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Newsline - May 25, 1995



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 101, 25 May 1995
DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE YELTSIN VETO OF ELECTORAL LAW.
An attempt by a group of deputies in the State Duma to override President Yeltsin's veto of the Duma electoral law on 24 May, fell short of the necessary 300 votes, Reuters reported. In two rounds of voting, the president's critics found only 243 votes in the first round and 237 in the second. On 11 May, 302 deputies voted for the bill, but now, fewer are willing to risk direct confrontation with the president. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

AGRARIAN PARTY MAY INITIATE NO CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT.
The Agrarian Party is dissatisfied with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government because of its policies of redistributing land and its reduction in state suppoN ALONE. The Dem7[ogonek]y[sterling]_&tm;&tm;ÄõW[caron][lozenge][caron]W[ring]iÄ1¿erfax on 24 May. Lapshin complained that terfax on 24 May. Lapshin complained that the cabinet delayed payments on credits offered in 1993 and 1994, failed to improve relations between the state and the agricultural sector, and did nothing to eliminate the disparity between the prices farmers must pay for their equipment and the prices they get for their produce. Lapshin's faction has 54 members, short of the 90 necessary to initiate a no-confidence vote. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA TO CAMPAIGN ALONE.
The Democratic Party of Russia will not join any parliamentary electoral blocs, the party's parliamentary leader Stanislav Govorukhin announced on 24 May, according to Interfax. However, party leader Sergei Glazyev did not rule out an alliance with Dmitry Rogozin's Congress of Russian Communities or Yury Skokov's Federation of Commodity Producers. Glazyev said stabilization is impossible in Russia unless the ministers responsible for the country's current social-economic policy are replaced. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

FEDERATION COUNCIL'S COURT APPEAL ON CHECHNYA STILL FLAWED.
The Constitutional Court may again refuse to consider the Federation Council's appeal concerning Yeltsin's secret decrees on the military campaign in Chechnya, Interfax and Russian Public Television reported on 24 May. Earlier this month, the court rejected the Council's first appeal on the constitutionality of the Chechnya decrees for two reasons: the documents had been marked "classified," and they did not contain the text of the decrees the court was asked to consider. Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko, who is also a member of the president's Security Council, promised to correct those flaws and resubmit the case. However, sources close to the court told Interfax that although the second appeal was declassified, the Council "ignored" the court's request to attach the text of the presidential decrees to the documents. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA: MASS MEDIA "UNDER CHUBAIS' HEEL."
In an unusually sharp attack on a cabinet member, the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta on 25 May accused First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais of controlling the mass media. The author noted that Chubais' former press secretary was appointed deputy director general in charge of news programming at the new Russian Public Television company, which broadcasts on Channel 1. The author also said Chubais had helped Vladimir Gusinsky's Most group buy broadcasting privileges for NTV on what had been a state-owned channel. As a result, Rossiiskaya gazeta charged, NTV "directly conducts a policy to discredit the president and the government" but displays an "almost servile deference" to Chubais. The author asserted that many Russian newspapers were also "under the heel" of Chubais, who could potentially put them out of business by privatizing state-run publishing houses. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

DUMA REJECTS DRAFT LAW ON PRESERVING LENIN MEMORIALS.
The Duma rejected on its first reading a proposal advanced by the Communist Party to protect Vladimir Lenin memorials as historical and cultural monuments, Interfax reported on 24 May. The draft law would have guaranteed the preservation of Lenin's body and his mausoleum in Moscow, along with other Lenin museums nationwide and Lenin statues "of outstanding architectural merit." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY CREATED.
Appearing at the first meeting of the Council on Science and Technology Policy, President Yeltsin said science policy should be aimed toward "development," not only "survival," Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 25 May. Yeltsin charged the council with solving the problem of the emigration of talented scientists, defending the intellectual property of Russian scientists, and developing more international scientific contacts. He also promised to increase state funding for science in the 1996 budget. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA PARTICIPATION IN NATO'S PfP REMAINS UNCERTAIN.
Uncertainty remains over whether Russia will sign an individual work plan in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, Interfax and AFP reported on 24 May. After the Russian Security Council held a meeting to discuss NATO and European security on 24 May, council secretary Oleg Lobov said "conditions for enlarging [NATO] must be linked to this partnership." He said signing the work plan on 31 May has not been "ruled out," if Russia and NATO can "agree on a formula for this signature." After his 10 May summit with President Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he had been given assurances that Russia would sign its NATO PfP work plan by the end of the month. However, Lobov cast doubt on the 31 May date when he said the document outlining the principles for dialogue between Russia and NATO "will not come into being in the next few weeks." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

"NEW" NAVAL MISSILE IS YEARS OLD.
The Russian underwater anti-ship missile named "Shkval [Squall]," recently reported on by Jane's Intelligence Review, has been in service with the Russian navy for several years, according to a senior Russian official quoted by ITAR-TASS on 24 May. The magazine reported that the "new" weapon could travel at nearly 200 knots and "could put Western naval forces at a considerable disadvantage." Anton Surikov, an adviser with the Institute of Defense Research, told the agency that the fuss about the Shkval was timed to coincide with parliamentary hearings on defense budgets in Western countries. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA HOPES TO RESTRUCTURE LONG-TERM DEBT.
Russian Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin said he hopes Russia can restructure its long-term debt by the end of the year, Reuters reported on 24 May. The comment came after Yasin met with the head of the Paris Club of government creditors to which Russia owes over 50% of its $130 billion debt. The Paris Club has continually restructured Russia's massive short-term4Iïy[sterling]e last three years and is expected to do so again for 1995 when it meets next week. Rescheduling the long-term debt will probably depend on Russia's success in sticking to its IMF-backed economic stabilization plan for 1995. -- Michael Mihalka., OMRI, Inc.

PANSKOV UPBEAT ON ECONOMY . . .
Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told the Duma on 24 May that Russia's economic performance in the first four months of the year "reaffirmed the trend toward economic stabilization," Interfax reported. He said GDP reached 275 trillion rubles ($55 billion) (compared with planned levels of 200-260 trillion rubles ($40-$52 billion), output fell by 5% instead of 6%-8%, and the budget deficit dropped to 3.5% of GDP instead of the expected 8%. According to a government budget report, revenue rose to 32 trillion rubles ($6 billion) in the first quarter (103.3% of planned levels), while expenditure totaled 38.7 trillion rubles ($8 billion) (82% of the target figure). -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

. . . BUT OTHERS LESS CONFIDENT.
There is no reason to speak of "economic stability," according to a Duma Economic Policy Committee report cited by Interfax. It noted that the decline in manufacturing output is disproportionately large and that inflation ran at an average rate of 13% from January to March although the budget envisaged a rate of 5%. Meanwhile, Harvard professor Jeffrey Sachs observed that Russia had made some headway on macroeconomic stabilization recently but warned that low public confidence could undermine further progress if the country's leaders were not more open. He criticized the Finance Ministry and Central Bank for withholding key data or sharing them only with insiders. Transparency, he contended, helps build public confidence and dampens inflationary expectations. Sachs also said the Chechen war is "one of many mysteries" in Russian economic policy, noting that on paper, the five-month operation had cost nothing because it was spread across numerous budgets. Reform economist Andrei Illarionov pointed to growing state consumption as an indirect indicator of the cost of the war, Interfax reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

OIL EXPORT FIGURES.
From January to April, Russia exported 37.6 million tons of crude oil and 71.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas, Interfax reported on 24 May, citing Goskomstat. Oil exports to the "far abroad" amounted to 29.5 million tons--a 10% increase on the same period in 1994. The average price of oil to Europe and the U.S. was $110 per ton and to the CIS, $78.80 per ton. Exports to the CIS--8.1 million tons--were down 7% on the previous year. Exports of natural gas to the CIS and other countries were up 16% and 10% respectively over the first four months of 1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

INVESTIGATION INTO MEN CASE CONTINUES.
According to a press release from the Prosecutor's Office, the investigation into the murder of priest Alexander Men is continuing, Interfax reported on 24 May. Earlier reports said the investigation had been discontinued. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 101, 25 May 1995
RECRIMINATIONS OVER KARABAKH TALKS.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov responded on 24 May to the Armenian government's decision to boycott the next round of OSCE-mediated Karabakh peace talks in protest against the repeated sabotage of gas supplies to Armenia, Reuters reported on 24 May quoting Interfax. Hasanov accused Armenia of trying to interrupt the Karabakh peace process and rejected Armenian charges that Azerbaijan is responsible for blowing up the gas pipeline, accusing the Armenians of having done so themselves. Azerbaijani state foreign policy adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade told journalists on 24 May that he thinks the Armenian decision is "a spontaneous, rash one," and that the Armenian government will reconsider it. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

KAZAKHSTAN CONFIRMS IT IS NUCLEAR FREE.
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry announced on 24 May that there are no more nuclear warheads on the republic's territory, Kazakh radio reported. The commander-in-chief of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces made a similar announcement on 25 April. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

CIS


RUSSIA RATIFIES TREATY WITH BELARUS.
The Russian State Duma ratified the treaty on friendship and cooperation with Belarus by a vote of 333 to one, Radio Rossiya reported on 24 May. The Belarusian parliament had ratified the treaty on 12 April. Belarusian radio reported the same day that Russian and Belarusian leaders are expected to decide on forming a joint customs union during the 26 May CIS summit in Minsk. Russian Minister for Cooperation with CIS Countries Valery Serov said the price his country charges Belarus for gas might be lowered, Interfax reported. Belarus is paying $53 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is more than the $50 Ukraine pays, but considerably less than the world price of $80. Serov linked the price of gas to Russia's use of military bases in Belarus by pointing out that Minsk is not charging Russia for leasing the facilities that would cost about $340 million annually. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 101, 25 May 1995
UKRAINIAN DELEGATION APPEALS FOR WESTERN INVESTMENT.
A Ukrainian delegation headed by Acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk has appealed for greater Western private investment as Ukraine enters the second phase of economic reforms, Reuters and Radio Ukraine reported 24 May. The delegation was taking part in a London conference for foreign investors organized by the Adam Smith Institute. Marchuk told the gathering that the Ukrainian leadership was ready to endure the pain of reforms but stressed that much of their success depended upon a "serious inflow" of private capital. He said foreign investors are viewed as equal to their domestic counterparts. Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy prime minister in charge of reforms who was also part of the delegation, warned that opponents of free-market changes are expected
to continue resisting reforms. -- Chrystyna Lapychak , OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS SECURITY CONCEPT.
Ukrainian Radio on 24 May reported that Ukraine's parliament has adopted the Concept on National Security on its first reading. The document sets out Ukraine's priorities as ensuring state sovereignty, preserving its territorial integrity, and upholding the inviolability of borders. It also calls for overcoming the economic crisis, developing democratic institutions, and integration into the world and European community. Among the threats listed to Ukraine's security are interference in the country's internal affairs, territorial claims, instability and conflicts in neighboring states, separatism, and violations of the constitutional system. The document also lists economic threats to the nation's security. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS PROTEST DIVISION OF PROPERTY.
Crimean legislators have called on the Ukrainian government to suspend a 5 May order dividing up jurisdiction over long-disputed property on the peninsula between Kiev and regional authorities, Interfax-Ukraine and Ukrainian Television reported. The decision turned over 729 properties-- including state farms, Defense Ministry installations, research and training institutes, and several sanitariums and boarding houses--to Kiev. Some 230 factories, institutes, and organizations remain under Crimean control. Some of that property is earmarked for privatization. The deputies have asked the Ukrainian parliament to set up a joint commission to settle the property dispute. The government ruling says that all proceeds from privatization in Crimea will remain in the hands of local authorities. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.


STUDENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK.
Reuters reported on 24 May that some 300 students demonstrated in Minsk to protest the referendum decision to restore Soviet-era state symbols. The students marched in front of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's residence and flung one of the newly approved Soviet-type flags into a public toilet. Police broke up the demonstration, beating several students and detaining 29. As the referendum must still be confirmed by parliament, it is uncertain whether the Soviet-type flag or the red-and-white Belarusian one is legal. The day after the referendum, an aide to the president tore down the Belarusian flag from the president's building and shredded it. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

MEETING OF BALTIC, NORDIC DEFENSE MINISTERS.
The annual meeting of the defense ministers of the three Baltic States and four Nordic Council states was held on 22-23 May on the Danish island of Bornholm, BNS reported the following day. The Nordic ministers described the formation of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion as a model for East-West military cooperation and praised the Baltic States, especially Lithuania, for their active participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius noted that although financial difficulties prevented Lithuania from participating in all 11 planned PfP military exercises, it would participate in six. The next annual meeting of the defense ministers will take place in Vilnius in the spring of 1996. -- Saulius Girnius , OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN ESTONIA.
Leonid Kuchma, on the first day of his visit to Tallinn on 24-25 May, signed a declaration on developing cooperation and partnership with his Estonian counterpart, Lennart Meri, BNS reported. The 14-point declaration is intended to give the "necessary dynamism" to the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty, signed on 26 May 1992. Both sides expressed the desire to increase cooperation vis-a-vis international organizations, particularly in gaining membership in the European Union. Foreign Ministers Henadii Udovenko (Ukraine) and Riivo Sinijarv (Estonia) signed agreements on free trade and cooperation in the sphere of sea navigation. Kuchma will also meet with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and visit the Estonian parliament before returning to Kiev. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

LATVIA'S BANKING CRISIS.
Prime Minister Maris Gailis on 24 May accepted the resignation of Andris Piebags as finance minister, BNS reported. Gailis also expressed his support for retaining Einars Repse and Ilmars Rimsevics as Bank of Latvia president and vice president. A no confidence vote in the two bank officials, proposed by 16 deputies from the Popular Concord Party, the Political Union of Economists, and the Democratic Party, is to be held in the Saeima on 25 May. Jukka Paljarvi, International Monetary Fund representative in Estonia, praised the lats stability and Repse's role in setting up a stable state financial system. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ON POLICY PRIORITIES.
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on 24 May presented to the Sejm the country's foreign policy priorities, which, he said, have remained unchanged since 1989. These include membership in NATO and the European Union as well as friendly relations with all neighbors. Poland considers NATO membership a guarantee for security in the region. Bartoszewski commented that Moscow's objections to the pact's enlargement have caused fear that a policy of the "spheres of influence" is returning, Polish media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH ZLOTY TO BECOME CONVERTIBLE?
Polish Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko and Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz on 24 May sent a letter to the International Monetary Fund committing Poland not to limit currency exchanges and asking the IMF to approve the convertibility of the zloty, Polish media reported. Of the 179 IMF members countries, 100 have convertible currencies according to IMF standards. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

CZECH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO OVERRIDE HAVEL'S VETOES.
The Czech parliament on 24 May failed to pass two draft laws that President Vaclav Havel recently refused to sign. The two bills are on rewarding resistance fighters who fought against the Nazis in World War II and on restricting smoking and reducing alcoholism and other drug dependency. Havel objected to the first bill because he considered it would exclude those resistance fighters who later collaborated with the communist regime. He argued that it was not acceptable to make the rewarding of heroism during the war conditional on subsequent acts and behavior. In vetoing the anti-smoking bill, Havel said that while he was not opposed in principle to restrictions on smoking, the bill contravened the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Products. He also commented that it would cause economic losses. Some deputies said after the unsuccessful attempt to override Havel's vetoes that they would modify both bills toreflect the president's objections and resubmit them to the parliament. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.


UPDATE ON DEMOCRATIC UNION ELECTION LISTS.
Police officials are questioning the 14,929 citizens whose names appeared on the Democratic Union's petition lists to ensure that their signatures are valid, Sme reported on 24-25 May. The DU needed 10,000 signatures to run in last fall's parliamentary elections, but the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia has claimed that a number of the signatures it collected were forged. Attorney-General Michal Valo said on Slovak Radio on 23 May that although some people could be prosecuted for forging signatures, the composition of the parliament should not be affected. He also stressed that citizens whose names appear on the lists with false signatures will not be considered guilty. DU Chairman Jozef Moravcik said in an interview with Smena on 24 May that his party regards the investigation as a violation of the criminal code. He commented that the police should be used for matters other than "political persecution." -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAK ECONOMIC OVERVIEW.
The Slovak cabinet on 23 May discussed the budget deficit, which reached 4 billion koruny during the first quarter of 1995, Sme reported. But contrary to expectations, it did not debate options for the Czech-Slovak clearing agreement. Although Slovakia recently revalued its currency by 4 percentage points against the clearing ECU, the Czech Republic prefers to cancel the agreement. In other news, Narodna obroda on 24 May reported that in April, Slovak imports totaled 19.2 billion koruny and exports 21 billion koruny. In the first four months of the year, Slovakia registered a trade surplus of 1.4 billion koruny. Slovakia's biggest export markets in 1994 were the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Italy, and Russia. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES AUSTERITY PACKAGE.
The Hungarian parliament on 23 May passed the bulk of an austerity package designed to reduce the country's $4 billion deficit, international and Hungarian media reported. The package includes the introduction of new taxes and university tuition fees, and the abolition of family allowances as a civic right. A final vote is scheduled to take place in a few days after experts have made sure that none of the amendments are mutually exclusive. The drive to cut the deficit began on 12 March when the government announced it would slash 170 billion forint ($1.35 billion) from the 450 billion forint budget deficit. While most of the measures proposed by the government were approved, the parliament rejected a proposed 20% cut in financial support for municipal governments. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 101, 25 May 1995
UN THREATENS AIR STRIKES . . .
The United Nations on 24 May issued an ultimatum to the warring sides around Sarajevo either to silence their heavy weapons by noon local time the following day or face the threat of NATO air power. It also demanded the return by the same time of four heavy guns pilfered by Bosnian Serb forces just outside Sarajevo. All other heavy weapons are to be surrendered to the UN or removed from the exclusion area around the city by noon local time on 26 May. If they are not removed, the warring sides will again face the possibility of air strikes, according to the ultimatum. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has reacted forcefully, insisting that Bosnian Serb forces will treat UN soldiers as "hostile" if NATO launches air strikes. Reuters quotes Karadzic as saying that "if the UN orders air strikes, we are going to treat the UN as the enemy." According to international media, Sarajevo and its environs were relatively calm and quiet on the morning of 25 May. -- Stan Markotich , OMRI, Inc.

. . . AFTER VIOLENCE FLARES IN SARAJEVO.
UN calls for NATO air strikes come in the wake of some of the most serious fighting to hit the Bosnian capital over the past year at least. The Croatian news agency Hina on 24 May reported that at least five people were killed and 30 injured when Bosnian Serb artillery pounded the city and surrounding areas the same day. It also observed that phosphorous bombs, forbidden by Geneva conventions, were among those used in the latest attacks. -- Stan Markotich , OMRI, Inc.

PEACEKEEPING IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA.
Reuters on 24 May reports that UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali will formally outline by 26 May a series of proposals for the future of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, which may include withdrawals, greater use of air strikes, or scaling back operations. It is reported that unlike in the past, Boutros Ghali is likely to refrain from preferring one option over the other. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba and Vjesnik on 25 May report that if UN peacekeepers do withdraw from Bosnia, up to 50,000 NATO forces may be dispatched to offer the peacekeepers protection during the withdrawal process. The dailies also observe that U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry has suggested that half the NATO contingent may come from the U.S. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

OTHER NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
Nasa Borba on 25 May quotes UN human rights envoy Tadeusz Mazowiecki as suggesting at a press conference in Pakrac the previous day that the Croatian army may have committed some human rights violations against Serbs during its advance on rebel Serb-held parts of western Slavonia earlier this month. But the daily also notes that Mazowiecki offered few details to back this claim. Hina observed that Mazowiecki noted his understanding of the situation was still somewhat "murky." The envoy's probe into alleged human rights violations continues on 25 May in Zagreb. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba also reports on Moscow envoy Alexander Zotov's second day in Belgrade, noting that the Russian representative has already said he sees little reason for the international community to insist on the continued imposition of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.


ANOTHER ETHNIC ALBANIAN CONVICTED IN MACEDONIA.
Musli Alimi, a former university professor from Kosovo, was sentenced to eight months in jail on 24 May, international agencies reported the same day. He was convicted on charges of obstructing the police during riots in February when thousands of ethnic Albanians tried to prevent policemen from closing down the self-declared Albanian-language university in Tetovo. One Albanian died during the clashes. Alimi is the fifth ethnic Albanian sentenced in connection with the riot. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc.

MACEDONIAN COALITION ABOUT TO SPLIT?
The ruling Macedonian coalition, currently facing its most serious crisis since it was formed seven months ago, may be on the verge of splitting, Reuters reported on 24 May. The Liberal Party, second-largest of the three members of the ruling Alliance for Macedonia, has announced it will press embezzlement charges against Finance Minister Jane Miljovski, deputy leader of the Social Democratic Alliance, the largest coalition partner. Miljovski is accused of depositing into his party's account 8.1 million denars ($212,000) designated for the Liberals. The Liberal Party has invited the two major opposition parties to attend its next congress, which will discuss the future of the coalition. The Alliance for Macedonia won 93 of the 120 seats in the fall 1994 parliamentary elections. The Liberals hold 29 of these seats. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.


ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON SPEEDING UP PRIVATIZATION.
The two chambers of the Romanian parliament on 24 May voted by 249 to 147 to approve a report by a mediation commission on the draft bill on accelerating privatization in Romania. Radio Bucharest said the report's approval amounted to the de facto ratification of the law itself. The controversial legislation had already been passed by both chambers but in slightly differing forms. The same source described the 24 May debates as "heated and occasionally even tense." Members of the opposition announced that they would ask the Constitutional Court to block the law. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

ROMANIA'S STRATEGY FOR JOINING EU TAKES SHAPE.
The government commission charged with working out Romania's strategy for joining the European Union convened on 23-24 May at Snagov, near Bucharest, Radio Bucharest reported. The commission pledged to present in early June the drafts of a framework program for joining the EU and a "white charter" on Romania's integration into that organization at the beginning of the 21st century. The conference was attended by senior officials, including Mircea Cosea, the head of the government's Council for Economic Coordination, Strategy, and Reform, and National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu, as well as leading religious and cultural figures. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.


DUMA PASSES LAW ON 14TH ARMY ON FIRST READING.
The Russian State Duma on 24 May approved by 227 to two with five abstentions a draft law on the 14th Army on its first reading, Interfax reports. The bill provides for a moratorium on plans to reorganize the army and withdraw it from the Dniester region as well as continued financing for the army from the federal budget. The Duma also adopted a resolution on ensuring the safety of all weaponsagreement signed during Russi4Iïy[sterling]_&tm;&tm;ÄõW[caron]Ü[caron]Woe[cedilla]ÒÄO/epresentative Istvan Gyarmati, who is paying a visit to Chisinau, that he was opposed to the idea that the 14th Army be granted peacekeeping functions. -- Danepresentative Istvan Gyarmati, who is paying a visit to Chisinau, that he was opposed to the idea that the 14th Army be granted peacekeeping functions. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIA'S LAST COMMUNIST PREMIER TO HEAD STATE-RUN COMPANY.
Andrey Lukanov is to head the Bulgarian-Russian gas company, which will be set up in accordance with an agreement signed during Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Sofia on 18-19 May, Standart reports on 25 May. The newspaper says that his return to an official post after five years puts him in a key position both in the field of economics and in relations with Russia. Lukanov was first deputy prime minister in the 1980s and was elected to the Politbureau in 1989. From 1989 to 1990, he was Bulgaria's last communist premier. In order to head the new company, Lukanov will have to resign his seat in the parliament. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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