LOWER HOUSE GIVES PRESIDENT RIGHT TO DISMISS REGIONAL LEADERS...
State Duma deputies on 19 July overrode the Federation Council's earlier veto of the bill allowing Russia's president to dismiss regional leaders and disband local parliaments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000). The vote was 361 to 35 with eight abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the amendments to the law on the principles for legislative and executive government bodies, Russia's president can dismiss regional leaders, including both governors of oblasts and presidents of republics, for violating federal laws. A court ruling and a note from the Prosecutor-General is required to confirm that a regional leader is facing criminal charges. In order to dissolve a local legislature, the president must submit the bill to the federal State Duma. Since deputies overrode the upper house's veto, the bill now needs only to be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. JAC
...AS BILL DISSOLVING UPPER HOUSE MOVES CLOSER TO BECOMING LAW
Duma deputies also voted to approve a compromise bill amending the law on forming the Federation Council. The new amendments had been agreed upon by a Conciliatory Commission composed of members of both houses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). The vote was 307 to 88 with five abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill will now return to the Federation Council for final approval before being submitted to President Putin. Deputies rejected a motion by the Fatherland-All Russia faction to submit the bill on the dismissal of regional leaders to a Conciliatory Commission, as some Federation Council members had suggested after the upper house had rejected the bill. "Segodnya" noted on 19 July that deputies would be loathe to postpone their summer vacations in order to participate in another Conciliatory Commission. JAC
BEREZOVSKII SAYS GOOD-BYE TO LOWER HOUSE
Boris Berezovskii offered his official letter of resignation from the State Duma on 19 July. Before doing so, Berezovskii joked that an Englishman leaves without saying goodbye while a Jew says goodbye without leaving. "Jews in Russia are polite and obliging," he added. (Although ethnically Jewish, Berezovskii is reportedly a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.) Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who is a long-time Berezovskii foe, told reporters the previous day that Berezovskii is irritated that "Putin's policy of revising economic and privatization decisions made in the era of Boris Yeltsin could affect the machinations [Berezovskii] conducted and for which the time has come to answer." JAC
OFFICIALS PREDICT REVENUE WINDFALL THIS YEAR...
State Duma Budget Committee (Russian Regions) Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters on 18 July that additional federal budget revenues this year could exceed 100 billion rubles ($3.6 billion). The same day, Duma Central Bank subcommittee chairman (Yabloko) Mikhail Zadornov put the figure even higher, forecasting that additional revenues will total more than 200 billion rubles. According to Zadornov, the budget is being fulfilled with not only a primary but also a standard surplus of 1.5 percent of GDP. Zadornov concluded that the bulk of the additional revenues will be used to fill the gap left by foreign loans that were budgeted but are unlikely to ever be received. Zadornov added that extra money will likely be spent on defense, science, and social programs as well as on transfers to regions. JAC
...AS GERMAN CHANCELLOR TELLS RUSSIA TO PAY UP
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 July, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called on Russia to pay its foreign debts and prove its creditworthiness. Schroeder said "Russia is not a poor developing country, but a world power" and "has the human and material resources necessary to cope by itself with its financial obligations." Schroeder's statement is only the most recent by German officials that Berlin will not forgive Russia's debt inherited from the Soviet Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 2000). JAC
LUZHKOV WANTS CHIRAC TO INTERVENE IN TALL SHIP CASE
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has sent a letter to Jacques Chirac urging the French president to intervene in the case of the Russian tall ship "Sedov," AP reported on 18 July. The "Sedov," which is being held in French waters pending a legal hearing at the end of this week, is caught up in a legal dispute between the Swiss company Noga and the Russian government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). Luzhkov said that the 115 or so youths aboard the vessel have become "little more than hostages." Also on 18 July, Interfax quoted a member of President Putin's entourage in China as saying that a meeting between the French and Russian presidents during the upcoming Okinawa summit has been canceled. The source said the seizure of the "Sedov" is one of the reasons for the cancellation. JC
ANALYST FEARS FOR RUSSIA'S FUTURE UNDER 'KVASHNIN PLAN'
Writing in "Vremya MN" on 18 July, Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S.-Canada Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, argued that if chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin is allowed to implement his plan to bring the Strategic Rocket Forces under the direct control of the General Staff, a "strategic message" will be sent to the U.S. that "Russia is prepared to discard [the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty]...the foundation of strategic stability for decades." Russia, Rogov argued, is no longer a superpower, rather an "Indonesia with missiles"; "abandoning the nuclear shield," however, "will turn Russia into an Indonesia without missiles." And there will be no reversing this situation, he warned, since the "Russian missile industry will be destroyed for good." By contrast, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's proposal to maintain a "single operational command over all components of the strategic nuclear forces" will allow the "preservation of Russia's status with minimal expenses," according to Rogov. JC
NATO STILL UNINFORMED ABOUT PUTIN'S ABM PROPOSAL
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 July, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson noted that the alliance still has not received any details on President Putin's proposal for a joint European anti-missile defense system. Putin first made that proposal early last month, on the eve of U.S. President Bill Clinton's trip to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 June 2000). Robertson said that NATO will consider Putin's initiative "because all constructive proposals from Moscow are welcome." He also said that he does not subscribe to the view that Russia is trying to split NATO by proposing a joint ABM system, adding that the "majority of people" encourage cooperation with Moscow. JC
GANTEMIROV DEFIES KADYROV...
Beslan Gantemirov, named last week as first deputy to interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, on 18 July ordered some 2,000 armed militiamen to "comb" the town of Gudermes, where Kadyrov's administration is located, in a search for Chechen militants. Gantemirov later said the action, taken in consultation with Grozny Mayor Supyan Makhchaev, was in retaliation for Kadyrov's decision to sack six local administrators in Grozny and Achkhoi-Martan. But Kadyrov told Interfax on 18 July that Gantemirov and Makhchaev had agreed to those firings during talks two days earlier. LF
...AND INCURS REPRIMAND FROM MOSCOW
Chechen military commandant Lieutenant General Ivan Babichev said on 18 July that Gantemirov had no authorization to embark on his "mopping-up" operation in Gudermes, terming that action illegal. In Moscow, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii similarly said that only Babichev or deputy presidential envoy for South Russia Lieutenant General Vladimir Bokovikov are empowered to order such operations, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS the following day that Kadyrov's firing of the six officials was lawful and remains in force. But he added that it is desirable for Gantemirov and Kadyrov to continue operating as a team. The likelihood they will be able to do so appears minimal, however, given that the two men failed to resolve their differences at a meeting on 19 July at which Gantemirov again demanded that the six men be reinstated, which Kadyrov refused to do. "I do not exclude the possibility that Gantemirov is plotting a coup," Kadyrov told ITAR-TASS on 19 July. LF
LEADING CHECHEN POLITICIAN WOUNDED IN ASSASSINATION BID
Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus President Yusup Soslambekov was shot in the head and shoulder on 18 July by an unidentified man on a Moscow street, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Izvestiya" reported. Soslambekov is a former Chechen defense minister who joined the opposition to then President Djokhar Dudaev in 1992, and became a member of President Aslan Maskhadov's administration in 1998 as liaison between Grozny and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1998). He was elected president of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus in 1996. LF
NEW PROTEST DEMONSTRATION IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA
Some 3,000 representatives of the Cherkess and Abasin minorities convened an unsanctioned meeting in Cherkessk on 18 July to renew their demand that parity between the republic's ethnic groups be observed in personnel appointments, Interfax reported. Specifically, they demanded that President Vladimir Semenov appoint a Cherkess as prime minister, as he had agreed to do last fall. The demonstrators also expressed concern that Berezovskii's imminent resignation from the State Duma, in which he represented Karachaevo-Cherkessia, will negatively impact on the political situation there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). Semenov for his part claimed that Berezovskii himself had orchestrated the protest demonstration. "If Berezovskii resigns from the Duma, Karachaevo-Cherkessia will heave a sigh of relief," "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 19 July quoted Semenov as saying. Also on 18 July, unknown persons blew up several hundred meters of railway track near Cherkessk. LF
FARM OUTPUT HOLDS STEADY
Agricultural production rose 0.8 percent during the first six months of 2000 compared with the same period in 1999, the State Statistics Committee reported on 18 July. However, compared with the first half of 1998, farm output was down 3.5 percent. June's agricultural output also fell 0.2 percent compared with the same month last year. Livestock continued to decline, as the number of cattle as of 1 June dipped 1.7 percent from the same time last year, while the number of sheep and goats fell 3.0 percent. The Economics Ministry predicted in May that agricultural production in 2000 will grow by no more than 3 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2000). JAC
ANOTHER GROUP SPLITS AWAY FROM COMMUNISTS
"Izvestiya" reported on 18 July about the emergence of what it characterized as another Communist splinter group, the Communist Party of the Union of Russia and Belarus, headed by former Communist Party Central Committee Secretary Oleg Shenin. According to the daily, the new "Communist Party," which held its inaugural congress on 15 July, has a "radical" agenda and seeks reunification with former republics of the Soviet Union as well as a revival of the dictatorship of the proletariat. "Izvestiya" is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil. JAC
Pretenders to the throne of imperial Russia have a new outlet to advance their cause: the World Wide Web, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July, citing the web site, . Visitors to the site can see a photo of Tsar Nikolai III Alekseevich Romanov-Dalskii, the son of Tsarevich Aleksei Romanov and the Orenburg Princess Antonina Aleksandrovna. While most historians believe Aleksei, the only son of Tsar Nikolai II, was killed along with the rest of his family in Ekaterinburg, according to this website, Aleksei and Princess Antonina "spent the years during the Red Terror hiding under the name 'Dalskii.'" The site's designer is, of course, a nobleman: Count Andrei Alekseevich Levshinov of the Court of their Imperial Highnesses Nikolai III and Natalya I. Petitioners wishing to appeal to his majesty need only click on the icon "E-mail Nikolai III" to be directly connected to his address, . JAC
RELEASE OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECTS QUESTIONED
Relatives of some of the eight men killed in the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings have addressed a statement to Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian questioning his decision to shelve the investigation into the possible compliance in that crime of four persons, including presidential aide Aleksan Harutiunian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 18 July. The statement, which was published in the independent daily "Aravot," argued that rather than take that decision on the basis of testimony given by Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who committed the killings, Jahangirian should have collated the evidence given by all the defendants. Jahangirian told RFE/RL that the victims' families may appeal to the prosecutor- general to review the findings of the preliminary investigation. But the wife of slain parliamentary deputy speaker Yurii Bakhshian said that the families do not want to prolong the investigation and would prefer that the case go to trial. LF
OSCE CHAIRWOMAN DISCUSSES KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IN AZERBAIJAN...
Meeting in Baku on 18 July with Azerbaijan President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev, and parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Benita Ferrero- Waldner called on the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan "to take the courageous steps necessary" to resolve the conflict now on the basis of mutual compromise. She also stressed the importance of taking "small but significant confidence-building measures" proposed by the OSCE in the economic and military spheres. Aliev, however, said he thinks the OSCE should be more active and responsive in promoting a settlement of the conflict, Reuters reported. Guliev, for his part, said that Ferrero-Waldner had brought no new proposals on how the conflict could be resolved, although "there are some elements that need to be carefully looked at." LF
...AS ARMENIA, KARABAKH RELEASE FURTHER POWS
Responding to an appeal by Ferrero-Waldner, Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian released four Azerbaijani prisoners of war who had been detained in Stepanakert for up to two years, Russian agencies reported. Two more Azerbaijani POWs who had been held in Yerevan were also freed. The six men were flown to Baku on 18 July. LF
AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT APPROVES FIRST CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION MEMBERS
Parliamentary deputies on 18 July endorsed nine nominees to the new Central Electoral Commission by 85 votes to nine, Turan reported. Three of the nominees represent the majority Yeni Azerbaycan party, three are independent deputies, two are from the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP), and one represents the opposition Musavat Party. But AMIP chairman Etibar Mamedov warned the parliament the same day that the opposition representatives to the election commission from his party and from the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front will refuse to cooperate with the commission until the parliament amends the election law to comply with the demands of the opposition and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 26, 30 June 2000). That refusal, Mamedov said, will paralyze the functioning of the commission, whose decisions must be adopted by two-thirds of its 18 members. Meeting with Azerbaijani officials on 18 July, OSCE Chairwoman in Office Ferrero-Waldner likewise noted "serious shortcomings" in the election law and expressed the hope they will be corrected, Turan reported. LF
SLAIN GEORGIAN INSURGENT NOT YET BURIED
The family of Colonel Akaki Eliava, killed in unclear circumstances by Georgian security officials on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000), held funeral rites for him in his home town of Senaki on 18 July but are refusing to bury him until the Georgian authorities release three of his comrades in arms, Caucasus Press reported. The three men were detained with Eliava on 9 July and have been charged with illegal possession of arms, although two of them were unarmed at the time of their arrest. Bondo Djikia, governor of the west Georgian regions of Mingrelia and Upper Svaneti, on 18 July joined Georgian ombudsman Nana Devdariani in calling for the three men's release. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES OIL PIPELINE OPTIONS IN LONDON
Eduard Shevardnadze, who arrived in the U.K. on 17 July on a state visit, met with oil sector officials in London on 18 July to discuss the feasibility of a second Baku-Supsa oil export pipeline and of a pipeline from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiissk via Supsa to the Turkish terminal at Ceyhan, Caucasus Press reported. LF
KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO ALLEVIATE WATER SHORTAGE
Kazakh government officials have held urgent talks with neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on increasing water supplies to southern Kazakhstan, Deputy Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov told journalists on 18 July. He did not say whether those talks were successful, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Serikbek Daukeev told a recent cabinet meeting that Uzbekistan is violating a schedule drawn up by the inter-governmental commission on water resources, according to Interfax on 18 July. Kyrgyzstan has reduced the flow of irrigation water to southern Kazakhstan, where the cotton crop in Maqta-Aral is threatened by drought, in retaliation for Kazakhstan's failure to comply with an agreement concluded last year on exchanging coal for irrigation water. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PASSES LANGUAGE EXAM
Lawyer Tursunbek Akunov on 18 July became the first candidate for the 29 October presidential poll to sit the mandatory tests in fluency in the Kyrgyz language ordered last month by the Central Electoral Commission, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). The tests comprise writing an essay on an assigned topic, making a five-minute oral presentation in Kyrgyz, and reading extracts from fictional works. A second presidential candidate, film-maker and parliament deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, has condemned the language test as humiliating and designed to exclude non-Kyrgyz candidates. LF
TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA AT ODDS OVER CASPIAN
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and presidential envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhnyi held three hours of behind-closed-doors talks in Ashgabat on 18 July with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian agencies reported. Kalyuzhnyi told journalists later that those discussions were "much more difficult" than his talks earlier this month in Astana and Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 17 July 2000). Kalyuzhnyi proposed a phased approach to resolving the question of the legal status of the Caspian, beginning with an agreement on the environment and the sea's biological resources. But Niyazov argued that environmental and other issues should be addressed only after the median line has been defined and all five littoral states have signed a convention on the status of the sea, according to Interfax. LF
BELARUSIAN EX-PREMIER'S WIFE FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES
A Minsk prosecutor has charged Yuliya Chyhir, wife of former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir, with putting up resistance to the police and interfering with police activities, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 18 July. If found guilty, she could face up to five years in prison. On 19 May, when Mikhail Chyhir was sentenced to a three-year suspended term, Yuliya Chyhir became involved in a struggle with police officers when the latter sought to prevent her husband's supporters from entering the court. According to her, a police officer grabbed her arm, causing such intense pain that she "bit his ear quite impulsively." Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka said the officer required seven stitches in his ear. Yuliya Chyhir claims that she has documented medical proof of a palm-sized bruise on her arm. She commented that the charges against her are "a clear indication of the authorities' imbecility." JM
MINISTRY SAYS OPPOSITION CONGRESS TO HAVE NO 'LEGAL FORCE'
The Justice Ministry has issued a statement in connection with the All-Belarusian Congress for Independence, which is being prepared by Belarus's democratic forces, that will take place in Minsk on 29 July, Belapan reported on 18 July. The ministry said the holding of such a forum is not regulated by any legal acts, therefore its resolutions will have no "legal force or legal consequences." The organizers of the congress expect that up to 700 delegates from throughout Belarus and some 100 international guests will attend the meeting. JM
KYIV DENIES MOSCOW'S ALLEGATION OF ENCOURAGING ANTI-RUSSIAN SENTIMENTS
Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Maydannyk on 18 July told Aleksei Sazonov, charge d'affaires at the Russian embassy, that Ukraine "resolutely refutes" the allegation that Kyiv is encouraging anti-Russian sentiments in the country, Interfax reported. That allegation was made a day earlier by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Aboimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). The ministry's press service told Interfax that "the Russian side's speculations connected with the so-called protection of the Russian language and culture in Ukraine are inadmissible." According to the ministry, some Russian media and politicians have distorted the real situation in Lviv following the tragic death of Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir in order to launch "yet another" anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign. JM
FIVE UKRAINIAN CENTRIST PARTIES TO UNITE
The leaders of five centrist parties--the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Party "Solidarity," the "For the Beautiful Ukraine" Party, the Labor Party, and the All-Ukrainian Party of Pensioners--have agreed to merge their groups this fall, Interfax reported on 18 July. The leaders also agreed to set up a new parliamentary caucus based on the "Solidarity" parliamentary group, which currently has 27 lawmakers. Some leftist deputies have recently joined the "Solidarity" group in order to switch to the parliamentary majority without alienating their electorate. JM
UKRAINE TO PRIVATIZE SEVEN ENERGY SUPPLYING COMPANIES
President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree ordering the sale of the government's entire stake in seven regional energy distributors, the so-called oblenergos. It had been planned last year that the state would retain a 25 percent stake in the oblenergos. JM
ESTONIA CALLS NRG DEAL 'FINAL'
Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja told the press that the sale of a minority stake in the country's main power plants to U.S. company NRG Energy is a done deal and "the negotiations are finished," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 19 July. Parnoja said that in London, advisers of both NRG and the Estonian government are confirming that the conditions of the deal fully satisfy both parties. Parnoja added that the agreement is scheduled to be signed on 3 August. According to BNS, opposition parties have collected more than 30,000 signatures of those opposed to the deal, while a group of opposition parliamentary members are petitioning for an extraordinary session before 3 August. MH
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO ON CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW...
Lawmakers on 18 July overrode a presidential veto on controversial changes to the election law by a, ELTA reported. Seventy-two members of the 141-strong chamber voted in favor of overriding the veto. President Valdas Adamkus had vetoed the bill on 12 July, agreeing with opposition parties that the changes were too drastic to be instituted just three months before the next general elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2000). The law changes the electoral system for the country's 71 single-mandate constituencies by eliminating the need for a second round of voting if no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast and requiring only a simple plurality for a candidate to be elected. MH
...AND PASSES LONG-OVERDUE CIVIL CODE
The parliament on 18 July also passed the country's first post-Soviet civil code, BNS reported. Parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis hailed the passage of the code, saying, " this is truly the final separation from the USSR's civil legal system." The legal code currently in place was adopted in 1964. The new, six-part code was drafted in accordance with EU norms, while the chapter on family law was harmonized with international documents such as the UN Convention for the Protection of the Child. MH
POLAND'S FORMER SOLIDARITY LEADER CALLS FOR NEW MARSHALL PLAN
Speaking in Berlin on 18 July, Lech Walesa called on the world's richest countries to draft an assistance scheme for CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE modeled on the post-war Marshall Plan, PAP reported. "We must continue to promote the integration of the Continent at a time when individual nations face increasingly greater challenges," dpa quoted Walesa as saying. Walesa explained that funds for the assistance could be taken from those earmarked for Russia. He criticized Western politicians for "dumping" large sums of money in Russia without controlling that those funds are used for their intended purpose. JM
POLAND SAYS GERMAN COMPENSATION DEAL 'GOOD, THOUGH NOT IDEAL'
Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski has said the agreement on compensation for the former Third Reich slave and forced laborers is "good, although not ideal," PAP reported on 18 July. According to Bartoszewski, the efforts of Minister Jerzy Widzyk, former head of the prime minister's chancellery, and of the Foreign Ministry to secure compensation payments to Poles were as effective as possible. Widzyk told the agency that Poles will receive some 1.9 billion German marks ($909 million) out of the total compensation fund of 10 billion German marks. JM
CZECH PREMIER FINED FOR FAILING TO APOLOGIZE
Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 17 July was fined 20,000 crowns ($528) for contempt of a court of justice, after failing to apologize to former Social Democratic Party (CSSD) parliamentary deputy Josef Wagner, Reuters reported. Two years ago, the Prague court ordered Zeman to apologize to Wagner for having alleged that he had tried--unsuccessfully--to join the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Zeman had forced Wagner out of the CSSD after the latter voted for a budget presented by the then-ruling center-right coalition. He was later re-admitted to that party. MS
CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY CHALLENGES ELECTORAL AMENDMENT CONSTITUTIONALITY
Jaroslav Sula, deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group in the Senate, told CTK on 18 July that senators from his party will appeal to the Constitutional Court against the recently passed amendment to the electoral law. Sula said his party's appeal will differ from that already filed by President Vaclav Havel, but he did not elaborate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT OUT OF INTENSIVE CARE UNIT
Rudolf Schuster has been transferred from the intensive care unit of an Innsbruck clinic to a regular ward, Reuters reported, citing a spokeswoman for the clinic. She said Schuster is "recovering very quickly" now. MS
SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY HOLDS OFF WITH PETITION FOR EARLY ELECTIONS
Marian Kardos, spokesman for the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said on 18 July that his party will not hand over the petition for a referendum on conducting early elections to either Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda or parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas, AP reported. He said the HZDS "does not recognize" the legality of the transfer of presidential prerogatives to the premier and the parliament's chairman and "does not trust" either of those officials. Schuster's prerogatives were temporarily transferred to the two politicians last month, after the president became incapacitated through illness. Kardos said the HZDS will wait until Schuster returns to office to hand over the petition, which more than 700,000 people have signed. MS
HUNGARY RESERVES RIGHT TO SUE ROMANIA OVER CYANIDE SPILL
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told Hungarian media on 18 July that Budapest has not ruled out taking legal action against Romania over a cyanide spill that polluted Hungary's Tisza River in January. Martonyi said he will consider potential diplomatic moves against Romania in the light of a report now being drafted by government commissioner Janos Gonczy following his recent visit to the site of the spill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2000). MSZ
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS ALBANIANS, SERBS
Lord Robertson said in Prishtina on 18 July that the Atlantic alliance demands a stop to ethnically-motivated violence in Kosova. He stressed that "we are going to protect a multi-ethnic society here and we'll do it if necessary by making sure the individual groups are protected in their homes and communities," AP reported. He told ethnic Albanians not to "allow the Serb community to be run out of Kosovo and into the arms of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic." Robertson called on Serbs to admit that "some horrifying violence went on here over the last two years, and [that] the memory of that is not going to fade very quickly" among local Albanians. Addressing the Albanians, Robertson said: "Go and visit the [Serbian] churches and show that you, too, care about sacred sites that are being despoiled. Go to those who have had relations or friends murdered and tell them that you, the Kosovo Albanians, know more about harassment than practically any other people on Earth." PM
MITROVICA SERBS PLEDGE MORE PROTESTS
Mitrovica Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic told AP on 19 July that local Serbs have lifted their blockades of roads leading into northern Mitrovica. He added, however, that there will be daily protests until Dalibor Vukovic is freed from jail for having set fire to Albanian-owned cars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). Ivanovic also warned that there could be violence if Vukovic remains in prison, adding: "Over the past 10 months, during clashes around bridges [in Mitrovica], we had more than 100 people injured and not a single Albanian was jailed. Some 53 Serbs were killed or abducted and not a single Albanian is in jail." Ivanovic told AP that he will meet with UN officials in the course of the day to try to persuade them to free Vukovic. PM
RISTIC TO HEAD MODERATE SERBIAN BODY
Meeting in Gracanica on 18 July, members of the moderate Serbian National Council (SNV) elected Dusan Ristic president. He replaces Momcilo Trajkovic, who recently resigned to protest the SNV's decision to resume cooperation with the UN civilian administration's advisory council, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2000). PM
MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS STAGE PROTEST FOR TETOVO UNIVERSITY
Some 1,000 ethnic Albanians held a rally in central Skopje on 18 July to demand that the parliament make the underground Tetovo Albanian-language university a full-fledged state institution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). Dean Fadil Sulejmani said a compromise put forward by the OSCE to make the university an accredited but private institution is "unacceptable." Reuters reported. The opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity organized the rally. The question of Tetovo University is one of the most acrimonious in Macedonian politics. PM
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES CUTTING MINISTRIES
The parliament on 18 July began debates on the status of Tetovo University and on the reorganization of the state administration. The government wants to cut the number of ministries from 21 to 14, the private MIC news agency reported. If the legislature gives the proposal the necessary two-thirds majority, some of the ministries that have been eliminated will be reorganized as "agencies" of other ministries. A new cabinet will also be formed. PM
YUGOSLAV ARMY SAYS IT WILL 'NEVER' ATTACK MONTENEGRO
Colonel Svetozar Radisic told journalists in Belgrade on 18 July that "there is no price for which the Yugoslav army would attack Montenegro," Reuters reported. He said that reports to the contrary in the Montenegrin and foreign media are "notorious lies." The colonel stressed that "the Yugoslav army has no intention of attacking either [federal] republic because its purpose is to defend them. It does not even cross its mind to enter into conflicts with its people. The Yugoslav army has always been with the people, never against them, and will therefore prevent a civil war at any price," he argued. Radisic stressed that the army recognizes that the former Yugoslav military made a "mistake" when it attacked Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, "Glas javnosti" reported. He added, however, that while the army is free of partisan politics, it recognizes that it has a political role to play in keeping the peace, "Danas" reported. PM
FAMILIES OF DEAD SERBIAN JOURNALISTS SUE STATE TV BOSSES
Belgrade lawyer Slobodan Sisic has filed lawsuits on behalf of 12 families against Serbian Television's Director Dragoljub Milanovic, Editor-in-Chief Milorad Komrakov, Chairman of the Administrative Board Vukasin Jokanovic, and several other people, "Danas" reported on 19 July. The families say that the officials knew that NATO was planning to attack the state television building in April 1999 but did nothing to warn the staff. The air strike left 16 dead and 18 injured. State television has been one of the main pillars of Milosevic's rule. In response to the families' lawsuit, Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic said that NATO, not the Belgrade authorities, are responsible for the deaths. PM
PROSECUTORS CHARGE 10 PEOPLE IN ARKAN SLAYING
The Belgrade public prosecutor's office said in a statement on 18 July that it has charged four people for the murder of warlord and indicted war criminal Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic in January (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 January 2000). The statement added that another six individuals have been charged as accomplices. One of the alleged murderers is at large and will be tried in absentia, AP reported. The statement did not indicate when the trial will begin. PM
VERHEUGEN: EU MEMBERSHIP FOR SLOVENIA BY 2003?
Guenter Verheugen, who is the EU's commissioner for enlargement, said in Ljubljana on 18 July that Slovenia must keep up the momentum for reform, "Delo" reported. He urged his hosts to make special efforts to introduce the EU's common body of legislation, known as the "acquis communautaire." Verheugen added that EU membership for Slovenia could be a realistic possibility by 2003 or 2005. Slovenian Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle recently said membership is a realistic possibility only between 2005 and 2008. PM
MESIC BUOYED BY EU TIES
Croatian President Stipe Mesic said in Brussels on 18 July that the leaders of all 15 EU member states will attend the EU's Balkan summit slated for the fall in Zagreb, "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that he has received backing in Brussels for a number of key economic projects. These include building an Adriatic-Ionian highway, reopening the Croatian segment of the Danube to navigation, constructing an oil pipeline from the Caspian to the Adriatic, and launching work on a gas pipeline linking Norway to the Adriatic. PM
BOSNIAN SERB INFORMATION CHIEF QUITS
Republika Srpska Information Minister Rajko Vasic resigned on 18 July following criticism by several representatives of the international community of his alleged interference in the appointment of officials of Bosnian Serb television, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik accepted the resignation. "Dnevni avaz" wrote that the Information Ministry will in any case soon be abolished. Unnamed representatives of the international community have repeatedly called for the ministry's abolition on the grounds that democratic countries do not have such ministries. PM
NEW RIGHTIST COALITION IN ROMANIA TO BACK ISARESCU FOR PRESIDENT?
At a meeting organized by the Civic Alliance Movement (MAC), the leaders of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), the Union of Rightist Forces, the National Christian Democratic Alliance, and the Ecologist Federation agreed to set up a center-right alliance and run on joint lists in the fall parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A final agreement is to be concluded by 1 August. The MAC will not field candidates but will support the alliance. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said the alliance will support either Premier Mugur Isarescu as its presidential candidate "or another person." He noted that Isarescu has agreed to replace President Emil Constantinescu as the alliance's candidate for head of state (see "End Note" below). But Isarescu said he learned about the initiative only "from the media." The daily "Ziua" reported on 19 July that the alliance's "other" possible candidate for president might be Education Minister Andrei Marga. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES USE OF EU FUNDS
Speaking on national television after chairing a cabinet meeting, Constantinescu said he has urged Isarescu to take urgent measures to ensure the "transparent and efficient" use of funds granted by the EU. He said that otherwise Romania runs the risk of being unable to use funding from the EU and other foreign creditors. Isarescu said the government was "on course" to meet budget targets but noted that budget figures might have to be revised. He also announced that pensions will be increased as of 1 September. On 19 July, Constantinescu was scheduled to depart for visits to Mexico and Brazil. MS
OSCE TO TAKE STRICTER STANCE ON TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS?
Iurii Vition, head of the Moldovan delegation that attended the OSCE Standing Bureau's meeting in Vienna on 18 July, said the organization is contemplating adopting punitive measures against the Transdniester separatists for their obstruction of a solution to the conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Vition said the OSCE Standing Bureau harshly criticized the Tiraspol leaders, saying that it is "inadmissible" that they continue attempting to thwart the decisions of the OSCE's summit in Istanbul last year. The Transdniester delegation walked out of the meeting after the bureau refused to accept the delegation's claim that it represents the separatist region and is not part of the Moldovan delegation. At the meeting, Russia submitted a four-stage plan for withdrawing its troops and arsenal from the Transdniester but neither submitted a time-table for the withdrawal nor specified when it would begin. MS
BULGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTER APOLOGIZES TO LIBYA OVER RACIAL REMARK
Justice Minister Teodosii Simeonov on 18 July apologized to Libya over a remark he had made in connection with the pending trial of six Bulgarian nationals who are accused by Tripoli of having willfully infected children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus, dpa reported, citing BTA. The six face the death penalty if found guilty. Simeonov had told Bulgarian journalists that he could predict the outcome of a trial "in a white country, but this is not Libya's case." In a fax to the Libyan authorities, Simeonov said his words "must not be wrongly interpreted as an insult." Last week, Prime Minister Mubarak Abdallah al- Shamikh and parliamentary chairman Zenati Mohammed Zenati told a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation to Libya that Tripoli is "extremely unhappy" about the Bulgarian media's coverage of the pending trial, Reuters reported. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS DOOR SHUT
by Michael Shafir
President Emil Constantinescu's decision not to seek re-election was surprising, but not unexpected. Constantinescu made the announcement on national television on 17 July, less than three weeks after declaring he would seek a second mandate. However, for months Constantinescu has been trailing his predecessor and likely successor in office, Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) chairman Ion Iliescu, and some recent polls even showed him behind Teodor Melescanu, the leader of Alliance for Romania (APR). The gap between Iliescu and Constantinescu seemed too large to close, unless the incumbent could have counted on the support of all those who voted for "anyone but Iliescu."
But it became clear between his two announcements that Constantinescu could not count on the backing of that part of the electorate. His candidacy was endorsed by the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Union of Rightist Forces, which will run in an alliance in the fall parliamentary and presidential elections. The two formations even picked a "running mate" for Constantinescu--namely, Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, who, though politically independent, was to be their choice for premier. This, however, was an electoral gimmick: the constitution does not grant the president the right to appoint the premier--that appointment being rather the prerogative of the parliament.
Moreover, those behind the creation of the Constantinescu-Isarescu "team" failed to take into account two factors: Theodor Stolojan, also a former premier (1991- 1992) and, like Isarescu, a popular figure; and the National Liberal Party (PNL), although it is uncertain how much longer the party will continue to use that name.
For some time, a group calling itself the Social Liberal Initiative had been pushing Stolojan's candidacy for either the premiership or the presidency, as an alternative to the PDSR-Iliescu tandem or that of Constantinescu and the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR). Based on the A Future for Romania debating club, which formerly had ties with the PDSR, this reformist group had developed over the last years closer ties to Melescanu's party. These ties were "natural," so to speak, as the APR had split from the PDSR in 1997. The APR embraced the idea of the "return of Stolojan" but made its support for that idea conditional on the "ticket" of "Melescanu for president, Stolojan for premier."
And then there is the PNL factor. In the June local elections, that party, which was the PNTCD's main partner in the CDR in the 1996 parliamentary elections, chose to run on separate lists. It did not do well, but it did better than the so-called "CDR"--which was virtually the PNTCD. The dilemma faced by the PNL leadership after the June ballot was how to avoid, in the electorate's eyes, sharing responsibility for the country's dismal economic performance and the failure of its three post-1996 cabinets to implement reform while remaining credible in its opposition to the left-wing PDSR.
The party had two choices: run on separate lists in the fall elections (infringing on a PNTCD-PNL agreement to revive the CDR for that ballot) or seek a new partner. The final decision has not yet been taken, but all the indications are that PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica will have his way and the PNL will run in the elections on joint lists with the APR. This ideologically unlikely alliance has already deeply divided the PNL, and some prominent members have resigned. And to complicate matters, the APR is insisting that Melescanu be presidential candidate and Stolojan the candidate for the premiership. The PNL, however, would rather back Stolojan for the first position.
One thing is clear: the PNL will not back Constantinescu. This explains why Constantinescu, in addressing the nation on 17 July, spoke bitterly of competition among Romania's political parties having turned into "a blind struggle for power-seeking personal or group interests." "This is a time, he said, when "people buy and sell principles, ideologies, seats in the parliament and the cabinet, making use to that end of lies, blackmail, vulgarity, and manipulation."
Constantinescu may also feel betrayed by the electorate or, rather, by what its preferences are likely to be in the presidential and parliamentary elections, based on the outcome of the local ballot. He had been waging, he said, a struggle against the "Mafia-like" structures that had penetrated Romanian's economic and political structures. But instead of receiving support for those efforts, his political adversaries (read: Iliescu) had accused him of manipulating the judicial process for electoral purposes.
The electorate, for its part, has clearly shown that it cares little at this point about Constantinescu's anti- corruption drive, or perhaps it simply does not believe that one side is better than the other. This is why Constantinescu urged Romania's citizens to choose between "the world of theft and lies or a country of honesty and truth." Aware of the fact that he himself has also been accused of condoning, and even of being personally involved in, corruption, Constantinescu announced that he will not seek election to the parliament and hence will not enjoy immunity. Unlike his predecessor, as his audience was clearly meant to understand.
Regardless of whether one chooses to view Constantinescu's slamming of the political door as a gesture of a frustrated politician or of a desperate honest man, it should not be forgotten that no other politician in Romania has voluntarily quit. Those who stay in the race will find it hard to explain why they, rather than Emil Constantinescu, should continue to pursue their electoral ambitions.