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Newsline - May 26, 1995



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 102, 26 May 1995
RUSSIAN REACTION TO NATO AIR STRIKES IN BOSNIA.
According to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry, and reported by ITAR-TASS on 25 May, Moscow does not stand behind NATO's 25 air attacks against Bosnian Serb targets. The strikes were launched when the Bosnian Serb side failed to comply with a UN ultimatum to return four heavy guns stolen near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. "The course of events in Bosnia over the past months and weeks requires urgent efforts toward political settlement, with maximum restraint in the use of force," the statement said, stressing that singling out the Bosnian Serbs is no path to resolving regional conflict. Nevertheless, Moscow's support for the Bosnian Serb side also appears less than wholehearted. On 26 May Reuters quoted President Boris Yeltsin as saying the Bosnian Serbs "got it" because they did not halt their military activities. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LUZHKOV'S FUTURE.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov may soon be fired or forced to resign due to conflicts with the federal government over the city's financial problems according to Moskovsky Komsomolets on 25 May. However, the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti reported on 26 May that in recent weeks, Luzhkov has patched up relations with the federal government and can easily "find a common language" with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Rossiiskie vesti argued that "whatever one may think of Luzhkov," the mayor helps maintain stability in the capital and is therefore too important a political figure to "simply leave the scene." President Both Yeltsin and Luzhkov recently have denied rumors of Luzhkov's imminent dismissal. In a televised interview on 24 May, Yeltsin said, "I do not know a better mayor in Russia," Interfax reported the next day. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

COMMISSION REJECTS YELTSIN'S MAIN AMENDMENTS TO DUMA ELECTORAL LAW.
The conciliatory commission, bringing together representatives of the president, State Duma, and Federation Council, agreed to maintain the Duma version of the electoral law preserving the current division of 225 seats to be determined by party list and 225 by single-member district, although it recommended an increase in regional influence on the party lists, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 May. Vladimir Isakov, co-chairman of the Duma delegation, said most commission members support the Duma proposal to peg the necessary voter turnout for the elections to be considered valid at 25%, rather than the Yeltsin proposal of 50%. The commission supported a presidential proposal to allow civil servants to continue their jobs while campaigning but said it will propose an amendment to prevent them from using government-issue cars and official access to the media for campaigning purposes. The commission is scheduled to reconvene on 5 June. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MORE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION.
An article in the 21-28 May edition of Moskovskie novosti accused the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) of dragging its feet on requests to disclose full returns from the December 1993 elections and referendum on the constitution. Duma deputies from Russia's Choice, the Communist Party, and Yabloko have asked the commission to release the relevant figures. With new parliamentary elections looming, the author wrote, the deputies are particularly anxious to learn whether fraud took place in 1993, and if so, how to prevent the use of similar techniques this year. Although ballots were destroyed long ago, vote rigging could be discerned by comparing the aggregate local returns (still stored in the commission's archives) with final regional figures published by the commission. Moskovskie novosti suggested that the commission's reluctance to comply with Duma requests indicates "something is rotten there." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT SUFFERING CRISIS.
The Russian environmental movement will be unable to participate in the parliamentary elections as an independent party according to participants in a conference entitled "Ecological Policy and Peace- Making Processes in the Former Soviet Union," Interfax reported. Instead, Russia's green movement plans to provide voters with information about the ecological programs of the various political parties in order to inform them who genuinely cares about the environment and who is engaging in campaign rhetoric, Grigory Khozin of the Diplomatic Academy's Global Problems Center said on 25 May. He said the greens will be ready to participate directly in the parliamentary elections four years from now. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW MUFTI CRITICIZED.
The director general of the Russian Islamic Cultural Fund, Abdel Vakhed Niyazov, publicly criticized Ravil Gainutdin, identified by Interfax as the Mufti of the Moscow Mosque, for abuse of power and violating shariah norms, Interfax reported on 25 May. On behalf of several Islamic and national cultural organizations in Moscow, Niyazov read out a statement at a press conference the same day, condemning the Mufti for "illegally dismissing" two imams, "transforming the house of Islam into a private office," and dividing visiting Muslims into "ours" and "foreign ones." Nafigulla Ashirov, chairman of the supreme coordinating center of the Muslim Spiritual Board, said the conflict began because of Gainutdin's openly pro-government position, the aspirations of other muftis for greater independence, and the Chechen war. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

OSCE CHECHNYA TALKS COLLAPSE.
The OSCE-mediated talks in Grozny between representatives of the federal authorities, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, and the Chechen government of national salvation broke up after three hours, when the Russian delegation, headed by Nikolai Semyonov, walked out, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The talks may resume "after preliminary consultations," according to Chechen chief of staff Movladi Udugov, who said the Russians had been "unprepared" for negotiations, the agencies reported. Udugov further stated that the Chechen presidential delegation had demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the creation of internationally-controlled safe zones. Semyonov said the talks had merely been "suspended" to allow for consultation with military commanders, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO HEAR CASE ON CHECHNYA.
Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov announced that despite legal flaws in the documents submitted to it, the court will consider the Federation Council's request concerning the constitutionality of secret presidential and government decrees on Chechnya, Interfax reported on 25 May. Tumanov expressed surprise that the Council ignored the court's instructions to attach copies of the decrees in question to its appeal. However, he said the court would overlook the Council's error so as not to be accused of "procrastination" on the controversial Chechnya case. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

MILITARY PROCUREMENT BUDGET APPROVED.
The Russian government approved "about 10 trillion rubles" for the 1995 defense order at a 25 May meeting, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told ITAR-TASS. The money will be earmarked for paying off last year's debts, purchasing new equipment, and as advance payments for 1996 weapons deliveries. Panskov said it would be up to the Defense Ministry to decide "whether to buy military hardware or uniforms." In 1994, the defense order amounted to 8 trillion rubles (about $2 billion). The agency said it had learned from "well-informed sources" that no fighter aircraft will be purchased in 1995. Aircraft manufacturers will have to depend on foreign orders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

DISSIDENT OFFICER SEEKS REINSTATEMENT.
Lt. Col. Stanislav Terekhov, leader of the right-wing Officers' Union, told Interfax on 25 May that the legal proceedings in his battle to be reinstated in the armed forces had resumed. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev discharged Terekhov following his participation in the 1993 attack on the headquarters of the CIS joint armed forces. A military court of the Moscow Military District has twice ruled that Terekhov's discharge was illegal, but the case has been appealed to the Military Board of the Supreme Court by the chief military prosecutor. Terekhov told the agency that he was "calling on mass media, officers, and the patriotic public for support." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

CHERNOMYRDIN TURNS DOWN INVESTMENT PROGRAM.
At a 25 May cabinet meeting to discuss economic and financial stabilization, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin refused to approve a program to encourage domestic and foreign investment in 1995-97, Interfax reported. Chernomyrdin sharply criticized the authors of the program--including First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais (castigated yesterday in the official Rossiiskaya gazeta on a different topic) and Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin--on the grounds that it was too general. They were given a month to submit a radically revised plan. According to Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan, investment in industry in the first four months of this year is down 35% on the same period of 1994. Overall investment in 1994 was down 26% compared to 1993. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

BUDGET HIT BY OFFICIAL CORRUPTION.
The 1995 budget has been undermined by misspending, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 25 May. "Expenditure has exceeded limits during the first few months of the year...administrations often waste credits from the government," he said, according to AFP. He added that last year, the ministry uncovered cases involving the improper use of state funds, embezzlement, and tax evasion that resulted in losses of hundreds of billions of rubles, Interfax reported. He named the Federal Employment Service and the Nationalities Ministry as the worst offenders. Panskov also said large sums earmarked for supplies for the Far North had been diverted into private accounts and that funding for regional programs might be stopped if such abuses continued. Meanwhile, in another development that strained the budget, the Duma extended foreign trade preferences for the Sports Fund until 1 July. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov said that would cost about $285 million, Segodnya reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

CENTRAL BANK TO INTRODUCE 100,000-RUBLE NOTE.
On 30 May, the Central Bank will introduce a 100,000-ruble note, worth about $20, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 May. At present, the brown 50,000-ruble note, introduced in 1993, is the largest in circulation. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

MIDDLE EAST PRIORITY FOR RUSSIAN ARMS SALES.
Stanislav Filin, Deputy Director of Rosvooruzheniye, the scandal-ridden state company responsible for Russia's arms sales, confirmed that the Middle East market, particularly Persian Gulf countries, is a priority region for Russia, Interfax reported on 25 May. He noted that Russia had recently been able to expand the Russian presence in that market and downplayed the importance of declining arms sales to Eastern Europe. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 102, 26 May 1995

TROUBLE IN TAJIK TALKS.
Negotiations aimed at stopping the violence in Tajikistan hit a snag on 25 May, Interfax and Western agencies reported. The opposition power-sharing proposal envisioned an administration in which the current government would take 40% of the positions, 40% would go to the opposition, and 20% to ethnic minorities in Tajikistan. Representatives from the Dushanbe government called the proposal unacceptable but made no counter proposal. Opposition leader Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda said the opposition's proposal was timed to coincide with a meeting of the CIS heads of state in Minsk. Turadzhonzoda was in Bishkek where he handed Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev a letter to be read at the meeting, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

NIYAZOV IN EGYPT, ISRAEL.
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, signed four bilateral cooperation accords and agreed to open embassies in each other's countries, during talks on 23 May, AFP reported on 24 May. The next day, Niyazov traveled to Israel where he met with his Israeli counterpart, Ezer Weizman, as well as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for talks focusing on bilateral economic relations. Israel and Turkmenistan have had diplomatic relations since 1993; last year Turkmenistan's deputy prime minister visited Jerusalem and Shimon Peres visited Ashkhabad. Numerous cooperation accords have been signed to date. Israel is involved in a $100 million irrigation project in Turkmenistan and a scheme to build a gas pipeline from that country to Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 102, 26 May 1995
KUCHMA SAID TO HAVE SUGGESTED CHANGES IN FLEET AGREEMENTS.
In a recent message to President Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma suggested changes to the principles that Russian and Ukrainian leaders have already agreed on regarding the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet, according to "trustworthy sources" quoted by ITAR-TASS on 25 May. Yeltsin has instructed his aides to study them. The two are expected to discuss the impasse over the fleet at the Minsk CIS summit. The sources said one of Kuchma's suggestions was that the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet would not have "bases" in Ukraine, but rather a "series of separate installations, including one in Sevastopol." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ISSUES ULTIMATUM OVER CRIMEAN REFERENDUM.
The Ukrainian legislature has said it may dissolve the Crimean parliament if that body refuses to cancel a 25 June regionwide referendum on the banned Crimean Constitution and does not submit the draft of a new one by 1 June, international and Ukrainian agencies reported on 25 May. Crimean deputies missed a 15 May deadline set by Kiev for drafting a new document. Ukraine requires the new draft to be in line with a 1992 Ukrainian law delineating authority between Kiev and Simferopol. Its most recent move amounts to a rejection of a recent offer by Crimean parliament leaders to cancel the poll if Kiev overturns its annulment of the disputed Crimean Constitution. Crimean deputies said that in such a case, they would be willing to abolish those articles that contravene Ukrainian law. -- Chrystyna Lapychak , OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS PROPOSE COMPROMISE ON SEPARATION OF POWERS LAW.
The socialist caucus in the Ukrainian parliament has submitted a compromise version of a resolution and constitutional amendment allowing the formal implementation of the law on the separation of powers, Ukrainian Radio and Interfax-Ukraine reported on 25 May. Sixty-eight articles of Ukraine's current Soviet-era constitution need to be suspended by a two- thirds majority in order for the landmark legislation, giving Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma greater powers to carry out reforms, to take effect. Leftist forces who oppose reforms have threatened to block the passage of the amendment because it would significantly dilute the legislature's authority. But the socialist faction on 25 May said it might agree to a temporary arrangement whereby the articles would be suspended until 1 January 1996, when parliament would review implementation of the law. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

OFFICIAL RESULTS OF BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS.
The Central Electoral Commission on 24 May announced the official results of the 14 May parliamentary elections and referendum, Belarusian Radio reported. A total of 2,348 candidates competed for 260 parliamentary seats, and 18 succeeded in being elected. The Agrarian Party won five seats and the communists three. Turnout was 64.7%. A second round of elections will be held in 216 electoral districts on 28 May. As for the referendum, 83.3% voted to give the Russian language state status, alongside Belarusian; 75.1% voted to change the country's national symbols to Soviet-type ones; 83.3% were in favor of integration with Russia; and 77.7% voted to give the president the right to dissolve the parliament. The last question is not legally binding, like the others. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

NEW LATVIAN FINANCE MINISTER.
The Saeima on 25 May confirmed the nomination of Indra Samite as finance minister, BNS and Interfax reported. Samite replaces Andris Piebalgs, who resigned because of the continuing banking crisis. Born in Philadelphia in 1959, Samite emigrated to Latvia in 1991 where she worked as a consultant to a Saeima commission. In September 1994, she was appointed state minister for credit distribution. Also on 25 May, Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse appointed his adviser Uldis Klauss as the new president of Baltija Bank. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW.
The Saeima on 25 May approved the law on its election, BNS reported. Under the new legislation, the Saeima is to be elected by direct, proportional, and secret voting, with only political parties and alliances having the right to field candidates. Parties have to surpass a 5% barrier to gain parliament seats. Those who cannot run for office include former officials from foreign security services as well as those who held office after 13 January 1991 in the communist party, the Latvian SSR International Workers' Front, the United Council of Workers, the War and Labor Veterans Organization, and the Committee for Saving Latvia's Society. Candidates must be able to demonstrate a high proficiency in Latvian. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

LITHUANIAN, POLISH AGREEMENT ON EXTRADITION PROCEDURES.
Following two days of talks in the Polish town of Suwalki, a Lithuanian delegation, headed by Prosecutor-General Vladas Nikitinas, reached an agreement with Polish officials on procedures for extraditing criminals and handing over material evidence in such cases, BNS reported on 25 May. The two countries already have signed a legal assistance treaty and an agreement on cooperation between prosecutor's offices, but the absence of an extradition order has created problems for border authorities. Kestutis Vagneris, chief Lithuanian prosecutor for information and international relations, said that the two sides also exchanged information on organized crime, smuggling, and illegal migration. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ATTACKED BY FORMER PREMIER.
The Sejm on 25 May debated Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's presentation the previous day of Poland's foreign policy priorities. Polish and international media quote former Premier Waldemar Pawlak of the United Peasant Party as asking: "Did the minister appear as Poland's foreign minister or as an EU and NATO expert?" He commented that "our contemporary pro-Europeanism is turning into an ideology of servility towards the wealthy capitalist world." Deputies from other parties defended Bartoszewski. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH COLONEL'S SPYING SENTENCE QUASHED BY SUPREME COURT.
The Supreme Court on 25 May revoked the sentence handed down to Ryszard Kuklinski, an army colonel accused of spying, Polish and international agencies report. Kuklinski fled Poland in November 1981 after allegedly passing over to the U.S. plans for the introduction of martial law the following month. He was sentenced in absentia to death for high treason in 1984. The Supreme Court ruled that the 1984 military tribunal did not have sufficient evidence to convict Kuklinski. Its acting president, Stanislaw Rudnicki, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Kuklinski was perhaps trying to counter "the direct threat of invasion by informing rulers of countries who had influence over the world's fate." -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION FAVORS OPPOSITION.
The Constitutional Court on 24 May ruled that a law passed by the parliament in November canceling 54 direct sale privatization projects approved by the previous government is unconstitutional. Stefan Gavornik, president of the National Property Fund's Presidium, said the parliament's decision was taken "in the interest of society," but he stressed that it is necessary to respect the decision of the court. Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota said that he is "very sorry" about the court's decision and that it could cause "large-scale damage" to Slovakia. Peter Weiss, chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, said that "If the government coalition was not so arrogant . . . , our republic could have spared the needless damage to its reputation," Pravda reports on 26 May. Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky said the court's decision confirms that, despite many difficulties, "democracy still functions" in Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAK RULING COALITION REMAINS FUNCTIONAL.
A 25 May meeting of the representatives of the four ruling parties has confirmed that the coalition remains united. Premier Vladimir Meciar, who is also chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, said the talks "confirmed that the coalition is functional and the interest of every partner is to maintain it . . . Basic political differences among the coalition parties do not exist." Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota said the coalition is "100% solid," while Association of Workers of Slovakia Deputy Chairman Stefan Gavornik commented that the coalition functions better at higher levels than at the district level, Sme reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

WALESA IN HUNGARY.
Polish President Lech Walesa, on a three-day official visit to Hungary, met with Hungarian President Arpad Goencz, Prime Minister Gyula Horn, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, and other politicians on 25 May. Goencz and Walesa agreed to cooperate in their efforts to join NATO and the European Union. "We see the world very similarly," Goencz told reporters after his talks with Walesa. The Polish president confirmed that the two countries had agreed to coordinate their views and "support each other." In what appeared to be indirect criticism of the Czech Republic's unwillingness to coordinate its efforts to join NATO and the EU with Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, Walesa said that East European states are not cooperating enough in their bids to join Western institutions. Walesa travels on 26 May to Keszthely, on Lake Balaton, to participate in a meeting of eight Central European presidents focusing on regional cooperation. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.




OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 102, 26 May 1995
NATO AIR STRIKES IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA.
Six NATO planes on 25 May struck a Bosnian Serb ammunition depot near the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale, outside Sarajevo, Nasa Borba and international agencies reported the following day. The NATO attack came after Bosnian Serb forces failed to comply with an ultimatum that they return four heavy guns stolen near Sarajevo. The Bosnian Serbs responded swiftly by launching attacks against five of six of the country's designated safe areas: namely, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Tuzla, Gorazde, and Bihac. In Tuzla, a shell exploded in a downtown area lined with cafes. The town's mayor has said that at least 50 people were killed in the incident, while as yet unconfirmed reports say the toll may be at least 70 dead and some 150 wounded. Meanwhile, UN spokesman Major Guy Vinet has told Reuters that "all nine weapons collections points have been blocked by Bosnian Serb soldiers." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

REACTIONS TO NATO AIR ATTACKS.
Bosnia's Muslim-led government welcomed NATO's actions against the Bosnian Serbs. Vice President Ejup Ganic told reporters at a press conference following the Bosnian Serb response that further NATO action was needed. "NATO must carry out a massive bombardment of the Serb artillery . . . What happened in Tuzla tonight and in Sarajevo and Gorazde must not go unpunished," he said. Meanwhile, NATO officials have indicated that their organization is prepared to launch other strikes against the Bosnian Serbs if they do not withdraw heavy weapons from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo by 10:00 GMT on 26 May. The Belgian news agency Belga quoted NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes as saying that NATO has targets of "importance." He gave no further information. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

FORMER KOSOVO POLICEMEN ON TRIAL.
Some 44 ethnic Albanian former policemen went on trial in Prizren on 25 May, international agencies reported the same day. They are accused of forming a shadow Kosovar police force and face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. The defendants have denied the charges, saying the only reason they formed an independent police union was to protect their rights. The state prosecutor has claimed the union served "as a shield for forming an illegal police force." An ethnic Serbian defense lawyer said that the trial is purely political and that the defendants were tortured by the police during interrogation. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

ROMANIAN CABINET DISCUSSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONVENTIONS.
The Romanian government convened a special meeting on 25 May to discuss ways to bring Romania's human rights legislation into line with Council of Europe standards, Radio Bucharest reported. A government spokesman said the ministers approved the signing of the council's charters on local autonomy and on minority and regional languages. The government also decided to start ratification procedures for other conventions, including those on extradition and combating terrorism. The spokesman added that the legislation package on Romania's relations with the CE will soon be sent to the parliament for emergency debate. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA.
Josef Zieleniec on 25 May began a three-day official visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. Zieleniec and his Romanian counterpart, Teodor Melescanu, discussed ways to speed up NATO's expansion as well as their countries' integration into European structures. Both ministers praised the development of Czech- Romanian trade relations. Melescanu stressed that Romania regards the Czech Republic as a model for political and economic transformation. Zieleniec, who was also received by President Ion Iliescu and Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, pledged his government's help for Romania's ethnic Czech minority. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

IMF WITHHOLDS LOAN INSTALLMENT FOR ROMANIA.
An International Monetary Fund mission concluded an eight-day visit to Romania on 25 May, Radio Bucharest reported. The delegation, headed by IMF's chief negotiator with Romania Maxwell Watson, was received by President Ion Iliescu, Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, and other senior government officials. Watson said at a press conference on 25 May that Romania was making progress on reforming its economy but that the process was hampered by serious problems, including hesitant mass privatization and enormous inter- company debts. He suggested that the IMF continue examining Romania's economic situation before a second installment of a $250 million loan is released. Another IMF inspection team is expected to visit Romania in June. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES DUMA.
Mihai Popov, in an interview with Interfax on 25 May, expressed concern over what he described as the Russian State Duma's attempt to "torpedo" an October 1994 bilateral agreement on the withdrawal of the 14th Army from eastern Moldova. Popov said that a law recently adopted by the Duma on preserving the 14th Army's arsenals amounted to a moratorium on the withdrawal, since it linked it with a settlement to the crisis in the Dniester region. In a related development, a Moldovan delegation led by parliament deputy chairman Nicolae Andronic left for Budapest on 25 May to attend the North Atlantic Assembly session there. Andronic said Moldova will seek international support for the implementation of the Moldovan-Russian agreement on the withdrawal of the 14th Army. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

NEW BULGARIAN POLITICAL ALLIANCE IN THE MAKING?
Duma on 26 May reports that President Zhelyu Zhelev sees a realistic chance for forming a new political alliance. Dimitar Ludzhev, chairman of the Center New Policy party, was quoted as saying that the United Democratic Forces would not be a presidential grouping but an alliance for the people. Ludzhev, together with Asparuh Panov and Stefan Gaytandzhiev of the Radical Democratic Party (RDP), met with Zhelev on 25 May. Ludzhev's party has already held talks on the formation of a new alliance with the People's Union, and talks with the RDP are scheduled. The RDP, in turn, has invited the Union of Democratic Forces to attend talks but so far has not received a reply, Gaytandzhiev said. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc.

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT URGES GREECE TO START TALKS.
Kiro Gligorov, on a state visit to Italy, has urged Greece to lift its embargo against Macedonia and start direct talks with his country, Reuters reported on 25 May. Gligorov was quoted as saying that Macedonia will not be "an equal partner in direct talks" if the embargo is not lifted. He also urged Greece to take a bigger role in the Balkan peace process, saying it has "a responsibility as the only Balkan country in the European Union and NATO to bring stability to the region." Gligorov praised the UN peacekeepers stationed in Macedonia and said their presence is a sign that "the war cannot expand south." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

GREEK-ALBANIAN TALKS START IN "GOOD ATMOSPHERE."
Greece and Albania have started wide-ranging talks to try to improve bilateral relations, AFP reported on 25 May. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Bikas said the first sessions in Athens and Tirana, held on 23 and 24 May respectively, took place in a "good atmosphere." The talks focused on immigration and legal and consular problems. Further meetings will take place in Tirana on 26 May-6 June to discuss public order, cultural links, and military cooperation and in Athens on 5 June to debate economic relations. AFP cited an unnamed Greek source as saying Athens is considering granting 100,000 seasonal work permits to Albanian citizens. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.



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