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Newsline - November 29, 2000




FEDERAL CENTER COUGHS UP MONEY FOR FREEZING FAR EAST...

The Ministry of Finance announced on 28 November that it is allocating two credit lines worth some 70 million rubles ($2.5 million) and 100 million rubles to Primorskii Krai to solve the energy crisis there that has left residents freezing in their homes. According to a ministry spokesperson, the first credit will pay off the debt of residential households to local utility Dalenergo and the second credit line should be used for the purchase of fuel. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov visited Vladivostok on 28 November to discuss debts to the krai of such federal agencies as the Pacific Fleet. Temperatures inside of classrooms several villages in the krai hovered around 4-5 degrees Celsius, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported the same day. JAC

...AS RESIDENTS PLAN TO CLOSE FEDERAL HIGHWAYS

Meanwhile, teachers and medical workers in the krai have announced plans to block two federal highways on 1 December to protest regional leaders' unfulfilled promises to pay back wages, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 28 November. In addition, teachers at a school in Kavalerovo are planning a hunger strike if they are not paid by 11 December. Also on 28 November, residents of Kavalerovo who still do not have heat called on their raion administration head to resign and deputies in the krai's legislature to call for a no-confidence vote in Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. The same day, Nazdratenko called on the presidential administration's Control Department to examine how the krai authorities spend federal monies, Interfax-Eurasia reported. That department was once headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. JAC

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PLANNING TRIP TO TEHERAN...

Igor Sergeev is planning to visit Iran, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international department, told journalists in Tokyo on 28 November. ITAR-TASS quoted Ivashov, who is accompanying Sergeev on a trip to Japan, as saying that preparations for the minister's visit to Teheran have already begun. He did not say when the visit would take place, but the news agency quoted unidentified sources as saying it could be as soon as January. Ivashov was also quoted as saying that Moscow and Teheran have many common interests, including the development of military cooperation. Russia recently announced that it is withdrawing from its commitment not to supply Iran with conventional arms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, has said that next week Washington and Moscow will hold talks at expert level on Moscow's plans to resume arms sales to Iran as well as on nuclear disarmament. JC

...SEEKING CLOSER MILITARY TIES WITH JAPAN

Speaking in Tokyo on 28 November, Russian Defense Minister Sergeev said that Moscow is interested in expanding relations with Japan in the military sphere and favors "greater openness in military contacts." "We are ready to consider any offers made by Japan on the delivery of Russian-made arms and military hardware, including air defense systems," Interfax quoted the minister as saying. Sergeev also took the opportunity to underline Russia's opposition to U.S.-Japanese plans to develop a missile defense system. Such decisions, he argued, should take into account the interests of all countries in the region as well as the consequences of such steps for regional stability and international security. JC

JAPANESE PREMIER NOT EXPECTED IN RUSSIA TILL EARLY NEXT YEAR

Reuters on 29 November quoted an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official as telling Japan's NHK public broadcaster that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's visit to Russia will not take place until the first quarter of next year. The official noted that both Mori and Russian President Putin have tight schedules until the end of this year, "so January-March is practical" for their planned meeting. This announcement in effect dashes any remaining hopes of signing by year's end a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities between Russia and Japan. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had agreed to seek to sign such a treaty by the close of 2000. A sticking point to reaching that agreement, however, is the ownership of the Kuril Islands, which Soviet troops seized at the end of World War II. JC

AZIZ MUSTERS MORE SUPPORT IN MOSCOW

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 29 November to discuss having international sanctions against Baghdad lifted. Few details of those talks have been reported, but ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying before the discussions that Moscow is striving to achieve a solution that would require Iraq to comply with "relevant UN Security Council resolutions." Earlier this month, during a tour of the Middle East, Ivanov had urged Baghdad to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). Aziz may meet with Russian President Putin during his current visit to Moscow, Interfax reported on 28 November. JC

PUTIN APPOINTS MINISTER FOR RECONSTRUCTION IN CHECHNYA

President Putin on 28 November named former Orenburg Governor Vladimir Yelagin to coordinate the work of federal ministries engaged in rebuilding Chechnya's war-shattered infrastructure. Commenting on that appointment, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that while interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has achieved progress in the political sphere, social and economic problems remain unresolved, according to Reuters and ITAR-TASS. Yastrzhembskii added that Kadyrov's administration "functions stably" and there is therefore no need to impose direct presidential rule on Chechnya. LF

YASTRZHEMBSKII FAILS TO DISPEL CONFUSION OVER CHECHEN TALKS

Yastrzhembskii also said on 28 November that no talks are under way between federal representatives and "top-level" Chechen field commanders but that Kadyrov has initiated talks, which are continuing, with some "second-tier" commanders, Russian agencies reported. However, those remarks do not clarify whether talks are under way with Ruslan Gelaev, as "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 November 2000). Meanwhile Russian Army Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Anatolii Kvashnin said on 28 November in Moscow that federal representatives in Chechnya "have no one to negotiate with." LF

PROSECUTOR PUSHES FOR 20 YEARS FOR POPE

State Prosecutor Yurii Volgin has demanded that alleged U.S. spy Edmond Pope be sentenced to 20 years in prison and required to pay 7 billion rubles ($250 million) "in damages inflicted on Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 November. This is the maximum sentence that could be handed down on the charges that Pope faces. The former U.S. naval officer is accused of having obtained classified information on a high-speed underwater torpedo. His defense maintains that the data he procured was already in the public domain. JC

SUTYAGIN CASE HEADING FOR TRAIL

Igor Sutyagin, a researcher on security issues at the USA and Canada Institute, who has been imprisoned in Kaluga Oblast on suspicion of treason for the past 13 months, will soon receive a trial date, "The Moscow Times" reported on 29 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2000). According to the daily, the Federal Security Service finished its investigation and issued formal charges against Sutyagin on 26 October. The official charges state that Sutyagin analyzed information from open sources for use against Russia. In addition, "The Moscow Times" reported citing Sutyagin's lawyer, he could have gotten access to classified information from conversations with high-level military officials. The trial is likely to be closed to the public since the case is considered classified. JAC

HIV CONTINUES TO SPREAD

Some 40,000 people with HIV were registered in Russia during the first 10 months of this year, bringing the total to 72,000 nationwide, Vladimir Pokrovskii, head of a national AIDS center, told reporters on 28 November. According to Pokrovskii, the 40,000 increase is larger than the total number of cases registered between 1987 and 1999. Pokrovskii puts the real number of AIDS cases at 300,000-400,000, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. Some 93 percent of those infected are intravenous drug users. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, only 20 percent of the 82 million rubles ($2.9 million) set aside for a federal program to combat AIDS has been disbursed, and most of that money went toward buying and distributing AIDS prevention kits. Russia also receives funding from the UN and World Bank to tackle the issue of AIDS. Regions with the largest number of registered cases are Moscow city and oblast and Irkutsk, Tyumen, and Kaliningrad Oblasts, Interfax reported. JAC

GOVERNOR BEREZOVSKII TO AVOID CRIMINAL PROSECUTION?

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 28 November without reference to sourcing that Boris Berezovskii plans to run for the governorship of Irkutsk Oblast in summer 2001. According to the daily, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and has long been critical of Berezovskii, Berezovskii's reason for seeking the oblast's top job is two-fold. First, he wants control over the strategically important enterprises located there, such as the Bratsk hydorelectric power station and Irkutsk aluminum plant. Second, the newspaper notes, a registered candidate for governor has immunity from criminal prosecution and Berezovskii can register for the election even from abroad. JAC

U.S. CONGRESSMEN PROMISE MOST-FAVORED-NATION STATUS?

The Ministry for Economic Development and Trade issued a statement on 28 November saying that members of a visiting delegation of U.S. congressmen have promised to push for permanent most-favored-nation status for Russia. The congressmen met with the head of that ministry, German Gref, the same day. Also on 28 November, Russian and U.S. officials met in Geneva to discuss Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. JAC

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE NORTH FACE SHRINKING LIFE SPAN

Addressing a forum on the problems of native peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East on 28 November, Deputy Minister for Federation and Nationality Affairs Aleksei Tamtosov said that such groups "are on the verge of a catastrophe," ITAR-TASS reported. According to Tamtosov, the current life span for indigenous groups in the North is 45, compared with Russia's national average of 65.5. He added that the index is declining and soon may reach that of people who lived during the Middle Ages, namely 38 years. The employment rate of such groups is 60 percent and the suicide rate of young people is three to four times higher than the national average. Tamtosov said that there are 46 such groups totaling 250,000 people. Also on 28 November, World Bank Country Director for Russia Michael Carter told reporters that the bank plans to allocate $80 million to Russia in 2001 to resettle people from the Far North on a voluntary basis. JAC

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FAVORS CURRENT ANTHEM

Presidential envoy to the State Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov told Interfax on 28 November that reports saying the Kremlin will soon submit to the lower legislative house a proposal for a new national anthem are incorrect. He said that no final selection among the various melodies proposed for the anthem has yet been made. Kotenkov's denials follow reports by AP and Reuters, citing an unidentified Kremlin official, that President Putin favors a speedy reintroduction of the old Soviet anthem as Russia's new national song. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told NTV that he is afraid that a new anthem might introduce divisions in society. Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill told reporters on 23 November that he favors the current anthem melody and believes that "it is possible to write appropriate words to make it an anthem." JAC




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO ALLAY PARLIAMENT MAJORITY'S MISGIVINGS

Robert Kocharian on 28 November criticized the Miasnutiun majority parliament bloc for its opposition to the immediate implementation of last week's amendments to the election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Under those amendments, the number of mandates in the 131-seat legislature to be allocated under the proportional system is increased from 56 to 94 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). Some members of Miasnutiun reportedly fear that if the changes take effect immediately, Kocharian will dissolve the parliament and call pre-term elections which could result in the bloc losing its majority. For that reason, they have proposed that the changes take effect only after the current parliament's mandate expires in 2003. Kocharian, who has repeatedly ruled out pre-term elections, reportedly asked Miasnutiun representatives point blank at a meeting on 27 November whether their insistence on a delay is motivated by lack of trust in him. But Galust Sahakian, who was elected Miasnutiun chairman on 27 November, told RFE/RL that while the bloc trusts Kocharian, it fears that other parties could take advantage of the amendments to "provoke tensions" with the aim of precipitating new elections. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET...

Vartan Oskanian and Vilayat Guliev met in Vienna on 28 November on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting to discuss the prospects for speeding up the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian told RFE/RL that he and Guliev focused on the possibility of another face-to-face meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on the sidelines of the 1 December CIS summit in Minsk. He also said that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen will visit Baku, Stepanakert, and Yerevan next week. LF

...CALL FOR SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT

Addressing the OSCE forum on 27 November, Oskanian admitted that despite the commitment of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to reaching a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict, little progress has been made toward doing so. He added that "whatever the final form of that compromise, we believe it will be found by striking the right balance between the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity." Oskanian called on the OSCE to consider new and unorthodox initiatives to resolve "frozen" conflicts. Also on 27 November, Guliev made a statement to the OSCE gathering on behalf of the five GUUAM states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) calling on the OSCE to find a just and lasting solution to the Karabakh conflict based on international norms and principles, Turan reported. LF

KARABAKH OFFICIAL DENIES KURDISH RESETTLEMENT ALLEGATIONS

Speaking at a press conference in Stepanakert on 28 November, Naira Melkumian, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, denied Guliev's claim in his address to the OSCE Vienna forum that Armenia is settling Kurds on those Azerbaijani territories controlled by Armenian troops, Interfax reported. Earlier this month a spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh presidential apparatus had denied the first Azerbaijani media reports of those alleged plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000). Melkumian accused Baku of raising the issue of Kurdish settlers in order to deflect attention from its own efforts to settle Chechens in the Shaumian district of Nagorno-Karabakh, which remains under Azerbaijani control. LF

ANONYMOUS THREAT MADE TO AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE'S REPRESENTATION...

An unidentified person on 28 November gave the editorial staff of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" a tape containing threats by an anonymous individual to blow up the Baku representation of the exclave of Nakhichevan unless its staff desist from unspecified "criminal activities," Turan reported. The tape also accused the staff of the representation of involvement in murder and kidnapping. The newspaper's staff passed the tape to the Baku police. LF

... AS OPPOSITION CALLS OFF PLANNED DEMONSTRATION

Representatives in Nakhichevan of the local branches of the Azerbaijan Popular Front, Musavat, and Democratic parties announced on 27 November that in response to pressure and intimidation from the exclave's leadership, they decided to cancel a rally planned for the following day, Turan reported. The demonstration was to protest the falsification of the 5 November parliamentary election. LF

RUSSIA AGAIN EXPLAINS GROUNDS FOR GEORGIAN VISA REQUIREMENT

In an interview with Russian Public Television on 28 November, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the Georgian government's "strange position on Chechnya" had forced Moscow to insist on the introduction of a visa regime with Georgia, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Yastrzhembskii said that Chechen fighters have established themselves on Georgian territory, particularly in the Pankisi gorge in northeastern Georgia. He added that despite affirmations of its determination to combat terrorism, the Georgian leadership showed no willingness to cooperate with Russia in addressing and neutralizing that threat. LF

INTERIM GEORGIAN ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAM APPROVED

The Georgian government has approved an intermediate program for eradicating poverty, Caucasus Press reported on 28 November. The document will now be submitted to the IMF and World Bank, which, it is hoped, will fund the program. The final draft, which will comprise a three-year program of economic, political and social measures to overcome poverty, will take effect in March 2001. At present, 52 percent of the Georgian population lives below the poverty line. Caucasus Press on 16 November cited the State Statistics department as estimating that 625 million lari ($320 million) will be needed annually to eliminate poverty. LF

GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS' COMPENSATION PLEA REJECTED

The Georgian Ministry of Labor and Health has rejected as "groundless" a suit filed by 11 Georgian border guards who contracted radiation sickness while undergoing training at the Lilo base near Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported. The men had demanded $20 million in compensation for themselves and 46 colleagues similarly affected. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that Russian troops who failed to remove a radio-active container before vacating the base were to blame for the irradiation. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTIES DEMAND WITHDRAWAL OF LAW ON LAND OWNERSHIP

Representatives of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, the Patriots' party, Alash, and the Zhangyru National Revival Center held a press conference in Almaty on 28 November at which they demanded the withdrawal of the draft land law forwarded by the lower to the upper house of the parliament earlier this month, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 November 2000). They also demanded a nationwide referendum on land ownership, which they categorically oppose. LF

TWO KYRGYZ CITIZENS ABDUCTED BY UZBEK SECURITY

The Geneva-based World Organization against Torture appealed on 24 November to Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to release two Kyrgyz citizens abducted on Kyrgyz territory by Uzbek security services on 4 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, citing the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights. The two men have been accused of theft and are reportedly being systematically beaten. The Kyrgyz government has made no move to secure the men's release. The father of one of them, who appealed unsuccessfully to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev to intervene, is said to be recruiting volunteers to try to secure his son's release by force. LF

KYRGYZ LABORERS PROTEST CONDITIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN

Some 20 young Kyrgyz who have worked as hired laborers in neighboring Kazakhstan convened a meeting in Bishkek on 28 November to publicize the severe conditions on Kazakh tobacco plantations, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. One speaker said that up to 40,000 Kyrgyz employed on three plantations in Almaty Oblast are treated "as slaves" and have not been paid for months. A Kyrgyz government official told RFE/RL that Bishkek will raise the issue at a 30 November meeting in Astana of CIS labor ministers. LF




BELARUS TO GET RID OF OSCE MISSION?

During a meeting with the KGB leadership on 28 November, Alyaksandr Lukashenka suggested that Belarus no longer need play host to the OSCE Minsk mission, Interfax reported. According to Lukashenka, the OSCE mission has already fulfilled its task of providing recommendations to improve Belarus's electoral legislation. "No one is going to revamp the legislation before the presidential election," Lukashenka noted, adding that "the time has come to think about the role and the place of the OSCE advisory and monitoring group in Belarus." Meanwhile, Anatol Malafeyeu, head of the Chamber of Representatives' Commission for International Affairs, told the agency the same day that the OSCE mission has turned into "a center of categorical support for opposition politicians" and is currently causing "a wave of confrontation that destabilizes society." JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS SECURITY SHAKEUP

Lukashenka on 28 November said the main reason for the dismissal of top security officials the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000) was those officials' "grave dereliction of duty" in investigating crimes, including those that "have had a wide public response," Interfax reported. Lukashenka also expressed his concern about "manifestations of the lack of coordination" between law enforcement bodies. The same day, Lukashenka appointed Viktar Sheyman as prosecutor-general. On 27 November, Sheyman had been fired as Security Council secretary. JM

UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN SAYS PRESIDENT INVOLVED IN JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE...

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told the parliament on 28 November that President Leonid Kuchma ordered that independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze be "gotten rid of" and "systematically monitored" the implementation of his order, Interfax reported. According to Moroz, Gongadze's disappearance was planned and carried out by Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, with the participation of presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn. "It is necessary to put an end to the country's sliding into the darkness of criminality and banditism," Moroz noted. He added that the parliament and courts should "draw conclusions" from what he says. Gongadze, a 31-year-old editor of the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda," disappeared on 16 September. Many in Ukraine believe that Gongadze, who was highly critical of the government, was the victim of a politically motivated attack. JM

...PRESENTS AUDIO RECORDING TO SUPPORT HIS CLAIM...

Following his address to the parliament, Moroz played journalists an audio recording that he said he believes to be taped conversations between Kuchma, Kravchenko, and Lytvyn about Gongadze. According to Moroz, the recording testifies to the fact that Kuchma "personally gave instructions" with regard to the Gongadze case and monitored how those instructions were implemented. Moroz said the tape was provided to him by an unnamed officer from Ukraine's Security Service. Moroz added that the officer is ready to testify in court if a trial is opened in connection with the Gongadze case. Moroz also noted that unspecified foreign experts have said the recording is authentic. JM

...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL AIDE WANTS TO SUE HIM FOR SLANDER

The presidential press service said in a statement on 28 November that Moroz's accusations "have no grounds whatsoever and are full insinuations, and accordingly, as insults and slander, are subject to Ukraine's Criminal Code," Interfax reported. The statement added that Moroz made his allegations in a bid to boost his declining popularity. Presidential administration chief Lytvyn told journalists the same day that he is going to sue Moroz in court in connection with the latter's allegations, which he called "open slander and groundless accusations." JM

UKRAINIAN INTERNET NEWSLETTER PUBLISHES 'MOROZ'S TAPE'

The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua) on 28 November published a transcribed version of the recording that Moroz had made available earlier the same day. Nine "episodes" of conversations between unidentified interlocutors are presented; those people discuss Georgian-born Gongadze and ways to get rid of him. The options included deportation to Georgia and kidnapping by Chechens for ransom. The conversations are in a Ukrainian-Russian linguistic mix (popularly called "surzhyk" in Ukraine) and include ample use of four-letter words and other obscenities. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT AGAINST EXTENDING OATH OF CONSCIENCE REQUIREMENT

The cabinet on 28 November opposed a bill proposed by three ruling coalition deputies that would extend the requirement of the oath of conscience until beyond the end of this year, ETA reported. Under that requirement, candidates for high government office and parliamentary seats must swear that they have had no ties with foreign intelligence services. Prime Minister Mart Laar noted that legal experts had pointed out that since the requirement had been approved by a referendum, it could legally be extended only by another referendum and not a parliament vote. He said that the government was interested in a continued vetting procedure "at a certain level" and that the parliament could approve a new analogous procedure under a different name. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS BELGIUM

During a meeting with Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Brussels on 27 November, European Commission President Romano Prodi praised Latvia's achievements and said that the country is one of the best EU candidate states. He confirmed that Latvia could open talks on all EU membership chapters during the first half of next year. The next day, in the first speech by a leader of an EU candidate country to the Foreign Affairs Commission of the European Parliament, Vike-Freiberga pointed out that EU and NATO enlargement will allow all European democratic countries to be united for the first time, LETA reported. The Latvian president also told NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson about Latvia's wish to increase defense spending to comply with NATO recommendations and its desire to form a joint air space surveillance system by the Baltic states. She concluded her visit with meetings with Secretary-General of the European Council Javier Solana and European Parliament President Nicole Fontaine. SG

LITHUANIA AMENDS PROCEDURE FOR NOMINATING PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

The parliament on 28 November voted by 99 to seven (all Conservatives) with two abstentions (both Christian Democrats) to change the rules for appointing the prosecutor general, "Kauno diena" reported the following day. The prosecutor-general will be appointed by the president with the parliament's approval, rather than by the parliament on the recommendation of its Legal Affairs Committee. Prosecutor-General Kazys Petnycia, who was appointed to a seven-year term in 1997, will have to resign and will serve as acting head until his replacement is appointed. Petnycia has been severely criticized as a tool of the former Conservative government and for his failure to combat increasing crime. Some deputies had called for a no-confidence vote to oust him. SG

POLISH NURSES PRESS FOR TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT

Bozena Banachowicz, chairwoman of the National Union of Nurses and Midwives, told Polish Radio on 28 November that the nurses are demanding immediate talks with the government about their material situation. According to the union, protests over low wages, including hunger strikes, continued in 35 health service establishments throughout the country on that day. Health Minister Grzegorz Opala commented that he cannot order hospital directors to raise wages. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO

The Chamber of Deputies on 28 November overrode President Vaclav Havel's 16 November veto on extending the validity of the "lustration law" beyond 31 December, CTK reported. The law prohibits senior members of the former Communist Party and secret police members or informers from holding positions in the civil service. Havel had vetoed the law, saying it would further delay passing legislation on regulating the civil service. MS

VERHEUGEN INVITED TO CZECH-AUSTRIAN SUMMIT

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said in Vienna on 28 November that Austria and the Czech Republic have agreed to invite EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen to take part in the 12 December meeting between Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and Premier Milos Zeman, CTK reported. The launching of the controversial Temelin nuclear facility is expected to top the agenda of that meeting. MS

SLOVAKIA WANTS 'TRANSITION PERIODS' IN EU ACCESSION TALKS

Slovakia intends to tell the EU that it is ready for accession talks on all chapters of the aquis communautaire but will request transition periods for agriculture and the environment, CTK and Reuters reported on 28 November. Slovakia's chief EU negotiator, Jan Figel, told journalists in Bratislava that the government agency for European integration earlier approved the Slovak position with regard to the six remaining chapters of the aquis and that these positions will be discussed by the cabinet and forwarded to Brussels on 6 December. Figel said the environment and the agriculture chapters are "the most difficult" for his country because of the high cost of overhauling the country's infrastructure to meet EU standards. MS

NEW HUNGARIAN MINISTERS SWORN IN

Transport Minister Janos Fonagy and Environment Minister Bela Turi-Kovacs were sworn in at a plenary session of the parliament on 28 November. Fonagy, a member of the major coalition party FIDESZ, replaces Laszlo Nogradi, who resigned earlier this month after his car was involved in a road accident in which two people died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2000). Turi-Kovacs, deputy leader of the parliamentary group of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), replaces Ferenc Ligetvari, who was dismissed after losing the support of the FKGP (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 17 November 2000). Both new ministers will assume office on 1 December. MSZ




NATO ACHIEVES CEASE-FIRE IN SOUTHWESTERN SERBIA...

A KFOR spokesman said on 28 November that the Serbian authorities and the ethnic Albanian Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) "have agreed on an indefinite cease-fire" along the border between Kosova and southwestern Serbia, AP reported from Bujanovac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2000). The spokesman added that NATO "facilitated the discussions" between the two sides. He did not elaborate. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic denied, however, that his government negotiated a cease-fire either with NATO or with the UCPMB. The news agency commented that "the reason for the discrepancy" between Covic's remarks and those of the KFOR spokesman is not clear. Covic said that his government "does not negotiate with terrorists," which is how Belgrade, both under former President Slobodan Milosevic and under his successor Vojislav Kostunica, has referred to ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Covic stressed, however, that he was pleasantly surprised to learn on a visit to the region that local Serbian and Albanian officials alike want no part of what he called "war adventures." PM

...TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER BORDER

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that NATO is concerned about incursions by armed ethnic Albanians from Kosova into southwestern Serbia, AP reported on 28 November. He added that "everybody is concerned about [the violence] and wants to do everything possible to stop it." He noted that KFOR troops recently have "detained suspected Albanian militants and have increased patrols and the overall surveillance of the ground security zone" just inside the Serbian side of the border. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY POISED ON EDGE OF DEMILITARIZED ZONE

"Yugoslav army tanks and howitzers [on 28 November] pointed their barrels towards ethnic Albanian guerrillas in hills along southern Serbia's tense boundary with Kosovo," Reuters reported. General Vladimir Lazarevic, who commands the Third Army, told the news agency that thanks to the army's combat readiness, it is "cooling down the hot heads of Albanian bandits and aims to send them back to where they belong. The army favors a political solution and supports diplomacy as the way to resolve the situation. But there will not be any bargaining if there are any attacks [by the UCPMB] outside the five-kilometer safety zone bordering Kosovo." Lazarevic added that Serbian police are present inside the zone "in full force." On 29 November, Serbian police occupied without incident the ethnic Albanian village of Lucane at the edge of the zone. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIAN FIGHTERS HOLD THEIR POSITIONS

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who was Lazarevic's predecessor as head of the Third Army and is now chief of the General Staff, said on a visit to the border region that some 200 UCPMB fighters have infiltrated the demilitarized zone in recent days, London's "The Times" reported on 29 November. The British daily added that local UCPMB commanders "appeared to [scoff at] the declared truce and pledged to 'liberate' additional towns" in southwestern Serbia. One commander told the reporter: "We definitely plan to go on fighting to take Bujanovac and then we shall see. The Serbs fought badly [in recent days]. They are not well trained, and their morale is very bad." Elsewhere, a KFOR spokesman said that UCPMB gunmen have not withdrawn from their positions in the zone even after their leaders agreed to a cease-fire. It is not clear whether the agreement requires the fighters to leave the zone. PM

SOUTHWESTERN SERBIAN TOWN REMAINS TENSE

London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 29 November that "the tension is greatest in Bujanovac" of all the towns in the ethnically mixed region. "There are no ethnic intermarriages, no common sports activities, and Serbs and Albanians do not frequent each other's cafes and businesses. The only hope is that the new government is prepared to address the larger issues that plague this community and rectify the abuses of Milosevic's regime," the daily noted. It also said that many local Serbs feel that the Belgrade authorities have "sold out" their interests and that many local Albanians believe that they are "second-class citizens." In Presevo, Mayor Riza Halimi blamed the rise of tensions in the region on the arrival of Serbian forces from Kosova after the 1999 conflict, Reuters reported. PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER BLAMES ALBANIAN 'RADICALS' FOR TENSIONS...

Goran Svilanovic told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 29 November that blame for the current crisis lies with unspecified "radical groups" in Kosova. He charged that they are unhappy with the advent to power of Kostunica and with the victory of moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova in the 28 October Kosova local elections. He stressed that the Yugoslav army will not cross the border of the demilitarized zone. He argued nonetheless that "we expect KFOR to do its job" in keeping UCPMB fighters from crossing the frontier. Svilanovic said that resolving the question of Kosova's political status can be postponed but that it will have to center on "wide-ranging autonomy [for the province] within Yugoslavia." The settlement will have to involve "not only Yugoslavia, the people from Kosovo, and the international community...but also Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece. All these countries should later guarantee" any agreement, he added. For now, he stressed, "ensuring peace and stability in Kosovo has absolute priority. In this way it will be possible for the Serbs who fled to return." PM

...RULES OUT EXTRADITION OF MILOSEVIC

Svilanovic told "Die Presse" of 29 November that "there is no more room for Milosevic in the political life of Serbia." The foreign minister added, however, that "we will cooperate with the [war crimes] tribunal in The Hague, but there will be no extradition [of Milosevic]. It is nonetheless possible that Milosevic will face trial in Yugoslavia in cooperation with The Hague (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 23 November 2000). PM

OPPOSITION ECONOMIST TO HEAD YUGOSLAV BANK

The federal parliament voted on 28 November to name Mladjan Dinkic, who leads the opposition G-17 group of economists, head of the National Bank. In Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said that he does not recognize the parliament or its decisions as legitimate, adding that Montenegro's parliament voted on 2 November to set up its own national bank, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SERBIAN LEADER SAYS MONTENEGRO, NOT SERBIA, HAS PROBLEM

Democratic Opposition of Serbia leader Zoran Djindjic told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" of 29 November that Yugoslavia exists as a legal entity and that there is no constitutional provision for Serbia and Montenegro to recognize each other as separate states, as Djukanovic wants. He said that the Serbian side has offered to redefine the relations between the two republics within the framework of the current constitution. Djindjic added that if the Montenegrin leaders want something entirely different, it is their problem, not Serbia's. For his part, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic told the daily that either Serbia and Montenegro will agree on a new relationship "democratically, or we will separate democratically." PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS NATIONALISTS CANNOT BE EXCLUDED

Mladen Ivanic, whose Party of Democratic Progress is widely seen as having the decisive role in setting up the next Republika Srpska government, told Reuters in Banja Luka on 28 November that it is "not realistic" to exclude the leading Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) from the cabinet if the government is to be stable. Some representatives of the international community in Bosnia have called for the banning of the SDS, which was founded by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Several SDS leaders have recently said that there is no longer any connection between Karadzic and their party. PM

TWO KEY DECISIONS IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

The outgoing government of the Republika Srpska solved a long-standing problem on 28 November by reaching an agreement with representatives of pensioners on the payment of past and future monthly pensions, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service. It is not clear whether the pledge to pay pensions is linked to whether the government has the funds to do so, as the government previously maintained. Elsewhere, city authorities in Banja Luka gave their approval for the reconstruction of the 16th-century Ferhadija mosque, which Serbian extremists destroyed in 1993 as part of a campaign against Ottoman and Islamic monuments. PM

NO MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT VOTE

The parliament did not vote, as planned, on the future of the government on 28 November, reportedly because speaker Savo Klimovski was ill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). A vote is likely to take place on 30 November, Reuters reported. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE DETAIN BERISHA

Police in Tirana briefly detained Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha in the early hours of 29 November. He told Reuters: "I was kidnapped in my car by police as I was going home." He blamed Prime Minister Ilir Meta for the incident and called on his own followers to demonstrate in central Tirana the next day. Police officials said that Berisha had refused them permission to search his car and check the identity papers of its occupants, AP reported. The previous day, Meta blamed "an extremist group in the Democratic Party" for violence in Bajram Curri in the Tropoja area that left at least two dead. The Democrats have recently staged protests in various cities and towns to protest the October local elections, which they maintain were rigged (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). PM

ROMANIAN ELECTION WINNER NAMES PREMIER, PROPOSES PACT...

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 28 November designated Adrian Nastase as its candidate for premier. The PDSR also announced it will set up a minority government and appealed to all parties represented in the new legislature, except the Greater Romania Party (PRM), to conclude a "one-year memorandum" of cooperation with the PDSR. The main points of the proposed pact include support for PDSR candidate Ion Iliescu in the 10 December presidential runoff, cooperation in the parliament over one year, during which the opposition parties will refrain from submitting no-confidence motions, cooperation aimed at promoting Romania's European integration, and the setting up of joint parliamentary commissions to draw up legislation amending the constitution and pass new laws on reforms. The PDSR also proposes concluding "memorandum of understanding" with the main trade unions. MS

...MEETS WITH MIXED REACTION

The unions said they are inclined to accept that proposal. The National Liberal Party (PNL) leadership said it will remain in the opposition but did not rule out cooperation with the PDSR in the parliament, provided the party includes PNL proposals in its government program. It also said that "under no circumstances" will it back PRM candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor in the presidential runoff. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman said his party is ready to back in the parliament any measures that have been mutually agreed on and will be in "constructive opposition" to the PDSR. Deputy Chairman Radu Berceanu said the Democrats will do "everything possible to stop the rise of extremism." Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania leader Bela Marko said the proposals include "a number of important points" on reforms but the concrete measures for implementation must be negotiated, including those that affect national minorities. MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS ANGERED BY BID TO ISOLATE THEM

PRM leader Tudor said Nastase has "no qualifications for the premiership" and that his party "fails to understand" the PDSR's readiness to "cooperate with anyone from among those scoundrels who led the country to starvation." He also said that the PRM cannot comprehend "the hate displayed by the PDSR toward a party [his own] that has always respected the democratic game." PRM Secretary-General Gheorghe Funar demanded in a letter to Iliescu that the PDSR set up a coalition with the PRM and agree that Tudor become the country's next president and Iliescu its premier. PRM Executive Secretary Ilie Neacsu said the PDSR was "scared by the international reaction" to the elections but the PRM "does not care" about that reaction and will hold talks with the PDSR "after Tudor's presidential victory," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

RUSSIA RESUMES ARSENAL WITHDRAWAL FROM TRANSDNIESTER

Russia has resumed withdrawing its weaponry from the Transdniester, Infotag and dpa reported. That process was stopped last year. A 50-car train loaded with armored personnel carriers and other military equipment left Tiraspol on 27 November in the presence of OSCE observers. The train was halted at the Ukrainian border owing to power failures and impassable tracks as a result of bad weather conditions. Speaking on Moldovan television on 27 November, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi greeted the train's departure as "proof that Moscow intends to stand by its promise." But OSCE mission chief William Hill, speaking in Vienna at an OSCE Council of Ministers meeting, said Russia has "lost the past 12 months" and to meet its obligations assumed at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, it must now withdraw 40,000 tons of weapons by the end of 2002, which, he said, "is going to be very difficult. " MS

LUCINSCHI CALLS AGAIN FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

In his speech on national television, Lucinschi also said he believes the parliament will fail to elect a new president on 1 December and that a "reasonable way" out of the impasse would be early parliamentary elections. He said voters who elected the current parliament did not know that the legislature will be invested with the right to elect the head of state, whereas they will now know that if early elections are called. Lucinschi rejected the claims of politicians that the country will be "thrown into chaos" if early elections are called. He said the government could be given additional prerogatives during that transition period. MS

BULGARIA TO KEEP CURRENCY BOARD, REDUCE BORROWING

Prime Minster Ivan Kostov on 27 November told an economic conference in Sofia that Bulgaria will keep its currency board until it joins the EU but will reduce borrowing from international lenders such as the IMF and the World Bank, AP reported. Kostov said that "Bulgaria must now attain a balance between the freedom we need and the necessities of financing," explaining that economic freedom is more important at this stage than foreign borrowing. Bulgaria set up its currency board in 1997. MS




SERBIAN MEDIA SEEN AS BIASED TOWARD OPPOSITION


By Ron Synovitz

A deal between Serbian opposition leaders and allies of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to jointly oversee state-run broadcast media appears to be on hold for now, leaving managers from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) in control of state-owned Radio-Television Serbia (RTS).

When members of the opposition and officials of Milosevic's Socialist Party decided last month to form a temporary government for Serbia until elections could be held in December, they agreed to set up a joint steering committee to oversee the news content of state broadcasting.

But after five weeks--more than half of the expected life span of the transitional government--that committee has yet to be approved by DOS. As a result, DOS-affiliated station managers have been left in control of the state broadcasters. And these managers have so far strongly favored candidates from DOS over those from other parties that are competing in Serbia's 23 December parliamentary elections.

The status of the steering committee is not clear, and it is not known whether the committee will ever be approved.

Milomir Minic, the Socialist prime minister in the temporary government, said last week that a broadcast committee has been formed. He said the three parties that share power in the government, including the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, will each have representatives on the board. He said all news items will be reviewed and approved by the board before being broadcast.

In announcing the formation of the committee, Minic said "I think today we have all conditions for our state television to play a very important role, as an objective source of information for our citizens, in the political and economic life of our country. That's the first dimension. And I also think that with today's decision by the Serbian government, all conditions are on the table for state television to play a role in the next election."

But Minic's comments were immediately rejected by Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, the cabinet's chief representative from DOS. Covic said the committee should be staffed by working journalists and not political appointees: "There was no vote on this at the Serbian government meeting, and I'm not going to argue about this at all. If perhaps we are not right, let [the Socialist Party of Milosevic] have a taste of how it was before [the October uprising], when they were [in control of state media]. I'm not going to sign [the Socialist plan for a broadcast committee.] I'm not even going to have any arguments with Minic over this."

Covic's refusal to approve the plan leaves pro-DOS managers at RTS in control of broadcasts for now and ensures that DOS candidates will likely continue to receive more exposure ahead of the vote than other parties' candidates.

RTS acting director Nenad Ristic says Covic is right to veto a politically appointed editorial board. "I think the decision to have a three-member council, where each of the members has a veto right on news items, will be the death of state television," he commented. "[Under that plan,] when we start to deal with one news story, three of us should work with it--and who knows how long that process will last? When will [anything] ever be broadcast? It's absurd. If anyone can show me some place, some newspaper, or any [media organ] in history where such a structure has existed, then I will accept this plan immediately."

Ristic defends the disproportionate television and radio coverage that DOS has received since the October uprising. He says the Milosevic regime was given too much air time during the last 10 years and that the new policies of RTS are "a settling of accounts."

During the early 1990s, any RTS journalist who refused to follow a pro-Milosevic editorial policy was sacked. Under these conditions, RTS became an important pillar of the Milosevic regime. But that all changed on 5 October, when hundreds of angry demonstrators stormed the RTS building in Belgrade.

Dragoljub Milanovic, the director general of RTS during the Milosevic regime, was beaten by the crowd. Other editors fled, and DOS named temporary editors from among its supporters.

Some former journalists have been allowed to stay, but hope seems greatly diminished that Milosevic's ouster will result in more objective state media and give all candidates equal treatment ahead of the vote. Some observers even see a parallel with Russia's situation in 1996, when guidelines giving opposing sides equal time in the media were abandoned by many broadcasters to ensure the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin.

The opposition also appears to be using an RTS rule to bar Socialist party advertisements. According to the rule proposed by pro-DOS media officials, no party should be allowed access to the air waves until it first pays its debts dating from the September presidential election campaign. The only debtors are the Socialist Party and their allies, who together owe an estimated $50,000. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.


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