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Newsline - April 23, 2002


RUSSIA TO END CURBS ON OIL EXPORTS
Speaking on 22 April in Washington at the U.S.-Russia Business Council, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said his country does not plan to continue restricting oil exports after the second quarter, RIA-Novosti reported. In January 2001 and last month, Russia agreed to abide by OPEC's request that Russia reduce its oil exports by 150,000 barrels per day in an effort to boost global oil prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 2002). "We took such measures in the first and second quarters in order to prevent world prices from falling very sharply," Kudrin said. "In the strategic sense, we do not plan to continue these restrictions." VY

RUSSIA, CHINA CONDUCT ENERGY TALKS...
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, who ended his visit to Beijing on 22 April at the head of a delegation of Russian officials and oil executives, said after his discussions with his counterpart Wen Jiabao and the other Chinese leaders the same day that the central issue of his negotiations was a projected 2,400-kilometer Russia-China oil pipeline, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported. The pipeline, which is estimated to cost some $2 billion, will be laid down by the Yukos and Transneft oil giants from the Russian city of Angarsk in the Irkutsk Oblast to Daqing in northeastern China. According to Khristenko, the pipeline, which should be commissioned by 2005, is designed to supply 20-30 million tons of oil a year. Khristenko also said he discussed the role of Gazprom in another major Chinese project, the East-West gas pipeline stretching from the Xinjiang Uigur autonomous region in western China to the Shanghai area. Finally, Khristenko noted that Russia is successfully cooperating with China in the nuclear energy sphere by assisting in the construction of the Tian Wan nuclear power plant in China, and said Russia is prepared to supply additional nuclear reactors for that project. VY

...AS MOSCOW AND BEIJING SET UP COMMISSION ON TRADE DISPUTES
Khristenko also revealed that China is carrying out investigations into Russian commodities imports to determine if they are being dumped, particularly steel and fertilizers, and that the two sides have agreed to set up a working group of experts to address the problem, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April. He also added that the group will be in charge of "preventive work" to avoid "any complexities and difficulties" that may arise in trade between the two countries. VY

RUSSIA READY TO MODERNIZE SUDAN'S MILITARY
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists on 22 April after meeting with visiting Sudanese presidential adviser on defense issues, Bakri Hassan Salih, in Moscow that both sides are prepared to sign a military cooperation agreement that would allow Russia to help Sudan in the overall modernization of its military, RIA-Novosti and ORT reported on 22 April. Ivanov stressed that the Russian side is ready to provide to Sudan "a cheap and all-round upgrading of Sudan's Soviet- and Russian-made hardware." Regarding Russia's attitude to the currently strained Sudan-U.S. relations, Ivanov said that American policy toward Sudan is based on "double standards." However, he said, "No sanctions were imposed on this country, which means we are free to develop all-round cooperation." Ivanov and Salih are also to discuss a secret deal for supplying 12 Russian MiG-29 fighters at cost of $120 million, "Vedomosti" and nns.ru reported on 22 April. This would be the MiG Corporation's biggest contract in the African market, where it has already begun to squeeze out its Chinese competitors, the newspaper commented. VY

DEFENSE MINISTRY PROVIDES AIRCRAFT FOR CRIMINAL CHIEFTAINS
A probe of the Russian air forces made by the Military Prosecutor's Office has discovered the misuse of Il-62M executive jets designed to transport high-level Defense Ministry officers and equipped with top-secret communication equipment linking it with the country's leadership, ntv.ru, Interfax, and regions.ru reported on 22 April. In particular, the probe established that the jets have been used by the leaders of the so-called Izmailovo-Golyanovskaya organized crime group, and other shadowy business figures, who "have chartered the aircraft through fake companies." The Izmailovo-Golyanovskaya group was formed in 1992 by the Shenkovii brothers, Maksim and Igor. VY

PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION TARGETED BY SWINDLERS
Presidential Property Office head Vladimir Kozhin told RTR television on 21 April that his agency has been targeted by different fraudulent entities that have used his organization's name while conducting illegal activities. In one such case a company sent a bogus letter in Kozhin's name to the Moldovan president asking for economic preferences in supplying hydrocarbons to Moldova. In the other case, a firm using the logo of the presidential office requested a license for buying explosive materials. Such cases not only compromised the name of the Presidential Property Office, but have also caused real economic damage, according to Kozhin. VY

ZHIRINOVSKY WELCOMES LE PEN'S SUCCESS IN FRANCE...
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and deputy speaker of the State Duma, has sent Jean-Marie Le Pen a congratulatory note for his "brilliant victory" following the National Front candidate's success in France's first-round presidential elections, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 April. Zhirinovsky also wrote that Le Pen has "shaken France, awakened it from the dream cast over it by the mystics of globalism and the tales of communism." He hinted that he might travel to Paris for the second round of elections to support his friend. VY

...AS OTHER REACTIONS ARE MIXED
Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, who was attending a session of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, said he views Le Pen's strong performance as a reaction to France's liberal immigration policy, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 April. According to Rogozin, who is known for his rightist sentiments, the "enormous flow of immigrants" sparked a protest from the electorate. But Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy head of the Duma's Fatherland-All Russia faction, said that the results of the first-round election are a threat to democracy in France, RosBalt reported on 22 April. Kosachev added that it indicates that a victory of rightist forces is possible in France's elections for the National Assembly in June, and of the weakening of the institution of the presidency in that country. VY

REGIONAL LEADERS CONTINUE DEBATE OVER AGRICULTURAL LAND SALES...
At a full session of the State Council on 22 April, only the leaders of the Evenk and Ust-Orda Autonomous Okrugs supported the government's bill on agricultural land sales without reservation; however, "even opponents of the bill believe its adoption is inevitable," REN-TV reported. Discussion in the advisory chamber focused mainly on separate articles of the bill. Most controversial was the issue of how much land can be concentrated in the hands of a single person or entity, according to the station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2002). The government suggests that each region set its own limit, but the limit should not be set below 35 percent of the land in a single region -- an amount that some governors say is too much. Among the leaders of six regions categorically opposed to the bill were the heads of Belgorod, Tambov, and Tula Oblasts and Krasnodar Krai, according to the station. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 23 April, President Vladimir Putin said that while the issue of land sales has been debated for the past 10 years, Russia has lost millions of hectares of arable land to weeds. JAC

...AS PUTIN OPEN TO BAN ON LAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS
However, Putin also said on 22 April that "at this stage in Russia's [development], it is possible to legislatively ban sales of land to foreigners," according to "Kommersant-Daily." Sergei Katanandov, the head of Karelia, also spoke in favor of limiting land sales to foreigners, rosbalt.ru reported. Katanandov suggested that land sales be banned to foreigners in all border regions. JAC

LOCAL COURT REFUSES TO FREE SUTYAGIN PENDING INVESTIGATION'S OUTCOME
A raion-level court in Kaluga Oblast refused on 22 April to free from custody Russian political scientist Igor Sutyagin, who has been accused of espionage, RIA-Novosti reported. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999, and a local court sent his case back for additional investigation in December 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Sutyagin, a scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, was arrested in October 1999 on charges of passing secret information on Russia's combat readiness to the United States. He maintains that all his reports were based on publicly available information. The Kaluga court said that it could not release Sutyagin because he might hide, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. JAC

PRO-KREMLIN GROUP WANTS TO INTRODUCE ANTI-GAY LAW INTO CRIMINAL CODE
The People's Deputy group in the State Duma has prepared amendments to the Criminal Code that would imprison persons convicted of "homosexuality" to one to five years in prison, polit.ru reported on 22 April, citing People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov. According to the website, a similar article was introduced into the Soviet criminal code in 1933 and existed for 60 years. The punishment at that time was three to eight years in prison. The deputies group believes the amendments will strengthen public morality, the institution of the family, and Russian citizens' health. JAC

DUMA DEPUTY DROWNS
State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Vereteno drowned on 20 April in a boating accident, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April. Vereteno's speedboat hit an ice floe on the Irtush River in Omsk Oblast. Vereteno, who was a member of the People's Deputy group, had been elected from a single-mandate district in the oblast. JAC

HIGH-LEVEL JUDGE ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION IN BASHKORTOSTAN
The legislature of Bashkortostan has asked the chairman of Russia's Supreme Court and the Upper Qualifications Collegium to consider stripping Bashkortostan's Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov of his office before his term expires, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 April. Vakilov's counterpart at Bashkortostan's Constitutional Court, Ildus Adigamov, told legislators that day that Vakilov had obtained several apartments in a dubious manner and embezzled some 200,000 rubles ($6,400) from funds that had been allocated for construction work at the court, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 22 April. During the first three months of this year, the federal Finance Ministry and federal Treasury Board conducted an audit of the Supreme Court's financial activities, revealing a number of violations. JAC

SKINHEADS VISIT TATAR SCHOOL IN MOSCOW
A group of 10-15 stick-wielding skinheads showed up at Moscow's Tatar Ethnic Cultural School No. 1,186 on 11 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 April. School director Lemma Gilfanova told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that the teenagers, who were students from a neighboring school, chanted: "Moscow is for Russians," and said Tatars should not be living there, the service reported on 22 April. Gilfanova said, "I tried to explain to them that Tatars and Russians have always lived together, but they didn't listen to me." When she said that Tatars lived here even before Grand Duke Yurii Dolgorukii (Long Arms) founded Moscow in 1147, they responded by saying they "will shorten the arms of your Dolgorukii." Gilfanova called the police, who came and spent a long time persuading the skinheads to leave, and she later met with city education authorities along with other directors of ethnically based schools to discuss the threat from skinheads. JAC

JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO LABOR CAMP FOR LIBEL
Yana Vyrobova, editor of a local newspaper in Sverdlovsk Oblast, was sentenced by a local court to 1 1/2 years of corrective labor and a deduction of 15 percent of her income to be sent to the government for defaming the honor and dignity of the chairman of the Sverdlovsk Oblast government, Radio Mayak reported on 22 April. Because Vyrobova is the mother of an underage child and this is her first conviction, she is eligible for an amnesty and will not have to serve time. According to the station, Vyrobova is unrepentant and said that if the editorial office of her newspaper receives similar information again, they will publish it. JAC

MOSCOW EXTENDS MANDATE OF CE CHECHEN EXPERTS
During talks in Moscow on 20 April, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Council of Europe Secretary-General Walther Schwimmer reached agreement on extending and prolonging until 2004 the mandate, which expires on 4 July, of the Council of Europe experts seconded to the office of the Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, Interfax reported. On 19 April, Schwimmer explained that in addition to focusing on human rights issues, those experts will in future advise on the creation and functioning of local self-government bodies. LF

CHECHEN CHIEF OF STAFF CAPTURED
Russian troops apprehended Islam Khasukhanov, chief of general staff of the Chechen armed forces, during a special operation in the town of Shali late on 21 April, Interfax and RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 22 April. Khasukhanov is a former Russian naval captain who was one of three candidates to command the ill-fated "Kursk" submarine. Khasukhanov reportedly resigned his commission in 1999 after being passed over for that posting because he was a Chechen. LF

ARMENIANS PROTEST JAZZ CONCERT AT MURDER CAFE
Some 200 people attended a silent vigil on 22 April convened by Armenian opposition to protest a jazz concert at Yerevan's Aragast cafe, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The cafe was the scene of the death last September of Poghos Poghosian, an Armenian from Georgia whom witnesses claim was beaten to death by President Robert Kocharian's bodyguards. The protesters believe the investigation and trial of one bodyguard, Aghamal Harutiunian, failed to establish the circumstances of Poghosian's death (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 21, and 22 February 2002). The concert was the culmination of a jazz festival organized by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. LF

KARABAKH PROPOSES PERMANENT REPRESENTATION IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT
During talks in Yerevan on 17 April with his Armenian counterpart Armen Khachatrian, Oleg Yesayan, who is chairman of the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, suggested that his legislature should have a permanent representative in the Armenian parliament, Noyan Tapan reported on 18 April. Karabakh parliament deputies already participate in sessions of some Armenian parliamentary commissions. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE DETAIN TWO WOMEN ACTIVISTS
Police in Baku detained two members of the opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party, Zamina Dunyamalieva and Solmaz Aleskerova, in Baku on 22 April, Turan reported. It is not clear whether they have been charged with a specific offense. The Democratic, Liberal, and National Independence parties and the Organization for the Liberation of Karabakh all denounced the detentions as illegal and demanded the women be released. LF

AZERBAIJANI MUSICIAN DIES IN DETENTION
Musical ensemble director Beylar Guliev died on 19 April of multiple injuries sustained after reportedly leaping from a window of the prosecutor's office in Baku's Sabail Raion, Turan reported on 22 April. Guliev had been taken to the prosecutor's office the previous day and remanded for 10 days for reasons that are unclear. Turan reported without citing its sources that Guliev's telephone number was found in a notebook belonging to former military prosecutor Rovshan Aliev, who was shot dead in Baku last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WARNS ABKHAZ AGAINST NEW OFFENSIVE
In his traditional Monday radio broadcast on 22 April, Eduard Shevardnadze warned the Abkhaz leadership not to launch a new offensive in the Kodori Gorge with the objective of killing or driving out the district's predominantly Svan population, Russian agencies and Caucasus Press reported. He said a new full-fledged conflict would result in the end of the current CIS peacekeeping operation. Shevardnadze also said that there are no longer any Georgian army troops in Kodori, only an unspecified number of border guards. He appealed to the Abkhaz leadership to resume peace talks. Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia said in Moscow on 19 April that Sukhum will not resume negotiations with Georgia until all Georgian forces are withdrawn from Kodori. On 23 April, Shevardnadze telephoned Djergenia to discuss the situation in Kodori, Caucasus Press reported, quoting the presidential press service. The two men agreed to take all measures necessary to prevent a new escalation of tensions. LF

PEACEKEEPERS' COMMANDER REFUSES TO MEET WITH GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS
Major-General Aleksandr Yevteev, who is acting commander of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, ignored on 22 April a request by Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia to meet with them in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi to discuss their grievances, Caucasus Press reported. The displaced persons warned that if Yevteev fails to meet with them by 24 April they will again blockade the bridge across the Inguri River that marks the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. LF

U.K. TO TRAIN GEORGIAN POLICE ANTITERRORIST SQUAD
Agreement has been reached during the ongoing visit to London by Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili that an unspecified number of British instructors will train members of the Georgian Interior Ministry's antiterrorist squad, Caucasus Press reported on 22 April. It is not clear when training will commence. LF

RUSSIA TO SUE GEORGIA OVER ENERGY THEFT
Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) is preparing to take the Georgian government to the International Economic Court in The Hague for having diverted for domestic use over the past two months 102 million kilowatt hours of electricity that Russia had agreed to supply to Turkey via Georgia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 April, quoting an EES spokesman. The losses EES incurred are estimated at $2.5 million. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. PRESENCE IN CASPIAN IS 'POSITIVE'
Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told the Kazakh parliament on 22 April that the U.S. presence in the Caspian is in Kazakhstan's national security interests, Interfax reported. He said Kazakhstan will continue to cooperate with the United States. Echoing a statement he made earlier this month, Toqaev also again said that Kazakhstan may "in exceptional cases" make its airfields available to U.S. and allied aircraft engaged in the ongoing antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). LF

OPPOSITION WARNS THAT TENSIONS RISING IN NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN
Meeting on 21 April in Pavlodar, members of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, the "Pokolenie" movement, and other opposition groups warned that tensions in the oblast between opposition formations and recently appointed governor Daniyal Akhmetov are rising, forum.kz reported. Meeting participants accused Akhmetov and his staff of resorting to illegal actions to repress the opposition, and requested a meeting with him to discuss the situation in Pavlodar. They also expressed concern at the lack of information about former oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, one of the founders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, who is being held under investigation in Pavlodar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2002). LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES REGIONAL RIVALRIES BEHIND AKSY CLASHES
Topchubek Turgunaliev denied at a press conference in Bishkek on 22 April that any rivalry exists between "northern" and "southern" clans in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Eminent novelist Chingiz Aitmatov claimed on 19 April that such rivalries contributed to the clashes between police and demonstrators in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion last month. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES SHORTCOMINGS IN POLICE, EDUCATION
Addressing a 22 April session of both chambers of parliament, Imomali Rakhmonov complained that many police officers and teachers are not qualified to discharge their duties, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. As a result, many police personnel themselves engage in criminal activities. Of a total of 26,000 teachers in Tajik schools, only 8,000 have a university education. Rakhmonov also noted that funds earmarked for developing the social sector are being squandered on other purposes. He called on the parliament and government to take speedy action to improve the situation, noting that in order to build a civil society it is necessary for citizens to demonstrate "civic responsibility." LF

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS RUSSIAN PRESS ARTICLE
The Tajik Foreign Ministry sent an official note to the Russian Embassy in Dushanbe on 18 April protesting the publication by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" three days earlier of an article discussing Tajikistan's geopolitical options, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 April, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov. The article claimed that following the defeat of the Taliban, some 1,500 members of the clandestine Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have taken refuge in three oblasts of Tajikistan. The newspaper further predicts new tensions between various Tajik regional groupings, noting that representatives of the southern regions predominate in the present leadership while politicians from the north, who are favorably oriented toward Uzbekistan, are excluded from positions of power. The paper discusses Tajikistan's participation in the international antiterrorism coalition, which it interprets as evidence that Dushanbe intends to strengthen military cooperation with France and the U.S. at the expense of Russia, which for the past decade has been its main, if not its only partner in that field. Sattarov specifically rejected as untrue the allegation that the Tajik leadership has refused to provide alternative accommodation for Russian military units that it has asked to move from Dushanbe. In his address to parliament on 22 April, Rakhmonov called again for raising economic cooperation with Russia to the same level as military cooperation, Interfax reported. LF

TAJIK BORDER GUARD OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR DRUG OFFENSE
Police arrested a senior officer of the Tajik border guard on 21 April after finding seven kilograms of heroin during a search of his car, AP reported on 22 April. President Rakhmonov ordered in January that all senior border guard officials be screened for professionalism and honesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 22 January, and 9 April 2002). LF

U.S. ADVISER DISCUSSES REGIONAL SECURITY WITH UZBEK PRESIDENT
President Islam Karimov met in Tashkent on 22 April with Zalmay Khalilzad, who is a U.S. presidential special envoy for Afghanistan, Interfax and the National Information Agency of Uzbekistan reported. They discussed ways to strengthen regional security and stability, the situation in Afghanistan, and unspecified aspects of bilateral cooperation. LF

UZBEKISTAN ANTICIPATES 6-8 PERCENT GDP GROWTH FOR NEXT DECADE
On 19 April Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov chaired a meeting to discuss the 10-year program of structural transformations drafted by the presidential commission on financial and banking reform and developing market relations, the National Information Agency of Uzbekistan reported. The program envisages, among other things, giving priority to the industrial sector, in particular the processing of local raw materials, making local manufactured goods more competitive, and attracting foreign investment. Its successful implementation should result in annual GDP growth of between 6-8 percent and an annual increase in industrial production of between 10-11 percent. The industrial component of GDP will double. The creation of new jobs in the cities in the industrial and service sectors will, it is hoped, attract labor from rural areas where unemployment is high. LF

BELARUSIAN COURTS' CONVEYOR BELT AGAIN IN MOTION
Three district courts in Minsk on 22 April sentenced 23 people to jail terms ranging from three to 15 days for their participation in an unsanctioned protest rally on 19 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002), Belapan reported. Some 20 other detained participants will face trials in coming days. A veteran of protests against the Belarusian regime, 60-year-old Valery Shchukin, was jailed for 15 days. Shchukin was harshly beaten prior to his arrest and hospitalized. Film director Yury Khashchavatski and Zubr youth movement leader Raman Karpovich will spend 10 days in jail. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES UKRAINIAN PROTECTIONIST MEASURES
Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko on 22 April and discussed trade and economic cooperation, Belarusian Television reported. "We are very concerned about the restrictions Ukraine has been introducing in trade with the Republic of Belarus over recent years," Lukashenka said. "I think those antidumping sanctions and the rise in duties on petrochemical goods -- and on other goods, as far as I am aware -- will not do any good... If such trends are taking place in Belarusian-Ukrainian trade relations, you should understand that we will also have to take appropriate measures," Lukashenka added. JM

FORMER BELARUSIAN EXECUTIONER SEEKS ANTI-LUKASHENKA TRIAL
Aleh Alkayeu, Belarus's former executioner, told Reuters on 22 April that he is ready to testify in an international court against President Lukashenka. Last year, Alkayeu fled from Minsk to the West and divulged that he was ordered by his superiors to make the pistol used for executions in Minsk's death-row prison available for alleged political killings perpetrated by a government-organized death squad (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). Alkayeu is in possession of the executioner's logbook, which shows that in 1999 Interior Ministry officials twice borrowed the pistol. Opposition leaders Yury Zakharanka and Viktor Hanchar as well as businessman Anatol Krasouski disappeared on the days Alkayeu's pistol was on loan. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS
Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told journalists on 22 April that he resigned his post in order to take a seat in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian media reported. Potebenko was elected a deputy from the Communist Party list. The Ukrainian opposition has repeatedly called for Potebenko's dismissal. Potebenko, who had headed the Prosecutor-General's Office since 1998, oversaw several high-profile investigations of journalists' killings and allegations of illegal arms exports, but none of these cases have been brought to a clear conclusion. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN LEBANON
Leonid Kuchma visited Beirut on 22 April and met with his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud. The two sides signed agreements on preventing tax evasion and double taxation, on cooperation in air services, and on education and scientific research, Interfax reported. JM

OUR UKRAINE TO BECOME A PARTY?
Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh (a constituent of the Our Ukraine election bloc), said on 22 April that his organization is ready to form a single national-democratic party on the basis of Our Ukraine, UNIAN reported. According to Kostenko, the new party can be set up "through the democratic election of party leaders of all levels -- from bottom to top -- at raion and oblast conferences and at a [nationwide] congress." Kostenko added that the process of forming the party may be concluded within in the next two months. JM

ESTONIA OPENS INSTITUTIONS' CHAPTER AT EU ACCESSION TALKS
Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Alar Streimann, the chief Estonian negotiator with the EU, formally opened the Institutions chapter in EU membership negotiations in Brussels on 22 April, ETA reported. He said that every new member state can be an active member of the organization only if it is guaranteed an equal level of representation in EU institutions, and that Estonia will further analyze the EU position on this chapter. He did not agree with the EU's offer to close the chapter on Regional Policy, asking for explanations from the EU on several technical details, particularly regarding the method used to calculate amounts of financial support. During discussions on the Finance and Budgetary Provision chapter, Streimann said Estonia wants its payments to the EU budget to be gradually brought up to the required level. SG

LUXEMBOURG DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR LATVIA'S NATO BID
Accompanied by Luxembourg's Defense Directorate head Fernard Kirh, Charles Goerens made an official one-day visit to Latvia on 22 April at the invitation of his Latvian counterpart Girts Valdis Kristovskis, LETA reported. He expressed his country's firm support for Latvia's efforts to join NATO and the EU, saying he believes this would contribute to global stability. The ministers also discussed various Euro-Atlantic security issues, relations between the Atlantic alliance and Russia, and the role of NATO in ensuring regional stability. The two countries are developing cooperation projects between their armed forces, mainly in the spheres of technology and training. Goerens held talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga at her residence in Jurmala, pointing out that small countries can be of great use in the defense sector on security and human rights matters. He also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Indulis Berzins. SG

LITHUANIA CLOSES TWO MORE CHAPTERS IN EU ENTRY TALKS
At a meeting of chief negotiators for EU entry in Brussels on 22 April, Lithuania closed the chapters on Institutions and on Justice and Home Affairs in its negotiations for EU membership, ELTA reported. This raised the country's number of completed chapters to 26 of 31. It was agreed that Lithuania would have 12 seats (the same as Ireland) in the 732-seat European Parliament, and seven (the same as Ireland, Finland, Denmark, and Slovakia) of the 345 seats in the European Union Council. The justice chapter requires Lithuania to pay more attention to halting corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking, and illegal migration, and to change its visa policies. From 1 January 2003, visas will be required for Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens, as well as train passengers and truckers going to Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast via Lithuania. Beginning on 1 July 2003, residents of Kaliningrad will need visas to enter Lithuania. The five chapters not yet completed are Agriculture, Energy, Regional Policy, Finance and Budgetary Provisions, and "Other," which deals with issues that are specific to Lithuania. SG

WARSAW SUMMONS RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR OVER BISHOP EXPULSION
Poland's Foreign Ministry has requested that Russian Ambassador Nikolai Afanasevskii explain why Polish Bishop Jerzy Mazur was declared persona non grata in Russia and returned from a Moscow airport on a plane to Warsaw last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). Mazur was on his way to Irkutsk, Siberia, where he had worked since 1998. JM

POLISH PUBLIC TELEVISION TO CUT WORKFORCE BY 17 PERCENT
Polish public television chief Robert Kwiatkowski said on 22 April that his company's net profit this year will be below 20 million zlotys ($5 million), compared to 31.7 million zlotys in 2001, PAP reported. Kwiatkowski added that expected layoffs will affect some 1,000 people out of the 5,900-member workforce. JM

POLES REMAIN GLOOMY ABOUT FUTURE
In a poll conducted from 5-8 April among 1,044 adult Poles, the CBOS polling center found that 67 respondents believe Poland is heading in the wrong direction, while only 19 percent think otherwise, PAP reported on 22 April. The same day, the Main Statistics Office reported that Poland's record unemployment rate remained stable at 18.1 percent, or 3.26 million people, in March, which is identical to the February figure. JM

TEXT OF CZECH RESOLUTION ON BENES DECREES MADE PUBLIC
The text of the draft resolution on the Benes Decrees agreed on by the parliamentary parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies was released for publication on 22 April, CTK reported. The draft says that the chamber "rejects attempts to open issues connected with the end and with the results of World War II." It also says that membership in the EU based on "good neighborly relations" is considered a priority of Czech foreign policy, and that Czech legislation on property restitution is "the exclusive prerogative of Czech constitutional bodies." The resolution stresses that the Benes Decrees reflected postwar realities and are not applicable at present, while at the same time "legal and property relations" stemming from those decrees are "unquestionable, inviolable, and unchangeable." MS

CZECH CABINET APPROVES FIGHTER-JET PURCHASE
The cabinet on 22 April approved an agreement on purchasing 24 supersonic Jas-39 Gripen fighter-jets at the cost of 60 billion crowns ($1.7 billion), CTK and AP reported, quoting Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka. The delivery of the first jets is scheduled for the autumn of 2004. The deal includes 82 billion crowns in offset purchases by the BAE Systems/SAAB consortium of Czech-made equipment including engines, electronics, and other supplies. The parliament has yet to approve the deal, which is meeting strong opposition, particularly from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The government plans to finance the purchase from revenues obtained from the sale of the state-owned Cesky Telecom, but intends to ask the parliament to also approve a 33 billion crown loan from the Czech Export Bank. U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton said on 22 April that U.S. experts have doubts on the compatibility of the JAS-39 Gripen with some NATO technical requirements. MS

CZECH LEADERS REACT TO HUNGARIAN ELECTORAL OUTCOME
Premier Milos Zeman said on 22 April that he is "naturally pleased" with the success of "our [Social Democrat] colleagues in Hungary," CTK reported. Zeman said outgoing Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban's "fomenting of nationalism in speaking about a 15-million-strong Greater Hungary was not something that could impress prudent Hungarian voters." ODS shadow foreign minister Jan Zahradil said he believes the new government in Hungary will be in a difficult position, and that "liberated from the governing burden, Orban and his party may even radicalize their rhetoric." ODS Chairman Klaus said, in an allusion to the ongoing dispute over the Benes Decrees, that "unlike Mr. Orban," he is not in the habit of "becoming involved in other countries' affairs and telling them what laws to repeal or to pass." MS

PLZEN INAUGURATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
A memorial for the 2,604 Plzen Jews who perished in the Holocaust was inaugurated on 19 April near the town's old synagogue, CTK and AP reported. Each stone in the memorial carries the name of one of the victims. Only 204 out of Plzen's 3,000-member Jewish community survived the Holocaust. In related news, on 21 April in Brno some 50 skinheads attacked a group of punks who oppose racism, CTK reported. Two people were slightly injured in the skirmish. In related news, the Constitutional Court decided on 22 April that "Mein Kampf" publisher Michal Zitko for the time being does not have to pay the 2.5 million crown ($73,681) penalty imposed on him by a lower court until the Constitutional Court rules on Zitko's complaint that the lower court's sentence infringed on the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and access to information. MS

SLOVAK POLITICIANS WELCOME RESULTS OF HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS...
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 22 April that in the recent Hungarian elections "the European vector has defeated the nationalist one," and that he hopes the outcome will make an agreement with Budapest on the controversial Status Law possible, CTK reported. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel said the Hungarian electoral outcome will provide an impetus for renewed cooperation within the Visegrad Four, and that the change in Hungary was "an expected shift due to the extremist agenda of [Premier Viktor] Orban's party and government." Parliamentary Foreign Commission Chairman Peter Weiss said the government in Hungary lost the elections because of its "pan-Hungarian nationalism and historic revisionism." Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Deputy Chairman Rudolf Ziak said he welcomes the fact that Hungarian voters have decided that "nationalism, as exposed by Orban and other politicians, has no place in Hungary." MS

...BUT PSNS WANTS SMK BANNED
Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) Chairman Jan Slota on 22 April called for banning the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) because of the statement made by its deputy chairman, Miklos Duray, in Budapest at a FIDESZ electoral rally on 13 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). Slota rejected SMK Chairman Bela Bugar's claim that Duray did not speak for the SMK during the rally, but as a private person, CTK reported. Bugar also said the SMK will have "friendly relations" with the new Hungarian government. MS

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED OVER SLOVAK ROMANY JOURNALIST
U.S. Congress Helsinki Commission co-Chairman Christopher Smith said on 20 April that he is "concerned" over the charging of journalist Denisa Havrlova, who faces a sentence of one year in prison if convicted for having allegedly attacked a policeman, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). Smith also said he is concerned over the fact that the Slovak Penal Code makes it possible to charge journalists with "abuse of a public official." MS

NEW HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE WEEKS TO FORM
Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs, his Free Democrat counterpart Gabor Kuncze, and prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy, wrote a joint letter to President Ferenc Madl on 22 April confirming that they do not intend to engage in coalition talks with the FIDESZ-Democratic Forum alliance, and drawing Madl's attention to the fact that only Medgyessy stands a chance of forming a government, Hungarian media reported. Kuncze said coalition talks are likely to last four weeks, and a new government cannot be formed for another six to seven weeks. Kovacs noted that the Socialists obtained 10 more seats than FIDESZ did on its own, without its governing coalition partner the Democratic Forum (MDF). If the MDF establishes a separate group in parliament, as its chairwoman Ibolya David said it will, the Socialists will have the largest group and will be entitled to hold the post of parliamentary speaker, Kovacs said. MSZ

SOCIALIST PRIME-MINISTERIAL CANDIDATE REITERATES PROGRAM
Addressing reporters on 22 April, Medgyessy confirmed his intention to abide by promises he made during the election campaign, and asked the current cabinet to abstain from concluding any long-term treaties and to ensure that documents do not disappear, Hungarian media reported. He confirmed that family allowances will be doubled beginning in August; pensioners will receive a one-time compensation of 19,000 forints ($70); taxes on minimum wages will be cut; public service staff, health workers, and teachers will receive 50 percent pay raises beginning in September; and university grants will be increased by 30 percent. He added that the next government seeks to cooperate with the governor of the Hungarian National Bank, and does not intend to exert pressure on anybody to retire. He also said the Status Law will remain in effect, and that Hungary will set no conditions regarding the Benes Decrees for the accession of the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the EU. MSZ

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES REACT TO ELECTION RESULTS
Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), told Hungarian television on 22 April that the UDMR "maintains an equal distance from all political parties [in Hungary]." Marko expressed the hope that the Status Law will continue to be implemented and that the new government will introduce additional benefits for ethnic Hungarians abroad. UDMR Honorary Chairman Laszlo Tokes called the election result "a major disappointment," as ethnic Hungarians had access "to unprecedented advantages and attention, thanks to the Orban cabinet." SMK Chairman Bela Bugar said his party must build good relations with all Hungarian governments and expects them all to support the SMK's efforts, proposals, and ideas. But SMK Deputy Chairman Miklos Duray said it is still unclear who will form the new cabinet. He did not rule out early elections. Vojvodina's Hungarian Federation Chairman Jozsef Kasza said his party's policy is to maintain good relations with both ruling and opposition parties in Hungary. MSZ/MS

WESTERN LEADERS APPARENTLY CONTENT WITH HUNGARIAN ELECTORAL OUTCOME
"We send our congratulations to Socialist leader Peter Medgyessy on his electoral achievement," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a press conference in Washington on 22 April, international news agencies reported. "We wish him and his team every success in continuing Hungary's transition to a fully developed market economy and a fully democratic society," he added. U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Nancy Goodman Brinker invited Medgyessy to visit Washington, while British Prime Minister Tony Blair scheduled him to visit Britain on 16 May, Hungarian media reported. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said that, "Despite its far-reaching reform process, which has often had difficult consequences for parts of the population...Hungary has rejected the temptation of extremist, anti-European, antidemocratic forces." Verheugen said he believes that "a Socialist-led government would strive to conclude the accession process with the same commitment as its predecessor." MSZ/MS

MORE SERBIAN INDICTED WAR CRIMINALS PREPARING FOR SURRENDER
The Yugoslav authorities are negotiating with an unspecified number of indicted war criminals regarding their possible surrender and transfer to The Hague, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). In addition to General Dragoljub Ojdanic and former Krajina leader Milan Martic, the authorities are in contact with Krajina military commander Mile Mrksic, Dubrovnik campaign commander Vladimir Kovacevic, and Veselin Sljivancanin, who is one of the "Vukovar three," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. There may be others as well. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Sinisa Djordjevic, who is Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic's adviser on matters relating to The Hague, said an unspecified number of unidentified individuals in the Republika Srpska are considering taking up Belgrade's call for them to surrender voluntarily. PM

YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES TO ANNOUNCE THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO MET DEADLINE
The Yugoslav Justice Ministry announced on 23 April that its deadline for indicted war criminals to turn themselves in has expired, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The ministry added that it will soon announce the names of those six people who contacted the Belgrade authorities before the deadline ran out. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told the BBC in London on 23 April that the first indicted individuals will arrive in The Hague in two-three days. He added that most of those indicted will arrive there within two-three weeks. PM

INVISIBLE KARADZIC PUBLISHES A BOOK
Djordjevic also said in Banja Luka on 22 April that nobody in the Republika Srpska knows where Radovan Karadzic is, "Vesti" reported. Djordjevic stressed that SFOR would have arrested him by now if he were on Bosnian Serb territory. Meanwhile in Belgrade, representatives of the IGAM publishing house presented to the public a new book -- a play by Karadzic called "The Situation." A spokesman for the publisher added that it is no coincidence that the work has appeared just at the time that Belgrade has called on indicted war criminals to turn themselves in. The play is a spoof on politics and politicians and takes place in the garden of a run-down cafe in Bosnia. Reuters reported that the play has five characters -- a waiter, a would-be leader, an image-maker, a representative of the international community, and a behind-the-scenes voice of a Muslim who advises the foreigner. At the book presentation, Radovan's brother Luka said Radovan's "security detachment is doing its utmost to prevent any contacts with head hunters, and it is doing so successfully." PM

SERBIAN RIGHTIST LEADER HAILS LE PEN
Vojislav Seselj, who heads the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), said in Belgrade on 22 April that the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential election has provided "huge hope and stimulus...that Serbian patriots and all European peoples in the clutches of globalization will win their freedom and the right to a better future," dpa reported. Seselj added that France, which took part in the 1999 bombing of Serbia, has now shown itself to be "a truly friendly country," as Serbs have traditionally known it to be. PM

NATO COMMANDER VISITS KOSOVA
General Joseph Ralston held talks in Prishtina on 22 April with Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), Hina reported. Ralston also met with French General Marcel Valentin, who commands KFOR peacekeepers. No details were provided. Meanwhile in Moscow, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic discussed Kosova with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Interfax reported. Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova and southern Serbia, received Russian support for Serbia's position on the legal status of Kosova. Russia currently holds the rotating chair of the UN Security Council. PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT STARTING CAMPAIGN AGAINST WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
On 22 April, war crimes tribunal spokeswoman Florence Hartmann protested against the efforts of the Macedonian government to portray hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski as an innocent victim of the tribunal, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. She stressed that the tribunal cannot prosecute anybody as long as there is no evidence to support accusations. Hartmann was reacting to statements by the daily "Nova Makedonija," according to which the tribunal is preparing to indict Boskovski. Meanwhile, organizations close to the governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) have started a campaign against the tribunal, collecting signatures in support of Boskovski. Their slogan is: "We will not surrender brother Ljube to The Hague." UB

CONSERVATIVES BEAT OUT RIGHTISTS FOR CROATIAN PARTY LEADERSHIP...
In addition to the victory of Ivo Sanader over Ivic Pasalic for the leadership of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) for the next two years, the HDZ convention also witnessed the election of additional conservatives over hard-liners, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Zagreb on 22 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). For the post of deputy president, Jadranka Kosor, who is close to Sanader, defeated Pasalic loyalist Ljerka Mintas-Hodak. For the three positions of vice president, Bozidar Kalmeta, Andrija Hebrang, and Ivan Suker beat out Vladimir Seks, Darko Milinovic, and Ivan Vekic. PM

...BUT WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE HDZ?
After his victory, Sanader said in Zagreb that the party must now concentrate on winning the next parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 22 April. He added that the HDZ has the firm backing of 30 percent of the electorate and can expect to win 35 percent of the vote in a parliamentary contest. "Jutarnji list" noted on 23 April that this was the most acrimonious convention to date. The daily added, however, that the party remains united, even if it is no longer the one that the late President Franjo Tudjman once led. "Vecernji list" suggested that Sanader will need to cut a deal with Pasalic and his faction for a the sake of party unity. In Sarajevo, "Oslobodjenje" argued that the victory of Sanader and the mainstream conservatives over the hard-liners bodes well for Bosnia. PM

LABOR PROTESTS IN THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
An unspecified number of workers launched warning strikes and other protests in Banja Luka and several other cities in the Republika Srpska on 22 April to call attention to the low standard of living that many workers and pensioners face, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The protests will last for one month and culminate in a large-scale rally in Banja Luka. Union officials told RFE/RL that they want the authorities to raise the minimum guaranteed wage, which is now about $30 per month. PM

ROMANIAN LEADERS REACT TO FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL SCRUTINY
Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu said on 22 April that President Ion Iliescu "respects the choice of French voters" in connection with Jean-Marie Le Pen's success in the first round of the French presidential election, but is "concerned about the growing appeal of extremist, xenophobic, and populist parties in Europe," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported." Iliescu said this trend may have a "worrying impact" on EU candidate countries, which "are confronted with problems that are a lot more serious than those faced by states in the Western part of the continent." Representatives of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), as well as the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL), Democratic Party, and the UDMR also expressed their concerns over Le Pen's performance. MS

ROMANIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS
President Iliescu believes the outcome of the Hungarian elections "opens the door to strengthening and consolidating relations between the two countries," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 22 April, quoting presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu. The Romanian government said in a press release that the outcome "confirmed the [Hungarian] electorate's attachment to European values and to European and Euro-Atlantic integration." PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica said his party and the Hungarian Free Democrats share the "same vision of a civic nation," and that outgoing Premier Orban's "nationalist outbursts" were "in contradiction with liberal values." Democratic Party Senator Petre Roman and UDMR Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs also welcomed the outcome, while PRM First Deputy Chairman Corneliu Ciontu said he hopes the Status Law will now be abolished. MS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY, UDMR SET TO IMPLEMENT AGREEMENT ON TARGU-MURES HUNGARIAN SCHOOL
Representatives of the PSD and the UDMR agreed on 22 April that their earlier decision to return the Bolyai Farkas Lyceum in Targu Mures to ethnic Hungarian pupils must go ahead despite tensions triggered by ethnic Romanian pupils' protests, Romanian radio reported the next day. Before leaving Bucharest on 23 April for a visit to Strasbourg, President Iliescu said the protesting pupils are "exercising a democratic right," and that he does not believe in "arbitrary measures" that would transfer from the school ethnic Romanians who successfully met admission requirements. Speaking in the Senate on 22 April, Education Minster Ecaterina Andronescu said she believes the transfer of ethnic Romanian pupils to other schools "is neither a European nor a normal solution" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). MS

COMMUNISTS SUBMIT DRAFT ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA'S DEMOCRATIZATION
A draft law submitted to the parliament on 19 April by parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapchuk stipulates that the country's president, the parliamentary speaker, and the premier are to each be granted one hour every month to present their views on Moldovan radio and television, while parties represented in the legislature would benefit from 30 minutes each for the same purpose. According to Infotag, extraparliamentary formations would be granted 20 minutes on the radio and 10 minutes on television. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) parliamentary group leader Stefan Secareanu said in response that the government's proposal "infringes on democratic norms" because it does not respect Teleradio Moldova's independence, and PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the draft is part of the "populist measures" being attempted ahead of the Strasbourg session. In turn, the PPCD submitted a draft providing for the transformation of Teleradio Moldova into two autonomous and independent companies, one for the radio and the other for television. MS

EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER SURPRISED BY BULGARIA'S PROGRESS
EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenther Verheugen told a press conference on 22 April in Brussels that Bulgaria has made considerable progress in its bid for EU accession. He added that the results that have been achieved over the past months are unprecedented, BTA reported. However, Verheugen declined to fix a date for Bulgaria's EU accession. The commissioner spoke after meeting with Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev, and Bulgaria's chief negotiator with the EU, Meglena Kuneva. A major point of issue remains the closure of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Verheugen said there is a need for additional discussions about the plant's closure. While the EU wants the plant to be shut down by 2006, Bulgaria wants the plant to operate until 2010. UB

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS U.S. BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVES
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski met with representatives of U.S. enterprises during a working breakfast on 22 April at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BTA reported. After the meeting, Saxecoburggotski told journalists that he was impressed by the enthusiasm expressed by U.S. business circles to work in Bulgaria. Justice Minister Anton Stankov added that representatives of U.S. companies demanded greater legal guarantees for foreign investment in Bulgaria. Later the same day, Saxecoburggotski met with representatives of Jewish organizations. He also lectured at the Heritage Foundation on NATO's expansion plans in the eastern Balkans. UB

BOSNIA'S BRAVE NEW ORDER
In what some observers have called the biggest single change in Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton agreement, outgoing High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch announced in Sarajevo on 19 April new constitutions for the Croat-Muslim federation and for the Republika Srpska. The changes make Muslims, Serbs, and Croats politically equal throughout Bosnia and will directly affect the allocation of government jobs. Above all, the change undermines the ethnically based political underpinnings of the two entities.

Petritsch took the initiative after the deadline elapsed for the parliaments of both entities to pass such legislation. In an apparent effort to put the desired spin on his decision, he said that, "This is not an outright imposition... This is clearly a new approach...a partnership." He stressed that the new system "fully represents [Bosnia's] multiethnic character and conforms with European values and internationally recognized human rights standards."

He added that he refuses "to accept obstruction from...nationalist dinosaurs who want to hold Bosnia's citizens hostage." He told "Dnevni avaz" of 22 April that he expects the measures to come into effect by the end of 2002. Zlatko Lagumdzija, who is foreign minister in the non-nationalist coalition Bosnian joint government, said in Sarajevo on 19 April that, "This is the day when nationalism was defeated."

But not everyone was happy. The large three nationalist parties stand to lose the most from Petritsch's ruling and did not hide their displeasure. Sulejman Tihic, who is president of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), said that his party accepts the ruling but will work to change it. The party has already prepared a complaint before the Constitutional Court, "Dnevni avaz" reported.

The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said in an angry statement that the decision means that Muslims and Serbs will decide the future of the Croats. But in his interview with "Dnevni avaz," Petritsch warned the SDA and HDZ not to oppose the ruling, saying that they risk isolation.

Dragan Cavic, who is vice president of the Republika Srpska and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), stressed that Petritsch's ruling is the most difficult political decision reached in Bosnia since Dayton.

The link between Petritsch's move and Dayton is indeed the key issue, especially in the Republika Srpska. At the time the peace agreement was drafted at the end of 1995 -- and ever since then -- Bosnian Serb politicians have stressed that Dayton legitimizes a Serbian entity within Bosnia. But now Petritsch's decision seems to undermine that aspect of Dayton.

For similar reasons, the SDA is worried that equality for Serbs in the federation will undermine its hold on what are now mainly Muslim areas there. And the HDZ knows that it will be reduced to a purely minority role outside of western Herzegovina under the new rules. It is no wonder that these two parties have already complained -- and that Petritsch has already warned them.

The high representative has denied that his ruling is an imposition, but many observers find it difficult to accept that conclusion. Some call the international protectorate in Bosnia "enlightened absolutism" or "enlightened colonialism," and the international community's behavior seems to justify those labels.

In fact, the present non-nationalist government owes its hold on top offices -- it is difficult to call what they have real power -- to what may be termed the creative drafting and applying of electoral legislation by the international community. Petritsch has now promised additional electoral "reforms." But it is the SDA, SDS, and HDZ that are the proven vote-getters if the electorate is left to its own devices.

Petritsch and the other representatives of the international community have nonetheless decided that they will impose liberal institutions on Bosnia -- even if its citizens cannot yet be fully trusted with an unfettered democracy lest they elect nationalists.

The international community has had to recognize that it is present in Bosnia for the long haul because it cannot allow the emergence of a lawless black hole in the Balkans on the doorstep of the EU (a similar case may be made for Kosova and possibly Macedonia). Furthermore, the international community has already invested too much time and money in Bosnia to walk away.

It remains difficult, however, to see when light might appear at the end of this tunnel. Economic and legal reforms have been slow in coming in Bosnia, and there are ample signs that a culture of dependency has taken root. Moreover, corruption and old criminal networks remain intertwined with the political and military structures that developed in the course of the 1992-1995 war. And one might ask if Petritsch's decision now to impose a Tito-era-style "nationality key" in allocating government jobs will not open the political system to the kind of featherbedding and goldbricking that characterized the administration of Bosnia in communist times.

For now, the international community seems to have opted to press ahead with liberal reforms and hope that everything will turn out for the best. But Bosnians will expect additional tangible benefits in return for good behavior and repudiating "dinosaurs."

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