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Newsline - March 5, 1998


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 4 March thanked State Duma deputies for approving the budget in the fourth reading, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He expressed hope that the Federation Council will approve the document on 11 March and that President Boris Yeltsin will sign it soon thereafter. The draft calls for 500 billion rubles ($82 billion) in spending and 368 billion rubles in revenues, resulting in a deficit of 132 billion rubles. Speaking to journalists in Bonn, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said the budget approved by the Duma is "more realistic than the [draft] that was considered several weeks ago," ITAR-TASS reported. The revenue and spending targets have not been changed since then, but an amendment was added to allow the government to cut expenditures in the event of revenue shortfalls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). LB


Virtually all Duma deputies expect the government to reduce planned spending this year, as it did in 1997, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 4 March. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told RFE/RL that the budget contains a "hole" of some 90 billion rubles ($15 billion). He predicted that the government will soon declare that it has to "sequester" budget spending. The Yabloko faction voted unanimously against the budget on 4 March, having done likewise in all previous readings. LB


Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a prominent member of the Communist faction, helped secure approval for the budget in the fourth reading by calling a vote on the entire document without holding separate votes on each budget amendment, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. When the Duma last considered the budget in the fourth reading, on 20 February, separate votes were held on each amendment before the entire document was put to a vote. Most deputies had expected the same procedure to be followed on 4 March. Some opposition Duma deputies were angered by Seleznev's maneuver. LB


The backing of some Communist Duma deputies was crucial for the passage of the budget on 4 March, just as limited Communist support had provided enough votes to approve the budget in previous readings, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Although Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 3 March that his faction would vote against the document, 52 Communist deputies supported the budget the next day. Zyuganov explained that some of his colleagues were swayed by appeals from regional leaders, who argued that the budget must be passed in order to provide crucial finds for the regions. Nonetheless, Zyuganov predicted that "not a single budget article will be fulfilled" by the government. He confirmed that the opposition has formed a shadow cabinet but did not name any of its members. LB


The budget approved on 4 March contains an article allowing the government to use offsets, rather than cash payments, to settle its debts to budget-funded organizations, including those in the science, health, and education sectors, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In February, the government sought to remove that provision from the draft, noting that a November 1997 presidential decree banned the use of offsets. However, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, who had previously suggested Yeltsin might veto the budget if the government's amendments were not approved, was unperturbed by the decision to leave the provision on offsets in place. He told Duma deputies on 4 March that the government will abide by the presidential decree and ignore the budget provision. LB


Speaking in Bonn on 4 March, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said a further eastward expansion of NATO to incorporate unspecified former Soviet republics would be "madness," ITAR-TASS reported. Nemtsov said that such a move would destabilize the situation in Russia and thus be "bad for the U.S. and Europe." Also on 4 March, newly appointed Russian Security Council secretary Andrei Kokoshin told Ekho Moskvy that Russia will have "an adequate response" if NATO deploys nuclear weapons in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. Addressing his new responsibilities, Kokoshin said that Russian national security requires amending existing laws to provide for a "smoother interaction" of the country's power structures. He also said the choice of countries to which Russia exports arms should be dictated not by commercial interests but by national security. LF


Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Sermet Atacanli told journalists on 4 March that it is "out of the question" that Ankara would "exclude" Russia from projects to export Caspian oil, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 5 March. Atacanli was responding to charges made the previous day by his Russian counterpart, Gennadii Tarasov, over the failure to invite Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to a recent meeting in Istanbul at which the proposed Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline for Caspian oil was discussed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3- 4 March 1998.) Also on 4 March, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko said Moscow does not oppose the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, but he argued that it should be one of several that exports Caspian oil, Turan reported. LF


U.S. billionaire George Soros told journalists on 4 March that he extended a short-term loan to the Russian government last June, Reuters reported. In an apparent reference to the government's promise to settle all pension arrears by 1 July 1997, Soros said the government needed money to pay wage arrears a week before it was due to receive the proceeds from its third Eurobond issue. He said that the government approached him for another loan last December but that he declined. The "Financial Times" recently reported that the Russia drew $950 million in loans from Western banks in late 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1998). Soros's Quantum Fund was part of a consortium that acquired a stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest last July, and Soros said on 4 March that he may bid for another stake in Svyazinvest later this year. LB


First Deputy State Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman said on 5 March that the plan for privatizing the oil company Rosneft will be announced by 20 March, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Braverman told RFE/RL that foreign investors will be allowed to bid for Rosneft shares. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is to decide whether the state will sell a 50 percent or 75 percent stake in the company. Potential investors have warned that they may skip the auction if less than a 75 percent stake is on offer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree on 4 March paving the way for the Rosneft privatization, Russian news agencies reported. That decree removes Rosneft's authority to manage state-owned stakes in other oil and gas companies and to sell oil and gas extracted under production-sharing agreements with foreign companies. LB


Yekaterina Lakhova, who co-founded the Women of Russia movement in 1993 and now chairs a presidential commission on women, children, and demographics, has assailed Russian stereotypes about men, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 3 March. She cited statistics showing that Russian men have a lower life expectancy than do women and far higher rates of disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide. She attributed some of those problems to the "ancient stereotype" of the man as breadwinner. She also criticized the belief that "every man must be a warrior" and that the army is a "school for bringing up real men." Lakhova slammed "senseless brutality" in the army and argued that mandatory conscription of men in peacetime is discrimination on the basis of gender. She called for transforming the army into an all-volunteer force that is open to men and women. LB


Valentina Melnikova, the co-leader of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, favors an amnesty for soldiers who desert the armed forces if they turn themselves in, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 4 March. She estimated that 40,000 soldiers have fled the army in recent years. Melnikova claimed that some 70 percent of deserters are motivated by brutal hazing, adding that others commit suicide to avoid hazing or kill their tormentors. Hazing is believed to be a major cause of the high suicide rate in the military (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). However, military officials say only 20-30 percent of deserters are trying to escape hazing. Appearing at the same press conference as Melnikova, Colonel Sergei Zimin of the investigation department of the Moscow military district argued against amnesty for deserters, although he advocated lighter punishments for those who turn themselves in. LB


The Prosecutor-General's Office has closed a criminal case against three Japanese citizens who are members of the sect Aum Shinri Kyo, Russian news agencies reported on 4 March. The leader of the sect's Moscow branch was arrested in July 1995, and two other members were detained in early 1997. All three were subsequently released on bail. Vladimir Kazakov, head of the Prosecutor-General's Office's department on investigating serious crimes, told journalists that the case was closed because of "changes in the situation" surrounding the investigation into the sect in Japan and in Russia. However, he noted that Aum Shinri Kyo remains banned in Russia. That ban was imposed by a Moscow court in April 1995, shortly after the sect was accused of staging a gas attack on the Tokyo subway (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 19 April 1995). LB


The Krasnoyarsk Krai Electoral Commission on 5 March registered former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed as a candidate for the 26 April gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed is considered the strongest challenger to Governor Valerii Zubov. In recent comments to journalists, Zubov has sought to portray Lebed as an ambitious politician who wants to use Krasnoyarsk as a stepping stone for a presidential bid instead of working for the krai's residents. LB


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 4 March said Latvian police had committed a "glaring violation of elementary human rights" while breaking up a demonstration of largely Russian- speaking pensioners in Riga the previous day, Russian news agencies reported. Primakov added that he considers the use of force against the demonstrators "disgusting" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma on 4 March rejected a proposal by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) faction to postpone a Duma delegation's visit to Latvia scheduled for 16 March, Interfax reported. Earlier the same day, the LDPR faction walked out of the Duma chamber after Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev took the floor away from LDPR deputy Yurii Kuznetsov, who had denounced Latvia as a "fascist regime." LB


The Latvian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, responded by issuing a statement saying that Russian politicians' attempts to "politicize developments during the unauthorized picket at Riga City Hall" are "inadmissible," BNS reported on 4 March. The ministry said it was "astonished" over the way Russian officials were trying to "interpret an administrative breach [to give it] a political and ethnic nature." It added that such attempts were detrimental to the development of bilateral relations, mutual trust, and understanding. Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers has asked the police leadership to provide a detailed report of the demonstration as well as an evaluation of whether the police actions were in accordance with the law and police regulations. JC


Five mostly center-left parties have formed the Justice and Unity alliance to support Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan's candidacy in the 16 March presidential poll, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 March. The alliance is dominated by the nationalist Dashnak party (HHD) and the Yerkrapah union of Karabakh war veterans. In a statement released on 4 March, the new alliance affirmed its support for Kocharyan's efforts to "consolidate the entire Armenian nation," resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and establish democracy and social justice. The alliance will continue to exist after the presidential elections. LF


Unveiling his campaign program on 4 March, Kocharyan pledged to strengthen industry, create more jobs and favorable conditions for attracting investment, and continue his crackdown on the black market and tax evasion. He also promised to increase wages, reform the social security and pension systems, and introduce free health care for the most vulnerable social groups. Foreign policy priorities are unchanged and reflect the existing approach to balance developing ties with Russia, the CIS, and neighboring Georgia and Iran with strengthening relations with the U.S. and the EU. Kocharyan called for the consolidation of all Armenians to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict based on international law. Such a solution must allow for the self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh "within secure borders and with permanent geographic ties" to Armenia, he argued. LF


Following the abduction in western Georgia last month of four UNOMIG observers, Georgian police are systematically confiscating arms from the population of Mingrelia, Caucasus Press reported on 4 March. That region has traditionally supported former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, some of whose supporters were responsible for the recent hostage-taking. LF


The Baku police chief has issued a statement on the 27 February confiscation from the city's newspaper stands of all remaining copies of the latest issue of the independent journal "Monitor." Turan on 4 March quotes the police chief as claiming that the issue contained disinformation and materials aimed at provoking a confrontation between various social groups. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan reported on 27 February that the relevant issue of "Monitor" included an interview with former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, reports on the October presidential elections, and an article on torture in Azerbaijani prisons. LF


The Iranian Embassy in Kazakhstan released a statement on 4 March denying three of its citizens who are currently held by the Kazakh National Security Service have been involved in any espionage activities, ITAR- TASS reported. The embassy said that the Kazakh government has not given the names of those arrested on 24 February, nor have embassy personnel been allowed to meet with them. However, ITAR-TASS also reported on 4 March that Iranian officials met with the three detainees the same day and that the detainees claimed to be businessmen who were in Kazakhstan to establish business contacts. The three men were quoted as saying they consider the action of Kazakh security agents to be a "rude provocation." BP


Nurlan Smagulov, the chairman of the Kazakh State Food Corporation, said on 4 March that his country is "energetically searching" for new markets to export grain outside the former Soviet Union, Interfax reported. Kazakhstan plans to export at least 2.3 million tons of grain this year, but that amount could be raised to 3.1 million tons, Smagulov said. He added that Russia usually buys up to 70 percent of Kazakhstan's grain but that 5,000 tons of grain have been sent to Iran and 50,000 tons of barley to Saudi Arabia as samples. The corporation is building a grain terminal at the Caspian port of Aktau to facilitate shipments to Iran. BP


Uzbek security forces on 5 March surrounded the house of Obidkhan Nazarov, the former imam of Tashkent's Tokhtabai Mosque, in a bid to take both him and another imam to the Prosecutor-General's office to answer questions about alleged interference in state affairs, RFE/RL correspondents report. Nazarov, however, was tipped off about the police action and left his home to seek a lawyer. The decision to question Nazarov may be connected to a 4 March presidential decree dismissing Bakhtiyar Ghulamov, presidential adviser for national security, and replacing him with Usmon Khudaykulov. Until now a first deputy at the Prosecutor-General's Office, Khudaykulov has a reputation as a hard-liner. BP


UN agencies working in Tajikistan say they need $34.6 million this year to implement their programs, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said 16 percent of the population is not receiving essential foods, and a shortage of clean water supplies has resulted in cholera and typhoid outbreaks. In addition, thousands of families are without shelter and clothing. BP


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 4 March said she will go to Kyiv with a "strong message of friendship but also of warning," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Albright, who is due to arrive in the Ukrainian capital on 6 March, was addressing a Congressional subcommittee. Albright must certify to the committee later this month that Ukraine is responding satisfactorily to complaints by U.S. businesses in Ukraine. If that progress is not satisfactory, the $225 million in aid due to Kyiv next year will be halved. PB


Albright also said she will press Ukrainian officials to halt the sale of turbines needed for an Iranian nuclear reactor being built with Russian help. U.S. officials said Ukraine will suffer "hundreds of millions of dollars" in losses if its Turboatom plant in Kharkiv does not sell the turbines to Iran. To counteract those losses, the U.S. has offered Ukraine an agreement on nuclear cooperation if Kyiv scraps the deal, including aid on construction of two key reactors at Ukraine's Khmelnitskiy and Rivno power plants. Russia also recently announced that it will aid Kyiv in finishing those reactors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). Russia has warned Ukraine that it will void other international contracts with Kyiv if it does not produce the turbines. PB


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held talks in Hrodno on 4 March with the head of the Belarusian Catholic Church, Reuters reported. Lukashenka said he told Cardinal Kazimir Sventak to stop training "foreigners" to become priests. That remark was apparently in reference to ethnic Poles, who number 300,000 in the western region of Hrodno. Relations between Poland and Belarus have recently cooled. Minsk recalled its ambassador in Warsaw last month, and Lukashenka said he intentionally did not meet with Polish Foreign Minister and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Bronislaw Geremek when the latter opened an OSCE mission in Minsk last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). Some 20 percent of Belarusian citizens are Catholic. Before the meeting, Lukashenka said that although he is "not a believer," he advocated that Belarus "establish Christian values." PB


Valentin Agolts and Anatolii Kulikov met in Minsk on 4 March to discuss stepping up cooperation in fighting crime, ITAR-TASS reported. They also analyzed progress toward implementing bilateral measures that the countries' Interior Ministries agreed to at a meeting in Moscow last September. PB


Algirdas Matuiza, the lawyer of war crimes suspect Aleksandras Lileikis, has called for charges against his 90-year-old client to be dropped, BNS reported. At a pre-trial hearing on 4 March, Matuiza argued that there is not sufficient evidence to convict Lileikis of involvement in genocide against Jews during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. He added that if the case is not closed, he will demand that the court carry out additional investigations. Lileikis was head of the Vilnius security police from 1941-1944. JC


Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says the OSCE should play a "greater role" in forming a European security system, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Primakov made his comments after meeting with Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman Bronislaw Geremek. Primakov added that it was important to hear that Geremek is against the "international isolation" of Belarus. The two ministers also discussed the recent violence in Kosovo, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the situation of ethnic Russians in the Baltics. Geremek stressed Warsaw's belief that joining NATO will not affect Poland's relations with Moscow. PB


NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said after his 4 March meeting President Vaclav Havel that he believes accession to NATO should be approved by the Czech parliament and not through a referendum. He said NATO members that have already approved the organization's enlargement may find it " a bit strange" to realize that their decision could be altered in a plebiscite. He said he hoped all three new NATO members can be admitted in April 1999. Following his meeting with Premier Josef Tosovsky, Solana told journalists that the alliance is "very satisfied" with the Czech Republic's preparations for NATO membership and that the level of the Czech army's interoperability is "very good," CTK reported. In other news, Vladimir Mlynar on 4 March resigned as government spokesman following his decision to join the Freedom Union. MS


The Czech Senate on 4 March approved a bill revoking legislation adopted in the 1950s that bans a "nomadic way of life," CTK reported. The Chamber of Deputies had voted to abolish the law last month. Several senators said the law was "racist" and aimed primarily against Roma. Also on 4 March, the leadership of the Romani Civic Association called on all Czech citizens to "stop violence and mutual provocations." CTK reported the same day that more than 800 people have signed a petition urging Czech citizens not to be indifferent to racism and xenophobia in the wake of rapidly escalating attacks by skinheads on Roma. The petition was initiated by prominent Czech intellectuals. MS


RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported on 4 March that the amnesty declared by the Slovak government the previous day halts all investigations of individuals suspected of involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son and precludes the prosecution of such individuals. According to Reuters, citing TASR, the text of the amnesty stipulates "the stopping of the proceedings for crimes committed in the context of the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. abroad." Opposition politicians claim the kidnapping was carried out by the Slovak SIS secret service, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's close associate, Ivan Lexa. The amnesty also cancels all suspended prison sentences of less than six months for "offenses with intent" and of less than a year for those "without intent." And it shields from prosecution people involved in thwarting last year's referendum on the election of Slovakia's president by popular vote. MS


According to a Gallup poll, opposition among Hungarians to building a dam on the River Danube has grown over the past month from 48 percent to 62 percent, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 4 March. Some 49 percent of Budapest residents believe that Slovak interests are served by the protocol signed last week in Bratislava, while only 15 percent say the agreement serves Hungarian interests. MSZ


The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the leading Kosovar political party, has issued a statement in Pristina saying "strong Serbian police forces" opened fire on several ethnic Albanian villages near Srbica on 5 March. Police exchanged fire with armed Albanians in the villages and set up check points on the main road connecting Kosovska Mitrovica and Srbica, BETA news agency added. The previous day, unknown gunmen fired at a police station in Pristina, shortly after the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) pledged revenge for the Kosovars killed by Serbian police in recent violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). On 5 March, Parliamentary Party leader Adem Demaci said in Pristina that the violent actions of the Serbian police has led Kosovars to conclude that the formerly tiny UCK has become "essential for their protection." PM


Edita Tahiri, the LDK's top foreign affairs spokeswoman, said in Istanbul on 4 March that "NATO should immediately send a force to Kosovo and the UN Security Council should take urgent measures. Otherwise, the unrest in Kosovo will spread to other parts of the Balkans, and may involve Albania, Macedonia, and even Turkey and Greece. The international community and NATO should act to prevent another tragedy like the one in Bosnia. Pressure must be exerted on the Serbian government to sit at the negotiating table with us. Many Albanians in Kosovo believe that after this point it will not be possible to live in Kosovo under Serbian rule." PM


Fehmi Agani, a top official of the LDK, said in Pristina on 4 March that "never in the last 10 years has the situation been so tense, and it might explode any moment.... The positions of the Albanians and... [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic are so far apart that no dialogue is possible without the mediation of a third party." The Serbian authorities, for their part, have claimed repeatedly that the Albanians enjoy full rights "on the highest European level." Serbian officials add that they are ready for a dialogue, but only if the Kosovars renounce violence and accept the Serbian Constitution. The Kosovars reply that the main issue for them is changing that constitution because it grants them no autonomy. PM


Mons Nyberg, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told the independent FoNet news agency in Belgrade on 4 March that "we have been informed that refugees [from Croatia now living] in Kosovo are being called up for military service." He added that the UNHCR has informed the Serbian Refugee Committee about those reports. "We were told that action will be taken for such practices to be stopped," Nyberg said. He stressed that international law specifies that refugees "must not be called up for military service in the country that offered them asylum." Yugoslavia does not automatically extend citizenship to Croatian or Bosnian Serb refugees. PM


Rasim Ljajic, a prominent Sandzak Muslim political leader, said in Novi Pazar on 4 March that the current situation in Kosovo is reminiscent of that in Croatia and in Bosnia on the eve of the conflicts in each of those two republics. Ljajic added that the current state of "no war, no peace" in Kosovo is one that Milosevic knows how to manipulate very well to his own political advantage, BETA reported. PM


Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington on 4 March that "I guarantee you, we simply won't brook any renewal of violence and yes, I do put the overwhelming onus on the government of [Yugoslavia]. We continue to be prepared to deal with this problem with Milosevic, with his military, and with his police using every appropriate tool we have at our command. U.S. policy has not changed.... The key is we're going to have effective means to deal with these problems and we have warned Milosevic appropriately.... The economic situation in...Yugoslavia is dismal.... The situation can become an awful lot worse and we can make it worse," Gelbard concluded. PM


British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook arrived in Belgrade for talks with Milosevic on 5 March. The previous day in Sarajevo, Cook said of his planned meeting with the Yugoslav leader: "I will carry a very clear and simple message: Europe and the trans-Atlantic countries expect that steps to find a political solution will be taken. Whilst we will always back a fight against terrorism, you cannot beat terrorism alone by police action. [Milosevic] also needs to address legitimate political grievances of the great majority of Kosovo who do not endorse terrorism." Meanwhile in London, the BBC reported that the foreign ministers of the six-member international Contact Group will meet in the British capital on 9 March to discuss Kosovo. PM


Dragoljub Kunarac gave himself up to SFOR troops in Foca on 4 March and arrived in The Netherlands the next day. He is the fourth Bosnian Serb indicted for war crimes by the Hague-based court to surrender to the tribunal's representatives in recent weeks. Kunarac is charged with systematically raping Muslim women and inflicting psychological and physical cruelty on them. Also in The Hague, the court announced on 5 March that it is commuting from 10 to five years the sentence for war crimes handed down to Drazen Erdemovic, a Bosnian Croat who served in the Serbian forces at Srebrenica. The court noted that Erdemovic had been forced into killing Muslims, shows remorse, and suffers from post-trauma stress. PM


A court in Podgorica on 3 March sentenced a supporter of former President Momir Bulatovic, who is an ally of Milosevic, to four months in jail for inciting violence during demonstrations in January. In Belgrade, the federal parliament ratified an agreement between Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs to enable Bosnian citizens to also hold Yugoslav citizenship. In Zagreb, Milorad Pupovac, a leader of Croatia's Serbian minority, told an RFE/RL correspondent that the Croatian government could quickly end the intimidation of Serbs by Croatian nationalists in eastern Slavonia if it wanted to do so. PM


Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said on 4 March that Budapest "condemns the use of force by any side and advocates a peaceful solution and a long-term settlement" of the conflict in Kosovo. He said respect for "human, civil, and minority rights," including those of the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina, must be part of such a settlement. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said Sofia opposes "any form of terrorism by either side and any pretensions to separatism or a change of existing borders." Vlaikov said Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo had told his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, that his country is ready to endorse the Bulgarian proposal for a joint Balkan declaration on Kosovo. Romanian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anda Filip said Bucharest is "deeply worried" and opposes "violence against the use of democratic freedoms" and "terrorist actions as a means to promote political aims." MS/MSZ


Leaders of the coalition parties, excluding the Democratic Party, have approved "in principle" the 1998 draft budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 4 March. Democratic Party deputy chairman Alexandru Sassu told reporters that the absence of his party's representatives at the meeting was due to "miscommunication" among coalition members. Sassu said that he still does not know whether the Democrats will vote for the budget, saying the government has not presented a "clear program" and the budget itself is still at the "drafting stage." MS


President Emil Constantinescu would receive 45 percent of the vote if presidential elections were to be held now. A public opinion survey conducted by the Center for Urban and Rural Sociology shows that the Constantinescu is followed by former President Ion Iliescu (14 percent), Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (13 percent), Alliance for Romania party leader Teodor Melescanu (12 percent), and Petre Roman, chairman of the Democratic Party (9 percent). MS


Anatol Taranu on 4 March presented a plan for settling the conflict over the separatist Transdniester region, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Taranu, who is on leave of absence as he heads the "Speranta" list for the 22 March parliamentary elections, said one referendum should be held in Moldova and another in the Transdniester on whether to approve a plan that is to be drafted by a UN-sponsored international conference with the participation of the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He said President Petru Lucinschi is aware of the plan "in general but not in its details." Taranu heads the Moldovan delegation to negotiations with the separatists. MS


The Moldovan government on 4 March revoked Mircea Snegur's right to use an official car and have bodyguards. Snegur is now a leader of the rightist Democratic Convention of Moldova. The government's decision is in line with a recently passed law saying former heads of state may enjoy such privileges for one year only after leaving office, Infotag reported. MS


Russian Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev, who attended celebrations in Sofia marking the 120th anniversary of the joint Bulgarian-Russian victory over Turkey, has invited Premier Ivan Kostov to visit Moscow, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bulgarian capital reported on 4 March. No date has been set for the visit. After meeting with Kostov, President Petar Stoyanov, and other Bulgarian officials, Stroev told journalists that Bulgarian Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev has been invited to meet with Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev on 20 March to discuss the dispute over Russian gas deliveries to Bulgaria, ITAR-TASS reported. MS


by Asta Banionis

On 26 February, Valdas Adamkus took the oath of office to became the fifth president of Lithuania. The transfer of presidential duties was dignified, orderly, and normal--such as would be expected from any Western democratic state after direct elections. It holds out the promise that Lithuania will finally be able to consolidate its efforts at modernizing its economy, society, and politics.

The departure from the presidency of Algirdas Brazauskas, a former communist party chief and a professional politician, and the arrival of a newly elected president who served with distinction in the U.S. civil service provide contrasts of both style and substance. Certainly, the great expectation among his supporters and many of the voters who elected him is that Adamkus will bring new ideas unencumbered by the political loyalties of the past. At the same time, the critical votes that gave Adamkus his narrow victory came from people who voted against his opponent rather than for Adamkus. This leveling of expectations may help Adamkus make a successful transition from a U.S. federal civil servant to a head of state of a European country.

There is no doubt that Adamkus brings with him modern managerial skills from his decades-long service at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During the seven-week transition period following his victory, Adamkus and his advisers focused their energies on a plan for restructuring government ministries. In their negotiations with the parliament and the ruling coalition, they were able to win concessions to reduce the number of ministries from 17 to 14. Having tinkered with the apparatus of government, President Adamkus now faces the challenge of developing his policy goals and implementing his programs. And the question on everybody's mind is whether Adamkus, a member of the Lithuanian Diaspora most of his adult life, understands the everyday problems and aspirations of his nation.

In a speech to the nation following his inauguration, Adamkus called for an Act of Concord among the political forces in the country, which, he suggested, would diminish the public hostilities and antagonisms permeating public debate in Lithuania and sometimes paralyzing government decision- making. He pledged to establish an "ethic of government service" that would encourage the transformation of petty bureaucrats into public servants. And he urged a renewed effort to invigorate the reform process throughout Lithuanian society. "The road that leads to the EU and NATO membership starts in Vilnius. I emphasize, in Vilnius and not in the capitals of Western Europe," he argued.

The slim election margin puts a political burden on Adamkus to implement those goals. The limits of the constitutional authority of the president's office are still largely undefined, but at the request of the government, the Constitutional Court recently ruled on the question of whether the government must resign when a new president takes office. In a detailed 17-page document, the court ruled that Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy, not a presidential one, and that although the government must return its mandate, the president must first submit the name of the current prime minister to a vote of confidence before he can propose other candidates for the parliament to consider and confirm.

Adamkus, who had campaigned for strengthening the powers of the president, has expressed disappointment over the court's ruling. In the last year of his presidency, Brazauskas rarely challenged the decisions of the parliament and government, which was firmly in the hands of the reform parties, not his own Democratic Labor Party.

As a former U.S. citizen, Adamkus is schooled in a political system that has a powerful executive in the office of the president. During his campaign, Adamkus often spoke of his desire to be a serious player in the government's decision-making process. But what tools will President Adamkus choose to exercise an influence over government policy? He may turn to the U.S. tradition of the "bully pulpit" to complement his efforts to expand his influence in the legislative process. Modern-day U.S. presidents have used the powerful medium of television to focus the public's attention on an issue and to craft the terms of the public debate. But this will work in Lithuania only if the new president thoroughly understands the historical and cultural context of his audience--namely, the people of Lithuania. The author is a public affairs specialist at RFE/RL's Washington office.