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Newsline - December 4, 2000




COMMUNIST PARTY RE-ELECTS ZYUGANOV AS LEADER...

Delegates to the first plenary session of the Communist Party's Seventh Congress on 3 December re-elected Gennadii Zyuganov as party chairman. Valentin Kuptsov was re-elected as Zyuganov's first deputy, while Leonid Ivanchenko and Ivan Melnikov were chosen as deputies. The vote was 158 to one. Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to attend the congress but declined; however, he did send greetings, expressing his hope that the party will continue to "firmly adhere to the principle of constructive dialogue and reasonable compromise." Putin also noted that the party "is steadily supported by a considerable part of the population," Interfax reported. JAC

...CRITICIZES PUTIN, GOVERNMENT...

Addressing the congress on 2 December, Zyuganov noted that while President Putin has been in power for over a year, "it must be said that the hopes of the Russian people for a change in course of state policy have not been justified." He added that the current government "is dancing to the IMF's tune even more zealously than its predecessor." Zyuganov criticized the government for wanting to permit the purchase and sale of agricultural land and to liquidate social guarantees. He said the current plan to reform the Railways Ministry "smacks of high treason." Zyuganov said that the Communist Party is forming a shadow government, which will develop alternative policies in various spheres, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Zyuganov also called on the party to increase its influence over the trade unions and to assume leadership of citizens' protests resulting from the break-up of the single energy system in the country. JAC

...AS TOP LEADERS BICKER AMONG THEMSELVES

Central Committee member and leader of the Movement to Support the Army (DPA) Viktor Ilyukhin said on 3 December that the Communist Party is in "real danger" and that Communist Duma deputies "display inadmissible sympathy with the government and presidential power," ITAR-TASS reported. Ilyukhin also lashed out at Zyuganov, suggesting that he should not seek the presidency of Russia a third time. He proposed that the congress adopt a proposal limiting the term of the party's leader to eight years. Zyuganov, in turn, criticized Ilyukhin, saying that the DPA's participation in Duma elections split the Communist vote, without benefiting the movement in any significant way. Meanwhile, Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev repeated his previous claims that the Kremlin had nothing to do with the creation of his new Rossiya movement. Seleznev, who arrived a day late for the congress, also announced that he is quitting his position on the editorial board of "Pravda" because has been unable to publicize his position on the Rossiya movement, according to Interfax. JAC

GERMANY PROPOSES SOLUTION TO DEBT PROBLEM...

After meeting with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in Berlin on 1 December, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told reporters that he has proposed that the Russia's Soviet-era debt to Germany be converted into German stakes in Russia companies, Interfax reported. Schroeder added that he will make the proposal to other members of the Paris Club of creditors. Kasyanov said that Russia regards Schroeder's initiative "as a serious step forward in resolving the problem of debts." According to Schroeder, Russian and German experts will analyze ways to implement the initiative in the near future. JAC

...AS PUTIN SAYS PAYING OFF DEBTS SHOULD BE A PRIORITY

The next day, President Putin declared that the "longer we drag out the payment of out foreign debts, the more they will cost us." He added that there are two approaches to using Russia's budget revenues, which are currently higher than expected: "One is to put social issues first, then the interests of the economy. There is another philosophy. It is to first address problems that are burdening the economy and not slide into new debts." Addressing a conference in St. Petersburg on 1 December, Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref noted that this year the government "was tempted not to raise pensions" but such a decision could have wrought negative social consequences, Interfax reported. JAC

DUMA PASSES NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET IN THIRD READING...

As expected, the State Duma passed the draft 2001 budget in its third reading on 1 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). The vote was 279 to 101 with five abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. A fourth and final reading is tentatively scheduled for 14 December. Only the Communist faction failed to support the budget. JAC

...DETERMINES PLAN FOR DISTRIBUTION OF EXTRA REVENUES...

Also on 1 December, Duma legislators approved a plan for distributing any additional budget revenues collected next year. Under the plan, one half of the first additional 70 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) would be used to pay off state debts, while the other half would be divided between various budget items in accordance with the proportion fixed by the budget, Interfax reported. If there are additional revenues exceeding 70 billion rubles, 70 percent will be earmarked for debt repayment and 30 percent for indexing the wages of state-sector workers and servicemen. JAC

...LIMITS SALES OF STAKES IN LARGE COMPANIES

Duma deputies also approved in its third reading an amendment that prohibits the privatization of large companies until a law on Russia's 2001 privatization program is passed. The vote was 267 to 84 with one abstention. The amendment could delay planned sales of stakes in Slavneft, Rosneft, Gazprom, and LUKoil. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the government will introduce a draft law laying out the government's 2001 privatization program soon. JAC

STOCK PRICES SLIP AGAIN

Share prices on the Russian stock market dipped again on 1 December, after losing almost 11 percent the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). The benchmark index RTS closed on 1 December 1.19 percent lower than the previous day. According to "The Moscow Times" on 2 December, analysts are attributing the downward slide to Russian companies' lack of corporate governance--a problem that has plagued Turkish banks and the Turkish market. John Paul Smith of Morgan Stanley in London told the daily that "people fear untransparency in Russian firms." Prime Minister Kasyanov interpreted the situation differently, telling reporters on 1 December that the market's drop was a reaction to what is happening on world stock markets. JAC

FOREIGN INVESTMENT RISES

Foreign investment in Russia totaled $7.89 billion during the first nine months of 2000, a 22 percent increase compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported, citing the State Statistics Committee. Direct foreign investment totaled $3.15 billion, portfolio investment reached $59 million, and other investment rose to $4.67 billion. Portfolio investment showed the biggest increase, up 540 percent compared with the same period last year. The three largest investors were Germany with $1.7 billion, The Netherlands ($1.15 billion), and the U.S. ($1.12 billion). JAC

PREPARATIONS UNDER WAY FOR KIM JONG IL'S VISIT TO MOSCOW

North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee In Gyu was in Moscow at the weekend for talks with his Russian counterpart, Aleksandr Losyukov, to discuss economic issues and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's upcoming visit to Moscow, Interfax reported on 1 December. No date has yet been set for that visit, but a Russian Foreign Ministry official told the news agency that it will most likely take place in the first half of 2001. The same day, Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy), the head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said on returning from South Korea that Russia could find itself playing a "unique role" in the rapprochement between North and South Korea. According to Rogozin, Moscow could act as an "objective intermediary" for the two sides. JC

RUSSIA ACKNOWLEDGES 'BEARS' DEPLOYED IN FAR EAST

The Russian Defense Ministry on 1 December admitted that it has deployed long-range "Bear" (Tu-95) bombers in Anadyr, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and Tiksi, Sakha Republic (Yakutia), saying that the deployment is part of "planned training." The previous day, a Pentagon spokesman had told journalists in Washington that the move appears to be in preparation for tests of U.S. defenses in Alaska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). Reuters quoted a Russian Defense Ministry official as saying that he "couldn't say anything about Alaska but there will obviously be flights in that direction." The same news agency reported that the Russian air force's press service declined to comment, but it quoted an unidentified air force official as saying that the aircraft "represent no threat whatsoever for the American continent." JC

POPE'S LAWYER BREAKS INTO VERSE

In its final appeal, the defense for alleged U.S. spy Edmond Pope resorted to poetry on 1 December, declaring in verse that the defendant is innocent and requesting his acquittal. Pavel Astakhov, who later gave a repeat performance of his lyrical outburst for the benefit of the Russian media, said he had thought hard how to "reach the hearts and conscience of court officials" and had opted for this "unusual form." His "poem" included details of how the court had rejected most defense motions and also accused the court of numerous procedural violations. Pope is to make a statement later this week, after which the court will announce its verdict. JC

NEW GOVERNORS ELECTED IN KRASNODAR, ASTRAKHAN, PERM...

In one of 11 elections in the Russian Federation on 3 December, voters in Krasnodar Krai overwhelmingly elected State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Tkachev (Agro-Industrial) as governor. Tkachev, the head of the Duma's Committee for Nationalities Affairs, replaces Nikolai Kondratenko, who is known for his scathing comments about Jews and other minority groups. Kondratenko declined to seek re-election, citing poor health. In nearby Astrakhan Oblast, Governor Anatolii Guzhvin was reported to have held on to his seat. And in Perm Oblast, Yurii Trutnev, the mayor of Perm, won more than 50 percent of the vote to unseat the incumbent, Gennadii Igumnov, according to preliminary results reported by ITAR-TASS on 4 December. The same news agency also reported, citing preliminary results, that in the tiny Koryak Autonomous Okrug, a local entrepreneur is leading by a large margin over incumbent Governor Valentina Bronevich, the only female member of the Federation Council. JC

...AS OTHER REGIONS PREPARE FOR RUN-OFFS

Elections in several other regions on 3 December failed to provide a winner, and run-offs will take place there on 17 December. Stavropol Krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov will seek to keep his seat in two weeks' time, as will Komi Permyak Autonomous Okrug head Nikolai Poluyanov, Ryazan Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov, and Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn, whom the Kremlin reportedly would like to see removed from that post. In Ivanovo Oblast, Vladimir Tikhonov, a State Duma deputy (Communist) and first secretary of the local branch of the Communist Party, will compete against head of the local government Anatolii Golovkov. And in Kamchatka Oblast, where incumbent Vladimir Biryukov declined to stand for re-election, first deputy administration head Boris Sinchenko and local parliamentary deputy Mikhail Mashkovtsev will to seek become Biryukov's successor. No information was available on the results of the gubernatorial ballot in Arkhangelsk. JC

AVAR NATIONAL MOVEMENT DISBANDED IN DAGHESTAN

The Avar National Movement created in 1990 as a counter-balance to "Tenglik," the militant organization that represents the republic's Kumyk minority, has been disbanded, Glasnost-North Caucasus on 2 December quoted Avar leader Gadzhi Makhachev as having told a press conference on 27 November. Makhachev said the movement had been disbanded because he believes that its continued existence could increase the likelihood of clashes between Daghestan's various ethnic groups. The Avars are the largest ethnic group in Daghestan, accounting for 28 percent of the population, followed by the Dargins (16 percent), Kumyks (13 percent), Lezgins (12 percent) and Laks (5 percent). LF

AUDIT REVEALS THEFT OF CASH FOR CHECHEN RECONSTRUCTION

Former Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin, who currently heads the Russian Audit Chamber, said in Moscow on 1 December that he has asked prosecutors to investigate two unnamed finance and economy ministry officials suspected of embezzling some $2 million allocated for reconstruction projects in Chechnya, Reuters reported. He said that officials from the Chechen administration may also be involved. But Finance Minister Kudrin denied that any serious irregularities have occurred. Kudrin's deputy Tatyana Nestorenko also rejected Stepashin's charge that funding for the rebuilding program for Chechnya was suspended in July. She said all government instructions and obligations with regard to reconstruction are being fully implemented, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 1 December, Chechen interim administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Moscow that if funding for reconstruction, especially of housing, does not improve within 5-6 months, the situation in Chechnya "may become uncontrollable," Interfax reported. LF

WOMEN FIND PUTIN SEXY IN THAT SCARY SORT OF WAY?

An Internet poll of readers of "Komsomolskaya pravda" found that respondents rated President Putin the sexiest man in Russia, the newspaper reported on 29 November. Following up on the results, a reporter for the newspaper conducted interviews with a number of women in their thirties and discovered that these women believe Putin cuts a romantic, even sexy, figure. One 30-year-old woman called him the "dream of Soviet women. He doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, plays sports, and loves his wife and children. What more can you want?" Another woman, 32, confessed that throughout her childhood she has always loved spies, noting that "even when Putin is shaking someone's hand on television with a little smile to show that he is human, I am frightened of him--in other words, I want him." Timothy Colton of Harvard University said in Denver recently at the annual AAASS meeting that according to surveys that he and colleagues conducted among Russians before the presidential election, 90 percent of respondents registered fear as their emotional response to Putin, while 60 percent registered hope. Colton hypothesized that the combination of fear and hope proved most effective for Putin. JAC




ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET

Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev met in Minsk late on 30 November on the sidelines of the CIS summit to discuss the Karabakh conflict, Armenpress and Turan reported. It was their fifth such meeting this year. Aliyev termed the talks "constructive," while Kocharian said that agreement was reached "to shift the negotiating process to another format," which, he added, would provide for "more active contacts." He did not elaborate. Kocharian stressed the need to reach a permanent settlement of the conflict before 2003, when presidential elections are due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. LF

OPPOSITION DEPUTIES WALK OUT OF KARABAKH PARLIAMENT

The nine deputies representing the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun on 1 December walked out of the 33-seat parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to protest the passage of legislative amendments increasing the powers of the enclave's president, an RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent in Stepanakert reported. The opposition deputies accused the majority Democratic Artsakh Union faction of reneging on a pledge to reform the division of powers to increase the role of the legislature. The two parties later agreed to establish a joint commission to seek a solution to the disagreement. LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS IRANIAN WARNING OF MILITARIZATION OF CASPIAN

Azerbaijan's National Security Minister Namig Abbasov on 30 November rejected as untrue the claim by Iranian armed forces commander Major-General Mohammad Salimi that the U.S. and Israel are deploying military forces in the Caspian, Turan and Interfax reported. IRNA had quoted Salimi as saying on 26 November in Tehran that those forces could launch an attack on Iran. LF

AZERBAIJAN UNABLE TO FUND ITS SHARE OF BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE?

Ilham Aliev, Vice-President of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told journalists in Baku on 30 November that Azerbaijan may be constrained to sell part of its 50 percent stake in project to build the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline for Caspian oil, Interfax reported. He said SOCAR may retain a 30 percent stake in the project. Meanwhile the president of Georgia's International Oil Corporation, Giorgi Chanturia, said in Tbilisi on 1 December that British Petroleum, which has a 25.41 percent stake in the Baku-Ceyhan project, has presented to Georgia maps highlighting a10 kilometer wide corridor within which the pipeline will be routed, according to Interfax. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA TO HOLD NEW DEBT TALKS

Following a tentative agreement reached on 30 November in Minsk during talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, a Georgian government delegation headed by Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili flew to Moscow on 4 December to begin talks on the rescheduling of Georgia's debt to Russia and on Russian gas and electricity supplies to Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Moscow accused Tbilisi two months ago of failing to begin repayment of credits due in February of this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). Georgia owes Russia some $180 million for energy supplies, but has lodged a counter-claim for a share of the assets of the former USSR estimated at $2.5-3 billion. LF

SPANIARDS KIDNAPPED IN GEORGIA 'NOT IN DANGER'

President Shevardnadze said on 4 December during his traditional weekly radio broadcast that the two Spanish businessmen abducted in Georgia on 30 November are unharmed and are being held captive in the largely Chechen-populated Pankisi gorge in northern Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. On 3 December, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze and National Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze met in north Georgia's Akhmeta Raion with village elders who undertook to help secure the Spaniards' release, according to AP. LF

RUSSIA PROTESTS GEORGIAN DEMONSTRATION

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 2 December lodged a protest with Georgia's ambassador, Zurab Abashidze, condemning a demonstration convened three days earlier outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi to protest the planned introduction of a visa regime for travel between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian protest termed that demonstration, in which some 100 people participated, "an unfriendly act." LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET IN FIRST READING

A combined session of the upper and lower houses of Kazakhstan's parliament approved on 1 December in the first reading the amended version of the draft budget for 2001 submitted by the cabinet the previous day, Interfax reported. That version did not incorporate demands made by the opposition during the first reading of the bill by the Mazhilis (lower house) to increase revenues (see RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 November 2000). Instead, the new version provides for slightly lower revenues and expenditure, but increases the budget deficit from 2.2 to 2.7 percent of GDP. It also allocates 18.5 billion tenges ($120 million) for servicing the country's foreign debts. Deputy Economics Minister Aleksandr Andryushenko told deputies that GDP growth in 2001 is forecast at 4 percent, and industrial output is set to increase by 8 percent, compared with this year. Annual inflation is predicted at 5.5 percent compared with 8.5 percent in 2000. LF

CONFUSION OVER KYRGYZ 'AMNESTY' PERSISTS

None of the six men pardoned last week by Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has yet been released from jail as the amnesty has not been officially promulgated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 1 December. The six had been sentenced in September to up to 17 years ' imprisonment on charges of plotting to assassinate Akaev (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September and 1 December 2000). Two of the men may reject the amnesty as they do not consider themselves guilty. They have already petitioned the Supreme Court to acquit them. LF

KYRGYZ COURT THROWS OUT LIBEL SUIT AGAINST OPPOSITION PAPER

A Bishkek district court on 1 December rejected one of two libel suits brought by Deputy Security Minister Boris Poluektov against the newspaper "Delo Nomer," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The court has not yet begin hearings in the second case. LF

UZBEKISTAN, RUSSIA PLEDGE TO IMPROVE BILATERAL RELATIONS

Meeting in Minsk on 1 December on the sidelines of the CIS summit, Russian President Putin and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov pledged to do all in their power to resolve the problems currently bedeviling bilateral relations and to prevent any further such problems arising, ITAR-TASS reported. Two days earlier, Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov said in Tashkent that the Uzbek leadership is ready to sign a new agreement with Russia on visa-free travel between the two countries "within days," according to Interfax. Putin and Karimov also held a three-way meeting in Minsk with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov at the latter's suggestion, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 4 December. LF




CIS SUMMIT IN MINSK CREATES ANTI-TERRORIST CENTER

Leaders of the CIS states, excluding Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, met in Minsk on 1 December, where they signed an accord on establishing a CIS anti-terrorist center based in Moscow and approved jointly meeting expenses for holding CIS summits, Russian and Belarusian media reported. No decisions were made on seven other issues planned for discussion, including military cooperation and a CIS free-trade zone. "We are fully satisfied with the results of the Minsk summit," Russian President Vladimir Putin commented, adding that the participants reached "an agreement in principle on deepening the practical cooperation of CIS member countries." Putin also reached agreement with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on Ukraine's gas debt (see below). JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA REACH 'BREAKTHROUGH' DEAL ON GAS DEBT

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 1 November that Russian President Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, reached an agreement in Minsk on Ukraine's gas debt to Russia. Kasyanov said that under the agreement, repayment of the debt will be postponed for 10 years and during that period Ukraine will pay only a low rate of interest on the sum it owes. Russia also agreed that during the next eight to 10 years, Ukraine can delay paying for half of its future gas supplies from Russia on condition that it pays for the other half in cash and stops siphoning off Russian gas. "After our talks, no one will say that Ukraine is stealing our gas like a thief in the night," AP quoted Putin as saying at a news conference. Putin hailed the deal as "balanced and well-considered," while Kuchma called it a historic "breakthrough." Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko said he and Kasyanov will sign a memorandum in a few days to formalize the deal. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE

Leonid Kuchma has denied his complicity in the disappearance of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, as alleged by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). In a conversation with Georgian President Shevardnadze in Minsk on 1 December, Kuchma said both Moroz's allegation and the tape the latter provided to support his claim constitute "a provocation, possibly, with the participation of foreign special services," Interfax reported. Kuchma noted that it is necessary "to find out" which special services were involved. Shevardnadze remarked that, alternatively, Kyiv could simply "guess" which countries' special services took part. JM

CHORNOBYL VICTIMS DEMAND MORE SOCIAL SUPPORT

Some 10,000 people affected by the Chornobyl nuclear accident in 1986, including participants in the Chornobyl cleanup operations, marched in Kyiv on 3 December to demand more government spending on social care and increased support for them, AP reported. More than 2.2 million Ukrainians are eligible for benefits related to the consequences of the Chornobyl accident. Meanwhile, the only remaining Chornobyl reactor was restarted on 1 December after a shutdown caused by an electricity supply failure last week. JM

ESTONIAN INMATES LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE

Some 1,800 of the more than 4,700 inmates in Estonia's five prisons began a hunger strike on 1 December to protest a new prison law that went into force that day, ETA reported. The law bans parcels to inmates and states that 50 percent of inmates' personal savings and of the money sent to them in prison can be deducted to pay their victims compensation. Previously, only money earned by inmates was subject to such deductions. Justice Minister Mart Rask said that there will be no negotiations with the inmates over the new law. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NATIONAL BUDGET FOR 2001

Lawmakers on 30 November adopted the budget for 2001 by a vote of 67 to 32, BNS and LETA reported the next day. Revenues are planned to increase by 4.3 percent to 1.436 billion lats ($2.297 billion) and expenditures to 1.503 billion lats, resulting in a budget deficit of 73 million lats or 1.7 percent of GDP. The budget is based on a forecast of 4.4 percent GDP growth and an inflation rate of 3.5 percent. The largest expenditure increases are planned for Latvia's integration into NATO and the EU as well as for education. More than half of the deficit (46.1 million lats) is expected to be accounted for by social insurance (25.6 million lats), the state highway fund (10 million lats), and national health care (5.4 million lats). SG

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS LITHUANIA

Aleksander Kwasniewski was in southern Lithuania on 1 December for talks with his Lithuanian counterpart, Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported. The presidents discussed integration into the EU, Lithuania's preparation for NATO membership, and joint economic projects. Kwasniewski asserted that one of the top objectives of his second five-year term as president will be helping Lithuania join the EU and NATO. The presidents agreed on the need to construct a joint electric power link. SG

SOLIDARITY LEADER SETS CONDITION FOR HIS POLITICAL WITHDRAWAL

Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the Solidarity trade union and the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), told a Solidarity congress on 1 December that he will step down as AWS head immediately after the parties that make up the AWS sign a federation accord, PAP reported. He added that should those parties fail to do what he proposed, the AWS would "re-establish itself" as Solidarity's political arm by January. Jan Maria Rokita--head of the Conservative Peasant Party, a component of the AWS--commented that Krzaklewski's announcement has "no fundamental significance." Rokita recalled that his party, together with the Polish Party of Christian Democrats, has already created a federation which is led by parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2000). Rokita told journalists that the federation is a "clearly separate political entity" and that it will strive for "emancipation." JM

HAVEL DENIES REPORTS ON COMPROMISE OVER NATIONAL BANK HEAD APPOINTMENT

Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 3 December denied reports that President Vaclav Havel intends to ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether all appointments of National Bank governors, including that of Zdenek Tuma late last month, were unconstitutional because they were not officially endorsed by the counter-signature of the premier, CTK reported. On 2 December, citing sources close to "presidential circle," the agency had said that a compromise--one that would have thrown the legality of past bank governors in doubt--was reached at a meeting between Havel and Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky. While refusing to provide details, Rychetsky confirmed he and the president had reached a compromise, adding that he will propose that the cabinet approves that solution at its 4 December meeting. MS

GROSS DECLINES TO RUN FOR CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS' LEADERSHIP

Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Deputy Chairman Stanislav Gross, in a letter to the CSSD leadership on 2 December, announced he is giving up his candidacy for the CSSD chairmanship and will support Vladimir Spidla for that post, CTK reported. Prime Minister Milos Zeman has repeatedly said he favors Spidla to succeed him at the party's National Conference scheduled for April 2001. Gross, who is in the hospital following an ankle injury, addressed the letter to a meeting of the CSSD central Executive Committee, which met in Hradec Kralove to discuss the party's recent failure in both the regional elections and in the Senate ballot. Gross said he expects Spidla to unify the party, change its "policy style," and rid it "of those who use government positions for personal gain." MS

SLOVAK DEMOCRATIC PARTY THREATENS TO LEAVE COALITION

Jan Langos, chairman of the Democratic Party (SDL), said on 2 December that his party will "go independent" unless supporters of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda set up an independent Slovak Democratic Christian Union (SDKU) group in the parliament, CTK reported. Langos said "relations must be sorted out" among the parties that formed the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) before the 1998 election. Dzurinda will contest the next elections, in 2002, as head of the SDKU. Last week, the Christian Democratic Movement formed its own separate parliamentary group. Apart from the SDK (which was formed as a coalition of five parties before the 1998 elections), the ruling coalition includes the Slovak Hungarian Coalition, the SDL, and the Party of Civic Understanding. Dzurinda says the SDK will remain intact until 2002, when the next elections are scheduled to take place. MS

HUNGARY'S FREE DEMOCRATS ELECT DEMSZKY AS CHAIRMAN

The congress of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) has elected Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky as party chairman, Hungarian media reported on 2 December. Outgoing party chairman Balint Magyar declined any position within the new leadership but expressed support for Demszky in his farewell speech. Also on 2 December, the opposition far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) re-elected Istvan Csurka as party chairman. The MIEP conference called for efforts to forge "a sense of nationhood" in territories that formerly belonged to Hungary and to create a national guard that would "expel foreign mafias from Hungary." MSZ




YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT URGES RESTRAINT OVER PRESEVO...

Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 3 December that Serbian leaders should use restraint in responding to ethnic tensions in the Presevo valley (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). "I call on all politicians in Yugoslavia who truly care about the preservation of the nation and the state to refrain from making unrestrained statements and war cries," Reuters reported. Kostunica added that it is "dangerous and irresponsible to respond to one extremism with another... This is not time for warmongering but for wise diplomatic action... We count on the international community, not only on its support but [on] its readiness to meet obligations that it has undertaken" in conjunction with preventing ethnic Albanian extremists in Kosova from smuggling arms and fighters into Serbia. Referring to the ethnic Albanian civilians in the Presevo valley, Kostunica expressed sympathy for "our citizens who are also being pushed into war by their [own] extremists," AP reported. It is rare for Serbian leaders to refer to Albanians except as "terrorists and separatists." PM

...AFTER DJINDJIC TALKS TOUGH

Kostunica's remarks appear to be a response to comments by Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic while in the Presevo region on 3 December. Djindjic said that the area "is a top priority for us. Serbia has the right and the strength to defend its territory. We should react [to ethnic Albanian guerrilla activity] as soon as possible...[namely] one day after the elections" that will take place on 23 December, AP reported. Djindjic stressed that Serbia will "use all legitimate means against the terrorists and certainly not against civilians. We must present a plan to the international community of what we intend to do. If it does not respond, we'll take it as support [for our plan} to react" to the guerrillas' actions. Djindjic recently said that the situation in the Presevo valley could lead to a "real war." It is widely believed that he and Kostunica remain political rivals despite their outward professions of unity. PM

KOSOVARS SKEPTICAL OF SERBIAN OVERTURES

Speaking at a conference on Balkan affairs in Athens on 1 December, Serbian Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that "there should be talks as soon as possible" between leading Serbian and Kosovar politicians. He added that "what happened to the ethnic Albanians in the last three or four years is horrendous. But that does not give them the right to blame a whole nation or change [Serbia's] borders." Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova nonetheless refused to appear with Zivkovic in public, AP reported. Leading Kosovar publisher Veton Surroi said of recent Serbian calls for talks: "There was a genocidal war in Kosova to expel or destroy the Albanian population. That war was lost [by the Serbs]. And even if Serbia elects Mother Theresa as its president, the Kosovars won't accept Serbia as their state." PM

BRITISH TROOPS TAKE UP POSTS ON KOSOVA-SERBIAN BORDER

Two companies of British troops have taken up positions in the U.S. sector of Kosova near the border village of Dobercan, Reuters reported on 3 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). Using special surveillance equipment, the troops monitor possible signs of guerrilla activity in the area. Also on 3 December, unidentified persons fired four mortar shells at a Serbian police patrol in the demilitarized five-kilometer buffer zone. There were no casualties. A Serbian police official blamed "Albanian terrorists" for the breach in the cease-fire between Serbian forces and Albanian guerrillas. In related news, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said in Belgrade on 1 December that unspecified "European monitors" should be sent into the buffer zone on the Serbian border with Kosova to help "reduce tensions" in the area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

UN PLEDGES PROTECTION FOR MODERATE KOSOVAR LEADERS

UN civilian administration (UNMIK) spokeswoman Claire Trevena said in Prishtina on 1 December that UNMIK will provide increased protection for moderate Kosovar politicians after a recent series of attacks and threats against several of them, Reuters reported. In the latest of such incidents, an unknown telephone caller told Rugova's deputy Kole Berisha on 30 November that he will "be the next to die." The attacks and threats are widely seen as the work of ethnic Albanian extremists, who lost to Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova in the 28 October local elections. PM

'HABEAS CORPUS' IN SERBIAN CAPITAL

On 3 December, police in Belgrade found the body of Judge Nebojsa Simeunovic washed up on the banks of the Sava River near where it flows into the Danube, Reuters reported. A police spokesman said that forensic tests are under way, adding that "so far, we have no signs that indicate a violent death." The judge was last seen in a Belgrade restaurant on 6 November and was reported missing four days later. On 3 October, he refused a request by the authorities to issue arrest warrants for two opposition leaders and 11 leaders of a miners' strike. He was helping investigate several politically sensitive cases, including the 1997 killing of police and underworld figure Radovan Stojicic-Bazda and the slaying in February 2000 of Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic. PM

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER HAILS SERBIAN TIES

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said in Belgrade on 3 December that visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan agreed not to "press" Belgrade to repay the "millions of dollars" it owes Beijing, Reuters reported. Labus added that China wants to "complete" an existing $200 million trade agreement, of which $77 million remains unused. Tang also met with Kostunica, whom he invited to visit China. Speaking at the ruins of the Chinese embassy building accidentally hit by a NATO bomb in 1999, Tang said: "If anyone wants to know what the policy of a big power is, then this is the best proof of that. This is the territory of the People's Republic of China. This was bombed and attacked by the big power from the West." Washington has explained to Beijing repeatedly that the bombing was an accident. It is widely believed that China is trying to extract as much political capital as possible out of the incident to put pressure on the U.S. over other, unrelated issues. PM

MONTENEGRO TO OPEN NEW DIPLOMATIC POSTS

Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said in a statement on 1 December that his republic plans to open five new diplomatic missions abroad soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Montenegro wants to set up offices in Macedonia, Croatia, Germany, the U.K., and France. It plans to expand existing missions in the U.S., Bosnia, and to the EU in Brussels. In recent weeks, President Milo Djukanovic has stressed that Montenegro and Serbia must base their future relations on the "fact" that each republic enjoys international recognition. His government seeks its own seat in the UN. PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER RE-ELECTED PARTY LEADER

Running unopposed, Ivica Racan was re-elected head of the Social Democratic Party at its congress in Zagreb on 2 December. He stressed that there can be no normalization of relations with Serbia until Belgrade apologizes for its war against Croatia in 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

NEW CROATIAN DAILY APPEARS

Ivo Pukanic, who publishes the hard-hitting weekly "Nacional," launched his new daily "Republika" on 4 December, AP reported from Zagreb. A lead article accuses four prominent individuals of joining together as early as 1997 in an attempt to dominate the media scene. Among the four is Nino Pavic, who owns a number of newspapers, including the daily "Jutarnji list" and the weekly "Globus." The other three men are Herzegovinian politician Ivic Pasalic, Tudjman-era business kingpin Miroslav Kutle, and Vinko Grubisic, who owns a Zagreb TV station. Kutle is on trial for embezzlement. Pasalic is at the center of several political and business scandals that have emerged since the new government took office less than one year ago. PM

TENSIONS MOUNT BETWEEN SLOVENIA, AUSTRIA

Dimitrij Rupel, who is Slovenia's new foreign minister, plans to raise in international forums the question of whether Austria has fulfilled its obligations toward its ethnic Slovenian minority under the terms of the 1955 state treaty unless Vienna stops pressuring Ljubljana to repeal the World War II-era AVNOJ decrees. The AVNOJ decrees are the former Yugoslavia's approximate equivalent of the Czechoslovak Benes decrees. Erhard Busek, who is Austria's chief official dealing with EU expansion, called the Slovenian policy of refusing to repeal the decrees "unfortunately neither wise, nor well thought-out, nor--above all--beneficial to Slovenia.," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 4 December. Two days earlier, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on growing anger in Ljubljana over persistent Austrian expressions of concern about the safety of Slovenia's Krsko nuclear power plant. PM

BULGARIANS REJOICE OVER EU DECISION...

Bulgarian deputies cheered on 1 December, after Prime Minister Ivan Kostov announced in the legislature that the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU has decided to lift visa restrictions on Bulgarian citizens, BTA reported. The lifting of visas will go into effect by May 2001, after the council's decision is approved by the European Parliament and then separately by each EU member state. Kostov called the decision "the first step toward our integration in Europe" and said what made it possible was that Bulgarians have displayed unity, regardless of political divisions. President Petar Stoyanov said that "for Bulgaria's citizens, the Berlin Wall truly fell [only] today." The council also decided, however, that in Romania's case, the visa requirement will be lifted only after Bucharest demonstrates that it meet criteria on its ability to curb illegal immigration. MS

...WHILE ROMANIANS DIFFER OVER DECISION

Romanian Foreign Minister and Democratic Party leader Petre Roman said the decision of the committee "cannot be viewed as discriminatory," as Bulgaria has passed laws that are still lacking in Romania, such as the law on the status of foreigners and legislation on the protection of personal data. He added that the government has yet to strengthen border controls and introduce passports that cannot be forged. The first deputy chairmen of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), Adrian Nastase and Valeriu Stoica, criticized the decision as discriminatory against Romania, while PDSR chairman Ion Iliescu said Romanians currently "care less about visa-free travel and more about jobs in their own country." MS

ROMANIAN LIBERAL DEPUTY LEADER TO RUN FOR CHAIRMAN...

Stoica said at a 2 December meeting of the PNL Permanent Delegation that he intends to run for the position of party chairman at the party's national congress in February 2001. Stoica also said he believes those PNL leadership members whose appeals against rulings by the National Commission for the Study of Securitate Archives are rejected must resign their positions. He said PNL chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, whom the committee named as a Securitate informer, "damaged" the party's chances in the 26 November electoral contest. Ionescu-Quintus rejected the accusation and said he does not intend to renounce his parliamentary seat. MS

...AND PEASANT PARTY REBUKES CHAIRMAN

On 3 December, the Transition Leadership Bureau of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) designated deputy chairman Constantin Dudu Ionescu as "coordination chairman" of the bureau. The bureau rejected the proposal of Chairman Ion Diaconescu that he himself occupy that position. On 2 December, the Alliance for Romania (APR) leadership, which like the PNTCD failed to gain parliamentary representation on 26 November, "assumed responsibility" for that failure and resigned collectively. Chairman Teodor Melescanu, who last week announced he will step down, will be in charge of party affairs as head of an interim committee that is to organize the APR national convention in January 2001, Mediafax reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT...

The Moldovan parliament on 1 December failed to elect a new president and is meeting on 4 December to decide whether to vote in a second round or nullify the results of the 1 December vote. Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) candidate Vladimir Voronin was supported by 48 votes, while the candidate of the center-left coalition Pavel Barbalat received 37 votes--both well short of the 61 votes needed for election. Fifteen ballots were invalidated. MS

... MAY START FROM SCRATCH

Scuffles and shouting matches broke out between the two camps in the parlaiment during the 1 December vote, and the ballot was interrupted, and then resumed, after PCM deputies refused to follow the secret vote procedure and were showing their ballots to fellow-PCM deputies before tossing them into the box. The PCM apparently feared defections, and the PCM Elections Committee Head Vadim Mishin said a "secret vote was a right, not a duty." The parliament later refuse to validate the result, and centrist-right deputies said they will appeal to the Central Electoral Commission to invalidate the vote. The PCM, for its part, said it will ask that parliament Chairman Dumitru Diacov be dismissed for having caused the interruption of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). MS




THE 'END OF HISTORY' IN THE BALKANS?


By Patrick Moore

Scarcely a week or even a few days go by as of late without some Western politician or group of politicians waxing eloquent about Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and his allies from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). The Westerners routinely hail the fall of dictatorship in Serbia and birth of democracy there. Some observers even suggest that Serbia and the Balkans have ceased to be an international trouble spot and that the West can best deal with them through "soft" institutions such as the EU's Balkan Stability Pact, rather than through NATO or the UN. Some in the U.S. have added that Washington can safely consign the region to the care of Brussels and concentrate on its own interests in other parts of the globe.

Such statements by usually tough and street-wise Western politicians have led many in Croatia, Albania, Kosova, and Bosnia, among others, to shake their heads in disbelief--for two reasons. First, there is the perception that the Westerners are suddenly falling all over themselves to give large sums of money and other aid to Serbia, perhaps at the expense of neighboring countries that tried hard to be helpful to the international community during the 1999 Kosova crisis and at other times.

Second, and more important, the Serbs are widely seen in the region as being welcomed into international institutions and into the international community's good books without having had to meet the painstaking prerequisites for democracy, market reforms, human rights, and cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal that have been required of some of their neighbors. Croatian President Stipe Mesic, for one, has frequently tried to remind Westerners that the changes in Serbia have only just begun and that one should not be so generous or trusting until one better knows with whom and what one is actually dealing.

In fact, all that is certain is that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been replaced by a man with strong nationalist credentials surrounded by many of the same members of the fractious opposition who failed for years to unite and overthrow the dictator. To be sure, Kostunica has a refreshing devotion to the rule of law and to the peaceful settlement of political disputes. His allies, for their part, appear to have sunk their differences for the good of their country, at least for the present.

But the state apparatus and, above all, the means of coercion are still largely in the hands of the people who enjoyed power under Milosevic. General Nebojsa Pavkovic in the General Staff and security chief Rade Markovic are but two examples. And there is no guarantee that the opposition will have the strength and unity of purpose to dislodge such individuals, even if the DOS trounces the former ruling parties in the 23 December Serbian elections.

In fact, problems for the DOS may really begin only once those elections are over. If the DOS does marginalize its opponents, it will not only have the satisfaction of victory but also the duty of exercising responsibility in government. For the Bulgarian Union of Democratic Forces and some other anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe in earlier years, ousting the Communists proved a poisoned chalice. This was because the opposition was then obliged to go beyond its usual litany of criticizing and complaining and start drafting and implementing constructive programs. Some seasoned anti-Communists were unable to make the transition from opposition to government, and politicians from the former regime eventually returned to power.

If the politicians and parties represented in the DOS revert to large-scale public infighting and start seeking tacit or not-so-tacit alliances with their former enemies against their current allies, a post-Milosevic Serbia could prove a political free-for-all. In time, perhaps a "strong-man" figure from the old regime--or even Milosevic himself--could present himself to the electorate as the "serious man" whom the country needs to restore order and discipline. This scenario would be far removed from the glowing hopes expressed for Kostunica and the DOS in their recent meetings with Western politicians.

For now, it is clear that Milosevic has been replaced at the top with "Not-Milosevic" and a group of politicians nominally committed to democracy, the rule of law, and resolving disputes by peaceful means. The DOS leadership is open to "Europe," especially when that means an end to international isolation and the start of generous aid programs.

But that is it. As the presidents of Croatia and Albania have both said more than once and in public, neither the new Serbian leadership nor Serbian society as a whole has begun a "catharsis" of the emotions and beliefs that at one point led to the rise of Milosevic and ultimately to four disastrous wars. Nor do most Serbs seem to sense any need to look deeply into themselves and their political culture.

In any event, Serbia has experienced a change for the better that is at least skin-deep. But the history of the region suggests that, at present, it would be unwise to conclude anything more than that.


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