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Newsline - October 27, 1998


The abrupt cancellation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's trip to Austria for a meeting with the EU has renewed speculation about his health (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 22 October 1998). Yeltsin's doctors found that the president's bronchitis combined with overworking had resulted in "asthenia" or fatigue, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushin told Interfax on 26 October. The doctors advised him to take a two-week vacation, his third official vacation this year. Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of the presidential administration, told NTV that Yeltsin did not want to risk another "display of weakness" such as occurred during his trip to Uzbekistan, when he stumbled during an official ceremony. In response to a question about requiring a medical examination of the president, Sysuev said "all these actions must take place within the framework of a law and the constitution. As far as I know, there is currently no such law." JAC


Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, filling in for the fatigued president in Vienna on 27 October, met with Austrian President Tomas Klestil. Primakov called for promoting Austrian-Russian relations and lauded Austria for the important role it plays in European affairs. Primakov was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Klima, EU President Jacques Santer, and EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek. The previous day, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov met with ambassadors from EU members states in Moscow to discuss Russia's economic problems. NTV suggested that Primakov and his ministers are "quite likely to present his government's anti-crisis program [to the EU meeting], because continued [EU] support for our country will depend on its content." A spokesman for Maslyukov told reporters that a version of the program published by "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 October is only a preliminary version. JAC


Despite government calls for people to stay home, more than 2,000 people demonstrated in Grozny on 27 October to mark the seventh anniversary of the election of Dzhokar Dudaev as president of the republic and to demand that President Aslan Maskhadov be driven from office, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian news agency also reported on 27 October that two militiamen were wounded on the Chechen-Dagestani border. PG


Following the murder of Chechnya's anti-kidnapping chief and an attempt on the life of the republic's chief mufti, Deputy Prime Minister Premier Kazbek Makhashev said on 26 October that Grozny will soon begin large-scale operations against all criminal groups that take hostages, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Dagestan's Interior Ministry offered to help find the kidnappers, and Russian Duma Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriyev called for taking "the toughest coercive measures." The same day, Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, co- chairman of the Russian Federation Council of Mufties, expressed his indignation at the attack on Chechen Mufti Ahmed Khadzhi Kadyrov. PG


Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told ITAR-TASS on 26 October that the recent violence in his republic was unleashed by unnamed "foreign secret services" that he said are "seeking to destabilize the situation and unleash a civil war in Chechnya." Others were more explicit: Ziyaudi Beloyev, who resigned as television chief in Grozny following threats to his station, said that he has turned over what he called a Russian-prepared plan to kill President Aslan Maskhadov and set fire to the republic's parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. In contrast, Ivan Rybkin, who earlier served as Moscow's chief negotiator with Chechnya, blamed "outsiders from Jordan and Saudi Arabia" for the violence, AP reported. PG


Strategic Rocket Forces Commander General Vladimir Yakovlev told Interfax on 26 October that his forces will still receive single-warhead Topol-M missiles, despite an "incident" during the missile's fifth test launch in which its self-destruct system was activated. Yakovlev said that non-test combat missiles are not equipped with a self-destruct system. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October that according to its sources, "the self-destruct system should operate either when the missile deviates from its course or when the engine of one of three stages fails." The missile reportedly exploded after its first launch stage, but "whether this happened because of the failure of the second-stage engine" or because of a defect in the self-destruct system "is not yet known." A sixth test of the Topol-M will be carried out soon, Yakovlev reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" disclosed that after this test the missile will be place "on combat alert duty." JAC


State Duma Deputy Vladimir Semago launched a new political party called the "New Leftists" at a conference in Nizhnii Novgorod on 24 October. Semago had until recently been a member of the Communist Party, which he quit with much fanfare after declaring his candidacy for mayoral elections in that city (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). The conference was attended by 700 delegates, including Andrei Klimentev, who was elected to the mayor's office but then had to step down when he was sentenced to prison for embezzlement and forgery. The party advocates the return of "morality" to Russian political life. Meanwhile, right-wing democratic parties and movements are forming a coalition in preparation for 1999 Duma elections, Duma Deputy and member of the Democratic Choice Party Sergei Yushenkov told Interfax on 26 October. Yushenkov said that leaders of various parties are working on a common platform, while more than 10 regions, including Kaliningrad, Perm, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Komi, have formed various unions of "democratic forces." JAC


A Russian foreign policymaker said the continued possibility of NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia if Belgrade does not withdraw its troops from Kosova is "odious." Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev also told Interfax on 26 October that with the deadline expiring for a Yugoslavia troop withdrawal, NATO has backed itself into a corner with no way out. Avdeev added that NATO will be "unable to carry out its threat" because "thanks to the efforts of Russian diplomacy, the developments in and around [Kosova] started moving toward a settlement. Avdeev told ITAR-TASS that Russia "does not rule out that the OSCE, as a regional organization, may turn to NATO for assistance in providing security" for the fulfillment of agreements reached with Yugoslavia. JAC


Turkey on 27 October officially requested that Russia extradite Abdullah Ocalan, head of the Kurdish Workers Party. However, Russia's Federal Security Service said that it has no information on Ocalan's whereabouts, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. On 20 October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that he could not confirm that Ocalan was in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998). On 29 October, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will travel to Ankara for ceremonies celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. JAC


"Segodnya" on 22 October suggested that the two Mormon missionaries arrested in Krasnoyarsk for illegally entering the premises of a military unit may "work for [a foreign] intelligence service" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). The newspaper cited a source in the Federal Security Service who said that "foreigners are frequently found in Russian military units" and "more often than not pose as missionaries." NTV showed film footage of the men climbing over a wall of the base the previous day. A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said the missionaries were not sneaking into the base but had been invited by someone interested in their faith, the "Moscow Times" reported. In February, two Mormons were detained after entering a military base in Saratov but were later released. JAC


Three of President Yeltsin's speechwriters, Aleksandr Ilin, Konstantin Nikiforov, and Vladimir Kadatskii, were dismissed from the Kremlin staff "at their own request" on 23 October. All three had worked for the president for several years. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day, the president no longer used their services. In other personnel changes, Prime Minister Primakov appointed Tatyana Aristarkhova, former head of the press service of the Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, as his press secretary. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 October, Aristarkhova is "famous among journalists for not letting anyone close to her boss." JAC


The Duma has instructed its Security Committee to investigate the claim by parliamentary deputy and Communist Party member Igor Bratishchev that President Yeltsin had been clinically dead for 17 minutes on 15 October, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 October. Bratishchev cited a report in the "Novii Petersburg" newspaper. On 14 October, Yeltsin reported for work at the Kremlin unexpectedly and chided "people who won't even let [him] sneeze" without questioning his health. JAC


The Moscow Art Theater celebrated its 100th anniversary on 26 October with a special performance attended by Prime Minister Primakov. The theater is perhaps best known for launching the careers of writer Anton Chekhov and actor-director Konstantin Stanislavsky. Novelist-playwright Mikhail Bulgakov wrote about the theater, poking fun at Stanislavsky, in his novel, "Black Snow". Bulgakov was given a job at the theater after writing a letter to former Soviet leader Josef Stalin saying he wanted to emigrate because he could not get his plays produced in Russia. JAC


Speaking to the first major gathering of his new political party on 25 October, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Karen Demirchian said the group must work to help the country overcome what he called "a deep political and economic crisis," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Failure to do that would have "catastrophic consequences for the people," added Demirchian, who served as first secretary of the Armenian SSR Communist Party from 1974 to 1988. The party's first task, he continued, is to ensure that the parliamentary elections in 1999 will be genuinely free and fair. "This time there will be no pardon" for those who violate election laws, Demirchian said. PG


The government of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh released a statement on 26 October deploring the Council of Europe's decision to delay a hearing on the Karabakh dispute, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Arguing that Azerbaijan's position was weakened by "the recent presidential elections," the Karabakh authorities deplored what they called the Council of Europe's "retreat" as a result of "Azerbaijani pressure." PG


Natik Aliev, the head of Azerbaijan's state oil company, said in Tbilisi on 26 October that the Baku-Supsa pipeline intended to carry oil from the Caspian basin to the West will begin operations in April 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the Azerbaijani portion is now ready to carry oil. Speaking on national radio the same day, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he has received a draft treaty on oil transit from Azerbaijan. Thanking the U.S., Turkey, and world oil companies, Shevardnadze said the accord will be signed "within days." PG


Also during his 26 October radio address, President Shevardnadze said that the military mutiny on 19 October was yet another effort by those seeking to undermine the country's independence and democracy. "Such attempts," the Georgian leader said, "are predictable at the transitional stage of development" and will likely take place in the future as well. But he expressed confidence that Georgians will rebuff all such attempts, citing a recent poll that showed 90 percent of Tbilisi residents condemned the mutiny. Meanwhile, Shevardnadze has accepted the resignation of the country's security minister, Dzhemal Gakhokidze. And Georgian officials continued on 26 October to look for coup leader Akaky Eliava, who is believed to be hiding out in the Chkhorotskusk district in western Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG


The leadership of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) wants the issue of changing the constitutional article that refers to a "secular state" resolved by the time the parliament meets on 12 November, Reuters reported on 26 October. Since the return of UTO deputy leader Hoja Akbar Turajonzoda in February, the topic has been a sticking point between the government and the UTO. The UTO argues Tajikistan is a majority Muslim state, while the government maintains the issue is not open for discussion. Also on 26 October, a meeting of the National Reconciliation Commission resulted in a promise from the government to give another 19 UTO members government posts, which would complete the second phase of the Tajik peace process. BP


Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin and independent candidate Engels Gabbasov have both applied to register for the January presidential elections, Interfax reported on 26 October. Abdildin was the first candidate to announce his intention to run following the Kazakh parliament's 8 October decision to hold early elections. The two passed the Kazakh language test, a prerequisite for running. Incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin have already passed that test. On 23 October, Baltash Tursunbayev, the Kazakh ambassador to Turkey, who also announced his intention to run earlier in October, was named deputy premier. This means he will not run in the elections. Interfax reports that the Kazakh presidential press service "did not say exactly what Tursunbayev will be in charge of." BP


The deputy chairman of the Russian State Customs Committee, Vladimir Meshcheryakov, has said that Kyrgyzstan's recent admission to the WTO has raised "serious concern" within the integration committee of the four customs union countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Russia), Interfax reported on 26 October. Meshcheryakov said that when Kyrgyzstan applied for WTO, membership, it did not specify preferential treatment in trade with the other customs union countries. He added that it is now too late to make changes because the WTO has approved Kyrgyzstan's membership documents. Meshcheryakov said he did not think there will be any problems in trade with Russia but added that there will be "lots of problems and questions within the framework of the customs union." BP


Saparmurat Niyazov received the Golden Moon award on 26 October, on the eve of Turkmen Independence Day, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported . The decision to award the medal to Niyazov was made by the cabinet and parliament in July following reports that country had fulfilled its target figure for the grain harvest for the first time since 1991. It is the third time that Niyazov has received the medal. He was first awarded it in 1992, on the occasion of the first anniversary of independence, and then in 1995 when Turkmenistan was recognized by the UN as a neutral country. BP


The IMF has postponed until 29 October its decision on whether to release a second tranche worth $125 million of the $2.2 billion three-year loan to Ukraine agreed in August, AP reported on 26 October. An IMF mission arrived in Kyiv the same day to check if Ukraine is meeting requirements for the release of the tranche. Valeriy Litvytskyy, aide to the Ukrainian president, said the postponement of the tranche is due to an "exclusively technical reason" connected with the repayment of Ukraine's $109 million loan to the Chase Manhattan Bank in Luxembourg, Ukrainian Television reported. The IMF disbursed the first, $257 million tranche of the loan in September. JM


The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has allocated $2.3 million to support Crimean Tatars who returned to their homeland from exile within the former Soviet Union, Reuters reported on 26 October. "We are going to concentrate most of our attention on the question of citizenship," a UNHCR representative told journalists in Simferopol on 26 October. The representative added that the UN had supported the holding of Ukrainian-Uzbek talks that resulted in a simplified procedure for Tatars returning to Crimea from Uzbekistan to obtain a Ukrainian passport. Some 250,000 Tatars have returned to Crimea since the breakup of the Soviet Union, of whom one-third are technically foreigners in Ukraine or have no citizenship whatsoever. JM


The U.S. State Department has denied entry visas to Alyaksandr Kozyr and Mikalay Cherhinets, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 26 October. According to Belarusian Television the previous day, Kozyr and Cherhinets intended to take part in the UN General Assembly, while Cherhinets said on nationwide television that they planned to participate in a session of the Interparliamentary Assembly in New York. Cherhinets hinted that the visa refusal was retribution for his participation in a recent Belarusian mission to Yugoslavia. He characterized the U.S. action as an example of meddling in the affairs of Belarus. He added that he had intended to pass over some documents about Americans missing in action during the Vietnam war. JM


Henadz Karpenka, an opposition leader and former parliamentary deputy speaker, has called on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to hold presidential elections in 1999, as stipulated by the 1994 constitution, Interfax reported on 26 October. The controversial November 1996 referendum in Belarus approved the new constitution, which extends Lukashenka's term until 2001. Karpenka proposes that an accord be signed between the authorities and the opposition on ways to overcome the current political and economic crisis in Belarus. He also demanded that all political groups have access to radio and television broadcasts. In an October poll of some 1,500 Belarusians, 35.9 percent said they would like presidential elections next year, while 21.6 percent believed that they should be held in 2001. And 31.5 percent said such elections are unnecessary because there is no better candidate than Lukashenka. JM


Former U.S. presidential adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told "Lietuvos Rytas" on 26 October that Latvia and Estonia currently do not meet the criteria for NATO membership, BNS reported. He added that Slovenia and Lithuania are ready to be invited to [join] the alliance but said that a second round of NATO enlargement to the south and the north to include Slovenia and Lithuania is viewed variously in Washington, with opinions ranging from "enthusiasm and interest to skepticism and concern." Brzezinski added that "Washington is not very interested at present to begin the second wave of NATO enlargement as concerns exist that this process may clash with Russian interests and thwart relations between the East and the West." JC


In his weekly radio address, Guntis Ulmanis said on 26 October that he believes the impasse between leading parties on forming a majority government may soon end, Reuters reported. Ulmanis said that during coalition talks last week, the People's Party, which won the 3 October elections, showed signs of backing down from its insistence that former Prime Minister Andris Skele become the next premier. The issue of the premiership has been the main sticking point in talks between the People's Party and the second- placed Latvia's Way, which wants Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans to take over that post. Also on 26 October, Skele told journalists that the People's Party will ask the Fatherland and Freedom party to start bilateral talks in order to ascertain whether the latter is ready to back a cabinet that includes either the Social Democrats or the People's Party. JC


The Lithuanian prosecutor's office issued a statement on 26 October suggesting that former U.S. citizen Kazys Gimzhauskas may face trial within the next month for crimes against humanity during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, Reuters reported. The case has been handed over to a district court, which will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to try Gimzhauskas. The 90-year-old Gimzhauskas is accused of "physically assisting in the extinction of Jewish Lithuanian citizens while subordinate to the occupational Nazi authorities." The trial of his alleged wartime superior, Aleksandras Lileikis, is due to restart on 5 November after a team of medical experts ruled that the defendant is fit to appear in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1998). JC


Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek told leadership of the National Defense Ministry on 26 October that there will be no shortage of money for Poland's integration with NATO and the modernization of the Polish armed forces, PAP reported. Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew said that officers' wages should be increased as an incentive to remain in the army. Commenting on the resignation of some 100 pilots from the air force last year, Szeremietiew said Poland is considering leasing 18 Western fighter jets in a bid to persuade pilots to remain in the force. The 1999 budget allocation for the army is 1.91 percent of GDP, down from 2.3 percent last year. But Buzek argued that the armed forces will in fact receive more money next year since now the military budget does not have to cover health care expenses. JM


Poland will pay some $366,000 to Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, the CIA's spymaster within the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, to compensate him for property confiscated in communist-era Poland, Reuters reported on 26 October. That sum will come from the government's budget reserve. Kuklinski passed some 35,000 top secret documents to the CIA between 1972 and 1981 before defecting to the West with his family. A communist court sentenced him to death in 1984 and confiscated all his property. That sentence was lifted in 1995, and Kuklinski was fully rehabilitated in 1997. According to Kuklinski, he received no money for his espionage activities. JM


President Vaclav Havel on 26 October told Czech Radio that his office was "blackmailed" by a "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" journalist into withdrawing a medal of honor that was to have been awarded to former Vienna Mayor Helmut Zilk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1996). "Lidove noviny" on 27 October writes that journalist Peter Brod threatened to publish information on Zilk's links to the communist-era secret police (StB) unless the award ceremony was canceled. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told Reuters the previous day that Havel received the information on Zilk from Senator Vaclav Benda, the former director of the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes. Citing CTK, AP reported that in his letter to Havel, Benda said Zilk was a paid StB agent during the second half of 1960s. MS


A Prague court has again acquitted Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek of charges of incitement to racial and ethnic hatred, CTK reported on 26 October. During a January 1997 protest against the signing of the Czech-German declaration, Sladek had said he regretted that "so few Germans died in World War II." The prosecution successfully appealed Sladek's acquittal in January 1998, and the Prague City Court returned the case to the lower court. The judge said on 26 October that she considers her first verdict to be correct and sees no reason to change it. MS


U.S. officials informed the Hungarian government that Predator surveillance planes stationed at the Taszar military air base in southwestern Hungary may conduct surveillance flights over Kosova, the daily "Nepszabadsag" reported on 27 October. Hungarian armed forces spokesman Colonel Gyula Sajner said the parliament's 14 October decision allowing the use of Hungarian air space for a possible NATO operation in Kosova also permits flights by surveillance planes. A U.S. embassy official said the military operations now under way at the Taszar military base are in line with the parliament's authorization. MSZ


Belgrade independent Radio B-92 quoted army and paramilitary police sources on 27 October as saying that troop levels in Kosova are back to the levels where they were in March at the start of the crackdown. There has been no official or independent confirmation that the military and police have indeed completed the withdrawal as the UN has demanded. NATO officials are slated to meet in Brussels later in the day to decide whether Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has complied with UN demands or whether NATO will launch air strikes against Serbian military targets after the alliance's deadline for Milosevic to comply runs out at 7:00 p.m. local time on 27 October. In Washington the previous day, a State Department spokesman said that NATO wants to be sure that the Serbian forces do not return to Kosova after they withdraw. PM


EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 26 October to provide $100 million for the OSCE's 2,000-strong monitoring mission to Kosova. The entire operation is expected to cost $150 million, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Prishtina, Adem Demaci, who is the spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that the guerrillas will continue to fight the Serbian forces until Kosova gains independence. PM


Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova told officials of the European Parliament in Prishtina on 26 October that displaced persons are afraid to return to their homes lest Serbian forces come back and harass them. But the next day, Reuters reported that many Kosovars began to return to their homes in the Malisheva area after hearing radio broadcasts that reported the Serbian forces' departure. In Luxembourg on 26 October, the EU's chief official for humanitarian issues, Emma Bonino, said that 50,000 Kosovars are living in refugee camps and an additional 10,000 are hiding in the hills. The EU has made funds available to repair at least one room in all damaged houses so that displaced persons can go home before the harsh Balkan winter begins in a few weeks' time. PM


Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 25 October that Albania will stop "giving recipes" for solving the Kosova problem, "Albanian Daily News" reported. He added that the Kosovars should decide about the future status of their province themselves. Majko nonetheless stressed that all Kosovar politicians should regard Albania as a "point of union" where they may come together to openly debate controversial political issues. Kosovar politicians strongly criticized Majko's predecessor, Fatos Nano, for promoting Kosova's status of a republic inside Yugoslavia rather than complete independence, which all leading Kosovar politicians demand. FS


Serbian court officials confiscated equipment from the offices of the banned daily "Dnevni Telegraf" and the weekly "Evropljanin" during the night of 25-26 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). More than 20 armed police also took furniture and other items from the apartment of Slavko Curuvija, the newspaper's editor in chief, according to "The Guardian." The previous day, Jiri Dienstbier, who is the UN's chief envoy for human rights, said on a visit to "Dnevni Telegraf's" offices that he will inform the international community that the problem in the region is not only Kosova but, on a much broader level, the question of promoting democracy in Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers have often pointed out that peace in the Balkans is not possible without a democratic Serbia because the Serbs are the most numerous people from the former Yugoslavia and occupy a strategically important region in the center of the peninsula. PM


Members of the Croatian Journalists' Society adopted a declaration in Opatija on 26 October calling for media independence from control by the government and the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). They journalists said that Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) have suffered in quality because of their close links with the authorities and the HDZ. They also appealed to the parliament to pass legislation to transform HRT into a public corporation. The declaration urged the publication of the names of the owners of any radio stations or periodicals, especially "Vecernji list," "Slobodna Dalmacija," "TV Mreza," "Glas Slavonije" and some local newspapers. All are widely believed to be in the hands of persons close to the HDZ. PM


Astrit Balluku, a local leader of the Independent Trade Unions, was killed in Tirana on 26 October when supporters of two rival wings clashed in a dispute over who should occupy the national leadership's offices, "Albanian Daily News" reported. A second union member was wounded, but it remains unclear who fired the shots. Police arrested 20 people including rival national leaders Xhevdet Lubani and Fatmir Musaku. The leadership dispute dates back to 1995, when the late Democratic Party leader Azem Hajdari set up a rebel faction within the trade unions. Hajdari then ceased all work for the trade union after failing to be elected union leader. Musaku, Hajdari's successor as leader of the rebel faction, won a court case earlier this year against Lubani, who refused to vacate the leadership's offices. Former President Sali Berisha told journalists the same day in Tirana that the government and secret service were behind Balluku's killing. FS


An inflatable dinghy carrying 25 refugees, most of whom were Kosovars, exploded and sank after colliding with a small boat near Vlora on 26 October. Six people were killed in the accident. The same day, police discovered 44 illegal immigrants, including eight Turkish and 31 Iraqi Kurds and five Pakistanis, in a forest near Vlora, AP reported. They had arrived from Greece and were waiting to be smuggled into Italy. FS


Addressing the Nobel Institute in Oslo on 26 October, President Emil Constantinescu said NATO's decision not to include Romania in first wave of expansion "has been a serious mistake and mistakes must be paid for." He said all risks to NATO security come from its southeastern tier and that Romanian membership would have provided a solution to that problem. Constantinescu added that his country must be integrated into NATO in the second wave of expansion. And he commented that the West has become "cynical and uninterested" in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, after initially having "massively invested" in such countries as Poland or Slovenia. MS


The Romanian Supreme Court on 26 October rehabilitated Toma Petre Ghitulescu, who after only seven weeks in office quit his post as deputy state secretary in the government headed by wartime ruler Ion Antonescu. The court said the crimes of the Antonescu government were committed after Ghitulescu's short tenure. The court rejected, however, the Ghitulescu family's plea for the rehabilitation of Marshal Antonescu (executed for war crimes in 1946) and seven other members of his cabinet who were sentenced to jail, along with Ghitulescu, in 1949. The request for the cabinet members' rehabilitation was originally made by former Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu but later withdrawn following protests by the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997 and 27 January 1998). MS


President Constantinescu on 26 October said the award of a medal to a former commander of the Sighet prison, where many political prisoners perished during the 1950s, is "a grave matter." Constantinescu says he granted the medal to Vasile Cioplan on Army Day (24 October) at the recommendation of the Association of War Veterans, stressing that he had not been familiar with Cioplan's past. The Ministry of Defense said that the law on the World War II award "makes no distinctions" between the various participants in the war, entitling all of them to the medal. The Movement of Civic Alliance has called on Constantinescu to punish those responsible for "transforming into a hero" a person who stands for communist terror, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS


The Party of Rebirth and Conciliation on 24 October re-elected former President Mircea Snegur as its chairman, BASA-press reported. Snegur called on right-wing forces in Moldova to rally behind his party following the communists' victory in this year's parliamentary elections. On 25 October, a congress of the extraparliamentary National Liberal Party approved a merger with the Moldovan Liberal Party. The new party will be called the National Liberal Party of Moldova. On 23 October, the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova said it is forming a "centrist alliance" with nine other extraparliamentary formations that back President Petru Lucinschi. MS


Moldovan Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza has signed an agreement providing for the setting up of the Molodovagaz company, in which Gazprom will hold a 51 percent share, the independent Flux agency reported on 26 October. The agreement, which was signed in Moscow in partial settlement of Moldova's debt to Gazprom, was approved by the parliament in February and by the government in October. MS


Petar Stoyanov, who is currently on a six-day official visit to India, has held discussions with his Indian counterpart K. R. Narayanan and Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss bilateral relations, international issues, and the improvement of bilateral trade and investments, dpa reported on 26 October. Stoyanov also attended the signing ceremony of three bilateral trade agreements and an accord aimed at protecting mutual investments. MS


by Patrick Moore

Macedonia's main opposition coalition emerged victorious in the first round of parliamentary elections on 18 October. That coalition seems likely to win most seats in the second round on 1 November as well, but questions remain regarding the eventual composition of the new government and what it will be able to accomplish.

Macedonian voters indicated in the first round that they feel it is time for a change in country that has over 30 percent unemployment and has had little success in attracting vital foreign investments. The coalition consisting of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), led by Ljubco Georgievski, and the Democratic Alternative (DA) of Vasil Tupurkovski won 21 seats, followed by the governing Social Democrats (SDSM) with 14. The Liberals took two mandates, and the Socialists one. The two main ethnic Albanian parties--the moderate Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which is part of the SDSM's current governing coalition, and the more radical Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH)--had formed an electoral coalition so as not to split the Albanian vote. Between them, they took 20 legislative seats.

The first question facing Macedonia as it approaches the second round of voting to decide the remaining 62 seats is whether the VMRO-DA coalition will maintain its lead. Observers in Skopje say that not only is this likely but the coalition could emerge with 70 out of 120 seats and therefore be able to govern without entering into a broader coalition with other parties.

The second issue is whether the VMRO-DA, if victorious, will prefer to govern alone or seek to enter into a broader coalition. Some of the smaller parties might try to make a deal with Georgievski and Tupurkovski even before 1 November in an effort to jump on what appears to be the winning bandwagon at the earliest opportunity.

At the heart of the question regarding a broader coalition are, however, the political relations between the Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up about 23 percent of the population. The VMRO was founded in 1990 on a strong Macedonian nationalist platform, but Georgievski told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Skopje recently that his main interest now is reforming the economy, ending corruption, reducing taxes, eliminating regulations on investments, and attracting foreign investment. In short, he has reinvented his party as a bastion of neo-liberalism in order to oust an ex-communist establishment that many regard as ineffective and corrupt.

He underscored his change of approach by avoiding nationalist rhetoric and speaking almost exclusively about economic issues. (Ironically, it was the Social Democrats who most openly appealed to nationalist passions during the campaign by carrying out a series of well-publicized arrests of "Albanian terrorists.") Furthermore, Georgievski chose as his main ally the DA, which is committed to the principles of a civil society and whose membership includes prominent Albanians, Turks, Roma, and others.

Georgievski could thus govern with the DA alone in a cabinet in which Albanians and other minorities would be represented. But while some of the DA's Albanian intellectuals may enjoy personal prestige, they lack the power base among the Albanians that only the PPD or PDSH could provide. Speculation has therefore come to center on the possibility of a coalition involving VMRO-DA and one of those two main Albanian parties.

Since the PPD is "tainted" in the eyes of many of Georgievski's backers because it was a partner in the SDSM's outgoing coalition government, attention has focused on the PDSH as a possible partner for VMRO-DA. This might seem ironic, in view of the fact that VMRO and the PDSH were both founded as militantly nationalist parties. But the two have since made a power-sharing pact at the local level in Skopje, and there seems to be little reason why they could not apply that model to a national government. Both VMRO-DA and PDSH have left the door open for coalition talks with each other, and a spokesman for the PDSH recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" that "all options are open" once the second round of voting is over.

Were Georgievski to head a government including the PDSH as well as the VMRO and DA, he would govern with the backing of a clear majority of the population, including powerful representatives of the two main ethnic groups. This leads to the third question facing Macedonia, namely whether Georgievski's government would be able to deliver the development and prosperity he has promised. His supporters--and those of his coalition allies--will be watching to see if he will indeed produce the "changes" he promised in his campaign rhetoric, or if he and his allies will prove to be as corrupt and ineffective as the coalition they replaced.