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Newsline - April 6, 2000




CHECHENS AMBUSH ANOTHER RUSSIAN CONVOY

Chechen fighters ambushed a convoy of Russian Interior Ministry troops on 5 April, killing one Russian and wounding eight more, AP and dpa reported. The column was on its way from the village of Mesker-Yurt, just east of Grozny, to the southern town of Oktyabrskoe when the Chechen attacked it with small arms fire and grenade-launchers. Also on 5 April, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's North Caucasus office told Interfax that he queries the Chechen claims to have executed nine Russian Interior Ministry servicemen captured in an ambush in Zhani-Vedeno on 29 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). LF

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER REPORTS ON CHECHEN TRIP...

Addressing the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on 5 April, Mary Robinson said that accounts she heard during her recent trip to the North Caucasus justify pressure on Russia to establish a national commission to probe the extent of and responsibility for human rights abuses in Chechnya, Reuters reported. Robinson stressed that the Chechens have equal rights with Russians, saying that "it would be a grave injustice to demonize a group of people because of crimes committed by some," according to AP. Russian Ambassador Vasilii Sidorov said some of Robinson's statements "distort the true state of affairs," but he pledged that Moscow is ready "to work together with all those with a sincere interest in resolving the problems" in Chechnya. LF

...AS MOSCOW EXPRESSES CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR INVESTIGATION

In Moscow, Russia's commissioner for human rights in Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, told Interfax that the Russian leadership generally supports Robinson's proposal for a national commission to investigate reported human rights abuses in Chechnya. But he added that the mandate of that commission should encompass not only recent developments but also "crimes against humanity committed in Chechnya under [presidents] Djokhar Dudaev and Aslan Maskhadov," including the plundering of the republic's economy and the attack launched by Chechen radicals on Daghestan in August 1999. Kalamanov argued that the most important aspect of human rights in Chechnya at present is to provide housing, food, and jobs for the population. LF

EVERY SECOND CONSCRIPT UNEDUCATED, INEXPERIENCED

According to data released by the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, nearly half of all conscripts called up last year had neither studied nor worked before entering the military. In Ingushetia, the corresponding figure was 96.1 percent and in Moscow, 10 percent. Only 3.7 percent of those drafted had a higher education. The same data showed that some 33 percent of all potential draftees are deemed unfit to serve for medical reasons, while half of those drafted have some kind of impairment to their health. Last fall, 38,000 people, or 18.6 percent, of those called up dodged the draft, compared with 19,600 in the same period in 1998. This spring, a total of 191,612 people are being called up, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 April. JC

NEW SPY SCANDAL IN MOSCOW

The Federal Security Service (FSB) on 5 April detained a U.S. citizen on charges of espionage. According to an FSB statement, the detainee, identified only as a businessman and former intelligence officer, had "intentionally developed contacts with Russian scientists in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and other [Russian] cities...with the goal of gathering state secrets of Russia." Also arrested was a Russian defense expert suspected of divulging state secrets. Late last year, Russia expelled U.S. diplomat Cheri Leberknight on charges of spying, whereupon Washington declared persona non grata a Russian envoy accused of gathering information by means of a listening device planted in the State Department. More recently, Moscow detained a Russian citizen accused of spying for Britain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1999 and 16 March 2000). JC

MATVIENKO PULLS OUT OF ST. PETE BALLOT

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told her supporters in St. Petersburg on 5 April that she has decided not to run for the governor's seat in that city. That statement came one day after President-elect Putin had asked her to withdraw from the race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2000). Putin, for his part, told journalists in Murmansk that he considers Matvienko "one of the best deputy prime ministers for social affairs we have had for years" and that is why he wants her to take part in the formation of the next government. On his way to Murmansk, where he met with members of the Northern Fleet, Putin stopped over in St. Petersburg and reportedly held talks there with Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Sources close to Putin had ascribed the stopover to poor weather conditions, but independent NTV, among others, suggested the real reason was political rather than meteorological. JC

NONE OF THE ABOVE FINISHES SIXTH...

The Central Election Commission issued the final results for the 26 March presidential elections on 5 April. Differences in the figures announced the day after the election were only slight, with President-elect Putin gaining 0.3 percent of the vote and Communist Party Gennadii Zyuganov losing 0.13 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). The final tally for the bottom seven candidates in the field of 11 is Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii 2.70 percent, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov 1.47 percent, Movement for Civil Dignity head Ella Pamfilova 1.01 percent, film director Stanislav Govorukhin 0.44 percent, suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov 0.43 percent, Spiritual Heritage head Aleksei Podberezkin 0.13 percent, and Moscow businessman Umar Dzhabrailov 0.10 percent. The percentage of voters who voted against all candidates was 1.88 percent. JAC

...AS ELECTION COMMISSION WANTS ITS MONEY BACK

Candidates who did not collect 3 percent of the vote will have to repay the money that the Central Election Commission allocated to them for their campaigns. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 April, the candidates have just 30 days to comply with this rule. However, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 4 April that 12 of the coalitions or organizations that failed to poll more than 2 percent of the vote in the State Duma elections on 19 December have not yet returned their funds to the commission. The daily reported that one organization, the Russian Conservative Movement, appeared to "mock" the commission by transferring only 50 rubles ($1.70) to the election commission's bank account, while it owes 220,000 rubles. JAC

YELTSIN GOES ON PENSION

In front of national television cameras on 5 April, Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov handed former President Boris Yeltsin his pension book allowing him to draw out his 11,250 rubles ($339) per month pension. Yeltsin said that even in his capacity as a pensioner, he will continue to serve Russia as much as his strength allows. Rather than receiving an official pension, Yeltsin is getting 75 percent of his presidential salary, according to the decree signed on 31 December by then acting President Putin. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 6 April, Duma Legislation Committee Chairman (Union of Rightist Forces) Pavel Krasheninnikov disclosed that he will submit an amendment to the law on the formation of the Federation Council that will make Russia's former presidents automatically members of that body. Krasheninnikov is a former justice minister in Yeltsin's government. JAC

INFLATION CONTINUES TO DROP

Inflation in March slid to 0.6 percent, compared with 1.0 percent the previous month and 2.3 percent in January, according to the State Statistics Committee on 6 April. During the first quarter, consumer prices rose 4.1 percent, compared with a 16 percent increase during the first quarter of 1999. Services registered the biggest increase, rising by 8 percent in the first quarter, while food prices increased only by 2.7 percent. JAC

GOVERNMENT CLAIMS TAX COLLECTION PROCEEDING WELL

Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok told reporters on 5 April that his ministry collected 127 billion rubles ($4.4 billion) or 44 percent more in tax revenues in the first quarter than had been forecast. He also said that the amount of taxes paid in cash--47 billion rubles or 37 percent--is increasing. Customs duty collections of 74 billion rubles also exceeded the first-quarter target of 66 billion rubles. Gazprom paid 8 billion rubles in taxes in the first three months of this year. JAC

U.S.-FUNDED CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION LAB OPENS IN MOSCOW

U.S. and Russian officials opened in Moscow on 5 April a laboratory to help Russia in the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles. Reuters put the cost of the laboratory at $18.5 million. Zinovy Pak, the head of Russia's Munitions Agency, noted that while Moscow will not meet the deadline of destroying 400 tons of weapons by the end of this month, it will "do everything" to meet the second deadline of disposing of 8,000 tons by 29 April 2002. JC

DUMA REJECTS SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA

State Duma deputies rejected a bill that would have imposed economic sanctions against Latvia for its policies discriminating against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Yevgenii Primakov noted that the bill was drafted two years ago and requires amendments to address changes in the situation. He added that the rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia are still being violated and that deputies "are indignant about what is being done to their compatriots." The bill has been returned for a second reading, Interfax reported. Deputies also rejected a bill that would have provided humanitarian assistance to Russian citizens and ethnic Russians living in Latvia. JAC

RUSSIA'S PARLIAMENT TO HOLD ITS OWN BONY HEARINGS

The State Duma will hold hearings on the Bank of New York scandal on 25 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 April. Banking Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Aleksandr Shokhin said that the hearings will be attended by a delegation of U.S. congressmen, including U.S. House of Representatives Banking Committee Chairman (Republican) Jim Leach. According to the agency, representatives from the FBI, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the Treasury Department are also invited. Shokhin explained that Russian legislators "are not interested in the criminal side of the scandal" but want to discuss the more fundamental problems of capital flight, money-laundering regulations, and the protection of investors' rights. JAC

DOCTORS POINT TO URGENT PROBLEM WITH PREMATURE BABIES...

Members of the Russian Association of Perinatal Medical Specialists held a press conference on 5 April at which they made an urgent appeal for purchasing equipment for Russian hospitals to assist in the care of premature babies, Interfax reported. According to the specialists, the infant death rate in Russia is 1.5-2 times higher than that of economically developed countries, while the death rate of premature babies is even higher. More than 70 percent of premature babies die during their first week of life and about 50 percent during their first year, according to the agency. The total number of births in Russia has decreased by 3.2 million in the last five years. JAC

...AS ARTICLE CALLS FOR PROGRAM TO BOOST NUMBER OF RUSSIANS

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day, Professor and former Mayor of Moscow Gavriil Popov argued that the Russia's chief challenge in this century is to raise the number of Russians by two to three times. He told his potential critics that while there may be little money for such a program now, there will be even less if there are fewer Russians. JAC

BANKS CONTINUE SLOW RECOVERY

Sberbank, Russia's largest commercial bank, posted a net profit of 8.2 billion rubles ($285 million) last year, a 24 percent increase from the previous year, Interfax reported on 5 April. Last month, a Central Bank official told delegates to a conference in London that while the real level of assets and banking obligations in the Russian banking system is only 60 percent of what it had been before August 1998, the systems' combined capital could reach its pre-crisis level by the end of 2000. JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S BODYGUARD COMMITS MANSLAUGHTER

Arbak Babasian, a relative of parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian and head of his bodyguard service, shot and killed a man during an argument on the street in Yerevan during the night of 4-5 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Babasian was subsequently detained by police. Khachatrian left Armenia on the evening of 4 April for an official trip to Australia. Since his appointment five months ago, he has been repeatedly criticized for incompetence and inappropriate behavior (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 14, 6 April 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SIGN FURTHER MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Azerbaijani Deputy Defense Minister Colonel Mamed Beydullaev and Colonel General Baha Tuzuner, who is commander of the Turkish ground forces, signed a protocol in Baku on 5 April on training military personnel, Interfax and Turan reported. LF

ARMENIAN MINORITY CALLS ON GEORGIA TO ACKNOWLEDGE 1915 GENOCIDE

Some 200 representatives of the majority ethnic Armenian population of Samtskhe-Djavakheti in southern Georgia held a protest demonstration in the regional center of Akhalkalaki during Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's election campaign visit there on 4 April, Caucasus Press reported on 5 April, citing "Rezonansi." The protesters called upon the Georgian leadership to acknowledge as genocide the killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. They also demanded measures to improve social and economic conditions in the region (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). LF

ADJAR LEADER TO QUIT GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE?

Georgian state television reported on 5 April that Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Adjar Autonomous Republic, will announce on 6 April his decision to withdraw his candidacy in the 9 April Georgian presidential poll, according to Caucasus Press. Abashidze had held talks on 5 April in Batumi with Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, whom former Batumi Mayor Tamaz Kharazi had accused in 1997 of plotting to oust Abashidze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). Shevardnadze is scheduled to travel to Batumi on 6 April, where he will meet with Abashidze. LF

WORKERS MOVEMENT LEADER ARRESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Workers Movement leader Madel Ismailov was arrested in Almaty on 6 April and will be charged with participating in the unsanctioned pensioners' protest in that city on 30 March, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Meanwhile Irina Savostina, who heads the Pokolenie movement to defend pensioners' rights, told RFE/RL that she intends to request political asylum in the Russian Federation because of the increasing oppression of opposition activists by the Kazakh authorities. LF

KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES CRACKDOWN ON CUT-PRICE OIL SALES

Kazakhstan's Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev said on 4 April that the ongoing investigation into the sale of oil below world prices is encountering fierce resistance from oil companies, Reuters reported. Losses to the state budget from such sales in the past are estimated at several hundred million dollars. Toqaev had announced in February the creation of a commission, which he chairs, to investigate such abuses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 2000). LF

KAZAKHSTAN DRAFTS PROGRAM TO CUT UNEMPLOYMENT

Kazakhstan's government plans to finalize within 10 days measures to reduce poverty and unemployment, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 April. Prime Minister Toqaev told a cabinet session the previous day that it is planned to reduce unemployment by 21 percent by the end of 2002, from 13.5 percent to 9 percent of the able-bodied population. First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov had said earlier that priority will be given to ensuring that at least one member of every household has a job, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 April. Toqaev also said that the percentage of budget spending on unemployment and other social benefits will be raised from 0.8 percent to 1 percent. He said that the government must not incur any arrears in such payments. LF

COURT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER RESUMED, SUSPENDED

A Bishkek district court on 5 April opened proceedings against opposition El (Bei Bechara) chairman Daniyar Usenov for assaulting a businessman at Bishkek airport in 1996, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. That case had been closed last fall after the businessman withdrew his suit against Usenov but was reopened in February 2000. The 5 April court proceedings were suspended after 30 minutes when Usenov rejected the defense lawyer proposed by the court and was arrested on charges of obstructing the course of justice. He was released on 6 April, however, reportedly on instructions from Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin had called on 5 April for Usenov's immediate release. LF

KYRGYZ PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE GUILD FORMED

Meeting in Bishkek on 5 April, Kyrgyz human rights activists formed the Guild of Prisoners of Conscience of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Oppositionist Topchubek Turgunaliev, who has been designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was chosen to head the guild's Coordinating Council. LF

TAJIK, BELARUS PRESIDENTS SIGN FRIENDSHIP, COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Imomali Rakhmonov and Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a friendship and cooperation agreement in Dushanbe on 5 April, together with other accords intended to create a legal basis for expanded cooperation in the spheres of the economy, science, technology, transport, and communications, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov accepted an invitation to visit Belarus next month. The two presidents had met for one hour the previous day to discuss bilateral relations. Also on 5 April, the two countries' defense ministers, Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev and Aleksandr Chumakov, met to discuss military cooperation both within the CIS Collective Security Treaty and on a bilateral basis. Belarus is currently training Tajik air force specialists in the use of air defense weapons. LF




NGO LISTS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS DURING 25 MARCH CRACKDOWN IN MINSK

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee said on 5 April that the Belarusian authorities' crackdown on the opposition rally in Minsk on 25 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2000) violated a number of human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a signatory, Belapan reported. In particular, the authorities denied citizens the right to hold demonstrations, unnecessarily brought in troops and armored vehicles into the capital, and resorted to random arrests and beatings of demonstrators and journalists. The committee also said that police officers fabricated testimonies "on a mass scale" at the trials of those arrested. Committee chairwoman Tatsyana Protska told RFE/RL that under such circumstances the dialogue proposed by the authorities is a "cynical and unprincipled phenomenon." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

The parliament voted on 6 April by 261 to 103 to approve Premier Viktor Yushchenko's ambitious program for 2000-2004, AP reported. The program foresees GDP growth of up to 2 percent in 2000 and up to 6.5 percent annually from 2002-2004. It also provides for the creation of 1 million new jobs, a decrease in annual inflation from the 19 percent expected in 2000 to 7 percent from 2002-2004, and growth in the population's real income of up to 9 percent in 2004. "Today we are not talking of the program's faults or virtues but of voicing political support for the cabinet," Yushchenko told the parliament before the vote. JM

U.S. URGES REFORM IN UKRAINE...

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan Larson said on 5 April that relations with Ukraine are a priority in U.S. foreign policy, while noting that Washington wants Kyiv to speed up market reforms, Reuters reported. Larson said the U.S. expects Premier Yushchenko's government to press ahead with cash privatization, including sell-offs of electricity distribution companies. Larson welcomed Ukraine's commitment to promote land reform, which, he said, would eventually provide for the free purchase and sale of land. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit Ukraine on 20-21 April. JM

...AS DOES WORLD BANK

Luca Barbone, the World Bank's director for Ukraine and Belarus, said in Kyiv on 5 April that the bank will change its strategy in Ukraine and demand reform before granting loans. "We strongly support the efforts of Yushchenko's government in many areas, but our level of financial support will depend on the successful implementation of the government program," the "Eastern Economist Daily" quoted Barbone as saying. Barbone noted that the bank will look for signs of the program's success in improvements of the population's living standards and the development of business activities. Part of the World Bank's new strategy will be to increase its presence in education, health, and social assistance. JM

POLAND, LITHUANIA HAPPY WITH BILATERAL TIES

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his visiting Lithuanian counterpart, Valdas Adamkus, have expressed satisfaction with Polish-Lithuanian relations, PAP reported on 4 April. "[Our relations] are not only good but possibly the best ever in history," Adamkus noted in Warsaw during his three-day official trip. Kwasniewski agreed but added that both states also face much-publicized, though minor problems. One of those problems is Lithuania's education reform, which, according to the 260,000-strong Polish minority, is threatening that minority's schools in Lithuania. Both presidents signed accords on combating terrorism and on mutual assistance in natural disasters and emergencies. Adamkus thanked Poland for its support for Lithuania's NATO bid, saying that Vilnius could not lose that bid as long as it has "such an advocate [as Poland]." On 5 April in Krakow, Adamkus encouraged Polish businessmen to invest in Lithuania. Last year's Polish-Lithuanian trade turnover reached $600 million. JM

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTS ON RACISM IN CZECH REPUBLIC

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International reports that Roma continue to be at risk of racist attacks in the Czech Republic and that law enforcement authorities do not provide them with appropriate protection, CTK reported on 5 April. In its report on the human rights situation in the Czech Republic during the second half of 1999, the organization noted that Czech police often do not intervene to protect Romany citizens from violent attacks and that the courts have a tendency to give the attackers light sentences. The Council of Europe also recently criticized racism in the Czech Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000). VG

CZECH COURT SCRAPS PARLIAMENT'S RIGHT TO OVERRULE MUNICIPALITIES

The Czech Constitutional Court on 5 April threw out a legal provision that enables the lower house of the parliament to overrule decisions of city councils, Czech media reported. The city councils of Usti nad Labem and Nestemice had launched the appeal in connection with a decision last year by the Chamber of Deputies to overrule the local councils' approval of the construction of a wall to separate ethnic Czech from Romany residents on Maticni Street. The ruling will not have any effect on the subsequent decision to tear down the wall. VG

WORKERS DEMONSTRATE IN NORTH OF CZECH REPUBLIC

More than 7,000 workers from the Nova Hut steel plant demonstrated outside the company's headquarters on 5 April to demand that the management and the state act quickly to resolve the plant's financial problems, Czech media reported. Union members from other cash-strapped industrial companies in the Ostrava region, which has an unemployment rate of more than 16 percent, also attended the demonstration. VG

SLOVAK PRESIDENT 'PROUD' OF HIS COMMUNIST PAST

Rudolf Schuster met on 5 April with representatives of the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS), which does not have any seats in the parliament, TASR reported. The KSS representatives, who said they hope the meeting will contribute to their party's wider acceptance in Slovakia, gave Schuster a bottle of "Stalin's Tears" vodka. After the meeting, Schuster said: "I am proud of what I did under the former regime." During the communist era, Schuster served as mayor of Kosice and a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee. He denied that the meeting dealt with a potential presidential pardon for former communist functionary Vasil Bilak, who has been charged with treason in connection with the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. VG

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES POLICE IN SLOVAKIA

Amnesty International released a report on 5 April expressing concern at raids conducted by Slovak police against Romany citizens, CTK reported. The report documents instances in which the police have entered Romany homes without warrants, damaged their property, and insulted, physically abused, and even tortured Roma. The organization called on Slovakia to launch investigations into various incidents of police aggression against Romany citizens. VG

HUNGARY ENDORSES CHECHEN WAR

"Chechnya is part of Russia and all states have the right to take whatever action is necessary against all forms of terrorism," Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told Hungarian media on 5 April. However, the excessive use of military force against the civilian population is not desirable, he noted. In other news, a recently released 1999 NATO report on the Hungarian army warns that a significant part of the army's technology is obsolete, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 6 April. According to the report, if Hungarian units are unable to meet the alliance's expectations, they may harm NATO's credibility. MSZ




FRENCH LEADERS DETERMINED TO ARREST KARADZIC

French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris on 5 April that top war criminals should be arrested in Bosnia, adding that "justice must be done." Defense Minister Alain Richard told a cabinet meeting that "France believes that arresting [former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic is a major goal and remains an objective to which it is determined to contribute," Reuters reported. Richard also noted that French peacekeepers are participating in the arrest of war criminals "at least as much as the British and Americans." French troops led the operation on 3 April to arrest Karadzic's former deputy, Momcilo Krajisnik (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 April 2000). PM

KARADZIC'S WIFE APPEARS AT RALLY

Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic attended a rally of her husband's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Pale on 6 April. AP reported that it was her first appearance "in years at such a large public gathering." Supporters chanted her husband's nickname, "Rasko." She told reporters that her family fears for her husband's arrest but added, "We have confidence in God and we pray." She lamented the arrest of Krajisnik, adding that "a man who signed the Dayton Peace Agreement [in 1995] together with [U.S. President Bill] Clinton was arrested in the way they arrest Mafiosi. But the Americans can only do it that way. We, however, are decent people and will wait for the [8 April local] elections. The results will show our victory," Zelen- Karadzic added. PM

BELGRADE WANTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED

Acting in the name of the federal government, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic sent an appeal from Belgrade to the UN Security Council demanding that the UN abolish the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Jovanovic stressed that the tribunal has "no legal basis" and that its sole purpose is to conduct "genocide against the Serbian people." In related news, Krajisnik telephoned his brother Mirko in Pale from The Hague to arrange the hiring of defense lawyers. Momcilo told Mirko that he does not want to deal with any papers from the tribunal without a lawyer, "Danas" reported on 6 April. PM

MORE INCIDENTS AGAINST ALBANIANS IN SERBIA

An unknown sniper shot and killed Ismet Aliu in the Dobrosin area of southwestern Serbia's Presevo Valley on 4 April, AP reported two days later. A NATO spokesman in Prishtina gave no details of the incident, but "Koha Ditore" reported that Aliu was "on patrol" when he was shot. The Dobrosin area is part of a demilitarized zone in which ethnic Albanian guerrillas are active. In another incident, police "abducted" and briefly detained Fahri Musliu, who is an ethnic Albanian correspondent for Voice of America, in Belgrade on 6 April. Sonja Biserko, who heads the Serbian Helsinki Committee, said that he had recently received threatening telephone calls and that several unidentified men had tried to enter his flat the night before he was abducted. This is the first recent case in Serbia of an abduction of a journalist working for a foreign broadcaster, AP added. PM

FATHER SAVA WARNS CRITICS

Father Sava, who is a spokesman for Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije and a leader of Kosova Serbs opposed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said at Gracanica monastery on 5 April that pro- Milosevic Serbs have a right to visit the monastery and make their political views known. He warned them, however, that they must behave appropriately when visiting a monastery and not swear or smoke there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Sava spoke after some 100 pro-Milosevic Serbs staged a protest at Gracanica against Sava's and Artemije's recent decision to participate in the UN's provisional advisory council in Kosova as observers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2000). Elsewhere, Sava appealed to the Serbian diaspora to act responsibly in their support of political causes in the former Yugoslavia. He said that it is all too easy to engage in militant rhetoric if one is sitting "in a comfortable chair" in Western Europe far from the harsh realities of Kosova, Bosnia, or Krajina, "Vesti" reported on 6 April. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION REMAINS HAMSTRUNG

Leaders of the factious Serbian opposition have still not agreed among themselves who will speak and in which order at the mass protest meeting slated for 14 April in Belgrade, "Vesti" reported on 6 April. Such seemingly petty questions of precedence and status have for years prevented the opposition leaders from sinking their differences and working together to oust Milosevic. PM

SESELJ SUPPORTERS OUST PRIVATE MEDIA FROM LEGISLATURE

Officials of the Serbian parliament ordered out of a session of the Culture and Information Committee an unspecified number of reporters from the dailies "Danas," "Glas javnosti," and "Blic" at the request of deputies from Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party. The ban on 5 April also affected reporters from the Beta and Fonet news agencies and Studio B television, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRO WILL NOT BE PROVOKED

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Brussels on 5 April that "we are conscious that time is on our side...and that's why we are trying very hard to avoid all the pitfalls that the Belgrade regime has created for us. We are confident that any escalation would play into their hands and would be to our detriment. I'm confident that we'll succeed." Djukanovic stressed that Montenegro's government is "trying to be a responsible government, which will not make nervous moves or provoke instability," Reuters reported. PM

MACEDONIA WANTS KFOR TO BETTER CONTROL BORDER

President Boris Trajkovski's office sent a statement to KFOR commander General Klaus Reinhardt on 5 April calling on peacekeepers to better control the Kosova-Macedonian border and prevent incidents. The move came several days after unidentified persons briefly detained four Macedonian soldiers after they strayed into Kosova on 2 April, Reuters reported. In Prishtina, Reinhardt said that he "will not allow [Kosova] to become a safe haven for bandits and criminals." The men who detained the soldiers demanded the release of Xhavit Hasani, a Macedonian-born Albanian whom many Kosovars regard as a hero of the 1999 conflict. The UN authorities in Kosova recently deported Hasani to Macedonia, where he is wanted for murder. The four Macedonian soldiers were freed on 3 April after Hasani was let out of prison on $100,000 bail and allowed to return to Kosova, AP reported. PM

DEL PONTE PRAISES CROATIAN GOVERNMENT

Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based tribunal, said in Zagreb that she is "very happy" about the new government's cooperative attitude toward the tribunal. She said that she "got a lot of documents" during her visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). She refused to provide any details of possible sealed indictments of high-ranking Croatian officials. Del Ponte added, however, that she spoke to Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic about an unspecified number of sealed indictments and that he knows the names of those indicted, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

CROATIAN PARTIES AGREE ON APPONTMENTS

Leaders of the six governing parties agreed in Zagreb on 5 April to soon make appointments to leading government agencies, in which each party will have a prescribed percentage of top jobs. The agencies involved deal with military affairs, privatization, the police, the railways, the posts and telecommunications, and the state insurance firm, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA

During a three-day visit to Romania, Robert Kocharian met with his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, on 5 April to discuss bilateral economic relations, collaboration within the framework of the TRACECA and INOGATE projects, and Romanian support for Armenia's quest to join the Council of Europe. They also touched on the role Romania might play in seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when it takes over the OSCE rotating chairmanship in 2001. The two presidents agreed that Romanian free zones can serve as transit-bases for Armenian exports to Europe. Robert Nazarian and Traian Basescu, who head the joint inter- governmental commission, signed two agreements on agricultural cooperation, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY

Petre Roman met with his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, on 5 April to discuss ways to improve economic cooperation as well as Romania's bid to join the EU, the Balkan Stability Pact, and the blockage of shipping on the River Danube since the NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. The two ministers also discussed German aid to Romania to deal with environmental problems, an RFE/RL correspondent in Berlin reported. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES ROLE IN 'HOT LINE' TALKS WITH KREMLIN

Alliance for Romania (APR) Chairman Teodor Melescanu, who was foreign minister in Nicolae Vacaroiu's cabinet, has denied reports that he played any role in the talks with Russia on establishing a "hot line" between Bucharest and Moscow. Melescanu, who is the APR candidate in the 2000 presidential contest, said the fact that presidential counselor Constantin Degeratu revealed on the eve of the election campaign that such discussions had taken place proves that Constantinescu is attempting to manipulate the electorate and "inflate" the scandal. Melescanu also backed the Party of Social Democracy in Romania's demand that a parliamentary investigative commission be set up to find out how secret documents were leaked from the Foreign Ministry to Constantinescu and were used by him in his 1996 presidential campaign, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 5 April. MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN DIES

Sorin Moisescu died of a heart attack on 6 April at the age of 61, AP reported. During the 1990s, Moisescu held several top legal positions, including that of prosecutor-general. He was appointed to head the Supreme Court in June 1998. VG

MOLDOVAN CABINET APPROVES PRIVATIZATION BILLS

The Moldovan government on 5 April approved plans for the privatization of the wine and tobacco industries, BASA-Press and Flux reported. The plans call for the sale of 51 percent of shares in the wine and tobacco companies. The state is to retain a 34 percent stake in each company and 15 percent will be sold to each company's employees at a nominal price. The IMF has set the privatization of these two industries as a pre- condition for granting credits to Moldova. VG

BULGARIA TO RECEIVE AID FROM GERMANY

Germany will provide Bulgaria with DM 30.3 million ($14.9 million) to support economic reforms, BTA reported. Bulgarian Deputy Economy Minister Hristo Mikhaylovski was in Germany on 4 April to sign a protocol on that assistance. In other news, the Irish- American company Cable Bulgaria will invest $200 million over three years in the development of a national cable television and Internet service in the Balkan country, AP reported. Cable Bulgaria is owned by Ireland's Ganley Group and Catamount Partners L.P., a U.S. investment fund controlled by the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. VG




POLAND RECEIVES MIXED SIGNALS OVER EU ENTRY


By Breffni O'Rourke

By virtue of its spectacular progress in economic reform and its enthusiastic desire to join Western structures, Poland has always been regarded as a leading candidate for quick entry into the EU.

Already a member of the NATO alliance, Poland has set its own target date of January 2003 for accession to the EU. It is one of five Central and East European "front-runners" that have been negotiating with Brussels for the past two years. (The others are Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia.)

For its part, the EU's Executive Commission has always declined to set an entry date for any of the candidates, although it maintained a generally encouraging tone. But there have recently been confusing signals about the position of Poland.

Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, said in an interview with "Uniting Europe" last week that Poland is not "predetermined" to be in the first wave of accession. Theoretically seen, he said, "Poland could even be the last of all to join."

In diplomatic circles where words are weighed, such a formulation is striking. It follows Verheugen's comments the month before in Warsaw when he said Poland could miss the 2003 deadline, as it had fallen behind in developing its legislative program. Also in Warsaw, Ricardo Levi, the spokesman for Commission President Romano Prodi, mused aloud about the possibility of a first-wave entry without Poland.

Verheugen has since made an effort to backtrack, in an evident attempt to smooth ruffled feathers. In an interview with the "Financial Times" on 4 April, he said it is his personal objective to ensure that Poland is among the first new members. He said there is no change in the commission's strategy and no one need be nervous. The enlargement process is "irreversible," he commented.

So why the sudden swing in tone? Poland's Ambassador to the EU Jan Truszczynski told RFE/RL that there is "no reason to believe that Poland has ceased to be one of the leaders in the league of candidates." He admitted that there are delays of "several months," in legislation in some important areas, including telecommunications but stressed that work is now being speeded up.

The ambassador, like other Polish officials, says it is "unthinkable" that Poland should be left out of the first wave. So what has caused EU officials to think the unthinkable? The most likely answer is agriculture. EU member states have not yet been able to decide how--or even whether- -the terms of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can be extended to Eastern candidates.

The CAP is an extremely expensive instrument of financial support for EU farmers. It consumes half the entire EU budget and is deeply unpopular in international trade circles, where it is seen as posing unfair trade competition.



Extending the system to Poland's 2 million farms, most of them smallholdings worked at subsistence level, would probably bring the CAP to the point of collapse. Moreover, present member states would revolt at having to pay so much for Poland.

Verheugen foreshadowed the difficulties when he said last month that member states will not be able to formulate a full, common negotiating position on agriculture until at least the end of this year, despite the fact that negotiations with Poland and the other front runners are set to open this June.

Verheugen has moved to put the ball in Warsaw's court, by saying the Polish government will have to come up with a clear concept on restructuring its agriculture. But as Ambassador Truszczynski says, the EU, too, must do its part. He says Brussels is reluctant to get down to the hard talking: "They have to start proposing the solutions they have been signaling for quite some time already. We have to start discussing substance, this substance has not yet been the subject of discussion, the member states preferring until now to ask additional questions, to demand additional explanations from all the candidates." One possible solution in Poland's case would be to consider most of the farms not to be farms at all in terms of the CAP. Fewer than half a million farms in Poland are considered commercially viable. These could be subsidized under the CAP, while the other 1.5 million properties, which are often not much more than family plots, could be helped under other EU funds, for instance for social development in rural areas.

What now appears clear, for Poland and for the other candidates, is that the agriculture issue is one with a potential to upset previous perceptions about who is leading in the EU accession stakes. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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