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Newsline - December 12, 2000




GUSINSKII ARRESTED IN SPAIN

Western agencies on 12 December quoted Spanish police as saying they have arrested Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges. Russian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Gusinskii earlier this month after he failed to appear for questioning in Moscow in November. According to the Spanish police, the Russian businessman was arrested in the southern beach resort of Sotogrande, near the city of Cadiz. One of Gusinskii's lawyers, Pavel Astakhov, told Reuters that the arrest warrent is politically motivated and therefore the Spanish authorities should not send Gusinskii to Russia. JC

NEW DRAFT CONSTITUTION FLOATED...

As Russia celebrates Constitution Day on 12 December, central media have been reporting the efforts of some groups to draft a new federal constitution. Some authors of the current Russian Constitution--INDEM foundation members Georgii Satarov, Mikhail Krasnov, and Mikhail Fedotov--have drafted a new version that was presented at "the first open congress on Russia's constitutional structure," "Segodnya" reported on 9 December. According to the daily, the new draft contains several innovations: the president rather than the Federation Council will be empowered to appoint and dismiss the prosecutor-general; the prime minister will be elected by the State Duma with the approval of the president; and the president's term in office will be extended from four to five years. According to "Izvestiya" on 8 December, the authors of the draft version want to separate the powers of the president and the cabinet by making the latter accountable to the parliament. JAC

...AS CRITIC CHARGES CHANGES COULD UNLEASH UNSTOPPABLE PROCESS

In an article in "Vremya novostei" on 9 December, Sergei Shakhrai, another of the authors of the current constitution, argues that it is "dangerous" to change the basic law. "Having started with moderate amendments to the Constitution, we may be letting the genie out of the bottle," he wrote. "In that case, Russia will disintegrate." Shakhrai said that he realizes that the present constitution is not perfect, but he argues that "it is not in the president's interests to amend the constitution, since amendments will mostly constitute an increase in the roles of the parliament and cabinet, at the expense of the president." "Izvestiya" reported on 8 December that the government does not intend to convene a constitutional assembly or hold a referendum, but it does believe that amendments are necessary. JAC

PUTIN SAYS COOLING OF TIES WITH CUBA A 'MISTAKE'

In an interview with Cuban television and the Prensa Latina news agency ahead of his visit to Havana later this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin regretted that ties between Russia and Cuba were allowed to cool during the post-Soviet era, Reuters reported on 11 December. Putin said he believes Russian-Cuban relations were not handled "properly" over the past 10 years or so, stressing that Havana is "our traditional partner in the world and, in the first instance, in Latin America." With regard to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, which he described as "groundless," Putin commented that "the regime of unilateral sanctions" must be lifted as quickly as possible. And he urged Russian companies to continue where Soviet-era ones had left off: "Who, if not us, can take part in rebuilding or restoring these enterprises and thinking together about their future?" Putin is due to arrive in Cuba on 13 December. JC

RUSSIA PLANNING NEW LOANS...

Despite Russia's high level of indebtedness to foreign countries, it continues to grant loans to other countries as well as forgive past debts, "Argumenty i fakty" reported in its issue No. 49. The Audit Commission puts the total debt that developing countries owe Russia at $86.6 billion; however, the weekly reported that analysts believe that in reality Russia will receive only $15-$20 billion of this sum and only over the next 20-25 years. CIS countries owe Moscow some $3.2 billion, according to the State Duma Budget Committee. In the 2001 budget, Russia plans to lend Bulgaria $10.5 million, India $30 million, China $88 million, Cuba $19.1 million, Morocco $3.8 million, Yugoslavia $47.8 million, and Tunisia, $500,000. The publication suggests that at least part of the money lent to Yugoslavia will allow Russia to reap only "political dividends" and thus must be considered the "price Moscow pays for its political influence in the Balkans." JAC

...AS IT HOPES PARIS CLUB NEGOTIATIONS WILL DRAG ON?

"Vremya novostei" reported on 9 December, citing unidentified sources in the Russian White House, that the government is hoping to continue holding talks on rescheduling Russia's debts owed to the Paris Club of creditors, until the country's balance of payments deteriorates, as economic analysts are predicting. At that point, Russia will be better able to qualify for long-term rescheduling and for having some debts written off. JAC

RUSSIA TESTS NEW SUB

The new Gepard (Akula-class) nuclear submarine has been launched for testing, Russian agencies reported at the weekend. Named after one of Russia's first submarines, which sunk during a patrol mission in the Baltic Sea in 1917, the Gepard has a displacement of up to 12,700 tons, can reach 35 knots under water, and is able descend to a depth of 600 meters. It carries 28 Granat cruise missiles, which have a range of 3,000 kilometers. According to Interfax, it is one of the quietest submarines in the Russian Navy. Once all tests have been performed, the Gepard will become part of the Northern Fleet. The launching of the new submarine had been scheduled to take place in 1996 but was repeatedly delayed owing to funding difficulties. JC

WHICH CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER MASTERMINDED ALKHAN-YURT CAR BOMB?

Colonel General Valerii Baranov, who commands the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, on 11 December accused field commander Arbi Baraev of planning the car bomb explosion in the village of Alkhan-Yurt on 9 December, which killed 22 people, ITAR-TASS reported. Baranov described Baraev as "a bandit and maniac killer" who is responsible for the death of more than 200 Chechens. On 10 December, ITAR-TASS had quoted Baranov and Chechen military commandant Ivan Babichev as telling Russia's NTV that they believe field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab planned the Alkhan-Yurt blast. LF

THREE MORE INCUMBENTS HOLD ON TO OFFICE

The governors of three Russian regions have secured a second term in office in ballots that took place on 11 December. Viktor Ishaev (Khabarovsk) and Nikolai Vinogradov (Vladimir) both won in the first round, garnering 88 percent and 66 percent of the vote, respectively. Oleg Bogomolov (Kurgan) received 50.5 percent backing in a run-off ballot. A second round of voting will also take place in Kostroma and Bryansk, where the incumbents, Vitkor Shershunov and Yurii Lodkin, failed to capture the necessary 50 percent of the votes. Lodkin is among those regional heads whom the Kremlin reportedly would like to see ousted this fall (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 December 2000, upcoming). JC

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA ELECTS BEREZOVSKII REPLACEMENT

According to preliminary results, the former chairman of the government of the republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Vasilii Neshchadimov, was leading in the 10 December by-election for a State Duma deputy to replace Boris Berezovskii, who resigned last July, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2000). Trailing Neshchadimov is Magomed Tikeev, the editor of one of the republic's independent newspapers. JAC

TOP ELECTION OFFICIAL CALLS FOR LAW PROHIBITING LAST-MINUTE DISMISSAL OF CANDIDATES

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 11 December, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov called for "unifying" gubernatorial election procedures. However, he said that Russia is a federation and state bodies in each of the Federation subjects can determine themselves how to determine the results and the minimum voter participation for elections to be considered valid. Veshnyakov suggested that the level should not be too high, "somewhere around 25 percent." He also proposed that an amendment be passed that would make it impossible for courts to eliminate candidates two days before elections. In October, former Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi was removed the ballot in gubernatorial elections there the day before the vote was held (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). JAC

SOME 3 MILLION RUSSIANS HAVE CELL PHONES

The number of cellular phone users in Russia is expected to increase from 2.9 million as of mid-2000 to 3.2 million in early 2001, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said on 11 December, according to Interfax. Reiman said that 2 percent of Russia's population owns mobile phones, while 21.9 percent owns wire-line phones. (In the U.S., some 94.4 percent of households have telephone services, according to Alex Belinfante of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.) Reiman also reported that the number of Internet users is growing by 50 percent annually, with an estimated 2.5 million Russians currently logging on. JAC




U.S. MILITARY UNVEILS AID PROGRAM FOR ARMENIA

The U.S. Department of Defense will provide Armenia with $1.3 million next year toward the cost of training and equipping border guards and customs personnel, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 December, quoting a military attache at the U.S. embassy in the Armenian capital. The U.S. will also provide equipment worth $300,000 to establish a "de-mining center." Noyan Tapan quoted the same attache as saying that a senior U.S. military delegation will arrive in Yerevan on 12 December to sign a military cooperation agreement between the two countries. LF

OSCE MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS TRAVEL TO ANKARA, NAKHICHEVAN, ARMENIA...

Following talks in Ankara on 9 December with Turkish leaders, the U.S. and French co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group travelled the following day to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, where they were joined by their Russian counterpart. The three men then flew to Yerevan, where they met on 11 December with Armenian President Robert Kocharian to discuss how to resolve the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. French co-chair Jean-Jacques Gaillard termed that meeting "encouraging," while U.S. co-chair Carey Cavanuagh told journalists the talks were "very productive," adding that "the impression we have now is that all conflicting parties want to move forward and get a concrete result as soon as possible." Kocharian, for his part, was quoted by his press service as insisting that "the conflict must be resolved on the basis of equality between the parties." LF

...AND KARABAKH AND BAKU

The co-chairs travelled by helicopter on 11 December from Yerevan to Stepanakert, the capital of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan and a correspondent in Stepanakert for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The unrecognized enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, told the co-chairs during a three-hour meeting that he is concerned at what the Karabakh leadership perceives as a slackening in the pace of the negotiating process. He also argued that Karabakh representatives should participate in the ongoing series of talks between Kocharian and Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev. Following talks with Aliyev later the same day in Baku, the co-chairs announced that the Armenian and Azerbaijani defense ministers will meet on the border between Armenia and Nakhichevan on 15 December to discuss measures to preclude further violations of the cease-fire that took effect in the spring of 1994, ITAR-TASS reported. Cavanaugh added that Turkey will play "an important role" in implementing the peace agreement once it is reached and that Ankara has promised to provide economic assistance in developing the region, according to Turan. LF

WERE SVANS RESPONSIBLE FOR ABDUCTION OF UN OFFICIALS IN GEORGIA?

Svan bandits were responsible for the 10 December abduction of two UN officials in Abkhazia's Kodori gorge, Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Valeri Lagvilava told Caucasus Press on 11 December. Lagvilava rejected claims by Georgian officials, including President Eduard Shevardnadze, and by the UN that Abkhaz were responsible, noting that the Kodori gorge is under Georgian control. Svans are believed to have been responsible for two previous abductions of UN officials in the same area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1999 and 6 June 2000). Also on 11 December, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said the Georgian leadership has not contacted him to propose joint measures to secure the observers' release, Interfax reported. UN Special Envoy in Georgia Dieter Boden travelled to Sukhum on 11 December for talks on securing the observers' release, according to Caucasus Press. In Tbilisi, Giorgi Baramidze, who chairs the parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, told journalists that failure to apprehend and punish those responsible for such abductions is one of the reasons why they recur so frequently. He suggested that unnamed "political forces" in Russia may have staged the abductions both in Kodori and the Pankisi gorge in northeastern Georgia with the aim of destabilizing the political situation in the country, Caucasus Press reported. LF

MAJORITY PARLIAMENTARY FACTION SEEKS INCREASED FUNDING FOR GEORGIA'S REGIONS

Parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania chaired a closed meeting on 11 December between members of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction and the ministers of finance and the economy to discuss the draft budget for 2001, Caucasus Press reported. Deputies approved that draft in the first reading on 8 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000), but the majority has threatened to withhold approval in the second reading, scheduled for 12 December, unless another10 million laris ($5 million) are allocated to the regions. The government said only an additional $2 million laris could be made available for that purpose. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION TO SUE JUSTICE MINISTER

The former paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni, which recently held its constituent congress as a political organization (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 46, 1 December 2000), plans to sue Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, Caucasus Press reported on 11 December, citing "Akhali taoba." Saakashvili told a news conference in Tbilisi on 8 December that his ministry will not register the organization under its current name and with its present leadership. It is still headed by bank robber-turned-philosopher Djaba Ioseliani, who played a key role in the 1991 ouster of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Saakashvili claimed that Mkhedrioni still propagates violence, which is forbidden by the Georgian Constitution. Mkhedrioni has invited Georgian politicians to a 16 December discussion on whether Georgia should proclaim its neutrality. LF

FORMER KAZAKH FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER GIVEN NEW POST

As some observers had predicted, Aleksandr Pavlov, who was dismissed last month as Kazakhstan's first deputy prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2000), has been appointed a deputy director of the KazakhMys copper smelter, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 9 December. LF

OSCE CONVENES DISCUSSION OF KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTION LAWS

The OSCE hosted a round-table discussion in Astana on 8 December on unspecified proposed amendments to Kazakhstan's election legislation, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Representatives of the Alash, Azat, and other political parties as well as of some NGOs participated in the discussion, but the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan failed to send representatives. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S GOVERNMENT RESIGNS

In accordance with the Kyrgyz constitution, the cabinet resigned on 9 December following the reinauguration of Askar Akaev as president, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 11 December. Akaev is to propose a new cabinet at a joint session of both chamber of parliament on 12 December. Domestic observers anticipate that Amangeldi MurAliyev will be reappointed prime minister. LF

TALIBAN, NORTHERN ALLIANCE HOLD TALKS IN TURKMENISTAN

Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani met for an informal dinner on 10 December, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, the two sides had held talks separately in Ashgabat with UN special representative Frances Vendrell. The 10 December dinner was the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since they met in Tashkent in July 1999. Turkmenistan's Foreign Minister Batyr Berdiev and his predecessor, presidential envoy Boris Shikhmuradov, also attended. Vendrell told journalists that "the mistrust is deep" and that it is too early to expect a breakthrough or a major step toward ending the Afghan conflict. On 11 December, the Taliban warned that they will withdraw from the talks if the UN imposes more sanctions on Afghanistan. LF




PACE OFFICIAL WARNS MINSK AGAINST REMOVING OSCE MISSION

Wolfgang Berendt, who is the rapporteur for Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 11 December that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will exacerbate Belarus's already poor relations with European organizations if he decides to ban the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group from Minsk. Berendt was commenting on the recent propaganda campaign on Belarusian Television against the OSCE Minsk mission. On 7 December, Belarusian Television called the mission "an instrument of subversive anti-constitutional activity against the Belarusian state." The next day, the station broadcast a documentary in which OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck was called a "German spy." Last month Lukashenka suggested that he no longer needs the OSCE group in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER CLAIMS 'MOROZ'S TAPE' AUTHENTIC...

Lawmaker Serhiy Holovatyy said on 11 December that he is convinced that the audio tape released by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz allegedly showing President Leonid Kuchma's complicity in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze is authentic, Interfax reported. Holovatyy said he came to this conclusion after interviewing the Security Service officer who eavesdropped on Kuchma's office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). Holovatyy, along with two other lawmakers, visited the officer in an unspecified Western European country and brought back to Kyiv a videotape of a 24-minute interview with the officer, which they say they will make public this week. The officer was identified as 34-year-old Mykola Melnychenko. Holovatyy and the two other deputies have lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court about the search to which they were subjected at Kyiv airport on returning from abroad with the video tape. Kuchma ordered the prosecutor-general to investigate the incident. JM

...WHILE OTHERS DEMAND RELEASE OF VIDEO ON ALLEGED KILLING OF OPPOSITION LEADER

Lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak have requested that Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, hand over to the parliament a "video tape containing information about the liquidation of Ukrainian People's Deputy Vyacheslav Chornovil by a special unit of the Interior Ministry," Interfax reported on 11 December. Omelchenko and Yermak said that during the 1999 presidential campaign, Marchuk had showed them a video tape featuring a masked man, who identified himself as a police colonel and admitted to having been involved in an operation to murder Chornovil on orders from Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko. Omelchenko and Yermak added that Moroz failed to comply with his pledge to organize a meeting between that colonel and the parliamentary commission that investigated Chornovil's death in a car accident. JM

DEFECTOR SAYS HE EAVESDROPPED ON KUCHMA 'TO STOP REGIME'S CRIMINAL ACTIVITY'

The Internet newletter "Ukrayinska pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua/) has published a transcription of an interview with Security Service officer Mykola Melnychenko, who said he secretly taped conversations that Ukrainian President Kuchma had in his office (see above). Melnychenko told the three Ukrainian lawmakers who visited him abroad that he began eavesdropping on Kuchma after the latter had given a "criminal order" regarding journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Melnychenko noted that his goal in taping Kuchma's conversations and passing the tape to Moroz was "to stop this regime's criminal activity." Melnychenko said that he taped Kuchma and his interlocutors on a digital dictaphone hidden under a sofa in the president's office. JM

BALTIC STATES SATISFIED WITH EU SUMMIT IN NICE

Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed satisfaction on 11 December that as a result of the recent EU summit in Nice, the prospect of the more successful candidates' joining the EU in early 2003 has significantly improved, BNS reported. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga declared no "fundamental obstacles" to the EU enlargement process are left and "everything is [now] in our own hands." Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis hailed especially the successful efforts of Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas to increase the number of votes that the country has in the EU Council of Ministers to seven. Estonia and Latvia will continue to have four votes each. SG

NEARLY HALF OF ESTONIANS WOULD LIKE TO LIVE ABROAD FOR A WHILE

A survey commissioned by the Finnish Chamber of Commerce and conducted last month among more than 1,000 residents of Estonia aged 15 to 74 suggested that 48 percent would like go to study or work abroad for a period of time, while 17 percent would like to move to another country on a permanent basis, BNS and ETA reported. Among those aged 15 to 19, 81 percent would like to leave Estonia temporarily and 44 percent permanently. The corresponding figures for respondents aged 20 to 39 were 67 percent and 23 percent, respectively. The favorite target countries were the U.S., Sweden, and Great Britain for Estonians and Germany, Great Britain, and the U.S. for Russian-speakers. SG

WARSAW SATISFIED WITH EU SUMMIT

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek told Polish Radio on 11 December that the outcome of the EU summit in Nice was "exceptionally favorable" to Poland. Buzek telephoned the leaders of Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, and Sweden during the summit to lobby against downgrading Warsaw's role in the EU Council by giving it fewer votes than Spain. Under the final agreement forged on 11 December, Poland is to receive 27 votes, the same number as Spain. The EU's four largest countries--Germany, the U.K., France, and Italy--will have 29 votes each. Pawel Swieboda, presidential adviser on European integration, commented to PAP that Poland emerged from the Nice summit as "the biggest winner." JM

POLAND'S GERMAN MINORITY SEEKS REPRIVATIZATION BILL AMENDMENT

The German minority wants reprivatization to be extended to Polish citizens of German nationality who until 1945 lived in German territories that now belong to Poland, PAP reported on 11 December. "This [provision] is about those Polish citizens who had German citizenship before 1945 and accepted Polish citizenship after the war," Helmut Pazdzior, a deputy representing the German minority in the Polish parliament, told the agency. According to Pazdzior, there are 500 such people or their heirs living in Poland. "These are former owners of small factories, farms, family homes, or forests, who are making claims and who are claiming the right to equal treatment under this bill," Pazdzior noted. A parliamentary commission voted to include Pazdzior's amendment in the reprivatization bill that is currently being debated. JM

BULGARIAN PREMIER IN PRAGUE

Visiting Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov and his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, have both welcomed the results of the EU summit in Nice, France, CTK reported on 11 December. Zeman said Prague supports Bulgaria's bid for EU and NATO membership, and he congratulated Kostov on Bulgaria's removal from the list of countries whose citizens need visas to travel to the EU. Kostov said that for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic serves as an example of a country that is following a successful path to EU membership, praising Czech negotiators with the EU for "doing their best" to defend their country's interests. The two premiers announced they are expanding cooperation in combating organized crime. Kostov also said Bulgaria is expecting Czech investors to become involved in the privatization of his country's engineering and energy industries, as well as in tourism. MS

CZECH PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF' RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE

Michal Zitko, who earlier this year published a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," has been sentenced by a Prague court to a three-year suspended sentence and 2 million crown ($50,500) fine for spreading racism, CTK and AP reported. Zitko is to appeal the sentence. MS

SIS UNDER MECIAR INVOLVED IN 'SABOTAGE' IN NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES

Chief police investigator Jaroslav Ivor told journalists on 11 December that charges have been brought against three former high-ranking officials of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) for "attempted sabotage" under former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar aimed at hindering neighboring countries' entry to NATO. One of the officials is Rudolf Ziak, former SIS deputy director, who later became deputy chairman of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, CTK reported. The parliament has already been asked to lift the immunity of fugitive former SIS chief Ivan Lexa, who supervised the operation. Details of the alleged attempted sabotage were first described to a closed session of the parliament last year by Lexa's successor as SIS chief, Vladimir Mitro. Ivor said only one sabotage attempt took place and was directed against the Czech Republic. If found guilty, the three officials face 10-15 years in prison. MS

CENTRAL EUROPEAN PREMIERS WELCOME EU SUMMIT DECISIONS

Meeting in Bratislava on 11 December, the premiers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia-- Zeman, Viktor Orban, Mikulas Dzurinda, and Janez Drnovsek-- welcomed the decisions taken at the Nice EU summit in regard to the organization's expansion and the subsequent distribution of seats in the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament, CTK reported. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek was forced to cancel his participation in the meeting owing to illness, while Estonian Premier Mart Laar canceled because of the ongoing debate on the 2001 budget. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES ELECT PARLIAMENTARY GROUP LEADERS

The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) elected Sandor Nagy as the party's new parliamentary group leader on 11 December. Nagy replaces Laszlo Kovacs, who resigned his post after he was re-elected MSZP chairman in November. The same day, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) chose Istvan Szent-Ivanyi as parliamentary group leader. He succeeds Gabor Kuncze, who resigned after Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky was elected SZDSZ chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2000). MSZ




CROATIAN LEADER CALLS ON HAGUE TO BE 'EVEN-HANDED'...

Prime Minister Ivica Racan told reporters in Zagreb on 11 December that "it is no secret that we have problems" with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The cabinet met earlier that day to discuss relations with the tribunal and its desire to question General Petar Stipetic, who heads the General Staff. The cabinet agreed on a detailed, 13-point set of demands to the tribunal, which stresses that the court must show an evenhanded approach in dealing with war crimes in the region as a whole, "Novi List" reported. The government called on the tribunal to differentiate between aggressors and victims in processing cases involving war crimes. The court should respect Croatian law, work with Croatian authorities and courts, and go through government channels in seeking to interview past or present officials, the government added. PM

...AS FRUSTRATION GROWS AMONG CROATS

Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic and several other political leaders have argued in recent weeks that the tribunal is placing undue emphasis on alleged Croatian war crimes, particularly those committed in 1995, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 11 December. Granic and others stress that the tribunal must pay more attention to alleged crimes committed by ethnic Serbian paramilitaries and Yugoslav forces in Croatia between 1990 and 1995. These views were reflected in the 13 demands by the government published in "Novi List" on 12 December. There is a widespread view in Croatia that the international community has been very strict with Croatia regarding its cooperation with The Hague, while making no such demands of the new Belgrade authorities. Some leading politicians believe that the tribunal has taken advantage of the government's willingness to cooperate with The Hague by making particularly tough demands on it. PM

HAGUE COURT CALLS CROATIAN DEMANDS 'UNACCEPTABLE'

Graham Blewitt, who is a deputy prosecutor in The Hague, said that the cabinet's demands are unacceptable and an attempt to evade Croatia's obligations toward the tribunal, "Novi List" reported on 12 December. He added that the tribunal will soon issue indictments against unnamed Croatian generals for alleged war crimes committed during the 1995 campaign against the Serbian rebels. Blewitt stressed that the tribunal has a clear mandate from the UN Security Council and does not follow the demands of the Croatian government. In Zagreb, the daily "Republika" reported that the first Croatian generals likely to be indicted are Mirko Norac and Ante Gotovina. PM

YUGOSLAV LEADER SEEKS TALKS WITH 'MODERATE ALBANIANS'...

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Rome on 11 December that he hopes to negotiate the future autonomy of Kosova with representatives "moderate Albanians, who are in the majority" in the province, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. He did not express any regret for Serbian policies in the province that led to the 1999 conflict there, nor did he specify which ethnic Albanians he thinks will meet with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). PM

...UNDERTAKES WHIRLWIND VISIT TO ITALY

Kostunica met in Rome on 11 December with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, who visited Belgrade soon after Kostunica's victory in October, and Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Referring to Italy's role in NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia, Kostunica said that "it is always difficult to remember what happened. We can never forget, but we must look to the future," AP reported. Before returning to Belgrade, Kostunica called on Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. The Yugoslav leader also met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is the Holy See's secretary of state. PM

DID YUGOSLAV LEADER 'SNUB' GREECE?

London's "Financial Times" reported on 12 December that Kostunica "has annoyed Greek officials by unexpectedly calling off a visit to Athens due to start on [13 December]. One official said it was the second time Mr. Kostunica had postponed the trip, claiming pressure of work in Belgrade." According to the newspaper's Athens correspondent, the real reason Kostunica chose not to visit Greece was because of Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis's efforts not only to demonstrate good will toward and support for Serbia but to display "even-handedness in relations with all his Balkan neighbors... Albanian political leaders from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania itself met recently in Athens under the auspices of a private U.S. group promoting inter-ethnic relations." PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN

Several political leaders from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition were in Sabac on 11 December to kick off their campaign for the 23 December parliamentary elections, "Danas" reported. DOS officials said that they expect to take their campaign to more than 70 towns and cities by election day. DOS leaders Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Obradovic stressed that the coalition intends to combat corruption and revive the economy. They called on voters to help "finish the job" of ousting elected officials loyal to the former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

SERBIAN COURT CONVICTS NINE OF 'KIDNAPPING'

A court in Uzice convicted nine men on 11 December for "kidnapping" indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal Stevan Todorovic and handing him over to NATO forces in Bosnia in September 1998, Reuters reported. Todorovic has since been in The Hague. A SFOR spokeswoman said at the time of his capture that he was arrested in Bosnia. Serbian prosecutors had demanded that the nine be sentenced for "terrorism" in what was generally regarded as a political, anti-Western trial organized by the former regime. PM

BOMB EXPLODES AHEAD OF ALBANIAN LEADER'S VISIT

A bomb went off in Fushe Kruja on 11 December shortly before Prime Minister Ilir Meta was slated to open a cement factory there. Police are investigating the incident, in which nobody was hurt, AP reported. It is unclear who planted the bomb or for what reason. Fushe Kruja and several other communities near Tirana were settled in recent years by a large number of migrants, primarily from northern Albania. Those new communities have a reputation for being unstable and lawless. They lack not only zoning regulations and essential infrastructure but also the basic social fabric essential to impart stability and respectability in Albanian society and culture. PM

FINAL RESULTS OF ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF

According to the final results of the 10 December presidential runoff, Ion Iliescu won 66.83 percent of the votes while Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor garnered 33.17 percent, Mediafax reported on 12 December. Turnout was 57.5 percent. The two chambers of the newly elected parliament convened on 11 December, and the five parliamentary groups represented in the legislature elected their leaders, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Adrian Nastase, who has been designated a candidate for the premiership by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said the new cabinet will "start working sometime between Christmas and New Year." Meanwhile, on 12 December, the PDSR is to resume talks with the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Democratic Party, and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on an agreement to cooperate in the legislature. MS

ROMANIAN POLITICIANS MAKE PLANS

Nastase also said on 11 December that he will seek the PDSR chairmanship, which will become vacant when Iliescu is sworn in as president. PNL presidential candidate Theodor Stolojan resigned his seat in the parliament, saying he had entered politics "to become president, not a deputy." Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, speaking to Mediafax on 11 December, dismissed rumors that he will become Romania's representative at the World Bank or ambassador to Washington. "After being National Bank governor and premier I shall not be humiliated into accepting the post of an international clerk," he commented, adding that he might "go into private business." Mediafax said the parliament is likely to replace him as National Bank governor in January 2001. UDMR deputy Laszlo Fazakas, whose name the National Council for Studying the Securitate Archives included among those of former informers, resigned his seat on 11 December. MS

ROMANIA WELCOMES EU SUMMIT DECISIONS

The Foreign Ministry on 11 December said it is "pleased" with the decisions of the recent EU summit in Nice, according to which Romania will have 15 votes on the decision-making Council of Ministers when it joins the organization. Hildegard Puwak, the future minister for European integration in the PDSR government, was quoted by Reuters as saying that "the EU decision is irreversible, and it is less important that some countries will join sooner and others later." MS

LUCINSCHI SAYS EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ARE SOLUTION TO ELECTORAL IMPASSE

Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 11 December that President Petru Lucinschi believes the way out of the impasse in the undecided presidential elections is to dissolve the legislature and hold early parliamentary elections. Golea denied that Lucinschi had acted in any way to the advantage of Party of Moldovan Communist (PCM) leader Vladimir Voronin, saying the election of a communist as president would harm Moldova's interests. RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 11 December that deputies representing the Democratic Convention of Moldova in the parliament will now strive to reach an agreement with the PCM whereby Voronin withdraws from the presidential race and a candidate backed by both parties is nominated. MS

TRANSDNIESTER ELECTS NEW LEGISLATURE

Nearly 44 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot in the 10 December elections to the restructured Transdniester Supreme Soviet, Infotag reported on 11 December. In order to be valid, turnout had to be at least 25 percent. Two hundred candidates competed for the 43-seat unicameral parliament, which is elected in single-seat constituencies under a "first-past-the-post" system. MS

ISRAELI INVESTORS BUY BULGARIAN MOBILE TELEPHONE COMPANY

A group of three Israeli investors announced on 8 December they are buying Mobitel, Bulgaria's only mobile telephone company, AP reported. Lev Leviev, one of the three investors, told Darik Radio that the deal is "99 percent closed" but refused to divulge the price of the transaction, which media reports put at between $700 million and $1 billion. Also on 8 December, the Administrative Court barred the private Nova TV station, owned by the Greek group Antenna, from starting nationwide broadcasts, after competitors challenged the way in which it won its license. MS




SREBRENICA: RETURN TO NORMAL LIFE IS SLOW (PART TWO)


By Jolyon Naegele

Five-and-a-half years after the mass murders by Bosnian Serb forces of Bosniak Muslim men, the biggest problem Srebrenica faces is not the massacre's legacy. Rather, it is fact that displaced Serbs from Muslim- and Croat-administered parts of Bosnia are still living in the town.

The refugees say their homes were burned down and they have no jobs to go back to. They are occupying the homes of Srebrenica's original inhabitants, namely Muslims and Serbs.

The Republika Srpska minister in charge of returns to Srebrenica, Senad Subosica, says some 9,000 displaced Serbs from Bosnia's Muslim-Croatian Federation reside in the town and the surrounding municipal district, making up the overwhelming majority of its current population. In addition, he says, there are almost 1,300 displaced Serbs from destroyed villages elsewhere in the Srebrenica municipality who are occupying other people's homes in the town.

Subosica admits that until the displaced Serbs vacate the houses they are now occupying, the return of former Muslim and Serb residents will be very difficult. "In arranging the resettlement of Bosniak [Muslims] here and simultaneously finding alternative housing for the current users of this property, Srebrenica is a particularly difficult position, because about 60 percent of its housing has been destroyed."

Subosica says a two-way project for mass resettlement is being prepared, which requires cooperation with all the communities in the Muslim-Croat Federation from which Serb residents fled to Srebrenica. "We will help these municipalities to take back their citizens in a dignified manner so as to enable the dignified return of Srebrenica's Muslims and other displaced residents to their homes," he says.

In Sarajevo, the first deputy high representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, U.S. Ambassador Ralph Johnson, expresses frustration with what he says is the Srebrenica municipality's ineffective administration. "We got the very clear impression that some leadership on the Bosniak side was discouraging Bosniak [Muslim] refugees from going back to Srebrenica, just as the hard-line leadership on the Serb side was trying to frustrate them from coming back. [Why?] Because...it was in the interest of the extremists on both sides to keep this division alive. That is, to keep alive the memory of Srebrenica as a place of historical horror and to discourage returns, each [side] for their own reasons."

Johnson describes the reconstruction of the municipality as very slow, in part because the area is what he describes as an "economic wasteland." He says some modest gains have been made, including the appointment of the town's first Muslim policeman since the end of the war. But returns of Muslims and Serbs are slow and few--they are largely the town's pensioners.

Johnson also says that there have been no significant security breaches recently. But he notes that just prior to the fifth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in July, some houses that had been prepared for returns were burned down. He also notes that Srebrenica was the scene of substantial voter fraud in last month's local elections. As a result, the OSCE has withdrawn a third of the mandates from the main Bosnian Serb party, the Serbian Democratic Party.

The outgoing mayor of Srebrenica is a Serb, Milisav Marijanovic. He says he and his municipal council are doing what they can to return the town to a semblance of normalcy. "For a variety of reasons, Srebrenica met the fate that it did in the course of the war and after the war," he argues. "Personally, I feel that the people did not deserve this. But we can't escape what happened. Now we are working for the benefit of the people of Srebrenica so they can start living something approximating a normal life."

The mayor says, with a hint of hyperbole, that Srebrenica is the only place in Republika Srpska and possibly in all of Bosnia-Herzegovina where every building was damaged during the fighting and where, in the five years since the fighting ended, not one single new home has been built. Marijanovic is critical of the international community for imposing a system of municipal government in which both Serbs and Muslims are represented--the mayor is a Serb, his deputy is a Muslim, and so on, down through the local government. All official documents must be signed by both a Muslim and a Serbian representative--a system that Marijanovic describes as ineffective.

Srebrenica's chief of administration is a Muslim, Ibrahim Hadzijic. He returned from exile in Tuzla 18 months ago but still spends his weekends in Tuzla with his family. Hadzijic says security in Srebrenica remains a problem, with freedom of movement not yet at the desired level. Hadzijic notes that multi-ethnic schools, police units, and courts cannot be set up unless full freedom of movement is assured. In addition, Hadzijic says, Bosnian Serb war criminals are still at large in Srebrenica. "Everyone probably knows who they are, but no one wants to say. Everyone knows. And everyone is afraid. Everyone is scared," he remarks.

But Marijanovic denies any major war criminal is at large in the municipality. "None of those publicly indicted [for war crimes] are here," he says. "As for those indicted secretly, it's a hypothetical question whether someone is potentially indicted or not. And an indictment without proof does not mean someone is guilty."

In spite of reports of violence, Marijanovic insists that Srebrenica is among the most peaceful towns in Bosnia. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague. Part One of this article appeared in yesterday's "RFE/RL Newsline."


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