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Newsline - August 4, 1999




MOSCOW MAYOR, REGIONAL LEADERS PROCLAIM NEW ALLIANCE...

Members of the Political Council of the so-called governors' bloc, All Russia, voted on 3 August in favor of an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland movement. All Russia coordinator Oleg Morozov told reporters that details of how the union will function still need to be worked out, but he said the basic principles on which the two groups can unite "have effectively been 90 percent agreed upon," Interfax reported. Despite Luzhkov's claims that the Kremlin is conspiring against him, Morozov ruled out the possibility of a confrontation between the Kremlin and the new alliance. All Russia's informal leader, Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also president of Tatarstan, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 4 August, after which Shaimiev said that the president expressed an interest in the possible creation of a centrist coalition based on the new grouping, according to Interfax. JAC

...AS ISSUE OF LEADERSHIP REMAINS OPEN

A final decision on the consolidation of the two groups will be made at the All Russia's congress in Bashkortostan on 21 August, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. On the potentially thorny issue of leadership, Shaimiev said that an understanding has been reached that all regional leaders will be equal in the alliance, according to Interfax. He added that "the main condition of our unification is equality and Fatherland has agreed to that." Analysts have suggested that the regional leaders will resist efforts by Luzhkov to impose his leadership on the group (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999). Meanwhile, Luzhkov has repeated his invitation to former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to head the new alliance. Primakov previously praised the proposed merger of the two groups but has so far declined to clarify his future plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July and 3 August 1999). JAC

DISMISSED OFFICIAL CALLS KREMLIN DESTRUCTIVE FORCE...

Sergei Zverev, whom President Yeltsin dismissed as deputy head of the presidential administration on 2 August, offered reporters the next day a wide-ranging critique of Kremlin policies. He said that the administration "has transformed itself into a body that is tearing society apart." When asked about the possibility of a state of emergency or postponed elections, Zverev said he "does not exclude any scenario. They are losing control of the situation." Zverev predicted that if the Kremlin decides to fight against the new alliance between Fatherland and All Russia, then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will likely resign because he will not agree to such a confrontation. Zverev, who once held an executive post at Gazprom, said that Gazprom is "begin attacked by media belonging to a certain political personage [presumably financier Boris Berezovskii] on the one hand and the presidential administration on the other." JAC

...SAYS YELTSIN APPEARS HEALTHY

On the subject of Yeltsin's health, Zverev said that he met with Yeltsin five or six times during his 15 weeks on the job and saw no signs of a deterioration in the president's health. JAC

AKSENENKO'S AUTHORITY WIDENED

Prime Minister Stepashin signed a decree on 3 August that redistributes duties among his cabinet. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko will now oversee the Federal Energy Commission, Federal Property Fund, and the State Property Ministry, according to RIA-Novosti. The latter two entities were formally supervised by Prime Minister Stepashin and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko. Aksenenko will also assume some control over the Anti-Trust Ministry, while Khristenko will continue to monitor certain policy areas at the Property Ministry and Federal Energy Commission. In addition, he will oversee the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Ministries, instead of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, who now has oversight of the new Media Ministry. PlanEcon senior economist Ben Slay told "The Moscow Times" on 4 August that "it looks like Russia has an export version of the government, which includes [Finance Minister Mikhail] Zadornov...and a government [for domestic consumption] that has real powers." JAC

INFLATION PICKS UP SPEED

Inflation in July reached 2.8 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in June, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 4 August. According to the agency, inflation in the first seven months of 1999 was 28 percent, compared with 4.2 percent during the same period last year. Last month, the Economics Ministry forecast that inflation could reach 45 percent this year, rather than the 30 percent projected in the 1999 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC

TAX MINISTRY OVERSHOOTS REVENUE TARGET

The Tax Ministry collected 29.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) in cash in July according to preliminary figures, Interfax reported on 4 August citing the ministry's press service. This figure is 7.04 billion rubles or 31.4 percent higher than the target for that month. Last month's reports about the imminent resignation of Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok circulated by Russian media, such as "Segodnya," have so far proven incorrect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC

NO LONDON CLUB AGREEMENT EXPECTED SOON

Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, told Ekho Moskvy on 3 August that the London Club of creditors will not make a decision on Russian debt in the near future: "Negotiations will take weeks, maybe months," he said. Eric Fine, a debt strategist with Morgan Stanley, agreed, telling AFP on 2 August that the Stepashin "government doesn't necessarily have an incentive to reach a quick deal as its term expires soon. Moreover, official and private creditors may not want a settlement under this government." However, Finance Minister Kasyanov predicted on 4 August that a deal would be reached by Christmas "with implementation by the third quarter." It was not clear from reports which Christmas he meant. First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko was even more optimistic, telling reporters on 3 August that Russia can expect an agreement in principle by 19 August, when the 2000 draft budget must be submitted to the cabinet, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

COMMUNISTS, KREMLIN SWAP THREATS

The Communist Party intends to ask prosecutors to check whether remarks made by Prime Minister Stepashin during a recent visit to the U.S. violated the law, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. Stepashin said that "Communism in Russia will never win, they will never come back. Nobody will allow it." The party believes that the remark indicates that federal authorities plan to meddle with the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The next day in an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda," presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin said that the corpse of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin will be buried "by all means" but declined to specify when. Observers have suggested that Kremlin circulates rumors about burying Lenin from time to time to irritate the Communists, who invariably react angrily to such news. JAC

HARVEST FORECAST REVISED UPWARD...

The Agriculture Ministry has revised its forecast for this year's grain harvest, raising it from 58-60 million tons to 60-62 million tons, Reuters reported on 3 August. First Deputy Agriculture Minister said that Krasnodar, Stavropol and central regions are performing better than expected. A bout of hot dry weather and swarms of locusts from neighboring Kazakhstan had earlier caused crop forecasts to be downgraded. JAC

...AS FEWER SPIES, SOLDIERS TO HELP OUT IN FIELDS

Despite concerns about the country's crops, military and security organs will send fewer of their personnel to help harvest potatoes, cabbages, and other vegetables this year, "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported. This year, 15,050 staff will be sent, compared with 15,500 last year. According to the newspaper, the cuts were made to the benefit of so- called elite units, such as the Foreign Intelligence Service. The Border Guards will also send 300 fewer troops. JAC

RUSSIA, NATO SETTLE DETAILS OF KFOR OPERATION

General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the department for international cooperation at Russia's Defense Ministry, told Interfax on 3 August that Russian and NATO officials have settled the last remaining disputes over Russia's role in KFOR. The disputes included details about the precise boundaries of the Russians' areas of responsibility. A NATO spokesman told RFE/RL the next day that the agreement included merely technical and operational details and is of minor political significance. FS

RUSSIA, UZBEKISTAN CONCERNED AT AFGHAN SITUATION

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 3 August that Russia "resolutely opposes" the escalation of fighting in northern Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. Rakhmanin expressed concern at unconfirmed reports that volunteers from Pakistan and militant Arab supporters of Saudi terrorist leader Osama bin Laden are fighting on the side of the Taliban. In Tashkent, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry released on 3 August an appeal by the Uzbek government to both Afghan warring parties to end hostilities and come to the negotiating table as "no military solution to the Afghan problem is feasible," according to Interfax. The statement also called on the member states of the Six plus Two group, to which Pakistan belongs, to abide by their commitment not to provide military support to either of the warring Afghan sides. LF

NEW CLASHES IN DAGESTAN

Four policemen were killed and two injured in clashes with guerrillas who attacked the Tsumadin border post on 3 August, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The previous day, Dagestan police had repulsed an attempt by guerrillas to seize Agvali, which is the largest town in Tsumadin Raion. Meeting later on 3 August, Dagestan's government and state assembly issued a statement describing the attacks as an attempt to overthrow the republic's leadership and claiming that the guerrillas were led by three citizens of Dagestan, including Nadir Khachilaev. A former leader of the Union of Muslims of Russia, Khachilaev has been in hiding in Chechnya since the fall of 1998 after local police issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the May 1998 storming by his supporters of the government headquarters in Makhachkala (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May 1998). In Moscow, Chechen official representative Mairbek Vachagaev denied that Chechen detachments were involved in the fighting. He added that Tsumadin Raion does not border on Chechnya. LF

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S PROXIES ASSAULTED

Aleksandr Belanov, one of the campaign supporters of retired General Vladimir Semenov, was hospitalized in Cherkessk on 3 August with serious head injuries after being attacked by unknown assailants, ITAR-TASS reported. Two other Semenov supporters were attacked earlier the same day. LF




AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS IRAN'S SUPPORT FOR DJAVADOV

Iranian Ambassador Ali Rza Bikdeli was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 3 August to hear Minister Tofik Zulfugarov's formal complaint over the continued presence in Iran of former Interior Ministry special forces officer Mahir Djavadov, Turan reported. Djavadov fled Azerbaijan in March 1995 after a standoff between the Interior Ministry special forces and Azerbaijani army troops, in which his brother Rovshan was killed. He traveled to Iran late last year and has repeatedly announced his intention of taking power in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 12, 23 March 1999). Zulfugarov said that Tehran's failure to curtail Djavadov's "illegal activities" negatively affects relations between the two countries. Also on 3 August, Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade said that Iran's failure to extradite Djavadov could lead to the postponement of the planned visit to Iran by Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT PICKET OF U.S. EMBASSY

Police on 4 August thwarted an attempt by political parties aligned in the Coordinating Council for Karabakh to demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy in Baku to protest the U.S.'s alleged double standards in its policy toward Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turan reported. A similar attempt the previous day by members of the Liberty Party was also blocked by police. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE IN MOSCOW

Vazha Lortkipanidze met in Moscow on 3 August with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Russian Security Council Secretary and Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. The talks reportedly focused on issues that have increased tensions in bilateral relations, including the Abkhaz conflict and the future of the four Russian military bases in Georgia. Lortkipanidze told journalists on 4 August that he will meet that evening in Moscow with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, Caucasus Press reported. LF

ADZHAR LEADER INCRIMINATED IN GEORGIAN MERCHANT FLEET SCANDAL

Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 3 August that several leading officials from the Adjar Autonomous Republic are responsible for the near bankruptcy of the Georgian merchant fleet, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Babilashvili accused Batumi Mayor Aslan Smirba of misappropriating $120,000 belonging to the fleet, adding that a further $250,000 was illegally transferred from the fleet's London bank account to a fund controlled by Adjar Supreme Council chairman and Georgian presidential candidate Aslan Abashidze. Abashidze's Revival Union is the second largest faction within the Georgian parliament, and observers believe the five party alliance that he heads may pose a serious threat to the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia in the October parliamentary elections. Smirba has denied the accusations against him. The Georgian merchant fleet owes some $100 million to foreign creditors. LF

MORE REPRISALS AGAINST MEDIA IN KAZAKHSTAN

Court proceedings are under way in Almaty against the independent weekly "Nachnem s ponedelnika," RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported on 4 August. The newspaper's staff are accused of having published false statements critical of the Almaty City Court. On 3 August, the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev expressing concern at the harassment by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee of Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper "XXI vek." LF

MEDICAL PERSONNEL IN KAZAKHSTAN DEMAND BACK WAGES

Dozens of doctors and other medical personnel staged a demonstration in Almaty on 3 August to demand payment of overdue salaries, RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported. They also demanded the rescinding of a decision by local authorities to reduce the number of personnel employed in local hospitals and clinics. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF DEMILITARIZATION

United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a session of the Tajik Commission for National Reconciliation on 3 August that the process of disarming opposition fighters and of their enrolment into the Tajik army or Interior Ministry forces has been completed, marking the transformation of the opposition from a military into a political force. A second senior UTO official, Khabib Sanginov, stressed that the disarmament process is irreversible, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 3 August, the Commission for National Reconciliation issued an appeal to all armed bands not subordinate to the UTO to surrender their arms within three weeks. Under an agreement signed in June by Nuri and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the Tajik government is obliged to lift the 1993 ban on opposition parties and media within one week of the disbanding of the UTO's military units. Paolo Lembo, who is acting representative in Tajikistan of the UN secretary-general, termed the demilitarization of the opposition a further step toward democratization. He expressed the hope that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be free and fair. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CREATE CONSULTATIVE BODY FOR TALKS WITH AUTHORITIES

Meeting in Minsk on 3 August, eight major Belarusian opposition parties and the Supreme Soviet decided to work out a joint stance for talks with the authorities under the aegis of the OSCE and to set up an opposition consultative council, Belapan reported. According to United Civic Party Chairman Stanislau Bahdankevich, those attending the meeting determined that Belarus's political opposition consists of the Supreme Soviet and the parties that have not recognized the results of the 1996 constitutional referendum. Bahdankevich added that the opposition is ready to enter a dialogue with the authorities, provided that it is given access to the state media. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO WATCH OVER VODKA, CIGARETTES

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree on strengthening state control over the production and sale of alcohol and tobacco, Belarusian Television reported on 3 August. The decree establishes that alcohol may be produced only by methods and in quantities that are approved by the state. Wholesale traders in alcohol and tobacco products must have licenses issued by the government "in coordination with the president." Belarusian Television commented that the 900 or so licenses issued so far to such traders is an "excessive" number. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW ON RISE OF MINIMUM PENSION...

Leonid Kuchma has signed a law raising the minimum monthly pension from 16.6 hryvni ($4.15) to 24.9 hryvni, AP reported on 3 August. The parliament adopted the law in mid-July after failing to overrule Kuchma's veto on a previous bill that would have raised the minimum monthly pension to 55 hryvni. Under the signed law, those pensioners receiving less than 46 hryvni a month will be paid a special living allowance of up to 21.1 hryvni. JM

...APPROVES PEACEKEEPING CONTINGENT TO KOSOVA

Kuchma also signed a law on sending 800 Ukrainian peacekeepers to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999), AP reported. The Ukrainian Ministry said the contingent will include a 100-bed military hospital with a 246-strong personnel, a four- helicopter unit with 90 servicemen, a 108-strong logistics company with 17 armored vehicles, and a 356-strong motorized infantry battalion. The U.S. has pledged financial assistance to install the Ukrainian contingent in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). JM

UKRAINIAN CURRENCY SLIDES TO LOWER LIMIT OF TRADE BAND

Ukrainian commercial banks on 3 August were trading the hryvnya at 4.52-4.56 to $1, AP reported. Some traders even offered $4.6 hryvni for $1, reaching the lower limit of the government's trade band of 3.4-4.6 hryvni for $1, which was established in February and is valid until the end of 1999. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko has urged commercial bank directors to personally monitor the mandatory sale to the central bank of 50 percent of the foreign-currency profits of their customers residing in Ukraine. The National Bank, with its current reserves of some $1.3 billion, cannot undertake a large-scale intervention on the currency market, since Ukraine needs some $3.5 billion to service various debts by the end of 2000. JM

IMF MISSION LEAVES KYIV WITHOUT RECOMMENDING MORE MONEY

An IMF mission left Ukraine on 2 August without recommending the release of a new tranche of the IMF's $2.6 billion loan program, AP reported. An IMF statement summing up the mission's two weeks of work noted that so far this year tax revenues have been lower than expected, while recent tax legislation changes have further diminished expected revenues. The IMF promised to resume discussion with Ukraine at the end of August after the government takes steps to slash spending and increase budget revenues. JM

ESTONIAN GDP GROWTH REVISED DOWNWARD

The Estonian Finance Ministry on 3 August announced the widely expected downward revision of GDP growth this year. The ministry now anticipates that GDP in 1999 will rise by only 0.4 percent, sharply down from the figure of 2.2 percent, which itself was a revision of the original forecast. On a more positive note, the inflation rate of 1999 was revised from 4.5 percent to 3.7 percent. The Finance Minsitry also predicted growth at 4- 4.5 percent and inflation at 3.6-4 percent for the year 2000. MH

POLISH PREMIER SAYS REPRIVATIZATION LAW WILL SATISFY JEWISH CLAIMS

Jerzy Buzek on 3 August announced that under the reprivatization bill his cabinet intends to submit to the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999), the property restitution claims against Poland filed by 11 Jews in a New York court in late June will be satisfied. The text detailing those claims was published by the 3 and 4 August "Gazeta Wyborcza." The plaintiffs wrote that for the past 54 years, Poland has followed the Nazi "Judenrein" plan of racial and ethnic purges, forcing Jews out of the country and making a profit from confiscated Jewish property. "Gazeta Wyborcza" chief editor Adam Michnik denounced the text for its "lying and despicable way" of dealing with the "painful and true" issues of the wrongs done to Jews in post-war Poland. JM

CONTROVERSY IN CZECH REPUBLIC OVER PROPERTY RESTITUTION TO EXPATRIATES

Civic Democratic Alliance Senator Michal Zantovsky on 3 August criticized Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich for having misled the house the previous week by saying the government will submit a draft law on the restitution of Communist-confiscated property to those Czech expatriates who regain citizenship, CTK reported. On 30 July, one day after Grulich made that statement, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said restitution to expatriates who regain citizenship under the recently approved bill is "out of the question." Zantovsky told journalists that a restitution bill will be drawn up by the senators "in the next days." He did not mention which parties will support the initiative. Milan Spacek of the Christian Democratic Party, who is chairman of the Senate's Commission on Expatriates, said on 3 August that "some way" must be found to compensate those expatriates. MS

CZECH PRESS SAYS NUCLEAR KNOW-HOW EXPORT TO IRAN CANNOT BE PREVENTED

Officials from the Foreign and Trade and Industry Ministries were quoted by "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 3 August as saying the authorities have no legal mechanism to prevent the export of nuclear expertise to Iran, CTK reported the same day. The officials said the authorities have been searching in vain to prevent Czech experts from advising the Iranian authorities on the competition of the Bushehr nuclear plant, whose construction was begun by Germany's Siemens and is being continued by Russian firms. The officials said that while Czech legislation prohibits the export of materials for use in the construction of nuclear power plants, there is no legal provision forbidding the export of expertise. Recently, the Prague-based Skodaexport company has made inquiries with the authorities about acting as a consultant to Iran on the construction of the Bushehr plant. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY TO DEMAND SLOVAK GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE

The Presidium of Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) on 3 August demanded a reshuffle of the government in the fall, CTK reported. The presidium said it is dissatisfied with the cabinet's performance so far. SMK chairman Bela Bugar told Slovak Television that the coalition has a "negative reputation" owing to both the unsatisfactory performance of some ministers and to scandals surrounding top officials. He said he "cannot rule out" that the SMK will demand the resignation of Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak, Transport Minister Gabriel Palacka, and Agriculture Minister Pavel Koncos. Party of Civic Understanding chairman Pavol Hamzik, also speaking to Slovak Television, said that his formation is prepared to support the dismissal of "some ministers." CTK reported that the Democratic Left Party is ready to accept a reshuffle but not to "sacrifice" its own ministers. MS

HUNGARY'S BALANCE-OF-PAYMENT DEFICIT GROWING

Preliminary figures released by the Hungarian National Bank show that the balance-of-payment deficit in the first half of 1999 was $1.2 billion, compared with $905 million last June, Hungarian media report on 4 August. Capital influx during the first six months was almost $1.6 billion, and observers are optimistic that the second half of the year will see a continuation of the influx of foreign direct investment. MSZ




TWO MORE SERBS KILLED IN KOSOVA

A spokesman for KFOR said in Prishtina on 4 August that peacekeepers have found the bodies of two Serbs whom unknown persons shot the previous night. At least two other Serbs died on 2 August as a result of acts of violence, including a 90 year-old woman. On 3 August, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Budapest-based Roma Rights Center issued separate reports in which they blamed the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) for recent violence against Serbs and Roma. Both reports criticized KFOR for not doing enough to protect members of Kosova's dwindling Serbian and Roma minorities. PM

KFOR AT CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

Bishop Artemije, who is Kosova's leading Serbian Orthodox cleric, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 3 August that KFOR must either protect the province's minorities or leave. He argued that UCK leaders Hashim Thaci and General Agim Ceku have not sufficiently "distanced themselves" from the violent incidents against Serbs. Belgrade's "Danas" on 4 August quoted KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson as saying that no one should be surprised that Serbs have been the victims of violence in Kosova. He denied, however, that the violence is systematic or amounts to "ethnic cleansing." PM

KFOR ARRESTS FIVE ETHNIC ALBANIAN MURDER SUSPECTS

KFOR soldiers arrested five Kosova Albanians in Peja on 3 August. The five are suspected of having taken a Serbian couple hostage and killing the man after releasing his wife the previous day. Meanwhile on 3 August in Mitrovica, French KFOR soldiers arrested 15 Serbs who tried to hinder ethnic Albanians from returning to their homes in the Serb-held part of the city. The soldiers also confiscated a machine gun and a grenade, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. One of those arrested was a member of Serbian paramilitary forces and was suspected of having committed atrocities against ethnic Albanians between March and June. FS

RUGOVA PLEDGES PARTICIPATION IN KOSOVA TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL

Kosovar Albanian moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova on 3 August promised that his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) will participate in the Kosova transitional council along with other political parties, "Bota Sot" reported. He made the pledge at a meeting with UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner in Prishtina. Rugova urged Kouchner to accelerate the process of installing the international administration in Kosova at "all levels" of government. FS

UNHCR COMPLAINS ABOUT MACEDONIAN CUSTOMS FEES

UNHCR spokesman Chris Janowski told AP that Macedonian officials demand "exorbitant" customs inspection fees on humanitarian supplies passing through their territory. Janowski said that the UNHCR refused to pay the fees, arguing that "we are a relief agency which is exempt normally from such fees and taxes.... There is no justification whatsoever to charge [$348] for the so-called inspection of a UNHCR truck.... The fee is...totally out of proportion to the service rendered." There are currently 86 trucks with 3,400 tons of aid and 17 rail cars with 850 tons of timber blocked inside Macedonia. Macedonia's authorities imposed the fees in July. The dispute is jeopardizing UN efforts to rush in supplies to Kosova to rebuild destroyed or damaged houses before the onset of the winter. Janowski stressed that the UNHCR would face a monthly bill of $200,000 if it agreed to pay the fees. FS

TAIWAN'S PREMIER VISITS MACEDONIA

Vincent Siew arrived in Skopje on 3 August at the head of a 160-strong business delegation, Reuters reported. Siew and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, are scheduled to inaugurate a tax-free economic zone in Petrovac, near Skopje airport. Siew told "Nova Makedonija" that "in the long term, our plan is that Macedonia becomes Taiwan's gateway to southeastern Europe, even to other European regions.... After the zone is completed, Taiwanese companies will be the first to invest in it, and we also expect foreign and local companies to do so." He stressed that the creation of similar free economic zones has greatly contributed to Taiwan's economic development. Macedonia is the only European country that recognizes Taiwan, apart from the Vatican. FS

PETRITSCH SAYS MILOSEVIC REGIME 'BEYOND HOPE'

Austrian diplomat and Balkan expert Wolfgang Petritsch said in Belgrade on 3 August that he has "given up hope that the regime [of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] will be ready to reform itself and become a partner in the democratization and stabilization of this region." Petritsch stressed that Serbia must follow Montenegro's example and embrace democratization. He urged the international community not to deny humanitarian aid to the "Serbian people," Reuters reported. The Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" quoted Petritsch as saying that the Milosevic regime could have prevented NATO bombing had it been more willing to compromise at the Rambouillet peace talks in February. Petritsch said that Serbian delegates at one point offered to admit foreign troops to Kosova but then withdrew that key concession the following day. Petritsch ended his mission as Austrian ambassador to Belgrade and will soon succeed the international community's Carlos Westendorp in Sarajevo. PM

SERBIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE

Some 3,000 people attended an anti-Milosevic rally in Vrsac on 3 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several hundred people attended separate rallies in Kragujevac, Valjevo, and Leskovac. In Belgrade, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said that he accepts the invitation from a group of independent economists to attend an opposition rally in Belgrade on 19 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic previously accepted the invitation. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES THREATEN OPPONENTS WITH LAWSUITS

The opposition Vojvodina Coalition said in a 3 August statement that the authorities have threatened to launch legal action against several farmers. The farmers recently told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that the minister of agriculture should resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). In Belgrade, Aleksandar Nikacevic, who is the new, pro-Milosevic head of Radio B-92, said he will launch legal proceedings against Draskovic's Studio B Television. That station recently gave one of its frequencies to Radio B2-92, which is run by the independent journalists who formerly staffed B-92 before the authorities took it over in March. Nikacevic charged that the creation of B2-92 has led to unspecified financial losses for his station, Reuters reported. Elsewhere, several senior Serbian officials and state-run media said that the U.S. is "trying to conquer Serbia" by placing Milosevic's opponents in power, AP reported. PM

NEW ELECTION LAW FOR BOSNIA

Representatives of the OSCE said in Sarajevo on 3 August that a draft election law for Bosnia is ready. The law aims at breaking the grip of Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian nationalist parties on the electorate. The provisions require candidates to win at least some of their votes both in the Republika Srpska and in the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation. In addition, voters will no longer be able to vote for party lists but will have to mark the names of each candidate individually. PM

BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTERS AGREE ON DEBT

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and Edhem Bicakcic, who is his counterpart from the federation, agreed in Banja Luka on 3 August to divide between their respective governments Bosnia's outstanding debts to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The agreement paves the way for the release of $170 million in new loans from the bank to Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN BORDER AGREEMENT

Republika Srpska Vice President Mirko Sarovic said in Banja Luka on 3 August that the recent Bosnian-Croatian border agreement violates the Republika Srpska constitution. He called for the resignation of the two top ethnic Serbian officials who approved the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). In Sarajevo, a spokesman for Westendorp's office said that the agreement changes nothing and simply "reaffirms the legal border." He charged that unnamed Bosnian Serb leaders are trying to use the issue for their own political ends. PM

DODIK BLASTS BOSNIAN TELEVISION LAW

Dodik said in Banja Luka on 3 August that the new law establishing a public broadcasting service for all of Bosnia is "not acceptable" to the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). In Sarajevo, Westendorp's spokesman defended the law, which he said "is not about politics [but] is about joining the real world," Reuters reported. PM

CROATIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 'OPERATION STORM'

Croatia on 5 August celebrates a national holiday marking the anniversary of the 1995 Operation Storm, during which Croatian forces completed their conquest of the Serbian-held Krajina region. Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said that any persons who committed war crimes against Serbian civilians during the offensive are now behind bars, "Vecernji list" reported on 4 August. He added, however, that the government must protect its "security interests" and will not give the Hague-based war crimes tribunal the documents about Operation Storm that it has requested. In Knin, local police officials denied recent charges by a human rights group that the rights of returning Serbs are being systematically abused, "Vjesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). Some 200,000 Serbs fled Krajina in the wake of Operation Storm, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. PM

ROMANIAN STATISTICS SHOW CONTINUED ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN

Industrial production from January-May 1999 dropped by 9.4 percent, compared with the same period last year, Rompres reported on 3 August, citing the National Statistics Commission. The sharpest drop (13 percent) was registered in the energy and mining sectors. The foreign trade deficit stood at $831.6 million, compared with $1.1 billion in 1998. That decrease is mostly due to a drop in imports (18.6 percent), although exports also dropped (8.6 percent). The inflation rate was 30.8 percent in the first six months of 1999 and 48.2 percent for the past 12 months. Experts on the commission said that the government's intention to keep inflation this year at 32-35 percent (recently revised to 40 percent) is unlikely to be met. Unemployment in June 1999 reached 11.3, up 2.4 percent on the level in June 1998. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION TO COORDINATE POLICIES

Representatives of five opposition parties on 3 August agreed to set up a Consultative Coordination Group, which will examine draft laws presented in the parliament by the ruling coalition and will strive to adopt a common stand on those legislative proposals, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Each party will be represented on the new body by one deputy and one senator. The formations included in the group are the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, the Party of Romanian National Unity, the Alliance for Romania, and the Romanian National Party, whose chairman, Viorel Catarama, initiated the setting up of the group. The Union of Right Forces and the National Christian Democratic Alliance declined to take part in the new forum. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMISSION RELEASES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE PROPOSALS

The presidential commission on amending the constitution on 2 August published its proposals. In addition to the proposals made public last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999), the commission recommends that the president, rather than the parliament, have the prerogative of appointing and dismissing the premier and other ministers, Reuters and RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The president would head the Supreme Council on National Security and appoint the prosecutor-general and judges. And the head of state would also have the right to dissolve the parliament if deputies block a draft law for longer than 60 days. Deputies will be elected from constituencies under a single-mandate representation system that will replace that of single- constituency proportional representation on the basis of party lists. MS




DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT'


by Floriana Fossato

Despite the lack of public comment from top Russian officials following their talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Moscow on 2 August, most Russian media are describing the visit as a "turning point" in the country's foreign policy.

Djukanovic's official visit was the first time that a leader who has challenged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was warmly received at the top levels in Moscow.

Ahead of the Moscow trip, Djukanovic had repeated earlier warnings that Montenegro might declare its independence unless Serbia--its larger partner in the Yugoslav Federation--introduces substantial reforms leading to democracy and a market economy.

The Russian daily "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 3 August that Djukanovic's visit showed that Russia "intends to forge links with democratic forces opposing Slobodan Milosevic." It added that "even more important, [the visit indicates that] Moscow intends to sever ties with the questionable friends it inherited from its [Soviet] past."

Djukanovic's talks with Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov focused on boosting political and economic ties between Russia and Montenegro. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that both sides agreed "on the need to solve problems in Yugoslavia through dialogue and the existing constitutional order."

Luzhkov--a leading presidential candidate in Russia--was the only Russian politician to comment publicly on Djukanovic's visit. He spoke in support of Montenegro, saying that "we must not allow Milosevic's arbitrariness toward Montenegro. This is the most important thing. It could lead to a new worsening of the situation." At the same time, the Moscow major stressed that that he still considers NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia "an act of aggression."

Stepashin, in footage broadcast by Russian television networks, only repeated his view that humanitarian aid should be provided to all Yugoslavia, not just the province of Kosova and Montenegro. Western countries, including the U.S., say Serbia should be excluded from receiving such aid as long as Milosevic remains in power.

"I think that the position of Russia and of its president has played an important role in putting an end to military operations," Stepashin commented. "This is something that everybody acknowledges and was confirmed also in Sarajevo [at the 29-30 July Balkans reconstruction summit]. Those who, as a result of the military operations, are now in a difficult situation, independently of the place where they live, need the support of international organizations and also of Russia." During the Balkan reconstruction summit, however, Stepashin did acknowledge that "the sufferings of the Yugoslav population were caused not only by the [NATO] bombings but chiefly by Milosevic's regime."

Djukanovic, for his part, told "Kommersant-Daily" in an interview published on 3 August that "it is very important that Moscow recognized Milosevic's responsibility for Yugoslavia's tragedy. This shattered the illusions of many Yugoslavs whom Belgrade had convinced that Russia supported Milosevic and would defend him."

During NATO's 11-week bombing campaign, Russia clearly supported Milosevic. Most analysts in Moscow say the new pragmatism in Moscow shows an understanding of changed circumstances.

Andrei Piantkovskii, director of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that "this is not the first time Russia changed position on an issue. Simply, Russian officials have finally understood that support for Milosevic leads nowhere and it is time for a change."

Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S. and Canada Studies Institute, told "The Moscow Times" that Russia now is "interested in participating in the Balkan settlement and not in being associated with anti-Western regimes."

Russian news agencies reported that in the talks with Djukanovic, emphasis was given to the issue of reconstructing war-torn Yugoslavia. Russia has promised some $150 million from its budget to finance fuel and food supplies this year and to promote Russian companies' efforts to win contracts for reconstruction in Yugoslavia. Much of the country's energy infrastructure was built with Soviet and Russian assistance.

Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said recently that his ministry will be in charge of controlling the funds and that a special commission focusing on Russia's participation in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia will have only a "consultative character."

"Kommersant-Daily" on 3 August reported that the work of the special commission--chaired by Stepashin--will likely be aimed at facilitating the participation of Russian companies in the rebuilding works. It also quoted controversial businessman Vladimir Potanin, appointed as Stepashin's deputy on the commission, as saying that in order to be able to join the group of Western donor countries, Russia "will have to convince the West that [by] rebuilding Yugoslavia, it does not aim at strengthening Milosevic." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.


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