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Newsline - June 2, 1997


State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said 31 May would go down in history as a "great day" and expressed confidence that the Russian parliament will ratify the friendship treaty signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev also praised the treaty for allowing Russia to keep its military infrastructure in Sevastopol. By contrast, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov slammed the agreements, saying "we will be renting Sevastopol from ourselves," Interfax reported. Luzhkov added that "Sevastopol is a Russian city, and it will be Russian regardless of the decisions taken." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who had criticized the recent accords on dividing the Black Sea Fleet, neither praised nor condemned the friendship treaty. Zyuganov said he supported any steps leading to closer ties with Ukraine (see related stories in Part II of today's RFE/RL Newsline).


Meeting in the North Caucasus spa of Kislovodsk on 31 May, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, and the heads of eight other North Caucasus republics and regions signed a joint declaration on peace, friendship, and cooperation, Russian and Western agencies reported. The declaration is intended as a follow-up to the Russian-Chechen peace treaty signed in Moscow on 12 May. In a message to participants at the meeting, Yeltsin stressed that it is imperative to remove all obstacles to the peaceful coexistence of all peoples of the North Caucasus. Udugov told Interfax on 1 June that he has proposed the creation of an organization like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for the Caucasus to guarantee stability in the region.


The Russian government has approved an agreement with France to settle debts accrued before May 1945, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 30 May. Last November, Russian and French officials signed the agreement, under which Russia will pay $400 million over three years to holders of tsarist-era bonds issued in France. Russia will also renounce claims to Russian gold transferred to Germany in 1918, which ended up in France after World War I. According to Reuters, the deal will help Russia's bid to join the Paris Club of government creditors and will allow Russia to issue new bonds in France. Meanwhile, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson said on 30 May that Germany wants Russia to repay about DM 1 billion ($588 million) in Soviet-era debts to German businesses. He added that Russia's image in Germany has suffered because of the outstanding debt.


Navy officials have said that a nuclear-powered submarine that sank at its mooring in Avachinskii Bay, off Kamchatka, on 29 May, poses no threat, Russian sources report. According to the navy, the submarine had already been decommissioned and had not been at sea for four years. All nuclear weapons, fuel, and storage batteries had been removed. The submarine sank when it was struck by another submarine at the mooring. Radiation checks are made every half hour and so far normal levels have been registered. An attempt will be made to raise the submarine.


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says the natural gas monopoly Gazprom should introduce lower, more flexible prices for gas, Russian news agencies reported on 1 June. He suggested that discounts of 20-50% could be offered for cash payments on time. Nemtsov made the remarks while touring the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. About 90% of Russia's natural gas reserves are in Yamal-Nenets. Nemtsov also said an "important government decision" would be adopted following his trip to the okrug, but he gave no further details. The government is expected to sign a new management contract with Gazprom soon. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told NTV on 1 June that Gazprom has begun paying its debts to the federal budget and transferred some 2.5 trillion rubles ($430 million) last week. Government officials have said Gazprom owes some $2.5 billion to the federal authorities.


Nemtsov says he is "legally homeless" because the Moscow city authorities have refused to give him a residence permit for the Russian capital, Russian news agencies reported on 30 May. Nemtsov said officials were demanding a document stating where his wife was from 1992 to 1994. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov told ITAR-TASS that no special demands were being made of Nemtsov, adding that "rules are rules." In recent weeks, Nemtsov and Luzhkov have clashed publicly over strategies for housing reform.


Shareholders in the electricity giant Unified Energy Systems (EES) have elected Boris Brevnov chairman of the company's management, Russian news agencies reported on 30 May. Brevnov, formerly a banker in Nizhnii Novgorod, became vice president of EES shortly after Nemtsov was appointed first deputy prime minister. Nemtsov has pledged to reform Russia's "natural monopolies" in the energy and transportation sectors. Also on 30 May, EES shareholders abolished the post of company president and elected Anatolii Dyakov, who had held that post, to chair the EES board of directors. Dyakov told reporters that the utility is owed about 102 trillion rubles ($18 billion) by delinquent consumers, up from 79 trillion at the beginning of this year. Because of the cash shortage, some 80% of EES's transactions are settled by barter, Dyakov said.


Shareholders in Aeroflot have confirmed Valerii Okulov as director-general of Russia's largest airline, Russian news agencies reported on 30 May. Okulov is married to the president's older daughter Yelena. Yeltsin appointed him acting director-general of the airline in March.


Yeltsin earned some 243 million rubles ($43,000) in 1996 and owns property worth 1.2 billion rubles ($210,000), according to an income and property declaration published on 31 May in the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti. Yeltsin's 1996 income came from salary and interest on a Sberbank account. Book royalties have been deposited in the Sberbank account since 1994, the declaration said. Yeltsin also owns a 1995 BMW, estimated to be worth 70 million rubles ($12,500). In April, Yeltsin signed a decree ordering state officials to declare their income and property holdings. In a radio address, he also called on Russians to buy domestically produced goods to support Russian industry.


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin says he is not in favor of dissolving the State Duma, Russian news agencies reported on 30 May. He said the Russian economy "does not need" new parliamentary elections and that the Duma should pass important legislation, including a new tax code. Chernomyrdin made the comments after signing an agreement with Reforms--New Course leader Vladimir Shumeiko and former presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov to form a Union of Progressive Forces (see RFE/RL Newsline, 27 May 1997). However, Shumeiko suggested that he supports holding early parliamentary elections. He told reporters that "it is difficult for the government to work with an irresponsible Duma." Shumeiko also argued that the electoral law should be changed before the next elections to reduce the number of Duma seats chosen by proportional representation.


At least 22 people have died in recent days after drinking fake vodka containing methyl alcohol in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 June. At least 12 others have been hospitalized. The city's mayor, Petr Pimashkov, issued an appeal describing symptoms of alcohol poisoning and warning residents not to drink vodka of dubious origin. Several people have been arrested on suspicion of selling the poison.


The Tver Oblast Electoral Commission has registered a Communist-led initiative group seeking to remove Governor Vladimir Platov from office, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. Platov's opponents charge that his social and economic policies have lowered the standard of living in Tver. They must now collect 12,000 signatures within 40 days in order to force a referendum.


The first violation of the Tajik peace agreement in 1997 occurred at a bus station in the city of Kofarnikhon on 31 May, according to RFE/RL correspondents. An armed band led by Abdul Vose took hostage several members of the militia as well as two presidential guards and demanded the release of two of his band members held by the Tajik militia on rape charges. Vose also refused to permit buses to depart from the station. The two sides resolved the situation by exchanging prisoners. Representatives from the joint commission monitoring the cease-fire have been dispatched to investigate the incident.


Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati held phone conversations with his Kyrgyz and Kazak counterparts on 31 May, according to IRNA. The three ministers agreed foreign intervention was the worst-possible course of action but pledged to provide humanitarian aid to northern Afghanistan. Fighting in Afghanistan has moved southward, and some clashes are only 60 km north of Kabul. Radio Kabul reports that "thousands" more Taliban fighters have arrived in the capital, and the Afghan Islamic Press in Islamabad reported bombing raids by Taliban forces on the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on 31 May. Meanwhile, ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani returned to Afghanistan on 30 May.


Turkmenistan was officially admitted as a member of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) on 29 May, according to RFE/RL Washington correspondents. Membership gives Turkmenistan a chance to engage in project financing, equity investments, and technical assistance for the private sector. Turkmenistan is the 172nd member of the IFC and the last former Soviet republic to be admitted.


National Security adviser Archil Gegeshidze, presidential spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze, and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili continued on 30-31 May to insist that Georgia has a rightful claim to part of the Black Sea Fleet, Russian agencies reported. Gegeshidze told Interfax that Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov's statement on 29 May that Georgia received vessels from Ukraine's share of the fleet was incorrect. He added that Kyiv's transfer of one patrol boat to Georgia in April was merely a "goodwill gesture." Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 30 May that Russia does not recognize Georgia's claims, ITAR-TASS reported.


The parliament on 30 May passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia if the decision to broaden its mandate is not implemented by 31 July, Russian agencies reported. The Abkhaz leadership has rejected the decision taken at the CIS heads of state summit in March to redeploy the force throughout Abkhazia's Gali Raion, arguing that the force's original mandate can be amended only with the consent of the Abkhaz side. The Georgian parliamentary resolution said that Georgia may reconsider its CIS membership if that body proves incapable of implementing its own decisions. The parliament also adopted an appeal to the Abkhaz population stating that the Georgian leadership will do its best to prevent a resumption of hostilities if the peacekeeping force is withdrawn, according to Interfax.


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and the Russian and French co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group made new proposals on a solution of the Karabakh conflict during separate meetings from 31 May-1 June with the leaders of Armenia, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan, Russian agencies reported. RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau quoted sources close to the Armenian Foreign Ministry as saying that the proposals leave Karabakh within Azerbaijan but with wide-ranging autonomy. Interfax quoted French diplomat Jacques Blot as stating that the suggestions are intended as a basis for further negotiations. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told ITAR-TASS on 1 June after meeting with the negotiators that conditions for reaching a settlement have never been as auspicious as they are now.


On 29 May, some 250 delegates attended the inaugural congress in Yerevan of former Armenian prime minister Hrant Bagratyan's new right-wing liberal political party, Azatutyun [Liberty], Armenian agencies reported. Addressing the congress, Bagratyan harshly criticized the policies of the present leadership. He argued that domestic politics could not be artificially separated from socio-economic conditions. He added that the power of the state must be circumscribed and elections laws revised in the wake of last year's disputed presidential elections. At a public rally on 29 May attended by some 3,000 people, representatives of opposition parties aligned in the National Alliance called for pre-term parliamentary elections. Also on 29 May, representatives of four groups, including the Union of Industrialists and Businessmen, issued a statement criticizing the leadership's economic policies and stating their intention to draft an alternative economic development program.


Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin signed a wide-ranging political treaty on 31 May in Kyiv. The 10-year treaty, which will automatically be extended for 10-year periods if neither side cancels it, states that Russia accepts Ukraine's territorial integrity and its sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula. It also confirms that Russia will assume all foreign debts accrued by Soviet-era Ukraine in exchange for all foreign assets accumulated by Kyiv under communism. Kuchma hailed the signing of the treaty as an "event of huge importance" that opened "a new stage" in bilateral relations. Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the agreement solved all outstanding problems between Russia and Ukraine and ended a cycle of "distrust" and "suspicion," Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii had said on 30 May that Yeltsin was concerned about discrimination against the Russian language and culture in Ukraine.


Under the new treaty, Russia and Ukraine have pledged not to enter into agreements with third countries aimed against each other and not to allow their territories to be used to the detriment of each other's security. Yeltsin and Kuchma also signed a declaration on the division of the Black Sea fleet, formalizing a deal reached during Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 May 1997). In addition, the two presidents called for reinforcing the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and issued a statement against stationing NATO troops and nuclear weapons in countries that are not yet members of the alliance. But Yeltsin's spokesman Yastrzhembskii told reporters on 30 May that Russia remains opposed to the NATO-led "Sea Breeze" naval exercises scheduled for August off the coast of Crimea, Reuters reported.


Ukrainian Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin says Kyiv has not asked Russia to help defend Ukraine, Reuters reported on 30 May. In a TV interview broadcast before he left for Kyiv, Yeltsin said that under the Russian-Ukrainian agreements to be signed, the two countries would "participate together to defend Ukraine" if it became necessary and would help each other "in extreme situations." Horbulin commented, "I think President Yeltsin was guided by his best intentions but there were no [such] requests from the Ukrainian side."


The World Bank has approved partial risk guarantees worth $200 million to cover Russian and Ukrainian enterprises involved in the Sea Launch joint venture, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 3O May. The companies involved in that venture, which is aimed at launching commercial satellites from a converted oil platform, are the U.S. Boeing Commercial space company, Russia's RSC Energia, Ukraine's Yuzhnoye, and Norway's Kvaerner Maritime. Russian and Ukrainian rockets and launch systems will be transported to the U.S. to be assembled with Boeing satellites and taken to a remote area of the Pacific for launching. The guarantees cover only political risks and are a complex arrangement involving the companies as well as the governments of Russia and Ukraine. World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn said the project should foster economic benefits for Russia and Ukraine totaling some $2 billion and help maintain up to 30,000 high-paying jobs in both countries.


Niels Helveg, Denmark's foreign minister and acting president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told journalists in Vienna on 30 May that Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich agreed the previous day to allow the OSCE to set up a mission in Belarus. The mission will advise the authorities on ways to promote democracy. Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian began an official visit to Belarus on 1 June. He is scheduled to visit military installations and meet with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Interfax reported that Chi will also meet with Prime Minister Sergei Ling and Defense Minister Alexander Chumakov. The two defense ministers are expected to sign a military accord.


Estonia's Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvia's Valdis Birkavs, and Lithuania's Algirdas Saudargas met on the Estonian island of Saaremaa on 1 June and urged the EU and NATO to accept all three countries as new members, ETA reported. They reiterated their stand that EU expansion negotiations should be started simultaneously for the three Baltic applicants and that the first round of NATO expansion should not be the last. The ministers also proposed that the Via Baltica highway become a regional project, which, they said, would pave the way for financing under the EU's PHARE program. The meeting was the last within the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers under Estonia's chairmanship. Latvia takes over the chairmanship on 1 July.


Police Department Director-General Ain Seppik resigned on 30 May, BNS and ETA reported. He cited disagreements with Interior Minister Robert Lepikson over proposed personnel changes in the police leadership as well as insufficient funding for the police force. Seppik also pointed to recent attempts by the Coalition Party to "politicize" the police leadership and "worsening cooperation" between the Police Department and the Interior Ministry. Lepikson, who attended the press conference at which Seppik announced his resignation, confirmed that he would proceed with the proposed personnel changes. The same day, the minister approved a new leadership structure for the Police Department, according to RFE/RL's Estonian service.


The Constitutional Court has ruled that the dismissal of Vytautas Kveitkauskas as radio and television chief was illegal, BNS reported on 30 May. The parliament in December passed a resolution setting up a new council of National Radio and Television (LRTV), which subsequently fired Kveitkauskas from his post. The Constitutional Court ruled that the parliament had contravened two articles of the basic law in setting up the new governing body. Kvietkauskas is seeking to be reinstated as LRTV chief and receive compensation for lost wages.


Pope John Paul is currently in Poland for an 11-day visit. Upon his arrival at Wroclaw airport on 31 May, the pontiff said he has noted an "infusion of optimism" in Poland but added he is concerned about "at times very painful" problems and tensions. He later met with President Alexander Kwasniewski, who told reporters after the meeting that the Pope understands Poland's strengths but also its weaknesses and will give both warnings and encouragement during his trip. Kwasniewski, a former Communist, said Poles should "accept those observations" and "ponder their meaning." On 1 June, the Pope celebrated mass in Wroclaw. This is his seventh visit to his native Poland since he was elected in 1978.


Vaclav Havel said on 1 June, in his regular radio address, that he welcomes the "new resoluteness" of the government of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. He said he considered the announced government changes, which affect only two ministries, to be less important than the ruling coalition's consensus on a program to stabilize and reinvigorate the economy. A day earlier, Havel welcomed Klaus's announcement that he would ask the parliament for a vote of confidence in the government at the legislature's next session.


Vladimir Meciar said on national radio on 30 May that the Slovak opposition's calls for his and Interior Minister Gustav Krajci's dismissal were an attempt to "disrupt society." He added that the opposition is incapable of compromise. The right-of-center opposition parties have said they will propose a vote of no confidence in the two politicians over their role in the failed referendum on Slovakia's NATO membership and direct presidential elections. Meanwhile, leaders of the opposition Democratic Left Party (SDL) told journalists on 31 May that the SDL will reject any proposal for a no confidence vote in the government, although it considers the cabinet's conduct "unacceptable." The SDL said the "thwarting of the referendum by the Meciar government amounted to a direct attack on citizens' basic constitutional rights and harmed Slovakia's international position." At the same time, the SDL said President Michal Kovac and the right-wing opposition shared responsibility for the chaos preceding the referendum.


Socialist Party parliamentary faction leader Imre Szekeres says the Left has the responsibility to prevent a surge in popularity of the right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party, Independent Smallholders' Party, and Christian Democratic People's Party, Hungarian media reported. At a meeting of the Socialist Party's Left-Wing Group on 31 May, Szekeres said that since they came to power in 1994, the Socialists have been unable to pursue a traditional left-wing policy. He stressed that a left-wing party must represent the values of democratic socialism rather than build capitalism. He also noted that the three right-wing parties represent a threat to democracy and expressed the hope that Socialist leaders would recognize that threat and present a united front ahead of the 1998 elections.


An explosion rocked downtown Tirana near Socialist Party headquarters. No details are yet available. Rebels in Vlora shot at an Italian helicopter on 30 May as it was taking an injured child to an Italian hospital, Gazeta Shqiptare reported . The rebels were reported to have thought that Berisha had sent the helicopter to attack them. A spokesman of Vlora's insurgent committee told a press conference in Tirana that election preparations are proceeding apace and all parties are participating, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital. But another committee representative told Dita Informacion on 1 June that "a blood bath" could result if Berisha tries to campaign in Vlora. And in Gjirokaster, the local insurgent committee rejected charges that it was responsible for blocking the car of a team from the European Community Monitoring Mission in the area last week, Koha Jone wrote on 1 June. Finally, the government in Tirana protested to the Macedonian ambassador on 30 May about an incident on 25 May during which Macedonian troops allegedly fired into an Albanian village on the two countries' tense border.


President Sali Berisha named Arben Karkini from the Republican Party as the new head of SHIK on 30 May in Tirana. The coalition government also nominated the Socialist Arben Rakipi to be Karkini's deputy, but Berisha has not agreed. Namik Dokle, a top Socialist politician, charged Berisha with delaying Rakipi's appointment for political reasons, Dita Informacion wrote. Democratic Alliance leader Meritan Ceka said Karkini will not make any difference in the structure of SHIK, which the opposition and the independent media regard as a tool of Berisha. Karkini is currently prosecutor in Kavaja.


The Socialist Party offered in Tirana on 30 May to nominate joint candidates from smaller parties and organizations in over 25 of the 115 electoral districts. The move came at a meeting of the Forum for Democracy, which is an umbrella organization composed of several small political groups. Forum leader Fatos Lubonja nonetheless refused such a ballot place for himself, Koha Jone reported on 1 June. Meanwhile, Democratic Party spokesman Vili Minarolli said in Tirana that his party is willing to continue the coalition government after the elections, Indipendent wrote on 1 June. The Socialists did not respond to his offer.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Brcko, and Banja Luka over the weekend. In all those places, she delivered a tough message: war criminals must be brought to justice, refugees must be able to go home, and the Dayton agreement must be enforced. The U.S., she stressed, is eager to work with those parties to Dayton who want to put the treaty into practice. But those who do not meet their obligations, she warned, will find themselves isolated. Albright and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman differed openly over the return of Serbian refugees. She publicly told Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic that he was "lying" and that he "should be ashamed of himself" because of the destruction of Croatian Serbs' property. Her spokesman said that her meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was the toughest one she has had with a foreign leader since becoming secretary of state early this year. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, by contrast, stressed her willingness to cooperate with the U.S.. Albright promised Plavsic generous housing reconstruction aid if the Republika Srpska allows Muslim and Croat refugees to go back to their homes on Bosnian Serb territory.


Blagota Mitric, the president of Montenegro's Constitutional Court, said on 1 June that federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic's recent remarks against the Kosovo Albanians were "unconstitutional." Lilic had said that if the Kosovars want their own state, they could go to Albania. Mitric replied that it is unheard of for a head of state to tell his fellow citizens to leave the country, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. Also in Podgorica, the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said the Montenegrin government's recent dispatch of a delegation to the Hague-based tribunal was "significant and positive" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 30 May 1997).


Jacques Klein, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, said in Vukovar on 1 June that Croatia will "pay a high price" for the governing Croatian Democratic Community's recent attempt to set up a municipal government in Vukovar without the participation of the Serbs or of the UN (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 May 1997). He nonetheless denied Croatian and international press reports that the UN plans to prolong its mandate in eastern Slavonia, BETA news agency reported. In other news from the former Yugoslavia, trains are running again in Slovenia, but union leaders said in Ljubljana on 31 May that the strike will resume on 5 June if pay demands are not met. And in Pristina, a court sentenced 20 ethnic Albanians on 30 May to sentences totaling up to 106 years on charges of terrorism.


International diplomats voted in Sintra, Portugal, on 30 May to name Spain's former Foreign Minister Carlos Westendorp to succeed Sweden's Carl Bildt as the international community's high representative in Bosnia. Westendorp told the Sarajevo paper Dnevni Avaz in New York that he fears that fighting might resume in Bosnia if the security situation worsens. He also said that he would like to keep Bildt's deputy, Michael Steiner, as his deputy as long as Steiner chooses to stay. The Muslim media had wanted Steiner to replace Bildt. Critics in Bosnia and abroad charged that Westendorp knows little about the complex region and called instead for the appointment of a prominent politician like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.


Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said in an interview with RFE/RL on 1 June that if necessary, the "relevant authorities" will take "all appropriate measures" against threats on the life of Romanian President Emil Constantinescu. The threats were made in connection with the signing on 31 May of the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty. The extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party's weekly Politica on 24 May published a letter, signed by the Association of Romanian Nationalists in the Diaspora, saying Constantinescu, Ciorbea, and other officials will be "assassinated" because they are guilty of "high treason." The letter also says Romania will not be admitted to an expanded NATO because its main enemy is "international Jewry headed by the freemason Bill Clinton, whose foreign minister is the Jewess Iana [sic] Miriam Korbel, known under the pseudonym of Madeleine Albright."


Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase told U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Sintra, Portugal, on 30 May that his country meets all the criteria for joining NATO. He asked Albright to send a special envoy to Romania to examine the situation at first hand. After the meeting, he told reporters he could see "no rigid attitude" on Albright's part. He quoted the secretary of state as saying the media had "exaggerated" in reporting her position, adding that Albright was only trying to emphasize that enlargement should strengthen, rather than weaken, the alliance. Severin said he told Albright that limiting expansion to only a few states may lead to weakening the alliance, Radio Bucharest reported. Severin also said the Romanian-Hungarian-Austrian "trilateral group" has "officially been launched" following meetings in Sintra with his Hungarian and Austrian counterparts.


At a meeting of the Democratic Party (PD) caucus in Pitesti on 31 May, Foreign Minister Severin accused the government of "blocking" reform. He was supported by other participants, who said the pace of reform was too slow. Some speakers said that while the PD was trying to press for reform measures, even if those steps were unpopular, other members of the coalition were still "adopting an electoral campaign-like attitude." The meeting was attended by PD ministers, deputies, prefects, and mayors. But PD leader Petre Roman said there is no substantial friction in the coalition and added that his party will back the government in the vote of confidence scheduled for 3 June.


During a meeting at the Ungheni border crossing on 31 May, Deputy Foreign Minister Aurelian Danila told his Romanian counterpart, Dumitru Ciausu, that Moldovan citizens are mistreated at Romanian-Moldovan border-crossings. Radio Bucharest quoted Danila as saying that while Romania talks about "special relations" with Moldova, it is "compromising" that concept by raising "artificial barriers." He said border-crossing procedures must be simplified. Danila also complained about "Medieval practices" of the Romanian custom services. Ciausu said he did not think the situation was "that unsatisfactory." Officials from the two countries' internal affairs, transportation, and industry ministries also took part in the meeting. Agreement was reached to increase efforts to simplify border-crossing procedures for both merchandise and people.


The parliament on 30 May dismissed Bistra Dimitrova as head of the State Savings Bank (DKS) and replaced her with Spas Dimitrov, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Dimitrov, who is a lawyer by training, told reporters he intends to put an end to the use of the bank for political manipulation. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev had earlier accused Dimitrova, who was appointed DKS head by the previous, Socialist-dominated parliament, of being responsible for money illegally lent to state and commercial banks linked to the former ruling party.


Deputy Prime Minister Evgeny Bakardzhiev says the directors of state-owned companies will be fined large sums for raising salaries at a time when companies are losing money. Bakardzhiev made the announcement in Sofia on 1 June, after a meeting with the leaders of the largest trade unions. He said the cabinet will decide on 2 June about the exact size of the fines. The announcement is in line with government efforts to cut spending to meet International Monetary Fund requirements. On 30 May, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told managers of the state-owned Neftochim oil refinery that they should lower wages. He admonished them for having raised wages threefold since the end of February.


by Paul Goble

China's crackdown on Uyghur activism in Xinjiang is likely to cast a larger shadow on the countries of Central Asia than will the Afghan fighting that has attracted so much attention both in that region and beyond.

And that is so despite the statements and reporting attending the arrival in Central Asia of Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to her aides, Ogata is there in anticipation of a flood of refugees from Afghanistan into Central Asia as the result of the Taliban advance into the northern part of that country.

But the Taliban advance has stalled, and the fears that brought Ogata to Central Asia have somewhat ebbed for the time being, even though her press officer suggested last Tuesday that a refugee flood "could still happen."

The Chinese crackdown, on the other hand, is very much in full swing. Its latest manifestation came on Thursday when the Chinese authorities in Urumqi executed eight and sentenced four others for a series of bus bombings there earlier this year.

The authorities imposed these sentences less to punish specific actions than to send a message to the increasingly restive Uyghur minority that China will not tolerate any further separatist or Islamic activism.

Over the past year, the Muslim Uyghurs have protested in various ways against Beijing's dispatch of ever more Han Chinese to the region, an influx that has reduced the Uyghur share of the region's population to only 47 percent.

Beijing reported the latest executions not in the domestic Chinese press but only in news services directed at foreign audiences, the English-language China Daily and the Xinhua news service.

By not distributing the news at home, the Beijing authorities appear to be hoping both to continue to present their own society as one without significant problems and also to contain the nationalism of the Han Chinese.

The second of these may becoming a serious problem: Han Chinese officials in Xinjiang already sound more like Chinese nationalists than communist party stalwarts. And their attitudes may only exacerbate the feelings of Uyghurs and the Han Chinese there.

And by distributing the news about the executions abroad, the Beijing authorities appear to be hoping to send a powerful signal to China's Central Asian neighbors that China will not tolerate any interference in what it defines as its own internal affairs.

The governments of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have deferred to China on this point already. They have promised not to provide any support or sanctuary for the Uyghurs. And this latest report will give them yet another reason to continue that policy.

But Beijing's message may have a very different and unintended impact on the peoples of these countries, whose populations include Uyghurs and other groups who see themselves as closely linked to the Islamic one just over the border in China.

Many of these people are likely to be infuriated with the Chinese authorities for their new efforts to wipe out a movement that seeks no more than the Central Asians themselves have achieved.

Even more important, at least some of these people are likely to be angry at their own governments for going along with the Chinese crackdown.

While most of the Central Asian regimes are far from perfect democracies, their leaders may decide to defer to the anger of their own populations lest that anger power political movements against themselves. And to the extent that were to happen, it could trigger a fundamental shift in the geopolitics of inner Asia, a shift that might give the Uyghur national movement a greater chance than it has had at any time since the Chinese communists seized power.

And that in turn would affect both the domestic development and foreign policy outlook of the Central Asian countries far more than would any likely refugee flow into the region from Afghanistan.