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Newsline - September 15, 1995


YABLOKO, RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE TO COOPERATE.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii announced that his party plans to coordinate its candidates in the single-member district races with Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice. Yavlinskii's announcement is a major change in his election tactics, since in recent months he has spurned numerous offers of cooperation with Gaidar. Yavlinskii said that he regards the Communist Party as his main opponent, NTV reported on 14 September. * Robert Orttung

AGRARIAN PARTY TO LAUNCH POLL ON PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP.
Reacting to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent proposal to hold a referendum on private land ownership,(see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 September 1995) Agrarian Party Chairman Mikhail Lapshin told press agencies on 14 September that his party would launch a public campaign and straw poll with the intention of showing that the Russian public opposes private land ownership. In this way, they intend to upstage Chernomyrdin's proposed referendum. * Thomas Sigel

YELTSIN NAMES HEAD OF NEW ANTI-TERRORISM CENTER.
President Boris Yeltsin on 14 September appointed Col. Gen. Viktor Zorin, first deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), to head a new anti-terrorism center under the auspices of the FSB. The center was created last week in response to concern over terrorism in the wake of the Budennovsk hostage crisis. It will increase the influence of the FSB at the expense of the Interior Ministry, which previously shared responsibility for fighting terrorism. Before being appointed to the position of FSB first deputy director six weeks ago, Zorin was responsible for counter-intelligence operations in the security service. Yeltsin also ordered the establishment of eight deputy directorships in the FSB and said there should be no more than 1,520 central administrative personnel, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the 1995 budget, the FSB employs 76,900 people. * Penny Morvant

NEW LOCAL ELECTIONS CREATE LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS.
The law on local government signed by President Yeltsin on 28 August, that requires all Russia's cities and villages to hold elections by 1 March 1996 is creating a number of difficulties, according to Deputy Minister of Nationalities and Regional Policy Aleksandr Kotenkov. Among the first priorities is the need to adopt or rewrite laws on local government in Russia's 89 republics and regions, affirm municipal boundaries, and adopt a law on local elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Additionally, each municipality must adopt a charter defining the structure of the local government. Kotenkov said the ministry had prepared documents that could be used as models in carrying out these tasks. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak have criticized the law in recent statements, saying it damages Russian federalism. Sobchak, in particular, warned that the law would revive local councils that would fall under Communist control. * Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT PROMISES JOURNALISTS FINANCIAL HELP.
Appearing at the fifth congress of the Union of Journalists in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko announced that the government will soon transfer the first 1 billion rubles ($225,000)
to a special insurance fund for journalists, Ekho Moskvy reported on 14 September. The government also plans to use the proceeds of a lottery to be introduced in 1996 for supporting the media, according to Russian Public Television. However, in his address to the congress, Union of Journalists secretary Pavel Gutiontov blamed the president and Federation Council for blocking legislation which he said would have improved the financial condition of the press this year. * Laura Belin

PROCURATOR OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF DUMA BRAWL.
The Procurator General's Office opened a criminal investigation of the 9 September brawl in the State Duma under article 206 of the Criminal Code ("malicious hooliganism"), Russian media reported on 14 September. The brawl started when National-Republican Party of Russia leader Nikolai Lysenko attacked defrocked priest Gleb Yakunin, ripping a 19th-century silver cross from his neck; it escalated when Liberal-Democratic Party Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky grabbed deputy Yevgeniya Tishkovskaya, who tried to help Yakunin, by the hair. Zhirinovsky remains unrepentant about the fistfight, and Lysenko has refused to return the cross to Yakunin, whom he called a "provocateur." * Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS SHAKHRAI'S PROPOSAL TO LIMIT FOREIGN FILMS.
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin dismissed as "lacking great wisdom" Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai's proposal to limit foreign programs on state-controlled television, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Shakhrai advocated forcing Russian Public Television (Channel 1) and Russian Television (Channel 2) to reserve 71% of air time for Russian-produced programs, but Chernomyrdin countered that such limits would only increase the popularity of foreign films. Shakhrai, who leads the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), recently deserted Chernomyrdin's electoral bloc Our Home Is Russia. * Laura Belin

KOZYREV, TALBOTT DISCUSS BOSNIA.
In an attempt to ease the rift between the West and Russia over the former Yugoslavia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott held three hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev in Moscow on 14 September, Western and Russian agencies reported. The BBC reported that Russian troops might be sent to Sarajevo to reassure the Serbs, as part of a recently brokered deal which led to the suspension of NATO air strikes. President Yeltsin on 14 September vetoed two bills passed by the Duma at its 12 August special session, one calling for Russia to withdraw from international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia and the other imposing a trade embargo against Croatia. Yeltsin told Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin that the bills violated international norms. * Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES AUSTRALIA.
Speaking to the Australian Institute of International Affairs on 14 September, Russian Ambassador to Australia Aleksandr Losyukov accused the country of blocking Russian membership in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC), Western agencies reported. Losyukov said that Russia interpreted Australian opposition to Russian membership as "not just an insult to our pride but also as a desire to undermine our legitimate commercial interests." A spokesman for the Australian government later said APEC has imposed a moratorium on accepting new members, although criteria for new admissions will be discussed at the group's November meeting. He added that Vietnam, not Russia, should be the next country accepted into APEC. * Scott Parrish

ISRAEL FAILS TO BUDGE RUSSIA ON IRAN REACTOR.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin met with Russian officials on 14 September but failed to persuade them to abandon the controversial Iranian reactor deal, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev suggested that if Israel is concerned at the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it should reverse its own long-standing refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rabin also discussed bilateral trade with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, including new joint projects in water purification and construction. Russian-Israeli trade totaled $360 million last year and is expected to exceed $400 million in 1995. * Scott Parrish

RUSSIA CLOSES BORDER WITH NORTH KOREA.
In response to an outbreak of typhoid caused by recent flooding, Russia has closed its border with North Korea where an epidemic of the disease has infected several thousand people, Interfax reported on 14 September. Diplomats at the North Korean consulate in Vladivostok have refused to confirm the outbreak, but Russian authorities in Primorsk Krai are taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease and recently sent 50 North Korean loggers who crossed the border before its closing back home because medical examinations indicated they were infected. The border closing comes on the heels of Russia's announcement that it will not renew its 1961 treaty of friendship and cooperation with North Korea. * Scott Parrish

NUCLEAR-POWERED CRUISER TO BE TESTED.
The Peter the Great, the fourth and last of the nuclear-powered Kirov-class cruisers, is being prepared for its builders trials, the Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 14 September. Laid down in 1986 as the Yurii Andropov, the Peter the Great was launched in 1989 but has been lying unfinished in its St. Petersburg shipyard ever since. * Doug Clarke

SOBCHAK CALLS FOR CHANGES IN DEFENSE MINISTRY.
Budget money for armaments will not get to defense complex enterprises "unless the Defense Ministry leadership is changed," according to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. He said the money would "vanish somewhere along the route," Interfax reported on 13 September. Sources in the ministry rebutted his remarks by alleging that only 31% of the budgetary funds allocated for the purchase of arms and military equipment between January and August of this year have been provided to the ministry. * Doug Clarke

IMF APPROVES ECONOMIC POLICIES.
The IMF approved Russia's economic policies on 14 September and authorized the release of another $525 million credit to the country, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The loan is an installment of the $6.3 billion credit approved by the IMF in February, which is to be dispersed only if Russia is able to meet the IMF's stringent economic conditions. So far, reports indicate that Russia is on track as monthly inflation fell to 4.6% in August, the lowest rate since the country began its economic reform program in 1992. The budget deficit is equal to 3.2% of GDP for the first half of the year. This is below the IMF target--but this figure may not include a considerable amount of off-budget spending. * Thomas Sigel

GOVERNMENT ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF ISSUING FALSE ECONOMIC DATA.
The Working Center of Economic Reforms, a government sponsored research institute, issued a statement on 14 September accusing government opponents of presenting false data on the state of the Russian economy in an attempt to boost their electoral chances. According to the statement, reported by ITAR-TASS on 14 September, critics report that industrial production fell by 7-8% in July-August whereas official statistics recorded a rise of 2% in July over the previous month and 1% in August. In comparison with August 1994, industrial production this August was up 0.1%, the statement added. The statement also refuted charges that the crisis on the interbank credit market was provoked by nonpayment from the federal budget. * Penny Morvant

NEW CHILD BENEFIT SYSTEM GOES INTO EFFECT.
A new system for paying child benefits in which mothers will receive five types of benefits instead of two came into force on 4 September, Social Security Ministry department head Galina Ogurtsova told ITAR-TASS on 12 September. The five are: a onetime payment for future mothers; a pregnancy allowance; a onetime payment on the birth of the child; monthly benefits until the child is 18 months old; and monthly benefits for children up to the age of 16. On 24 May 1996, the onetime payment at birth will be increased from five to 10 times the minimum wage. The benefit for children up to 16 will equal 70% of the minimum wage, currently set at 55,000 rubles ($12) a month. Child benefits for some categories of single parents will also be increased by 50%. * Penny Morvant



UN CONFERENCE ON REGIONAL SECURITY OPENS IN TASHKENT.
A UN-sponsored conference on the conflicts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan began on 15 September in Tashkent, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. The foreign ministers of the Central Asian states, as well as representatives of international organizations, including the UN and CIS, are in attendance. Mehmoud Mestiri and Khalid Malik, the UN secretary general's special envoys to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, are expected to address the conference. According to the report, Uzbek President Islam Karimov came up with the idea of holding the conference as early as 1993 when he discussed the matter at the 48th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. * Roger Kangas

CIS


KYRGYZSTAN SET TO JOIN CUSTOMS UNION.
Representatives from Kyrgyzstan are set to sign documents to gain admission into an existing customs union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Entry into the union is expected to be a boost for the Kyrgyz economy, which is experiencing severe difficulties. When Kyrgyzstan joins the customs union, tariffs on imports from and exports to other member states will be phased out, and such goods will not be subject to inspection. * Bruce Pannier

RUSSIA PROPOSES TAKE-OVER OF SEVERAL KAZAKH ENTERPRISES.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has proposed that Kazakhstan hand over the management of several of its enterprises to Russia in a bid to ease Almaty's debt repayments to Moscow, Interfax reported on 13 September. Soskovets said Russia is mainly interested in acquiring manganese ore and zinc enterprises. Documents on the creation of a series of joint financial-industrial groups, which Soskovets described as "one of the most promising fields of bilateral cooperation," are currently being prepared, Interfax reported. Late in August, Kazakhstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin proposed a similar scheme, Interfax reported. * Bhavna Dave




UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN BALLOON DOWNING.
International agencies on 14 September reported that Maj.-Gen. Valerii Kastenka, commander of the Belarusian air defense forces, was responsible for ordering the shooting down of a hot air balloon that flew into Belarusian air space while competing in an international race (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 September 1995). The central command of the Belarusian air defense forces said it had received no information on balloons entering Belarusian territory. Belarusian authorities claim they attempted to establish radio contact with the balloon but got no response. A combat helicopter was sent to intercept it, and the pilots apparently did not see anyone in the balloon even after firing warning shots. Deputy Foreign Minister Valeryi Tsyapkala admitted that Belarus was guilty to a certain extent and said an investigation would be launched. Two other balloons responded to radio contact and were forced to land. Belarusian officials complained that the balloon pilots did not have visas, and the crew of one balloon went to Poland the following day with the proper documentation. Some U.S. officials have expressed outrage over the incident, and the American embassy in Minsk expressed concern that it was not informed of the event until 24 hours later. * Ustina Markus

HEAD OF BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK FIRED.
International agencies on 15 September reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepted the resignation of Stanislau Bahdankevich, head of the National Bank of Belarus. Bahdankevich was reportedly advised to resign by a senior member of Lukashenka's administration last week. A special commission is to be established to monitor the bank, and Bahdankevich's deputy, Mykola Kuzmich, will act as head. Bahdankevich opposed many of Lukashenka's policies, including monetary union and the merger of a state bank with a commercial one, which, he said, was meant to enhance the president's control over the economy. * Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko on 14 September signed an individual cooperation program for Ukraine with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program, Ukrainian Radio reported. The agreement states that any expansion of NATO must be aimed at enhancing European security. After signing the agreement with NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes in Brussels, Udovenko said Ukraine is convinced that its participation in the cooperation program will be instrumental in developing relations between Kiev and NATO countries. Ukraine is the second country--after Russia--out of the 26 participating in the Partnership for Peace program to have an individual "16 plus one" program . * Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC NEWS.
President Leonid Kuchma, speaking to a meeting of leading Ukrainian economists, predicted that Ukraine's economy will recover from its crisis in one to two years, Ukrainian TV reported on 14 September. He said the country cannot simply copy Western economic models but should come up with a blueprint in which the government continues to play a major role in the economy. Kuchma added that the state sector's share of production has fallen to 60% and that the government plans to reduce the number of state-owned enterprises to between 15% and 25%. Kuchma said it will be difficult to keep its promises to the IMF to cut monthly inflation to 1-2% by December and halt the decline in industrial and agricultural production at the same time. Meanwhile, the parliament voted the same day to approve a new law on financial-industrial groups, chiefly aimed at encouraging Russian investment in Ukrainian industry to save ailing Ukrainian enterprises, Radio Ukraine reported. * Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE TO SELL TWO SPACE-MONITORING SHIPS.
Ukraine will be forced to sell two of the former Soviet Union's largest space monitoring ships because it cannot afford to maintain them, Gen. Valery Litvinov, chief of the agency for missile-space armaments in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, told ITAR-TASS on 14 September. One of these ships is Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the world's largest ship fitted for scientific activities; the other is Academician Sergei Koroleva, a similar ship bristling with electronic tracking and communications equipment. Ukraine inherited the two ships, formerly used to monitor and control Soviet space flights, because they happened to be registered in the Ukrainian port. While Litvinov would not name the country that wants to buy them, the press has speculated that it is China. He said Ukraine may need them itself in five years but cannot afford the money needed to repair and maintain them. * Doug Clarke

ESTONIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER TO FACE NO CONFIDENCE VOTE?
Estonia media on 14 September reported that opposition deputy Tunne Kelam submitted a no confidence bill against Minister of Economy Liina Tonisson. The bill was backed by 22 deputies from the opposition. According to Kelam, there are serious questions about privatization and the country's national interests. Privatization has reportedly slowed in Estonia, and there have been a number of scandals connected with the process. * Ustina Markus

POLISH COMMISSION RULES CONCORDAT DOES NOT VIOLATE CONSTITUTION.
The Parliament Commission on the Concordat, headed by Democratic Left Alliance deputy Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, decided on 14 September that the concordat--signed by Poland and the Holy See on 28 July 1993 and not ratified yet--does not violate existing Polish "constitutional laws." The commission, created in July 1994, has also been empowered to decide whether the Concordat violates the Polish constitution that is currently being drafted, Polish media reported on 15 September. * Jakub Karpinski

POLISH PRESS ON RUSSIAN COMECON MEMORANDUM.
Polish dailies on 15 September reported that a memorandum on economic cooperation was sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the Moscow embassies of the former COMECON countries. The memorandum proposes cooperation between the CIS countries and former COMECON countries, thus excluding the Baltic States. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that it was impossible to find out who was responsible for sending the memorandum. It also comments that Moscow wants to see if there is support for COMECON's reconstruction. * Jakub Karpinski

CZECH COALITION PARTIES AGREE ON CREATION OF SENATE.
Leaders of the four parties in the Czech governing coalition on 14 September finally agreed on how to create a second parliamentary chamber, Czech media reported. The issue has divided the parties for almost 18 months, but now a proposal from the dominant Civic Democratic Party (ODS) to elect one senator in each of the 81 constituencies has been accepted. If the parliament approves the plan, senatorial elections could be held jointly with the parliamentary elections due next June. The coalition leaders also accepted ODS proposals on other issues to be tackled before the elections but remained divided on some important points such as Church restitution and the creation of new administrative regions. The latter, like the creation of the Senate, is stipulated in the 1992 constitution but has yet to be implemented. * Steve Kettle

AUSTRIAN COURT REFUSES BAIL TO SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON.
An Austrian judge on 14 September refused to release Michal Kovac Jr. on bail two weeks after he was kidnapped, dumped in Austria, and arrested on fraud charges, international media reported. A Munich prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant for Kovac Jr. in November for an alleged $2.3 million fraud, and Germany has asked Austria for his extradition. It is widely suspected in Slovakia that the abduction of the president's son was politically motivated, as Kovac Sr. has been involved in a long-running dispute with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. President Kovac, in an interview with Narodna obroda on 14 September, said he would not resign over the matter and would be willing to leave office only if he were "deeply convinced that it would help Slovakia, democracy, truth, and justice." * Sharon Fisher

DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA.
Joris Voorhoeve on 14 September ended a two-day visit to Slovakia at the invitation of his Slovak counterpart, Jan Sitek. The two discussed issues related to European security and NATO membership and signed an agreement calling for increased military cooperation, Narodna obroda and TASR reported the same day. * Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY FEELS INCREASINGLY ENDANGERED BY BOSNIAN CONFLICT.
The possibility of a military conflict involving Hungary has slightly increased because the situation in the former Yugoslavia is still full of question marks, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said to Hungarian newspapers on 14 September. He noted that while the chances of settling the neighboring conflict have improved, Hungary "is more endangered than before." Since the Croatian occupation of Krajina, tension has increased along Hungary's borders, with the recent flood of Krajina refugees upsetting the delicate balance of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina. * Zsofia Szilagyi



NATO SUSPENDS AIR STRIKES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS...
The UN and NATO on 14 September agreed to halt air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs following meetings between US envoy and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, international media reported. Also on 14 September, Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic and his civilian counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, agreed in Belgrade to the weapons withdrawal around Sarajevo. Milosevic has pledged to exercise his influence over the Bosnian Serb leadership in a bid to have them keep their word, but the extent of his influence is unclear. According to a UN statement, air strikes may resume after a 72-hour period should the Bosnian Serbs fail to comply with their pledge to withdraw heavy artillery around the capital of Sarajevo to outside the 20-km exclusion zone or should Bosnian Serb forces attack safe areas. Karadzic on 15 September vowed the withdrawal would be carried out. Meanwhile, international media have speculated that the Rapid Reaction Force around Sarajevo may soon be replaced by Italian and Russian troops. * Stan Markotich

...WHILE BOSNIAN CROAT TROOPS ADVANCE.
Reuters on 15 September quotes Bosnian government radio as reporting that the Bosnian army's fifth corps from Bihac captured the northwestern town of Bosanski Petrovac from Bosnian Serb forces earlier the same day. Only hours earlier government troops entered the nearby town of Kulen Vakuf. The offensive has forced Serbian soldiers and civilians northward toward Banja Luka. UN officials said they could not determine whether the Serbs were carrying out a tactical retreat or had been routed. There were few signs of any organized resistance around recently capture Jajce. Bosnian Radio claims that many Serbian soldiers were captured in Bosanski Petrovac. NATO Secretary General Willy Claes and his UN counterpart, Boutros Boutros Ghali, called on "all the parties to cease immediately all offensive military activities and hostile acts." They said they were also "disturbed by reports of the exodus of large numbers of civilians from the affected areas." * Fabian Schmidt

OTHER BOSNIAN NEWS.
Reuters on 14 September says a taped telephone call between the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and an army officer at the Lukavica barracks proves they tried to dupe the world into thinking they were pulling their heavy weapons back from Sarajevo earlier this month. Karadzic is quoted as telling the officer: "You have to prepare something to start moving towards Trnovo in order for the cameras to record it and send it to the world even if it means returning it during the night." Meanwhile, a doctor in Doboj is quoted as saying that "145 [people have been] wounded [and] some 27 to 30 civilians have been killed" since NATO air raids began on areas of eastern and northern Bosnia. It remains unclear whether some of those were casualties of the shelling of Doboj by government forces. Meanwhile the ICRC published a report saying that about 8,000 Muslims from Srebrenica are still missing and cannot be accounted for, international agencies reported. * Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO BREAK HUNGARIAN IMPASSE.
Ion Iliescu told a Reuters correspondent on 14 September that he wanted to take the lead with a "definitive step" toward rapprochement with Hungary. He added that Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn was receptive but gave no details. Iliescu was speaking before a meeting with leaders of all parliamentary parties that was aimed at enlisting support for his ideas. Romanian TV reported that Iliescu presented three sets of documents about to be sent to Budapest, one of which was a "code of conduct" for dealing with the problem of national minorities. Iliescu last month called for a "historic reconciliation" between Romania and Hungary. * Michael Shafir

VOIGT WARNS ROMANIANS AGAINST EXTREMISM.
North Atlantic Assembly President Karsten Voigt told Radio Bucharest that Bucharest's chances for NATO entry depended, among other things, on improving the country's image abroad. Following a meeting with Ion Iliescu, Voigt said he told the president that "if in the German parliament we had a group calling itself Greater Germany, discontent and restlessness would be evident in many countries.... [If] I were to learn that a group calling itself Greater Romania is not only in the parliament but is also a member of the government coalition, it would take a lot of explaining to convince me that this does not mean the modification of borders." Meanwhile, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party, wrote in the party's weekly Politica that he would now wage "total war" against director of the Romanian Information Service Virgil Magureanu. His declaration follows the publication of documents released by the RIS showing that Tudor was an informer of the Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu's secret police. * Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN PENAL CODE WOULD RESTRICT PRESS FREEDOM.
The Chamber of Deputies on 14 September approved an article in the Penal Code that would send journalists to jail for up to two years for offending a person's honor or reputation, Radio Bucharest reported. A similar version of the article was approved earlier this year by the Senate. Journalists and some opposition members protested the new article, saying its wording was vague and could be used to clamp down on reporters who criticized the government. Following debates in the Chamber of Deputies, President Ion Iliescu has to promulgate the text agreed on by the two chambers after mediation. * Michael Shafir

SNEGUR ON NEGOTIATIONS WITH TIRASPOL.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur has told Dmitrii Ryurikov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, that Moldova is ready to consider new proposals for solving the dispute with the breakaway republic of Transdniester in order to continue dialogue and prevent a new outbreak of the armed conflict. Infotag on 14 September reported that Moldovan officials expressed "concern" to Ryurikov about information published in the media on the delivery to the Tiraspol authorities of combat machinery and other military equipment by the Russian contingent. Chisinau also expressed discontent about the participation of Russian troops in the recent celebrations of Transdniester's "independence day." * Michael Shafir

BULGARIA NOT INVOLVED IN ATTEMPT TO KILL POPE?
Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, has said that Bulgaria was not involved in the plot, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 13 September, citing BTA reports from the previous day. Agca told Italian judges and his lawyer that "the Bulgarian connection was completely fabricated." According to 24 chasa, Agca said the CIA urged him to speak about a Bulgarian involvement. Standart claims that a KGB agent was involved in the attempt. Former BTA Director Boyan Traykov, in an article in Trud on 15 September, said Bulgarian officials now have to seek Bulgaria's total rehabilitation. Demokratsiya, however, noted that Agca was branded a liar, lunatic, and terrorist by people in Bulgaria who now say he is a credible witness in an attempt to whitewash over the affair. * Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN MUSLIMS STAGE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTEST.
Several hundred Muslims demonstrated in Sofia on 14 September against what they described as government interference in their religious affairs, Reuters reported the same day. They accused the government of trying to "control [their] fate...by administrative decree" and demanded the resignation of Hristo Matanov, director of the government's Religions Directorate. The demonstration was headed by Fikri Salih, who was elected chief mufti by part of the Bulgarian Muslim community. His followers have protested government backing for his rival, Nedim Gendzhev, who was chief Mufti before 1989 and whose reelection to this post in 1994 is not recognized by Salih followers. A statement issued by them said Gendzhev has "nothing to do with religion" and "continues to promote atheism among the Muslims." Matanov refused to resign, saying the Supreme Court backed the cabinet's decision to appoint Gendzhev as chief mufti. * Stefan Krause

MIXED REACTIONS TO GREEK-MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT.
The signing on 13 September of the Greek-Macedonian agreement met with mixed reactions in both countries, AFP reported the following day. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos called the agreement a "historic step," noting that Greek arguments were "accepted in their entirety." Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said the accord may be "a decisive event for the future of the Balkans" and praised Greece's "realistic attitude." The Greek press assessment of the accord ranged from "historic" to "betrayal" and "shameful," while opposition leader Miltiadis Evert said the agreement was unacceptable. Some 4,000 opposition supporters rallied in Skopje to protest the agreement, calling it "contrary to the...interests of...Macedonia." Opposition parties said it was a "shameful document [that harms] Macedonia's national dignity." * Stefan Krause





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