YELTSIN WARNS NATO, REASSURES PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS
President Boris Yeltsin says NATO must take Russia's views into account and warns that Moscow will revise its relations with the alliance if it expands to include former Soviet republics, Russian media reported yesterday. Yeltsin made the comments during a meeting with the speakers of both houses of the parliament and the leaders of all State Duma factions. He also argued that the NATO-Russia Founding act was a "balanced" document. All three Baltic states have expressed the desire to join NATO. Last week, Yeltsin said the accord gives Moscow a veto over NATO's actions, a claim denied by all NATO leaders. After yesterday's meeting, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said Yeltsin will submit the Russia-NATO accord to parliament for approval, Interfax reported. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to inform Duma deputies about the accord during a closed session on 23 May.
YELTSIN ON UKRAINE, BELARUS...
Ukraine's interests were taken into full account during talks between Russia and NATO about the accord on future relations, Yeltsin said in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday. A spokesman for Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv that Yeltsin wrote the NATO-Russia deal will strengthen stability in Europe and "positively affect the general political climate in Europe". Yeltsin is expected to visit Ukraine on 30-31 May to sign a Russian-Ukrainian basic treaty. Meanwhile, Yeltsin yesterday urged the speakers of the lower and upper houses of the Russian parliament to work for the simultaneous ratification of a union treaty and a charter agreement between Russia and Belarus. ITAR- TASS quoted Yeltsin as saying that three issues connected with the charter remain "unresolved." Yeltsin said he intends to resolve those issues in talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow on 22 May.
Yeltsin yesterday called on the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the acting president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh to make a concerted effort to achieve "real progress" toward ending the armed conflict over Nagorno- Karabakh and reaching a comprehensive settlement, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also proposed holding talks on the future status of the republic at the same time as discussions aimed at reaching a settlement. Azerbaijan refuses to discuss the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh's future status until Armenia agrees to respect its territorial integrity. ARMENPRESS yesterday quoted an unnamed Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman as rejecting Turkish media speculation that the ministry and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, formerly president of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, have different opinions over the issue.
KULIKOV SEES ONGOING ROLE FOR HIS MINISTRY IN IMPLEMENTING PEACE ACCORD WITH CHECHNYA
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told Interfax on 19 May that his ministry still has a role to play in implementing last week's Russian-Chechen peace treaty. Kulikov, who has repeatedly charged that the Chechen leadership is incapable of establishing law and order, said his ministry must help its Chechen counterpart in combatting crime, preventing terrorist acts, securing the release of prisoners and hostages, and developing a system of joint control over funds allocated by the Russian government for restoring the Chechen economy. Kulikov said he has already issued instructions to his staff to draft appropriate assistance programs.
YELTSIN APPROVES SEVEN-POINT GOVERNMENT PLAN
Yeltsin approved a seven-point government plan on social and economic policy at a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev. The government has promised to: 1) pay wage arrears to state employees by forcing large monopolies to pay their debts, cracking down on smuggling to increase customs duties, and enforcing a state monopoly on the production and sale of alcohol; 2) revise the system of social benefits so only the poor are eligible; 3) revive domestic industry and agriculture through cheap credits and lower fees for energy and rail transport; 4) support local and regional initiatives; 5) fight corruption by forcing officials to file income and property declarations; 6) reduce the size of the bureaucracy; and 7) "honestly and openly explain all the government's actions to the country's citizens."
DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE SLAMS GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE...
The Duma Budget Committee yesterday passed a resolution slamming the government's economic performance during the first quarter of 1997 as unsatisfactory, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The resolution noted the "total collapse" of tax revenues and criticized the government for making unauthorized changes in budget spending. The committee postponed announcing its final recommendation on the draft law on the budget sequester. But it indicated last week that it will recommend that the Duma reject the government's proposed budget cuts.
...CONDEMNS DRAFT LAW ON MONETARY EMISSION
At the same time, the Duma Budget Committee recommended that the lower house of the parliament reject a draft law calling for an additional monetary emission of some 300 trillion rubles ($52 billion), Russian news agencies reported. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party, proposed the bill, saying the budget gap should be filled by printing money rather than cutting spending. Central Bank officials have warned that the proposal would cause the value of the ruble to plummet and monthly inflation to surge to double digits. Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Yurii Maslyukov, another influential Communist, also criticized Ilyukhin's proposal as unconstructive, Radio Rossii reported yesterday. However, Maslyukov said some additional money would have to be printed in order to solve the budget crisis.
MINISTERS DEFEND BUDGET CUTS
Chernomyrdin, Chubais, and Nemtsov all urged the Duma to approve the draft law on the budget sequester at a press conference yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. Chernomyrdin praised the sequester as the first attempt by the government to reduce spending "honestly." He repeated that the size of the budget cuts was negotiable. Chubais said the Duma would not create more money by failing to approve the budget cuts, adding "we do not want to hide behind fancy figures. We want to live by real figures." For his part, Nemtsov argued that passing an "honest budget" would reduce the potential for financial abuses by bureaucrats who have the authority to distribute money.
AGRICULTURE MINISTER PROMOTED
Viktor Khlystun has been promoted to deputy prime minister in charge of the agro-industrial complex under a presidential decree issued yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. He will continue to serve as agriculture minister, a post he has held since May 1996. In March, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, then deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, was dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle, and his position was eliminated. However, many regional and opposition leaders have since called on Yeltsin to recreate the post. While serving as agriculture minister from 1991 to October 1994, Khlystun drew fire from Yeltsin's opponents for allegedly not doing enough to support state farms. He is the seventh deputy prime minister in the cabinet (not counting the two first deputy prime ministers).
YELTSIN SACKS KOBETS
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii says Yeltsin has sacked Deputy Defense Minister and Army Gen. Konstantin Kobets, Russian news agencies report today. Charges were filed against Kobets last week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). He is accused, among other things, of taking a 1.4 billion ruble ($240,000) bribe from a construction company. Last month, Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the commander of the Ground Forces, and three other senior officers were fired by presidential decree.
BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT FEARS FUTURE LOSS OF SOVEREIGNTY
Murtaza Rakhimov, in a lengthy interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 17 May, expressed concern that some State Duma deputies wish to transform Russia into a unitary state, which, he said, would deprive his republic of its present status as a sovereign state within the federation. He complained that the Duma is unilaterally altering articles of the Federation Treaty and seeking to discredit the August 1994 power-sharing treaty between the federation and Bashkortostan. Rakhimov also denied that the Russian Constitution is violated by a provision of the republican law on presidential elections stipulating that candidates must speak Bashkir in addition to Russian (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997). In 1989, Bashkirs accounted for only 23% of the republic's population. Russians constituted the largest ethnic group (38%) followed by Tatars (27%).
DAGESTANI POLICE OFFICIAL MURDERED
MVD Col. Kaimbek Gadzhibalaev, who was abducted in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala on 15 May, was found murdered yesterday, Interfax reported. Gadzhibalaev was a deputy in the Dagestani parliament and was involved in combatting illegal fishing for sturgeon. ITAR-TASS reported that three Azerbaijanis were apprehended on 17 May fishing for sturgeon near the mouth of the Samur River, which forms the frontier between Azerbaijan and Russia.
OPPONENTS OF ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR SUBMIT PETITION FOR REFERENDUM
The Communist-led initiative group that is seeking to remove St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has submitted petitions for a referendum to the city's electoral commission, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported yesterday. The group needed 150,000 signatures to demand a referendum and gathered nearly twice that amount. Residents would be asked in the referendum whether the city's social and economic policies have hurt their standard of living and whether they think Yakovlev should step down. However, Vladimir Soloveichik, the Communists' representative in the city electoral commission, claimed that the commission is being pressured to delay the referendum or declare it non-binding.
KEMEROVO GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE
All the deputy governors of Kemerovo Oblast have sent a letter to Yeltsin and the federal government warning that they will resign if Kemerovo Governor Mikhail Kislyuk is sacked, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. The site of the Kuzbass coal basin, Kemerovo has experienced frequent labor unrest. Yesterday, some 1,500 coal miners called for Kislyuk's dismissal at a rally in Anzhero- Sudzhensk. Yeltsin could remove Kislyuk legally, because Kemerovo is the only oblast that has not yet held gubernatorial elections. The Kemerovo legislature has passed a new regional electoral law, but Kislyuk has refused to sign it because it sets the minimum turnout level at 25%, RFE/RL reported on 15 May. Kislyuk wants the elections to be declared invalid if turnout falls below 50%, a level reached in very few Russian regional elections. In Kemerovo's legislative elections last December, turnout was just 28%.
KAZAK PRESIDENT ON PRIVATIZATION
Nursultan Nazarbayev, in an interview published in today's Komsomolskaya Pravda., has defended his country's privatization process. He admitted that 50 enterprises had been sold to foreign firms but noted that Kazakstan is second only to Hungary in terms of foreign investment among the former east bloc countries and republics of the Soviet Union. He pointed out that Kazakstan has invited Russian companies to take part in tenders for Kazak enterprises but "without success." He also criticized Russian industrialists and ministries that are attempting to "bring [Kazakstan] to its knees" in their dealings. In this connection, he mentioned the Karachaganskoye natural gas field, which, he said, sent its product to Orenburg to be refined but received only 13%-17% of the profits "thanks to [Gazprom Director] Rem Vyakhirev."
YASTRZHEMBSKII COUNTERS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES IN CIS
President Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii has responded to comments by Nazarbayev about Russia's military presence in CIS countries, Interfax and Nezavisimaya Gazeta report. The Kazak president made the comments at the Russian journalists conference in Almaty at the weekend (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). Yastrzhembskii, who also attended the conference, said Russian troops were in Armenia and Georgia as part of bilateral agreements between those states and Russia. He also said Russian troops will be removed from the Transdniester, adding that "nobody sees the stationing of Russian troops [there] as a long-term factor." Yastrzhembskii called Tajikistan a "special case" and noted that the decision to have Russian troops there came from the top CIS leadership.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT
Leonid Kuchma yesterday accused the parliament of deliberately delaying the passage of the long-delayed 1997 budget and of stalling reforms in the hope of "reaping the harvest" of voter discontent in next year's elections, Interfax reported. He said lawmakers were showing "sharpened opposition" to the president's reforms. Kuchma also criticized Pavlo Lazarenko's government, saying it had taken a "subservient position" on the budget issue by offering the parliament the opportunity to pass a budget based on an incomplete package of tax reforms.
ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FINED
Anatoly Lebedko, a member of the Belarusian parliament dissolved last year by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has been fined by a Minsk district court in connection with a demonstration on 15 March, Belapan reported. The court yesterday fined Lebedko the equivalent of $190 for participating in the unauthorized demonstration. Lebedko told reporters he may stage a hunger strike in the court building. The same court earlier imposed large fines on two Supreme Soviet members, Semen Sharetsky and Valery Shchukin, for the same offense.
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES IN FAVOR OF PROTECTIVE TARIFFS
Deputies voted yesterday by 47 to 26 with four abstentions to reject an opposition Reform Party proposal to kill the draft law on protective tariffs in its first reading, ETA reported. The bill is the cornerstone of the coalition agreement between the Coalition Party and the Rural Union. It is also a condition for membership in the World Trade Organization. Before the vote, the news agency quoted Prime Minister Mart Siimann as denying reports that he would resign if the parliament voted against the tariffs (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997).
ESTONIAN PREMIER CONFIRMS SOVIET-ERA KGB FILES MISSING
Siimann has confirmed that a large number of KGB files handed over to Estonia in 1991 have disappeared or been destroyed because of what he called carelessness, ETA reported. He told the parliament yesterday that of the 87,000 foreign travel files taken over in 1991, only some 49,000 remain at the Estonian State Archives. Siimann blamed the disappearance of the files on what he called the "sloppiness and incompetence" of the authorities that assumed responsibility for the KGB archives. The same day, Interior Minister Robert Lepikson told the parliament that security police have gathered sufficient evidence to charge some of the people responsible for deporting Estonians to Siberia in March 1949. He said the names will not be made public now in the interests of preliminary investigation. More than 20,000 Estonian citizens were deported to Siberia in 1949.
LANDSBERGIS ON RUSSIA-NATO ACCORD
Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis says certain points of the Russia-NATO Founding Act will "open the door to a better world order and a more secure life for us all," BNS reported. Landsbergis, who was speaking at a news conference yesterday in Vilnius, said it is very important for Lithuania that Russia has committed itself to reducing its conventional forces, since this "allows one to hope that the army in Kaliningrad Oblast will be reduced or at least not bolstered." Landsbergis also noted that the document binds Russia to opposing "aggressive nationalism," which, he said, would help strengthen confidence between Russia and its neighbors.
LATVIA, LITHUANIA DETERMINED TO RESOLVE SEA BORDER ISSUE
Algirdas Saudargas and his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, have issued a statement confirming their political will to "achieve a final and just solution to the issue of sea border delimitation," BNS reported yesterday. Saudargas was in Riga yesterday for a one-day official visit. He told a press conference that Latvia and Lithuania do not have "territorial problems" and that the settlement of the border issue is hampered only by "technicalities," such as the delimitation line. Birkavs said he is hopeful that the border issue will be settled before the EU begins accession talks with new members. Saudargas also met with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis.
WALESA ON RUSSIA-NATO ACCORD
Former President Lech Walesa, writing in Zycie Warszawy yesterday, accused NATO of a huge blunder in signing a deal with Russia, saying the agreement would encourage Moscow to continue a policy of confrontation with the West. In Walesa's opinion, NATO should have driven home the idea that no one could now stand up to it and that Moscow should therefore focus on its economic development. Meanwhile, Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler told journalists yesterday in Warsaw that Poland and Slovenia agree that Russia's new partnership deal with NATO will benefit European security and pave the wave for an eastward expansion of the alliance. Thaler made the comments after a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati.
CZECH GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY DECLINES
An opinion poll released by the Institute for Public Opinion Research yesterday indicates that only 35% of Czechs have confidence in the government--a drop of three percentage points since the last poll. Only 10% of respondents believed the country's transformation has been successful, while 40% thought the results of that transformation are mixed. A full 69% of respondents said that the ministers responsible for the country's problems should resign. Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy met yesterday with President Vaclav Havel to explain his 16 May suggestion that one possible solution to current problems is the resignation of the entire government. Dlouhy told Havel he was probably not the right person to make such a suggestion, Czech media report today.
REFERENDUM BALLOTS DISTRIBUTED IN SLOVAKIA
Referendum ballots containing four questions--three on Slovakia's NATO membership and one on direct presidential elections--have been distributed to the country's 79 districts, RFE/RL's Bratislava office reported yesterday. Some 4 million ballot papers have been printed for the 23-24 May referendum. The government has tried to block the question on direct presidential elections, asking the Constitutional Court to rule whether the constitution can be changed by a referendum. The court at first ruled the government is not entitled to make such an appeal, but reports suggest it may decide today whether the constitution can be changed by such a vote. Interior Minister Ivan Krajci stressed yesterday that he is prepared to distribute ballots with just three questions, should the court rule the basic law cannot be changed in this way. If ballots with only three questions cannot be distributed in time, the fourth question would not be legally binding.
ALBANIAN POLITICAL SITUATION WORSENS
Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino issued a statement in Tirana today saying he has failed to hammer out an agreement on the 29 June elections among the 10 parties in the broad coalition government. The statement said that although the debate continued all yesterday, it failed "not only to bring compromise or come near to compromise but, on the contrary, took Albania to the edge of a deeper crisis with unforeseeable consequences" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). President Sali Berisha's spokesman said the key issue remains proportional representation. News agencies report from the Albanian capital that the OSCE's Franz Vranitzky may return soon for a sixth mediation mission, but the OSCE has not confirmed those reports.
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told Fino in a telephone conversation on 18 May that it is in Albanians' own interest to find a way out of the impasse. Various foreign officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the elections must go ahead smoothly if Albania wants foreign help. Meanwhile in Vlora, gunmen killed two men yesterday. Many parents kept their children home from school, despite the presence of Italian military vehicles along the main street. The slayings brought the total killed across the country over the past few days to at least 10, police spokesmen in Tirana said.
TUDJMAN'S PARTY TAKES CONTROL OF ZAGREB
Two councilors from the Croatian Peasants' Party joined their colleagues from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) yesterday to elect the HDZ's Marina Matulovic-Dropulic as mayor of Zagreb and Zlatko Canjuga as council president. The vote comes in the wake of last month's elections and ends an 18-month stalemate during which President Franjo Tudjman vetoed several opposition candidates for mayor. Tudjman argued he could not turn over control of the capital to "enemies of state interests," even though the opposition had a majority on the council. The opposition suspected that the HDZ's real concern was that an opposition mayor would investigate corruption among previous HDZ administrations. Even HDZ members have accused Matulovic-Dropulic of corruption.
CROATIA'S KUNA INTRODUCED IN EASTERN SLAVONIA
Richard Klein, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, announced in Vukovar yesterday that the Croatian currency entered into circulation throughout the region as scheduled. The federal Yugoslav dinar will continue to be legal tender until 19 July, and Croatian citizens can turn in up to 2,000 dinars for kunas. In the first 18 hours, some 133,500 dinars were exchanged for Croatian money throughout the region, Vjesnik wrote today.
RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Igor Ivanov held talks in Belgrade yesterday with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on the first leg of a trip that will also include Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Ivanov told his Serbian hosts that federal Yugoslavia's membership in international institutions must be restored and noted that Russia is Yugoslavia's largest trading partner, BETA wrote. He said that democratization is Yugoslavia's "internal affair" but added that Russia is nonetheless interested that it develop. Ivanov also met with Serbian opposition leaders Vuk Draskovic, Vesna Pesic, and Zoran Djindjic. Draskovic and Pesic soon leave for Moscow, from where Djindjic and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic recently returned.
Bosnian Serb police stepped up patrols around the home of former political leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic in Pale over the weekend. AFP yesterday quoted Serb sources as saying that the move came in response to increased Italian SFOR patrols in the area, but SFOR stated that its movements were routine. Meanwhile in Belgrade yesterday, the pro- Bosnian Serb news weekly Argument wrote that Karadzic wants to go to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to clear his name. The report says that he has amassed a large collection of documents to take to the tribunal.
ROUNDUP FROM BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
OSCE officials in Sarajevo yesterday warned the Bosnian Serbs against manipulating voter registration for the September local elections. In Banja Luka, a Bosnian Serb opposition leader said that the governing Serbian Democratic Party is using refugee registration to win votes for itself, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from there. In Mostar, leading Croatian representatives from around the republic discussed transforming their "Croatian Republic of Herceg- Bosna" into what they called a cultural organization. Herceg-Bosna was supposed to have disappeared long ago according to the Dayton peace treaty.
ROMANIA'S NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY ELECTS LEADERSHIP
At its congress in Bucharest at the weekend, the centrist National Liberal Party--a member of the ruling coalition--re-elected 80-year-old Mircea Ionescu-Quintus as chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, aged 44, was elected to the newly created post of first deputy chairman. He ran unopposed after his main rival for the position, Viorel Catarama, withdrew from the race. Catarama, who is accused of implication in the collapse of an investment fund and other irregular business deals, has been the target of criticism both within and outside the party. He was re-elected, however, as one of the party's four deputy chairmen.
U.S. TO EXPEL NAZI CAMP GUARD TO ROMANIA
U.S. officials said yesterday they have taken steps to expel to Romania Nikolaus Schiffer, a former German concentration camp guard. AFP reports that Schiffer, a Philadelphian retiree, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1995, after the Justice Department uncovered evidence that he served as a guard at the Sachsenhausen and Hersbruck camps, in Germany, and at Majdanek, in Poland. Schiffer, whose parents were Romanian nationals, was "an active participant in the persecution occurring at these camps in that he prevented inmates from escaping," the Justice Department said.
THREE KILLED IN ROMANIAN COAL MINE EXPLOSION
Three miners were killed and 14 injured in an explosion at the Dalja coal mine in the Jiu valley, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. The blast was due to the ignition of leaking methane gas. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea set up a commission to investigate the accident and said the families of those killed and injured will receive compensation.
MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS RUSSIAN TROOPS IN TRANSDNIESTER
Valeriu Pasat on 18 May visited Russian troops stationed in the Transdniester breakaway region, BASA-press reported. He discussed with local commanders the future of Russia's military assets after the promised, but long-postponed departure of Russian troops from the region. In other developments, legislators from Chisinau and Tiraspol yesterday met in the Moldovan capital to discuss aspects linked to the drafting of a document on the special status of the Transdniester. The delegations were headed by the respective parliamentary chairmen, Dumitru Motpan and Grigori Markutsa.
PREMIER-DESIGNATE PRESENTS CABINET TO BULGARIAN PRESIDENT
Ivan Kostov yesterday presented his cabinet to President Petar Stoyanov. Parliament is to vote on the new government tomorrow, an RFE/RL Sofia bureau correspondent reported. The proposed new cabinet retains five ministers from the caretaker government, including Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev. Alexander Bozhkov remains as deputy premier and industry minister. Nadezhda Mihailova has been named foreign minister. Kostov also submitted to the president his program for the next four years. Among other things, it provides for the restoration of confidence in Bulgaria abroad, a decisive fight against crime and corruption, and administrative reform. Kostov said he would not call his program "shock therapy" but noted parts of it would be "difficult" to fulfill. Stoyanov said that like everyone else in Bulgaria, he was "keeping his fingers crossed" for the success of the new government.
PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE ENDS IN BULGARIA
Some 200 senior staff officers from four NATO and four eastern European countries will end tomorrow a four-day joint military exercise. BTA reported that the exercise includes staff officers from the U.S., Greece, Italy, and Turkey was well as from Albania, Macedonia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The exercise, called Peaceful Eagle 97, is taking place under the joint command of Bulgarian Maj. General Petko Dragoev and U.S. Maj. General Ed Smith. The focus of the maneuvers were peace-keeping operations.
A BIZARRE MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN CROATIA
by Patrick Moore
The state-controlled media launched a campaign on 9 May to depict one of Croatia's best-known politicians as a traitor. Stipe Mesic is accused of defaming both President Franjo Tudjman and Croatia in his alleged testimony to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The campaign, however, reveals more about the regime and its fears than about Mesic or historical truth.
According to dailies such as Vjesnik, Slobodna Dalmacija, and Vecernji list, the 62-year-old dapper politician from Slavonska Orahovica recently supplied the court with 10 pages of testimony. The text, the papers say, blames Tudjman and the top Croatian leadership for the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and for the war crimes there. Mesic allegedly charged that Tudjman met many times with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to discuss the partition of Bosnia. The regime dailies stress that Mesic's testimony has shamed his country and its leadership in a "morally scandalous" fashion.
The charges left Mesic baffled. That same evening, he told RFE/RL in a telephone interview that there is some truth in the media reports but that they also omit some key facts. First, he never was a witness in The Hague but simply gave an interview to court representatives last year. Second, the bulk of his testimony did not center on Tudjman or Croatia but on Milosevic's role in the destruction of the former Yugoslavia. Mesic was the last president of the Yugoslav presidency and was thus in a unique position to observe the destruction of the multi- ethnic state in 1991.
Third, nothing he allegedly told the court was new. Mesic pointed out that Hrvoje Sarinic, a prominent pro- Tudjman politician, has admitted that the two presidents held many more private meetings after 1990 than either side has officially admitted. And Tudjman himself has often publicly expressed doubts about the viability of Bosnia as a state. He once even drew a map on a napkin for a British politician to show how Bosnia could best be partitioned.
Mesic, in any event, has no idea who is behind what he calls his "political lynching" in the state-run media. But he knows it must be people very high up in the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). He charges that those Croatian leaders who conducted Bosnian policies that he opposed appear to be trying to shift some of the blame or embarrassment onto him. He fears, moreover, that the press campaign could lead to physical violence against him.
Mesic might have added that there is yet another strange aspect to the campaign--namely that it is aimed at a man whose days of power and influence seem to be behind him. When Croatia became independent in 1991, he was already a leading member of the HDZ and was elected speaker of the parliament. In 1994, however, he joined the opposition and lost the post of speaker. Despite great efforts in the meantime, he never managed to regain his old prominence. Polls suggest that many regard him as a man of the past.
The question remains as to why the HDZ ever bothered to launch the attacks. The most obvious answer is that presidential elections will take place in June and that the charges against Mesic are simply part of an ongoing campaign to identify Tudjman and the HDZ with Croatian state interests. One analyst in Zagreb told RFE/RL that the regime may be trying to divert popular attention from Tudjman's own failings in foreign policy and his growing isolation from the West. The analyst added that the articles may also reflect the leadership's fear of the tribunal at a time when Washington and other major capitals are putting pressure on Zagreb to cooperate with the court and to support the unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Another question is how the text of Mesic's remarks found its way from the tribunal into the Croatian press. Mesic told RFE/RL that he suspects it was leaked by someone in The Hague to embarrass Croatia. Court officials, however, told an RFE/RL correspondent in The Hague that the tribunal rigorously protects the identity of all those who supply it with information. In any event, the Zagreb- based analyst said he thinks it is heartening to note that the court might indeed be collecting testimony on the likes of Tudjman and Milosevic.