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Newsline - October 4, 2000




MOSCOW 'IN CONSTANT TOUCH' WITH YUGOSLAV LEADERS...

Speaking in New Delhi on 3 October, Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko announced that Moscow is "in constant touch" with Yugoslav opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to mediate in their standoff. Prikhodko, who is accompanying Putin on his four-day visit to India, said Moscow's goal is to "ensure legitimacy [of the 24 September ballot], avoid violence, defuse the crisis, and bring Yugoslavia out of isolation." Yugoslav Ambassador to Moscow Boris Milosevic, the elder brother of Slobodan, praised Russia's "constructive" position "supporting the legitimacy of the electoral process and non-intervention." In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 October, Kostunica said he is "very interested" in Putin's offer, adding that "only certain details and the format of the Moscow meeting should be agreed on" (see also Part II). JC

...AS DUMA RECOGNIZES RESULTS OF YUGOSLAV VOTE

The State Duma on 4 October recognized the results of the 24 September presidential elections in Yugoslavia, saying that the ballot had been held in accordance with Yugoslav legislation and international legal norms, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the lower house is to consider a draft resolution calling for respect for Yugoslavia's electoral process and warning against outside intervention in Yugoslavia's internal affairs. Interfax reported the previous day that the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's parliamentary group has also drawn up a resolution on Yugoslavia. According to the news agency, the LDPR draft proposes that the Duma consider the "unprecedented international pressure" brought to bear on the Yugoslav presidential elections. JC

PUTIN ADDRESSES INDIAN PARLIAMENT...

In an address to the Indian parliament on 4 October, Russian President Putin urged India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute over Kashmir by seeking a compromise and preventing any foreign interference. At the same time, Putin noted that such disputes require a "tough approach" because they pose a threat to people's lives as well as to the unity and territorial integrity of a country. He went on to argue that the "same people are organizing terrorist attacks from the Philippines to Kosovo, including Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Russia's North Caucasus." And he added that Moscow fully supports India's proposal to create a joint front to combat terrorism. Putin also stressed the importance to Russia of its relations with India. It is unfortunate, he noted, that almost eight years have passed since a Russian president visited India. "But believe me," he remarked, "nothing has changed." JC

...AS ARMS DEALS WITH INDIA CLINCHED

Shortly before Putin's address to the parliament, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes signed several major arms contracts, including one on the licensed production in India of 150 Su-30 fighter planes and on the export and licensed production of what ITAR-TASS described as a "large consignment" of T-90 tanks. The total value of these arms deals has not been revealed. A third agreement signed on 4 October provides for the aircraft carrier "Admiral Gorshkov" to be handed over free of charge to India after it has been overhauled in Russia at New Delhi's expense, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. Klebanov and Fernandes also put their signatures to a protocol on setting up a joint intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation, which they will co-chair, dpa reported. JC

GOVERNMENT DECIDES NOT TO COMPROMISE ON LAND REFORM

"Vedomosti" reported on 3 October that the Russian government has decided not to compromise with the State Duma over proposed land reform legislation and has decided that "the key question of private ownership of land should be decided once and for all." The Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, together with members of the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, has already begun work on a new version of the land code, scrapping a compromise version that left the question of the free purchase and sale of land unresolved with a reference to federal regulations that have not yet been written. The daily concludes that the government's decision will delay Duma consideration of land reform. The issue had been expected to top the Duma's legislative agenda (see "Endnote," "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000). JAC

NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET CLEARS ONE HURDLE...

Members of the State Duma's Budget Committee voted on 3 October to recommend that the State Duma approve the draft 2001 budget. The vote on the committee was 24 in favor with 14 against. The committee's chairman (Russian Regions), Aleksandr Zhukov, voted against approving the draft. After predicting only a few days earlier that the budget would likely be defeated in the Duma, Zhukov told reporters that day that he now puts its chances at 50-50. The same day, the LDPR faction announced it will cast its votes in support of the budget when that document is considered in its first reading on 6 October. JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT TO PROMISE MORE TRANSPARENCY IN DISTRIBUTION OF EXTRA REVENUE?

ITAR-TASS reported on 3 October that according to unidentified government sources, the government is proposing to distribute any additional tax revenues collected next year in the following manner: 50 percent will go toward paying foreign debts, while the other half will be proportionally directed to such priority items as wage increases, defense, financial aid to the regions, public education, agriculture, and science. JAC

SBERBANK TO ADD TO MEDIA-MOST'S FINANCIAL WOES?

Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev announced on 3 October that a European media holding is interested in buying shares in Media-MOST, Interfax reported. Vyakhirev declined to name the company or the size of the stake in Media-MOST it desires. Vyakhirev added that Gazprom officials would prefer to sell the entire Media-MOST holding at once rather than split it into smaller chunks. The same day, an unnamed source at Sberbank told Interfax that the bank is considering opting out of a credit agreement with Media-MOST and will demand immediate payment of a more than $100 million loan to the company. Media-MOST spokesman Dmitrii Ostalskii described the news of the bank's intentions as "the latest move in psychological warfare against Media-MOST." JAC

SIBERIAN LEGISLATORS DEFY MOSCOW'S ORDER TO BRING CONSTITUTION IN LINE

Buryatia's legislative assembly has voted against bringing the republic's constitution in conformity with the federal constitution, Interfax reported on 3 October. Legislators rejected a proposal by the republic's prosecutor to amend an article in the republic's constitution requiring presidential candidates there to know both Buryatian and Russian. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov recently noted that Tatarstan requires its presidential candidates to know both Tatar and Russian, which is inconsistent with federal legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). JAC

GUBERNATORIAL CANIDATE DISAPPEARS

Georgii Greshnykh, a candidate in the 3 December gubernatorial elections in Kamchatka Oblast, has disappeared, "The Moscow Times" reported on 4 October. According to the daily, local police believe his disappearance may be an election stunt to attract votes, but associates of Greshnykh say that he was about to hold a press conference to reveal compromising materials about local administration and law enforcement officials. Greshnykh's automobile was found abandoned, with its door open and his mobile phone and passport inside. On 2 October, incumbent Governor Vladimir Biryukov announced he will not seek re-election. Biryukov declined to explain why he is not planning to run but declared his support for Vice Governor Boris Sinchenko to succeed him, Interfax reported. JAC

BABITSKII LINKS DETENTION WITH OFFICIAL DISTASTE FOR HIS STORIES

RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 3 October that RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii's trial in Makhachkala continues to attract the attention of a variety of news media. Babitskii's trial on charges of carrying a forged passport opened on 2 October (see "Endnote," "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2000). According to AP, Babitskii testified on 3 October that his detention in January and February this year occurred because his "stories about the Chechen war were unwanted by many officials in Russia." According to RFE/RL, the previous day Vyacheslav Izmailov, a journalist with "Novaya gazeta," testified for the defense that Babitskii did not contact authorities in Daghestan upon his arrival because he did not feel he could trust them after the unusual nature of his detention for more than 20 days in Daghestan and Chechnya and his faked "exchange" for Russian POWs. JAC

BELARUS TRACTORS TO BOOST GRAIN YIELDS NEXT YEAR?

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told reporters on 3 October that Russia will lose about 10 million tons of grain--worth about $1 billion--this year for various reasons, including an insufficient number of grain harvesters and combines. According to Gordeev, the material and technical base of the agricultural sector is weak, but the problem will be partly addressed next year with the supply of 1.5 billion rubles ($54 million) worth of tractors from Belarus. That country will supply the tractors to defray its debts for natural gas. Despite the grain losses, the Agriculture Ministry still expects to harvest 65 million tons this year. JAC

BASKHORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT NOT TO SEEK THIRD TERM

Murtaza Rakhimov, who is 66, told a press conference in Ufa on 3 October that he will not seek a third term when his present term of office expires in 2003, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. But he added that he is not yet ready to name his successor who, he said, must be a member of his current team. Rakhimov said a new figure or outsider would not stand a chance of winning a presidential poll, however great his commitment to democracy and free market principles. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER KILLED IN GROZNY

Russian troops on 28 September killed Isa Munaev, a Chechen military commander responsible for guerrilla activities against Russian forces in Grozny as he attempted to plant a bomb under a Russian police vehicle, Russian agencies reported on 3 October. Also on 3 October, a spokesman for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhemsbkii said he could not confirm reports that field commander Shamil Basaev may have left Chechnya. LF

END OF THE ROAD FOR 'MIR'?

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced on 3 October that the designers of the "Mir" space station have recommended that the station be scrapped. ITAR-TASS quoted Klebanov as saying that it is too costly to keep "Mir" operating and that a decision on its fate may be taken later this month by the Russian Space Agency. The deputy premier also commented that the scientific usefulness of "Mir" has been superseded by that of the International Space Station. The following day, the Energiya company, which operates "Mir," argued that the 14-year-old space station could remain in space for a few more years if the government allocated the necessary funds. It warned that without such assistance, "an emergency situation could arise" in which Russia could find itself without the necessary technical means to deal with such a crisis. JC




COLLAPSE OF ARMENIAN MAJORITY PARLIAMENT BLOC FORESTALLED?

Members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the senior partner within the embattled Miasnutiun majority bloc, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 3 October that ongoing talks with the HHK's junior partner, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), may still avert the split in Miasnutiun that observers considered inevitable. They said HHK leader and Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian has informed the leaders of five other parliamentary parties with whom he began talks on creating a new parliament majority bloc about his decision to seek a reconciliation with the HZhK. The catalyst for the anticipated collapse of Miasnutiun was the disagreement between its two members over the validity of the 26 September vote on parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian's offer to resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September and 2 October 2000). LF

FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO ATTEMPTED MURDER CHARGE

Testifying on 3 October for the first time since his trial began two weeks earlier, Samvel Babayan, the former defense minister and army commander of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, denied charges of involvement in the failed 22 March bid to assassinate the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Babayan admitted having received "dozens" of proposals to kill Ghukasian, including some from among his 14 co-defendants, but he said he had rejected them all. He also denied having admitted on 3 April that he had plotted to assassinate Ghukasian with the intention of succeeding him as president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2000). Babayan claimed that he had been drugged and beaten up that day. LF

FOUR BORDER VIOLATORS REPORTED DETAINED IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE

Two U.S. citizens, one Korean and one Russian, were apprehended by a border patrol during the night of 28 September attempting to cross the border from Armenia into Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, Turan and ANS reported on 3 October. An Armenian accompanying the four was shot dead, according to Turan. The four were in possession of military topographic maps and are currently being held at the National Security Ministry according to ANS. But a spokesman for that ministry denied that any such border incident had taken place or that the ministry is holding any foreign nationals. LF

ISLAMIC MILITANT LEADER SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT IN AZERBAIJAN

Complying with the prosecutor's request, a Baku court on 3 October sentenced Jeyshullah leader Mubariz Aliyev to life imprisonment on nine charges of murder, attempted hijack, terrorism, robbery, and illegal possession of weapons, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Twelve other members of the clandestine Islamic organization received prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. LF

GEORGIA SEEKS HELP TO CAPTURE ESCAPED PRISONERS...

The Georgian Interior Ministry appealed on 3 October to Interpol and to its Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Russian counterparts for assistance in locating and recapturing the 12 prisoners who reportedly escaped from a Tbilisi security prison on 1 October, ITAR-TASS reported. A Chechen representative in Tbilisi, a spokesman for Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, and the governor of Mingrelia-Upper Svaneti all denied on 3 October that any of the escapees have found refuge on their territory. LF

...AS JUSTICE MINISTER RESIGNS

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists on 3 October that he has reluctantly accepted Dzhoni Khetsuriani's decision to resign as justice minister in the wake of the jail break, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze warned on 3 October that the mass escape could presage an attempt to destabilize the political situation in Georgia. He warned that any such attempt would be "crushed by all legitimate means." Meanwhile, supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia denied that they would resort to any unconstitutional steps in their opposition to the present authorities. Two of the escapees served in the early 1990s as Gamsakhurdia's finance minister and as commander of his presidential guard. LF

OSCE DENIES RUSSIAN ALLEGATIONS OF VIOLATIONS OF GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER

The OSCE Mission in Tbilisi on 3 October denied an ITAR-TASS claim that it had submitted to the organization's Vienna headquarters a report stating that OSCE observers deployed on the border between Georgia and Chechnya had registered numerous foot- and hoofprints that testify to unsanctioned traffic across that border, Caucasus Press reported. An OSCE official said such prints have been found in the vicinity of the border but that its report stressed it is impossible to conclude with certainty that the persons who made them crossed the border. LF

FOUR GEORGIAN OLYMPIC ATHLETES FAIL TO RETURN HOME

Four members of Georgia's Olympic team failed to return from Sydney after the games ended, Caucasus Press reported on 4 October. A member of Georgia's Olympic Committee said he believes the four men may try to seek employment in Australia. He ruled out any political motive for their failure to return to Georgia. LF

SECOND KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ALLIANCE FORMED

Almaz Atambaev, a businessman and one of the six candidates registered to contest the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll, has secured the backing of Iskhak Masaliev, a Communist who failed the mandatory language examination for presidential candidates, Interfax reported on 3 October. Masaliev, whose father heads the Communist Party of Kyrgzystan, said he decided to support Atambaev because of the latter's political and economic experience and commitment to political moderation. Observers note that Atambaev, like most of the present Kyrgyz leadership, is from northern Kyrgyzstan, while MasAliyev is a native of Osh Oblast in the south. Some southerners resent the northerners' virtual monopoly on top political posts. Also on 3 October, Suleiman Imanbaev, chairman of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda, accused unnamed international organizations of interfering either directly or indirectly in the preparations for the presidential ballot, ITAR-TASS reported. Imanbaev criticized the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry for its alleged failure to protest such interference. LF

UZBEKISTAN, TURKEY SEEK TO OVERCOME ESTRANGEMENT

Visiting Tashkent on 2-3 October, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem held talks with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Komilov, and President Islam Karimov, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Those talks focused on how to double bilateral trade turnover from $300 million in 1999 to $600 million in 2001 and on joint measures to combat terrorism in Central Asia. Karimov told Cem that Russia exaggerates that threat in an attempt to bolster its influence in the region, but at the same time, he requested help from Turkey in training Uzbek army officers. Relations between the two countries cooled several years ago because of the presence in Turkey of Uzbek oppositionist Muhammed Solih, and Uzbekistan's restrictions on the activities of Turkish businessmen and closure of Turkish-run schools in Uzbekistan. But Cem characterized the current relationship as "balanced and sound [and] based on rational considerations and shared interests." LF




BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE ADOPTS 2001 BUDGET IN FIRST READING

The Chamber of Representatives on 3 October passed the 2001 budget in the first reading. The bill projects consolidated revenues at 5.7 trillion Belarusian rubles ($5.5 billion), with a deficit totaling $238 million (1.5 percent of GDP). According to Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut, who presented the budget draft to the legislature, 77 percent of the planned revenues are to be spent in the social sphere. "We will without fail carry out the requirement of the president and the people to raise wages," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn as saying. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ordered his ministers to double the current monthly average wage to $100 by fall 2001. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CONFISCATES FORMER CHIEF BANKER'S PROPERTY

Lukashenka has ordered the seizure of both the apartment and belongings of former National Bank Chairwoman Tamara Vinnikava, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 3 October. Vinnikava, who was arrested on charges of abuse of power and embezzlement in 1997, disappeared under unknown circumstances from her home arrest in Minsk last year and is now in the U.K. Lukashenka's order is dated November 1999 but was made known only now. It is based on an earlier presidential decree providing for confiscation of property without a court order. "This is the racketeers' new method of changing the ownership of an apartment: first they put a woman in prison, then take her apartment," Vinnikava told RFE/RL. JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR BIDS FAREWELL TO UKRAINE

Steven Pifer, whose term as ambassador in Kyiv ends next week, delivered a speech in Ukrainian to students of the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy on 3 October, AP reported. Pifer said the U.S.-Ukrainian contacts are "impressive," and he praised military cooperation between those two countries, including Ukraine's participation in peacekeeping efforts in Kosova and in NATO-sponsored multinational exercises. Pifer noted, however, that Soviet attitudes continue to remain an obstacle to the development of the lagging economy. He also stressed that Ukraine must work harder to ensure the freedom of media and the rule of law. "An absolutely key aspect of a democratic state is a free, diverse, and robust press," he said. Pifer concluded by saying that Ukraine's success will also serve U.S. interests. JM

UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK TO SUPPORT HRYVNYA 'BY ALL POSSIBLE MEANS'

National Bank official Serhiy Yaremenko has pledged that the bank will seek to prevent the devaluation of the hryvnya "by all possible means," the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 4 October. Yaremenko said the bank is ready to spend up to $120 million on the currency market to stabilize the national currency. Over the past week, the bank has spent $34 million to keep the hryvnya from falling. The official exchange rate is 5.44 hryvni to $1. Meanwhile, National Bank Chairman Volodymyr Stelmakh told the parliament that the devaluation of the hryvnya in 2001 will total 8-10 percent if Ukraine manages to obtain foreign credits, including those from the IMF's suspended $2.6 billion loan package. JM

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT, FOREIGN INVESTORS DISCUSS CORRUPTION

Prime Minister Andris Berzins and the Foreign Investors Council met on 3 October to discuss corruption in Latvia. Prime Minister Berzins challenged the group to name those involved in corruption, saying "if we want to eliminate this evil, we have to start talking openly." "Let us start with who those [people] are and have them take responsibility," BNS reported. No specific cases of corruption were mentioned, however, although the problem of a 400 percent real estate tax imposed on foreign investors in the town of Broceni was raised. Council member Jukka Harmala said that Latvia is "not that corrupt at all and that the government has been taking into account council proposals." At the same time, he noted that 19 of 54 recommendations made by the council have not been adhered to, LETA added. MH

LITHUANIAN SOCIAL FUND FALLS FURTHER IN DEBT

The social welfare fund SoDra reported that its deficit so far this year reached 210 million litas ($52.5 million) by the end of last month, ELTA reported on 3 October. During the same period, only 3.1 billion litas of an expected 3.38 billion litas were received. Experts expect the deficit to break 250 million litas mark by year's end. SoDra's total deficit currently stands at 494 million litas. MH

LANDSBERGIS APOLOGIZES FOR OTHERS' MISTAKES

Lithuanian parliamentary chairman and leader of the ruling Conservatives Vytautas Landsbergis, speaking on national television on 2 October, said he must "assume extensive responsibility for the mistakes and inappropriate conduct of some former ministers and premiers," BNS reported. "I must ask for forgiveness for many more things," said Landsbergis, whose Conservatives are expected to lose more than half their seats in the parliament and to go into opposition. Also on 3 October, Landsbergis announced that the commission responsible for calculating the damage caused by the Soviet occupation has completed its work. Under current legislation, he said, the government should request that negotiations begin with the Russian government. MH

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT DECIDES TO RETURN RELIGIOUS TEXTS

Lawmakers on 3 October voted to return Jewish manuscripts and holy scriptures to Jewish communities. The amendments allow for the return of some 370 valuable Torahs currently in storage in the national library, ELTA reported. However, deputies also decided to keep in Lithuania those documents of special significance to that country. The move coincides with a conference in Vilnius from 3-5 October on returning plundered Jewish property. MH

POLL SUGGESTS SECOND ROUND OF POLISH PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

According to a poll conducted on 2 and 3 October by the Elections Research Center (OBW) among 1,016 voters, the presidential elections might go to a second round, PAP reported. OBW found that President Aleksander Kwasniewski is supported by 49.5 percent of voters, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski by 16.5 percent, independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski by 16 percent, and Peasant Party leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski by 8 percent. "The difference between our research and other polls consists in a significant participation in our poll of respondents from 'representative communes,' that is, those where election results are very close to final national results," an OBW pollster told PAP. Meanwhile, the State Electoral Commission said the same day that 29.224 million Poles are eligible to vote on 8 October. This figure does not include Poles abroad or at sea on Polish ships. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT SAYS PROPERTY NOT THREATENED BY GERMAN EXPELLEES

Aleksander Kwasniewski assured his supporters in Katowice on 3 October that property in Poland's western and northern territories is not threatened by German expellees, PAP reported. Kwasniewski was commenting on Union of German Expellees Chairwoman Erika Steinbach's statement included in Marian Krzaklewski's presidential campaign video, in which she expressed her satisfaction at the president's veto of the mass privatization bill (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 September 2000). Krzaklewski's election team is using Kwasniewski's veto of that bill and an alleged reclamation of property by German expellees as propaganda assets in the presidential campaign. The incumbent president said Krzaklewski overstepped "the limits of cynicism [and] foulness" by suggesting that the veto may encourage German expellees to reclaim their lost property in Poland. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT PARDONS JOURNALISTS

President Vaclav Havel on 3 October pardoned the two "Mlada fronta Dnes" journalists who have been charged with "obstructing the course of justice" because they refused to reveal the source of the information they had published on "Operation Lead" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2000). The journalists, Sabina Slonkova and Jiri Kubik, thanked Havel but said they would prefer that the investigation continues in order to "set a precedent by once and for all deciding whether a journalist has or does not have the right to protect the sources of his or her information." Prime Minister Milos Zeman called Havel's decision "one of his many doubtful presidential pardons." He said that it was precisely owing to such "rash reactions" by the president that his Social Democratic Party has proposed changing the constitutional provision on presidential pardons to make them valid only if "counter-signed" by the justice minister. MS

CZECHS ACCUSE AUSTRIA OF INSUFFICIENT PROTECTION OF EMBASSY

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told CTK on 3 October that he is summoning "representatives of the Austrian embassy in Prague" to provide an explanation for what he termed the "inadequate protection of the Czech Embassy in Vienna" and the "violation of treaties on the protection of diplomatic missions." Pospisil said the Czech Republic might seek compensation for damage caused to the embassy by Austrian opponents of the launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant. Eleven of those activists the previous day had blocked the entrance to the embassy in Vienna, while three climbed on to the roof, causing "material damage" and forcing the consular section to temporarily close down, he said. Pospisil added that Prague might also seek compensation for damage caused to its embassies by those protesting the detention of rioters in Prague last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT UNDERGOES FOLLOW-UP SURGERY

President Rudolf Schuster underwent follow-up surgery on 3 October in Innsbruck, Austria, to remove a colon tube installed during the emergency surgery he underwent at the same clinic in June. His surgeon said the operation took place without any complications and that Schuster will have to stay in the clinic for 10-12 days and then convalesce in a near-by sanatorium. He added that the president will be able to continue performing his functions while recovering. MS

BRATISLAVA COURT HALTS TRAIL OF COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE CHIEF

A military court in Bratislava has halted criminal proceedings against Alojz Lorenc, the last chief of the Czechoslovak communist secret police (StB). The head of the panel of judges told reporters on 3 October that the court reached the conclusion that the four-year prison sentence that a court in Tabor (now part of the Czech Republic) handed down to Lorenc in 1993 is now "applicable" in Slovakia owing to a 1994 change in legislation. The prosecution is appealing the 3 October ruling. Lorenc did not serve the prison term because he moved to Slovakia after the 1993 split of the federation. He was found guilty of "abuse of power" and the illegal arrest of dissidents. MS

FUGITIVE FORMER MINISTER RETURNS TO SLOVAKIA

Former Transportation Minister and head of the giant VSZ steelmaker Alexander Rezes returned to Slovakia on 2 October, and police in Kosice confiscated his passport on the next day, CTK reported. Rezes is suspected of financial irregularities in his capacity as VSZ manager and of embezzlement. He has been living abroad for the past 18 months. Shortly before returning to Slovakia, he said in an interview with Markiza television that he has health problems and that his financial situation has worsened. MS

HUNGARIAN ECONOMY 'MOST OPEN IN REGION'

According to an annual report of the UNCTAD, the trade and development organization of the UN, "Hungary's economy is by far the most open among the Central and East European countries," Hungarian media reported on 4 October. Taking into account foreigners' share of investments, the contribution of foreign capital to GDP, and the proportion of foreigners employed in the country, the report said the level of "internationalization" of the Czech Republic and Slovenia is only half that of Hungary. The report recommends that Hungary pursue a "more predictable" economic policy and concludes that the country should be invited to join the EU as soon as possible. MSZ




SERBIAN OPPOSITION CONTINUES PROTESTS

Some 50,000 people turned out in Kragujevac on 3 October to hear a speech by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, who stressed that he defeated Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in the first round of voting on 24 September. Kostunica said that "we will rid Serbia of all the evil that Milosevic brought with him, but first we must rid Serbia of him." Strikes took place at many places around the country, including in the Majdanpek basin, at "all factories" in Valjevo, and in the Zastava automobile enterprise in Kragujevac, the broadcast added. "Vesti" of 4 October reported that many members of the staffs of Radio Yugoslavia, Radio-Television Novi Sad, Radio Belgrade, "Borba," "Dnevnik," and the cultural section of Radio-Television Serbia called on their respective managements to stop serving the interests of the regime and to report news objectively (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES ORDER ARREST OF MINERS...

Police forcibly dismantled some barricades and arrested some strikers in apparently random actions in several parts of Serbia on 3 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government said in a statement that it will use the full force of the law to "prevent and punish every subversive activity." The state prosecutor's office subsequently prepared arrest warrants for an unspecified number of strikers and protesters. Arrest warrants were issued for 11 striking miners at the Kolubara coal mine and for two opposition activists, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). PM

...WHILE MINERS PLEDGE TO CONTINUE STRIKE

Reuters reported from Belgrade on 4 October that the miners have vowed to continue their strike and that several members of management have joined them. Strike committee member Zoran Ristic said: "This is not a political strike but a strike for the protection of elementary human rights. The system of [Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)] and Milosevic's Serbia is crumbling. High officials of the SPS are joining us." PM

WELCOME GIFT FOR SERBIAN OPPOSITION

Mladjan Dinkic, who is a leader of the opposition G-17 group of economists, said in Belgrade on 3 October that an unknown person threw a computer diskette with detailed results of the 24 September elections through a window of the Yugoslav Statistics Office to the opposition, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. ''Somebody from the Yugoslav Statistics Office threw a computer diskette through the window to us. The software includes election results from individual polling stations. That's exactly what we needed," Dinkic said. He added, however, that it is for the officials to make the tally public. ''We've got the proof now, but the Electoral Commission is the one to present the real results to the public,'' he said. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION SUES FOR ELECTION FRAUD

Opposition representatives appeared before the 17-member Constitutional Court on 4 October to present charges that the authorities systematically rigged the election results by using a "sophisticated computer program," AP reported. The opposition leaders said that they have a copy of the program and will present it to the court as evidence. PM

BUSH WELCOMES RUSSIA'S ROLE IN SERBIA...

Speaking in the televised U.S. presidential debate on 3 October, Republican candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush said that he welcomes Russia's active participation in ending the political crisis in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 3 October 2000). He said that "this will be an interesting moment for the Russians to step up and lead as well; be a wonderful time for the president of Russia to step into the Balkans and convince Mr. Milosevic it's in his best interest and his country's best interest to leave office. The Russians have got a lot of sway in that part of the world, and we'd like to see them use that sway to encourage democracy to take hold." PM

...WHILE GORE IS SKEPTICAL

Also speaking in the televised debate on 3 October, Democratic candidate and Vice President Al Gore said that "we need to be very careful in the present situation before we invite the Russians to play the lead role in mediating." Gore stressed that he understands "what the governor has said about asking the Russians to be involved, and under some circumstances that might be a good idea. But being as they have not yet been willing to recognize Kostunica as the lawful winner of the election, I'm not sure that it's right for us to invite the president of Russia to mediate [the] dispute there because we might not like the result that comes out of that. They currently favor going forward with a runoff election. I think that's the wrong thing." The runoff is slated for 8 October. Kostunica and the opposition plan to boycott it, claiming that he won outright in the first round. Kostunica's position is that he accepts Putin's offer of mediation but that he is waiting for a formal invitation from Moscow and an assurance that he will indeed meet with the Russian leader (see Part I). PM

SERBIA'S KOSTUNICA: MILOSEVIC IS 'NATO'S MERCENARY'

Kostunica said in Cacak that it is wrong for Milosevic to charge that the opposition is working for NATO, "Vesti" reported on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). Kostunica added that "Milosevic is NATO's mercenary. Who brought NATO to Kosovo if not Milosevic?" Kostunica asked. "It doesn't matter whether it's because he loves them or because they paid him. [The point is that] Milosevic is NATO's mercenary." Meanwhile in Prague, UN human rights envoy Jiri Dienstbier called for exempting Milosevic from prosecution for war crimes in return for his peacefully leaving office, the BBC reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: 'WAIT AND SEE'

Milo Djukanovic told "Pobjeda" of 4 October that his government will wait and see how political developments unfold in Serbia in the coming days and weeks. He stressed, however, that he has no intention of compromising with any authorities in Belgrade on issues of vital importance to Montenegro. He added that Podgorica will pursue its goals of democratization, economic reform, and building links to the outside world regardless of who is in charge in Serbia. PM

REACTIONS IN MONTENEGRO TO KOSTUNICA'S OFFER TO BULATOVIC

Zarko Rakcevic, who is president of the Social Democrats, told "Vijesti" of 4 October that he is "not surprised" that Kostunica intends to ask Predrag Bulatovic of the hitherto pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP) to form a government. Rakcevic added that there is no difference between Kostunica's policy toward Montenegro and that of Milosevic. Elsewhere, Bulatovic told the same Podgorica daily that Milosevic lost the elections and there is no need for a second round. Bulatovic said that the SNP was a loyal ally of Milosevic in the elections but added that now the elections are over and it is time to assess their outcome honestly. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT: ARMY IS LOYAL TO STATE

Stipe Mesic told "Jutarnji list" of 4 October that the government's political enemies in the military are a small, isolated group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). He stressed that the army is loyal to the state and its leadership. Mesic repeated the government's long-standing policy that it intends to reduce the size of the army--including the number of generals--and depoliticize it. A commentary in the same Zagreb daily argued, however, that the government would do well to stop devoting so much time and attention to issues related to war crimes and dissident generals. The author, Nikola Jelic, said that the government should concentrate on making good on its campaign promises to cut taxes and raise incomes. He argued that independent economists are frustrated with the government's lack of attention to burning economic questions. PM

HAGUE COURT PROSECUTOR IN BOSNIA

Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, arrived in Sarajevo on 2 October on a four-day visit. She will meet with top international and local officials dealing with the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement and especially with the question of missing people, AP reported. On 4 October, the international community's High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said in a statement in Sarajevo that none of SFOR's 22,000 peacekeepers should leave before the 11 November parliamentary elections. He stressed that "SFOR's presence remains vital as the country has just started to turn the corner nearly five years after the Dayton peace accords were signed," Reuters reported. PM

ROMANIAN SENATE PASSES REAL ESTATE RESTITUTION BILL

The Senate on 3 October passed a bill on the restitution of real estate nationalized by the Communists, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bill, which has been the subject of negotiations between the main parties of the ruling coalition and the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, differs from the restitution bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies earlier this year in that it exempts from restitution buildings that now house hospitals, schools and seats of political parties. The owners of those buildings are to be compensated instead. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and the Greater Romania Party voted against the bill, on which the two houses of the parliament will now have to seek a compromise. MS

NEW LIBERAL PARTY REGISTERED IN ROMANIA

The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 3 October registered the Traditional National Liberal Party, whose leaders recently split from the National Liberal Party (PNL). The party's name, which was originally the National Liberal Party-The Bratianus, has been changed to avoid objections by the PNL. Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes, who heads the new formation, said his party will join the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000, whose registration was also approved by the tribunal on 3 October. MS

ROMANIANS STOP SHIP ON WAY TO KOZLODUY

A Russian ship transporting radioactive fuel to the Kozloduy Bulgarian nuclear plant was stopped on 3 October by Romanian authorities demanding documentation that the cargo is safe. AP reported the next day. The ship is now being held in the Danube port of Sulina. A spokesman for the port authorities said that in addition to lacking the necessary paperwork on safety controls, the ship failed to provide the required 30--day advance notice to transport a nuclear cargo. MS

TURKEY RETALIATES IN CONSUL AFFAIR

Turkey has refused to approve Stiliyan Rusinov Vurbanov's appointment as Bulgarian consul-general in Edirne, following the return of the Turkish consul-general in Burgas to her country "at the request of the Bulgarian government," the BBC reported, citing a 1 October dispatch by the Turkish news agency Anatolia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). The Bulgarian government explained its decision by saying that Consul-General Bezya Untuna had carried out "activities that contravene the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs." Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), on 30 September called the decision "the worst gaffe of the Foreign Ministry in the last 10 years." But Gyuner Takhir, leader of the rival National Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which split from the DPS, said no Turkish diplomat has interfered in Bulgarian domestic policy to the extent that Untuna did. MS




CAUCASUS PEACE AND INTEGRATION STILL SEEN AS FAR OFF


By Emil Danielyan

Five months ago, analysts at the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) proposed a comprehensive Stability Pact for the Caucasus.

Modeled on post-war European integration, their proposal called for a number of specific actions that would help put the war-torn and impoverished region on the path to economic development. The CEPS plan--the most thorough yet on resolving conflicts in the South Caucasus--suggested mechanisms for ending the long-running conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. It called for a regional security order to be jointly guaranteed by Russia and the West. The establishment of a South Caucasus Community would mark the final phase of the integration process.

A CEPS task force led by Michael Emerson, co-chairman of the independent think-tank, toured the region this summer to gauge the state of opinion both in its sovereign states and unrecognized entities. Speaking to RFE/RL in Yerevan on 28 September, Emerson said that his overall impression is that "we are still a long way away from getting a real breakthrough." He added, however, that "at the level of ideas, I think we are for the moment rather happy that this comprehensive proposal for the whole region has at least got onto the desks, into the minds of the leaderships, senior civil servants, and intelligentsia of the region."

Emerson discussed prospects for regional peace at a two-day international conference last week in the Armenian capital. He said that the current situation leaves the region with no chance of reversing its decade-long economic decline, with closed borders and the threat of renewed fighting continuing to make it unattractive to foreign investors.

For Emerson, economic cooperation and--eventually--integration is the only way out of the current impasse, which he describes as "low-welfare dead-locked equilibrium." Most experts attending the Yerevan conference agreed that no major cooperation schemes can get off the ground in the Caucasus before a solution is found to its regional conflicts. The settlement of the Karabakh dispute is seen as particularly essential for the success of such initiatives.

One of the participants, Georgian political scientist Ghia Nodia, argued that policy-makers across the region have little incentive to make major concessions, not least because their domestic public opinions would not support them. Emerson, for his part, stressed that he hopes "public opinion in Armenia and elsewhere can understand that there is no chance for this country and the rest of the region to be as successful as you would like it to be without settlement of these conflicts."

Emerson also challenged the Armenian government's view that joint projects with Azerbaijan on energy, transport, and communications can be launched before there is a peace deal on Karabakh.

The proposed CEPS Stability Pact calls for unconventional solutions to the future status of Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. It suggests that the conflicting parties draw on the "family of modern European solutions," including ideas such as shared sovereignty, equality among ethnic communities, and "multi-tiered" governing structures. In this way, Karabakh might form a confederation or "common state" with Azerbaijan or become an Armenian-Azerbaijani "condominium."

Under the CEPS plan, settlement of area conflicts would be followed by the creation of a wider regional security system under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The plan sees the OSCE as the only international structure that can accommodate the often conflicting interests of Russia and the West. Emerson himself believes that neither NATO nor the CIS can play such a role.

The idea of a regional security system propped up by interested world powers has been supported by Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian leaders over the past year. But Emerson said that all those leaders need to "articulate that more deeply than they have done so far." "If Russia, the EU, [the] U.S. [and] OSCE are to invest in this project more heavily," he argued, "then there has to be credible expressions of political interest on the part of the leaders of the South Caucasus. That at the moment is rather on the thin side."

Emerson describes as "cautious" the reaction so far of outside powers to the proposed Security Pact. Russia, he said, has resisted any increase in Western influence in what for centuries was a zone of its exclusive hegemony. But Emerson did see "some chance of new thinking in Moscow."

As for the EU, Emerson said it is reluctant to embrace a Caucasus Stability Pact unless both Russia and the U.S. do so first. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.


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