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Newsline - October 5, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No.194, 5 October 1995


TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA


SOUTH OSSETIAN PRIME MINISTER ESCAPES BOMB ATTACK.
The prime minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia, Vladislav Gabaraev, and his family escaped uninjured when an explosive device severely damaged their home in Tskhinvali during the evening of 4 October, Interfax reported. Local police suspect that former South Ossetian officials involved in the misappropriation of humanitarian aid to the breakaway region were responsible. -- Liz Fuller

SHIFTING SANDS ENCOURAGES IPC TO LEAVE TURKMENISTAN.
The International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) of Canada has withdrawn from the LARMAG-Chelekan joint venture, thereby ending its involvement in Turkmenistan, AFP reported on 3 October. In compensation for its shareholdings, accrued interest, and costs, IPC received $13.2 million from two key participants in the venture, LARMAG Energy NV and LARMAG Energy Assets Ltd. In mid-September, IPC requested repayment from LARMAG because the Turkmen government refused to approve the assignment of an interest in the joint venture; IPC also claimed the government refused to renew the joint venture's license to export oil and was seeking to renegotiate the financial terms of the joint venture. -- Lowell Bezanis

KAZAKHSTAN DEFENDS NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL RECORD.
Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kassymjomart Tokaev denied rumors that materials dismantled from nuclear weapons are being smuggled abroad, Reuters reported on 4 October. Tokaev was on a visit to the U.S. where he signed an agreement to seal the Degelen Mountain nuclear weapons test tunnel complex located in Semipalatinsk. He said that "de facto Kazakhstan is a non-nuclear state" as it has rid itself of all nuclear weapons formerly on its territory and exploded its last silo structure in September. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTANI PROPOSAL OVER CASPIAN SEA DIVISION.
In the interview with the Petroleum Information Agency (PIA) on 4 October, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev reiterated his country's position that the Caspian Sea should be divided into well-demarcated sovereign territorial water zones. Speaking at the international conference "Oil and Gas `95" in Almaty, Kazakhstani Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov proposed that all five littoral states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran) should have their own 12-mile wide territorial zones and exclusive rights to use the seabed, its mineral resources, and lay underwater pipelines in national sectors. Kazakhstan opposes the common seabed ownership preferred by Russia. Kazakhstan abides by the 1982 UN Maritime Convention that deep sea water zones be jointly used by all Caspian nations and believes that clearing up the legal status of the sea will bring more foreign investments to the region, Gizzatov said. --
Vyacheslav Kozlov



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No.194, 5 October 1995
UKRAINIAN GAS DEBT.
Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Viktor Halushka has said that Ukraine's debt to Gazprom for this year will reach $1 billion and can be repaid only with credits from international financial institutions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 October. Ukraine's debt to Gazprom stood at $173.9 million at the end of last month. It was reported over that summer that Ukraine was meeting its obligations with the help of international credits, but this latest report means it is once again slipping into debt. In order to forestall any drastic increases in the debt, Ukrhazprom President Mykhailo Matsyalko ordered regional gas distributors not to begin issuing supplies until past debts have been settled. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES OVER BALLOON DEATHS.
ITAR-TASS reported that Alyaksandr Lukashenka appeared on Belarusian Television on 3 October saying "we are very sorry and share the bereavement of the relatives of the American fliers who lost their lives in Belarusian air space." The statement came a day after Lukashenka claimed the military was not responsible for the incident (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 October 1994). Lukashenka also said that while Belarus did not deny responsibility, much of the blame lay with the balloon competition organizers for failing to properly inform Belarusian air control services of the possibility of balloons flying over Belarusian air space. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA'S WAY GAINS ADDITIONAL PARLIAMENT SEAT.
The Central Election Commission told RFE/RL on 4 October that after counting votes from abroad, there has been a slight change in the composition of the Latvian Saeima. Latvia's Way has another seat, raising its total to 18, and thus occupies first place with the Democratic Party Saimnieks. Latvia's Socialist Party lost one seat, reducing its share to five. The same day, the left of center DPS, the National Concord Party, and Latvia's Unity Party agreed to form a coalition (with 32 deputies) and proposed DPS leader Ziedonis Cevers as prime minister, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA WANTS NEW WAR CRIMES TREATY WITH U.S.
A spokesman for Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas said on 4 October that lawyers will travel to the US next month to discuss a new treaty providing for the extradition of war crime suspects, Reuters reported. The matter was prompted by a recent Lithuanian government cable asserting that the 70-year-old extradition treaty with the U.S. is "not legally effective" in the case of 88-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis. Federal prosecutors are attempting to strip Lileikis of U.S. citizenship and deport him to Lithuania to face charges of turning over thousands of Jews to Nazi executioners from 1941-1944 when he was a secret police chief in Vilnius. -- Saulius Girnius

POLAND NO LONGER NEEDS IMF SUPPORT.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, at a press conference on 4 October, said Poland no longer needs financial support from the IMF because its economy is doing well. He said he believed that the budget deficit will not exceed the level for EU member states stipulated by the Maastricht Treaty. Head of IMF Representative Office in Poland Markus Rodlauer says that although the Poland's economy is improving, the chief threat to stabilization is inflation (which increased by 23.8% over the past twelve months) and its large foreign debt. The IMF is willing to help Poland by offering consultations and advise on how to keep down inflation, Polish dailies reported on 5 October. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES CHANGES TO BANKRUPTCY LAW.
The Czech government on 4 October approved changes to the country's bankruptcy law that are intended to speed up liquidation proceedings, Hospodarske noviny reported. Justice Minister Jiri Novak said the present law, adopted in 1993, is too rigid. Under the new proposals, fewer indebted firms will be able to request protection against creditors' demands than at present. In 1993, some 1,100 creditors requested that a firm to be declared bankrupt; in 1,994, the figure was 1800 and up to the end of July this year, 1,350. But the number of companies declared bankrupt, though rising, is small: 60 in 1993, 288 in 1994, and this year 393. Thousands of cases are still being processed by the courts. -- Steve Kettle

REACTIONS TO STATEMENT ON SLOVAK NEUTRALITY.
Miroslav Spejl of the opposition Social Democratic Party, at a press conference on 4 October, reacted to statements by Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota rejecting NATO membership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 October 1995). Spejl said that because "no one knows what will happen to the east of our border or to the south of the Hungarian border," Slovakia has no choice but to look for partners who "would help [the country] to ensure its security." Defense Ministry spokesman Frantisek Kosicky also discounted Slota's statements. "Slovakia does not have historical experiences with neutrality, and the government clearly stated in its program declaration its aim to gain membership in NATO," Kosicky told Pravda. According to Kosicky, NATO is the "most effective existing security organization." Likewise, Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky said "Slovakia's foreign policy orientation toward membership in NATO is unchangeable." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK ECONOMIC UPDATE.
A Statistical Office report published in TASR on 3 October showed that inflation rose 0.5% in August, reaching an annual rate of 9.8%. The unemployment rate was 13.3% at the end of August, and the trade surplus grew to 1.4 billion koruny. The state budget deficit was 943 million koruny. In other news, according to Sme on 3 October, 31,743 of the approximately 3.5 million Slovaks who registered to participate in the second wave of coupon privatization asked for a refund by the 30 September deadline. The coupon program, which had been organized by the previous government, was canceled by the parliament in September. The new program involves bonds that will be redeemable in five years. Meanwhile, Slovak arms producers on 4 October held their first meeting under the new entity Holding, which was established to help rejuvenate the industry. Former Finance Minister Julius Toth was elected president of Holding's board of directors, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY TO SUPPORT ROMANIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti, at a joint news conference with his visiting Romanian counterpart, Gheorghe Tinca, said Hungary will support Romania's membership in NATO if Romania meets NATO conditions, including the settlement of minority issues, Hungarian and international media reported on 5 October. President Arpad Goncz said it was in Hungary's interests that Romania joins the EU and that both countries join at the same "historical moment," Magyar Nemzet reported. The defense ministers two days previously signed a joint statement on progress achieved to date in East European military cooperation and agreed to further strengthen their military ties, which they hope will contribute to consolidating relations between the two countries. A key treaty between Budapest and Bucharest has been delayed due to differences over the minority rights of the more than 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. -- Zsofia Szilagyi and Matyas Szabo

HUNGARIAN STUDENTS PROTEST OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT.
An estimated 10,000 university students on 4 October took part in an all-night vigil outside the parliament building to protest the introduction of additional tuition fees, Hungarian newspapers reported the next day. The students originally demanded that the new monthly 2,000 forint ($15) tuition fees be postponed for one year, but following talks with the education authorities, they withdrew that demand. At the same time, they remain firmly opposed to any additional tuition fees. According to a ministry decree, institutions of higher education can charge up to 8,000 forint ($60) a month. When the government announced the fees in March as part of a controversial austerity package, officials said the country could no longer afford free higher education. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No.194, 5 October 1995
UPDATE ON MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT'S CONDITION.
Two days after the attempt on his life, Kiro Gligorov is still in a serious and "delicate" condition, according to international agencies. An official statement says his situation is stable but he remains in intensive care following a six-hour operation in which shrapnel and two blood clots were removed from his brain. According to unconfirmed reports, Gligorov lost his right eye. Macedonian Radio on 4 October said surgeons were fighting to save his sight. Western diplomats were cited as saying they do not expect Gligorov to return to office even if he recovers. Meanwhile, about 150 people have been questioned in connection with the assassination attempt and some detained, AFP reported. There is speculation that extreme Macedonian nationalists may have planted the bomb to protest the Greek-Macedonian accord, which provides for a change of the Macedonian flag and parts of the constitution. -- Stefan Krause

ACTING MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT NAMED.
Parliamentary chairman Stojan Andov--who is also head of the Liberal Party, the second largest force in the governing coalition--was named acting president of Macedonia on 4 October, Flaka reported the following day. According to the Macedonian Constitution, the parliamentary chairman takes over as acting president if the elected president dies, resigns, or is incapacitated. The constitution also stipulates that presidential elections must take place within 40 days if the elected president's mandate is terminated for whatever reason. The New York Times on 5 October cited U.S. diplomat Victor Comas as saying Andov is pro-Western and committed to a market economy. The same report, however, quotes unnamed diplomats and Macedonian sources as saying that Andov lacks Gligorov's "political wisdom, flexibility, and popularity." -- Stefan Krause

MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS PLEDGE CONTINUITY.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski on 4 October said the attempt on Gligorov will not mean a change in Macedonian politics, AFP reported the same day. Crvenkovski, addressing the UN General Assembly, called the attempt a "deliberate political act" aimed at destabilizing the country. He said it would not "under any circumstances force us to change our course" of democratization and good relations with all neighbors. Meanwhile, the first round of direct Greek-Macedonian talks ended in Athens on 4 October without concrete results but in a "constructive atmosphere," according to both sides. Talks will resume in Skopje on 10 October. -- Stefan Krause

NATO JETS HIT SERBIAN MISSILE SITES.
International media reported on 4 October that NATO jets hit Bosnian Serb radar and SAM sites in southern and central Bosnia in the first such action since air strikes were suspended on 20 September. The pilots found that the Serbs had locked onto them while the jets were on a routine patrol to enforce the "no-fly zone." Nikola Koljevic, the Bosnian Serb "vice president," told Reuters that the attacks were "a definite step back in the peace process." Meanwhile on the diplomatic front, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said he had a "serious proposal" from the Bosnian government for a ceasefire but gave no details. Sarajevo and Pale have very different understandings of what a truce would involve. -- Patrick Moore

BATTLEFIELD UPDATE.
Both the Serbs and the Bosnian government reported success at the front on 4 October. Slobodna Dalmacija the following day said that Serbian forces were continuing their counteroffensive in western Bosnia and that fighting was particularly intense around Otoka and Bosanska Krupa along the Una River between Bihac and the Croatian border. Bosnian government troops of the Mostar-based Fourth Corps reported that they had driven the Serbs off key heights near the Sarajevo-Trnovo road and were controlling the road between Konjic and Kalinovik, the home town of Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic, news agencies said. -- Patrick Moore

MONTENEGRIN NEWS.
Montena-fax on 4 October reported that the previous day some 25 tons of humanitarian aid from Russia, consisting largely of medical supplies, arrived in Podgorica. In other news, ATA reported that Albanian officials on 1 October detained a tanker carrying some 9,000 liters of contraband fuel destined for Montenegro. This last seizure brings the total amount of smuggled fuel seized over the past two months to some 50,000 liters. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN AUTHORITIES CLOSE DOWN BILINGUAL SCHOOLS.
Croatian media have recently been reporting extensively on the Ministry of Education's decision in late September to replace the two-language curriculum of three secondary schools in Zagreb with a one-language curriculum. In explaining this decision, which encountered bitter reactions from students, parents, and teachers, the ministry said the schools were "experimental" but that the experiment had failed. Critics suspect that the real reason for the decision is a myopic attempt at combatting the brain drain of a country that lives from tourism, shipping, and emigre remittances. The head of one school who supported the two-language curriculum was accused of manipulating the students for political reasons and was fired, Novi list reported on 5 October. Minister of Education Ljilja Vokic has stressed that the Croatian authorities want to have strong control over the country's education system. -- Daria Sito Sucic

DIFFICULTIES FACED BY CROATIAN SERB REFUGEES.
According to recent Serbian media reports, between 6,000 and 7,000 Croatian Serb refugees want to return home but are prevented from doing so by bureaucratic wranglings. The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stopped issuing collective passports for refugees, while the Croatian Government Office in Belgrade, which handles humanitarian issues, claims it has no instructions from Zagreb on how to deal with refugees wanting to return. Meanwhile, the Croatian government has set a deadline for those who have left to come back and claim their property. In related news, Croatia's admission into the Council of Europe, as well as EU post-war aid to Croatia, has been made conditional on the resolution of the problem of the refugees and their property. The UN Security Council on 4 October expressed its "deepest concern" about the status of Croatian Serb refugees, Novi List reported on 5 October. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY RESPONDS TO EXTREMISTS.
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), in a 4 October letter addressed to the leadership of the chauvinistic Greater Romania Party (PRM), has denounced the recent "attacks of unprecedented virulence" launched by PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor against President Ion Iliescu. In a pamphlet published with the PRM mouthpiece Romania mare, Tudor accused Iliescu of being "a brash dictator" and a "protector of impertinent Zionists." He also commented that the president has "delivered the country to the Jews." Tudor's reaction was provoked by Iliescu's statement during his recent visit to the U.S. that Tudor and Gheorghe Funar, the leader of the Party of Romanian National Unity, were "Romanian Zhirinovskys." The PDSR's letter, which was broadcast by Radio Bucharest, stressed that Tudor's attacks have ""seriously affected" cooperation between the two parties. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIANS SEEK FREE MOVEMENT WITHIN EU.
Lazar Comanescu, a spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Ministry, has said Romania insists on unrestricted travel within the EU for its citizens, Radio Bucharest reported on 4 October. He said Romania will bring up this issue at all talks with EU representatives by pointing to the principle of equal treatment and opportunities for all EU associate members. Jacques Santier, president of the European Commission, has stressed the necessity to find a solution to this problem, Comanescu added. Comanescu's statement was an indirect response to the EU's recent decision to extend visa requirements to Romania, along with some other 100 countries blacklisted as posing a security or immigration threat to the EU. -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPEALS FOR RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS.
The Moldovan parliament has asked that diplomatic efforts be stepped up in order to free the members of the so-called "Ilascu group" from a Tiraspol jail, BASA-press and Infotag reported on 4 October. The four men were sentenced to various prison terms for allegedly committing terrorists acts during the 1992 armed conflict between Moldova and the breakaway Dniester region. The parliament resolution, which denounces the "mediaeval practices" of the Dniester authorities, was adopted at the initiative of the opposition Christian Democratic Popular Front. The front's leaders have repeatedly accused the Chisinau government of failing to drum up international support for liberating the four political prisoners. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIA REAFFIRMS INTENTION TO RESTART NUCLEAR REACTOR.
RFE/RL and Bulgarian newspapers report that Bulgaria has officially reaffirmed its intention to restart the controversial Reactor No. 1 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant despite international objections. Director of the Bulgarian Atomic Energy Agency Yanko Yanev said an agreement has been reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency to shut off the unit after the winter for further examination. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev met with the EU's representative to Bulgaria to deliver Bulgaria's official position on the issue. The official statement says that Bulgaria is one of the few countries that has a legal framework regulating the use of atomic energy and has ratified the convention on nuclear safety. Bulgarian papers cited Tsochev as saying he wishes France "would not conduct nuclear tests in Muroroa and then take on problems like our reactor." -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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