Accessibility links

Newsline - June 30, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995




SEVEN OFFICIALS APPARENTLY RESIGN OVER BUDENNOVSK.
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov, Security Council Chairman Oleg Lobov, Stavropol krai Governor Yevgeny Kuznetsov, and Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko tendered their resignation at the Security Council meeting on 29 June, Russian media reported. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin revealed the names to reporters, but no official documents listed who had offered their resignations. The president will decide the fate of the ministers after the Duma declares its position on the government on 1 July. Rybkin told Russian TV that he should do so before 10 July. Earlier, Yeltsin had announced that he would make his decision only by 22 July, when the Duma's summer session was over. Waiting will allow Yeltsin to avoid the appearance that he had to sack some of his ministers because of pressure from the parliament. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MINISTERS STILL AT WORK.
Sources inside the Kremlin say that Yeltsin will not accept all of the resignations, according to NTV on 29 June. The press secretaries of Lobov, Stepashin, and Yegorov said their bosses had not formally offered to resign. Although, on his way out of the Security Council meeting, Stepashin had told reporters that "they want to put me on a pension," a Federal Security Service spokesman later explained that his statement had been in jest, Russian TV reported. All of the power ministers were at work as normal after the Security Council meeting, Russian Public Television reported on 30 June. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

POLITICAL PARTY CAMPAIGN FINANCING DISCUSSED.
An intensive effort to find financial backers for the parliamentary campaign is underway, Izvestiya reported on 29 June. To wage a successful campaign, parties must spend approximately $2 million, according to the paper's estimates. The author said the Agrarian Party receives substantial funds indirectly from the state budget, in the form of donations from agribusiness concerns which receive large credits and subsidies. The Communist Party has 500,000 dues-paying members and 120 newspapers and bulletins to publish campaign propaganda. By contrast, Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice is mired in financial difficulties, since many of its 1993 backers are supporting Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, this year. Izvestiya noted that risk-averse businesses are not likely to support radicals or parties of "pure ideas." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

COSSACK UNION MEETS IN MOSCOW.
The All-Russian Cossack Union met in Moscow on 28-29 June to discuss the status of Cossacks in Russia, NTV and Russian TV reported. Currently the Cossacks serve only in military units subordinate to the Defense Ministry in Chechnya. Since December, the Cossack leaders have wanted to set up units that can help the local police in Stavropol krai when unexpected situations arise, such as the attack on Budennovsk. According to Union leader Alexander Martynov, Yeltsin supports the idea. The Cossack leaders are also planning to submit a draft law to the Federation Council that would grant them the right to guard and protect Russia's borders. Ministerial sources say that a draft law and five presidential decrees on the Cossacks are under consideration. The Cossack Union marked its fifth anniversary on 28 June. It unites 2.5 million members from Russia's 10 million Cossacks. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

EXTREMISTS CALL FOR DEPORTING CITIZENS FROM THE CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA.
Nikolai Lysenko's National-Republican Party of Russia (NRPR) is distributing leaflets calling for the expulsion of all natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia from Russia, Izvestiya reported on 30 June. The leaflets depict certain ethnic groups as snails and insects being cleared away by a Russian man in camouflage wearing the NRPR insignia. Lysenko's party has distributed similar leaflets for more than a year, but more than a million new copies were printed following the Budennovsk hostage crisis. Izvestiya said such calls for "pogroms" or deportations violate the constitution and play into the hands of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

CHECHEN NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE.
Despite sporadic fighting overnight, Russian and Chechen negotiators continued working in Grozny on 29 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian television reported that discussions centered on a Russian proposal, called the "zero option." In order to prepare for new elections in the fall, the proposal calls for the current Moscow-backed Chechen authorities and separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudaev to both renounce their claims to being the legitimate government of Chechnya, followed by the declaration of a general amnesty for all participants in the Chechen fighting. Although the talks adjourned at the end of the day without reaching agreement, Chechen delegation head Usman Imaev said the atmosphere remained "friendly." Russian negotiator Arkady Volsky also told journalists that if a third round of talks becomes necessary, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is prepared to personally lead the Russian delegation. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS TREATY WITH SAKHA.
President Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Nikolaev, President of the Sakha Republic (Yakutiya), signed an agreement on 29 June that delineates the division of powers between the federal and Sakha governments, Russian Public Television reported. The treaty is the fifth such accord signed between Moscow and subjects of the Russian Federation. At the signing ceremony, President Yeltsin praised the agreement as a successful example of center-regional relations. However, a recent analysis published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta contends that such treaties contradict the Russian constitution. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN MILITARY LACKS FUNDS TO PAY TROOPS.
The Russian Defense Ministry has enough money to pay only about 30% of its military personnel this month, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June. The agency reported that sources in the ministry blamed the federal government for the problem, which apparently resulted from late allocation of funds to the ministry from the federal budget. Some personnel may have to wait until September for their pay, a situation which might "create undesirable tension" in the military, the agency added. The report comes one day after President Yeltsin told a gathering of military officers that military spending would not be cut in 1996. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON PENSION INCREASES.
President Yeltsin signed a law increasing all pensions by 20% and raising the minimum pension to 52,486 rubles ($12) per month, Radio Rossii reported on 29 June. However, the chairman of the board of the pension fund said the fund lacks the money to implement the increases, which would cost an extra 1 trillion rubles ($227 million) a month. He added that the pension fund is currently owed more than 2 trillion rubles ($454 million) from the federal budget. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

LEADERS VIEW U.S.-RUSSIA SPACE COOPERATION.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore watched a live broadcast of the American space shuttle Atlantis docking with the orbiting Russian space station Mir, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 June. The docking was the first meeting of American and Russian spacecraft since the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

KOZYREV CRITICIZES FRANCE FOR RESUMING NUCLEAR TESTS.
Speaking before the International Conference on Disarmament on 29 June, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev criticized the French government's recent decision to resume nuclear testing, Russian and international agencies reported. Kozyrev called on France to adhere to the existing voluntary moratorium on testing and said that a resumption of testing would violate the spirit of the decisions reached at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference this spring. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

FOREIGN MINISTRY REGRETS U.S. CONGRESSIONAL VOTE.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin expressed regret at the recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to suspend aid to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program, Russian TV reported on 29 June. Karasin said the 13 June vote, which called for a suspension of the aid unless President Bill Clinton certifies that Russia has no biological weapons program, would complicate Russian efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons. Karasin said Russia "decisively rejects the insinuation" that it is violating its obligations under a 1992 agreement on biological weapons with Britain and the U.S. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

U.S. TO HELP RUSSIAN DEFENSE PLANTS BUILD HOUSES.
Using money provided by the Nunn-Lugar program, a U.S. consortium plans to convert three Russian plants that once built weapons of mass destruction into producers of prefabricated housing for demobilized Russian officers. According to a Pentagon press release on 28 June, the three Russian companies were NPO Soyuz, NPO Kompozit, and NPO Mashinostroeniya. Besides converting the plants, the U.S. consortium--American Housing Technologies--will train Russian military and defense industry personnel in the manufacture and marketing of the prefabricated units. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995


TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE THAN 20 KILLED ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER.
Russian border forces clashed with a group of suspected drug-traffickers on 28 June, killing more than 20 of them, Western agencies reported. The group was part of a caravan that was attempting to cross into Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan along the Pyandj River. When the Russian troops tried to stop them, they opened fire. No Russian casualties were reported. Meanwhile, troops of the Tajik army's 11th brigade have taken a deputy regional governor, Akakbir Odinayev, hostage in Kurgan-Tyube, according to Western sources and Ekho Moskvy. The brigade was under the command of Izat Kuganov, a Tajik parliament deputy also described as a local warlord, who was murdered recently. The soldiers are dissatisfied with Dushanbe's efforts to find and punish the killers. Tajik officials have gone to Kurgan-Tyube to try to negotiate Odinayev's release. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

LOANS TO TRANSCAUCASIAN REPUBLICS.
The IMF has approved loans for Armenia and Georgia, Reuters reported on 29 June. Armenia is to receive $96 million to improve economic growth and living conditions and reduce inflation; Georgia is to get $157 million to speed economic reform, reduce inflation, and stabilize the economy. The same day, the World Bank announced that it had approved a $61 million rehabilitation loan for Azerbaijan provided in the form of an SDR credit from the bank's affiliate, the International Development Association. It will be used to improve the water supply in Baku. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

VORONOV: NO COMMANDO CAMPS IN ABKHAZIA.
Abkhaz Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Voronov rejected allegations that there are training camps in Abkhazia for Middle Eastern commandos destined for Chechnya, according to Radio Rossii on 29 June. Voronov's statement was confirmed by the head of the UN military observers' mission in Abkhazia. The day before, Ekho Moskvy reported that the head of the Abkhaz security service had denied separate allegations that Shamil Basaev is hiding in Abkhazia. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS ECONOMY IS A CATASTROPHE.
There are no indications that the Kyrgyz economy is on the road to recovery or that the financial situation in the industrial sector is improving, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev said in a 29 June interview on Radio Mayak. He added that the government will not be able to meet the budget accepted in December 1994. Also, 103 large and medium-sized businesses, which amounts to one out of every five business in the country, shut down in May and more than 100 others do not have the money to pay wages to workers. The government itself needs another 500 million som ($45 million) to pay wages. While accepting that the government shares some of the blame for the situation, Akayev also criticized enterprise managers. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995


CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

KUCHMA ANNOUNCES SHIFT IN ECONOMIC REFORMS.
Ukrainian state TV and radio reported on 28 June that President Leonid Kuchma announced a shift in economic reforms during a visit to Transcarpathia. The changes would ease fiscal policy and increase state support for restructuring industry and overhauling the social welfare system. Kuchma admitted Ukraine would not meet IMF targets to lower monthly inflation to 1-2% by the end of the year. He said 4-5% was a more realistic figure and would allow the government to support special projects in developing a self-sufficient energy sector, agricultural reforms, aviation and shipbuilding, gold mining, and the nuclear and space industries. Kuchma said he hoped to begin new talks with the IMF and planned major government changes to be announced this week. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

CRIMEAN ROUNDUP.
Deputies from three factions blocked a quorum in the Crimean legislature on 29 June, demanding a change in the leadership of the 98-member assembly which is dominated by pro-Russian separatists, Ukrainian TV reported the same day. Members of the Crimean Tatar Kurultai faction, plus Reformists and Agrarians, refused to register for the session, insisting the leadership be replaced by lawmakers who better reflect the whole political spectrum. In other news, Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk complained that the governments of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have distanced themselves from the issue of Tatar repatriation to the peninsula. He insisted Kiev turn to all CIS countries to take up the matter. Franchuk also complained that Russian and local media sensationalized last weekend's violence between Crimean Tatars and alleged criminal groups, turning away badly-needed tourist money from the region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY EBRD AGREEMENT.
Ukrainian radio reported on 29 June that the parliament failed to ratify a credit agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The credits were to be used towards developing small and medium businesses, raising the effectiveness of commercial banks, and for social programs. Deputy Finance Minister Borys Soboliv said the failure to ratify the agreement deprived Ukraine of substantial hard currency revenues. Legislation is being prepared which will allow credit lines to become available without needing the parliament to ratify agreements, so that such situations do not recur in the future. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

US-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS.
A special advisor to US President Bill Clinton, Coit Blacker, met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 28 June, Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka said that technical aid from the US would help Belarus greatly in attracting investment and creating a better tax system. He pointed out that the US had allocated $30 million to fight crime in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and Belarus was the first country to start tracing financial crimes. Lukashenka noted that Belarus had made other positive initiatives towards the West, such as joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but the problem of coming to terms with the IMF over a stand-by credit must still be resolved. Blacker told Lukashenka that officials in the US view Belarusian policies as submissive to Russia's. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

POLICE PROVOCATION LEGALIZED IN POLAND.
The Sejm on 29 June voted amendments to the laws on the police, allowing police agents to conduct otherwise prohibited transactions, such as buying and selling drugs or arms or offering bribes. An agent's testimony and tape or video recording of such transactions, which must be authorized by the interior minister with the consent of the general prosecutor, can be used in courts. Surveillance and eavesdropping will be allowed not only to detect but also to prevent a crime, Polish media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH PARLIAMENT LIMITS PRESIDENT'S POWERS.
The Sejm on 29 June, apart from limiting the president's prerogatives in defense matters (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 June), also overruled a presidential veto on the law on the National Radio and Television Council. The council, a nine-member body appointed by the parliament and the president, issues broadcast licenses and supervises broadcast media. The Sejm's vote deprived the president of his right to nominate the council's chairman, who will be appointed instead by other council members, Polish and international media reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN POLAND.
Right-of-center party leaders and presidential candidates met on 29 June in the Sejm at the invitation of Republican Party leader Zbigniew Religa. Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, still hesitating over her candidacy, said that she cannot withdraw from the presidential race, having read recent opinion poll returns that gave her second place in popularity with 64%, behind former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron on 69%, Rzeczpospolita reported on 30 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

CZECH PARLIAMENT REDUCES TOP TAX RATES.
Czech lawmakers on 29 June voted to reduce taxes further than the government wanted, Czech media report. From next year, the highest rate of income tax will fall from 43% to 40% for people earning more than 564,000 koruny annually. The threshold for paying tax was raised by 2,400 koruny to 26,400 koruny annually while the bands for the lower rates of income tax were widened. Company tax was reduced from 41% to 39%. On the other hand, cigarettes, non-leaded petrol and sparkling wine will be more expensive. Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik, who had proposed milder tax reductions, said they would take 22.5 billion koruny out of the state budget. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

CZECH TEACHERS STAGE DEMONSTRATION.
Around 5,000 teachers held a rally in Brno on 29 June to protest what they consider to be inadequate wage rises. Union leaders who addressed the rally confirmed that a one-day strike will take place on 4 September, the first day of the new school year, if the government does not relent. The teachers want a 20% wage rise, while the government has decreed a 10% increase. Meanwhile, the deans of four philosophy faculties -- from universitites in Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava and Prague's Charles University -- issued a declaration warning that the future study of humanities in the Czech Republic is seriously threatened. The declaration, published in Lidove noviny on 30 June, called on the education ministry to reconsider the way it allots places and funds. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS HOLD PROTESTS IN SOUTHERN SLOVAKIA.
Ethnic Hungarian parents and teachers held demonstrations in a number of towns across southern Slovakia on 29 June, protesting the dismissal of directors of several schools for the Hungarian minority who had objected to the government's plan to implement "alternative" (bilingual) education in the fall, Narodna obroda reports. The Education Ministry issued a statement on 29 June stressing that alternative education is aimed at improving the level of teaching of the Slovak language in ethnically mixed territories. Protesting the "disinformation" of ethnic Hungarian politicians about the program, the ministry says it will be implemented on a voluntary basis and will proceed unhindered by protests or the disruption of classes. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAK TELEVISION REFUSES TO BROADCAST PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.
Slovak Television (STV) officials refused to allow President Michal Kovac to appear on television the day before the visit of Pope John Paul II to Slovakia. According to a report in Pravda on 30 June, STV responded to Kovac's request for 5-6 minutes of airtime by saying that because the pope was invited by the Bishops' Conference, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church would appear instead. Since last fall's parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition has taken control of STV, limiting appearances of opposition representatives as well as the president. In a press conference on 29 June, the opposition Democratic Union protested posters which have appeared around Slovakia, featuring a picture of Premier Vladimir Meciar alongside the pope. The DU said the posters give the impression that the papal visit, due to start on 30 June, is a governmental one. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAKIA TO LIMIT CZECH IMPORTS.
According to a TASR report on 29 June, the Slovak Economy Ministry on 1 July will begin to monitor imports of a number of Czech products, including live cattle, pigs and poultry; milk; cream; butter; sugar; non-alcoholic drinks; beer; wine; spirits; cigars; cigarettes; brown coal and tractors. According to ministry official Ladislav Sandtner, Czech exporters will require a license to sell such goods in Slovakia. The ministry will also implement quotas on Slovak exports of raw wood and iron waste to the Czech Republic. The two countries have had a customs union since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, but Slovakia threatened to cancel it after the Czech parliament voted to abolish the bilateral trade clearing agreement. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

HUNGARY TO PRIVATIZE ITS UTILITIES.
Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman told journalists on 29 June that the government has approved a plan to privatize some of the country's biggest businesses, such as oil and gas supply and distribution companies. The sales would start later this year. The government expects to earn the equivalent of $1.2 billion from the sales to offset Hungary's huge trade deficit. Hungarian trade unions are opposed to the move, fearing job losses. The union representing electricity workers has already called for a strike to protest the plan. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 127, 30 June 1995
CROATIA PROTESTS RUMP YUGOSLAV MILITARY PRESENCE.
Croatia sent another protest letter to the UN on 29 June over what Zagreb has described as a growing rump Yugoslav military presence on Croatian soil occupied by rebel Serbs. Ambassador Mario Nobilo, delivering the letter on behalf of his foreign ministry, told a news conference: "We would not be surprised if these troops and equipment are used against Bihac [in Western Bosnia] in a matter of days. In fact we have convincing information to this effect." Reuters also reports that the letter to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali alleges that nearly 5,000 soldiers have been sent to Croatia from the rump Yugoslavia since 14 June. A prior Croatian claim of a rump Yugoslav military presence is being investigated by the UN. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 26 June). -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

BOSNIAN SERBS BLAST UN IN SARAJEVO.
Bosnian Serb forces on 29 June launched three mortar rounds into the headquarters of UN operations in Sarajevo, Reuters reports the following day. "It is difficult to say but, when we receive three rounds together, we are obliged to consider this as a direct attack," said spokesman Major Guy Vinet. No casualties were reported. In other news, Nasa Borba on 30 June reports that on the previous day Bosnian Serb forces fired another rocket at the media facility of Radio and Television Sarajevo. While there were no casualties in this incident, Bosnian Serb bombing of the facility on 28 June resulted in 5 deaths and 38 people injured. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

TRAVEL BAN FOR BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS.
Vjesnik on 30 June reports that the US has petitioned the UN sanctions committee to bar 40 Bosnian Serb leaders from traveling abroad. International sanctions introduced in 1994 already prevent Bosnian Serb leaders from leaving the country for any reason apart from peace talks, but as yet no list of specific affected individuals has been compiled. The US proposal names, among others, Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military head General Ratko Mladic. In other news, Nasa Borba on 30 June reports that US President Bill Clinton has told Congress that the White House plans to take $50 million from the Pentagon budget as support for the rapid reaction force in Bosnia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

BLACK SEA SUMMIT IN BUCHAREST.
Bucharest hosts a conference of senior political leaders from the Black Sea region on 30 June, Western agencies and Radio Bucharest report. The conference, which is attended by heads of state, prime ministers and other top officials from the 11 countries belonging to the "Black Sea Economic Cooperation" organization, is expected to focus on boosting economic ties as well as on ways to defuse tension in the region. The three-year old organization groups Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Several countries, including Poland, Austria and Italy, have been admitted as observers. On 29 June, Romanian President Ion Iliescu received his Georgian and Moldovan counterparts, Eduard Shevarnadze, and Mircea Snegur, respectively. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

SNEGUR IN BUCHAREST.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 29 June arrived in Bucharest to attend the Black Sea conference, Romanian media reported. In a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest, Snegur said that security was a top priority for all countries in the region. He also stressed the importance of economic cooperation in the Black Sea zone. In a reference to his talks in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the previous day, Snegur reiterated Moldova's rejection of Russian plans to set up military bases in the breakaway Dniester region, and insisted that the 14th Russian Army should be withdrawn from the area. On the same day, Snegur discussed bilateral relations with Romanian President Ion Iliescu. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

NEW LAWS STIR CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA.
A law on restitution of houses nationalized under communism has stirred widespread controversy in Romania, western and Romanian media report. The law, which was adopted by a 289 to 153 vote in a joint session of the parliament on 28 June, rules out full restitution of property seized by the former regime in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It provides that former owners are entitled to get back only one habitation unit, while receiving up to 48 million lei ($24,000) for any further confiscated property. The Liberal Party `93 said that the law de facto sanctioned communist abuses and announced it would challenge it in the Constitutional Court. In another development, deputies belonging to the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania on 27 June issued a declaration denouncing the "cynical way" in which their amendments to a new education bill had been rejected by the parliament. The law, which was adopted in parliament on the following day, has been criticized for restricting ethnic minority rights to mother tongue education. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA.
Heidar Aliyev on 29 June arrived in Sofia on an official visit, Reuters reported the same day. Aliyev and his Bulgarian counterpart Zhelyu Zhelev signed a cooperation accord between the two countries and several trade and economic documents. They also discussed possibilities of piping Azerbaijani oil to Italy via Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. Zhelev stressed the importance of "an alternative source of such strategic supplies." Bulgaria is currently totally dependent on Russian gas and oil. A $35 million deal to export Bulgarian buses to Azerbaijan was arranged, and concrete steps were taken for a Bulgarian firm to build a pharmaceutical plant in Azerbaijan. The two sides are also negotiating to import 6,000 tons of Azerbaijani cotton to Bulgaria. International agencies reported that, during his visit, Aliyev confirmed that Bulgarian communist leaders repeatedly tried to join the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but he said he always "confidentially advised" them to stay independent. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

GREECE ATTACKS CHIRAC.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Bikas on 29 June lambasted French President Jacques Chirac for his support of Turkey's aim to establish closer ties with the EU, international agencies reported the same day. During the EU summit in Cannes, Chirac proposed that the Union immediately forge closer links to Turkey to strengthen its southern flank and to prevent the country from slipping towards Islamic fundamentalism, even though he said he was aware of Turkey's poor human rights record. Bikas said that Greece disagrees and said the country "considers that the logic of unconditional support for [Turkish Prime Minister Tansu] Ciller . . . is simplistic and dangerous." He drew a parallel to the 1930s, when "humanity had to pay a dear price for supporting Nazism in order to fight Bolshevism." It was one of the strongest attacks the Greek government has ever made on one of its European partners. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES ALBANIAN MEMBERSHIP.
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 29 June approved Albania's application for membership in the organization, international agencies reported the same day. The approval came after Pjeter Arbnori, chairman of the Albanian parliament, signed a declaration pledging to respect the CE's demands to guarantee human rights and democracy. Albania promised to impose a moratorium on the death penalty immediately and abolish it within three years, introduce reforms guaranteeing the independence of the judicial system, increase press freedom and adopt a new constitution. Also, Albania has to sign the European convention on the rights and the protection of ethnic minorities. The decision is due to be approved by the CE's Committee of Ministers, probably in mid-July. Presidential Spokesman Fatos Beja said the membership represents another step for Albania's integration into the international community. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle





XS
SM
MD
LG