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Newsline - October 13, 1998


After cutting short a frequently rescheduled trip to Kazakhstan on 12 October, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his health continued to attract close attention. The head of the presidential medial center told Interfax the same day that Yeltsin has "tracheobronchitis with a temperature of 37.2 to 37.4 degrees Celsius and a cough." "Izvestiya" reported on 13 October that according to its sources, the president has more than just a cough, but the newspaper failed to elaborate on the exact nature of his illness. "Komsomolskaya Pravda" suggested that Yeltsin has the same ailment as former US President Ronald Reagan, "progressive senile dementia." Meanwhile, the Communist Party proposed a new nationwide protest to repeat calls to remove Yeltsin from office, and members of the Duma impeachment commission pledged to speed up its investigations so that the Duma can vote more quickly on whether to start impeachment procedures. JAC


Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has approved a plan for Gazprom to pay back taxes, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Gazprom will pay its taxes mostly in cash until the end of the year, after which it will provide gas for federal needs. The "Moscow Times" reported that Gazprom will pay 2.1 billion rubles for its September tax bill and 2.7 billion rubles for October, "far short of the 4 billion rubles a month that former tax chief Boris Fedorov was demanding." The tax deal should free up cash for the company to invest in new pipelines, the newspaper commented. Earlier, the company had announced that tough economic conditions would force it to trim its investment budget by two-thirds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1998). The newspaper also reported that a draft law "On Gas Supply," which would prohibit the breakup of Gazprom's national pipeline system, has strong support in the Duma and has already passed in the first reading. JAC


Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 13 October that the Duma will send a four-member delegation, which would include deputy speaker Sergei Baburin of the People's Power faction, to Yugoslavia this week. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko called Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's agreement to comply with a UN Security Council resolution "a significant positive step on the road to a peaceful settlement." The previous day, the Russian government summoned its permanent representatives to NATO back to Moscow for consultations. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told reporters that Russia is preparing several options in the case of NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia. According to NTV if no strikes occur, a "NATO liaison mission could open in Moscow next week." "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported on 13 October that several thousand Cossacks in the Kuban area have signed up to serve in a volunteer battalion headed for Serbia. JAC


The Russian press characterized possible NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia as part of a larger U.S. strategy to transform NATO into its own international police force. According to "Krasnaya zvezda" on 13 October, military intervention in Yugoslavia will mean that "NATO can conduct operations outside of its own zone of responsibility" and "without clear linkage to the norms of international law." "Segodnya" argued that intervention in Kosova is essentially "an attempt to reshape the current security system" and "establish a new instrument of international law." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" claimed that the U.S. is motivated not only by the desire "to punish the loathsome President Milosevic" but also to "change the world order" established 50 years ago. "Krasnaya zvezda" is the official newspaper of the Ministry of Defense. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most holding group, while "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC


Prime Minister Primakov on 13 October revealed details of the Central Bank's plan to restructure the banking sector in a meeting with Russia's top bankers. He also repeated an earlier pledge not to nationalize commercial banks and called the broadening of foreign bank activities in Russia unavoidable. Interfax reported that the Central Bank has divided the banking system into four groups, but it did not explain what purpose the division would serve. Those four groups are: banks that have sufficient capital and liquidity, those with sufficient capital but limited liquidity, those that have neither sufficient capital nor liquidity, and those that "are in a critical situation" but still play an important role in the economy. Primakov said the government does not intend to preserve all banks and that only efficient ones will continue to operate. JAC


According to some recent Russian press reports, Russia's so-called oligarchs may be another sector of the population likely to experience dramatic change because of the country's economic and banking crisis. On 7 October, "Literaturnaya gazeta" predicted that only the heads of Uneximbank, Menatep, and Most banks are likely to survive the current "tempest," although even their influence will be weakened. And "regional elites" have stepped into the vacuum left by the oligarchs. In an interview with "Noviye izvestiya" on 10 October, presidential envoy Aleksandr Livshits said that the oligarchs will soon be extinct and that by his reckoning only "two are left." He predicted that "classic conservative bankers" who are now in the process of buying up their ruined competitors will soon assume "leading roles in Russia." He added that Russia is "now on the threshold of a new redistribution of property." "Literaturnaya gazeta" is owned by the financial group Systema, which is controlled by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC


"Segodnya" on 10 October reported that Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi has been trying to resume cooperation with the Ministry of Atomic Energy. At a minimum, Khadaffi wants to secure Russian specialists to repair auxiliary equipment at the Tajura Atomic Research Center. The newspaper noted that the repairs would not violate international sanctions imposed on Libya. However, Gadaffi would also like to construct a nuclear electric power station as envisioned by a Soviet-Libyan accord of 1972. The newspaper speculated that if Russia undertakes the smaller project, Prime Minister Primakov may be trying to frighten the West into providing new credits. Last week, President Yeltsin sent a message to Libya's leader about Russian concerns on Libya's situation and on the prospects for bilateral relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1998). JAC


Japan has lodged a protest with the Russian government over Moscow's decision to allow North Korean boats to fish off the Kuril Islands, ITAR-TASS on 12 October. Japan confirmed that some 20 North Korean vessels are fishing off Shikotan Island. It claims ownership of the four islands, which have been under Moscow's control since the end of World War II. The assistant director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asian department, Vasilii Saplin, said on 13 October, there is no basis for the Japanese protest as "the talk is about an industry in Russia's economic zone." Japanese boats began fishing near the islands only on 1 October, after lengthy discussions with Moscow led to an agreement earlier this year. BP


Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has been offered one of the nation's top banking jobs, the head of Vneshekonombank, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 October. Kirienko told NTV on 11 October that he is currently deciding among several job offers, including a top post at Sberbank. He also revealed that he may run for a seat in the Duma in the 1999 elections. Earlier, Boris Nemtsov, his former deputy prime minister, declared his intention to run for a Duma seat. JAC


The Tatarstan government has sold 75 percent of the shares of the profitable Tatinkom Cellular Telephone company to two "little known" companies, both subsidiaries of TAIF, which employs the son of President Mintimer Shaimiev, "EWI's Russian Regional Report" reported on 12 October. According to the publication, the sale was conducted with "speed, secrecy and lack of competition." TAIF-invest and TAIF-telekom must each pay Tatarstan's State Property Committee $20 million. Tatinkom, which has 17 nodes covering 70 percent of the republic's territory, including all cities in the republic, is reportedly one of the government's most successful projects. JAC


Central Election Commission member Mazzahir Panahov said on 13 October that allegations by OSCE representatives of "clear evidence of ballot box stuffing" in the 11 October presidential elections are "only words.". He added that only the country conducting the elections can determine their legitimacy. The OSCE cited "significant discrepancies between the signatures present on voter lists and the ballots found in the box as well as "clear evidence of ballot stuffing." OSCE mission chief Nikolai Vulchanov noted that violations were registered at a number of polling stations. According to an OSCE statement, "the overall legal and administrative framework governing the election process fell short of meeting the international standards for a genuine election competition." More than 150 international observers monitored the vote, which was boycotted by Azerbaijan's main opposition parties. JN


Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze congratulated his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, on his re-election during his traditional weekly radio broadcast on 12 October. "I would like to take this opportunity and-- although the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission has not published the final results of the presidential election, preliminary results show that Mr. Heidar Aliyev has won-- congratulate Mr. Heidar Aliyev on a great victory." He said Aliev's re-election is "a very big event for the Caucasus and for Azerbaijan." JN


Azerbaijani President Aliyev said on 11 October that the status of Russia's Gabala radar station, which is located in Azerbaijan, should be resolved as soon as possible. "In any case, having state independence, Azerbaijan agrees with the existence of the Gabala radar station, and we proceed from the view that it is a question of preventing strategic missile attacks," Azerbaijan's Trend news agency reported on 12 October He added that the Russian side does not always make the right decision concerning Gabala and "frequently does not pay for the electricity used". JN


Speaker of the Armenian parliament Khosrov Arutyunian believes that after his re- election, Aliyev should take early serious steps toward settling the Karabakh problem. Speaking on Armenian Television on 12. October, Arutyunian said that those steps should be taken on the basis of a compromise through negotiations, Interfax reported. "The sooner Azerbaijan recognizes the need for direct talks with Karabakh, the easier a solution to the Karabakh problem will be found," he said. But in an allusion to allegations of voter fraud, Arutynunian added, "it is quite important for the Armenian authorities that the power elected in Azerbaijan be legitimate and endowed with popular trust". The Armenian president's office has so far refrained from comment on the issue saying there should be no reaction until the presidential election returns have been officially announced. JN


The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry says its participation in Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly hearings on Nagorno Karabakh next month "is not realistic" unless representatives of the exiled Azerbaijani community of Nagorno Karabakh are invited as well. The ministry says it is trying to clarify whether Karabakh Azerbaijanis have been invited, ANS news agency reported on 10 Oct. The Foreign Ministry says Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov and parliamentary speaker Murtuz Aleskerov have been invited to the hearings, as have Armenian National Assembly Speaker Arutyunian, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian, and a delegation of Nagorno Karabakh Armenians. JN


Municipal elections scheduled for 15 November "are to assist in the formation of a new reality, which may change the political picture in Georgia as whole," parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said at a press conference in Tbilisi on 12 October, Caucasus Press reported. Zhvania said the elections will be conducted amid what he termed "an economic crisis" but nonetheless will not be postponed. JN


Shevardnadze also said in his 12 October radio address that the construction of the oil terminal at Supsa, on Georgia's Black Sea coast, and the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline are nearing completion. He said "the pipeline will be filled with oil in the near future and the first oil tanker will be loaded with oil and will sail to Europe early next year." JN


President Suleyman Demirel insisted on 12 October that Caspian Sea oil will be transported through Turkey, despite a "New York Times" report the previous day alleging that oil companies favor a cheaper and shorter route than Baku- Ceyhan. Demirel said "Baku-Ceyhan will definitely be constructed.... It is the safest route and has the backing of the United States." The Turkish proposal foresees the construction of a 1,730 km pipeline via Georgia that will be capable of carrying 50 million metric tons (7.1 million barrels) of oil a year. Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Cumhur Ersumer said on 12 October that the Baku-Ceyhan project is an "economic and strategic policy," Anadolu news agency reported. Ersumer said that Turkey has handed over studies for the project to the Azerbaijani and Georgian sides and is awaiting a response from the other countries involved. JN


Three Abkhaz policemen have been killed in Georgia's Gali Raion, Interfax reported from Sukhumi on 12 October. The Russian agency termed the incident "another terrorist act." The Abkhaz Interior Ministry said a police patrol was ambushed and shot at from a sand track of the CIS peacekeeping forces. The Abkhaz Interior Ministry believes that the crime "was committed by Georgian saboteurs," according to the agency. The Georgian authorities have not yet commented on the shootings. JN


The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 12 October categorically denied Turkish claims that the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has arrived in Armenia from his headquarters in Syria, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. A senior Turkish cabinet member had earlier alleged that Abdullah Ocalan had left Damascus for Armenia, threatening that Turkey will go after Ocalan wherever he is (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1998) "Such statements are absolutely groundless and do not correspond to reality," an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman told RFE/RL. He warned that Ankara's allegations may "destabilize the already tense situation in the region." A representative of the National Front for the Liberation of Kurdistan, a pro-PKK political group headquartered in Tbilisi, has also denied Ocalan's presence in Armenia. JN


For health reasons (see above), Russian President Boris Yeltsin cut his scheduled day-and-a-half trip to Kazakhstan to just several hours, Russian media reported on 12 October. Aides say he accomplished all his goals and that the events struck from his schedule were informal talks only. Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a treaty on economic cooperation for the period 1998-2007 and a protocol on delimiting their common border. RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported that the two leaders discussed the division of the Caspian Sea and the development of oil projects there but agreed only that haste is needed in resolving these issues. BP


After a 40-minute meeting, Yeltsin and Nazarbayev attended a ceremony at which members of their governments signed a number of agreements. One accord covers the social rights for citizens living near the Baikonur cosmodrome, which is located in Kazakhstan but used by Russia. Others deal with cooperation on fighting illegal financial operations and money laundering, combating illegal drug trafficking, scientific and technical cooperation on an international thermonuclear experimental reactor project, and cooperation between the two countries' Justice Ministries. BP


Under a 12 October presidential decree, Kazakhstan now has a State Revenues Ministry, RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported. The ministry is charged with, among other things, defining fiscal policy and regulating taxation and customs. It is also irresponsible for taxing alcoholic beverages and investigating economic crimes in conjunction with law enforcement agencies. Beysenghaliy Tajiyakov has been acting head of the new ministry. BP


Customs officials near the southern city of Osh have seized a large shipment of arms en route to Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 October. An inspection of railroad cars originating in Iran and displaying humanitarian aid signs revealed that anti-tank mines, grenades, large caliber guns, and missiles for Grad rocket launchers were hidden among sacks of flour. Kyrgyz authorities were tipped off by customs officials in neighboring Uzbekistan who had impounded two of the 20 cars but had allowed the remaining 18 to proceed to Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz authorities claim they have impounded 16 of the cars and that the other two are "unaccounted for." ITAR-TASS, meanwhile, reported that the chairman of the state customs inspection service was recently sacked by President Askar Akayev for "violations of financial discipline." BP


At a cabinet session on 12 October, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko reported on the country's economic performance in the first nine months of this year, Interfax reported. Pustovoytenko said prices of manufactured goods in September jumped by 150 percent compared with August. The same month, the hryvnya was devalued by 51 percent, compared with the official exchange rate in August, and by 79 percent since the beginning of the year. Pustovoytenko said production continues to grow in most branches of the economy, except for ferrous metallurgy and engineering, which in effect account for a 0.3 percent decline in industrial production from January-September 1998. Commenting on prospects of the Ukrainian economy, Pustovoytenko said he is "scared about the avalanche of the world financial crisis approaching Ukraine." JM


Addressing the cabinet meeting on 12 October, President Leonid Kuchma urged the Supreme Council to defer a vote of no confidence in the government and avoid a political crisis, Reuters reported. "I believe the government's record is unsatisfactory. But Ukraine is not Italy where you can have frequent changes in government which have no effect on the economy," he commented. The Socialists and Hromada caucuses have proposed a no confidence vote in the cabinet after 13 October, when Pustovoytenko is expected to report to the parliament on his cabinet activities. Kuchma said he is ready to ask Communist leader Petro Symonenko to become premier if Pustovoytenko's government is toppled. Symonenko told "Den" on 10 October that the Communists will accept power only if Kuchma give up "directly influencing the government and determining its policy." JM


Kuchma also told the cabinet session that the Ukrainian National Bank took "very professional" measures to deal with the financial crisis, Ukrainian News reported on 12 October. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko, who also addressed the meeting, rejected recent criticism that the bank unjustifiably supported the hryvnya. Criticism of Yushchenko's policies has sparked rumors about his imminent dismissal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1998). JM


While touring collective farms in Mahilyou Oblast on 12 October, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said state loans will be extended only to those farms that have repaid earlier credits in full. "Mind you, we will make you fully answerable for that," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. According to Lukashenka, it is high time for the state to tackle the problem of loss- making farms. Interfax reported that Lukashenka said he will declare several loss-making agricultural enterprises bankrupt. First Deputy Agricultural Minister Yuryy Maroz told Belarusian Television that judging by the economic performance for the first nine months of this year, there are approximately 800 loss-making farms, that is 40 percent of the total. JM


Speaking on state radio on 12 October, Guntis Ulmanis said the new government may not be formed by his original target date of 18 November because coalition talks are proceeding slowly, Reuters reported. Ulmanis met the same day with members of the three parties that won the most votes in the 3 October elections. He commented that there are four of five candidates for the post of prime minister. Given that he can nominate a prime ministerial candidate only on 3 November, when the new parliament convenes, it will be a tough task to have a government in place within 10 days or so, he added. JC


Ziedonis Cevers has resigned as Democratic Party Saimnieks chairman, BNS reported on 12 October. Cevers explained he is assuming responsibility for the party's poor showing in the elections. Meanwhile, the leadership of the party has announced it will call an extraordinary congress of the party on 28 November to elect a new chairman. Democratic Party Saimnieks received less than 2 percent of the vote in the 3 October ballot. JC


A panel of Lithuanian doctors has found that alleged Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis is fit to stand trial, BNS reported on 12 October. "The current state of Lileikis's health does allow him to take part and testify in the trial, but any stress could lead to a health condition hazardous to his life," the panel concluded in its report. The 91-year-old Lileikis is accused of handing over Jews to Nazi death squads while head of the Vilnius security police during the German occupation of Lithuania. His trial had to be postponed last month after his legal team said he was too ill to appear in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1998). Under Lithuanian law, trial in absentia for medical reasons is prohibited. JC


Preliminary results of the 11 October local elections show that the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) won in eight of Poland's 16 provincial capitals while the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) took first place in five provincial city governments, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 13 October. The SLD secured more than 50 percent of the seats in Kielce, Bydgoszcz, Lodz, and Zielona Gora, while the AWS has a majority in Rzeszow, Bialystok, Gdansk, and Lublin. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza" and "Rzeczpospolita," the Freedom Union, the AWS's coalition partner, fared worse than in previous local elections. JM


Preliminary estimates show that turnout for the Polish local elections was 30-40 percent. President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented to Radio RMF FM on 12 October that if the official turnout was "just over 30 percent," it would mean that Poles still have to get used to the idea of self-rule in local government. Kwasniewski added that direct elections of city and town mayors could increase turnout. "The election would have a more personal character as people would vote for a concrete candidate," he explained. JM


Jan Sula, who has resigned as head of the Czech government's economic counter- intelligence commission, accused the government of being unable to fight corruption and other financial abuses, CTK reported on 13 October. In his letter of resignation, Sula said he disagrees with the goals of the governing Social Democrats' "clean hands" anti-corruption campaign. Sula resigned last week, citing death threats to him and his family. CTK said Sula believes that some cabinet ministers want to fight corruption at any cost and that he was supposed to be the "guarantor" who would "put people in prison." PB


Vojtech Filip, the leader of deputies belonging to the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), said on 13 October that the KSCM will support the Socialist government's draft budget, CTK reported. Filip said the KSCM has been assured that "the budget will not cause towns and villages to go further into debt." Communist Party support is not sufficient for the budget to pass. PB


Hans van den Broek, the EU official responsible for enlargement, said in Prague on 13 October that he welcomes the willingness of Slovak voters to change the political situation in their country, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Van den Broek, speaking at the Forum 2000 conference, said he hopes the new Slovak government will fully utilize its chance to make democratic improvements. In other news, Slovak Democratic Coalition deputy chairman Eduard Kukan said it is not "politically useful" to negotiate with representatives of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on the formation of a government. Kukan, a leading candidate for foreign minister in the next government, said he would accept an invitation to negotiations on the transfer of power, TASR reported. PB


Janos Martonyi said in Kyiv on 12 October that the weakness of Ukrainian firms is the main obstacle to improving bilateral economic ties, AP reported. Martonyi, who met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko, and Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, said Kyiv must resolve the issue of better guarantees for Hungarian investments. Tarasyuk said the two sides discussed the possibility of tighter travel and trade regulations for Ukrainians and their goods if Budapest joins the EU. PB


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 12 October told his visiting Moroccan counterpart, Abderrahim Yusufi, that Hungary's interest in the southern Mediterranean is growing as Hungary will soon belong to the southern wing of NATO. The two prime ministers signed several cooperation agreements, including one on tourism. Orban said visa requirements for Hungarians traveling to Morocco may be lifted and that in return Hungary will reduce the visa fee for Moroccans. The Hungarian Export-Import Bank and the Moroccan Foreign Trade Bank signed a $25 million agreement to help increase Hungarian exports to Morocco, Hungarian media report. MSZ


NATO ambassadors agreed in Brussels on 12 October to authorize air strikes against Serbian military targets. The measure will not take effect until the morning of 17 October in order to provide additional time to allow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to honor a series of agreements he reached with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in Belgrade. Milosevic agreed to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1199 to withdraw his forces, allow refugees to go home, provide access for humanitarian relief workers, and agree to a timetable for talks aimed at a restoring the province's autonomy. NATO's "activation order" can go back into effect at any time after 17 October if the Atlantic alliance concludes that Milosevic has broken his word. In Belgrade, Holbrooke said on 13 October that the Yugoslav government will issue a statement later that day. PM


Milosevic also agreed to accept an "intrusive" international "verification" presence to ensure that he complies, Holbrooke said in Belgrade on 13 October. One element of the project will be a 2,000-strong Verification Mission supplied by the OSCE, whose security and freedom of movement the Yugoslav government will confirm "soon" in an agreement with the OSCE. The Verification Mission will also supervise any future elections in Kosova, Holbrooke added. The second element of the verification process is that NATO aircraft will also monitor compliance. This arrangement will be confirmed "in the next few days" in an agreement signed by top NATO officials and Yugoslav leaders in Belgrade. Holbrooke noted that NATO will "easily find ways" to provide assistance to any international personnel in Kosova should the need arise. He also said that some U.S. diplomats who recently left Yugoslavia will return later on 13 October. PM


U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a statement in Washington on 12 October that Milosevic "has made a series of commitments.... But together with our NATO partners, we will determine whether President Milosevic follows words with deeds. And we will remain ready to take military action if Mr. Milosevic fails to make good on his commitments this time." Speaking in New York, Clinton added: "Balkan graveyards are filled with President Milosevic's broken promises. In the days ahead we will focus not only on what President Milosevic says but what we see he does." PM


"The war of nerves continues," the Vienna daily "Die Presse" wrote on 13 October, in reference to the forthcoming talks that will be needed to work out details of Milosevic's compliance. Remaining issues include ensuring that Serbian forces withdraw and displaced persons and refugees return home, allowing representatives of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to conduct investigations in Kosova, setting up a police force acceptable both to Belgrade and to the Kosovars, and drafting terms for an eventual political settlement. Observers in Prishtina note that any agreement that leaves Milosevic in charge in Kosova is bound to disappoint most Kosovars. In other news, a spokesman for Yugoslav embassy in Moscow said that the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry has named Borislav Milosevic, the brother of Slobodan, as the new ambassador to Russia. The spokesman did not say when he will take up his post. PM


Radio Tirana said on 12 October that "Serbia continues to concentrate troops and military equipment along the border with Albania as threats of air strikes by NATO increase." Local civilian and military authorities in the Has and Kukes regions have taken unspecified special measures to prepare for any attack, the broadcast added. In the Tropoja district, "a group of five Yugoslav military men opened fire without any reason on an Albanian border police patrol, which was 50 meters inside Albanian territory," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement the following day. Albanian troops did not return fire, but ATA news agency quoted an official of the border police as saying on 12 October that "if Serbian forces continue to enter our territory, we shall open fire." PM


Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 13 October that diplomacy has so far proven ineffective in dealing with Milosevic and that "now military intervention must bring about a political solution" in Kosova. Mejdani is skeptical that a state as centralized as Milosevic's Yugoslavia will ever give a large degree of autonomy to Kosova and argued that independence is the only solution. The Albanian leader said that unification of Kosova with Albania is not a realistic possibility in the foreseeable future. He also denied Serbian charges that large quantities of arms have reached the Kosova Liberation Army from Albania, pointing out that Serbian forces have extensively mined the border area, which makes major smuggling operations impossible. Mejdani stressed that the problem is not along the frontier but in Kosova itself, adding that there must be an "international presence" there to ensure peace. PM


Albanian opposition leader and former President Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 12 October that his Democratic Party is ready to "re- model" itself if other parties do likewise. He added that "there will be many changes in our policy. Some of our demands will be turned down [by the government] but we are ready to re-model ourselves. The Democratic Party expresses its determination to establish dialogue...if other forces re-model their stand." He did not elaborate or specify whether the Democrats are ready to end their boycott of the parliament. The OSCE and the U.S. State Department in recent weeks have strongly criticized the boycott and called on the Democrats to abandon their "destructive practices" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1998). The international community has also called on all parties to end the polarization that has characterized political life in recent years. PM


Andrija Hebrang resigned as defense minister on 12 October. He told President Franjo Tudjman in a letter that he "decided to resign because of the complete loss of confidence you have been showing toward me, without which it is not possible to carry out [my] duties. May God help you distinguish good from evil." He also resigned his posts as vice president of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and as Tudjman's chief physician. Hebrang is the second moderate top government official to quit his job in the past week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1998). The moderates charge, among other things, that Herzegovinian hard-liners used state intelligence services against them for political purposes. PM


Five opposition parties appear to have won a majority of seats in the legislature of Croatia's Dubrovnik-Neretva County in the 11 October elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported the next day. First official results give the opposition 25 seats, the HDZ 13, and independents two. Ten of the seats are elected directly, and the remaining 30 are assigned through proportional representation. The HDZ remains the largest single party but has lost at least seven seats from its total in the previous legislature. The parties agreed earlier this year to hold special elections after a banking scandal discredited several government officials. PM


Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said on 12 October that Bucharest should be more resolute in its decision to give NATO airplanes access to Romanian air space, Reuters reported, citing Romanian Radio. Babiuc said the question is simple: "Do we want to go with Milosevic, because the issue now is Milosevic, not Serbia--or do we want to go alongside NATO allies?" Babiuc's remarks come amid criticism of President Emil Constantinescu for allowing NATO planes to fly over Romania only in case of "emergency and unforeseen situations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1998). PB


Desimir Jevtic, the Yugoslav ambassador to Romania, said that Bucharest's decision to allow NATO airplanes access to the country's air space violates bilateral treaties, AP reported on 13 October. Jevtic said the government also needs to clarify what is meant by "emergency situations." Former President Ion Iliescu said both NATO and Serbian planes should be granted access to Romanian air space in the event of emergencies. The Romanian parliament is expected to vote on the government's stance at a special session on 13 October. Some 40,000 ethnic Serbs live in Romania. PB


The leaderships of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Democratic left parliamentary group are calling for an emergency session of the National Assembly to discuss the government's approval of a NATO overflight request, Bulgarian Radio reported on 12 October. The government decided the previous day to grant NATO access to Bulgarian air space (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1998). Deputies for the two factions have called on National Assembly Chairman Yordan Sokolov to convene a special session on 13 October in order to debate the government's decision. PB


Bulgaria Trade Minister Valentin Vasilev said on 12 October that Sofia will join an EU-imposed ban on new investments in Serbia following Belgrade's actions in Kosova, Reuters reported. Vasilev said the ban will not affect old contracts or deals covering traditional trade payments but will prevent Bulgarians from gaining corporate or private assets in Serbia. PB


by Zsolt-Istvan Mato

During his visit to Bucharest in July 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton praised the Romanian government for providing an exemplary model of interethnic cooperation and reconciliation with neighboring states such as Hungary and Ukraine. Just 14 months later, that model seems to be seriously damaged and the governing coalition on the verge of collapse.

After the 1996 November elections, the democratic parties that formed the new government asked the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), which represents the 1.7 million-strong Hungarian minority in Romania, to join the coalition. That move created a stable parliamentary majority, boosted Romania's chances of joining NATO and the EU, and laid the groundwork for rapid economic recovery.

Following decades of attempted ethnic assimilation under the communist regime, one of the UDMR's major demands was restoring ethnic minority rights in general and Hungarian-language education in particular. Although the new government's program made provision for accommodating those demands and took steps in that direction, after less than a year of cooperation the UDMR's coalition partners seemed to be hesitant about restoring the rights demanded by the Hungarian community.

Strongly supported by oppositionists and most media outlets, nationalist members of the coalition successfully contested earlier measures introduced by Victor Ciorbea's government. One such measure was a July 1997 "urgent ordinance" that modified the 1995 education law to allow the establishment of universities with instruction in minority languages and abolished several provisions contested by the minorities. The move triggered protests not only by opposition parties but also by coalition members.

In a government reshuffle in April 1998, Andrei Marga became minister of education. Marga, who was rector of Babes-Bolyai University in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, pushed for widespread acceptance of a "multicultural" model and argued that current structure of the Romanian education system provided for minority-language education "at all levels and in all fields." There followed a series of well-organized protests by politicians, the media, university leaders, and even members of organizations supporting a civil society, all of whom opposed "ethnic universities" and strongly supported "multicultural" institutions. However, none questioned or sought to elaborate that notion.

Seeing the hesitation of coalition members to support legislation that favored minorities, Hungarians started to pressure their leaders to demand the establishment of an Hungarian-language university and to take a stronger position on ensuring their rights are guaranteed.

The chance to show a firmer stand was offered at the beginning of September, when the Education Committee of the Chamber of Deputies severely restricted the scope of minority-language education so that ethnic minorities could learn only in groups and in university departments and only at "multicultural" universities. Several days later, the UDMR's main decision-making body, the Council of Representatives, repeated its warning that if the parliament did not vote in favor of the original version of the government ordinance by the end of September, the UDMR would immediately leave the coalition.

Although the UDMR had threatened to leave the coalition on several previous occasions, that threat seemed to be serious this time. The party began consultations with coalition members in a bid to convince them to respect the government program--but with little success. Opposition and some coalition members of the lower house's Education Committee tried to force the UDMR out of the government by first stalling discussions and then rejecting any compromise solutions.

On 30 September, just two hours before the UDMR's deadline for quitting the coalition, the government approved a decision providing for the establishment of a "multicultural" Hungarian- and German-language university to be called "Petofi-Schiller." The UDMR withdrew its threat to quit the coalition and, at an extraordinary Council of Representatives meeting on 3 October, reaffirmed its willingness to participate in the governing coalition. Once again, it made its participation conditional on the implementation of the government's decision and the setting up of the legal framework for establishing such a university.

But there was an immediate political backlash to the government's decision. Most opposition parties contested the decision, calling it "unconstitutional and illegal". Some coalition members were skeptical that the parliament would vote for what they called the "permissive" version of the education law, while others stressed that any "multicultural" solution must also include Romanian- language university departments.

Against this background, the UDMR's departure from the governing coalition seems only a matter of time. Coalition leaders show no real will to resolve the problem of minority-language education once and for all. The UDMR thus finds itself in a Catch 22 situation: there does not seem to be much point in cooperating with coalition partners who break their promises and fail to respect the government program, but at the same time they cannot rely on support from the nationalist opposition parties either.

Observers have already spoken about the possible isolation of ethnic Hungarians within Romania, who have little trust in the people running the country and who feel like second-class citizens. However, a new political crisis that results in pre-term elections might not help their cause much. It might also result in the postponement of economic reforms and even more economic hardships for the population as a whole.

The author is a free-lance journalist in Cluj, Romania