MIXED SIGNALS OVER ELECTIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei
Shakhrai said elections to a new Chechen parliament could take place in
December 1995, at the same time as elsewhere in the Russian Federation,
Interfax reported on 9 February. Shakhrai suggested that elections to local
Chechen bodies of power could take place earlier. He also disclosed that a
referendum in Chechnya was planned in which he hoped the population would vote
in favor of abolishing the presidency. Also on 9 February, Central Electoral
Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov told Interfax he has no plans to organize or
hold elections in Chechnya despite President Boris Yeltsin's decree asking the
commission to assist the Chechen Provisional Committee for National Accord to
do so. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Federation's Territorial
Administration in Chechnya, Nikolai Semenov, held a conference on restoring the
Chechen economy and local administration. One of the speakers was opposition
Provisional Council's armed forces leader Beslan Gantemirov who has been
restored to his former post as mayor of Grozny. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
MORE THAN 1,000 MILITARY DEAD IN CHECHNYA.
Col.-Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov,
the Russian armed forces chief of staff, told a 9 February Moscow briefing that
1,020 federal troops had been killed in the Chechen war between 11 December and
8 February. Radio Mayak stressed these were only losses suffered by the armed
forces and did not include Interior Ministry or Federal Counterintelligence
Service troops. Kolesnikov reported that 6,690 Chechen fighters had been
"eliminated" and another 671 taken prisoner. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
GRACHEV DENIES CORRUPTION . . .
Defense Minister Grachev, who has come
under attack for alleged corruption and his mishandling of the Russian
operation in Chechnya, rejected press reports that he had a secret foreign bank
account and said the real target of the attacks on him was President Yeltsin,
agencies reported on 9 February. His critics "want to force President Yeltsin
out of office in the nearest future, and I get in their way," he said. Grachev
added that the botched Chechen campaign was not the fault of senior commanders
but of lower-ranking officers in the field. The defense minister's remarks came
on the same day as a report on German television claiming that Russian troops
took home more than $4 billion in illegal earnings during their four-year
withdrawal from eastern Germany. The program quoted German investigators as
saying that the illegal deals, involving cars, electronic goods, fuel,
cigarettes, and alcohol, "clearly show the participation or knowledge of
generals," Reuters reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
. . . BURLAKOV FIRED AGAIN.
President Yeltsin issued a decree dismissing
Deputy Defense Minister Matvei Burlakov, who has been charged with corruption
in connection with his tour as commander in chief of the Western Group of
forces in Germany, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. Yeltsin had already
suspended Burlakov late last year. The latest decree also announced the
dismissal of Deputy Defense Minister Georgii Kondratev, who opposed the Chechen
operation. Generals Boris Gromov, Kondratev, and Valerii Mironov were omitted
from the list of deputy defense ministers released on 16 January. The 9
February decree does not mention Gromov or Mironov, so apparently they continue
to serve in tandem with the officers appointed to replace them. -- Doug Clarke,
YELTSIN, RYBKIN MEET ON ELECTORAL LAWS.
President Yeltsin and Duma
Chairman Ivan Rybkin met on 9 February to discuss draft electoral laws for
parliament, Interfax reported. Rybkin said the law for the Federation Council,
currently under discussion in the Duma, does not conform with the constitution
because it does not propose electing the body directly, but rather, forming it
from the heads of legislative and executive branches of the constituent members
of the federation. In the aftermath of the events of October 1993, Yeltsin
decreed that the council be elected for a two-year transitional period, with
each of the Russian Federation's 89 members entitled to two representatives.
The majority of council members, however, supported a proposal to have the
legislative and executive branches of each unit of the federation nominate
candidates who would then stand for popular elections. Seventy-three of 106
council members voting, supported the proposal. There are 176 members. Only 33
members backed a proposal by the council's chairman, Vladimir Shumeiko, to
automatically make the heads of the local executive and legislative branches
members of the Federation Council, as Rybkin and Yeltsin discussed. On the same
day, the Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov told journalists
the Duma would probably be elected by temporary regulations approved by
presidential decree, Interfax reported. Ryabov explained that he doubted the
Duma members would be willing to accept Yeltsin's proposal to change the
proportion of deputies elected by single-member district and party list. In
1993, 225 deputies were elected by each method. Yeltsin now wants to have 300
members elected in single-member districts and 150 by party lists. Ryabov
claimed Duma deputies support permanently adopting the interim law issued for
1993 elections, but if it is adopted, Yeltsin will veto it, and the Duma will
have to find a two-thirds majority to override his veto, which is unlikely,
Ryabov explained. Such an eventuality could cause legal difficulties because
the constitution stipulates that federal laws regulate parliamentary elections.
-- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
NATIONAL-PATRIOTS FORM UNIFIED BLOC.
A new bloc called "For a United
Russia" will bring together the country's national-patriotic movements to
coordinate efforts for the coming elections, Russian National Assembly Chairman
Aleksandr Sterligov said at a news conference, Interfax reported on 9 February.
The Second Congress of the Russian People decided to form the new organization,
to be headed by Federation Council member Pyotr Romanov, at its recent meeting
in Volgograd. Sterligov believes that "officers, Cossacks, employees of law
enforcement bodies, and agricultural workers" would make up the core of the
membership. In spite of the decision to contest the elections, however, he
believes that parliamentary government has "discredited itself in Russia" and
the people should address the Patriarch of All Russia Alexei II with a request
to convene a popular assembly to resolve the country's problems. The assembly
would devise new state institutions for Russia and form the new government.
Sterligov believes that an active fifth column -- those "working in the
interests of Western capital against the Russian people" -- is preventing
Russia from overcoming its crisis. He rejected accusations of fascism and
reported that the Volgograd conference urged the president to stop Jews in his
administration from calling the Russian National Assembly fascist without
providing proof. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
LEBED DENIES HE CALLED FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION.
The 14th Russian army
head, Lt.-Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, denied a Reuter's report that he had called for
President Yeltsin's resignation, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. He said he
never made the interview in the Ekho Kishineva paper cited by Reuters.
He also denied rumors that he was a candidate to become the next defense
minister. "I am not a graduate of a General Staff academy. I am an army
commander and I intend to remain as such," he said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI,
RYBKIN CONCERNED OVER FARM SECTOR HARDSHIPS.
State Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin has drawn attention to the plight of farm producers resulting from
delayed subsidies, Interfax reported on 9 February. In a letter to Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Rybkin said the parliament-approved law on
government purchases of farm products and food is ineffective because of the
cabinet's failure to decide how to implement it, thus putting farm producers in
a financial crunch for this year's sowing. The letter said most farms are short
of fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides, while 70-80% of machinery and equipment
needs repairing. Rybkin also wrote that the majority of farms are insolvent and
spoke of "grim prospects" and "dire consequences" that may follow against the
"backdrop of other political events." Rybkin urged Chernomyrdin to help pass a
government resolution immediately to enforce the law on financing the
agro-industrial sector. Meanwhile, the Federation Council suggested on 9
February that the government decide in 10 days about offering 12 trillion
rubles (4,170 rubles/$1) in centralized credits to agriculture and related
industries. The council also urged the cabinet to lend 4 million rubles to
farms for purchasing farm machinery, vehicles, and pedigree cattle in the first
six months of 1995. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
MINIMAL PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS.
The latest round of talks on the
Karabakh conflict, mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe, ended in Moscow on 9 February, Interfax reported. Only one provision of
the new draft agreement -- formed by merging the previous Russian and OSCE
peace plans -- was agreed on. A major sticking point was specifying the number
of parties to the conflict. The Azerbaijani delegation is now insisting that
the conflicting parties recognize either two sides (Armenia and Azerbaijan) or
four (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of
Nagorno-Karabakh). On 8 February, a spokesman for the Presidential Press
service of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic reiterated that talks
on a political solution should not begin until after an international
peacekeeping force is deployed in the region.-- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES FOR TAJIK ELECTIONS COMPLETED.
Central Electoral Commission Chairman Kholmurod Sharipov said registration of
candidates for parliamentary elections on 26 February is complete, Interfax
reported on 9 February. A total of 399 candidates will contest 181 seats in the
new unicameral parliament. The four registered political parties -- the
Communist Party, the Popular Party, the Party of Popular Unity and Accord, and
the Party for Economic and Political Revival -- have nominated 31 candidates.
The Islamic opposition is boycotting the elections and has also rejected Moscow
as the venue for the fourth round of UN-mediated talks on a settlement to the
conflict. Sharipov dismissed as unwarranted OSCE and UN proposals that the
elections be postponed in order to facilitate opposition participation.
Speaking in Almaty on the eve of the CIS summit, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza
Otunbaeva expressed concern at the international community's alleged lack of
interest in resolving the Tajik conflict and called for CIS peacekeeping troops
in Tajikistan to be given UN status. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
SUMMIT OPENS IN ALMATY.
Security and economic integration issues are
scheduled to top the agenda at the CIS summit which opened on 10 February in
Almaty, international agencies reported. President Yeltsin was particularly
enthusiastic about a peace and stability pact proposed by Kazakh president
Nursultan Nazarbaev. Before departing for Almaty on 9 February, he said, "I
believe that the document on collective security of all countries of the CIS
will be signed at the commonwealth summit in Almaty." Earlier, at a meeting of
CIS Defense Ministers, the proposed pact was watered down into a memorandum.
That meeting also saw the failure of a plan for a common air defense system and
external border. Nazarbaev will also use the summit to push for his Euro-Asian
Union. Nazarbaev's press secretary, Dulat Kuanyshev, said, "This union will not
replace the current Commonwealth of Independent States. It will rather resemble
a body like the European Commission within the European Union." This could mean
that the union would serve as an executive agent for economic matters within
the CIS. President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan also supports the plan which has
received a lukewarm reception from the Russians. During a meeting in July with
the leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Akayev said, "It is our goal to build
a Euro-Asian Union that would mitigate the problems arising from an amorphous
structure like the CIS," AFP reported. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH COALITION DEAL LOOKS SHAKY . . .
A revolt within the Polish
Peasant Party (PSL) has cast doubt on the durability of the coalition agreement
to replace Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak with Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy of the
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Polish media report. The PSL's main executive
council voted on 9 February to accept Pawlak's decision to step down, but the
party's 170-strong parliament caucus sharply criticized the move. PSL deputies
and senators denounced Pawlak's advisers and leading PSL cabinet members for
agreeing to the deal without consulting them, and some urged a probe into
corruption allegations against the prime minister. Others argued that the party
should demand continued control of prime minister's post or opt to join the
opposition. Pawlak's position within the PSL seems badly shaken. Even if the
party opts to accept a prime minister from the SLD, the battle over the
division of ministerial posts is certain to be fierce, and defections by PSL
deputies in any "constructive no-confidence vote" to form a new government
appear likely. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
. . . WHILE OLEKSY WAVERS.
Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy, after meeting with
President Lech Walesa on 9 February, said he has not yet decided whether to try
to form a government, Rzeczpospolita reports. Oleksy insisted that the
press is responsible for creating the impression that he has already opened
talks on a new cabinet. Despite optimistic predictions on 8 February from SLD
leader Aleksander Kwasniewski that the next Sejm session could vote a new prime
minister into office, Oleksy said this was "practically impossible." He said
his decision depended not only on the stance of the Polish Peasant Party but
also on the fate of the 1995 budget. Oleksy indicated he was unlikely to
undertake the task of forming a government if the budget were not signed first.
The president hinted, however, that he would agree to sign the budget only
after discussing it with a new prime minister. Walesa, cornered by journalists
at a meeting of military chaplains, said the prospect of Oleksy as prime
minister did not please him. But he added that "without the dissolution of the
parliament, nothing more can be done." -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORBIDS GOVERNMENT TO RAISE PRICES WITHOUT INCREASING
The Ukrainian legislature has forbidden the government to implement
price hikes without wage increases, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 9 February.
Legislators said the population's purchasing power has fallen drastically since
President Leonid Kuchma ordered price liberalization in November. They also
noted that the government has failed to request an increase in subsidies to
state enterprises to cover appropriate wage increases. The legislature earlier
this week approved a cash emission to finance, among other things, wage
increases. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
The Belarusian Constitutional Court has ruled that the
law liquidating local councils is unconstitutional and has recommended that the
parliament amend it, Belarusian Television reported on 8 February. Parliament
deputy Aleh Trusau expressed his personal thanks to President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka for finally having given a speech in Belarusian, albeit in the
Lithuanian parliament. Lukashenka has been criticized by the opposition for
speaking in Russian. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian "Belaya Rus" appealed to the
president to go ahead with his plan to hold a national referendum on granting
the Russian language official status (along with Belarusian) and increasing
cooperation with Russia. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ESTONIA'S LAST PRIVATIZATION ROUND.
The deadline for bids in Estonia's
last round of privatization expired at noon on 9 February, BNS reports.
Privatization Agency Director General Vaino Sarnet said preliminary interest in
the 43 enterprises offered for sale was great--an average of about six bidders
per enterprise. The firms include 21 construction and building materials
companies, five transportation firms, and three food processing enterprises.
The largest of those companies is the Marat knitwear factory, with a total of
1,579 employees. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
EU FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER IN LATVIA.
Hans van den Broek met on 8-9
February in Riga with President Guntis Ulmanis, Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs, Finance Minister Andris Piebalgs, and some EU ambassadors in Riga, BNS
reports. He expressed optimism that the Baltic States would sign association
agreements with the EU before the end of June. When asked for a time frame for
the Baltic States' full EU membership, he responded that "We are now really
talking about the process and we (should rather) talk about the conditions and
what conditions have to be met than try to be speculative about the calendar,"
Reuters reports. Van den Broek left for Tallinn that evening. -- Saulius
Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
PRAGUE CASTLE APPEALS CATHEDRAL RESTITUTION.
The office of President
Vaclav Havel on 9 February appealed a court decision to hand over St. Vitus
Cathedral, in Prague Castle, to the Catholic Church. Lubos Dobrovsky, head of
the presidential office, told journalists there were doubts about aspects of
the December court ruling to return the cathedral and about the Church's legal
entitlement to initiate court proceedings, Czech media report. More than half
of Czech parliament deputies signed a petition asking the presidential office,
which is responsible for the cathedral and maintains it on behalf of the state,
to appeal. But Dobrovsky denied that the action was taken because of public
pressure. Members of the two Christian Democratic parties in the parliament
criticized their fellow deputies for signing the petition. Prime Minister
Vaclav Klaus warned that the issue should not be allowed to blow up into an
"unnecessary" political or public dispute. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY WILL NOT EXAMINE DEMOCRATIC UNION LISTS.
Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Chairman Ivan Simko, at a press conference
on 9 February, said his party will not participate in a commission charged with
examining the Democratic Union's election lists. Dusan Macuska, a member of the
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia who heads the parliament commission
investigating the validity of the DU's mandates, recently called for the
creation of a new commission that might include CDM and DU members. Simko
argued that Macuska's current commission, consisting only of governing party
representatives, did not invite opposition members to be present when its
members unsealed the lists three months ago. He suggested that the lists may
have been manipulated. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAKIA DENIES SELLING ARMS TO ALGERIA.
The Slovak Foreign Ministry
released a statement on 9 February saying recent international press reports
about Slovakia's alleged sales of light weapons to Algerian Islamic
fundamentalists are false. The ministry said it "denies any link between
Slovakia and supplies of arms to extremist, terrorist, and illegal
organizations throughout the world." It also noted that Slovakia "adheres to
the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries and
condemns any manifestations of political or military extremism, radicalism, and
terrorism." Allegations about Slovak arms sales to Algeria appeared in Le
Monde on 4 February. The head of the Slovak government licensing
commission, Colonel Ignac Hianik, said he is not aware of any exports of light
weapons to Algeria. He added that the allegations are "a provocation" that
damages Slovakia's image abroad, Pravda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI,
HUNGARIAN PREMIER REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO REFORM.
Gyula Horn, during a
visit to the European Union and NATO headquarters in Brussels on 9 February,
stressed his country's commitment to economic reform and said that his
government even plans to accelerate the pace of change, Western news agencies
report. Horn was responding to a warning by the European Commission that
Hungary's failure to stick to its reform program could derail its chances of
joining the EU before the end of the century. Doubts about the Horn
government's commitment to reform came in the wake of the resignation of
liberal Finance Minister Laszlo Bekesi and the government's cancellation of a
major privatization deal. Horn said he believed there is a good chance Hungary
will become a member of NATO before it gains admission to the EU. -- Edith
Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
SERBS VIOLATE BOSNIAN CEASE-FIRE.
The BBC's Serbian Service on 10
February reports major violations of the cease-fire the previous day by Bosnian
Serb forces in Sarajevo and Krajina Serb units in the Bihac pocket. The UN,
meanwhile, has complained again about Serbian authorities barring UN monitors
from access to radar at Belgrade airport last week, when Serbian military
helicopter flights to Bosnia were taking place. International media report that
U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting in
Washington, called for strengthening the Croatian-Muslim federation in Bosnia
and Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
TURKISH LEGISLATORS WANT UNPROFOR TO HELP ENFORCE PEACE.
Hina reports on
10 February that visiting Turkish deputies told their Croatian counterparts
that UNPROFOR's mandate in both Croatia and Bosnia needs redefining. The Turks
stressed that UNPROFOR should not be trying to keep a peace that does not
really exist but rather to make peace. Meanwhile in Krajina, the Serbs
announced they will respect agreements in force on reopening the Zagreb-Lipovac
highway and the Adria pipeline but will suspend those not yet put into
practice. The latter include projects to reopen the railway line through the
zone known as Sector West and to restart the water supply for Pakrac. The
Serbian authorities also refused some Croatian refugees permission to visit
their homes in occupied areas, although some Serbs have been allowed to return
to their houses in Novska and Nova Gradiska. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BALKAN DIPLOMATIC UPDATE.
Nasa Borba reports from the Sandzak on
10 February that Rasim Ljajic, general secretary of the mainly Muslim Party for
Democratic Action, has called for Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia to recognize one
another in their internationally valid frontiers. Zagreb and Sarajevo insist on
such recognition as proof that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has
abandoned his ambitions to create a Greater Serbia, but Belgrade refuses to do
so. The same newspaper also quotes American media sources and an interview with
the U.S. ambassador to Croatia in a Zagreb weekly as indicating that Washington
has warned Croatia not to expect any U.S. support if it renews the war in
Krajina. Finally, rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic is
reported to be in Athens to discuss the possible opening of a "diplomatic
office" in Skopje and its potential effects on Greek-Serbian relations. --
Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
JOURNALISTS STRIKE IN SERBIA?
Nasa Borba on 10 February reports
that the editorial board of the journal Liberal has called for a
journalists strike to protest Belgrade's recent attacks on Serbia's independent
media. The board observes that the crackdown amounts to "the despotic regime of
Slobodan Milosevic extinguishing the last free light in Serbia." -- Stan
Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION TO BE OFFERED AT MACEDONIAN ACADEMY.
Academic Council of the Skopje Pedagogical Academy has agreed to offer
Albanian-language instruction in education, psychology, and sociology,
Flaka reported on 9 February. A program is to be worked out for
Albanian-language instruction in all departments at the academy. Ethnic
Albanian students have been boycotting classes for more than two months,
arguing that education courses should be taught in Albanian because their
purpose is to train school teachers who will teach in that language. Meanwhile,
ethnic Albanian deputies in the Macedonian parliament demanded that the
proposed new identification cards should be bilingual. They were overruled by
the Macedonian majority. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA TO SEVER HUNGARIAN TIES?
The Party of
Civic Alliance, a member of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania,
has asked the DCR to sever ties with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of
Romania if the HDFR does not give up its demands for regional autonomy based on
ethnic criteria. The HDFR is also a member of the DCR, but its demands for
autonomy have been denounced by virtually all other members. PCA Deputy
Chairman Nicolae Taran told a press conference on 9 February that the DCR must
state explicitly that Romania is "a national, sovereign, independent, unitary,
and indivisible state." The HDFR objects to the term "national." Meanwhile,
presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu said at a Bucharest press conference
that remarks made by HDFR President Bela Marko in an interview with the BBC
were "propaganda" aimed at distorting Romanian realities. Chebeleu objected in
particular to Marko's claim that Romania has been trying to assimilate the
Hungarian minority since 1918. He also took exception to Marko's designation of
the 1918 unification of Transylvania with Romania as an "annexation." --
Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
WORKERS STRIKE AGAIN IN RESITA . . .
Employees at the Resita machinery
plant went on strike on 9 February to demand big pay increases and protest
broken promises. Radio Bucharest reported that negotiations broke down after
strikers burst into the hall and forced the plant's director to resign. Leaders
of the trade unions representing the strikers said negotiations will not be
resumed until the State Property Fund confirms his resignation has been
accepted. In late December 1994, some 15,000 workers in Resita staged strikes
for eight days. Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu was forced to go there and
accept most of the workers' demands. Western agencies quote the strikers as
saying the government has failed to keep its promises. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI,
. . . AND MINERS THREATEN UNREST.
Coal miners union leader Miron Cozma,
who led several rampages through the capital in 1990 and 1991, has threatened
that miners will take action to demand bigger state subsidies, Radio Bucharest
and Reuters reported on 9 February. Cozma, who expects at least 300 union
leaders to take part in protest marches and rallies in Bucharest next week,
accused the government of seeking to close pits by limiting subsidies. He said
if a single pit is closed, miners will press for the government's resignation
and block roads across the country. In 1991, Cozma and the miners were
instrumental in forcing the resignation of Petre Roman's government. Mine union
leaders are demanding that subsidies projected in the 1995 state budget be
increased by 25%. The parliament is currently debating the -- Michael Shafir,
MOLDOVA LEADERS ON ALMATY SUMMIT.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur,
before departing for the Almaty summit, said Moldovan priorities at the meeting
are mainly economic. Snegur was quoted by Moldpres as saying the decisions
about to be taken in Almaty will provide opportunities for Moldovan exports
that will prove "vital" for economic reform. Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli
told Radio Chisinau he expected the summit to be "more complicated and
difficult" than its predecessors, because of problems left unresolved after
earlier meetings. He said Moldova's position was that each member country
should have its own currency but that it could envisage agreement on a common
currency. Sangheli also said Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus will not support the
setting up of a Eurasian Union. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS COMMISSIONS.
The Bulgarian parliament on 9
February elected the members of its 20 commissions, 24 chasa reported
the following day. No fewer than 18 are headed by deputies of the ruling
Bulgarian Socialist Party and the remaining two by Bulgarian Business Bloc
deputies. The Union of Democratic Forces declined to head any commission,
insisting instead that one of the deputy chairmanships of each commission be
filled by a UDF member. The Socialists complied with that demand. -- Stefan
Krause, OMRI, Inc.
GREECE BLOCKS EU CUSTOMS UNION WITH TURKEY.
The Greek government on 9
February rejected a compromise formula on a customs union between the European
Union and Turkey, saying it will maintain its veto until its demands are met,
AFP reported the same day. Athens is pressing for Cyprus's admission into the
EU. EU foreign ministers agreed on 6 February to open membership talks with
Cyprus six months after the union's scheduled institutional overhaul in 1997,
while Greece promised to lift its veto on the trade accord with Turkey. Greek
government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that while the Greek position is
negative, "the government detects the possibility to continue talks" because
there is "room for clearing up and improving the (EU) positions." Turkish
officials said their country had met its obligations toward the EU and expects
the union to do likewise. Noting that they were negotiating with the EU and not
with Greece, they accused that country of continuing to block efforts to
achieve a customs union. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
GREECE WELCOMES RELEASE OF ETHNIC GREEKS IN ALBANIA.
spokesman Evangelos Venizelos on 9 February said the Albanian Supreme Court's
decision to free four ethnic Greeks sentenced for espionage and illegal
possession of firearms lays the foundations for resumed political talks between
Greece and Albania, Reuters reported the same day. Following their conviction
last fall, Athens broke off all contacts with Albania's leadership, saying no
dialogue was possible until they were freed. A fifth defendant was released
last December by presidential decree. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave