Accessibility links

Newsline - March 8, 1995


LUZHKOV THREATENS TO RESIGN.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has threatened to resign unless President Boris Yeltsin reinstates Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov, news agencies reported. Yeltsin fired the city's top law-enforcement officials on 2 March in response to the assassination of television journalist Vladislav Listev, and the Security Council endorsed the dismissals unanimously on 7 March. In a televised interview the same day, Luzhkov claimed the purge was in fact aimed at him personally, leaving him no choice but to resign. Luzhkov is far more popular than Yeltsin in Moscow. However, Yeltsin has made the dismissals a centerpiece of his plan to restore order in the city. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

SECURITY COUNCIL WANTS MORE MONEY TO FIGHT CRIME.
Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov told reporters on 7 March that funding the fight against crime was the main topic discussed at the council's session the previous day, agencies reported. He said the country needs 1 trillion rubles to combat organized crime and corruption rather than the 500 billion rubles allocated in the draft 1995 budget, passed on its third reading on 24 February. Lobov also said Yeltsin had urged prompt consideration of a law to protect judges and that the president would soon sign a decree increasing the role of the Federal Counterintelligence Service in uncovering crimes and restoring its investigative organs. According to Lobov, 2.6 million crimes were committed in Russia in 1994, nearly 1 million of which have not been solved. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

CONFERENCE TO DISCUSS CHECHEN SETTLEMENT.
A conference to discuss terms for a cease-fire in Chechnya, new elections, and the republic's future status will be held in Moscow on 14 March, Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told Interfax on 7 March. Representatives from Chechnya, the North Caucasus, and the Chechen diaspora in Russia will participate. It is unclear whether Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev will send a delegation. Also on 7 March, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets told Interfax that restoring the Chechen economy is contingent on a political settlement of the conflict. So far, seven potential candidates to head the Russian government department to coordinate the Chechen reconstruction have refused the position. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

AIR FORCE DROPPING MINES IN CHECHNYA.
The Russian Air Force has been dropping mines on various "strategically important" Chechen regions controlled by Dudaev supporters over the last several days, Interfax reported on 7 March, quoting a representative of the joint command of federal forces. Last December, President Yeltsin signed a decree placing a three-year moratorium on the export of anti-personnel mines after U.S. President Bill Clinton's UN appeal for the eventual global elimination of anti-personnel landmines. The export ban, however, applies only to mines not equipped with a self-destruction device, and the mines dropped in Chechnya apparently do not fall into that category. Aircraft-delivered mines are considered particularly dangerous because no accurate record can be kept of their location. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

OSCE WILLING TO MEDIATE CHECHNYA CONFLICT.
The OSCE is willing to help mediate the conflict in Chechnya and set up a permanent mission in the republic, international agencies reported. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn made the announcement on 7 March after talks with President Yeltsin. Hungary currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE. Yeltsin said, "We have made considerable progress in tackling many of the problems discussed in Budapest during the OSCE summit in December of 1994," Interfax reported. Horn stressed the positive results of the Budapest summit and hoped further progress could be made toward a comprehensive security regime in Europe. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

WORLD BANK APPROVES $400 MILLION LOAN TO RUSSIA.
The World Bank approved a $400 million loan to Russia on 7 March, international agencies reported. The loan is intended to help create a private market in land and home sales. It will assist local governments in selling land to private individuals. Housing projects in six cities--St. Petersburg, Tver, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Barnaul, and Moscow--will initially receive assistance. A World Bank statement said the project was "designed to demonstrate practical ways that markets can produce housing and help revive the Russian economy." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

MOST BANK TO SUE GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER.
The board of Most Bank plans to sue Rossiiskaya gazeta, a state-subsidized organ of the Russian executive branch, Interfax reported on 7 March. The Most Bank statement denounces "brazenly distorted facts" in the newspaper's account of "business relations" between Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and Most Bank President Vladimir Gusinsky. Since the newspaper is financed from the federal budget, the statement continues, its editor-in-chief and director-general should be charged with "embezzlement of state capital" as well as libel. The bank and the government have been at odds over alleged corruption for several months. On 2 December 1994, masked men from Yeltsin's presidential guard raided the bank without a search warrant, confiscated documents, and arrested several bank employees. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

GAIDAR WILL NOT SUPPORT A YELTSIN BID FOR REELECTION.
Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar told Izvestiya on 7 March it is "very unlikely that our party will support President Yeltsin if he decides to run" for a second term. While Gaidar said he does not support the idea of impeaching the president, he reiterated his opposition to Yeltsin's policies in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

BURBULIS CENTER PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTION.
The Strategiya center, headed by former State Secretary Gennady Burbulis, issued a study that proposed holding a nationwide referendum on several articles of the constitution along with the December elections, Interfax reported on 7 March. The document cited problems with the president's excessive powers and the division of the executive branch into two parts (president and government). It also said the constitution does not clearly define the division of responsibility between the federal and local levels. The constitution failed to define the duties of the prosecutor's office, the study asserted, and the provisions for adopting a constitutional amendment are too strict. The result is that the provisions of the constitution are often ignored for the sake of political expediency. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

ELECTIONS HELD IN TATARSTAN AND BASHKORTOSTAN.
Interfax reported that 59.7% of registered voters took part in the elections to the Tatarstan State Council on 5 March. Final results have not been tabulated. Overall, 468 candidates competed for 130 seats in the new parliament. On the same day, a total of 57.7% of registered voters participated in the elections to the Bashkir State Council. The new Bashkir legislature will be bicameral, with 351 candidates competing for 154 seats in the House of Representatives and 131 candidates seeking one of the 40 seats in Legislative Chamber. In both republics, turnout was much stronger in rural areas than in urban centers. The mayor of Ufa, Mikhail Zaitsev, appeared three times during the day on local television to exhort citizens to vote. The old communist elites are likely to win both races because independent candidates had difficulty collecting the large number of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot, Segodnya reported on 7 March. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

PRIME MINISTER HEADS MILITARY STUDY COMMISSION.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will head a special commission to study the problem of military reform, according to Security Council Secretary Lobov, RIA reported on 7 March. The commission will first study a Defense Ministry report submitted to the council the previous day. He suggested that a conference would be convened within the next few weeks to hear the ideas of the military district commanders, the heads of the services, and military scientists. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW SUPPORTS NUCLEAR TEST BAN BUT.
Lobov also told journalists that Russia supports the principle of a total ban on nuclear testing, RIA reported. He added, however, that Russia would set unspecified conditions so that such a ban would not lead to a weakening of the country's security. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev initiated a testing moratorium for the USSR in October 1991, and Yeltsin has continued it. All other declared nuclear powers, except China, have also stopped testing. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN INSPECTORS AT U.S. MISSILE BASE.
A team of Russian inspectors arrived at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana on 5 March, after having specified that location for their first surprise inspection under the terms of the START-1 treaty, which entered into force last December, Western agencies reported. As many as 200 Minuteman ICBMs were once stationed at Malmstrom. The leader of the 10-member Russian team said the event was "a very momentous occasion." The Russians will visit 36 U.S. strategic nuclear sites over a four-month period in order to verify the accuracy of the data the Americans have provided, while American inspectors will look at 65 former Soviet nuclear weapons facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE TO BAN CUSTOMS EXEMPTIONS.
In an effort to help finance the budget deficit, President Yeltsin signed a decree on 6 March to abolish customs exemptions, Russian and Western agencies reported. The law revokes special privileges by which certain groups, including sports organizations and veterans' associations, avoided paying Russia's huge import duties on cars, alcohol, and other goods. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais said the decree applies to all Russian enterprises and organizations, whether they belong to the Kremlin office or anywhere else. The decree, along with other trade liberalization measures, comes as Russia tries to close a $6 billion standby loan with the IMF. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER ALEXASHENKO RESIGNS.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed an order on 7 March dismissing Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Alexashenko. However, in an interview with the Financial Information Agency, Alexashenko said he resigned of his own free will because he could no longer work with the new people hired at the ministry and abide by "other game rules." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS COMPROMISE LAW ON FOREIGN ADOPTIONS.
President Yeltsin signed a law banning commercial adoption agencies and liberalizing the categories of children eligible for foreign adoption, Western agencies reported on 7 March. The legislation, which goes into effect on 1 May, is a compromise worked out after Yeltsin vetoed a draft law in December that barred all intermediaries from the foreign adoption process, in effect preventing foreigners from adopting Russian children. The new law allows non-profit agencies registered with both the Russian and foreign government in question to represent families and makes all children for whom no Russian family can be found eligible for foreign adoption. At present, only children with medical problems or alcoholic or mentally ill parents, as well as older or ethnically non-Russian children, are eligible. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

VORKUTA MINERS BEGIN INDEFINITE POLITICAL STRIKE.
Miners at the Yuzhnaya pit in Vorkuta began an all-out strike on 6 March, the chairman of the pit's independent trade union told Interfax. The miners are demanding the resignation of the president and government to protest the fact that they have not been paid since December 1994. The same day, a week-long strike by 600 mine construction workers in Vorkuta was suspended after the Vorkutaugol association paid the workers' employer, Poloz, debts from November and December 1994. In an interview with Interfax on 7 March, the chairman of the Coal Industry Workers' Union, Vitaly Budko, said social tension remains high in mining areas across the country although debts are starting to be paid. He expressed concern at the amount of time it is taking the state to channel funds to the coal industry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.



EXPLOSION AT MKHEDRIONI HQ.
One man was killed and three injured by an explosion at the Rustavi headquarters of the Georgian paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni during the night of 7 March, Interfax reported. While a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman said the explosion resulted from careless handling of ammunition, Mkhedrioni's press center said sabotage could not be excluded. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

NEW KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT TO MEET SOON.
The newly-elected parliament will soon be called into session by President Askar Akayev, according to presidential spokesman Kamil Bayalinov, Interfax reported on 7 March. The Central Election Commission reported that 76 deputies have been registered already. Twenty-two deputies have been confirmed in the 35-seat Legislative Assembly (upper house) and 54 in the 70-seat Chamber of People's Representatives (lower house). Previously, the commission reported that 89 deputies had been registered, but that figure was revised after some unsuccessful candidates filed disputes over electoral irregularities. The commission stated that most complaints were unfounded and expects the remaining members to be confirmed by 9 March, in time to open the first session of parliament. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.



EAST EUROPEANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT THEIR FUTURE.
The results of a Eurobarometer opinion poll, released on 7 March in Brussels, show that a majority of citizens in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan countries view negatively the political and economic developments that took place in their countries in 1994. In none of the 18 countries surveyed were a majority of citizens satisfied with the development of democratic institutions. The lowest percentage of dissatisfied citizens was recorded in the Czech Republic (53%) and the highest in Bulgaria (91%). Since the previous Eurobarometer poll, the number of people who hope their country will gain membership in the European Union has doubled to 36%. Paradoxically, the lowest percentages of citizens who view the EU positively were registered in those countries whose governments are most actively striving for EU membership--Hungary (32%), the Czech Republic (34%), and Poland (42%). In only four countries--the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Albania, and Estonia--were more than half of the poll's respondents convinced that the situation in their countries is improving. The market economy is viewed most favorably in Romania (71%) and Albania (67%). The Eurobarometer poll was commissioned by the European Union. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

EUROPEAN AGREEMENTS WITH BELARUS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, during a visit to Brussels on 6 March, signed an agreement with the European Union aimed at improving trade and opening the way for an eventual customs union between Belarus and the EU, Reuters reported. Once the accord is ratified by the European parliament and its 15 member states, Belarus is to be offered most-favored-nation status and restrictions on its exports will be removed. Belarusian Television reported the same day that the Belarusian Cabinet of Ministers has empowered Deputy Prime Minister Syarhei Linh to sign an agreement with Great Britain and Northern Ireland on taxation. The agreement is intended to prevent double taxation on income and savings. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

INFLATION IN ESTONIA AND LITHUANIA.
The Estonian State
Statistics Office has announced that the consumer price index increased by 2.9% in February, or 0.6% less than in January, BNS reported on 7 March. The price of goods grew by 3.0% (food by 4% and consumer goods by 1.3%) and services by 2.8%. Meanwhile, Kestutis Zaborskas, the head of the Lithuanian Statistics Department, said inflation was 3.9% in February, or 1.8% down on January, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported. The price of margarine, which Lithuania does not produce and imports primarily from Sweden, increased by 24%. The increase was due to the decision to place higher import duties on Swedish goods after it joined the European Union. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.


SWEDISH FERRY DECIDES TO RETAIN LINKS WITH ESTONIA.
The Swedish ferry company Nordstrom & Thulin AB announced on 7 March that it was reversing its earlier decision to stop services between Sweden and Estonia, Reuters reported. The company, together with the state-owned Estonian Shipping Company, operated Estline, whose ferry "Estonia" sank off the coast of Finland on 28 September 1994, resulting in more than 900 deaths. This tragedy prompted the company to end ferry services between the two countries, but at the urging of the Estonian authorities, it decided to retain the Stockholm-Tallinn ferry link. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.


LATVIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SECRETARY OFFERS RESIGNATION.
Zigurds Tomins, a member of the Farmers' Union, issued a statement on 7 March urging the parliament to release him from his duties as Presidium member and parliament deputy secretary, BNS reported. Tomins said the reasons for his resignation were an incident in Washington and "the subsequent biased media campaign casting a shadow on the prestige and honor of a parliament official and member of parliament." Tomins was detained on 5 February by the police over an argument with an American woman who claimed Tomins had assaulted her. Tomins insisted he was the victim, and the U.S. authorities later dropped all charges. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.


POLISH GOVERNMENT DECLARES WAR ON CRIME.
Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, at a meeting of key ministers in the new Polish government, declared war on "all forms of crime," Polish media reported on 7 March. A spokesman for Oleksy told the media that internal security issues will be the top item on the new cabinet's agenda when it meets for its first regular session. According to the spokesman, the government intends to target organized crime in particular. He said Oleksy is planning to set up a special commission whose main task will be dealing with organized crime. The spokesman also said that Polish cities have experienced a wave of bomb explosions and assassination attempts--as a result of intensified conflicts among various organized criminal gangs. The motives are not political, the spokesman commented. Rather, the gangs usually target either businessmen who cannot or will not pay "protection" money or members of other gangs. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS POLAND TO BE AMONG FIRST NEW NATO MEMBERS.
Volker Ruehe on 7 March said Poland will be among the first countries to be granted admission to NATO, AFP reported. He said that the Visegrad countries were particularly promising candidates, adding "There will be different speeds. Poland will certainly be in front in this." Ruehe also noted that Poland has made considerable efforts in its political and economic reforms and in adapting its military to NATO standards. He hoped that Germany will soon be able to make good on German President Roman Herzog's promise to facilitate Polish entry into NATO and the EU. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO REVIEW GERMAN CONFISCATIONS.
The Czech Constitutional Court is due on 8 March to hear a case challenging the legality of the confiscation of property owned by Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II, Czech media report. Decrees issued by President Eduard Benes in exile during the war and following his return to Prague in 1945 included ordering the expulsion of up to 3 million Sudeten Germans without compensation; they were termed enemies of the country and held responsible for its prewar break-up. The case was brought before the Constitutional Court by an ethnic German from the North Bohemian town of Liberec whose request for the return of property expropriated from his family was refused by a local court. Czech restitution laws provide only for the return of property confiscated after the communist takeover in 1948. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.


SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES 1995 STATE BUDGET.
The parliament on 8 March approved the 1995 draft budget by a vote of 83 to 52 with three abstentions, Praca and Pravda reported. Proposals by opposition deputies to increase funding for the Health Ministry, state health and social insurance companies, education, and environmental protection were rejected. The opposition also complained that the budget provides higher subsidies for local transportation in Zilina than in Bratislava, arguing that the results of the November 1994 local elections were a major factor in that decision. (Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota was reelected as mayor of Zilina, while Peter Kresanek, the candidate of five centrist and rightist parties, won in Bratislava.) Meanwhile, Christian Democratic Movement deputy Mikulas Dzurinda told Sme that the budget offers practically no funding for public investment. Many consider the cabinet's macroeconomic forecasts unrealistic. The budget foresees 5% growth in GDP, 9% annual inflation, 14% unemployment, a trade surplus, and a budget deficit of 21 billion koruny. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.




UPDATE ON CROATIAN-MUSLIM JOINT COMMAND.
Nasa Borba on 8 March quotes Croatian President Franjo Tudjman as saying that the new military agreement with Sarajevo "is not directed against any third party." Croatian Television noted that the command will be headed by Croatian Chief-of-Staff General Janko Bobetko and that its purpose is "the defense of territory, borders, and population." Bosnian Foreign Minister Irfan Ljubijancic told the BBC that the new staff is not intended for war but for defense. He added that Bosnia fears that the current cease-fire could lead to a de facto partition of the republic, as has happened in Cyprus. He said he could offer no optimistic prognosis for peace. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

ARKAN'S MEN READY FOR A NEW WAR.
If a fresh conflict breaks out, Arkan's Tigers are likely to be used once again as shock troops for Serbian attacks on Croatia. Nasa Borba reports that they are ready "to defend Krajina and Prevlaka," a strategic strip of Croatian territory running south from Dubrovnik down to the Montenegrin border. Vjesnik, meanwhile, says the Sarajevo-Zagreb alliance has the military advantage over the Serbs in numbers and in training. It also notes that "the Bosnians and Croats have been preparing for [a new war] for months." The BBC quoted the Red Cross as saying that a new conflict could send 200,000 refugees fleeing into Slovenia. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

BELGRADE TO OFFER RECOGNITION TO EX-YUGOSLAV STATES?
Nasa Borba on 8 March speculates whether Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic intends to offer recognition to states of the former Yugoslavia. In a front-page story headlined "Milosevic Prepared to Recognize Slovenia and the 'Republic of Skopje,'" the newspaper says possible efforts to recognize Macedonia as the "Republic of Skopje" may be aimed at appeasing Belgrade's regional ally Greece, which is opposed to the former Yugoslav republic's use of the name "Macedonia." The same daily also observes that there is apparently some concrete development in bilateral Slovenian-rump Yugoslav relations. The daily reports on a press conference held by Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek the previous day at which he said Slovenia was prepared to resolve "practical" issues with Belgrade. He also hinted that a Ljubljana bureau will be opened in Belgrade in "the near future." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS PROBLEMS WITH ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY PERSIST.
After signing the document to accompany the basic treaty with Romania, Ferenc Somogyi, secretary of state at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said there are "still problems," Radio Bucharest reported on 7 March. Disagreement persists on issues that one side considers important and to which the other gives lower priority, he added. Radio Bucharest quoted a spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry who said the signing of the document in Bucharest neither replaces the negotiations on the basic treaty nor has relevance for those talks. Somogyi's Romanian counterpart, Mircea Dinu, praised the document, saying it provides for a semi-annual review of the "level of [progress in] collaboration between Romania and Hungary." Radio Bucharest, quoting "sources close to the Romanian delegation," said "substantial progress" was made at the expert-level negotiations on the basic treaty in Budapest on 7 March. The next round of negotiations at expert level are to begin in Bucharest on 13 March. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

DEMIREL IN ROMANIA.
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel paid a one-day visit to Romania on 7 March, Romanian media report. He met with President Ion Iliescu to discuss bilateral economic relations, regional cooperation, and cooperation with European and international organizations. Iliescu and Demirel told the press they supported any initiative aimed at achieving a peaceful, political solution to conflicts in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the Balkans. It was the fourth meeting between Iliescu and Demirel in the last two years, and Demirel's second visit to Romania over the same period. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS PLAN TO RESTRICT LAND OWNERSHIP.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party plans to submit to the parliament an amendment to the land law, international news agencies reported on 7 March. The amendment will limit land owners' rights to use and sell their land and will promote collective farming. Owners wishing to sell their land will have to offer it first to the state, which will decide within two months whether to purchase it at fixed prices. Only if the state decides not to buy the land will the owner be allowed to sell it to a third party. The amendment will allow newly formed cooperatives to inherit the best and largest plots from the abolished communist collective farms. Deputies from the Union of Democratic Forces said they will go to the Constitutional Court if the amendment is approved. They argue that the planned amendment infringes the constitution, which states that "private property is inviolable." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIFTS TAX DEMAND ON SOCIALIST PARTY.
The Socialist-led government on 6 March overturned a state demand that the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the communist party, pay around $2 billion in outstanding taxes, AFP reported the following day. Government spokesman Nikola Baltov said the decision is one of the government's measures aimed at overturning anti-communist legislation passed by the Union of Democratic Forces government in 1991-92. The UDF government led by Filip Dimitrov froze the BSP's accounts in 1991 and demanded payment of 2.2 billion leva in taxes and another $700 million allegedly spirited away by the Communists in various state budgets from 1954-1989. UDF Chairman Ivan Kostov was quoted by Demokratsiya on 8 March as saying that the government is attempting to conceal "the dark side" of the communist party's finances. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

ALBANIAN TRADE UNIONS DEMAND GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION.
The National Council of the Trade Union Confederation has called for the government to resign, Populli PO reported on 8 March. The trade unions claim that the government has taken no measures to raise wages and pensions in the three years since it came to power. They also note that Albanian prices have risen tenfold on average, while the wages and pensions have increased only threefold. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

ALBANIAN RADIO ENDANGERED BY VANDALISM.
Albanian TV and Radio broadcasts are endangered in more than one-third of Albania because of robbery and vandalism at transmitter stations, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 8 March. Over the past two years, 76 such cases have been reported. The director-general of Albanian TV and Radio has asked the government to cover the costs for reconstruction, estimated at about $500,000. Meanwhile, it is reported that Tirana will have its own public TV and radio channel. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

GREECE THREATENS TO BLOCK EU-TURKEY CUSTOMS UNION OVER CYPRUS . . .
Greece on 7 March again threatened to veto the customs union between EU and Turkey, Reuters reported the same day. The Greek move came after Ankara indicated it would annex northern Cyprus if the divided island joined the EU. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the customs accord was "definite" and ruled out the Greek demand for an urgent meeting on the issue. He also said the Turkish threats are "null and void." EU officials noted that Turkey has no say in whether Cyprus becomes an EU member. The customs union was signed on 6 March, after Greece lifted its veto. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

. . . AND JOINS WEU.
Greece became the tenth member of the Western European Union on 7 March, international agencies reported. It had applied for membership in November 1992 but had to wait for ratification by all WEU member states. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave



XS
SM
MD
LG