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Newsline - October 6, 1997


Prominent opposition representatives in the State Duma have vowed not to back down, despite President Boris Yeltsin's recent warning that he and the people may lose patience with the lower house of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev remarked that the lower house "is not an appointed bureaucratic apparatus.... The people elected the Duma in the same way they elected the president," Interfax reported. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, like Seleznev a Communist, said the Duma was not to blame for rising tensions between the executive and legislative branches. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin of the Popular Power faction again advocated that the Duma pass a vote of no confidence in the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 October. Baburin and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii tried unsuccessfully to put a no confidence vote on the Duma's agenda in May.


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS on 3 October that his government is ready to work with the Duma toward compromise on major legislation. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction in the Duma, warned the same day that the Duma should not escalate confrontation with the president by voting no confidence in the government, Interfax reported. However, Shokhin told ITAR-TASS that the government should also compromise on its drive to pass a new tax code by the end of the year "at any cost." Meanwhile, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev told ITAR-TASS that "only a madman" would risk dissolving the Duma. Stroev generally supports Yeltsin but also has good relations with the leftist opposition.


Yabloko leader Yavlinskii says Yeltsin's latest radio address was aimed at intimidating Duma deputies before a key vote on the 1998 budget, Interfax reported on 3 October. Yavlinskii, who has criticized the budget, cast doubt on the sincerity of Yeltsin's claim to want to work constructively with the Duma. While acknowledging that both Yabloko and the president support full land ownership rights, Yavlinskii expressed doubt that the officials who implemented privatization policy "are capable of conducting a successful land reform." He added that Yeltsin's address "covers up failures in economic policy, unfulfilled promises to pay wages, and helplessness in combating crime and corruption." At the same time, Yavlinskii said he agrees with Yeltsin that the Duma's statements on foreign policy matters are not always professional.


Several thousand people took part demonstrations in Moscow on 4 October to commemorate the October 1993 events, which culminated in tanks shelling the opposition-dominated parliament, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Communist Party leader Zyuganov addressed the crowd near the White House, which was shelled in 1993 and is now government headquarters. He said Duma deputies are not frightened by Yeltsin's threats to dissolve the parliament, and he predicted that if early parliamentary elections are called, opposition representatives will win at least two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. He also said the opposition has collected 10 million signatures this year demanding Yeltsin's resignation. In street fighting around the state television building and White House between 2 and 4 October 1993, some 140 people were killed. Unofficial estimates put the number of fatalities around 300.


Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 3 October rejected Chechen charges that Moscow has imposed an economic blockade against Grozny. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, however, responded the next day by repeating the claim that Russia is waging "economic war" against Grozny. Also on 3 October, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) denied that Major Vladimir Cherepanov, whom the Chechen security service has captured and claim is one of its agents, is an FSB employee. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov alleged that the intelligence services of unspecified countries are engaged in destabilizing the situation in Chechnya. He also argued that the time for concessions to Grozny has passed, but he ruled out the possibility of a new war. The Azerbaijani weekly "Zerkalo" on 4 October quoted Chechen First Deputy Premier Movladi Udugov as suggesting that Chechnya form a federal state with Azerbaijan.


Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says he is not opposed to NATO membership for the Baltic States, but only after Russia's economy has improved. Speaking in Berlin at a conference on NATO enlargement, Lebed said, "I do not dispute the right of the Baltic countries to self-determination," AFP reported on 5 October. However, he argued that "Russia must have the feeling that it is advancing economically and in other areas, that its people can rely on something constructive." Lebed told Interfax on 4 October that NATO will "aggravate the internal crisis in Russia" if the alliance expands into the "zone of Russia's geopolitical interests," which he identified as the Baltic States and Ukraine. Earlier this year, Lebed argued that NATO expansion poses no threat to Russia because "the rich and satisfied will never attack the poor and hungry" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May and 9 July 1997).


Many of the most influential figures in Russian television met in Tbilisi on 1 October, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The group included Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who wields considerable influence at Russian Public Television (ORT), financial director of ORT Badri Patarkatsishvili, and prominent ORT journalists Aleksandr Lyubimov, Sergei Dorenko, and Vladimir Pozner. The private network NTV was represented by its president, Igor Malashenko, and Vladimir Gusinskii, whose Media-Most company owns most shares in the network. Eduard Sagalaev, a shareholder in the private network TV-6, and Mikhail Lesin, deputy chairman of the state-run Russian Television, were also present. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, Pozner said Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called the meeting to discuss Russian television coverage of the Caucasus. However, many observers believe that the executives also discussed strategy for coverage of Russian domestic political issues.


Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov continues to reach out to key constituencies in his public remarks. Appearing at the opening of a church in Moscow on 5 October, Luzhkov called for doing everything possible to compensate the Russian Orthodox Church for property confiscated or destroyed during the Soviet period, Interfax reported. The previous day, Luzhkov visited the Republic of Udmurtia to sign a cooperation agreement between Moscow and the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. Appearing alongside Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub in Moscow on 2 October, Luzhkov said Russian regions should buy products from one another, not from "foreigners." Speaking to business leaders in the Republic of Mordovia on 3 October, he advocated reversing the privatization sales of enterprises that "have been sold for a song" since 1992, Interfax reported. Luzhkov has long been an outspoken critic of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and the government's privatization policy.


Top government officials and Oneksimbank executives will be questioned in connection with the criminal case against former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, Interfax reported on 3 October. Yurii Semin, the deputy head of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, said the investigation into Kokh is expected to last two months. He is suspected of abusing the powers of his office by accepting a payment from a company with apparent links to Oneksimbank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September-2 October 1997). Meanwhile, investigators have questioned Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin in connection with alleged mismanagement of the Cherepovets Azot factory, according to NTV on 5 October and "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 October. A company linked to Oneksimbank acquired a 41 percent stake in that factory in 1994, but a court recently reversed the privatization, saying investment commitments were not kept.


The Vladivostok Prosecutor's Office on 3 October opened a criminal case against Yurii Kopylov for continuing to carry out the duties of mayor even after a court ruling, Russian news agencies reported. The Primorskii Krai Duma recently appointed Kopylov acting mayor of Vladivostok and suspended Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. But the krai prosecutor challenged the legality of that move and a district court suspended Kopylov's appointment. Kopylov has vowed not to step down until instructed to do so by the krai legislature, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October. Meanwhile, Cherepkov remains on sick leave. But his administration, led by acting mayor Nikolai Markovtsev, has filed lawsuits against Kopylov for allegedly squandering city funds and against the Bank of Primore, which carried out financial transactions on Kopylov's orders, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 3 October.


Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak suffered a heart attack on 3 October while being questioned in connection with an investigation into alleged corruption within his administration. Interior Ministry troops picked up Sobchak for questioning by investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office. Speaking to ITAR-TASS from the hospital on 4 October, Sobchak charged, "What happened to an obvious violation of human rights and law, the culmination of persecution started in the spring of 1996." He told Interfax the next day that he believes "pro-communist forces in Moscow" are seeking to discredit him politically. He blamed former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, former FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. Sobchak lost his post in a June 1996 election. He is reported to be under investigation for corruption, but no charges have been filed.


General Mukhuddin Kakhrimanov, a leader of the Lezgin National Council, has been arrested in Makhachkala (Republic of Dagestan) in connection with the 18 September murder of his wife, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 October. The newspaper quoted police officials as claiming that Kakhrimanov killed his wife because she had discovered he was having an affair with a younger woman. Lezgin activists have suggested that the murder, which happened two days before the scheduled opening of a congress of the Lezgin National Council, was intended to prevent the planned fusion of that organization with another Lezgin movement, Sadval. Russian officials recently accused Sadval of forming military units. Sadval spokesmen deny those allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September and 1 October 1997).


Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and top government officials in Almaty on 3-4 October. At a joint press conference, the two leaders announced the creation of a new intergovernmental commission to focus on unresolved issues. Those include Russia's failure to honor the 1993 agreement on payment for the lease of the Baikonor cosmodrome, the decline in bilateral trade, and the conditions whereby Russian oil companies may participate in the development of Kazakhstan's offshore Caspian oil. Nazarbaev argued that those companies offering the best terms should receive the rights to develop any given deposit, whereas Chernomyrdin said Russian oil companies should have priority. The Russian premier also visited the new Kazakh capital, Aqmola.


Meeting in Beijing on 4 October with Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian said strengthening cooperation between the two countries' armed forces, particularly along their common frontier, is "of great significance," ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan borders on China's unstable Xinjiang Province. Altynbaev also met with Premier Li Peng, who described the petroleum and gas accord signed on 24 September as marking a "new stage" in bilateral relations.


Four Tajik refugees were killed and 40 injured on 4 October when Taliban militia bombarded the Sakhi refugee camp in northern Afghanistan. The previous day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had expressed concern over earlier Taliban attacks on the camp. Meanwhile, at a press conference in Dushanbe on 4 October, United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri said he is satisfied with the work to date of the National Reconciliation Commission, composed of both government and opposition representatives. But he called for accelerating the amnesty for former opposition fighters. The next day, during a stopover in Moscow on his way home from the UN General Assembly in New York, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov spoke on the telephone with President Yeltsin, who assured him that Moscow will take "all necessary measures" to ensure implementation of the peace accord, ITAR-TASS reported.


The presidential press service on 3 October issued an official statement claiming that the independent newspaper "Asaba" is undermining government efforts to implement political and economic reforms, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It also accused the weekly of publishing only articles that are biased against the president and government and deliberately contain false and misleading information. "Asaba" has recently criticized several top officials, including President Askar Akayev and his relatives as well as Almambet Matubraimov, the speaker of the People's Assembly of the parliament. "Asaba" staff members, however, say that the newspaper can prove its reports are accurate. It added that one of criticized articles was based on information provided by the president's wife, Mairam Akaeva.


Ten servicemen have been hospitalized with serious radiation sickness after 15 containers of cesium were found at a former training base for Soviet border guards near Tbilisi. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze, who previously was deputy commander of the Transcaucasus Military District, told Interfax that after the collapse of the USSR, some Russian commanders may have buried radioactive substances without informing their superiors. President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered that a commission be set up to investigate radiation levels at other former Soviet military bases in Georgia.


Norayr Khanzadyan, a leading member of the radical Union for Self-Determination, was detained in Yerevan on 2 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khanzadyan is suspected of involvement in the 18 September incident in which union leader Paruir Hairikyan physically attacked former union member and parliamentary deputy Aramazd Zakaryan. Zakaryan had accused Hairikyan of maintaining contacts with foreign intelligence services and of having fathered illegitimate children. Hairikyan told journalists in Yerevan on 3 October that Khanzadyan had not participated in the attack but had tried to separate Hairikyan and Zakaryan. The leader of the union suggested that Khanzadyan, who is the union's representative on the Central Electoral Commission, had been detained because Yerevan did not want "honest and resolute" figures in the commission, Noyan Tapan reported.


Petre Roman met with Armenia's President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan in Yerevan on 1-2 October, Armenian agencies reported. The Romanian Senate speaker later described bilateral relations as "problem free" and affirmed that Bucharest supports Armenia's bid for full Council of Europe membership. He said the Romanian port of Constanza could serve as a conduit for the export of Armenian goods. In Baku on 3-4 October, Roman discussed the possible export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Georgia to Constanza and said that unspecified European organizations may provide financing for the project. Roman also suggested that the Black Sea Economic Cooperation may debate the reported clandestine supplies of Russian arms to Armenia, Turan reported.


Speaking in Washington on 3 October, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov reaffirmed that Caspian littoral states recognized the division of the Caspian Sea before the collapse of the USSR, Turan reported. Shikhmuradov stressed that Turkmen ownership of several Caspian oil fields currently exploited or claimed by Azerbaijan is beyond dispute. He also said that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told him that the U.S. is prepared to mediate the dispute between Baku and Ashgabat. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov again dismissed Turkmen claims on the Azeri, Chirag, and Gyuneshli fields. "The Turkmen side is trying to catch up with an aircraft on foot," he commented. According to Turan, Turkmen aircraft regularly overfly the disputed Kyapaz/Serdar field, which is close to the border between the Azerbaijani and Turkmen sectors.


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 4 October that he has ordered the release of Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet once the investigation into his case is completed on condition that Sheremet promise not to leave Belarus, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported . Sheremet's release is likely to help resolve the war of words between Moscow and Minsk. On 3 October, an aide to Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Moscow is not interested in "unleashing" an attack against Minsk despite Lukashenka's recent accusations. The next day, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Russian president's spokesman, told "Vremya" that "we are interested in the union with Belarus not because of ideological or nostalgic considerations but because of our pragmatic understanding of Russian national interests." Yastrzhembskii went on to explain the series of "miscommunications" that led to Lukashenka's outburst following Moscow's decision to block his visit to two Russian regional cities.


Vitaliy Boiko, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, has denied recent charges that Kyiv executed more than a dozen people this year, thereby violating its pledge to the Council of Europe, "Fakty" reported on 4 October. Boiko acknowledged that more than 60 people have been sentenced to death in Ukraine so far in 1997, but he said that none of those sentences have been carried out. At the same time, he noted that those sentenced to death before President Leonid Kuchma promised to end capital punishment in Ukraine might still be executed.


Vyacheslav Mikhailov said in Tallinn on 3 October that the further development of Russian-Estonian relations hinges on resolving the problems of Estonia's Russian-speaking minority, Interfax and ETA reported. Mikhailov, who was speaking following a three-day visit to Estonia, noted that there has been no significant improvement in the situation of the Russian minority. He slammed Estonia's recently amended aliens law and said Moscow was "dissatisfied" with Tallinn's implementation of a treaty with Russia stipulating that all former Soviet citizens who lived in Estonia before 1991 be granted Estonian citizenship. At the same time, Mikhailov said he is pleased that Tallinn showed interest in finding an "optimal solution" to the problems of the country's Russian speakers.


Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrejs Pildegovichs said on 4 October that Riga has no evidence on alleged war criminal Konrad Kalejs and was therefore unable to ask for an extradition order from the Australian government, Reuters reported. Pildegovichs said the Prosecutor General's Office is monitoring Kalejs's case and would carefully examine any new material. The Simon Wiesenthal Center recently sent a letter to the Latvian authorities asking them to seek the extradition of Kalejs from Australia. Kalejs, who denies having committed war crimes, was deported from the U.S. and Canada after the authorities found he was a member of a squad in Nazi-occupied Latvia that had executed Jews, Roma, and Communists.


Michel Camdessus has said he is a "Euro-optimist" as far as Lithuania is concerned, Interfax reported on 3 October. The head of the IMF was addressing an international conference in Vilnius on the changing role of central banks in Europe, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Bank of Lithuania. He noted that now Lithuania is about to abandon its policy of pegging the litas to the dollar, its main priority must be to further stabilize the national currency. "The Lithuanian authorities are on the right road in this respect," Camdessus said. He also said the IMF will cooperate with Lithuania in its reform program.


Former Polish President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa on 3 October filed papers to form a new political party, Christian Democracy of Poland, PAP reported. Walesa insisted that his group will not compete against Solidarity Electoral Alliance. But he claimed that by attracting the 52 percent of the electorate who did not participate in the recent parliamentary election, he would "lead the new party to victory " in the next parliamentary ballot. Meanwhile, Poland's second private nationwide television station began broadcasting on 4 October. TVN is backed by the Central European Media corporation based in Bermuda and the Polish consortium ITI.


The government announced on 3 October that the floods in Poland in July and early August caused damage estimated at 10 billion zlotys ($2.8 billion), PAP reported. Warsaw said that only 3 billion zlotys has so far been collected to repair that damage; of that amount, only $40 million has come from abroad. As a result, the government has begun discussions with the World Bank and the European Investment Bank on borrowing some $530 million.


Milos Zeman, the chairman of the main Czech opposition party, the Social Democrats (CSSD), has told the party's Central Committee that although the CSSD is doing well in popularity polls, it is in crisis and risks defeat at the next local elections, "Dnes" reported on 6 October. Zeman blamed "complacent" rank-and-file party members as well as members of the party leadership, who recently fired his chief aide, Miroslav Slouf, over his communist past. "A party that fails to respect the work of all who do much for it is not a party of friendship but one of intrigues," he commented.


Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 2 October charged that the opposition Christian Democrats (KDH) considered at a January meeting having him murdered, Slovak media reported. The KDH has firmly rejected that accusation. The following day, opposition members of parliament announced they will adopt a resolution requesting the Slovak Psychiatric Society examine Meciar's mental health and ability to be premier. Foreign media have reported several times since 1991 that Meciar suffers from bouts of manic depression. "Sme" commented on Meciar's allegations on 4 October, saying the premier has started his reelection campaign and that this will be his most "sinister" campaign yet.


Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 3 October said Hungary does not intend to "engage in a war of words" with Slovakia because this would be "unworthy of a country seeking integration in [Euro-Atlantic] organizations," Hungarian media reported. Kovacs was speaking following his return to Budapest after talks in Washington on Hungarian, Czech, and Polish integration into NATO. He said that despite recent criticism from Bratislava, Hungary wants to continue its dialogue with Slovakia. He also stressed that there is no reason why Budapest should apologize for anything or bow to Slovak demands.


Hungary's first commercial television station began broadcasting on 4 October, ending a 40-year state monopoly. A second private television station will go on the air on 7 October, AFP reported. TV-2, which is owned by a Scandinavian-German-Hungarian consortium, broadcasts to 87 percent of the country's territory and is financed exclusively by advertising revenues. The second private station, RTL Club, will broadcast on a frequency that was used by former Soviet troops stationed in Hungary. It is owned by the CLT Group, based in Luxembourg.


Ten Bosnian Croats--including one of Bosnia's most wanted war crimes suspects, Dario Kordic--left Split on 6 October for The Hague, where they are to go on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal. All 10 are accused of committing crimes against Muslims in central Bosnia's Lasva valley in 1993. Kordic told reporters that he and the other suspects are "handing themselves over for trial with a clear conscience before God and the Croatian people in order to prove our innocence." He pledged they will return "with our heads held high". The U.S. has blocked a $30 million World Bank loan to Croatia in a bid to ensure that the 10 suspects were handed over.


U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard, who negotiated the surrender of the Bosnian Croat alleged war criminals, was present in Split when the 10 men boarded a Dutch military plane. Gelbard called their surrender a "significant step forward" for the Dayton peace agreement in Bosnia. He warned "those indictees still at large who choose not to surrender must know that the United States remains committed to keeping open all possible options for making them available to the tribunal for prosecution."


After meeting in Pale on 5 October with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of Bosnia's collective presidency, Gelbard said Western powers have serious reservations about the presidential elections scheduled to take place in the Republika Srpska in early December. Gelbard said the vote will come too soon after the Bosnian Serb legislative elections on 23 November. Explaining the NATO-led seizure on 1 October of four television transmitters controlled by Pale, Gelbard said the international community had put up with too much and would not let such a situation recur. Krajisnik responded that he wants the transmitter dispute to end peacefully, Tanjug reported. But according to Radio B-92, Krajisnik condemned the seizure, saying there is not a single valid reason to justify it.


Ivica Dacic, the spokesman for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists (SPS), has said that the votes remaining to be counted in the 5 October second round of the Serbian presidential elections will not be enough to reach the required margin. Slightly less than 50 percent of the electorate went to the polls. Dacic said that the SPS election headquarters has "very precise data" showing its candidate, Zoran Lilic, with a slight advantage over Serbian Radical Party candidate Vojislav Seselj. The Serbian Electoral Commission is due to announce the final results on 9 October.


Results from the 5 October presidential elections in Montenegro show that the incumbent, Momir Bulatovic, came in first with 47.45 percent of the vote. His main challenger, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, received 46.72 percent. A runoff will be held on 19 October. Voter turnout was more than 67 percent. Djukanovic has said it is time for Montenegro to separate itself from Yugoslavia's economic disaster, which he blames on Milosevic. Montenegro controls half of the votes in the federal parliament, where the Yugoslav president is elected.


Western European Union secretary-general Jose Cutileiro announced on 4 October during a two-day visit to Tirana that the WEU will increase the number of European police officers serving in Albania from 20 to 60 in order to help retrain local police forces. Cutileiro said the reorganization of the Albanian police after the unrest earlier this year will be a long process. He said it is likely the WEU mission's term will be extended beyond the present expiration date of April 1998. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka told a news conference held jointly with Cutileiro that Albania's "entire territory has been put under police control and bands in major cities of Albania have been neutralized," ATA reported. But he said less than one-tenth of the weapons stolen from arms depots during the unrest have been collected.


Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and a U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Marc Grossman met in Bucharest on 4-5 October and discussed the "strategic partnership" between their two countries agreed on during President Bill Clinton's July visit to Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest correspondent reported. At the end of the delegation visit, Grossman said the sides agreed that the partnership will involve political and economic cooperation as well as military collaboration. He said the partnership's efficiency will be demonstrated, above all, by its success in economic and commercial relations. He added that U.S. investments in Romania must grow significantly in the future. Grossman told Defense Minister Victor Babiuc that the U.S. is willing to offer Romania the same bilateral programs as those offered to the three countries invited to join NATO. On 4 October, Grossman met with President Emil Constantinescu and Premier Victor Ciorbea.


At its fifth congress in Targu Mures on 3-4 October, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) amended its statutes to stipulate that the federation's Council of Representatives will designate cabinet ministers representing the UDMR. An amendment on the transformation of the UDMR into a political party was not put to the vote. An RFE/RL correspondent in Targu Mures reported that the congress ignored all proposals by the radical wing, which is considered a victory for the moderate wing, led by chairman Bela Marko, However, Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes was re-elected UDMR honorary chairman. In his address to the congress, Toekes criticized the performance of UDMR government officials. Marko rejected that criticism but said anti-Hungarian nationalists are sometimes encouraged by positions adopted by members of the ruling coalition.


Virgil Magureanu has joined the extra-parliamentary New Romania Party (PNR), the daily "Libertatea" reported on 6 October. The PNR was set up before the 1996 elections. At the time, it was reported that the party was a "creation" of Virgil Magureanu. Magureanu recently announced he is entering politics with the aim of helping to create a center-left opposition alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 1997).


At the end of a three-day visit to Moldova by an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe delegation, Danish diplomat and delegation head Karsten Petersen expressed "cautious optimism" on the chances of Chisinau and the separatist Tiraspol leadership reaching an agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported on 3 October. The delegation met with President Petru Lucinschi and parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan, as well as with Aleksandr Karaman, the breakaway region's vice president and with Vladimir Atamanyuk, deputy chairman of the Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet. It also met with Boris Sergeev, the chief of staff of the Russian troops stationed in the Transdniester. Karsten said there is a possibility of a "political compromise" based on the memorandum signed by the two sides in Moscow on 8 May. The two sides' experts are scheduled to resume negotiations in the Russian capital on 6 October.


In a declaration issued at the end of their meeting in Sofia on 3 October, defense ministers from southeastern Europe and several of their NATO counterparts expressed their commitment to cooperate to enhance regional security and promote integration into Euro-Atlantic organizations. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau quoted U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen as saying Washington is making southeastern Europe a "new priority" following the July Madrid summit. He also praised Bulgaria's determination to "heal the maladies of the past." Addressing a meeting in Sofia of the General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association, Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on 4 October said that "enhancing stability and cooperation in Europe remains an irreversible priority of Bulgaria's foreign policy."


At a meeting in Varna on 3 October, the presidents of Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria signed a declaration on cooperating to fight organized crime, terrorism, and trafficking in drugs and weapons. Suleyman Demirel stressed his country's willingness to support Bulgarian and Romanian membership in NATO. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu said the security of the southern flank of the organization cannot be ensured unless all countries in the region are members of the alliance, an RFE/RL correspondent reported.


by Paul Goble

Russian involvement in the French-led consortium for the development of gas deposits in Iran, which the U.S. has sought to isolate economically and politically, has given Moscow three important geopolitical victories.

First, it has allowed Russia to side openly with the West Europeans against the United States, thereby increasing Russian influence over the former with apparently little cost to Russian cooperation with the latter. Even though many West European countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Tehran, virtually all of them believe that isolating Iran, as the Americans urge, will not contribute to political change there. In addition, the Europeans almost universally feel that Washington's threats of imposing sanctions on non-U.S. firms investing in Iran is a most unfortunate form of U.S. overreach.

Second, Russian involvement has increased Moscow's influence in Iran and thus given Moscow expanded opportunities to influence when or even whether oil and gas can flow from Central Asia and the Transcaucasus to the West. Such Russian leverage in Tehran on the possible flow of petroleum will quickly translate into immediate Russian political leverage in the capitals of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia. Gazprom, the Russian partner in this latest project, is unlikely to be able to make significant investments in Iran. But its presence in the consortium, combined with Russian supplies of nuclear materials and weapons systems to Tehran, will give it a major voice.

Third, Moscow's participation has increased its influence in many countries of the Middle East both because Russia has proved willing to cooperate with an Islamic state at odds with the West and because the Russian government has taken this step over vocal U.S. opposition.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who has long had close ties to anti-U.S. governments in the Middle East, is clearly playing an old Moscow card: siding with radical Muslim regimes and seeking to portray the U.S. as too closely tied to Israel.

Until now, most observers in the West have downplayed Moscow's role either because Washington has focused its criticism on France or because they believe that Russian involvement in Iran is the product of forces President Boris Yeltsin does not control. But in an interview carried by Russian and French television on 1 October, Yeltsin demonstrated that Russian involvement reflects a clearly articulated policy and that Moscow may be the big winner in this project, even if it does not reap the largest financial rewards.

Discussing this latest international investment project in Iran and U.S. opposition to it, Yeltsin said "Thank God, Russia, France, and Iran are independent, freedom-loving states." He added that interference by any state is not to be tolerated. Moreover, the Russian leader went on to say that Moscow's cooperation with Paris represented yet "another instance of the coincidence of views" between the two countries.

At the very least, this statement suggests Moscow is trying to exploit a situation created by U.S. efforts to isolate Iran because of Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism and by rising opposition to Washington's policy in Western Europe and the Middle East.

But Yeltsin's remarks may point to an even more important shift in Moscow's policies. They suggest that Yeltsin and his government have decided that, despite weaknesses at home, they can now begin to recoup some of their past influence abroad. And Yeltsin's words suggest that Russia will once again try to regain that influence by exploiting or exacerbating tensions between the United States, its allies, and the countries of the Middle East.

Most of the discussion of the French-led consortium in Iran has focused on either the profits the deal will bring to Paris or the political breakout it may help Tehran to make. But the gains Russia seems set to make as a result are likely to be far larger than any of those being calculated in either the French or Iranian capital, let alone anywhere else.