMACY...

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 20 July that the 1996 changes to the Belarusian Constitution, which gave Lukashenka the right to extend his term until 2001, were based on a "flawed and unconstitutional referendum." According to Rubin, these changes and the "arbitrary extension" of Lukashenka's term in office undermine the Belarusian president's democratic legitimacy. "Lukashenka's legitimacy as an elected representative of the Belarusian people can only be restored by free and fair democratic elections in which all political parties can participate on an equal basis," Rubin said. JM

...WHILE RUSSIA REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR LUKASHENKA

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said on 20 July that Russia has no reason to doubt Lukashenka's legitimacy. "The [1996] referendum returns are indicative-- more than 70 percent of the population voted for prolonging the powers of the president who was elected for a five-year term in 1994," Rakhmanin said. He added that Russia intends to promote its relations with Belarus in compliance with the declaration on further integration signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenka last December. JM

UKRAINE, POLAND PLEDGE NOT TO CHANGE POLICY TOWARD BELARUS

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said on 20 July that Ukrainian-Belarusian relations will remain unchanged following the end of Lukashenka's five-year term in office. The same day, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said Warsaw will continue its policy toward Belarus. "On the one hand, we criticize President Lukashenka's policy and violations of the law committed by him, but on the other--we will not break relations with Belarus. Now we will maintain them more on a social than political level," Dobrowolski said. He added that no visits of high-ranking officials are planned by the two countries. JM

UKRAINE HIT BY MOTOR FUEL SHORTAGE

Ukraine is suffering a severe gasoline shortage, resulting in the closure of many filling stations. The price of gasoline has doubled and even tripled at some stations, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 21 July. Some traders blamed government-imposed import duties on gasoline for the shortage, while the government pointed to the increase in world oil prices. The agricultural sector seems most affected by the fuel crisis. According to the agency, some regional authorities have attempted to confiscate low octane gasoline for the needs of agricultural enterprises. Newly appointed Agricultural Minister Mykhaylo Hladiy said most farms have enough fuel to keep their combines running, but he added that the hike is likely to push up the price of grain. JM

EBRD PAYS TO IMPROVE CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has signed an agreement with Ukraine's state company Enerhoatom on a 111.8 million euro ($115 million) grant to improve the leaky concrete encasement of the Chornobyl reactor that was destroyed in 1986. The grant is to be spent on purchasing equipment to monitor safety risks while nuclear fuel is removed from the destroyed reactor. It will also be used for a number of other safety projects due to be completed by 2005. JM

POLISH PREMIER OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR NEXT TWO YEARS

During a 20 July meeting with parliamentary deputies of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), Jerzy Buzek said that over the next two years, the cabinet should concentrate on fighting unemployment, improving the situation in the agricultural sector, and increasing the security of citizens. He said his cabinet "is now facing two tranquil years of governing with only one reform of the tax system." AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski told journalists after the meeting that Buzek "will remain prime minister for his entire term." JM

SLOVAK CONTROVERSY OVER CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING CONTINUES

Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel on 20 July said that in the wake of the Slovak Constitutional Court's recent ruling on Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's annulment of the amnesty granted by Vladimir Meciar to former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci and former Counter- Intelligence chief Ivan Lexa, Krajci's case must be halted. The court ruled that the annulment was unconstitutional. Hanzel told Radio Twist that he has ordered the case halted but it is up to the tribunal to make the final decision. Meanwhile, Justice Ministry official Daniel Lipsic said the same day that the Constitutional Court's decision does not prevent Krajci's case from continuing since the decision cannot be made valid retroactively. Also on 20 July, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia said the continuation of the case would violate the constitution. It warned that it will file a complaint with the Council of Europe. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT PROMULGATES MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW

Rudolf Schuster on 20 July signed the law on the use of minority languages in contacts with the authorities, CTK and Hungarian media reported. Schuster said he decided to promulgate the law after two independent teams of lawyers unanimously recommended he do so. Arpad Duka-Zolyomi, deputy chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), told the Budapest daily "Magyar Hirlap" that the SMK can now do nothing except seek to have the parliament amend the law. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that it is "regrettable" that the bill was passed without the consent of the minorities it affects and that the law will "not be capable of defending the interests of the Hungarian minority." MS

HUNGARY, ROMANIA AGREE ON JOINT PEACEKEEPING UNIT

Romanian Brigadier General Mihaita Costache and Hungarian Brigadier General Jozsef Forgo, meeting in Hodmezovasarhely on 20 July, signed a technical agreement that defines the duties of the Hungarian-Romanian joint peacekeeping battalion. The battalion can be mobilized only in Europe and must operate under the aegis of the UN, the OSCE, or the West European Union. The joint peacekeeping unit can be deployed as of 1 January 2000, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARY 'NOT SURPRISED' BY EU'S DECISION ON BALKAN RECONSTRUCTION CENTER

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth on 20 July said that Hungary "is not surprised" by the EU foreign ministers' decision earlier that day to agree "in principle" to choose Thessaloniki, Greece as the reconstruction center for the Balkans. He said that "it was to be expected that EU would choose one of its member states for that purpose." Hungary had launched a heavy campaign for Budapest to host the center. Nemeth observed that the center may also be needed for the reconstruction of Vojvodina. MSZ/MS




UCK DISARMAMENT ON SCHEDULE...

KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson inspected an arms collection site of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in Isnic on 20 July, together with UCK commander Agim Ceku, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Prishtina. That day marked the deadline for the first phase of the UCK's disarmament plan. According to the plan, which guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci signed and presented to NATO 30 days earlier, by now the UCK was to have turned in all its heavy weapons and 30 percent of its small arms. At the storage site are, among other things, heavy machine guns, anti-tank rockets, a Chinese multi- barreled anti-aircraft gun, several other arms, and about 2 million rounds of ammunition. Most of the arms originated from the Yugoslav Army. There are a total of 19 collection sites throughout Kosova. FS

...BUT VIOLATIONS OF AGREEMENT CONTINUE

KFOR spokesman Louis Garneau said in Prishtina on 20 July that KFOR soldiers have arrested 13 men in UCK uniforms in Mihalic and confiscated an unspecified number of arms, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Despite these violations of the demilitarization agreement, UCK commander Ceku told Reuters in Isnic that "I am sure I have control of the UCK units." FS

UNMIK LAUNCHES POLICE RECRUITMENT

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) opened an office for the recruitment of police for the planned UN-trained force for the province in Prishtina on 20 July. UCK commander Ceku told General Jackson in Isnic that about 4,000 former UCK soldiers will apply for positions in the force, Reuters reported. FS

BELGRADE WANTS TO RETURN SOME PERSONNEL TO KOSOVA

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 20 July that international peacekeepers and the UN-sponsored civilian authority "do not have sufficient strength to ensure the full security of Kosova's borders, population, and property." Bulatovic asked Annan to allow an unspecified number of Yugoslav soldiers, police, and customs officials to return to the province soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Under the June peace agreement on Kosova, Belgrade will be allowed to send a limited number of forces to guard the frontiers and Serbian cultural monuments but only when the UN agrees. PM

SERBIAN POLICE ARRESTED IN KOSOVA

A NATO spokesman said in Prishtina on 20 July that peacekeepers arrested four Serbian policemen in eastern Kosova near the border with Serbia. The four were armed with automatic weapons. The June peace agreement bans Serbian paramilitary police from the province. PM

ANNAN CALLS FOR RESTORING BASIC SERVICES

The UN secretary- general said in Vienna on 20 July that the UN's mission will be on the ground [in Kosova] at least for several years but the reconstruction of [the province and the region]...will take at least 10 years." He added that "even if one were to limit assistance to Yugoslavia for example to only humanitarian assistance, one should define humanitarian aid in broad enough terms to allow assistance to go to repairs of electrical systems, water supplies, and hospitals." Annan stressed that Kosova's remaining Serbs might leave if basic infrastructure is not restored. PM

TWO KEY SERVICES RETURN TO KOSOVA

An RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from Prishtina on 20 July that KFOR troops have restarted a key power plant nearby. It employs 850 persons, of whom 600 are ethnic Albanians and 250 ethnic Serbs. Elsewhere, the Albanian-language daily "Rilindja" resumed publication in Prishtina after an interruption of nine years. Serbian authorities closed the daily in 1990. It continued to publish in Zofingen, Switzerland, and Tirana. FS

POOR CONDITIONS FOR SERBIAN REFUGEES

A spokesman for the UNHCR said in Belgrade on 20 July that an unspecified number of Serbian refugees from Kosova live in poor conditions in Kragujevac, Kraljevo, and other cities. Many refugees charge that the Serbian authorities mistreat them in the hope of forcing them to return to Kosova. PM

MORE REPORTS OF TUBERCULOSIS

The UNHCR officials noted in Belgrade on 20 July that an unspecified number of cases of tuberculosis have emerged among the 7,500 Roma in a makeshift refugee camp near Podgorica. Observers note that tuberculosis never disappeared from the former Yugoslavia, despite great efforts by communist-era health authorities to eradicate it. There have been increasing reports of cases of tuberculosis in much of the former Yugoslavia in recent years, particularly in those areas affected by war or by deteriorating economic and social conditions. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER REOPENS BRIDGE

Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic reopened the bridge over the Danube at Beska near Novi Sad on 20 July. He told a crowd of several hundred persons, some of whom carried portraits of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, that Serbia "has once again become a major European transportation link." The bridge sustained only minor damage during NATO's recent bombing campaign. PM

BELGRADE BARS MONTENEGRIN STUDENTS

The Serbian Ministry of Education said in a statement on 20 July that students from Montenegro will no longer be allowed to register at Belgrade University, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers note that most Montenegrin students seeking a higher education have traditionally sought admission to Belgrade University. In Belgrade, Serbian Education Ministry officials said that priority for university admissions will go to soldiers and their families. PM

MONTENEGRO TO GIVE BELGRADE DEADLINE?

Vojin Djukanovic, who heads the governing Democratic Party of Socialists, said that the Montenegrin government "will probably" give the Belgrade authorities until "the beginning of September" to respond to Montenegrin proposals to change the federal system, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 20 July. PM

ALBANIA, GREECE PLEDGE COOPERATION TO FIGHT CRIME

Albanian Public Order Minister Spartak Poci and his Greek counterpart, Mikhailis Khrisokhoidhis, pledged in Ioannina on 20 July to increase cooperation in fighting crime, AP reported. The ministers agreed to increase border patrols to prevent illegal immigrants from entering Greece (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). Poci agreed to provide Greek police with information on convicted Albanian criminals, including fingerprints, photographs, and official records. Khrisokhoidhis said he will assist the Albanian police force by providing training, computers, weapons, and other equipment. To facilitate the exchange of information, police officials in northern Greece and southern Albania will hold weekly meetings. Khrisokhoidhis said that document checks and expulsions of illegal immigrants will continue, but he promised that immigrants who have obtained temporary residence and work permits in Greece will not be affected. FS

ALBANIAN SYNOD SAYS ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN SARANDA VANDALIZED

The Holy Synod of Albania's Orthodox Church issued a statement on 20 July saying that unknown persons burned one church, vandalized another, and burned icons in a third during June and July in the Saranda region, Reuters reported. The statement says: "We appeal for an end to these acts and ask the authorities to take the necessary measures to stop this dangerous and unprecedented escalation, which spoils Albania's image in this critical historical period.... We raise our voice not only to defend our churches and monasteries but also the religious harmony and the peaceful coexistence characteristic of our country." FS

WESTENDORP SACKS MAYOR

A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 20 July that Westendorp has "suspended from office" Sanski Most Mayor Mehmed Alagic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). Bosnian media have recently linked Alagic to abuse of office and corruption. He has denied the charges and insisted that he will continue in office. PM

ARBOUR TO CHARGE CROATIA WITH 'NON-COMPLIANCE'

Louise Arbour, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said on 20 July in Zagreb that she will report to the UN Security Council that Croatia is not cooperating with the court. Croatian officials had refused her request for extradition of two Bosnian Croat war crime suspects and the transfer of a quantity of documents regarding mistreatment of Serbs in Croatia between 1991 and 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). She charged that Zagreb's behavior toward the tribunal differs little from that of Belgrade, which does not recognize the court's authority, AP reported. Arbour noted that Croatian officials have nonetheless given the tribunal "excellent" cooperation in investigating Serbian atrocities in Croatia. She said that this "proves that it's very much a matter of a political will of what kind of support the tribunal will receive. When it's deemed desirable to do so, there are very few impediments" from Zagreb. PM

EU URGES CROATIA TO DEMOCRATIZE

Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, who holds the rotating EU chair, told Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Brussels on 20 July that Croatia must promote democratization, reform its electoral law, and allow the return of ethnic Serbian refugees if it wants closer integration with the EU. PM

U.S. HELPS DEFEND CROATIAN JOURNALISTS

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Zagreb said on 20 July that the embassy has donated $100,000 to the Journalist Association's Legal Defense Fund to help pay lawyers' fees and court costs. Most of the 500 lawsuits filed against journalists in recent years have been filed by government officials, their associates, or their families, AP reported. The government has used lawsuits and any resulting fines to intimidate critical journalists and to try to bankrupt independent periodicals. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT INTERVENES IN 'GENERALS' CONTROVERSY

Emil Constantinescu on 20 July said that allegations that the Supreme Court was influenced by "political considerations" in sentencing Generals Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac are "grave" and constitute negations of the "independence of the judiciary at its highest levels." Those who make such allegations, Constantinescu said, must produce proof. He added that the sentence could not be regarded as "one passed on the army as a whole." Finding out the truth about the 1989 revolution, he continued, "must exclude any idea of collective guilt" and should not "affect the army's honor and prestige," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minster Radu Vasile said the sentence has "provoked a sense of restlessness in the army," which is "counterproductive at a time [the army] is undergoing reform." MS

ROMANIA'S CIVIC ALLIANCE MOVEMENT TO SUPPORT CIORBEA?

Valerian Stan, deputy chairman of the Civic Alliance Movement, said on 20 July that the movement might back former Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's National Christian Democratic Alliance in the 2000 parliamentary elections. He said the formation set up by the former premier in April has adopted "many ideas and principles backed by the Civic Alliance," adding that Ciorbea is "a reliable politician." On 17 July, the alliance's National Council decided that the alliance will not re-join the Democratic Convention of Romania as long as the convention fails to promote "legislation leading to society's moral cleansing." MS

IMF DELEGATION VISITS MOLDOVA

Richard Haas, head of an IMF delegation currently visiting Moldova, said on 20 July that during talks with members of the cabinet and the National Bank, agreement was reached on a program that is to be implemented in the second half of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. The IMF delegation is reviewing the implementation of an IMF-Moldovan memorandum during the first half of the year. Haas said that if the review is positive, Moldova will receive a $35 million loan from the fund and a $20 million loan from the World Bank this year. MS

BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN U.S.

After meeting with Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev in Washington on 20 July, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told journalists that he has handed his guest a U.S.-developed "action plan" to help guide Bulgarian military reforms as the country prepares for eventual NATO membership. Cohen said that the plan recommends Bulgaria focus on improving training and the life quality of soldiers. It also urges measures to improve logistics, command and control, and communication. A senior U.S. defense official said that the guidelines call for Bulgaria's military force to be reduced to 45,000 troops from the present 100,000, AFP reported. The two ministers also discussed the situation in the Balkans. Ananiev noted that Bulgaria and other countries in the region have suffered heavy economic losses from the war in Yugoslavia. MS

BULGARIAN ETHNIC TURKISH LEADER CALLS FOR 'MODEL OF MODERATE NATIONALISM'

Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and co- chairman of the Liberal Democratic Union (LDS), has called for a "model of moderate nationalism" in Bulgaria, BTA reported on 20 July. Addressing a forum on liberalism, Dogan said nationalism has been "toned down" in Bulgaria but this has created a "political vacuum that could be filled by forces of aggressive nationalism, such as skinheads." He said that the two main political forces in the country, the Union of Democratic Forces and the Socialist Party, are not taking the opportunity to "use the ethnic card" in local elections scheduled for the fall. He also regretted that his own DPS has shed many of its nationalist features as a result of its LDS membership. MS




MEDIA TENSIONS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC


by Victor Gomez

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman would like to have better relations with the media. At least that's what he said after a group of journalists wrote an open letter publicly accusing him of worsening those ties. A recent slew of remarks by Zeman has made it hard for anyone to disagree with those journalists. Furthermore, the conflict between the current minority government and the majority of the country's media has accelerated to a fever pitch, just as the government has introduced a new press bill and proposed changes to the status of the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting. Obviously, relations between politicians and the media are often somewhat tense in a democracy, but the situation in the Czech Republic has become particularly difficult in the past few months. Anyone who thought that the Zeman administration could not possibly alienate the press as much as the government of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus has been forced to reconsider. Rarely has the relationship between the Czech press and government been as poisoned as it is now. While Klaus was well known for his put-downs of reporters and his infamous statement about journalists being the "enemy of the people," Zeman has more than matched him. In his characteristically outspoken style, the current prime minister has dismissed journalists as "idiots" and "simpletons" and commented that "the number of idiots per square meter is by far the highest among Czech journalists." Not content, however, to restrict his comments to insults, Zeman has also engaged in concrete accusations of corruption. For example, he recently charged a journalist with having accepted money from the energy company CEZ in exchange for writing articles supporting the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Recently, Zeman even offered an explanation for his attitude toward journalists. He said he decided to "destroy" Czech journalists with "fire and sword" after what he described as an attempt by "Lidove noviny" to politicize his son's attempted suicide. In any case, regardless of the motivation for his actions, Zeman's sweeping and aggressive attacks on the press have done little to help his party cultivate a favorable media image. In this poisoned atmosphere, the government has introduced a press bill that has had many of the country's journalists up in arms. The bill, which recently passed in its first reading in parliament, has been severely criticized in the media for two reasons. First, it would allow any citizen to bring charges against a newspaper for spreading hatred aimed at any group on the basis of its race, nationality, or religion. If accepted by a court, such a complaint could lead to a newspaper being fined or even suspended from publication for one year. Opponents of this provision argue existing laws already enable charges to be brought against any editor or reporter suspected of spreading racial hatred. In addition, they argue that the provision could be used by politicians against newspapers that are too critical of them or their policies.

However, most of the bill's opponents have focused their ire on another provision of the draft law. According to that provision, readers would have the right to respond to any article that has harmed their reputation. Newspapers would be required to publish responses written by the reader even if the facts in the original article were correct. The government argues that its press bill is in line with similar laws in Western Europe. However, the bill is much vaguer than media laws in other countries where the right to respond exists. In Germany, for example, responses from readers must be strictly factual. In contrast, the Czech press bill would effectively enable readers to include their personal opinions as well as other commentary. Oddly enough, even members of Zemans party have admitted that parliament will have to amend the bill during the second reading. Even more surprisingly, considering his own disdain for journalists, Klaus himself has come out against the bill.

Another focus of tension is the proposal to change the laws governing public Czech Television and Czech Radio. Several politicians have argued that the parliament's role in overseeing and supervising the Council for Czech Television should be increased. While all parties concerned insist that they do not want to cast doubt on the publicly owned broadcaster's independence, it is no secret that some politicians are not happy with the manner in which their parties have been covered on the stations. For example, at a recent meeting of the Council for Czech Television, deputies from Klaus's Civic Democratic Party reportedly criticized the council for not granting their party enough air time. Once again the government's behavior has aggravated the situation, with journalists complaining that Culture Minister Pavel Dostal did not seek enough input from broadcasters in preparing the new regulations.

These disputes illustrate the current tensions between the Czech Republic's journalists and politicians. On the one hand, it is true that Czech journalism is still marked by a high degree of partisanship and lack of professionalism. Key stories are often based on dark statements by shadowy "unnamed sources" or else blatantly reflect the political biases of the reporter. On the other hand, many Czech politicians make little effort to hide their aversion for journalists or their desire to have their views given precedence in the media. Zeman's slanderous comments about reporters indicate that he himself is not above damaging the reputations of journalists. These are questions of professionalism and political culture. No amount of laws will be able to resolve the problem of journalistic professionalism and establish a climate of professional responsibility between journalists and politicians.


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