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Newsline - September 1, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 171, 1 September 1995
GOVERNMENT TO SERVE ITS TERM REGARDLESS OF ELECTIONS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that his government will serve until the June 1996 presidential election, regardless of the results of the December parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. According to the Russian Constitution, the government serves at the will of the president, not the parliament. Chernomyrdin said that he would seek to win as many seats in the Duma as possible. His statement reflects the weakness of the legislative branch in relation to the executive. -- Robert Orttung

ASSOCIATION OF TELEVISION BROADCASTERS FORMS.
A new association of braodcasters has been formed to push for speedier privatization of television facilities and lower taxes for private broadcasters. Representatives of 50 independent television companies, including Russian Public Television (51% state owned), NTV, and 2X2, founded the National Association of Television Broadcasters on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Eduard Sagalaev, the director of TV 6, was elected president of the association. He said that during the campaign the association would support "those forces which favor the continuation of reform" and that if the association decided to support a particular party, it would "achieve remarkable results." Central Electoral Commission head Nikolai Ryabov announced on 31 August that the new regulations for the media during the campaign would guarantee equal access for parties and candidates to state-owned mass media. The formation of the new association gives the broadcasters greater leverage in battling state control. -- Robert Orttung

NEW LAW ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT INTENSIFIES DEBATE ABOUT ELECTING GOVERNORS.
The new law on local government mandating the election of city and village leaders rather than their appointment by krai and oblast governors has increased calls for the election of the governors themselves, Segodnya reported on 31 August. The Duma adopted the law at its 12 August special session, and Yeltsin signed it on 29 August. Anatolii Sliva, chairman of the Duma Committee on Local Government, believes that the governors should be elected, while the Yeltsin administration opposes the idea. About 30 krais and oblasts have taken steps to hold elections to their executive branch, Rossiiskie vesti noted on 31 August. If the governors are elected on the same day as Duma deputies, as some propose, they could become members of the parliament's upper house. The future composition of the Federation Council is in doubt after Yeltsin vetoed a law calling for its members to be directly elected. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN WARNS OF REFERENDUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP.
The prime minister warned parliament that the government will call a referendum on land ownership if lawmakers do not rapidly enact new legislation to settle the issue, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. Without a new law, "economic reforms will not make progress," Chernomyrdin said during a visit to an agricultural fair in St. Petersburg. "Who will pour money into a factory if he does not own the land on which it is built?" he questioned. Chernomyrdin also criticized leaders of the powerful farming lobby, which represents state and collective farms and food-processing plants, for blocking private land ownership. -- Thomas Sigel

YELTSIN TELLS STUDENTS TO REMEMBER LESSONS OF THE PAST.
In a televised address to mark the beginning of the new academic year, Yeltsin told school children to respect the past but not forget the atrocities committed by the communist regime. Speaking on Russian Public Television on 31 August, the president said the country's history must be treated with care and respect, but "at the same time let us not forget what the Communist Party did to Russia, how many officers, scientists, intellectuals, and peasants perished." -- Penny Morvant

SOLZHENITSYN BEGINS ANOTHER TOUR OF THE PROVINCES.
The writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began a tour of Penza, Samara, and Saratov Oblasts on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. He plans to investigate the problems of local government, small cities, and refugees from other former Soviet republics. The writer took a train trip across the country in the summer of 1994 and now hosts a weekly television show. Although the former dissident does not have much impact on national politics, his activities are drawing attention to problems outside Russia's large cities. -- Robert Orttung

MUTUAL ACCUSATIONS IN GROZNY.
Following a session in Grozny on 31 August of the special observer commission to monitor implementation of the 30 July ceasefire agreement, the Russian and Chechen co-chairmen told Russian media that the disarmament process has been extended to 33 villages, with a total of 905 weapons surrendered. The chief Chechen negotiator Hodj-Ahmed Yarikhanov told Ekho Moskvy, however, that Russian federal troops are violating the ceasefire agreement by bombarding Chechen villages; he also accused Moscow of "trying to split the Chechen people." A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax that five Russian servicemen were killed over the previous 24 hours in Chechen attacks on Russian positions. Also on 31 August, Interfax quoted an official from the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry as stating that Chechnya is currently producing 120,000 tons of oil per month and could resume oil refining at any time. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIA PROTESTS NATO ATTACKS IN BOSNIA.
On 31 August,
Russian political leaders of all persuasions continued to condemn the ongoing NATO airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions. A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the bombardment "must be stopped," because it "goes beyond the framework" of existing UN Security Council resolutions, Interfax reported. Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin reiterated Moscow's position that the Yugoslav conflict can only be resolved through negotiations and criticized NATO Secretary General Willy Claes for his "tendentious" comments on Yeltsin's reaction to the airstrikes. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA POWERLESS TO INFLUENCE YUGOSLAV EVENTS.
Russia has lost all influence over events in the former Yugoslavia, according to commentary in the Russian press over the last two days. Izvestiya on 1 September noted that the recent NATO airstrikes were launched without even consulting Moscow, despite the fact that Russia formally remains a member of the international Contact Group seeking a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Sergei Rogov, director of the USA/Canada Institute, told The Washington Post that the airstrikes demonstrate the "complete collapse of the notion of Russian-Western partnership" and show "how much the West ignores Russia." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSO-JAPANESE TALKS END WITHOUT AGREEMENT.
Russian and Japanese negotiators have again failed to reach agreement over fishing rights off the disputed south Kuril Islands. Their talks were suspended after two days, international agencies reported. Russia claims that Japanese fisherman poach in Russian territorial waters, and Russian border guards have fired on Japanese vessels in the past, aggravating already shaky relations between the two countries. On the eve of the talks, comments by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev describing the disputed islands as "genuine Russian territory," which had been "returned" to Russia as a result of WW II, provoked a storm of criticism in the Japanese press. -- Scott Parrish

HIGH LEVEL OF RADIATION IN KOLA GULF . . .
The level of radioactive contamination in the Kola Gulf is higher than in the area of the Norwegian Sea where a Russian nuclear submarine sank, according to the director of the Kola Research Institute of Marine Life, Professor Gennadii Matishev. ITAR-TASS on 31 August summarized an interview with Matishev appearing in Murmanskii vestnik. The Kola Gulf is the narrow fjord off the Barents Sea on which Murmansk and the Russian naval base of Severomorsk are located. The report said that nuclear waste once dumped into the sea had accumulated in hollows on the bottom of the gulf and posed a serious threat both to marine life and to the local population. -- Doug Clarke

. . . AND THE URALS NUCLEAR LEGACY.
Nuclear waste at the Mayak Chemical Complex in the Urals is "an ecological bomb for Russia," Izvestiya warned on 30 August. It said that the water level is rising in one of three reservoirs built to hold radioactive water and that contaminated ground water is spreading under the Karachai Lake, into which all nuclear wastes had been drained and which is now being filled in. A plan to build a nuclear power station that would use plutonium accumulated at the Mayak Chemical Complex is on hold owing to lack of funding, the paper said. -- Penny Morvant

EBRD CREATES $30 MILLION VENTURE FUND IN URALS.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has created a regional venture fund in Yekaterinburg that will invest $30 million in the charter capital of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises. The EBRD appointed the U.K.'s Fleming Investment Ltd., an investment bank, as the fund's managing company. The venture will invest in enterprises in Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Perm Oblasts over a 10-year period. -- Thomas Sigel



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 171, 1 September 1995
MKHEDRIONI IMPLICATED IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION BID.
On 31 August officials investigating the car bomb in Tbilisi two days earlier discovered quantities of arms and ammunition, ampoules of morphine, and hard currency in the parliamentary officies of Mkhedrioni leader Dzhaba Ioseliani, Russian media reported. Ioseliani has denied involvement in the attack; he also told Ekho Moskvy that he has no intention of standing as a candidate against Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze in the November presidential elections. -- Liz Fuller

CILLER IN TBILISI.
Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller arrived in Tbilisi on 31 August for one day's talks with Georgian parliament chairman Shevardnadze, Interfax reported. The two leaders signed a protocol on restructuring Georgian repayments of a $50 million Turkish loan granted in 1993 to finance economic development; Ciller subsequently told journalists that Turkey would advance Georgia new credits totaling $150 million. -- Liz Fuller

NAZARBAEV HAILS VICTORY, DISMISSES CRITICISM . . .
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev hailed his victory in the referendum on the new constitution, international and Russian media reported on 31 August. Nazarbaev cited the overwhelming support of the people as vivid proof of the constitution's legitimacy, thereby dismissing Western criticism that the new constitution violates democratic norms and consolidates his personal power. According to ITAR-TASS on 31 August, opposition party leaders claimed that less than half the electorate voted in Almaty, not 90% as officially reported. A leader of the Slavic movement Lad from eastern Kazakhstan told Reuters that the voting figures had been "officially falsified." -- Bhavna Dave

. . . PROMISES NEW LEGISLATION.
At his first post-victory press conference, Nazarbaev promised immediately to pass a new election law and set a date for parliamentary elections, Western and Russian media reported on 31 August. Nazarbaev confirmed the decision to move the nation's capital from Almaty to Akmola and indicated that he would make "serious changes to improve" the team of ministers. -- Bhavna Dave

TURKMENISTAN ACTIVATED?
Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shikhmuradov visited Dushanbe on 31 August in a bid to ensure that Ashgabat is the venue of the 5th round of inter-Tajik talks scheduled for 18 September and to make arrangements to open an embassy in Dushanbe. He also laid the groundwork for a conference which will deal with barter issues involving Russia's three closest partners in the south--Tajikistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan, Russian media reported. Isolationist Ashgabat has studiously avoided involvement in any aspect of the Tajik problem, but when cementing ties with Russia in May, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov pledged to do his best to help resolve the conflict. A trilateral economic arrangement would be equally groundbreaking but only survive if Russia gives its blessing. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK OPPOSITION APPLIES PRESSURE BEFORE TALKS BEGIN.
With the next round of negotiations between the Tajik government and opposition scheduled to begin on 18 September, the anti-government forces are resorting to their customary tactic of stepping up military pressure. Aside from attempts by the rebels to cross the border from Afghanistan, the opposition is waging a terror campaign within Tajikistan. Civilians have been killed in the Rogun area to the east of Dushanbe, and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri claims that members of his forces in the Khorog region to the south will remain there, according to Interfax. The commander of the Russian-led CIS Peacekeeping Force, Lt. Gen. Valentin Bobryshev, said recently that there are more than 2,000 armed rebels inside Tajikistan, mainly in the Garm district in the northeast. -- Bruce Pannier

CIS


MINSK DENIES LUKASHENKA WILL STAND IN DUMA ELECTIONS.
Deputy head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Zamyatalin said reports that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has agreed to run in the Russian Duma elections are "absurd," Belarusian radio reported on 30 August. Earlier that day reports said the electoral bloc "Vozrozhdenie" was planning to add Lukashenka to its list of candidates and quoted bloc leader Valerii Skurlatov as saying the president had agreed to his inclusion. According to Zamyatalin, Lukashenka had never heard of the idea. -- Ustina Markus



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 171, 1 September 1995
WALESA SAYS SOLIDARITY REVOLUTION INCOMPLETE.
Polish President Lech Walesa, speaking on 31 August at ceremonies to mark the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Gdansk accords that legalized Solidarity, reiterated his determination to run for president. "The need from which Solidarity arose has not passed," Walesa said. He called upon the postcommunist forces to conduct an honest settling of accounts for their past deeds. "A single `I'm sorry' is not enough," Walesa said, in a reference to Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski's brief apology for the abuses of communism, which was submitted to the Sejm after the 1993 elections. Gdansk Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski charged that the Solidarity movement went "too far in one aspect of Christianity" by being too forgiving of the former Communists after they surrendered power in 1989, Rzeczpospolita reported. -- Louisa Vinton

POLISH COMMISSION SETS 1996 WAGE LIMIT.
The tripartite commission representing the trade unions, employers, and the state reached agreement on 31 August that the average wage in state firms can increase a maximum of 21.8% next year, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. The government is predicting annual average inflation of 19.8%, so the agreement allows a 2% rise in real wages. The unions initially demanded a 26% limit, fearing that government inflation forecasts were overly optimistic. The agreement sets guidelines rather than legally enforceable limits. In other economic news, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko predicted that the inflation rate for August will amount to only 0.5-0.6%. Prices fell by 0.9% in July, largely owing to seasonal declines in food prices, yielding a year-on-year rate for that month of 27.6%. -- Louisa Vinton

CZECH ARMS TRADE FIGURES.
The Czech Republic exported $55 million worth of arms and military equipment during the first six months of this year, Reuters reported on 29 August, citing the Ministry of Industry and Trade. During the same period in 1994, Czech exports totaled $60 million. This year's exports included L-39 jet trainers to Bangladesh, T-815 heavy utility trucks to India, and CZ-75 pistols for the Turkish police. Arms imports during the first half of the year were worth $33.4 million and came mostly from Russia, Slovakia, and France. -- Doug Clarke

SLOVAKIA CELEBRATES CONSTITUTION DAY.
Slovakia on 1 September celebrates the third anniversary of the approval of its constitution. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has repeatedly called for changes to the basic law, but he remains eight votes short of 90 needed to make constitutional changes. Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) deputy Dusan Slobodnik, speaking with Pravda on 31 August, said that despite having been worked out "very quickly," the document is "good" on basic questions and its "basic structure should not be changed." Robert Fico, legal expert from the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), said modifications should be reviewed by a wide commission of specialists and carried out only if supported by "all representatives of political life." On the eve of Constitution Day, President Michal Kovac awarded the Order of Ludovit Stur to a number of prominent Slovaks, including several Church officials and Julius Binder, director of the firm that built the Gabcikovo dam. Prague Spring leader Alexander Dubcek, as well as two generals who led the anti-fascist resistance during World War II, were given awards posthumously, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK FIRM TO ISSUE BONDS.
According to TASR on 30 August, Slovenske Elektrarne will issue five-year bonds with a total value of 1.5 billion koruny in November. The bonds, which are to be administered by the Slovenska Sporitelna bank, will have a fixed interest rate and are designed mainly for Slovak firms. It will be the largest issue of corporate bonds thus far in Slovakia. Slovenske Elektrarne is responsible for the construction of the Mochovce nuclear power plant. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY RESPONDS TO ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S PROPOSAL.
Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Szentivanyi was quoted by Radio Bucharest on 1 September as saying Romanian President Ion Iliescu's call for a "historic reconciliation" between Hungary and Romania (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 August 1995) was received "with great interest" in Budapest. Szentivanyi told the official news agency MTI that Hungary is now waiting for "concrete proposals," which he said will be carefully studied. He commented that only a historic reconciliation can lead to attaining the two countries' common objective of "integration into Euro-Atlantic structures [and] consolidation of stability and security in the region and in Europe." However, he added, any historic reconciliation cannot ignore unresolved issues, including "solving the problems of national minorities in accordance with international norms." -- Michael Shafir

ROMANI FESTIVAL BEGINS IN BUDAPEST.
An international festival of Romani culture officially opened in Budapest on 31 August, international media reported. In a keynote speech, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz emphasized the importance of the Roma's contribution to world heritage. He noted that Roma live in many countries but are without their own country and thus often feel they "do not belong." Goncz noted that the Budapest festival would show that they and their culture are part of the world's heritage. Organizers of the festival, called "Rom Som" (which means both "I am a human being" and "I am a Rom") said the aim was to show the wealth of Romani culture. -- Jiri Pehe

CONFUSION OVER BELARUSIAN DECREES.
ITAR-TASS and Interfax on 31 August reported confusion over whether President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a decree stripping deputies of their immunity, thereby allowing deputy Syarhei Antonchyk and local council deputy and head of the Independent Trade Unions Henadz Bykau to be arrested. Officials at Lukashenka's headquarters say the president never signed such a decree. Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Mechyslau Hryb reportedly met with the president and changed some articles relating to the status of deputies, but not the article dealing with deputies' immunity. Adding to the confusion, Segodnya reported that Lukashenka signed a decree on 31 August that both suspended the activities of the Independent Trade Unions and allowed for the arrest of deputies. -- Ustina Markus

INDIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS.
Belarusian TV on 30 August reported that Salman Khursheed has concluded an official visit to Belarus. Khursheed met with Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, head of the President's Administration Leanid Sinitsyn, and Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Mikhail Marynich. Discussions focused on trade potential and economic ties between the two countries. Belarusian-Indian trade stood at only $8 million in the first half of this year. In an effort to spur trade, it was decided to set up an international committee on trade, economy, and technical cooperation. Marynich said India was interested in Belarusian technology, while Belarus wanted to obtain medicine from India. -- Ustina Markus

MEETING OF BALTIC, NORDIC FOREIGN MINISTERS.
The foreign ministers of the Baltic States and the Nordic Council countries met on 30-31 August in Kolding, Denmark, to discuss cooperation between the two groups, BNS reported. The Nordic ministers welcomed the associate membership agreements of the Baltic States with the EU. The two groups agreed that a future European security structure should be developed in cooperation with Russia. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs signed a free trade agreement with Iceland, an accord with Denmark on mutual assistance in customs, and a protocol with Sweden on the establishment of an economic committee. -- Saulius Girnius

ESTONIA, POLAND SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
Defense ministers Andrus Oovel and Zbigniew Okonski signed a bilateral agreement on defense cooperation on 31 August in Tallinn, BNS reported. The ministries will join forces to work out defense concepts, build up defense structures, and eliminate environmental damage at former Russian military bases. Poland will also train Estonian officers. In a surprise remark after the signing, Oovel said that Estonia would support Poland's becoming the first former Warsaw Pact country to join NATO. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EU ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT.
The Saeima on 31 August ratified the associate membership agreement with the European Union, BNS reported. The agreement, signed on 12 June, still has to be ratified by the parliaments of the 16 EU countries. -- Saulius Girnius



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 171, 1 September 1995
OPERATION DELIBERATE FORCE SWINGS INTO THIRD DAY.
International media on 1 September reported that the UN and NATO attacks on Bosnian Serb positions are continuing. Planes have completed more than 500 sorties, and artillery on Mt. Igman blasted Serbian guns and other targets. Bad weather caused a temporary let-up in operations the previous day. A NATO spokeswoman in Naples told reporters that the operation is nonetheless taking place in stages and that "things are going on" even if this is not readily apparent. The Serbs claimed that their "capital" in the ski resort of Pale was being hit as well, and reporters there said a loud boom caused windows to rattle. UN spokesmen said press reports that UN commander General Bernard Janvier would meet with the Serbs' General Ratko Mladic were "premature." -- Patrick Moore

CLINTON BLASTS SERBIAN "SAVAGERY."
U.S. President Bill Clinton told reporters in Hawaii that Operation Deliberate Force is "the right response to savagery." He said that the Serbs have "everything to lose and nothing to gain" by continuing the war and that "NATO is delivering that message loud and clear." International media on 1 September also noted that NATO spokesmen stressed that the attacks will continue until the Serbs end their stranglehold on Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Gorazde. NATO efforts continue to be popular in Sarajevo, where one policeman told Reuters that the alliance should "bomb them and bomb them some more until these Chetnik [Serbian] bastards beg for the mercy they never showed anybody in this war." -- Patrick Moore

KARADZIC CALLS RAIDS UNNECESSARY . . .
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that military action against his side is unwarranted because the Serbs have signed on to the peace process. AFP on 1 September reported that he wrote UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi that the attacks' purpose is "to weaken our power and our negotiating position." Karadzic added that further raids "would accelerate preparations for a long conflict that the international community would not be able to win." The internationally wanted war criminal concluded that "if NATO continues its attacks, that means it wants to put an end to the peace process." -- Patrick Moore

. . . WHILE MLADIC URGES RESISTANCE.
General Mladic took a different tone from that of his civilian rival, Nasa Borba reported on 1 September. He called on both the army and the general population to resist the attacks. Novi list said that the Serbs fired rockets at the besieged town of Gradacac and other areas of northern Bosnia. The Serbs claimed to have captured the two French pilots shot down on 30 August, but it appears that the men are at large and hiding on Bosnian Serb territory. The BBC said that they had sent radio signals to that effect. Meanwhile, the five EU monitors that the Serbs originally reported as dead were taken to Visegrad, once a mainly Muslim town on the Drina that was the site of some of the first massacres and "ethnic cleansing" in 1992. After some hesitation, the Serbs released them to go to Zagreb, Reuters reported. In Pale, there was great anger over the air attacks among Bosnian Serb military personnel and civilians, while some "spoke about taking revenge on any foreigners they could get their hands on." -- Patrick Moore

HOLBROOKE PRAISES BELGRADE-PALE AGREEMENT . . .
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, before leaving Belgrade for Zagreb on 31 August, said that "serious substantive negotiations" could begin after Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs formed a joint negotiating team, Reuters reported on 31 August. Holbrooke is quoted as saying: "We consider President Milosevic's announcement that he can now negotiate for the Bosnian Serbs something of a procedural breakthrough." Milosevic announced that the Bosnian Serbs will give him a veto over the terms of a peace deal. -- Fabian Schmidt

...WHILE NEGOTIATIONS MAY END IN DEADLOCK.
Milosevic, however, is reported to have guaranteed the Bosnian Serbs that he will achieve certain "minimums," such as the division of Sarajevo, the widening of the Brcko corridor, and the delineation of a "compact territory" that would include the handing over of Gorazde to the Serbs. The Bosnian government and Croats would doubtless reject such proposals. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel met with Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic in Bonn and encouraged him not to accept any solution violating the territorial integrity of Bosnia. French President Jacques Chirac also insisted Bosnia should retain its integrity as a state, adding that "any other solution would be an insult to our values and to the future." -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN REACTION TO NATO AIR STRIKES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS.
Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu told a press conference on 31 August that the NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs were a "natural consequence" of the determination to "take all necessary measures for implementing the Security Council decisions about the protection of civilians," Radio Bucharest reported the same day. Chebeleu added that political decision-makers should not, however, become "entangled in the logic of force, which can by no means lead to a solution." Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana the previous day called the shelling of Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs a "criminal act." -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VAN DER STOEL.
OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 31 August met with President Ion Iliescu, Radio Bucharest reported. Van der Stoel praised Iliescu's appeal the previous day for a historic reconciliation with Hungary, saying he hoped it will have positive echoes in both Hungary and the EU. Van der Stoel also met with leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). UDMR chairman Marko Bela told Romanian TV that President Iliescu's appeal is "an important declaration of intention, but one that flagrantly contradicts reality." -- Michael Shafir

SNEGUR WANTS PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM.
President Mircea Snegur, speaking as chairman of the new Party of Revival and Conciliation of Moldova (PRAM), on 30 August denied accusations by his political adversaries that he has already launched his campaign for the elections due in December 1996. Infotag reported Snegur as saying his party proposes to replace the present parliamentary system with a presidential one because the existing system has led to "nothing but endless debates." He added that the changeover should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. Snegur also commented that the proposal should not be seen as an attempt to set up a "presidential dictatorship" but as advancing the idea of a presidential republic where "all democratic norms are duly observed" but problems "are solved much faster and efficiently." His party also wants to replace the present single-chamber parliament with a bicameral one. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA MARKS ROMANIAN LANGUAGE DAY.
Moldova on 31 August marked the "Day of Our Romanian Language," an official national holiday. Government officials and President Mircea Snegur participated in ceremonies near the burial sites of individuals linked to the struggle for cultural rights of Romanian-language poets and writers as well as Romanians in general. -- Michael Shafir

ELECTRICITY HIKES IN BULGARIA.
Electricity for private households increased by 25% and for industry by 38% on 1 September, Kontinent reported the same day. Prices for central heating, warm water, and coal remain the same for households and have increased by 20% for industry. Pensioners will receive monthly compensation of 140 leva ($2.10), far less than originally announced by the government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 August 1995). Compensation for the hikes is estimated to cost the state about 600 million leva ($8.84 million) per month. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GREECE.
Alfred Serreqi arrived in Athens on 31 August for a two-day official visit aimed at improving Albanian Greek ties, Reuters reported the same day. He met with his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, before official talks began. Greek Foreign Ministry officials said the talks will focus on the status of Albania's ethnic Greek community and the estimated 300,000 Albanians living and working illegally in Greece. Greece has linked the question of legalizing an unspecified number of Albanian seasonal workers to establishing more Greek minority schools in Albania. Athens also wants the return of property seized by the former communist regime from the Albanian Orthodox Church and the lifting of visa requirements for Greek citizens traveling to Albania. Serreqi rejected the establishment of independent Greek schools in Albania and walked out of a meeting on 1 September, Greek officials were quoted as saying. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave





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