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Newsline - July 24, 2000




PUTIN, CLINTON DISCUSS NORTH KOREAN MISSILE PROPOSAL...

Meeting on 21 July on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Okinawa, Japan, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Bill Clinton of the U.S. discussed North Korea's proposal, conveyed to Putin two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000), to abandon its missile program in exchange for help in launching space satellites. Clinton told journalists on 22 July that based on what Putin had told him, he believes "it's something that needs to be explored," but Clinton stressed that "we need to see exactly what the specifics are," Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. Clinton's Deputy National Security Adviser James Steinberg pointed out that it is unclear whether North Korea wants other countries to offer launch services or provide Pyongyang with rockets. If the latter is the case, he said, the U.S. would "have concerns" because it would give North Korea access to the technology." JC

...WHILE IVANOV SEEKS TO SOOTHE U.S. CONCERNS

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 22 July that Pyongyang's missile proposal does not mean that North Korea wants to receive missiles or missile technology to launch its own satellites independently. Rather, he said, Pyongyang wants other countries to launch those satellites for it. AP quoted Ivanov as saying that "if such assistance is offered, North Korea is ready to stop ballistic missile tests. It's too early to discuss specifics, such as whether such assistance would envisage providing funds or carrying out launches." The Russian foreign minister said he had reassured Japanese officials on this topic, as well as U.S. Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, according to AFP. JC

RUSSIA, U.S. TO CONTINUE TO COOPERATE ON GLOBAL STABILITY

While the 21 July talks between Putin and Clinton were largely devoted to Pyongyang's missile offer, the two leaders also found time to discuss other security issues. Following their meeting, they issued a joint statement on their commitment to continue to cooperate on arms control. They pledged to make cuts in strategic nuclear weapons under the START III treaty and to seek the speedy implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the U.S. Senate has refused to ratify. Moreover, the statement said that "the U.S. and Russia are prepared to renew and expand cooperation in the field of theatre missile defences and to consider the possibility of involving other states," according to Reuters. Russia strongly opposes U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense system and has proposed a joint European system that would also involve Washington. JC

GERMANY AGREES TO RESCHEDULE BUT NOT FORGIVE DEBTS...

During a bilateral meeting on 22 July on the sidelines of the G-8 summit, President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reached agreement to reschedule $3.8 billion of Russia's Soviet-era debt to Germany, dpa reported. According to the agency, the debt should have been paid in 1999 but now will be rescheduled through 2016. The interest rate on the loans will also be significantly lower, according to "Handelsblatt." Prior to the summit, Schroeder categorically rejected any possibility of debt forgiveness, saying that "Russia is not a poor developing country, but a world power" and "has the human and material resources necessary to cope by itself with its financial obligations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2000). According to Bloomberg and ITAR- TASS, the question of debt forgiveness for Russia was not raised during the summit, despite Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's earlier statement that Russia would bring up the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2000). JAC

...AS EU PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC REFORMS

During a meeting with European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi also on 22 July, Putin called on the EU to expand its trade and investment in Russia. Prodi, in turn, voiced his support for Russia's economic reforms and his hope that economic ties with Russia will be expanded, Tokyo's Jiji Press reported. Deputy chief of the presidential staff Sergei Prikhodko told reporters that the Prodi-Putin meeting has partly laid the groundwork for the Russia-EU summit in Paris on 30 October. JAC

PUTIN TO MAKE OFFICIAL VISIT TO JAPAN IN EARLY SEPTEMBER...

In talks between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in Okinawa on 23 July, the two sides agreed that the Russian president will pay an official visit to Japan from 3- 5 September. RIA quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying Moscow wants Tokyo to make a new proposal on how to break the deadlock in talks on a treaty officially ending World War II hostilities between the two countries, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. The sticking point remains ownership of the Kuril Islands, which the former USSR seized from Japan at the end of the war. JC

...BUT CONTINUES TO REMAIN COOL TOWARD FRANCE

It was also announced in Okinawa that Russian President Putin will visit France in October to attend the EU summit meeting. According to Reuters, however, Putin made clear that his trip will be linked solely to the fact that France currently holds the EU rotating presidency and will not constitute a "full-blown bilateral visit." French President Jacques Chirac was the only leader of the group of seven leading industrial countries with whom Putin did not hold bilateral talks during the Okinawa summit. But Putin told reporters that he and Chirac had several short exchanges and that he hopes their dialogue will be continued "in the mutual interests of both France and Russia." Russian-French ties have cooled over Paris's strong criticism of Moscow's campaign in Chechnya and French court action against Russian interests, including the recent seizure of a Russian tall ship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). JC

DID GENERAL STAFF CANCEL TOPOL-M MISSILE LAUNCH?

Russian media speculate that the decision to postpone a test launch of the Topol-M ballistic missile from the Plesetsk base, Arkhangelsk Oblast, planned for late last week may be linked to ongoing tensions between Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). Kvashnin has proposed bringing the Strategic Rocket Forces under the direct control of the General Staff, a proposal that Sergeev, a former commander of the forces, strongly opposes. On 22 July, "Kommersant-Daily," which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, quoted officers from the rocket forces as saying "off the record" that the General Staff prevented them "at the last moment" from launching the Topol-M missile. According to the newspaper, a successful launch might have undermined Kvashnin's arguments ahead of an important Security Council meeting. The launch has been rescheduled for later this month, a rocket forces spokesman was quoted by Interfax as saying. JC

GOVERNMENT FILLS GAP LEFT BY LACK OF IMF FUNDS...

Russian government redirected 115 billion rubles ($4.2 billion) from budget revenues during the first six months of 2000 to compensate for foreign credits that were not received, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin revealed to journalists on 22 July. The original version of the 2000 budget had assumed that the government would receive more than double that figure from foreign lenders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1999). JAC

...AS RUBLE CONTINUES TO STRENGTHEN

Also on 22 July, Finance Minister Kudrin told reporters that the Russian government is carrying out a coordinated policy with the Central Bank to maintain a stable nominal value of the ruble and even strengthen it somewhat against the U.S. dollar, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that a slight strengthening is necessary to fight inflation. "The Moscow Times" reported the same day that the ruble gained 21 kopeks last week. Economists told the daily that the Central Bank seems to have stopped printing new money in what appears to be an effort to combat inflation. Prices rose 2.6 percent in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2000). However, Reuters reported on 20 July that an unidentified senior government official warned that the ruble's rise will be only temporary because a strong ruble could hurt the real economy. JAC

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADERS BURY DIFFERENCES

Meeting on 21 July in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and his first deputy, Beslan Gantemirov, were persuaded by Viktor Kazantsev, Russian presidential envoy to the South Russia district, to shake hands, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Kazantsev told journalists after that meeting that the participants had discussed in detail the problems that had arisen in relations between the two men who, he added, will continue "their joint efforts for the sake of the well-being of the Chechen people," according to Interfax. Kadyrov also attended a meeting of the North Caucasus Association Council in Nalchik on 21 July, ITAR-TASS reported. That meeting, which chaired by Kazantsev and attended by the heads of the other North Caucasus republics, session adopted a joint statement calling for "a new philosophy of peace, security and stability for the 21st century." LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY ANTICIPATES NEW CHECHEN SABOTAGE

Senior Federal Security Service (FSB) official General Aleksandr Zdanovich told ITAR-TASS on 22 July that his men have seized documentation from the home of a Chechen field commander detailing plans for the capture of the towns of Gudermes and Nozhai-Yurt. The previous day, Interfax had quoted unnamed Russian military officials as predicting imminent acts of sabotage in Grozny, Gudermes, Argun, Shali, Urus-Martan, and Kurchaloi by an estimated 1,000 Chechen fighters reportedly concentrated in the lowland areas of Chechnya. On 23 July, Interfax quoted an officer at the North Caucasus headquarters of the combined Russian forces as saying that the Chechens have switched tactics and are now operating in groups of no more than 15-20. LF

BOKOVIKOV DENIES POPULATION OF CHECHEN MOUNTAINS TO BE RESETTLED

Visiting the town of Borzoi in southern Chechnya on 23 July, Kazantsev's deputy, Lieutenant General Vladimir Bokovikov, denied rumors that Moscow intends to resettle the inhabitants of Chechnya's mountainous south in villages in the lowland regions of the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. Bokovikov also expressed his readiness to meet with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. He is the first representative of the Russian military to have made such a statement since the military intervention began last fall. LF

FSB CLAIMS IT NABBED GROUP PLANNING TERRORIST ACTS ACROSS RUSSIA

The FSB reported on 21 July that it has apprehended a terrorist group that had been planning explosions in Volgograd and Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the group of 14 men were caught "red-handed" with large quantities of explosives. FSB officials claimed that some members of the group were Chechen militants and were trained by instructors loyal to Chechen field commander Khattab. Other members of the group are reportedly ethnically Slavic, and one member is a citizen of Morocco. According to ITAR-TASS, the FSB suspects that some of the group were involved in the 31 May bombing in Volgograd in which two servicemen were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2000). JAC

LUZHKOV VOWS TO KEEP REGISTRATION SYSTEM

Despite complaints from human rights groups, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 22 July that his administration plans to retain the system of registering all residents. According to Interfax-Moscow, Luzhkov said the system enables Moscow authorities to partly fulfill their function of protecting local citizens from outsiders and criminal groups. Luzhkov added that he is not anticipating any arguments over the system with the newly appointed presidential envoy to the Central federal district, Georgii Poltavchenko. According to Luzhkov, Poltavchenko said at a recent press conference said he has not yet reached any final conclusions on the nature of the propiska system. In 1998, the Constitutional Court ruled that the system was unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 March 1998). JAC

PUTIN FLIPPED OVER IN JAPAN...

While attending the G-8 summit, President Putin, an avid Judo enthusiast, met with young Judo fighters in Gushikawa, Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. According to the agency, Putin pinned one competitor with a "skillful hip roll." However, when encouraged by Putin to mount a counterattack, the 15-year-old flipped Putin over. JAC

...PROPOSES G-8 CHAT ROOM?

Also during the G-8 summit, Putin proposed that the groups' leaders establish an e-mail network to boost communications and deepen understanding, the Kyodo news agency reported. U.S. Deputy National Economic Adviser Lael Brainard said the proposal was "warmly welcomed by all the other leaders." However, "The Observer" noted on 23 July that the spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the e-mail network would be largely symbolic since "e- mail is not the most secure form of communication." The British newspaper also reported that "earlier this year French President Jacques Chirac had to ask what a mouse was" and "Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, only sent his first e-mail last month." Before writing their missives, G-8 leaders might want to consult Putin's presidential web page, , which contains a form for contacting Putin. JAC

RADICAL OPPOSITION CALLS ON PUTIN TO DISSOLVE TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT

The 10 small radical political parties and movements aligned in the Round Table appealed on 20 July to President Putin to dissolve Tatarstan's parliament because of procedural violations in nominating deputies, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 July. The Round Table claims that 55 of the total 130 deputies are simultaneously members of the executive directly appointed by President Mintimer Shaimiev. The opposition appeal also calls for amending Tatarstan's electoral legislation and Constitution to confirm with those of the Russian Federation. LF




ARMENIA RELEASES MORE POWS

Armenia on 21 July released another three Azerbaijani prisoners of war, who shortly after were flown to Baku on a UN aircraft, Reuters and Turan reported. Six Azerbaijani prisoners held in Yerevan and Stepanakert were released several days earlier in response to an appeal by visiting OSCE Chairwoman in Office Benita Ferrero-Waldner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2000). According to Turan, two Azerbaijani prisoners still remain in Armenian captivity. LF

LAWYERS DOUBT KARABAKH EX-MINISTER'S TRIAL COULD TAKE PLACE IN ARMENIA

Leading Armenian lawyers expressed doubt in Yerevan on 21 July that the trial of former Karabakh Defense Minister Karen Babayan could be held in Armenia. RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Babayan is being held in pre-trial custody in Stepanakert on charges of masterminding the 22 March attempt to assassinate Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He declared a hunger strike the previous day to demand that he be tried in Armenia, arguing that the Karabakh judiciary is incapable of assuring that the court proceedings against him would be free and fair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 July 2000). But Gagik Ghazinian, president of Armenia's biggest lawyers' association, pointed to the "legal uncertainty" surrounding the status of Karabakh, which considers itself independent of Armenia. Another lawyer, Tigran Yesayan, said there are "no legal grounds" to hold the trial in Armenia. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION...

After a five-hour debate on 21 July, deputies voted to amend the Law on the Central Electoral Commission to empower that body to adopt decisions by a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds majority, Turan reported. It also annulled the requirement that gave the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party and the opposition the right to veto one candidate proposed by the other. Opposition candidates did not participate in the vote on those amendments, which deprive the opposition of its power to block decisions adopted by the 18-member commission. Parliamentary chairman Murtuz Alesqerov said deputies "had no choice" but to enact the amendments in the light of the decision by six opposition representatives to boycott the work of the commission to demand changes in the electoral law, Reuters reported. (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 29, 20 July 2000). President Heidar Aliyev signed the amendments into law on 2 July. LF

...TO DISMAY OF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION

Opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front deputy Gulamgusein Aliyev told Reuters on 21 July that the parliament's vote "shows that the government isn't interested in holding a democratic election." He said opposition parties will now consider boycotting the ballot, as they had earlier threatened to do. Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov said the amendments to the law "are aimed at exacerbating" the domestic political situation, according to Turan. Also on 21 July, Gerard Stoudmann, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, issued a statement calling on the opposition representatives on the election commission to abandon their boycott and cooperate with that body. The statement said it would be a "serious mistake" for the opposition to refuse to participate in the ongoing discussion of amendments to the election law or to "embark on a course that could escalate political confrontation." LF

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CHASTISES GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA

In a statement released in New York on 21 July, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan accused both the Georgian and the Abkhaz leadership of "using the desperate conditions of the refugees and internally displaced persons in the Gali region of Abkhazia as a bargaining chip during negotiations," ITAR-TASS reported. He characterized that tactic as "unacceptable," adding that "the desperate conditions of thousands of IDPs get worse every day." Annan called on both parties to demonstrate the political will to resolve the conflict. Also on 21 July, Caucasus Press quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Avtandil Napetvaridze as saying that by 31 August Georgia will unveil the new blueprint defining Abkhazia's political status, which is being drafted in consultation with the UN. The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Abkhaz conflict on that date. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AFFIRMS READINESS TO MEET WITH ABKHAZ COUNTERPART

Eduard Shevardnadze said during his regular Monday radio broadcast on 24 July that he is ready to met in Sukhum with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to discuss the new UN document, Caucasus Press reported. For the past two years Shevardnadze has said he would meet with Ardzinba only to sign a formal agreement on some aspect of resolving the conflict. But Ardzinba wrote to UN Secretary-General Annan in February recalling that under the appendix to an agreement signed by Georgian and Abkhaz representatives in 1994 Abkhazia's future status is defined as that of "a subject with sovereign rights within the framework of a Union state" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 9, 3 March 2000). Ardzinba said his leadership will reject as interference in the unrecognized republic's internal affairs any attempt to impose on it a status that subordinates Abkhazia to the central Georgian government. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS GEORGIA ASPIRES TO EU MEMBERSHIP

President Shevardnadze said in London last week that joining the EU is "a long-term objective" for his country, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze added that "we understand this objective is not of the nearest future, as democracy in Georgia and especially the economy are far from perfection, but we are on the right path." LF

RELATIVES AGREE TO BURY SLAIN GEORGIAN INSURGENT LEADER

The family of Colonel Akaki Eliava, who was killed in unclear circumstances by Georgian security officials in western Georgia on 9 July, said on 24 July that they will inter his body on 27 July, Caucasus Press reported. They had earlier refused to do so until three of Eliava's supporters arrested on 9 July are released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2000). LF

GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS CALL FOR 'UNION' WITH RUSSIA

The People's Patriotic Union of Georgia, which comprises 18 left- wing parties, has called for the creation of "a fraternal and equal union between Georgia and Russia," Caucasus Press reported on 22 July. In an appeal addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, those groups affirm that such a union would help Georgia restore its independence and territorial integrity and revive its economy. They have similarly appealed to the Georgian authorities "to make a resolute step toward expanding cooperation with Russia." LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT ENDORSES LAW ON FIRST PRESIDENT

Nursultan Nazarbaev on 21 July signed the Law on the First President of Kazakhstan, which gives him extended powers even after the expiry of his presidential term in 2006, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 28 June 2000 ). The Constitutional Court of Kazakhstan had ruled the previous day that the law does not violate the country's constitution. LF

JAILED KYRGYZ JOURNALIST FREED

Moldosaly Ibraimov, a journalist from Djalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan, was released from jail on 21 July following an appeal to the Djalalabad Oblast court, according to an Internews press release. Ibraimov had been sentenced and fined 107,000 soms ($2,250) on 19 June for an article he published in the newspaper "Akikat" last April. That article detailed rumors that a district judge had accepted a bribe for ruling in favor of a specific candidate in a dispute over the outcome of the February-March parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Kyrgyz Report," 30 June 2000). The court reduced his fine to 10,000 soms. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT ADVOCATES HIGHER EDUCATION ONLY FOR SELECT FEW

Addressing education sector officials on 20 July, Saparmurat Niyazov proposed in the future university faculty staff teach students in groups of no more than five and that curricula be revised to eliminate subjects unrelated to a student's prospective profession, Interfax reported. Niyazov added that the family background of students wishing to enter higher education would be screened in order to identify "the most worthy" applicants. The screening process, he said, would go back three generations. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT REVIEWS INTERIM ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov on 22 July chaired a government session to discuss the country's economic performance for the first six months of 2000, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. According to Finance Minister Safarali Najmuddinov, GDP increased by 6.5 percent during that period compared with the first six months of 1999, while industrial output grew by 9 percent. Salary arrears in the budget sector was reduced, but pensions arrears grew during the first half of the year. Inflation stood at 16.6 percent. LF




DEFECTOR SAYS HE WAS PRESSED TO COMPROMISE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION...

Citing unofficial sources, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 19 July that former Belarusian police officer Aleh Baturyn, who received asylum in Poland, was kidnapped in Poland by Belarusian special services and transported back to Minsk. Baturyn quit his job at the Interior Ministry in February, accusing it of provoking clashes with the opposition (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 February 2000). On 21 July, Belarusian Television quoted Baturyn as saying from the U.S. embassy in Minsk: "What was voiced by Radio Liberty is not true. I have never said that I was kidnapped by the Belarusian secret service." A U.S. embassy official told Belapan later that Baturyn had been forced to make that statement in exchange for his safe return to Poland. Baturyn told Belapan from Warsaw on 23 July that he was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Poland and pressed to make compromising statements about the Belarusian opposition and the U.S. embassy in Minsk. JM

...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL AIDE SAYS BATURYN'S CASE 'MONSTROUS PROVOCATION'

Presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau told Belarusian Television on 22 July that Baturyn's defection and his reappearance in Belarus constituted a "monstrous provocation" planned by "special services" to "provoke dissatisfaction within Belarus, among the people, and...portray Belarus as a police state." Posakhau failed to name which special services were responsible for the alleged provocation but suggested that Belarusian oppositionists Syamyon Sharetski, Stanislau Shushkevich, and Mechaslau Hryb might have "actively participated" in it. "The situation surrounding the so-called 'kidnapping' of Baturyn is yet another example of how some circles within the country and outside it are trying to inflame the situation in the republic, including making the Belarusian authorities and the national special services responsible for disappearances of people," the Belarusian KGB said in a statement. JM

LUKASHENKA ACCUSES ORT OF HIDING INFORMATION ABOUT MISSING CAMERAMAN

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 21 July accused Russian Public Television (ORT) of concealing information about its cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, who disappeared in Minsk earlier this month. "You should tell many things about Zavadski. I know what I'm saying," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as telling an ORT journalist in Minsk. According to Lukashenka, ORT has been offered money for Zavadski's release and not reported on this fact. Lukashenka denied that Belarus's special services are responsible for Zavadski's disappearance and pledged "to wring the necks" of those responsible for the cameraman's disappearance. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SAYS RUSSIAN DUMA INTERFERING IN DOMESTIC AFFAIRS

Ukraine's parliament has said that the Russian State Duma's 19 July statement on "discrimination against the Russian language in Ukraine" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000) is "a manifestation of interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state," Interfax reported on 21 July. The Ukrainian legislature expressed surprise that "the Ukrainian authorities' intention to secure the inalienable and natural right of Ukrainian citizens to use their mother tongue is interpreted by Russian parliamentary deputies as 'a recurrence of racial discrimination policy.'" The statement also noted that "in the CIS area Ukraine is most likely the only country whose balanced and far-sighted policy has established interethnic accord and peace." "We cannot conduct dialogue [with Russia] on such a level," Deputy Premier Mykola Zhulynskyy commented. JM

UKRAINE HOPES FOR TWO IMF TRANCHES THIS YEAR

Valeriy Lytvytskyy, a top aide of Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yushchenko, has told journalists that if the IMF loan program is resumed in September or October, Kyiv may obtain two tranches worth $250-260 million each before the end of the year, Interfax reported on 21 July. Meanwhile, First Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov's 22-24 July visit to IMF headquarters in Washington has been postponed until 31 July for "technical reasons," Yekhanurov's press secretary announced. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT TO HOLD EXTRA SESSION ON NRG DEAL

Estonian parliamentary speaker Toomas Savi announced on 21 July that the parliament will convene for extra sessions on 25 July and 28 August, BNS reported. The earlier date will be devoted to the current privatization of Estonia's main power plants, on which the Estonian government and the U.S. company NRG Energy have agreed after years of talks. The session was called at the request of 26 opposition deputies. The deal has been strongly criticized by industry officials and local businessmen, but the Estonian Energy Workers' Union has come out in full support of the deal. The second extra session was called to discuss the controversial sacking by President Lennart Meri of Lieutenant General Johannes Kert from the post of commander of Estonias Defense Forces. MH

LITHUANIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS TO AMEND RECENTLY ALTERED ELECTION SYSTEM

The opposition Center Union said on 21 July that its parliamentary faction has submitted an amendment to the recently changed election system, ELTA reported. The faction's head, Egidijus Bickauskas, said that the amendment would require a run-off in those constituencies where the candidate with the largest support fails to gain more than 25 percent of the votes cast. Of Lithuania's 141 parliamentary seats, 71 are elected by direct mandates. The Conservative- led parliament overrode a presidential veto earlier this month when it eliminated the second round of voting. Before the controversial change, a run-off was necessary for constituencies where the winning candidate failed to receive a majority of votes cast. MH

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMMITTEE TO SPEED UP EU- ORIENTED LEGISLATION

The Sejm on 21 July voted by 363 to four with seven abstentions to confirm a 44-member Committee for European Law intended to speed up the adjustment of Poland's laws and regulations to EU requirements. The committee, which consists of lawmakers from all parliamentary groups, is expected to start work next week by electing a chairman. According to Polish commentators, former Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek is likely to receive that post. JM

POLISH CAUCUS EXPELS FOUR LAWMAKERS FOR VIOLATING DISCIPLINE

The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) parliamentary caucus has excluded four deputies who violated party discipline in the 20 July vote on value- added tax on farm products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000), PAP reported on 21 July. Five AWS deputies failed to support the Senate's amendment introducing a 3 percent VAT rate: Gabriel Janowski, Ryszard Matusiak, Stanislaw Misztal, Bernard Szewd, and Marek Kaczynski. According to the caucus, Kaczynski was not excluded because this was the first time he had violated party discipline. JM

POLISH POLICE CATCH RECORD DRUGS HAUL

Police seized a 40 kilograms of amphetamine and cocaine worth 4 million zlotys ($930,000) in Gorzow Wielkopolski, western Poland, Polish media reported. Simultaneously the police claimed to have liquidated an international drug smuggling gang that was active for at least six month and has smuggled some 100 kilograms of amphetamine from Poland into Western Europe. JM

CZECH RACIST RECEIVES LENIENT SENTENCE

A Czech soldier who beat up a U.S. teacher in November 1998 in Hodonin, southeast of Prague, was found guilty of "hooliganism and assault" and sentenced to a suspended two-year prison term, CTK and AP reported on 21 July. The teacher was knocked down, beaten, and kicked after defending a group of Roma, whom the 20-year- old soldier had insulted. The judge ruled out racial motivation, based on a police investigation of the incident. In a statement to AP, the U.S. Embassy said it is pleased that the assailant has been convicted but expressed disappointment at "the leniency of the sentence." Also on 21 July, authorities in Rokycany charged Roma activist Ondrej Gina with tax evasion. The authorities said there is no link between the charge and the incident on 14 July in which Gina's home was attacked (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2000). MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S CONDITION IS 'ABSOLUTELY STABLE'

Doctors in Innsbruck, Austria, said on 23 July that Slovak President Rudolf Schuster's condition is "absolutely stable" and they are "very satisfied," CTK reported. The doctors said that if no complications occur, Schuster may resume working at full capacity in three to four weeks. It has not yet been decided when Schuster can return to Slovakia, the doctors said, explaining that this depends on how quickly his post- operation scars heal and "the president's own decision." MS

HUNGARIAN JOURNALISTS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

The Association of Hungarian Journalists on 21 July appealed to the Constitutional Court after journalist Attila Varga was taken into police custody in connection with a libel suit he filed against Gyula Balogh of the Independent Smallholders' Party. Balogh challenged the content of an article Varga published last March in "Nepszabadsag" detailing Balogh's behavior at a political function. While in custody, police followed the procedures of the new Criminal Registration Act and took Varga's photograph as well as his finger and palm prints; they also entered his name into a register. Justice Minister Ibolya David said that suspects in police custody who turn out not to have committed a crime will have their name deleted from the register with no further consequences. MSZ




WEST WON'T RECOGNIZE YUGOSLAV ELECTION RESULTS

Western leaders meeting at the recent G-8 Okinawa summit agreed not to recognize the results of any upcoming Yugoslav elections held under the terms of recent constitutional amendments, "Danas" reported. Michael Steiner, who is chief foreign policy adviser to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, told journalists in Okinawa on 22 July that Schroeder and Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato agreed that elections held on the basis of the new legislation will be invalid. Steiner added that Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac stressed the importance of re-establishing democracy in Serbia. Schroeder said that Milosevic's constitutional changes recall the 1933 Enabling Act, which permitted Adolf Hitler to consolidate his power. Steiner noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin told his G-8 counterparts that Russia will support the group's efforts to encourage democracy in Serbia. It is not clear if Putin agreed not to recognize the election results. The Russian leader is more concerned about good relations with the G-8 countries-- especially with Russia's chief creditor, Germany--than about supporting Belgrade, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" commented. PM

PODGORICA PLEASED WITH OKINAWA DECISION ON YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS...

Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 22 July that his government stands by its previous decision to boycott any federal elections that Milosevic may call. The next day, Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said that his government feels vindicated in its opposition to the constitutional amendments by the G-8's position, which, he added, has Russia's support, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

...BUT FEELINGS MIXED IN BELGRADE

The Okinawa decision has created consternation within the Serbian opposition, however, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade on 24 July. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement and others who favor an election boycott feel vindicated by the news from Okinawa. Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic, for his part, said that the situation of the opposition has "become more complicated." Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic argued that "if the Serbian opposition wins a majority and loses [the election overall] because of a Montenegrin boycott, the whole world will see them as Milosevic's saviors. Milosevic can't win if Montenegro takes part," "Blic" reported. Nenad Canak, who heads the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, told the daily "Magyar Szo" that the most important issue is not participating in the vote but rather maintaining opposition unity in order to unseat Milosevic. Most opposition leaders are slated to meet on 25 July to discuss how to react to the latest developments. PM

YUGOSLAV UPPER HOUSE PASSES MILOSEVIC'S ELECTION LAWS

The upper house of the federal parliament passed a new election law on 24 July, and the lower house is expected to do likewise later in the day, Reuters reported. The federal government is widely expected to call new elections once both houses have passed the legislation that creates conditions favorable to Milosevic and his allies. PM

PANIC: KEY TO CHANGE IS OUSTING MILOSEVIC

Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic told Zagreb's "Jutarnji list" of 24 July that no one should expect Serbian democracy to develop as long as Milosevic is in office. The Serbian- American businessman stressed that just as democratic political life did not develop in Croatia until after the opposition came to power in early 2000, so one cannot expect too much from Milosevic's opponents as long as the dictatorship continues. Panic said that on 24 July he will discuss with Croatian President Stipe Mesic the prospects of both Croatia and a democratic Serbia entering the EU at the same time. The former prime minister said that he and other one-time leaders, including outgoing Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, will hold a meeting in early 2001 to offer to share their experience and ideas with upcoming politicians from the younger generation. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY BOAT 'MISTAKENLY' FIRES AT MONTENEGRIN POLICE SHIP

A Yugoslav army patrol boat fired on 22 July at a Montenegrin police patrol boat on Lake Shkoder, Reuters reported two days later. An army helicopter flew several times over the police boat before the army ship opened fire. Some of the crew of the army boat later told Montenegrin journalists that they did not realize their target was a police ship until they were firing at it. The Podgorica daily "Vijesti" called the police boat's escape "miraculous." There is widespread smuggling in the Lake Shkoder area. PM

KOSOVAR DAILY TO DEFY FINE ORDER

Belul Beqaj, who is the publisher of the newspaper "Dita," said in Prishtina on 22 July that he will not pay a $11,900 fine imposed recently by OSCE authorities for publishing information about alleged Serbian war criminals. Beqaj stressed that he will continue to publish such articles until Kosova has a functioning judicial system that brings all war criminals to justice. Local OSCE representatives have accused him of engaging in "vigilante journalism" that led to the death of one young Serb earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2000). PM

KOSOVA PROTECTION FORCE OUT OF MONEY?

The UN civilian administration in Kosova has found that it has run out of money to pay the Kosova Protection Force until January 2001, when the UN itself will directly pay the wages of the force's members, London's "The Times" reported on 24 July. PM

KARADZIC SEEKING DEAL WITH MILOSEVIC?

Former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic recently visited Belgrade to seek a deal with Milosevic, London's "The Sunday Times" reported on 23 July. It is not clear whether Karadzic succeeded in obtaining a safe home for himself in Serbia out of the reach of NATO peacekeepers in return for providing Milosevic advice on Bosnian Serb politics. Milosevic is interested in "creating mayhem" in the Republika Srpska, the newspaper added. In another article, the same newspaper suggested that a home in Serbia is not necessarily safe. The article reported that NATO used unemployed Bosnian Serb mercenaries to capture Stevan Todorovic in Serbia in 1998 and bring him to Bosnia. PM

CHANGE IN BOSNIAN ARMY COMMAND

General Atif Dudakovic replaced General Rasim Delic as commander of the Bosnian federal army on 21 July. Both men are Muslims and seasoned veterans of the 1992-1995 war. Dudakovic was best known for his role in defending the Bihac pocket in northwest Bosnia. PM

ARREST, INDICTMENTS IN CROATIA

Police arrested Pavao Zubak on charges of tax evasion exceeding $4 million, AP reported from Zagreb on 21 July. Zubak is Croatia's biggest car importer and was close to the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman. Elsewhere, a court charged businessman Miroslav Kutle and 12 of his associates with embezzling nearly $6 million from the Tisak newspaper distribution firm. Kutle was also close to the Tudjman-era establishment. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS CENTER-RIGHT LEADERS...

Mugur Isarescu told the leaders of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Union of Rightist Forces on 21 July that his decision on whether to run for president depends on the size of the alliance that backs his candidacy and whether this alliance will back the reform policies he is now pursuing as head of the government. Isarescu urged the leaders of the two parties to conclude talks on the new alliance by 1 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

...WHILE LIBERALS STILL VAGUE ABOUT THEIR OPTIONS

Later on 21 July, PNTCD and National Liberal Party (PNL) negotiating teams decided that by the end of the week they will formulate a "political offer" on a possible electoral alliance. PNL Deputy Chairman Paul Pacuraru said after the meeting that the final decision on the PNL's options will be taken by the party's extraordinary congress on 18 August. He also said an alliance including the PNL, the PNTCD, and the Alliance for Romania (APR) would have "a good chance" of winning the parliamentary elections, adding that the PNL believes Isarescu is a "most suitable" candidate for the presidency. Pacuraru said he believes APR leader Teodor Melescanu may withdraw from the presidential race if polls show him trailing Isarescu. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA MODIFIES RULES OF 'ELECTORAL GAME'

The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's (UDMR) Council of Representatives, meeting in Targu Mures on 22 July, decided to amend regulations on candidates running in parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. The council accepted UDMR Chairman Bela Marko's proposal that candidates must have been UDMR members for at least three years, instead of six months, as required until now. It also decided that those who since 1990 have run on lists other than those of the UDMR or as independents cannot be included on the UDMR's lists. And it ruled that UDMR mayors and local or county councilors elected in the June local elections must serve their full term in office and cannot be parliamentary candidates. Prospective candidates must declare in writing they did not collaborate with the communist secret police. The council postponed a decision on whether the UDMR will field a presidential candidate of its own. MS

ROMANIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS, SOCIALISTS TO MERGE

The National Council of the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR), a junior member of the ruling coalition, has approved its merging with the extra-parliamentary Socialist Party, Romanian Radio reported. Socialist Party leader Tudor Mohora is to become PSDR deputy chairman and chairman of the PSDR National Council. The formation will retain its name. The council also decided to start talks with Ion Iliescu's Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), the Democratic Party, and the APR on forging a "social democratic pole." Most council members voted to hold talks with the PDSR before contacting other parties. Meanwhile, Victor Surdu, PSDR candidate in the June Bucharest mayoral elections, has resigned from the party, saying he backs a "center-right pole" rather than a social democratic one. MS

TRANSDNIESTER LEADER DISMISSES GOVERNMENT

Igor Smirnov, who is both "president" and "premier" of the unrecognized Transdniester republic, dismissed the government on 21 July. The dismissal follows the entering into force the same day of the amended constitution, Flux reported on 22 July. In June, the Transdniester Supreme Soviet approved the transformation of the separatist region into a "presidential republic". According to the decree issued by Smirnov, outgoing ministers will receive their salary for another two months and will receive other special privileges for a period of two months to one year. MS

HOMBACH HAS GOOD NEWS FOR BULGARIAN HOSTS

Bodo Hombach, Southeast European Stability Pact coordinator, told journalists in Sofia on 23 July that the G-8 leaders have committed themselves at their summit in Okinawa, Japan, to provide additional financing for projects in the Balkans, AP and Reuters reported. Hombach said the G-8 and the EU will provide some 50 percent of the $290 million of a "second package" envisaged for the implementation of "fast track" projects under the pact. The remainder of the funds will be provided via credit facilities by various international financing institutions. In March, the pact earmarked $2.4 billion for various projects in the region. Hombach ended a five-day visit to Bulgaria by visiting the sites of projects such as the planned second bridge over the River Danube linking Vidin with the Romanian town of Calafat. MS




MIXED SIGNALS FOR CROATIA


by Patrick Moore

The EU has recently been generous with its rewards for Croatia's new government. That does not necessarily mean, however, that the West is uncritical of its new model pupil in the former Yugoslavia.

One of the great ironies of the rule of the late President Franjo Tudjman's rule is that he managed to isolate internationally the former Yugoslav republic that has traditionally been most open to the outside world. For centuries the long Dalmatian coast and its rugged hinterlands in particular have been not only a magnet for tourists but also a departure point for primarily younger men seeking to emigrate to a better life. Almost every Croatian family has some friend or relative working abroad, and many people are quite knowledgeable about conditions in Germany, Australia, or any of many other countries. In addition, many members of the intelligentsia and middle class have studied or traveled widely abroad.

It thus was particularly frustrating to many internationally-minded Croats that the authoritarian Tudjman proved unable or unwilling to understand what Croatia's Western, democratic allies expected of Zagreb and why. The new government that replaced Tudjman's was under no such illusions and immediately made efforts to end the isolation by pledging itself to more open practices and market reforms. The new government moved especially energetically on the international front because the chances of quick rewards were far greater in that sphere than, for example, in introducing social or economic reforms.

The first big bonus was in May, when Croatia was invited to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program. NATO membership had been former General Tudjman's dream, but the Atlantic alliance would not have his authoritarian state in PfP, let alone full membership. President Stipe Mesic and the Social Democratic Prime Minister Ivica Racan thus succeeded with the world's largest military alliance where the arch-conservative Tudjman had failed.

In July, it was the EU's turn to reward the reform- minded Croatian leadership. Mesic visited Brussels, from which he was able to report on 18 July that the leaders of all 15 EU member states will attend the EU's Balkan summit slated for the fall in Zagreb. He added that he has received backing for a number of key economic projects. They include building an Adriatic-Ionian highway, reopening the Croatian segment of the Danube to navigation, constructing a pipeline to bring Caspian oil to the Adriatic, and launching work on a gas pipeline linking Norway to the Adriatic.

The next day came another piece of good news. Chris Patten, who is the EU's commissioner for foreign affairs, announced that Croatia will become the second western Balkan country (after Macedonia) to begin talks with Brussels over the terms of a Stabilization and Association Agreement. Patten stressed that "this proposal is a great step forward in our efforts to stabilize the region. It is a tribute to the courageous steps taken by the new Croatian government in the short time in has been in office; the EU is determined to support Croatia."

But perhaps not all is roses. On 17 July, Reuters carried a report based on interviews with several unnamed but obviously well-informed Western diplomats in Zagreb. These individuals suggested that Western governments still remain unhappy with the pace of Croatia's progress in several key areas and expect improvements sooner rather than later.

While the areas in question appear diverse at first glance, they do have a common denominator: they are all domestic political mine fields. They include: cleaning up the corruption from the Tudjman era, reforming the intelligence services, restructuring state-run television and transforming it into a public broadcaster, speeding up economic reforms so as to attract foreign investors, and stepping up cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal.

The problems for the government lie not so much in offending remnants of the old order--they are in any event discredited and got their marching orders from the voters last winter--or in stirring up a right-wing backlash, since most observers agree that the far-right is limited to a small, if noisy, political fringe element.

The difficulties lie rather in the delicate balance between the six governing parties. First, there are the tensions between the two large parties--the Social Democrats and the Social Liberals--in the main coalition. Second, there are power games between that coalition (the Social Democrats, in particular) and the four parties in the smaller coalition, which can usually count on Mesic as an ally and spokesman. It was thus relatively easy for the six parties to campaign against Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) by calling for the reform and depoliticization of the intelligence services and state-run media, but it has proven quite another thing for them to decide who will carry out these tasks and to whom those persons will report.

The leading politicians will not have long to make up their minds and work out deals on the future shape of things. If the government does not take some bold steps to deal with the most important outstanding issues within the next few months, it may have to face some blunt words from Brussels and Washington.


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