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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 204, 00-10-20

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. 204, 20 October 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES OPPOSITION LAND SWAP ALLEGATION
  • [02] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT AGAIN DELAYS ENERGY PRIVATIZATION
  • [03] U.S. GROUP PROPOSES INVESTMENT PROJECTS IN ARMENIA
  • [04] DEFEATED CANDIDATE CHALLENGES ARMENIAN BY-ELECTION RESULTS
  • [05] AZERBAIJAN ELECTION CANDIDATE BEATEN
  • [06] GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES
  • [07] GEORGIA OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH
  • [08] GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN MASS PROTESTS
  • [09] KAZAKH, TURKISH PRESIDENTS AIM TO EXPAND COOPERATION
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN, WORLD BANK DISCUSS COOPERATION PROGRAM
  • [11] UN FOCUSES ON DRUG THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA...
  • [12] ...AS KYRGYZSTAN CALCULATES DRUG BARONS' PROFITS
  • [13] UZBEKISTAN COMPLETES INVESTIGATION INTO ISLAMIST MOVEMENT

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] AUSTRIAN OFFICIAL: MONTENEGRO 'MOVING IN DIRECTION OF INDEPENDENCE'
  • [15] RUGOVA: INDEPENDENCE ONLY OPTION FOR KOSOVA
  • [16] OSCE WELCOMES YUGOSLAVIA--AS NEW MEMBER
  • [17] KOSTUNICA SUMMONS SERBIAN SECURITY CHIEFS
  • [18] YUGOSLAV FORMER GENERAL URGES TOP BRASS TO QUIT
  • [19] MYSTERY SURROUNDING SERBIAN EX-LEADER CONTINUES
  • [20] POLITICAL GAMES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA
  • [21] SERBIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET
  • [22] PARTY COUP AGAINST SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC?
  • [23] BOSNIAN SERB STUDENTS PROTEST FOR SEGREGATED SCHOOLS
  • [24] NEW CULTURE MINISTER FOR ALBANIA
  • [25] ROMANIA INVITES YUGOSLAVIA TO JOIN BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION
  • [26] ROMANIA APPROVES PLAN FOR PRIVATIZING INDUSTRIAL MAMMOTHS
  • [27] CHIEF MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECT RUNNING FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT
  • [28] ILASCU RENOUNCES MOLDOVAN CITIZENSHIP
  • [29] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PRIVATIZES TOBACCO, WINE INDUSTRIES
  • [30] MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
  • [31] VERHEUGEN SEES EU ENLARGEMENT WITHOUT BULGARIA, ROMANIA
  • [32] FORMER BULGARIAN MINISTER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [33] SHARING POWER WITH WAR CRIMINALS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES OPPOSITION LAND SWAP ALLEGATION

    Vahe Gabrielian, who is President Robert Kocharian's press spokesman, told Armenpress on 19 October that statements made the previous day by opposition politician Ashot Manucharian are "groundless" and "too exotic to comment on." Manucharian had called on Kocharian to resign, accusing him of being ready to agree under Western pressure to cede Armenia's southeastern Meghri region in return for international recognition of Armenian jurisdiction over the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Interfax on 19 October quoted Gabrielian as having denied in an interview published in "Azg" the same day that Kocharian is suffering from heart disease. Kocharian left Armenia on 17 October for a medical checkup in Europe. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT AGAIN DELAYS ENERGY PRIVATIZATION

    Armenian State Energy Commission Chairman Vartan Movsisian told journalists in Yerevan on 19 October that the results of the tender to privatize four state-run electricity companies will be announced in March 2001, and not by the end of this month, as decided in July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2000). That delay is likely to push back the disbursement of the next tranche of a World Bank loan needed to cover part of this year's anticipated budget deficit. Four international companies have been shortlisted in the tender. LF

    [03] U.S. GROUP PROPOSES INVESTMENT PROJECTS IN ARMENIA

    Representatives of the King Group met in Yerevan on 19 October with Armenian Ministry of Trade officials to discuss planned large-scale investment in various sectors of the Armenian economy, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Among the 11 proposals the group has submitted to the Armenian government are the privatization of three Yerevan hotels as well as ventures in the telecommunications and service sectors and in the diamond-cutting, chemical, and textile industries. LF

    [04] DEFEATED CANDIDATE CHALLENGES ARMENIAN BY-ELECTION RESULTS

    Mihran Movsisian of the Union of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle issued a statement in Yerevan on 18 October calling on President Kocharian and the Prosecutor-General's Office to annul the outcome of the 15 October by- election in Ararat, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 October. After losing that ballot to Armagrobank executive Gurgen Arsenian, Movsisian had lodged a protest with the Central Election Commission, citing major inaccuracies in voter lists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). LF

    [05] AZERBAIJAN ELECTION CANDIDATE BEATEN

    Shahid Abbasov, chairman of the local branch of the opposition Musavat party in Sharur in Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, was abducted on 19 October and beaten by masked men who demanded that he stop criticizing the chairman of the exclave's parliament, Vasif Talibov, Turan reported. Abbasov and Talibov are both registered as candidates to contest the 5 November parliamentary election in the same single-mandate constituency in Sharur. LF

    [06] GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES

    In a fourth round of talks, Georgian and Russian government representatives reached agreement in Tbilisi on 19 October that the Russian military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia is to be transformed into a rehabilitation center for the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia insists, however, that the military hardware currently at that base must be withdrawn under OSCE supervision. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told journalists after the talks, which continue on 20 October, that a final decision will be taken at the next round of talks in December on handing over the Gudauta base to the CIS peacekeeping force and on the timetable for closure of the Russian bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. Klebanov added that new draft bilateral treaties on military and military- political cooperation will be ready for discussion in December, according to ITAR-TASS. Klebanov also met on 19 October with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss Tbilisi's claims on a share of the assets of the former USSR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). LF

    [07] GEORGIA OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH

    Orde Bebia, who heads the Criminal Investigation Department of the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office, told journalists in Tbilisi on 19 October that he cannot exclude the involvement of a foreign intelligence service in the death of Italian journalist Antonio Russo, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian human rights activist Giorgi Kervalishivili told journalists the same day he believes Russian intelligence may have arranged Russo's murder because of his "fair" coverage of the war in Chechnya. Russo was found dead with serious chest injuries at a roadside in eastern Georgian on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Reporters sans Frontieres has appealed to President Shevardnadze to take personal control over the investigation into Russo's death. LF

    [08] GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN MASS PROTESTS

    An unknown number of Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and now live in the Tbilisi suburb of Tskhneti have called on the Georgian government either to meet their demands or resign, Caucaaus Press reported on 19 October. The displaced persons threatened mass protest actions unless the Georgian authorities comply with their "minimum" demands, which are to pay their overdue allowances for four months and provide them with free medical care and "edible" bread. Ultimately, they want the Georgian government to enable them to return to Abkhazia. President Shevardnadze had issued instructions on 11 October that all overdue allowances for displaced persons should be paid immediately. Displaced persons in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi similarly demanded an improvement in government food supplies at a meeting on 18 October with the chairman of the Abkhaz government in exile, Londer Tsaava. They accused that body of neglecting their problems and obstructing a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. LF

    [09] KAZAKH, TURKISH PRESIDENTS AIM TO EXPAND COOPERATION

    Nursultan Nazarbaev and visiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer met for talks in Astana on 19 October and discussed expanding cooperation in various spheres, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Nazarbaev told journalists after those talks that trade turnover between the two countries is expected to reach $500 million this year and that he and Sezer hope the figure will double in the near future. Turkey is Kazakhstan's third-largest trade partner. Sezer expressed appreciation for Kazakhstan's stated interest in the Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil and also said he hopes that the two countries will embark on military cooperation. The Turkish government agreed in July to grant $1 million in aid to Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry. The two presidents also signed a joint declaration on cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN, WORLD BANK DISCUSS COOPERATION PROGRAM

    Visiting World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev in Astana on 19 October to discuss a three-year loan program worth some $14-17 million, Interfax reported. Linn told journalists after the meeting that program focuses on stimulating economic growth, primarily in the private sector, combating corruption, and establishing welfare programs for the lowest- income groups. LF

    [11] UN FOCUSES ON DRUG THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA...

    Pino Arlacchi, who is UN undersecretary-general for drug control and crime prevention, told participants in an international conference in Tashkent on 19 October that the UN views drugs, crime, and the arms trade as threats to security in Central Asia. Arlacchi added that 75 percent of the drugs smuggled to Europe originate in Afghanistan. Delegates to the conference, which is co-sponsored by the UN and the OSCE, are to focus on formulating an integrated approach to combating the drug trade. Also on 19 October, OSCE chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner met in Tashkent on the sidelines of the conference with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to discuss the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan, Interfax reported. LF

    [12] ...AS KYRGYZSTAN CALCULATES DRUG BARONS' PROFITS

    Kyrgyz Deputy Minister of National Security Miroslav Niyazov told parliamentary deputies in Bishkek on 19 October that the annual profits of transnational groups smuggling drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan via Kyrgyzstan may be as high as $1 billion, Interfax reported. He added that heroin is sold in Kyrgyzstan for less than a 10th of the wholesale price in Germany. LF

    [13] UZBEKISTAN COMPLETES INVESTIGATION INTO ISLAMIST MOVEMENT

    The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office has completed its investigation into the involvement of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in terrorist activities, including the February 1999 Tashkent bombings, Interfax reported on 18 October. The investigation established that from 1991-1999, members of the IMU committed 19 murders and 35 attacks and perpetrated a number of bombings. Three of that organization's leaders-- Takhir Yuldash, Djuma Khodjiev (Namangani) and Salay Madaminov--have been charged in absentia in connection with those attacks, while three other IMU members are accused of murder, inciting ethnic hatred, robbery, and plotting to overthrow the president and constitutional system. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] AUSTRIAN OFFICIAL: MONTENEGRO 'MOVING IN DIRECTION OF INDEPENDENCE'

    Albert Rohan, who is general-secretary at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 20 October that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic recently left him with the impression that Podgorica is "moving along in the direction of independence, albeit with a certain degree of caution." Rohan added that unspecified domestic and foreign policy considerations have prompted Djukanovic to be less than clear about his intentions in public. The Montenegrin president told the Austrian official that his government wants a new legal relationship with Serbia that would amount to a "union of independent states." According to Djukanovic, Serbia and Montenegro would have common foreign, defense, and financial policies but would otherwise function as independent countries. Rohan noted that he found little interest in Montenegro in the future of Kosova, which his interlocutors told him is "Serbia's problem, not ours." Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt recently suggested that Yugoslavia should be reconstructed as a federation consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova. Kosovars firmly reject anything short of independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 October 2000). PM

    [15] RUGOVA: INDEPENDENCE ONLY OPTION FOR KOSOVA

    Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 19 October that "independence is the only solution for Kosova," Reuters reported. He added that "it is clear to everybody that the independence of Kosova is inevitable. It would certainly be good if Belgrade recognized the fact. Otherwise the international community will at some point recognize [Kosova's] independence." He did not elaborate. The international community has been strongly urging the Kosovars to reach an accommodation with Kostunica instead of seeking independence. Referring a possible meeting between him and Kostunica, Rugova said: "Of course, why not meet with Kostunica? But we have to wait a little bit and see what direction they are taking and how democratic and pro-European those changes [in Serbia] are." Kosova votes in local elections on 28 October. PM

    [16] OSCE WELCOMES YUGOSLAVIA--AS NEW MEMBER

    London's "Financial Times" published on 20 October the full text of the letter from OSCE Chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Ferrero- Waldner urges Belgrade to rejoin the OSCE and hopes it will do so by 27 November, when that body will have its next conference of foreign ministers. Ferrero-Waldner noted that Belgrade should apply for a new membership "as one of the successor states" to the former Yugoslavia. "Its application should therefore in its contents be comparable to the application letters addressed by the other [former Yugoslav] successor states to previous OSCE chairmanships." Under former President Slobodan Milosevic, Belgrade insisted that it was the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia and therefore automatically entitled to its rights and assets abroad. PM

    [17] KOSTUNICA SUMMONS SERBIAN SECURITY CHIEFS

    Kostunica met in Belgrade on 19 October with three men who were pillars of Milosevic's rule to discuss unspecified security matters, AP reported. After the meeting with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, army Chief-of- Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic, and security chief Rade Markovic, Kostunica's office issued a statement saying that "it was concluded that the army and police must fully meet all [their] legal obligations." The statement did not elaborate. PM

    [18] YUGOSLAV FORMER GENERAL URGES TOP BRASS TO QUIT

    Momcilo Perisic, who is a former chief of the General Staff turned opposition politician, said in Belgrade on 20 October that Pavkovic and other top officers should resign, Reuters reported. They are air force commander General Spasoje Smiljanic, Second Army commander General Milorad Obgradovic, and navy commander Admiral Milan Zec. Perisic stressed that the men had "discredited the armed forces' role with their [pro-Milosevic] behavior" and that "they should leave [the military] as soon as possible." PM

    [19] MYSTERY SURROUNDING SERBIAN EX-LEADER CONTINUES

    General Pavkovic said in Belgrade on 19 October that he can confirm that former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic "is not in any military prison or on any military base," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Officials of the Serbian Justice Ministry recently said that Stambolic is not in any of its prisons. Stambolic disappeared in August while jogging near his Belgrade home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). He is widely believed to have been kidnapped by agents of the Milosevic regime. PM

    [20] POLITICAL GAMES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA

    Predrag Bulatovic, who is one of the leaders of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP), told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Podgorica on 19 October that his party no longer insists that Kostunica take members of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) into the Yugoslav government immediately (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Bulatovic said that the SNP will agree if Kostunica chooses to invite the SPS to join the government only in early 2001--that is, after the 23 December Serbian elections and after the SPS congress. Bulatovic stressed, however, that his party "cannot be held responsible for the consequences" if Kostunica does not bring the SPS into the cabinet at all (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 October 2000). PM

    [21] SERBIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET

    Parliamentary President Dragan Tomic said in Belgrade on 19 October that the legislature will meet on 21 October to choose a transitional government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Nebojsa Covic will be the candidate of Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia for deputy prime minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [22] PARTY COUP AGAINST SERBIA'S DRASKOVIC?

    The youth organization of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has called on him to step down as party chief, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 19 October. The young SPO leaders stressed that Draskovic must accept responsibility for the party's marginalization in the 24 September elections. The SPO was formerly the largest opposition party in Serbia, the young leaders stressed. Draskovic, for his part, shows no sign of stepping down, "Vesti" reported on 20 October. He recently sacked Borivoje Borovic from the party presidency in the runup to a meeting of the steering committee, which is slated for 22 October. Borovic said that Draskovic is "in a state of panic" as the potentially fateful party gathering looms. PM

    [23] BOSNIAN SERB STUDENTS PROTEST FOR SEGREGATED SCHOOLS

    For the third day in a row, some 1,000 ethnic Serbian high school students staged violent protests in Brcko on 19 October to demand separate schools from those of Muslims and Croats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Jacques Klein, who heads the UN's mission to Bosnia, said that Serbian extremists are behind the protests. PM

    [24] NEW CULTURE MINISTER FOR ALBANIA

    President Rexhep Meidani appointed Esmeralda Uruci as culture minister on 19 October, dpa reported. Uruci was previously head of the Economics Department at Shkoder University. Outgoing Culture Minister Edi Rama was elected mayor of Tirana in the 1 October elections. PM

    [25] ROMANIA INVITES YUGOSLAVIA TO JOIN BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION

    President Emil Constantinescu, opening a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in Bucharest on 20 October, invited Yugoslavia to join the organization, Mediafax reported. The foreign ministers of the organization are meeting in the Romanian capital; Russian Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov, whose country will take over the organization's rotating chairmanship from Romania, is chairing the session. Ivanov is also scheduled to hold talks with Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Petre Roman. MS

    [26] ROMANIA APPROVES PLAN FOR PRIVATIZING INDUSTRIAL MAMMOTHS

    The government on 19 October approved a plan for the privatization of three steel-making giants. Under the plan, the Sidex Galati plant is to be sold to a "strategic investor" and its debts to the budget are to be canceled. The Hunedoara Siderurgica company is to be split into several smaller companies that will be sold to "strategic investors." Unpaid fines for not meeting debts to the budget are to be canceled under the deal, while the debts themselves are to be restructured. The same "privatization strategy" is to apply to the Targoviste Special Steels Company. MS

    [27] CHIEF MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECT RUNNING FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT

    Adrian Costea, the chief suspect under investigation by the French authorities in the money-laundering affair that also involves former President Ion Iliescu and other Romanian politicians, is the candidate of the extra-parliamentary National Christian Democratic Party in the November presidential elections, Romanian Radio reported on 20 October. MS

    [28] ILASCU RENOUNCES MOLDOVAN CITIZENSHIP

    Deputy Ilie Ilascu, who has been imprisoned in Tiraspol since 1992, has written to President Petru Lucinschi announcing that he is giving up his Moldovan citizenship, Romanian Radio reported on 19 October, citing Moldpres. Earlier this month, Ilascu was granted Romanian citizenship. He is to run on the lists of the extremist Greater Romania Party in the November parliamentary elections in that country. MS

    [29] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PRIVATIZES TOBACCO, WINE INDUSTRIES

    The parliament on 19 October passed the law on the privatization of the tobacco and wine industries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The vote was 55 to 40. The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) faction, the largest in the legislature, opposed the bill, while all other parties represented in the parliament approved it. Prime Minster Dumitru Braghis said the law removes the main obstacle to relaunching negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank. MS

    [30] MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

    PCM leader Vladimir Voronin on 19 October said he is prepared to accept a nomination by his party to run for president, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin also said the PRM no longer supports Dumitru Braghis's cabinet, which had never included the privatization of the wine and tobacco industries in its program. He said the PCM will be ready to participate in a new government only after the next elections and only if it has an absolute majority in the parliament. MS

    [31] VERHEUGEN SEES EU ENLARGEMENT WITHOUT BULGARIA, ROMANIA

    In an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 20 October, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said "up to 10 countries" could join the EU by 2005. He noted that the only membership candidates unlikely to be admitted by that date are Bulgaria and Romania, both of which, he pointed out, have set themselves later target dates for accession. MS

    [32] FORMER BULGARIAN MINISTER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION

    Former Transportation Minister Wilhelm Kraus has been indicted on corruption charges, AP reported on 19 October. Kraus is charged with "abuse of power" in connection with the privatization of a Sofia-based bus company. He was forced to resign in December 1999, when Prime Minister Ivan Kostov reshuffled his cabinet. Kraus is the second former minister in Kostov's cabinet to face trial for corruption. Similar charges have been brought against former Deputy Premier and chief negotiator with the EU Alexander Bozhkov. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [33] SHARING POWER WITH WAR CRIMINALS

    By Margarita Assenova

    The Serbian power-sharing agreement signed by supporters of the new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and the remnants of the regime of his successor, Slobodan Milosevic, raises major moral questions as well as reasonable doubt about the future of democracy in Serbia.

    Power-sharing not only creates a credibility question for President Kostunica and the 18 parties in his coalition; it is an approach that may have devastating consequences for the democratic process in Serbia. By entering a coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Kostunica is in effect legitimizing Milosevic's organization in the eyes of the public and the international community. He is giving this party a chance to mutate into another form of post-totalitarian communist formation that will continue playing a destructive role in Serbian society.

    Why is Kostunica willing to do such a favor for his rivals, who falsified the election results and ordered the use of force against Serbian protestors? Certainly not because he is a supporter of Milosevic. Kostunica is regarded as a constitutionalist, who believes in the rule of law and seeks legality in any governmental changes. He wants to prevent any unrest or bloodshed, and this is the likely reason for his cautiousness. However, Milosevic and his supporters are obviously taking advantage of the new president's approach and are trying to entangle him in a web of constitutional and legal obstacles to forestall comprehensive reform.

    Two weeks ago it appeared that not only was Milosevic finished but that his regime had come to an end. The protestors on the streets of Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia insisted on his arrest and stormed the parliament and other government buildings. In other words, they were denying authority not only to Milosevic but to the entire Socialist edifice.

    The protesting crowds were much more radical than the opposition leadership and were ready to take responsibility in eliminating the power of Milosevic and his supporters. But Kostunica failed to arrest Milosevic. He also repeated his previous refusal to turn Milosevic over to The Hague, which he has called "an American and not an international court." He then began making deals with Milosevic's close associates, some of whom are also indicted war criminals, such as Serbian President Milan Milutinovic.

    In fact, two weeks after the "revolution," Serbia is still the only country in the world to be led by a president who has been indicted by an international tribunal for war crimes--because nobody has overturned or challenged the authority of Milutinovic. In the meantime, Milosevic continues giving instructions to his party faithful on how to retain as much power as possible. And they appear to be managing this task quite successfully, both on the Serbian and Yugoslav levels, despite some calls from within the SPS for Milosevic to quit as party leader.

    While it may be argued that Kostunica's steps are only temporary measures aimed at a peaceful and smooth transition until the Serbian elections in December, it appears that Kostunica evidently did not look closely at the experience of some of Serbia's neighbors. He failed to estimate how compromises with old communist establishments can become dangerous, even in cases where no war crimes are involved. When the Bulgarian opposition agreed 10 years ago to participate in a roundtable with the Communist Party, that move was perceived as a great democratic achievement. Several years later, however, some of the opposition leaders admitted that it was one of the biggest mistakes committed by the democratic forces.

    First, it gave the Communists the status of a legitimate participant in the democratic process, even though the party had not come to terms with its own role in decades of terror, atrocities, political repression, and forced ethnic assimilation.

    Second, the roundtable agreements gave an impetus for the revitalization of the 100-year-old Bulgarian Communist Party, which included not only changing its name to "Socialist" but also propelling it to occupy the social democratic space in the political system and in public perceptions. Five months later, the Socialists defeated the democrats in the general elections and continued to rule the country.

    The "back-to-power" strategy of the Bulgarian Socialists also consisted of carefully constructing mechanisms to divide the opposition and undermine the credibility of opposition leaders. This led to a long period of Socialist domination in the parliament and a devastating economic catastrophe in 1997. At this point, the united opposition leaders demanded the immediate resignation of the Socialist cabinet and parliament. They also formed an interim government on their own, even though mass protests supporting the opposition were threatened with a military crackdown.

    At a time when Kostunica has the full support of the army and the police, there is no credible reason for making deals with a party responsible for triggering four wars, launching ethnic cleansing, and creating a criminal environment throughout the region.

    Moreover, once the euphoria subsides, Serbia faces the prospect of growing public frustration with worsening living conditions and the consequences of the wholesale criminalization of the economy. Clearly, the Socialists will seek to benefit from a potential public backlash and from splits within the Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition in order to launch themselves back into positions of power, with or without Milosevic. The experiences of at least some of Serbia's neighbors should serve as lessons rather than as models.

    The author is a consultant with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC (assenova@mindspring.com)

    20-10-00


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


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