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Newsline - November 6, 1998


Imomali Rakhmonov told journalists on 6 November that government forces have forced rebels out of many areas in the country's northern Leninabad Oblast, Russian media reported. Rakhmonov said Chkalovsk airport and several administrative buildings in the city of Khujand have been retaken from the rebels. Government forces are to be joined shortly by 1,000 fighters from the United Tajik Opposition under field commander Mirzo Ziyoyev. Rakhmonov said the rebels are retreating and vowed that all those who took part in the mutiny will be "eliminated or captured." Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have strengthened units along the border with Tajikistan to prevent the rebels from escaping into their countries. BP


Rebels in northern Tajikistan blew up a strategic railway bridge on 5 November. Rebel commander Mahmud Khudaberdiyev told Russian Television on 5 November that his group is in control of "seven or eight districts" in northern Tajikistan. He added that said "the people are supporting us." Tajik Radio, however, denied Russian Television reports that rebels wiped out 35 percent of an airborne unit sent to the area. Khudaberdiyev added that his forces have already mined the Kairakkum Reservoir and threatened to blow it up if the government does not accept their demands. But President Rakhmonov said on 6 November that government troops are in control of the reservoir. BP


Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zagipa Baliyeva said on 5 November that Akezhan Kazhegeldin is not eligible to run in the presidential elections scheduled for 10 January, Interfax reported. Baliyeva explained that the former prime minister is barred owing to a fine he received for participating in an unsanctioned meeting of a newly formed opposition group last month. However, she added that if a higher court overturns the ruling before 30 November, Kazhegeldin would be allowed to run in the elections. The U.S. State Department criticized the decision the same day pointing out that Kazakhstan, as an OSCE member state, is obliged to uphold the individual's right to seek office without discrimination, free and fair campaigning, and equal access to the media during the election campaign. BP


Dariga Nazarbayeva, daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced on 6 November she will temporarily step down as head of the national news agency, Khabar, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Nazarbayeva said the decision was based on "ethical reasons" and that she will resume her duties after the 10 January presidential elections. BP


Having lost a law suit brought by the government this summer, "DAT" encountered further difficulties when all copies of its 31 October issue were impounded by customs officials, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The newspaper is now being printed in Russia and Kyrgyzstan because its equipment was confiscated in connection with the law suit. Customs officials seized the shipment of newspapers arriving from Russia, saying customs procedures had not been observed. BP


Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 5 November that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group may bring "substantially revised" proposals on resolving the Karabakh conflict when they visit Armenia and Azerbaijan next week, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian said he is not aware of the content of the new proposals but believes that they provide for a "package" settlement with "new approaches and no preconditions." Yerevan and Stepanakert both insist on a package solution rather than the "phased" peace plan proposed by the OSCE last fall, which Baku accepted. On their last visit to the region in mid-September, the Minsk Group co-chairmen suggested new approaches to resolving the conflict in talks. Karabakh officials said those approaches reflected a greater understanding of the Armenian position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and18 September 1998). LF


Oskanian also said that the hearings on the Karabakh conflict under the aegis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe may now take place on 16 December. Those hearings had originally been planned for 3 November but were postponed after the Azerbaijani government announced it will participate only if representatives of the former Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh are invited to attend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27 October 1998). LF


Oskanian and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin gave signed a protocol on exchanging the instruments of ratification of the bilateral treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance signed in Moscow in August 1997 by President Yeltsin and then Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 5 November. Sredin characterized that treaty, to which Azerbaijan objected, as "laying a serious foundation" for bilateral relations. On 4 November, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian met with outgoing Russian ambassador Andrei Ournov in Yerevan to discuss military cooperation, which is an important component of the 1997 treaty. And in Moscow, Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosian met with Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov to discuss the upcoming visit to Russia of Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian. They also discussed avoiding double taxation and supplies of nuclear fuel for Armenia's nuclear power station, Noyan Tapan reported. LF


Some 2,000-3,000 workers participated in a rally organized by the Belarusian Free Trade Union at the Minsk Tractor Plant on 5 November, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The rally adopted a resolution demanding that the minimum monthly wage be increased to $100 and that workers' views be reported on radio and television. After the rally, some 500 workers marched to the presidential residence to hand the resolution to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was invited to the meeting but did not attend. Later, police arrested a workers' movement representative and two activists from the opposition Belarusian Popular Front. JM


Ivan Pashkevich, deputy head of Lukashenka's administration, told the protest rally that the government can increase the minimum monthly wage to $100 either by mass layoffs or by attracting more Western investments. In response, speakers at the rally demanded that the presidential and governmental administration be reduced by 80 percent and non-budget presidential funds be used to subsidize the hike. Reuters reported that referring to the organizers of the rally, Pashkevich told the crowd that "half of these defenders of the people were bought by the West." JM


During a meeting with the governor of Russia's Vologda Oblast in Minsk on 5 November, Lukashenka said he will not allow the "card of the Belarusian-Russian Union" to be played in Russia's domestic political struggle, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka commented that "Chubais, Gaidar, Yavlinskii, Nemtsov have ruined the country and do not intend to unite it." He advised Russian politicians to base their programs on "other criteria [than Belarusian-Russian integration] when seeking the Russian presidency or a parliamentary seat." And he stressed that he will maintain contacts with both the Russian regions and the current government of Yevgenii Primakov. JM


Visiting Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, on 5 November that Lithuania and Ukraine should join forces to counteract the economic and financial crisis in the region, dpa reported. Both countries agreed to speed up negotiations on a free trade agreement and to develop projects related to the Baltic-Black Sea transport routes. Adamkus said the two countries should also work together to gain admission to European structures, Reuters reported. The EU considers the slow pace of market reform in Ukraine a hindrance to that country's EU candidacy, while the European Commission said earlier this week that Lithuania's hope for fast- track negotiations on EU membership is premature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1998). JM


The heads of the delegations to talks on the Estonian- Russian border agreement expect that accord to be initialed at their next and probably last meeting, ETA reported on 5 November. Estonian Foreign Minister Raul Malk made that comment after two- day talks in Tallinn, which both he and Ludvig Tshizhov, the head of the Russian border delegation, said had yielded "good results." The date of the next meeting, to take place in Moscow, will depend on how quickly the working groups are able to wrap up technical matters such as translating and printing, Malk said. A draft border agreement was approved in Petroskoi in 1996 by then Foreign Ministers Siim Kallas and Yevgenii Primakov. JC


Addressing the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 4 November, Estonian President Lennart Meri expressed concern that enthusiasm for NATO enlargement is fading, BNS reported the next day. "Sadly enough, I do not find the rhetoric of enlargement in the political speeches of decision-makers any more. Other problems and events have overshadowed this truly important issue," Meri commented. He added that he also regrets that Russia's stance on "red lines and ex-Soviet territories" is often seen as an obstacle to NATO expansion: "We have to understand that we are facing a new situation, where Russia must find new ways of interrelating with the rest of the world." JC


Leader of the People's Party Andris Skele says his group is prepared to join a cabinet headed by Vilis Kristopans of Latvia's Way on condition that the coalition agreement is binding on all cabinet members and the government includes no members of either the Social Democratic Party or the National Harmony Party, BNS reported on 5 November. Skele was speaking after talks with Latvia's Way, the Fatherland and Freedom party, and the New Party, which have already concluded a coalition agreement. JC


Aleksandras Lileikis arrived in court in a wheelchair on 6 November but shortly after was rushed off in an ambulance, AP reported, citing BNS. Minutes after he had proclaimed his innocence, his hands reportedly began trembling, he started reciting the Lord's Prayer, and he asked for more air. He was taken to a room adjoining the court before being whisked off to the hospital. According to doctors present at the court, the 91-year-old defendant may have suffered a heart attack. Lileikis has been charged with ordering Jews to their death during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. His trial has been repeatedly postponed owing to his alleged poor health. Last month, a team of independent doctors ruled that he was fit to stand trial. Court proceedings have been delayed until 9 November. JC


German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on 5 November pledged support "without reservations" to Poland's bid to join the EU but mentioned no date, Polish and Western media reported. "We support Poland's wish to join the EU as quickly as possible," Reuters quoted him as saying after meeting with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek in Warsaw. Schroeder's predecessor, Helmut Kohl, said three years ago that Poland should join the EU in 2000. "Compared with my predecessor, I lack the imagination to name a date," Schroeder commented. Deputy Foreign Minister Guenter Verheugen, who accompanied Schroeder, said Germany's target for Poland's EU entry is 2002, AP reported. Buzek said after talks with Schroeder that Poland will be ready to meet EU membership conditions within a few years. He admitted that both sides have "different views on whether [Poland's EU entry] date should be established." JM


Schroeder ruled out any additional state funds to compensate Poles for slave labor in Nazi Germany. The issue of compensation was raised in Poland on the eve of Schroeder's visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1998). The German chancellor said the state has transferred 500 million marks ($300 million) to a fund that subsequently paid 500 marks each to former slave laborers. Schroeder and Buzek also discussed free access of Poles to the EU labor market after Poland's EU entry. Schroeder's government is believed to fear an inflow of Polish cheap labor force and to opt for a temporary ban on Poles seeking jobs in EU countries. Commenting on the issue, Schroeder said his government will back a solution that ensures "nobody in Germany will have to be afraid of EU expansion." JM


Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 4 November received new Slovak Defense Minister Pavol Kanis, the first member of the new Slovak cabinet to visit the Czech Republic, CTK reported. In response to Kanis's invitation to visit Slovakia, Zeman said he will do so before the end of this month. He added that Prague wants Bratislava to rejoin the Visegrad group. Kanis told Czech President Vaclav Havel the same day that the new Slovak government wants to "overcome the cool Czech-Slovak relations of recent years." Havel assured Kanis of Czech support for Bratislava's bid to join Euro-Atlantic structures. MS


Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists in Brussels on 5 November that he wants to convince the EU and NATO that his country must gain entry into both organizations, Reuters reported. After talks at the European Parliament, he said he hopes that by the time EU leaders meet in Vienna on 11-12 December to decide whether to expand the "fast-track group" from the current six, Slovakia will have made enough progress to warrant "a more favorable assessment" than that released by the EU on 4 November. Bratislava was not included in the group mainly because of the political record of the previous Slovak government. After a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Dzurinda said Slovakia is "ready to go to extreme lengths to make a new start" in its relations with NATO. MS


The cabinet on 5 November decided to delay the introduction of appeals courts, despite opposition from senior judiciary officials, Hungarian media reported. It had been decided earlier that such courts would be introduced on 1 January 1999. Cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai announced that within six months, the government will set a new date for launching the four-tier judicial system. On 4 November, the National Judicial Council had said it would appeal to the Constitutional Court if the parliament approved the cabinet's proposal to delay introducing the appeals courts. Council chairman Pal Solt, who is also president of the Supreme Court, said the cabinet is challenging the judicial reform initiated by the previous government and that its actions are illegal. MSZ


Endre Juhasz, head of Hungary's EU mission in Brussels, said on 4 November that his country can be satisfied with the EU Commission's country assessment, which gave Hungary the best mark among applicants for EU membership. He welcomed the fact that the commission did not recommend moving any country from the second group of applicants up to the six-member group of "fast track" states. MSZ


Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, who is the president of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told a press conference there on 5 November that President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia has become a "rogue state, one that holds the international rule of law in contempt." McDonald's remarks came in response to the decision of the Yugoslav authorities to deny visas to top officials of the tribunal. PM


State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 5 November that Belgrade has failed "to comply with [its] obligations by not issuing visas" to investigators from The Hague. He added that "we categorically reject the Serbian authorities' view that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction [in Kosova]. We intend to raise this matter in the Security Council as a clear case of noncompliance." Rubin also noted that "the [Serbian] police appear to be hardening and winterizing some of their positions [in Kosova]. The [OSCE's] monitors have received reports that some of these posts are new and unauthorized under the agreement" between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Rubin also said that Washington will deny support to the Kosova Liberation Army if the U.S. determines that the guerrillas are the "provocateurs" in any incidents. PM


U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Chris Hill, who is Washington's chief envoy for Kosova, said in Belgrade on 5 November that he and his fellow diplomats "have made some serious progress, not only in reducing violence but also in coming around with some sort of political solution that will meet basic interests of either side. We are very much on the road and moving ahead. I hope we're getting to our destination, [but] we still have a long way to go." Hill later left Belgrade after a planned meeting with Milosevic was called off, Reuters reported. Sources close to the talks said only that "the time has not worked out." It is unclear who called off the meeting. Critics have charged Hill with being less firm in dealing with Milosevic than was his predecessor in the talks on Kosova, Robert Gelbard. PM


Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Prishtina on 5 November that Kosova's future lies not in conflicts "or in attempts at establishing apartheid and the self-isolation of ethnic communities," presumably meaning the Kosovar shadow-state. Milutinovic added that Serbia's goal is to promote development in Kosova "and end the spiral of violence, xenophobia, as well as chauvinistic, religious, and historical prejudice; in other words, everything that divides peoples," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Several representatives of the independent journalists affected by the recent Serbian media crackdown said in Bonn on 5 November that members of the German public should appeal to their government and the OSCE to put pressure on Belgrade to reestablish freedom of expression, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. A spokesman for the journalists said that they are "guilty only of wanting to inform people about what is going on" in Serbia. He added that Milosevic is leading the country to "National Socialism or fascism" and stressed that the democratization of Serbia is the key to solving problems in Kosova, Bosnia, and the Balkans in general. PM


The international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 5 November that he will be pleased to see the Republika Srpska legislature keep Prime Minister Milorad Dodik in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1998). The parliament must choose a head of government by 14 November. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, Edhem Bicakcic, who is vice president of the Muslim Party for Democratic Action, said that Muslims in the Bosnian Serb legislature are willing to support Dodik in return for an unspecified number of cabinet posts. The prime minister's Concord coalition of moderate Serbs has, however, so far rejected including non-Serbs in the government. PM


Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 5 November that "haughtiness" on the part of government officials and business managers has led to "an erosion of public morale...widespread dissatisfaction." He called for the prosecution of individuals who have abused their position for personal gain, "no matter who that person is or what position he holds." Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) has been losing popularity since the war ended in 1995 and Croats turned their attention to social and economic questions in a country where the average salary is $450 per month. Many people suspect that individuals well-connected to the HDZ profit from privatization and government contracts. Tudjman's family has also been linked to illegally gained wealth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). PM


Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said in Washington on 5 November that he hopes his country will "receive some encouragement" at the April 1999 NATO summit in its quest for membership in the Atlantic alliance. He added that he recognizes that "no one [in NATO] wants to open serious discussions about the next step" following the admission of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Drnovsek also noted, however, that he has "not heard [of] any problems regarding Slovenia's candidacy." PM


An unnamed high-ranking official in the Education Ministry told "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 5 November that some 20,000 children under the age of 13 failed to show up for classes at all or stopped attending school during 1998. The figure does not include children who were absent for only a few months and then returned or those who live abroad. The official blamed parents for their children's truancy. He demanded a tougher implementation of laws on mandatory school attendance and called for stricter punishment for parents whose children play truant. Authorities say they have tried to fine parents but only about 20 percent have paid, the "Albanian Daily News" reported on 6 November. FS


Sabri Godo, a member of the Republican Party and head of the commission that drafted the proposed constitution, said in Tirana on 5 November that the draft is not the exclusive property of any single political party, the Enter news agency reported (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1998). Godo stressed that "we have prepared a constitution that Albania needs" and that does "not contain any ideology." The same day, opposition Democratic Party Secretary- General Genc Pollo said the draft contradicts itself because it refers to protecting the equality of citizens and also to denying full civil rights to sentenced offenders. The Democrats have called for a boycott of the 22 November referendum on the constitution. On 4 November, however, George Papandreou, who heads the Council of Europe's Council of Ministers, appealed to the opposition to participate in the referendum "not only for its own benefit but also for that of Albanian democracy as a whole," "Albanian Daily News" reported. FS


The cabinet on 5 November announced that the Finance Ministry will be "urgently reorganized" to oversee structural reform and the State Property Fund "de-bureaucratized" by laying off 500 employees. Within one week, the fund is to submit a list of loss-making state enterprises that will be closed. President Emil Constantinescu chaired the meeting, the first time he has done so since taking office in 1996. The cabinet also decided on measures to improve the social protection of those laid-off and of pensioners. Premier Radu Vasile appealed to ministers to show solidarity and to the coalition's parliamentary deputies to resist the temptation to represent "local interests." He said that the recovery program will be "drastic and painful" but that he hopes that within three to seven months, it will help "overcome a difficult period." MS


Vladimir Ciobanu, a parliamentary deputy representing the Democratic Convention of Moldova, told BASA-press on 5 November that the ruling coalition has "already agreed on a replacement for [Premier] Ion Ciubuc and all that remains is for President [Petru] Lucinschi to agree [to the change]." Iurie Rosca, deputy chairman of the parliament, earlier told journalists that the resignation of the cabinet is "imminent in view of the present difficult economic situation," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 3 November. The question, Rosca said, is "not whether the government will resign, but when it will do so." On 5 November, the Moldovan currency gained somewhat in value, trading at between 7 and 8 lei to the U.S. dollar. MS


Petar Stoyanov on 5 November signed into law a bill passed last month that prohibits former communist leaders and secret police agents from holding office for five years. He said that it would be "very naive to believe such a law can de-communize Bulgaria," adding that this can be achieved only by creating a class of owners of small-scale and medium-sized property, fully restituting land confiscated by the communists, and doing away with the economic power of the former communists, AFP reported. MS


by Patrick Moore

Macedonian voters have given a clear mandate to the opposition coalition to form the next government. Questions remain, however, about the exact composition of the new cabinet and about some of its policies.

On 3 November, the Electoral Commission released the final returns of the second stage of the parliamentary elections, which took place two days earlier. The most votes went to the coalition of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO- DPMNE) and the Democratic Alternative (DA), which took 58 out of 120 seats. The Social Democrats, who led the outgoing government, obtained only 29 seats. The two main ethnic Albanian parties, which fielded joint candidates to ensure that Albanians were elected in mainly Albanian areas, have 24 seats. The Liberal Democrats won four, the Socialists two, and the Alliance of Roma one. Voting will be repeated in two districts in which irregularities took place.

The constitution states that President Kiro Gligorov must soon ask a leader of the party that won the most votes to form a new government. It is unclear who that person will be. VMRO leader Ljubco Georgievski said during the campaign that he would be the prime minister in a VMRO-DA government and that this is specified in the coalition agreement. But a DA spokesman told reporters on 3 November that "agreements can be changed" and suggested that DA leader Vasil Tupurkovski might become the next prime minister.

It is unclear whether the DA spokesman was serious about his party claiming the prime minister's office or whether his remarks reflect jockeying between the coalition partners for the more powerful and prestigious cabinet posts. Many observers said during the campaign that the purpose behind the formation of the coalition had been to secure the support of the multi-ethnic DA for the Macedonian nationalist VMRO in the parliamentary elections and the backing of the large VMRO electorate for Tupurkovski in the 1999 presidential vote. If that theory is correct, it would not be in Tupurkovski's interest for the DA to provoke a clash with the VMRO before the presidential elections and certainly not before the government itself is formed.

Perhaps the main question related to the formation of the new government is not that of the relationship between the VMRO and DA but rather of who else will join that coalition. The VMRO and DA are three votes short of an absolute majority in the parliament, and it is unclear from where they will get the necessary support.

Speculation has so far centered on the possibility that the VMRO and DA will form a broad-based coalition with one of the two main ethnic Albanian parties, namely the moderate Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) or the more nationalistic Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH). The PDSH is the more likely partner of the two, since the PPD was part of the outgoing coalition and hence is "tainted" in the eyes of many VMRO-DA supporters. A PDSH spokesman recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" that his party does not exclude any possibilities in post-election coalition talks. The PDSH and VMRO earlier agreed on a power- sharing arrangement in Skopje, which may prove to be the model for the future government.

Regardless of which parties form the new government, one thing is clear: voters gave their trust first and foremost to Georgievski because they were willing to give him a chance to end corruption and over-regulation of the economy, promote economic growth, and attract foreign investment. In preparing for his successful campaign, the man who began his political career as a fiery nationalist reinvented himself as a neo-liberal. Voters will now expect him to deliver. If he does not succeed in raising the standard of living and reducing unemployment, the voters may turn him out of office at the next opportunity or the nationalist wing of the VMRO, which never fully accepted Georgievski's shift from nationalist to economic issues, may oust him from the party leadership.

Other questions surround the likely foreign policy of the VMRO-DA government. Georgievski told "RFE/RL Newsline" recently that he is interested in good relations with all his neighbors and does not want any foreign policy problems to "distract" the government's attention from the economy. Observers have suggested, however, that he may not be as close to Serbia as were his predecessors, many of whom had long-standing personal links to the Belgrade establishment. Georgievski's links are more toward Sofia and Athens.

One question affecting ties to Serbia will be whether to allow NATO to use Macedonian territory for the alliance's verification mission in Kosova. Before the first round of the elections on 18 October, Georgievski suggested that he did not want Macedonia to become involved such a project. But in late October, he pledged to pursue "continuity" in foreign policy and respect any agreements that the previous government may have reached with NATO. It may be that Georgievski does not want possible tensions with NATO to distract him from the economy. Moreover, he may realize that if Macedonia wants integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and to meet with the good will of Western countries, it must show itself to be a valuable partner in political as well as in economic affairs.