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Newsline - June 9, 2000




PUTIN IMPOSES DIRECT RULE ON CHECHNYA...

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 8 June issued a decree on the creation of a new temporary Chechen administration that will be directly responsible to the Russian president, government, and the president's representative in the North Caucasus, Colonel General Viktor Kazantsev, Interfax reported. Putin also sent a written request to State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev to debate and approve the relevant draft legislation. The new power structure will replace the Russian government representation in Chechnya headed by Nikolai Koshman, who had a lengthy meeting with Putin late on 7 June. LF

...BUT FAILS TO NAME NEW CHECHEN LEADER

Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 8 June that Putin has not yet decided whom to name to head the new Chechen administration but will do so in the next few weeks, Interfax reported. Koshman, together with Kazantsev and the commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, has been named as a possible candidate for that position. In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 8 June, Ivanov said that the next Chechen leader must be "a man who can rally his people to wage an armed struggle against bandits," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov said only four or five people meet that criterion, implicitly excluding representatives of the Chechen diaspora in Moscow, who, he said, "are always eager to engage in idle talk." Former Russian Supreme Soviet speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov last month claimed that the Chechen population would support his appointment to that post (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 21, 26 May 2000). LF

SHPIGUN'S REMAINS IDENTIFIED

Russian forensic scientists have established that a body recovered from the south Chechen village of Itum-Kale in late March is definitely that of Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 8 March. Shpigun was abducted at gunpoint from a plane at Grozny airport in March 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 1999). His kidnappers subsequently demanded a multi-million dollar ransom for his release. LF

PUTIN TO DISCUSS MISSILE DEFENSE WITH PYONGYANG...

Citing a statement issued by the presidential press office, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June that President Putin will soon visit North Korea, becoming the first Russian leader to undertake a trip to that country. The news agency said that Putin had been invited by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, but according to a Russian Foreign Ministry official in an interview with "Vremya Novostei," the trip was initiated by the Russian president. The same Foreign Ministry official commented that the two sides will discuss military and strategic issues, including U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense system and "possible cooperation" between Moscow and Pyongyang on the issue. U.S. Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon was quoted by Reuters as saying he hopes Putin will try to persuade the North Koreans "to stop work on their long- range missile programme and concentrate [instead] on feeding their people." JC

...MENDS FENCES WITH BEIJING FOLLOWING ABM PROPOSAL?

Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, discussed international security in a telephone conversation on 8 June. According to AP, the Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Putin as saying that Russia wants to deepen its strategic partnership with China and boost cooperation on major issues of international security and stability. Jiang, for his part, told the Russian president that Moscow and Beijing are "highly responsible for world security as permanent members of the UN Security Council." Interfax reported that the two leaders agreed on a bilateral meeting during the Shanghai- Five summit in Dushanbe early next month. The telephone conversation comes on the heels of Putin's proposal in Rome that Russia, Europe, and NATO set up a joint anti-missile defense system, with the support of the U.S. Beijing appeared not to have been informed in advance of that proposal and insisted that it remains opposed to any amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). JC

DUMA FACTION ASKS FOR COMMISSION TO AMEND CONSTITUTION...

Members of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction on the State Duma Council suggested on 8 June that a letter be sent to President Putin asking him to establish a commission to draft amendments to the Russian Constitution. OVR faction leader Yevgenii Primakov told reporters that day that the constitution must be amended in light of recent legislation submitted to the Duma, such as the bill changing the procedure for forming the upper legislative chamber. Primakov said the bills will be passed by the State Duma "following significant revisions." JAC

...SUGGESTS THAT LEGISLATION NEEDS REWORKING...

In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 8 June, Primakov objected to the provision of pending legislation that would suspend governors and mayors under investigation on criminal charges. He said "we all know how easy it is to charge a person with something." Primakov had spoken out earlier in favor of stripping the reformed Federation Council of its rights to make declarations of war, send troops abroad, and impose emergency rule. JAC

...AS KREMLIN INSISTS IT'S OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS

Presidential representative to the State Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov said on 8 June that the President Putin is "ready to agree" to many of the senators' proposals on amending legislation related to the formation of the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). He added that not a single amendment proposed by the senators "has evoked objections in principle." However, an unnamed "high-ranking" Kremlin official told Interfax on 8 June that the amendments proposed by the Federation Council "are unacceptable since they are totally inconsistent with the presidential concept." The source added that some parts of the senators' proposals could "still be taken into account but the bulk of the amendments are unacceptable for the majority of State Duma deputies." At a hearing at the State Duma that day, Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Unity faction expressed his support for a transitional period for regions to bring their laws into line with federal legislation. JAC

RUSSIA PROPOSES INTERIM COMPROMISE ON CASPIAN STATUS...

Addressing the seventh international Oil and Gas Exhibition in Baku on 8 June, Andrei Urnov, who is head of a Russian Foreign Ministry working group on the Caspian, said that pending a formal agreement by all five Caspian littoral states on the sea's legal status, Moscow advocates "on an interim basis" dividing the seabed into national sectors while preserving general use of the sea's waters and surface, Interfax reported. But ITAR-TASS also quoted Urnov as saying that no underwater pipelines should be built until the littoral states reach a formal agreement on the sea's status or at least resolve ecological problems. Impermissibly high concentrations of mercury in coastal waters have caused the death of thousands of seals off the coast of Kazakhstan and Daghestan in recent weeks. LF

...AS HOPE FADES FOR TRANS-CASPIAN GAS PIPELINE...

Urnov's proposed moratorium on the construction of more underwater Caspian pipelines could further hinder plans for the Trans- Caspian gas pipeline, which both Moscow and Tehran oppose on ecological grounds. That pipeline is intended to transport Turkmen gas via Azerbaijan to Turkey. The "Financial Times" on 8 June quoted participants at the Baku Oil and Gas exhibition as predicting that Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's rejection of the conditions proposed by the consortium created to build that pipeline, together with his demand for prefinancing up to $500 million, could kill the project. A Turkmen gas official on 8 June said that building a pipeline to export gas from Turkmenistan's central Karakumi gas fields would cost $500 million less than a pipeline from the east or southeast of the country, according to Interfax. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 June that the Turkish section of the rival Blue Stream pipeline that will transport Russian gas across the Black Sea to Turkey will be completed by the end of this year. LF

...AND GEORGIA OFFERS TO EXPORT RUSSIAN OIL

Senior Georgian oil and gas official Archil Maghalashvili said in Baku on 8 June that construction of a 630 kilometer pipeline connecting Novorossiisk with the Georgian section of the planned Baku- Ceyhan pipeline for Caspian oil would enable Russia to export crude via the latter facility, Caucasus Press reported. He said construction of that pipeline, including seven pumping stations, would cost $450 million and take one year. Georgian and Abkhaz leaders discussed the possibility of such a pipeline in early 1998 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 1, 3 March 1998). LF

INFLATION PICKS UP SOME SPEED

Inflation in May rose to 1.8 percent, compared with 0.9 percent in April, the State Statistics Committee reported on 8 June. For the first five months of 2000, consumer prices rose to 6.8 percent compared with 22.2 percent during the same period the previous year. According to Interfax, last month's growth in inflation can be attributed mainly to an increase in the price of food products, which rose 2.2 percent in May compared with 0.3 percent in April. Meanwhile, the Institute for Analyses of the Agrarian Market is predicting that the price of flour and cereals will rise by 6-7 percent in June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 June. JAC

PREMIER SAYS NO SOCIAL BENEFITS ARE AT RISK

In an interview with Russian Public Television on 8 June, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov commented on the trade unions' objection to the single social tax proposed under his government's tax reform plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). He said that "there is no question of cutting any social benefits, no question of money being diverted to plug holes in the budget." He continued that "this is especially so as there have been no holes in the budget for two years already." State Duma deputies voted on 9 June not to postpone consideration of the single social tax bill. Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov predicted the previous day that the Duma will pass the bill but that the vote will be close. JAC

LEFT GROUPS CONDUCT PURGE

At a session on 8 June, the Coordinating Council of the People's Patriotic Union, a coalition of left-wing parties that includes the Communist Party, decided to expel some of the union's well-known members, such as Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, Spiritual Heritage head Aleksei Poberezhkin, and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 June. Tuleev, who was co-chairman of the union, responded to the news of his expulsion by accusing the Communist Party of "conducting a witch hunt," Interfax reported. He added that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is not really the leader of the party and all key matters are decided by the "gray cardinal Valentin Kuptsov." Tuleev, 56, charged that both Zyuganov, 56, and Kuptsov should be removed from the party and "a young and reasonable new leader elected." Earlier this year, Tuleev had competed against Zyuganov for the presidency of Russia for the second time. JAC

FOREIGN INVESTORS LIKE NEW GOVERNMENT

The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, Scott Blacklin, told reporters on 8 June that officials in the Putin administration appear to really understand the need for transparency, accountability, and responsible business practices, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Blacklin said that he is encouraging U.S. officials and businesses to re-engage in Russia, taking advantage of "the unusual productivity in the Duma" and unprecedented openness to foreign input. Also on 8 June, international financier George Soros announced that there are now opportunities for "strong- hearted" investors in Russia and that the prospects for economic growth in Russia "are now better." He added that he thinks "the government is extremely sensitive to preserving transparency in its privatization efforts." JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL HEAD GIVES NOD TO NATO MEMBERSHIP, TOO

Russian Security Council Secretary Ivanov indicated to "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 8 June that he subscribes to President Putin's view that Russia might one day join NATO. Asking why Russia should not become a member of the alliance, Ivanov said that even though the idea "sounds a bit wild at the moment..., the world is changing and everything will be dictated by economic interests. For Russia, these lie to a great extent in the sphere of western Europe." Earlier this year, then acting President Putin had said in an interview with BBC Television that he does not rule out Moscow's joining NATO but stressed it will do so only "when Russia's views are taken into account as those of an equal partner" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2000). JC




NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNVEILS PROGRAM

In a program made public on 8 June, Andranik Markarian's government pledges to double GDP over the next seven to eight years while preserving macro-economic stability, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. It also gave priority to the creation of new jobs, eradicating poverty, and restructuring the civil service as part of "a merciless fight against corruption." The new government also promised to simplify tax legislation and to help local businesses find markets abroad. At the same time, the statement admitted that in the light of 0.3 percent first quarter GDP growth, Armenia may not meet its planned target of 6 percent growth in 2000. It also expressed concern that continuing revenue shortfalls may result in a total budget deficit of 45 billion drams ($85 million) by the end of the year. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PARDONS TWO PRISONERS

President Heidar Aliyev on 8 June signed decrees pardoning two men sentenced on charges of participating in two separate alleged coup attempts, Turan and AP reported. Kenan Gurel, a Turkish businessman who has Austrian citizenship, was sentenced in September 1996 to 15 years in prison for his role in the alleged coup launched in March 1995 by OPON (special police force) commander Rovshan Djavadov. Hajimurad Saddadinov, who was the driver of former army Chief of Staff General Shahin Musaev, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his alleged participation in a second coup planned by Musaev and other senior military officers earlier that year. LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY COUNCIL FOCUSES ON SMUGGLING...

President Eduard Shevardnadze chaired a session of the Georgian National Security Council on 8 June to discuss ways to counter smuggling and counterfeiting that are costing millions of lari in lost tax revenue, Caucasus Press reported. Participants agreed to amend the tax code and to introduce special tax and customs regulations in post- conflict zones. An official from western Georgia informed a parliamentary committee the same day that vast quantities of cigarettes and fuel are smuggled into Georgia daily from Abkhazia. He said 800 tons of fuel and 100,000 packs of cigarettes entered Georgia via that route last month alone. LF

...AS DISPLACED PERSONS' LEADER DENIES HE IS INVOLVED

Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, has rejected as "absurd" an allegation by two Georgian parliamentary deputies that he extends protection to individuals engaged in smuggling goods from Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 9 June. Tengiz Jgushia, who represents the west Georgian district of Zugdidi, had said that a member of the Forest Brothers guerrilla organization operating in western Georgia engages in smuggling with Nadareishvili's patronage. Nadareishvili said such allegations are intended to discredit him in the eyes of the Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia in 1992-1993. LF

CHECHEN REFUGEES WANT TO MOVE FROM GEORGIAN BORDER REGION

Representatives of the estimated 7,000 Chechen refugees currently temporarily resident in Georgia's Pankisi gorge, which borders on Chechnya, appealed to the Georgian leadership on 8 June to allow them to move to a location elsewhere in Georgia that would be monitored by the Georgian authorities and the UN, Caucasus Press reported. Chechen refugee spokesman Lecha Alisultanov said that the refugees are tired of being held responsible en masse for isolated incidents of drug-peddling, hostage-taking, and other crimes. He added that failure to distribute humanitarian aid fairly among the refugees could lead to fighting among them. LF

CENTRAL ASIA PREMIERS PUSH AHEAD WITH ECONOMIC INTEGRATION

Meeting in Astana on 8 June, the prime ministers of the Central Asian Union states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) approved a two-year program of measures to expedite the creation of a single economic space and a five-year strategy of economic development and integration, Interfax reported. The program also envisages the drafting of inter-governmental agreements on combating economic crime and the use of water resources. LF

RUSSIAN 'SEPARATISTS' SENTENCED IN KAZAKHSTAN

A regional court in East Kazakhstan Oblast on 8 June handed down sentences ranging from four to 18 years in prison to 13 men and one woman charged with plotting to overthrow the regional authorities and establish an independent "Altai Republic" on the territory of eastern Kazakhstan, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Twelve of those accused are Russian citizens, while one is Kazakh and another Moldovan. Russian media have repeatedly claimed that the charges are unsubstantiated, while Russian officials have expressed concern at procedural violations during the investigation and the 10-week trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 26 April 2000). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PROMISES NEXT ELECTIONS WILL BE DEMOCRATIC...

Addressing the roundtable gathering of political parties, NGOs, and government representatives that opened in Bishkek on 8 June, Askar Akaev vowed that the presidential poll due later this year will be free and fair, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He admitted that he is not satisfied with the present political situation in Kyrgyzstan and called on political parties to function as "a constructive, not irreconcilable" opposition in order to establish genuine democracy. Most opposition parties boycotted the gathering, while moderate centrist and pro- government parties attended, as did one of the country's two Communist Parties. Pensioners Party Chairman Tursunbek Dooletkeldiev proposed extending the presidential term from five to seven years and re-electing Akaev. LF

...AS OSCE ADVOCATES ANOTHER ROUNDTABLE

A member of the OSCE representation in Bishkek told RFE/RL on 8 June that the OSCE is preparing for a second roundtable between the Kyrgyz leadership and the opposition. He expressed his regret that the Kyrgyz authorities have expanded participation in the roundtable that began on 8 June from seven to 25 representatives from each group. LF

NEW TAJIK OPPOSITION ALLIANCE FORMED

Meeting in Dushanbe on 7 June, a group of young Tajik politicians founded a new political movement named "For the Promotion of Democracy," Asia Plus-Blitz reported quoting RFE/RL's Tajik Service. They are Adolat va Taraqqiyot (Justice and Unity) Chairman Ramatillo Zoirov, National Movement of Tajikistan Chairman Hokim Muhabbatov, and Congress of Popular Unity of Tajikistan member Shokirjon Hakimov. None of those organizations was permitted to contend the parliamentary elections earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1999). The movement hopes that the Ministry of Justice will formally register it within the next few weeks. LF

TWO TAJIK SECURITY OFFICIALS SENTENCED ON ESPIONAGE CHARGES

A military court in Dushanbe has sentenced two brothers, Abdullo and Shodi Kholmurodov, both low-level Security Ministry officials, to six and seven years in prison, respectively, for spying on behalf on an unnamed foreign power, AP reported on 8 June. LF




BELARUS CRITICIZES U.S. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikalay Barysevich on 8 June said newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Belarus Michael Kozak made "incorrect statements" during his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate. "Hasty assessments of the internal political situation in Belarus and unjustified comparisons with situations in other countries can hardly be a good point of departure," Belarusian Television quoted Barysevich as saying. Kozak, who served in Cuba before his nomination to become ambassador in Minsk, compared Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime to that of Fidel Castro. "Apart from the names of the victims, the descriptions of human rights violations in each country are often almost identical," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S PHONE BUGGED

A telephone technician has discovered that the telephone line of Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, has been bugged, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 June. "Something that we have long suspected and talked about has now been confirmed by material evidence," Lyabedzka commented. He added that he will ask the Prosecutor General's Office whether it authorized his telephone to be tapped. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTES CABINET FOR ENERGY POLICY

Leonid Kuchma on 8 June criticized Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet for failing to regulate the situation in the fuel and energy sector, Interfax reported. "No use has been made of the 11,000 directives from the government committee on reforming the fuel and energy sector and from the Ministry of Fuel and Energy," Kuchma noted, commenting on Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko's performance in reforming the energy market. Kuchma said Ukraine's debt for Russian gas supplies for the first five months of this year totals $700 million. He added that Ukraine has illegally siphoned off 13 billion cubic meters of Russian gas from pipelines crossing its territory. Russia has the right to take Ukraine to an international court over the issue, he commented. Ukraine's lucrative energy market is widely believed to provide huge revenues for a few powerful oligarchs who sell Russian gas at inflated prices. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REPLACES DEATH PENALTY WITH LIFE IMPRISONMENT

The parliament on 8 June amended the penal code to substitute life imprisonment for the death penalty, Interfax reported. The parliament also ruled that life sentences cannot be handed down to people under 18 or over 65 or to women who are pregnant either at time of committing their crime or receiving the court verdict. The move followed last year's ruling by the Constitutional Court that the death penalty is illegal. Under pressure from the Council of Europe, Ukraine imposed a moratorium on executions in March 1997. JM

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES...

Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered his semi-annual foreign policy report to the parliament on 8 June. Ilves commended lawmakers for responding positively to his last speech, in which he had admonished the slow pace of harmonizing Estonia's legislation with the EU: "I have the pleasure of pointing out that we have been able to improve our position a little in the past four months," he said, adding that Estonia will be ready for membership by the start of 2003, BNS reported. Ilves also commented that Estonia must take part in the proposed European rapid-reaction force: "Estonia wants to have a say in the shaping of European security and defense policy principles right from the start." On the eve of a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Ilves also said that Estonia "cannot postpone further" the opening of an embassy in Ankara. MH

...SAYS RUSSIAN WTO MEMBERSHIP DEPENDS ON EQUAL TRADING RIGHTS

During the debate following his speech, Foreign Minister Ilves linked Russia's desire to join the World Trade Organization to Moscow's stance on the double customs tariffs imposed on Estonia. "If Russia very much wants to get into WTO, they will abolish the double duties," he said. "But if they do not particularly want WTO membership, it will take more time," BNS reported. Estonia became a member of the WTO last fall. Earlier Latvia, also a WTO member, had suggested Russia's WTO bid could also be linked to equal trading rules with Latvia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2000). MH

LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL TO RESUME

A medical commission on 7 June gave the go-ahead for the trial against accused Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis to resume, Reuters reported. The trial against the 92-year-old defendant, accused of wartime atrocities against Jews and other Nazi prisoners, will begin on 21 June, according to the presiding judge. The trial had started in April following the passage of a law allowing trials in the absence of the defendant (who is allowed to monitor the proceedings via closed-circuit monitor), but it was immediately halted pending medical tests on Lileikis. The case against another accused Nazi war criminal, Kazys Gimzauskas, remains in limbo as the defendant is in hospital. MH

LITHUANIA DEMANDS NAZI OCCUPATION COMPENSATION FROM BERLIN

The Lithuanian parliament on 8 June passed a resolution demanding compensation for the German occupation during World War II. The resolution criticizes the current mechanism, whereby Lithuanian nationals seeking compensation are forced to proceed via Moscow, and calls instead for a compensation mechanism to be a part of Lithuanian-German relations and to be handled as a bilateral issue. During his meeting between German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis had brought up the issue, equating the mechanism via Moscow as tantamount to recognizing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). Landsbergis said he expects a foundation to be established soon in Lithuania that will deal with applications to the German compensation fund. MH

POLISH PREMIER NOMINATES THREE NEW MINISTERS

Jerzy Buzek on 8 June nominated three new ministers to fill vacancies after the Freedom Union (UW) departed from the cabinet coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz was replaced by Jaroslaw Bauc, who was Balcerowicz's deputy in the AWS-UW cabinet. Solidarity lawyer Lech Kaczynski took over the Justice Ministry from Hanna Suchocka, and Buzek's chief of staff, Jerzy Widzyk, replaced Tadeusz Syryjczyk as transport minister. Buzek is to find replacements for Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz, both of the UW, later this month. JM

WILL BALCEROWICZ'S FINANCIAL POLICY BE CONTINUED?

The new finance minister, Jaroslaw Bauc, won respect from financial markets for his calls, in his capacity as Balcerowicz's deputy, to tighten Poland's financial policies and cut public spending. It is thought that as head of the Finance Ministry, he may try to withstand Solidarity's current pressure to increase social spending. "Bauc is widely believed to be an even stronger advocate of extreme liberalism than Balcerowicz," PAP quoted Marek Sawicki, deputy chairman of the opposition Peasant Party, as saying. "Bauc's nomination possibly means that the coalition [financial] policy that was so much criticized by the Solidarity Electoral Action will be continued," Danuta Waniek of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance commented. JM

CZECH PREMIER WARNS EU

In a reference to the Austrian right- wing politician Joerg Haider, Milos Zeman told EU European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi on 8 June that if the union procrastinates on enlarging eastward, "a Haider syndrome" could emerge in candidate countries, exploiting anti-European sentiments there, a CTK correspondent in Brussels reported. In line with the statement adopted by the members of the "fast-track group" in Ljubljana on 4 June, Zeman said that the EU Commission must take the lead in pursuing the union's further enlargement. Prodi replied only that he is convinced enlargement will take place before his mandate ends in 2005. MS

FORMER ODS OFFICIAL ACQUITTED OF TAX EVASION CHARGE

A Prague court ruled on 8 June that former Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Deputy Chairman Libor Novak cannot be convicted on charges of tax evasion owing to a lack of evidence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). The prosecution immediately appealed that ruling, and the case will now go to a higher court. The judge explained that the prosecution has not submitted sufficient evidence to prove Novak was personally involved in the affair. He added that he is convinced that a senior ODS member forged a tax declaration by splitting a large donation into several smaller ones to avoid paying taxes. "You will not hear from me that Novak is not guilty, but only that it has not been sufficiently proven in court that it was definitely him," he commented. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION ENDS RALLIES

A rally attended by some 6,000 supporters of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in Bratislava on 8 June announced an end to the series of protests that began three weeks earlier. The participants demanded early elections and called on former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to "save Slovakia." Addressing the rally, Meciar said Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet has proved "not only incapable of a dialogue with the opposition but also unable to conduct one among coalition members." He warned that Slovakia is under the threat of "starvation and poverty," CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN FARMERS SUSPEND PROTEST

In a second consecutive day of nationwide demonstrations, Hungarian farmers on 8 June blocked roads at some 50 places in nine counties to protest the government's agricultural policies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2000). The protest was planned for two days only, but farmers from the Baja region of southern Hungary said they will continue to demonstrate at gas stations, shopping centers, and border crossings if there is no breakthrough in the deadlock in talks between farmers and Agricultural Minister Jozsef Torgyan. The Brussels-based European Federation of Agricultural Organizations has sent a letter to Torgyan criticizing him for his "despotic" policies and provocative statements. The federation's secretary- general, Wolfgang Weipert, warned Torgyan that "such outcries and behavior" damage Hungary's image in Europe, Hungarian media report. MSZ




SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER SETS THREE GOALS

Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk said in Ljubljana on 8 June that his government has three priorities, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported. The first aim is to speed up Slovenia's admission to the EU and NATO. At the same time, he wants to clear up difficulties with Austria and Italy stemming from the aftermath of World War II and from issues involving minority rights. Bajuk also wants to settle outstanding issues with Croatia stemming from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. The most important of those issues for Ljubljana is securing a maritime boundary that will give Slovenia direct access to the open sea. Bajuk's second priority is to further liberalize the economy, which is affected by high interest rates and remaining communist-era structures. Bajuk's third goal is to make Slovenes more self-confident and free of their "collective inferiority complex." PM

KOSOVA'S THACI, RUGOVA DENOUNCE ATTACKS ON SERBS

Hashim Thaci, who is the former head of the Kosova Liberation Army, and Ibrahim Rugova, who was Kosova's leading politician for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, said in separate statements in Prishtina on 8 June that recent attacks on Serbian civilians must stop (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Thaci argued that "the rising wave of violence in Kosova is not in the interest of the citizens of Kosova," Reuters reported. Rugova noted that "these acts, regardless of perpetrators, pose a serious threat to the hard-won freedom, stability, and peace in Kosova and must stop immediately." James O'Brien, who is U.S. President Bill Clinton's special Balkans adviser, said after speaking with the two Kosovar leaders: "The violence that we are seeing against Serbs...seems to be systematic. We believe that those responsible should be brought to justice as soon as possible," AP reported. PM

ANNAN CALLS ATTACKS 'ORCHESTRATED'

In his sharpest criticism to date of violence against Kosova's Serbian minority, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in a report to the Security Council on 8 June that "an upsurge of vicious attacks on Kosovo Serbs in several areas has undermined [their] confidence in the future. These attacks appears to be part of an orchestrated campaign.... The international community did not intervene in [the province] to make it a haven for revenge and crime," he added. Annan noted that "local leaders and the people of Kosovo have made some encouraging efforts to create a society in which all people can live without fear," Reuters reported. Annan stressed, however, that "understanding and tolerance in Kosovo remain scarce and reconciliation is far from a reality." PM

SOLANA SEEKS BETTER SECURITY IN KOSOVA

Javier Solana, who is the EU's chief official for foreign and security affairs, said in Prishtina on 8 June that NATO and the UN must do more to improve security in the province. At the same time, he called on local Serbs to "participate in the [civilian political] structures that are being created" by the UN there, AP reported. He made the remarks after meeting with Oliver Ivanovic, who is the hard-line Serbian leader in northern Mitrovica. PM

ALBRIGHT HAILS NATO ACHIEVEMENTS IN KOSOVA

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at the UN on 8 June that NATO's intervention one year ago put an end to an "impossible" situation of ethnic cleansing in Kosova. "There is a long way to go, but I think we also have to remember how far we have come and how important it was that the international community took steps for Kosovo. It is something I think we should all be very proud of," AP reported. PM

KOSOVA LINK IN ATHENS KILLING

The Greek leftist terrorist group November 17 wrote in a statement to the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia" of 9 June that it killed British Defense Attache to Greece Stephens Saunders in Athens the previous day because of his alleged role in NATO's 1999 campaign to end Serbian atrocities in Kosova. The statement added that in Kosova, "English policy...even surpassed the Americans in provocative qualities, cynicism, and aggression," Reuters reported. November 17 has embraced nationalist causes as well as left-wing ones in recent years, the BBC reported. Vatican Radio suggested that the impetus for the killing may have come from the recent release of a report by Amnesty International charging NATO with war crimes in conjunction with the 1999 conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). PM

CLARK CALLS ATTACK ON SERBIAN MEDIA CENTER 'NECESSARY'

U.S. General Wesley Clark, who was NATO's supreme commander in Europe during the Kosova conflict, rejected Amnesty's charge that the NATO attack on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's radio and television headquarters constituted an unwarranted strike against a civilian target. Speaking in Washington on 8 June, Clark said that "the attack on the Serb media [headquarters]...was a controversial target, but the Serb media engine was feeding the war. You're always making trade-offs in these decisions, but in this case it was a huge step to be able to take out this major instrument of provocation." The general added that state-run media are "a crucial instrument of Milosevic's control over the Serb population [and] exported fear, hatred and instability in the neighboring regions," Reuters reported. PM

NATO, SERBIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS BORDER INCIDENTS

Officials of the Atlantic alliance and the Serbian government met in Kursumlija in southwestern Serbia on 8 June to discuss a series of recent incidents in the area. No details are available, AP reported. The state-run Tanjug news agency claimed that five Serbian policemen were injured in Konculj when their vehicle struck a mine planted by "Albanian terrorists." In another incident, Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian militants exchanged gunfire for two hours on 6-7 June in Borovac. PM

OFFICE OF MILOSEVIC'S WIFE'S PARTY SACKED

Unknown persons extensively vandalized the Belgrade offices of Mira Markovic's United Yugoslav Left (JUL) for the second time in recent days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). JUL said in a statement that the opposition's "lackeys of the West" were responsible. PM

MILOSEVIC USING GRAIN TRADE

The NGO International Crisis Group said in a report that the Milosevic regime is boosting its hard-currency reserves and evading sanctions by forcing farmers to sell grain cheaply to the state and then disposing of that grain on the world market at market prices, Reuters reported from Brussels on 8 June. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER: 'WE DO NOT GIVE IN TO BLACKMAIL'

Filip Vujanovic told Reuters in Podgorica on 8 June that Milosevic's supporters are trying to force the government into a situation in which the only alternatives are submission to Belgrade or declaring independence. He added that Milosevic will respond to any referendum on independence by declaring a "military dictatorship through a state of emergency." The Montenegrin leadership will not submit to "blackmail" and will hold a referendum only "when we feel there is no point in talking any longer with Serbia," Vujanovic added. Meanwhile in Belgrade, the army command said in a statement that the Montenegrin government is conducting a "psychological and media campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its army," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN SENATE REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION

By a vote of 47 to 44, the Senate on 8 June rejected a motion by the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania to dismiss Agriculture Minister Ioan Avram Muresean, whom the party holds responsible for the difficulties faced by the agricultural sector. Trita Fanita, chairman of the Senate's Agricultural Commission, announced after the vote that he is resigning from the Democratic Party to protest that party's support for the ruling coalition in voting down the motion, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, former Premier Theodor Stolojan on 8 June said he will "definitely return" to political life but has not yet made up his mind "on which side." Polls show that Stolojan is among the most popular politicians, and grass-root groups in several places have called on him to return to politics. MS

ANOTHER ANTONESCU STATUE FOR ROMANIA

The Iasi branch of the Union of War Veterans on 8 June unveiled a statue of Romania's wartime leader and Hitler ally, Marshal Ion Antonescu. The statue is located in Iasi's Letcani military cemetery, which is called the "Marshal Ion Antonescu Cemetery of Heroes," Romanian Radio reported. MS

MOLDOVA, CHINA TO JOIN EFFORTS AGAINST 'SEPARATISTS'

Visiting Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Chinese Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin have agreed to "join efforts against separatist forces," an ITAR-TASS correspondent in Beijing reported on 8 June. Jiang, whose country also faces separatist threats, said China backs Chisinau's drive to end the conflict with the separatist Transdniester region. Meanwhile, an OSCE delegation of parliamentary deputies led by Kimmo Kiljunen of Finland has arrived in Moldova to establish why Russia has not honored its pledge to withdraw its troops from the separatist region. The six-man delegation is to meet with the leaderships in Chisinau and Tiraspol. MS

PROMINENT MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN RESIGNS FROM PARTY

Christian Democratic Popular Party (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Valentin Dolganiuc announced on 8 June that he has resigned from that position and from the party, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Dolganiuc accused PPCD leader Iurie Rosca of having established "an atmosphere of intolerance and a dictatorship" within the party and of having forced it to abandon principles in favor of "short-sighted alliances." The recent alliance with the Communists was "the epitome" of that approach, he added. MS

EGYPT PROMISES HELP IN BULGARIANS' TRIAL IN LIBYA

"We will do whatever we can to help both parties reach an amicable solution, bearing in mind the seriousness of the accusations," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 8 June. Mihailova had asked her hosts to intervene to secure a fair trial for the six Bulgarian nationals accused by Libya of having intentionally infected children with the HIV virus. Reuters cited Mihailova as saying Bulgaria wants "guarantees that the testimonies [of the six] had not been obtained by use of force." The trial is scheduled to begin on 17 September. MS




WHICH FORMULA CAN GUARANTEE SECURITY FOR THE SOUTH CAUCASUS?


By Harry Tamrazian

The call for permanent peace in the South Caucasus has never been so urgent and loud as it is now, despite the fact that six years have passed since formal cease-fire agreements ended the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia. But in neither case has the cease-fire been underpinned by a political settlement of the conflict, nor do such settlements appear imminent.

The issue of a security system for the South Caucasus was first raised by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during the OSCE Istanbul summit last November. In an unprecedented move, Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev called on the 54 members of that organization to create such a system for the volatile South Caucasus region.

At the time, however, the international community, concerned that the war in Chechnya might spill over into Georgia or Azerbaijan, reacted coolly to the proposal for a wider-ranging regional security system. But the idea did not die altogether. Turkey was the first to react positively, with Ankara indicating that the South Caucasus would become the second item on its foreign-policy priority list after the EU, replacing Cyprus and Turkish-Greek relations. And before leaving office, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel traveled to Tbilisi in January to launch his last foreign-policy initiative in the form of a "Caucasus Stability Pact."

Notwithstanding Turkey's concern that the war in Chechnya could spill over into Georgia and create an influx of refugees into Turkey, the main goal of Demirel's "Caucasus Stability Pact" was to create a stable political landscape for the "energy corridor" that Ankara hopes will bring the oil riches of the Caspian region to its Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Demirel wanted to enlist the U.S. and the EU as official participants and sponsors of his "Caucasus Stability Pact." According to Demirel's plan, international financial organizations such as the IMF and World Bank would also take part in the project, providing funding to secure the economic recovery of the region.

The only country conspicuous by its absence from Demirel's blueprint was Iran, while Russia was accorded a secondary role. (Iran was likewise not included in Aliev's draft proposal.)

While Moscow officially welcomed Demirel's proposal, at the same time senior Russian officials made clear Russia's discomfort at the prospect of U.S. direct involvement in the Caucasus. The chief of the Main Department of International Cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, said that the U.S. and NATO should not be allowed to participate in the creation of a security system in the Caucasus. "The involvement of Americans in the South Caucasus would not improve the security of this region. The realization of US plans in the post-Soviet republics is very dangerous, and may explode the situation", the Russian general said.

Then in late March, Armenian President Robert Kocharian unveiled a more detailed blueprint based on the so-called 3+3+2 formula, meaning the pact would constitute an agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, with Russia, Iran, and Turkey as guarantors and the U.S. and the EU as sponsors. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili expressed approval of that formula, saying Tbilisi "supports all initiatives aimed at stabilizing the situation in the Caucasus." But Azerbaijan has meanwhile distanced itself from the concept of a regional security system, arguing that the idea is not workable until the Karabakh conflict is resolved.

The most recent and most comprehensive proposal, entitled "A Stability Pact for the Caucasus," was drafted by the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), which played an important role in shaping the EU's Balkan Stability Pact and has drafted a solution for settling the Cyprus problem. After extensive research, CEPS came to the conclusion that it is possible to solve many problems in the region by creating a so-called "South Caucasus Community," modeled either on the EU or another comparable regional grouping such as ASEAN. The CEPS Task Force for the Caucasus, headed by Michael Emerson of London School of Economics, called on the EU and the U.S. to work closely with Russia in creating and supporting that South Caucasus Community, which would have its own parliament (a Parliamentary Assembly with 170 deputies) and its own executive (a Council of Ministers).

CEPS advocates resolving the Karabakh and Abkhaz conflicts by granting those territories a high degree of self-government, separate constitutions, horizontal and asymmetric relations with the state and regional authorities, the preservation of their own cultural identities, and shared competence in security issues, external affairs, and economic policy.

The CEPS Caucasus group is currently engaged in acquainting the international community and international organizations with the details of its proposed South Caucasus plan. It has already made a presentation to NATO and plans to submit its proposals to an international conference on Central Asia and the Caucasus in Tehran on 11 June and to the OSCE in Vienna on 14 June. The author is deputy director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service.


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