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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 229, 99-11-24

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. 229, 24 November 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET
  • [02] ANOTHER GEORGIAN MILITARY CARGO IMPOUNDED IN MOSCOW
  • [03] GEORGIAN PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION MARKS TENTH ANNIVERSARY
  • [04] MOSCOW DOWNPLAYS ARRESTS OF SEPARATISTS IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S CHIEF OF STAFF DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN MIG SALES
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS MONGOLIA
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN CONCERNED ABOUT CHECHEN INFLUX
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN, EU DISCUSS COOPERATION
  • [09] TAJIK GOVERNMENT RESIGNS
  • [10] TURKMEN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] TUDJMAN'S CONDITION 'GRAVE'
  • [12] CONSTITUTIONAL DEADLOCK IN CROATIA...
  • [13] ...AS SEKS SEEKS TO FUDGE THE ISSUE...
  • [14] ...AND ELECTIONS COMPLICATE ISSUE
  • [15] MONTENEGRIN PARTY DENIES ROLE IN PARAMILITARIES...
  • [16] ...GOVERNMENT NOT 'ALARMED'
  • [17] CLINTON MEETS WITH U.S. TROOPS...
  • [18] ...AND REPRESENTATIVES OF KOSOVA SERBS
  • [19] MILOSEVIC MEDIA CONDEMN CLINTON VISIT TO KOSOVA
  • [20] SERBIAN POLICE INJURED NEAR KOSOVA BORDER
  • [21] KOSOVARS TRIED FOR 'TERRORISM'
  • [22] 'ENERGY FOR DEMOCRACY' OIL HEADS FOR SERBIA
  • [23] ALBANIAN AID MONEY FOR ROAD TO KOSOVA
  • [24] GUNMEN ATTACK ALBANIAN JOURNALIST
  • [25] OSCE ISSUES REPORT ON BOSNIAN CORRUPTION
  • [26] LABOR PROTESTS MOVE TO BUCHAREST
  • [27] ROMANIA TRIES TO STABILIZE CURRENCY
  • [28] ROMANIA HAS MOST AIDS INFECTED CHILDREN IN EUROPE
  • [29] WAS INTERIOR MINISTER CANDIDATE RESPONSIBLE FOR MOLDOVAN
  • [30] BULGARIA SEEKING INVITE TO EU TALKS WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] U.S. TROOPS IN KOSOVA: IN FOR THE LONG HAUL?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET

    Vagharshak

    Harutiunian and Igor Sergeev, meeting in Moscow on 23

    November, signed a plan for cooperation between their

    ministries in 2000, Noyan Tapan reported. Sergeev stressed

    after the signing ceremony that the ongoing intense defense

    cooperation between the two countries is not aimed against a

    third party but intended to underpin security and stability

    in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar

    Abiev is to join his Russian and Armenian colleagues for

    talks in Moscow on 24 November on strengthening the May 1994

    Karabakh cease-fire agreement. LF

    [02] ANOTHER GEORGIAN MILITARY CARGO IMPOUNDED IN MOSCOW

    Customs

    officials at Domodedovo airport have impounded some 300

    kilograms of Georgian ammunition that was being returned to

    Georgia from a defense industry exhibition in Bucharest,

    arguing that the consignment is intended for militants

    fighting in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported on 24 November,

    quoting Georgian Defense Ministry spokesman Koba Liklikadze.

    The head of the ministry's technical department, Gogi

    Tavadze, expressed concern lest Russian military specialists

    steal unique Georgian technology. Russian customs officials

    impounded military uniforms donated to Georgia by the U.S.

    earlier this month on the pretext that they were allegedly

    being sent to Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November

    1999). LF

    [03] GEORGIAN PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION MARKS TENTH ANNIVERSARY

    Members of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization

    congregated at the Saburtalo cemetery in Tbilisi on 23

    November to commemorate the 840 members of that organization

    killed while defending Georgia's territorial integrity,

    Caucasus Press reported. Mkhedrioni's political secretary

    Tornike Berishvili said the organization now numbers 5,000

    members, compared with 45 when it was founded. Also on 23

    November, Caucasus Press reported that President Eduard

    Shevardnadze has given permission for the release from jail

    after next year's presidential elections of Mkhedrioni leader

    Djaba Ioseliani. Ioseliani, who is 73, was sentenced in

    November 1998 to 11 years' imprisonment on charges of

    banditism and attempting to assassinate Shevardnadze. He has

    appealed that sentence with the European Court. LF

    [04] MOSCOW DOWNPLAYS ARRESTS OF SEPARATISTS IN KAZAKHSTAN

    Russian Premier Vladimir Putin told journalists in Moscow on

    23 November he does not believe that the arrest last week in

    Kazakhstan of 12 Russian citizens on suspicion of planning to

    declare an independent Russian Altai Republic poses a serious

    threat to bilateral relations, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 23 November 1999). Foreign Ministry spokesman

    Vladimir Rakhmanin similarly said that Russia "does not

    meddle in Kazakhstan's internal affairs" and respects

    Kazakhstan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. On 24

    November, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that for the past

    two months the alleged ringleader of the group, Vladimir

    Kazimirchik, had openly sought support in eastern Kazakhstan

    for proclaiming the secession of part of the region. Local

    officials had repeatedly warned local security officials

    about his activities, the paper said. LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S CHIEF OF STAFF DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN MIG SALES

    Major General Bakhytzhan Ertaev said on 23 November that he

    did not play any role in the illegal sale to North Korea of

    some 40 obsolete MiG-21 fighter aircraft, Interfax reported.

    Ertaev is expected to be called as a witness in the trial of

    unnamed Kazakh officials suspected of having arranged that

    deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1999). LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS MONGOLIA

    Visiting Ulan-Bator

    on 22-23 November, Nursultan Nazarbaev met with his Mongolian

    counterpart, Natsagiyn Bagabandi, Prime Minister

    Rinchinnyamiin Amarjargal and parliamentary speaker

    Radnaasumbreliin Gonchigdorj, according to "Nezavisimaya

    gazeta" on 24 November. The talks focused on developing

    bilateral economic cooperation, security issues, and

    repatriation of ethnic Kazakhs from Mongolia. The two

    presidents signed a joint declaration pledging to expand

    cooperation in prospecting for and mining precious metals and

    to build highways and an electric power line linking the two

    countries. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN CONCERNED ABOUT CHECHEN INFLUX

    Kazakhstan's

    Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimanov told journalists in

    Astana on 23 November that his forces are establishing

    additional checkpoints at ports and railway stations to

    screen Chechens fleeing the fighting in the North Caucasus.

    Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Suleimanov estimated the number

    of Chechens who have entered Kazakhstan since the start of

    the fighting at 2,064, while presidential chief of staff

    Sarybai Kalmurzayev told another press conference the same

    day that the figure could be as high as 10,000. LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN, EU DISCUSS COOPERATION

    Cornelius Wittebrood, who

    is chief of the European Commission department for relations

    with the CIS, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, told

    journalists in Almaty on 23 November that the EU plans to

    expand trade with Kazakhstan and investment in that country's

    economy, Interfax reported. EU countries are among

    Kazakhstan's main trade partners. Wittebrood said his talks

    in Astana the previous day with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister

    Qasymzhomart Toqaev focused on Kazakhstan's admission to the

    WTO and cooperation under the recent partnership agreement

    between the EU and Kazakhstan. He also stressed the EU's

    support for the diversification of pipeline routes to

    transport Caspian hydrocarbons to international markets. He

    specifically mentioned Kazakhstan's Caspian Pipeline

    Consortium, the Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen gas,

    and the Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. LF

    [09] TAJIK GOVERNMENT RESIGNS

    In accordance with the Tajik

    constitution, the entire cabinet on 23 November submitted its

    resignation to President Imomali Rakhmonov at its first

    session following his inauguration, Asia Plus-Blitz reported

    the next day. Ministers and their deputies will, however,

    continue to perform their duties until a new government is

    formed. LF

    [10] TURKMEN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET

    Lawmakers on 23

    November approved the draft budget for 2000 which envisages

    revenues of 26.6 trillion manats ($5.03 billion) and

    expenditures of 29.05 trillion manats, Interfax reported.

    Some 67 percent of budget spending will go on social needs.

    The $86.15 million budget deficit is equal to 2.08 percent of

    GDP. Finance Minister Matkarim Radzhabov predicted that

    industrial output next year will increase by 12 percent to 17

    trillion manats and that investments will total 14.4 trillion

    manats or double this year's level. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] TUDJMAN'S CONDITION 'GRAVE'

    Doctors treating Croatian

    President Franjo Tudjman said on 24 November for the first

    time that the president's condition has become "grave." They

    did not elaborate, except to say that he remains in intensive

    care. Tudjman has been in a Zagreb hospital since 1 November

    and is widely believed to be dying of cancer. The authorities

    have released no photographs of him since he entered the

    hospital. The sparse official statements on his condition

    have become increasingly less optimistic. PM

    [12] CONSTITUTIONAL DEADLOCK IN CROATIA...

    Representatives of the

    governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and of six

    opposition parties failed during the night of 23-24 November

    to reach agreement on a constitutional amendment to enable

    the parliament to declare Tudjman incapacitated and transfer

    at least some of his powers to parliamentary speaker Vlatko

    Pavletic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). The HDZ

    wants such a declaration to be limited to 30 days and

    extensions to be decided by the Constitutional Court, where

    the HDZ has a majority, the VOA's Croatian Service reported.

    The opposition wants him to be declared permanently

    incapacitated and for the parliament to retain the last word

    in matters regarding his continuing in office. The opposition

    also demands that the parliament receive a detailed report on

    the state of Tudjman's health. PM

    [13] ...AS SEKS SEEKS TO FUDGE THE ISSUE...

    Deputy parliamentary

    speaker and HDZ leader Vladimir Seks said he will introduce a

    measure in the legislature on 24 November to enable the

    parliament to declare Tudjman temporarily incapacitated

    without passing a constitutional amendment, the BBC's

    Croatian Service reported. He did not say how he will try to

    legislate the change without an amendment. The constitution

    provides for the president to be declared incapacitated only

    permanently, not temporarily. The HDZ says that it would be

    "disrespectful to the founder of the state" to declare

    Tudjman permanently incapacitated. The HDZ has a simple

    majority in the legislature but not the two-thirds majority

    necessary to change the constitution. PM

    [14] ...AND ELECTIONS COMPLICATE ISSUE

    An additional reason for

    the collapse of the negotiations on 23-24 November was the

    opposition's insistence that any agreement include a fixed

    date for parliamentary elections, which the HDZ does not

    want. Opposition leaders Drazen Budisa and Ivica Racan told

    the BBC's Croatian Service on 24 November that the issues of

    the presidency and the elections are inseparably bound up

    with each other. Seks, for his part, accused the opposition

    of trying to mix unrelated issues. PM

    [15] MONTENEGRIN PARTY DENIES ROLE IN PARAMILITARIES...

    Zoran

    Zizic, who is a spokesman for Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir

    Bulatovic's Socialist People's Party (SNP), told RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service in Podgorica on 23 November that his

    party has no knowledge of any paramilitary forces loyal to

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Montenegro. Zizic

    added that recent charges by former General Momcilo Perisic

    that the SNP helped set up such paramilitary formations are

    "absolutely untrue" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November

    1999). The spokesman stressed that the SNP wants Perisic to

    explain his accusations in court. PM

    [16] ...GOVERNMENT NOT 'ALARMED'

    Unnamed officials of

    Montenegro's Interior Ministry told RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service in Podgorica on 23 November that they will not

    comment on Perisic's charges until the ministry takes an

    official position on the matter. It is unclear when that will

    be. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan, for his part, said

    he is not "alarmed" by Perisic's remarks. Burzan added that

    the Montenegrin authorities are aware that recently Belgrade

    has been increasing the strength of some individual army

    units in Montenegro. Paramilitary police formations, however,

    remain at a "low level," Burzan said. The Montenegrin

    minister stressed that Milosevic is no longer in a position

    to do as he pleases in Montenegro. RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service noted, however, that Milosevic remains in command of

    the army in all parts of Yugoslavia. The Montenegrin

    authorities, moreover, have no control over the shipments

    that arrive daily in Podgorica for the army. PM

    [17] CLINTON MEETS WITH U.S. TROOPS...

    U.S. President Bill Clinton

    spoke to U.S. troops at Camp Bondsteel on 23 November

    following his enthusiastic reception by ethnic Albanians in

    Ferizaj (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1999). He told

    U.S. troops that they can set an example of how people from

    different ethnic and religious backgrounds can work together

    (see also "End Note" below). PM

    [18] ...AND REPRESENTATIVES OF KOSOVA SERBS

    Bishop Artemije, who

    is one of the two main leaders of the Kosova Serbs, told

    Clinton in an open letter on 23 November that he believes the

    current violence in Kosova against Serbs and other non-

    Albanians is not in keeping with U.S. policy. He appealed to

    Clinton to do what he can to enable all peoples in Kosova to

    live in peace, "Vesti" reported. Artemije condemned the

    polices of Milosevic and of "Albanian extremists" and urged

    the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to investigate all

    atrocities in the province. A spokesman for Artemije told the

    BBC that he is convinced that Clinton appreciated the

    bishop's plea. Momcilo Trajkovic, who is the second principal

    leader of the Kosova Serbs, said, however, that the Serbs

    will not return to the UN's Transitional Council as long as

    violence continues against Serbs, "Vesti" reported. PM

    [19] MILOSEVIC MEDIA CONDEMN CLINTON VISIT TO KOSOVA

    State-run

    Serbian Television said on 23 November in a commentary on

    Clinton's visit to Kosova that the U.S. president's arrival

    in the province proves that "the criminal always returns to

    the scene of the crime." The Milosevic government regards

    NATO's campaign in the spring of 1999 to halt the ethnic

    cleansing of Kosova as "aggression." Belgrade also argues

    that foreign officials should not visit the Serbian province

    without the Yugoslav government's permission. PM

    [20] SERBIAN POLICE INJURED NEAR KOSOVA BORDER

    The private Beta

    news agency reported from Belgrade on 23 November that two

    Serbian policemen were injured in an "armed attack" in

    Konculj, an ethnic Albanian village in southern Serbia. No

    details are available. The alleged incident follows the death

    of two Serbian police in a mine explosion near the border

    with Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). PM

    [21] KOSOVARS TRIED FOR 'TERRORISM'

    The trial opened in Belgrade

    on 23 November of six ethnic Albanians on charges of

    "terrorism." The six each face sentences of up to 20 years in

    prison. PM

    [22] 'ENERGY FOR DEMOCRACY' OIL HEADS FOR SERBIA

    An initial

    convoy of trucks carrying fuel oil supplied by the EU left

    Skopje on 23 November for the opposition-controlled cities of

    Nis and Pirot. The EU and the Serbian opposition hope that

    the Energy for Democracy Program will show ordinary Serbs

    that the opposition is able to bring them concrete benefits

    even before parliamentary elections take place. Local and

    independent media are giving extensive coverage to the oil

    deliveries in the hope that such publicity will discourage

    the Belgrade authorities from interfering with the shipment.

    If the pilot project to Nis and Pirot is successful, it will

    be extended to additional municipalities. PM

    [23] ALBANIAN AID MONEY FOR ROAD TO KOSOVA

    An Albanian government

    spokeswoman said in Tirana on 23 November that some $12

    million in foreign aid for the government budget will be

    spent on building a key road linking the port of Durres with

    Prishtina. The government has attached great importance to

    the project since announcing it in September. A spokesman for

    Prime Minister Ilir Meta argued that it is more important to

    construct a small number of major projects than a larger

    number of smaller ones, "which often melt away like salt in

    water," dpa reported. PM

    [24] GUNMEN ATTACK ALBANIAN JOURNALIST

    Unidentified gunmen

    seriously injured Vjollca Karanxha while she was filming in

    Pogradec on 22 November, dpa reported. She is a reporter for

    the local radio and television station and has often written

    about the role of local officials in smuggling and

    corruption. PM

    [25] OSCE ISSUES REPORT ON BOSNIAN CORRUPTION

    The OSCE's Robert

    Barry made public a report that shows that corruption linking

    business, political, criminal, and police elites is rife in

    many parts of Bosnia. He stressed that corruption is the

    "life-blood" of one-party rule in most parts of the republic.

    Barry noted that many governments work "hand-in-glove with

    organized crime and remnants of old security services...to

    maintain control of citizens' lives," AP reported. He did not

    provide specific examples. PM

    [26] LABOR PROTESTS MOVE TO BUCHAREST

    Some 5,000 workers marched

    through Bucharest on 23 November calling for the government

    to resign, Reuters reported. The protest, organized by a bloc

    of labor unions, came on the heels of one in the northern

    town of Iasi calling for the sacking of Premier Radu Vasile

    amid worsening economic conditions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23

    November 1999). Union leader Pavel Todoran said "people have

    lost confidence in this government...a new [one] might defuse

    tensions and help us weather the expected harsh winter

    ahead." PB

    [27] ROMANIA TRIES TO STABILIZE CURRENCY

    The National Bank of

    Romania on 23 November intervened to prop up the country's

    flagging currency, Mediafax reported. The bank sold some $20

    million in hard currency after the leu fell to 18,000 to $1.

    One week earlier, the exchange rate was 17,410 lei to $1.

    After the bank's intervention, the leu strengthened to 17,910

    to $1. In other news, the Romanian Senate and the Chamber of

    Deputies approved at a joint sitting on 22 November President

    Emil Constantinescu's request that Dutch and U.S. military

    hardware and materiel for Kosova be allowed to transit

    Romania by train, Rompres reported. PB

    [28] ROMANIA HAS MOST AIDS INFECTED CHILDREN IN EUROPE

    Romania

    has some 8,700 children suffering from AIDS, the largest

    total number of any one country in Europe, Mediafax reported

    on 22 November. Adrian Streinu-Cercel, the head of the

    National AIDS Committee, said most of the children became

    infected through the use of unsterile needles. PB

    [29] WAS INTERIOR MINISTER CANDIDATE RESPONSIBLE FOR MOLDOVAN

    CABINET'S NON-APPROVAL?

    Iurie Rosca, the leader of the

    Christian Democratic Popular Front, said the candidacy of

    Nicolae Alexei as interior minister was the reason why

    Premier-designate Valeriu Bobutac's government was not

    approved, BASA-press reported on 23 November. Bobutac's

    government failed by four votes to receive a simple majority

    from the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November

    1999). Rosca claims that any government including Alexei will

    not be approved by the parliament. Alexei was sacked as head

    of the Department Against Organized Crime and Corruption

    after bringing corruption allegations against several members

    of the previous government. Moldovan President Petru

    Lucinschi is set to name a new candidate for premier later

    this week. PB

    [30] BULGARIA SEEKING INVITE TO EU TALKS WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS

    Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said on 23 November that

    Bulgaria is close to being invited to start talks on EU

    accession without having to fulfill preconditions, Reuters

    reported. Mihailova said Bulgaria "is in the last phase of

    negotiations at all levels, from experts to heads of states,

    on getting an invitation for accession talks." The European

    Commission recommended last month that the EU invite Bulgaria

    and five other countries to join the six countries already

    negotiating their union membership. The sticking point for

    Bulgaria is the EU demand that the four oldest reactors at

    its controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant be shut down

    early. PB


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] U.S. TROOPS IN KOSOVA: IN FOR THE LONG HAUL?

    by Michael J. Jordan

    The amber waves of grain that once covered the rolling

    hills two miles east of Urosevac, in south-central Kosova,

    are no more. They have been replaced with sprawling Camp

    Bondsteel.

    The heavily fortified, 755-acre military base is the

    largest the U.S. has built from the ground up since the

    Vietnam War.

    As U.S. President Clinton visited on 23 November to

    spend an early Thanksgiving with the troops, some observers

    here were wondering: Why is Bondsteel so big?

    Soldiers at this $36.6 million U.S. base say it's

    strictly about safety and comfort. If nothing else, it sends

    a direct message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic,

    who already has provoked four wars this decade and may be

    capable of more mayhem.

    "The base is a response to the perceived need for a

    presence in the Balkans for years to come," says Bryan

    Hopkinson, Kosova director of the International Crisis Group,

    a Brussels-based think-tank. "It shows the U.S. means

    business."

    One day it could mean even more. Some say Camp Bondsteel

    will smooth the logistics of a future U.S. military

    intervention. Others see it yielding benefits in terms of

    Balkan geopolitics and trade. Perhaps with this in mind, says

    Hopkinson, U.S. planners are shrewdly "taking advantage of

    favorable circumstances" to build a base spacious enough to

    accommodate any future needs.

    Those "favorable circumstances" are the key. Three

    months of NATO air strikes this spring ended a Serbian

    campaign of "ethnic cleansing" that unleashed a wave of some

    1 million refugees in the Yugoslav province. So ethnic

    Albanians here are thrilled to have 47,000 international

    troops--6,300 of them from the U.S.--protecting them, even if

    assistance has so far fallen short of their goal of

    independence.

    This contrasts starkly with Macedonia and Hungary,

    Yugoslavia's neighbors to the south and north. During the air

    strikes, both countries were uneasy about being drawn into

    NATO operations. Hungary, unlike Macedonia, is a NATO member.

    But the country only rid itself of Soviet troops nine years

    ago.

    "Albanians are the only people who embrace NATO with all

    their heart," says Sevdije Ahmeti, a human-rights activist in

    Kosova. "America will find no better allies in the Balkans,

    or in Europe, than the U.S."

    Allies may be needed with Milosevic still holding the

    reins in Belgrade. A slew of destabilizing scenarios are

    possible: secession by tiny Montenegro, leaving landlocked

    Serbia the lone Yugoslav republic; conflict with ethnic

    Hungarians in northern Serbia; civil war between pro- and

    anti-Milosevic factions; or upheaval in Macedonia, which has

    its own restive Albanian minority.

    With soldier-safety high on the Clinton administration's

    agenda, nothing is left to chance at Camp Bondsteel. The

    troops are ensconced behind miles of barbed wire and

    countless earthen and concrete barriers. Eleven guard towers

    keep watch.

    The base has a large helipad for nearly 55 transport,

    reconnaissance, and attack helicopters, including a dozen of

    the vaunted Apaches.

    There is no runway for fixed-wing fighter aircraft,

    although Hopkinson and other analysts speculate that the base

    may be big enough to accommodate a runway in the future. U.S.

    officials reject this possibility, pointing to the area's

    undulating terrain. They also have tried to quash rumors that

    Camp Bondsteel eventually may replace Aviano, Italy, as one

    of the prime European airfields of the U.S. Air Force.

    Still, observers suggest Camp Bondsteel would serve

    several geostrategic functions. Though Kosova is a diamond-

    shaped province smaller than New Jersey, it has proximity to

    the Black Sea to the east, the Mediterranean to the south,

    and the Adriatic to the west.

    As NATO expands eastward, perhaps even into the Balkans,

    some say Bondsteel could underpin security for the alliance's

    southeastern flank.

    It's not only Russia that considers the Balkans within

    its sphere of influence. The Arab world is also looking to

    make inroads between the Bosnian Muslims and the

    predominantly Muslim but highly secular populations of

    Albania and Kosova, "Kosova can be treated as a small spot in

    the ocean, or a very important spot in Europe," says Ahmeti.

    "The Near East also tries to put U.S. [in] their sphere, so

    we're sandwiched."

    But some Western diplomatic sources scoff at the idea of

    Kosova having any real strategic value.

    "The notion that the U.S. is interested in forward bases

    and extending its international presence is fundamentally

    paranoiac and fundamentally wrong," says one diplomat, who

    asked not to be identified. "On the contrary, the U.S. would

    prefer to let countries conduct their own defense and not

    have to intervene around the world."

    And while President Clinton and others talk of a

    Marshall Plan-style reconstruction of the Balkans, ethnic

    Albanians hope that the mere sight of Camp Bondsteel may

    soothe jittery foreign investors.

    Ardian Arifaj, news editor of Kosova's leading daily

    paper, "Koha Ditore," says, "There's a perception here that

    there are American bases all over the world, and all those

    countries have prospered with them."

    The author is a Budapest-based journalist

    (michaeljjordan@csi.com).

    24-11-99


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


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