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Newsline - November 5, 1998


First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 4 November that debt payments of $3.5 billion due this year and of $17.5 billion due in 1999 are "too much" for Russia's weakened economy. The government can either draft an emergency budget that would "bleed all spheres of the economy white" or agree with lenders on restructuring the debt. Maslyukov promised that the government's 1999 budget will be an austere one with only a 3 percent deficit. Last month, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov warned that "debt restructuring talks must be held" because there is little chance that next year's budget could cover the $17.5 billion debt. JAC


Also on 4 November, the government sent its draft "Law on Initial Measures in the Budget and Tax Policy Sphere" to the Duma. According to Zhukov, the bill requires the printing of 35 billion-40 billion rubles ($2.3 billion), Interfax reported. Maslyukov said that monetary emission should not exceed 15 billion rubles in 1998 and 30-35 billion rubles in 1999. Zhukov said that although the budget deficit in 1999 will stay within the targeted 3 percent, "it will total 100 billion rubles at the very least." He concluded that the bill is likely to pass even though it calls for "inflationary financing" because "there are no other sources of financing." Meanwhile, a "senior U.S. official" told Reuters that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will deliver a negative assessment of the Primakov government's economic program in a public speech on 5 November. The economic program "doesn't make sense, the numbers don't add up," the official said. JAC


The government has established a starting price of $651 million for a 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom. Interfax reported on 4 November that bidding is expected to begin at the end of the week and close before 25 December. The buyer will have to hold on to the shares for five years. In August, the government had set the price of a 5 percent stake at 10.3 billion rubles, which at the time was the equivalent of $1.65 billion. JAC


The Constitutional Court announced on 5 November that President Boris Yeltsin is ineligible to run again for president. The Court ruled that since Yeltsin has been elected twice, a third try would violate the constitution. In recent months Yeltsin has repeatedly stated that he will not seek reelection. The court ruling means he will now be unable to change his mind. JAC


A car carrying a homemade bomb exploded in Red Square on 4 November, injuring three people. Interfax reported that the driver of the car was Ivan Orlov, a journalist for an anti-Semitic magazine published by the Russian National Liberation Movement. The car, a Moskvich, stopped meters away from a heavy wooden gate barring the entrance to the Kremlin. ITAR-TASS reported that after examining Orlov, a psychiatrist had issued a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that Orlov had been expelled from his party for "extremism." JAC


The Duma rejected two bills that would have extended product sharing agreements to 10 oil projects and might have injected some much needed foreign direct investment into the oil sector. The vote effectively puts projects in areas such as Komi, Udmurtia, Tomsk, and Yamal Nenetsk on hold. Some of those projects have already been at a standstill for several years. JAC


Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin revealed that some of the cases of alleged corruption mentioned in a letter sent by Yabloko deputies to Prime Minister Primakov are already under investigation, Duma Deputy and Yabloko faction member Sergei Ivanenko told Interfax on 4 November. Ivanenko added that First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov is not being investigated "directly or indirectly." The previous day, Stepashin told reporters that Yabloko's charges were a publicity effort by its leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the "charges" against Maslyukov, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov, and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik focus on activities from 1990 to 1998. The daily also quoted Yavlinskii as saying he did not bring his charges to the attention of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin because "it would have been futile." JAC


Two more political parties have declared their intention to abstain from forming an election bloc or joining a larger alliance. Earlier, Yabloko and the Communist Party said that they will not form any alliances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1998). Mikhail Lapshin, Agrarian Party leader, said on 3 November that his party will run alone in the 1999 State Duma elections. The next day, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhirinovsky told reporters that his group will not join any coalitions. Meanwhile, former Minister of the Interior Anatolii Kulikov has expressed the desire to run for a seat in the Duma, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. JAC


Moscow has dispatched a tanker of fuel to relieve the energy shortage in Kamchatka, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. The tanker is expected to arrive in two or three days, while fuel supplies in the oblast's capital, Petropavlosk-Kamchatskii, are forecast to last only another 10 days. According to the "Moscow Times," other districts in the Far East are suffering from their own regional fuel shortages. Sakhalin Island is experiencing four-hour blackouts every day, while heating has not yet been turned on in Vladivostok, despite the cold weather. JAC


The Russian armed forces command has rethought its strategy for troops based in western Russia and is creating a joint defense system with Belarus and forming 10 permanent alert divisions, Colonel-General Yurii Baluevskii, head of the General Staff's Tactical Department, told reporters on 4 November. According to Russian agencies, Baluevskii attributed the changes to NATO's expansion plans and said Russian and Belarusian "joint actions are expected to cool down hot heads in the West". However, Reuters quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman who said that Baluevskii's remarks had been misinterpreted. The colonel-general had been addressing only the issue of closer defense cooperation with Belarus, the spokesman explained. Baluevskii also said that lack of funding might slow the armed forces' plan to reduce ranks to 1.2 million by 1 January 1999. JAC


Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhirinovsky told journalists on 4 November that he believes Baghdad is justified in refusing any further cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, whom he accused of espionage. Zhirinovsky affirmed that "Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction" and that it has complied with UN conditions. The previous day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had termed Baghdad's decision "counterproductive" and likely to compound the suffering of the Iraqi people. He called on the Iraqi leadership to "fully resume cooperation with the UN and its disarmament commission," according to Interfax. Ivanov added that Moscow is "coordinating positions" with the UN and a number of unnamed countries to prevent an escalation of tensions in the Gulf region. LF


A local prosecutor appealed to the Russian Supreme Court on 3 November to overturn a lower court ruling that sent the case of Aleksandr Nikitin back for further investigation. Nikitin was charged with espionage for disclosing information about nuclear waste disposal by the Russian navy. ITAR-TASS reported that the appeal charged the lower court had reached "premature conclusions" about the evidence gathered against Nikitin. Nikitin's lawyers have filed their own appeal, requesting that the charges against Nikitin be dismissed entirely and that he be allowed to travel outside the country. JAC


Chechnya's Supreme Sharia court on 4 November sentenced maverick field commander Salman Raduev in absentia to four years in prison for attempting to overthrow President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported. Raduev's supporters had clashed on 21 June with government security forces seeking to prevent them from occupying the main television station in Grozny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). National Security Service chief Lecha Khultygov and the commander of Raduev's General Dudaev army were shot dead in that standoff. Raduev told Interfax on 4 November that he will resist any attempt to apprehend him and will lodge an appeal with an alternative Shariah court set up the previous day by field commanders opposed to Maskhadov. Raduev added that the field commanders' council, to which both he and former acting Premier Shamil Basaev belong, will ignore all future orders by Maskhadov. LF


Fighting between government troops and forces loyal to former army Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev continues in and around the northern city of Khujand on 5 November, RFE/RL correspondents and Russian media reported. The government has dispatched another 300 soldiers to the area to bolster forces already battling Khudaberdiyev's troops. Government troops in Khujand have reportedly reclaimed buildings belonging to the National Security Ministry and the local police. Heavy fighting is reported around the Khujand headquarters of the Interior Ministry's special forces' unit. A government official told RFE/RL more than 100 have died in the fighting and that casualties are almost evenly divided between government and rebel forces. Fighting is also reported at the Anzob Pass, 100 kilometers north of Dushanbe, the highest point on the road between the Tajik capital and Khujand. BP


An attempt at negotiating with Khudaberdiyev's group, which calls itself the Movement for General Peace in Tajikistan broke down shortly after commencing on 4 November. Khudaberdiyev had demanded that government forces withdraw to an area 10 kilometers from Khujand and lift the blockade of the airport at Chkalovsk. He also demanded that 40 percent of the cabinet posts be granted to his group and that former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullajonov, who is wanted by Tajik law enforcement agencies, be allowed to speak on national television and radio. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said on 5 November there will be no more negotiating with Khudaberdiyev's group and demanded that the rebels surrender immediately. BP


Georgian and Russian representatives signed in Moscow on 3 November two agreements redefining Russia's diminishing role in helping to guard Georgia's borders, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreements follow the passage of a law by the Georgian parliament in July affirming that over the next two years, Georgia will assume sole responsibility for doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). One of the two agreements defines the ongoing areas of cooperation, which no longer include protecting Georgia's maritime borders. The second deals with the gradual transfer to Georgian jurisdiction of the areas still being jointly guarded and of property currently owned by the Russian federal Border Guard Service. LF


Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 4 November denied that during his visit to Israel last week, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian had offered to mediate between Israel and Iran, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998). But Gasparian added that Armenia does not exclude the possibility of such mediation if the government of either country requests it. LF


The ongoing debate on two draft election laws has been adjourned until 16 November after more than a dozen political parties again affirmed their support for the draft prepared by representatives of 11 parliamentary factions and groups, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November. That draft, which provides for 30 seats in the future 131-member parliament to be allocated in single- member constituencies and the remaining 101 on the basis of proportional representation, is regarded as minimizing the possibility of gerrymandering. The majority Yerkrapah group wants 80 seats allocated in single-member constituencies. Prominent oppositionist David Shahnazarian warned that opposition parties will consider boycotting next summer's parliamentary elections if the Yerkrapah draft law is passed. Yerkrapah deputy Andranik Manukian dismissed the boycott threat as irrelevant for the outcome of the poll. LF


Leaders of the National Security Party, which recently split from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), have outlined the party's program, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November. They pledged to strive for a tough Armenian stand in the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict and to promote the establishment of "strong Armenian statehood." The party's chairman, Garnik Isagulian, criticized the Armenian leadership's Karabakh policy as "unclear." Igor Muradian, one of the founders in 1988 of the movement for unification with Karabakh, told journalists that President Robert Kocharian is leading Armenia to "international isolation" and strained relations with "allies." Muradian predicted that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev may soon be tempted to resume the war in Nagorno-Karabakh owing to what Muradian sees as Azerbaijan's weakening geopolitical position. LF


Two prominent Ukrainian officials have again argued the merits of transporting some Caspian oil to international markets via Ukrainian territory rather than through the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Following a meeting of the Ukrainian-Polish Consultative Council, Security and Defense Council Secretary Vladimir Gorbulin pointed out on 3 November that transportation costs per metric ton of crude via Ukraine would be $10 cheaper than via Turkey. In Baku, Ukrainian ambassador Boris Alekseenko said that the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which links up with the Druzhba pipeline, would be able to transport 40 million tons per year on completion late in 1999. He said that Ukraine could refine half of this quantity domestically. Alekseenko also endorsed proposals for routing the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline via the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa and the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun, according to ANS-Press. LF


The European Commission on 4 November said that preliminary talks with Cyprus and 10 East European countries are "broadly on track." EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek said three of the countries not included in the "fast-track talks" group earlier this year--Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia--are performing better than expected. He added that the rate of Latvia's progress is sufficient for the commission to consider recommending that membership talks be launched with that country by the end of 1999. And he added that such talks could begin with Lithuania and Slovakia "within a reasonable period," AP reported. With regard to Bulgaria and Romania, the commission said these countries "cannot yet be regarded as market economies." The commission urged Hungary and Slovenia--which along with Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia belong to the fast-track group-- to keep up the pace of adapting their legislation to EU rules and regulations. All candidate countries, the commission said, must do more to protect human rights, improve their judicial system, and deal with corruption. MS


Latvian and Lithuanian officials have expressed disappointment over the European Commission's 4 November progress report. Speaking on Latvian Radio, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that since Latvia was the only country among the five would-be fast-track candidates whose progress was evaluated as "sufficient," he is confused at an EU statement that it wants to make sure Riga stays the course. "To my mind, we can state that there is a lack of consistency between a very good progress report and the conclusions [based on it]," Reuters quoted him as saying. Birkavs's Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Saudargas told journalists that the report is "discouraging, but not pessimistic." He commented that "the political will" of the EU to expand appears to be diminishing. Both Latvia and Lithuania have argued strongly that they should be included in the group of fast-track candidates. JC


In a document on the 3 October general elections in Latvia, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said that the EU did not include Latvia among the fast-track candidates for accession because of Riga's failure to integrate the country's Russian- speaking population, BNS reported on 4 November. Deputies from the assembly who observed the elections and the simultaneous referendum on amendments to the citizenship law noted that Russia continually criticized Latvia for flouting the rights of its Russian-speaking minority and regularly brought "more or less amicable pressure" to bear on Riga. They added that Latvia's chances of joining the EU would have been endangered if the referendum had been rejected, and they praised the victory of "common sense" among Latvians. JC


Minister for European Integration Alexandru Herlea on 4 November said the commission's evaluation confirms that Romania is now a democratic country and that progress has been made on adjusting legislation to European standards. Herlea said the evaluation shows Romania was in "a difficult situation" with regard to its economic performance and administrative reform and must now make "determined efforts to catch up the lost time." Premier Radu Vasile, returning from a three-day visit to France, said he is not surprised that the report included "negative aspects along with positive ones." "On the whole, it can be viewed as an indication of support for Romania," Romanian radio quoted him as saying. MS


Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 4 November that it is "very good that somebody finally tells the cruel truth to those who have been telling us that we were 'number one' in Central Europe," Reuters reported. Observers say this is a thinly-veiled reference to his predecessor, Vaclav Klaus. The European Commission report said the Czech Republic and Slovenia performed least well among the six "fast-track" countries in meeting the conditions that the EU set for each potential members in 1997. Zeman also told journalists that his minority cabinet has approved a draft budget providing for a deficit of 31 billion crowns ($1.07 billion). Last month, the parliament rejected a draft providing for a 26.8 billion crowns deficit, AP reported. MS


Thousands of miners demonstrated throughout Ukraine on 4 November to demand overdue wages and more government subsidies to the coal industry. Some 1,000 miners picketed the parliament and government building in Kyiv, while another 5,000 held a rally in Donetsk. Organizers said some 10,000 miners were on strike at their mines to support the demands of the demonstrators. Mykhaylo Volynets, a coal mining trade union leader, told Reuters that unless the government pays overdue wages to the miners, they will launch a "bigger nationwide strike in December for an indefinite period." The government owes the miners 2.4 billion hryvni (some $700 million) in back wages. JM


John Odling-Smee, the IMF's negotiator in talks with Ukraine, told journalists on 4 November in Kyiv that Ukraine should not print money in order to solve its problem of unpaid wages and pensions, AP and Ukrainian News reported. Odling-Smee added that he did not discuss the issue of money emission at his meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma the same day. Kuchma aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy, who earlier suggested that Ukraine will discuss monetary emission with the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), told Ukrainian News on 4 November that Kuchma "opposes the unacceptable inflationary consequences of any emission decision." JM


The Belarusian Free Trade Union on 4 November launched a two-day action to protest the government's social policy, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Trade unionists picketed major factories in Minsk, and a 3,000-strong rally in the mining city of Salihorsk demanded increased wages and pensions. The protests were supported by a strike of some 5,000 small traders in Hrodna. Following the financial crisis in Russia and subsequent inflation in Belarus, the average wage in Belarus plummeted from $70 in August to some $30 in October. The government-close Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions condemned the action, saying it was "far removed from trade union solidarity." JM


The private Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation on 4 November demanded that Germany pay compensation to Poles who were prisoners in Nazi concentration camps or slave laborers in firms in Nazi Germany, AP and PAP reported. The foundation claims that Western slave laborers received tens of thousands of marks, whereas individual Poles received compensation of only 700 marks ($425). Foundation chairman Jacek Turczynski appealed to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss slave labor compensation during his visit to Warsaw on 5 November. The foundation's deputy chairman, Jan Parys, added that there will be no full Polish- German reconciliation without a "settlement of historical issues. We back cooperation with Germany, but if we are to shake hands, they must be clean." JM


Estonia on 4 November sold a section of its nationwide power grid in what ETA described as the first privatization deal involving energy distribution in the former Soviet Union. In the 70 million kroon ($5.3 million) deal, Suenergia LEV, a private firm owned partly by a subsidiary of Imatran Voima, a Finnish energy company, purchased the Laanemaa Power Grid. The Estonian Privatization Agency is currently overseeing the division and sale of Eesti Energia, the state energy monopoly. JC


Latvian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Toms Baumanis told reporters on 4 November that Russia's criticism of legislation passed recently by the outgoing Latvian parliament indicates Moscow's "incomprehension of Latvia's situation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998), BNS reported. Baumanis argued that the law on education, under which only Latvian-language instruction is to be available in state schools, is in line with all international norms, including those of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. And he added that no international organization has made any recommendations about either the education law or the law on radio and television, which was also criticized by Moscow. JC


Premier Zeman told journalists on 4 November that his government will not react to Iran's decision to recall its ambassador from Prague in response to the launching of RFE/RL broadcasts to that country. The premier said that the government will wait until January 1999 and will then assess the consequences of the broadcasts after having monitored them, as it had originally planned, CTK reported. A Trade and Industry Ministry spokesman, commenting on Iran's threat to cut off economic links with Prague, said that although Iran is a "traditional partner," its share in the Czech Republic's foreign trade is only about 0.1 percent. MS


The new cabinet will propose changing the constitution to provide for direct presidential elections, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 4 November. Slovakia has been without a head of state since 2 March, when the term of office of former President Michal Kovac expired. The parliament in which Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia had a plurality could not agree on a compromise candidate to replace Kovac. Dzurinda told journalists that the new ruling coalition will support direct presidential elections, keeping its election campaign promise to the electorate, Reuters reported. Dzurinda said the elections must take place "as soon as possible," which observers say may mean January or February 1999. MS


Also on 4 November, the government abolished visa requirements for U.K. and Irish citizens. The requirements had been imposed by Meciar's government in its final days. That move was in retaliation for U.K. moves last month to require visas from Slovak citizens in a bid to stem the growing tide of asylum seekers from among Slovakia's Romani community, Reuters reported. MS


Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 4 November took over the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Ministers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Hungarian media reported. Spokesman Jack Hanning said the event has" a symbolic significance" since in November 1990, Hungary became the first state from Eastern Europe to join the council following the collapse of communism. MSZ


The government of the Kosovar shadow state issued a statement in Prishtina on 4 November saying that "the draft plan for an interim settlement in Kosova prepared by U.S. [Ambassador to Macedonia] Chris Hill is unacceptable. The plan cannot even serve as a basis for further discussion." The statement called for the formation of a "neutral Implementation Commission, composed of two representatives designated by the [shadow state], two designated by [Belgrade], and three individuals from abroad designated by the UN secretary general in cooperation with the EU presidency." The Kosovars said they are willing to negotiate with the Serbs in Geneva in the presence of foreign negotiators once the Independent Commission confirms that Belgrade has met the existing demands of the international community. The text added that the "interim agreement does not have to expressly confirm...that Kosova is an independent state, but the agreement must not prejudice" that view, either. PM


The statement issued by the shadow state in Prishtina on 4 November argued that any settlement in Kosova must take account of the existence of the shadow-state and its ministries and departments, which will guarantee full rights to all members of ethnic minorities. Elsewhere, senior Kosovar politician Fehmi Agani told the VOA's Albanian Service that Hill's proposal is "not yet acceptable." He stressed that the Kosovars demand "further guarantees" that the ethnic Albanians will receive a "fair share" of positions on the proposed police force. Ethnic Albanians make up some 90 percent of the province's population. Elsewhere, Hill told Reuters that the Kosovars "have gone beyond demanding independence to reviewing the specific clauses of the draft." PM/FS


Defense Minister Alain Richard said in Paris on 5 November that his country wants to "command and provide" the bulk of an all-European rapid reaction force to protect unarmed foreign monitors in Kosova. "France would like to take on a significant part of the responsibility for the security force for the monitors," he said. The proposed "extraction force," which will have a mandate to rescue any of the 2,000 monitors if they face danger, will consist of some 1,500 troops. Those troops will most likely be based in Macedonia. France has offered to provide 750 soldiers. The U.S. does not plan to send any ground troops. In Brussels on 4 November, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that the "extraction force" will be operational by the end of the month. PM


Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, who is the claimant to the Serbian throne, said in London on November 4 that the West gave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a "new lease on life" by negotiating with him and allowing him to play the role of a peacemaker, AP reported. The prince charged that Milosevic deliberately orchestrated the crisis in Kosova and "provoked NATO" into threatening air strikes so that he could then negotiate a settlement and portray himself to his own people as the man who "saved Serbia." Karadjordjevic added: "Serbia remains in darkness and ignorance, and the state- run media are singing praise to the president. Any hope of democratic reform is on hold, and that is serious." PM.


A spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said in The Hague on 5 November that "Yugoslavia has not given the necessary visas [for tribunal officials] to investigate [in Kosova]. They will not allow an investigation" there. The previous day Louise Arbour, who is the court's chief prosecutor, said that she and her staff have a clear mandate to investigate possible war crimes and other atrocities in Kosova. Critics of the recent agreement between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke have noted that the pact does not oblige Milosevic to cooperate with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 21 October 1998). PM


Serbian authorities in Uzice on 4 November stopped a truck carrying copies of the independent daily "Danas" from Podgorica and confiscated the newspapers. The editors of "Danas" recently resumed publication in Montenegro after the Serbian authorities banned them from publishing in Belgrade under a new media law (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 28 October 1998). PM


Nikola Poplasen took office as president of the Republika Srpska in Banja Luka on 4 November. He promised to work with the international community, to defend Serbian interests in the dispute over Brcko and to promote closer ties to Belgrade. Moderate Serbian legislators joined with non-Serbian deputies to re-elect Petar Djokic speaker of the parliament. Nationalist Serbian legislator Dragan Kalinic told members of the moderate Serbian Concord coalition that the hard-liners will go into opposition. Kalinic had earlier worked to strike a power-sharing deal with Concord that would lead to his election as speaker and the exclusion of Croats and Muslims from key decisions. Before the parliament opened, the international community's Carlos Westendorp told CNN that the return to power by nationalist Bosnian Serbs would mean an end to foreign assistance to the Republika Srpska. PM


The arrival of three Turkish ships at Pasha Liman on 4 November marked the beginning of the Turkish navy's efforts to reconstruct Albania's main naval base. Pasha Liman is in a poor state of repair after citizens looted it during unrest in 1997. Turkey has granted Albania $5 million for the port's reconstruction and is providing 50 experts to work on the project. It is also assisting Albania in the reconstruction of a military shipyard near Vlora and of the naval academy, dpa reported. To that end, it is granting an additional $16 million. FS


A former government minister who asked not to be identified told "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 4 November that he met suspected Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Tirana in 1994. The minister said that Bin Laden was part of a Saudi delegation and identified himself as a businessman. He offered to finance the building of apartment blocks and a health care center in an Albanian village, AP reported. The same day, the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Bin Laden's arrest for his suspected involvement in the August U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Some media reports in August suggested that the bombings were in retaliation for several arrests of suspected Islamist terrorists in Albania this summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). FS


Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, signed cultural and education exchange agreements in Beijing on 4 November. Milo is on a two-week Asian tour aimed at boosting economic ties. Tang praised the "traditional friendship" of the two countries, saying Beijing will never forget Albania's support for China's admission to the UN and over the issue of Taiwan, ATSH reported. Communist Albania sided with China in the Sino-Soviet dispute in the 1960s. FS


Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on 4 November praised Bulgaria's policies toward its Turkish minority, saying Bulgaria's ethnic Turks are "loyal citizens of their country" as well as "a bridge" between Turkey and Bulgaria, BTA reported. Demirel expressed support for Bulgaria's quest to NATO membership. Also on 4 November, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and his visiting Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, signed an agreement under which Sofia will pay pensions to thousands of ethnic Turks who left Bulgaria during the communist period. They also signed agreements on free trade and border demarcation, Reuters reported. In other news, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov, commenting on Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj's recent statement on the possibility of setting up an East European military bloc against NATO, said that the idea is "ridiculous." MS


by Michael J. Jordan

It's almost deja vu for Zagorka Golubovic. Except this time, it's even worse. In 1968, when Golubovic was a 38-year-old anthropology professor at Belgrade University, her classroom criticism of Yugoslavia's communist regime helped spark a six-day protest in which some 25,000 students and faculty barricaded themselves in. Soon after, loyalty to the regime became a key qualification for work. As a result, Golubovic and seven others were banned from teaching in 1975, the only such action ever taken in communist Yugoslavia.

Today, Golubovic is just as unwilling to kow-tow to authority. She and more than 100 outspoken colleagues have rejected a new law demanding what amounts to an oath of loyalty to Slobodan Milosevic, the increasingly totalitarian Yugoslav president. The subsequent dismissals--a few faculty were forcibly removed during lectures and continued to teach out on the sidewalk--have spawned a movement to create an "unofficial" system of post-graduate studies.

"I'm a person not easily disappointed or frustrated, but I feel even more helpless than I did in 1968 or 1975 because at least then we felt we had some autonomy," said Golubovic, who was recently in Budapest to discuss creation of the Alternative Academic Educational Network. "But we still believe we can do something about it."

Such optimism is rare nowadays in Serbia. Milosevic's stable of rabid nationalists and unreformed Communists have launched an all-out assault not only on the university system but on the independent media. Not surprisingly, these two sectors are virtually the last vestiges of free thinking in Serbia. They were also responsible for the most serious threat to Milosevic's decade-long grip on power: the anti-government street protests of winter 1996-1997.

Curiously, the crackdown on both higher education and the independent media comes in the wake of the agreement signed by Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke. The deal averted NATO military strikes against Serbian military facilities by promising some sort of autonomy for Kosova, Serbia's war-ravaged southern province. Belgrade conspiracy theorists suspect that Holbrooke-- in expressing the West's desperation to halt the Kosova bloodshed--may have given Milosevic the green light to bulldoze his domestic opponents. "We know that compared with a bloody uprising and bloody reaction, what happens to Serbian professors and the media is puny," conceded Vojin Dimitrijevic, a prominent law professor at Belgrade University. "But you cannot count on a lasting settlement when you allow one partner to enact brutally oppressive laws."

Indeed, Milosevic's recent tactics do not augur well for the Kosova cease-fire, say dissidents. Milosevic is entrusted to serve up a palatable autonomy plan for the ethnic Albanians of Kosova, who took up arms for an independent state. But at the same time, he crushes the few institutions of autonomy for his own ethnic brethren.

Would the Kosova Albanians even want what the rest of Serbia has? It's enough to drive someone like Dimitrijevic over the edge. The legal expert was vice chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee from 1992-1994. But in April 1992 he plummeted into a severe depression when his worst predictions came true: war in Bosnia, orchestrated by Milosevic. On a sabbatical in Norway at the time, Dimitrijevic found some comfort in the suggestion of his Norwegian psychiatrist: "Where you come from, anyone who doesn't suffer psychological problems is probably either abnormal or immoral."

But Dimitrijevic recovered and has since rediscovered his spirit of resistance. He is director of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. And since his new dean sent him packing last month, he has helped spearhead the new Alternative Academic Educational Network. The post-graduate--albeit unaccredited--courses the network will offer will almost certainly draw top-notch students since they'll be taught by the cream of Serbian scholars. Ultimately, these outcast professors hope the network may lay the foundation for Serbia's first independent university.

The need for an alternative to the Serbian universities is obvious, just as the Kosova Albanians realized when they established their "shadow" school system earlier this decade. The new university law politicized the system overnight: Milosevic now picks the education minister, who selects university deans, who, in turn, choose faculty. Hiring is no longer the job of a panel of experts or based on scholarly criteria. A contract spells out loyalty to the dean. This paves the way for less talented, but more loyal faculty, while degrading the quality of education, said Vladeta Jankovic, a literature professor and a conscientious objector.

The state is also driving a wedge between students and faculty. Students have been mollified--for now--with looser requirements for passing classes and more time to take and re- take exams. Some deans, said Jankovic, are also encouraging some students to inform on their professors--who's talking politics, who's skipping lectures.

Not all students are playing along. When a replacement for Jankovic was brought in from the provinces, he said all 250 students rose and marched out of the lecture hall. And a couple of professors grabbed headlines last week by teaching on the sidewalks immediately off campus, with their students looking on.

"We're supposed to teach students facts, methods, and how to think," Jankovic said. "To abuse that position, to emphasize political affiliation, is criminal. The regime wants blind obedience, but we must set an example for the public--that we should not be afraid." The author is a Budapest-based journalist (e-mail: