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Newsline - November 1, 1999




ELECTION COMMISSION TURNS ATTENTION TO PRESS...

The Central Election Commission asked the Media Ministry on 29 October to take measures against Sergei Dorenko, the host of an "analytical program" on Russian Public Television (ORT), "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov, ORT and Dorenko engaged in unlawful political agitation in their 25 October broadcast alleging that former Prime Minister and current Fatherland- All Russia leader Yevgenii Primakov was somehow involved in an assassination attempt on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Veshnyakov cautioned that "any mass media body can find itself in the same place as ORT," according to ITAR- TASS, while "Kommersant-Daily" speculated that TV-6, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, may be the next to be singled out by the commission. "Kommersant-Daily" is owned by media magnate Boris Berezovskii, who is reportedly Dorenko's close sponsor. JAC

...AS PUTIN STRESSES NEED FOR OFFICIAL NEWS OUTLETS

In a meeting with the heads of regional state-run television and broadcasting companies on 1 November, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared that the "state should have its own media outlets to bring the official position of the government to the public," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin added that state-run media should focus on economic problems, despite the acuteness of the problem in Chechnya, because "if economic problems are not solved, then federal forces in Chechnya will not have the necessary military equipment and we shall never achieve the goals we have set [there]." On 29 October, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, deputy head of the Fatherland-All Russia headquarters, said that the ITAR-TASS news agency selectively edits the comments and interviews of members of his political organization so that they appear less critical of the Kremlin. The agency responded that it does not participate in "information wars."JAC

MOSCOW DENIES BOMBING HUMANITARIAN CONVOY...

Russian Prime Minister Putin and military spokesmen in Mozdok both denied on 31 October that Russian aircraft were responsible for the bombing two days earlier of a convoy of vehicles transporting displaced persons and Red Cross personnel from Grozny to Nazran. Putin termed those reports Chechen propaganda. Several dozen people, including two Red Cross officials, were killed in that attack. In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement on 30 October appealing to all combatants to allow civilians to leave the combat zone unharmed. Russian aircraft continued bombing raids on Grozny and other towns, including Kurchaloi and Bamut, on 30- 31 October. Ground fighting is continuing around Gudermes, which is totally surrounded by Russian forces, Reuters reported. LF

...KEEPS CHECHEN BORDERS SEALED

The opening of four humanitarian corridors to allow displaced persons to leave Chechnya, originally announced for 29 October, was postponed until 1 November. A Reuters correspondent at the Chechen border with Ingushetia reported on 1 November that there is a 16-kilometer line of civilians desperate to cross into Ingushetia, which already harbors a total of 175,000 displaced persons. Visiting camps for such people on 30 October, Finnish Foreign Minister and EU President Tarja Halonen expressed concern that the high rate of disease and infant mortality among the displaced persons may rise with the onset of winter. She called on Moscow to remove obstacles to the shipment of humanitarian aid to the camps, Reuters reported. LF

CONFUSION OVER RUSSIA'S OBJECTIVE CONTINUES

Interfax on 29 October quoted unnamed Russian Defense Ministry sources as saying that the Russian military command aims to break the back of the Chechen resistance and occupy strategic heights in Chechnya before the end of this month. Those sources explained that Moscow has already exceeded the quotas for heavy military equipment it may deploy in the North Caucasus under the revised Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which is to be signed at the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18-19 November. But a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow denied the following day that there is any deadline set for ending operations in Chechnya, or any link with the upcoming summit. Speaking in Moscow on 28 October, U.S. permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council Alexander Vershbow expressed the hope that the fighting in Chechnya will not derail the Istanbul summit. He called on all parties to avoid "the indiscriminate use of force," arguing that the previous war in Chechnya demonstrated that there cannot be a purely military solution to the conflict. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS WAR PLANNED IN ADVANCE

Aslan Maskhadov told Interfax on 30 October that the Russian incursion into Chechnya had been planned for three years and was in no way connected with measures to combat terrorism or crime. He reaffirmed his readiness for "constructive negotiations and extensive compromises" with Moscow, adding that "Russia and Chechnya can and must live as good neighbors." But Maskhadov stressed that the Chechen people will never give up their independence, which he termed their sole defense against complete destruction. LF

SHARP INCREASE IN WEAPONS PRODUCTION REGISTERED AS EARLY AS JANUARY

"Megapolis-Kontinent" reported in its October 1999 issue (No. 43) that a sharp increase in output began at the Tula weapons factory as early as January of this year. As a direct result of the current Chechen conflict, which did not break out until some nine months later, output at the Tula enterprise has increased by 400 percent in the first three- quarters of this year, compared with the 1998 level. The Tula weapons factory produces components for tanks, armored personnel carriers, armored infantry vehicles, helicopters, assault planes, and fighter jets. "Megapolis-Kontinent" also reported that in the past several weeks, all state debts to the factory, some of which date back "many years," have been paid off. JC

ALLEGED CRIME KINGPIN MAY BE EXCLUDED FROM ELECTION RACE

The Central Election Commission on 30 October registered the party lists of four election organizations: the Conservative Movement, the Russian Party for the Protection of Women, the Congress of Russian Communities, and the Yurii Boldyrev movement, ITAR-TASS reported. The next day, the commission registered the lists of the Party of Peace and Accord, Russian National Union, which is lead by Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin, and Spiritual Heritage, which is led by deputy Aleksei Poberezkin. Spiritual Heritage faced the most problems, losing 25 candidates. Its list now contains 130 names. The Conservative Movement, which lost 10 candidates, may lose another: the candidacy of Sergei Mikhailov, who is allegedly known in organized crime circles as "Mikhas," is being subjected to further scrutiny because he did not tell the commission about his dual Greek and Russian citizenship, "Vremya MN" reported on 1 November. JAC

RUBLE SLIPS SLIGHTLY AGAIN AFTER LAST WEEK'S SLUMP

The ruble lost 2 kopeks against the dollar during trading on 1 November to close at 26.07 rubles to $1, according to Russian agencies. The ruble's loss follows a 29 kopek dip on 28 October. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that day that the Central Bank, which had previously been propping up the ruble, has apparently decided that a new lower exchange rate is necessary. Such a decision, according to the daily, is likely connected with the State Duma's approval of the 2000 draft budget in its first reading and the need for the government to somehow come up with even higher revenues. However, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 October that the Central Bank plans to offer bonds worth up to 6 billion rubles ($230 million) in November to an effort to soak up excess ruble liquidity of Russian commercial banks. Some traders link that liquidity with the ruble's slump. JAC

GAZPROM TARGET OF NEW TAX PROBE...

"Izvestiya" reported on 30 October that an "unprecedented" audit of Gazprom began on 28 October, which will focus on the company's activities connected with exporting gas. According to the newspaper, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, one of the goals of the new probe is to unseat Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. Another is to find monies to replenish "election" and "pension" funds. "Segodnya" reported earlier that tax authorities ordered Gazprom to pay the treasury 2 billion rubles ($80 million) over and above what is stipulated in an earlier agreement between the government and the company in both October and November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 1 November that the wholesale price of natural gas increased by 15 percent that day, the first increase in almost three years, according to the company's press service. JAC

...AS OLIGARCHS ALLEGEDLY DEPRIVED OF SAY AT FUEL MINISTRY

"Izvestiya" also reported on 30 October that retaining Sergei Bogdanchikov as head of Rosneft was one condition a number of Duma deputies demanded from the government in return for their support of the 2000 budget. That stance reportedly had less to do with support for Bogdanchikov than with their opposition to a replacement being promoted by Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. According to the newspaper, Prime Minister Putin signed a decree at the end of October that excludes Chubais, Vyakhirev, Bogdanchikov, LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov, and Yukos Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovskii from membership on the board of the Fuel and Energy Ministry. Replacing them will be the heads of the Coal Committee and Gosenergonadzor. JAC

DUMA PROTESTS USE OF FORCE AGAINST VYBORG EMPLOYEES

The State Duma on 29 October passed a resolution protesting the use of physical force and fire arms against workers at the Vyborgskii paper mill in Leningrad Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 October 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. Justice Ministry troops had stormed the factory and opened fire on workers who had barricaded themselves into the administration building in a bid to prevent the mill's foreign owners from assuming control. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika told deputies that the actions undertaken last month to resolve the dispute were "lawful in form but digressed from the law in content." Also on 29 October, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions appealed to the Russian authorities not to use force again to seek the resolve the Vyborgskii dispute. In a statement received by ITAR-TASS, the confederation said the use of force against employees violates both Russian laws and international labor standards. JC

GOVERNMENT DRAWS UP PLAN FOR RENATIONALIZATION OF LOMONOSOV

Following a court decision earlier this month that the 1993 privatization of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory was invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999), the State Property Ministry has "sketched out a plan" for the plant's renationalization, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 October. According to the newspaper, details of the plan are unclear, and ministry officials acknowledged that they are unsure how the proposal will be implemented. Deputy State Property Minister Yurii Medvedev was quoted as saying that the government will recover from the factory an amount equal to what it lost through privatization and that it will do so "in kind, such as [in] factory kilns." Alastair Stobie, vice president of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, one of the major shareholders in the factory, told AP that the fund will continue to appeal the renationalization decision. JC

FSB TARGETS ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCHER

The Federal Security Service (FSB) in Kaluga Oblast has arrested Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Institute for U.S.A. and Canada (ICK), on suspicion of disclosing state secrets and possible espionage, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 October. Shortly after Sutyagin's arrest, FSB officials searched the Moscow apartment of a U.S. citizen, Josh Handler, who is researching a doctoral dissertation on nuclear disarmament. After asking Handler many questions about Sutyagin, they took away a computer, camera, photographs, film, videotape, cassette tapes, and various papers, according to an article by Handler in the "Vladivostok News." "Kommersant-Daily" quoted ICK director Aleksei Yablokov as linking Sutyagin's arrest with the earlier detentions of military journalists Grigorii Pasko and Aleksandr Nikitin and the seizure of materials from scientist Valerii Soifer, all of whom have focused on environmentally hazardous practices of Russia's navy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). JAC

WILL TATARSTAN HOLD EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS?

The leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan is seriously considering holding the next republican presidential elections in June 2000, simultaneously with voting in the Russian presidential poll, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 October. The next Tatarstan presidential election is due only in March 2001, but the republic's political elite is afraid that should Russian Prime Minister Putin be elected president, then he would seek to replace Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, one of the supporters of the Primakov-Luzhkov OVR alliance. Moreover, Shaimiev's popularity rating is rapidly sinking as the republic's economic situation deteriorates. LF

PRIMAKOV TURNS 70

Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) leader Primakov turned 70 on 29 October. President Boris Yeltsin sent his former premier a birthday telegram saying that his work in the state's "highest posts has been appreciated by the Russian public and the state," ITAR-TASS reported. According to EWI's "Russian Regional Report" on tk October, Primakov's meeting in Kazan on 28 October with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov was connected with a discussion to change OVR's campaign tactics. JAC




SLAIN ARMENIAN LEADERS BURIED

Up to 100,000 people, including former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, attended the 31 October funeral services in Yerevan of slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian, his two deputies, a government minister, and two parliamentary deputies gunned down in the legislature on 27 October. The eighth victim of the shootings was buried on 30 October. Also attending was a large Russian delegation, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, as well as Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Belarusian Premier Syarhei Linh, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, and Turkish state minister Ali Irtemcelik. Speaking at the funeral ceremony, President Robert Kocharian termed the killings "an irreparable loss" and called on Armenians to "close ranks and stand by the Republic of Armenia," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

U.S., RUSSIA EXPRESS SUPPORT

Meeting with President Kocharian in Yerevan on 29 October, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott offered his condolences over the shootings and assured Kocharian of his country's readiness to offer "every kind of support" in overcoming the crisis, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Talbott added that that he believes the democratic process in Armenia is irreversible. During talks with Kocharian the following day, Russian Premier Putin similarly expressed Moscow's support for the Armenian president. Putin also noted that the murdered men were all "true friends of Russia." LF

ARMENIAN MILITARY DENY TENSIONS WITH PRESIDENT

Leaders of Sargsian's Republican Party of Armenia on 30 October denied that there are differences between the military and President Kocharian over the choice of a new prime minister and cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian told journalists on 30 October after his talks with Putin that an entirely new government will probably be named. According to press reports, the military also oppose the appointment of Republican Party Chairman Andranik Markarian to succeed Demirchian as parliamentary speaker. The Republican Party on 30 October endorsed the Defense Ministry's call two days earlier for the sacking of the interior and national security ministers. Meanwhile the five gunmen have been charged with terrorism and pre-meditated murder, Noyan Tapan reported on 1 November. LF

PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS MAR GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

More than 60 percent of the Georgian electorate cast their votes in the 31 October parliamentary elections. Both pro- government and opposition figures cited violations of election procedure, including restrictions on voting in some constituencies in Adjaria and the mountain region of Lentehki, the theft of a ballot box in Gori, an attempt by an opposition member of the Central Electoral Commission to hack into the commission's computer, and an attempt at ballot stuffing by a commission member who belongs to the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...WHILE RULING PARTY HEADED FOR VICTORY

With 60 percent of the ballot papers counted, the Union of Citizens of Georgia, which has a majority in the outgoing parliament, had won more than 30 of the 75 seats allocated in single-mandate constituencies plus some 44 percent of the party-list vote. The Union for the Revival of Georgia polled 23 percent of the party list vote. Its leader, Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze, claimed that the authorities had falsified the results, according to Reuters. The Labor Party and the bloc Industry Will Save Georgia are close to surmounting the 7 percent barrier for representation in the new parliament. LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT IN TBILISI

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Talbott and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met in Tbilisi on 29 October to discuss regional conflicts, including Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and preparations for the OCSE Istanbul summit later this month, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. They also focused on the planned construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Talbott endorsed the Georgian leadership's economic policy and its crackdown on corruption. LF

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN...

Visiting Baku on 27-28 October, Aleksandr Kwasniewski met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to discuss Poland's support for Azerbaijan's accession to the World Trade Organization and integration into European structures, including full membership in the Council of Europe, Turan reported. Possible Polish involvement in the GUUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) was also discussed. Kwasniewski said Poland is ready to help prepare NATO's Caucasus strategy. The two presidents also discussed Polish participation in the construction of cement plants and sugar mills in Azerbaijan and the prospects for the export via Poland of Azerbaijani oil transported via the Baku-Supsa export pipeline. A memorandum on cooperation between Poland's state oil and gas company and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR was signed at the meeting. LF

...AND KAZAKHSTAN

On 29 October, Kwasniewski held talks with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, in Astana, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kazakh capital reported. Those talks focused on preparations for the OSCE Istanbul summit and the prospects for Polish participation in construction projects in Astana as well as in the export of Kazakhstan's oil via Ukraine to the Polish port of Gdansk, ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbaev termed the $100 million annual trade turnover between the two countries "not bad." LF

OSCE PRAISES KAZAKHSTAN'S LANGUAGE POLICY

Meeting in Astana on 29 October with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel positively assessed both Kazakhstan's language law and efforts by the country's leadership to promote the use of the Kazakh language, Interfax reported. Toqaev quoted President Nazarbaev as aiming to establish trilingualism, given the growing importance of English. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATING ROCKET EXPLOSION

The Russian and Kazakh government commissions formed to investigate the 27 October explosion of a Russian Proton rocket shortly after blast-off from Baikonur announced on 29 October that they will set up a joint headquarters and three working groups, Interfax reported. But Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Kiyanitsa said that an assessment of the financial damage caused will be made only after the commissions complete their work, according to ITAR- TASS. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Toqaev had said the previous day that Kazakhstan will probably demand compensation exceeding the $260,000 paid by Moscow after a similar explosion in July. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIENTIAL POLL

At a news conference in Dushanbe on 29 October, three opposition would-be presidential candidates again called on the country's leadership and international organizations to agree to delay the 6 November presidential elections, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Equality Party leader Saifiddin Turaev, Democratic Party (Tehran Platform) leader Sultan Kuvatov, and Islamic Renaissance Party candidate and Economics Minister Davlat Usmon proposed that incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov's term in office be extended until June in order to give time to prepare for free and fair elections. All three candidates had earlier called for a postponement of the poll on the grounds that local officials prevented them from collecting the minimum 145,000 signatures required for registration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). The Central Electoral Commission nonetheless subsequently registered Usmon, who on 29 October formally requested that his registration be termed invalid. LF




INCUMBENT, COMMUNIST LEADER TO COMPETE IN RUNOFF FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko finished first and second, respectively, in Ukraine's presidential vote on 31 October and will face each other in a runoff in two weeks, AP reported on 1 November. With 96 percent of the votes counted, Kuchma gained 36.36 percent backing and Symonenko 22.32 percent. Oleksandr Moroz, head of Ukraine's Socialist Party, came third with 11.29 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of radical leftist Natalya Vitrenko (11.05 percent). Former Premier Yevhen Marchuk placed fifth with 8.06 percent, the Central Election Commission reported. Voter turnout was reported at 70-75 percent, an increase over the 1994 ballot. Voters in the largely nationalist western half of the country tended to favor Kuchma, while voters in the east voted for Symonenko and other leftist candidates. PB

CANDIDATES COMPLAIN OF ELECTION VIOLATIONS

The organizations of several candidates reported violations of election regulations and dirty tricks on 31 October, AP reported. The UNIAN news agency reported that in the eastern coal mining city of Donetsk, a leaflet was distributed claiming that Kuchma had died of a heart attack and had been replaced by a double so that his "criminal entourage" would remain in power. Although election advertisements and commercials are banned 24 hours before the vote, the state-run UT-2 television channel on 31 October showed footage of a Kuchma speech that was followed by a message that read "Vote for your Future." In the runup to the election, Kuchma is said to have received more coverage in the electronic media than the 12 other candidates together. PB

LUKASHENKA WARNS OSCE AFTER ORGANIZATION CRITICIZES BELARUS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 30 October warned the OSCE not to accuse his country of human rights violations at an official summit in Istanbul in November, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Lukashenka was reported to have told the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's group for Belarus: "I warn those who try to depict Belarus as an outcast and prevent it from taking part in the summit. The response by the Belarusian side will be adequate." He did not elaborate. Adrian Severin, the head of the OSCE's group for Belarus, said after a meeting with Lukashenka that he is "deeply concerned over the marked deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus" since the group's last visit in July. He added that he is disturbed that some of the people he spoke to during earlier visits "are now in prison..., in exile or in hiding, or have disappeared." PB

BELARUSIAN POPULAR FRONT ELECTS NEW LEADER

The Belarusian Popular Front, the country's main opposition party, has elected Vintsuk Vyachorka as its new leader, AP reported on 30 October. Vyachorka replaces Zyanon Pazynak, who had held the post for more than a decade. Pazynak fled the country in 1996 and was granted political asylum in the U.S. Vyachorka said that "Lukashenka is ready to give up our independence, and we must resist not in theory but in practice." Vyachorka's election ends a leadership crisis in the party after a meeting in August resulted in a disputed and inconclusive vote. PB

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEFIES BAN ON MARCHES

Some 200 members of Belarusian opposition parties on 31 October ignored a state ban on processions and marched to a Soviet-era execution site, AP reported. Several hundred other people joined the marchers at the Kuropaty mass grave just outside Minsk. Minsk city officials had banned the march this year. According to the opposition Belarus Popular Front, 10 people were arrested before the march began. As many as tens of thousands of people were killed at Kuropaty in Communist purges during the 1930s, according to some estimates. PB

ESTONIAN SUPREME COURT RULES ON KALLAS TRIAL

The Estonian Supreme Court on 29 October ruled that a lower court reconsider part of its verdict of not guilty handed down to Finance Minister Siim Kallas back (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1999). While the Supreme Court upheld nearly all the points of acquittal, it sent back to the Tallinn City Court the point "concerning the presentation of false information," BNS reported. Previously, Kallas had been acquitted at various judicial levels of all charges stemming from a $10 million money-laundering scandal. MH

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES NEW PRIME MINISTER

ELTA reported on 29 October that Valdas Adamkus has named first deputy parliamentary speaker, Andrius Kubilius, 42, as prime minister. Earlier, acting Prime Minister Irena Degutiene had declined an offer from the president to take over the premiership. Kubilius was first elected to the parliament in 1992 and became first deputy speaker when the Conservative Party won the majority of seats in 1996. The parliament is expected to vote on his nomination on 2 November. AB

LITHUANIA-U.S. OIL DEAL CONCLUDED

The Lithuanian government and U.S.-based Williams International signed a contract giving a 33 percent interest in the Mazeikiu Nafta oil complex to the U.S. company, thereby concluding more than 18 months of controversial negotiations, ELTA reported on 29 October. The Lithuanian government appears to have succeeded in extracting slightly more favorable terms from Williams International. The U.S. company has transferred to Mazeikiu Nafta $150 million, half of which is payment for the shares and the other half a loan. The Lithuanian government, meanwhile, has transferred the first $75 million tranche of a loan to the oil complex to cover its working capital shortfall. Under the deal, the government will either loan, refinance, or extend long-term loans to Mazeikiu Nafta totaling $344 million, including $179 million in earlier government loans. Together, Williams and the government will provide $550 million for the reconstruction of the oil refinery over the next two to three years. Lithuania's share of that total was put at $118 million. AB

GERMANY SUPPLANTS U.S. AS TOP INVESTOR IN POLAND

German firms invested some $5.1 million in Poland last year, thereby becoming the largest foreign investor in that country for the first time, dpa reported on 31 October. The U.S. was the largest investor in Poland the previous year. Germany is also Poland's largest trade partner, with 36.7 percent of all Polish exports in the first eight months of 1999 going to the country's Western neighbor. German products accounted for some 25.5 percent of all imports to Poland during the same period. Bogdan Wyznikiewicz, an analyst at the Polish Institute of Market Economy Research, said that the Polish economy is greatly influenced by trends in the German economy, and that a 1 percent growth in Germany's gross national product means an increase of several percentage points in Polish exports. PB

SLOVAK PRESIDENT DISCUSSES VATICAN TREATY WITH POPE

Returning from Italy on 30 October, President Rudolf Schuster told journalists that he discussed with Pope John Paul II the pending treaty between Slovakia and the Vatican, SITA reported. Schuster said the treaty could be ready for ratification within two months. He added that he expects the parliament to approve the treaty "in a couple of months" and will not debate it for five years, as was the case in Poland. Schuster also said he had invited the pope and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi to visit Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

The parliament on 29 October voted 71 to 47 with one abstention against a resolution expressing no confidence in Finance Minister Brigitta Schmognerova, SITA reported. The draft resolution was submitted by 47 deputies from the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia who accused Schmognerova of poor management of the ministry she heads. Also on 29 October, Robert Fico, who has recently left the junior coalition Party of the Democratic Left, registered his new political party, Smer (Direction). He told journalists that Smer will be a "pragmatic" party, characterized by "professionalism" rather than the prevailing "emotionalism, politicking, disputing and personal attacks," CTK and SITA reported. MS

HUNGARY WOULD CONSIDER DEPLOYMENT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is currently on a visit to Canada, said that in an "emergency situation" he would consider allowing NATO nuclear weapons to be deployed on Hungarian territory, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 30 October, citing Canada's "The Globe and Mail." Orban said there is no doubt that the alliance needs such weapons "because of the uncertainties around the future of Russia." Laszlo Kovacs, chairman of the opposition Socialist Party, said Hungary had received assurances that joining NATO would not require the stationing of nuclear weapons on its soil. "If Orban wanted to alarm Hungarian citizens and provoke Russia, then he has succeeded," Kovacs added. The deployment of nuclear weapons would require a two-thirds majority vote in the parliament. MSZ




SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AHEAD IN FIRST ROUND OF MACEDONIAN ELECTIONS

Early results from the 31 October Macedonian presidential elections show that Social Democratic candidate Tito Petkovski and Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski will advance to the second round, Reuters reported on 1 November. With neither of the two leading candidates likely to win 50 percent of the vote, a second round of voting will probably be held on 14 November. Early returns showed Petkovski with 340,000 votes, Trajkovski with 214,000 votes, and a third candidate, Vasil Tupurkovski, with 158,000 votes. Voter turnout was reported to be relatively high. Trajkovski ran on the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization's (VMRO) ticket, while Tupurkovski was the Democratic Alternative's candidate. Both parties are members of the governing coalition. VG

VIOLENT INCIDENTS REPORTED DURING MACEDONIAN VOTING

At least three incidents of violence were reported during Macedonia's 31 October presidential election. A representative of the Social Democrats said one of the party's activists was shot in the leg in the town of Kumanovo during a fight with a representative of the governing coalition. Other violent incidents were reported in the villages of Morane and Velesta. Meanwhile, various parties have accused one another of violating electoral rules that forbid campaigning on election day. VG

TWO OPPOSITION PARTIES WITHDRAW FROM ANTI-MILOSEVIC STREET PROTESTS

Opposition leaders Mile Isakov and Nenad Canak on 29 October announced their intention to withdraw from daily street protests against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Isakov said the daily protests are wasting energy without providing a "plan." Canak added that the opposition should search for other ways of opposing Milosevic. "The point is not to hold rallies but to participate in the toppling of Milosevic's regime," he said. VG

SOME 10,000 ATTEND ANTI-MILOSEVIC DEMONSTRATION IN CACAK

About 10,000 people protested against Milosevic in the town of Cacak on 29 October. Cacak is considered to be an opposition stronghold and the turnout was regarded as relatively high amid dwindling attendance at opposition rallies in other cities. Some key opposition leaders, including Zoran Djindjic, addressed the rally. VG

YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVES FLY TO U.S.

A group of Yugoslav opposition leaders flew to Washington, D.C., in a bid to convince Bill Clinton's administration to ease economic sanctions against the country. Slobodan Vuksanovic, the deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party, said the U.S. should "establish a distinction between Milosevic's regime and the citizens," AP reported. VG

NATO COMMANDER CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBIAN CONVOY

NATO's commander in Kosova, General Klaus Reinhardt, said on 30 October he is "furious" at a recent attack by some 1,500 ethnic Albanians on a convoy of 155 Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). Reinhardt said he believes the attack was spontaneous and noted that measures are being taken to increase the security of ethnic Serbs in Kosova. VG

ETHNIC CROATS EVACUATED FROM KOSOVA

Almost 300 ethnic Croats have been evacuated from Kosova to Zagreb, AP reported on 31 October. The ethnic Croats say they had suffered harassment in Kosova. VG

MONTENEGRO TO START USING GERMAN MARK

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda on 1 November confirmed reports that Montenegro would introduce the German mark as its second currency on 2 November. "Vjesti" had reported that Montenegrins would start receiving their salaries and pensions on that day. The change is viewed as a first step toward the introduction of a separate Montenegrin currency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). The decision must still be formally approved by the Montenegrin parliament. Yugoslav officials on 29 October had dismissed Montenegro's stated aim to introduce its own currency. VG

BOSNIAN CROAT WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REFUSING TREATMENT

Mladen Naletilic is rejecting any further treatment at a Zagreb hospital following recent heart surgery, AP reported. Doctors at the hospital say Naletilic's heart surgery was a success but added that another operation is urgently needed. Naletilic has been indicted on 17 counts of war crimes during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Doctors have assigned him to a psychological team, hoping that it will persuade him to undergo more surgery. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 28 October accused the Croatian government of stalling in handing over Naletilic as well as documents to be used as evidence in the case. The international community view the Naletilic case as a litmus test of Croatia's willingness to cooperate with the tribunal. VG

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES INTO CAR BOMB ATTACK ON BOSNIAN SERB JOURNALIST

Bosnian Serb journalist and publisher Zeljko Kopanja has had both his legs amputated after being seriously injured in a car bomb explosion on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1999), AP reported on 29 October. Experts from the UN international police force in Bosnia- Herzegovina have reportedly recommended that the wrecked car be investigated by Scotland Yard. Kopanja's newspaper "Nezavisne Novine" recently ran a series of articles on war criminals. Several newspapers and magazines from the Serbian as well as Muslim and Croatian parts of the country have run front-page headlines demanding an investigation into the assassination attempt. VG

GERMAN CHANCELLOR PRAISES LEADERSHIP OF JOINT PRESIDENCY IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Gerhard Schroeder on 29 October said he is pleased to find "common views" among the visiting members of the joint presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, dpa reported. He said the three leaders, Ante Jelavic, Alija Izetbegovic, and Zivko Radisic, expressed a strong desire for their country to be admitted to the Council of Europe. The German leader noted that Bosnia will have to undertake reforms before being admitted to the organization. VG

NUMBER OF U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA TO BE REDUCED

NATO officials announced on 30 October that the number of U.S. troops taking part in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be reduced by 30 percent by next April. Major General James Campbell, commander of Multinational Division North, said the cut is part of an overall NATO plan to reduce the number of troops in the country, resulting from an improvement in local security conditions. VG

CROATIAN LAWMAKERS PASS ELECTION LAW

The lower house of the Croatian legislature on 29 October passed a controversial new election law, Reuters reported. The law, which was proposed by the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), guarantees representation to the diaspora in December's parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999). Croats living abroad tend to be pro-HDZ. The EU has criticized the law, saying it "calls into question the government's commitment to free and fair elections." VG

NEW ALBANIAN CABINET SWORN IN

Key figures from the previous government have retained their posts in the cabinet of newly appointed Prime Minister Ilir Meta, which was sworn into office on 29 October. The defense, interior, foreign affairs, and finance ministers of the previous cabinet have all retained their posts. The newcomers include Deputy Prime Minister Makbule Ceco, Kastriot Islami as minister of economic cooperation, Bashkim Fino as minister of local government, and State Minister Prec Zogaj, AP reported. Meta said his government will focus on restoring public order, fighting illegal drug trafficking, and economic development (see also "End Note"). VG

EU COMMISSIONER PROPOSES MONITORING OF ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Radu Vasile proposing that the IMF, the World Bank and the EU draft a medium-term strategy for economic development and set up a body to monitor the plan's implementation, Romanian media reported on 31 October. Vasile has not responded to the proposal, but Deputy Premier Vasile Stoica rejected it, saying that the monitoring of Romania's economic performance would make sense only after the IMF approves the disbursement of the second tranche of the $547 million stand-by loan approved in August. IMF official Thomas Dowson was quoted by Romanian Radio as refusing to confirm reports that the fund is ready to agree that Romania borrow $100 million on the international financial market to cover its budget deficit. Earlier, it had insisted that the country borrow $470 million for that purpose. MS

ANOTHER ANTONESCU STATUE TO BE ERECTED IN ROMANIA

The Cluj local council has approved Mayor Gheorghe Funar's proposal that a statue to Romania's wartime leader and convicted war criminal, Marshal Ion Antonescu be erected, "Romania libera" reported on 1 November. On 11 previous occasions, the council has rejected such a proposal. Its change of mind comes after Funar presented a "political compromise" whereby statues of National Liberal Party leader Ion C. Bratianu, National Peasant Party leader Iuliu Maniu, and King Ferdinand will also be erected. The compromise proposal was backed by representatives of two parties on the local council and opposed only by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and the Alliance for Romania. On 30 October, Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor laid a wreath at Antonescu's statue in Slobozia. MS

GAZPROM CUTS ENERGY SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA

As of 1 November, Gazprom will cut its energy supplies to Moldova by 40 percent, Infotag reported on 29 October. The same day, Gazprom Deputy Chairmen Aleksander Pushkin and Vasilii Fadeev handed over to Moldovan government representatives a letter from Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev saying that Moldova has failed to pay on time for current gas deliveries and reduce its outstanding debt. Fadeev said that negotiations are under way on restructuring the Moldovan debt, which Moldovan officials say now totals $489 million. Of that sum, $310 million is owed by Tiraspol. An additional $277 million is due in fines for overdue payments. Flux reported that energy supplies from Romania and Ukraine will be diverted to Chisinau to avoid plunging the capital into darkness but that this will cause serious problems in the countryside. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET

The government on 28 October approved a draft 2000 budget providing for 4 percent GDP growth, a deficit equal to 2.3 percent of GDP, and an annual inflation rate of 2.8 percent, BTA reported. Finance Minister Muravei Radev said that 15,000 people employed in the government administration will be laid off in 2000 to reduce budget expenditures. Wages in the public sector are to increase by 5 percent, while the minimum wage will increase by 8 percent and pensions by 13 percent. MS

BULGARIAN TURKISH PARTY BOYCOTTS MAYORAL INAUGURATION

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) on 29 October boycotted the opening session of the newly elected local council in Kurdzhali, BTA and AP reported. The DPS claims 3,000 ballots were incorrectly declared invalid by the electoral commission. It has appealed to the local court to order a recount. The DPS lost its majority on the local council and also lost the town's mayoralty to a candidate representing the ruling Union of Democratic Forces. On 29 October, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov denied in the parliament that he called the DPS "a curse for Bulgaria." MS




ALBANIA'S PRIME MINISTER CALLS IT QUITS


by Fabian Schmidt

Prime Minister Pandeli Majko announced his resignation on 26 October. His successor, Ilir Meta, is likely to continue his reformist policies but will be in a more vulnerable position, facing interference by influential Socialist Party leader and former Prime Minister Fatos Nano.

In resigning, Majko drew the consequences of his defeat in the vote for Socialist Party leader at a congress in early October. His rival, Nano, beat him by a small margin in that ballot. Majko's resignation nonetheless came as a surprise, since he initially had pledged to continue as premier, despite his defeat in the party leadership vote. He had argued that he still enjoys considerable support from within the party and especially among Socialist legislators.

But during the days that followed, Nano increased pressure on Majko, whom he had harshly attacked in the past for his conciliatory political approach. Nano, along with Democratic leader Sali Berisha, carries the most responsibility for the polarization of political life between the Socialists and Democrats. Not surprisingly, he is considerably less willing than Majko to cooperate with the Democrats and has repeatedly criticized Majko for maintaining contacts with opposition politicians. Majko's approach, however, appealed to many voters who are sick of the polarization that has dominated Albanian politics throughout most of the 1990s.

After the congress, Nano challenged the election of 36 members of the 116-strong Steering Committee, most of them Majko supporters, because they received less than 50 percent of the vote. Under party statutes, all members of the Steering Committee must be elected with more than 50 percent of the vote. Nonetheless, many Albanian political observers and journalists regarded Nano's initiative as an attempt to remove Majko's supporters from the committee and to strengthen his position vis-a-vis the government. Some observers pointed out that Nano did not call run-off votes at party congresses in 1992 and 1996, when he was firmly in charge and the candidates were all loyal to him

Subsequently, Majko and another 66 members of the Steering Committee boycotted the ballot on 22 October in Tirana, arguing that Nano was aiming to change the balance of power in the committee. In the end, 73 percent of the deputies to the congress took part in the run-off vote, indicating that Nano remains able to mobilize large parts of the party's rank-and-file. The "Albanian Daily News" noted that "the session showed the undisputed authority of Nano in the party." By the same token, the session showed that the position of the 31-year-old former prime minister remains precarious among his fellow Socialists.

Nano failed, however, to get his loyalists elected at the expense of Majko's. The delegates approved the controversial election of the 36 in a vote that appears to have been a compromise between Majko's backers and Nano's supporters. Delegates seemed to have realized that the two rival wings need each other. While Nano's supporters within the party are more numerous than Majko's, the latter's appeal to the public is stronger than that of the combative Nano. Majko, nonetheless, realized that his ability to make policy beyond the reach of the powerful Nano had been considerably limited as a result of the congress and therefore opted to resign.

Majko's resignation, however, does not mean that the conservative wing of the Socialist Party has taken over the government. "Koha Ditore" on 27 October noted that new Premier Meta is clearly from Majko's reformist wing within the party. Meta was deputy prime minister under Majko and is also the head of the Socialist Youth Forum, known as the Eurosocialists. But he will have a more difficult task ahead of him than did Majko before the party congress. Nano is now clearly the most powerful party leader and is likely to repeatedly challenge the government on general policy questions.

The resignation of Majko marks the third major government reshuffle since the Socialists came to power in 1997. The opposition is likely to revive its calls for new elections, but the Socialists are unlikely to agree to an early vote, fearing this would severely hamper the government's reform plans shortly after the Kosova war and possibly reduce their two-thirds majority in the parliament. Meta will now have to prove that he can continue the work of the government without becoming involved in politically motivated disruptions.




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