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Newsline - July 9, 1998


President Boris Yeltsin told journalists on 9 July that the Russian leadership "will firmly protect the ruble against devaluation." In remarks shown on nationwide television, he added that there are "means, ideas, proposals, and a plan of action" to defend the ruble. Earlier the same day, the Central Bank announced that Russia's gold and hard-currency reserves fell from $16 billion to $15.1 billion from 26 June to 3 July. As investors continue to sell off Russian stocks and bonds, the Central Bank has been forced to intervene to prop up the value of the ruble. Meanwhile, Russian officials led by Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais on 9 July continued negotiations with representatives of the IMF and the World Bank over a multibillion-dollar stabilization loan. Two days earlier, Chubais predicted that "all principal issues" concerning that loan will be resolved by 10 July. LB


"Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued on 8 July that devaluation is inevitable, even if international financial institutions provide Russia with a $10-15 billion stabilization loan. The newspaper charged that only political considerations--not economic ones--are holding back devaluation: namely, the fear among high-ranking Central Bank officials that they will lose their jobs. The newspaper also disputed claims by some officials that certain exporting industries would benefit from devaluation and that those industries are behind Russian media reports predicting the collapse of the ruble. In addition, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" cited the prominent economist Andrei Illarionov's arguments in favor of devaluation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1998). "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is financed by CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, has in recent months repeatedly criticized the Central Bank's leadership and the policies of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's government. LB


Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 9 July denied that Yeltsin is ill and charged that "someone is putting out" rumors concerning Yeltsin's health in order to achieve political, economic, or financial aims, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier the same day, the Kremlin denied various rumors circulating on Asian financial markets, which suggested that Yeltsin had died or been overthrown by a military coup, Reuters reported. Rumors that Yeltsin has fallen ill or died have also made the rounds on Russian financial markets during the last week. LB


Igor Shabdurasulov, a deputy head of the presidential administration, believes it would be "optimal" for Russia if Yeltsin did not seek a third term in 2000. In an interview published in "Russkii telegraf" on 9 July, Shabdurasulov noted that "one can't say Yeltsin's physical condition is ideal, that he's absolutely full of vigor and energy for round-the-clock work." Commenting on the interview, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS that Shabdurasulov was expressing his own opinion and not the views of the presidential administration. Shabdurasulov is considered close to former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, having served as the top government spokesman until Yeltsin sacked Chernomyrdin in March. Yeltsin recently dismissed his representative in the Constitutional Court, Sergei Shakhrai, who has urged Yeltsin not to run for re-election and publicly announced his support for Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov as a presidential candidate. LB


Thousands of workers in the defense industry staged protests on 8 July in more than 20 Russian cities, Russian news agencies and RFE/RL correspondents reported. In addition to calling for the payment of wage arrears, many protesters carried signs or shouted slogans calling for the resignation of Yeltsin and the government. Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva met with trade union representatives and promised that the government will fulfill a plan to pay some 2.5 billion rubles ($403 million) in back wages to defense industry workers. Speaking to some of the 1,500 workers picketing the Defense Ministry, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov said the back wages will be paid soon, but he gave no timetable for settling the rest of the debt to the defense industry, which he estimated at 15 billion rubles. Others put that figure at nearly 20 billion rubles. LB


Political demands dominated protests by thousands of workers across Primorskii Krai on 8 July, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Protesters led by employees of the Zvezda submarine repair factory called for Yeltsin's resignation, the temporary transfer of all powers to the federal parliament, and early presidential elections. Demonstrators in Vladivostok demanded an explanation from one correspondent from a Moscow-based television network for allegedly distorted coverage of the last major protest staged by Primore's defense industry workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). The correspondent admitted that orders came from Moscow not to air the protesters' political demands. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July that unpaid energy workers remain on strike in Primore. That strike has caused power cuts for more than 12 hours a day for krai residents, who have been afflicted by similar energy crises many times in recent years. LB


Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev and regional trade union leader Anatolii Chekis on 8 July sent a telegram to President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Kirienko urging them to take action to end the week-long blockade of the Trans-Siberian Railroad by coal miners demanding the payment of wage arrears, Russian Television reported. Alexander Shokhin, the head of the Our Home is Russia Duma faction, told a press conference the same day that Yeltsin must "act as arbiter between the government and protesters" because the current impasse is potentially "explosive." The government claims it has fulfilled its obligations to the miners, while the miners demand the government's resignation. Also on 8 July, the Kemerovo legislature sent a telegram to Prime Minister Kirienko demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev return to the region to review the implementation of protocols signed in May, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, regional unions of metallurgy and chemical workers have appealed to the miners to lift the blockade. BT


The transfer of the Kuril Islands to Japan contravenes constitutional guarantees of Russia's territorial integrity and is therefore inadmissible, Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov told Sakhalin Oblast leaders on 8 July following a tour of the region. Nemtsov noted that a Russian-Japanese commission has been formed to draw up a treaty officially ending World War II between the two countries, but he added that "the Japanese are repeatedly raising the issue of the [islands] at the highest level." He also expressed support for plans to remove visa requirements between Sakhalin Oblast and Japan. And he signed an economic agreement with Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, similar to one Nemtsov recently signed with Magadan Oblast authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998). Nemtsov cut short his tour of the Far East to return for Moscow for the congress of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners on 9 July. BT


Duma deputy Andrei Nikolaev, the former director of the Federal Border Service, on 8 July convened the founding congress of his Union of Popular Power and Labor, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In his address to more than 200 delegates, who reportedly came from every region of the Russian Federation except Chechnya, he said his "centrist" movement will promote the formation of a law-governed state with a regulated market economy. Co-founders of the movement include 1996 presidential candidate Martin Shakkum, Duma deputy Telman Gdlyan, and Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin, head of the Communist-allied Spiritual Heritage movement. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 9 July that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov did not attend the congress, but it interpreted his absence as a "tactical" step. Nikolaev's movement is expected to lead pro- Luzhkov forces in the 1999 parliamentary elections, but too close an association with Luzhkov might depress support for the movement outside the capital. LB


At its constituent congress in Moscow on 8 July, the Assembly of Peoples of Russia elected former Deputy Premier Ramazan Abdulatipov as its chairman, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The stated aim of the assembly is to contribute to inter-ethnic accord and to broaden dialogue between the organ of state power and of local administration and ethnic communities. But Abdulatipov confessed that he does not know how the assembly will achieve that dialogue with the authorities. Russian Security Council First Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Mikhailov, a former minister for nationalities, was more optimistic, predicting that given the weakness of the legal foundation of Russia's nationality policy, the assembly could exert "serious influence" on the authorities. Both Abdulatipov and Mikhailov warned that Russia's law enforcement organs are not prepared to combat fascism and nationalism, which they consider pose a serious threat. LF


Aslan Maskhadov will perform the duties of prime minister following the resignation of acting Premier Shamil Basaev, Interfax reported on 8 July. Maskhadov has also asked the Chechen parliament to agree that he assume control over the National Security Service, which reports directly to the parliament. The head of that service, Lecha Khultygov, was shot dead in a confrontation with supporters of maverick field commander Salman Raduev on 21 June. On 8 July, the Chechen Shariat Court issued a warrant for Raduev's arrest in connection with the incident, which it described as an attempted coup d'etat, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 9 July. Raduev has affirmed his readiness to submit to a "just ruling" of the Shariat Court, RFE/RL's Grozny correspondent reported on 9 July. LF


Mintimer Shaimiev told journalists in Moscow on 8 July that the leaders of Russia's regions have chosen the wrong moment to call for Yeltsin's impeachment, according to Interfax. Shaimiev reasoned that "in the present unstable situation," the resolution of socio-economic problems should take priority. Shaimiev added that the Russian government's ultimatum to Gazprom to pay its outstanding debts can be attributed to "a lack of coordination between the tax organs and the Cabinet of Ministers," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 July. Shaimiev added that he considers any attacks on Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev "impermissible." In addition, Shaimiev called on the Russian government to back Chechen President Maskhadov, who, he said, is "having a hard time." Shaimiev argued that it is in Chechnya's interests to remain within the Russian Federation, but with "special status." LF


The electoral commission in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on 8 July registered former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as a contender for a vacant State Duma seat, Russian news agencies reported. Chernomyrdin is the first candidate registered to compete in the 27 September by-election. He is expected to have no trouble winning the seat. The gas monopoly Gazprom, which Chernomyrdin headed before joining the government in December 1992, is the largest employer in Yamal-Nenets. Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, a member of Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement, told journalists on 8 July that the former premier will become leader of the movement's faction in the Duma if he wins the by-election, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB


The main printing press in Khakassia will no longer print the weekly "Fakty i komentarii," the only newspaper in the republic that criticizes the Khakassian government and its leader, Aleksei Lebed, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 July. Aleksandr Tereshchenko, the director of the printing press, told the news agency that his enterprise's equipment is worn out. But Vladimir Plotnikov, the newspaper's editor, has expressed doubt that technical reasons are behind the decision. He told ITAR-TASS that "Fakty i komentarii" has a circulation of some 3,000--not large enough to affect equipment on which most newspapers in Khakassia and some from the neighboring Republic of Tyva are printed. Plotnikov argued that the regional authorities have gained influence over the printing press since the enterprise was transferred from federal to regional ownership. LB


Aleksei Yablokov, a scientist and former adviser to Yeltsin on environmental issues, has won a libel lawsuit against "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Interfax reported on 7 July. Yablokov has repeatedly warned of the dangers posed by so-called "nuclear suitcase bombs." In testimony during U.S. Congressional hearings in October 1997 as well as in the Russian press, he has charged that such weapons were built during the Soviet period and that not all of them can currently be accounted for (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September and 1 October 1997). Yablokov objected to an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in late 1997 that accused him of revealing state secrets and slandering his country. A Moscow municipal court ordered the newspaper to print a retraction by 9 September 1998 and pay Yablokov 30,000 rubles ($4,800) in damages . Yablokov had sought 450,000 rubles as compensation. LB


Russian Defense Ministry experts told Interfax on 8 July that the planned deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missiles in Greek Cyprus will not fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region. They argued that the S-300 is "a purely defensive weapon" and that it cannot pose a threat to Turkey, which has the largest army in Europe. The experts conceded, nonetheless, that Cypriot Defense Minister Yiannakis Omirou, who is currently visiting Russia, may reach agreement with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on delaying deployment until late 1998. Speaking in Washington on 7 July, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides has already postponed the delivery of the missiles in order not to disrupt initiatives by the UN and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke for a peaceful settlement on the island, Reuters reported. LF


Speaking at his first news conference in Tbilisi, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kenneth Spencer Yalowitz said the U.S. intends to promote the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia under the aegis of NATO, Interfax reported on 8 July. He noted, however, that Georgia and Abkhazia must first request the deployment of such a force. Turkish Deputy Chief of General Staff General Cevik Bir said in Ankara on 30 June that Turkey will propose the creation of a peacekeeping force to be deployed in the Caucasus as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. During a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Luxembourg in May, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov discussed prospects for the deployment of a NATO peacekeeping force along the "line of contact" between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, according to "Moskovskie novosti." LF


Irakli Menagharishvili with his Azerbaijani counterpart and President Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 7 July , Caucasus Press reported. The main issues discussed were cooperation within the Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova alignment, the Eurasian Transport Corridor, and selecting the optimum route for the Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijani Caspian oil, which is likely to run through Georgia. The two sides reaffirmed their shared commitment to the Declaration of Peace, Security, and Cooperation in the Caucasus, signed by Aliyev and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in March 1996. That document abjures aggression, separatism, and terrorism. LF


During the visit to Moscow on 6-7 July of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Kirienko, signed 10 bilateral agreements, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 8 July. Those agreements cover economic cooperation, transportation, military and technical cooperation, as well as joint space programs. The contentious issue of Russias debt to Kazakhstan for the lease of the Baikonur space complex will reportedly be discussed during Russian President Boris Yeltsin's visit to Kazakhstan in September. LF


Residents of the city of Kentau, southern Kazakhstan, and four other cities have collected some 21,000 signatures calling for the resignation of President Nazarbayev, ITAR- TASS reported on 8 July. The signatories complain of wage arrears and the inactivity of law enforcement bodies. They also vow to force the president's resignation if he does not step down voluntarily. LF


Russian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz army units, together with a detachment of Kazakh Interior Ministry special troops began joint maneuvers on 7 July in Almaty Oblast, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The Russian contingent is commanded by Deputy Chief of General Staff General Aleksandr Skvortsov and General Vladimir Popov, who is deputy commander of the Privolzhskii Military District. LF


The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has backed down on its ultimatum to the U.S. and other countries to clear out the residences of their ambassadors in the Drazdy compound, near Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998), RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the embassies will be asked to move furnishings "whenever the need arises, when we'll need to carry out repairs in this or that residence." U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin commented that "this is obviously a step in the right direction, but it's only the first in many, many steps than need to take place if we're going to go back to where we should be." A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Moscow "positively assesses" Minsk's move, ITAR-TASS reported. JM


David Phillips, the World Bank's representative in Belarus, has been recalled from Minsk owing to the Belarusian government's failure to fulfill mutual agreements, Reuters reported on 8 July. "If agreements have been signed and are not fulfilled, we have to abandon Belarus," Phillips commented. The World Bank granted Belarus a $170 million loan and a $10 million grant to support economic reform in 1993-1995. In a memorandum signed last year, Belarus pledged to take specific steps toward liberalizing the economy, but this year the government has further tightened controls over foreign exchange and prices. Phillips said Belarus is five to six years behind its neighbors in terms of economic reforms and needs $1.5 billion in annual investment to effectively compete on world markets. JM


Oleksandr Tkachenko, newly elected speaker of the Ukrainian Supreme Council, told journalists on 8 July that he is optimistic about the parliament's potential and prospects, Ukrainian Television reported. "The current parliament is able to function and it will prove this in practical work," he commented. In his opinion, the parliament's main task is to pass legislation to overcome the economic crisis. He expressed his belief that Ukraine's three branches of power will find "deep state understanding." He added that he believes a parliamentary majority will be formed by September. And he announced that he does not intend to run in the 1999 presidential elections. JM


The United States Agency for International Development has started a new program to help cure child victims of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, AP reported on 8 July. The three-year, $4 million program will provide Ukraine's health care service with up- to-date methods of early detection of thyroid cancer and the necessary equipment to treat the disease. According to Ukrainian government officials, the number of registered cases of thyroid cancer among children in the areas polluted by radiation exceeds1,000. The aid program will be implemented chiefly in rural areas, where the health care system is underdeveloped. JM


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott says that everyone would benefit if Russia would not view the Baltic States as a "zone of its own interests" but as a "gateway" to a new Europe, BNS and Interfax reported. Talbott was speaking in Riga on 8 July, where he attended the first meeting of the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Council, established earlier this year by the Baltic and U.S. presidents. That meeting yielded a communique providing for joint efforts to secure the Baltic States' accession to the World Trade Organization and to promote regional security cooperation that would also include Russia. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs noted that the council's first session was taking place at a "rather significant time," when, he said, the Latvian economy was under "attack" from Moscow. JC


More than 100 farmers blocked the Polish-German border crossing at Kolbaskowo for two hours on 8 July to protest grain imports and the absence of a government grain procurement program for this year, "Rzeczpospolita" reported. Another 200 farmers emptied 500 tons of Hungarian grain from railroad freight cars at the Polish- Czech border crossing at Zebrzydowice. The farmers are demanding that threshold prices be introduced for imported grain and that such imports be subsequently banned altogether. Agriculture Minister Jacek Janiszewski said the government has already set a minimum price that make grain imports unprofitable but noted that decision has not yet been implemented . JM


Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz has denied the allegation by the Brussels-based daily "NRC Handelsblad" that he telephoned the European Commission to express support for its decision to cut aid to Poland by 34 million ecus ($37.4 million) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998). "This is a lie," Balcerowicz told Polish Radio. His comment came after the 8 July "Zycie" had quoted the Dutch-language daily report, according to which a certain Polish minister called to thank Brussels for "the slap in the face that should sober up Warsaw." PAP reported that the European Commission has also denied that Balcerowicz contacted it following the decision to cut aid. JM


The leaders of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus, told journalists on 8 July that their parties' leaderships have approved the agreement reached one day earlier on a minority cabinet headed by Zeman, CTK reported. Details on the agreement are to be released on 9 July. Zeman said "no constitutional changes" are envisaged and that the agreement stipulates that the ODS will not initiate a non-confidence vote by itself. Klaus called the document an "opposition agreement" and said it contains no time limits. He also said it provides for a "division of constitutional positions" between the CSSD and the ODS. The leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Josef Lux, said the new cabinet will lack stability because "no protectorate has ever been stable." MS


President Vaclav Havel has called elections for the Senate for 13-14 November. The ballot is to be held in those constituencies where mandates expire in the fall, a presidential office spokesman announced on 8 July. Havel set the same date for local elections. MS


Miklos Duray, honorary chairman of Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party, on 8 July told the Hungarian news agency MTI that he "hopes and believes" that Viktor Orban's government will keep the promise that Orban made on the night of his election victory. He quoted Orban as saying that "although the borders of the Hungarian nation do not coincide with those of the Hungarian state, the next Hungarian government will be one of the whole nation." Duray said this is the "intellectual heritage" of the cabinet headed from 1990-1993 by late Premier Joszef Antall. He added that the new Hungarian government must draft its "policies for the 21st century" to take into account ethnic Hungarians living beyond Hungary's borders. MS


The 16 ministers of Orban's government took the oath of office on 8 July. Orban said the cabinet gives priority to boosting the economy and improving living standards. In other news, the parliament approved the government's proposal to bring social security under central government control and to nationalize pension and health funds. The opposition protested the planned move, while the largest national trade union federation said it will appeal to the Constitutional Court over the issue. MSZ


Warships from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey arrived in Durres on 8 July. Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark told journalists that the visit is both a demonstration of NATO's determination to help resolve the Kosova conflict and a show of support for the Albanian government. He added that "the visible capacity represented by these ships...demonstrates the alliance's capability to participate in a constructive solution and our resolve to do so." Clark called on all sides in the Kosova conflict to stop the violence and start dialogue. He stressed that "all those who are participating in this conflict have to recognize and take account of NATO's considerable capabilities." He warned that "we are working on a series of plans" and added that "the government of Albania is going to cooperate very, very closely with NATO." FS


High- ranking diplomats from the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and Spain agreed in Bonn on 8 July on a package of "basic elements" to defuse the crisis in Kosova. The negotiators said they will keep the text "confidential" and communicate it to the parties involved in the dispute. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported that the document calls on both sides in the conflict to stop fighting and return to the negotiating table. The Contact Group, the German daily continues, urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to keep the promises he made to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in June, including a pledge to withdraw his forces from Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1998). The diplomats called on the UN Security Council to consider passing a resolution that will reflect the Contact Group's decisions. PM


The diplomats ruled out independence for Kosova and recommended broad autonomy within Yugoslavia, according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." They also agreed in Bonn on 8 July to urge the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to lay down its weapons. The negotiators stressed that it is important to cut off the flow of funds to the UCK from abroad, Reuters reported. The Frankfurt daily added that the Contact Group wants talks to begin immediately, even without a cease- fire. The diplomats have moved closer to the Serbian position in this respect because of the growing strength of the UCK, the newspaper noted. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel stressed that "the spiral of violence and counter-violence must stop." PM


Following the Bonn meeting, the German foreign minister flew to Tirana, where he discussed the Contact Group's decisions with Prime Minister Fatos Nano and President Rexhep Meidani. Kinkel expressed concern about the prospects for a political solution, saying that time is running out and that radical forces on both sides are gaining strength. He also met with refugees in the northwestern Albanian region of Bajram Curri on 9 July. German relief workers are currently setting up emergency shelters as part of relief efforts for some 13,000 Kosovar refugees there. FS


Vojislav Mihajlovic, who is a deputy speaker of the Serbian parliament and a member of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement, said in New York on 8 July that Belgrade should grant the Kosovars a four-part autonomy program, AP reported. The plan would give Kosova a high degree of local self rule in municipalities and towns, an autonomous provincial legislature and government, and proportional representation for ethnic Albanians in both the Serbian and federal Yugoslav legislature and government. In Geneva, however, a spokesman for the UCK said the guerrillas remain committed to independence. PM


The federal Yugoslav government on 8 July endorsed a plan recommended by the Montenegrin authorities to regulate the status of the Montenegrin-Croatian border and of Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prevlaka is under UN administration and controls access to Montenegro's Bay of Kotor, where Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base is located. PM


Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, named Slovenia's Tomaz Petrovic in Sarajevo on 8 July as the "international arbitrator" on the committee that supervises Radio and Television of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The governing body consists of five persons nominated by Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the joint presidency, and five persons selected by his Croatian counterpart, Kresimir Zubak. In Bonn, Dietmar Schlee, who heads the government's refugee return program, dismissed UN criticism of Germany's policy aimed at repatriating refugees. "I do not understand this artificial provocation on the part of some UN people in Sarajevo," he said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1998). PM


Jure Buric, who is the chief executive of Croatia's Dubrovnik-Neretva County, dissolved the county legislature on 8 July. He said that the move comes in response to the parliament's failure to nominate a successor to him within the 15 days prescribed by law following the no-confidence vote deputies cast against him last month, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


The Tirana branches of the OSCE and the Council of Europe issued a joint statement on 8 July calling on the Democratic Party to end its boycott of the parliament, "Koha Jone" reported. The statement says that both organizations are "deeply concerned" by the Democrats' decision to walk out the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 8 July 1998). The text added that the party should participate in a "constructive political debate about the problems that the future of the country faces." Elsewhere, Namik Dokle, who is deputy speaker of the parliament, proposed to cut the salaries of those Democratic parliamentary deputies who declare in writing that they no longer recognize the legitimacy of the legislature, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS


President Emil Constantinescu on 8 July appointed Mircea Criste as prosecutor-general, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Criste was appointed a judge in Timisoara in 1995 and in 1997 became director of the General Directorate of Penitentiaries. In other news, the National Liberal Party (PNL) said its deputy chairman, Viorel Catarama, will no longer be allowed to "make statements in the name of the PNL." That move is in response to Catarama's criticizing the party leadership for having "betrayed" its electorate and for pursuing "leftist" policies. Party chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said the decision was not connected to Catarama's refusal to submit a written declaration on whether he had links with the former Securitate. MS


On arriving in Bucharest for a two-day visit on 8 July, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe General Clark said that NATO continues to consider Romania "a key country" regardless of whether the alliance decides to continue its expansion, Rompres reported. MS


Sergei Gradinari, a former Moldovan parliamentary deputy who represented the Socialist Unity- Edinstvo party, has been appointed finance minister in the Transdniester region, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 8 July, citing the daily "Flux." Gradinari was recently proposed by the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldovan Bloc as deputy foreign minister. He has now taken up the citizenship of the separatist region. MS


Dimitri Filipov on 8 July was appointed ambassador to the UN, AP reported. Filipov headed the first non-communist Bulgarian government after 1989. In other news, the World Bank and Bulgaria on 8 July signed a $16 million loan agreement to finance a four-year program aimed at restoring polluted areas around Pirdopis, Reuters reported. The Bulgarian government will provide $5.7 million for the same purpose and the local National Trust Eco Fund $ 3.3 million. MS


The Belgrade-based Association of Independent Electronic Media (AIEM) on 8 July said it is joining a protest launched by the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists against government- proposed amendments to the law on radio and television. AIEM says that although the legislation formally abolishes the state monopoly on the allocation of channels, it leaves decisions on allocating those channels to state bodies. MS


by Patrick Moore

The emergence of the crisis in Kosova earlier this year and the possibility that the violence could spill over into neighboring countries have drawn international attention to Macedonia and its security problems. The country faces two sets of issues: long-term and more immediate. Regional democratization and cooperation are the keys to a secure future for the small, land-locked state.

For Macedonia, the most basic fact of life is its weakness. Its democratic institutions are new and fragile, and the fate of the country's stability seems all too bound up with that of one man, namely President Kiro Gligorov. Politics, like society, are highly polarized by the divide between the Slavic, ethnic Macedonian majority, and the Albanian minority. The Albanians make up between 20 and 25 percent of the population and are concentrated in the western part of the country, which borders on Albania and Kosova. The Macedonian military came into being only after independence in 1992 and is in need of extensive assistance from NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Another element of weakness is the economy in what was one of former Yugoslavia's poorest regions.

Geography also presents security problems. Macedonia's main trade route runs from north to south along the Vardar River valley. To the north is Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, which recognized Macedonia's territorial integrity only in 1996 and which as recently as April 1998 called for changes in the Serbian- Macedonian border. To the south is Greece, which conducted an economic blockade of Macedonia from 1992 to 1995 in a dispute over Macedonia's name and state symbols. Relations have subsequently improved, but memories of what is seen in Skopje as Greek hostility are fresh.

Macedonia enjoys relatively good relations with Albania to the west and especially with Bulgaria and Turkey to the east. But it will be many years before projected road and rail links connecting Durres to Istanbul via Skopje and Sofia are operational. And even though Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano recently said that his country, Macedonia, and Greece have developed a "good partnership," Macedonia's ethnic tensions remain a potential difficulty in its relations with Albania.

The most pressing problems for Macedonia's security since early 1997 have come from what might be called the "arc of crisis" running from western Macedonia into Albania, Kosova, and Serbia proper. Ethnic tensions rose in Gostivar and Tetovo in western Macedonia during 1997 in response to the Macedonian authorities' refusal to legalize the underground Albanian-language university and in response to a new law on the display of national symbols. Nano recently reminded the authorities in Skopje that Tirana is not indifferent to the situation of Macedonia's ethnic Albanians and urged Skopje to recognize the university.

The Albanian government has nonetheless repeatedly made it clear that it has no interest in destabilizing Macedonia or in conducting an irredentist policy against its neighbors. Albania did become a factor for regional instability in early 1997, however, when anarchy broke out following the collapse of a series of pyramid schemes. The June 1997 elections led to the formation of a stable government and the restoration of basic security and economic life, but the calm could prove illusory.

The most pressing danger for Macedonia is the conflict in Kosova because Macedonian Albanian and Kosovar societies are closely linked following decades of common statehood in the former Yugoslavia. Many of the leaders of the two communities studied together at Prishtina's Albanian-language university.

Serbia's huge military power is the greatest direct threat to Macedonian security, especially as long as Milosevic remains in power. Persistent but unconfirmed reports, moreover, suggest some formal or informal links may exist between anti-Albanian nationalists in the Serbian and Macedonian security services, which could bode ill for regional security. Finally, Milosevic enjoys popularity among some ethnic Macedonians who feel that only "Slobo" knows how to deal with Albanians, namely through violence.

There are at least four steps that the international community might consider in order to stem the immediate threats to Macedonia's security. First, NATO could station troops on Macedonia's and Albania's frontiers with Yugoslavia as a deterrent. Second, the Atlantic alliance could consider what to do about Milosevic's capability to wage war in Kosova and potentially against his Balkan neighbors. Third, NATO could expand its Partnership for Peace program in Albania and Macedonia. And fourth, the international community could develop and implement a large and comprehensive program to promote democracy in Serbia.

In the long term, the democratization of Serbia might prove the key to regional stability. A second factor would be for Greece, as the only Balkan country that belongs both to NATO and to the EU, to take the lead in integrating its neighbors in Euro-Atlantic structures. Athens should avoid a return to the nationalist grandstanding that has often characterized its policy in the region.

Third, the international community could augment its already generous aid package to promote east-west transportation links in the Balkans and thereby reduce Macedonia's dependence on Serbia and Greece. Fourth, the international community could take further steps to promote the security and prosperity of Albania as an investment in regional stability. And fifth, all citizens of Macedonia should be given every incentive to concentrate their energies on economic development and shun ethnic conflict.