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Newsline - April 11, 2000




START-II SLATED FOR PASSAGE

State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said on 10 April that the Duma Committees for International Affairs and Defense will call on deputies to consider ratification of the START-II treaty on 14 April. Earlier on 10 April, the International Affairs Committee voted 11-7 in favor of ratification of the treaty. According to Interfax, observers believe that the treaty will attract more than the 226 votes needed to pass. Fatherland-All Russia faction leader Yevgenii Primakov supports the treaty, and his faction is expected to cast all of its 47 votes in favor. Unity, People's Deputy, Yabloko, Union of Rightist Forces, and most of the Russian Regions faction are also expected to support the treaty, while the Communists and Agro-Industrial Group will likely vote to reject it. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that his faction, which has 17 members, will vote against the treaty, but his group often changes its position just before voting. JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF HINTS AT RUSSIA'S OWN MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM

ITAR-TASS quoted Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov as saying that a 10 April meeting of the council discussed START- II as part of a "package" including a possible "non-strategic missile defense system." Such a system, according to Ivanov, would be used to defend against attacks by non-nuclear states that could develop nuclear weapons "in the foreseeable future." Ivanov stressed that this proposal is "not related" to the discussions on the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile treaty. The U.S. has proposed changes to that treaty to allow it to install a limited national defense system, but Russia has repeatedly opposed amending the document. Echoing Moscow's position, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a meeting of Western businessmen in Moscow on 10 April that the climate in which economic cooperation between Russia and the U.S. develops depends "to a large extent on the long-term resolution of issues related to strategic stability." JC

WAS GERMAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN CHECHNYA?

The Russian Federal Security Service has neither confirmed nor denied reports that Western secret services supplied Russia with information about suspected Chechen "terrorists" following the bomb attacks on Russian cities last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2000), according to "The Moscow Times" on 11 April. It also refused to comment on reports that the head of Germany's foreign intelligence agency (BND), August Hanning, was in Gudermes last month. According to dpa, citing German government sources, Hanning had wanted to see for himself the situation in Chechnya, while "Der Spiegel" reported that he offered Russian security services information about Islamic groups outside Russia that might have links to the Chechens. JC

PUTIN CALLS FOR PENSION HIKE...

President-elect Vladimir Putin has asked the Pension Fund to prepare a plan for raising pensions, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 April. First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said it will be necessary to complete calculations before announcing by how much pensions will be raised. However, "Segodnya" reported on 11 April that Putin had promised in May to increase average pensions by up to 1,000 rubles ($35) a month by raising the special coefficient according to which pensions are calculated. Under the current plan, the daily added, the coefficient would be 0.8, meaning that the majority of pensioners would see their monthly pension check increase by 100 rubles. According to "Vremya MN" on 8 April, the average pension is 650 rubles a month. The same day, "Segodnya" reported that State Duma deputies voted on 7 April to approve an amendment to the 2000 budget that would increase the minimum monthly wage by more than 100 percent in three stages. JAC

...AS DUMA VOTES FOR WAGE INCREASE

Under the bill, the minimum monthly wage would be 132 rubles ($4.6) from 1 June, 280 rubles from 1 October, and 300 rubles from 1 January 2001. However, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin called the legislation completely unrealistic because the federal treasury cannot afford such an expenditure. According to "Segodnya," the bill will be approved by the Federation Council so that Putin will have to veto it in order for it not to become law. Meanwhile, Duma deputies also voted on 7 April to reject in its first reading a bill proposed by the government that would have suspended implementation of several acts of legislation not funded by the 2000 budget. According to Interfax AFI, many deputies expressed the opinion that the bill would deprive the majority of the poor of their social benefits. JAC

CABINET MINISTERS TOLD TO RESOLVE BATTLE BETWEEN ENERGY MONOPOLIES

First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 10 April that President-elect Putin has ordered Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko and Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii to resolve the problems between Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2000). "Vedomosti" reported the next day that the potential shortage of electricity could begin to affect enterprises in the Republic of Tatarstan as well as Nizhnii Novgorod and Volgograd Oblasts in the near future. In St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg, tram and metro services have already been halted. That newspaper concludes that the crisis came about in part because of a misguided government policy that has not reformed the tariff systems for electricity and gas. JAC

INTERNATIONAL CREDIT RATING AGENCY LIKES PUTIN VICTORY

Moody's Investors Service has raised its ratings for Russia's foreign- currency bonds and bank deposits from stable to positive, Interfax reported on 10 April,. The rating also applies to certain types of Eurobonds and ruble-denominated bonds of the Russian Federation. According to the agency, Moody's analysts believe that the outcome of the 26 March presidential elections has enhanced political stability in Russia. They also predict that Russia's major economic indicators for 2000 and 2001 will show considerable improvement. JAC

SHOIGU GETS NEW POSITION

President-elect Putin signed a decree on 4 April appointing Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shoigu secretary of the Migration Policy Committee, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 April. Federal Migration Service head Sergei Khetagurov was appointed Shoigu's deputy. Representatives of the Transportation Ministry and Finance Ministry as well as other federal entities were also included on the staff of the committee. JAC

FATHERLAND LOSSES TALLIED

State Duma deputy and member of Fatherland's Political Council Andrei Isaev told ITAR-TASS on 8 April that Fatherland has lost 9,000 members in recent months. He said the movement now has 380,000 members and may be transformed into a political party at Fatherland's congress in September- October. JAC

RUSSIAN TEENS LIKE EMPIRES, DOLLARS, CLOSED BORDERS

In a survey of 1,600 teenagers at schools in Moscow, more than 50 percent said they would prefer Russia to have the same boundaries as either the Russian empire before the 1917 revolution or the Soviet Union, "Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 4 April. However, only 13 percent consider the Soviet regime quite acceptable. More than 50 percent approved of the circulation of foreign currency on Russian soil and would like to be paid in dollars, while "the number of teenagers who believe that Russia should be entirely open to refugees drops to zero" by the final year of high school. The survey also found that students of wealthier and more educated parents tend to favor the "predominance of the interests of the country's ethnic majority." The survey was conducted by the Center of Educational Sociology of the Russian Academy of Education. JAC

TWO SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR DAGHESTAN BOMBING

The Supreme Court in Makhachkala on 10 April sentenced two men to life imprisonment for a car bomb explosion in Makhachkala in September 1998 in which 17 people were killed, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998). Four other defendants received prison terms ranging from four to 25 years. LF




ARMENIAN POLICE SEEK INTERPOL'S HELP IN LOCATING EX-MINISTER

Armenia's Interior Ministry on 10 April formally requested Interpol to help them locate and detain former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Siradeghian is believed to have fled the country after his fellow parliamentary deputies last week voted to allow him to be taken into custody until sentence is passed in his ongoing trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 7 April 2000). Siradeghian is charged with ordering several contract killings in 1992-1996. Meanwhile a senior member of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement, whose board Siradeghian heads, told RFE/RL that Siradeghian's home was searched on 8 April and some 20 of his close associates were briefly held for questioning. LF

DETAINED ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE MAY BE RELEASED

A Yerevan court declined on 10 April a request from the Military Prosecutor's office to extend for two months the detention of presidential foreign policy adviser Aleksan Harutiunian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Harutiunian was taken into custody in December and charged with "inciting" the 27 October parliament shootings in which eight senior officials were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 1999). Harutiunian has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killings. LF

KARABAKH PARLIAMENT SETS ELECTION DATE

Meeting in Stepanakert on 8 April, the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic scheduled elections to a new 33-deputy legislature for 18 June, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. All seats will be contested in single-mandate constituencies. Deputies also approved the enclave's draft budget for 2000, which is largely dependent on loans and subsidies from Armenia. The budget envisages 15.4 billion drams ($29 million) in expenditures, but only 5.4 billion drams in revenues. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT OUTLINES PRIORITIES

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 April, one day after his re- election, that he plans to reshuffle the government, firing corrupt ministers and possibly bringing opposition representatives into the cabinet, Caucasus Press reported. With some 80 percent of all ballots counted, Shevardnadze had 80.4 percent of the vote, compared with 16.6 percent for his closest rival, Djumber Patiashvili, AP reported. Turnout was officially estimated at 68 percent, although a representative of the Georgian NGO Fair Elections disputed that figure, claiming his organization has documentary evidence that the actual figure was far lower, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze also denied on 10 April that during their talks in Batumi on 6 April, he and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze had discussed the latter's election participation or had reached any preliminary agreement on regulating the strained relations between the central Georgian government and Adjaria. LF

INTERNATIONAL MONITORS CRITICIZE GEORGIAN ELECTION VIOLATIONS

In a preliminary statement issued in Tbilisi on 10 April, the OSCE election observers' mission expressed concern about violations of voting procedure and the vote count, AP and Reuters reported. Those irregularities included ballot stuffing, tampering with votes and protocols, denying access to election observers, and the unauthorized presence of police at polling stations. The statement also said that the Georgian authorities "did not behave impartially and gave strong support to the incumbent." Noting that an ambiguous election law had been applied selectively in many cases, it called for a vigorous investigation of election- related breaches of the criminal code. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which also monitored the vote at some 600 polling stations, said it witnessed no "major violations," according to AP. Shevardnadze, too, denied any "serious violations," while Patiashvili claimed massive fraud. LF

RENEGADE GEORGIAN COLONEL DEMANDS INDEPENDENCE FOR MINGRELIA

Colonel Akaki Eliava, who led the abortive insurrection in western Georgia in October 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 October 1998), has demanded either independence or formal autonomous status for the west Georgian region of Mingrelia during President Shevardnadze's second presidential term, Caucasus Press reported on 11 April citing "Alia." Eliava said that the Georgian Central Electoral Commission's claim that 90 percent of the region's electorate cast their ballots is a lie and that the true figure does not exceed 10 percent. Eliava had earlier pledged his support for Patiashvili. LF

TRIAL OF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S BODYGUARDS OPENS

Two bodyguards of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin went on trial in Almaty on 10 April on charges of illegal possession of arms, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1999 and 24 February 2000). Both men say they are innocent of those charges, which they claim are politically motivated. On 11 April, Amirzhan Qosanov, a leading member of Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, said the two accused were subjected to psychological pressure during the pre-trial investigation. LF

KAZAKHSTAN OIL EXPORT PLANS DETAILED

Nurlan Balghymbaev, who heads Kazakhstan's state oil company Kazakhoil, told Turan on 10 April that Kazakhstan considers the Caspian pipeline across the Russian Federation to Novorossiisk to be the "priority route" for oil exports. That pipeline is due to be completed next year. He added that Kazakhstan has reached agreement with Russia's Transneft to export approximately 1 million tons of crude via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. Balghymbaev said that Kazakhstan would not produce enough oil to require access to the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline before 2008. He said only oil from offshore deposits where extraction has not yet begun would be exported by that route. Many experts believe that Azerbaijan alone cannot extract enough crude to render Baku-Ceyhan commercially viable. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev said in Baku on 8 April that Kazakhstan will export no more than 2 million tons of oil by rail from Baku to Batumi in 2000 because Azerbaijan's rail transport tariffs are too high, according to Caucasus Press. LF

TURKISH PRESIDENT CANCELS VISIT TO KAZAKHSTAN

An official visit to Astana on 12 April by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has been cancelled, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov told journalists on 10 April. Idrisov said that during talks in Baku last week on the sidelines of the Turkic summit, Demirel had accepted an invitation from President Nazarbaev to visit Kazakhstan as a private individual after his presidential term expires in May. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES UZBEK SMUGGLING CHARGES

Kazakhstan's ambassador to Tashkent, Umurzak Uzbekov, told journalists in Tashkent on 7 April that Uzbek allegations that a truck that entered Uzbekistan from Kazakhstan on 30 March was carrying a radio-active cargo are groundless, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Uzbek officials had said that the truck was carrying 10 containers of a radioactive substance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 April 2000). Uzbekov said that the lorry was bearing scrap metal, part of which had been contaminated by radioactivity. LF

KYRGYZ PROTESTS CONTINUE

Some 100 protesters in Bishkek continue to demand the release of arrested opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported on 10 April. The next day, opposition parties appealed to Kulov to abandon the hunger strike he began two weeks earlier. Also on 11 April, some 300 people staged a picket in the southern town of Batken to protest a local court ruling annulling the parliamentary election victory in Batken of opposition politician Dosbol Nur Uulu. LF

NEW MUFTI, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL APPOINTED IN KYRGYZSTAN

Abdysatar- hadji Mazhitov resigned as Kyrgyzstan's chief mufti at an "urgent" meeting of the Council of Ulemas in Bishkek on 8 April, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Kimsanbai-hadji Abdyrakmanov was elected as his successor. Abdyrakmanov had served in that post until his dismissal and replacement by Mazhitov in December 1996. Under a presidential decree published on 10 April, Asanbek SharshenAliyev was dismissed from the post of prosecutor-general, which he had held since 1993. Chu Oblast governor Kubat KozhonAliyev was appointed to replace him. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE VISITS UZBEKISTAN

On a one-day visit to Tashkent on 10 April, Sergei Yastrzhembskii called Uzbekistan Russia's "strategic ally" and pledged that Russia will help Tashkent rebuff any attack on its territory by international terrorists, Russian agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii's talks with President Islam Karimov focused on joint measures to combat terrorism, banditry, religious extremism, and drug trafficking; the situation in Central Asia; and bilateral relations. LF




BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO HOLD CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY RALLY

Opposition representatives have applied to the Minsk City authorities for permission to hold the traditional "Chornobyl Way" march along Minsk's main avenue on 26 April to commemorate the anniversary of the 1986 Chornobyl power plant accident, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. The organizers are planning to hold the march under environmental and political slogans and will demand, in particular, "real negotiations" between the authorities and the opposition. According to head of the organizing committee Ivan Nikitchanka, more than 1.8 million Belarusians currently live in areas that are contaminated with radioactivity. According to Henadz Hrushavy, head of the Children of Chornobyl charitable fund, the Belarusian authorities conceal information about the health of people living on the contaminated territory. They have also failed to implement a program for dealing with the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster and obstruct the shipment of Western humanitarian aid to Belarus, he added. JM

POLL SAYS UKRAINIANS READY TO APPROVE THREE REFERENDUM QUESTIONS

A poll conducted last month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology among 1,900 respondents throughout Ukraine found that 63 percent want to take part in the 16 April constitutional referendum, 26 percent will not vote, and 11 percent are undecided, Interfax reported on 10 April. According to the poll, the question on whether to grant the president the right to dissolve the parliament will find support among 63 percent and will be opposed by 19 percent. The abolition of lawmakers' immunity from criminal prosecution will be backed by 83 percent of voters and opposed by 12 percent. Ninety-two percent of Ukrainians are expected to approve the reduction of parliamentary seats from 450 to 300, while only 3 percent are likely to oppose it. The introduction of a bicameral parliament was supported by 23 percent of respondents and opposed by 25 percent. JM

PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS UNCERTAIN ABOUT WHAT TO DO AFTER REFERENDUM

First deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk told Interfax on 10 April that the parliament is obliged to consider only the implementation of the question about the introduction of a bicameral parliament if it is approved in the referendum. According to him, consideration of any of the other three questions would constitute a "usurpation of power" on the part of the parliament. Medvedchuk said that the right to change the constitutional system belongs exclusively to the people, adding that the parliament should not "duplicate" referendum decisions. Meanwhile, deputy speaker Stepan Havrysh said the same day that the parliament may once again ask the Constitutional Court to provide legal "explanations" following the referendum. He added that the court's 29 March ruling is not "clear-cut" and cannot be dealt with "absolutely unambiguously." The court ruled that referendum results should be binding on state bodies. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SAYS 'CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS' POSSIBLE AFTER REFERENDUM

Roman Bezsmertnyy, permanent presidential representative in the parliament, told Interfax on 10 April that Ukraine may face a "constitutional crisis" following the 16 April referendum. According to Bezsmertnyy, there are two conflicting positions in Ukraine: that of the Constitutional Court, which says that referendum results should be binding, and another maintaining that the parliament should decide on whether to introduce the constitutional amendments approved in the referendum. Asked what might happen if the parliament does not comply with the referendum results, Bezsmertnyy noted that "this is exactly what I call a constitutional crisis, in which virtually no resolution exists." JM

ESTONIA AND LATVIA TO BUY WEAPONS TOGETHER

Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins was in Estonia on 9-10 April to meet with his counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, to discuss various bilateral issues, including the joint acquisition of military arms. Ilves said following the meeting that "as we have similar tasks in defense, we should promote cooperation in weapons and other purchases as buying in bulk is cheaper," ETA reported. The two ministers also discussed EU integration and Latvia's controversial pork tariffs (see below). MH

ESTONIAN MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION

An opposition- sponsored motion of no confidence in Finance Minister Siim Kallas failed on 10 April by a vote of 36 to 45. The opposition, which had submitted the motion on 5 April, criticized Kallas for holding onto a ministerial portfolio while facing a criminal charge. A Tallinn court has suspended hearings on the charge that during his term as governor of the central bank Kallas provided false information. The opposition also tried late last year to oust Kallas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 1999). MH

COALITION PARTY RENOMINATES SACKED LATVIAN MINISTER

For Fatherland and Freedom on 10 April renominated Vladimirs Makarovs for the post of economics minister, LETA reported. The same day, Prime Minister Andris Skele met with the party's parliamentary faction to explain the reason for Makarovs's sacking (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 7 April 2000). However, faction leader Andrejs Poznarovs called the explanation "questionable." Skele also said he will propose to keep Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA) head Janis Naglis in that post, but For Fatherland and Freedom again said it will not support Naglis. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs suggested that the policies of Finance Minister Edmunds Krastins, especially cuts in road spending, be taken into consideration during the vote of confidence in Skele, Krastins, and Education Minister Maris Vitols scheduled for 13 April. MH

LATVIA PLANS TO LIFT CONTROVERSIAL PORK TARIFFS

Agriculture Minister Aigars Kalvitis on 6 April proposed lifting the controversial import tariffs on pork and introducing subsidies in their place. Kalvitis suggested that the EU could otherwise retaliate by imposing restrictions for Latvian dairy exports, LETA reported. During his 9-10 April visit to Tallinn, Foreign Minister Berzins supported the proposal, saying that the tariffs might be lifted by 1 July. Also on 10 April, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga lambasted Kalvitis for suggesting that trends in Latvian agriculture would hinder the country's entry into the EU. Vike-Freiberga called it "shocking" and "openly contradictory to everything stated by the Latvian government so far," BNS reported. MH

POLISH JOURNALISTS CONDEMN ROMA ATTACK ON COLLEAGUE

Journalists from Poland's leading media outlets have signed an open letter condemning the attack on Dorota Kania, a journalist of the Warsaw-based "Zycie" daily. Kania was severely beaten by a group of unidentified Roma women in Warsaw on 8 April and treated for concussion in a hospital. The police believe the motive for the beating is Kania's reports on the alleged fraud committed by Roman Kwiatkowski, a leader of the Roma Association in Poland, in securing compensation payments to Roma survivors from Nazi-era concentration camps. "The attackers did not conceal that the direct cause of aggression was our colleague's articles. We condemn the act of force and terror," the journalists said in the letter. JM

POLAND'S MINISTER ANNOUNCES SECOND STAGE OF SCHOOL REFORM

Education Minister Miroslaw Handke said on 10 April that in the fall of 2002 the second stage of educational reform will begin, Polish media reported. That reform was launched last year. Under the proposed plan for the second stage, students will choose between a three-year high school or a two-year vocational school, following nine years of compulsory education. According to Handke, 80 percent of students are expected to choose high school. Handke noted that the new school system will help increase the number of graduates seeking university-level education. JM

BELGIUM CONCERNED ABOUT ROMANY EMIGRATION FROM CZECH REPUBLIC

The Belgian Foreign Ministry has officially told Czech Ambassador to Belgium Katerina Lukesova that it is concerned about the growing number of largely Romany asylum-seekers entering the country from the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 10 April. The ministry reportedly told Lukesova that Prague should "do something" about that situation. Lukesova, for her part, said she informed the ministry of Prague's efforts to integrate Romany citizens into society and suggested that Belgium's asylum policies are too lax. She added that the Belgian authorities did not threaten to impose visas on Czechs as they did on Slovaks recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). A total of 354 Czech citizens applied for asylum in Belgium last year. VG

SPANISH PREMIER VISITS SLOVAKIA...

Jose Maria Aznar on 10 April expressed his country's support for Slovakia's efforts to enter the EU, TASR-SLOVAKIA reported. In a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, Aznar said that until Slovakia's economy is stabilized, it will be impossible to create the proper environment for the development of enterprises or expect a drop in the country's high unemployment rate. Earlier, Dzurinda said he is impressed by the fact that Aznar managed to create his People's Party out of a coalition of seven groups, adding that he would like to do the same in Slovakia. VG

...WHILE SLOVAK MAYORS, SOCIAL WORKERS VISIT SPAIN

A delegation of Slovak mayors and social workers from municipalities with sizeable Romany populations arrived in Spain on 10 April for a week-long fact-finding visit, TASR-SLOVAKIA reported. Carlos Robles of the Spanish Foreign Ministry welcomed the visitors and said that Belgium's recent imposition of visas on Slovaks should be taken as an "alarm" signal, indicating the need to resolve the problems of Romany citizens in Slovakia. The visit is taking place at the invitation of the Spanish General Secretariat of the Romany Association. Spain has a Romany minority numbering some 700,000. VG

HUNGARIAN CABINET APPROVES $138 MILLION FOR FLOOD RELIEF

Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced in the parliament on 10 April that the cabinet has reduced the budget of each ministry by 2.1 percent, thereby obtaining 37.3 billion forints ($138 million) for flood relief and prevention, The Defense Ministry, however, reportedly hopes that "little or nothing" will be deducted from its budget, as Hungary has pledged NATO that it will increase its annual defense budget, according to "Vilaggazdasag." Meanwhile, the level of the Tisza River has reached a new record high at the town of Tokaj. Nearly 2,000 buildings are threatened and 398 people have been evacuated so far. MSZ




KUCAN BEGINS TALKS ON NEW SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT

President Milan Kucan discussed the formation of a new government with outgoing Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and parliamentary speaker Marjan Podobnik, who heads the People's Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2000). No statement was issued after the meeting, which took place on 10 April in Ljubljana, AP reported. Podobnik and Lojze Peterle of the Christian Democrats are willing to form a coalition government with the rightist Social Democrats, but the three parties would be three seats short of a parliamentary majority of 46. The far-right National Party is willing to provide the necessary three additional votes but on the condition that it receives the Interior Ministry. Podobnik and Peterle stress that they would like the National Party's support but will not accept any conditions. Peterle said that "it would be better to have new elections than [Zmago] Jelincic as interior minister." Observers suggest that new elections in June or July are the most like way out of the apparent deadlock. PM

POLITICAL CRISIS TO AFFECT SLOVENIA'S EU TIMETABLE?

A spokesman for the EU Commission said in Brussels on 10 April that Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who is in charge of matters pertaining to EU expansion, has postponed a visit to Slovenia from 16 April to an unspecified date in May. The spokesman added that the "visit would be overshadowed by [domestic political] events, so we do not think this is the best time to go," Reuters reported. Many Slovenian political observers and business leaders are concerned lest a prolonged government crisis delay Slovenia's timetable for EU admission. To stay on schedule, the parliament must pass some 60 pieces of legislation by the end of the year 2000. Some business leaders also expressed concern that the government crisis could hold up a major privatization program involving the two largest banks, Telekom, some large insurance firms, and several power companies. PM

SLOVENIAN SECRET SERVICE BUGGED BISHOP

Workers found several microphones planted in the offices of Maribor Bishop Franc Kramberger and one of his aides, Vatican Radio reported on 10 April. The listening devices were discovered in September 1999 just before the visit by Pope John Paul II. Church officials did not publicize the discovery until the fall of the Drnovsek government lest the news spoil attempts to improve Church-state relations, the broadcast added. The Slovenian leadership includes many former Communists and others who fear that the Roman Catholic Church wants to regain the wealth and political power it enjoyed before 1945. Slovenian society after 45 years of communism is largely secular. PM

MESIC PROPOSES CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL REFORM

President Stipe Mesic sent a document on 10 April to Prime Minister Ivica Racan and parliamentary speaker Zlatko Tomcic in which Mesic outlined his proposals to curtail the powers of the presidency. The suggestions go far to reduce the sweeping powers of the late President Franjo Tudjman in keeping with the wishes of all political parties. Under his proposals, Mesic would remain commander-in-chief of the armed forces, play a role in shaping foreign policy, and appoint the chiefs of the intelligence services. Mesic has repeatedly charged that the government wants to reduce his powers to a ceremonial level and humiliate him personally. He argues that the president needs to retain several key functions as a check on the government. The government is preparing its own proposals. PM

TUDJMAN BACKER OUSTED AT CROATIAN TELEVISION

The governing council of Croatian Television (HTV) voted on 10 April to sack Obrad Kosovac as editor-in-chief of television programming, "Jutarnji list" reported. He will be replaced by Neda Ritz, who previously supervised HTV's cultural broadcasts. She stresses that HTV must become a public broadcaster on the West European model. Under Kosovac and others in the previous management, HTV was a mouthpiece of Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM

CROATIAN STRIKE ENDS

Management paid workers at the Pik agricultural enterprise some $950,000 in back wages on 10 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2000). The workers called off their strike shortly before their planned blockage of the Zagreb- Budapest railway line, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

BOSNIAN VOTE COUNT CONTINUES

Preliminary local election results from 30 out of 145 Bosnian municipalities show the Serbian Democratic Party ahead in 11 of them. The HDZ leads in seven, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action in six, and the Social Democrats in three, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 11 April. Final results may take several weeks to tally because of some 500,000 ballots mailed in by refugees. Mail votes could reduce the lead of nationalist parties, especially in the Republika Srpska, where most refugee votes are from Muslims. PM

MILOSEVIC TAKES FURTHER MEASURES AGAINST MEDIA

More than 10,000 persons demonstrated in Nis on 10 April after a court fined the independent "Narodne novine" some $7,000 at the black market rate, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The daily wrote in February that the army has been increasing the number of call- ups. In Belgrade, Studio-B Television director Dragan Kojadinovic said that his station will have nothing further to do with the "judicial circus" by which the government fines the private and independent media, the "Los Angeles Times" reported. Kojadinovic stressed that his station will not pay a $15,000 fine stemming from a libel suit filed by Belgrade police chief Branko Djuric. The station, which is linked to Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), now faces the possible confiscation of its equipment. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the independent daily "Danas" told reporters that the government is closing off official sources of information to non-state media, Reuters reported. PM

BELGRADE'S ARMY, POLICE MAKE PLANS

Army Chief-of-Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic met in Belgrade on 10 April with top officials of the Serbian Interior Ministry. They said in a statement that the agenda included "defining tasks for preserving the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and constitutional order of the country, as well as public order, peace, and the security of citizens' persons and property," RFR/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The document did not contain further details. PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT UNDERGOES HEART SURGERY

Milan Milutinovic underwent a previously scheduled heart operation in Belgrade on 10 April, hospital spokesmen said. The operation took place "without complications," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIA SEEKS HELP TO DEAL WITH FLOODS

Defense Minister Sorin Frunzaverde on 10 April said his country has asked an ad hoc crisis center at NATO's headquarters in Brussels to assist Bucharest in dealing with massive floods in the northwestern part of the country, Reuters and Rompres reported. Seven people have died and more than 60,000 hectares of farmland have been damaged in massive floods caused by heavy rains and melting snow over the last few days. Frunzaverde and Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, who have been visiting the flooded regions, have blamed much of the flooding on the fact that work on harnessing rivers has been neglected over the past 10 to 15 years. President Emil Constantinescu has called a meeting of the country's Supreme Defense Council for 11 April. VG

ROMANIA TO DEMAND EXTRADITION OF SENTENCED GENERAL

The Bucharest Military Tribunal on 10 April asked Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica to start extradition procedures for General Victor Stanculescu, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in quashing the anti-communist uprising in Timisoara in December 1989 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2000), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Stanculescu is believed to be in the U.K., where he was undergoing medical treatment at the time of his sentencing. General Mihai Chitac, who was also sentenced to 15 years, has begun serving his sentence and is in a prison hospital. Chitac's lawyer said he will demand that his client be released on health grounds. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER'S PARTY REGISTERED

The Bucharest appeals court on 10 April overturned an Bucharest municipal tribunal's ruling not to register the Popular Party headed by former Premier Radu Vasile (see "RFE/RL "Newsline," 13 March 2000), Mediafax reported. That decision is final. In related news, the parties and civic organizations belonging to the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) have signed new protocols for the local and parliamentary elections. The protocol on local elections stipulates that the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic and the Romanian Ecologist Party will run as part of the CDR in the local ballot, while the National Liberal Party and the Romanian Ecological Federation will each run on separate lists. All four parties are to run as part of the CDR in the parliamentary elections. MS

ROMANIAN NATIONAL BANK REBUKES STANDARD & POOR'S

The National Bank on 10 April said Romania does not run the risk of being unable to service its foreign debt "in the foreseeable future," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bank said its reserves in hard currency and gold exceed $2.5 billion. The bank was responding to a 27 March warning by the international rating agency Standard & Poor's that that Romania, along with the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, might default on its foreign debt this year. MS

MOLDOVA MUST MEET IMF CONDITIONS BY 12 APRIL

Moldovan Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis said on Moldovan Television over the weekend that the IMF will decide on 12 April whether to send a mission to Moldova, Infotag reported on 10 April. Braghis said that by then, the parliament must pass five bills that the IMF has set as a condition for extending new credits to Moldova. The IMF has already extended the deadline for the passage of that legislation from the end of March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2000). Parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diakov said on 10 April that the legislature cannot meet that deadline. He said this means Moldova may not be able to meet its foreign-debt payment commitments this year. VG

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT AGAIN REJECTS RUMOR ABOUT RUSSIAN BASES

Petru Lucinschi told the OSCE's mission head in Moldova, William Hill, on 10 April that he categorically refutes all rumors that his country plans to allow Russia to set up a military base in the breakaway region of Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 April 2000). VG




THE ANGOLA VARIANT


By Paul Goble

Governments of countries that earn most of their income through the export of a single raw material often are unwilling to promote human rights or social welfare. But at the same time, these states are very much prepared to spend money on the military, both to justify their existence and to keep the current authorities in power.

And because their exports--especially oil--are so valuable to many other governments, these states often are able to escape significant criticism of their policies, a pattern that the historical record suggests may create precisely the instability that both the exporters and those who purchase their raw materials say they want to avoid.

That is the clear lesson of recent developments in the African country of Angola, but it is one that appears to have a clear application to several post-Soviet states that are benefiting from the recent rise in oil prices to finance military activities or which hope to power their economic development through the export of petroleum or some other raw materials.

According to an analysis published on 9 April by "New York Times" journalist Blaine Harden, Angola suffers from "the paradox of plenty": Its enormous and apparently increasing oil wealth has permitted the government in Luanda to enrich itself while allowing the majority of Angolans to fall into ever more terrible poverty. And this wealth has also allowed the government there to escape serious criticism from Western oil purchasers.

As a result, Harden points out, the Angolan government has become ever more corrupt, its reliance on security forces to keep the population in line has increased, and its need to continue a military campaign against insurgents, rather than seek an accommodation with them, has grown. And because of these factors, Harden notes, Angola has remained "impervious to the greater openness now seen across much of Africa."

Harden's conclusions about Angola clearly apply elsewhere as well. Buoyed by an increase rise in oil prices and the income generated for the Russian government, Moscow conducted a war in Chechnya that it could not otherwise have paid for. Moreover, with this new source of income, the Russian authorities became dismissive of any Western criticism by the West, noting that they can make it without Western loans.

Last week, for example, one Russian official after another noted that Moscow would like to get more assistance from the West but that it would not significantly change its policies in order to do so. Several Russian commentators argued that Europeans would soon be forced to moderate their criticism of Moscow's Chechen policy because they need Russian gas and oil.

But there is an even more disturbing parallel with the Angola variant: Ever more Russian officials are calling for building up the country's national defense, even though it faces no clear threat and even though money spent on the military will not be available to alleviate the social and economic problems of the population as a whole.

As in Angola, such a strategy may be popular initially but is likely to lose support over time, potentially leading the government to rely on the constant generation of new enemies to justify this approach and possibly to employ ever more repressive means to keep itself in power.

In several other post-Soviet states that are or hope to become major exporters of oil or gas, the danger of an Angola variant may be even greater.

In all too many cases, the governments of these countries have not adopted policies designed to diversify the economy and spread the wealth, as some oil exporters in other parts of the world have begun to do. Instead, they have chosen to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, an arrangement that almost always contributes to both corruption and repression in the short term and to instability over the longer haul.

Moreover, many of these countries have escaped the kind of Western criticism for their social policies and human rights shortcomings that neighboring countries without oil to export have regularly received. And that in turn has made both the exporters and the non-exporters more cynical than ever about whatever human rights criticism there has been.

Many people in the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states have regularly talked about a "Latin American variant" for their futures: an authoritarian regime that could manage the transition from instability to a more open and just future.

But the Angola variant serves as a reminder that any reliance on authoritarianism supported by the export of raw materials can have another and much less positive result, one that neither the exporters nor the importers of these raw materials ultimately are likely to be satisfied with.




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