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Newsline - August 18, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 161, 18 August 1995
Russian planes attacked Chechen positions near the town of Roshni Chu on 17 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. An RFE/RL correspondent saw the planes drop bombs about 1:30 p.m. local time. A Russian military spokesman said the air strike was launched in response to Chechen attacks on federal troops. In Grozny, Chechen chief negotiator Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov said the attack threatened to undermine the ongoing negotiation and disarmament process but expressed readiness to resume political negotiations on the basis of the 30 July military accord, despite recent statements by Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev contradicting some of the accord. In spite of the bombing, Chechen fighters in the towns of Shali and Gudermes began disarming on 17 August. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Relatives of U.S. aid specialist Fred Cuny, missing in Chechnya since April, said at a 17 August press conference in Moscow that they believe Cuny was killed by Chechen separatist fighters shortly after he disappeared on 8 April. According to Cuny's brother Christopher, Russian intelligence agents arranged to have Fred Cuny killed in retaliation for his earlier published criticism of the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. Disinformation planted by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), added Cuny's brother, led the Chechen separatists to execute Fred Cuny as an intelligence agent on 14 April. While the U.S. Embassy in Moscow officially announced that it could not confirm the family's information, an anonymous American diplomat described the story as "credible." Aleksandr Mikhailov, spokesman for the FSB, told Interfax on 17 August that the Cuny family's account is "nonsense" and said the FSB believes Cuny is still alive. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Mikhail Demurin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told ITAR-TASS on 17 August that Russia believes a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, calling for the design and financing of a limited defense against ballistic missile attack by the year 2003, would lead to the "actual liquidation" of the 1972 agreement. The diplomat warned that Russia continues to regard the ABM agreement as the cornerstone of all other strategic arms control agreements. New American initiatives which violated the ABM treaty could cause the Duma to refuse to ratify START-2 and might lead Russia to withdraw from START-1, Demurin added. The bill, a compromise version of an earlier Republican-sponsored proposal that was criticized by the Clinton administration, awaits examination by the full Senate this coming September. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

President Boris Yeltsin appointed Nikolai Yegorov as an aide for regional and national policy, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 18 August. Yegorov was deputy prime minister and minister for nationalities and regional policy until he was forced to resign on 30 June, along with Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin, following the terrorist acts in Budennovsk. During his previous term in office, Yegorov was one of the main supporters of a hard-line policy in Chechnya. In comments after his appointment, he criticized the media's coverage of the Chechen conflict, Russian TV reported. Yegorov said there would not be any conflict between him and Vyacheslav Mikhailov, his successor as minister for nationalities and regional policy. On 5 July, Yeltsin rehabilitated Yerin by appointing him deputy director of Russia' Foreign Intelligence Service. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

President Yeltsin signed the law designating the boundaries of the 225 single-member districts in the December Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. The Duma approved the law in a special 12 August session after the Federation Council failed to support it at the end of July. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The All-Russian Officers' Assembly (VOS), an alliance of former and current members of the military, announced that it will work with other opposition groups to defeat the current regime, Russian TV reported on 17 August. The Russian National Union (RNS) and Col. Stanislav Terekhov's Officers' Union initiated the new group. Its leaders include General Valentin Varennikov, a former Soviet deputy defense minister who spent 14 months in jail after the 1991 coup and former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov, who was also involved in the coup. The new group expressed its willingness to support the efforts of opposition leaders Gennadii Zyuganov, Yurii Skokov, Sergei Glazev, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, although Communist Party leader Zyuganov was the only one present at the group's first press conference. The assembly's main goal is to strengthen the Russian military. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Several groups in Yakutiya (Sakha) have proposed extending the term of current President Mikhail Nikolaev from 1996 to 2001, Radio Rossii reported on 17 August. Advocates of holding a referendum with this goal claim extending Nikolaev's term would save the republic from the ordeal of holding a presidential election in these difficult times. Opponents of a referendum, including the Social Democratic and Communist parties of the republic, argue that it would violate the republic's constitution and federal legislation. The republic of Kalmykiya will hold a similar referendum on 15 October. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Vasilii Lipitskii, leader of the Russian Social Democratic Union and Duma deputy for Novisibirsk, argues that Russia's capital should be moved from Moscow, preferably to Novisibirsk, the weekly Kontinent reported in issue no. 32. Lipitskii and like minds say such a measure would help eliminate the inequality between rich Moscow and the rest of Russia. They believe that Russia's geopolitical interests have shifted away from the West and that moving the capital eastward would encourage the development of Siberia, the Far East, and relations with Russia's eastern neighbors. They also contend that the move would reduce separatist trends--provoked, it is said, by the Moscow elite's lack of interest in the provinces--and enable the state apparatus to be cut and corrupt elements eliminated. In Lipitskii's opinion, Novisibirsk would make the ideal capital because it is located in the middle of the country, has a population of more than 1 million, and is an industrial and cultural center. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Ministry of Nuclear Energy spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS on 17 August that it is "deplorable" that China had conducted another nuclear test that day. He said that "humanity is striving to remove nuclear arms from arsenals," adding that while Russian nuclear scientists might like to conduct tests, they refrained from such actions "in view of the negative attitude of the Russian and world public to nuclear testing." Another highly placed ministry official, however, told the agency that testing is "of essential importance." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

More than 20 Cossack units are now being formed within the Russian armed forces, according to the chairman of the Russian Union of Cossacks, Aleksandr Martynov. Interfax on 16 August quoted him as adding that 12 Cossack posts and two units are also being formed within the Federal Border Service and that a separate Cossack border regiment would be created on Sakhalin island in the Far East. Martynov said the Cossack units would be subordinate to the relevant federal departments and not to Cossack military commanders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian government will allocate more than 1.8 trillion rubles ($408 million) to support small and medium-sized businesses in 1996-97, Russian First Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said on 17 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The aid is aimed at building a network of information and training centers for businessmen, he said. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said training programs needs to be expanded for new businessmen and the registration system for small businesses needs to be simplified. Small enterprises, employing about 9.5 million Russians, produced 12-14% of total industrial output this year, according to government figures. Shapovalyants said the state holds no more than a 25% stake in each of the small enterprises covered by the government aid; there are one million of them in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 161, 18 August 1995
A dozen opposition groups in Kazakhstan, including the Kazakh National Patriots and members of the Slavic movements, warned that the new constitution could become a destabilizing factor and may cause social fragmentation, Russian TV reported on 17 August. They claim that it would create conditions conducive to an authoritarian regime by granting the president strong personal power, creating a submissive parliament, and restricting civil rights. A referendum on whether to adopt the proposed constitution is scheduled for 30 August. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.

In an interview with Reuters on 17 August, Grigorii Marchenko, the deputy chairman of the Kazakh Central Bank, said, "We have more or less achieved macroeconomic stabilization, in relative terms." While mentioning lower inflation rates, a stable currency, and a steep rise in foreign exchange reserves, Marchenko admitted that Kazakhstan is still lagging behind on structural reform at the enterprise level. Western bankers in Almaty affirm that the Central Bank of Kazakhstan has been the driving force behind economic reforms but note that the central bank's policies have won few friends in the ailing industrial sector. They agree that there has been little restructuring of Soviet-era industry, most big firms are still in state hands, companies often do not pay their debts, and investors are staying away because of frequently changing laws. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.

The Tajik government and the opposition signed an agreement to extend by six months a ceasefire that was due to expire on 26 August, according to Western agencies. On 17 August, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov signed it in Dushanbe while opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri did so in Kabul. The UN representative present at the Kabul signing, said the agreement also covers political and military integration and helps returning refugees, Voice of America reported. The two sides settled on 18 September as the date for the next round of talks, but they have not agreed to a venue. This is the third time the ceasefire agreement has been extended since last September. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller finished her visit to Kyrgyzstan on 17 August and departed for Turkmenistan, the last stop on her tour of three Central Asian countries. Ciller said she had agreed on joint plans with Kyrgyzstan in the areas of education, power engineering, agriculture, and mining. Kyrgyzstan and Turkey also announced defense cooperation, including the joint manufacture of military equipment for sale on the world market. Turkey also expressed its willingness to subsidize any promising programs in the development of the Kyrgyz economy, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller met with Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov in Ashgabat, Western and Russian media reported on 17 August. During the talks, an agreement on double taxation and a document establishing a bilateral commission for trade and economic cooperation were signed. Ciller also proposed that Turkmen gas be transited through Turkey via an existing Russian and Georgian pipeline. This would involve the extension of an existing pipeline by an estimated 160 km. Niyazov predictably found this arrangement acceptable but noted that he would have to consult the pipeline's co-owner, Russia. However, Moscow is unlikely to encourage any pipeline that will enrich Turkey and Turkmenistan. He also pledged to repay Turkmenistan's debts to Turkish businessmen by late 1995. Official statistics cited by Interfax indicate Turkey has invested $1.5 billion in Turkmenistan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov opened the first session of Uzbekistan's National Security Council on 16 August, Uzbek and Russian Public TV reported. The responsibilities of the council encompass domestic and foreign policy, strategic problems, defense, "other" kinds of security, information, ecological, health, preventing and responding to emergencies, and the maintenance of stability and public order. The session also took up the issues of the council's composition and orders and discussed Uzbekistan's military doctrine. Russian Public TV noted that Karimov identified Tajikistan and Afghanistan as the main regional security problems and called for "collective effort" to confront them. He also described the especially important role of Russia, a country he referred to as Uzbekistan's "main strategic partner." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 161, 18 August 1995
Deputy Prime Minister in charge of agriculture Petro Sabluk announced that previous harvest forecasts have been optimistic and the country will probably produce only 37 million tons of grain this year, Reuters reported on 17 August. This is only 1.5 million tons more than last year's crop, which was damaged by drought. Sabluk put the poor harvest down to lack of fertilizers, outdated machinery, and a locust outbreak. Stressing the inefficiency of Ukraine's agricultural sector, Sabluk said one-fifth of production was lost annually, totaling $7 billion. Sabluk also said the government was reintroducing quotas and licenses on grain exports until the government purchases the state quota of 10 million tons. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

A court hearing over the legal status of the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) was canceled after UNA supporters disrupted proceedings, Reuters reported on 17 August. Some 200 UNA supporters crowded into a courtroom meant to seat 50. When the judge asked those standing to leave they refused, whereupon the judge and court employees walked out. UNA's legal status has come into question because of some of its activities, which include sending fighters to help oppose Russia in Chechnya and Abkhazia. UNA supporters were blamed for causing a riot during the burial of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church earlier this month, which resulted in police beating mourners with truncheons. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Latvian Saeima on 17 August voted to approve the sending of a 40-member volunteer unit to Croatia as part of the Danish UN peacekeeping battalion, BNS reported. The unit, which has been training in Denmark for several months, is scheduled to fly to Croatia on 23 August. Similar units from Lithuania and Estonia recently ended six-month tours and their replacements will arrive in Croatia on 18 August. It appears likely that the Baltic units will not serve the normal six-month term since the UN is planning to reduce its troop levels by withdrawing the Danish battalion within several months. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius told a press conference on 17 August that an American or Japanese company will soon be authorized to sell Lithuanian government bonds abroad, BNS reported. He said that the earlier practice of selling the bonds only in Lithuania was detrimental since it had increased the cost of loans in commercial banks. Lithuania is following the example of Latvia, which recently reached an agreement with the Nomura Securities Company in Japan to receive a $45 million loan in exchange for two-year Latvian government bonds with 5.4% annual interest. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Deputy Minister of Education Tatstsyana Halko said President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decision to ban textbooks printed since independence and replace them with Soviet-era books was completely unexpected and that education workers were unprepared for the move, Belarusian Radio reported on 17 August. Halko said there had been no information on the presidential administration's work in examining the text books to determine if they were appropriate. In other news, it was reported that the president's administration was investigating the activities of the Ministry of Culture and Publishing. The head of the department of political information in the president's administration, Uladzimir Zamyatalin, said one reason was to evaluate the ministry's activities during the critical period of state building. Following the investigation, the ministry may be divided into two: a Ministry of Culture and a Ministry of Publications. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Trade ministers from the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia -- began a two-day meeting in Warsaw on 17 August. Slovenia's trade minister is also present. The conditions of admitting Slovenia to CEFTA are to be discussed together with an agreement on the reduction or elimination of tariffs on industrial products from 1 January 1996, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Two right-wing presidential candidates, Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz and Supreme Court President Adam Strzembosz, at a common press conference on 17 August strongly criticized secret negotiations on extending current President Lech Walesa's term of office for another two years. Gronkiewicz-Waltz compared these negotiations to the Watergate affair that forced U.S. President Richard Nixon to resign. Strzembosz said that allowing for Walesa's term to be extended meant "not only the instrumentalization of law, but also the abolition of the normative character of the constitution," Polish media reported on 18 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

The president of the South Korean Daewoo Corporation, Kim Woo Choong, on 16 August signed a letter of intent in Warsaw with the director of the state-owned car factory FSO Zeran, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz. Daewoo will take a 60% stake in FSO and promised to invest $1.1 billion in the enterprise. Daewoo plans to produce up to 220,000 cars annually and maintain the present workforce of 20,000, Polish and international media reported. Daewoo has already invested $900 million in Romania and promised large investment in a car plant in Lublin, Poland. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Vaclav Klaus and Jozef Oleksy discussed their countries' approaches to the EU and NATO during a meeting in northern Moravia on 17 August, Czech media report. The only point of difference was over Oleksy's call, made at the EU summit in Cannes in June, for a special EU summit to consider what he feels is the slow progress being made in admitting central European countries to the EU. Klaus said he still believes a special summit is unnecessary. But he added that the Czech Republic wants to continue cooperating closely with Poland in their joint quest for NATO membership. Both prime ministers said there were no serious problems in Czech-Polish bilateral relations. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Leaders of the extraparliamentary Free Democrats (SD) and the small Liberal Social National Party (LSNS) met on 17 August and said they hoped to merge their parties by the end of this year and jointly contest next year's parliament elections. SD chairman Jiri Dienstbier said there was a need for a strong centrist, liberal grouping on the Czech political scene, Czech media report. According to recent opinion polls, the SD and LSNS together would not gain the 5% of the total vote needed to secure parliamentary representation. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jozef Sestak told Slovak Radio on 17 August that the U.S. "supports the positive development in Slovakia." The ministry sent a note to the U.S. government on 9 August, asking whether it had changed its attitude towards the Slovak government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 August 1995). According to Sestak, the U.S. requested that its response not be made public, but he stated that the U.S. government "reconfirmed mutual respect" between the two countries, and said it was "prepared to cooperate . . . with Slovakia's democratically elected representatives." Sestak also reacted to an editorial in The New York Times on 15 August which said "both Bonn and Washington have stepped up their warnings that [increasing government intervention in such areas as culture and education] would bar Slovakia from NATO and the European Union." Sestak called the editorial "a compilation of various facts and half-truths" and said the U.S. "promptly reacted," disagreeing with both its timing and its contents. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Bratislava-based Radio Twist on 21 August will launch its news program, "Zurnal Radio Twist," to compete with state-owned Slovak Radio's "Radiozurnal." The start-up date was planned to coincide with the anniversary of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. According to the program's director Lubos Machaj, "it is a day when we lost our freedom 27 years ago and a day when our station will begin to freely broadcast information," Pravda reports. The program's journalists include several well-known figures who were dismissed from state TV and radio. From September the program, to be broadcast twice daily for 25 to 35 minutes, will also be accessible in central Slovakia through a network of other stations. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 161, 18 August 1995
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote on 18 August that over 4,000 Croatian troops backed by tanks have assembled in the Dubrovnik region for an apparent assault on Trebinje. The goal is to take the heights over the medieval town and end the Serb shelling of the region. Mlada fronta dnes said that volunteer firemen are continuing to fight the blazes in the countryside caused by the shells. Reuters reported on 17 August that Dubrovnik's art treasures are being boarded up for safekeeping. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bosnian Croatian troops have the west Bosnian town of Drvar "under their control," according to Croatian Radio on 17 August. The broadcast added that the Serbs suffered heavy losses and that the elite Podrinjska Brigade was destroyed. The fleeing Serbs reportedly left behind large quantities of arms and ammunition, including long-range artillery. There has been no independent confirmation of the story. Meanwhile in the Bosnian government army, there has been a major shakeup of the command structure, particularly at the corps level, according to Vjesnik on 18 August. The move had been announced earlier by President Alija Izetbegovic. Reuters reported that Britain and France will ask the UN Security Council to "chastize Croatia and Bosnia publicly for political and financial demands they say will cripple the Rapid Reaction Force." The UN and NATO, meanwhile, have finalized plans to protect the remaining "safe areas" and have warned the Serbs that "hostile actions will be met with air strikes." The UN has announced, however, that it intends to remove all peacekeepers except for a skeleton force from Gorazde by mid-September. The Ukrainians will leave for sure and the British will probably follow. Malaysia has rejected an appeal to send 10 men to Gorazde, saying that a tiny force is likely to be taken hostage. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic had ordered that Drvar be defended at all costs, but Bosnian Serb military commander General Ratko Mladic remained silent in public. On 17 August, however, he faxed a fresh attack on Karadzic to news agencies. The message said that Karadzic "is probably aware that he has lost the support of the main pillars of our society, the people and the army." Meanwhile, Globus on 18 August reported that a former ally of the two internationally indicted war criminals, Bihac-pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic, is "under the supervision" of Croatian police in Zagreb's Palace Hotel. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Vecernji list on 18 August quoted Minister Adalbert Rebic as saying that his government calculates the Serbs will expel to Croatia up to 20,000 Croats. Some 4,769 have come in recent days from the Banja Luka area plus another 406 from Srijem. Reuters said that 350 Muslims have arrived east of Travnik after being deported by the Serbs and that more are on the way. Meanwhile in Serbia, the French aid group Medecins du Monde called the situation of the Krajina Serb refugees "a humanitarian emergency under control." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

BETA reported on 17 August that on the same day Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke for five hours, but no agreement was reached on a resolution to the Bosnian crisis. Talks between the two resumed on 18 August, but were interrupted the previous day when European Union negotiator Carl Bildt made "an unexpected stopover" in Belgrade and himself met with Milosevic. Bildt is persona non grata in Zagreb, following his charge that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman may be guilty of war crimes, and Bosnian government officials have refused to meet with him, observing that the peace process he is promoting is dead. Finally, AFP on 18 August reports that Milosevic is slated to meet the Greek and Spanish foreign ministers the same day. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

U.S. Senate majority leader Bob Dole on 17 August sent a letter to President Bill Clinton, cautioning against lifting sanctions against Belgrade until a comprehensive regional peace settlement is reached, international media reported. At least a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for Belgrade's recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is reportedly part of the plan being discussed in the region by Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke. "If we lift sanctions now for what are clearly minimal returns, such a comprehensive settlement will be virtually impossible to reach and implement . . . The bottom line is that sanctions are the only real leverage the international community has been willing to use on the Belgrade regime," wrote Dole. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Rump Yugoslav premier Radoje Kontic has appealed to the Danish government to unfreeze Belgrade's bank assets, Tanjug reported on 16 August. According to Kontic, Belgrade's Danish assets would go towards procuring humanitarian aid for the Krajina Serb refugees in rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The government published a list of 3,907 state-owned enterprises it hopes to sell in a new wave of privatization, Romanian and Western media reported on 17 August. However, it admitted that nearly 25% of the firms on offer were loss-making, and some were virtually bankrupt. This contradicts an earlier pledge that only profitable firms would be privatized. Iacob Zelenco, the head of the National Privatization Agency, claimed in an interview with national TV that most of the loss-making firms faced minimal or temporary financial difficulties. Romania's Parliament in June adopted a law to speed up privatization of nearly 6,200 state enterprises, based on a coupon system. Distribution of the nominative coupons started on 1 August. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Members of the city council of Tiraspol, the capital of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, attacked the local authorities for having allegedly surrendered to the government in Chisinau by accepting that the Moldovan currency is used in clearing operations, Infotag reported on 17 August. The council, which is packed with radicals and former communists, accused Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa and acting Dniester bank governor Vyacheslav Zagryadsky of planning to "liquidate" the Dniester republic by favoring its "economic and political absorption into Moldova." Dniester President Igor Smirnov, who attended the meeting, dismissed the criticism as "malevolent." -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

The UN Human Development Report puts Bulgaria in 65th place among the 174 UN members, Demokratsiya reports on 18 August. In 1991, Bulgaria ranked 33rd and in 1994 it was 48th. The report measures GDP, real spending power, life expectancy, and education level. According to the report, average life expectancy went down by almost four years since 1991, and is now 71.2 years. Men's life expectancy is only 67.6 years, and women's 74.4. Some 7% of the Bulgarian population are "absolutely illiterate." A ranking of women's emancipation, which includes women's participation in economic and political decision-making, puts Bulgaria in 20th place, two below Hungary. They are the only former Communist countries among the top 20. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

An unnamed cabinet member was cited by 24 chasa on 18 August as saying that Zhan Videnov is dissatisfied with the performance of some members of his cabinet. But according to an anonymous top official of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Videnov will not reshuffle his cabinet before Spring 1996. The report said Videnov is particularly dissatisfied with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development Rumen Gechev. Also under fire are Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev, Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov, Labor and Social Welfare Minister Mincho Koralski, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev. Other ministers, including Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, were also strongly criticized by Videnov. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

A high-ranking U.S. military delegation visited Albania on 17 August, BETA reported the same day. The delegation was received by President Sali Berisha, who described the situation in the Balkans as "very tense" and said that Serbia should not be thanked for its restraint after the Croatian offensive since that would be to "reward the aggressor." He also said that the settlement of refugees in Kosovo increases the danger of a spill-over of the conflict to the south. Meanwhile, Albania and the U.S. signed an agreement for $5 million worth of humanitarian aid. It contains mainly olive oil and is part of a $70 million aid package to Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle