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Newsline - December 1, 2000




RUSSIAN SHARE PRICES TAKE A TUMBLE

Russia's stock market closed on 30 November almost 11 percent lower than the previous day, AP reported. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, trading had to be stopped at one point when the Russian Trading System price index fell more than 7.5 percent below the market's opening level. According to some analysts, the fall is connected with both domestic factors such as the restructuring of Unified Energy Systems and LUKoil and external causes such as the continuing election stalemate in the U.S. and the financial crisis in Turkey. Anton Siluanov, director of the Finance Ministry's department for macroeconomic policy, told Interfax that there are no real economic grounds for a drop in share prices since the Russian economy is stable enough and economic growth rates are fairly good. JAC

NORILSK NICKEL UNDER SCRUTINY AGAIN

The Federal Tax Police have launched criminal proceedings against Norilsk Nickel, the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine, and Kachkanarskii GOK on suspicion of tax evasion, Oleg Stepanov, first deputy head of the chief operational department of the tax police, told reporters on 30 November. According to Stepanov, tax police officials have uncovered 4 billion rubles ($144 million) worth of unpaid taxes in the metallurgical sector. Companies allegedly set up intermediary structures through which the sale of metals are conducted to hide the true volume and value of their export production. Last summer, the Office of the Prosecutor-General conducted an investigation into the 1997 privatization of Norilsk Nickel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2000). Earlier this month, Norilsk Nickel head Aleksandr Khloponin announced his candidacy for the governorship of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, an office that would give him immunity from criminal prosecution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2000) JAC

BUDGET EXPECTED TO PASS DUMA IN THIRD READING

State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters on 30 November that he expects the Duma to pass the draft 2001 budget in its third reading on 1 December. According to Zhukov there are some 5,000 amendments to the draft budget. The Communist faction, the largest in the Duma, announced that it is planning to reject the budget, but the Unity, Yabloko, and People's Deputy groups said that they will support the document. State Duma Defense Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev told ITAR-TASS that his committee will insist that the budget include a number of amendments to help solve social problems of the military; President Vladimir Putin recently castigated the government for not paying sufficient attention to that issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). Nikolaev said that 12.6 billion rubles ($453 million) is already set aside for military expenditures and an additional 6.8 billion rubles of expected extra revenue, if it materializes, will also be earmarked for the military. JAC

RUSSIAN PAYMENTS TO PARIS CLUB COMING DUE IN JANUARY

At a meeting of the German-Russian Economic Forum in Moscow on 30 November, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref said that Russia will be unable to cope with a slew of foreign debt payments due in 2003 unless it reaches an agreement restructuring its foreign debt, including that owed to the Paris Club, Russian agencies reported. Gref noted that Germany is Russia's leading creditor, accounting for some 40 percent of Russia's foreign debt total. The same day, an unidentified Finance Ministry official told Interfax that if Russia fails to start official negotiations with the Paris Club or obtain a technical delay of payments until the end of its negotiations with the IMF, Russia's first payment of about $85 million to the club will become due during the first 10 days of January. The February payment will be even larger. JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMIC ADVISER CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT

Andrei Illarionov told reporters on 29 November that he believes the government failed "to manage the national economy" in 2000 and take full advantage of favorable conditions existing on world markets, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. He said that Russia's 7 percent growth in GDP is unimpressive if compared with economic growth rates of other countries "in a similar macroeconomic situation," such as Turkmenistan (9.8 percent), Kazakhstan (16 percent), and Indonesia (38 percent). According to the daily, Illarionov also criticized the government for focusing all attention on state regulation and trying to manage an open economy that is dependent on global markets. JAC

IRAN PLACES ORDER FOR SECOND NUCLEAR REACTOR...

Quoting Andrei Yedemskii, a Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman, "Vedomosti" reported on 30 November that Iran has asked Russia to build a second nuclear reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Last year, Nuclear Power Minister Yevgenii Adamov said that Iran had reaffirmed its intention to commission additional power units at Bushehr (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 December 1999). According to "Vedomosti," a contract for the second reactor would be worth about $1 billion. JAC

...AS RUSSIA, INDIA, IRAN TO FORGE COMMON POSITION ON TALIBAN

Also on 30 November, State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) told Interfax that Russia, India, and Iran are likely to work out a single position on the Taliban. He added that a preliminary agreement on holding a seminar with representatives of the three countries in the early spring has already been reached. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTER MIGHT VISIT IRAN THIS MONTH...

Igor Sergeev told Interfax on 30 November that he may visit Teheran before the end of the year. Iran, he said, is a "reliable partner" with whom Russia is ready to "develop mutually advantageous military and technical cooperation." Sergeev added that all dealings between the two countries will be carried out in accordance with international law and will contribute to security in the region. Moscow recently announced that it is withdrawing from its commitment not to supply Iran with conventional arms, prompting the U.S. to threaten to impose economic sanctions on Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). JC

...WHILE EMERGENCIES MINISTER TO BE IN BAGHDAD IN MARCH?

Sergei Shoigu told journalists in Moscow on 30 November that he will visit Baghdad next year. According to Interfax, which did not give its sources, the emergencies minister will make that trip in March. JC

ARMS TALKS CONTINUE, DESPITE U.S. ELECTION DEADLOCK

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met on 30 November for another round of arms talks--one of the last under U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration. Reuters quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying that "people are very interested in keeping the momentum going" until it has been decided who will be taking over at the White House. According to that same official, one of the topics on the agenda of the current round of talks is Moscow's intention to resume conventional arms supplies to Teheran. JC

RUSSIA POISED TO TEST U.S. AIR DEFENSES AGAIN?

Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon told journalists in Washington on 30 November that five Russia long-range "Bear" bombers have recently been deployed in Anadyr, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and Tiksi, Sakha Republic (Yakutia), in what he said appears to be preparations to test U.S. defenses in Alaska. During the Cold War, the "Bear" bombers regularly approached the Alaskan coast to monitor how quickly U.S. fighters could respond. Bacon also confirmed that Sukhoi-24R reconnaissance planes flew in the vicinity of the "USS Kitty Hawk" aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan, but he denied that the Russian planes had penetrated U.S. air defenses and taken the U.S. Navy by surprise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). JC

DUTCH COMPANIES TO ASSIST IN RAISING 'KURSK'

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told reporters on 30 November that two companies from The Netherlands, Smit International and Heerma Engineering Services, will participate in the operation to raise the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, "The Moscow Times" reported. Also taking part in that venture will be the Rubin design bureau and the Norwegian subsidiary of the U.S. oil services company Halliburton. Klebanov put the cost of the operation at $75 million, but the Moscow daily quoted unidentified specialists as saying that figure could be five times higher. JC

NEW JOURNALISTS' UNION ESTABLISHED

An agreement establishing a new union for journalists, the Media Union, was signed on 30 November by the Russian Press Institute's Vitalii Ignatenko, the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters' Eduard Sagalaev, and new Media Union head Aleksandr Lyubimov, ITAR-TASS reported. "Sovetskaya Rossiya" reported earlier that the Kremlin wanted to replace the current leader of the Union of Journalists, Vsevelod Bogdanov, with Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of VID television, because Bogdanov has been too vocal in defense of the freedom of the press (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 27 November 2000). JAC

BEREZOVSKII WRITES A CHECK

Yelena Bonner, wife of the famous civil rights activist and physicist Andrei Sakharov, told reporters on 30 November that Boris Berezovskii has written a $3 million check for the U.S. Sakharov Fund in order to prevent the Andrei Sakharov museum in Moscow from having to close. Berezovskii issued a statement in Moscow the same day noting that the museum is "very relevant in the context of today's situation in Russia" where "society once again has to defend basic rights and freedoms," Interfax reported. Bonner said that Berezovskii had approached her in the summer asking if she would become co-director of a Fund for Legal Opposition to Vladimir Putin, which he intended to set up. Bonner declined that offer. She said that it was clear that Berezovskii wanted her name, "but I am not giving my name for anything in the world." She continued, "I, personally, am very grateful to you [Berezovskii]. Like it or not, even the dissident movement cannot exist without money." JAC




ARMENIA, TURKMENISTAN DISCUSS BILATERAL COOPERATION...

Visiting Ashgabat on 29 November, Armenian President Robert Kocharian discussed with his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov. CIS and regional affairs, including the Karabakh conflict and the war in Afghanistan, according to Snark and Turkmen Television, cited by Groong on 30 November. They also assessed the prospects for economic cooperation, including in the energy field. ITAR-TASS quoted Kocharian as saying after those talks that one of the issues discussed was possible Armenian participation in developing Turkmenistan's Caspian hydro-carbon deposits. The two presidents signed an agreement on legal assistance and a memorandum on the restructuring of Armenia's outstanding $12.7 million debt to Turkmenistan for gas supplies in 1994-1995, which is to be repaid over the next four years, according to Interfax. LF

...PONDER REVIVAL OF TRILATERAL COOPERATION WITH IRAN

Kocharian and Niyazov also discussed the prospects for trilateral cooperation in the energy field with Iran, Groong quoted Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian as telling Snark on 30 November. Galustian explained that the three countries will determine whether their power systems can work in parallel, which would make possible the transfer of energy between the three countries. Armenia's energy grid has worked in tandem with that of Iran since 1998. Niyazov said the three countries will also explore the possibility of exporting Turkmen gas to Armenia via Iran, according to Interfax. The three countries signed several cooperation agreements in 1997, but over the past two years Armenia has given greater priority to trilateral cooperation with Iran and Greece. LF

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL RULES OUT TALKS ON PARLIAMENT BOYCOTT

Ramiz Mekhtiev, who heads the Azerbaijani presidential administration, told journalists in Baku on 30 November that his office has no intention of holding talks with opposition deputies who have announced a boycott of the newly elected legislature, Turan and Interfax reported. Ten of the 12 opposition candidates elected on 5 November have said they will not participate in sessions of the new legislature as they believe the outcome of the poll was falsified to ensure the continued domination of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party. LF

U.S. CITIZEN MURDERED IN AZERBAIJAN

The chief of the U.S. Republican Institute's Azerbaijan program, John Michael Alvis, was found stabbed to death in his Baku apartment on 30 November, Turan reported, quoting Baku police chief Major-General Magerram Aliev. Aliyev said robbery was the probable motive for the killing. LF

DAMAGE, DEATH TOLL FROM AZERBAIJANI EARTHQUAKE GROW

President Heidar Aliyev said in Baku on 30 November that the earthquake that hit the city and neighboring Sumgait five days earlier caused damage estimated at "scores of millions of dollars" and that the country may have to ask the international community for financial aid to repair that damage, ITAR-TASS reported. On 26 November, Aliyev had said the quake did not cause any large-scale destruction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). Meanwhile the death toll from the tremor has risen to 31, according to Turan. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PREVIEWS VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN...

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Azerbaijani and Georgian counterparts in Minsk on the eve of the CIS summit, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. Putin discussed with Aliyev the preparations for his visit to Baku in early January, the Karabakh conflict, and cooperation in the energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev's son Ilham, who is vice president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, said in Baku on 30 November that Azerbaijan may resume the export of oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, according to Turan. Putin positively assessed bilateral cooperation in combating crime and terrorism. LF

...DISCUSSES VISA REQUIREMENT WITH GEORGIAN COUNTERPART

Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze discussed economic cooperation, the future of the four Russian military bases in Georgia, and tensions in bilateral relations resulting from Moscow's insistence on imposing a visa requirement for Georgian citizens travelling to Russia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 46, 1 December 2000). Describing the conversation as "good" and "useful," Shevardnadze said he and Putin agreed on the need to draft within 30-60 days a new basic treaty on cooperation. That document would supersede the accord signed in 1994, which has not been ratified by either parliament. Shevardnadze also said that he anticipates that the visa regime will be "temporary," but he did not specify a time frame for its abolition. However, Caucasus Press on 1 December quoted Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov as saying the visa requirement may be lifted "in a year or two." The daily "Rezonansi" on 1 December quoted an unnamed member of the state chancellery staff as saying that Putin offered to drop the visa requirement if Georgia agrees to join the Russia-Belarus Union State, according to Caucasus Press. LF

TWO SPANISH BUSINESSMEN ABDUCTED IN GEORGIA

Two Spanish businessmen were abducted on the outskirts of Tbilisi on 30 November by four armed masked men, two of whom are believed to be Chechens, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The men's car was later found abandoned in Akhmeta Raion, which borders on Chechnya. No ransom demand for the two Spaniards has yet been received. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION AGAIN SLAMS LAW ON LAND OWNERSHIP

Several hundred members of Kazakh opposition parties staged a demonstration in Almaty on 30 November to protest the law on land ownership passed by the lower chamber of the parliament two weeks earlier, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The demonstrators appealed to the upper chamber of the parliament to consider the opposition parties' alternative draft when debating the bill, which has never been published for nationwide discussion. LF

KAZAKHSTAN STANDS UP FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS

A villager from southern Kazakhstan's Chimkent Oblast has been charged with cruelty to animals after beating a neighbor's donkey to death, Reuters and Interfax reported on 30 November. Killing animals is punishable under Kazakhstan's Criminal Code by a fine or up to two years' imprisonment. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT AMNESTIES SIX MEN CONVICTED FOR ASSASSINATION PLOT

Askar Akaev on 30 November amnestied six men found guilty by a Bishkek court in September of plotting to assassinate him, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. One week earlier, the court had slashed the men's original jail terms by more than half (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000). But Akaev did not amnesty opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgnaliev, who was arrested in court when summoned as a witness in the trial of the other six men and subsequently charged with masterminding the assassination plot. Turgunaliev's 16-year sentence has been commuted to six years. LF

TWO KYRGYZ JOURNALISTS CHARGED WITH DIVULGING STATE SECRETS

The chief editor and a journalist for the independent Kyrgyz newspaper "Delo Nomer" were charged on 29 November with divulging state secrets in an article the newspaper published in July on the trial of former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov was accused of abuse of his official position while serving as national security minister but was subsequently acquitted. LF

HEPATITIS EPIDEMIC REPORTED IN KYRGYZSTAN

Some 2,900 inhabitants of the Talas Oblast of northwest Kyrgyzstan, most of them children, have contracted hepatitis-B, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 30 November. Two people have died of the disease, which officials say results from poor sanitary conditions and a lack of pure drinking water. LF




BELARUS, RUSSIA AGREE ON RUSSIAN RUBLE AS UNION CURRENCY IN 2005

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, meeting in Minsk on 30 November, endorsed a draft accord on the introduction in 2005 of the Russian ruble as the Belarus-Russia Union's single currency and the establishment of a single money-printing center. Lukashenka told journalists that Russia will provide loans to help stabilize the Belarusian ruble before the monetary merger, but he did not disclose the sum. Putin warned Lukashenka that the development of the union means its members will have to give up part of their sovereignty. "We want the union state's bodies to have [real] powers, and this requires renouncing some part of sovereignty. This is a very subtle process: any decision in this sphere cannot be made without public consent. It cannot be delayed but it is also unnecessary to make hasty decisions," Belapan quoted Putin as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 2001 BUDGET IN SECOND READING

The parliament on 30 November voted by 247 to 10 with two abstentions to approve the 2001 zero-deficit budget in the second reading, Interfax reported. Communist and Socialist lawmakers refused to participate in the voting. The bill projects revenues at 41.6 billion hryvni ($7.65 billion), including 5.9 billion hryvni from privatization. The final reading of the bill is expected to take place next week. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALIST LEADER SUED FOR SLANDER

Presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn has sued Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz in a Kyiv district court for slander, Interfax reported on 30 November. According to Lytvyn, Moroz committed slander by publicly alleging that Lytvyn, along with President Leonid Kuchma and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, are responsible for the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). Meanwhile, the state printing house "Presa Ukrayiny" has refused to print an issue of the "Tovarysh" newspaper, the Socialist Party's press organ, containing the materials produced by Moroz alleging the involvement of Kuchma, Kravchenko, and Lytvyn in Gongadze's disappearance. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW LEGAL CHANCELLOR CANDIDATES

Lennart Meri on 30 November suggested another two candidates for the post of legal chancellor, Estonia's highest independent authority, who judges whether laws passed by the parliament or local municipalities conform with the constitution, ETA reported. The nominees are Rein Muellerson, professor of international law at King's College London, and lawyer Kaido Pihlakas. The post has been vacant since June, when Eerik-Juhan Truuvali ended his seven-year term. In October, the parliament rejected Meri's first choice, Priit Kama, partly because he was considered too young. SG

LATVIAN PARTY URGES POSTPONEMENT OF COMMERCIAL LAW

People's Party Chairman Andris Skele on 30 November proposed that the enactment of the commercial law be postponed for six months, until 1 July 2001, BNS and LETA reported. The law will require some 100,000 companies to re-register with the Commerce Registry and to meet almost all the ensuing expenses. Skele asserted that this will be particularly painful for farms, as well as small and medium-sized companies. Prime Minister Andris Berzins and deputies of various other parties interviewed by LETA did not favor the postponement, noting that the parliament has already spent two years preparing the law. Minister of Economy Aigars Kalvitis, however, agreed with Skele, arguing that the consequences of adopting the law have not been sufficiently evaluated. SG

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT FAVORS POSTPONING TOBACCO ADVERTISING BAN

The cabinet announced on 29 November that it will ask the parliament to amend the tobacco control law to postpone the ban on all tobacco advertising in Lithuania until 2004, BNS reported. The previous parliament had prohibited all forms of tobacco advertising from May of this year. The request to postpone the ban was probably dictated by two factors: The European Court of Justice had annulled the directive forbidding EU member countries to allow tobacco advertisements after 1 January 2001, and the ban hurt the business opportunities of advertising agencies in Lithuania, thus decreasing state income. The Lithuanian government, however, proposed retaining the ban on television advertisements in order to comply with a Council of Europe directive banning all tobacco advertising on television. SG

KAZAKH DEPUTY PREMIER REAFFIRMS INTEREST IN SUPPLYING OIL TO LITHUANIA

Daniyal Usenov told journalists in Vilnius on 29 November following talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas that Kazakhstan will "do its best" to export crude oil via Russia for refining in Lithuania, Interfax reported. The two countries failed to reach a firm agreement at the time of President Valdas Adamkus's visit to Astana in the spring to increase the amount of oil Kazakhstan exports via Russia to Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2000), but Lithuania's Mazieiku Nafta reached an agreement in July to purchase 70,000 tons of crude per month from the Kazakh oil company Karazhanbasmunaigaz beginning in September 2000. No Kazakh oil has yet reached Lithuania, however. LF

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES FIVE-DAY WORKING WEEK

The Sejm on 30 November voted by 224 to 157 with 29 abstentions to introduce a five-day working week as of 1 January 2001, PAP reported. Simultaneously, the parliament rejected the government's proposal to cut the number of working hours in one working week from the current 42 to 40. A poll by CBOS in mid-October showed that nearly 72 percent of Poles believe that cutting the number of working hours will be unfavorable for plants, while 64 percent think that the move will negatively affect the economy. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC WIDENS BAN ON EU BEEF IMPORTS

The Czech Republic on 30 November widened its ban on beef imports from EU countries, Reuters reported. The ban has been extended to all countries of the union where cases of BSE (mad cow disease) have been detected. It now includes Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Spain. Last week, imports of beef from France and Portugal were halted. The ban does not apply to imports from Austria, Finland, Greece, Italy, and Sweden. MS

SLOVAK COURT HALTS PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MINISTER'S SUSPECTED MURDERER

A Bratislava court on 30 November ordered that proceedings against Oleg Tkhoryk, a Ukrainian suspected of murdering former Economy Minister Jan Ducky in January 1999, be stopped owing to "lack of evidence," CTK reported. The court ordered that Tkhoryk be set free, but his release from custody was postponed after the Prosecutor-General's Office announced it will appeal the decision before the Supreme Court. Tkhoryk is believed to have been hired by unknown individuals to commit the murder. The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), of which Ducky had been a prominent member, said the decision of the court signals the "total incompetence" of the Interior Ministry. MS

UN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES SLOVAK DRIVE TO OUST HEAD JUDGE

Param Cumaraswamy, UN special envoy for judicial independence, said on 30 November that the Slovak government's drive to dismiss Supreme Court head judge Stefan Harabin is "politically motivated," CTK reported. Cumaraswamy said the government, which accuses Harabin of abuse of power and neglecting his duties, has failed to present its case before a judicial disciplinary commission. The parliament is to vote this month on the government's request to dismiss Harabin, who was appointed under the HZDS. Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky responded that no disciplinary commission exists before which Supreme Court judges can be brought. MS

SLOVAKIA IMPOSES VISA REQUIREMENTS ON RUSSIA, BELARUS CITIZENS

The Foreign Ministry on 30 November announced it is imposing visa requirements for citizens of Russia and Belarus as of 1 January 2001, CTK reported. Russia announced it would reciprocate, after Slovakia made known its intentions earlier this year. Visa requirements for Ukrainians were introduced in late July. The government said the move is aimed at harmonizing policies with those of the EU and combating organized crime and illegal unemployment. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES EU INTEGRATION

President Ferenc Madl, speaking in the parliament on 30 November, called on Hungary's parties to refrain from using the EU accession process to push through minor domestic policy issues. Madl said Hungary will meet all recommendations formulated in the recent EU country report but added that "there is much to be done" in the spheres of environmental protection, agriculture, and Romany issues. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that he has drawn up a list of negative comments on Hungarian developments that have been made by opposition party representatives and intellectuals at international forums and in foreign newspapers. Free Democrat Tamas Bauer said that the major coalition party FIDESZ, which "abhorred lists at the time of the change of government, is now producing its own lists." MSZ




KOSOVA COMMANDER SAYS NATO DETAINING GUERRILLAS...

Italian Lieutenant-General Carlo Cabigiosu said in Prishtina on 30 November that ethnic Albanian guerrillas have attempted to enter southwestern Serbia from Kosova but that NATO seeks to prevent them from doing so. "We are detaining people trying to cross the border illegally, and we have been confiscating quite an amount of weapons that were directed into that zone," AP reported. The news agency added that Cabigiosu's remarks were the first explicit admission by a leading NATO commander that fighters of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac have entered Serbia from Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2000). Elsewhere, a KFOR spokesman said that two companies of British troops will shortly deploy to the U.S. sector in Kosova, which borders southwestern Serbia. He declined to say exactly what tasks they will have and when they will be deployed, Reuters reported. PM

...AS NATO LEADER WARNS KOSOVAR 'EXTREMISTS'

Cabigiosu spoke during a visit to Kosova by NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and U.S. General Joseph W. Ralston, who is the alliance's top commander. Robertson said that unnamed "extremists... should be isolated, and they should be condemned both privately and publicly by all the leaders here. With the wind of change blowing in Serbia, the international community will not easily understand and certainly won't accept the actions of these extremists," AP reported. PM

SERBIAN LEADER WANTS ARMED ALBANIANS TO QUIT SERBIA

Milomir Minic, who is the prime minister in Serbia's transitional government, said in Bujanovac on 30 November that armed Albanian fighters should leave the region as a first step to re-establishing peace there, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Minic stressed that the foreign forces based in Kosova "bear full responsibility" for the entry of the fighters into the demilitarized zone along the province's border with Serbia. PM

IS U.S. BEHIND SERBIAN UNREST?

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia said in a statement in Belgrade on 30 November that "we would really like to know how it was possible that more than 1,000 ethnic Albanian guerrillas, armed with heavy weaponry, crossed through the American-controlled sector of Kosovo," AP reported. Elsewhere, Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj said that the U.S. "organized the intrusion of Albanian terrorists into southern Serbia" as part of what he called a U.S. plan to detach the region from Serbia. He added that Washington plans to remake Yugoslavia into a four-part federation following the 23 December Serbian elections. Seselj said that the four component parts will be Serbia, Kosova, Montenegro, and Vojvodina, "Vesti" of 1 December reported. He did not say what evidence he has for his theory. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR CALM

The Albanian government said in a statement on 30 November that it "shares the concern of its international partners about the danger of new sources of war... The episodes of violence compromise the position and interests of Kosova and the Albanian civilian population in the area... The Albanian government hopes that the new Belgrade leaders will respect the relevant agreements and renounce the mistaken policies their predecessor has applied in these areas," Reuters reported. PM

TENSIONS MOUNT OVER YUGOSLAV NATIONAL BANK

Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) and Serbia's Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic both warned Mladjan Dinkic, who is the new governor of the Yugoslav National Bank, that he must "bear the consequences" if he continues to reject the appointment of the SNP's Vuk Ognjanovic as his deputy, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 30 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2000). Ognjanovic, for his part, denied Dinkic's charge that he bears responsibility for the hyperinflation during 1992 and 1993, "Vijesti" reported. Dinkic nonetheless stands by his refusal to name Ognjanovic as his deputy, "Vesti" reported. Dinkic said that he prefers to have the SNP's Radivoje Rasovic in that post. In related news, on 1 December, Dinkic said that he plans to make the dinar internally convertible by 15 December ahead of Belgrade's rejoining the IMF. He added that an unspecified "floating rate" will be introduced for the dinar after 1 January, Reuters reported. PM

RUSSIA CUTS BACK GAS DELIVERIES TO YUGOSLAVIA

A spokesman for the gas monopoly Gazprom said in Moscow on 30 November that his company has cut its daily gas shipments to Yugoslavia from 4.2 million to 3 million cubic meters, Reuters reported. He added that the reason is that Yugoslavia has yet to make clear how and when it will pay for the gas shipments, which Russia resumed in November after a break of more than four months. PM

SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS MILOSEVIC MUST GO TO HAGUE

Sead Spahovic, who is one of three interim Serbian justice ministers, said in Belgrade on 30 November that "the Hague[-based war crimes tribunal] is the only court with enough resources and competence to put [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic on trial." Spahovic stressed that "no president--not even Kostunica--has the right to decide [the issue]. This is a matter for the judiciary, the law, and the state prosecutor... [Yugoslavia lacks] independent judges, prosecutors, and attorneys...as well as even the technical means to protect witnesses. To put Milosevic on trial here would simply be an impossible undertaking," AP reported. In a clear break with Kostunica's views, Spahovic stressed that "as a nation, we have to make it [explicitly] clear once and for all that the Hague court is no anti-Serb monster. It is a legitimate and legal court that must be respected by all countries." Spahovic also said that Milosevic must be tried for war crimes and that it is not morally acceptable to try him on a lesser charge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). PM

NEW MACEDONIAN LEGISLATIVE MAJORITY FORMED

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski formed a new parliamentary majority of at least 66 out of 120 deputies on 30 November, following the defection of the Democratic Alliance (DA) from the governing coalition the previous week. The new majority includes three Liberal deputies and an unspecified number of independents and dissident DA members, Reuters reported. The parliament voted to replace the five DA members of the outgoing cabinet. Sava Klimovski, who belongs to the DA, resigned his post as speaker of the parliament. The new foreign minister is Sergan Kerim. Besnik Setai will head the Economics Ministry. Earlier in the week, Georgievski sacked 10 DA managers of state-run companies. The changes come following months of public feuding between the nominal allies Georgievski and Vasil Tupurkovski of the DA. PM

CROATIAN BUDGET CUTS

The government agreed on 30 November to cut its planned 2001 budget of $6 billion by about $300 million because of falling revenues, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

INCIDENT OVER CROATIAN-SLOVENIAN BORDER

The Croatian embassy in Ljubljana rejected a Slovenian protest note on 30 November after the Croatian authorities issued a court summons to a man in one of two contested villages along the Dragonja River, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The man rejected the summons on the grounds that he lives in Slovenia and not Croatia. PM

NEW SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT TO MEET

The new government of Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek is slated to hold its first meeting on 1 December after being approved by the parliament the previous day, Ljubljana Radio 24-UR reported. Dimitrij Rupel heads the Foreign Ministry. PM

ROMANIA RELEASES FINAL ELECTIONS RESULTS

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) received 37 percent backing in the 26 November Senate ballot and 36.6 percent in the vote cast for the Chamber of Deputies the same day. The Greater Romania Party (PRM) was backed by 21 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively, the Democratic Party by 7.5 percent and 7 percent, and the National Liberal Party by 7.4 percent and 6.8 percent. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania was the only other party that managed to pass the 5 percent electoral hurdle, receiving 6.9 percent in the Senate ballot and 6.8 percent in the Chamber of Deputies vote. With 36.3 percent backing, PDSR candidate Ion Iliescu will face PRM candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor (28.3 percent) in the 10 December presidential runoff. MS

ROMANIAN LOCAL POLITICIAN ASSASSINATED

Sorin Moldovan, deputy chairman of the Hunedoara County branch of the PDSR, was assassinated on 30 November by a masked assailant, who shot him in the head as he was getting into his car. The killer managed to flee. It is unclear whether the murder was politically motivated. Moldovan, a local businessman, was head of the Hunedoara customs office and was sentenced to three years in prison in 1997 for bribe-taking. The sentence was later lifted by the Supreme Court, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ALLEGES HIS LIFE THREATENED

Tudor has canceled his participation in festivities in Alba Iulia marking Romania's national day (1 December), alleging that his life is being threatened by "thousands of agitators" from the PDSR "armed with sticks, chains and other weapons," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 30 November. The PDSR responded that the allegations are "completely false" and "an absurd attempt to manipulate public opinion, as well as an instigation to intolerance and violence." Mediafax also reported that Tudor has sent George W. Bush a letter saying he is the son of a Baptist preacher and that his Baptist relatives live in Texas. Tudor has often emphasized his adherence to the doctrines of the Romanian Orthodox Church. MS

U.S. SIGNALS CONCERN OVER ROMANIAN EXTREMIST UPSURGE

The U.S. wants strong ties with Romania but such relations depend on the latter's post-electoral leadership's commitment to "European norms," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 30 November, citing the State Department. A spokesman for that department hinted that Romania could suffer a fate similar to that of Austria, which was isolated by the other EU members after the far right Freedom Party joined the government coalition. The spokesman said the nature of ties with Romania will depend on that country's commitment to "common European and Euro-Atlantic standards of democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of minorities." MS

ILASCU RESIGNS AS MOLDOVAN DEPUTY

Ilie Ilascu, who has been imprisoned in Tiraspol since 1992, has sent a letter to the Moldovan parliament in which he submits his resignation as a deputy, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 30 November. Ilascu was recently elected as a member of the Romanian Senate on the lists of the PRM; his mandate in the Romanian parliament can be validated only if he renounces his official position in Moldova. MS.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS INTERRUPTED ON PROCEDURAL GROUNDS

Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov halted the procedure for the election of Moldova's new president on 1 December, after parties of the center-right coalition backing Pavel Barbalat walked out. Those parties were protesting the fact that deputies representing the Party of Moldovan Communists, who back Vladimir Voronin, failed to respect the secret ballot and instead cast votes by raising their hands, Flux reported. MS




DIVISION OVER CONSENSUS


By Paul Goble

Moscow's decision to block an OSCE declaration about Chechnya, Georgia, and Moldova has generated a sharp reaction from Western governments and raised questions about the future of the OSCE and East-West relations.

Most of the 55 countries represented at an OSCE ministerial meeting in Vienna earlier this week were sharply critical of Russian actions in Chechnya as well as Moscow's slowness in reducing the number of its troops in Georgia and withdrawing them from Moldova, as it had promised to do at the OSCE Istanbul summit last year. They sought to issue a joint OSCE statement on all three issues.

But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was able to prevent OSCE action by refusing to join a consensus, as required by the rules of that organization. As a result, the two-day meeting broke up without a joint declaration. Instead, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, whose country currently chairs the pan-European organization, issued a less authoritative chairman's summary.

At the sessions in Vienna earlier this week, Western diplomats sharply criticized the Russian Federation for its approach in Chechnya. But Ivanov lashed out at his interlocutors, complaining that the West has adopted a double standard on ethnic conflicts and noting that Moscow is not prepared to take lessons on how to behave from anyone.

Despite the tone of these remarks, Western participants at the meeting said Ivanov had reaffirmed that Moscow would live up to its promises about troop reductions and withdrawals in Georgia and Moldova. And they suggested that other differences between Moscow and the West on questions such as the political situation in Belarus could be addressed in the future.

But the Russian foreign minister's sharp response to criticism about Russian actions in Chechnya, his government's unwillingness to allow OSCE observers to visit there, and above all, Moscow's decision to block an OSCE consensus suggest that the Vienna meeting is likely to cast three shadows on the OSCE for some time to come.

First, this latest standoff in Vienna recalls the way in which this organization functioned at the end of the Cold War. Known at that time as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the group seldom was able to reach agreement because the Soviet delegations routinely refused to join the consensus that existed among most other countries.

At that time, Moscow typically sought to have others, such as its East European satellites, take the lead in denying consensus when the Soviet leadership sought to improve East-West ties. Only when it lacked such allies, when tensions were high, or when it wanted to make a more dramatic point did the Soviet delegation take the lead in doing so itself.

By staking out such a tough position now, the Russian government highlights its own isolation not only within the OSCE but more broadly and thus makes East-West cooperation on these and other issues less rather than more likely.

Second, the near unanimity of the non-Russian delegations on Chechnya and elsewhere may make some of the individual governments involved more willing to speak out against Russian behavior than they have been up to now. Again, during the period leading up to the end of the Cold War, that is precisely what the CSCE routinely did. By highlighting what was then called "consensus minus one"--that is, consensus by all members except the Soviet Union--the CSCE emboldened its members to speak and act on their own and at other forums. That, in turn, sometimes forced Moscow to modify its position.

And third, the division over consensus in Vienna this week seems certain to have yet another consequence for the organization itself, one that could either lead to the renewal of the OSCE or contribute to its eventual demise.

For much of the last decade, the Russian authorities and some in Western Europe have urged that the OSCE, rather than NATO or any other organization, should serve as the foundation of European security. But Ivanov's ability to block action simply by using the organization's own requirements for consensus raises serious questions about whether the OSCE could ever play that role. Some countries may now call for moving beyond consensus to some system of majority or super-majority vote, but Ivanov's rhetoric suggests that Russia would be among those opposing such a move. There is thus little opportunity for such reforms anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the OSCE appears likely to be entering a new period of difficulties, one in which divisions between East and West on key issues will prevent the formation of the consensus on which that organization ultimately relies.


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