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Newsline - April 21, 1995


KOZYREV SAYS IT AGAIN.
On 20 April, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev repeated his statement that Russia has the right to use its military to defend ethnic Russians living abroad. Kozyrev defended his comments by saying that U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has asserted an American right to use military force to defend its interests abroad, international agencies reported. Kozyrev expressed surprise at the strong foreign reaction to his comments. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin told Interfax that Kozyrev's statements do not signal a change in Russian foreign policy and Kozyrev himself said he has been saying similar things over the last five years. Karasin called the Baltic States' reaction "somewhat strange." He stressed that Kozyrev's comments are not related to the minister's Duma election campaign. * Michael Mihalka

BOYKO JOINS IZVESTIYA BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
Oleg Boyko, chairman of the National Credit Bank and the Olbi-Trust investment company, has joined the 13-member board of directors of Izvestiya, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 April. Olbi-Trust owns a 6% share in Izvestiya, and Boyko has maintained informal links with the newspaper in the past. Kommersant-Daily suggested that although Boyko is "a staunch centrist and advocate of the status quo," his new position is unlikely to change Izvestiya's editorial policy. The paper speculated that Boyko joined the board "not because he wants to change the paper's line, but precisely because its current line suits him." In March, Boyko resigned as executive committee chairman of Russia's Democratic Choice to help form the pro-presidential Duma group Stability. Soon after, he suggested in an interview with Kommersant-Daily that Russia's "big eight" banks favor postponing parliamentary and presidential elections for at least two years to stabilize the country's political and economic climate. * Laura Belin

OLD-STYLE COMMUNIST PARTIES TO FORM SINGLE BLOC FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Oleg Shenin, chairman of the hard-line Union of Communist Parties, said Russia's Communist parties would form a bloc for this year's parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 20 April. Shenin said 21 Communist parties from across the former Soviet Union would hold a June congress in Moscow to prepare an election strategy. He added that the bloc would nominate one candidate for next year's scheduled presidential elections. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the extremist group Workers' Russia and the Russian Communist Workers' Party, told Interfax that the bloc intended to attract voters who boycotted the December 1993 parliamentary elections. Shenin and Anpilov are calling for the reconstruction of the USSR as a communist state. They have rejected Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation as a compromising, "social-democratic" party rather than a genuinely communist one. * Laura Belin

IZVESTIYA EXAMINES POLITICAL TENDENCIES IN THE MILITARY.
The average lieutenant gives low ratings to politicians across the spectrum, from Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Yegor Gaidar, according to a study published in Izvestiya on 21 April. Among the country's leaders, the most popular are Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, and State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, although opinions about those figures range from indifferent to well-disposed. The study demonstrates that none of the current political parties have much support among officers, including Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party which had strong military support in the December 1993 elections. However, the data also show that a well-known general, such as Boris Gromov or Alexander Lebed, could attract the support of many military voters. In the presidential elections, there is no clear front-runner among the candidates, and the researchers hypothesize that the military vote will be determined more by individual preferences than corporate interests. The study asserts that there is little support among the officers for a military takeover of the government, but points to the fact that the military is distancing itself from politics in general, and the current incumbents in particular, as a cause for concern. * Robert Orttung

VEDENKIN REGISTERED AS CANDIDATE.
Alexei Vedenkin, who said on television that he would execute Duma members Sergei Yushenkov and Sergei Kovalev if he came to power, has submitted the necessary documents to run as a candidate in a Duma by-election on 14 May, Russian Radio reported. He needed more than 5,000 signatures from the residents of Kolomna in Moscow oblast to be registered for the vote. Vedenkin will soon be tried for his threats to kill the outspoken critics of the Chechen war, but the radio station warns that a conviction will only make him more popular among voters. * Robert Orttung

YELTSIN DOUBLES MINIMUM WAGE.
President Boris Yeltsin has signed a compromise bill increasing the minimum wage from 20,500 rubles ($4) a month to 43,700 ($8.60) as of 1 May, Russian Public Television reported on 20 April. An intermediate rate of 34,400 ($6.80) rubles will apply in April. In February, Yeltsin had vetoed a draft that raised the minimum to 54,100 rubles ($10.70) on the grounds that the country could not afford it. According to Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov, the new rate will entail additional expenditure of 3 trillion rubles ($592 million) for the federal government and 6 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) for local authorities--spending that is "tenable" as far as the budget is concerned, AFP reported. Also on 20 April, Yeltsin signed a law increasing the minimum pension to 43,739 rubles ($8.65) a month as of 1 May; other pensions will be raised proportionally. When parliament approved the bill last week, Deputy Labor Minister Valery Yanvarev was quoted by Interfax as saying it could produce a "tough monetary situation," because it would require an estimated 1 trillion rubles extra per month. * Penny Morvant

CONFUSION OVER CHECHNYA CEASEFIRE.
Sporadic fighting continued between federal troops and Chechen forces around the southwestern village of Bamut, Interfax reported on 20 April. An aide to Russian President Boris Yeltsin subsequently denied an unconfirmed ITAR-TASS report on 20 April that Yeltsin had ordered an unconditional ceasefire in Chechnya, according to AFP. * Liz Fuller

LUKIN WARNS THAT RUSSIA MAY TAKE THE "CENTRAL ASIAN" PATH.
Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said his country may take the "Central Asian" path of using perfunctory referenda to extend presidential terms, deferring parliamentary elections, and restricting civil rights, if the West abandons Russia after the 9 May V-E Day celebrations, Interfax reported on 20 April. Lukin said the West has failed to appreciate President Yeltsin's commitment to constitutional democracy, which is expressed by his willingness to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on schedule. He said Russia faces enormous geopolitical difficulties that could be compounded if it departed from its voluntary transition to democracy. Lukin added, "constitutional issues are primarily our internal affair. However, the situation is such that this also concerns our national security." * Michael Mihalka



INTER-TAJIK TALKS DEADLOCKED.
The talks that opened in Moscow on 19 April between representatives of the Tajik government, the opposition Islamic Renaissance Movement of Tajikistan, the UN, and the Russian Foreign Ministry broke off almost immediately, according to Interfax on 19 April and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 20 April. The talks were cut off after Akbar Turadzhonzoda, head of the Tajik opposition delegation, issued a statement protesting Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's affirmation at the opening ceremony that Russia would respond "with all necessary means" to recent attacks against its troops stationed on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. On 20 April, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov reiterated his readiness to meet with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri "at any time and place," Interfax reported. At a 20 April meeting with UN representative Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the opposition delegation announced it would only participate in the fourth round of UN-mediated talks on resolving the conflict on condition that government troops withdraw from Gorno-Badakhshan and Russian army and border troops observe the September 1994 ceasefire agreement, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21 April. * Liz Fuller

GEORGIA DENIES PLANS TO SELL FIGHTER AIRCRAFT TO IRAN.
Georgian Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia has denied rumors that the visit by Iranian President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani to a Tbilisi aircraft factory during his three-day official visit to Georgia (his first to a CIS member state) is linked to plans for the purchase of SU-25 fighter aircraft, Western agencies reported. A similar denial was issued at the time of Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze's official visit to Tehran in January 1993. No details were released of Rafsanjani's 45-minute talk with Shevardnadze. Rafsanjani had stated before traveling to Georgia on 19 April that Iran is interested in using Georgia's transportation facilities--including the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi which he will visit--to export Iranian goods to Europe. * Liz Fuller

CIS

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEETING IN MOSCOW.
The CIS Defense Ministers Council extended its peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan until the end of 1995 subject to the approval of CIS leaders, Interfax reported on 19 April. CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya said the 21 April meeting of CIS foreign and defense ministers may also consider extending the mandate of CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia, due to expire on 16 May. However, he said the decision would require a formal request by Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Korotchenya admitted the 1992 CIS collective security treaty "did not work as it should." He stressed that strengthening CIS military cooperation is important, considering NATO's intention to expand. Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Grachev said the situation in Tajikistan also demonstrates the need for greater cooperation in the CIS between frontier troops and the military. * Michael Mihalka

UKRAINIAN NAVAL BASE MAIN PROBLEM IN FLEET TALKS.
Admiral Felix Gromov, commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet, told Interfax on 20 April that Ukrainian insistence on using Sevastopol as their fleet's headquarters was the main problem hindering a solution to the problem of the fleet's division, Interfax reported. The two countries have already agreed that Sevastopol would be the main base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Former fleet commander Admiral Igor Kasatonov--now a first deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian navy--said Ukraine's goal in the talks is to push Russia out of Crimea. He said Kiev is now insisting on the withdrawal of Russian naval aviation units, coast guards, marines, and other land-based units. He complained that during three years of talks, the Ukrainians have failed to suggest anything reasonable. "Today they offer one thing, tomorrow another, and the day after tomorrow they revive the original version," he said. * Doug Clarke

UNIFORM CONSTITUTION PLANNED FOR CIS MEMBER STATES?
A uniform constitution for adoption by all CIS member states is currently being drafted, according to unconfirmed information circulated at a meeting of the National Democratic Party of Georgia in early March and published in Iveria-Ekspresi on 10-13 March. The report claims that Kartlos Gharibashvili, the Georgian chairman of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Legal Commission, has initiated plans for a "super-parliament" for CIS member states. * Liz Fuller



RUSSIA PROMISES BALTIC STATES EXPLANATION OF KOZYREV STATEMENT.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin on 20 April said he was surprised at the "fierce" response of the Baltic States to Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's comments that Moscow may use military force to protect compatriots abroad, BNS reported. The Lithuanian and Latvian foreign ministries asked the Russian ambassadors in their capitals for explanations, while Estonia appealed directly to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Karasin commented that "every normal state considers all possible measures to protect its citizens, beginning with diplomatic steps and ending with the use of force. There's nothing new in this. The reaction of the Baltic States seems all the more strange." Karasin nevertheless said his ministry would explain to the Baltic States the meaning of Kozyrev's remarks. * Saulius Girnius

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.
The Estonian parliament on 20 April elected Center Party faction member Arvo Junti as its deputy chairman to replace Edgar Savisaar, who resigned on becoming internal affairs minister, BNS reported. Junti received 58 votes while his opponent National Independence Party chairman Tunne Kelam received 30. The 42-year-old Junti was a deputy in Estonia's last Soviet-era parliament. * Saulius Girnius

OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY FLIGHTS OVER LITHUANIA TO BE BANNED.
An unnamed high-ranking official at the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry told BNS on 20 April that the recent Seimas resolution stating that Russian military flights in Lithuanian airspace "pose a threat to Lithuania's security and [are] intolerable" can only be interpreted to mean that such flights are "impermissible." The Foreign Ministry, he said, must respect the Seimas's wishes by refusing to issue any more permits for Russian military flights. The Seimas resolution was prompted by the low-altitude flight over Vilnius of three armed Russian helicopters on 25 March. * Saulius Girnius

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO RUSSIA.
Deputies from the Crimean parliament have passed a resolution appealing to Moscow to protect the rights of Russians living in Crimea, international agencies reported on 20 April. The resolution comes on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's statement that Russia may use military force to protect Russians living in the former Soviet republics. It urges Kiev to reconsider President Leonid Kuchma's March decrees annulling Crimea's constitution and Presidency. Also on 20 April, the Ukrainian parliament recommended that Crimean deputies abide by Ukrainian law and implement Kuchma's decrees. Volodymyr Mukhin, head of the parliament's defense committee, commented that Crimean legislators must make up their minds whether they will respect Ukraine's constitution. If they choose not to, the legislature will be dissolved, he added. * Ustina Markus

ODESSA OBLAST COUNCIL CALLS FOR BELA VEZHA AGREEMENT TO BE DENOUNCED.
Ukrainian Radio on 20 April reported that the Odessa Oblast Council has agreed to a proposal by the communist faction to appeal to the legislatures of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus to denounce the Bela vezha agreement of December 1991, which dissolved the USSR and created the CIS. The faction also proposed that Kiev be urged to declare a state of economic emergency. A majority of the Oblast deputies did not support the proposal. * Ustina Markus

UKRAINE'S FOREIGN DEBT.
Ukrainian Minister of Finance Petro Hermanchuk told Zakon i biznes that the country's foreign debt totals $6.7 billion, Ukrainian Television reported on 19 April. Russia is owed $4.2 billion, mostly for gas supplies. Hermanchuk said that 273 trillion karbovansti have been allocated for debt repayment in 1995 and that Ukraine has paid Russia more than $50 million so far. * Ustina Markus

BELARUS PRESIDENT THREATENS TO NATIONALIZE COMMERCIAL BANKS.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, at a meeting with directors of the Minsk Tractor Factory on 19 April, threatened to nationalize the country's commercial banks if they do not submit proposals to him on how to stabilize the country's economy, Interfax reported the next day. Lukashenka is convinced that the commercial banks played an important role in paralyzing the national economy and discrediting reform. He said that a decree ordering all commercial companies to reregister will probably be issued soon and that half of them may choose to close. Lukashenka did not approve the factory's request to the government for a two-year $20 million loan to stabilize its operations. The factory also asked for the postponement until September of its 52 billion ruble ($4.5 million) payment to the state budget. * Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENT RENEWS ATTACKS ON PARLIAMENT, PREMIER.
Lech Walesa, in an interview with Polish radio on 20 April, said he will renew his efforts to dissolve the parliament. But under the constitution, he can do so only after an "unconstructive" no-confidence vote in the parliament (that is, without electing a new prime minister). Walesa also sharply criticized Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy again over the latter's decision to attend the Moscow celebrations of the end of World War II in Europe. He compared the premier's readiness to go to Moscow to Polish collaborators siding with Russian aggressors in the 18th century. "This matter qualifies for the tribunal," Walesa said, probably referring to the State Tribunal, which tries high-ranking officials. Walesa will be represented in Moscow by his political adviser Andrzej Zakrzewski. Meanwhile, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Jerzy Szmajdzinski of the post-communist Alliance of the Democratic Left said that if Walesa is unable to collaborate with existing political forces, he should resign. * Jakub Karpinski

CZECHS FUMING OVER NEW ANTI-SMOKING LAW.
The Czech parliament on 19 April passed a law banning smoking in workplaces, hospitals, schools, and cultural centers. The new legislation also reduces the maximum permitted amount of tar in cigarettes and raises the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 16 to 18. The present discreet health warnings on cigarette packs will be replaced by larger and stronger statements, and smoking will be allowed in restaurants, cafes, and pubs only in specifically marked areas. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Kalvoda, a pipe smoker, called the new law "anti-civilized" and an attack on human rights, Lidove noviny reported. Other leading government and opposition politicians bemoaned likely price rises if the tar content in cigarettes has to be reduced. Some compared the law to the 1930s prohibition in the U.S. * Steve Kettle

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER ON MEDIA.
Hungarian Civic Party Chairman Laszlo Nagy on 20 April said the previous week had been "black" for the independent Slovak press, Slovak media reported. He cited the Finance Ministry's decision to remove the license of the investment firm Prva Slovenska Investicna Spolocnost (PSIS), giving temporary control over its portfolio to Agroinvest and Harvard Investment (the latter is run by the father of Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy and newly appointed Slovak Information Service director Ivan Lexa). The PSIS is a shareholder in the firm that publishes the opposition daily Sme. Nagy commented that the decision could soon have a negative impact on the paper's editorial staff. He also criticized the fact that a majority of shares in Perex, which publishes the daily Pravda, were recently sold to Harvard Investment. * Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY'S RAILROAD WORKERS GO ON STRIKE.
Hungarian railroad workers began an indefinite strike at midnight on 20 April, Magyar Hirlap reported the same day. All international rail traffic was halted and domestic services reduced to a minimum. Hungarian Railways (MAV) and union leaders failed after weeks of negotiations to reach agreement over the text of a new collective labor contract. The main bone of contention was the unions' right to reject restructuring proposals and cutbacks that would deprive workers of overtime pay and bonuses. Union leaders charged that MAV was seeking to push through restructuring plans that could lead to mass lay-offs and less job security for those employees who remained. MAV's management stressed the need to revamp the corporation in order to reduce huge losses. It is estimated that the Hungarian economy will lose 700 million forint a day as a result of the strike. * Edith Oltay



BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO EXTEND CEASEFIRE.
News agencies on 20 April reported that Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic told visiting UN mediator Yasushi Akashi that the Sarajevo government is unwilling to extend the current ceasefire when it expires after 30 April. Silajdzic charged that the UN has wasted the six-month negotiating period provided by the truce by offering the Serbs only "carrots and not sticks." The result, he said, was that the UN has helped preserve the status quo, which is unacceptable to the Bosnian government. Akashi, for his part, said he would persist in trying to secure a new and tighter agreement, arguing that it is better to have a truce than no truce. "When we have it, we can pinpoint the ceasefire violations," he concluded. * Patrick Moore

SERBS TO "TRY" ARRESTED FOREIGNERS.
Bosnian Serbs plan to try two Swiss citizens and a German they detained earlier this month, AFP reported on 20 April. The relief workers are charged with illegal border crossing and helping the Bosnian army, an accusation based on their having Bosnian army stamps in their documents. Five members of the Pharmacists without Borders, who were arrested in March, are also expected to go into the dock. * Patrick Moore

ARKAN IN FAVOR OF PEACE.
Vjesnik on 21 April quoted internationally wanted war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic, alias "Arkan," as confirming that the rift between the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leaderships has recently deepened. Arkan, who is a loyal backer of Serbian President Milosevic, said that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has tried to replace members of the officer corps on his own and that he, Arkan, backs General Ratko Mladic. Arkan added that the Bosnian Serb soldiers should be supplied "with clothing and food" and that the civilians should accept the current peace plan on offer. He also suggested that Karadzic's headquarters at Pale could be swapped for land in northeastern Bosnia in order to widen the Serbs' key supply corridor. Karadzic wants not only to keep his ski-resort base but to take some of Sarajevo as well. Milosevic is widely believed to be courting Mladic as an alternative to Karadzic. * Patrick Moore

NO AGREEMENT ON CROATIAN PEACEKEEPERS.
International media reported on 21 April that UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has failed to meet his deadline to get the Croatian authorities and the Krajina Serbs to agree on specifics for a new mandate for UN troops there. The Croats want about 5,000 highly trained soldiers of West European origin, while the Serbs want at least 10,000 men from Russia, Kenya, and various other countries. Zagreb insists that they must be stationed on Croatia's international borders and interdict arms shipments by the Serbs. Knin wants the men on the Croatian-Serbian front lines to play a monitoring role. Croatia wants many checkpoints, while the Serbs agree to about 20. Boutros Ghali on 21 April is to propose a plan to the UN that would authorize 8,750 troops to monitor Croatia's internal and external borders as well as human rights in Serb-held territories. Peacekeepers finding arms shipments would be authorized to warn the guilty parties that they are violating UN resolutions and will be reported to the Security Council. * Patrick Moore

FORMER YUGOSLAV DISSIDENT DIES AT 83.
Belgrade dailies Nasa Borba and Politika reported on 21 April that Milovan Djilas, a leading dissident in socialist Yugoslavia and one-time confidant of Communist leader Josip Broz Tito, died the previous day in Belgrade. Djilas, who was the last survivor of the first Politburo under Tito, became government vice president in 1953 and was generally regarded as a possible successor to Tito. But by the end of that year, he was criticizing the socialist authorities and the communist system, which led to his falling out of favor with Belgrade. The publication of his books The New Class and Conversations With Stalin led to prison sentences at home and acclaim abroad. More recently, Djilas was a critic of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his ultranationalist policies. He was born in Montenegro on 12 June 1911. * Stan Markotich

MORE ALBANIANS SENTENCED IN KOSOVO.
The local court of Pec sentenced three ethnic Albanians on 20 April for "jeopardizing the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," international agencies reported the same day. Elsewhere, another six Kosovar Albanians were detained for "associating in order to carry out hostile activity" in Gnjilane. The six were allegedly planning to build the headquarters of a territorial defense force for the Kosovar shadow-state. * Fabian Schmidt

GERMANY TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT MACEDONIA.
German Minister for Economic Cooperation Carl-Dieter Spranger, during a two-day visit to Macedonia, said his country will continue to support Macedonia, Western agencies reported on 19 March. After talks with Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, Spranger told the press he would back Macedonian interests at the spring meeting of the World Bank in Washington next week. According to Vecher on 21 April, he also said Germany will help realize infrastructure projects in Macedonia. * Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN MAJOR PARTY TRIES TO APPEASE JUNIOR PARTNER.
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 20 April decided to offer the Greater Romania Party (GRP) middle-ranking posts within the government administration. Radio Bucharest reported the next day that the PDSR will offer the GRP positions at the level of secretary of state (the equivalent of deputy minister), deputy prefect, and ambassador. The GRP, complaining that the PDSR has not abided by the January 1995 four-party protocol, threatened on 7 April to withdraw its support for the ruling coalition (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 April 1995). After signing the four-party protocol, the GRP said it would accept only positions at minister level. * Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN TRADE UNION LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE.
Vasile Baighic, chairman of the Western Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents workers in the health-care sector in western Romania, is reported to need urgent hospitalization, according to Radio Bucharest on 20 April. The trade union leader has been on a hunger strike for 46 days. He is protesting the low budget of the health care system. * Michael Shafir

WORLD BANK DELEGATION IN ROMANIA.
A delegation from the World Bank on 20 April met with Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. Rachel Lomax, who headed the delegation, said the bank and the Romanian government are agreed that the next phase of reforms must be based on "radical restructuring" and must ensure the continuation of "macroeconomic stabilization." In order to help Romania achieve these targets, the delegation said the World Bank would release the second installment of a loan. Meanwhile, Mugur Isarescu, governor of the Romanian National Bank, said on Romanian TV that he hoped the International Monetary Fund would soon resume financial assistance to Romania. * Michael Shafir

EBRD GRANTS LOAN TO MOLDOVA.
Interfax on 20 April reported that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has offered Moldova a $40 million loan for the construction of the first section of an oil terminal to be located on the Danube. The facility, which would have a capacity of 1.2 million tons, would make it possible for Moldova to receive fuel by sea from the Middle East. At present, 90% of the country's energy resources are delivered by rail from Russia. * Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES LAND RESTITUTION LAW.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 20 April vetoed amendments to the land restitution law, Reuters reported the same day. The amendments, passed by the parliament on 14 April, restrict the right of land owners to sell their plots (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 April 1995). Zhelev said he has "strong objections to these amendments and [intends] to send the law straight back to parliament." He also commented that the law "touches the essence of Bulgaria's democratic reforms. The question about the land . . . cannot be a party issue." Under the Bulgarian Constitution, the president can veto a law once, but the parliament can override his veto. Zhelev said he will appeal to the Constitutional Court if the parliament returns the law to him unaltered. * Stefan Krause

GENERAL STRIKE IN ALBANIA.
The Albanian Confederation of Trade Unions, successor to the communist labor unions, and the post-communist Independent Trade Unions have announced a one-day strike for 22 April, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 21 April. The announcement was made following a meeting with the government, which says it is unable to meet union demands for a 35% wage increase to cover higher consumer prices. A one-hour general strike took place in Albania on 11 April. Meanwhile, a court of appeal has decided not to hold a retrial of Communist dictator Enver Hoxha's widow. Nexhmije Hoxha, who still has three years to serve in prison for embezzlement, requested a new trial in the hope of receiving a milder sentence. * Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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