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Newsline - September 16, 1998


The value of the ruble wavered erratically on 15 September, finally closing on the electronic exchange at 11.95 rubles per dollar--27 percent lower than the official exchange rate. Yulia Romanenkova, president of the Guild of Professional Dealers, told Interfax that in the first half of the trading session, the Central Bank bought a large amount of rubles at an artificially low rate of 7.5 rubles per dollar. The Central Bank might have taken such action to subsidize Russian banks, reducing their losses on "forward contracts," agreements to sell rubles at a certain rate at a future date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). However, the Central Bank denied reports that it is intervening in the currency market. On 16 September, the bank lowered the official rate of the ruble from 8.67 rubles to 9.61 rubles per dollar. JAC


Recently appointed Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko says Russia "cannot do without" a monetary emission. He told reporters on 15 September that there is a "catastrophic" shortage of money in Russia. Gerashchenko declined to specify the size of the emission until the bank's board of directors has met and made its own assessment. President Yeltsin approved all eight of Gerashchenko's nominees for the board, which included Andrei Kozlov, who had resigned from the Bank only 10 days ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998). "Russkii telegraf" argued that "there will be no need to define the parameters of the [planned] emission" if the "cabinet decides to immediately index- link all deposits and to provide compensation for the losses suffered by the poorest sections of the population while also increasing enterprises' working capital. The printing presses will go out of control and will themselves determine not only economic policy but the future of the [Prime Minister Yevgenii] Primakov government," according to the newspaper. JAC


New Deputy Prime Minister for Finance Aleksandr Shokhin of the Our Home is Russia faction told Russian Public Television on 15 September that "issuing money as a means of resolving all problems" is ruinous for the economy. He added that it is important not to rely too heavily on any single method such as issuing money or price controls. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov blasted Shokhin's appointment, saying that Shokhin, together with recently deposed acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, has "squandered away the entire state treasury and failed to fulfill every budget." Another member of the Our Home is Russia faction and State Duma deputy, Georgii Boos, will head the Federal Tax Service, a post held by acting Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov, ITAR-TASS reported, Whether Fedorov will retain his other post is not yet known. JAC


Prime Minister Primakov told reporters on 15 September that Russia will pay back wages and pensions but prevent hyperinflation and a worsening of the country's economic situation. According to ITAR-TASS, Primakov and trade union leaders agreed the same day to form a tripartite commission composed of representatives from the government, unions, and employers to address the problem of wage arrears. Meanwhile in Krasnodar, Vladimir Rybalko, a locksmith, killed himself by self-immolation, leaving behind a note in which he complained he had not been paid for two years. And, in the Vorkuta region, a group of miners blocked a highway to protest non-payment of wages. JAC


Russian newspapers described Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Secretary of the National Security Council Nikolai Bordyuzha as capable bureaucrats, appointed as much for their loyalty as their skills. "Izvestiya" on 16 September said that Bordyuzha is "absolutely loyal" to his superiors and openly known as "Primakov's man." According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 September, Bordyuzha was elevated to his new position primarily for his loyalty to President Boris Yeltsin. Those people behind the decision to appoint Bordyuzha want to preclude the National Security Council from acting independently in Kremlin maneuverings, the newspaper commented. "Russkii telegraf," on the other hand, cites Bordyuzha's reform of the organization of the Federal Border Service and concludes that Bordyuzha will bring to the National Security Council concrete experience with "conceptual reforms." JAC


"Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested Primakov's selection of his right-hand man at the Foreign Ministry responsible for the ministry's day-to-day operations means that despite his new responsibilities, Primakov will retain control over foreign affairs. According to the newspaper, "for several years Ivanov has had the whole diplomatic service in his hands, knowing every individual and every paperclip on every document," thus enabling Primakov to focus on the larger policy issues and not the specifics of running the ministry. The newspaper added that "no head of department was appointed without reference to Ivanov" and "all key diplomats are now 'his people.'" JAC


British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced on 15 September that a meeting of the foreign ministers of major industrialized nations to discuss Russia's financial crisis is merited (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). The meeting will take place in New York on 24 September. An IMF/World Bank mission is currently in Moscow. JAC


Mirroring the trend in the industry of its main benefactor, namely banking, newspapers are starting to merge in order to weather the current financial crisis. On 16 September "Kommersant- Daily" reported that Interros holding company president Vladimir Potanin announced that his "company is being forced to dispose of inefficient assets." Because "'Russkii telegraf' is not profitable and 'Izvestiya' is just breaking even," the two newspapers will be merged. Staff at "Izvestiya" will be cut and some of "Russkii telegraf" personnel will work on the new newspaper. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the editor of the new newspaper will likely be chairman of the board of "Izvestiya" Mikhail Kozhokin. JAC


In the first eight months of 1998, Russian gold production dropped from 66.4 million tons during the same period last year to 59.4 million tons. The Ministry of Economics told Interfax that total gold production this year will be lower than in 1997 because of sharp declines in two gold-producing regions, Yakutia and Chukotka. An additional problem is that some producers are holding onto their gold rather than selling it. Several banks have proved unable to pay for volumes of gold already under contract. JAC


According to ITAR-TASS, the prosecutor-general has launched a criminal investigation into the activities of former managers of Russia's giant pipeline company, Transneft. Former President Valerii Chernayev and his deputies reportedly used company money to buy up the shares in the firm and then transferred the stock to outside companies that they controlled. Twenty-five percent of the company was transferred to employees, who were then pressured by management into selling or transferring their stock. Chernayev was fired in May. JAC


"Segodnya" on 15 September argued that recent unilateral actions by regions to separate their economies from Russia's center may have been only a dress rehearsal for a new crisis. "No one in Russia has repealed the winter, which promises to be far colder than usual, and the crisis as such is still far from overcome," the newspaper commented. "It will be extremely difficult for Yevgenii Primakov to steer a line toward state regulation after the regions have already experienced independence as a result of the crisis." According to the newspaper, the regions' yearning for local rule is barely contained: "Only two senator-governors--for Maritime Krai and Moscow--have remained staunch state supporters." "Segodnya" concluded that an extreme leftward tilt in government policy would alienate the liberal governors, while a continuation of the current crisis would drive everyone away. JAC


Prime Minister Primakov has asked CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii and Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko to postpone the 24-25 September session of the CIS Heads of Government Council, Russian agencies reported on 15 September. Primakov explained that only after a new Russian government is formed can Moscow formulate its official position on CIS reform. Addressing a 15 September session in Minsk of the interstate forum tasked with preparing proposals on reform within the CIS, Berezovskii said some CIS prime ministers still want this month's planned meeting to take place as scheduled. LF


Russian cosmonauts on 15 September quickly carried out repairs inside an airless Spektr module on board the space station "Mir," rejoining two cables that had loosened. According to ITAR-TASS, the repair took less than an hour although mission control had allotted almost three hours. Reuters quoted Russian Space Agency spokesman Vyacheslav Mikhailichenko as saying that the country's economic crisis may delay completion of the new International Space Station and extend the operational life of "Mir," which is scheduled to be retired next June. He added that "as long as the International Space Station is not in orbit, it does not make sense to bring 'Mir' down." JAC


Addressing the parliament on 15 September, Chechen Vice President Turpal Atgeriev proposed creating a special commission to investigate what he termed the "unfounded and baseless" accusations leveled by Vice President Vakha Arsanov against President Aslan Maskhadov and other members of the Chechen leadership, Caucasus Press and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. On 8 September, Arsanov had accused Maskhadov of financial irregularities and of being unable to establish order in Chechnya. He advocated convening a nationwide conference to assess the leadership's effectiveness. Arsanov is aligned with radical elements opposed to the more moderate policies of Maskhadov, who is currently visiting Malaysia. LF


The Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan, the founder and chairman of which is former acting Chechen Prime Minister Shamil Basaev, has formally demanded that the Dagestani authorities release Magomed Khachilaev, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September, quoting the Congress's deputy chairman, Ilyas Musaev. Khachilaev, who is one of the leaders of the Kazi Kumukh organization that represents Dagestan's Lak minority, was arrested on 9 September in connection with the storming in May of the government building in Makhachkala. Chechen warlord Salman Raduev threatened reprisals against the Dagestani leadership unless Khachilaev was released, but he later retracted that threat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 September 1998). LF


Seven people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen and several more injured in the Abkhaz border village of Tagiloni on 15 September. Reuters and AP quoted Georgian security officials as saying that those killed were Abkhaz police officers, while Interfax and ITAR-TASS quoted Abkhaz sources that said they were civilian farmers. Abkhaz Interior Minister Aslanbek Kshach blamed the shootings on the Georgian guerrilla organization White Legion, which has vowed revenge for the bomb explosion in the Zugdidi administrative building on 24 August, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. White Legion leader Zurab Samushia has disclaimed any responsibility for the 15 September incident. LF


Prosecutors on 15 September called for sentences of up to 15 years in the trial of Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani and 14 other men accused of involvement in the August 1995 assassination attempt against Eduard Shevardnadze and of planning a coup d'etat. The prosecutors demanded 15 years' imprisonment for Ioseliani, whose defense lawyer has protested that the case against his client is largely based on evidence by a co-defendant that the latter subsequently retracted. The trial, which opened last December, will resume on 28 September. LF


Caucasus Press on 15 September reported that Djavakhk, the organization that is lobbying for autonomy for predominantly Armenian-populated districts in southern Georgia, has drafted a separate constitution for the region. That document has been sent to Tbilisi to be translated from Armenian into Georgian. LF


Presidential spokeswoman Gassia Apkarian told journalists on 15 September that President Robert Kocharian is not violating the constitution by delaying a response to the June request by 68 parliament deputies to convene a special parliamentary session to discuss the sale of the Yerevan cognac factory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. She rejected rumors that Kocharian has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Armen Darpinian. Also on 15 September, opposition deputies said they have collected the required number of signatures to refer Kocharian's alleged refusal to appeal to the Constitutional Court. Hayrenik faction chairman Eduard Yegorian said his group will try to collect the 96 signatures required to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. LF


Meeting on 15 September, Islam Karimov and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed regional security issues, including the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism, and signed a series of agreements on expanding bilateral trade and cooperation in agriculture, Reuters and AP reported. Karimov also met in the West Bank town of Ramallah with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, who described the Uzbek president as a close personal friend as well as a friend of the Palestinian people, according to dpa. Arafat assured Karimov that the U.S.-mediated Mid-East peace talks will continue. LF


On a working visit to Dushanbe on 15 September, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Sarmadi handed Rakhmonov an invitation from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, which Rakhmonov accepted. The date of that visit will be determined later. LF


Industry, Energy and Trade Energy Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov told a cabinet session on 15 September that under a five-year reform program, the Kazakh government will create a number of state holding companies and bring the majority of the country's heavy industry under state control, with the aim of a 25 percent increase in industrial output by 2003 and a 50 percent rise in the number of people employed in the industrial sector, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He added that the Kazakh government will control foreign investment in the industrial sector. Abliyazov also announced that shuttle traders importing foreign goods will be required to pay a 25 percent value-added tax on those goods. LF


The World Bank on 15 September approved two loans to Ukraine with a combined value of $600 million, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The loans are to help Kyiv reform the country's financial sector and spur industrial development. Approval of the loans was delayed until after the Ukrainian government came to an agreement with the IMF on a long-term reform plan. That agreement was reached on 4 September. In other news, Ukrainian banks criticized the government for ordering the mandatory conversion of all short-term treasury bills into long-term ones. PB


Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 15 September that the government has issued decrees that regulate the prices of petroleum and diesel fuel in an effort to stem rising consumer prices, dpa reported. The hryvnya has lost about 30 percent of its value in the last month, causing the prices of many goods to increase. Some regions, including Crimea and Kharkiv, have imposed price controls on consumer goods. PB


Bronislaw Geremek met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 15 September to discuss economic cooperation and border issues, AP reported. Upon arrival, Geremek announced that Poland will begin tighter control of its border with Ukraine in an effort to prevent the smuggling of weapons and drugs and to help keep illegal immigrants out. Geremek also said Warsaw will do its best to maintain visa-free travel for Ukrainians but admitted that it is under pressure from the EU to adopt tougher regulations against its Eastern neighbors. Geremek said Poland's entry into NATO represented a "chance for Ukraine." He added that Ukraine will always be Warsaw's "partner of fundamental importance in the region." Geremek also met with Premier Pustovoytenko and Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk. PB


Uladimir Shimov said it is unacceptable that Russia accounts for 70 percent of Belarusian foreign trade. In an interview published in the weekly "Belorusskaya gazeta" on 14 September, Shimov said that Belarusian exporters have insufficiently developed relations in markets like Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, as well as those in Africa and Asia. Shimov said that Belarusian exports must be more competitive. He said one way of achieving that is to introduce a new means of calculating the prices of exports. And he added that one positive aspect of having a financial crisis is that it forces the state to "mobilize [its] internal resources and reserves." PB


The Estonian Moderates have sent a letter to three right-leaning parties--the Reform Party, the Fatherland Union, and the People's Party--proposing the formation of an electoral bloc for next spring's general elections, ETA reported on 15 September. Toivo Jullinen, deputy chairman of the Moderates, stressed that the parties would run separately in the elections but would set up a bloc to guarantee that a ruling coalition could be formed after the March ballot At present, the bloc would have a total of 38 parliamentary mandates, compared with 37 for the minority ruling coalition. JC


According to an opinion poll published earlier this week, the center-right People's Party, led by former Prime Minister Andris Skele, had 18.9 percent support last month, up from 15.9 percent in July, BNS and Reuters reported on 14 September. The right- leaning Fatherland and Freedom party, the largest member of the ruling coalition, won 13.6 percent of the vote, compared with 12.2 percent in July. In third place was the centrist Latvia's Way, the second-largest coalition partner, with 11.7 percent (10.1 percent in July). Combined, the coalition parties would gain 30.1 percent of the vote. Some 21 percent of the electorate remained undecided ahead of the 3 October ballot. JC


The U.S. State Department says it has expressed "deep disappointment" to Lithuania over Vilnius's failure to bring accused World War II criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, or any other war criminals, to trial, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported on 15 September. Citing ill-health, the 91-year-old Lileikis failed to appear for his trial last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1998). The U.S. statement said it has called on Lithuania to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that justice is rendered in this and other important war crime cases dating from the Nazi occupation. JC


Karel van Miert, an EU commissioner, met with members of the Sejm committee for European integration on 15 September and encouraged them to urgently adopt EU legislation against monopolies and unfair competition, PAP reported. Van Miert said Poland has a long way to go to meet EU standards on state subsidization of industries. He particularly criticized state assistance to Polish steel and shipbuilding enterprises. Van Miert urged close examination of each government subsidy. But Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio said at the start of a four-day visit to Poland on 14 September that Poles should "work with determination and pay no attention to remarks that you don't meet all the EU requirements yet." PB


Janusz Tomaszewski and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, met in Moscow on 15 September and signed an agreement that calls for a collaborative effort in fighting organized crime, Polish Television reported. Beginning next month, Polish and Russian police will launch a joint operation against car theft and smugglers. Other cooperative measures include curbing illegal immigration, ensuring safe interstate travel, and creating a joint database on criminal groups. PB


Before departing for the U.S. for a five-day state visit, President Vaclav Havel told journalists in Prague on 15 September that he regards President Bill Clinton's invitation as a "reward for my country," CTK reported. White House spokesman Michael McCurry said the U.S. will pay tribute to Havel for his "personal contributions to the advancement of democracy and human rights." Talks are expected to focus on the Czech Republic's accession to NATO, the formation of an international security structure, and the struggle against terrorism. Havel is meeting with Clinton at the White House on 16 September. He is accompanied by Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, and Central Bank Governor Josef Tosovsky. MS


Hundreds of protesters on 15 September demonstrated against the decision of the new management of Markiza TV to fire Director-General Pavol Rusko and other members of the staff, including Rusko's wife. The new management of the company, thought to have ties to Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, said the dismissals were not politically motivated, but it gave no reasons for them, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. MS


Hungary on 15 September joined the EU ban on flights to and from Yugoslavia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told MTI. In other news, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori ended a three-day visit to Hungary during which he met with President Arpad Goncz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and other officials. Fujimori and Goncz signed bilateral cooperation agreements on agriculture, tourism, and sports. MSZ


Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha led a march from Democratic Party headquarters in Tirana to Skanderbeg Square on 16 September. Earlier the same day, armed Democratic supporters left their positions around that building but did not surrender their arms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). The parliament the previous day had set a dawn deadline for the armed demonstrators to hand in weapons or face a police crackdown. Prime Minister Fatos Nano in a televised address offered an amnesty to the gunmen, but his spokesman told the BBC that the gunmen "will be shot" if they reject the offer. After Nano's address, the Democrats surrendered to the police two tanks that they had captured during riots on 14 September. But they removed a heavy machine gun and ammunition before handing over the vehicles. FS


The cabinet issued a statement on 15 September charging that Berisha tried to stage a coup d'etat the previous day. The statement added that all those responsible for the violence will go on trial. Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi launched investigations on 15 September of several high- ranking Democratic Party officials. Those under investigation include Berisha, former Parliamentary President Pjeter Arbnori, and legislator Vili Minarolli. The parliament is slated to vote on lifting their legislative immunity on 16 September. Berisha told VOA's Albanian Service that the charges are typical for a "communist dictatorship" and that Albania now has "political prisoners and political killings." In the same broadcast Arbnori, a former political prisoner under communism, compared the current accusations against him and Berisha to his persecution under the communist regime. FS


Nano told television viewers on 15 September that he will definitely not step down, as the Democrats have demanded. Nano said "the freely elected government does not accept ultimatums issued by an armed group of terrorists." He added that any "resignation would be a betrayal of the nation." But the same day, Finance Minister Arben Malaj resigned, saying that he does not have enough public support to continue in office. Meanwhile, the government issued a statement announcing a 50-100 percent increase in policemen's wages. The text also said that police will receive a one-time payment ranging from $200 to $330 "to increase their motivation." And the parliament has passed a law allowing the Interior Ministry to call in military police to preserve domestic peace. Some Socialist Party legislators criticized the decision on the grounds that it recalls Berisha's decision to call in the army during the 1997 unrest. FS


The office of the EU Presidency, which is currently held by Austria, announced the appointment in Vienna on 16 September of Herbert Grubmayr as special envoy to Albania. The veteran diplomat's mission will be to promote domestic peace and reconciliation. The previous day, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, sent a joint statement to Austria's Wolfgang Schuessel proposing the deployment of an international police force in Albania. The two ministers added that the EU should earmark increased funds to promote Albania's stability, which, they stressed, is also threatened by the Kosova conflict. FS


Serbian army and paramilitary police shelled 12 ethnic Albanian villages northwest of Prishtina on 16 September, AP reported. Observers noted that the assault marks the first time that the Serbian forces have extended the fighting to that region. PM


Several hundred displaced persons arrived in the village of Qirez, west of Prishtina, on 15 September following continuing Serbian assaults on the civilian population in the Drenica region. Some 10,000- 15,000 additional displaced persons have taken refuge in Qirez over the past month, AP reported. A spokesman for the World Food Program said that even under the best conditions, aid convoys provide food for only a few days. A doctor added that basic medicines are not available and that "at least 10 people died in Qirez last week from treatable illnesses." Meanwhile in Prishtina, Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that the guerrillas are "reorganizing" themselves despite the constant pressure from Serbian attacks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


French President Jacques Chirac told his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, in a telephone conversation on 15 September that France wants the international Contact Group to meet in New York next week to discuss the situation in Kosova. Chirac made the same point in recent days in telephone conversations with U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The Contact Group consists of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. PM


In Bonn, Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said on 15 September that "if the attacks against the civilian population [in Kosova] continue, then the West's readiness will grow to use military force to stop them in the course of next three to five weeks. No one has the right to shoot at their own civilian population with tanks and artillery," he added. And in Washington, an unnamed senior administration official told the "New York Times" of 16 September that "the situation [in Kosova] is awful and getting worse. If we don't want thousands of people to starve to death this winter, the White House will need to make a decision very quickly on whether to use firepower" to stop the Serbian assaults. PM


The House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution on 15 September urging the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take action against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on charges of "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 18 July, the Senate passed a similar resolution saying that Milosevic is the man most responsible for the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. PM


Officials of the OSCE, which supervised the 12- 13 September general elections in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 15 September that the OSCE will not release any vote tallies until the final results are available next week. OSCE representatives had said earlier that they would publish preliminary results on 15 September. Unnamed Western diplomats told AP that the reason for the delay is that hard-line nationalist candidates among the Serbs and Croats, in particular, received more votes that most observers had expected. The BBC's Serbian Service reported on 16 September that nationalist candidate Nikola Poplasen has a strong lead over moderate Biljana Plavsic in the contest for the presidency of the Republika Srpska. PM


A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 15 September that Westendorp has extended by six months until 4 April the deadline for those who fled their apartments in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation to reclaim their homes. Muslim officials charged that Westendorp has not been equally tough in protecting Muslim property rights on Serbian-held territory, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, spokesmen for the UN-supervised international police force demanded that Bosnian Serb authorities suspend Ljubisa Savic "Mauzer" as head of the Republika Srpska's special police forces. The spokesmen charged that Savic is responsible for the recent maltreatment in police custody of seven men, who had been arrested during the investigation of the murder of a top moderate police official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). PM


The international credit agency Moody's has lowered Romania's credit rating owing to the country's pressing foreign credit needs and the danger of a political crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romania's rating on Eurobonds was lowered from Ba3 to B1, while its rating on hard currency bank deposits dropped from B1 to B2. In other news, Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta on 15 September met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, Prime Minister Radu Vasile, Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, and President Emil Constantinescu. Andreatta repeated his country's support for Romania's NATO bid and said he hopes new Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov understands that his opposition to NATO's enlargement "cannot be the equivalent of a new doctrine of limited sovereignty for southeastern Europe." MS


At a meeting with Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 15 September, Fred Hubert, deputy chairman of the Bell Helicopters Textron board, agreed that the cost of producing 96 helicopters under license in Romania will be partly covered in Romanian currency. According to the compromise, Romania will have to pay in hard currency only for imported equipment and spare parts. Vasile said this would substantially reduce the burden of the $1.4 billion deal, under which Bell Helicopters Textron is also to acquire a majority stake in the Gimbav aerospace factory. They also agreed that several other Romanian enterprises will be involved in the production of Cobra helicopters that are to be named AH-1 RO-Dracula. MS


The Party of Moldovan Communists on 15 September submitted a no-confidence resolution in Ion Ciubuc's cabinet. In line with house regulations, the move must be debated within three days after its submission, Reuters reported. The Communists say the government's decision to cut social spending in order to reduce the budget deficit is unconstitutional. The draft resolution also says recently approved cabinet measures to stabilize the economy "are aimed at usurping state power and at limiting the people's national sovereignty." MS


Nadezhda Mihailova on 15 September told BTA that she has "indefinitely postponed" a scheduled visit to Tirana. She said that Sofia is "particularly worried by the situation in Albania" and "categorically condemns the killing of opposition leader Azem Hadjari." And she noted that Bulgaria hopes the Albanian government will "take measures to find and punish the killers as well as the masterminds of this crime." Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 15 September warned that continued violence in Albania could result in civil war and threaten regional stability, AP reported. He also said that the Albanian crisis "limits the opportunities for peace" in Kosova. MS


by Fabian Schmidt

When unrest broke out in Tirana on 13 September, many observers feared that Albania was about to face a repetition of the violence and anarchy that took hold of the country in 1997 after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. But two days later, both major political parties appeared willing to avoid violence.

As in March 1997, civilians seized tanks and roamed the streets, firing into the air with Kalashnikov machine guns and plundering shops. The clashes erupted during the funeral of controversial Democratic Party legislator and former anti-communist student movement leader Azem Hajdari, who was killed on 12 September by unidentified gunmen outside the party headquarters in Tirana. The opposition charged Prime Minister Fatos Nano with having organized the killing, an allegation Nano vehemently denied. Within a few hours, opposition protesters managed to seize the prime minister's offices, the state radio and television building, and the parliament building. At least three people were killed in clashes with police by the end of the day.

But in contrast to last year, special police forces were able to restore order quickly. Most protesters armed and otherwise, dispersed when police moved in, and only a small group of opposition supporters took shelter at the Democratic Party headquarters. They brought with them two tanks they had captured, and the next morning they entered into a stand-off with police . Elsewhere, normal life had returned to the city and shops opened again.

Moreover, the riots did not spread throughout the country. Observers noted that the northern city of Shkodra, which is a strong base of support for the Democrats, remained calm. Persistent but unconfirmed rumors from Shkodra had suggested that a shadowy opposition body calling itself the Albanian Liberation Army was allegedly preparing to bring down the current Socialist-dominated government. Such allegations were given credence by an incident on 20 January, when a group of armed men attacked and seized the local police station there. For one day, the group gained control over the city. On 21 January, special police forces entered the city and reestablished order.

But the latest Tirana riots did not see the disorder spilling over to areas outside the capital. The only exception was the town of Kavaja--a Democratic Party stronghold near Tirana--where some opposition supporters built barricades on the country's main north- south road and captured the local police station the day after Hajdari's murder.

The short time in which the government brought the revolt under control indicates that the government has managed to sufficiently rebuild its police forces since last year's anarchy to cope with major challenges. (Still, the security forces are not yet coordinated enough to react quickly enough and to prevent such riots in the first place.) More important, the quick end to the revolt shows that there is no willingness in the population as a whole to support the violent means of small groups wanting to bring down a democratically elected government.

And even within the Democratic Party--many of whose supporters have yet to explicitly renounce political violence--the tolerance for undemocratic political means seems to be declining. Party leader Sali Berisha used state television after it was captured by his supporters to broadcast a call to all Albanians to refrain from using violence, a move that probably made it easier for police to restore order.

The following day, Berisha strongly rejected accusations from Socialist Party and government officials that he had planned to stage a coup d'etat. Instead, he said, he remained committed to force the government to resign by means of peaceful protests. Despite a police ban and high tensions following the previous day's events, the Democrats staged a peaceful protest demonstration on 15 September. The police presence in the city was strong, but policemen remained in the background, apparently trying to avoid an open confrontation.

Even though the government has shown that it has been able to survive the strongest challenge to its authority to date, the deeply rooted political tensions remain. Nano is unlikely to give in to the opposition demand that he step down, which many would see as a sign of weakness. Indeed, his position has been not weakened but rather strengthened by the violent behavior of some opposition protesters. He may nonetheless come under pressure to change some of his government ministers. But such changes would be only cosmetic.

Many citizens may have come to perceive the Democrats as being bent on seizing power through violence. Berisha and his colleagues may now try to counteract this image in word and deed. As to the government, it will likely seek to follow up its success in maintaining control of Tirana's streets by ensuring that an investigation into the killing of Hajdari is launched and the killers arrested. That would show that the rule of law indeed functions in Albania and would give the lie to charges that the government was behind the murder.