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Newsline - October 25, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 208, 25 October 1995
RUN-UP TO ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN . . .
Representatives of the Musavat, National Independence, and Independent Democratic parties of Azerbaijan have protested arbitrary refusals by the Central Electoral Commission to register candidates and restrictions on access to the media, according to Turan. Musavat party spokesman Arif Hadjiev accused the country's authorities of launching a psychological terror campaign against the electorate. On 24 October, AFP quoted the head of the OSCE monitoring mission in Baku as saying that the authorities had agreed to reassess the petitions of parties and candidates barred from participating in the elections. -- Liz Fuller

. . . AND IN GEORGIA.
The Georgian Central Electoral Commission has refused to register four former cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia and deputy Prime Minister Tamaz Nadareishvili as election candidates, Ekho Moskvy reported. As the Georgian election law precludes the candidacy of government ministers, all four had submitted their resignations, but those have not yet been accepted by the existing parliament. Over 2,100 candidates have been registered to run in 85 single-mandate constituencies, the Sakinform news agency reported on 18 October. -- Liz Fuller

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY.
Abkhaz representatives refused to attend a further round of peace talks with Georgia scheduled to open in Moscow on 24 October because of a Russian naval blockade of the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi, Reuters reported. Russian Public TV (ORT), however, quoted a spokesman for the Russian maritime border guard as denying that such a blockade had been imposed. -- Liz Fuller

TURKMENISTAN, BELARUS BARTER.
Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 2 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus in exchange for potatoes, tractors, and other consumer durables, Interfax reported on 23 October. According to Turkmenistan's ambassador to Belarus, an agreement has already been signed to provide 100,000 tons of potatoes to Turkmenistan. Ashgabat's debts to other CIS countries is estimated at around $2 billion; roughly half of that sum represents rescheduled debts owed by Ukraine alone. -- Lowell Bezanis

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY NOMINATES AKAEV FOR PRESIDENT.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's nomination was forwarded by the Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly on 23 October, according to a Kyrgyz Radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. The report also listed five other candidates for the post of president: Ata-Meken Party Chairman Omurbek Tekebaev, Communist Party leader Absamat Masaliev, the Adilet public movement head Yuruslan Toychubekov and the recently dismissed former director of the Kadamzhay antimony plant in southern Kyrgyzstan, Mamat Aybalaev. Medetkan Sherimkulov has already registered as a candidate. The election is scheduled for 24 December. -- Bruce Pannier



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 208, 25 October 1995
WORLD BANK SAYS POLLUTION KILLS 30,000 EAST EUROPEANS YEARLY.
According to a World Bank report, industrial pollution in the former communist countries is killing some 30,000 people every year, AFP reported. Some 18,000 lives and over 65 million working days could be saved by improving air quality in just 18 cities in the region and make it match EU guidelines for air pollution, the World Bank argues. While the situation has improved somewhat since 1990, pollution is still exacting huge human and economic costs. The report was presented during the three-day Environment for Europe conference, which opened in Sofia on 23 October and is attended by 700 delegates from 54 countries and some 40 international organizations. -- Stefan Krause

CONCILIATION COMMISSION TO RULE ON POVERTY LEVEL DISPUTE IN UKRAINE.
UNIAN on 24 October reported that Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk and parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz have agreed to form a commission to hammer out differences between the government and parliament over a recent decision by lawmakers to raise the country's poverty threshold to 4.8 million karbovantsi. The government argued that such a decision cannot be implemented without dire consequences for the economy. The parliament has ordered the cabinet to find the necessary funds, estimated at up to 500 trillion karbovantsi, by the end of the year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE TO CONTINUE TO STORE NUCLEAR WASTE AT CHORNOBYL.
Mykhailo Umanets, chairman of the State Committee for Nuclear Energy, said Ukraine will build a storage site for nuclear waste on the grounds of the incomplete fifth and sixth reactors at the Chornobyl atomic energy station, Infobank reported on 24 October. Umanets said that 94-95% of all of the country's nuclear waste is located at the plant and will continue to be stored there. The construction of Reactors No. 5 and 6 was abandoned after the parliament placed a moratorium on new nuclear reactors in August 1990 following the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chornobyl. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH VOWS TO PURSUE CONTROL OVER CATHEDRAL.
The patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate has resolved to step up his campaign to make St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, a landmark symbol of Orthodoxy now used as a state-run museum, as the church's see and patriarch's residence, Radio Ukraine reported on 24 October. Church leaders voted on 24 October in favor of reburying the recently deceased Patriarch Volodymyr on the grounds of St. Sophia, despite a presidential order barring the move. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has also laid claim to the cathedral, while President Leonid Kuchma has said the government will not favor one church over another and will keep control over the disputed cathedral within its jurisdiction. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UPDATE ON POWER STRUGGLE BETWEEN BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT.
NTV on 24 October reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is ready to confirm the new parliament's legitimacy ahead of the November by-elections. Responding to Lukashenka's recent statement that he would institute direct presidential rule if a new parliament is not elected, parliamentary speaker Mechyslau Hryb said direct presidential rule means dictatorship. Hryb appealed to the "intimidated public" to vote in November so that a legal legislature is elected and the power crisis resolved. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN, RUSSIAN BORDER TALKS.
Deputy chancellor of the Estonian Foreign Ministry Raul Malk on 24 October said that during the two-day talks in Pskov between Russian and Estonian officials, progress was made toward preparing a border accord with Russia, BNS reported. Agreements on the draft of a sea border accord and on border liaison officers are expected to be initialed at the next round of talks, due to take place in two weeks. The two sides exchanged maps on where they envisioned the future borderline, but Russia continued to refuse Estonia's request to recognize the legitimacy of the 1920 Tartu peace treaty in exchange for Estonia's giving up its claims to some 2,000 square kilometers. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT FACTIONS ELECT CHAIRMEN.
The 14 members of the For the Fatherland and Freedom faction in the Saeima on 24 October elected Janis Straume as chairman, Latvian Radio reported. The current chairman, Maris Grinblats, did not run because he is the prime minister candidate of the National Bloc. The previous day, the eight deputies of the Farmers' Union and the Union of Christian Democrats continued their electoral alliance by forming a joint faction with Pauls Putnins as chairman. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN-POLISH RELATIONS.
Adam Dombronski, chairman of a Polish interparliamentary group on liaison with Lithuania, told a press conference in Vilnius on 24 October that little progress has been made in increasing cooperation between the border services, RFE/RL reported. He also expressed the fear that extending the city limits of Vilnius could result in local Poles losing their land. His Lithuanian counterpart, Vytautas Pleckaitis, noted that reestablishing property claims in the Vilnius area was very problematic since relevant documents could be in Lithuanian, Polish, or even Belarusian archives. He also noted that progress was being made toward preparing a free trade agreement between the two countries. -- Saulius Girnius

RAILWAY STRIKE IN SILESIA OVER.
Polish State Railways (PKP) and 10 of the region's 11 trade unions have agreed on a wage increase of 74 zloty ($30.2) for Silesia's railworkers, who went on strike last week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1995). Some 600 freight trains resumed services on 24 October. PKP deputy director-general said no one will be made redundant for economic reasons, but the director-general noted that as a result of the wage increase, investments would be cut back and repairs slowed down. Meanwhile, representatives of the Engine Drivers Trade Union, which did not sign the agreement, urged equal wage hikes for railway workers throughout the country. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH PRESIDENT ON CHINA, RUSSIA, SLOVAKIA.
Vaclav Havel, speaking with reporters in New York on 24 October, said he firmly believed that Tibetan autonomy would "sooner or later" be approved. He added that it is "unfortunate" that Taiwan is not represented in the UN, CTK reported. With regard to Russia, Havel said that irrespective of who wins the upcoming elections, the Czech Republic will not be in immediate danger. But he warned that political dialogue between Russia and other countries, as well as the building of European security structures, will become more complicated if the communists or nationalists win. Asked about Slovakia, Havel said he could only express the hope that democracy in Slovakia would gradually strengthen and that the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son would be resolved in an "objective" manner. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES DRAFT LANGUAGE LAW.
The government on 24 October passed a controversial bill on the country's official language. Approved in June but since modified, the bill deals with the use of the Slovak language in state offices, schools, courts, the army, the media, and at cultural events. It also requires that all goods sold have instructions in Slovak. (Another bill approved the same day on the audiovisual industry requires that Czech and other foreign films be subtitled or dubbed in Slovak.) Culture Ministry spokeswoman Marta Podhradska pointed out that, if passed by the parliament, the new language law would override a 1990 version allowing for the use of minority languages in some official contexts. Ethnic Hungarian deputies on 24 October issued a strong statements rejecting the bill. Meanwhile, Arpad Duka-Zolyomi of Coexistence told CTK that although Hungarian deputies want to support the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, they will not do so if the parliament passes the language bill and modifications to the treaty. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAKIA'S RULING PARTY RETAINS POPULAR SUPPORT.
According to an opinion poll carried out by the FOCUS agency in early October, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) remains by far the most popular party in Slovakia, despite continued controversy over the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son. A total of 29.9% of respondents said they would vote for the HZDS, followed by the Christian Democratic Movement with 14.2%. The HZDS's two coalition partners--the Slovak National Party and the Association of Workers--would fail to surpass the 5% barrier. Many suspect that Slovak Information Service director Ivan Lexa, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar who ran on the HZDS ticket in last fall's elections, was personally involved in the kidnapping of Kovac Jr. -- Sharon Fisher

UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS.
Prime Minister Gyula Horn, meeting with Hungarian Democratic Alliance of Romania head Bela Marko on 24 October, said the Hungarian government will support the alliance in, among other things, its efforts to secure autonomy for the Hungarian minority in Romania, Magyar Hirlap reported the next day. The two men said that Budapest-Bucharest relations are somewhat ambivalent because, while intergovernmental relations are improving, anti-minority practices in Romania appear to be on the rise. Referring to Romania's controversial legislation on education and the law forbidding the hoisting of foreign flags, Marko said Romanian President Ion Iliescu's proposal for a historic reconciliation "contrasts with reality". The proposal will be discussed by Hungarian and Romanian foreign affairs officials in a few weeks. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 208, 25 October 1995
SERBIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO PEACE CONFERENCE WITHOUT SANCTIONS SUSPENSION.
Tanjug on 24 October reported rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic as saying that Belgrade's participation in a peace conference on Bosnia, slated to be held in Dayton, Ohio, on 31 October, is conditional on the lifting of international sanctions against his state. Milutinovic said that no conference can take place "without a suspension of the sanctions." Meanwhile, AFP reported the same day that a senior U.S. official has asked Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's assistance in locating several hundred Bosnian Muslim and Croat civilians in Bosnian Serb-occupied territory around Banja Luka. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN SERBS MEET WITH MILOSEVIC.
Nasa Borba on 25 October reported that a delegation of Bosnian Serbs arrived in Belgrade the previous day for meetings with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Representing the Bosnian Serbs was civilian leader Radovan Karadzic, who was accompanied by Vic President Nikola Koljevic and speaker of the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament, Momcilo Krajisnik. Official rump Yugoslav media have neither confirmed nor denied that such a meeting took place, while independent sources stress that at the top of the agenda were proposals and strategies for peace talks slated for 31 October in the U.S. Meanwhile, AFP on 24 October reported that the Bosnian Serbs remain adamant that Bosnia must be partitioned. The French news agency, citing Pale television, quotes Krajisnik as saying that "victory for us is not to defeat Moslems and Croats but to be divided from them." -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES RESTRAINT ON EASTERN SLAVONIA.
Franjo Tudjman has promised that Zagreb will not use force to retake Eastern Slavonia from Serbs as long as the peace process is under way, AFP reported on 24 October. He was speaking at a meeting in New York with his Bosnian counterpart, Alija Izetbegovic, and U.S. President Bill Clinton. Clinton urged both leaders "to be flexible, to seek formulas that will work and to be very determined" at the negotiations scheduled for Ohio on 31 October. He also called for unity between Croatia and Bosnia. Earlier, Tudjman had been quoted as saying Croatia might use force in eastern Slavonia before the end of the month. Izetbegovic, speaking to before the UN General Assembly on 24 October, called for "parity of Bosnian Serb and Bosnian government army forces," saying this was the key to long-term stability. But he told CNN the same day that the two sides remain "far apart from each other." -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN DEPUTIES AMEND CONTROVERSIAL LEGISLATION.
The Romanian Chamber of Deputies on 24 October deleted references to the media from penal code articles allowing prison sentences for libel, Romanian media reported. The amended legislation imposes prison sentences of up to two years for libel and three years for calumny. In the original version, journalists were put into a separate category and could have been imprisoned for up to five years for libel. Romanian journalists and opposition parties, together with international human rights and media organizations, had sharply criticized the original legislation. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN HELICOPTER DEAL.
The Romanian government on 23 October denied any involvement in the purchase of 12 second-hand helicopters from South Africa, Romanian media reported. The denial came two days after ARMSCOR, the military equipment state agency in Johannesburg, said the helicopters were ordered by the Romanian government. The South African police launched an investigation into reported financial irregularities in the transaction. The Romanian government said the helicopters were ordered by the Brasov-based IAR company, which intended to overhaul and re-export them. The Romanian Defense Ministry also denied any involvement in the transaction. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIAN STUDENTS ARE OPTIMISTIC BUT CONTINUE PROTESTS.
Cristian Urse, leader of the Bucharest University Students League, on 24 October told Radio Bucharest that he was "optimistic" about the outcome of negotiations with the authorities on the students' demands. But he added that the protests will continue in order to make sure that the government honors its commitments. Government's secretary-general Viorel Hrebenciuc told representatives of the striking students that the authorities would meet their demands. The main bone of contention remains students' proposals for amendments to the recently adopted education law. In a veiled reference to the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, Senate chairman Oliviu Gherman suggested that changing the text of the education law might lead to a "Pandora's box of revisions." He proposed that the students' claims be addressed in a separate piece of legislation. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN STUDENTS TO SUSPEND PROTESTS?
Students and university teaching staff continued their protests in Chisinau on 24 October by staging a march in which workers and pensioners also participated, Infotag reported. BASA-press later announced that student leaders had decided to suspend indefinitely the protests beginning 25 October, following negotiations with an ad hoc presidential commission. According to Professor Anatol Petrencu, the leader of the strike committee, a final decision is to be taken at a meeting on 25 October. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIA REFUSES TO SHUT DOWN NUCLEAR REACTOR . . .
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev on 24 October said Bulgaria will not temporarily shut down Reactor No. 1 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, RFE/RL and Reuters reported the same day. The EU had handed over a formal proposal urging Bulgaria to do so and had offered to compensate the country with energy supplies. After meeting with the EU environmental ministers during the Environment for Europe conference in Sofia, Tsochev said it is "technically difficult" to ensure electricity supplies from the EU to Bulgaria "for the whole winter." He added there was no written offer from the EU. -- Stefan Krause

. . . BUT RECEIVES $103 MILLION ENVIRONMENT LOAN FROM WORLD BANK.
World Bank Vice President Rachel Lomax on 24 October said Bulgaria will receive the Bank's first-ever loan for environmental purposes, AFP reported the same day. Some $93 million are intended for upgrading the country's electricity distribution system and $10 million for reconstructing its polluting heavy industry. The World Bank will not reward Bulgaria if it shuts down the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Lomax said. Meanwhile, Kontinent on 24 October reported that Switzerland agreed to write off Bulgarian debts totaling 20 million Swiss francs ($17.7 million), which Bulgaria will invest in ecological projects instead. -- Stefan Krause

FORMER ALBANIAN LAND OWNERS WANT 1945 LAND REFORM REVOKED.
More than 260,000 former land owners have signed a petition demanding that the 1945 land reform be revoked. The petition was organized by the Right League of Albania, an organization made up of right wing parties, and the Organization of Former Land Owners of Albania, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 24 October. Since 1992, about 95% of the country's farmland has been divided among the country's peasants. The former owners received financial compensation. The Constitutional court rejected their claims to their land last week. The organizers of the petition said they will take the case to the European Court of Justice. -- Fabian Schmidt

EU COMMISSION DROPS CASE AGAINST GREECE.
The European Commission on 24 October withdrew its legal action against Greece over Athens' trade embargo on Macedonia, Reuters reported the same day. A spokesman in Brussels said legal action was taken in April 1994 to pressure Greece to lift the embargo, which it imposed in February 1994. He added that there are now "sufficient signs" that the embargo has been lifted. Greek officials earlier had demanded that legal proceedings continue in the hope that the European Court of Justice would rule in its favor. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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