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Newsline - July 28, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 146, 28 July 1995
YELTSIN PROPOSES NEW BOSNIAN PEACE PLAN.
In a response to NATO threats against the Bosnian Serbs, President Boris Yeltsin has sent a new Bosnian peace proposal to members of the Contact Group, Interfax reported on 28 July. The plan calls for direct talks between both sides in the conflict, after which UN sanctions against Serbia would be lifted, and rump Yugoslavia would recognize Bosnia in exchange. Western officials quoted by AFP described the plan as "not very realistic." Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, speaking in Hanoi, criticized the recent U.S. Senate vote to unilaterally lift the UN arms embargo against the Bosnian government, which he said is "totally incomprehensible." A Foreign Ministry spokesman later criticized UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali's decision to simplify the procedures for authorizing NATO air strikes in support of UN peacekeepers, saying that additional air strikes would only "lead to an escalation of violence." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAW ON ITS FORMATION.
With 90 votes, the minimum necessary, the Federation Council approved a law on electing future members on the basis of candidates nominated by local executive and legislative branches, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. The results were initially thrown into doubt after being announced because five deputies wanted to change their vote. However, their objections were eventually overruled. Yelena Mizulina, the chairwoman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation, pointed out that the law, already passed by the Duma, would have automatically come into effect in any case because the Federation Council's time limit for examining it expired on 22 July. The Federation Council speaker repeated on 26 July that Yeltsin would veto the law on the grounds that the constitution describes the "formation" of the Council rather than its "election," Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

LAPTEV PROMISES FINANCIAL HELP FOR PRESS AND PUBLISHERS.
Ivan Laptev, the newly appointed State Press Committee chairman, told ITAR-TASS on 27 July his main objective is to lead newspapers and publishing houses out of the current financial crisis. He said Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had personally promised him that the 1996 budget would allocate 1.5 trillion rubles to the press committee. Laptev said he is especially worried about the state of book publishing in Russia. Laptev is the sixth press committee chairman since 1991. In appointing him, the government sought to replace the controversial Sergei Gryzunov with a more "loyal" figure, according to Segodnya on 27 July. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

MINISTER: STATE-OWNED RADIO AND TV COMPANIES IN DEBT.
Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak announced that state-owned radio and television enterprises owe more than 500 billion rubles ($113 million) to communications companies, especially those which service and maintain technical facilities for radio and television broadcasting, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July. According to Economics Ministry forecasts, 73 out of 191 enterprises in the communications sector will finish this year in debt, in large part due to non-payments by the users of communications services. However, Bulgak noted that the privately-owned network NTV and the partly-private Russian Public TV company (ORT) had practically no debts. ORT, which is 51% state-owned, took over Channel 1 broadcasting from fully state-owned Ostankino on 1 April as part of a controversial restructuring plan. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

YAKUTIYA PRESIDENT SEEKS TO EXTEND HIS TERM.
The Yakutiya president's Public Consultative Council has recommended that the legislative and executive branches consider extending the term of the current incumbent Mikhail Nikolaev, Segodnya reported on 27 July. If the proposal is supported, a popular referendum on the issue could be held as early as December. The Yakutiya legislature is expected to go along with the idea since Nikolaev earlier yielded to the deputies' pressure to hold elections for heads of local administrations. The opposition has complained that Nikolaev is turning his rule into a monarchy. Nikolaev was elected to office on 20 December 1991. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW SHIFTS POSTURE AGAIN IN GROZNY TALKS.
In Moscow, backtracking from statements made yesterday, Russian Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, who heads the Russian delegation to the Grozny talks, told journalists that he will propose the signing of two agreements--one military and one political--when talks resume on 29 July. He added that the Russian position "remains unchanged," adding that it would be impossible "to separate the military and political problems." Izvestiya commented on 28 July that divisions among the Chechen leadership are hindering the negotiations and may ultimately block a negotiated settlement. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

INVESTIGATORS SAY WRITING IN BLOOD NOT A TERRORIST MESSAGE.
A murder was reported by Interfax on 19 July in the town of Budennovsk, after which the victim's blood had been used to paint the words "Freedom and Independence to Chechnya" on the walls. The city had been the subject of the attack by a group of Chechen gunmen led by Shamil Basaev on 14 June. The press department of the Stavropol Procurator's Office told ITAR-TASS on 27 July that a murder committed there last week was not an act of terrorism but rather the result of a drunken fight, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. The police now say the words were meant to mislead investigators. Four people have been accused of the murder, but all of them are inhabitants of the Budennovsk region and none of them have any relation or contact with Basaev. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

CANNIBAL PRISONERS SENTENCED.
One of the prisoners who ate his cell-mate was given the death penalty today, while the other was sentenced to 15 years in prison, ITAR-TASS reported. The trial, which took place in the city of Rubtsovsk, ended on 27 July, one year after the two prisoners killed and ate their cell-mate (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 July 1995). Aleksei Maslich, 23, who has already served time on three counts of murder was sentenced to death by firing squad. Aleksei Goluzov, 26, will spend his first four years in prison and the rest in a strict-regime work colony. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

NUCLEAR CENTER WORKERS ASK FOR VETERAN STATUS.
Civilians who conducted experiments with nuclear weapons at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, Arzamas 16, have turned to the president, prime minister, and the minister of atomic energy to ask for benefits usually reserved for soldiers and war veterans, ITAR-TASS reported on July 27. When they established the center in 1946, no one had clear ideas about safety procedures at nuclear facilities. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA TO KEEP BASE IN VIETNAM.
Russia will keep its "logistical base" at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam at least until the Vietnamese-USSR base agreement expires in 2004, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July from Hanoi. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov, who is accompanying Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to Vietnam, added that the two sides "expressed interest" in maintaining the base after 2004. On 26 July, Interfax quoted Foreign Ministry official Viktor Ivanov as saying the agreement allows the Russians free use of the facility. He said the Vietnamese are not asking the Russians to withdraw from Cam Ranh but want them to pay rent. Ivanov did not rule out future joint use of the base. ITAR-TASS noted that the Russian military presence at Cam Ranh Bay is one-quarter of what it was in the Soviet period. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN SPACE BOOSTER UNVEILED IN U.S.
A U.S. company unveiled what it called "the most technically advanced Russian rocket engine to enter the United States" on 26 July. A Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion Operations press release said it had received the RD-120 rocket engine from the Energomash Scientific and Production Association in Khimki and planned to test the engine using live fire later this year. The two companies have signed a statement of intent to form a joint venture to develop a version of the RD-120 for commercial use worldwide to send satellites into low earth orbit. The new boosters will be manufactured in Russia and Ukraine. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 146, 28 July 1995
RUSSIANS SENDING MILITARY EXPERTS TO TRAIN TAJIK ARMY.
Russia will send military experts to oversee the training of the Tajik army, a spokesman for the Federation Council's committee that deals with the CIS told ITAR-TASS on 27 July. He added that the military advisers would not participate in combat. The move is in keeping with an agreement signed in May 1993 between Russia and Tajikistan on providing the Tajik army with combat training. It could be seen as a first step toward decreasing the role of Russia' troops in Tajikistan, who make up the vast majority of the 25,000-man peacekeeping force guarding the Tajik-Afghan border. Ever since Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said in April that "an independent state must use its own troops to resolve local conflicts," the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have said they may pull their troops out of Tajikistan citing the lack of progress in peace negotiations. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

CABINET RESHUFFLE IN ARMENIA.
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has appointed new economic and information ministers and created several new portfolios, Reuters reported on 27 April. Citing a decree published in the official media the same day, the agency noted that state departments were transformed into ministries and some ministries were merged. According to the decree, Andranik Andreasyan is the new economy minister and Grach Tarmazyan takes over the Information Ministry. Other notable changes include the creation of portfolios for the CIS, European Union, and international economic organizations. Two new ministries will handle relations with parliament and territorial management. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

WAR IN CHECHNYA HITS AZERBAIJAN'S ECONOMY.
According to figures released by Azerbaijan's state statistics committee, the republic's economy declined rapidly in the first half of this year. Azerbaijan's industrial output fell by 27% compared with the same period last year and average daily productivity is down by 26.5%, AFP reported on 27 July, citing Turan. Output fell in all industrial sectors except in the chemical and petrochemical industries, where it rose by 12.5%. Exports compared to the same period last year fell by 41.8% and imports by 45% the agency reported. An Azerbaijani Economy Ministry official said the decline was largely due to the Chechen war which disrupted Azerbaijan's transport links. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

KUCHMA IN BAKU.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Baku on a two-day state visit on 27 July to hold talks with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on strengthening bilateral economic relations, Western and Russian agencies reported. Kuchma will also meet with representatives of the international consortium involved in extracting crude oil from Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan is interested in Ukrainian industrial products, notably military hardware, metallurgical goods, aircraft, and ships -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

UZBEKISTAN AND RUSSIA TIE THE KNOT.
As widely expected, more than a dozen bilateral agreements tightening economic ties between Russia and Uzbekistan were signed in Tashkent during the state visit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Western and Russian media reported on 27 July. Among other results of the talks, Uzbekistan announced it will join the emerging CIS customs union and the two sides agreed to a two-year economic cooperation guideline. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has pledged to repay his republic's $90 million debt to Russia by the year 2000; Russia, which owes Uzbekistan $189 million, has also committed itself to debt repayment. Karimov stated that "Russia is a guarantor of stability and peace in the Central Asian region." Following on the heels of Russia's wide-ranging agreements with Turkmenistan in May, Chernomyrdin's visit to Uzbekistan signals the commitment of both sides to reintegrationist approaches to shared economic and political problems; it also suggests that Tashkent is willing to accept Moscow's determination to regain influence in the region. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

CIS


UKRAINE ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATIONS.
Following his visit to Moscow, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said that relations with Russia must not only focus on the Black Sea Fleet but also on economic issues, Ukrainian radio reported on 27 July. During the visit, four agreements were signed, the most important being on the creation of financial-industrial groups. Marchuk defended that agreement, saying it does not infringe on the country's interests or contravene its laws. The issue of Ukraine's gas debt was also raised. Marchuk said the country owes Russia over $1 billion for gas for 1995. The debts for 1993 ($2.5 billion) and 1994 ($1.5 billion) have been restructured and will be repaid over 13 years. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 146, 28 July 1995
UPDATE ON POLISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The latest survey on Polish presidential preferences puts Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski well out in front, with 23% support. He is followed by President Lech Walesa (14%), National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz (12%), Civil Rights Spokesman Tadeusz Zielinski (11%), and former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron (10%). The Center for Public Opinion Research survey was conducted in mid-July and reported by Gazeta Wyborcza on 28 July. Kwasniewski has a comfortable lead in all opinion surveys, but competing polling organizations give slightly different rankings for the other candidates. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH BANKING CHIEF TALKS TOUGH.
Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz on 26 July told reporters that she will not resign if, as now appears almost certain, she decides to run for president. Gronkiewicz-Waltz was responding to a report in that day's Zycie Warszawy that President Lech Walesa has sounded out the ruling coalition about having her removed from office. Walesa originally nominated Gronkiewicz-Waltz to the banking post but now clearly resents her presidential ambitions. In a veiled reference to the ruling coalition, Gronkiewicz-Waltz also accused "certain political forces" of attempting to limit the central bank's supervisory rights in order to conceal improper lending practices in certain banks. The government is now drafting revisions to the banking law. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

POLISH MILITARY FACES SCRUTINY.
The armed forces are facing renewed criticism following the crash of an Su-22 fighter-bomber on 26 July and the mysterious theft of arms from a Warsaw army base on 21 July. The crash, the fourth this year involving an Su-22 plane, occurred when a bomb exploded during a test flight. Officials cited technical failures, but Defense Minister Zbigniew Okonski conceded that funding shortages have drastically limited flight time for Polish pilots. US pilots fly an average of 250 hours per year, whereas Poles fly only 60, Rzeczpospolita reported. The second incident, in which Russian-speaking, Kalashnikov-wielding thieves absconded with 75 pistols and ammunition from a virtually unguarded base, has raised questions about military security. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

INDEPENDENCE DAY DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS.
Police in Belarus broke up an Independence Day demonstration in Minsk on 27 July and detained a number of demonstrators, Reuters reported. Several dozen people gathered at Independence Square where demonstrations are prohibited. Five to eight were carrying the red and white Belarusian flag, which was recently replaced by the Soviet-era flag minus hammer and sickle. The flag bearers were briefly detained by the police. The opposition has criticized the police action, saying it showed that Belarus has reverted to a Soviet-era police state. Opposition deputy Syarhei Naumchik said the country now flies the Soviet flag and has an undemocratic leadership that listens only to Moscow, just as it did before independence. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

RECORD ESTONIAN TRADE DEFICIT IN JUNE.
Customs Department officials announced that Estonia's foreign trade deficit in June reached a record monthly high of 1.032 billion kroons ($93 million), BNS reported on 27 July. Estonia exported goods worth 1.877 billion kroons but imported goods worth 2.909 billion. The major contributor to the trade gap was the increase by 294 million kroons in the import of jewels and precious metals, largely because of a single consignment of polished gems temporarily brought into the country from Germany. As a result of this shipment, Germany replaced Russia as the second-largest exporter to Estonia. Finland remained in first place for both imports and exports. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

LATVIAN COMMUNIST LEADER SENTENCED TO EIGHT YEARS.
The Latvian Supreme Court on 27 July sentenced Alfreds Rubiks, first secretary of the Latvian Communist Party from 1990-1991, to eight years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government during the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, Western agencies reported. Rubiks thus became the only high-ranking communist official in the entire former Soviet Union to be tried and convicted for backing the coup. He was arrested on 23 August 1991, and his trial began in June 1993. Although imprisoned, he was elected to the Saeima but not allowed to take up his seat. His co-defendant, former communist party secretary Ojars Potreki, was given a three-year suspended sentence. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

IMF URGES STRICTER CONTROL OVER LITHUANIA'S COMMERCIAL BANKS.
After a final meeting on 26 July with Lithuanian Finance Minister Reinoldijus Sarkinas and Bank of Lithuania officials, an IMF mission, headed by Julian Berengaut, advised the bank to carry out stricter inspections of commercial banks and not to rely on the audits they submit, BNS reported the next day. The mission suggested that in state-run commercial banks, the government guarantee only a specified average deposit. Berengaut viewed favorably the government's efforts to improve tax collection but advised cuts in spending to meet revenue targets. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

CZECHS STILL OPPOSE DIALOGUE WITH SUDETEN GERMANS.
A majority of Czechs still oppose a formal dialogue with Sudeten Germans, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and published in Rude pravo on 28 July. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they were definitely against any talks and the same number were "rather against." These responses were almost exactly the same as in a similar poll two years ago, despite an extensive public debate on the subject over the past six months. Only 23% of respondents in the 1995 poll were in favor of a dialogue that might lead to a resolution of the issue; of those, one-third said they were supporters of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. The greatest opposition came from residents of northern Bohemia, part of the Sudetenland handed over to Germany in 1938 and from which 3 million Sudeten Germans were expelled after World War II. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.


SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES PRIVATIZATION AMENDMENTS.
Michal Kovac on 27 July returned amendments to the privatization law to the parliament for further discussion, calling them "unconstitutional," Narodna obroda reported. The legislation, passed in mid-July, cancels the coupon privatization program drawn up by the previous government and establishes a new privatization concept based on bonds. The president has not yet received the official texts of other economic legislation approved at the same parliamentary session, but he is expected to veto those laws as well. The opposition Democratic Union on 27 July criticized the cabinet for passing legislation that contradicts its program declaration. Opposition Social Democratic Party Chairman Jaroslav Weiss the previous day warned that the coalition parties will collect the 30 signatures needed to call an extraordinary parliamentary session in August in order to pass the legislation again. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

SLOVAK CABINET CRITICIZED OVER ROMA ATTACKS.
Hungarian Civic Party Chairman Laszlo Nagy on 27 July expressed regret that the Slovak government has not taken a stand on the recent attacks on Roma by skinheads in Ziar nad Hronom (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 July 1995). Nagy argued that the current government "is neither able nor willing to seriously oppose such undesirable acts." He singled out the Slovak National Party, which, he said, "encourages such hatred" through some of its statements, Sme reported. A local police official told Sme that two youths are currently under investigation in connection with the attacks but that the charges have not yet been classified as attempted murder. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

MEETING IN HUNGARY ON RIGHTS OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ABROAD.
The World Association of Hungarians organized a meeting on 27 July in the Hungarian town of Debrecen supporting unrestricted mother-tongue use for Hungarian minorities in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia, international media reported. Sandor Csoori of the WAH stressed that whoever questions nationality schools and equal rights for minority languages "is attacking universal human values." Coexistence Chairman Miklos Duray, who was the only leader of Slovakia's Hungarian coalition to attend the gathering, criticized the current Slovak government for its efforts "to eradicate our language." The Slovak cabinet was criticized in particular for its draft law on the state language and plans to implement "alternative" (bilingual) education. The meeting was attended by several representatives of the Hungarian parliament and broadcast live on Hungarian satellite television. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

REACTIONS IN ROMANIA TO DEBRECEN MEETING.
Bela Marko, leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), took the opportunity to call the recently adopted Romanian education law "cultural genocide" against ethnic Magyars, Radio Bucharest reported. UDMR Honorary Chairman Laszlo Tokes was quoted as saying that Romania is currently "waging a war against the Hungarian language." Traian Chebeleu, a spokesman for Romanian President Ion Iliescu, said the accusations of the UDMR leaders were "totally groundless" and part of a disinformation campaign aimed at damaging Romania's image abroad. Iliescu later said that the Debrecen meeting was feeding "primitive, extremist, and nationalist feelings." -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 146, 28 July 1995
MAZOWIECKI BLASTS INTERNATIONAL "HYPOCRISY" OVER BOSNIA.
Former Polish Prime Minister and Solidarity-era human rights activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki has released the text of the letter in which he resigned as UN special rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia on 27 July. He stressed that the UN's failure to defend Srebrenica and Zepa prompted his move. "One cannot speak about the protection of human rights with credibility when one is confronted with the lack of consistency and courage displayed by the international community and its leaders," the International Herald Tribune on 28 July quoted him as saying. He added that the "very stability of international order and the principle of civilization is at stake over the question of Bosnia." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

SERBS SHELL MOSTAR, SARAJEVO.
International media on 27 July reported that two people died in Serbian attacks on the Bosnian capital. Habena, the Herzegovinian Croat news agency, said that the Serbs fired on Mostar as well. AFP on 28 July quoted Auxiliary Bishop of Sarajevo Pero Sudar as calling on the West to end the conflict by destroying Serbian weapons, ammunition, and military infrastructure. "We must not hit them to kill them but hit them to make them understand that killing others is not allowed," Sudar said. Bosnian government sources reported that the Serbs were preventing 600 civilians from leaving Zepa by blockading their convoy at a checkpoint. In Srebrenica, retreating Dutch peacekeepers reportedly abandoned much of their military equipment to the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

SITUATION AROUND BIHAC REMAINS TENSE.
As Krajina and Bosnian Serbs, together with Muslim renegades, press their attack on the Bihac pocket and ultimately on the smaller "safe area" itself, the UN has hit on a way to "separate the warring parties." UNCRO's Canadian command wants to interpose its men on the border between Croatia and Bosnia, which the Croatian government has wanted for over three and a half years. "The conditions of war exist now," Canadian Colonel Norris Pettis said in Zagreb. "The plan is to move as quickly as possible to deter an outbreak of hostilities," AFP quoted him as saying on 27 July. The UN reported that 5,000 Serbian refugees are fleeing before the Croatian advance. In the northwest, where the Serbs are attacking, the UN reported 1,000 detonations in one hour alone on 28 July. Elsewhere, the Krajina Serbs' "parliament" has elected a new government headed by prominent hard-liner Milan Babic. The cabinet includes 16 holdovers from the previous one, as a concession to backers of deposed Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

REACTIONS TO SENATE VOTE TO LIFT BOSNIAN ARMS EMBARGO.
President Bill Clinton is at pains to portray the decisive Senate ballot not as a rebuke to him but to the UN for failing to protect Srebrenica and Zepa. The VOA reported on his 27 July press conference at which he stressed this message. Russia, France, the U.K., and various West European politicians have condemned the vote, with British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind calling it "bizarre." International media also noted that the Senate move was warmly welcomed throughout the Muslim world, notably by Turkey and Egypt. In Islamic countries, the belief is widespread that the West would never have tolerated the Serbian atrocities in Bosnia if they had been carried out against Christians or Jews rather than Muslims. (See related item in Russian section) -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.


SERBIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS WALKOUT.
Serbian opposition deputies on 27 July agreed to boycott the republican parliament if the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia's decision to halt live television coverage of the legislature remains in force, BETA reported the same day. The decision was handed down on 26 July, evidently in response to an incident that day in which a member of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) assaulted a journalist from Radio and Television Serbia in the parliament, Nasa Borba reported. SRS deputies, including party leader and accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, have been involved over the past year in a series of assaults and near-brawls in the parliament. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

ROMANIAN, SLOVAK PREMIERS ON ETHNIC MINORITIES.
Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, speaking at the end of his two-day official visit to Bucharest, said his country is respecting individual rights of citizens belonging to ethnic minorities. He added that the Council of Europe's Recommendation No. 1201 should not be interpreted as recognizing collective rights for minorities. He also said he hopes that the terms of the future Romanian-Hungarian treaty will be "better" than those of the Slovak-Hungarian one. Romania's treatment of its Slovak minority shows that Romania "promotes a correct minority policy," he noted. Romanian Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu said that his country will not agree to including claims for collective minority rights and territorial autonomy in its treaty with Hungary. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS UPDATE.
Bulgarian newspapers on 28 July reported that after meeting with representatives of all caucuses on 26 and 27 July, President Zhelyu Zhelev has still not set a date for the local elections. They stated, however, that the elections will be held sometime in October. The opposition favors a date in late October, while the Bulgarian Socialist Party wants the elections to take place as early as possible. The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) will ask the Constitutional Court to review certain parts of the local elections law that it considers unconstitutional, Demokratsiya reported. Other media say Zhelev will do the same. Meanwhile, the national leaderships of the SDS, the People's Union, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom met on 27 July to discuss choosing a common mayoral candidate for Sofia. No agreement was reached, however. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN TV BOSS SACKS TOP EXECUTIVES.
Ivan Granitski, director-general of Bulgarian National TV (BNT), on 27 July fired a number of top officials, Standart reported the following day. Among them were BNT Executive-Director Kiril Gotsev and the heads of the two state TV channels. Granitski also dismissed four members of the board of directors. Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov ordered Granitski to return from a business trip to Moscow to explain the dismissals to the parliament's media commission, but the TV chief was apparently unable to do so. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

ARSIDI TRIAL ENDS IN TIRANA.
An Albanian court has sentenced former central bank governor Ilir Hoti to six years in prison and three former directors of Albania's National Commercial Bank--Adrian Xhyheri, Agim Tartari, and Agron Saliu--to between four and seven years, Reuters reported on 27 July. Hoti and Xhyheri paid $1.6 million to the French citizen Nikolla Arsidi to negotiate Albania's foreign debts in 1991, but the negotiations never took place. The two men were found guilty of abuse of office for causing the state to lose 63 million leks ($630,000). Saliu and Tartari each accepted $160,000 in bribes, which they deposited in a Luxembourg bank. The court ruled that former Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti, who had been accused of abuse of office for signing the authorization for Arsidi, was innocent. The prosecutor had demanded longer jail sentences and said he would appeal. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

ALBANIA RESTRUCTURES FOREIGN DEBT.
Albanian Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni and Albania's creditors have agreed to cut the country's foreign debt and restructure the remainder. Commercial debts will be reduced from $500 million to $100 million. Banks now may swap their debts for 20% of the face value of the debt or exchange them at 100% of the face value for 30-year bonds without interest. The principle is backed by Zero-coupon 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds, which the Albanian government will buy in August, international agencies reported on 27 July. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

CLAES, GREECE CRITICIZE SENATE VOTE ON LIFTING BOSNIAN ARMS EMBARGO.
Following the U.S. Senate's vote in favor of lifting the UN arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, on a private visit to Athens on 27 July, said such a move would widen the Balkan conflict, international agencies reported. In such a case, he said, "the United Nations would lose its credibility" and 50,000 peacekeepers would be needed. "There is no military solution, negotiations are the only solution," Claes was quoted as saying. Government Spokesman Evangelos Venizelos the same day criticized the Senate vote, AFP reported. He said the war in Bosnia must be solved by long-term political and diplomatic means. Venizelos added that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic should not be excluded from the peace process, despite being indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, saying Karadzic has to remain a party to any talks seeking a settlement for Bosnia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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