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Newsline - September 23, 1999




RUSSIA BOMBS AIRPORT IN GROZNY

Russia launched air and artillery attacks on Chechen targets on 23 September, killing an ethnic Armenian technician in a raid on Grozny's Sheikh Mansur airport. LF

RUSSIAN FORCES 'READY TO INVADE' CHECHNYA

Deputy Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Igor Zubov told journalists in Moscow on 22 September that Russian troops are fully prepared for an invasion of Chechnya, Interfax reported. But he added that it is for Russia's leadership to decide whether to launch such an attack, which he termed "inexpedient" as it would entail heavy losses. Zubov denied that Moscow is planning to try to replace the present Chechen leadership. He estimated the number of Chechen and other fighters who participated in the recent attacks on Daghestan at 5,000- 7,000, adding that he believes that figure could rise to 30,000. Zubov said Chechen militants might target Ingushetia next or try to destabilize North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 September. LF

DAGHESTAN STATE COUNCIL CHAIRMAN SETS TERMS FOR MEETING WITH MASKHADOV

Magomedali Magomedov told journalists in Makhachkala on 22 September that he will not attend a meeting between Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and the leaders of other North Caucasus republics on 27 September unless Maskhadov identifies and distances himself from those Chechens responsible for the recent attacks on Daghestan, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIA ASKS INTERPOL TO APPREHEND LEADERS OF DAGHESTAN ATTACK...

Moscow has sent Interpol a list of some 20 people suspected of masterminding the August attack on Daghestan from Chechen territory, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 22 September. Those suspects include Daghestani citizens Magomed Tagaev and Adallo Aliev, the Saudi-born field commander Khattab, the brothers Shamil and Shirvani Basaev, and former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. LF

...GREETS SAUDI DENIAL

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 22 September welcoming assurances by Saudi Arabia's official press agency that Riyadh is not providing financial assistance to the armed Chechen militants fighting in Daghestan, Interfax reported. The statement reaffirmed Moscow's willingness to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism and extremism. LF

TATAR OFFICIALS DENY RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE IMPLICATED IN TERRORISM

Tatarstan's State Security Committee issued a statement on 21 September rejecting Russia media allegations of Tatar involvement in the wave of terrorist bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Those reports were based on the detention of Denis Saytakov in connection with the Moscow apartment bombing. Saytakov studied for one year at the Yoldiz religious institute in the Tatar town of Chally and was expelled from the institute for non-attendance at classes. Russian media have claimed that other students from the institute left to join militant groups in Chechnya. Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and the republic's Muslim Spiritual Board have also denied any link between the Chally religious institute and recent terrorist acts in Russia. LF

'OPERATION FOREIGNER' CLEANSING MOSCOW OF CAUCASIANS?

Aleksandr Beldaev, the deputy head of Moscow's police, reported that from 14-20 September, 69,200 people were re- registered, while some 15,000 people were denied re- registration, Interfax reported on 21 September. According to Beldaev, those who have been refused registration will be forced to leave the city by train or by car and will be accompanied by police officials. Meanwhile, "Kommersant- Daily" reported the same day that some 20,000 Chechens have already left Moscow--mainly young people who failed to register and receive work permits. A Chechen diaspora group in Moscow has appealed to Muscovites and mass media not "to put an equals sign between banditry and the Chechen people," Interfax reported on 22 September. Human rights groups in Russia report that while the city's "Operation Foreigner" in theory applies to anyone, in practice it has been aimed at Caucasians, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. JAC

SIBERIA ALSO SCRUTINIZING FOREIGNERS

"Novye izvestiya" reported on 22 September. the administration of Altai Krai is considering introducing certain temporary regulations restricting the freedom of movement of people who are guests in the region as well as additional restrictions for people from the Caucasus. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, local police have conducted their own "Operation Foreigner," rounding up some 300 people who lacked proper registration, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 21 September (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 22 September 1999). Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry official has declared that the current procedure for re- registering non-residents in Moscow does not correspond with federal law and that people who are not re-registered and are deported from Moscow have the right to take their case to court, according to the 22 September "Novye izvestiya." JAC

COMMUNISTS FAIL AGAIN TO LIMIT PRESIDENTIAL POWERS

Amendments to the Russian Constitution that would have limited the president's powers failed to gather the necessary two-thirds majority, or 300 votes, in the State Duma on 22 September. The first vote was 221 in favor, while a second vote was 240. The Communist faction proposed the bill, which would have required the president to seek the Duma's consent for, among other things, the dismissal of the prime minister, his deputies, and seven key cabinet ministers, according to Interfax. The Duma did approve on its first reading an amendment to the constitution giving parliamentary investigations a legal constitutional status and enabling the lower chamber to set up commissions to deal with matters of public interest and compel witnesses to attend hearings. According to Reuters, the Duma now has a month to collect from the 89 regions proposals on the amendment. JAC

COURT OKAYS LUZHKOV-PRIMAKOV BLOC'S PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS...

The Supreme Court on 22 September upheld the right of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) bloc to run in upcoming State Duma elections. A private citizen had objected to the group's last-minute registration by the Justice Ministry. Leonid Kheifets, an OVR official, told Interfax on 22 September that another legal challenge is likely. JAC

...WHILE LDPR PARTY LIST READS LIKE POLICE BLOTTER

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 21 September that while many voters have questions about the criminal leanings of many persons on the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's (LDPR) list, the "commission does not have legal grounds to refuse certifying the list," according to ITAR-TASS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1999). "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 September noted that no fewer than five candidates on the list have been the subject of a criminal investigation. Viktor Averin, candidate number 17, was arrested in 1989 on suspicion of extortion, as was candidate number 16, Sergei Mikhailov, allegedly known in the criminal underworld as "Mikhas". Meanwhile, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii announced that his party will nominate Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov for the post of Moscow mayor, "Segodnya" reported on 21 September. JAC

NEW YORK BANK HEAD CONFIRMS EXISTENCE OF DYACHENKO ACCOUNTS...

Addressing U.S. Congress hearings on the Bank of New York scandal on 22 September, Bank Chairman Thomas Renyi confirmed that Aleksei Dyachenko, the son-in-law of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, has two accounts with his bank at its Cayman Islands branch, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. Renyi did not comment on reports that links have been found between these accounts and transactions that prompted the large-scale investigation of money transfers at the bank, according to AFP. Renyi added that the bank has insufficient internal oversight mechanisms and questions regarding large flows of money through various accounts "were not pursued with sufficient vigor or follow-through." Renyi also noted that the bank is reviewing whether to continue its business with Russian banks. JAC

...AS RUSSIAN SOURCES QUESTION MOTIVATION FOR INQUIRY

Also addressing the hearing that day was investigative journalist and State Duma deputy Yurii Shchekochikhin, who expressed skepticism about the U.S.'s sudden interest in corruption in Russia's financial sector, which, he noted, has long existed, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. Noting that the new chief of the World Trade Organization, Mike Moore, told the Congress that Russia is not yet ready to join the World Trade Organization, "Izvestiya" concluded on 23 September that the U.S. "wants to use the 'Russia scandal' for certain economic ends." According to the daily, which is owned by Interros financial group and LUKoil, the U.S. is seeking to make the "scandal over the Russian mafia" into a pretext for "postponing the lifting of trade restrictions against Russia which have been operating since the Cold War era." JAC

IVANOV MEETS CLINTON, ANNAN

At a short meeting in Washington on 22 September, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov focused on the issue of "strategic stability," in particular the 1972 ABM treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. According to AP, the two men also discussed allegations of Russian money laundering, and Ivanov pledged that investigations into those allegations will be "complete and comprehensive." The previous day in New York, Ivanov met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss issues ranging from fighting terrorism to the situation in Kosova. The foreign minister stressed Moscow's stand that Resolution 1244 must be fulfilled, not least the provision on guaranteeing Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. JC

LUKIN SAYS RUSSIA WON'T BE WEAKENED IF U.S. WITHDRAWS FROM ABM

Chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Lukin told "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 22 September that Russia's position would be not be weakened if the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty. "Russia will be able to compete with U.S. space defense systems or will begin installing multiple warheads on the Topol [intercontinental ballistic missile systems] or will even simply churn out more missiles," the newspaper quoted him as saying. Such undertakings will be "expensive but not that expensive," he commented, adding that "the threat of a preventive strike would nevertheless remain." JC

TRADE SURPLUS SOARS

Russia amassed a trade surplus of $23.2 billion during the first eight months of the year, according to Economics Ministry estimates, Interfax reported. This figure does not include unofficial and shuttle trade totaling $18.5 billion. The official trade surplus in August was $3.1 billion, up 94 percent from the same month last year. Exports in August rose 5.5 percent from the same month last year. JAC

EUROPEAN TEAM TO INSPECT LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN VLADIVOSTOK

A delegation from the Council of Europe arrived in Vladivostok on 22 September to investigate the lack of a locally elected government there, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. The Russian Congress of Municipalities invited the council officials to travel to the region to determine whether President Yeltsin's dismissal of elected Mayor Viktor Cherepkov violates council rules (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Russia pledged to uphold those rules when it joined the organization in 1996. The delegation was scheduled to meet with Aleksandr Voloshin, chief of the presidential staff, in Moscow earlier this week, according to the "Vladivostok News" of 17 September. JAC

...AS LOCAL BUSINESSWOMAN KILLED UNDER SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES

"Vladivostok News" also reported that on 12 September assassins killed Taisia Ponomareva, a member of the ousted management team of the Vladivostok shipping company Vostoktransflot, just hours before she was due to fly to Moscow and meet with lawyers from the Prosecutor-General's Office. "The Moscow Times" on 23 September reported on the disappearance of documents that Ponomareva had collected allegedly proving that the takeover of Vostoktransflot by its former head Viktor Ostapenko was illegal. Those documents also allegedly contained information on the roles regional officials played in the change of leadership in Vostoktransflot, according to the Vladivostok publication. Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko backed Ostapenko's takeover, saying the company was headed by foreigners who were mismanaging the fleet and improperly selling off ships (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 August 1999). JAC

SHUMEIKO TO RUN FROM KALININGRAD

Former Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko has announced his intention to run for the State Duma in a single-mandate district in Kaliningrad Oblast, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 September. That announcement comes some two months after Shumeiko was thwarted in his bid to take part in elections to the legislature of Evenk Autonomous Oblast, from where he reportedly hoped to return to the Federation Council. An oblast court, however, banned him from running in that ballot, citing major campaign violations (see "IEWS Russian Regional Report," 8 and 22 July 1999). JC

ANOTHER PROTEST IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA

Some 1,000 supporters of defeated presidential candidate Stanislav Derev broke through OMON guards deployed around the central square of the republic's capital, Cherkessk, on 22 September. They demanded that newly inaugurated President Vladimir Semenov leave his office at the central administration building and hand over his duties to Valentin Vlasov, whom Yeltsin appointed temporary head of the republic in July, Caucasus Press reported. The previous evening, retired General Yurii Antonov, who played a prominent role in Semenov's presidential campaign, escaped injury when he was shot at in Cherkessk, Russian Radio reported. Caucasus Press reported on 23 September that following meetings between Aleksandr Voloshin, the head of Yeltsin's presidential administration, and representatives of Karachaevo-Cherkessia's Russian and Nogai communities, a special government commission has been formed for Karachaevo-Cherkessia on which the presidential administration, government, and State Duma are represented. LF




ARMENIA-DIASPORA CONFERENCE OPENS IN YEREVAN

Some 1,500 representatives of Armenian communities world-wide attended the opening in Yerevan on 22 September of a two-day pan- Armenian conference intended to boost ties between the Republic of Armenia and the world diaspora community, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Addressing delegates, President Robert Kocharian said Armenians need to set priorities in the political, economic, scientific, cultural, and other spheres and develop programs to achieve those aims. He said that the most important pan-national problems facing the Armenian nation are resolving the Karabakh conflict and expediting Armenia's economic development. LF

ARMENIA RECEIVES NEW WORLD BANK LOAN TRANCHE

Oweiss Saadat, who is the World Bank's representative in Yerevan, told journalists on 22 September that the bank released the previous day the second tranche, worth $25 million, of a $65 million credit approved in December 1998, Reuters and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The 21 September payment was originally scheduled for June but was delayed until the passage of the government's proposed austerity measures to counter a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit. Last month, the Armenian parliament approved those measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). The newly released payment is intended to support the budget and will enable the government to pay pensions and public-sector wage arrears within two weeks. Saadat noted that the Armenian government "had to overcome many obstacles" to receive the new credit, adding that the cabinet "has kept economic reform on track." LF

AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION LOBBIES FOR RIGHT TO CONVENE DEMONSTRATION

Police dispersed members of the opposition Musavat Party who were picketing the office of Baku City Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev on 22 September to protest his refusal to allow opposition parties to organize a demonstration in the city on 25 September, Turan reported. Eleven demonstrators were arrested. Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar told the agency that Allakhverdiev has no right to ban the demonstration, which is intended to protest the Azerbaijani leadership's approach resolving the Karabakh conflict. Also on 22 September, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan said the party has permission to stage a rally in front of the Baku town hall on 24 September to demand that Allakhverdiev sanction the demonstration planned for the following day. LF

FORMER PREMIER'S PARTY UNDER PRESSURE IN KAZAKHSTAN

Amirzhan Qosanov, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, which is headed by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, told journalists in Almaty on 23 September that the city authorities have disconnected all telephone lines to the five-story building where the party has its offices, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Qosanov claimed that move was politically motivated, but a city official said it was due to non-payment of bills by other organizations that rent offices in the same building. Also on 23 September, Marat Qabanbay, who is editor of the newspaper "Sol-Dat," told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that all copies of the latest issue of that paper, which contained materials on the Kazakhstan prosecutor-general's recent abortive attempt to extradite Kazhegeldin from Moscow, were confiscated by Kazakh customs officials earlier this week. "Sol-Dat" is printed in the Russian Federation (Altai Krai) because publishing houses in Kazakhstan refuse to issue it. LF

NORTH KOREA DENIES ACQUIRING MIGS FROM KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said in Washington on 22 September that Astana has requested that North Korea return 38 decommissioned MiG-21 fighters sold to that country without the knowledge of the Kazakh government but that North Korea denied receiving those aircraft, Reuters reported. Also on 22 September, Interfax reported that Askar Gabidullin, president of the Metallist company, which organized the abortive transport of six MiGs to Bratislava, has been dismissed. LF

OIL CONSORTIUM IN KAZAKHSTAN REJECTS POLLUTION CHARGES

The Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) issued a statement on 21 September denying claims by the Atyrau Environmental Protection Agency that mud discharged into the Caspian Sea during drilling of the consortium's first well contains many times the permitted levels of certain pollutants, Interfax reported. The environmental agency claimed that OKIOC had violated the terms of its contract with Kazakhstan's government by ignoring environmental norms. In May, Atyrau's regional prosecutor opened court proceedings against a second international consortium, Tengizchevroil, claiming that it was causing ecological damage by extracting from test wells larger amounts of oil than legally allowed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). LF

STALEMATE IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN CONTINUES

Kyrgyzstan Security Council Secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 22 September that the guerrillas holding 13 hostages in south Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast attempted again the previous night to break through to the Uzbek exclave of Sokh, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. They were prevented from doing so by Kyrgyz government forces, one of whom was injured in the clash. Djanuzakov added that government forces are training in Batken Raion for an assault on the guerrillas. LF

TAJIK, RUSSIAN TROOPS HOLD JOINT MANOEUVRES

Russian and Tajik forces on 22 September concluded two-days of joint maneuvers with an exercise to deter an invasion by armed gangs, ITAR-TASS reported. Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov and Russian Ambassador Yevgenii Belov observed the 22 September exercises, which reportedly drew on Russian forces' recent experience in Daghestan. LF

SOME SUSPECTS IN UZBEK BOMBING RELEASED

Uzbek Interior Ministry spokesman Batyr Zieev said on 22 September that more than 700 people detained in connection with the 16 February bombings in Tashkent have been released in recent months, RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau reported. He added that most of those released were members of the Islamic political movement Hezbi Takhrir. The deputy head of Uzbekistan's human rights agency, Abdurashid Irisbaev, said the initial charges brought against the suspects could not be corroborated. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DECREES 1999 BUDGET ADJUSTMENT

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decreed changing the 1999 budget to increase revenues by 99.9 trillion Belarusian rubles ($348 million, according to the official exchange rate), Belapan reported on 22 September. Under the decree, the budget deficit is raised by 10.7 trillion rubles, up from 33.5 trillion rubles. The decree explains the need for the adjustment by citing "deviations from the planned macro- economic parameters as well as from [planned] revenues and expenditures in the national, oblast, and Minsk City budgets." JM

BELARUS REPORTS CONTINUED ECONOMIC GROWTH

According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, Belarus's GDP in January-August rose 1.5 percent compared with the same period last year. Industrial output increased by 6.6 percent and agricultural output fell by 10.2 percent. Consumer prices rose 111.1 percent, while real incomes fell by 3 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO EXCLUDE KUCHMA FROM ELECTION RACE

The Supreme Council on 22 September voted 286 to 12 to approve speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko's motion urging the Central Electoral Commission to ban President Leonid Kuchma from seeking re-election. The parliament cited alleged violations by Kuchma of the presidential election law. However, the motion is not expected to have any consequences for Kuchma because the election law does not specify how to remove registered candidates from the race. Kuchma commented that the parliament's decision was a result of his competitors' "hysteria and fear" of losing the vote, according to AP. All except one of Kuchma's 14 rivals are lawmakers. JM

UKRAINE, BULGARIA, ROMANIA APPEAL FOR EU HELP TO CLEAR DANUBE OF DEBRIS

The transport ministers of Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania have appealed to the EU for financial aid to clear the River Danube of debris left by NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. The debris has brought the Danube fleets of the three countries to a virtual standstill. Ukraine claims $70 million and Bulgaria $100 million in trade losses due to the suspension of navigation on the Danube. Romanian ship owners say they have had to lay off some 3,000 workers and have lost $90 billion, according to AP. JM

MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN LATVIA

Ion Sturza continued his Baltic tour on 22 September by visiting Latvia, where he met with Premier Andris Skele. The two leaders signed agreements on investments promotion and protection as well as on shipping Moldovan goods via Latvian ports, LETA reported. The main topic of Sturza's various meetings, including with Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs and Economics Minister Vladimirs Makarovs, was bilateral trade. MH

CRISIS BREWING WITHIN LITHUANIAN RULING PARTY OVER IGNALINA?

A crisis appears to be developing within the ruling Conservative Party over the closure of controversial Ignalina nuclear power plant. Former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius is currently lobbying to keep the first unit open, saying the shutdown plan is "hasty and groundless," ELTA reported. Recently, the government of Rolandas Paksas approved an energy strategy for 2000-2005, which calls for the shutdown of the first unit by 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). Parliamentary deputy speaker Andrius Kubilius, also a member of the Conservative Party, supports the plan and has called for a "pragmatic" discussion on the shutdown. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO PROSECUTE WAR CRIMINALS

Valdas Adamkus has reaffirmed Lithuania's commitment to prosecuting war criminals. Commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Vilnius ghetto massacre on 23 September, Adamkus repeated that Lithuania "firmly supports the further prosecution of those who participated in Nazi war crimes," Reuters reported. With regard to the suspension of the trial of accused war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999), Adamkus insisted that it "should not be interpreted in any way as a weakening of the Lithuanian government's resolve to bring those who are guilty of such crimes to justice." The suspension has drawn criticism from Israel and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. MH

POLISH PREMIER OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR NEXT TWO YEARS

Jerzy Buzek has unveiled his government's plan for the next two years, listing as priorities internal security, job creation, improving the situation in the agricultural sector, and stepping up efforts to join the EU. In a televised address to the nation on 22 September, Buzek said 1999 has been a difficult year that saw the introduction of four major reforms. "I am aware of all the mistakes we have made--we want to correct them," Buzek pledged. He rejected demands from the leftist opposition that his government resign and early elections be held. "Those who want early elections do not offer anything in exchange," he noted, adding that the left-wing government, which lost the 1997 elections, steered clear of tough but necessary reforms because it was afraid of becoming unpopular. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC SUPPORTS BALTS' NATO ENTRY BID

President Vaclav Havel on 22 September told visiting Latvian parliamentary chairman Janis Straume that the Baltic States have the "full support" of the Czech Republic in their quest to join NATO, CTK reported. MS

POPULAR POLITICIAN SUPPORTS DEMAND FOR CZECH MINISTER'S RESIGNATION

Petra Buzkova, deputy chairwoman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) said on 21 September that she supports the Central Bohemian CSSD Committee's demand that Deputy Prime Minister Egon Lansky resign from the cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1999). Buzkova, who in opinion polls is rated as the most popular CSSD politician, told Czech Radio that local CSSD branches have the right to asses the performance of party ministers and to exercise an influence on the cabinet lineup. She said she will support the demand for Lansky's dismissal if he does not resign of his own free will, CTK reported. But Lansky told Prime television that he will resign only if Prime Minister Milos Zeman asks him to. MS

AUSTRIA 'DISAPPOINTED' BY SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT DECISION

Eduard Kukan has informed Austrian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Benita Ferrer-Waldner about the Slovak government's decision to shut down the nuclear power plant at Jaslovske Bohunice, CTK reported on 22 September, citing the Austrian APA agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). Kukan, who is attending the UN General Assembly in New York, told Ferrer-Waldner that the first reactor will be closed in 2006 and the second in 2008. The Austrian diplomat said Vienna takes note of the decision "with disappointment." "This is not what we expected," she commented. MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT REFERS TO HUNGARIAN EXTREMISTS

An appendix to a Council of Europe report notes that two extremist parties have been represented in the Hungarian parliament since 1998, Hungarian media reported on 23 September. The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) is referred to as a "xenophobic, anti-Semitic party" that opposes NATO membership, while the ruling coalition Independent Smallholders' Party is described as "Catholic, conservative, xenophobic and anti-Western." MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka said he considers the appendix "a private letter" commissioned by "Slovak, Romanian, and Serbian elements that would very much like to ruin Hungary's reputation." MSZ

HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Janos Martonyi told his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, in New York on 22 September that he is satisfied with the Romanian cabinet's denouncement of Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar's recent attacks on the new Hungarian consul general in Romania, Laszlo Alfoldi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). Plesu told Martonyi that the Romanian government will soon earmark space for a proposed Romanian-Hungarian "reconciliation park." MSZ




SERBIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS DWINDLING...

Far fewer people turned out on the second day of opposition protests against the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters and AP reported. A crowd estimated at 6,000-10,000 demonstrated in Belgrade on 22 September, compared with the 20,000 who protested on the previous day. Only about one- third of the 10,000 people who protested on the first day in Novi Sad showed up on the second day--a pattern repeated in most of the nearly 20 cities in which protests were organized. Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the movement Alliance for Change, said the opposition is "doomed" if Serbs "do not find the energy" to attend the protests. PB

...AS PRO-GOVERNMENT MEDIA ATTACK DEMONSTRATIONS

State- controlled media have been deriding the opposition movement. Tanjug called the coalition "NATO mercenaries" who want to "create chaos [and] provoke upheavals and clashes." The state-run daily "Politika" said that all the opposition does is "deliver empty promises for a handful of dollars donated by their foreign mentors." Independent news agency Beta also reported on 22 September that there is no sign that the Association of Free and Independent Unions' call for a general strike the previous day was heeded. PB

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS MILOSEVIC MAY PROVOKE ANOTHER CRISIS

Milo Djukanovic said in Strasbourg on 22 September that he "cannot rule out" the possibility of Yugoslav President Milosevic's initiating a crisis in Yugoslavia, Belgrade-based Radio B2-92 reported. Djukanovic, who gave an interview to the radio station one day before he is to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said such a crisis could take the form of using force against demonstrators in Serbia, attempting to gain control of Montenegro, forcibly suppressing a referendum there, or even sending troops into Kosova. Djukanovic said that the international community would defend both Kosova and Montenegro in the face of such an attack. He blamed Milosevic for the current situation in Kosova, saying "Milosevic's whip always resulted in a backlash for his own people." PB

MEDIA WATCHDOG PROTESTS CONFISCATION OF WEEKLY

The media watch group Reporters sans Frontieres sent a letter to Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic on 22 September protesting the seizure of the latest issue of the independent weekly "Reporter" as it was being transported from Bosnia- Herzegovina into Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1999), Beta reported. The letter urged that the impounded copies of the weekly be released immediately and that Belgrade allow future issues of the publication and other Bosnian Serb press to be sold freely in Serbia. PB

SERBIAN LEADERS IN KOSOVA RESIGN FROM COUNCIL OVER NEW CORPS

Serbian Resistance Movement chairman Momcilo Trajkovic and Prizren Bishop Artemije on 22 September resigned from the multiethnic Kosova Transitional Council to protest the formation of the Kosova Protection Corps, Beta reported. Trajkovic said "the international community wants to solve Kosovo's problems on an ethnic basis, and by forming this Kosovo Corps, it's over for [a] multiethnic Kosovo." Trajkovic and Bishop Artemije were seen as influential moderate leaders of the Serbian community in Kosova. Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN Mission in Kosova, said "they did not refuse to cooperate and we will remain in everyday contact.... We need them." He said time is needed to establish trust between the Serbian and ethnic Albanian communities. PB

NATO COUNTRIES DEFEND CREATION OF CORPS

The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. defended the decision to transform the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into the civilian protection force for Kosova, AP reported on 22 September. During a press conference at the UN in New York, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she thought it is "quite remarkable" that ethnic Albanians have been handing in weapons. She said it is "very hard to ask people to give up their weapons and not give them something in exchange." But at a rally for the corps in Skenderaj, at which many people were still wearing their UCK uniforms, former UCK political leader Hashim Thaci told onlookers, many of whom were armed, that "this force will guard and protect every foot of Kosova." PB

UN TRIBUNAL SAYS THOUSANDS EXHUMED FROM MASS GRAVES

The UN Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said on 22 September that war crimes investigators have recovered thousands of bodies from some 150 mass graves in Kosova and that more are exhumed each day, Reuters reported. Tribunal spokeswoman Kelly Moore said there are still some 350 suspected mass grave sites to investigate. She added that more charges of genocide will be filed for crimes committed in Kosova. Meanwhile in that republic, one Turkish soldier was killed and five German peacekeepers were injured in separate incidents on 22 September. PB

U.S. OFFICIAL WARNS CROATIA OVER STANCE ON TRIBUNAL

A U.S. government official said on 22 September that Croatia's economy has a real opportunity to "revive" if Zagreb cooperates with the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague and extradites an indicted suspect, AP reported. But David Aaron, U.S. undersecretary for commerce, added that if Croatia does not hand over Mladen Naletilic to the tribunal, its economy could suffer "extremely negative" consequences. Aaron made his comments in Zagreb at the end of a tour of Balkan states. He did not elaborate. The U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Croatia. Naletilic is in custody in Zagreb and is awaiting a verdict on an appeal he made to the Croatian Supreme Court to block his extradition to The Hague. Local newspapers claim the U.S. has given Croatia two weeks to hand over Naletilic. PB

IZETBEGOVIC CRITICIZES PEACEKEEPERS

Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian presidency, said on 21 September in Kuwait City that the NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia are ineffective, the Kuna news agency reported. Izetbegovic said the situation is Bosnia is negatively affected by the "presence of leading criminals who are at large but cannot be caught." He said it would be better if NATO forces were "more active" in detaining them. Izetbegovic left Kuwait the following day for an official visit to Turkey. In other news, Rajko Vasic, a member of the Bosnian Serb government of Premier Milorad Dodik, denied a report by the Onasa news service that Dodic recently met with Yugoslav President Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1999). PG

GERMAN CHANCELLOR PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR ALBANIA

Visiting Albania on 22 September, Gerhard Schroeder thanked Albanian Premier Pandeli Majko for the government's support during the war in Kosova and pledged that Germany will aid Tirana in securing an association agreement with the EU, Reuters reported. Schroeder said that because of Albania's "stabilizing" role during the Kosova conflict, it has "the right to enjoy the solidarity of Europe." He said this means that an EU association agreement will be reached "as soon as possible." Schroeder, the first German chancellor to visit Albania, praised the government's fight against corruption and lawlessness and said winning such a fight "is important" in attracting foreign investment. Majko told Schroeder that Germany has played an important role in the history of Albania. Germany is Albania's second-largest donor country. PB

ILIESCU, PDSR CONTINUE TO LEAD IN ROMANIAN POLL

Former President Ion Iliescu and his Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) top a public opinion poll conducted in early September by the Center for Public Opinion and Market Research. Both Iliescu and the PDSR are backed by 40 percent of the electorate, well ahead of President Emil Constantinescu (17 percent) and the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR, 21 percent). The findings are in line with a survey conducted by the same institute in June. The September poll also shows former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu with 14 percent backing, followed by Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor (9 percent). The extremist PRM is third in party preferences, with 9 percent support. Nearly half of those polled (48 percent), however, were either undecided or did not respond, Mediafax reported. MS

IMF AGREES TO HIGHER ROMANIAN BUDGET DEFICIT

The IMF has agreed to a deficit of 4.1 percent of GDP this year, instead of 3.9 percent as previously agreed. The chief IMF negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, made that announcement at the end of his visit to Romania on 22 September, Mediafax reported. Zervoudakis said the higher deficit is a result of budgetary allocations for orphanages. He said that during its fact-finding mission over the previous two weeks, the fund established that the program agreed on earlier this year with the Romanian authorities has been "by and large implemented within its established parameters." He added that some positive developments have been noted as a result of reducing the current account deficit. On the other hand, inflation has been higher than planned and the economic decline steeper than envisaged. Zervoudakis said Romania will have to borrow $470 million from international financial lenders to cover its budgetary deficit. MS

MOLDOVA TO RENOUNCE WEAPONS SHARE IN TRANSDNIESTER ARSENAL?

At talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow earlier this month, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi proposed that Chisinau renounce its share of the Russian arsenal deployed in Transdniester and in return have its debt for deliveries of Russian natural gas written off, Infotag reported on 22 September, citing the Russian daily "Izvestiya." MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTION LAW

Amendments to Bulgaria's local election law are "not inconsistent" with the European Charter on Local Self Government, the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe said in a note to the Bulgarian parliament, BTA reported on 22 September. The opposition Socialist Party had requested that the council rule on the amendments after the Constitutional Court refused last month to deem them unconstitutional. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DENIES OFFERING U.S. MILITARY BASES

Petar Stoyanov has dismissed reports in the media that Bulgarian officials recently conducted talks with the U.S. on setting up military bases on Bulgarian territory, BTA reported on 22 September. However, Stoyanov remarked that "we must not approach this problem shyly [sic] if Bulgaria wishes to prove its orientation toward NATO." He said that the devastating earthquake in Turkey has destroyed a large U.S. military base there and that "it is possible [that] U.S. warships [will] take shelter in Bulgarian ports, if the U.S. navy command makes [such] a request." MS




LITHUANIA'S PRESIDENT ADAMKUS LOOKS BACK, FORWARD


by Breffni O'Rourke

It's a big step from being a worker in a Chicago automobile factory to becoming the head of state of Lithuania. But Valdas Adamkus has managed such a leap in the course of a lifetime marked by sharp contrasts. In fact, it could be said that his life reflects the kaleidoscope of events in the Baltics over most of this century.

Born in Kaunas in 1926, when Lithuania and neighboring Estonia and Latvia were independent, the young Adamkus was caught up in the tragedies of the Soviet annexation and the German occupation. A teenage resistance member during the war years, he and his family fled westward in 1944. Five years later, in 1949, they emigrated to the U.S., where Adamkus began working at the Chicago auto plant and then went on to study civil engineering.

In the early 1970s, Adamkus joined the new U.S. Environment Protection Agency, eventually becoming U.S. coordinator for the Baltic states on environmental protection.

Adamkus then rose through the U.S. federal civil service, before returning to his homeland to contest Lithuania's 1998 presidential election. He won that ballot by a narrow margin and has managed to steadily increase his popularity since then.

This week, Adamkus paid his first state visit to the Czech Republic for talks with President Vaclav Havel and other Czech leaders. While in Prague he visited RFE/RL's headquarters, where he spoke to foreign and domestic journalists.

Asked about how the time he spent in the U.S. impacted on his political thinking, Adamkus said that "50 years is almost a lifetime for the grown individual, and I have to say that definitely I grew up within a democratic society, with democratic principles. Like I said, democracy cannot be learned from books, and I feel I am part of that system, part of the principles and thinking."

On the broader theme of democratization, Adamkus spoke of his pleasure at the slow but steady transformation in social consciousness now taking place in Lithuania. He said the whole country seems to be striving toward accepting individual responsibility, the new philosophy so different from that of the last half-century: "What really is delightful is that the attitude, philosophy, and outlook among the people is changing, especially I would say among the younger generation. What is disappointing for me is that these changes, in terms of the economy, in terms of improving standards of living for people, are not happening as rapidly as I would like."

Turning to foreign policy issues, Adamkus noted that Lithuania's geo-political situation is very sensitive and its policy based on the EU's guidelines of recognizing states but not becoming internally involved in them. He said Lithuania is strongly committed to good working relations with its eastern neighbors, Russia and Belarus. Asked specifically about ties with Belarus, Adamkus replied: "I believe there is a very warm feeling [on the part of Lithuanians] toward the people of Belarus, but the difficulty we have right now is the very uncertain situation as to whom we should speak to, because the [Belarusian] people are divided on that issue. Legally they say that the present regime does not represent actually the people, it represents only the government, the bureaucracy. And of course this is not for us to decide; that's what makes things very difficult".

Turning to the issue of Lithuania's integration into Western structures, the president expressed confidence in prospects for joining both the EU and NATO.

He said he believes there are good prospects that at its Helsinki summit in December, the EU will invite Lithuania to begin formal membership negotiations. He played down Lithuania's dispute with the union over the timetable for closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which the EU considers unsafe. He said there is a common European understanding of the need for safety in nuclear power issues.

As for NATO, he said he believes that barring unexpected developments, Lithuania will become a member early next century. Commenting that all signs are positive, he noted that Lithuania is already playing a supporting role in international peacekeeping operations, such as in Kosova.


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