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Newsline - October 16, 2000




RUSSIA'S ROLE IN SUMMIT UNCLEAR

As of mid-morning 16 October Moscow time, exactly who--if anyone--will represent Russia at planned peace talks in Egypt between Israel and Palestine was not clear. The Russian Foreign Ministry had issued a statement on 14 October saying that Russia is "prepared to take part in [a Palestinian-Israeli summit] at the same level as other participants." However, on 16 October Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was still in Moscow preparing to meet with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, according to Interfax. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin with his wife arrived on 15 October in Sochi on the Black Sea for a vacation. The next morning he was meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma there. Ekho Moskvy, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST, had reported on 15 October that according to an unidentified high-ranking source, Putin would attend the meeting in Egypt. JAC

DUMA, SECURITY COUNCIL BLAME MIDEAST VIOLENCE ON 'EXTREMISTS'...

State Duma deputies voted on 13 October to adopt a statement calling on Israel to immediately stop its armed attacks and asking Palestine to refrain from terrorism. The statement passed with 275 votes in favor, 1 opposed, and zero abstentions, Interfax reported. The statement blamed "extremist forces" for the escalation of the conflict. In an interview with Russian Public Television the same day, Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov linked the recent violence on the West Bank with the Taliban's "increased activities" in Afghanistan and Central Asia. He said Russia has "always spoken of the international nature of this threat. While a number of our partners in the West were inclined not to take the manifestations of this threat seriously," he continued, "the events [in the Middle East] of the last few days have confirmed that we were right...there is a wave of extremism stretching from the Philippines to Kosovo." JAC

...AS PUTIN CALLS ON LEADERS TO 'NORMALIZE' THE SITUATION

In an interview with Russian Television on 13 October, Fatherland-All Russia faction leader and former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov outlined his proposal for a three-stage plan to achieve peace in the Middle East. First, he suggested, there must be an immediate stop to the escalation of violence. Second, Israel should offer a compromise on Jerusalem. And third, an international forum should be convened with a wider circle of international mediators including Palestine, Israel, U.S., Russia, Egypt, and the EU. Primakov is an Arabist by training. On the same day, Russian President Putin issued a statement appealing to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to end the current violence in their region and "do everything possible to normalize the situation." JAC

PALESTINIAN DIPLOMAT DENIES CHECHEN OFFER OF MILITARY AID

Palestine's ambassador to Russia, Hairi Abdel Fattah al-Oridi, told Interfax on 13 October that reports by Russia's Federal Security Service that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev offered to send 150 fighters to help "drive the Israelis out of Jerusalem" are untrue and aimed at discrediting the Palestinian administration. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii had similarly dismissed that claim as a propaganda trick, adding that "it is difficult to imagine how those fighters could make their way across numerous frontiers between Chechnya to the Palestinian autonomy." LF

DUMA CALLS FOR NEW UN POLICY ON KOSOVA...

State Duma deputies voted in favor of a document expressing full support for Yugoslavia becoming a full member of the Pact of Stability of Southeastern Europe. The vote on the resolution was 307 in favor with 10 opposed and zero abstentions, according to Interfax. The document also calls on the Russian government to insist on full observation of a Security Council resolution last year concerning the recognition of Yugoslavia's sovereignty over Kosova. Deputies called for the lifting of sanctions against Yugoslavia and for a new UN document to be drafted regarding Kosova. JAC

...AS FOREIGN MINISTER ENVISIONS LONG STABILIZATION PERIOD AHEAD FOR YUGOSLAVIA

Addressing the State Duma on 13 October, Foreign Minister Ivanov declared that Russia's principal goal with regard to Yugoslavia is "to actively assist the consolidation of the democratic foundation of Yugoslav society." In addition, he repeated Russia's vow to "seek the lifting of economic sanctions against Yugoslavia and the restoration of its position on the international scene." Ivanov concluded that because the "new president does not fully control the situation," and lacks unified support among the parliament members and the police, "a difficult period of stabilization lies ahead." Ivanov added that it would be a mistake to see all members of the Serb opposition party as "stooges for the West." JAC

BEREZOVSKII'S ROLE IN AEROFLOT CASE TO BE RE-EXAMINED?

Unidentified law enforcement sources told Interfax on 13 October that the Office of the Prosecutor-General plans to question Boris Berezovskii as a witness about his role in the Aeroflot case. Prosecutors have been investigating whether company officials engaged in embezzlement and money-laundering. Berezovskii said that he has also heard from "unofficial" sources that he is to be called to the prosecutor general but he has not yet received an official summons. JAC

REPORTS OF VNUKOVO BAGHDAD FLIGHTS PREMATURE

Contradicting an earlier Interfax report, AP reported on 13 October that Vnukovo Airlines will not necessarily launch twice weekly flights to Baghdad before the end of the year because the company is still awaiting permission from the Russian Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). On the same day, the Foreign Ministry announced that "it would like to clarify the issue" around the resumption of Moscow-Baghdad flights. Without referring to the Vnukovo report specifically, it reported only that several more "test flights" are planned to Baghdad in the near future. JAC

U.S. REVEALS RUSSIA MISSED DEADLINE TO STOP WEAPONS SALES TO IRAN

White House officials revealed on 13 October that Russia has missed a deadline for ending shipments of conventional weapons to Iran, Western agencies reported. However, according to the White House, Russia's weapons shipments to Iran are "antiquated" and "pose no threat to the U.S. and only to [Iraq President] Saddam Hussein." Under an unpublicized 1995 agreement negotiated by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia pledged not to enter into any new contracts for Iran to buy conventional weapons and to finish shipments of existing contracts by the end of 1999, Reuters reported. News of the missed deadline prompted criticism of presidential candidate Gore by rival candidate George W. Bush as well as from Republican senators. JAC

UDMURTIA ELECTS FIRST PRESIDENT

Aleksandr Volkov was elected Udmurtia's first-ever president in balloting held on 15 October, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, Volkov, who is chairman of Udmurtia's legislative assembly, won 37.8 percent of the vote; 25 percent was needed. Pavel Vershinin, first deputy chairman of the assembly, got 23.9 percent of the vote, and Prime Minister Nikolai Ganza 12.4 percent. Prior to the voting, Volkov was accused of "dirty" tactics in trying to secure his victory, including a smear campaign against Ganza (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 October 2000). In addition, newspapers carrying information unfavorable to Volkov disappeared from Udmurtia. JAC

DUMA BY-ELECTION IN ST. PETERSBURG FAILS

An election in the 209th district in St. Petersburg held on 15 October to fill the State Duma seat left vacant after Sergei Stepashin accepted a job heading the Audit Chamber failed to attract enough voters to be valid, ITAR-TASS reported. A minimum of 25 percent of voters was required; however, only 17.47 percent showed up. A new election will likely be held next year. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 13 October that a number of well-known candidates are likely to compete for the seat in the State Duma left vacant by the death of former cosmonaut German Titov, including ORT anchorman Sergei Dorenko, former State Duma deputy Sergei Baburin, former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov, and former Krasnoyarsk aluminum head Anatolii Bykov (see item below). JAC .

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OFFICE PURSUES THE MURDER CASE WITHOUT A CORPSE

Criminal charges against former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov were downgraded from murder to conspiracy to commit murder when it was revealed that the persons Bykov was accused of murdering are still alive. The Office of the Prosecutor-General admitted on 13 October that it had orchestrated an elaborate deception to prevent an assassination plot against Bykov's alleged victims, businessman Pavel Struganov and a bodyguard, from being carried out. Russian television and newspapers reported Struganov's death last month; however, Bykov's attorney noticed contradictions in media reports about the murders, according to "The Moscow Times" on 14 October, and insisted that the alleged victims are still alive. According to the daily, some reports have suggested the murder charges were lodged to pressure Bykov into giving up his stake in Krasnoyarsk Aluminum. JAC

THE BEAR TO RETIRE?

State Duma deputy (Unity) and three-time Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion Aleksandr Karelin announced his plans on 13 October to retire from sports, Reuters reported. Karelin, 33, who is also known as "The Bear," lost his first match since 1988 during the Sydney Olympic Games last month. After his defeat, President Putin sent him a telegram of commiseration, noting that he remains "an unbeaten Russian warrior." JAC

FOUR RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN WOUNDED IN NEW GROZNY ATTACK

Four Russian troops were wounded on 14 October when an armored personnel carrier hit a mine after coming under fire from Chechen fighters. The vehicle was heading a convoy carrying firewood and food supplies. The incident occurred in the same district where at least 10 people were killed by a car bomb two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). A total of five people have been detained in connection with that attack, which Chechen Muslims condemned at Friday prayers at a Grozny mosque on 13 October. LF




PEOPLE'S PARTY REJECTS ARMENIAN PREMIER'S CONDITIONS FOR PRESERVING MAJORITY BLOC...

Stepan Demirchian, chairman of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), which is the junior partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliament bloc, told supporters in Kotayk province on 14 October that he refuses to share responsibility for the performance of the cabinet headed by Andranik Markarian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian, who heads the Republican Party of Armenia, the HZhK's partner within Miasnutiun, has repeatedly made the survival of Miasnutiun contingent on a pledge by the HZhK of support for his cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). Demirchian said that the collapse of Miasnutiun would necessitate preterm parliamentary elections, adding that any attempt by Markarian to forge a new parliamentary majority without the HZhK would be illegitimate. LF

...AS ONE OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR PRETERM ELECTIONS

On 13 October, Artashes Geghamian, leader of the left-wing National Accord Party, told supporters in Yerevan that Markarian's cabinet should acknowledge its ineffectiveness and resign, and that President Robert Kocharian should dissolve parliament and call preterm elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Geghamian said it is wrong to hope for a reconciliation between the HZhK and HHK, arguing that Miasnutiun lost its credibility after the leaders of its two component parties were murdered in the 27 October parliament shootings. LF

DASHNAKTSUTIUN INFORM ARMENIAN PRESIDENT OF CONCERNS OVER ECONOMIC SITUATION

Meeting in Yerevan on 13 October with President Kocharian, leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) made clear their concern at the ongoing lack of improvement in the socio-economic situation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. HHD bureau member Vahan Hovannisian warned that what he termed "the hysterical atmosphere" in the country will change only if there are improvements in the economic situation and a strengthening of the rule of law. The HHD has been considered part of Kocharian's power base since February 1998 when he lifted the ban on its activities imposed three years earlier by his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrossian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1998). LF

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" erroneously reported on 12 October on the basis of a dispatch from RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that the UN World Food Program has begun distributing drought relief aid in northern Armenia. Such distribution is still in the planning stages.

OSCE WELCOMES LIFTING OF AZERBAIJANI ELECTION RESTRICTIONS...

OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner has hailed the Azerbaijan Central Electoral Commission's 8 October decision to revoke its decision barring eight Azerbaijani parties from contesting the party list seats in the 5 November parliamentary ballot, Interfax and Turan reported on 13 October. She said that decision is evidence of Azerbaijan's commitment to democratization. LF

...WHILE BANNED CANDIDATES STAGE PROTEST DEMONSTRATION

Twenty people whom Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission refused registration to contend the poll in single-mandate constituencies picketed the commission's Baku headquarters on 14 October, demanding their registration, Turan reported. They read an appeal to the commission and to the foreign diplomatic community in Baku accusing local election commissions of giving preference to candidates loyal to the current authorities. LF

RALLY BY FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS BANNED

Police on 14 October prevented members of the Civil Unity party--which supports former President Ayaz Mutalibov--from holding an unsanctioned meeting in Baku, Turan reported. Party secretary Elchin Gambarov told the news agency that the demonstration was intended to protest the Justice Ministry's refusal to formally register the party, which was founded in April of this year. LF

DUTCH COMPANY TO MANAGE AZERBAIJANI ALUMINUM GROUP

Fondel Metals has won the tender for a 25-year contract to manage Azerbaijan's Azeraluminy after pledging to invest $1 billion in that company, Interfax reported on 13 October quoting Azerbaijan's State Property Ministry. Russian Aluminum, which Russian observers had predicted would win control of Azeraluminy, bid only $124 million. Fondel anticipates that it will succeed in increasing output to between 100,000 and 130,000 tons within three months. Output in 1999 was only 1,200 tons, according to "Vremya novostei" on 7 September. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN POSTPONES VISIT TO IRAN

A visit to Iran by Heidar Aliev, most recently scheduled for this week, has been postponed indefinitely, Turan reported on 13 October quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Halaf Halafov. That visit has been postponed several times over the past 12 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). LF

GEORGIA-EU COOPERATION COUNCIL MEETS

At its second session in Luxembourg on 10 October, the Georgian-EU Cooperation Council assessed the process of judicial reform and democratization in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 13 October. Other topics of discussion included regional cooperation and regional conflicts. The EU delegation called on Tbilisi to strengthen protection of human rights and to intensify its efforts to combat corruption. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONCERNED WITH HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN GEORGIA

Elene Tevdoradze, who chairs the Georgian parliament's commission on human rights, said in Tbilisi on 15 October that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is increasingly concerned over human rights abuses in Georgia, especially on the part of the police, Caucasus and ITAR-TASS reported. Tevdoradze quoted CE Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles as also expressing concern over inadequate employment opportunities and medical services and over the plight of displaced Georgians from Abkhazia. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO COMPLETE METRO LINE IN FORMER CAPITAL

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Almaty on 14 October that the government plans to resume and complete the construction of a metro line in that city by 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. Construction was shelved following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The government will provide $50 million towards the cost of the project and seek foreign investment to cover the balance. Nazarbaev did not indicate which construction company will undertake the project. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHUR MINORITY ABJURS SEPARATISM

Kazakhstan's National Assembly, which comprises representatives from the country's various ethnic groups, convened on 12 October to discuss the 28 September shootout in Almaty between security forces and ethnic Uighurs from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2000 and "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 13 October 2000). Farkhad Hassanov, one of the leaders of Kazakhstan's Uighur community, deplored the growing tendency of the Kazakh media to label all Uighurs as "terrorists." He denied any links between Kazakhstan's Uighurs and Uighur separatists in Xinjiang. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO COORDINATE ELECTION OBSERVATION

Three Kyrgyz presidential candidates--Almaz Atembaev, Omurbek Tekebaev, and Melis Eshimkanov--have decided to form joint teams of observers to monitor the 29 October ballot and vote count, Interfax reported on 14 October citing a statement by Tekebaev's campaign staff. The statement further claimed that incumbent President Askar Akaev has forfeited popular trust and would poll less than 25 percent of the vote in a fair ballot. It says that realizing this, Akaev's campaign staff are resorting to "unlawful methods" and plan to facilitate his re-election by means of widespread falsification. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SIGNALS READINESS TO RECOGNIZE TALIBAN

General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz National Security Council, told journalists in Bishkek on 13 October that Kyrgyzstan will recognize any Afghan government that has the support of that country's population, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the Kyrgyz leadership advocates peace negotiations between the warring parties in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan last week similarly signaled its readiness to recognize a Taliban government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). Djanuzakov said there is no force within Kyrgyzstan capable of destabilizing the country, and that the only such threats to security and stability are external ones. LF

LIBEL TRIAL AGAINST KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER BEGINS

Businessman and El Bei-Bechara party leader Daniyar Usenov went on trial in Bishkek on 13 October on charges of libeling former Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. UsubAliyev is demanding 60 million soms (some $1.25 million) in compensation for remarks Usenov made about him during a TV interview in March, and for which Usenov has already apologized (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS MULTIPARTY SYSTEM PREMATURE...

Addressing the final session of a conference on Turkmenistan's cultural heritage on 13 October, Saparmurat Niyazov again said that his country is not yet mature enough to make the transition to a multiparty democracy, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. Niyazov denied that anyone in Turkmenistan has been arrested for his/her political views, or that there are any political prisoners in Turkmenistan. Human rights organizations have documented the sentencing of numerous persons for criticizing Niyazov's policies. "We do not impose any morale, view, or ideology on our people by force," Niyazov added. LF

...RULES OUT EARLY PRIVATIZATION OF OIL, GAS SECTORS

Niyazov also said in his 13 October closing address that Turkmenistan's oil and gas industry will not be privatized within the next 10-15 years, ITAR-TASS reported. He said those industries will remain a key component of the country's economy and contribute funds to the social sector. LF




OSCE SAYS BELARUSIAN LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS UNDEMOCRATIC...

The OSCE Minsk mission on 16 October said the previous day's ballot to the Chamber of Representatives fell short of international standards for democratic elections, Reuters reported. "In particular, the minimum requirements were not met for the holding of free, fair, equal, accountable, and open elections," the mission said in a statement based on conclusions of the OSCE technical assessment team, which worked in Belarus. The European parliamentary troika--the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe--concurred with the OSCE mission's statement, Belapan reported. (See "End Note" below.) JM

...THOUGH MOSCOW SEES IT OTHERWISE

Meanwhile, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's spokesman said Russian President Vladimir Putin on 15 October congratulated the Belarusian president on "the successful holding of free and democratic parliamentary elections." JM

MINSK SAYS ELECTIONS VALID IN MOST CONSTITUENCIES

Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chairwoman of the Central Electoral Commission, said on 16 October that the overall election turnout in Belarus was 60.6 percent. "The election was valid in 96 constituencies out of 110," Yarmoshyna added. Deputies were elected in 46 constituencies, while runoff votes are to be held in 50 constituencies on 29 October. A new election will be held within the next three months in 14 constituencies where turnout was below 50 percent. The previous day the commission said 28 constituencies failed to secure the 50 percent turnout needed for valid election. However, opposition leaders Anatol Lyabedzka, Vintsuk Vyachorka, and Andrey Sannikau said the overall election turnout was around 45 percent and claimed that the opposition's election boycott campaign succeeded. The opposition held an anti-election rally in Minsk on 14 October, which attracted some 4,000 people. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER ARRESTED IN GERMANY

Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod said on 13 October that German authorities have arrested Ukrainian legislator Viktor Zherdytskyy in Hanover in connection with a criminal investigation in Germany involving breach of public trust, AP reported. Obikhod did not give details of Zherdytskyy's German case. Obikhod said Zherdytskyy is under criminal investigation in Ukraine after more than 87 million German marks ($38.4 million) in German government compensation payments disappeared at Gradobank, which he headed before being elected to the parliament. JM

LITHUANIAN COALITION AGREEMENT SIGNED...

A coalition agreement was signed on the evening of 12 October by four parties running under the "New Policy" pre-election coalition, paving the way for a minority government. The document was signed by leaders of the Liberal Union (35 seats), New Alliance (29 seats), Center Union (3 seats) and Modern Christian Democrats (1 seat). The coalition also has the support of several other small groups, including the Peasants Party (4 seats) and the Polish Electoral Action (2 seats), including a deputy parliamentary chairmanship for the former, BNS and ELTA reported. Rolandas Paksas, leader of the Liberal Union, is slated to be the new prime minister, and the two biggest vote-getters of the coalition will split the 13 cabinet posts seven to six--though the assignments have not been confirmed. President Valdas Adamkus, who gave moral support to the bloc before the 8 October elections, praised the coalition deal at a meeting on 13 October. MH

...BLOC CONFIRMS EU, NATO AS PRIORITIES

New Union leader Arturas Paulauskas, the likely parliament chairman, said that the coalition will adhere to the foreign policy goals of the outgoing Conservative-led government, especially EU and NATO integration. "We have said on several occasions that foreign policy should not be changed," Paulauskas said, adding that the "main priorities--NATO, the European Union and good relations with Russia--remain in the governmental program we are now working on." MH

SOLIDARITY ELECTORAL ACTION LEADER URGED TO RESIGN

Three of the four component parties in the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) bloc--the Conservative-Peasant Party (SKL), the Party of Christian Democrats, and the Christian National Union--have urged AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski to resign following his defeat in the 8 October presidential elections. "There is a need for a profound programmatic renewal of the AWS and a change of its chairman," the SKL stated in a resolution. Aleksander Hall from the SKL said parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski should become the new AWS leader to carry out the bloc's "renewal." Meanwhile, the AWS Social Movement--the biggest party in the ASW bloc--has remained faithful to Krzaklewski. "[The demands for Krzaklewski's ouster] will impede the rebuilding of good relations within the AWS and put its future into question," said Jacek Rybicki, from the AWS Social Movement, to PAP. JM

WALESA QUITS PARTY POLITICS

Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa announced on 15 October that he is withdrawing from politics following his 1 percent backing in the presidential elections. "A politician must take responsibility for his election result. It is an important signal. I am taking it seriously. It is telling me that my place is beside the political stage," Walesa said in a statement quoted by PAP. According to Walesa, Poland's right wing faces "a threat of defeat" in next year's parliamentary elections and may avert it only by "building a strong centrist grouping." However, AP on 16 October quoted Walesa as saying that he is quitting as chairman of his Christian Democratic Party to make room for new faces but pledging to stay active in politics. Walesa added that part of his new role will be campaigning for Poland's membership in the EU. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON MASS PRIVATIZATION BILL

The Sejm on 13 October failed to override President Aleksander Kwasniewski's veto on the mass privatization bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). The motion to override the veto was supported by 212 deputies from the Solidarity Electoral Action and the Peasant Party, and opposed by 207 deputies from the Democratic Left Alliance and the Freedom Union; two deputies abstained. The parliament needs a three-fifths majority to override a presidential veto (the required majority in this voting was 253 votes). JM

NO LIGHT AT END OF TEMELIN TUNNEL...

Austrian Economics Minister Martin Bartenstein on 13 October announced his country is "suspending" imports of electricity from the Czech Republic in order to "send a clear signal to the government in Prague," CTK reported. In turn, the Czech Foreign Ministry on the same day officially asked the European Union to intervene in order to bring about the ending of the blockade at the two countries' border by Austrian protesters against the Temelin nuclear power plant. The protesters on 15 October said they were halting demonstrations for one week to "give Austrian and Czech politicians and the EU time to talk without outside pressure." On 13 October they blocked all 15 border crossing points and far-right Carinthia premier Joerg Haider addressed the protesters at Wullowitz. MS

...AS AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR ASKS EU TO DRAFT SAFETY STANDARDS...

Addressing the EU summit in Biarritz, France, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel asked the European Commission to draft obligatory nuclear safety standards and submit them to the Council of Ministers by the end of 2000, CTK reported. European Commission spokesman Jonathan Faull said the commission will examine Schuessel's proposals, adding that it was also dealing with the blockade at the Czech-Austrian border. Schuessel complained to journalists about Czech unwillingness to engage in a dialogue with Vienna over Temelin, saying this is what forced him to appeal to the EU. The Czech Governmental Office on 13 October admitted that it has taken Prime Minister Milos Zeman more than one month to reply to a letter by Schuessel. On 15 October Zeman said he has proposed a meeting in late October in Znojmo, south Moravia, but will not meet Schuessel under the pressure of the blockades. MS

...WHILE VISEGRAD FOUR EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR PRAGUE

The Czech Republic's partners in the Visegrad Four group, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, on 13 October backed Prague's demands for an end to the blockades at the Austrian border. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban told reporters after a meeting in Karlovy Vary of the four countries' prime ministers that blockades "solve nothing." The meeting dealt mainly with ongoing preparations for EU accession. Orban said the four Visegrad members support each other's effort to do so, but "no country can expect the others" to wait for it to catch up. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said Poland would "do everything to become a EU member by 1 January 2003," and Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said Bratislava's goal is similar and that he has the backing of other members for Slovakia to be included among the Schengen Agreement countries even if it accedes to the EU at a later date, CTK reported. MS

HAVEL OPENS FORUM 2000 IN PRAGUE

President Vaclav Havel on 15 October opened the fourth annual meeting of Forum 2000, an encounter of prominent personalities in the spheres of politics, political philosophy, culture, and religion, CTK reported. Among participants attending this year's gathering are the Dalai Lama, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Jordanian King Hassan, former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, and Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev. MS

SCHUSTER RETURNS TO SLOVAKIA

President Rudolf Schuster on 13 October returned to Slovakia after undergoing follow-up surgery in Innsbruck, Austria, earlier this month, CTK and AP reported. Schuster told journalists in Kosice that the doctors in Austria had wanted him to remain in the clinic longer but at his insistence agreed that he would now be treated at home. He said he intends to return to his office in Bratislava on 1 November. MS

SLOVAK SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN LAUNCHES COMPLAINT AT EUROPEAN COURT

Stefan Harabin, whom the government wants to dismiss as Supreme Court chairman, has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, CTK reported on 14 October, citing Radio Twist. He says the government is violating constitutional provisions, as well as the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in accusing him of improper conduct and failing to fulfill his duties. Harabin demands that the government be obliged to pay him 20 million crowns (some $392,000) in compensation for "moral damages." Last week the Constitutional Court dismissed a complaint by Harabin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). Radio Twist said Harabin has also complained to the UN and the European Commission and intends to launch a complaint at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. MS

HUNGARY'S SMALLHOLDERS EXPEL SZEKELY FOR ACCEPTING BRIBE

The Independent Smallholders' Party's (FKGP) parliamentary group on 13 October expelled Zoltan Szekely from the group after he was caught allegedly accepting a bribe from entrepreneur Daniel Balla (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). Szekely, who was chairman of the parliament's Public Procurement Committee, denied the charges and said he will keep his seat in the parliament as an independent, Hungarian media reported. He said the entrepreneur was acting under political pressure and hinted that the FKGP might have orchestrated the move. FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan told reporters that "we have had reports about Szekely in recent weeks and we took the necessary steps to prevent anyone from blackening the good name of the party." MSZ




LIBERALS' DRNOVSEK SET TO FORM NEW SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT...

With just over 92 percent of the votes counted, Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats (LDS) have nearly 36 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections held on 15 October, Ljubljana's 24-UR radio reported. In second place are Janez Jansa's conservative Social Democrats (SDS) with nearly 16 percent. Third place goes to the former communists (ZLSD), who have just over 12 percent, followed very closely by the Christian Democratic coalition (SLS+SKD). Drnovsek and Jansa have previously ruled out a coalition between their two ideologically opposed parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2000). Drnovsek, who has been prime minister for most of the time since independence in 1991, is expected to form a coalition with the ZLSD and with the Pensioners' Party (DESUS). The three together will control approximately 53 percent of the 90 seats in the legislature, which is the center of political power in Slovenia. All mainstream Slovenian parties are agreed on the central goals of joining the EU and NATO. PM

...AND OUTLINES GOALS...

Drnovsek claimed victory in a statement in Ljubljana on 16 October, AP reported. He said that "the result confirms confidence voters have in our policy towards quicker integration into Western European structures [such as the EU and NATO]. We pledged a solid and stable government, and we believe that it will be much easier to achieve this now than four years ago," he added. Liberal deputy leader Igor Bavcar added: "We'll have to finish the process of privatizing two state-owned banks, insurance companies, and of some infrastructure companies, like National Telekom." PM

...AS BAJUK EXITS

The daily "Vecer" wrote on 16 October that the fractious campaign of Drnovsek's opponents could serve as a textbook for how to lose elections. The main loser, outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk, served in office for only four months. His was the shortest-lived government since independence. Bajuk was the only top-level leader of independent Slovenia not to have a communist background. His New Slovenia party was allied with Jansa but split the Christian Democratic vote with the SLS+SKD. PM

KOSTUNICA SEEKS ARRANGEMENT WITH MONTENEGRO

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will go to Montenegro early this week, probably on 17 October, Montena-fax news agency reported. He will meet with President Milo Djukanovic, whose government does not recognize the validity of the 24 September elections that put Kostunica in power. Kostunica wants to secure Djukanovic's recognition of his authority as well as his participation in an upcoming meeting of the Supreme Defense Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2000). Kostunica said on Serbian television on 15 October: "I know that the Montenegrin ruling coalition represents the majority in the republic and it did not run in the elections." AP reported on 16 October that Kostunica is expected to send Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic to Montenegro in the course of the day. PM

WHAT KIND OF NEW FEDERAL YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT?

Djukanovic's top aide, Miodrag Vukovic, said in Podgorica on 14 October that only a government of experts would be acceptable to his side. Elsewhere, Predrag Bulatovic, who is the vice president of the rival Socialist People's Party (SNP), said that the "whole world" has recognized Kostunica as Yugoslav president and that it is time that Djukanovic do likewise, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica said on state-run television on 15 October that he is obliged to work with the SNP because it alone of the major Montenegrin parties participated in the elections and hence is represented in the federal parliament. Kostunica added that the SNP may eventually choose to accept a prime minister or cabinet members who do not belong to it, but that he has no legal option but to work with the SNP. The constitution specifies that a Serbian president must have a Montenegrin prime minister. SNP Vice President Zoran Zizic said in Podgorica, however, that his party cannot accept a government of experts lest it extradite former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Montena-fax reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADERSHIP SHOWING TUDJMAN-LIKE INSECURITY?

Vukovic noted on 15 October in Podgorica that Serbia still has much to do before democracy can be said to have taken hold there. He stressed that the two republics must renegotiate the legal basis of their relationship as two equal polities, Montena-fax reported. Vukovic called for the new state to be the "alliance of the sovereign and internationally recognized states of Montenegro and Serbia." Observers note that this self-conscious language, which is reminiscent of that used by the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, suggests that the Montenegrin leadership is deeply worried that its Western partners will force it into a subordinate relationship to Kostunica. PM

U.S. URGES MONTENEGRO TO FIND NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH SERBIA

After meeting with Djukanovic in Podgorica on 13 October, President Bill Clinton's Balkan envoy James O'Brien said: "We remain steadfast to our commitments in the entire region, to our commitments to the democratic government of Montenegro. We believe Serbia, Montenegro, and the federal government should enter good faith negotiations on maintaining Yugoslavia. The U.S. does not favor independence for Montenegro," AP reported. The envoy added that Montenegrin talk of independence "does not help integration and democracy." Djukanovic, for his part, said in a statement that both sides "agreed on the importance of the changes" in Belgrade and on the "utmost importance" of strengthening its new leadership. On 15 October, pro-independence Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said that O'Brien's statement came as no surprise. Burzan noted that Washington has sought for the past 10 years to "pacify" the Balkans, Montena-fax reported. He stressed that Podgorica and Belgrade will "without doubt" work out a new legal basis for their common state. PM

SERBIAN CROWN PRINCE CONGRATULATES KOSTUNICA

Aleksandar Karadjordjevic arrived in Belgrade on 15 October to a warm welcome by monarchists, including Kostunica and Belgrade Mayor Milan Protic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2000). Protic said that a referendum on the restoration of the monarchy could be held "very soon," London's "Daily Telegraph" reported. He added that monarchists should respect the outcome of the vote. Aleksandar told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that he returned to "see my people and give them moral support. As for other issues, [we will deal with them] in due time." PM

MILOSEVIC BACKERS CONTINUE TO STALL ON SERBIAN GOVERNMENT

Supporters of Kostunica and leaders of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia met in Belgrade on 16 October for the latest in a series of talks aimed at resolving the question of power-sharing in the Serbian government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). Democratic Opposition leader Vladan Batic told Reuters: "We expect everything to be solved if we are serious people." PM

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS WIN IN SECOND ROUND OF LOCAL VOTE...

The governing Socialists are assured of an easy victory in most of the 144 municipalities and communes where a second round of elections took place on 15 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The largest opposition party, the Democrats, boycotted the ballot to protest what they called fraud and irregularities in the first round (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 and 13 October 2000). Most international observers described both rounds as free and fair. PM

...AMID ETHNIC TENSIONS IN THE SOUTH

Attention in the 15 October Albanian local elections is centered on Himara in the south, where the Socialists and Democrats have joined forces in hopes of thwarting the mayoral candidacy of a member of the ethnic-Greek minority (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 September 2000). An RFE/RL correspondent reported that tensions there are high. Many ethnic Albanians resent what they regard as an all too close relationship between local Greek leaders and Athens, much as Bosnian Muslims resent the ties between Herzegovinian Croats and Zagreb, the correspondent added. Greece, for its part, protested on 14 October that Albanian border officials were refusing to let ethnic Greek guest workers in Greece go home to Albania to vote, AP reported. On 16 October, the Socialists claimed victory, but local Greek leaders charged fraud, AP reported. PM

MACEDONIA REPORTS ON MILITARY TO NATO

The Macedonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 13 October that Ambassador to NATO Jovan Tegovski has given NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Klaus Kleiber Macedonia's National Annual Program for Association with NATO. The document contains analyses and outlines of concrete projects regarding Macedonia's preparations for full NATO membership, MIC news agency reported. Macedonia is already a participant in the Partnership for Peace program. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES ELECTION VIOLENCE

Members of opposition parties returned to the legislature on 13 October after the governing coalition agreed to place on the agenda the issue of violence in the recent second round of local elections, MIC news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000).

ROMANIAN PREMIER CAMPAIGNS 'WESTERN STYLE'...

Flanked by his wife and two children, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu on 15 October told supporters of his presidential bid that he wants to be "a factor of stability" and promote "dialogue" in a society that is torn by intolerance due to its communist legacy, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Isarescu said he is convinced the "battle with the painful past" can be won and that Romania will be able to develop into a modern society with a functioning market economy. His expertise, he said, will be put to this service if elected to the highest office. Isarescu named achieving NATO membership and accession to the EU as his top foreign policy objectives. MS

...RESPONDS 'EASTERN STYLE...'

On 15 October, Isarescu demanded that the Prosecutor-General's Office investigate Bucharest Mayor and Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Traian Basescu concerning the mayor's allegation that one of the presidential candidates now running has been in the pay of Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, a Romanian businessman with ties to the collapsed National Investment Fund (FNI), Mediafax reported. Basescu responded that he is ready "anytime" to provide the office with the information he has (most likely to refer to Alliance for Romania chairman Teodor Melescanu) but added that the office should also investigate Isarescu in connection with his responsibility as National Bank governor for the collapse of several Romanian banks. MS

...AND ACTS AS AN INDEPENDENT

On 15 October, Isarescu told journalists in Iasi that the government will not use funds from the state budget to compensate FNI investors who lost their savings. He said the amount of compensation would depend on the sums to be recuperated from those who made profits from the collapsed scheme and will "in no way" be above five monthly average salaries. One day earlier, in what is a practical defiance of the parliament's resolution to compensate the investors, the cabinet decided that the compensation would be partial and implemented via a bank yet to be designated. For this purpose, the government would underwrite a loan to the bank, which would then recuperate the money from defrauders. MS

ROMANIA'S RADICALS MAKE HEADLINES

The Greater Romania Party (PRM) refuses to submit the lists of its candidates for verification by the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives, Mediafax reported on 13 October. PRM chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who is himself suspected of having been a Securitate agent, said the council was "in itself a political police" and that the PRM "will not recognize its authority." On 16 October, the Marshal Antonescu League, of which Tudor is a prominent member, unveiled a plaque on the building in Bucharest where Romania's wartime leader was detained after his arrest on 23 August 1944, Romanian radio reported. Finally, Pavel Corut, a former high-ranking Securitate officer and now the leader of Romanian Life Party and prolific spy-thriller author, announced on 14 October that he has withdrawn from the presidential race and will concentrate instead on the race for the Senate. MS

ROMANIA ALLOWS KOZLODUY NUCLEAR TRANSPORT TO SAIL ON

A Russian vessel transporting fuel to the Bulgarian nuclear power plant in Kozloduy has received permission to continue on its journey, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. The ship had been detained on 3 October in the Danube port of Sulina by Romanian authorities, who said it lacked the proper papers and had failed to notify Romanian authorities on time about its cargo. ITAR-TASS, citing Romanian authorities, said the ship will be allowed to continue its journey this week. MS

NATO LEADER TELLS SOFIA CONFERENCE EXPANSION CANNOT BE 'POLITICAL AWARD'

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson on 13 October lauded the contribution of countries in the Balkans "to bring an end to the destabilizing effects of the [Slobodan] Milosevic regime" in Yugoslavia. Addressing a conference of states seeking membership in the organization, Robertson warned, however, that accession to the alliance cannot be regarded as "a political award," AP reported. He said NATO remains open to new members but expansion will take place when both NATO and the candidates are ready for it. "NATO wants [those] countries not only to consume, but also generate security," he said. The forum was attended by the defense ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT DETERMINED TO ENFORCE PRIVATIZATION

The cabinet headed by Dumitru Braghis on 13 October decided to privatize Moldova's tobacco and wine industries by governmental order, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The decision follows a debate in the parliament earlier that day that postponed the decision on the privatization of those industries due to the opposition of the Party of Moldovan Communists, which has 40 seats in the 101-seat legislature. Under an amendment of the constitution passed in July, the government order becomes law unless a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet is passed within three days after the order has been issued. The IMF and the World Bank are conditioning resumption of the financial aid to Chisinau suspended last year--as well as the rescheduling of Moldova's foreign debt--on the passage of those laws. An IMF delegation is due to arrive in Moldova on 18 October. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL AMENDMENTS

The parliament on 13 October rejected amendments proposed by President Petru Lucinschi to the law on the election of the country's president by the legislature, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi had failed to promulgate the law passed by the parliament on 22 September but the legislature re-sent the bill to the president unchanged, and Lucinschi is now obliged to promulgate it under existing constitutional provisions. The president requested that any parliamentary group represented in the parliament be granted the right to propose presidential candidates, that this right be also granted to groups backed by 20,000 eligible voters, and that deputies be able to back more than a single candidate. Under the provisions of the 22 September law, candidacies must be backed by at least 15 deputies and a deputy cannot back more than one candidate. MS




BELARUS'S EXERCISE IN SIMULATED DEMOCRACY


By Jan Maksymiuk

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is an avid ice hockey player. Occasionally, Belarusian Television shows him chasing after a puck with his "vertical men" (another name in Belarus for executive officials). The latter go to great pains to assist the president in scoring a goal if they are on his side or take huge precautions not to be too rough toward him if they are playing against him. Lukashenka regularly wins because he always plays on his own ground, according to his own rules, and against opponents handicapped by the blinding fear of his unpredictable rule.

Lukashenka, it appears, modeled the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives on his hockey distractions. While his final victory may not be quite so clear-cut as on the ice rink, the election game has been certainly played according to his own rules.

At the OSCE summit in Istanbul in November 1999, Lukashenka committed himself to enter a "meaningful dialogue" with the opposition to overcome the "constitutional controversy" in Belarus. That controversy dates back to the November 1996 constitutional referendum in Belarus, which is widely believed to have been rigged. The referendum provided Lukashenka with virtually dictatorial powers and abolished Belarus's democratically elected legislature--the Supreme Soviet. None of the European countries recognized the 1996 constitutional changes in Belarus. The OSCE, for its part, specified four requirements for the Lukashenka regime to regain international legitimacy: democratizing the country's electoral code, giving the opposition access to the state-controlled media, expanding the powers of the current legislature, and improving the political climate in the country by stopping political persecution.

Instead of entering talks with the democratic opposition, Lukashenka orchestrated a "sociopolitical dialogue" with more than 100 public organizations, including associations of philatelists and anglers. The "sociopolitical" forum discussed everything in general and nothing in particular and succeeded in proposing only cosmetic amendments to the electoral code. The democratic opposition declined to take part in that "dialogue."

Shortly after the OSCE Istanbul summit, the opposition struck a deal with a representative of the Lukashenka administration on access to state media. Later, however, Lukashenka changed his mind, fired the official responsible for the conclusion of that deal, and ordered anti-opposition propaganda to be increased in the media.

Lukashenka argued that since the 1996 constitution cannot be revoked, he would not discuss any changes in the powers of the current legislature. In what was intended as a big sacrifice on his part but sounded like an unintentional mockery, Lukashenka declared that he might consider giving the Chamber of Representatives a say in the appointment of ambassadors.

The democratic opposition refused to participate in the 15 October ballot and called for an election boycott. It did so for two fundamental reasons. First, the regime has not provided even the minimal conditions for democratic and fair elections. Second, the Chamber of Representatives has no effective control over the government and is unable to ensure the implementation of the laws it passes. In practice, Lukashenka rules the country by decree.

Some 60 democratic candidates sought to run in the 15 October elections on an independent ticket, but two-thirds of them were denied registration on technicalities. Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna jeered at those candidates on television, suggesting that they were not sufficiently literate to fill out the registration documents correctly (almost all of the would-be candidates from the opposition have university diplomas). Simultaneously, local electoral commissions eliminated potentially strong challengers to those whom Lukashenka wanted to be elected. More than 200 people were denied registration.

When it became clear that the authorities had minimized the risk of an undesirable candidate's victory, Lukashenka announced that Belarus would conduct "fully democratic elections" without engaging in fraud. He may well keep that promise since there is no need to rig anything--except the final turnout figure, if it proves to be below 50 percent. Regardless of who is elected, the president's adherents will form a commanding majority in the future legislature.

Only the U.S. unequivocally condemned Belarus's phony election campaign, noting that international monitoring would have "lent legitimacy to a fundamentally flawed election process." Europe's election watchdog--the OSCE--succeeded in baffling both the Lukashenka regime and the Belarusian opposition by sending a technical assessment mission and a handful of other representatives whose status was unclear.

Were the OSCE to recognize Belarus's sham vote, the Belarusian democratic opposition would almost certainly be stripped of any political significance. At the same time, non-recognition of the ballot will hardly improve the oppositionists' standing. The opposition still faces the enormously difficult task of persuading its compatriots that their regime can be dismantled once they overcome their fear. "Inwardly we support the election boycott, but they may simply expel us from the university if we fail to vote," a student told an RFE/RL correspondent in Minsk after casting her ballot.

It is primarily the sum of such fears, rather than the people's respect, that makes Lukashenka look invincible. But Lukashenka is afraid, too. That's why he won't risk testing his popularity in democratic elections.


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