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Newsline - August 7, 2001




KIM JONG-IL VIEWS POTENTIAL MERCHANDISE IN ST. PETERSBURG...

During a trip to St. Petersburg on 6 August, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il met with that city's governor, Vladimir Yakovlev, and the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, Viktor Cherkesov, Western and Russian news agencies reported. He visited several industrial enterprises, including a plant that produces turbines for nuclear power stations. The deputy director of the plant, Valerii Kondratev, told ITAR-TASS that his enterprise is glad to have attracted the interest of Kim and is ready to supply Pyongyang with turbines, which it is already selling to China and Iran. VY

...AS RUSSIAN MEDIA SHEDS LIGHT ON HIS KREMLIN TALKS, PAYMENT PRACTICES

Meanwhile, "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 6 August reported that Moscow offered to sell Pyongyang Russian weapons worth $500 million, including "Su-27" and "MiG-29" aircraft as well as naval ships and radar systems. In theory, Korea has no funds to pay for new military equipment, since it has an outstanding debt to the former Soviet Union. However, an official from Russia's Economic Development and Trade Ministry revealed that North Korea has been paying off its old Soviet debt by sending "indentured servants" to work in industrial and construction sites across Siberia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 6 August. VY

JOURNAL EXPLAINS PUTIN'S INTEREST IN OPINION POLLS...

Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 31, analyst Dmitrii Furman argues that the reason Vladimir Putin's administration is so interested in the president's personal approval rating is because they see the rating as a kind of index of political stability (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001). According to Furman, Putin does not follow his approval rating in the same way European or U.S. political leaders do, since he is not overly concerned about winning re-election in 2004. Instead, "if Putin sees a high approval rating, he is reassured that society is calm, and hence that he is doing the right thing." JAC

...AND PREDICTS THAT POLLS MAY BE SUBJECTED TO MORE MANAGEMENT

Furman also suggests that because Putin and his administration have such a tremendous influence over the approval ratings -- a result of their ability to "restrict or shut down any media outlets that 'lower' his rating," such as Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST outlets -- they do not mean what they do in the more "uncontrolled democracies as the U.S. and France." Furman concludes that the next natural step in managing the president's approval rating will be that if the rating starts to decline, the administration will question not its own course but the accuracy of the polling agencies. JAC

PUTIN CONFERS WITH HEALTH MINISTER ON CHOLERA

President Putin met with Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko on 6 August to discuss the recent outbreak of cholera in Kazan and the attempts to prevent it from spreading, Russian agencies reported. After the meeting, Shevchenko told reporters that the outbreak in Kazan has been localized and that reports that the disease had spread were a "false alarm." An earlier report about a two-year-old child being infected in Moscow turned out to be false (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). As of 6 August, the number of registered cholera cases in Kazan had reached 67 persons, although the increase in cases was due to the fact that people already hospitalized were given a final diagnosis. JAC

PUTIN SIGNS BILLS INTO LAW

President Putin on 6 August signed a number of federal bills, including one amending the law on the police, which will give regional officials only a small say in the appointment of regional police chiefs, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 July 2001). He also signed a bill amending the law on the status of members of the Federation Council and State Duma, which will raise the pay for the new members of the Federation Council to the level that State Duma deputies receive. JAC

KASYANOV APPROVES ELECTRICITY REFORM

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stated on 6 August that he has approved and signed a document detailing the reform of Russia's electric power sector and the dismantling of the country's electricity monopoly, Unified Energy Systems (EES), NTV reported. During the reform's first stage, which will start in September 2001, the government will adopt regulations banning hikes in electricity rates. In the next phase, which will continue through the end of the year, EES will be broken up into separate energy producing and distribution companies. A federal electricity network operator will also be created before the end of the year. VY

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO PRESERVE STATE CONTROL OVER GAS EXPORTS

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told journalists on 6 August that the reform of Gazprom scheduled for next year will preserve the state's supervision of natural gas exports, RIA-Novosti reported. However, before the reform is undertaken, the government intends to form a liberalized domestic gas market that will shape Gazprom's future structure, Khristenko said. VY

LABOR MINISTER PREDICTS LABOR SHORTAGES, REAL WAGE GROWTH...

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Moscow on 3 August, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok predicted that enterprises will experience a shortage of workers in the near future, "Vremya MN" reported on 4 August. According to data from the Labor Ministry, "the number of vacancies in the industrial sector exceeds the number of unemployed persons." Pochinok also argued that Russian wages will grow more rapidly than inflation and announced that next month, a special court for labor disputes will open in Moscow, "The Moscow Times" reported. The special court will function as a pilot project that is intended "to pave the way for a full-fledged court system once the draft Labor Code" is adopted. Pochinok expressed confidence that the code, which passed in its first reading last month, will be passed in its next two readings during the Duma's fall session (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 July 2001). JAC

...AS BANKRUPTCY OF TWO LARGE FIRMS IN KRASNOYARSK PUTS 10,000 OUT OF WORK

Ten thousand workers at the Sivinit synthetic fiber plant and the Krasnoyarsk cellulose industrial complex recently received notice that they are out of work, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 August. About a month ago, a local arbitration court declared the two companies bankrupt because of their large unpaid debts of some 1 billion rubles ($34 million). The two companies owe mainly overdue tax bills to various levels of government as well as an unpaid energy bill to Krasnoyarskenergo. Krasnoyarsk Deputy Governor Mikhail Gotovko told the daily that investors have been found to help Sivinit out of its crisis. A group named Industrial Investors is prepared to invest $10 million to help wipe out the company's debt. However, the situation with the cellulose plant is more complicated since the enterprise uses outdated technology and supplying it with modern equipment could cost $20-$35 million. JAC

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TRIES TO PROTECT DOMESTIC AUTO INDUSTRY

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced on 6 August that as of the beginning of next year import duties on foreign-made automobiles that are more than seven years old will be scaled up to match the current level of taxes on new autos, RIA-Novosti reported. According to "Vremya novostei," the change is being made in order to support the market in domestic autos and spare parts, since, according to surveys, 73 percent of Russians prefer used foreign cars to new domestic cars. This imbalance could increase even more after 2006, when the EU plans to adopt regulations requiring automakers to "recycle" their old cars. This measure will encourage European countries to get rid off their old automobiles by any means necessary, and an armada of junk cars may overflow the Russian market, the newspaper explained. VY

TOP BANKER OFFERS HIS VIEWS ON BANKING REFORM

In an interview with "Vremya novostei" published on 6 August, Aleksandr Mamut, the head of the working group for banking reform and the president of Moskovskii Devovoi Mir, or MDM-bank, said that by decreasing the number of Russian banks he hopes not to kill competition in the financial sector, but to create conditions for it to flourish. He said that in today's Russia there is no banking system that can serve either as a source for mass domestic investment or as a mechanism for attracting foreign investment. In order to create a healthy banking system he estimated that the number of banks working on the federal level should be reduced to 100, while the remainder should be licensed to operate only at the municipal or oblast level. Another key ingredient to reforming the sector should be greater transparency, including more public control over banks' investment decisions and risk evaluation, according to Mamut. VY

RUSSIA PAYS OFF MORE DEBT TO THE IMF

A Finance Ministry spokesman announced on 6 August that Russia paid the International Monetary Fund over $103 million this week and will pay another $50 million by the end of the month, RIA-Novosti reported. According to the spokesman, the money was allotted by the government from the surplus derived from higher oil revenues. Russia has already paid $1 billion of the $2.07 billion due this year out of a total debt owed to the IMF of $8.8 billion. VY

HEAD OF LARGEST ADVERTISING FIRM SAYS NTV CONFLICT HURT EVERYONE'S AD REVENUES

In an interview with "Vedomosti" published on 6 August, Media Service-Video International (MSVI) General Director Sergei Vasilev said that the conflict over NTV has negatively affected the TV advertising market, in part because the conflict "severely hampered not only plans to increase advertising rates but also [slowed] the growth of the market overall." According to Vasilev, last year the TV advertising market should have totaled $1 billion, but it reached only $200 million. Vasilev added that the move by Yevgenii Kiselev and his team from NTV to TV-6 has not yet attracted new advertisers to TV-6. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin is the former head of Video International, which provides advertising for ORT, RTR, and TV-6. JAC

THE JOURNALIST VERSUS THE CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION

A Moscow city court on 6 August postponed proceedings in the slander suit of the Central Election Committee (TsIK) against journalist Aleksandr Minkin until 6 September due to Minkin's ill health, Interfax reported. Minkin is accused of defaming the reputation of the committee with an article he wrote last January for "Moskovskii komsomolets," in which he suggested that the TsIK has transformed itself into a power ministry that can issue anticonstitutional directives, prevent politicians from running for office, and decide how many and which parties should take part in elections. "TsIK is only pretending to serve the people, but, in fact, it is loyally working for authorities," Minkin continued. The suit was initiated by TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, but Minkin's lawyer Geraldina Lyubarskaya said Minkin had in mind not Veshnyakov personally, but the defective electoral system as a whole. VY/JAC

REGIONAL JUDGE ADMITS TO RELIANCE ON LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Omsk Oblast Court Chairman Vasilii Pronnikov has declared that because of a lack of financing from federal authorities, judges in his region appeal for help from a variety of local government agencies, the website regions.ru reported on 6 August. Sponsors in his region's case are the oblast administration, the city of Omsk, and the various raions within the oblast. However, he denied that such assistance results in a "special relationship" between the courts and the various branches of power. JAC

RUSSIANS LAUGH MORE THAN THEY CRY

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 6 August, Natalya Kim, the director of the press center for the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), spoke about recent research the center conducted on the Russian way of life. In a survey of 2,000 respondents, 83 percent said they had laughed either the same day as they were being questioned or the previous day. And in response to the question as to when they had last cried, 52 percent of the men and 28 percent of the women said that they can't remember, while 20 percent of all the respondents said they had cried either that day or the previous day. JAC

POLL REVEALS LONGING FOR LOST SUPERPOWER STATUS...

In a poll conducted by the VTsIOM polling research center about Russia's future foreign policy priorities, the highest proportion of respondents -- 31 percent -- said that Russia's goal should be to regain the superpower status once held by the Soviet Union, "Profil" reported in its 30 July issue. At the same time, 16 percent of respondents thought Russia should give up on its ambitions abroad and focus on resolving domestic problems. JAC

...AND DISSATISFACTION WITH SITUATION IN CHECHNYA

VTsIOM also found that 40 percent of its respondents think the situation in Chechnya has not improved over the past two years, while 53 percent feel that peace talks are needed to settle the situation, AFP reported on 6 August. JAC

BRITISH CITIZEN DEPORTED FROM CHECHNYA

A 61-year-old British subject who formerly worked for a Danish NGO was detained in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan on 3 August without valid documentation and has since been flown from Ingushetia to Moscow. The man, who had a Russian visa valid only for Moscow and St. Petersburg, told the local military commandant's office that he was investigating the possibilities of supplying humanitarian aid to the region, Reuters reported on 6 August. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY HIGHLIGHTS DELAY IN EARTHQUAKE RECONSTRUCTION

In an interview with "Golos Armenii" on 4 August circulated by Groong, parliament State and Legal Commission Chairman Viktor Dallakian noted the failure of successive Armenian governments to meet deadlines for the reconstruction of housing and factories in northern Armenia destroyed by the December 1988 earthquake. He noted that a 1994 program aimed to complete reconstruction by 2000, and a program adopted in 1998 set 2001 as the deadline for doing so, but that some 14,920 families are still housed in temporary accommodation. Dallakian argued that those officials responsible for non-completion of the reconstruction programs should be punished. He also advocated more energetic measures to revive the industry and economy in the earthquake zone to prevent a further outflow of the population in search of employment elsewhere. LF

ARMENIA, NAGORNO-KARABAKH TO EXPAND ECONOMIC TIES

Following what were described as two days of "difficult" talks in Stepanakert, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and the leaders of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic reached agreement on a 70-point economic cooperation program, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 6 August. The nature of the problems surrounding those talks was not explained, but officials denied that they resulted from Yerevan's delay in releasing subsidies that make up over half of the unrecognized republic's annual budget of $25 million. LF

NO DATE SET FOR IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN?

Reports that Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi will visit Baku within the next 10 days are untrue, Turan reported on 6 August citing sources within the presidential administration and the Foreign Ministry. Kharrazi's visit is intended to pave the way for the long-postponed visit by Azerbaijani's President Heidar Aliyev to Iran, which Azerbaijani officials have said "may" take place this month. On 5 August, the "Tehran Times" reported that Iranian ground and air forces will conduct maneuvers close to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border in September, Groong reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT SEEKING THIRD TERM...

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 6 August that he does not intend to seek a third presidential term in the ballot due in April 2005, Caucasus Press and western agencies reported. Shevardnadze pointed out that the Georgian Constitution, which currently limits to two the number of terms one individual may serve as president, would have to be amended to enable him to do so, and such amendments, Shevardnadze said, are "unacceptable." He also admitted that at 73, he is "not the youngest president." LF

...HINTS AT OBSTACLES TO SIGNING GAS TRANSIT AGREEMENT...

In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, Shevardnadze announced on 6 August that an agreement with Azerbaijan on construction of a gas pipeline to export to Turkey via Georgia natural gas from Azerbaijan's offshore Shah-Deniz Caspian field is "practically" ready, and that he will travel to Baku to sign that agreement before the end of this month. The signing ceremony was earlier scheduled for 27 July, but Shevardnadze asked the previous day for it to be postponed, citing as his reason for doing so the uproar in Georgia engendered by the murder of TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). Caucasus Press on 30 July quoted Trend News Agency as reporting that Baku and Tbilisi have not yet come to an agreement on transport quotas. In addition, Shevardnadze's statement that Georgia "may" sign an agreement on purchasing Shah-Deniz gas for its own energy need to lessen its dependence on Russia suggests failure to reach agreement with Baku on the terms of those sales. The two sides were also scheduled to sign a bilateral agreement on economic cooperation. LF

...CALLS FOR RESTORING RAIL, ROAD TRANSPORT VIA ABKHAZIA

Shevardnadze also said on 6 August that he would like to see road and rail transport from Russia to Armenia via Abkhazia restored, Caucasus Press reported. He said such a move would benefit Russia and Armenia as well as expedite the economic restoration of Abkhazia's Gali Raion, which before the 1992-1993 war was populated primarily by Georgians who still wish to return there. The Georgian daily "Dilis gazeti" reported on 2 August that the Armenian government has offered to fund reconstruction of the railway through Abkhazia, but that Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, argued against doing so until the Georgian central government has regained control of Abkhazia and all Georgian displaced persons have returned there. LF

OSCE OBSERVERS ON GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER ATTACKED

The OSCE observer post in Shatili, on the Georgian Chechen border, was attacked late on 6 August by two armed men who were reportedly drunk, Caucasus Press reported the following day. The two men, who to judge by their names are Georgians, were wounded in the ensuing exchange of fire and have been hospitalized. It was the first such incident since the OSCE contingent was deployed to monitor the border early last year. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER CASTS DOUBT ON RESULTS OF CAPITAL LEGALIZATION DRIVE

In an interview with "Kommersant-Vlast" No. 30 (31 July 2001), former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin questioned claims by Kazakh officials that the capital amnesty that ended last month resulted in the return to Kazakh banks of over $400 million that had been illegally transferred abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). Kazhegeldin said the actual sum returned was no more than 10 percent of the figure claimed, while up to $2 billion from the proceeds of the sale of Kazakh oil was illicitly transferred to banks in the Bahamas and Bermuda last year alone. Kazhegeldin said he disapproves of the concept of such a capital amnesty, which he believes originated with President Nursultan Nazarbaev. He argued that removing all existing constraints on the amount that may be legally exported from Kazakhstan would boost foreign investors' confidence and halt further illegal outflows of capital. "Novye izvestiya" reported on 31 July without disclosing its sources that over half of those persons who have transferred money back to Kazakhstan under the amnesty intend to leave it to accumulate interest in Kazakh banks, rather than invest it in the Kazakh economy as the authors of the amnesty had hoped. LF

KYRGYZ INTEREST GROUP VISITS DISPUTED BORDER REGION WITH CHINA

Thirteen members of the recently created public committee for the Kyrgyz-Chinese border dispute left Bishkek on 6 August on a fact-finding mission to the disputed Uzengi-Kuush region on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In June 2001 the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament called for the annulment of amendments signed two years earlier by the Chinese and Kyrgyz presidents to a border agreement they signed in 1996. Under those amendments, which President Askar Akaev insists are in Kyrgyzstan's best interest, Kyrgyzstan cedes some 87,000 hectares (870 square kilometers) of territory to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN, IRAN PLEDGE TO EXPAND COOPERATION

During a visit last week to Tehran, Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Asanbek OsmonAliyev signed a memorandum of understanding with his Iranian counterpart Ali Ahani on expanding bilateral and regional economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau and Caspian News Agency reported. They also discussed economic and cultural cooperation and relaxing mutual visa requirements. OsmonAliyev also met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT ASSESSES EFFICIENCY OF LAW-ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

President Imomali Rakhmonov chaired a meeting of senior Interior Ministry officials in Dushanbe on 6 August at which he warned them that they should make greater efforts to crack down on drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime in order to create the necessary conditions for post-conflict rehabilitation and economic upswing, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Tajik police are still hunting remaining supporters of former opposition field commander Rakhmon Sanginov, weeks after having reported prematurely that his detachment had been "neutralized" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 16 and 31 July 2001). LF




OSCE: BELARUS OBSTRUCTING OBSERVATION OF ELECTION

Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said on 7 August that Belarusian officials are hampering the "effective observation" of the country's upcoming presidential election, Belapan reported. Stoudmann said "never before has an OSCE participating state refused entry to the ODIHR to observe an election. It is a clear violation of international commitments undertaken by the government." The ODIHR had hoped to have an observer group in Minsk by 1 August, but has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Belarusian government and the observer group's members have been denied visas to monitor preparations for the September election. Stoudmann said "time is running out," and added that because of the delay, "it is already too late to conduct the kind of full-fledged observation that we do in other countries. The credibility of the entire election process is being drawn into question." PB

POLL SHOWS LUKASHENKA COULD BE IN FOR A RACE

A poll of Minsk residents shows that if the presidential election were held now, incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka would be in a close race against leading opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, Belapan reported on 7 August. In a three-way race including Syarhey Haidukevich, the leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, Lukashenka would garner 29 percent of the votes, Hancharyk would get 27 percent, and Haidukevich would receive 9 percent. If the ballot included Syamyon Domash, who has been registered as a candidate but has said he will withdraw in favor of uniting behind Hancharyk -- then Lukashenka would receive 27 percent, Hancharyk would garner 20 percent, Domash would get 14 percent, and Haidukevich some 8 percent. The poll was conducted by Belapan for the private newspaper "Nasha Niva" between 30 July and 1 August. Lukashenka boasted last week that he would receive "over 90 percent of the vote." PB

UKRAINIAN SECRET POLICE OFFICER ASSASSINATED

Colonel Yevhen Zadorozhny, the head of the Ukrainian secret police's anti-organized crime division in Odesa, was shot dead on 7 August, dpa reported. Zadorozhny was killed outside his home in Odesa as he left for work. Zadorozhny was responsible for investigations into mafia-related activity in Odesa, primarily the smuggling of oil products, drugs, and weapons. He held the job for about one year. PB

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT VISITS ESTONIA

Harri Holkeri, a former Prime Minister of Finland, began a two-day visit to Estonia on 6 August by meeting with parliament Chairman Toomas Savi and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Andres Tarand, ETA reported. He informed them about his efforts to introduce efficiency, transparency, openness, and cost-reduction to the assembly's work. Holkeri expressed regret that Estonia will not become a member of the Western European group of countries in the UN before the end of his term on 11 September, as he had hoped. He said he is certain that it will definitely occur in the future, but it has taken time to gain the necessary unanimous approval. SG

FORMER U.S. OFFICIAL URGES LATVIA TO PROGRESS UNTIL NATO PRAGUE SUMMIT

Former U.S. NATO enlargement coordinator Ronald Asmus told President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Riga on 6 August that Latvia must continue to show improvement in the lead-up to the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002, as even the best lobbying will not be able to overcome a failure to do so, BNS reported. Asmus is on a private visit to Latvia from 3 to 8 August, during which he will also meet with other high-ranking Latvian officials, including Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins. Asmus interpreted President George W. Bush's speech in Warsaw in June as an indication of the U.S. leader's desire to expand NATO from the Baltic to the Black seas. Both officials agreed that the Baltic states' joining NATO would contribute to European safety and stability and would not result in drawing new dividing lines in Europe. SG

LITHUANIA TO CONTINUE BANK DEPOSIT RESTORATION

Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite told a press conference on 6 August that the government will follow the commitments made by previous cabinets to restore lost bank deposits to the population, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. She said that the savings will be restored to the first of four groups of individuals -- made up of persons above the age of 85, disabled persons and families with disabled children, and former political prisoners and deportees -- in 2002. Payments to the second group -- persons above the age of 70, families with four or more children, and second category disabled persons -- will begin in 2003, but it is unclear whether all the necessary funds will be available. It is estimated that 40-45 million litas ($10-11.25 million) will be needed for the first group and 122.5 million litas for the second group. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT FORMS COMMISSION ON COMPENSATION DISPUTE

The Polish government on 6 August formed a commission to look into complaints about the payments to Polish Nazi-era slave laborers, AP reported. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said the commission, led by Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Steinhoff, would investigate claims by the Polish representatives of the Polish-German Reconciliation Fund that the German side had cheated victims out of 50 million zlotys ($12 million) by converting German marks at a poor exchange rate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). The central German compensation fund distributes payments through funds in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, and Poland was the only country to choose to receive compensation payments in local currency. DW

JEDWABNE MAYOR QUITS OVER MASSACRE MEMORIAL

Mayor Krzysztof Godlewski of Jedwabne, where Polish residents murdered their Jewish neighbors in 1941, resigned on 5 August to protest resistance by the town council to memorialize the massacre, AP reported on 6 August. Godlewski said he had threatened to resign even before Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski commemorated the 60th anniversary of the massacre on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). "There were personal attacks connected with the fact that I was involved in commemorations," he said, adding that the council refused to approve spending to build a road to the memorial. The head of the council, Stanislaw Michalowski, said he will also resign in solidarity. DW

CZECH ROMA MEET WITH EC REPRESENTATIVE...

Representatives of the Czech Roma community met on 6 August with Roman Cibrian, the head of the European Commission's delegation in Prague, to call on the EU to intervene in the checks by British officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport, CTK and AP reported. The checks, which began on 18 July, have turned away some 120 Czechs, almost all Roma, seeking to fly to London. Cibrian said the EC will continue to monitor the situation, but that the checks are based on an agreement between two sovereign states, the Czech Republic and Great Britain, so the EU has little say in the matter. DW

...BRITAIN FAILS TO AGREE WITH CONTINUED MONITORING OF AIRPORT CHECKS...

Following one day of monitoring by the Czech Helsinki Committee (CHV) of the screening of Czech passengers by British officials on 6 August, the British Embassy and the CHV failed to agree on continuing the monitoring, CTK reported on 6 August. Embassy spokesman Zbynek Havranek said the monitoring had been a success, but that further monitoring could only take place after further negotiations. CHV Director Jana Chrozova said that no passengers had been turned away during the monitoring of the British checks, but that no Roma had tried to fly to Great Britain either. DW

...KAVAN: AIRPORT CHECKS TO END ON 9 AUGUST

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 7 August that the screening of passengers will be discontinued on 9 August, CTK reported. British Embassy Charge d'Affaires Denis Keefe stressed his government's readiness to resume the checks if necessary, should the number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic increase again. The embassy credited the checks with reducing the number of both rejected passengers and asylum applicants, which went from 204 in the three weeks before the checks began to 12 in the three weeks since. DW

COALITION PARTY CONFIRMS PLANS TO EXIT SLOVAK GOVERNMENT

The leadership of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) confirmed on 6 August its intention to leave the government's ruling coalition, TASR news agency reported. The resulting position as a minority government could significantly weaken Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his loose ruling alliance. A special session of the SMK, which objects to recently passed legislation establishing self-governing regions in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), is expected to approve the resolution on 10 August with formal executive approval likely two weeks later. Talks aimed at salvaging the SMK's participation in the ruling coalition failed on 27 July, leaving the three-year-old government's future in doubt in the absence of a compromise. Dzurinda has resisted pressure from some corners of the coalition to give the opposition parties greater power, including former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. A senior member of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) was quoted by TASR on 6 August as saying that his party might support a minority government under certain conditions. AH

SLOVAK AUDITOR NOTES 'SIGN' OF CORRUPTION IN EU FUNDS PROBE

The head of Slovakia's Supreme Audit Office (NKU), Jozef Stahl, was quoted by Czech news agency CTK on 7 August as saying that an ongoing investigation into the alleged mishandling of PHARE funds intended to aid the country's efforts to join the EU has unearthed "a sign of corruption," citing an incomplete list of applications for access to the financing. But the deputy premier for European integration, Maria Kadlecikova, countered to Slovak TASR agency following a briefing from Stahl that "the initially presupposed corruption appears to be by no means at play in Slovakia." Stahl conceded that there are irregularities in the registration process, but added that there is "no survey of how many projects were handed [to the government]...and no business trips were reported in Brussels." The allegations of abuse of Euro funds led to the temporary suspension and the sacking in May of Kadlecikova's predecessor, Pavol Hamzik. Hamzik's subordinate in charge of fund distribution, Roland Toth, has faced scrutiny in connection with his working trips to Brussels, and the NKU is probing for wrongdoing by Toth, who was dismissed on 15 March. AH

MECIAR AMNESTIES UPHELD IN SLOVAK ABDUCTION CASE

Recently declassified court documents reveal that the prosecution of Ivan Lexa, a parliamentarian and former secret service chief under Vladimir Meciar's government, was halted on 29 June after a court deemed amnesties issued by the former prime minister valid, TASR news agency reported on 7 August. Lexa's name figured prominently in the investigation into the 1995 abduction of the son of then-President Michal Kovac. Premier Dzurinda had sought to have the Meciar amnesties annulled, but a Bratislava district court ruled that impossible. The country's prosecutor-general has appealed to a regional court to reverse the amnesties and has pledged to pursue the issue with the Supreme Court, if necessary. The elder Kovac was a fierce opponent of Meciar's, and Lexa was the head of the country's SIS secret service at the time. AH

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, SMALLHOLDERS ARGUE OVER FOREIGNERS' LAND PURCHASES

Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Deputy Chairwoman Agnes Maczo Nagy said in Kecskemet on 6 August that neither the present nor the previous agriculture minister was aware of Hungary's agreement with the EU that allows for foreigners to acquire farmland within three years. Nagy said the FKGP was bypassed in the matter, and objects to the agreement signed in June by Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, which provisionally closed EU accession talks on the free flow of capital. Cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai replied that before discussing the farmland issue with EU officials, the government held consultations with representatives of all parliamentary parties, including the FKGP, and that no party objected to the government's plans. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said the government has no intentions of renegotiating the issue of the free flow of capital. MSZ




PARDEW: MACEDONIAN 'ROLLER COASTER' IN A DOWNTURN AGAIN

U.S. envoy James Pardew told the BBC from Ohrid on 6 August that the Macedonian negotiating process has constant ups and downs "like a roller coaster." He said that he is disappointed by the latest, unexpected demands from the Macedonian side that the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) begin to disarm before ethnic Macedonian legislators will agree to ratify any agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001, and "End Note" below). Pardew added that the strict disarmament timetable the Macedonians want would be difficult for the international officials to accept, "let alone the Albanians." Talks were suspended on 6 August after the Macedonians presented their demands. Negotiations resumed on 7 August, but it is not clear at which level. Vatican Radio noted that the guerrillas will be reluctant to disarm so long as the Macedonian authorities maintain indictments against 11 UCK leaders for atrocities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported that the UCK said that disarmament must go hand-in-hand with the implementation of a political agreement. PM

NATO TO DEPLOY BEFORE MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT RATIFIED?

KFOR spokesman Major Barry Johnson told RFE/RL by telephone on 7 August that NATO's decision to deploy in Macedonia will involve several steps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). "If it facilitates the process for peace, and if it has the confidence of the elected government as well as the [UCK] for their disarming, then based on the decision of the North Atlantic Council, if the conditions are right, then they will authorize a deployment in full coordination with the government of Macedonia. So yes, there is definitely a very real possibility that that could come before the formal parliamentary action." Earlier that morning the BBC's Serbian Service quoted a NATO spokesman as saying that an "unconditional and open-ended cease-fire" is a precondition for any NATO deployment. AP reported from Skopje that Operation Essential Harvest will be headed by Danish General Gunnar Lange, NATO's senior military representative in Macedonia. PM

MACEDONIAN POLICE KILL FIVE ALLEGED GUERRILLAS

Hard-line Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski told Reuters in Skopje on 7 August that "a terrorist group was preparing an attack on Skopje, and the police carried out an operation early this morning. Five people [were] killed, five [have been] detained." He added that one of the dead was known as Commander Teli. Boskovski charged that the UCK was planning to set up a "base" in Aracinovo and use it to attack unspecified points in Skopje. Local Albanians told the news agency that some 300 police arrived at the scene at 4:00 a.m. "and also beat Albanians coming out of early morning prayers in a mosque." One man added: "They took us in the street, made us lie down, and held an automatic gun to our heads. We heard shooting inside the house and a lot of screaming." Walls were splattered with blood, he added. PM

REPORTED MACEDONIAN DEAL: 1,000 ALBANIAN POLICE IN TWO YEARS

Abdylhadi Veseli, a vice president of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), told Deutsche Welle on 6 August that the recent agreement on police reform provides for 500 additional ethnic Albanian police in 2001 and 500 more in 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). He added that local councils will choose the local police chief from a list of three candidates, but he did not say who would prepare the list. Should the council fail to agree on a choice, the central government -- not the Interior Ministry -- will make the decision. Veseli added that the EU, OSCE, and unnamed "other international organizations" will monitor police officials. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER BLAMES GEORGIEVSKI'S PARTY

PPD leader Imer Imeri told Deutsche Welle on 6 August that peace will depend to a large extent on the "political will of the VMRO-DPMNE," or Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which is the party of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski (see "End Note," below). Imeri added that problems on the agenda include the legal status of the ethnic Albanian university in Tetovo and the use of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July and 6 August 2001). Imeri added that the disarmament of the UCK is a matter for the guerrillas and NATO and not for the "political leadership." PM

MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX LEADER: WAR IS POSSIBLE

Timotheus, the metropolitan of Ohrid, told Bulgarian Radio's German Service on 6 August that the church prefers a peaceful solution, but it "must be in the interest of all citizens." He added that war cannot be excluded if such an agreement is not reached. PM

UNHCR CHIEF CALLS FOR BETTER SECURITY IN MACEDONIA

UNHCR head Ruud Lubbers said in an open letter to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and EU security chief Javier Solana that the security situation in Macedonia must be improved, AP reported from Geneva on 7 August. Lubbers stressed "that the longer the refugees and the displaced persons stay away from their homes, the more bitter and radicalized they are becoming and the deeper the ethnic divisions in the country are growing." The "security dilemma" facing all Macedonian citizens must be resolved, he added. PM

DROUGHT IN MACEDONIA

As if Macedonia does not have enough problems, it also has a drought as well. The Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reports on 7 August that hydrologists warn that the problem could be serious. "Last year, we had the most serious drought in the past 30 years, but this year will be even worse. The [water] level of lakes and rivers is very low, and it is possible that we [will find ourselves] without drinking water. That is why we call on people to use water extremely rationally, only for drinking and washing," hydrologist Konstantin Ugrinski told the newspaper. UB

PRESEVO ALBANIAN LEADER CALLS FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION OF MINORITY

Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi told Kosova Live news agency on 6 August that the Presevo valley's ethnic Albanian population should be represented proportionally in local organs of government, including the judiciary and police as well as the administration. He called for better representation for ethnic Albanians in central Serbian and Yugoslav bodies as a step toward greater democracy. He noted that there is only one Albanian in the Serbian legislature. In addition, Halimi called for more investments in the Presevo region and the creation of unspecified "special organs" to promote Albanian cultural and religious rights. Elsewhere in the Presevo region, OSCE officials began training the first of what will eventually be 400 new Albanian police for the region, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN COMMANDER DENIES THE HAGUE WANTS HIM

Naser Oric told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 6 August that there is no reason to believe that The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has placed him on its secret list of indictees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). He said that claims that he has been indicted "are Serbian lies. I have not received any documents, information, or explanations from The Hague. Besides that, I recently attended a [war crimes] hearing in Sarajevo." Asked whether he would give himself up voluntarily if he were indicted, Oric said: "I was a volunteer in the 1992 war. If something will come up that I must do, I will do it. I am ready to go and have no problems whatsoever with it. I travel freely to Croatia and Slovenia, but not to Serbia, where I do not go. No border has been closed to me, which means that I have no reason to hide. I walk about as a free man." PM

BOSNIAN MINISTRY: NO INDICTMENTS RECEIVED

Amer Kapetanovic, a spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign Ministry, said in Sarajevo on 6 August that the ministry has not received any further indictments against any Muslim since the three it received the previous week, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). PM

FORMER BOSNIAN LEADER: OUR MEN ARE NOT GUILTY

Former President Alija Izetbegovic told "Avaz" of 7 August that "our generals are not guilty" of war crimes. He said that his Party of Democratic Action (SDA) differs from many Bosnian Serbs in its attitude toward The Hague-based tribunal in that the SDA supports the tribunal in principle, although it has criticized the indictment of three Muslim former commanders. PM

CROATIA TO CUT POLICE FORCE

The Interior Ministry has called on 3,100 police to turn in their badges and guns, "Jutarnji list" reported on 7 August. The move comes as part of an overall program to rationalize the security forces, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several options short of sacking are under consideration for the men, including employment elsewhere in the same ministry or elsewhere in government service. PM

ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADER FROM ROMANIA CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko on 6 August criticized Premier Adrian Nastase's intention to propose a parliamentary debate on the recently adopted Hungarian Status Law, the BBC reported. Marko said such a debate would heat up nationalist feelings and would create an anti-Hungarian mood in the country. He also warned that Nastase's idea could result in a political conflict between the UDMR and the Social Democratic Party lead by Nastase. ZsM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSAL TO PARDON SMALL CRIMES STIRS CONTROVERSY

A bill proposal adopted by the Romanian government last week on pardoning criminals sentenced for less than five years has stirred controversy in the country, Romanian media reported on 6 August. The government argued the measure is necessary for easing overcrowding in Romanian prisons, and that criminals serving sentences for minor crimes deserve a second chance. The Romanian representative on the Council of Europe's Torture Prevention Committee, Florin Alexandru Stanescu, said all measures aimed at reducing overpopulation in Romanian prisons are "welcome." Cited by Romanian Television on 3 August, Romanian human rights expert Renate Weber said that in some cases sentences for minor crimes are too severe, while others who caused millions of dollars in damages in the economy have received light sentences. Journalist Adrian Ursu has argued against the law, saying it could also pardon those who received light sentences for major crimes. According to Mediafax, some 9,000 prisoners would benefit from the pardons. ZsM

VORONIN ASKS FOR CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES IN TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 6 August announced the beginning of military reforms with the downsizing of the Moldovan army by 3,000 soldiers, Flux reported. Voronin said the measure will facilitate the world's perception of Moldova's "neutral, peace, and stability policy." He asked authorities of the breakaway Transdniester region to follow Chisinau's example in downsizing the military. Voronin added that Chisinau has proposed to Tiraspol the unification of armed forces and the establishment of a single military command. Voronin and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov are to discuss ways of solving the conflict on 8 August in Chisinau. ZsM

ILASCU COMPLAINS OF PRESSURE TO WITHDRAW COMPLAINT AT ECHR

Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu on 6 July said he will not withdraw his complaint with the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Russia and Moldova, Flux reported. Ilascu, who spent nine years imprisoned in the breakaway Transdniester region after being sentenced to death on charges of terrorism before being released in May, has accused the two countries of human rights abuses (see RFE/RL's "Newsline," 19 July 2001). He said he is being "blackmailed" by "Moscow authorities, through Chisinau's current leadership" to withdraw his complaint to the ECHR in exchange for the release of three other prisoners from his group still in Tiraspol. Referring to the ongoing negotiations between Moldovan and Transdniestrian authorities for solving the conflict, Ilascu called these talks "false," as "the script is being prepared not in Chisinau, nor in Tiraspol, but in Moscow." ZsM

BULGARIAN INTELLECTUALS DECLARE SUPPORT FOR INCUMBENT

Some 51 prominent Bulgarians have signed a declaration proclaiming their support for the re-election bid of President Petar Stoyanov, BTA reported on 7 August. Film director Krikor Azaryan said that the people on the list expressed their personal support before political parties have named their presidential candidates in an effort to avoid politicizing the support. Stoyanov, who will run as an independent, remains the only announced candidate for president. The signatories -- who include opera singers Alexandrina Pendanchanska and Nikolai Gyuzelev, poet Blaga Dimitrova, writer Vera Moutafchieva, musician Teodossiy Spassov, and folk singer Valya Balkanska -- said Stoyanov has "remained unchanged by power...[and] has proven that he is a president of all Bulgarians." Most observers believe that the candidate who gains the support of Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski is going to win the election. The newspaper "Zemya" reported on 7 August that Saxecoburggotski is planning on running himself, though the constitution would have to be amended for him to do that. PB

BULGARIAN LABOR MINISTER TO FIGHT UNEMPLOYMENT

Lidiya Shouleva said that her top priorities are unemployment and poverty, BTA reported on 7 August. In an interview with the newspaper "Demokratsiya," Shouleva also said that the budget is currently being reviewed to see if funds exist to increase public-sector wages by 10 percent. She said the government is also looking into various plans to provide loans to private businesses. Shouleva said that other topics her ministry is looking at are reducing welfare and maternity benefits as well as aiding the poor in paying their utility bills. PB




PEACE TALKS SUCCESSFUL, CIVIL WAR INEVITABLE IN MACEDONIA?


By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz

EU envoy Francois Leotard announced in Ohrid on 1 August that the peace talks between the leaders of the main ethnic Macedonian and Albanian political parties produced a compromise on the use of the Albanian language in Macedonian state institutions. This was widely seen as a major breakthrough, but Leotard himself hurried to add that "this accord is conditional on the continuation of the political discussions, notably on the issue of the police. Therefore, it is a conditional agreement."

Leotard's U.S. counterpart, James Pardew, was not willing to show too much optimism, either. According to AP, Pardew said: "This is a good deal for everyone, but I am not euphoric. There's a lot of tough work ahead. This is not the end of the negotiations."

The two mediators were joined by Javier Solana, the EU's representative for foreign and security policy, who came to Macedonia on 5 August. After several meetings with the Macedonian and Albanian party leaders, he told a press conference that an agreement had been reached on the police issue, but did not give any details.

Some Western as well as domestic observers, however, are becoming increasingly skeptical as to whether a negotiated peace will be stable and lasting, even if the negotiations should produce what looks like a workable compromise. There are too many open questions about whether and how any agreement reached by the political leaders can actually be implemented.

First, it is unclear what role the National Liberation Army (UCK) will play after a peace agreement. Will the rebel organization accept an agreement that only the legally elected representatives of the Albanian minority have negotiated? Or will the UCK leadership start a new round of violent clashes because its original demands have not been met?

It is clear that Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and Imer Imeri of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) are in close contact with the guerrillas. The rebels, for their part, have placed immense pressure on Xhaferi and Imeri -- there are rumors that both party leaders were given silver bullets as a warning. Whether or not this is true, the Albanian negotiators are likely to try to avoid any conflict with the UCK.

On the other hand, the Albanian population of Macedonia will most likely gain from any agreement, at least at first glance. The legal status of the minority will improve and their representation in state institutions will increase. But what about their future coexistence with their Macedonian neighbors, many of whom have become increasingly suspicious and resentful in recent months? The question is whether the Albanians' improvement in status will outweigh the long-term damage to interethnic relations.

Second, there is no guarantee that any agreement can gain approval in the parliament. The current peace talks have been held under the auspices of President Boris Trajkovski and mediated by U.S. and EU envoys. The leaders of the four main ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political parties have been the main participants. But there is widespread criticism that neither the Macedonian parliament nor the smaller ethnic minorities have been included in the political dialogue.

For his part, parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov of the Liberal Party, who is more of a hawk than a dove, said in his speech on the Ilinden national holiday on 2 August in Krusevo that the parliament will decide on any peace agreement only after the rebels' disarm.

Third, there is no guarantee that the Macedonian public will accept any peace deal signed under pressure from armed rebels. In this respect, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's speech on 2 August was symptomatic. Speaking at Prohor Pcinjski monastery, he said: "I would like to point out that Macedonia has military equipment and capable soldiers and policemen, who are ready to restore the constitutional order in the country. Territorial integrity must be reestablished prior to the signing of any agreements, which have to be in the interest of the Republic of Macedonia."

It is not clear whether by "military equipment and capable soldiers" he also meant the paramilitary formations that have recently been formed in Kicevo and Mavrovo. What is clear, however, is that Georgievski is well aware of the militant mood among broad sections of the ethnic Macedonian population.

An opinion poll published by the Skopje bimonthly "Forum" on 27 July shows that some 61 percent of those interviewed -- including Macedonians, Albanians, and members of other minorities -- opt for a peaceful solution to the current crisis. But while a military solution does not have any support among the Albanian respondents, some 30 percent of the Macedonians preferred an armed conflict to a negotiated agreement.

This finding was underscored by the answers given to the second question: "Would you [support] any action against the terrorists?" Some 83 percent of the Macedonians answered positively to this question. Thus, any military option triggered by hard-liners inside or outside the Macedonian government would likely find broad support among the population.

If one accepts the results of this opinion poll as being representative of society as a whole, the future of Macedonian does not look very promising. Even if a civil war can be avoided, the country will remain divided along ethnic lines.

Here again, the respondents from the two major ethnic groups clearly differ. Asked whether they think that the Albanians and the Macedonians can live together in the future, both groups overwhelmingly (some 60 percent each) answered in the affirmative. But while 40 percent of the Albanians responded "don't know" or did not answer the question at all, 22 percent of the Macedonian respondents thought that peaceful coexistence of the two communities is not possible.


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