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Newsline - April 10, 2001




PUTIN SAYS NTV DISPUTE SHOULD BE RESOLVED IN COURT...

In his joint interview with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder broadcast on RTR television on 9 April, President Vladimir Putin said the dispute between Gazprom and NTV journalists is an economic one and should be resolved in court. He said that he does not believe that he has the right to interfere in a dispute between a debtor and his creditors, a reference to Vladimir Gusinsky's debt to Gazprom. Meanwhile, more journalists announced their resignations from NTV, ntv.ru reported, to the dismay and anger of those who remain. Members of the two groups traded charges in open letters published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other papers. Also on 9 Moscow, Ekho Moskvy reported that American media magnate Ted Turner, who is seeking to buy a share of NTV, intends to rein in the network if he becomes involved. And ITAR-TASS reported that Sweden's MTG group has purchased 75 percent of the shares in Russia's independent Daryal-TV. PG

...CALLS FOR MAKING GAZPROM 'TRANSPARENT'...

Speaking to members of the cabinet on 9 April, President Putin said that he feels it is necessary to increase the transparency and effectiveness of Gazprom, Interfax reported. He called on the government to give work in this direction "a new dynamism." PG

...AND MEETS SCHROEDER IN ST. PETERSBURG

President Putin met with German Chancellor Schroeder in St. Petersburg on 9 April to discuss economic cooperation, debt relief, media freedom, combating international terrorism, regional security in the Balkans and NATO expansion, Russian and Western press agencies reported. The two men and their ministers stressed their desire for expanded cooperation, with Putin saying that their ties are moving "beyond cliches" and Schroeder saying that Europe wants to help Russia whenever possible. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL'S 'FEDERATION' MAY BE WEAKER THAN REPORTED

"Vremya MN" on 7 April reported that the pro-Kremlin "Federation" group created last month to promote President Putin's program may not have nearly as many members as some of its organizers have claimed. The paper cited several cases of people listed as members who say that, in fact, they have not actually joined. PG

TWO DUMA COMMITTEES URGE APPROVAL OF CONVENTION ON MONEY LAUNDERING

The Duma Budget and Security committees on 9 April called on deputies to ratify the international convention on combating money laundering, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Lvov told Interfax-AFI that the government will be able to set up a special organ to fight money laundering within two years. The same day, a group of Duma deputies led by Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), Tamara Pletneva (Communist), and Nikolai Bezborodov (Regions of Russia) introduced a resolution condemning Belgrade's arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and Aleksandr Chuev (Unity) introduced legislation that would allow foreigners to own up to 50 percent of the shares in Russian media companies, Interfax reported. PG

GOVERNOR CALLS FOR APPOINTED GOVERNORS

Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak said in an interview published in the 9 April "Novaya gazeta" that governors should be appointed by the president and then have the right to appoint regional heads. But at the same time, he said, governors should be given more resources from the budget to do their jobs. Prusak also said that former President Boris Yeltsin was right to tell regional elites to take as much sovereignty as they wanted. As far as President Putin is concerned, Prusak said that he "is not a hostage to the old system" but rather a "hostage to the money of several people." PG

'UNITY' GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS?

The local branch of the pro-Kremlin Unity Party has joined the city administration and city Duma of Nizhnevartovsk to set up a new oil company, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 April. The paper reported the history of this development but also noted that Unity's central office in Moscow has denied the report. PG

RUSSIANS KNOW WHO'S LEFT AND WHO'S RIGHT...

Polls conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion in March 2000 and March 2001 show a remarkable consistency in Russian voters' assessments of where particular politicians are located on the left-right continuum, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 April. The "lefts" on both occasions included Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and Senator Yegor Stroev. The "rights" invariably included Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction in the Duma; deputy Duma speaker (SPS) Irina Khakamada; Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais; former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar; and "in the majority of cases," Yabloko head Grigorii Yavlinsky. But as far as the "center" is concerned, those polled both last year and this overwhelmingly said that "the center is where the president is" -- although they did distinguish between the left centrists like former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Krasnoyarsk Krai governor Aleksandr Lebed, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and right centrists like Movement for Civil Dignity head Ella Pamfilova, Duma deputy (independent) Vladimir Ryzhkov, and former premier and current Audit Commission Chairman Sergei Stepashin. PG

KAZANTSEV SEES CHURCH, SLAVS HELPING STATE IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, believes that the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and Slavic organizations can help defend ethnic Russians and the Russian state in the North Caucasus, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 April. According to the paper, he and his officials are actively working to include expand ties between the government and both church and ethnic Russian groups. PG

MORE ASSISTANCE FOR RUSSIAN NORTH

The Russian government has allocated 6.65 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) in subsidies for the Russian North to help local authorities purchase energy and food supplies, Interfax-AFI reported on 9 April. PG

PUTIN HOPES FOR POSITIVE MOVES IN U.S.-RUSSIA TIES...

During his joint interview with visiting German Chancellor Schroeder, which was broadcast on RTR on 9 April, President Putin said Moscow is "hoping for a positive development" in its relations with Washington, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that relations between the two countries are so important that "I just cannot imagine that there would be difficulties in the long term." The Russian president added that "despite the diplomatic scandal, we took it to heart when President [George W.] Bush said that in no instance does he see Russia as an adversary, and this is a more important signal for us to hear." PG

...AS RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE ON COMPLETING INSPECTIONS

Russia and the United States have agreed on the dates of functions marking the completion of INF inspections at Magna in the U.S. and Votkinsk in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Since 1 June 1988, Russian representatives have conducted 440 inspections and Americans 771 under the terms of the accord. PG

KORNUKOV SAYS NATO, U.S., JAPAN LEAD IN AERIAL SPYING

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 9 April, air force commander General Anatolii Kornukov said that planes operated by NATO countries, the United States, and Japan are the ones Russian radar most frequently identifies as trying to collect intelligence against Russia. PG

GORBACHEV TO PUSH HIGH-TECH TIES WITH U.S.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told Interfax on 9 April that he will travel to the United States in the next few days to discuss business ties in the high-technology area between Russian and American firms. He said his trip is being taken with the support of former Secretary of State James A. Baker. PG

RUSSIA LIFTS MEAT IMPORT BAN FOR SOME COUNTRIES

The Russian veterinary service on 9 April ended its ban on meat imports from countries where no cases of BSE, or foot-and-mouth disease, have been registered, ITAR-TASS reported. As a result, Russia will resume imports from Norway, Iceland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. PG

MOSCOW HOPES TO BENEFIT FROM IRAQ SANCTIONS' END

Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin told a roundtable in Moscow that Russia will work to lift the sanctions against Iraq, Russian and Western agencies reported on 9 April. At the same session, former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Primakov said that Moscow hopes to gain preferential access to Iraqi oil production and its market after sanctions are lifted, AP said. But Aeroflot officials said the same day that they will start regular flights to Baghdad only after the sanctions are lifted, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Kuwaiti envoy Saud Nasser that Moscow also attaches great importance to its ties with his country, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA NOT TO SEEK SANCTIONS AGAINST PAKISTAN

Sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry on 9 April rejected a report in the "New York Times" that Moscow plans to seek United Nations sanctions against Pakistan for Islamabad's support of the Taliban, Interfax reported. The sources reportedly said Moscow has not yet taken any such decision. PG

MOSCOW BACKS UN TALKS ON AID TO NORTH CAUCASUS

The Russian government on 9 April approved a proposal by the Emergency Situations Ministry to conduct talks with the United Nations and the World Food Organization about providing food and other assistance to the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. PG

ILLARIONOV SAYS ECONOMIC GROWTH MAY FALL TO ZERO

Andrei Illarionov, the economic adviser to President Putin, said in an interview published in the "Financial Times" on 9 April that Russia's economic growth will be lower than the 4 percent the government has projected for 2001 and may even fall to zero. Meanwhile, in an article published in "Finansovaya Rossiya," No. 12, former Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said that most of Russia's earnings from the recent rise in oil prices have already gone West and that as a result "it is hard to be optimistic about the Russian economy." PG

GOVERNMENT OPPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON ADVERTISING

The Russian government on 9 April told the Duma that it is opposed to the introduction of restrictions on the size and frequency of advertising on television and radio broadcasts, Interfax reported. First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that such restrictions would undermine the financial well-being of broadcasters. PG

RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTS PREDICTED TO RISE

According to the "Financial Times" on 9 April, Russia will export arms worth $3.8 billion during 2001. On the same day, ITAR-TASS reported that Russia has begun production and promotion for the foreign sale of two new weapons systems, the RPK-8 antisubmarine missile and the Moskit-E ship-launched missile system, both of which Russian officials say outperform Western models and therefore are likely to sell well. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 12, reported that President Putin has authorized the restoration of the Main Command of Marines under the command of Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev, who is the head of the Siberian Military District. The marine unit was abolished in 1998. PG

POLTAVCHENKO, LUZHKOV CALL FOR MORE AID TO SMALL BUSINESS

Speaking to a conference on small businesses, Georgii Poltavchenko, the presidential envoy to the Central federal district, said on 9 April that the government should do more to support small businesses and thereby pull them out of the shadow economy, Interfax reported. At the same meeting, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov said the presidential envoys should become more involved in the problems of the real economy. PG

MUSCOVITES DOMINATE MOSCOW UNIVERSITIES

In contrast to the Soviet era, when gifted students from the Russian provinces were brought to Moscow to study, Moscow natives now dominate enrollment at the higher educational institutions in the Russian capital, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 April. Prior to the demise of the USSR, Muscovites formed only 25 percent of the Moscow student population; now they represent 74 percent of the total. PG

NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE SET UP

In an interview published in the 7 April "Izvestiya," Nikolai Malyshev described the new institute he heads, the State Scientific Research Institute of Information and Educational Technologies. Malyshev, who served as the deputy prime minister responsible for science and education in the first Russian government, said that the new center will seek to develop and apply information technology in Russian schools. PG

MUSCOVITES FEAR MORE TERRORIST ACTIONS

Ninety-one percent of Muscovites polled said that they fear that there will be more terrorist acts in their city and 84 percent said that the Russian special services are not doing a good job in combating the terrorist threat, Interfax reported on 9 April. This poll was reported on the same day that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov chaired a session of the government's Anti-Terrorist Commission. Meanwhile, officials told Interfax that during the past year, Russians have contributed 265 million rubles ($9.8 million) to a fund to help those who had suffered while taking part in counterterrorist actions in the North Caucasus. PG

400,000 POLITICAL REHABILITATION REQUESTS UNDER CONSIDERATION

Aleksandr Yakovlev, head of the Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions, said that more than 4.5 million people have been politically rehabilitated since 1989 and that 400,000 more have applications pending, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 April. He said that he is convinced that "there are many more who need rehabilitation, but that they have not been able to fill out an application or do not want to deal with the past." Yakovlev also said that his commission continues to research the case of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped save Jews from Hitler and who disappeared into the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. PG

'SEGODNYA' AND 'ITOGI' AT RISK

The Sem Dnei publishing house said that it has transferred its ownership share in "Segodnya" to the paper's employees, who must now find a new funding source for the paper to continue to appear, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Sergei Parkhomenko, the editor in chief of "Itogi," was quoted by "Vremya novostei" on 9 April as saying that the current issue of that journal may be its last. The financial problems of both papers are tied up with the Vladimir Gusinsky-Gazprom conflict. PG

JOURNALISTS FEAR KREMLIN, TRUST SOLZHENITSYN

A poll of 148 Russian journalists found that 49 percent of them see the government and the Kremlin as a threat to freedom of the press, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 April. In the same poll, 60 percent of the journalists said that novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is the most trusted politician or public figure. PG

FEWER PEOPLE VISIT RUSSIA, MORE RUSSIANS GO ABROAD

The Russian Association of Travel Agencies told Interfax on 8 April that 15.1 percent fewer foreigners visited Russia in 2000 than in 1999, but that 59.7 percent more Russians went abroad last year than in the year before. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April that the Russian East Line airline has been authorized to carry passengers and freight between Canada and the Russian Far East. PG

HOSPITAL PATIENTS ORGANIZE TO DEFEND THEMSELVES

A League of Defenders of Patients has been organized to help those who have to deal with Russian hospitals and doctors, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 April. The organizer and president is Aleksandr Saverskii, who took this step after experiencing Russian medicine first-hand, the paper said. PG

RED INCUMBENT WINS FIRST ROUND IN TULA...

Tula Oblast Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev won the most votes -- 49.09 percent -- in the election held on 8 April, but he will still need to compete in a second round scheduled for 22 April. Starodubtsev will face off against Leninskii Raion head Andrei Samoshin, who took 20.96 percent of the vote. Four days before the election was held, Communist Party leader Zyuganov declared his support for Starodubtsev, saying "there is no worthy alternative to Starodubtsev." According to "Segodnya" on 10 April, most experts believe that Starodubtsev will win in the second round without much difficulty. TV-6 reported on 7 April that "Tula residents are impatiently waiting for an end to the [gubernatorial] election campaign. Local observers confirm that this was the dirtiest campaign ever." According to Russian Public Television, a group of supporters of one candidate tried to break up a meeting on 6 April of the oblast's electoral commission. JAC

...AS RECENT SET OF ELECTIONS LABELED 'DIRTY'

YUKOS executive Boris Zolotarev won the 8 April gubernatorial elections in Evenk Autonomous Okrug with 51.8 percent of the vote, Interfax reported the next day. His closest competitor, Yevgenii Vasiliev, chief federal inspector to Evenk and Taimyr Autonomous okrugs, polled 35.3 percent. According to "Segodnya" on 10 April, staff of the Evenk electoral commission reported that the election was one of the "dirtiest" in the okrug's history. From the very beginning the campaign was marked by a flurry of legal wranglings between Zolotarev and Vasiliev; at one point, five days before the election, Vasiliev was excluded from the ballot but a higher court later reinstated him. According to the daily, YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii visited the okrug on the eve of the elections. JAC

OFFICIAL COMPLAINS ABOUT EXCESSIVE BUREAUCRATIZATION OF ECONOMY IN TARTARSTAN

Tatarstan's deputy prime minister, Sergei Kogogin, said on 6 April that Tatarstan has had to face delays with economic decision-making since joining the common economic space with Russia, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing tatnews.ru. Kogogin added that this delay is having an adverse effect on the republic's economy. JAC

OUTLETS FOR OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER IN BASHKORTOSTAN DISAPPEAR

Since the beginning of March, the opposition newspaper "Russkii obozrevatel" has almost completely disappeared from newsstands in the republic of Bashkortostan, having lost some 80 percent of its distributors, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 31 March. From the very beginning of its publication, the newspaper's founder, Viktor Saveliev, could not find a company within the republic willing to publish the newspaper and had to have it printed in Perm Oblast at much greater expense. Saveliev managed to put together a string of private distributors for the newspaper, but many were threatened by local government officials with having their licenses revoked. One seller at a kiosk on a main street in Ufa told the correspondent that she was told that the newspaper is illegal and has been personally banned by the republic's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, and if she continued to sell it, she will face "unpleasantness." However, she and other sellers have refused to identify precisely who has approached them, according to the correspondent. JAC




ARMENIA, ROMANIA SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT

On 9 April, the final day of an official three-day visit to Yerevan by Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, Armenian and Romanian representatives signed a new military cooperation program for 2001, Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking at a press conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian after the signing ceremony, Pascu said the two sides intend to expand the cooperation they embarked upon in 1999, in particular within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace program. The two ministers also discussed the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation, and for establishing a direct airlink between the two countries. LF

RUSSIA PRESSURES ARMENIA OVER GAS DEBTS

Gazprom has slashed gas supplies to Armenia in retaliation to the Armenian government's failure to pay a $10 million debt for earlier deliveries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 April. Gazprom has reportedly set a deadline of 15 April for repayment of that debt. In early February, Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian reached agreement with Moscow on a schedule for repayment of debts totaling $23 million for natural gas and nuclear fuel for the Medzamor nuclear power station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January and 8 February 2001). That agreement included the repayment within four months of $9.2 million owed to Gazprom. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 April reported that the Armenian government has rejected a proposal from Moscow to write off Armenia's total $120 million debt and reduce the price at which Armenia purchases natural gas from Russia, in return for a 50 percent stake in Medzamor. LF

U.S. PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPARTS

U.S. President George Bush held separate meetings at the White House on 9 April with Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev, urging them both to continue their efforts to overcome their differences and reach a solution to the Karabakh conflict. Bush also discussed with Kocharian the prospects for investment by U.S. companies in Armenia, and with Aliyev the development of Caspian hydrocarbon reserves, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. LF

KARABAKH ARMY SCHEDULES MILITARY MANEUVERS

Lieutenant General Seyran Ohanian, who is defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, announced on 8 April that the enclave's armed forces will begin three days of military maneuvers on 10 April, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Ohanian denied any connection between the exercises and last week's Key West talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict. The Armenian armed forces chief of staff, Lieutenant General Mikael Harutiunian, will attend the maneuvers as an observer. Meeting on 9 April in Stepanakert with Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian, Harutiunian positively assessed the combat readiness of the Karabakh army. LF

BRITISH OIL COMPANY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS AT AZERBAIJANI OILFIELD

Ramco Energy plc has suspended its operations at the Muradkhanly oil field southwest of Baku after a test well failed to confirm that the deposit contains substantial reserves. Natik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, had criticized Ramco on 30 March for failing to fulfill the terms of the contract it concluded with SOCAR in July 1998 to rehabilitate the field and expand its output by 50 percent within two years. LF

BREAKAWAY GEORGIAN REGION ADOPTS NEW CONSTITUTION

In an 8 April referendum, Ossetian voters in the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia approved a new constitution that narrows eligibility for the post of the republic's president, Caucasus Press reported. It also designates Russian as a state language together with Ossetian, and provides for the official use of Georgian in districts where Georgians form the majority of the population. Sixty percent of voters approved those changes. The Georgian community boycotted the referendum, in which 23,540 of an estimated 45,000 eligible voters participated. The Georgian parliament had condemned the referendum as an attempt to sabotage the ongoing search for a settlement of the conflict between South Ossetia and the central Georgian authorities, noting that only the president of Georgia has the right to call such a plebiscite on Georgian territory. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL AGAIN DOWNPLAYS OIL EXPORT RISK TO TURKEY

Speaking in Astana on 9 April, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Erlan Idrisov, again denied that the export via the Turkish Straits of oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field poses an ecological danger to Turkey, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). Idrisov noted that far more tankers travel north through the straits to the Black Sea than in the opposite direction. He said any attempt by Ankara to impose "artificial" limits on the traffic of oil tankers through the straits for "noneconomic reasons" is unacceptable. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES FORMALIZE NEW ALLIANCE

Nine Kyrgyz opposition parties formally announced on 9 April their alignment in a new People's Patriotic Movement, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2001). In a written statement, the parties defined the objective of the new alliance as defending democracy and the human and constitutional rights of the population of Kyrgyzstan. The nine parties aligned in the movement are the Agrarian-Labor Party, Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, the Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan, the Erkindik Party, Kairan-El, the People's Party, and the Republican Party. LF

UN DELEGATION TO DISCUSS SANCTIONS AGAINST TALIBAN WITH TAJIK LEADERSHIP...

A group of UN experts arrived in Dushanbe on 9 April to discuss with the Tajik government how to make existing sanctions against the Taliban more effective, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 9 April, the first deputy director of Russia's Federal Border Service, Colonel General Nikolai Reznichenko, predicted that the Taliban will not launch any incursion into any of the CIS Central Asian states in the next few years, according to Interfax. But Reznichenko warned that if the Taliban succeeds in neutralizing the opposition Northern Alliance, it may then encourage and provide additional financial and logistical support to opposition movements in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. If that happens, Reznichenko said, "we can expect an exacerbation of the situation in the Ferghana valley." LF

...AS KYRGYZSTAN SEEKS CONTACTS WITH TALIBAN

In a clear bid to minimize the risk of a further incursion into Kyrgyzstan by Uzbek Islamic militants based in Afghanistan, Omurbek Tekebaev, who is deputy speaker of the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral legislature, told journalists on 9 April that he advocates developing "informal contacts" with the Taliban, ITAR-TASS reported. He also said that Kyrgyzstan should consider opening an embassy in Pakistan. LF

TAJIKISTAN, CHINA TO EXPAND TRADE, ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Officials from the Tajik Ministry for Trade and Economy and the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Trade and Economic Relations signed a protocol in Dushanbe on 8 April establishing a bilateral commission to promote trade and economic cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting in Dushanbe on 4 April, Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and China's ambassador in Dushanbe, Yu Hunbin, focussed on the prospects for expanding cooperation in agriculture, industry, tourism, and power-engineering, Asia-Plus Blitz reported. Last year, a Chinese corporation expressed an interest in redeveloping a major uranium-producing complex in Tajikistan in return for a 49 percent stake in that plant. LF

UZBEKISTAN PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH IMF

In a 30 March letter to IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, Uzbek President Islam Karimov affirmed the Uzbek government's commitment to economic liberalization and cooperation with the fund, Interfax reported on 4 April. On 28 March, the fund's external relations director, Thomas Dawson, told journalists that the IMF will not replace its permanent representative in Uzbekistan, Christopher Rosenberg, once he completes his tour of duty. Dawson said that decision was prompted by the fact that "there just has not been any progress" by the Uzbek government in fulfilling the conditions set by the fund, including liberalizing the exchange rate for the som and moving toward a free-market economy. Rosenberg left Tashkent on 9 April, according to ITAR-TASS. LF




LUKASHENKA SAYS WESTERN AID AIMS AT 'FALSIFYING' BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS...

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 April made his annual address to the National Assembly, which consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. Touching upon his recent decree on Western gratuitous assistance to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 March 2001), he explained why he had to introduce rigorous state control over aid shipments. According to Lukashenka, under the pretext of sending humanitarian aid, the West is trying to install a system for falsifying the upcoming presidential elections, Belapan reported. "They [the West] do not need transparency [in the elections]. They ship whole systems here, beginning with [those for] falsifying the upcoming elections, and create computer networks," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka added: "We don't need a [Western] computerized system for falsifying elections, we don't need [it], we will create a state one." JM

...PUNISHES AMBASSADORS WHO FAILED TO ATTEND HIS ADDRESS

Lukashenka also told legislators that he has ordered that representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk no longer be invited to official events in which he is participating. According to Belapan, Lukashenka's ire was raised by the fact that U.S. diplomats failed to appear in the House of the Government, where he was delivering his annual address. Lukashenka added that it is also unnecessary to extend invitations to other foreign ambassadors who failed to attend his 10 April speech. "You see, they [ambassadors] want to demonstrate that our parliament is not a parliament. Well, if they want to, let them stay in their residences," the Belarusian president concluded. JM

UKRAINIAN STUDENTS WANT KUCHMA TO SWEAR HE'S NOT GUILTY OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH

Some 1,000 students held a rally on 9 April in front of the presidential administration building in Kyiv, demanding that President Leonid Kuchma swear on the constitution that he did not give orders to kill journalist Heorhiy Gongadze or Popular Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, as well as other politicians and journalists, Interfax reported. Kuchma commented later the same day that he has already sworn on the constitution and is not going to do that again. "That would be a farce, and the president will not participate in a farce," Kuchma added. JM

ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM INITIATIVE DEEMED PREMATURE, ILLEGAL

Lawmaker Taras Chornovil, an activist of the Forum of National Salvation (FNP), said on 9 April that the FNP proposal to initiate a no-confidence referendum on President Kuchma is premature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001), Interfax reported. "If we now begin the [referendum] action, which is doomed to fail, we will in this way begin someone's election campaign or give a trump card to the president," Chornovil noted. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said the referendum idea is legally invalid, adding that a law on referendums adopted in March bars no-confidence plebiscites. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY NONEXISTENT?

The Labor Ukraine parliamentary group (46 deputies) said it has halted its participation in the parliamentary majority Coordinating Council, Interfax reported on 6 April. Labor Ukraine explained its decision as being the result of last week's refusal by some majority participants -- including the Fatherland Party, Rukh, and Reforms-Congress groups -- to vote in line with the rest of the majority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2001). Citing the same reason, the Social Democratic Party (United) caucus said it will not sign a political accord between the majority and the government. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Medvedchuk said on 9 April that, in his opinion, the majority -- which is currently being reregistered -- will include the same groups that formed it a year ago, except, perhaps, for the Fatherland Party caucus. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko said Labor Ukraine's decision signals that "oligarchs" are set to break up the parliamentary majority and oust Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. JM

UKRAINE, HUNGARY AGREE ON FLOOD PREVENTION

Premier Yushchenko and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban agreed in Uzhhorod on 9 April to set up a group of experts to work out a plan to prevent and fight floods in the Carpathian region. UNIAN quoted Yushchenko as saying that both sides also agreed to organize a joint battalion to deal with consequences caused by natural and man-made disasters by 1 October. JM

ESTONIA HAD LOWEST CPI GROWTH IN MARCH AMONG BALTIC STATES

The consumer price index (CPI) increased in Estonia by 0.4 percent last month and by 5.8 percent compared to March 2000, BNS reported on 9 April. While the March CPI growth rates in Latvia and Lithuania increased over the previous month -- both were 0.5 percent -- in comparison to the March 2000 rates of 1.4 and 0.6 percent, respectively, they were considerably lower. In Estonia, the price of goods grew by 0.6 percent (food by 0.7 percent and manufactured goods by 0.5 percent) in March over the previous month, but the price of services remained unchanged. In Latvia, the costs of goods increased in March by 0.9 percent, but those of services fell by 0.8 percent. In Lithuania, the price of food rose by 1.1 percent in March, but other goods and services remained relatively stable, with the exception of transportation, which rose by 1.8 percent. SG

FORMER RIGA MAYOR QUITS LEADING PARTY POSITION

Former Riga Mayor Andris Argalis, who was re-elected in March to the Riga City Council, has informed the board of For Fatherland And Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) that he is resigning from his posts as party deputy chairman and as a member of the board, LETA reported on 6 April. He will, however, continue to work as a rank-and-file member of the party. Argalis said he made the decision because of the TB/LNNK board's "toothless stance" on several issues, such as not reacting to the "blatant lies and insults" directed toward the City Council by Latvia's Way and the People's Party during the election campaign. The TB/LNNK board also rejected a request to expel its members Valdis Kalnozols and Janis Karpovics, whom the City Council on 4 April elected as the chairmen of its Environment and Public Utilities committees, respectively. SG

NEARLY 60 PCT OF LATVIA'S RUSSIANS CAN SPEAK LATVIAN LANGUAGE

According to the provisional results of the population census in Latvia, there are 609,859 ethnic Russians among the 2,138,202 respondents above the age of seven, BNS reported on 9 April. Among the Russians, 356,955 persons, or 58.5 percent, said they are proficient in the Latvian language. However, the overall share of people in Latvia able to speak Latvian (81.7 percent) was lower than those able to speak Russian (84.4 percent). Of the 763,675 residents living in the capital Riga, 336,613 are native Latvian-speakers; 414,376 are native Russian-speakers; 5,833 gave another language as their native tongue; and 6,853 did not reveal their native language. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT STARTS VISIT IN JAPAN

Valdas Adamkus, accompanied by Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and Culture Minister Gintautas Kevisas, as well as 30 businessmen, began an official five-day visit to Japan on 9 April, BNS reported. The aim of the visit is to encourage the development of bilateral relations, give presentations on the Lithuanian economy, politics, and culture, as well as to discuss issues of international policy and cooperation. Adamkus met with Shinichi Hakoshima, the president of the "Asahi Shimbun" daily; visited the Lithuanian Embassy; and attended a concert by the pianist Petras Geniusas that was also attended by the brother of Emperor Akihito. SG

POLAND FALLS OUT OF THE FIRST LEAGUE OF EU CANDIDATES?

PAP reported that for the first time in the three-year EU internal debate on the progress of EU candidates, EU officials on 9 April failed to mention Poland. Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Lindh praised progress made toward EU membership by Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Cyprus. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenther Verheugen said Lithuania and Slovakia should also be given credit. Lindh pledged to present a "more detailed timetable" of EU negotiations and accession at an EU summit in Goeteborg in June. JM

DISCO NEAR AUSCHWITZ DEATH CAMP SITE CLOSED DOWN

Ryszard Maslowski, governor of Malopolska Province, has ordered the closure of a controversial discotheque near the site of the former Auschwitz concentration camp, Reuters and dpa reported on 10 April. Maslowski revoked an earlier approval for the discotheque given by the mayor of Oswiecim (Auschwitz), who argued that it was located outside a zone that is protected by a law prohibiting activities that offend the memory of the concentration camp victims. The opening of the discotheque in mid-2000 provoked protests from Jewish organizations around the world. JM

CZECH FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik handed in his resignation to Prime Minster Milos Zeman on 10 April, CTK reported. Mertlik cited his "inability to influence government decisions," such as the rejection of his concept of the privatization of the energy sector. Mertlik also failed at the recent Social Democrat conference to win a post as one of the party's deputy chairmen. Mertlik said Zeman verbally accepted his resignation. His resignation surprised many within the party, perhaps fewer in the opposition. Freedom Union deputy and Four Party Coalition shadow Finance Minister Ivan Pilip said: "Mertlik lost again and again in the fight with people who have been inspired by the Europe of the 1960s in economic matters," particularly with Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr. DW

CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT LEADERSHIP TO RESIGN OVER SHADOW CABINET?

Responding to calls for the leadership of the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) to resign over the disputes surrounding the forming of the Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet, Chairman Jan Kasal told the 10 April "Pravo" that the leadership is likely to resign at the party's May conference, CTK reported. Asked whether the KDU-CSL leadership would step down at the party's May conference, Kasal said it looked like "it will turn out that way." The day before, KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Tomas Kvapil told CTK "the whole leadership should resign" after party member and former Deputy Chairman Cyril Svoboda quit as Four Party Coalition leader over disputes concerning the inclusion in the shadow cabinet of KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Miroslav Kalousek. "I believe that Svoboda should not have resigned. It was a serious mistake and a result of something that has a deeper background," Kvapil said. DW

...AS ALLEGATIONS CONTINUE TO FLY IN SHADOW CABINET AFTERMATH

Freedom Union Deputy Chairwoman Hana Marvanova, who quit the Four Party Coalition Political Council over disputes in forming a shadow cabinet last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2-4 April 2001), told CTK on 9 April that Kalousek offered her an unacceptable "political deal." She said Kalousek offered "to give up all political functions...in exchange for my promise to resign from all posts." She said she and Svoboda shared reservations about the inclusion of Kalousek due to a police investigation of suspicious deals made during his tenure as deputy defense minister for economic affairs from 1993-98. Also, Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet member and Democratic Union Chairman Ratibor Majzlik told "Tyden" magazine that during the same negotiations Svoboda "blackmailed" him, threatening to resign and blame Majzlik for it if Majzlik insisted on the position of shadow interior minister. The magazine adds that Majzlik stopped insisting on the position after Svoboda quit. DW

KLAUS SAYS NEW SOCIAL DEMOCRAT HEAD IS 'TOO LEFT-WING'

Civic Democrat (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus has attacked newly elected Social Democrat Chairman Vladimir Spidla as being "too left-wing," CTK reported 9 April. Klaus said Spidla "envisions social democracy visibly leaning toward this or that socially oriented or sympathy group and for me...undoubtedly to the left." Labor and Social Affairs Minister Spidla was elected party head on 7 April and will lead the party into the 2002 elections, although Prime Minster Zeman will continue to head the government. DW

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA

Visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 9 April told journalists after meeting his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan that they had discussed, among other things, "minimizing the consequences" of Slovakia's expected accession to the EU on bilateral relations between the two countries. Kukan said that after the accession "it is possible that the Schengen border will extend to the border with Ukraine. We take that into consideration and we want that border to be a modern, European one, not to harm bilateral relations and cooperation." Zlenko professed surprise at the Slovak position. The two ministers also discussed the planned construction of a gas pipeline from Russia through Ukraine, a project in which Slovakia has said it is interested in participating and investing. Zlenko was also received by President Rudolf Schuster and Prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda, CTK reported. MS

NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN SLOVAKIA GROWING

The number of asylum seekers in Slovakia is growing every year, but the number of refugees who are granted asylum is dropping, according to data released by the Slovak Immigration Office. Anna Sidova, an official with that institution, on 9 April told journalists that since 1993, 5,696 refugees have sought asylum in Slovakia. In 2000, the number of refugee-seekers was 1,556, which is 236 more than the previous year; and since 1 January 2001, 572 refugees have sought asylum. Out of these, refugee status has been granted to a total of 499, but the number of approved requests has fallen from 129 in 1996, to 27 in 1999, to just 10 in 2000, CTK reported. MS

TORGYAN SETS DATE FOR HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' CONVENTION

Jozsef Torgyan, chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), on 9 April announced after a FKGP Steering Board meeting that he has scheduled the party's National Convention for 29 September. "Nepszabadsag" reported that Torgyan's decision came after he learned that the party's "Civic Section" also convened a convention for 5 May to decide on his fate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2001). Torgyan said the party's leadership will also meet this year to elect a chairman and nominate an official in charge of the FKGP national list of candidates in the 2002 parliamentary elections. An anonymous former party official said the September date allows Torgyan to ensure by means of expulsions that convention delegates are comprised mainly of his followers. MSZ

SOCIALISTS ARGUE OVER PRIME MINISTERIAL CANDIDATES

Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 9 April denied that he had concluded any bargain with former Prime Minister Gyula Horn, as parliamentary group leader Sandor Nagy has claimed. Nagy has accused the two of having reached a secret agreement regarding the party's chairmanship and its candidates for the post of prime minister. Nagy has also announced that contrary to earlier reports, he refuses to accept the candidacy for premier. Meanwhile, the other three candidates -- Kovacs, former Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy, and former Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth -- were interviewed by the party's Steering Board. Kovacs called for a more disciplined party and more effective communication. Medgyessy said the chosen candidate should lead the party's Election Campaign Committee, which should become the key decision-making body. For his part, Nemeth called for an in-depth examination of the period following the party's last congress in November 2000, and nominating the candidate for premier only afterward. MSZ

MORE DISMISSALS AT HUNGARIAN TELEVISION

The acting president of Hungarian Television (MTV), Karoly Medreczky, on 9 April dismissed 141 of the television's 1,700 permanent employees, including 18 at the managerial level. Medreczky, who has been acting head of MTV since the February resignation of Zsolt Laszlo Szabo, made the announcement through a subordinate, since MTV spokesperson Gyorgyi Bende was among those dismissed. Prior to the latest cuts, Szabo had cut the staff by 1,200 people. Since 1997, when commercial TV broadcasts started in Hungary, the state-run MTV's audience share has dropped to under 10 percent. MSZ




EU WANTS TIMETABLE FOR MACEDONIA BUT NOT FOR MILOSEVIC

EU officials in Luxembourg hailed Macedonia as a "potential candidate for admission" following the signing of its pioneering Stabilization and Association Agreement on 9 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). The EU stressed, however, that time is of the essence for the authorities in Skopje to enter serious dialogue with representatives of the ethnic Albanian minority, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and the EU's Chris Patten and Javier Solana spoke to Macedonian leaders about working out a concrete timetable for launching reforms. The foreign ministers of the EU member-states agreed not to set any time deadline for the Belgrade authorities to send former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that trying Milosevic in Serbia before extraditing him would have an "educational effect" on the Serbian public. PM

EU TOUGHENING STANCE ON MONTENEGRO?

Ferrero-Waldner said in Luxembourg on 9 April that the 22 April legislative elections in Montenegro "must not" lead to a referendum on independence, "Die Presse" reported. She stressed that the EU foreign ministers are opposed to Montenegrin independence. In recent months, EU officials have made several public statements that were critical of Montenegrin aspirations toward independence. But the officials have usually qualified their remarks by adding that Brussels will respect any democratic decision of the Montenegrin electorate. Several Montenegrin legislators have told "Newsline" that they often regard the content and tone of the EU statements as arrogant. PM

MONTENEGRIN POLITICIANS SLAM INTIMIDATION OF MUSLIMS, ALBANIANS

Several pro-independence politicians, as well as political leaders of the Muslim and Albanian minorities, took issue with some recent remarks by pro-Belgrade leader Bozidar Bojovic, "Pobjeda" reported on 10 April. Bojovic warned Muslims and Albanians not to support Montenegrin independence lest pro-Serbian Montenegrins make the minorities scapegoats for Podgorica's eventual break with Belgrade. Politicians and commentators used words such as "national-chauvinist," "barbaric," and "greater Serbian" to describe Bojovic's remarks. Some pro-Belgrade politicians previously suggested not allowing Muslims or Albanians to vote on independence (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 5 April 2001). Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic blamed his defeat in the 1997 Montenegrin presidential election on the Albanians and Muslims. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT: COALITION 'TOO BUSY' FOR FEUDS

Vojislav Kostunica denied persistent media reports that the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition is in danger of splitting up because of numerous policy differences among its leaders, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). Speaking in Belgrade on 9 April, Kostunica said that the coalition has "too many problems" to deal with to have time for feuds over policy differences, which, he added, do exist. Among the most pressing problems he cited are the activities of "Albanian extremists" in Presevo and Kosova, as well as "separatist" tendencies in Montenegro. PM

HELICOPTER CRASH IN KOSOVA

Two KFOR peacekeepers were killed and five injured on 9 April when a British military helicopter crashed near Kacanik near Kosova's border with Macedonia, AP reported. NATO officials ruled out violence as the cause of the crash, which took place in conditions of bad weather and poor visibility. PM

FIRST WESTERN BANK OPENS IN SERBIA

Officials of Microfinance Bank (MFB) said in Belgrade on 10 April that they will offer regular banking services to Serbian customers. These include savings accounts and safe money-transfers, such as the payment of Western pensions to Yugoslav workers who have returned home after working abroad. The bank has branches in Belgrade and Nis, dpa reported. It plans to specialize in financing small- and medium-sized enterprises, providing favorable 1- to 36-month business credits. Similar banking activities can be found in Albania and Kosova. PM

FIRST THREE-WAY EX-YUGOSLAV COOPERATION DEAL

Officials of Croatia's Eurobus, Bosnia's Eurobus-Soko, and Serbia's FAP agreed in Belgrade on 9 April to jointly manufacture buses, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BOSNIA'S KLEIN TELLS CROATS TO GET RID OF CROOKS

The UN's Jacques Klein said in Sarajevo on 9 April that the republic's Croats should "start thinking where their money is going," AP reported. He noted that some hard-line leaders of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) were seen "loading bags of money into a van last week," in the northern town of Orasje (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 9 April 2001). Klein stressed that "it is time for the Croat people of Bosnia to demand accountability of their leadership and further call for the prosecution of criminals who shamelessly steal from them." Alluding to former Yugoslav President Milosevic, Klein said that "the once-powerful strongman is now behind bars. I believe strongly that the Bosnian Croats have the courage and wisdom to do the same" with their dishonest leaders. He warned Croats not to be fooled by the HDZ's political promises. "The attempt to unilaterally create a separatist Croat administration in Bosnia is a dead-end street. Those who tell you otherwise are lying to you." PM

BOSNIAN SERBS OPEN RESETTLEMENT OFFICE IN SARAJEVO

Republika Srpska officials dealing with refugee and resettlement questions opened an office in Sarajevo to provide legal assistance to Serbs who want to return to their homes in what is now the Muslim-Croat federation and Sarajevo canton. Some 24,000 requests for returns of property and 31,644 for apartment residency permits have been received by Bosnian Serb officials by persons wanting to return to Sarajevo canton, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIAN PARTY CALLS FOR CLEARING THE AIR

Zlatko Tomcic, speaker of the parliament and president of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS), said in Zagreb on 9 April that the time has come for a full discussion on the future of the governing coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Seeking an end to public bickering and leaks to the press, Tomcic called for parties to agree on a code of conduct, a balance sheet for their first 14 months in office, possible early elections, and possible changes in the cabinet. PM

OFFICIAL BILINGUALISM RETURNS TO ISTRIA

Led by the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS), the county assembly of Istria agreed to reintroduce Italian along with Croatian as official languages in the region, "Novi List" reported on 10 April. Several leading Croatian politicians charged that IDS is playing politics and unnecessarily aggravating interethnic tensions, "Vecernji list" reported. IDS President Ivan Jakovcic said, however, that the measure is sound, "Vjesnik" reported. He charged that it is the governing Social Liberals and Social Democrats who are exploiting the issue for political ends. He called on the central government and President Stipe Mesic to support bilingualism in Istria. Mesic said that he is all for people speaking many languages, but wonders whether the timing of the reintroduction of bilingualism was not prompted by political considerations. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER EVALUATES 100-DAY PERFORMANCE...

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, in an interview with Mediafax marking his first 100 days in office, on 9 April said his government's short-term program has "by and large" been fulfilled, but the cabinet's program is largely a long-term one, covering the entire period of its mandate. It is therefore too early to pass judgment on the extent to which the government has respected its electoral promises, Nastase said. Among the cabinet's short-term failures, the premier counted the postponement of introducing a differential VAT, the struggle against corruption and increasing the general security of citizens. Nastase said privatization has "taken off" and that next week the Agricultural Bank will be privatized. He expressed optimism on the privatization of the Galati-based SIDEX steel-producing giant. Nastase also said he expects Romania to attract $1.8 billion annually in foreign investments due to increased international credibility and "more stable legislation." MS

...SAYS CABINET WILL AID EVACUATED TENANTS...

Premier Nastase on 9 April also said the government intends to aid tenants who were evacuated following the return of real estate to former owners and that "temporarily" sheltering such tenants in apartments formerly used by foreign diplomats is among the solutions being examined. He also said the cabinet is preparing a draft law on compensating owners whose properties could not be restituted, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

...REACTS TO RAND CORPORATION REPORT ON NATO ENLARGEMENT...

"Romania's chances to join NATO are neither among the largest nor are they fully absent," Prime Minister Nastase said in reaction to a report on the organization's further enlargement that was released by the U.S.-based Rand Corporation. The study said, among other things, that the costs of admitting Romania and Bulgaria jointly would be smaller than those of admitting Romania alone. "Even if our chances were to be lacking, we would have to struggle for admittance," the premier said, adding that "those looking at us from a satellite and using, for this purpose, binoculars, do not always know what they are talking about." He commented that "it makes no sense to fall now into the trap of such reports. When we shall be told we failed to gain access, we shall start thinking ahead," Mediafax reported. MS

...LEAVES FOR SWEDEN VISIT

Premier Nastase said before departing for an official visit to Sweden on 9 April that he will discuss with his hosts the EU's enlargement and "some of the more delicate problems." Among the latter he included the Romanian debt to Sweden, saying he intends to discuss ways of liquidating it. The debt stems from bonds that were not honored by the communist government and from nationalized Swedish properties, Mediafax reported. MS

ILIESCU SIGNALS CHANGE IN PRIBOI AFFAIR

President Ion Iliescu on 9 April acknowledged that the appointment of former communist secret police officers, such as Ristea Priboi, to official positions may negatively impact Romania's chances to join NATO, Mediafax reported the next day. In an interview with Romanian television, Iliescu said it is wrong to judge such people "with a bias, and blaming them from the start." However, he added, their appointment "is also a matter of [Romania's international] image, and in such cases the national interest must prevail." Priboi, a former personal adviser to Nastase, has been appointed chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service. There has been speculation in Romania about a possible rift between Iliescu and Nastase, but it is unclear whether Iliescu's statement on Priboi can in any way be viewed as confirmation of the rift. MS

VORONIN, SMIRNOV AGREE TO RESUME NEGOTIATIONS...

President Vladimir Voronin and separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 9 April agreed in Chisinau to resume negotiations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. "I can see the Transdniester leaders have the political will necessary for settling the conflict," Voronin said. He added that he and Smirnov decided to meet once a month and experts representing the two sides are to meet on a weekly basis. Voronin also said an agreement was reached to start with "solving the economic and social problems" by unifying customs and tax legislation, which should lead to the eventual withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces from the "security zone" that separates the sides. If this problem is solved, he said, custom posts and other barriers to the flow of goods, services, and labor can be lifted. Moldova also agreed to recognize official documents issued by the separatists, and the sides said they would put an end to the "information war" in the media. MS

...LEAVING THE MOST COMPLICATED DIFFERENCES ASIDE FOR NOW

Voronin also said the question of Moldova's joining the Russia-Belarus Union, "was discussed only generally, and we have reached mutual understanding on it." He did not elaborate. The new Moldovan president also said the withdrawal of the Russian arsenal "was not discussed today." Smirnov said Tiraspol "wanted to receive confirmation from Chisinau that responsibility for the bloody slaughter in the Transdniester in 1992 rests on the former Moldovan leaders...and we have received such confirmation." In an allusion to the planned OSCE summit, Smirnov said the problems between the sides "can be solved only in Chisinau and Tiraspol, and not elsewhere." The meeting "showed that the views of the new Moldovan president on the settlement of the conflict largely coincide with our position, and this is encouraging," he concluded. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN KING'S PARTY LEADING IN POLLS

The recently founded Simeon II National Movement is leading in public opinion polls released on 9 April, AP reported. A Gallup poll showed the movement is backed by 45.8 percent of respondents, while a survey conducted by the Mediana polling institute on behalf of the daily "Trud" showed the former monarch's party has a backing of 28 percent, with an additional 25 percent considering the possibility. MS




There is no End Note today.





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