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Voice of America, 00-01-24

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: Despite snow and heavy winds, Croats braved the elements to choose a successor to President Franjo Tudjman, who died last month. V-O-A Correspondent Ron Pemstein reports from Zagreb.

    TEXT: In more than six-thousand polling stations around Croatia, the voters ignored slippery streets and frigid temperatures to choose their second president. Several express respect for President Tudjman who died last month. But in the same icy breath, they say they now want democratic change. Croats made one change earlier this month when they elected a center-left government in parliamentary elections and reduced Mr. Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union to a minority. They are completing that change by electing his successor. All of the leading presidential candidates promise to reverse Mr. Tudjman's nationalist policies that have left Croatia isolated from the European Union and NATO. When the votes are counted later this evening, none of the candidates is expected to win the 50 percent needed to be elected. That means the two top contenders will meet again on February 7th for a run- off election. The American Ambassador to Croatia, William Montgomery, tells V-O-A the indications are that Croatia is ready for the political and economic reforms that will change the Balkans.


    This is a very bright day for the Balkans and it is a very bright day for Croatia. And the implications of this election are far broader than just Croatia because the people of Croatia have voted here for democracy. They voted for the West. They voted for ties to Euro-Atlantic institutions. And this is the first time something like this has happened in this region and it sends a wonderful signal to Serbia and it sends a wonderful signal to Bosnia for the future.

    /// END ACT ///

    The U-S ambassador's optimism is borne out by opinion surveys indicating the most votes will go to Stipe Mesic and Drazen Budisa, two candidates that broke with President Tudjman over his Bosnia policy and his autocratic style. Even the candidate of Mr. Tudjman's party, Mate Granic, says he will leave the party if he is elected. A few voters say Mr. Granic's conversion to opposition comes too late and they hope to put a final end to the leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union. Analysts say if Mr. Granic does not make the run-off election and the opinion polls say he will not -- the former ruling party of Croatia is likely to split and re-organize. Ambassador Montgomery says if the new Croatian government makes the promised reforms, the United States will support Croatia's attempt to join NATO's partnership for peace.


    This is one of things that we want to have a dialogue with the new government very early on after it is formed because Croatia should be in the partnership for peace. And I think, with the statements that the new government has already made with the transformations that are going to take place in this country that they have promised that this should happen fairly soon.

    /// END ACT ///

    NATO's partners cooperate with NATO in military exercises but do not get the guarantees for their security as alliance members have. The new Croatian government will be sworn in early next month. (Signed) NEB/RDP/JWH/kl 24-Jan-2000 13:23 PM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1823 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America


    /// Re-issuing to delete figure of 350,000 from first sentence of second graf of text ///

    INTRO: Croatians went to the polls Monday to elect a new president to replace Franjo Tudjman, who died last month. Because of President Tudjman's nationalist policies, Croatia has been cut off from assistance by the European Union (E-U) and does not have a partnership agreement with NATO. V-O-A correspondent Ron Pemstein reports from Zagreb that no matter who becomes president, Croatia is ready to take a different road.

    TEXT: When Croatia was fighting its war of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatian television inspired patriotic feelings among the people by showing a film montage. It started with the Yugoslav flag dissolving into the Croatian flag. Then the Croatian flag disappeared and became the blue flag with yellow stars of the European Union. That was the dream of a new nation. Reality was different. Under President Tudjman's leadership, Croatia built up its army and in 1995 drove out the Croatian Serbs who were living in territory that had been captured from Croatian forces in 1991 with the help of the Yugoslav army. The Croatian military action in 1995 restored Croatian sovereignty over all of its territory. At the same time, President Tudjman refused to consider allowing Croatian Serb refugees to return to their homes. In response, the European Union cut Croatia off from all of its assistance programs. The E-U now has 13 candidates for new members. Croatia is not one of those. But the death of President Tudjman in December has changed the landscape. In elections for a new parliament on January 3rd, Mr. Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union was reduced to a minority. The new government has announced plans to reform Croatia's political and economic structures to make it more acceptable to Europe. The leading candidates to replace President Tudjman all promise to support moves to end Croatia's isolation from the European Union. The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, visited Zagreb on January 14th to meet the new Prime Minister, Ivica Racan. He says E-U membership for Croatia was not discussed at that meeting but the European Union is ready to help.

    /// PRODI ACT ///

    It was not part of our discussion because there are more urgent problems to discuss but, certainly, Croatia is part of Europe. This doesn't relate to being a member of the European Union, but we deeply feel that the insulation (exclusion) of Croatia was unnatural.

    /// END ACT ///

    The European Commission and the European Investment Bank are ready to send delegations here as soon as the new government starts to take action toward its promised reforms. During Mr. Prodi's meeting here he received a general assurance from Mr. Racan that the new government will cooperate with all European institutions. Mr. Prodi's spokesman, Ricky Levi says the new Croatian government is fully committed to Europe.

    /// LEVI ACT ///

    It is still, obviously, too early to speculate on what could be materially the steps of this rapprochement between Croatia and the European Union, but it is very clear that this will happen in a very rapid form and with very rapid pace. So on both sides, (there are) very high hopes were raised on what I would tend to say a dramatic change in the relationship between the European Union and Croatia with far reaching consequences

    /// END ACT ///

    Those far-reaching consequences, Mr. Levi says, include a democratic change in Croatia that could spread to Serbia, which remains subject to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's autocratic leadership. The new Croatian government does not exclude letting Serbs return to Croatia, though it has hinted that foreign assistance might be required to take care of the logistical difficulties. More cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal meeting in The Hague is also possible with the change in government. Prime Minister Racan's first priority will be trying to reform the Croatian economy where growth has stagnated since independence. Foreign investment needs to be encouraged. Analyst Ljubomir Cucic tells V-O-A that young people fall into two groups. One group includes soldiers from Croatia's war of independence who have become disillusioned with the economic stagnation.

    /// CUCIC ACT ///

    They saw what they were fighting for did not come true and despair and frustration and disappointment that you might find in these young hearts is reaching the top level. Some of them are going to the extreme radical parties. Some of them arc very passive in terms of public engagement. Many of them are unemployed. The second group of people are young educated graduates, young professionals, young managers even, those who live in urban areas who did not experience necessarily the war directly who see that the problem in society is far larger than they could really cope with. Their wish is, since they have enough strength and power and inventiveness and imagination, is either go as fast as you can into the European Union or just go, physically yourself, into the European Union.

    /// END ACT ///

    For those young Croats who decide to remain during the period of reform, there are some lessons from Europe that might be encouraging. One is Slovakia. Under nationalist leadership following independence, Slovakia was excluded from Western institutions. After a new government reformed its treatment of minorities and made economic adjustments, Slovakia was accepted in December as a candidate for European Union membership. Another lesson for Croatia is Ireland. An Irish member of the European Parliament told an election rally in Zagreb that Ireland once exported its young people looking for jobs elsewhere. Thanks to European Union membership and E-U subsidies, the Irish economy is booming and young people are returning to Ireland to find jobs Croatia may have six to 12 months of re-structuring ahead, involving closing inefficient industries with the result of more unemployment before economic growth happens. By putting opposition figures into power, Croatian voters have demonstrated they want to see their country take the European road. (Signed) NEB/RP/GE/kl 24-Jan-2000 11:01 AM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1601 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Turkey's influential military is denying allegations that it had links with an armed pro- Islamic militant group. As Amberin Zaman reports from Ankara, the group is said to have carried out the murders of at least 33 people whose bodies were found during the past week.

    TEXT: Turkish police on Monday unearthed two more bodies of people who were believed to have been abducted, tortured, and slain by members of a shadowy armed Islamic group known as Hizbullah. The bodies were discovered in the southern cities of Adana and Tarsus. During the past week, Turkish police recovered the rotting corpses of victims of the group in houses in Istanbul, Ankara, and the central Anatolian city of Konya. Authorities say many of the bodies bore marks of torture. Some had obviously been buried alive, their hands and feet tied behind their back, their bodies naked. The victims included an Islamist feminist writer with liberal views, Konca Kuris, who was reported missing two years ago. Hizbullah is believed to have been created in the mid 1980's at the height of an armed separatist Kurdish rebellion waged by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party known as the P-K-K. Hizbullah declared war on the P-K-K because of its (the P-K-K's) Marxist ideology, saying it wanted an independent Kurdish state based on Islamic principle for the country's estimated 12-million Kurds. There have been widespread allegations in the mainstream Turkish press that Hizbullah was encouraged by, if not actually linked to, rogue elements within the Turkish security apparatus who supported the group's attacks against Kurdish nationalists. Those allegations were forcefully rejected by the Turkish military which called the charges "slander devoid of sense or logic." Turkish officials say Hizbullah is receiving arms and training from neighboring Iran and could be responsible for the murders of several leading Turkish pro-secular academics and journalists in recent years. The bodies uncovered over the past week, however, are thought to belong mostly to Kurdish businessmen with pro-Islamic leanings, who refused to pay protection money to Hizbullah. (Signed)
    NEB/AZ/JWH/KL 24-Jan-2000 14:03 PM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1903 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The political funding scandal in Germany has spread to France. Allegations have been made that a French government-owned oil company gave millions of dollars to the party of then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. As Paul Miller reports from Paris, investigators were already looking at payments the ELF-Aquitaine oil company may have made to the Germans.

    TEXT: A joint investigation by television networks in France and Germany alleges that ELF made a 15-million dollar contribution to the Christian Democratic Party on the express order of the late French President Francois Mitterand. The report quoted sources close to the late President as saying the money was not intended as a bribe, but rather to serve French interests in Europe. At the time, France considered its alliance with Germany, to be vital -- both as a basis for European security and as a means of keeping Germany's focus on western Europe, rather than the new democracies of the east. President Mitterand had a close relationship with Chancellor Kohl and wanted it to continue. The report says the payments were part of the commissions that ELF paid for the right to purchase an oil refinery in the former East Germany. Those commissions totaled 44-million dollars and have been the subject of investigations by French and Swiss magistrates for some time. The "LeMonde" newspaper quotes what it says are French and German intermediaries as saying Chancellor Kohl asked for the payments through a company run by one of his close political advisors. Mr. Kohl's spokesman denies the reports which he called part of a campaign of character assassination. The ELF Company declined comment. But the French newspaper "le Figaro" said it suspects the accusations are true. The paper said it was a different era in 1994 -- one when Germany's commitment to Europe was not certain, and when its chancellor was ready to use any means to achieve his goal of a united and prosperous Germany. (SIGNED)
    NEB/PM/JWH/RAE 24-Jan-2000 10:33 AM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1533 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: After hours of debate behind closed doors, the leadership of Germany's Christian Democratic Union - or C-D-U - has said former Chancellor Helmut Kohl would not be taken to court to force him to break a silence over secret bank accounts, which have damaged the party's reputation since November. Jonathan Braude has this report from Berlin.

    TEXT: Almost two hours behind schedule, the German opposition Christian Democratic Union came out with the statement the country had been waiting for. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has already been forced to resign as honorary chairman of the party and is under pressure in some quarters to resign his seat in parliament, will not be taken to court. Political observers said the C-D-U came to the only conclusion it believed could keep the party together. His successor as C-D-U chairman, Wolfgang Schaeuble, described Mr. Kohl's silence as unacceptable and a breach, not only of German law, but of the principles of internal party democracy. Yet the decision was taken to put legal pressure, not on the former Chancellor, but on the former party auditor, Horst Weyrauch. Every possible legal means would be used to get him to shed more light on where the money had come from.

    /// OPT ///

    Mr. Schaeuble said the party must now reform its finances and procedures to be more transparent. It would embark on a new campaign to improve its image and standing and show the public that the party - which had played such a vital role in the history of post war Germany - could return to its principles. Party leaders said the C-D-U would continue in the new century as a party of the center, vital to a healthy German democracy. /// END OPT /// After subjecting the party's accounts for the past 11 years to scrutiny by independent auditors, the party leadership came to the conclusion that Helmut Kohl was the only person who could explain the source of over 2 million marks - that is about 1 million U-S dollars - amassed by the party between 1993 and 1998. That was the amount Mr. Kohl had already confessed to collecting as campaign funds though secret accounts, and for which he refuses steadfastly to name the donors. The one million dollars was, in its way, less shocking than the unexplained sum of about 5 million dollars amassed during the period 1989 to 1992. The auditors were unable to clear up that amount. There were many in the party - including the present chairman, Wolfgang Schaeuble - who said they were considering pursuing Mr. Kohl through the courts. But Mr. Kohl's popularity within the party and the country at large has forced them to step back from that decision. Mr. Schaeuble, however, has accepted that the party now stands faces a difficult political test, which could affect its survival and its role as a respected pillar of German democracy. And it also faces a difficult financial test. Under German law, money found to have been fraudulently or illegally collected should be paid back to the state. Mr. Schaeuble has asked for leniency. A fine so big that it would pull the financial rug (i.e. be financially ruinous) out from under the party, he said, would help no one. (Signed)
    NEB/JB/GE/KL 24-Jan-2000 13:56 PM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1856 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The first formal event of the 2000 election occurs today, with the Iowa caucuses, and many editorial pages are commenting on the caucuses. There is also interest in improving relations between Greece and Turkey, and a tough speech at the United Nations last week by one of its strongest critics, North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. Another topic being discussed this Monday is the political donation scandal in Germany. Now, here is ____________with a closer look and some excerpts in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: After months of campaigning, the presidential race finally has its first official vote today in Iowa, where a comparatively small group of the state's registered voters will gather in clusters all over the state and argue over whom to support for president. The Los Angeles Times is glad the "real start" has finally come.

    VOICE: The two-thousand run for the White House begins for real today as 150-thousand or so Iowans trudge through the snow to attend precinct caucuses and register their support for Democratic and Republican candidates. The race for the presidential nominations started earlier than ever and could - don't blink - be over by the time California ballots are counted March seventh. Of course, the winners in Iowa, and in New Hampshire's primary on February first, will not necessarily become the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. But these states can wield enormous influence on the selection process.

    TEXT: That these two, mostly rural, mostly white populated states do wield such influence, far disproportionate to their size or population, is bothering USA Today, the big, national, daily, published in a Washington, D-C suburb.

    VOICE: ... for all of the attention being heaped on Iowa, fewer than 200-thousand Iowans of both parties are expected to turn out. That's less than seven percent of the population in a single, unrepresentative state where residents are better educated, older and whiter than the country at large.

    /// OPT ///

    Iowa's caucus system is dominated by those who actually enjoy going out on an icy night to spend a couple of hours arguing politics. And it rewards machine-like organization far more than presidential capabilities. /// END OPT /// But the problem is bigger than Iowa. Through threats and political blackmail, another highly atypical state, New Hampshire, maintains its hold on the first presidential primary this year, February first. ... There is a better way: regional primaries, rotating every four years. A dozen or so Eastern states could vote on the first Tuesday in March, for example; the West in April; South in May; Midwest in June. In subsequent years, other regions would get their turns leading off.

    TEXT: Today's Washington Times sums up how crazily the results of tonight's caucuses can be interpreted this way:

    VOICE: ... The lesson today's candidates ... should draw from the results: Failure to meet expectations can doom a promising candidacy, but meeting or exceeding expectations in no way means victory in November.

    TEXT: Internationally, today's Los Angeles Times is pleased at the warming relations between two long- hostile neighbors on NATO's southern flank.

    VOICE: Peace is breaking out ... with longtime Aegean Sea adversaries Greece and Turkey promising to enter a "new era" of friendly relations. Cooperation between the two countries, which came close to a war less than four years ago, is significant and may well hold the key to the resolution of territorial disputes in the Aegean and the reunification of Cyprus. ... Icy relations between Turkey and Greece showed the first significant signs of thawing last August when a devastating earthquake in Turkey triggered an outpouring of sympathy in Greece, and Turks later reciprocated when Greece was struck by an earthquake.

    TEXT: Comment continues, in this case from the Washington Times, about the political money scandal in Germany that has seen former Chancellor Helmut Kohl fall from grace within his party.

    VOICE: Political housekeeping in Germany's Christian Democratic Union (C-D-U) looks more like Hurricane Floyd these days than the honest, orderly process for which Germans have been known. The opposition party's attempt to deal with allegations of campaign-finance wrongdoing has generated silence, resignation and worse from some of the party's key leaders. Last week their leader of 25 years, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, stepped down from his voluntary chairmanship of the C-D-U because of the growing scandal. Then came the news that the C-D-U-s chief financial officer for the parliamentary delegation had hanged himself. ... If nothing else ... the ordeal has shown Germany and the world that anyone can fall prey to dishonest tactics - - even chancellors.

    TEXT: Still in Europe, today's Wall Street Journal laments Vladimir Putin's surprise alignment with the Communists last week in the Duma, Russia's Lower House of parliament, and suggests it may show his true political colors.

    VOICE: The kindest interpretation of Mr. Putin's stunning move is that it's merely a somewhat ruthless attempt to deny [former Prime Minister Yevgeny]. Primakov a platform from which to challenge him in the presidential race. But it may also be our first real glimpse of the true political colors of this Russian on whom so many have pinned such varied hopes. ... He is, after all, an ex-K-G-B agent ... Some even question whether he ever left the agency at all.

    TEXT: Today's New York Post is expressing pleasure at the candid speech at the United Nations last week by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    VOICE: While the United Nations continually rebukes America over the issue of payment of dues, the body ignores the fact that the United States bears the lion's share of responsibility for peace-keeping missions. The (U-S government's) General Accounting Office estimates that Washington spent some 9-billion dollars last year providing the United Nations with teeth to enforce its edicts. ... Thus, the average citizen sees America repeatedly putting its resources and soldiers on the line - - and get U-N carping in return. ... his message was overdue. /// OPT /// To the extent ... [the speech] ... [helps] U-N delegates better understand the complex role the sole remaining superpower has in world affairs, he has performed a real service. /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: In this hemisphere, the Miami Herald is upset at the increased use of Haiti as a way station for cocaine trafficking into the United States.

    VOICE: Washington continues to make elections in Haiti its top priority, unarguably a crucial step to helping Haiti relieve its misery. But Washington mustn't miss the forest for the trees. Drugs are the greatest threat to the establishment of democracy in Haiti, and the administration must do more to blunt its influence. This poor country is awash in drug money. /// OPT /// ...Narco-traffickers find it incredibly easy to cozy up to Haitians at all levels of society. And Haiti lacks sufficient political stability to fend off the traffickers' embrace. Washington's lackadaisical response is troubling and unbefitting the looming crisis. ... Seven D-E-A [Drug Enforcement Administration] agents are stationed in Haiti. /// END OPT /// ... Washington must take appropriate action before Haiti's weak democratic institutions and infrastructure crumble before the powerful drug lords.

    TEXT: Lastly, concerns that the case of the Chinese- born nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee, accused of mishandling U-S nuclear secrets at the Los Alamos weapons lab, may breed anti Asian bias is troubling the San Francisco Chronicle.

    VOICE: Perception is becoming reality for Asian Americans examining the case of [Mr.] Lee ... The case is generating fears of racism, racial profiling and workplace discrimination. It's important to note none of the leaders speaking out on [Mr.] Lee's case declare he is innocent of the serious charges. But his supporters, including a [San Francisco] Bay Area- based defense committee, believe a wave of public fear over espionage is unduly harming his chances for a fair trial.

    TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment from Monday's editorial pages in the U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/KL 24-Jan-2000 11:57 AM EDT (24-Jan-2000 1657 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S stock prices closed sharply lower today (Monday) after a dramatic late session selloff. V-O- A's Joe Chapman reports from New York.

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 243 points, two percent, to 11-thousand-eight at the close. The broader and more representative Standard and Poor's 500 finished off 39 points, nearly three- percent, to 14-hundred-one. The high technology Nasdaq closed down 139 points to four-thousand-95 in its heaviest trading day ever. The steep decline was a surprise to most analysts who had expected a modestly positive trading day. Basic materials stocks were a modestly negative drag on the averages until with 90 minutes left in the trading day, a selloff began that quickly spread to other sectors. Average volume on both the New York and Nasdaq exchanges continues to grow. The Nasdaq exchange set a volume record for the second session in a row with one-point-55 billion shares traded. Analysts say a two billion share day is likely to occur soon.


    Phillip Rettew, a senior Wall Street analyst, says the pullback came as a surprise, but also is something that he and other investment executives considered inevitable.

    /// RETTEW ACT ///

    We've been talking about a market that has been overbought on a short-term basis. There are a number of technical divergences, quite a bit of bullishness (optimism), all the classic signs of at least some caution. Now at least the Dow is pulling back in a fashion that is pretty much consistent with that. In fact it's got a little more to go before it settles down and reconstructs some kind of base.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. Rettew says he believes the market will trend lower through the first three to five months of this year, then recover second half. Some stocks closed higher despite the downdraft including Amazon-dot-com, which closed 13-percent higher. Intel was one-percent higher at the finish. (Signed) NEB/NYC/JMC/gm 24-Jan-2000 17:02 PM EDT (24-Jan-2000 2202 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America
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