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Newsline - March 9, 2000




OECD TELLS RUSSIA TO PURSUE MORE REFORMS...

In its economic survey of the Russian Federation released on 8 March, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that some nine years after economic reform was first launched, structural problems continue to plague the Russian economy. The trend toward using barter rather than money transfers has only intensified over the last few years, as electricity and gas industries continue to conduct a large portion of their business via barter while oblast and raion governments often rely on the use of money surrogates. In addition, fundamental tax reform remains a "major imperative." Although the first part of the Tax Code became law on 1 January 1999, the rules surrounding various taxes "are still determined in a largely discretionary manner," the OECD concluded. The organization also noted that while Russia's Central Bank managed to resurrect the country's payment system following the 1998 economic crisis, "the rehabilitation or liquidation of large insolvent banks has been particularly problematic." JAC

...AND OVERHAUL FINANCIAL RELATIONS WITH REGIONS...

The report characterizes center's fiscal relations with the regions as "in a state of disarray." It notes that the system appears highly centralized, with regional officials having "very little explicit autonomy in determining their tax policies"; on the other hand, the system that exists on paper does not work in reality, and regional officials enjoy a "significant degree of de facto autonomy" and function according to "distorted incentives." One result of such behavior was the wave of defaults on loans that a number of regions and cities declared in 1998 and 1999. JAC

...WHILE BACKING IMF, WORLD BANK POLICIES

The report's conclusions appear to support the policies of both the IMF and the World Bank. The fund has withheld additional tranches of a $4.5 billion loan, insisting that Russia make further progress toward implementing structural reforms, while the bank recently approved a $30 million loan to Russia to reform the regional budget process ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 February 2000.) On 8 January, World Bank former chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called Russia's transition to a market economy disappointing, noting that "output today is 50 percent of what it was at the start of the transition." He added that "recommendations ought to be taken quite seriously that the IMF should not be involved in what has turned out to be a long-term lending situation," Reuters reported. Speaking at the same forum, IMF top official Gerard Belanger said that those who pose the question of the IMF's involvement with Russia, tend to "see things in only two colors, black and white." JAC

KOMSOMOLSKOE FIGHTING CONTINUES

Federal forces who have surrounded the village of Komsomolskoe, south of Grozny, continued on 9 March to battle with Chechens who under the command of field commander Ruslan Gelaev are trying to break through their lines. The number of Chechens remaining in the village is unclear: Russian military spokesmen earlier this week estimated their strength at more than 1,000, but Lieutenant General Gennadii Troshev, the Russian second in command in Chechnya, said on 8 March that only 25-30 remain. Troshev claimed that Gelaev had radioed other Chechen commanders to ask for reinforcements. Also on 8 March, ITAR- TASS reported that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov had ordered Chechen fighters to attack Russian military targets, civilians, and Chechen administrators appointed by Moscow in the Russian-controlled districts of Chechnya, dpa reported. LF

MEDIA, OIL EXECUTIVES KILLED IN MOSCOW PLANE CRASH

Artem Borovik, president of the media holding Sovershenno sekretno and Zia Bazhaev, the president of the oil management company Gruppa Alyans, were killed in a plane crash at Moscow's Sheremetevo-1 airport on 9 March. Seven other people, including the flight crew, also died. Borovik was well known in Russia for his investigative pieces that appeared both on television and in print. Bazahev is the former head of the SIDANKO oil company. The Emergencies Ministry reported that an investigation into the crash is under way. JAC

ZYUGANOV SORE THAT PUTIN WON'T DEBATE

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 8 March, Communist Party leader and presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov criticized acting President Vladimir Putin for his decision not to participate in televised debates with him, Interfax reported. Zyuganov said that Putin "is turning away from real face-to-face meetings with voters" and has refused to "officially and honestly present" his program: "This is humiliating for all citizens and voters," Zyuganov added. On 1 March, the think tank that is preparing Putin's economic program said that document will not be finished until after the 26 March presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 2000). JAC

YAVLINSKII REJECTS TITOV'S PROPOSAL

Yabloko leader and presidential candidate Grigorii Yavlinskii does not plan to withdraw from the presidential race, as fellow candidate and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov recently suggested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2000), RosBiznesKonsalting reported on 8 March. Yabloko's press service told the agency that it has no official reaction to Titov's suggestion, which they are not taking seriously. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 18 February that Yavlinskii, who has come third in most opinion polls about the presidential candidates, is the overwhelming choice of Internet users and leads polls on six different Websites in Russia. The newspaper notes that it is mostly younger Russians who use the Internet. JAC

RUSSIAN STOCKS EXPERIENCE PRE-ELECTION BOOST

Russian share prices rose between 3 percent and 10 percent on 7 March compared with the previous day, Interfax-AFI reported. Traders told the agency that the market was engaged in a "pre-election rally" sparked by the recent growth in world oil prices. The benchmark index RTS rose 3.39 percent to 197.33 points. Share prices in Rostelekom rose 10.3 percent, Unified Energy Systems gained 6.2 percent, Mosenergo rose 5.8 percent, and Surgutneftegaz, 3.2 percent. JAC

MATVIENKO ARRIVES IN ST. PETERSBURG

As the registration of candidates for the 14 May gubernatorial ballot in St. Petersburg gets under way, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko is due to arrive in that city on 9 March for a working visit. Matvienko, whose possible candidacy in the May elections has won the support of acting President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2000), intends to meet with political leaders in St. Petersburg, and it is expected that she will make an announcement during her visit on whether she will run. Meanwhile, former Leningrad Oblast Governor Vadim Gustov is also pondering running for the post of St. Petersburg city head and has said he will announce his decision next week, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 March. JC

BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER ACCUSES FELLOW OLIGARCH OF GRAND AMBITIONS

Reporting on visit to Moscow last month of a delegation from the American Jewish Congress and the largest Jewish organizations in Europe, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii" declared in its 7 March issue that "it is becoming more and more obvious that [Media Most head] Vladimir Gusinskii is competing for the role of one of the leaders of world Jewry and is prepared to do practically anything to achieve this goal." The semi-monthly noted that Gusinskii's name is being discussed as a possible successor to Edgar Bronfman as head of the World Jewish Congress. The newspaper, which receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, reported that the visiting delegation appeared interested only in Russia's contacts with Iran; at the end of a two-day meeting, one member of the delegation, Ron Lauder, concluded that "Russia has no official policy for transferring weapons to Iran"--a conclusion that the newspaper suggested was a "vindication" for Gusinskii. JAC

CHINESE COSMONAUTS TO JOIN PARTY ON 'MIR'

Talking to journalists in Moscow on 9 March, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov revealed that during his visit to Beijing last week he agreed to Chinese cosmonauts being trained at Zvezdnyi Gorodok and sent to the space station "Mir." "The Moscow Times" on 9 March quoted an unnamed official from the Energia corporation, which operates "Mir," as saying that Energia expects to play the "leading role" in Russia's efforts to develop China's manned space program. Klebanov also said that China will be allowed to use Russia's Glonass global satellite navigation system. And he noted that an agreement may be signed next month on the sale of manned spacecraft technologies to China and "probably" on some joint manufacturing. JC

PUTIN LIKES HEAVY CLASSICAL MUSIC, TOO

Acting President Putin and British Premier Tony Blair, together with their spouses, are to attend the premiere of a new production of Prokofiev's epic opera "War and Peace" at St. Petersburg's Mariinskii Theater this weekend. Valerii Gergiev, who will be conducting the performance, told Interfax on 8 March that Putin's decision to invite Blair is convincing evidence of the acting president's deep respect for Russian culture. Putin, Gergiev said, is not a man who spends just a few minutes talking about culture out of a sense of obligation. The conductor pointed to a one-and-a-half hour conversation that he recently had with Putin in the Kremlin in which Putin did not so much as mention the upcoming presidential elections, preferring instead to discuss the future of Russia's major cultural institutions. Last month, Putin revealed he is particularly partial to "popular classical" music such as Michail Oginski's Polonaise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2000). JC




LAWYER CLAIMS INVESTIGATORS DRUGGED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT KILLINGS SUSPECT

Ruben Rshtuni, who represents Armenian National Television Deputy Director Harutiun Harutiunian, told journalists in Yerevan on 8 March that his client was drugged on 8 March by investigators seeking to extract testimony about the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Harutiunian was detained in January on suspicion of complicity in the shootings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY PONDERS NEW CHALLENGE TO PRESIDENT

Andranik Markarian, who heads the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary alliance, said on 8 March that the bloc is considering appealing to the Constitutional Court to annul President Robert Kocharian's 6 March decree underscoring his right to make senior appointments within the armed forces, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Other deputies from the Republican Party of Armenia expressed their support for such an appeal. But two deputies from the People's Party of Armenia, the other member of Miasnutiun, disagreed, saying that Kocharian's decree does not violate the constitution and that challenging its legality would serve only to compound tensions. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS DOMESTIC TENSIONS HINDER KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS

Addressing the Armenian parliament on 8 March, Vartan Oskanian said that rising domestic political tensions have negatively affected the ongoing search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian, who is a close political ally of President Kocharian, said that as a result of those tensions, he has cancelled planned trips abroad over the last three weeks. LF

TWO MORE GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FAIL TO REGISTER

The head of the Georgian Central Electoral Commission, Lia Sovdagari, told Caucasus Press on 8 March that another two candidates have been denied registration to contest the 9 April presidential poll. She said that David the Builder Party leader Roin Liparteliani and Unity of Georgian Nationalists leader Gaioz Mamaladze failed to submit the minimum 50,000 signatures supporting their candidacies. Nine candidates out of the original 12 remain in the race, including incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze and former Georgian Communist Party First Secretary Djumber Patiashvili. A spokesman for Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze said that Abashidze may withdraw his candidacy if the Georgian parliament fails to amend the election law to require that voters be marked with indelible ink after casting their ballots to prevent multiple voting. The parliamentary majority opposes that proposal. LF

STALIN'S GRANDSON TO BACK PROMINENT GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER

Yevgenii Djughashvili will join Patiashvili's campaign and tour Georgia calling on his own supporters to back Patiashvili, Caucasus Press reported on 9 March, citing "Dilis gazeti." The Central Electoral Commission barred Djughashvili from contesting the poll on the grounds that he is a Russian citizen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 29 February 2000). LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER UNDER PRESSURE

Amantay-Qaji Asylbek, leader of the Attan-Kazakhstan movement, has been summoned by the Almaty police for questioning after participating in an unsanctioned protest demonstration, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported on 9 March. On 29 February, Asylbek had joined pensioners who demonstrate on the last day of every month to demand that their pensions be paid on time. Asylbek was barred from contesting the January 1999 presidential election on the grounds that he had participated in such protests in 1998. LF

PARTICIPANTS IN KYRGYZ RUN-OFF POLL STILL UNCLEAR

As of 8 March, Kyrgyzstan's Central Electoral Commission had still not issued a list of candidates to contest the 12 March runoff elections in an estimated 82 single-mandate constituencies where no candidate won a clear majority in the 20 February poll, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 8 March, Ar-Namys Party representative Emil Aliyev told RFE/RL that he has written to the Central Electoral Commission and the OSCE monitoring mission to protest canvassing by the Kyrgyz authorities for Ar-Namys chairman Feliks Kulov's rival in the run-off poll in a Talas Oblast constituency. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH MATERIALS CONFISCATED IN UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek police on 7 March confiscated materials from a Human Rights Watch representative who was monitoring the trial at the Syrdarya district court of 12 men accused of membership in Muslim Hizb-ut-Takhrir. That peaceable organization is banned in Uzbekistan. LF




OSCE MISSION: BELARUS'S ELECTORAL CODE DOES NOT MEET DEMOCRATIC STANDARDS

The OSCE Consultative and Monitoring Group in Minsk has released its findings on Belarus's electoral code, which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed into law last month, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 March. The group concluded that the code does not meet international democratic standards. In particular, it said the code stipulates an undemocratic composition of the 12-strong Central Electoral Commission, whose members are appointed by the president (six) and the upper chamber (six). The group proposed last year that the commission include representatives of political parties. The group also noted that the code does not provide for any "public observers," thus undermining the possibility of independent international and domestic monitoring of the election process. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT GRUDGINGLY SIGNS 2000 BUDGET

Leonid Kuchma has signed the 2000 zero-deficit budget bill passed by the parliament last month, Interfax reported on 8 March. In a letter to the parliamentary speaker and the premier, Kuchma said he signed the document because it was the result of a compromise between the parliament and the government. But he noted that the budget "does not fully take into account the financial strategy" presented in his annual address to the parliament. According to Kuchma, the budget is "abnormal" because it provides for subsidies to all regions, excluding the city of Kyiv and Crimea. Moreover, the budget "does not provide the necessary preconditions to considerably reduce the tax burden" on the production sphere. Kuchma also expressed his concern over increased expenditures, compared with last year's budget. JM

ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO NATO INTEGRATION

Juri Luik, speaking at an RFE/RL press breakfast on 8 March, stressed Estonia's continued commitment to achieving NATO membership. Noting that Estonia will raise defense spending and bring the defense sphere into line with NATO standards, Luik said that increased funding will "not be just increases on paper, but reflect real allocations in real money." Luik also lauded Baltic cooperation in the defense sphere, calling the successful cooperation a demonstration of "our ability to work with and alongside others." MH

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT TO KEEP CURRENT PRIVATIZATION HEAD

The Latvian government on 8 March voted to retain the post of Janis Naglis as head of the Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA). Prime Minister Andris Skele said that since the privatization process is well advanced, it would not be prudent to change the person overseeing that process at this stage, BNS reported. Earlier, the government announced it will end the activities of the LPA on 1 January 2001. Edgars Jansons, who is the preferred candidate of Economics Minister Vladimirs Makarovs as LPA head, was rejected as a candidate earlier this week. MH

LITHUANIA FACES CONSCRIPTION PROBLEMS

A report on conscription in Lithuania last year shows that only about 20 percent of young men qualify for military service, ELTA reported on 8 March. Of the country's 97,000 men between 19 and 25, some 30,000 failed to meet health requirements. Another 24,000 were exempt, as they are registered as students, while 4,000 have a previous criminal record. About 6,000 young men are called up for military service each year in Lithuania. However, only 23 of the conscripts had a university education. MH

U.S. CONGRESS PAYS TRIBUTE TO LITHUANIA

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert hosted a gala on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania's independence. Guest of honor was Vytautas Landsbergis, the current chairman of the Lithuanian parliament and chairman of the Supreme Council, which promulgated the country's independence on 11 March 1990. During his visit to Washington, Landsbergis also discussed NATO enlargement with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who reportedly reaffirmed U.S. support for continual NATO enlargement and especially Lithuania's integration program, ELTA reported. MH

SOME POLISH FARMERS PREDICT RAPPROCHEMENT WITH CABINET...

The government and two farmers' unions, the Agricultural Circles and the Solidarity of Private Farmers, said after talks on 8 March that they are close to reaching agreement on some issues, PAP reported. According to a joint communique, the government will continue the intervention purchase of grain from farmers on last year's terms. The government will also buy 40,000 tons of pork in a bid to allow pig farmers to turn a profit. JM

...WHILE OTHERS THREATEN MORE PROTESTS

Meanwhile, Andrzej Lepper, leader of the radical Self-Defense farmers' union, has threatened more protests in response to the government's decision to exclude his organization from the talks. Lepper said he does not believe the talks will yield any positive results. "Nothing will change for farmers overnight. What is needed is radical action by the government and laws that regulate the market," he commented. He pledged that Self- Defense will stage roadblocks and pickets at the offices of parliamentary deputies and senators. Lepper organized roadblocks on 6 March, but the protests were smaller than expected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2000). JM

POLAND'S OPPOSITION SAYS COALITION SEEKING TO COMPROMISE PRESIDENT

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 8th March notified a prosecutor that Poland's secret services may be seeking to compromise President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish media reported. The SLD referred to former Sports Minister Jacek Debski's accusation that an official of the coalition Solidarity Electoral Action had sought to blackmail him to produce compromising files on Kwasniewski. The SLD deputies also cited an article in the latest issue of the "NIE" weekly suggesting that the State Protection Office (UOP) is looking for a Russian special service officer who is prepared to say that Kwasniewski kept contacts with Russian secret services. Both the UOP and the Military Intelligence Service denied that they are involved in any operations against Kwasniewski. JM

POLAND PROTESTS TO IRAQ OVER OPENING OF DIPLOMATIC MAIL

The Polish Foreign Ministry has protested the opening of Polish diplomatic mail by Iraqi border officials on the Jordanian- Iraqi frontier earlier this week, PAP reported. Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said the incident constitutes a "serious threat" to Polish-Iraqi relations. He added that the mail included routine correspondence between Warsaw and the ambassador and did not deal with U.S. interests, which the Polish embassy has represented since Washington withdrew its diplomats before the 1991 Gulf War, according to Reuters. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL BANNING EXPORTS TO IRANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT

The Chamber of Deputies on 8 March passed a bill banning the supply of equipment for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran, CTK and Reuters reported. The vote was 128 to 47. The Senate has yet to approve the bill, which sets a fine of up to 20 million crowns ($563,000) for those violating its provisions. The chamber rejected amendments that the ZVVZ Mielevsko company be compensated for the losses it will incur, but Reuters reported that one day earlier, Milos Zeman's cabinet voted to grant the company 92 million crowns in state credits for equity and to grant contracts worth 115 million crowns to supply air conditioning equipment to state-controlled companies. The company says the losses it will suffer as a result of the ban total 500 million crowns. MS

EU READY TO OPEN TALKS WITH SLOVAKIA ON EIGHT CHAPTERS

The EU Commission on 8 March said that it is ready to open negotiations with Slovakia on eight out of the 31 chapters of its aquis communautaire, CTK reported from Brussels. The union said the eight include education, science and research, foreign policy and security, economic cooperation, statistics, culture, and audio-visual policy. The Slovak ambassador to the EU, Juraj Migas, said the commission's recommendations correspond to his country's expectations, but added that Slovakia is ready to start talks on 15 chapters. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS TISO 'GLORIFICATION'

Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet has unanimously approved a resolution condemning the decision of the Zilina municipal council to unveil a plaque commemorating Nazi puppet state leader Jozef Tiso, CTK reported on 8 March. The government called on the council to revise its decision. Dzurinda said that the cabinet "considers Tiso's glorification incompatible with the values Slovakia adheres to." One day earlier, Zilina Mayor Jan Slota said the council might cancel the ceremony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2000). MS

SLOVAK ROMA WANT LANGUAGE LAW IMPLEMENTED

Romani Civic Initiative Chairman Gejza Adam told journalists in Kosice on 8 March that his organization is demanding that the law on the use of minority languages in contacts with the authorities apply in 57 localities where Roma make up more than 20 percent of the population. Adam said that implementing the law's provisions would create more than 20,000 new jobs for members of the minority as civil and local government servants as well as contribute to the increased participation of Roma in public affairs. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUGGESTS MEDIA LAW AMENDMENT

Janos Martonyi on 8 March called for amendments to the media law, noting that last year's EU Commission's report criticized the way media boards of trustees were elected in Hungary and that the criticism is likely to be repeated this year. Martonyi recalled the remarks of U.S. Ambassador Michael Lake, who told "Magyar Hirlap" on 7 March that the status of Hungary's public media can influence the country's accession to the EU. Martonyi added that disagreement among opposition parties over nominating joint representatives to the boards of trustees was not foreseen at the time the media law was drafted. MSZ




YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF SAYS ETHNIC ALBANIANS MASSING WEAPONS ON BORDER

General Nebojsa Pavkovic said on 8 March in Belgrade that ethnic Albanian "terrorists" are gathering weapons in Kosova on the border with southern Serbia, Reuters reported. Pavkovic said that "under KFOR protection" they are massing weapons and "building facilities for attacks and protection." He said the ethnic Albanians are working together with their supporters in the southern Serbian towns of Bujanovac, Presevo, and Medvedja. Deputy Serbian Premier Dragan Todorovic said the Serbian government expects an intensification of "terrorist activities" in the spring aimed at creating a "Greater Albania." PB

YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT CLOSES DOWN RADIO STATION

Yugoslav Telecommunications Ministry officials closed down the independent Boom 93 radio station on 8 March, Reuters reported. Boom 93's owner and editor, Milorad Tomic, said the officials arrived at the Pozarevac headquarters and told the staff it must stop broadcasting. Tomic was informed that the station's application for a frequency has been refused because Boom 93 "failed to satisfy the required demands." Pozarevac is the hometown of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Tomic said the closure is the latest in a series of events aimed at "silencing free media in Serbia." PB

NATO DENIES BELGRADE HAD SPY DURING AIR STRIKES

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said on 9 March that there is "absolutely no evidence" that Yugoslavia had a spy within NATO who passed on top secret details about the alliance's bombing raids, Reuters reported. Shea was commenting on a story in the previous day's edition of London's "The Guardian" that quoted unidentified high-level U.S. sources as saying a spy within NATO had provided Belgrade with details of targets and flight paths of NATO planes during last year's air strikes. It also quoted a senior NATO source as saying the alliance's supreme commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark was heard to comment, "I know I've got a spy, I want to find him." Shea said the fact that Yugoslav forces shot down only two NATO planes during the 78-day bombing campaign suggests the Serbs did not have a spy. PB

BRCKO DECLARED A NEUTRAL DISTRICT

The Bosnian town of Brcko was officially proclaimed a multiethnic district to be run jointly by Muslims, Serbs, and Croats while remaining under the sovereignty of the Bosnian state, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Brcko represents a "model solution" to the political problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The chairman of the Bosnian presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, said at a ceremony in Brcko that the town has become "a point that unites us...we cannot change history, but we can create a better future," Radio Bosnia-Herzegovina reported. Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik said the statute of Brcko "contains a lot of idealistic things which should be translated into reality." The final status of Brcko, which was predominantly populated by Muslims and Croats before the 1992-1995 war but was ethnically cleansed by Serbs, was the only territorial issue left unresolved by the Dayton peace agreement. PB

ALBRIGHT SAYS AID TO BOSNIAN CROATS TO BE TRANSPARENT

Secretary of State Albright Albright said in Sarajevo on 8 March that the U.S., Bosnia, and Croatia have agreed to make foreign military assistance to the Muslim-Croatian Federation's army more transparent, AFP reported. Albright said after meeting with Bosnia's tripartite presidency that all future requests for military aid to the federation will have to go through Bosnia's joint state military body. Albright and the members of the presidency also discussed the implementation of the Dayton accord. Bosnian President Izetbegovic said he was dissapointed by the poor state of the economy and the failure of refugees to return to their pre- war homes. PB

THOUSANDS IN BOSNIA, CROATIA PROTEST WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL SENTENCE

Thousands of Bosnian Croats on 8 March protested the decision by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague to sentence General Tihomir Blaskic to 45 years in prison, Reuters reported. Several thousand demonstrated in Blaskic's hometown of Kiseljak, about 30 kilometers west of Sarajevo, while thousands more--many of them war veterans--protested in Mostar. Meanwhile in Zagreb, a demonstration was held outside the U.S. embassy. Croatian President Stipe Mesic objected to the fact that the protest was held outside the embassy because, he said, the U.S. "has nothing to do with the sentence." PB

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS PROVOCATIONS WON'T BE TOLERATED

Lord Robertson said on 8 March in Brussels that NATO will not allow "extremists and troublemakers" to sow "division, separatism, and ethnic hatred" in Kosova, Reuters reported. He said KFOR will respond vigorously to any attacks on NATO- led troops, and he appealed to Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosova to "reject violence and hate-mongering." Momcilo Trajkovic, the chairman of the Serb Executive Council in Kosovo, said in Sofia after talks with Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov that "a solution (to the violence) can be found only through establishing the principles of democracy and multiethnic tolerance throughout Kosovo." He was accompanied on his trip by Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije. PB

CROATIAN PREMIER SAYS ACCUSED WAR CRIMINAL LIKELY TO BE TRIED AT HOME

Ivica Racan said on 8 March that Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic, indicted by war crimes tribunal in The Hague, will likely be tried for his crimes in Croatia, AP reported. Racan made that comment during a visit to Berlin. The previous government refused to send Natletilic to The Hague, citing his bad heart. UN doctors said last week that Naletilic was well enough to travel to Holland in order to stand trial. PB

CROATIA SAYS CHANGES TO BE MADE AT STATE TV

Croatian Deputy Premier Zeljka Antunovic said on 8 March that the government will "undertake some urgent changes at HRT," Croatian Radio reported. Antunovic said the HRT's "unwillingness to accept [political] changes are forcing us to take those steps, although it does not make us happy." The administration of HRT was closely linked to late President Franjo Tudjman. It's three television channels are the main source of information for most Croats. PB

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES WEST TO CONCENTRATE ON ALBANIAN, MACEDONIA

Paskal Milo said on 9 March that there can be no stability in southeastern Europe until Albania and Macedonia get "special support from the Stability Pact," AP reported. Paskal said Albania and Macedonia are the two countries outside Yugoslavia most affected by the Kosova crisis and therefore need more aid. Paskal was speaking after meeting with his Greek and Macedonian counterparts in the Macedonian resort town of Ohrid. Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksander Dimitrov said violence in Kosova and southern Serbia "represents a substantial threat to stability not only in Macedonia, but in the whole region." Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou was two hours late for the meeting after he refused to board a plane in Athens because the flight plan included the name Macedonia, and not the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. PB

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LINEUP OF 'SECURITATE COLLEGE'

The parliament on 8 March approved the lineup of the leadership of the National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives, which is to supervise access to personal secret police files and verify the accuracy of public officials' statements about their links with the Securitate. The vote was 248 to two. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), the Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Romanian National Unity boycotted the vote and said they will contest it in the Constitutional Court on grounds that the line-up contravenes legislation forbidding membership of people who were or are members of a political party. Those parties are opposed to the inclusion in the college lineup of Andrei Plesu and Mircea Dinescu, who were Communist party members but also dissidents. They also oppose Horia Roman Patapievici, whose press articles are very critical of those parties. MS

BULGARIA READY TO START EU TALKS ON EIGHT CHAPTERS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said on 8 March that Bulgaria is ready to start accession talks with the EU on eight out of the 31 chapters of the aquis communautaire, Reuters reported. Vlaikov said Sofia might be ready to open talks on another four chapters in May and on another five by the end of this year. He said the chapters Bulgaria is now ready to discuss are those on education, culture, science and research, foreign policy and security, small and medium-sized enterprises, statistics, foreign relations. and telecommunications. Also on 8 March, the EU announced that it will open talks with Sofia on just six chapters. MS


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