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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 208, 99-10-25

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 208, 25 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PREMIER VOWS TO TARGET CORRUPTION
  • [02] ARMENIAN INTELLIGENTSIA WANTS ELECTION OF NEW CATHOLICOS
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI PRO-GOVERNMENT BLOC CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR CONTINUES WORKING
  • [05] GEORGIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO ASSASSINATION CLAIMS
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS RUNOFF ELECTIONS
  • [07] KAZAKH PREMIER ENDORSES MULTIPLE PIPELINES
  • [08] JAPANESE HOSTAGES RELEASED
  • [09] OPPOSITION TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WANTS REGISTRATION
  • [10] TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY HEADED FOR SPLIT?
  • [11] CORRECTION:

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] KOSOVA'S SERBS SET UP POLITICAL BODY
  • [13] ETHNIC ALBANIANS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST RUSSIAN PRESENCE
  • [14] NATO ARRESTS TWO SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS
  • [15] SERBIAN OPPOSITION MEETS DOBBINS IN BUDAPEST
  • [16] PANIC TELLS WASHINGTON TO USE 'NORIEGA OPTION'
  • [17] YUGOSLAV MINISTER LAUDS U.S. MEDIA
  • [18] SESELJ WARNS OF 'BLOODY WAR' IN MONTENEGRO
  • [19] DJUKANOVIC PLEDGES 'MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY'
  • [20] INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE LEAVES SREBRENICA POST
  • [21] JELAVIC CALLS FOR NEW DEAL FOR CROATS
  • [22] CROATIA'S MUSLIMS FORM JOINT ORGANIZATION
  • [23] FRANCE CONTINUES TO BLOCK CROATIAN, ALBANIAN MEMBERSHIP IN
  • [24] ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS OPT FOR DIVIDED LEADERSHIP
  • [25] DEMOCRATS CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONS IN ALBANIA
  • [26] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR EXPERTS' CABINET, EARLY
  • [27] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER DROPS OUT OF PRESIDENTIAL RACE
  • [28] MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER UNDER FIRE
  • [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER CONCEDES LOCAL ELECTIONS RESULT ARE
  • [30] ...SAYS MIGHT RESHUFFLE CABINET

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] LITHUANIAN CRISIS REFLECTS EAST EUROPEAN SKEPTICISM

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PREMIER VOWS TO TARGET CORRUPTION

    In a television

    address on 21 October, Vazgen Sargsian pledged to reduce the

    "political problem" of corruption to dimensions that no

    longer threaten the country's economic development, Noyan

    Tapan reported. He called for a crackdown on bribery, which

    he termed "widespread," and protectionism, which he said

    deters foreign investment. Sargsian also called for the

    maximum effort to ensure that the 24 October local elections

    are perceived as free and fair, adding that no matter how

    good government programs may be, they are doomed to failure

    without competent local administrators to implement them. He

    pledged that the 2000 draft budget, which is to be submitted

    to the parliament on 1 November, will be "tough" but

    "realistic and purposeful." LF

    [02] ARMENIAN INTELLIGENTSIA WANTS ELECTION OF NEW CATHOLICOS

    POSTPONED

    Meeting on 21 October in Yerevan, members of the

    Armenian intelligentsia addressed an appeal to the Supreme

    Ecclesiastical Council to delay the election later this week

    of a successor to Catholicos Karekin I, who died in July,

    Noyan Tapan reported. Representatives of several Armenian

    opposition parties had made a similar appeal last week (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). Also on 21 October,

    Archbishop Grigoris Bournoutian announced that 35 bishops

    have agreed to support a specific candidate for Catholicos,

    but he declined to name that candidate. On 22 October, Gegham

    Manoukian, who is a member of the Executive Council of the

    opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun,

    told Noyan Tapan that his party considers Aram I, catholicos

    of the Great House of Cilicia, the best qualified candidate.

    Aram has denied that he is seeking the post of catholicos. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI PRO-GOVERNMENT BLOC CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON

    KARABAKH SETTLEMENT

    Fatherland Party leader Fazil Agamaly

    told Turan on 23 October that choice of the unrecognized

    Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's political status within

    Azerbaijan should be reflected in Azerbaijan's Constitution

    and determined by a nationwide referendum. At present, the

    country's constitution describes Azerbaijan as a unitary

    state but gives the exclave of Nakhichevan the status of an

    autonomous republic. Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov on 29

    September denied any knowledge of plans to hold such a

    referendum at the same time as the 12 December municipal

    elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 1999).

    Agamaly also complained that the Democratic Alliance, which

    unites Fatherland and several other pro-government parties,

    has virtually no political influence on developments in

    Azerbaijan. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR CONTINUES WORKING

    President

    Heidar Aliev has not yet accepted the resignation as foreign

    policy adviser Vafa Guluzade, Turan reported on 22 October.

    Guluzade was reported to have submitted his resignation

    earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999).

    LF

    [05] GEORGIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO ASSASSINATION CLAIMS

    Two

    senior Georgian politicians have declined to confirm the

    claims by former National Security Agency (NSA) Director

    Lieutenant-General William Odom that during his tenure as

    Russian prime minister, Yevgenii Primakov was aware of two

    attempts by Russian government agencies to assassinate

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax reported.

    Odom had told RFE/RL last week that the Georgian government

    had provided unnamed countries with that information and

    corroborating evidence. Union of Citizens of Georgia

    parliamentary faction leader Mikhail Saakashvili said the

    Georgian government has no evidence to support those claims.

    Intelligence Department chairman Avtandil Ioseliani denied

    that his service passed any such information to the NSA.

    Ioseliani added that former Georgian Intelligence chief Igor

    Giorgadze, whom the Georgian authorities have accused of a

    botched attempt to kill Shevardnadze in August 1995, is on

    good terms with Primakov. But "Vremya-MN" quoted an

    unidentified Georgian security official as confirming that

    Georgia provided the U.S. with information incriminating

    Primakov. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS RUNOFF ELECTIONS

    A second round of voting

    in elections to the lower house of the parliament have taken

    place in 47 districts where no candidate garnered the

    required 50 percent of the vote during the first round two

    weeks ago. A total of 94 candidates contested those seats,

    and irregularities were reported at some polling stations,

    RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 24 October. Voter turnout

    was estimated at 49 percent, down 10 percent on the first

    round. On 21 October, police broke up a rally in the town of

    Talghar staged by supporters of Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is

    "DAT" newspaper editor and a member of former Premier Akezhan

    Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan. The

    following day, an Almaty district court rejected a suit by

    Orleu Party leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam, who had demanded

    that the Central Electoral Commission refund his candidate's

    fee. Quttyqadam accused the commission of unspecified

    violations during the first round of voting. LF

    [07] KAZAKH PREMIER ENDORSES MULTIPLE PIPELINES

    Following talks

    in Astana on 22 October with his visiting Azerbaijani

    counterpart, Artur Rasizade, Qasymzhomart Toqaev told

    journalists that Kazakhstan supports the planned Baku-Ceyhan

    pipeline as one of several to export Kazakhstan's oil,

    Interfax reported. Rasizade said Azerbaijan does not rule out

    the possibility of routing oil export pipelines via Iran and

    Armenia if a peace treaty is signed with the latter. Rasizade

    added that the two countries have only unspecified "minor

    differences" over the status of the Caspian Sea. The previous

    day, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi

    expressed doubts that the financial obstacles to the Baku-

    Ceyhan project will ever be surmounted, according to

    Interfax. He added that the assembly of pipe for an

    alternative stretch of the existing Baku-Novorossiisk

    pipeline bypassing Chechnya will begin this week. LF

    [08] JAPANESE HOSTAGES RELEASED

    The four Japanese geologists and

    their interpreter who were taken hostage by Uzbek guerrillas

    in southern Kyrgyzstan nine weeks ago were released in

    Tajikistan on 24 October and are on their way to Bishkek,

    RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported the following

    day. The release followed talks between Kyrgyz and Tajik

    security officials and the guerrillas' leader, Djuma

    Namangani. Reuters quoted a Japanese official as denying that

    any ransom was paid to secure the hostages' release. LF

    [09] OPPOSITION TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WANTS REGISTRATION

    ANNULLED

    Following a 21 October ruling by Tajikistan's

    Supreme Court, the Central Electoral Commission has

    registered Economics and Foreign Trade Minister Davlat Usmon

    as a candidate for the 6 November presidential poll. The

    commission had refused to do so earlier this month on the

    grounds that Usmon did not submit the required minimum of

    145,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. However,

    Usmon asked the commission on 22 October to cancel his

    registration, saying that it is illegal as he has submitted

    only 82,690 signatures in his support, Reuters reported. LF

    [10] TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY HEADED FOR SPLIT?

    Several regional

    branches of the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP), the senior

    partner within the United Tajik Opposition, have called for

    convening an emergency party congress to discuss the UTO's 18

    October statement calling for the expulsion of First Deputy

    Prime Minister Khodji Akbar Turadjonzoda from its ranks,

    Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 21 October, citing Turadjonzoda's

    press office. Turadjonzoda had condemned the UTO's demand for

    an emergency parliamentary session to debate the Central

    Electoral Commission's refusal to register three opposition

    presidential candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19

    October 1999). He had also argued that incumbent President

    Imomali Rakhmonov is the most qualified presidential

    candidate. The regional IRP branches affirmed their support

    for Turadjonzoda's position. LF

    [11] CORRECTION:

    "RFE/RL Newsline" on 22 October reported

    incorrectly on the transfer of Mig-29s to Armenia. The jet

    fighters in question, like earlier Russian transfers of such

    aircraft, will go to Russia's military base in that country

    and thus will not be under the control of the Armenian

    government.


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] KOSOVA'S SERBS SET UP POLITICAL BODY

    Meeting in Gracanica on

    24 October, the 49-strong Serbian National Council elected

    Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije president (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 19 October 1999). The representatives of Kosova's

    approximately 100,000 remaining Serbs also chose Momcilo

    Trajkovic to head the Executive Board. The council seeks to

    act as a government body for the Serbian minority and to

    establish five cantons in which the Serbs make up the

    majority. The council did not vote to set up a Serbian

    militia, which representatives of the international community

    had earlier said would be unacceptable. It is unclear how the

    international community will react to the council's plans to

    function as a government body. Executive authority in Kosova

    rests with Bernard Kouchner and his UN mission. Artemije and

    Trajkovic are veteran leaders of their people and oppose the

    policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

    [13] ETHNIC ALBANIANS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST RUSSIAN PRESENCE

    Some

    4,000 ethnic Albanians gathered in Rahovec on 24 October to

    reaffirm their opposition to stationing Russian peacekeepers

    in the town. Since 23 August, ethnic Albanians have blocked

    the main road into Rahovec to prevent Russians from entering

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). The first anti-

    Russian protests took place on 7 July. Local Albanians say

    that unidentified Russians joined Serbs in committing

    atrocities in the area in the spring and that Russians are

    not welcome there. PM

    [14] NATO ARRESTS TWO SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS

    KFOR troops have

    begun screening Serbian refugee columns in the hope of

    finding persons believed to have committed atrocities in the

    province earlier this year. A KFOR spokesman said in Rahovec

    on 23 October that his soldiers arrested two Serbs who were

    part of a convoy seeking to leave Kosova under KFOR

    protection. The spokesman added that peacekeepers will screen

    only those convoys that have requested a KFOR escort. PM

    [15] SERBIAN OPPOSITION MEETS DOBBINS IN BUDAPEST

    U.S. special

    envoy for the former Yugoslavia James Dobbins met in Budapest

    on 24 October with several leaders of the Serbian opposition

    Alliance for Change. Alliance spokesman Veran Batic told the

    private Beta news agency that Dobbins said that Washington is

    against a complete lifting of sanctions against Serbia. The

    U.S. diplomat added, however, that Washington will coordinate

    its sanctions policy more closely with that of the EU and

    that the number of Yugoslav officials barred from entering

    the U.S. or EU will be doubled to more than 600. The

    opposition has long argued that economic sanctions hurt

    mainly average Serbs and that it is better to have punitive

    measures targeted directly at the elite. On 22 October, the

    parties represented in the Alliance agreed to form a

    coalition in the next elections. PM

    [16] PANIC TELLS WASHINGTON TO USE 'NORIEGA OPTION'

    Earlier on 24

    October, Alliance for Change leaders met in Budapest with

    millionaire businessman and former Yugoslav Prime Minister

    Milan Panic, who told AP that the opposition lacks funds. The

    next day, Panic called on the U.S. to intervene militarily

    against Milosevic, as it did against Panamanian President

    Manuel Noriega in 1990. Panic said: "We have a dictator

    called Milosevic who is a threat not only to poor Serbs, [who

    are] the true victims of all this. We have an economy that

    has truly collapsed...and the major issue we are discussing

    is how to stop the suffering of people.... American troops

    are closer to Milosevic's home than they were to Noriega's

    home," Panic added. He argued that if the Americans want

    Milosevic out of power, "then [they should] get him.... This

    is a Serb speaking.... I know this is internationally

    unacceptable, but if you want him so bad, don't punish

    [average Serbs but] take him out, get him out, force him out,

    do something," Panic concluded. PM

    [17] YUGOSLAV MINISTER LAUDS U.S. MEDIA

    Information Minister

    Goran Matic said that "The New York Times," "The Washington

    Post," and CNN provide better coverage of Yugoslav affairs

    than do the independent Belgrade periodicals "Blic," "Danas,"

    "Glas javnosti," and "Vreme," Beta reported on 25 October. PM

    [18] SESELJ WARNS OF 'BLOODY WAR' IN MONTENEGRO

    Serbian Deputy

    Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told a Montenegrin radio

    station on 24 October that any move by Montenegro to secede

    from Yugoslavia could result in a "bloody war" and NATO

    intervention, AP reported. His statement came the day before

    officials of his Radical Party started talks with

    representatives of Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of

    Socialists on the future of relations between Serbia and

    Montenegro. Also on 24 October, Montenegrin Prime Minister

    Filip Vujanovic said that Belgrade's attitudes toward

    Montenegro have changed recently. He did not elaborate. PM

    [19] DJUKANOVIC PLEDGES 'MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY'

    Montenegrin

    President Milo Djukanovic said in Herceg Novi that his

    republic will soon introduce "monetary sovereignty,"

    Belgrade's "Danas" wrote on 25 October. The daily added that

    Montenegrin officials are well advanced in preparations to

    introduce the German mark as legal tender along with the

    Yugoslav dinar. Djukanovic and members of his government have

    frequently spoken about planning to take steps toward greater

    sovereignty for their republic but have not said when they

    will do so. PM

    [20] INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE LEAVES SREBRENICA POST

    The

    international community's Wolfgang Petritsch replaced Danish

    diplomat Bent Jensen as his representative in Srebrenica,

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 23 October. Muslim

    leaders have complained that Jensen is pro-Serbian.

    Petritsch's office said in a statement that Jensen was

    replaced as part of a restructuring of the international

    community's operation in Bosnia. The statement criticized

    what it referred to as verbal attacks on individuals,

    "Oslobodjenje" reported on 25 October. PM

    [21] JELAVIC CALLS FOR NEW DEAL FOR CROATS

    Ante Jelavic, who is

    the ethnic Croatian representative on the joint Bosnian

    presidency, said in Mostar that the present federation

    between Croats and Muslims must be scrapped. He stressed that

    the Croats are junior partners in the current arrangement and

    that the international community regularly interferes in its

    affairs to the detriment of the Croats, "Oslobodjenje"

    reported on 25 October. Jelavic said that the terms governing

    the federation must be renegotiated. If the international

    community refuses to do this, then it should openly declare

    Bosnia an international protectorate and dispense with any

    pretense that there is self-government in Bosnia. PM

    [22] CROATIA'S MUSLIMS FORM JOINT ORGANIZATION

    Representatives of

    several organizations of Bosnian Muslims living in Croatia

    agreed in Pula on 23 October to form the League of Bosnjaks

    (Muslims) of Croatia as an umbrella organization. Member

    groups include the political Party of Democratic Action, the

    religious Islamic Community, the cultural society Preporod,

    and the charitable organization Merhamet. PM

    [23] FRANCE CONTINUES TO BLOCK CROATIAN, ALBANIAN MEMBERSHIP IN

    WTO

    At the urging of France, the EU remains at loggerheads

    with Washington over the terms of admission of Croatia and

    Albania to the WTO, London's "Financial Times" reported on 25

    October. Paris insists that Zagreb and Tirana place legal

    restrictions on the import of U.S. films and television

    programs. France refused to accept a recent compromise

    between its EU partners and Washington. PM

    [24] ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS OPT FOR DIVIDED LEADERSHIP

    At a 22

    October Socialist party congress in Tirana, delegates

    approved the controversial election of 36 members of the 116-

    strong steering committee. Party leader Fatos Nano had

    challenged the election of the 36 because they received less

    than 50 percent of votes cast at a similar gathering two

    weeks earlier. Party statutes require Steering Committee

    members to win more than 50 percent of the vote. Observers

    note that Nano's apparent climb-down means that supporters of

    Nano's rival, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, will continue to

    play a large role in governing the party (see "RFE/RL Balkan

    Report," 19 October 1999). Nano's supporters are more

    numerous than Majko's within the party, but Majko has a

    stronger appeal to the public than does the combative Nano.

    PM

    [25] DEMOCRATS CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONS IN ALBANIA

    Opposition

    leader Sali Berisha told several thousand supporters in

    Tirana on 23 October that in-fighting within the Socialist

    Party shows that the Socialists have lost their mandate to

    govern. He repeated his frequent call for the Socialists to

    resign and hold new elections. Berisha promised to hold a

    series of protests in coming weeks until the governing

    coalition agrees to a new ballot. PM

    [26] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR EXPERTS' CABINET, EARLY

    ELECTIONS

    Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR)

    leader Ion Iliescu told journalists after a 22 October

    meeting of the PDSR's Executive Bureau that his party is

    demanding the dismissal of the cabinet, its replacement by

    one composed of "apolitical experts," and early elections,

    RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said Radu

    Vasile's cabinet has displayed "a lack of interest" vis-a-

    vis the population and the "inability" to ensure minimum

    living standards. MS

    [27] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER DROPS OUT OF PRESIDENTIAL RACE

    Victor Ciorbea on 22 October told a forum of his Christian-

    Democrat National Alliance that he has decided to withdraw

    from the 2000 presidential elections. He gave no reason for

    that decision, Romanian Radio reported on 22 October. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER UNDER FIRE

    Andrei Strimbeanu, a

    member of the Moldovan Party of Rebirth and Conciliation

    (PRCM), said on 23 October that he will demand that Deputy

    Premier Nicolae Andronic be expelled from the PRCM for

    having voted the same day in the parliament in favor of

    setting up the new Taraclia county, BASA Press reported.

    But PRCM Chairman Mircea Snegur said Andronic cast his vote

    as a member of the cabinet, not as a PRCM deputy. Also on

    23 October, Andronic denied allegations by General Nicolae

    Alexe, former head of the Department for Combating

    Organized Crime, that he is a member of a Russian mafia

    group with branches in Moldova. The same day, Tiraspol's

    Russian-language "Pridnestvoe" wrote that Andronic may have

    been behind the killing of a police major, who lost his

    life in a bomb explosion in Chisinau earlier this month. MS

    [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER CONCEDES LOCAL ELECTIONS RESULT ARE

    'WARNING'...

    Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 24 October said

    that the results of the local elections are a "serious

    warning for the ruling coalition" but that the course of

    reform will not be changed, BTA reported. Run-offs in the

    local elections took place one day earlier, on 23 October.

    The Central Electoral Commission announced that the ruling

    United Democratic Forces alliance (ODS) and the opposition

    Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) have approximately the same

    level of support after the two rounds of voting. The ODS

    won 101 local councils and the BSP 94. The ethnic Turkish

    Movement for Rights and Freedom came third and lost the

    municipality of Kurdjali to the ODS. It has accused the ODS

    of having rigged the elections. MS

    [30] ...SAYS MIGHT RESHUFFLE CABINET

    Kostov, in an interview with

    the BBC to be aired on 25 October, said he will reshuffle his

    cabinet if Bulgaria receives a formal invitation to join the

    EU, Reuters reported on 23 October, citing the daily "Sega."

    He said the cabinet is "structurally not suitable" for the

    expected accession talks. Several opposition leaders said the

    real reason for the reshuffle is the ODS's poor showing in

    the local elections. On 24 October, Kostov suggested that the

    talks with the EU may encounter difficulties because of the

    union's insistence on closing down the Kozloduy nuclear

    plant, AP reported. He said the EU invitation to accession

    talks is "not so unconditional" as it might have looked and

    that "national consensus [over Kozloduy] is a very high price

    and I do not know who is going to pay it, even if it would

    speed up the accession talks." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] LITHUANIAN CRISIS REFLECTS EAST EUROPEAN SKEPTICISM

    By Joel Blocker

    Lithuania's government crisis over the impending sale of

    one-third of its state-owned Mazeikiai oil refinery to a U.S.

    company broke into public view last week during a nationwide

    television address by Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas.

    Paksas--himself only five months in office-- said on 18

    October that 18 months of negotiations with the Oklahoma-

    based Williams International Company has ended in a deal

    decidedly disadvantageous to Lithuania. That, he said, is

    largely because the final accord, due to be signed on 29

    October, requires Vilnius to pay up to $400 million to

    Williams to cover both debts and a shortfall in Mazeikiai's

    working capital.

    The day after Paksas's speech, the crisis intensified

    with the announcement of the resignations of Lithuania's

    finance and economics ministers, both of whom said they agree

    with Paksas's objections to the deal. But the rest of

    Paksas's 15-member coalition cabinet support the idea, and

    President Valdas Adamkus-- a former U.S. citizen--strongly

    backs the deal. After the cabinet approved the deal in the

    evening of 18 October and Adamkus had accepted the two

    ministers' resignations, the president said he is not

    necessarily for Williams but for what he called terms

    "beneficial" to Lithuania.

    Speaking for Premier Paksas, economics adviser Eduardas

    Vilkas saw the matter very differently. He called the

    Williams agreement "completely foolish," saying, "We must

    finance $400 million dollars [in payments to Williams]

    immediately, while the Americans stagger their payments. It

    isn't right." Williams' payments are to total some $150

    million.

    According to Kestutis Girnius, director of RFE/RL's

    Lithuanian Service, the Williams crisis has important

    implications for changing East European attitudes toward

    Western investment. He suggests that there is a general

    tendency in Central and Eastern Europe "to look askance at

    certain Western investments." He also says that the small

    degree of "anti-Western skepticism about the West" is

    growing. Major projects, such as Mazeikiai, are considered to

    be the pride of local industry, and giving them up is seen as

    a "sign of defeat," he argues.

    Girnius believes this new tendency also reflects a

    change in attitude toward Russia. He says there is a much

    greater willingness in Lithuania today to accept Russian oil

    as the country's principle source of energy. That, too, could

    play a role in the evolution of the Williams crisis, because

    Russia's oil giant LUKoil has cut off supplies of crude to

    Lithuania in protest over the sale to Williams. LUKoil itself

    had hoped to purchase a controlling share in Mazeikiai.

    According to Girnius, the Williams accord could easily

    bring down the Paksas government on or soon after 29 October,

    when the deal is due to be signed. He thinks the government's

    biggest mistake in the affair was not setting up a public

    tender for Mazeikiai, which created the impression the

    government was in effect giving away the huge refinery.

    As for the immediate future, he say he believes nothing

    will be done until 29 October. "After the deal is signed,

    then I think there is a great possibility that pressure will

    increase for Paksas' resignation. But in the long run, [it

    will turn out that] his popularity has soared."

    Paksas, according to Girnius, is already seen by the

    public as "a defender of the little man, a folk hero." That,

    he adds, may turn out to be the most important domestic

    consequence of the Williams affair.

    As for the international implications, it is clear that

    the government crisis and public concern over the Williams

    deal is a sign of rapidly changing attitudes in Eastern

    Europe toward Western investment. How small or big a sign it

    is will be known only over the weeks and months to come. But

    the Williams affair strongly suggests that the change is

    already well under way.

    The author is a RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.

    25-10-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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