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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 84, 00-04-28

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. 4, No. 84, 28 April 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PARLIAMENT FACTIONS
  • [02] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER PROPOSES NEW GOVERNMENT
  • [03] RUSSIAN TROOPS TO RELOCATE FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA?
  • [04] IMPRISONED KARABAKH JOURNALIST RELEASED
  • [05] BAKU MAYOR BANS AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMO
  • [06] NATO OFFICIAL SAYS GEORGIA MAY EVENTUALLY JOIN ALLIANCE
  • [07] GEORGIA, RUSSIA AGREE TO RESCHEDULE GAS DEBTS
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS DISCUSS TRANSPORTATION
  • [09] IRAN WARNS AGAINST CONFRONTATION IN CASPIAN...
  • [10] ...BIDS FOR OIL EXPORT ROLE
  • [11] IS KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW CAPITAL A POTEMKIN VILLAGE?
  • [12] KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS MINIMAL FIRST QUARTER GDP GROWTH
  • [13] TAJIK PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON CRIME

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] CONTROVERSY OVER BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER
  • [15] BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES REFORM PACKAGE
  • [16] MUSLIMS EXHUME MASS GRAVES
  • [17] BOSNIAN SERB PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' TO 80 CHARGES
  • [18] CROATIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAWS ON MINORITY EDUCATION
  • [19] KUCAN, HAVEL STRESS NO DELAYS IN EU ENLARGEMENT
  • [20] HAVEL CALLS FOR GREATER SLOVENIAN ROLE IN KOSOVA
  • [21] KFOR COMMANDER SLAMS ATTACKS ON RUSSIANS
  • [22] ANOTHER SHOOT-OUT IN BELGRADE
  • [23] YUGOSLAV AIRLINES CHIEF BURIED
  • [24] SERBIAN SOCCER STAR WARNS AUTHORITIES
  • [25] MOLDOVA, ROMANIA, INITIAL BASIC TREATY
  • [26] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT SAYS PEOPLE 'MUST NOT PANIC'
  • [27] BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION MEETS IN
  • [28] MOLDOVAN CENTRIST PARTIES FORM ELECTORAL BLOC
  • [29] BULGARIANS DETAINED IN AIDS SCANDAL MAY LEAVE LIBYA
  • [30] BULGARIAN EMIGRES GATHER IN SOFIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] SERBIA AFTER THE PROTEST

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PARLIAMENT FACTIONS

    Robert

    Kocharian met on 27 April with members of the Kayunutiun

    parliament faction to discuss the deteriorating political

    situation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Kayunutiun is closely

    aligned with the majority Miasnutiun bloc that on 25 April

    had considered demanding Kocharian's impeachment. Kocharian

    expressed his concern at the parliament's 25 April vote to

    halt the tender for privatization of four energy-distribution

    networks. Also on 27 April, Hrant Voskanian, who heads the

    Communist Party of Armenia (CPA) parliamentary faction, told

    Noyan Tapan that Kocharian had met the previous day with CPA

    members to discuss their proposed amendments to the

    constitution, which he rejects, and the possibility of

    holding a nationwide referendum on Armenia's accession to the

    Union of Belarus and Russia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,"

    Vol. 3, No. 16, 21 April 2000). LF

    [02] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER PROPOSES NEW GOVERNMENT

    Speaking

    at a press conference in Yerevan on 27 April, National

    Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian warned that a

    definitive victory by either side in the ongoing power

    struggle between the president and the parliament majority

    aligned with Prime Minister Aram Sargsian would only compound

    the difficulties Armenia currently faces, Noyan Tapan

    reported. Manukian advocated creating a new government with

    broader powers that would enjoy the trust of both those

    players. Then, Manukian said, a new constitution should be

    adopted as a prelude to the holding of pre-term parliamentary

    and presidential elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    He further warned that uncertainty whether Armenia's primary

    foreign policy orientation should be pro-Western or focused

    on eventual accession to the Union of Belarus and Russia

    aggravates internal political tensions. LF

    [03] RUSSIAN TROOPS TO RELOCATE FROM GEORGIA TO ARMENIA?

    Armenian

    Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian, who traveled to

    Moscow on 27 April with Prime Minister Sargsian, will discuss

    with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, the logistics of

    relocating to Armenia the Russian forces to be withdrawn from

    Russia's four military bases in Georgia, Caucasus Press

    reported on 27 April quoting an unnamed Russian Defense

    Ministry official. On 26 April, "Kommersant-Daily" published

    what it claims is the full text of a secret protocol signed

    after the Russian-Georgian talks in Moscow on 20-21 April at

    which agreement was reached on the Russian withdrawal from

    Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000). LF

    [04] IMPRISONED KARABAKH JOURNALIST RELEASED

    Vahram Aghajanian, a

    journalist with the opposition newspaper "Tasnerord nahang,"

    was released on 27 April and his sentence suspended for two

    years, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported.

    Aghajanian was sentenced on 12 April to one year of jail on

    charges of slandering the prime minister of the unrecognized

    Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Anushavan Danielian, in an article

    he published last November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April

    2000). LF

    [05] BAKU MAYOR BANS AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMO

    A spokesman for

    the Baku Municipal Council told Turan on 27 April that the

    rally which opposition parties plan to hold on 29 April on

    the city's Fizuli Square is "inexpedient." The 10 opposition

    parties aligned in the Democratic Congress decided on 26

    April to hold the demonstration at that location after

    refusing an offer by the Baku city authorities to convene at

    a motorcycle racetrack on the city's outskirts. The

    protesters will demand amendments to the election law to

    ensure that the parliamentary poll scheduled for November

    2000 is truly free and democratic. LF

    [06] NATO OFFICIAL SAYS GEORGIA MAY EVENTUALLY JOIN ALLIANCE

    Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni, who is chairman of NATO's

    Military Committee, said after talks in Tbilisi on 27 April

    with President Eduard Shevardnadze that Georgia has good

    prospects of eventually joining the alliance, according to

    AP. But he implicitly called into question Shevardnadze's

    prognosis that Georgia "will knock on NATO's door" in 2005,

    noting that Georgia's accession will be a "long, drawn out"

    and "step-by-step" process. On 26 April, Venturoni discussed

    with Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze Georgia's

    ongoing participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace

    program. U.S., Georgian, Azerbaijani, and possibly also

    Armenian forces will participate in maneuvers to be held in

    Georgia later this year within the framework of that program,

    ITAR-TASS quoted Tevzadze as saying. LF

    [07] GEORGIA, RUSSIA AGREE TO RESCHEDULE GAS DEBTS

    During talks

    in Moscow on 27 April, Georgian Deputy Minister of State Vano

    Chkhartishvili and Fuel and Energy Minister David

    Mirtskhulava agreed that by 5 May Tbilisi will pay the

    Gazprom subsidiary ITERA part of its outstanding $70 million

    debt for gas supplies, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported.

    Tbilisi will also draw up a schedule for meeting remaining

    repayments. ITERA cut deliveries to Georgia by half on 15

    April. ITERA agreed to resume gas supplies to Tbilisi in May,

    but supplies to other areas of Georgia will be resumed only

    after consumers repay their debts. The two sides also agreed

    to establish a joint working group to discuss ITERA's

    participation in the privatization of Georgia's gas

    distribution network. LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS DISCUSS TRANSPORTATION

    PROJECTS

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told the

    Eurasia-2000 summit in Almaty on 27 April that the TRACECA

    transportation network should be expanded to include a north-

    south transportation link running through Russian territory,

    Caucasus Press reported. A Russian scholar had recently

    called for making the route though the Caucasus the hub of

    any new Eurasian transport system (see "RFE/RL Caucasus

    Report," Vol. 3, No. 10, 10 March 2000). Russian Deputy Prime

    Minister Viktor Khristenko, for his part, said that a single

    Eurasian transport system should include an east-west route

    from China across the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Poland

    to Germany, according to Interfax. Khristenko also pushed for

    a single investment system within the CIS in order to

    strengthen stability and economic development. LF

    [09] IRAN WARNS AGAINST CONFRONTATION IN CASPIAN...

    Addressing the

    Eurasia-2000 forum in Almaty on 27 April, Iranian Vice

    President Hasan Habibi warned that competition for influence

    in the Caspian region, in particular by the U.S., could

    compound instability in the area, Reuters and AFP reported.

    Habibi said conflicts in the Caucasus and the war in

    Afghanistan pose a threat to regional security. He also

    called for a speedy decision on defining the legal status of

    the Caspian Sea, but stressed that that decision must be

    taken by the five Caspian littoral states. He said Iran does

    not support the agreement reached in 1998 between Russia and

    Kazakhstan delimiting their respective sectors of the

    northern Caspian. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister

    Khristenko told journalists after talks with Kazakh President

    Nursultan Nazarbaev on the sidelines of the summit that

    Moscow welcomes Kazakhstan's offer to revise that

    delimitation agreement, according to Interfax. LF

    [10] ...BIDS FOR OIL EXPORT ROLE

    Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister

    Mohammed Hossein Adeli told the Eurasia-2000 forum on 28

    April that the choice of export routes for Caspian

    hydrocarbons should not be constrained by political factors,

    Reuters reported. He argued that a pipeline running south

    from Kazakhstan through Iran to the Persian Gulf "is the

    cheapest, shortest, most economically viable way to take 1.8

    million barrels per day of oil over 1,500 km." He estimated

    the cost of construction of such a pipeline at $1.2 billion,

    less than half the estimated cost of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline

    which the U.S. and Turkey support. Some analysts say a firm

    commitment by Kazakhstan to export some oil via the Baku-

    Ceyhan pipeline is needed for that project to be economically

    viable, but a Kazakh oil sector official said earlier this

    month that Kazakhstan is unlikely to produce enough oil to

    require access to that pipeline before 2008 (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 11 April 2000). LF

    [11] IS KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW CAPITAL A POTEMKIN VILLAGE?

    Deputy

    Premier Danial Akhmetov told a cabinet session on 27 April

    that the majority of the buildings in the new capital,

    Astana, including some constructed by international

    companies, are of such low quality that they do not meet

    international standards, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He

    ordered the State Construction Committee and State Standards

    Commission to review the situation and identify international

    companies that do not have the requisite licenses. Western

    visitors to Astana have termed it a "Potemkin village." LF

    [12] KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS MINIMAL FIRST QUARTER GDP GROWTH

    Deputy

    Finance Minister Kubat Kanimetov told a cabinet session in

    Bishkek on 27 April that GDP grew by only 1 percent during

    the first three months of 2000 compared with the same period

    in 1999, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported.

    Agricultural production rose by 3.6 percent and the volume of

    construction by 10.8 percent, according to Interfax, but

    industrial output during the first quarter declined by 4.5

    percent, and foreign trade turnover at $221 million was down

    7 percent on the 1999 figure. GDP growth for 1999 as a whole

    was 3 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2000). LF

    [13] TAJIK PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON CRIME

    In an "emotional"

    address to the first joint session of both chambers of the

    newly-elected Tajik parliament on 27 April, Imomali Rakhmonov

    vowed to "declare war" on crime and drug smuggling, Asia

    Plus-Blitz reported. Referring to the anti-crime campaign

    launched earlier this month, he said a new decree will be

    issued banning the wearing of camouflage uniforms and

    carrying weapons except by military personnel on duty. He

    also announced that the government will soon draft a national

    military doctrine. Rakhmonov specifically lauded the

    contribution of the National Reconciliation Commission and

    its chairman, Said Abdullo Nuri, to the peace process.

    Rakhmonov singled out industrial development and market

    reform as crucial for the country's economic development,

    noting the need to appoint qualified specialists to implement

    those reforms. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] CONTROVERSY OVER BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER

    The governing Sloga

    (Concord) coalition in Banja Luka said in a statement on 27

    April that it will demand the resignation of Zivko Radisic as

    the Bosnian Serb representative on the joint presidency.

    Sloga said that Radisic nominated former Bosnian Serb Deputy

    Prime Minister Tihomir Gligoric to head the new, expanded

    joint cabinet without consulting Sloga, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2000).

    Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party said it will

    support Gligoric only if it has a representative or

    representatives in the cabinet. Alija Izetbegovic's Party of

    Democratic Action, for its part, approved Gligoric. Finally,

    the Social Democrats announced that they will decide whether

    to back the new prime minister once they see his program. PM

    [15] BOSNIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES REFORM PACKAGE

    On 27 April, the

    House of Nations passed a package of recommendations from the

    EU on promoting political and economic reform. Passing the

    measures is one of the EU's preconditions for holding another

    donors conference. Several representatives of the

    international community have repeatedly warned that foreign

    money for Bosnia will dry up unless key reforms are

    implemented. PM

    [16] MUSLIMS EXHUME MASS GRAVES

    Forensics experts working for the

    Muslim Commission for Missing Persons have exhumed 83 bodies

    from several mass graves in eastern Bosnia, AP reported on 28

    April. The bodies found in the Bratunac area are believed to

    be those of some of the 6,000 Muslim males killed by Serbian

    forces after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. Jasmin

    Odobasic, who is the deputy head of the commission, said that

    investigations will continue at Bratunac and other sites

    throughout Bosnia in the coming week. PM

    [17] BOSNIAN SERB PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' TO 80 CHARGES

    Dragan

    Nikolic, the Bosnian Serb prison commander recently arrested

    by SFOR troops, entered a blanket plea on 28 April of not

    guilty to all 80 counts against him of crimes against

    humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and

    violations of the laws or customs of war (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 25 April 2000). It was the first time in the

    history of the tribunal that anyone has entered a blanket

    plea rather than respond to each charge individually, Reuters

    reported. The 80 counts against Nikolic are the highest

    number in any public indictment that the tribunal has

    announced to date. PM

    [18] CROATIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAWS ON MINORITY EDUCATION

    The

    lower house of the parliament on 27 April approved two bills

    regulating the education of ethnic minorities and their right

    to use their respective native languages and alphabets.

    Legislators from the Croatian Democratic Community and the

    far-right Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights opposed the

    bill, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported. Meanwhile, the

    government approved a measure to amend the constitution to

    list all legally recognized minorities and to drop references

    to two autonomous districts, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. Under late President Franjo Tudjman, references to

    the Muslim and Slovenian minorities were dropped from the

    constitution, although some numerically far smaller

    minorities retained their legal status. The governments in

    Sarajevo and Ljubljana protested the change. More recently,

    some critics have called for dropping all references to

    ethnic groups and stressing instead that Croatia is a state

    of all its citizens. PM

    [19] KUCAN, HAVEL STRESS NO DELAYS IN EU ENLARGEMENT

    After their

    meeting in Brdo Pri Kranju in Slovenia on 27 April, President

    Milan Kucan and his guest Czech President Vaclav Havel said

    that they hope that political troubles in current member

    states will not hold up the process of EU enlargement. Kucan

    added bluntly: "A delay, making up new conditions or allowing

    special bilateral conditions, may cause candidates to

    question if they are truly wanted in the EU.... [The same

    would be true if the applicants come to sense that] they are

    only interesting to the EU as a market, as consumers, and on

    condition that they will not increase labor competition

    towards member states," Reuters reported. Kucan's statement

    follows recent remarks by German businessmen that they

    foresee no enlargement before 2004, as well as periodic

    statements by Austrian Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider and

    others of his party opposed to enlargement. PM

    [20] HAVEL CALLS FOR GREATER SLOVENIAN ROLE IN KOSOVA

    Havel said

    in Ljubljana on 27 April that Slovenia is ideally suited to

    act as a bridge between Central Europe and the Balkans. CTK

    quoted him as saying: "It seems to me that Slovenia, which is

    closest to [the crisis region] not only geographically but

    also owing to its insight and understanding, can play an

    important role in this field as the international community

    is a bit helpless on many points.... Why could not the

    contribution of Slovenia, a stable democracy in the former

    Yugoslav region, be [a factor] enriching the general

    conscience and bringing new ideas?" Observers note that

    following independence in 1991, Slovenia took great pains to

    identify itself with Central Europe rather than with the

    other former Yugoslav republics, except to regain its former

    markets there. EU and especially NATO member states have made

    it clear to Ljubljana, however, that they expect it to do its

    part to promote stability and development in the region. PM

    [21] KFOR COMMANDER SLAMS ATTACKS ON RUSSIANS

    General Juan Ortuno

    said in Prishtina on 27 April that peacekeepers will not

    tolerate a spate of recent attacks on Russian personnel.

    These included three incidents on 26 April, one of which led

    to the death of a Russian soldier, AP reported. Ortuno added:

    "An attack against one soldier is an attack against us all."

    he said. "We are one force and such acts will not be

    tolerated." Many ethnic Albanians regard all Russians as pro-

    Serbian and believe that Russian volunteers and mercenaries

    took part in the Serbian crackdown prior to NATO's

    intervention in 1999. PM

    [22] ANOTHER SHOOT-OUT IN BELGRADE

    Zoran "Skole" Uskokovic, whom

    Reuters describes as "a Yugoslav businessman," was killed by

    unidentified gunmen following a car chase in the Belgrade

    suburb of Vidikovac on 27 April. A second, unidentified

    individual was also killed. Some Serbian press reports had

    linked Skole to the slaying of Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic at

    the start of the year. Two days earlier, an explosion rocked

    the building where Skole has his flat. PM

    [23] YUGOSLAV AIRLINES CHIEF BURIED

    In Pozarevac on 27 April,

    hundreds of mourners including top government ministers and

    Yugoslav Airlines personnel attended the funeral of Zika

    Petrovic, who was gunned down two days earlier (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 April 2000). Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic and his wife did not attend but sent a wreath. In

    Athens, a Greek government spokesman said that Serbia needs

    to become more democratic and that street killings are not

    the way to solve problems, "Vesti" reported. PM

    [24] SERBIAN SOCCER STAR WARNS AUTHORITIES

    Sinisa Mihajlovic, who

    plays for the Italian team Lazio, said in Rome on 27 April

    that he will no longer play for the Yugoslav national team

    unless the Belgrade authorities deny a recent report in the

    regime press that he has joined Milosevic's Socialist Party.

    He gave the authorities a deadline of three days to meet his

    conditions. Mihajlovic stressed that he recently signed a

    document naming him as a "sports ambassador" of his country

    and not as a member of a political party. PM

    [25] MOLDOVA, ROMANIA, INITIAL BASIC TREATY

    Visiting Romanian

    Foreign Minister Petre Roman and his Moldovan counterpart,

    Nicolae Tabacaru, initialed the basic treaty between their

    countries in Chisinau on 28 April, the RFE/RL bureau in the

    Moldovan capital reported. The treaty must now be approved by

    the two countries' parliaments. Roman said the treaty defines

    relations between the two countries as a "privileged

    partnership" and "is of historic significance for the two

    Romanian states," while also contributing to European

    stability. Tabacaru said that the treaty includes "all the

    elements that must be included in such a document" while also

    "codifying the special relationship between the two

    countries." MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT SAYS PEOPLE 'MUST NOT PANIC'

    In an

    appeal to "all forces in society," the government on 27 April

    said Moldova is undergoing "one of its most difficult periods

    in modern history" and faced the danger of "relapsing into

    the second or third layer of states in the world." The

    government called on citizens "not to panic" but "consolidate

    [instead] all intellectual, physical, material, and spiritual

    forces" of the nation. It said the cabinet will "soon"

    undertake "urgent measures" for overcoming the crisis,

    relaunch the economy, strengthen "social discipline,"

    liquidate corruption, and fight organized crime. "Now and in

    the future, the Republic can count on itself alone, and

    development cannot be achieved only on the basis of foreign

    credits. At the same time, we cannot imagine an autarchic

    economy," the appeal said, in reference to the recent IMF and

    World Bank decisions to stop lending to Moldova. MS

    [27] BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION MEETS IN

    CHISINAU

    The foreign ministers of members in the Black Sea

    Economic Cooperation Organization, gathering in Chisinau on

    27 April, decided to establish a permanent seat for the

    organization's secretariat in Istanbul, Romanian radio

    reported. Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Dumitru

    Braghis expressed the hope that the forum will help his

    country's quest to become a member of the Stability Pact for

    Southeastern Europe. Roman, who will be the next rotating

    chairman of the organization, told the gathering that the

    organization must improve efficiency and turn itself into one

    "ready for the 21st century." He said attention must

    concentrate on regional projects financed by the Black Sea

    Bank and international organizations, above all the EU. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN CENTRIST PARTIES FORM ELECTORAL BLOC

    Leaders of the

    Democratic Party of Moldova, the Party of Revival and

    Conciliation, and the Party of Democratic Forces signed an

    agreement in Chisinau on 27 April on setting up an electoral

    bloc, Infotag reported. They said this is "a strategic

    partnership for all forthcoming electoral campaigns."

    Democratic Party leader Dumitru Diacov said the three parties

    will support a joint candidate in the next presidential

    elections. MS

    [29] BULGARIANS DETAINED IN AIDS SCANDAL MAY LEAVE LIBYA

    Six of

    the 17 Bulgarians detained last year in Libya in connection

    with the accusation that they deliberately infected children

    with the HIV virus have been released and can leave the

    country, the BBC reported on 26 April, citing BTA. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN EMIGRES GATHER IN SOFIA

    More than 500 Bulgarian

    emigres from the West held a meeting with representatives of

    the government on 26 April to discuss ways of generating

    international support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU,

    AP reported. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who initiated the

    meeting, told the forum that before Bulgaria can join the EU

    it must solve the problem of "economic backwardness and low

    incomes." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] SERBIA AFTER THE PROTEST

    By Patrick Moore

    The opposition has been congratulating itself on a

    successful mass demonstration. The question now is: where

    will Serbian politics go from here?

    The feuding leaders of Serbian's opposition--most

    notably the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic and the

    Democratic Party's Zoran Djindjic--managed to bury their

    hatchets for at least a few hours on 14 April to stage one of

    the largest demonstrations Belgrade has seen. Estimates in

    the independent and private media ranged up to 200,000

    participants.

    Shortly thereafter, the opposition began congratulating

    itself on a job well done, despite the fact that Draskovic

    was soon criticizing Djindjic in public, much to the delight

    of the regime media. For its part, the Belgrade independent

    daily "Danas" wrote of the "therapeutic effect" of the

    harmony that the opposition displayed at the rally.

    Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" went perhaps

    a step further and spoke of a "pre-revolutionary situation."

    The paper pointed to the results of recent polls to conclude

    that a large segment of the population supports the

    opposition. Some 46 percent of the respondents would back a

    joint opposition slate, while only 19 percent would choose

    the regime. At the rally, the paper added, the majority of

    the citizens showed that they were tired not only of the

    regime but also of the divisions within the opposition. The

    protesters' message to their leaders was clear: unite and

    provide the leadership to channel the growing frustration

    across the country.

    Whether the opposition will be willing and able to do so

    is anybody's guess. Your editor has the gut feeling that the

    long-term future (at any rate) belongs to the educated

    professionals of the G-17 group and the Alliance for Change.

    Djindjic, by contrast, may prove to be a spent force.

    There remains, moreover, often precious little substantive

    difference between Draskovic's people and those of the

    regime, especially where nationalism and anti-Westernism are

    concerned. One German diplomat commented to "RFE/RL Balkan

    Report" that the common link between Draskovic and the regime

    is anti-modernism, which vents itself as anti-Americanism. In

    any event, Draskovic knows well how to play upon the

    confusion and ignorance of many voters. Like Djindjic, he has

    every intention of becoming Serbia's next leader.

    The regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, for

    its part, still has teeth, although some observers feel that

    its behavior is increasingly that of a cornered animal. The

    wheels of repression continue to turn, and rarely do a day or

    two pass without news of one or another independent or

    private media outlet being hit with a stiff fine for

    violating the Kafkaesque 1998 media law. Similarly, Milan

    Protic and other opposition leaders face libel suits filed by

    Milosevic's followers.

    Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, the

    United Yugoslav Left's Mira Markovic, and their respective

    minions regularly slam the opposition as traitors and NATO's

    bootlickers. One would be inclined to laugh these hard-

    liners off as pathetic political dinosaurs--except for the

    fact that Serbia remains a country where political violence

    is not unknown.

    Just three days before the latest protest, independent

    journalists and human rights activists held several

    commemorative meetings in Belgrade to mark the first

    anniversary of the killing of publisher Slavko Curuvija. At

    the site of the murder, friends and colleagues of Curuvija

    unveiled a memorial plaque, which reads that he was "killed

    for his tough and critical words" against the regime of

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whom he had once

    supported. A friend of Curuvija's said at the meeting that

    the late journalist "was not killed; he was executed,"

    "Vesti" reported. Seselj, true to form, called Curuvija a

    "criminal," "Danas" noted. The authorities have remained

    silent on the killing.

    Another unresolved mystery is the fire that swept some

    offices in Novi Sad on 6 April. These rooms were located on

    the upper floors of a modern office building. They just

    happened to house the editorial boards or bureaus of key

    independent media outlets: TV Duga, TV Melos, TV Montenegro,

    Radio 021, Radio Signal, and "Danas." The weekly "Vreme"

    recently concluded that unless the authorities produce a

    convincing explanation for the fire and do so soon, one may

    most likely assume that the MUP, or the Ministry of the

    Interior, knows more about the fire and its origins than it

    cares to admit.

    The question remains as to where things are headed in

    Serbia. Even if the opposition manages to maintain a healthy

    degree of unity and parlay popular discontent into a real

    citizens' movement, it is difficult to see where such a

    movement can go. But former General Momcilo Perisic has

    called for further demonstrations across Serbia to serve as a

    "referendum" on the opposition's demand for early elections.

    Under the present circumstances, one may not

    realistically expect that any elections could be free and

    fair. This is true both for the local vote that the regime

    wants in order to oust the opposition from their provincial

    strongholds, and for the general elections that the

    opposition seeks in order to "turn the rascals out." In

    the fall of 1998, several independent Serbian journalists

    participated in a roundtable at RFE/RL headquarters in

    Prague. Someone asked one of the Serbs what he thought the

    political landscape would look like in six months. The

    journalist replied that nobody in Serbia knows what the

    situation will be in six days, let alone in six months. Those

    words seem to ring as true now as they did then.

    28-04-00


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


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