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Newsline - October 10, 2000




MOSCOW 'TRADES IDEAS' WITH HIZBULLAH LEADERSHIP...

A member of the delegation accompanying Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on his tour of the Middle East met with Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on 9 October. Aleksandr Sultanov, who heads the Middle East and North Africa department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, was quoted by AFP as saying he had "traded ideas" with Nasrallah about the possible swap of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers for Lebanese being held in Israel. Ivanov told journalists at a news conference in Beirut the same day following talks with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud that he will "meet with anyone who is willing to promote the stabilization of the situation" in the Middle East, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, Ivanov had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara to discuss the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. Following those talks, Ivanov issued a statement in Damascus saying that the "violence against the Palestinian population" in Israel must be halted. JC

...HAS 'CONCRETE PROPOSALS' FOR RESOLVING ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STAND-OFF

Late on 9 October, Ivanov arrived in Israel, where he is scheduled to meet the next day with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Before departing from Beirut, the Russian foreign minister had told journalists that Moscow has "concrete proposals" for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said that he did not acquaint the Syrian and Lebanese leaders with the proposals because "it was more important for us to hear the opinions of those leaders," which, he added, will be taken into account by Moscow in formulating its proposals, Interfax reported. Russia is a co-sponsor, together with the U.S., of the Middle East peace process. JC

IVANOV SLAMS U.S. STANCE ON MILOSEVIC

Speaking at Beirut airport on 9 October before his departure for Israel, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov slammed recent statements by U.S. officials suggesting that sanctions against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his close associates will not be lifted until Milosevic is handed over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Ivanov said that such statements constitute "yet another manifestation of a policy that leads to an aggravation of the situation both in Yugoslavia and possibly in other regions," according to Interfax. Accusing Washington of interfering in Yugoslavia's internal affairs, he added that it is up to the new "democratically elected president and parliament" of Yugoslavia to decide what to do with Milosevic. In a 9 October message congratulating Vojislav Kostunica on his election as Yugoslav president, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will push for all sanctions against Belgrade to be lifted. He also expressed the hope that the "historical friendship" between Russia and Yugoslavia will continue. JC

PUTIN CONGRATULATES KWASNIEWSKI ON HIS RE-ELECTION

Russian President Putin has congratulated Aleksander Kwasniewski on his re-election as Polish president, Russian agencies reported on 9 October. In a telephone conversation with his Polish counterpart, Putin accepted an invitation to visit Warsaw, while a Kremlin spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying the two leaders expressed the "firm intention" to improve ties. Bilateral relations, which have been cool since 1989, further soured when Poland joined NATO last year. Also on 9 October, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement describing Kwasniewski as an "energetic and pragmatic politician who is well aware of the importance of good-neighborly relations with Russia in the national interests of his country." Kwasniewski has already said that Poland's EU entry is to be the main goal of his second term in office (see "End Note" in Part II). JC

PRIME MINISTER SAYS NO MONEY FROM IMF NECESSARY THIS YEAR...

At a press conference following a meeting of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council on 9 October, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters that Russia "does not need money" from the IMF or any other international financial institution this year but may need such assistance in the near future "when the general growth of the world economy slows down" and has a negative impact on the Russian economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing an investment conference two days earlier, IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer said Russia's current account is "currently quite strong" but the fund and Russia may agree on a precautionary program on which Russia "would have the right to draw in case it got into trouble." JAC

...PLEDGES MORE TAX REFORMS IN THE OFFING...

At the advisory council's 9 October meeting, Kasyanov promised that the government will submit another package of tax reform laws to the State Duma in the near future, ITAR-TASS reported. Those bills will address deductions of administrative and general expenses from the enterprises' taxable profits as well as the tax on securities transactions. The council is composed of government officials and executives from large foreign corporations. Kasyanov also announced that he has signed a government resolution appointing government staff chief Igor Shuvalov to supervise the collection of investors' requests and complaints for consideration by the cabinet. JAC

...INDICATES GOVERNMENT WILL TRIM SUPPORT FOR BANKS

Speaking to reporters after the council meeting, Kasyanov also commented that "the government participates in the capital of a large number of banks" and such participation is "ineffective," Interfax reported. It should "participate in two or three banks, a maximum of four," he declared. He added that the Central Bank, for its part, is not taking measures to revoke the licenses of banks with inadequate capitalization, according to the agency. Kasyanov said the situation in the banking sector has improved in the past months as a result of the growth in their capitalization, and it is possible that the government's contributions to capital will no longer be necessary in the future. JAC

OIL COMPANIES BOOST TAX PAYMENTS

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 October, Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev reported that Russian oil companies' tax payments have increased 40-45 percent in 2000. He added that the ministry's plan for tax collection in the third quarter was fulfilled at a rate of 118 percent. He said that four taxes bring in 80 percent of all revenues, with the tax on profits contributing the largest amount. JAC

DUMA DEFENSE COMMITTEE TO CONTINUE TO SEEK MORE MONEY

State Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman (Russian Regions) Nikolai Bezborodko told reporters on 9 October that his committee will seek at least 50 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) for defense spending in addition to what is already outlined in the draft 2001 federal budget. That document was passed in its first reading on 6 October, just after Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin promised another 12.6 billion rubles for defense spending. Bezborodko added that the committee does not want additional monies for defense expenditures to be allocated at the expense of spending on such items as science, healthcare, education, culture, and agriculture. JAC

TATARSTAN LEGISLATORS MOVE ELECTION BACK TO ORIGINAL DATE...

Meeting in extraordinary session on 9 October, Tatarstan's State Council voted by 106 to four with three abstentions to support President Mintimer Shaimiev's 3 October proposal to reschedule the upcoming presidential poll, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Deputies had voted last month to bring forward the date of the ballot from March 2001 to 24 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 September 2000). Shaimiev told deputies that his proposal to revert to the original date was prompted by "friendly advice" from Moscow and not by "complaints" from the federal center that pre-term elections would violate federal legislation. Also on 9 October, activists of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center picketed the parliament building to protest what they termed "Moscow's dictatorship" (in allegedly insisting that the poll be held in March 2001), while the opposition Round Table called for Shaimiev to retire, rather than seek a third presidential term as observers anticipate he will do. LF

...AS TOP ELECTION OFFICIAL REFERS CONTROVERSY TO LEGISLATORS

While Central Election Committee head Aleksandr Veshnyakov had deemed moving up the election date a violation of the federal election law, he appears to think that it would not necessarily be illegal for Shaimiev to seek a third term in office. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 October, Veshnyakov said that it is up to Russia's lawmakers to decide how the controversy over third terms for some regional officials should be resolved. He suggested that since the law limiting governors to two terms came into effect in October 1999, governors' terms that begin from October 1999 may be considered their first terms. According to Veshnyakov, the Central Election Commission is "just an executive body, and it will follow the lawmakers' decision." JAC

GERMAN PRESS ACCUSES RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMAND OVER CHECHEN WAR CRIMES

Citing documents made available by the Chechen interim administration, both the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" and "Frankfurter Rundschau" on 10 October accused the Russian military command in Chechnya of condoning the arbitrary arrest, torture, and murder of Chechen civilians by Russian troops. The two newspapers quoted unnamed members of the pro-Russian civilian administration as saying that the Russian police and prosecutor-general make no efforts to investigate or solve such crimes. The newspapers also accused the Russian military of engaging in the theft of oil and metals, including aluminum, and of deliberately sabotaging efforts to restore the Chechen oil industry. LF

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN MOSCOW

Parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov, during a working visit to Moscow, met on 8 October with deputy chief of the Kremlin staff, Sergei Prikhodko, Flux reported the next day. On 9 October, Diacov also met with his Russian counterpart, Gennadii Seleznev, and with leaders of groups represented in the State Duma. The main issues discussed were Moldovan domestic developments following the country's transformation into a parliamentary republic, the Transdniester conflict, and Russia's mediating role in that conflict. MS

MEDIA-MOST, GAZPROM WORK ON SETTLING THEIR DISAGREEMENT

Deputy Prosecutor General Vasilii Kolmogorov told Interfax on 9 October that his office has again summoned Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii for interrogation. The same day, a Moscow court set 3 November as the date for hearing a Gazprom-Media lawsuit over Media-MOST's failure to honor a sales agreement. Lawyers from each side told Interfax that they are working to reach an amicable settlement. At a press conference on 9 October, Prime Minister Kasyanov said that he considers it premature to discuss the possibility of selling Media-MOST to a foreign company, since the dispute between "the two economic entities" has not yet been resolved. JAC

WORKERS DEMAND OVERDUE WAGES FROM BANKRUPT FACTORY

Former workers at the Svobodnii Sokol factory in Lipetsk, which produced cast-iron radiators, are demanding their overdue wages, despite the fact that the company has declared bankruptcy, RFE/RL's Lipetsk correspondent reported on 9 October. According to the correspondent, workers taking part in pickets carried banners asking the governor of Lipetsk Oblast, Oleg Korolev, to pay their wages, as he had promised to do during his election campaign. Some 60 percent of the factory's work force have not received wages worth a total of 2.6 million rubles ($93,000). Some of the workers had been employed at the factory for the past 15-40 years. JAC

STUDENTS GET EXTRA HOLIDAY

Local energy suppliers turned off the electricity and heat at a dozens of secondary institutions in Yekaterinburg on 9 October, the website http://www.lenta.ru reported. According to the site, some 50 professional schools in the Sverdlovsk Oblast have not paid their debts to the local electricity supplier. As a result, more than 1,000 students in Yekaterinburg have gotten an unplanned holiday. JAC

CAT KILLER HAS PART OF HIS WAGES GARNISHED

Yurii Burkov, a 30-year-old resident of Ufa, Bashkortostan, has been sentenced to one year's corrective labor for killing a cat and must cede 20 percent of his monthly wages to the state, Interfax reported on 9 October. While inebriated, Burkov killed a homeless cat that lived in his apartment building with an axe, according to the agency. After the murder, police spotted the bloodstained Burkov carrying the axe and detained him. Neighbors in his building who witnessed the crime testified against him. JAC




TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CONTINUE

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the senior partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, held a further round of talks on 9 October with other parliamentary parties on possible candidates to replace Armen Khachatrian as parliamentary speaker, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A HHK deputy said that his party agreed that its junior coalition partner, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), to which Khachatrian belongs, should propose a candidate for the post but that the HHK has not yet approved HZhK nominee Ashot Galoyan, who teaches political science at two Yerevan universities. Groong cited Snark as reporting on 6 October that President Robert Kocharian has given the two parties one week to reach agreement among themselves on the new speaker. If they fail to do so, Kocharian will propose Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun deputy Vahan Harutiunian, according to Snark. LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT PLEDGES FAIR TRIAL FOR FORMER ARMY COMMANDER

Arkadii Ghukasian, who is president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has promised that the ongoing trial of former Defense Minister and army commander Samvel Babayan on charges of attempting to assassinate Ghukasian in March will be fair, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Stepanakert on 9 October. Ghukasian denied that Babayan's prosecution is politically motivated. Babayan last week rejected the charges against him, while the Armenian government press criticized the conduct of his trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 6 October 2000). LF

AZERBAIJAN SLAMS ARMENIA-KARABAKH COOPERATION AGREEMENT

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 9 October condemning as a violation of Azerbaijani and international law the inter-governmental memorandum on cooperation signed five weeks earlier by Armenian Premier Markarian and his Karabakh counterpart, Anoushavan Danielian, Turan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). The statement called on Armenia to "give up this illogical and dangerous practice" and not to risk jeopardizing what it termed favorable conditions for resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP

The official Azerbaijani press published on 10 October a joint statement by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the National Security Ministry giving details of alleged arrangements by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev to mount a coup d'etat in March of this year, Turan reported. The statement claimed that Guliev recruited for that purpose former Gyanja city police chief Natik Efendiev and the commander of the Terter military garrison, Rasim Alekperov. Those two men were charged last month with plotting a coup attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). The statement said that the head of the Gyanja branch of Guliev's Democratic Party of Azerbaijan had pledged to stage a mass demonstration in that city on the eve of the planned insurrection. Speaking by telephone to Turan from the U.S., where he now lives, Guliev rejected the statement as a fabrication. He added that he plans to return to Azerbaijan "soon." LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ABKHAZ REPRESENTATIVE...

Eduard Shevardnadze held talks in Tbilisi on 9 October with Anri Djergenia, the personal representative of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, and with the UN Secretary-General's special representative Dieter Boden, Caucasus Press reported. Djergenia told journalists that he had submitted to Shevardnadze new proposals for resolving the Abkhaz conflict but did not say what they entail. Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze said that the discussion focused on the draft proposal prepared by Boden for a division of powers between Tbilisi and Sukhum. The Abkhaz leadership earlier refused to accept that draft as a basis for discussion. LF

...ADMITS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Shevardnadze admitted on 9 October that criticism that human rights are violated in Georgia is justified, Caucasus Press reported. Human Rights Watch had issued a statement last week deploring the repeal by the Georgian parliament of reforms of the criminal procedural code that had increased access to courts by prisoners or detainees who alleged torture or abuse by police, the Prosecutor-General's Office, or security officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). Also on 9 October, lawyer Sevdia Ugrekhelidze told journalists in Tbilisi that staff of the Tbilisi security prison hospital arrested on charges of aiding the 1 October escape of 12 prisoners are being subjected to torture, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN

The majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliament faction elected Revaz Adamia as its chairman on 9 October, Caucasus Press reported. A former chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, Adamia succeeds Mikhail Saakashvili, whom Shevardnadze named last week to the post on minister of justice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2000). The parliament approved Saakashvili's nomination on 10 October. Giorgi Baramidze takes over the chairmanship of the defense and security committee from Adamia, as he had predicted on 5 October he would do. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Beginning a two-day official visit to Astana on 9 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, to review the state of bilateral relations, Russian agencies reported. Nazarbaev told journalists later at a joint press conference that the two countries' views coincide on "the entire spectrum of political issues." Putin attributed that consensus to the shared aspiration to seek mutually acceptable solutions to all problems that arise. The two presidents signed a joint communique, which noted that bilateral trade turnover doubled during the first seven months of this year to $2.5 billion, a memorandum on cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, and a declaration on cooperation in the Caspian Sea. That latter declaration reaffirms the agreement on dividing the northern Caspian seabed, which was signed by the Russian and Kazakh presidents in July 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). LF

OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL...

Mark Stevens, who heads the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission in Kyrgyzstan, told journalists in Bishkek on 9 October that his organization is concerned that the registration of candidates for the 29 October presidential poll unfairly restricted participation in that ballot, AP reported. Of 19 would-be candidates, the Central Electoral Commission registered only six (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Stevens also expressed concern about the general political atmosphere in Kyrgyzstan and noted that the country's authorities have not taken measures to preclude a repeat of violations that marred the parliamentary poll in February-March 2000. He said that a lack of improvement in the preparations for the ballot could jeopardize the planned deployment of some 100 international observers to monitor the vote and vote count. LF

...AS MORE PARTIES PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION CANDIDATE

Speaking in Bishkek on 9 October, Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan chairwoman Klara Ajybekova pledged her party's support for the presidential election alliance forged last month between the opposition Ar-Namys party and the Socialist Ata-Meken party, whose chairman Omurbek Tekebaev is one of the opposition presidential candidates, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The Republican party, the Kairan-EL Party, and the Erkindik Party have likewise announced their support for Tekebaev's candidacy. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SUMS UP CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISLAMIC MILITANTS

General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, said in Bishkek on 9 October that a total of 30 Kyrgyz troops were killed during the fighting against militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in August-September, Reuters and Interfax reported. He estimated the Islamists' losses at 120 dead and 200 injured. Djanuzakov added that no new attacks by those forces have been registered for the past 15 days but did not exclude the possibility that some militants remain on Kyrgyz territory. On 7 October, Kyrgyz police in Batken Oblast arrested a 60-year-old Kyrgyz who confessed to providing the militants with information about Kyrgyz troop movements, Interfax reported. LF




BELARUSIAN CIVIC INITIATIVE TO PROMOTE CHALLENGER TO LUKASHENKA

A number of political and public activists have announced the setting up a civic committee "Election-2001," Belapan and Interfax reported on 9 October. The new organization includes Children of Chornobyl Charitable Fund head Henadz Hrushavy, Belarusian Helsinki Committee deputy head Hary Pahanyayla, as well as Supreme Soviet deputies Uladzimir Nistsyuk, Valery Shchukin, and Vasil Shlyndzikau. The committee's main goal is to propose and promote a democratic leader who could challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in next year's presidential ballot. "Political parties today do not dare propose a new leader from among themselves. But time is passing, and it may be too late for us to promote a democratic candidate for the 2001 presidential elections," Shlyndzikau commented. JM

BELARUSIANS BEGIN VOTING IN LEGISLATIVE BALLOT

As of 10 October, Belarusians may vote in the elections to the Chamber of Representatives scheduled for 15 October. The Electoral Code allows early voting five days ahead of election day. Central Election Commission Secretary Ivan Likhach told Belapan that those taking advantage of the early voting procedure are not obliged to explain why they do not want to cast ballots on 15 October. According to Central Election Commission, 566 candidates are seeking legislative seats in the 110-strong Chamber of Representatives. JM

POLL SAYS LUKASHENKA HAS 15 PERCENT SUPPORT IN MINSK

A poll conducted by Belapan among 600 Minsk residents in early October found that if presidential elections had been held at that time, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka would have received 15 percent of the vote. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and former National Bank Chairman Stanislau Bahdankevich would each receive 2 percent backing. Of those polled, 28 percent said they cannot identify a worthy presidential candidate, while 30 percent were undecided about whom to support. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WORRIED ABOUT ECONOMIC CRIMINALITY

Leonid Kuchma on 9 October reviewed economic crime at a session of the Coordinating Committee for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, Interfax reported. Kuchma said the fuel and energy complex is "the most politicized and criminalized" economic sector in Ukraine. He cited several examples of shady operations involving supplies of electricity, coal , and oil but declined to name any offenders. Kuchma noted that such areas as metallurgy, agriculture, and social sphere are also plagued by financial crime, tax evasion, and corruption. He also criticized the government for failing to draft a bill on the legalization of shadow capital, in accordance with a decree he issued earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT REPORTS 1.3 PERCENT GROWTH IN AGRICULTURE

Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaylo Hladiy told Interfax on 9 October that agricultural production in January-September 2000 grew by 1.3 percent, compared with the same period last year. Agrarian Policy Minister Ivan Kyrylenko noted that in August and September, Ukraine registered growth in agricultural production for the first time since the country gained independence in 1991. Kyrylenko added that this year, Ukraine will gather 24.5 million tons of grain, as planned by the government. JM

ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR DIVERS TO 'ESTONIA' WRECK

A Swedish prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for two individuals who led a diving expedition in August-September to the wreck of the "Estonia" ferry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2000). Prosecutors charged Gregg Bemis and German television film crew chief Jutta Rabe with violating the international treaty on protecting the "Estonia" wreck as a mass grave, BNS reported. That crime is punishable by a two-year jail term in Sweden, according to the agency. As the diving expedition originated from Germany--which is not a party to the treaty--and the wreck is in international waters, Sweden was unable to stop the mission. Swedish Prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson has not yet decided whether to seek extradition of the two. MH

EX-LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT'S COALITION WINS ELECTION...

The Social Democracy coalition, led by former President Algirdas Brazauskas. has won the most seats in the 8 October parliamentary elections. According to preliminary results reported on 9 October, the bloc won a total of 48 seats, taking 20 constituencies and gaining 28 seats distributed under the proportional representation system. The Liberal Union of former Premier Rolandas Paksas occupied second place, with 33 seats (17 constituencies, 16 proportional representation seats) and the New Alliance third, with 29 seats (11 constituencies, 18 proportional representation seats). The only other group to receive proportional representation seats was the ruling Conservative Party: the party received eight such seats but won only one constituency. The results of four single-mandate districts have yet to be confirmed. The Central Electoral Commission will announce the final election results by 15 October. MH

...BUT MIGHT REMAIN IN OPPOSITION

As Brazauskas's bloc is well short of the 71 seats needed to gain a majority of the 141-member parliament, it appears they could end up in the opposition. The Liberal Union and the New Alliance have a combined total of 62 seats and have reaffirmed their pre-election commitment to work with each other. ELTA reported that the two parties' leaders met with President Valdas Adamkus on 9 October and expressed readiness for their "New Policy" coalition to form the next government; Adamkus has given the bloc nominal support over the past few months. New Alliance leader Arturas Paulauskas said that a coalition with the like-minded Brazauskas bloc would yield "no lasting results," BNS added. But Social Democrat chief Vytenis Andriukaitis countered that "it is hardly possible to form a stable new government without the Social Democratic coalition." MH

POLISH PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED

The State Electoral Commission on 9 October announced the official results of the previous day's presidential polls. President Aleksander Kwasniewski won re-election with 53.90 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski came second with 17.30 percent of the vote and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski third with 15.57 percent. Peasant Party leader Jaroslaw Kwasniewski received 5.95 percent backing and was fourth. The election turnout was 61.12 percent (see also "End Note" below). JM

RIGHTIST POLITICIANS QUESTION SOLIDARITY LEADER'S POSITION

Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski commented on 9 October that Marian Krzaklewski's defeat in the presidential ballot also signals defeat for the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), PAP reported. Plazynski said the AWS must now "draw conclusions in order to improve [its] chances of a better result in parliamentary elections." The Conservative Peasant Union, a component of the AWS parliamentary coalition, announced the same day that its leader, Jan Maria Rokita, will start "consultations with the aim of introducing changes in the AWS's leadership and policy." JM

POLISH OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Leszek Miller, leader of the Democratic Left Alliance, called on Jerzy Buzek's government to step down following AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski's election defeat. "The results of the presidential elections prove that Poles reject not only the policy-making style pursued by Krzaklewski...but that they are also very critical of the AWS's three-year rule and its entire program," PAP quoted Miller as saying. Miller said Poland should hold early parliamentary elections in order to deal with the electorate's "crisis of confidence" in the AWS. Polish commentators, predicting that the parliament will fail to approve a 2001 budget, suggest that early parliamentary elections will take place in the spring. JM

CZECHS LAUNCH TEMELIN...

The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant was launched on 9 October after the Nuclear Safety Authority cleared the plant for operation. Temelin director Frantisek Hezoucky told journalists that the first block will be running at about 30 percent capacity in two months and will become fully operational in about five months. A second block is to be completed 15 months after the first one becomes operational. Energy for commercial use will become available in December. Also on 9 October, Austrian opponents of the plant fully blocked one border crossing point between the two countries and partly blocked two others. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, meanwhile, succeeded in having the Temelin issue included on the agenda of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on 10 October. MS

...AS ZEMAN, HAVEL DIFFER OVER LAUNCHING

Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who attended the Temelin launching ceremony, said he can see no reason why Prague should not have launched the plant. Zeman said he has expressed his willingness to meet with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel at the end of this month to discuss Vienna's protests, but he added that "the meeting would be pointless as long as there are blockades of the border." President Vaclav Havel, on the other hand, said he blames himself for "having missed the chance" of using his influence in the early 1990s to prevent the completion of the plant. This, he said, was "the biggest mistake" of his 10-year presidency. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN PRAGUE

Mugur Isarescu on 9 October discussed with his Czech counterpart, Zeman, trade relations between the two countries and Romania's bid to join the EU and NATO. The two premiers expressed the hope that the recent developments in Yugoslavia and the lifting of the sanctions against Belgrade will lead to "unlocking the River Danube" and thus facilitate increased trade between the two countries. Isarescu said that Zeman expressed interest in Czech investment in the Back Sea port of Constanta. Isarescu was also received by President Havel and ended his one-day trip with a visit to RFE/RL headquarters, where he answered journalists' questions. MS

SLOVAK JEWISH COMMUNITY SUES GERMANY

Jozef Weiss, head of the Central Association of Slovak Jewish Communities, told CTK on 6 October that the association has sued Germany for the return to Slovak Jewish communities of funds paid by Slovakia's war-time fascist government to cover the costs for the deportation of Slovak Jews. Slovakia is the only country that paid Nazi-Germany to deport its Jews, nearly all of whom perished in extermination camps. Under an agreement signed by the governments of Nazi Germany and the Slovak puppet state, Slovakia paid Germany 500 Reichmarks for each of the 57,800 Jews deported in 1942. Weiss said the community was forced to take the step because Germany was shunning its responsibility to pay compensation to Slovak Jews. MS

PALLAG FOUND GUILTY OF OFFENDING HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER

A Budapest court ruled on 9 October that Laszlo Pallag, Smallholder chairman of the ad hoc parliamentary committee investigating illegal oil deals between 1992 and 1996, falsely created the impression at a press briefing in June that Interior Minister Sandor Pinter received money from illicit circles in his former capacity as police commander in chief. The court said Pallag's statements compromised Pinter's reputation, integrity, and privacy rights. Under the ruling, Pallag is to pay a 1.25 million forint ($4,150) fine and publicly apologize to Pinter. MSZ




NATO PLANS NO CHANGES IN BALKANS

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in Birmingham, England, on 10 October that "it is too early to identify exactly how the changes in Yugoslavia will affect the region," Reuters reported. He added that the Atlantic alliance plans no immediate troop cuts in Bosnia or Kosova, noting that NATO forces there will "continue to provide a bedrock of stability as long as it is needed." PM

BALKAN STATES SET UP JOINT PEACEKEEPING FORCE

Members of the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial (SEDM) group said in a statement in Salonika on 9 October that they will set up a 3,000-strong peacekeeping force as early as the beginning of 2001. The force will be known as SEEBRIG, Reuters reported. SEDM includes Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, and the U.S. Each member, except the U.S., will contribute one battalion to SEEBRIG. PM

EU LIFTS SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE

EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 9 October to end their embargo on oil sales to Serbia and on flights by Belgrade's JAT airlines to Western Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). The ministers agreed to restructure trade and financial sanctions to target firms run by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his family, and his closest supporters. A visa ban for those individuals remain in place, as does a UN arms embargo. The ministers rejected calls for sanctions to remain until Belgrade takes steps to extradite Milosevic to The Hague. The ministers also overruled calls by Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, to link a lifting of sanctions to the freeing of Kosovar prisoners in Serbian jails. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that he hopes the Serbian authorities will send Milosevic to The Hague "in the fullness of time," AP reported. PM

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER TO SERBIA

Hubert Vedrine arrived in Belgrade on 10 October to inform Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of the EU's decision on sanctions. Vedrine will also tell his host that the EU invites Serbia to join its Balkan Stabilization Pact and other aid programs, AP reported. These include a trade agreement allowing duty-free access to EU markets for 95 percent of Serbian exports. Reuters reports from Novi Sad that many Serbian businessmen are eager for a resumption of the free-wheeling economic ties that they know from the 1970s and 1980s. Some prominent German businessmen told "RFE/RL Newsline," however, that Serbia cannot expect significant Western investment until it restructures its economy, enacts legislation in keeping with European standards, and introduces modern business practices and attitudes. PM

IS YUGOSLAVIA SEEKING RAPPROCHEMENT WITH U.S.?

Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 10 October that "without a strategic partnership with America, there is no solution for Serbian national interests," AP reported. During the campaign for the 24 September elections, Kostunica frequently lashed out at NATO and the U.S., blaming them for a wide variety of Serbia's problems. He has, however, been disappointed with Russia's failure to break quickly with Milosevic and endorse the new leadership, as most Western democracies have done (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2000). PM

NEW YUGOSLAV LEADERS TO LAUNCH ECONOMIC PROGRAM

Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of economists said in Belgrade on 9 October that "we want to implement Polish shock therapy, Scandinavian social security systems, and Slovenia's model of gradual privatizations. It takes brains not a fist to create an economic miracle," Reuters reported. Dinkic also plans to introduce a new currency in 2001, even though the dinar has strongly increased in value against the German mark since Kostunica took office. Serbia has an unofficial unemployment rate of roughly 50 percent, an inflation rate of 50 percent, and a communist-style economy that contracted some 30 percent in 1999. The important black market is strongly linked to the criminal underworld and political structures close to Milosevic. In several cities, workers and other local people have called for Milosevic-era managers of local companies to resign. PM

POLITICAL CHANGES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and Serbian Health Minister Milovan Bojic resigned on 9 October. Bulatovic's departure paves the way for Kostunica and his supporters to form a government of experts. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and opposition leaders agreed to hold elections for the Serbian parliament on 17 December. A cabinet of experts for the politically important Serbian government is expected to be set up on 10 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Students marched in Belgrade to keep up the pressure on the Milosevic-era Serbian parliament to back new elections. PM

REFERENDUM COMING ON SERBIAN MONARCHY?

London's "The Times" reported on 10 October that Kostunica intends to return the White Palace--where Milosevic maintained his presidential residence--to the former Karadjordjevic dynasty. Kostunica, who is a monarchist, also favors a referendum on restoring the monarchy, the daily added. British-raised and educated Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic has said repeatedly that he is willing to claim the crown if the Serbian people want him to do so. PM

KOSTUNICA MAKES BIG CONCESSION TO NEIGHBORS...

Kostunica told the Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" that his government does not claim to be the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia, as Milosevic's did, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica added that he expects to quickly normalize relations with the other former Yugoslav republics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). PM

...TAKES TOUGH LINE ON MONTENEGRO, KOSOVA

Kostunica told French TF1 television on 9 October that independence for Kosova is "impossible," Reuters reported. He added that independence for Montenegro is "not permitted" under the Yugoslav Constitution. But in Podgorica, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said that he expects that teams of experts from Belgrade and Podgorica will meet "very soon" to "formulate new constitutional arrangements," AP reported. The previous day, Djindjic held talks in Podgorica with Montenegrin leaders. On 7 October, Kostunica ended Milosevic's trade embargo on the mountainous republic. PM

KOSOVA'S SURROI SKEPTICAL ON KOSTUNICA

Veton Surroi, who is the publisher of the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" and Kosova's best-known journalist, said in Prishtina on 9 October that he "understands the symbolic importance" of the EU's move to lift some sanctions against Belgrade, AP reported. Surroi added, however, that he wishes that Kostunica would release the thousands of Kosovars held in Serbian jails "as an act of goodwill." Surroi argued that "the euphoria in the EU and in the international community [over Milosevic's ouster] will change in the following weeks and months, with the [growing] understanding that things in Serbia have changed only to the extent of [replacing] the leader. The real test will be whether policy has changed" from Milosevic's nationalist line. PM

CROATIA ALSO CALLS FOR SERBIA TO DROP NATIONALISM

A government spokeswoman said in a statement in Zagreb on 9 October that future relations with Belgrade will depend on whether Kostunica breaks with Milosevic's nationalist policies. She added that the meeting the previous day between the new Yugoslav president and Josko Paro, who acted as the envoy of Prime Minister Ivica Racan, was "good and productive," AP reported. She argued that "the prospect of further ties with Yugoslavia depends on the pace and quality of processes within the country, and particularly the abandonment of key elements of Milosevic's aggressive regime, which spawned so much evil against other former Yugoslav republics." Elsewhere, President Stipe Mesic stressed that he expects Kostunica to break with Milosevic's "expansionist and greater-Serbian policies," take a more positive attitude toward the West, and cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if he wants Serbia to become reintegrated into the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO REOPEN WAR CRIMES CASE

"Jutarnji list" reported on 9 October that the Croatian authorities will soon reopen an investigation into the alleged arbitrary killings of an unspecified number of ethnic Serbian civilians by Croatian troops at Pakracka Poljana in 1991. Interior Minister Sime Lucin told a press conference that "arrests will be made wherever there have been war crimes," AP reported. PM

IZETBEGOVIC TAKES LEAVE OF BOSNIAN ARMY

Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who retires from the joint presidency on 12 October, told Muslim army commanders in Sarajevo on 9 October that the current Croatian government is one "with which we can solve problems," AP reported. Referring to the recent political developments in Serbia, Izetbegovic said that "these events will change the history of the region. [Serbia] will either not want to or not be able to interfere in our internal affairs." He called for the integration of Bosnia's Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian forces into one army, saying that "Bosnia-Herzegovina does not need two or even three armies. Those are consequences of the [1992-1995] war and will have to be gradually removed." Izetbegovic will leave the presidency to make way for a younger man but will retain leadership of his Party of Democratic Action. PM

BOSNIAN COURT TO TRY MUSLIMS FOR WAR CRIMES

Court official Castimir Mandaric told reporters on behalf of a local court in Mostar on 9 October that the prosecutor is finalizing charges against 23 former Muslim soldiers for alleged atrocities committed against Croatian prisoners of war during the 1993-1994 conflict. None of the Muslims was a high-ranking officer. A local Muslim veterans' organization said in a statement that it will organize the men's defense and provide for their families. PM

ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTERS TO BELGRADE

Foreign Minister Petre Roman and Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu are scheduled to fly to Belgrade on 10 October to discuss with the new Yugoslav leadership how to rebuild ties between the two countries and Romania's participation in Yugoslavia's reconstruction, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported the previous day, quoting a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Returning from a one-day visit to Prague on 9 October (see above), Prime Minister Isarescu said he will propose to the government at its meeting on 10 October that sanctions be lifted against Yugoslavia and appoint an ambassador to Belgrade, replacing the current charge d'affaires. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY BOYCOTTS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT

The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) announced on 9 October that it will boycott debates in the Chamber of Deputies to protest the chamber's refusal to urgently debate draft laws on local autonomy and local administration, Mediafax reported. Also on 9 October, UDMR Chairman Bela Marko said that during a recent visit to the U.S., he and other members of the UDMR leadership asked Washington to "closely monitor" respect for national minorities' rights in the event that the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) forms the ruling coalition after the fall parliamentary elections. Marko said the UDMR is worried by the PDSR's "nationalist rhetoric." On 7 October, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth described as "scandalous" the restitution law recently approved by the Romanian Senate, which does not address the restitution of ecclesiastical properties owned by Hungarian Churches. MS/MSZ

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO VETO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION LAW?

President Petru Lucinschi has "not yet decided" whether to promulgate the recently passed law on electing the country's president under the new parliamentary republican system, presidential spokesman Anatol Golea told journalist on 9 October. Golea said Lucinschi is "taking into consideration" the opinion of experts who argue that the law restricts the right of citizens to be elected since it stipulates that a presidential candidate must be proposed by at least 15 deputies. Golea noted that this excludes the possibility of candidates' being proposed by small parliamentary parties, extra-parliamentary formations, or "groups of citizens," Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS MUST FACE TRIBUNAL

Ivan Kostov on 9 October said that the attitude of Yugoslavia's new leadership toward the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague will be crucial in determining that country's future, AP reported. In an interview with the daily "Demokratsiya," Kostov noted that Bulgaria "staunchly believes" that all war criminals must face the tribunal. Meanwhile, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton said in Sofia on 9 October that Bulgaria is NATO's "most friendly candidate [for membership] in Southeast Europe," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the U.S. intends to continue its "partnership" with Bulgaria on a wide range of issues. Shelton met with Kostov and chief of staff General Mikho Mikhov, with whom he discussed boosting military cooperation. MS




POLES PREFER THE PRESIDENT THEY KNOW


By Jan Maksymiuk

Aleksander Kwasniewski received 53.90 percent backing in the 8 October presidential elections, thereby gaining re-election in the first round to serve another five-year term. Independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski came second with 17.30 percent of the vote and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski third with 15.57 percent. Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa received only 1.10 percent backing.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the results of the 8 October elections.

By re-electing Kwasniewski, an ex-Communist who transformed himself into a Social Democrat, Poles have opted for continuity with regard to not only the presidency but also the country's strategic course. It was no accident that the jubilant Kwasniewski's first pledge on hearing the first, unofficial news of his victory was to declare Poland's EU entry to be the main task of his second term. It would be an outstanding achievement for the politician who saw Poland enter NATO to assist in the country's accession to the EU. And it is very likely that Kwasniewski will secure that place in history by achieving this second goal, too. Like voters in much older democracies, Poles vote not for strategic goals but rather the way to pursue them.

Second, the Polish electorate tends to value not politicians' past deeds but rather what those politicians stand for today. Lech Walesa's 1 percent showing in the ballot provides ample evidence, as does that of current Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, who failed to win even half the support his Solidarity Electoral Action secured in the 1997 parliamentary elections. Three years ago, voters rewarded him for his contribution to the unification of Poland's factional and bickering right wing. Now, they have apparently punished him for the Solidarity-led cabinet's poor performance in implementing sweeping reforms and its lack of progress in fighting unemployment.

Third, Polish voters are not inclined to attach much importance to some symbols that were of paramount importance 20 or even 10 years ago. The video disseminated by Krzaklewski's election team, in which Kwasniewski assists his minister in parodying Pope John Paul II, failed to damage the incumbent president's image to the extent that a second round of the election was required. By voting for Kwasniewski, a majority of Poles seem to have endorsed his performance as president and ignored his inappropriate behavior. The fact that a country in which 90 percent of citizens consider themselves to be Roman Catholics can elect a publicly declared atheist as president speaks more about Poland's transformation in the last decade than do many economic indicators.

Fourth, Krzaklewski's defeat signals that Poles do not approve the confrontation course pursued by the Solidarity leader and prefer a more balanced and softer approach to politics--one, in fact, that is characteristic of Kwasniewski. Another politician who remained calm and good-natured during the presidential campaign--Andrzej Olechowski--was also generously rewarded by voters on 8 October. Moreover, Olechowski achieved his unexpected election result even though he had made a lustration statement saying he had collaborated with the Communist-era intelligence service.

Krzaklewski turned down proposals to head the cabinet during the coalition crisis earlier this year, when the Freedom Union withdrew from Jerzy Buzek's government. Krzaklewski wanted to save himself for the presidential ballot. Now it seems that he may lose even more than the presidential election. Some of his colleagues have already begun to question his ability to lead the right wing in the 2001 parliamentary elections, when the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance is expected to deal a severe blow to the Solidarity bloc.

Finally, the 8 October ballot shows that it is extremely risky for politicians in Poland to quit the country's political life even for one political campaign, as in the case of Leszek Balcerowicz, leader of the liberal Freedom Union, who did not propose either himself or someone from his party as a presidential challenger. Since making that decision, Balcerowicz's party has begun to lose popularity among the electorate. Arguably, this decision also helped Olechowski, a businessmen with liberal economic views similar to those promoted by the Freedom Union, to become a national politician with a good chance of forming a political party that will fare well in the next general elections.

Given Krzaklewski's defeat and Olechowski's rise, both the center and right wing on the Polish political scene may undergo substantial change in the near future.


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