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Newsline - June 7, 2000




GOVERNMENT DEALT ANOTHER SETBACK ON TAX REFORM

Although President Vladimir Putin's government has submitted a second version of its draft law on a single social tax, State Duma deputies voted on 7 June to delay consideration of the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). The country's trade unions have spoken out against the draft legislation, which would unify individual tax payments to various social funds. On 7 June, 300-400 trade union members gathered outside the State Duma building to protest the law, Interfax reported. President Putin had told journalists in Milan the previous day that he has no doubt that the Duma will pass his government's tax reform legislation: "There are enough reasonable people both in the Duma and in society as a whole who understand the importance of those legal acts." JAC

NATO CAUTIOUSLY WELCOMES PUTIN'S ABM PROPOSAL...

A NATO spokesman said on 6 June that President Putin's proposal for a joint European anti-missile defense system is a sign that Moscow is willing to cooperate with the international community "both on arms control and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction." But the spokesman noted that the alliance could not comment further until Russia offered more details. Putin had proposed the previous day in Rome that Russia, Europe, and NATO set up such a system, with the support of the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said Putin's proposal and his recognition of a missile threat were "a step forward" but the proposal itself was "quite vague." Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying Rome "can only look with favor" on the proposal, while a French Foreign Ministry spokesman was more guarded in his response, saying France would study Putin's proposal and consider its implications. JC

...WHILE CHINA HINTS AT ITS OPPOSITION

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told journalists in Beijing on 6 June that China has taken note of reports about Putin's proposal for a joint European anti-missile defense system but "is not clear on the details," AFP reported. At the same time, she stressed that Beijing remains opposed to any amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, adding that adherence to that document "conforms with strategic balance and stability...and with the common interest of the countries concerned." Asked if China would support Russia if Putin were to prove amenable to revising the treaty, the spokeswoman said she "was not aware" that Putin had made any such remarks during his summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton over the weekend. In the past, China, along with Russia, has expressed its strong opposition to Washington's plans to set up a limited national missile defense system. JC

PUTIN PROMISES FOREIGN INVESTORS HE'LL ESTABLISH RULE OF LAW

Addressing a gathering of members of Italy's business community in Milan on 6 June, President Putin said that his government's chief priority is to "create equal and stable conditions for all kinds of businesses" and that foreign entrepreneurs have often asked him when a single uniform legal space in Russia will be created, according to Interfax. Putin also spoke about the need to create an effective structure of state power in Russia and achieve universal compliance with the law throughout the country's vast territory. Another priority for his government, Putin told the audience, is to restructure Russia's banking system. JAC

PUTIN ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURING OF REGIONAL CRIME FIGHTERS...

President Putin told reporters in Rome on 6 June that Russia will set up inter-regional departments to combat economic crime. Last week, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo announced that local departments to combat organized crime will answer to directly to his ministry. "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 1 June that this is possibly the first step toward the creation of a federal structure similar to the U.S.'s Federal Bureau of Investigation. JAC

...AS FEDERATION COUNCIL CONFIRMS NEW PROSECUTORS

Meanwhile, members of the Federation Council voted on 7 June to confirm seven deputy prosecutor-generals who will work in the newly created federal administrative districts. For the Far East district, Konstantin Chaika, chief prosecutor for Kamchatka Oblast, was selected; for the Siberian district, Valentin Simuchenkov, chief prosecutor for Kemerovo Oblast; for the Urals, Yurii Zolotov, head prosecutor for Ulyanovsk Oblast; for the Volga, Aleksandr Zbyagintsev, head of a directorate for the Prosecutor-General; for the North West, Kurgan Oblast prosecutor Vladimir Zubrin; for the North Caucasus, Sergei Fridinskii, military prosecutor in the North Caucasus military district; and for the Central district, Nikolai Makarov, prosecutor for Saratov Oblast. The upper legislative chamber also endorsed Yurii Biryukov as first deputy prosecutor-general, replacing Yurii Chaika, who is now justice minister. JAC

TROSHEV AGAIN ADVOCATES CHECHEN REFERENDUM...

Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the combined federal forces in Chechnya, on 6 June repeated his proposal of 27 May that a referendum should be held on the composition of a new Chechen leadership and on whether the region should remain part of the Russian Federation, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2000). He added that in his opinion Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov is the most appropriate candidate as Chechen leader, because "people trust him." He rejected the candidacies of either Chechen State Council chairman Malik Saidullaev or former Russian Supreme Soviet speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov on the grounds that both men have lived outside Chechnya for too long. He predicted that in a referendum, 80 percent of Chechens would vote in favor of Chechnya remaining "forever" a part of Russia. LF

...WHILE AUSHEV INSISTS MOSCOW SHOULD BEGIN TALKS WITH MASKHADOV

Troshev also called on the Russian leadership to begin talks immediately on ending the war in Chechnya, arguing that "politicians begin wars, and they are obliged to end them," ITAR-TASS reported. But he again ruled out the participation in any such talks of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov or other radical field commanders. Also on 6 June, Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev expressed regret that Moscow did not embark on talks with Maskhadov earlier, as the Chechen and Russian negotiating positions are now far further apart than before. But he argued that it is not too late to begin talks with Maskhadov, adding that if Maskhadov dies, a more radical figure will succeed him as head of the Chechen resistance. LF

SUSPECTS DETAINED IN ZVEREV KILLING

Several people have been apprehended on suspicion of involvement in the 31 May car bomb killing in Grozny of Russian deputy government representative in Chechnya, Sergei Zverev, Interfax reported on 6 June, quoting Zverev's superior Nikolai Koshman. Koshman argued that no further time should be lost in imposing direct federal rule on Chechnya as "we need it desperately," according to Interfax. But he cautioned against undue haste in appointing a new Chechen leader, arguing that "it should be someone with some knowledge of economics and finance." LF

ARSANOV DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM RUSSIAN PRESS INTERVIEW

Referring to the Chechen website www.kavkaz.tsentr, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 June quoted Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov as denying having given an interview to the Russian press recently. "Moskovskie novosti" on 30 May had printed what is claimed was an interview with Arsanov in which he proposed concessions in order to end the current fighting in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). In the same issue, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also reported that Saidullaev met in Moscow with Koshman in the hope of being appointed either head of the temporary administration in Chechnya or Koshman's first deputy, in the place of the dismissed Beslan Gantemirov. LF

GREF CALLS FOR JUDICIAL REFORM

Addressing members of the Federation Council on 6 June, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref suggested that the term in office for Russian judges should be reduced from life to 15 years, ITAR-TASS reported. Gref explained that his program for Russia's economic development calls for the establishment of collegial judicial bodies that would include not only judges but also prosecutors and lawyers. These bodies would oversee court decisions, making sure that they do not violate federal and constitutional legal norms. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that the senators did not appear to be giving Gref their full attention, despite the fact that one senator, Altai Governor Aleksandr Surikov, admitted that his colleagues in general have still not even read Gref's program. The full text of the program is available on the Internet at . JAC

RUSSIA TO SEEK MORE FOOD AID FROM U.S.

The Agriculture Ministry sent a request to the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton on the eve of his recent trip to Moscow requesting 5 million tons, mostly of fodder grain, in food aid, Interfax reported on 6 June, citing unnamed "organizers of Clinton's trip" to Russia. However, the issue of food assistance was not raised during the summit, although consultations continue. According to the agency, the Agriculture Ministry is predicting a deficit of fodder grain of 2-4 million tons until the new harvest, while independent experts are forecasting a deficit of 10 million tons. The ministry recently lowered its overall grain forecast for 2000 to 62-63 million tons from an earlier estimate of 70 million tons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2000). JAC

ARMY REJECTS NEXT YEAR'S PROPOSED LEVEL OF DEFENSE SPENDING...

The Defense Ministry's official in charge of arms procurement, Colonel General Anatolii Sitnov, told reporters on 6 June that Russia needs to spend up to $16 billion a year to maintain its military readiness with regards to equipment. He added that his ministry is categorically against the proposed level of spending in the draft 2001 budget--2.62 percent of GDP, Interfax reported. According to "Kommersant- Daily" the same day, the government is planning to spend 161 billion rubles ($5.7 billion at today's exchange rate) on national defense based on projected GNP of 6.058 trillion rubles (measured in 2000 prices). The category of national defense includes spending on the law enforcement and security forces in addition to the armed forces. JAC

...AS FINANCE MINISTER PROMISES SOLDIERS' WAGES TO BE PAID IN FULL

In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" on 7 June, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin insisted that while the total amount of money allocated for the power ministries will decrease next year, the amount of money for national defense will increase by some 30 billion rubles ($1.1 billion). He added that among the government's priorities will be to provide 100 percent financing for the armed forces. He promised that the problem of unpaid wages to servicemen will be resolved by the end of the year and as of 1 January 2001 wages will be raised on average by 20 percent. JAC

MRS. PUTIN APPEARS BEHIND BARS

The wife of President Putin, Lyudmila Putina, made her first public appearance as the country's first lady on 6 June when she visited a home for children at a women's prison outside Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Putina, together with Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, brought presents for the 54 children living at the prison in which their mothers are serving sentences. Putina was quoted in the book about her husband, "In the First Person: Conversations with Putin," saying that when she heard that Vladimir Putin would be named acting president, "I cried all day, because I knew that this was the end of our private life." JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES INCREASE IN GOVERNMENT SPENDING

Deputies on 5 June voted to increase this year's budget expenditures by 5.5 percent, to $495 million, the RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The government will withdraw $26.7 million from a $53 million privatization fund to underwrite the additional expenditures, mostly in the construction sector. Specifically, $10 million will be earmarked for the northern districts hit by the 1988 earthquake. The additional expenditure, which has also been approved by the Armenian Central Bank, will raise the projected budget deficit to some $120 million. LF

AZERBAIJAN, U.S. OPTIMISTIC ON EXPORT PIPELINE

Speaking on 6 June at the opening of the seventh annual Caspian Oil and Gas exhibition in Baku, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev expressed confidence that the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline will be completed by 2004, Turan reported. U.S. special adviser on Caspian issues John Wolf said he believes that the problem of raising the estimated $2.4 billion construction costs for the pipeline will soon be resolved. Wolf said the U.S. would welcome Russian participation in that and other Caspian projects. He said the U.S. has a strategic interest only in ensuring that one state does not control all export pipelines from the region. Wolf suggested that Kazakhstan might also export some of its Caspian oil to Ceyhan. He explained that doing so would not necessitate building a trans-Caspian underwater oil pipeline as up to 400,000 barrels per day could be transported by tanker from Aktau to Baku. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO BEGIN IMPORTING NATURAL GAS

Ilham Aliev, who is vice president of the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR, told journalists in Baku on 6 June that in the future his country will import at least 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually in order to switch from oil- to gas- fired electric power stations, Interfax reported. The cost of importing gas will be met from the proceeds from the sale of crude oil. Aliyev said that both Russia and Iran have offered to supply gas, but he did not quote prices. Azerbaijan currently extracts some 6 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually but needs 14 billion cubic meters. LF

ANOTHER GEORGIAN OFFICIAL MURDERED

Georgian Military Prosecutor Zaza Nakeuri was shot dead near Tbilisi late on 5 June, Caucasus Press reported the following day. It is not clear whether the killing was politically motivated. LF

CAMPAIGN TO RESTORE GEORGIAN PREMIERSHIP LOSES SUPPORT

Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 6 June, the leader of the Union of Georgian Traditionalists, Akaki Asatiani, said that 40 of the 133 parliament deputies who in late April signed a legislative initiative proposing the reintroduction of a cabinet of ministers and of the post of premier have now withdrawn their support for that proposal, Caucasus Press reported. Those members of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia who endorsed those proposals were rebuked by President Eduard Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2000). Asatiani termed the deputies' behavior "childish," and vowed to collect 200,000 signatures among the population in order to raise the issue again in the legislature. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PLAYS DOWN TENSIONS WITHIN RULING PARTY

Resuming his weekly radio interview after a two-month interruption, Shevardnadze on 5 June described as "normal" the decision of the Abkhazeti parliamentary faction to quit the parliament majority, Caucasus Press reported (seee "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2000). Shevardnadze also said he does not plan to leave the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), which he founded as his personal power base in the early 1990s. Two prominent members of the SMK parliamentary faction quit the group last week to protest the parliament's endorsement of Nino Chkhobadze as minister for environmental protection. Numerous deputies had earlier charged that while holding that post in the previous government, Chkhobadze had approved the import into Georgia of the environmentally dangerous substance pyrolized resin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). LF

KAZAKH EDUCATION ACTIVIST ASSAULTED

Unidentified attackers threw acid in the face of Ersain Erqozha in Almaty late on 5 June, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Erqozha was hospitalized with severe burns and may lose the sight of one eye. Erqozha's unofficial movement, named "Education is the Future of the Next Generation," has repeatedly criticized plans by the Ministry of Education to privatize educational establishments. He had earlier been threatened, and claimed that attack on him was politically motivated. LF

MORE KYRGYZ POLITICAL PARTIES DECIDE TO BOYCOTT ROUNDTABLE

Leaders of the Republican, El (People's) and Erkindik (Freedom) parties announced in Bishkek on 6 June that they will not participate in the roundtable discussion with government representatives and NGOs scheduled for 8-9 June, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Erkindik Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev condemned the Kyrgyz leadership's unilateral decision to increase the number of participating organizations from 27 to 75. But he also argued that the roundtable should become a permanent forum at which government and opposition could exchange ideas. The opposition Ar-Namys and Kairan-El parties had earlier announced that they would not participate, while Communist Party chairman Absamat MasAliyev said his members are undecided because no agenda for the session has been published. Also on 6 June, Jerzy Wenclaw, who heads the OSCE office in Bishkek, said that while his organization had participated in the preparations, the roundtable is not taking place under its aegis, Interfax reported. LF

MURDERER OF TAJIK OPPOSITIONIST SENTENCED

Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 5 June sentenced a 21-year-old man to 17 year in prison for the September 1998 shooting of respected opposition leader and journalist Otakhon Latifi, AP and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1998). Latifi had returned to Tajikistan several months earlier and headed the National Reconciliation Commission's sub-committee for legal issues. LF

TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS POOR DISCIPLINE

Addressing a meeting of the Ministry of Defense board on 6 June, Defense Minister General Sherali Khayrullaev harshly criticized sloppy discipline among Defense Ministry personnel, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He said that so far this year more than 200 servicemen have been detained for infringements, including desertion, being absent without leave and using vehicles with illegal license plates. He warned commanders that they will be held responsible if the situation does not improve. LF

TURKMEN DEPUTY PREMIER DISMISSED

President Saparmurat Niyazov on 6 June dismissed Serdar Babaev, deputy premier with responsibility for agriculture and water resources, for unspecified shortcomings, Reuters reported. No replacement has yet been named. LF




BELARUSIAN DEMOCRATS TO DECIDE NEXT MONTH ON ELECTION PARTICIPATION

The Coordination Council of Democratic Forces announced on 6 June that it will convene a congress of democratic forces in Minsk on 2 July in order to make a final decision on whether to participate in this fall's parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The meeting was attended by leaders of the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), the Social Democratic Party (Popular Hramada) , and the Charter-97 human rights group. According to BNF leader Vintsuk Vyachorka, the congress's resolution on the elections in Belarus will impact on the decision by the OSCE and other European structures on whether to send international observers to those elections. "The Western democratic countries should respect the resolution adopted by [Belarus's] basic democratic forces," Vyachorka told RFE/RL. JM

UKRAINE TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL REGARDLESS OF G-7 FUNDING

President Leonid Kuchma said on 6 June that the Chornobyl nuclear power plant will be shut down on 15 December even if the G-7 fails to allocate promised funds to reinforce the cover of the Chornobyl reactor that was destroyed in 1986, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). "I am the president of a great country and I bear responsibility for my words. Everything will be done as I have said," Kuchma added. Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko noted the same day that the country will need an additional $100 million to pay for conventional fuel to generate one year's worth of electricity to make up for lost capacity when Chernobyl shuts. Experts say closing Chernobyl, making it safe, and compensating for lost capacity may cost more than $2 billion. JM

UKRAINIAN EX-PREMIER THREATENS TO DISCLOSE ACCOMPLICE IN SHADY DEALS

The 6 June "Financial Times" wrote that former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko is ready to provide proof that a "named senior Ukrainian politician" was among the beneficiaries of his financial operations. Lazarenko was recently indicted in the U.S. on money-laundering charges and accused of plotting contract killings in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 June 2000). The daily adds that the U.S. indictment mentions current Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko as "a key figure in [Lazarenko's] money-laundering conspiracy." A company controlled by Tymoshenko reportedly transferred $72 million to Lazarenko "specifically at a point in time when he was prime minister." JM

JOINT BALTIC RADAR CENTER OPENED

The regional air surveillance coordination center of the joint Baltic airspace surveillance system BALTNET was opened in Karmelava, Lithuania, on 6 June. Defense ministry and military officials from Baltic and other partner countries attended the opening. The BALTNET project was launched to coordinate airspace surveillance over the Baltic countries, and is supported by several NATO member countries, including the U.S., which has allocated $10.5 million. Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said the establishment of the BALTNET office is a major step for the Baltic countries toward NATO, ELTA reported. MH

GERMAN CHANCELLOR IN ESTONIA

Gerhard Schroeder was in Tallinn on 5-6 June at the beginning of his Baltic tour. Affirming that Estonia has made "good progress" in its bid for EU membership, Schroeder said he hopes Tallinn will stick to its reform course and be one of the first countries to join the union, ETA reported. Schroeder also said that he has followed "with great respect Estonia's achievements in integrating" its Russia-speaking population, calling it a "big humanitarian achievement for a country whose culture and language have been in jeopardy for centuries." Schroeder met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Laar, and other government and parliamentary officials. Accompanying Schroeder is a large business and parliamentary delegation. MH

POLL FINDINGS: LATVIA'S ECONOMY IS DEPENDENT ON RUSSIA

A poll released by SKDS on 6 June showed that nearly one-half of respondents believe Latvia's economic well-being is mainly dependent on Russia, LETA reported. Some 14.4 percent of respondents fully agreed with that statement, while 35.3 percent agreed somewhat. A majority of Riga residents (54.4 percent) agreed with the statement, while more than three- quarters (75.9 percent) of non-citizens throughout the country also agreed with it. MH

LITHUANIA TO ASK MOSCOW FOR REPAYMENT OF SOVIET-ERA SEIZURES

The Lithuanian parliament on 6 June passed a resolution calling for the restitution of funds seized from private individuals during the Soviet occupation, BNS reported. The resolution, which passed by a 55 to two vote, called on the government to "approach the Russian Federation, as the inheritor of the rights and obligations of the former USSR, and demand repayment of funds confiscated by the Soviet occupation regime and as well as of Lithuanian citizens' deposits left in the USSR Central Savings Bank." Another resolution seeking damages from the Soviet occupation, which parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis drafted, is awaiting debate in the parliament. MH

POLISH COALITION BREAKS UP...

The Freedom Union (UW) on 6 June quit the cabinet coalition it had formed with the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), Polish media reported. "The UW was left without a choice. We could stay in the cabinet and support polices that hurt the country or leave," the prominent UW activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki commented. The UW said in a statement that AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski, who has been proposed to head a new cabinet, "would not give the new government the chance [to make] the expected changes in the style of government," according to PAP. "The AWS takes sole responsibility for governing Poland, and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek will propose new ministers in the next few days," Krzaklewski said the same day. He added that he does not plan to participate in an AWS minority cabinet. JM

...BUT HOW LONG CAN AWS MINORITY CABINET SURVIVE?

The AWS controls 186 votes in the 460-seat parliament, meaning that no government bill can be passed without parliamentary backing from the opposition. UW leader Leszek Balcerowicz pledged that his party (59 votes) will support those AWS- proposed bills that "will do good service to Poland," particularly EU-oriented legislation. Buzek's minority cabinet will be opposed by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD, 161 votes), the Polish Peasant Party (PSL, 26 votes), and fringe right-wing groups. Both the SLD and the PSL want early parliamentary elections as a way out of the current political crisis. According to parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski from the AWS, Buzek's minority cabinet can survive until spring 2001, when the president will be able to dissolve it if, as is likely, it fails to pass a 2001 budget. Early parliamentary elections could also be called this fall if Buzek resigned his post. JM

HAVEL'S CONDITION WORSENS FOLLOWING SURGERY

The condition of President Vaclav Havel, who underwent hernia surgery on 5 June, worsened during the night of 6-7 June owing to respiratory problems, Reuters reported. Following the successful operation, doctors said their main concern was Havel's chronically weak respiratory system (Havel had a lung tumor removed in 1996). Doctors now say that congestion has developed in the respiratory system but that "serious intervention" by the medical staff has managed to keep his bronchi free of mucus. MS

CZECH PREMIER TO PAY FINE FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT

Milos Zeman was recently fined 20,000 crowns (about $527) for contempt of court, CTK reported on 7 June, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." A Prague court had ordered Zeman to make a public apology to former Social Democratic Party deputy Jozef Wagner for alleging that Wagner had tried to cross over to the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia parliamentary group but had been rejected by the Communists. The court ruled that the statement was false. After Zeman failed to apologize, Wagner appealed to the court once again. MS

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES DISTINCTION BETWEEN SLOVAKS, CZECHS

Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Bratislava on 6 June that her country "very much appreciates" the fact that Bratislava has chosen "a different position" from that of the 14 EU countries that imposed sanctions on Vienna and the Czech Republic, which joined those sanctions. She told Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan that Slovakia is thus "returning the favor" for Austria's having supported it "at difficult times"--an allusion to Austria's refusal to break its dialogue with former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's government, CTK reported. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA

President Emil Constantinescu, on a two-day official visit to Slovakia, met with his Slovak counterpart, Rudolf Schuster, on 6 June. They agreed to support each other's bids to join NATO and the EU, TASR and Romanian radio reported. They also agreed that international efforts must be intensified to restore navigation on the River Danube, which was interrupted after last year's NATO bombing. The two officials signed agreements on cooperation in agriculture, transportation, and veterinary medicine. Constantinescu also met with Prime Minster Mikulas Dzurinda at a "working lunch." MS

MADL ELECTED HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT

Ferenc Madl on 6 June was elected president of Hungary by a simple majority in the third round of voting in the parliament. He failed to receive the required two-thirds majority in the second round but in the final vote was supported by 243 votes, while 96 deputies voted against and 12 ballots were deemed invalid. Madl told the parliament after his election that Christian principles are compatible with liberalism and that his main endeavor is to see peace, reconciliation, and cooperation develop in the country, in the parliament, and in society. The 69-year-old law professor stressed the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration, good ties with Hungarians living beyond the country's borders, and with neighboring countries. Madl is to replace outgoing President Arpad Goncz on 4 August. MSZ




IZETBEGOVIC TO STEP DOWN

Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 6 June that he will retire from politics in October at the end of his current term as presidency chairman. He added: "In August I will be 75, and the job of a member of the presidency requires a physical condition that I no longer have. I wish to thank all those who have supported me in the previous most difficult 10 years of our history." He added: "This is not the only reason [for the retirement.] There is also some disappointment, there are some misunderstandings between me and the international community...which could damage the further consolidation of the situation in Bosnia. The international community is pushing things forward in Bosnia...but it is doing it at expense of the Muslim people. I feel it as an injustice. These are the things that I cannot live with. Somebody must come [forward] who can deal with such problems," Reuters reported. PM

IZETBEGOVIC TAKES STOCK OF SUCCESSES, FAILURES

Izetbegovic said in Sarajevo on 6 June that his greatest success was that he helped prevent Bosnia's becoming part of a greater Serbia during the war of 1992-1995. He added that his greatest failure was that he was subsequently unable to establish a "unified, democratic, and prosperous Bosnia." Expanding on his self-criticism, he noted that "there are no human rights in the country. Bosnia is being eaten up by social problems. There are no jobs, and people have a difficult life," the "Los Angeles Times" quoted him as saying. Izetbegovic is a devout Muslim who spent nine years in communist jails as a political prisoner. He founded the Party of Democratic Action in 1990 and has remained its leading figure. He is known to his followers as "grandpa" and considered the most important figure in establishing the post-communist Muslim nation. PM

IZETBEGOVIC DEPARTURE TO HERALD NEW ELECTIONS?

AP reported from Sarajevo on 7 June that "some [unnamed] international officials who effectively run this country said Izetbegovic's decision may compel the two other presidency members--Bosnian Serb Zivko Radisic and Bosnian Croat Ante Jelavic--to resign, too. New elections would provide an opportunity to remove Radisic and Jelavic, who are seen by some international officials as an obstruction to implementing terms of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement for a multiethnic, unified Bosnian state." A spokeswoman for the OSCE said that the OSCE's chief representative Robert Barry will soon discuss the latest political developments with Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia. PM

BOSNIA LAUNCHES JOINT BORDER POLICE

Officials of Bosnia and the international community inaugurated the State Border Service in Sarajevo on 6 June. It will eventually have 3,000 members, who will be posted at some 240 border crossings, Reuters reported. Izetbegovic said at the ceremony: "This service sets conditions for the establishment of economic relations with other countries and defines a strategy of development and the fight against corruption. It will also help the establishment of a single economic space." PM

U.S. HIKES AID FOR BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN

U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Thomas Miller said in Sarajevo on 6 June that Washington has increased its financial support for refugee return to $67.2 million. Some $45 million will go toward rebuilding infrastructure, $12.2 million for rebuilding homes, and $10 million for micro-credits and farm assistance. He noted that in the first four months of 2000, some 11,445 refugees went home to areas controlled by an ethnic group different from their own, compared to 3,438 the previous year. Miller called the increase "fantastic" and stressed that refugee return is "among our highest priorities," Reuters reported. PM

KOSOVA SERBS TO LAUNCH ROAD BLOCKADE

Oliver Ivanovic, who is the hard-line leader of Serbs in northern Mitrovica, said on 6 June that Serbs will block roads leading out of that enclave for two hours each day to protest growing and organized violence against the province's Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Ivanovic added that the blockade will continue until 12 June, when the UN Security Council is slated to discuss the situation in the Kosova. PM

TENSE SITUATION IN GRACANICA

Five Serbs were injured in a grenade attack in Gracanica on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Angry Serbian crowds then attacked Swedish KFOR troops and their vehicles. British troops fired into the air and at their attackers, injuring one. Brigadier Richard Shirreff said: "We were attacked. We had to fire shots to protect ourselves," AP reported. PM

CHURCH CALLS ON KOSOVA SERB REFUGEES TO VOTE

The Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement in Belgrade on 6 June urging Serbian refugees from Kosova to register with the UN civilian authorities and vote in the local elections widely expected to take place this fall. Serbian hard-liners have called for a boycott of the registration process. PM

NATO REJECTS AMNESTY'S CHARGES

Speaking on 7 June, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea rejected a report by Amnesty International that accused NATO of committing war crimes in its 1999 campaign to end atrocities in Kosova. The report charged that the Atlantic alliance deliberately attacked civilian targets. Shea called the charges "unfounded." He added that the Hague-based tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte recently said that NATO did not commit war crimes and that "her opinion carries more weight" than does that of Amnesty. Serbian spokesmen in London and Belgrade praised the Amnesty study, BBC television reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 June 2000). PM

MACEDONIA PROTESTS TO BELGRADE

Deputy Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said in Skopje on 6 June that his government has submitted a "verbal demarche" to the Serbian authorities because border guards refuse admission to Macedonian citizens with stamps in their passports from the UN's civilian administration in Kosova. PM

MACEDONIAN GOODS FOR MONTENEGRO

Starting 13 June, a "convoy" of trucks will take goods from Macedonia to Montenegro via Kosova once a week, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 June. PM

EU HAS PRAISE BUT NO TIMETABLE FOR ALBANIA

Fabrizio Barbaso, who headed a team of EU officials visiting Albania, said in Tirana on 6 June that Albania has made much progress in stabilizing the macroeconomic situation, adopting laws on the police and civil service, and privatizing the mobile telephone monopoly. He added, however, that much remains to be done to strengthen law and order, speed up reforms in the financial sector, and privatize banks, utilities, and the fixed telephone monopoly, Reuters reported. Barbaso said that he cannot provide a timetable for Albania's reaching an association agreement with the EU, adding that such a decision can be made only by EU leaders in Brussels. PM

BROTHER OF MONTENGRIN PRESIDENT ARRESTED

Police in Podgorica arrested Aco Djukanovic, who is the younger brother of Milo Djukanovic, for assaulting Zoran Klajic with a pistol, Montenegrin dailies reported on 6 June. Klajic is a member of the pro-independence Liberal Alliance, which will run candidates against those of the elder Djukanovic's coalition in the 11 June local elections. A lawyer for Aco Djukanovic said that Klajic had taunted him. PM

MONTENEGRO, U.S. REJECT MILOSEVIC OFFICIAL'S CHARGE

Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said in Podgorica on 7 June that charges by hard-line Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic regarding the recent murder of a Djukanovic aide are the product of an "insane, sick, and tragic mind." Matic had blamed the CIA for the killing of Goran Zugic. In Washington, a CIA spokesman called Matic's remarks "absurd," AP reported. PM

CROATIAN WORKERS OCCUPY MINISTRY

Dozens of workers from the state-run NAMA department store chain occupied the building of the Economics Ministry on 7 June. They want the government to provide money for the financially-troubled company, which has not paid most of its 2,000 workers for several months. PM

NEW LEFTIST COALITION EMERGING IN ROMANIA...

With more than 97 percent of the vote counted, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania is well ahead in the 4 June local elections, having won 26.3 percent of the mayoralties, 24.7 of local councilor posts, and 26.1 percent of county councilor posts. In second place is the Democratic Party, with 12.9 percent of mayors, 10.6 percent of local councilors, and 9,9 percent of county councilors. The Alliance for Romania is in third place, with 9.3 percent of mayors, 8.7 percent of local councilors, and 8 percent of county councilors. Observers say these three parties may form a coalition after the fall parliamentary elections if current trends persist. MS

...WHILE RIGHT DOES POORLY

The Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) came fifth in mayoral elections (7.3 percent), trailing the National Liberal Party (PNL), which ran on separate lists from those of the CDR. The PNL also scored better than the CDR in terms of local councilors (8 percent compared with 6.5 percent) and county councilors (7.1 percent compared with 6.8 percent). The CDR has lost in five out of the six large towns, the exception being Timisoara. Independent candidates placed sixth, followed by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (5.4, percent, 6.3 percent, and 7.3 percent, respectively) and the Greater Romania Party (4.8 percent, 5.8 percent, and 6.4 percent). The ballot seems to confirm predictions of the likely demise of the Party of Romanian National Unity. MS

ANOTHER ROMANIAN BANKING OFFICIAL DETAINED

The Prosecutor General's Office on 6 June detained Camenco Petrovici, former president of CEC, Romania's largest state saving bank. Petrovici is suspected of "abuse of office." The decision to detain him was taken after Petrovici had undergone questioning. Petrovici, a member of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, had signed a contract guaranteeing CEC investments in the since collapsed National Investment Fund without informing the CEC administrative board. CEC says the guarantee is null and void. If convicted, Petrovici faces a jail sentence of between five and 15 years. MS

MOLDOVA PLAYS 'GREAT POWERS' CARD

President Petru Lucinschi, departing on 6 June for a five-day official visit to China, said Moldova wants to study the Chinese experience in economic reforms as well as the possibility to export to third countries through China. Lucinschi told Chinese reporters that Moldova considers Taiwan an "inalienable part of China," Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. Moldovan media said Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Moldova on 16-17 June--the first official visit of a Russian president since independence, Among other things, Putin will discuss with his hosts the Transdniester conflict. Meanwhile, the OSCE on 6 June expressed "concern" for the failure of Russian troops to withdraw from the Transdniester, despite a pledge to do so at last year's OSCE Istanbul summit, AP reported. MS

BULGARIA TO SEEK EGYPTIAN HELP OVER LIBYA TRIAL

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, who starts a three-day official visit to Egypt on 7 June, will seek the help of President Husni Mubarak and other officials to secure a fair trial of the six Bulgarian medics detained in Libya, Reuters reported on 6 June, quoting ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov. On 2 June, some 2,000 people holding candles had held a protest vigil near the Libyan embassy in Sofia. Four days later, on 6 June, Libya's ambassador to Sofia lodged a protest against the vigil, AP reported. MS




OSCE SEEKS AGREEMENT ON CENTRAL ASIAN WATER


By Roland Eggleston

The chairwoman of the OSCE, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, went to Central Asia last week. One goal of her visit was to persuade the five countries to meet in London at the end of the year to discuss how the region's water resources could be used for the good of all.

When she left Tashkent at the end of her tour, Ferrero- Waldner knew it would not be possible to convene the conference this year. The presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan said they prefer to handle the problem on a bilateral basis and rejected the multilateral approach proposed by the OSCE. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, however, favor the conference.

The OSCE chairwoman told RFE/RL she now believes it could be one or two years before the conference is held. In the meantime, OSCE will organize working groups and other meetings to try to persuade Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to join the others at the talks.

All the upstream countries, she said, want a solution to the problem and do not want to stick to the old solutions from the communist era. This is the reason why the proposed conference, when it finally does take place, will deal with all aspects of the water problem--how the water should be shared, the building of storage dams, the use of hydroelectric power, and irrigation.

Officials traveling with the OSCE chairwoman said her negotiations in both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were difficult. The reaction of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was described as cold. He said he does not believe an international conference in London is the right way to handle the matter.

Those officials also said that Uzbek President Islam Karimov told the OSCE chairwoman that his country has a thousand years of experience in managing its water problems. He added that he, too, prefers bilateral discussions over a multilateral conference.

Nevertheless, the foreign ministers of both countries have been invited to visit the OSCE headquarters in Vienna to discuss the proposals with experts on water management. The OSCE says it hopes the water problems can also be discussed on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Tashkent in October. That meeting has been called primarily to discuss how to tackle the pressing issue of drug smuggling in Central Asia and security issues.

Ferrero-Waldner stressed that the OSCE is not trying to lecture the two reluctant states. "We are only advising on something we think could be good for the whole region," she commented. Neither Turkmenistan nor Uzbekistan attended a seminar on trans-boundary water resources organized by the OSCE in Almaty last November. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan did participate. However, some progress was made at a recent meeting of the five deputy water ministers in Nukes, a city in Uzbekistan located near the dying Aral Sea.

The OSCE is not the only international organization working with the five Central Asian states to overcome the problems in reaching a water-sharing agreement. The World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other international bodies have also made suggestions.

International experts say one important issue is what the water-rich states should get in return for sharing their waters. That is a sensitive issue in Kyrgyzstan, which is rich in water but has few other natural resources to boost the lagging economy. One Kyrgyz expert told journalists traveling with the OSCE chairwoman that some people in Kyrgyzstan are already asking why they should give away their water.

The expert, who asked not to be identified, also said that some people have suggested Kyrgyzstan should block the flow of water to other countries unless it receives compensation. He said that argument, while made only by a minority, illustrates the tensions that can arise unless the problem is solved.

A widely-read environmental report issued last year noted that Uzbekistan's agriculture depends heavily on the water-intensive cotton yield. The report said this has occasionally caused tensions with upstream states such as Kyrgyzstan.

The OSCE chairwoman described the management of trans- boundary water resources as "one of the fundamental environmental issues in the region." She said the OSCE hopes that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will eventually come to agree that it can be best tackled by all five states working together for the common good. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich.


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