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Newsline - July 17, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 137, 17 July 1995
President Boris Yeltsin will remain in the hospital for an additional week and has canceled all appointments through 23 July, including a planned trip to Norway that was still scheduled to go ahead after Yeltsin checked into the hospital last week, agencies report. Earlier reports said Yeltsin planned to leave the hospital on 17 July. The Kremlin has refused to allow television cameras into his room to dampen speculation about the true state of his health. ITAR-TASS released a photograph of the president on 14 July, but it provided few details of Yeltsin's condition. The official Kremlin photographer is still waiting for a chance to take a picture, AFP reported. Russian television stations continue to report that the president is working from his bed. Yeltsin's wife, in a rare public appearance, said her husband is fine and accused the media of "verbal sadism," in its coverage of his illness, Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

President Yeltsin signed a decree officially setting 17 December as election day, removing lingering doubt over whether the elections will be held, Ekho Moskvy reported on 14 July. Although the December date is not a surprise, Yeltsin's announcement came earlier than expected since the law allowed him until 17 August to set a date, Segodnya reported on 15 July. Political parties and blocs now have the right to hold meetings to nominate candidates and collect the 200,000 signatures necessary to gain registration; they must have those signatures ready 50 days before the elections. On 14 July, the Duma adopted the law defining the boundaries of the single-mandate districts. Candidates for those seats cannot begin collecting signatures until the law is signed by the president, a step the electoral law requires by 18 August, Russian Public TV reported. The parliament and the president have yet to determine whether elections will be held to the Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, former commander of the 14th Army in Moldova and a leading figure in the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), announced that he will run for the State Duma in a single-member constituency in Tula, AFP reported on 15 July. Lebed will discuss his campaign plans with regional KRO leaders in Tula later this week. He refused to comment on speculation that he will run for president in 1996. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Business leaders will participate in the parliamentary elections mainly by providing financial support to candidates, according to a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Trade and Industry Chamber and the Russian Association of Political Technologies, Segodnya reported on 14 July. Participants in the talks estimated that winning one seat would cost at least $200,000-$250,000. Business circles will mostly concentrate their attention on single-member districts. Covering the same conference, Kommersant-Daily reported that most business people have so far paid little attention to the campaign. Nevertheless, the speakers at the conference, mainly political scientists, believe that business will play a leading role in it. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian-Chechen negotiations in Grozny have again adjourned after intensive talks on 15 July failed to produce agreement on a political accord, Russian and international agencies reported. Both delegations will carry out consultations during a planned three-day break. The Russian delegation head, Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, said on his return to Moscow that while some disagreement persists over the issue of Chechnya's future status, he expects a final political agreement to be signed soon after the scheduled resumption of talks on 19 July. An additional reason for the delay in the talks is the sudden illness of Chechen lead negotiator Usman Imaev, who has a serious viral infection. Mikhailov said it would not be expedient to continue talks without Imaev. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

In a 15 July press release, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded that the negotiations in Grozny be terminated, Radio Mayak reported. The statement described the Chechen negotiators as "bandits," and also called for the expulsion from Russia of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, which Zhirinovsky accused of acting as a "middleman" for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Experts from the Institute for Social and Political Research of the Academy of Sciences estimate that every sixth family in Russia is affected by addiction to illegal drugs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 July. The experts said the highest concentrations of addicts are found in port cities and regions where illegal drugs are grown. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Procurator General's Office opened a criminal case against the popular NTV satirical show "Kukly" (Puppets) for allegedly insulting the honor and dignity of the president (Article 131 of the Criminal Code), Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 July. At issue is a sketch portraying a puppet of President Yeltsin begging on a train and carrying a baby resembling Yeltsin's top bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. Another controversial sketch featured Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin selling parts of a gas boiler. Kommersant commented that the "extreme stupidity" of the comedy sketches had provoked "equivalent stupidity" from the authorities. On the same day, Viktor Shenderovich, the author of the sketches, suggested that prosecutors hire "qualified jurists" to explain the difference between a person and a puppet to them, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The administration of Perelyubskom Region in Saratovskii Oblast has forbidden Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other Caucasians and non-Russians from obtaining temporary residence papers. It has also instructed the head of the regional police to resettle all "southerners" who have no permanent residence papers. On 15 July, a reporter for Izvestiya wrote that nearly 100 people had already left the area, that all points of trade belonging to them were closed, and that only "blacks" were being asked to show their documents. Local Russians demanded the new policy saying they had suffered a poor harvest and that few peasants have received wages, while a few Caucasian traders own stores. The head of the administration and the local procurator acknowledged that the moves were not legal but said ignoring mass opinion could lead to pogroms. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

In an interview with Segodnya published on 15 July, Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, criticized both Russian and Western approaches to the issue of NATO expansion. Lukin contended that there is no "vacuum of power" in Central and Eastern Europe, because neither Germany nor Russia presents a real threat to the countries of the region. Hence the question of NATO expansion is not urgent, he argued, and there is sufficient time to carefully consider alternative security structures for Europe. Lukin criticized Western leaders for publicly declaring that Russia has no veto over NATO expansion, a view which he termed "legally correct" but "politically senseless." He also lambasted the Yeltsin administration, saying Russian proposals to expand the OSCE as an alternative to NATO expansion are "unrealistic" -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

In an article published on 14 July, Pravda criticized the provisions of the START-2 Treaty. The paper argued that because of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the impending expansion of NATO, and continuing economic difficulties in Russia, the country has no alternative but to rely on strong nuclear forces to ensure its national security. In those circumstances, the paper questioned the sharp reduction in nuclear forces called for by the treaty, especially cuts in land-based ballistic missiles, which are the heart of the Russian nuclear force. Hearings on the ratification of the START-2 treaty are currently underway in the Duma. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

South African Defense Minister Joe Modise and his Russian counterpart Pavel Grachev signed an agreement on closer military cooperation in Moscow on 14 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The ties will include exchanges of military delegations, joint exercises, and training. The two countries will also launch a joint project to develop Russian jet engines for South Africa's French-built Mirage fighters. Modise, the former commander of the African National Congress' Spear of the Nation, underwent military training in the Soviet Union in 1964. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Two Russian NK-33 rocket engines arrived at the Aerojet plant in Sacramento on 14 July to undergo a series of tests, a company press release reported. Built in Samara by the Samara State Scientific and Production Enterprise, the NK-33 was designed some 25 years ago as part of the Soviet Union's efforts to put a man on the moon. If the tests are successful, Aerojet intends to modify the engines for use in the American space program. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The government has approved and sent to the Duma a draft law raising the minimum monthly wage from 48,700 rubles ($10.70) to 55,000 rubles ($12.10), Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan told reporters on 15 July. The increase would take effect on 1 August. According to Segodnya, Deputy Finance Minister Anron Siluanov said the raise was funded by channeling additional budget revenues accrued from inflation. Siluanov said the raise would not affect financial stabilization because it will not be funded by printing additional money, as previous raises have been. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

After failing once in March and twice in June because of opposition from conservative Agrarian and Communist party deputies, the Duma passed the Russian Federation Land Code on its first reading on 14 June, Segodnya reported. Prepared by the Duma Agrarian Committee, where the Russian Agrarian Party members constitute the majority, the draft Land Code provides for extremely severe restrictions on private land ownership which could threaten the entire process of reforms in Russia. A whole range of bills in connection with the code will have to be passed before effective implementation can take place. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

According to the Russia's Central Bank department on banking supervision, 2,568 banks were registered in the country as of 1 July which includes 1,556 share-based banks and 1,012 incorporated banks, Kommersant-Daily reported on 14 July. Since January, 775 banks have been granted hard currency licenses. Due to banking legislation violations, 71 banks have had their licenses withdrawn since the beginning of the year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

The ruble rallied by 15 points to 4,550 to $1 in MICEX trading on 14 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The volume of trading amounted to $65.62 million on initial demand of $58.76 million and supply of $105.62 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 137, 17 July 1995
Turkmen authorities have attempted to discredit a 12 July protest march in Ashgabat, international media reported. An unidentified spokesman for the Turkmen Foreign Ministry told Reuters on 14 July that the protesters did not have political demands and "were drunk people high on drugs, petty hooligans." Turkmen Interior Minister Kurganmukhamed Kasymov and State Security Service Chief Saparmurad Seidov said on Turkmen national television that the protesters "were trying to avoid their criminal responsibility for engaging in the drug trade," Reuters reported citing Interfax. According to Turkmen security sources, 100 people took part in the march, while Interfax estimated that there were between 300 and 500 participants. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

In the first such visit of its kind, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov arrived in Tehran on 16 July for three days of talks with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, AFP reported. The talks are aimed at strengthening bilateral economic ties. Rakhmonov called his visit "historical," while Rafsanjani described Tajikistan as an "important" country that has a great religious and cultural affinity to Iran. He also said Iran is determined to revive the earlier cooperation that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union but later stalled because of Tajikistan's internal situation. Tehran had supported the Tajik opposition against Rakhmonov following a 1992 coup in which he swept aside a coalition of democratic and Islamic groups. Since the spring of 1994, Iran and Russia have tried to bring an end to the intra-Tajik conflict. Rakhmonov's visit is a likely cause for concern among the Tehran-supported Tajik Islamic opposition as it may signal that Iran is drifting towards support for the neo-communist Tajik government. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 137, 17 July 1995


Ukrainian lawmakers have amended the austere IMF-approved 1995 state budget, UNIAR reported on 13 July. Legislators voted to increase value-added tax, now at 20%, as well as individual income taxes. The extra income will be used to increase spending on social programs, including raising pensions and assisting people affected by the nuclear accident at Chornobyl. Deputies also voted to increase capital investment to modernize Ukraine's transport system and to restructure the ailing coal industry They also lifted value-added and excise taxes on domestically-produced automobiles to encourage people to buy local models instead of increasingly popular foreign imports, Reuters reported on 14 July. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Patriarch Volodymyr, the 69-year-old head of the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church, died on 14 July after a heart attack, international news agencies reported the following day. Volodymyr spent a total of 19 years in Soviet labor camps, first for his participation in an insurgent army that fought both the Nazis and Soviets during World War II, and then for campaigning for religious and human rights in the early 1970s. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church declared independence from the Moscow Patriarchate in June 1992 and Volodymyr became patriarch in October 1993. But a third Orthodox branch, the tiny Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, split away from the Kiev Patriarchate in a row over Volodymyr's deputy, Metropolitan Filaret, whom they accused of cooperating with the Communist Party and KGB during the Soviet era. Filaret is widely regarded as Volodymyr's likely successor. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

The Latvian State Statistical Committee has reported a 32.6% increase in exports over the first five months of 1995 compared to the same period last year, and a 34.2% increase in imports, BNS reported on 13 July. Exports totaled 269 million lats for the first five months of this year, and imports stood at 347 million lats. In the first five months of 1994, imports exceeded exports by 27.5%. In the same period this year, the difference was 29%. Trade with the EU increased, while trade with CIS countries fell. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

BNS reported on 13 July that Lithuania intends to take only half of the $32 million credits which the IMF was about to approve. Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius said that $16 million would be accepted for further economic reforms, but the other half of the loan, which is meant for a currency stabilization fund, is not necessary. The IMF was scheduled to make a decision on approving the loan on 14 July. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Belarus and Iran signed a military cooperation agreement on 14 July in Minsk, Reuters reported. Iranian First Vice President Hassan Habibi was quoted as saying Iran would buy some conventional weapons from Belarus and the two sides would hold consultation on "some technological processes." Habibi gave no details about the arms Iran would buy other than to say they would be "strictly for defense and will not produce any imbalance in the world." Belarusian officials were quoted as saying Iran was interested in missile transporters and optical equipment for its Soviet-built aircraft. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

In a public opinion poll conducted in Poland in June by the Center of Public Opinion Research (OBOP), 83% of respondents supported keeping abortion legal if the pregnancy results from a criminal act like rape or incest, 86% if the pregnancy endangers the woman's health, and 83% if the fetus is gravely malformed. Polish law allows abortion only in these three situations. A majority of respondents (53%) were for legalizing abortion if the woman was in difficult conditions. Thirty-three percent supported abortion on demand while 55% were against it. Generally, women do not differ in their opinions from men; the oldest and the youngest are the least inclined to support abortion, Rzeczpospolita reported on 17 July. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

The Polish parliament, elected in September 1993, passed more than 160 laws by the end of June 1995, but another 130 bills are still waiting for parliamentary debate. In July, which was to be a recess period, the Sejm has already met for two days. The parliament's Constitutional Commission has already approved two thirds of the draft constitution and intends to end its work quickly, Rzeczpospolita reported on 17 July. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Polish media reported on 14 July that the election committee of former Premier Jan Olszewski has been established. Former Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz and writers Jacek Trznadel and Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz are among committee members. Local committees apparently have already collected 70,000 of the 100,000 signatures needed to register Olszewski's candidacy. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Leaflets purporting to be a declaration by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Finance Minister Theo Waigel to Sudeten German leaders have been distributed in recent days to thousands of households in Czech towns including Prague, Plzen, and Brno, Czech media reported. The leaflets claim that the current Czech governing coalition, if it wins next year's elections, would restore Czech citizenship to Sudeten Germans expelled after World War II and restitute their property. The Interior Ministry spokesman called the leaflets a "very dangerous political provocation" and said police were looking for the authors and distributors. Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec said the leaflets were an attempt to sow fear among Czechs and showed desperation on the part of people trying to prevent the Czech Republic's integration into Europe. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

The Slovak parliament session ended on 14 July with opposition deputies posing questions to ministers. According to Slovak Radio, those most under fire were Culture Minister Ivan Hudec and Education Minister Eva Slavkovska, both of whom have been criticized for policies related to minorities. In other news, the Slovak National Party filed a complaint with the Attorney General demanding that the activities of the Open Society Fund be prohibited in Slovakia, Sme reported on 15 July. The fund is sponsored by U.S. financier George Soros, who was recently attacked for making statements critical of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. On 16 July, a number of Slovak politicians participated in a ceremonial assembly at Kralova Hola in central Slovakia to commemorate the third anniversary of the declaration of Slovak sovereignty. Representatives of the three government coalition parties attended, along with chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, Peter Weiss, and chairman of the extraparliamentary Christian Social Union, Viliam Oberhauser, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Eighteen Sri Lankans, apparently illegal immigrants on their way to Austria, were found dead on 15 July in a truck parked near Gyor, Hungary; 19 others in the truck survived, international media report. Local police told journalists that the truck, carrying Bulgarian license plates, was locked from the outside when they were alerted to it by residents in the area, who complained of an unbearable stench. Survivors told the police that each of them had paid $800 to a man who disappeared shortly after the police opened the truck. Reuters reported from Sofia that Bulgarian police arrested a man believed to be the truck driver on 16 July. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 137, 17 July 1995
The BBC and VOA reported on 16 and 17 July on a growing body of evidence indicating that Bosnian Serb forces committed extensive and grisly atrocities against Muslim civilian refugees following the fall of the UN-designated "safe area" of Srebrenica on 11 July. Persons of both sexes and all ages appear to have been victims in what the VOA on 14 July already called "massive massacres" and "horrendous crimes." Independent Belgrade media are also investigating. The Bosnian Serbs have told the UN that no relief convoys will be allowed through their territory in eastern Bosnia for some days and have yet to let Red Cross monitors visit Muslim male prisoners in Bratunac. Mlada fronta dnes reported on 17 July, however, that the Serbs have released all the Dutch peacekeepers they had been holding hostage. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bosnian military authorities say that the assault on the "safe area" was led by General Momcilo Perisic, the chief of the rump Yugoslav General Staff. He was assisted by his own army's artillery and by the irregulars of internationally-wanted war criminal Zeljko Raznjatovic "Arkan," Vjesnik reported on 17 July. Meanwhile, on the Croatian General Staff, General Janko Bobetko, 75, resigned as chief and was replaced by General Zvonimir Cervenko, 64. Bobetko was the architect of the strategy of retaking Serb-held territories through small steps, and both men served in the former Yugoslav army. Bobetko's retirement has long been expected, and Hina carried the story on 15 July. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

This is the headline of Nasa Borba on 17 July, while the VOA talks of "a relentless Serb tank and artillery assault" the previous day. AFP quoted Muslim defenders on the morning of 17 July as saying that they have repulsed the Serb attacks and that the night was quiet. On 16 July NATO jets flew over the "safe area" in response to a call by Ukrainian peacekeepers for an "air presence," but the planes did not attack Serb positions. UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi told AFP that the UN "is in a very difficult position," while EU negotiator Carl Bildt warned that tough measures against the Serbs would only lead to a broader "Balkan war." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

French President Jacques Chirac on 16 July became the first holder of that office to discuss publicly French complicity in the deportations of Jews during World War II. He used the occasion to compare the atrocities of the Bosnian Serbs to those of the Nazis, Nasa Borba and international media reported. He warned of the implications for democratic values of tolerating such behavior and cautioned against forgetting the lessons of history. Radio France International said that Paris wants an international force consisting of France, Britain, Germany, and the U.S. to keep the Serbs out of Gorazde and Sarajevo. The French, British, and American chiefs of the respective general staffs met in London on 16 July to discuss Bosnia, and their defense ministers will gather later in the week. It is unclear what, if anything, has been decided. AFP on 17 July reported that the U.S. is reluctant to help a British and French effort to shore up Gorazde. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

A vote is likely soon in the Senate to oppose continuation of the UN mission in Bosnia and to lift the arms embargo against the Bosnian government. The VOA and BBC said that sentiments are growing in the face of Serb aggression and UN helplessness that "enough is enough." One senator said that if the Serbs in any way harm U.S. personnel assisting in the evacuation of UNPROFOR, then Washington's response should be "the most massive air strikes imaginable," including attacks on Belgrade. The Clinton administration opposes such measures, but Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that it was probably a mistake to put the international effort in Bosnia under UN supervision. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

According to Montenegro's official Bureau of Statistics, June industrial production in that rump Yugoslav republic provides grounds for optimism, Montena-fax reported on 14 July. According to the bureau, overall June production was up some 22% from the previous month. Leading the growth rates were sharp rises in coal and metal production. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The European Parliament on 14 July passed a resolution condemning Romania for the new education law, which, the resolution states, infringes the rights of national minorities. It called on Bucharest to respect its international obligations, especially with regard to human rights. The resolution also says the rights of the Roma minority in Romania are abused, and detainees are subject to torture and other mishandling. The parliament says it is worried about the way police and other security bodies perceive their task when it comes to respect of human rights. The resolution, whose text was published in the daily Cronica romana on 17 July, says Romania cannot become a member of the European Union unless it respects human and minority rights; "invites" the Romanian government to "give up policies of tolerating nationalist violence;" and says the parliament's bodies should give special attention to this problem. Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, welcomed the resolution in an interview with Radio Budapest, Radio Bucharest reported on 15 July. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

President Mircea Snegur announced he was setting up a new political party called The Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, Radio Bucharest reported on 16 July, citing Snegur's speech carried by Radio Moldova. Snegur said the new party will strive to be a mass party of the center, unifying "all the healthy political forces in the country." Among the founding members of the new party are former members of the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova (PDAM), who, like Snegur, resigned from that formation. On 15 July, 11 deputies representing the PDAR in parliament announced they had resigned, BASA-press and Radio Bucharest reported. They are among the 318 persons who gathered on 15 July to form the new party. An "initiative committee" was set up, and a congress of the new political formation was scheduled for 26 August, Romanian television reported on 16 July. The PDAR has now lost its majority in the legislature, where it is now represented by 43 out of 104 parliamentarians. Two other deputies resigned from the PDAR earlier. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The Bulgarian National Bank on 14 July cut its prime interest rate by five points to 39%, AFP reported the same day. The new rate becomes effective on 17 July. BNB Governor Todor Valchev said the rate has fallen from 72% at the beginning of 1995, and might fall to 27-30% by the end of the year. The rate was reduced because inflation is relatively low; in June, it was 0.5%, the lowest since the beginning of economic reforms in 1991. Inflation for the first half of 1995 totaled 15.2% as opposed to 59.4% in the first half of 1994. Economists say inflation has dropped because the buying power of the population has fallen sharply, and because the government has taken restrictive measures. But they warn that it may rise sharply at the end of the year. The National Statistical Institute expects inflation to fall to about 40% in 1995, down from 121.9% the previous year. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Former Prime Minister Reneta Indzhova is the most popular mayoral candidate in the Bulgarian capital, according to an opinion poll published in Trud on 15 June. Indzhova, whose candidacy for the fall elections was proposed by the People's Union, would get 28% of the vote if the elections were held now. Stefan Sofiyanski of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) would get 20%, and the as yet unnamed Bulgarian Socialist Party candidate 19%. Of the SDS followers, 54% said they will vote for Sofiyanski, and 34% will support Indzhova. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and his Macedonian counterpart Kiro Gligorov signed a friendship and cooperation agreement between their countries in Skopje on 14 July, MIC and Reuters reported the same day. Foreign ministers Erdal Inonu and Stevo Crvenkovski, meanwhile, signed a treaty on protection of investments. Demirel defended the Macedonian position in the conflict with Greece about its name saying that "Macedonia is a reality and the name which it will bear belongs to it alone." Talking about the Bosnian conflict, Demirel called for lifting the arms embargo against the Bosnian government, arguing that "if you can't stop the war, at least you give the attacked side a chance to defend itself." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

The head of the Albanian Supreme Court, Zef Brozi, has warned Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni he could be charged with failing to comply with his ministerial duties, Koha Jone reported on 16 July. Brozi has accused Vrioni of holding back the budget of the courts, which was approved in April, and said he would ask the prosecutor on 17 July to start investigations unless payments are made. Brozi claims that withholding the budget is an attempt to diminish the independence of the courts. He had earlier criticized plans by the ruling Democrats to subordinate the courts' budget to the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The Democrats withdrew the disputed bill before the admission of Albania to the Council of Europe. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle