RUSSIA WANTS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN ON UN INSPECTION COMMITTEE
Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov has handed over a letter from his government to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requesting that a Russian deputy chairman be appointed to the UN Special Commission on weapons inspections in Iraq, Reuters and AFP reported on 5 March. Chairman Richard Butler, an Australian citizen, currently has one deputy, Charles Dueffler from the U.S. The 1991 UN Security Council resolution setting up the commission provided for only one deputy chairman. BP
CHERNOMYRDIN ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT 'PRIVATIZERS'
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin praised the efforts of Russia's "privatizers" at a 5 March cabinet session reviewing the State Property Ministry's performance in 1997 and plans for this year, Russian news agencies reported. A report prepared by the ministry showed that its efforts brought in 18.65 trillion old rubles ($3.1 billion) in budget revenues last year, including 18.1 trillion rubles in proceeds from privatization sales and 576 billion rubles in income from federal property. The 1997 budget called for 6.5 trillion rubles in privatization revenues, but sales of state property were accelerated to help compensate for poor tax collection. Chernomyrdin called on the State Property Ministry to exceed 1998 budget targets of 9.4 billion new rubles ($1.5 billion) in privatization revenues. While acknowledging that privatization "has not been ideal," the premier predicted that Russia will eventually "put up monuments" to some of its privatizers. LB
CHUBAIS SLAMS CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIMSELF
In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 5 March, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais lashed out against powerful businessmen who oppose him. He alleged that "enormous resources" are being devoted to digging up compromising information on him, even dating back to his childhood, through phone tapping and offering bribes to family friends. However, Chubais claimed the media campaign to "destroy" him has failed and has instead undermined the political standing of Boris Berezovskii. In an interview published the same day in "Kommersant-Daily," Chubais accused his opponents of supporting "crony capitalism" and warned that if they succeed, Russia could suffer an economic collapse worse than the recent crisis in South Korea. Chubais's opponents, especially Berezovskii, have accused the first deputy premier of favoring Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank over its business rivals. LB
AUTHORITIES STILL INVESTIGATING 'BOOK SCANDAL'
An official from the Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS on 4 March that the office is continuing its investigation into last November's "book scandal" involving Chubais. That investigation was scheduled to be completed in February. Chubais and several associates have admitted accepting a $90,000 honorarium each from a book publisher linked to Oneksimbank, but they have denied the payments were bribes. President Boris Yeltsin took the finance portfolio away from Chubais at the height of the scandal. LB
MEDIA CRITICISM OF URINSON CONTINUES
Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson remains under fire from some Russian media outlets, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 4 March. The popular daily "Moskovskii komsomolets" ran an advertisement calling attention to an article in the latest edition of "Delovye lyudi," which accuses Urinson of helping the Strategiya Bank become involved in lucrative arms export transactions. That bank is managed by Urinson's brother (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1998). Urinson is on vacation and has not responded to the charges, but government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov on 3 March criticized what he called a "campaign to discredit" the economics minister, Russian news agencies reported. Shabdurasulov said examinations of Urinson's work have revealed "no financial improprieties." LB
LUZHKOV SATISFIED WITH BUDGET
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 5 March said the draft 1998 budget recently approved by the State Duma "suits" the city of Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that the budget calls for spending 2 billion rubles ($330 million) to compensate Moscow for the cost of maintaining federal facilities in the capital. Last fall, the government sought to do away with compensation payments for Moscow, and Luzhkov was a vocal critic of the draft budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 20 October 1997). Other regional leaders also gained concessions during negotiations to revise the budget. The government originally planned to reduce spending on federal "transfer" payments to regional governments by two percentage points, from 15 percent to 13 percent of total revenues, but eventually agreed to a cut of only one percentage point. LB
YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE
Yeltsin on 4 March signed a law stipulating that constitutional amendments can be adopted with the approval of two-thirds of State Duma deputies, three-quarters of Federation Council deputies, and legislatures in two-thirds of Russia's 89 regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1998). However, Yeltsin has already asked the parliament to amend certain passages of that law, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 5 March. For instance, the president criticized the law for not providing a specific definition of a constitutional amendment. Article 135 of the Constitution prohibits changes to Chapters 1, 2, and 9 (which cover Russia's basic constitutional structure, individual rights and freedoms, and constitutional amendment procedures) without convening a Constitutional Assembly. LB
KORZHAKOV AGAINST ANOTHER YELTSIN RE-ELECTION BID
Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov, Yeltsin's longtime bodyguard, has called on the president to show the "courage" to abide by the constitution and not to seek another term. The Constitutional Court is to consider whether Yeltsin is legally entitled to run for president again. In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 March, Korzhakov warned that in 2000 it will not be possible to achieve the same election results as in 1996. He added that Yeltsin's health is poor and that running for president in violation of the constitution would set a bad example. During the 1996 presidential campaign, Korzhakov caused a stir by suggesting that the election might be postponed. Yeltsin fired Korzhakov shortly after the first round of that election. Last summer, Korzhakov published memoirs containing unflattering portrayals of Yeltsin and some of his close associates. LB
ZYUGANOV TO COOPERATE WITH RADICAL COMMUNISTS
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Viktor Tyulkin, the leader of the more radical Russian Communist Workers' Party, have signed an agreement to cooperate in organizing three nationwide protests in April and May, Russian news agencies reported on 5 March . Last month, Zyuganov and Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, leader of the Movement to Support the Army, signed a cooperation agreement. On 4 March, the same day that 52 Communist Duma deputies voted for the 1998 budget, Zyuganov warned that the Communist faction may soon call for a vote of no confidence in the government. Zyuganov's statements, along with Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin's recent criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, suggest that the Communists are trying to address critics who have accused them of "appeasing" the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 26 February 1998). LB
PREMIER WANTS SECURITY SERVICE TO STEP UP ANTI- TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the Federal Security Service's 80th anniversary on 4 March, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin praised the "courage of FSB officers" but said the service needs to intensify its activities against terrorism. "It is enough to remember Pyatigorsk and Buinaksk," he said. FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev said that in 1997 alone, the service had "exposed more than 400 agents of foreign intelligence services and arrested eight spies working for the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and other countries." He also noted that more attention needed to be paid to economic crime in order to protect foreign investors from "bandits." BP
HAVE THERE BEEN ARRESTS IN LISTEV CASE?
Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 March that "certain people" have been arrested in connection with the March 1995 murder of television journalist Vladislav Listev. He added that the results of the investigation "can be expected very soon." Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 2 March told journalists that is too early to talk about "specific suspects" in the murder, which, he said, is unlikely to be solved soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 March 1998). Petr Triboi, who is leading the Listev investigation for the Prosecutor-General's Office, neither confirmed nor denied Kolesnikov's remarks but expressed regret that reports on the alleged arrests have appeared in the media, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 March. LB
STEPASHIN CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin on 5 March called on the parliament to pass a law banning the death penalty, Interfax reported. Abolishing capital punishment is a condition of membership in the Council of Europe, which Russia joined in February 1996. In March 1997, the Duma rejected a bill introducing a moratorium on capital punishment. Last month, deputies ratified the European Convention on Human Rights but refused to ratify a protocol on banning the death penalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 23 February 1998). Meanwhile, in a 4 March interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda," Deputy Interior Minister Kolesnikov confirmed that he opposes efforts to abolish the death penalty. LB
DUMA ADOPTS APPEAL TO TURKISH PARLIAMENT OVER KURDS
The Duma on 4 March adopted an appeal to the Turkish parliament on the settlement of the "Kurdish problem," ITAR-TASS reported. The appeal calls for a halt to Turkish military activity against the country's Kurdish population and for the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey to be granted a special political status. LF
CAUCASUS CONFEDERATION EXPELS RADUEV
The Caucasus Confederation, a body established in September 1992 to promote talks among various groups in that region, fired former Chechen field commander Salman Raduev as secretary-general of the organization and expelled him from the group, Interfax reported on 5 March. The leadership of the confederation said that Raduev's recent actions and statements were provocative and "incompatible" with his duties as secretary-general. PG
YELTSIN ASKS RYBKIN TO CONTINUE TALKS WITH CHECHENS
Russian President Yeltsin has asked Ivan Rybkin to continue to head talks with Grozny, despite his 2 March shift from secretary of the Russian Security Council to deputy prime minister responsible for relations with CIS countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said the same day that Moscow has no objections to the upcoming visit of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to London. Tarasov said Maskhadov was traveling on a Russian Federation passport and would not be received officially. PG
RUSSIA, LATVIA SPAR OVER RIGA POLICE ACTION
Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 5 March said Boris Yeltsin agrees with Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's assessment that Latvian police violated the human rights of Russian-speaking pensioners when they broke up a recent demonstration in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 1998). Yastrzhembskii ruled out even preliminary talks on organizing a meeting between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 5 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the international community to take action against Latvia. Meanwhile, the Latvian Foreign Ministry called on Russian officials to stop making "biased" comments about the unsanctioned demonstration, and Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts said Russia may have helped stage the pensioners' rally, BNS reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March condemned Krasts's remarks, saying "there can be no justification" for violating human rights. LB
BELARUS ALSO CONDEMNS RIGA EVENTS
Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich said on 5 March that it shares Moscow's view that the use of force against a demonstration of ethnic Russian pensioners earlier this week was "unacceptable," ITAR-TASS reported. Antonovich recommended that the issue be resolved by the governments of Latvia and other Baltic States within the framework of recommendations made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russian presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said that "one can imagine the European Union's reaction if this happened in Minsk." PB
DUMA OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY
Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva on 5 March criticized the behavior of Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov and suggested that he be replaced, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. During 3 March hearings on ratification of the Russian- Ukrainian friendship treaty, Tikhonov handed a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation a proposal on holding a referendum to reunite the two countries. When a Ukrainian deputy denounced that proposal as a "provocation," Tikhonov tried to force him to leave the Duma chamber. Tikhonov predicted on 5 March that no more than 50-60 Duma deputies are likely to support ratification of the treaty (226 votes are needed for a majority). Supervision within the Duma of CIS issues was recently transferred from Sergei Baburin--like Tikhonov, a member of the Popular Power faction--to Goryacheva, a Communist who supports the treaty with Ukraine. LB
Aliyev APPOINTS KARABAKH NEGOTIATOR AS FOREIGN MINISTER
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 5 March appointed Tofiq Zulfiganov as foreign minister, ITAR-TASS and local agencies reported. A Middle East specialist by education, Zulfiganov was deputy foreign minister responsible for negotiations with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group on the Karabakh question. The post of foreign minister had been vacant for the last month following the sacking of Hasan Hasanov over his involvement in a financial scandal. PG
BAKU REPORTS ANOTHER ARMENIAN ATTACK
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on 5 March said gunfire from Armenia's Indezhavanskiy Raion had been directed at Azerbaijani positions, ITAR-TASS reported. According to officials in Baku, this is the ninth such attack by Armenian forces on Azerbaijani positions in the last month, but there has been neither confirmation nor comment by Armenia. PG
SOUTH OSSETIA WARNS TBILISI OVER ARMED INCURSION
Sixteen Georgian soldiers from a military intelligence training center in the west Georgian town of Gori carried out an armed raid on a village in Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 March. The attackers, who used armored vehicles, were driven back by an armored detachment from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's peacekeeping force. The South Ossetian leadership has condemned the incident as a "blatant provocation aimed at...sabotaging the Georgian-Ossetian peace process. " It warned that South Ossetia will take "adequate measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity" in the event of further such incursions. LF
GEORGIA TO OPPOSE CIS PLANS BUT SHEVARDNADZE TO ATTEND SUMMIT
Georgian State Minister Niko Lekishvili told ITAR- TASS on 5 March that the Georgian government will object to many of the proposals for tighter integration within the CIS that are to be discussed at a Moscow meeting of prime ministers of CIS countries on 6 March. But Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili announced the same day that President Eduard Shevardnadze will attend the CIS summit on 19-20 March. Following last month's failed assassination attempt against him, Shevardnadze has been under intense domestic pressure not to go to that meeting. PG
GEORGIA PREPARES TO TAKE OVER GUARDING ITS BORDER
Rezo Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Commission for Defense and Security, told journalists on 4 March that Georgia is to set up an International Council for Security, which will include U.S., German, and Swiss representatives, Caucasus Press reported. One of the council's first priorities will be to establish an exclusively Georgian border force along Georgia's frontiers. Under a 1992 agreement, those frontiers are jointly guarded by Georgian and Russian border troops. LF
ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK
Between 800 and 1,000 people, mostly pensioners, demonstrated outside the government building in Bishkek on 5 March, RFE/RL correspondents reported. They were demanding that pensions be standardized. Currently, those who retired before 1994 receive only 40 percent of the sum given to those who retired after that date. A small group of demonstrators were invited to talk with the chairwoman of the National Social Fund and the head of the department on social issue. They were told that Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov signed a draft law on standardizing pensions that day and submitted it to the parliament. This was the third such demonstration during the past six weeks. BP
PROTEST OVER NIYAZOV'S U.S. VISIT
A U.S.-based human rights organization has sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton protesting the scheduled 23 April visit of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to the White House. Human Rights Watch criticized Niyazov for establishing "one of the most repressive and abusive governments in the world." It said Turkmenistan "denies virtually every civil and political right" to its citizens. The organization pointed to the detention dissidents in psychiatric hospitals, illegal elections, the lack of freedom of assembly, the beating of dissenters and journalists, and the death of some dissidents while in custody. BP
KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER LOCATED IN ALMATY JAIL
Madel Ismailov, the leader of Almaty City Workers Movement, has been located in a central Almaty jail, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 5 March.. The leaders of another opposition group, Azamat, had been searching for Ismailov since he disappeared on 27 February, following the founding conference of the opposition People's Front movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). Officials at the prison said that Ismailov's name had been misspelled in their records and that, for this reason, they had wrongly claimed he was not being held there. Ismailov's wife briefly visited him on 5 March and said he seemed to have been beaten. BP
UZBEK AUTHORITIES CLARIFY CHARGES AGAINST IMAMS
Deputy Interior Minister Kutbuddin Burhanov told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the two imams wanted for questioning are accused of promoting Wahhabism with the goal of overthrowing the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). The government blamed Wahhabis for unrest in the eastern city of Namangan last December. BP
ALBRIGHT ARRIVES IN KYIV
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Kyiv on 6 March for key talks on economic and international nuclear issues, AFP reported. Albright said Ukraine needs to rapidly adopt economic reforms, saying that "many elements are already in place." She also stressed Ukraine's key role in Europe based on "its size and geographical location." Albright is to discuss a deal to supply Iran with turbines for a nuclear power plant as well as Kyiv's efforts to resolve complaints from U.S. businesses operating in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). She will meet with President Leonid Kuchma and Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko during her half-day trip. Kuchma said on 4 March that economic issues are central to relations with the U.S. and that more foreign investment is needed. PB
DEAL WITH AUTOMAKER MEANS JOBS FOR UKRAINIANS
Oleksandr Sotnikov, the director of the AvtoZAZ car firm, said on 5 March that a deal recently signed with South Korean automaker Daewoo will bring 150,000 new jobs to Ukraine, the "Eastern Economist" reported. Sotnikov said under an agreement signed on 2 March, some $1.3 billion will be invested over the next 10 years in AvtoZAZ, which is a joint venture between Daewoo and the Zaporizhzhia auto plant. In a move to give a boost the domestic car market, the Ukrainian government recently passed a resolution increasing the costs of importing cars. The EU criticized that decision. PB
LUKASHENKA CRITICIZES OSCE MISSION IN MINSK...
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 5 March that the opening of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Minsk is "absurd," Reuters reported. Lukashenka said he "resisted" for a long time allowing the mission to be set up, saying "we do not need such groups." He also expressed satisfaction with the recent sentencing of two youths accused of vandalism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998), advising the youth sentenced to 18 months of hard labor to "get on your knees in prison and write the president a letter requesting mercy." PB
...SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO COLLECTIVE FARMS
Proclaiming that "the future belongs to large collective farms," President Lukashenka said on 5 March that private ownership of land in Belarus is impossible because the people are against it, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Lukashenka made his comments at an agrarian conference in Hrodno. He said the goal for farmers should be to reach Soviet-era levels of production, which, he said, would happen by the time his term as president expires in 2001. PB
LILEIKIS TRIAL POSTPONED
At a short pre-trial hearing on 5 March, a Lithuanian judge postponed until May the trial of 90-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, who is suspected of involvement in genocide against Jews during World War Two, Reuters and BNS reported. The judge granted a defense request to locate and interview a Jewish woman living in the U.S. whom Lileikis allegedly helped during the war and a U.S. citizen of Lithuanian origin who reportedly knew Lileikis when the latter was chief of the Vilnius security police. The Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed "shock and outrage" at the court's decision. "Given the advanced age of the defendant..., any lengthy delay in the proceedings significantly increases the chances of Lileikis escaping justice," the center argued. JC
POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENT ADDRESS SEJM
Bronislaw Geremek said on 5 March during his annual address to the parliament that Warsaw seeks good relations with Russia and Ukraine and wants to help Belarus out of its "self-isolation," an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported. Speaking after Geremek, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that all parties in Poland supported the country's two major foreign-policy goals: entry into NATO and the European Union. Geremek said that although he has noticed "some realism" in Russian foreign policy, he said it is "poor" with regard to Moscow's "approach to Eastern Europe." Geremek said he also wanted to intensify cooperation between Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. PB
SOLANA ON CZECH REPUBLIC'S NATO ACCESSION
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 5 March told members of the foreign and defense committees of the Czech Senate and Chamber of Deputies that they must "lead the process" of the Czech Republic's integration into NATO, CTK reported. Solana said membership in NATO is "too valuable a goal for anyone to risk not achieving it." Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman, who met with Solana, said later that they did not discuss holding a referendum on NATO accession during their meeting. Zeman, who favors such a plebiscite, said he continues to believe that the means of accession must be decided by the next parliament, and not by the outgoing legislature. MS
CZECH-SLOVAK RELATIONS 'UNDER EXAMINATION'
Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy, after meeting with President Vaclav Havel on 5 March, told journalists that his ministry is preparing an "in-depth analysis" of relations with Slovakia. He said the Czech Republic may have to "draw consequences" from "the latest developments" in Bratislava, CTK reported. Also on 5 March, Socialist Party chairman Milos Zeman, who is considered most likely to head the next government after early elections, told journalists he does not rule out a "modification" in Czech-Slovak relations if Slovakia is not admitted to the EU. Zeman said he would nonetheless like relations between the two countries to be "above standard," because "governments come and go but countries remain." MS
THOUSANDS RALLY IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST GOVERNMENT
Thousands of people rallied in the Slovak capital on 5 March to protest the government's decision to annul last year's referendum on electing the president by direct vote and to amnesty those involved in thwarting that plebiscite as well as those who took part in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. The rally was organized by the opposition. Also on 5 March, the U.S. sharply criticized the Slovak government's decision. A spokesman for the State Department said the actions are "not consistent with the behavior of a government that respects the rule of law," AFP reported. MS
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT
Lawmakers on 5 March again failed to elect a president, AFP reported. Writer Ladislav Ballek, the candidate of the Democratic Left, received 49 votes, while rail worker Milan Fogas, the candidate of the far left United Worker's Party, was backed by only five deputies. A three-fifths majority in the 150-member parliament is needed to elect a president. A fourth round of elections has been scheduled for 19 March. MS
SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY DISAGREE OVER DAM DISPUTE DEADLINE
Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on national television on 4 March that Bratislava will turn to the International Court of Justice if the Hungarian government does not approve by 25 March the draft framework agreement on the Danube hydropower plant. The next day, the Hungarian government announced it will sign the agreement only after studies of the possible effects of the project are completed, sometime before the end of the year. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said it is unlikely that Slovakia will turn to the court again or that the court will agree to re-examine the dispute, given that Hungary remains ready to negotiate. MSZ
KOSOVARS FLEE "MASSACRES"...
Hundreds of ethnic Albanians, primarily women and children, fled the Drenica area west of Pristina on 5 and 6 March in the wake of a massive Serbian assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). Serbian special police units on 5 March attacked Prekaz and several other villages in which the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has many supporters. Police barred journalists, Red Cross representatives, and others from entering the region. The Serbs used heavy artillery, helicopter gunships, and armored vehicles in what Kosovar spokesmen in Pristina called "massacres" that led to 50 deaths. Several hundred Albanian women held a protest march in front of the U.S. cultural center in Pristina. On 6 March, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova charged Serbian authorities with carrying out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing." PM
...WHILE SERBIA CONTINUES TO "CLEANSE TERRORISTS"
A Serbian Interior Ministry spokesman told BETA on 6 March that the police "are continuing the action to cleanse the region of Albanian terrorists." Police closed off the road linking Kosovska Mitrovica and Srbica, where the UCK has widespread support. The previous day, the ministry said in a statement that the armed action resulted in the death of 20 "terrorists" and two policemen. The authorities also said that police captured a "known leader" of the UCK and found an arms cache and underground hospital facilities. There has been no independent confirmation of the claims made by either side. PM
ALBANIA READY TO MOBILIZE
An Albanian Defense Ministry spokesman said in Tirana on 6 March that the army is "on high alert in the northern area of the country because of the recent tense situation in Kosovo and an increase in Serbian troops along the Albanian border." The previous day, Defense Minister Perikli Teta told the parliament that "the army has taken all measures called for in a conflict situation [and that] it is ready to mobilize the reservists if the situation demands." He added that the army will "prepare its contingency plans and take measures in order to be ready should acts of violence or ethnic cleansing take a turn for the worse." At the same emergency session of the legislature, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said that the "police and the army have taken measures to deal with any extension of the conflict." PM
BERISHA ASKS CLINTON TO "DRAW LINE"
Former President Sali Berisha and legislators from his Democratic Party ended their six-month boycott of the parliament on 5 March in what Berisha called a display of national unity in the face of the Kosovo crisis. "It is a sign to show that the Albanians must act like a single nation," Berisha added. The former president said he would like U.S. President Bill Clinton to tell Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that Washington will not tolerate violence in Kosovo. Such a clear statement "would be crucial to save the stability of this region. Otherwise a very large and terrible conflict could come in the southern Balkans." Berisha added that the Kosovars "will defend themselves if they are left with no other options.... They asked for a peaceful solution and they have now got massacres. This is a very dramatic situation." PM
ALBANIA URGES WEST TO "LEARN FROM BOSNIA"
Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Paris on 5 March that diplomatic possibilities for ending the Kosovo crisis have not been exhausted and pleaded for the U.S. and EU to "intervene urgently." Milo stressed that the West should act decisively in exerting diplomatic pressure on Belgrade and not equivocate as it did in Bosnia during the first years of that conflict. PM
PENTAGON SAYS NO PLANS FOR BALKAN FORCE
A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 5 March that the U.S. has withdrawn a package of concessions it recently made to Milosevic as a reward for his support for moderate Serbian leaders in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1998). The official added that "the repression that is taking place [in Kosovo] is totally unacceptable to the international community and will have the most severe consequences." A Pentagon spokesman said, however, that the U.S. is "concentrating on diplomacy" and has no concrete plans to increase its 250-strong armed contingent in Macedonia. Those troops are part of a UN force that seeks to prevent armed conflict from spreading to the southern Balkans. PM
COOK LEAVES BELGRADE EMPTY-HANDED
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Belgrade on 5 March that he failed to persuade Milosevic to restore Kosovo's autonomy. Also in the Yugoslav capital, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic commented that Serbia "alone is competent" to deal with the problem. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov spoke of the need "to fully rule out any extremist manifestations and threats.... A civilized dialogue must be conducted [and] the problems of the Albanian population must be resolved in the framework of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. PM
MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR DIALOGUE
The government in Podgorica said in a statement on 5 March that "it is necessary to establish a dialogue urgently to solve the Kosovo problem. Terrorism and use of force by the state do not lead toward a solution but can only intensify the situation with the risks of unforeseeable consequences and the inevitable internationalization [of the crisis]." The Montenegrin authorities appealed to their Serbian counterparts to pay attention to "serious warnings by the international community and risks of new sanctions" and come up with a "responsible approach" to the problem. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic recently called on Milosevic to restore Kosovo's autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998). PM
WESTENDORP FIRES HERZEGOVINIAN MAYOR
Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, sacked Pero Raguz, the hard-line Croatian mayor of Stolac, on 5 March. A spokesman for Westendorp said that Raguz refused to let Muslim refugees go home despite repeated warnings from Westendorp to let them do so. PM
ALBANIAN PYRAMID BOSS UNDER HOUSE ARREST
Vehbi Alimucaj, president of VEFA Holding, was put under house arrest on 6 March. The move came after a state-sponsored foreign auditing company filed a law suit against him for allegedly obstructing the auditors' work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). PM
ROMANIAN COALITION PARTIES DIG IN HEELS
The Democratic Party's National Council on 5 March released a statement saying the present crisis can be solved "within 10 days" by "forming a new government, working out a different government program, and the new cabinet's assuming responsibility for the 1998 budget." National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said the budget must be submitted to the parliament by Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, after which a "change [of premier] is possible." National Peasant Party Christian Democratic leader Ion Diaconescu said his party has "no grounds" to change Ciorbea as premier. He added that it cannot be ruled out that President Emil Constantinescu will again ask Ciorbea to form a government if the legislature dismisses the cabinet by not approving its budget proposal, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
ROMANIAN COURT RULES ON CONFLICT WITHIN NATIONALIST PARTY
The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 5 March ruled that "all actions" taken since last November by Gheorghe Funar, the former chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), were "illegal." The tribunal said the decisions to hold a rival National Convention of the PUNR in Cluj on 22 November 1997 and a rival PUNR Extraordinary National Convention one week later had violated both the PUNR statutes and legislation on political parties. The 29 November meeting had invalidated the decision of the PUNR earlier that month to expel Funar. Also on 5 March, the "Funar wing" in the PUNR and the extremist Greater Romania Party called for a general strike to protest the "treacherous" cabinet headed by Ciorbea. MS
UNEMPLOYMENT IN ROMANIA NEARS 1 MILLION
More than 970,000 people, or 9.7 percent of the work force, are currently unemployed, the Labor and Social Protection Ministry announced on 5 March. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON ELECTORAL LAW
Petru Lucinschi on 5 March asked the Constitutional Court to invalidate the provision in the electoral law establishing a 4 percent threshold for both political parties and independent candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). He said the law discriminates against independent candidates and therefore violates the Moldovan Constitution as well as international legislation on human rights. A spokesman for the court told BASA-press that the Constitutional Court will debate the presidential appeal early this month. Elections are scheduled for 22 March. MS
ALIEV'S VISIT TO TURKEY
by Lowell Bezanis
Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev's recent visit to Turkey highlighted the tempestuous between those two countries. But contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not so much past betrayals and current suspicions that threaten to sabotage that relationship as the diverging national interests of the two countries.
The latest low in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations was precipitated by the publication of lengthy extracts from an investigation commissioned by Turkish Premier Mesut Yilmaz into a security scandal. The so-called Susurluk report--which shed some light on the links between Turkey's ultra- nationalists, the state security apparatus, and drug king-pins--upset Aliyev because it revealed that the web of corruption involved Azerbaijan (as well as Turkmenistan).
The Susurluk revelations, including that of the sizable gambling debts Aliev's son has amassed in Turkey, are not new, however. For several years, it has been an open secret that some of Turkey's big-time heroin traffickers have set up money-laundering operations on each side of the Caspian Sea. As for Turkish involvement in the March 1995 coup attempt against Aliev, the Azerbaijani president himself had publicly identified one of the Turkish plotters at the time.
The Susurluk report did, however, provide an excuse for Aliyev to sack his foreign minister, Hasan Hasanov, for his alleged involvement in transforming a Turkish-funded diplomatic guest house into the Hotel Avrupa, which was furnished with a casino. That Aliyev did not simultaneously fire others believed to have been involved in the Avrupa scandal suggests Hasanov was a scapegoat.
Piqued by the Susurluk revelations, Aliyev threatened to cancel his planned visit to Turkey, but President Suleyman Demirel reportedly persuaded him not to do so. In the event, Aliyev accomplished several important objectives.
First, he delivered a stern warning to the Turks that anything harmful to the reputation of Azerbaijan--not to mention its president and his immediate family members--is totally unacceptable. Even before Aliyev arrived in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz had sought to effect damage control, asserting that the Susurluk allegations about Aliev's family were based on unreliable sources. While Aliyev had reportedly vented his anger on Yilmaz, his warm interaction with Demirel reinforced the perception of a special relationship between the two presidents.
Second, in posing as an aggrieved ally, Aliyev dashed any hopes his domestic opposition may have had about finding support in Turkey in the runup to the October presidential elections. Aliyev made it clear he will not tolerate Turkish meddling on his turf. Although Aliyev will almost certainly be re-elected, he still effectively guaranteed that Turkey's ultra-nationalists, some Turkish Azerbaijanis active in Ankara and Istanbul, Azerbaijani "traitors" allegedly hiding in Turkey, and other supporters of ousted President Abulfaz Elchibey and former Parliamentary Speaker Rasul Guliev will be encouraged to be on their best behavior. In practice, this suggests the Turkish printing presses that ran off Elchibey's election posters back in 1992 will remain silent in the coming months.
Beyond doubly underscoring the notion that complete fealty is the price of good relations with Azerbaijan, Aliyev parlayed the visit into a reminder to Ankara that the tables are turned. His message was that it is now Turkey that is in the role of supplicant, not Azerbaijan.
This reversal of roles is tied to one issue: pipelines. Long before the geopolitical environment was ripe for such a maneuver or oil volumes necessitated it, Ankara declared its determination to see the construction of a main export pipeline to carry Caspian crude from Baku across Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. That Baku-Ceyhan pipeline remains, in the minds of both Turkish citizens and politicians, a barometer of Turkey's status as a player in the region.
But whereas Turkey wants a pipeline, Baku first and foremost wants to sell its oil on the international market. Detailed discussions about the comparative merits of various export routes, the crude oil volumes necessary for making them commercially viable, tariff rates and so forth are only now beginning. But those talks must include not only possible transit countries but also those companies involved in so-called exploration plays in various sectors of the Caspian Sea, as well as on shore in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
All the players, including Ankara and Baku, are trying to drum up support for options offering maximum economic and political dividends. One small part of that effort was Aliev's recent visit to Istanbul to remind the Turks of their obligations and to extract from them the concessions he needs to get his oil to Western markets. The author is a Washington-based specialist in Turkish and Central Asian affairs. CORRECTION: The second sentence of the third paragraph of the "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," Vol. 2, No. 36, 26 February 1998, should have read as follows: "In all fairness, it should be noted that Armenia has tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade the Minsk Group to upgrade Karabakh's status to a full party to the peace talks for the entire duration of the negotiating process."