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Newsline - November 3, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 215, 3 November 1995
ST. PETERSBURG METROPOLITAN IOANN DIES.
St. Petersburg Metropolitan Ioann died of a heart attack in his apartment on 2 November, Ekspress-khronika reported. He was 68. Ioann became metropolitan on 20 July 1990. Since September 1992, he has published a series of articles in extreme Communist and nationalist newspapers such as Sovetskaya Rossiya and Den. He denounced "the imperialist West" and "money-grubbers" who "ravage and sell out Russia." He supported building a strongly centralized state and rejected nations' right to self-determination. He wanted to reintegrate Ukraine and Belarus into Russia, supported friendly ties with all Slavic countries, and sought to limit Russian participation in international organizations. One of his aides is the third candidate on Aleksandr Rutskoi's Derzhava party list. -- Robert Orttung

CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES BACKS AWAY FROM ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS.
The Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) will not cooperate with the Communists in the single-member districts, according to KRO spokesman Vladimir Klimov. Klimov said that taking such a step now that the campaign has already started would be a "tactical mistake," Interfax reported on 2 November. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov clarified his statements from the day before, saying that an alliance could only take place after the elections. He also expressed concern about disagreements within the KRO leadership, Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH ZYUGANOV.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
as part of a series of meetings with Duma faction leaders, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 2 November. Zyuganov said that they discussed their mutual interest in opposing groups who want to discredit the electoral law or foil the elections. They also discussed the state of affairs in Russia's provinces and possible disturbances as the Communists mark the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA DEPUTIES TRY TO AMEND ELECTORAL LAW. . .
Duma deputies Irina Khakamada and Vyacheslav Nikonov are leading a charge to revise the electoral law before December's parliamentary elections, Russian media reported on 2 November. They want to lower the 5% minimum of votes required to gain Duma representation from party lists and introduce a second round in the 225 single-member districts to prevent candidates from winning with a plurality of just 10-15% of the vote. Nikonov said so many parties have been registered for the
elections (at least 35 so far) that the majority of votes may be wasted. Earlier this year, Khakamada split from Forward, Russia! leader Boris Fedorov, and her Common Cause movement is running for the Duma independently. However, she said the law itself, not political parties, is the root of the problem, adding that "if you let a goat into your garden and it eats all your cabbage, the goat cannot be blamed." -- Laura Belin

. . . AND CHALLENGE LAW'S LEGALITY IN COURT.
An appeal on the legality of the electoral law, signed by more than 90 Duma deputies, will be submitted to the Constitutional Court within two days, centrist Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov told Interfax on 2 November. In particular, the deputies are questioning whether the law's provision granting the Central Electoral Commission "legislative and judicial powers" is consistent with the constitutional principle of separation of powers. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY ACCUSES GAIDAR'S BLOC OF BREAKING CAMPAIGN RULES.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky filed a complaint with the Central Electoral Commission against Yegor Gaidar's electoral bloc, Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats, Russian TV reported on 2 November. He charged that a grocery store in Moscow has been using posters for Gaidar's bloc to wrap customers' purchases, even though the electoral law requires parties to refrain from campaigning until they are officially registered (Gaidar's bloc was registered on 30 October). The commission forwarded Zhirinovsky's complaint to the Moscow Electoral Commission to verify the facts, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin

TENSION HIGH IN CHECHNYA.
Despite sniper fire,
Russian engineers defused a 36 kg bomb in the Presidential Palace in Grozny on 2 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Public TV (ORT) quoted Federal Security Service (FSB) officials as saying the bomb was intended to inflict casualties on the large crowd of pro-independence demonstrators that gathers daily outside the palace. Meanwhile, the commander of federal forces in Chechnya, General Anatolii Shkirko, accused Chechen military negotiator Aslan Maskhadov of complicity in the recent attack on a Russian military convoy near Vedeno, which killed 18. Shkirko suspended further talks on implementing the 30 July military accord. One Russian soldier was killed and two wounded in 28 attacks on federal positions on 2 November, ORT reported. -- Scott Parrish

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN MOSCOW.
Defense ministers from all CIS members except Georgia and Moldova attended the 2 November session in Moscow to discuss military-technical cooperation, peacekeeper training, and the situation in Tajikistan, Russian agencies reported. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev subsequently announced an agreement on assisting Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to upgrade their air defense systems. This agreement implements a 10 February 1995 decision made in Almaty to create a unified CIS air defense system. Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan are still refusing to participate in the system. Grachev also pointedly said that if NATO expands eastward, Russia will be forced to look elsewhere for military allies: in the CIS, the Far East, and the Middle East. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA AGAIN THREATENS UNILATERAL ACTION IN CASPIAN.
An anonymous diplomat at the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated Russian threats to take unilateral action to prevent "unlawful" use of the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported on 2 November. The diplomat accused Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan of taking unilateral actions to illegally seize natural resources in the Caspian basin and said Russia would take action to block those moves if the two countries did not show willingness to discuss the joint use of Caspian basin resources by all five littoral states, a position which he said is supported by Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan. -- Scott Parrish

CHERNOMYRDIN APPROVES DRAFT DECREE ON COMPENSATION FOR DECEIVED DEPOSITORS.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin approved a draft document on compensation for depositors deceived by financial companies, Russian agencies reported on 2 November. The matter concerns about 883 financial pyramid schemes which attracted the public's money without license from Russia's Central Bank. About 30 million citizens participated in these operations, losing 2 trillion rubles ($444 million). The decree calls for the creation of a state compensation fund to offset the damage to the deceived depositors. -- Thomas Sigel

YELTSIN DELAYS SALE OF PLEDGED SHAREHOLDINGS.
President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 2 November that only allows those holding shares pledged as collateral to sell them after 1 September 1996, Russian agencies reported the same day. The decree is aimed at preventing the stock market from being flooded with shares. Meanwhile, Russia's State Property Committee and the Federal Property Fund issued a press release refuting press reports that it intends to accept bids for an investment tender and an auction on the transfer of 78% of the federally owned shares as collateral under the shares-for-equity-scheme, Radio Rossii and Interfax reported on 2 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 November 1995). -- Thomas Sigel

FEDERAL FIRE SERVICE ANNOUNCES STATISTICS.
There were over 320,000 fires in 1994, the Federal Fire Service said on 2 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The blazes killed 16,000 people, destroyed 70,000 buildings, and caused about 22 trillion rubles ($4.9 billion) in damage. The service said that petrochemical and natural gas facilities have grown increasingly vulnerable to fires. For example, on 2 November, a natural gas pipeline exploded in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg. Officials blamed the accident on aging equipment and said the pipeline received no repairs since it was built 16 years ago. -- Thomas Sigel

IMPORTED DUTY RISE FOR TOBACCO, CUT ON CARS.
Russia will increase excise taxes for imported tobacco goods from 1.2 to 2 ecu (1.296 ecu/$1) per 1,000 units from 1 December 1995, Interfax reported on 2 November. Meanwhile, the excise rate for imported cars was lowered from 35-70% to 10-25% of their customs value, depending upon the engine size. -- Thomas Sigel

BUDGET COMMISSION PROPOSES RAISE IN NATURAL GAS EXPORT TAX.
The joint Duma/Federation Council budget commission voted to increase the natural gas export duty from 2 ecu to 5 ecu per 1,000 cubic meters starting next year, Interfax reported on 2 November. The commission also rejected the government's proposals to drop the export tariff on crude oil from 20 ecu to 10 ecu and raise the oil excise duty. The increase in gas tariffs could trigger retaliatory action by Gazprom, such as a cut in gas deliveries to Western Europe. The director of the Finance Ministry's Hard Currency Department, Vadim Volkov, claimed the decision to leave oil export tariffs unchanged may further weaken the position of Russian oil exporters, who currently lose $6-7 on each metric ton of oil. -- Natalia Gurushina



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 215, 3 November 1995
LUKOIL JOINS THE CHEVRON-TENGIZ DEAL.
Russia's largest oil company, LUKoil, has joined the Tengizchevroil joint venture between Kazakhstan and Chevron,
according to a PIA-Interfax report. LUKoil is seeking a 20% share in the Tengizchevroil deal--10% each from Kazakhstan and Chevron. LUKoil is expected to give Tengizchevroil a part of its oil export quota in return or else make concessions to Chevron in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC). Chevron is seeking to join the CPC founded by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman to deliver Tengiz oil to a Russian port on the Black Sea. Kazakhstan recently suspended Oman's participation in the CPC due to that country's failure to meet its financial obligations. -- Bhavna Dave

TAJIK DEPUTY ARRESTED.
Interfax reported that Khuja Karimov, former field commander in the Popular Front and member of parliament, was arrested on 2 November. Karimov is accused of several murders in 1993. Police found a number of weapons in Karimov's house including two grenade launchers, ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov was stripped of his parliamentary immunity allowing police to pick him up in the parliament building. Also arrested were his body guard and driver. -- Bruce Pannier

NEW COMMANDER FOR TAJIK PEACEKEEPERS.
The Council of CIS Defense Ministers have replaced Lt. Gen. Valentin Bobryshev as Commander of the peacekeeping force in Tajikistan, according to a 2 November Interfax report. Taking Bobryshev's place will be Lt. Gen. Viktor Zavarzin. The new commander faces a difficult task. Shelling of border guard positions from Afghanistan increased dramatically during October as did the incidence of attacks by small armed bands of the opposition. At the start of October, eight border guards were killed and six wounded on the outskirts of Khorog, near the Afghan border. Zavarzin's new position is expected to be approved at a meeting of CIS heads of state in late November. -- Bruce Pannier

SALARIES AND ELECTIONS IN GEORGIA.
The Georgian government has raised salaries on the eve of elections. Salaries are to range from 6 to 25 lari (approximately $5-$20) a month; defense, law enforcement, and other officials have received a 10% pay hike, those working in state run organizations and veterans rose by 50%, Georgian TV reported on 1 November. In other news, opinion polls conducted by the Georgian Academy of Sciences institute of demography at the end of October found that 70% of respondents planned to vote for Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze and his party, the Citizens' Union of Georgia. Dzhumber Patiashvili, former Georgian Communist Party boss, ran second to Shevardnadze with 9% support. -- Lowell Bezanis

RAILWAYS FOR GEORGIA?
Russia has pledged to reconstruct the Abkhaz section of a railway linking Russia and Georgia at a cost of more than 10 billion rubles, Interfax reported on 2 November. Two days before, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze confirmed that Turkey had offered to build a 100 km railway line that would run through the town of Akhalkalaki. -- Lowell Bezanis



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 215, 3 November 1995
UKRAINIAN-G7 TALKS FAIL TO RESOLVE CHORNOBYL CLOSURE.
International agencies on 2 November reported that talks in Kiev between Ukraine and the G7 on a timetable and financing for Chornobyl's closure broke down without any agreements being signed. Ukraine demanded a precise financing schedule listing the exact sum each country is to contribute, the dates the money is to be released, and through which banks. The G7 countries, for their part, wanted a precise timetable for Chornobyl's closure. The G7 package promises $1.8 billion in loans to Ukraine and a further $450 million in grants. Ukraine is to contribute $900 million. The money is to be spent on launching two new reactors and modernizing Ukraine's energy sector. -- Ustina Markus

CRIMEAN TATARS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE.
Ten members of the Crimean Tatar caucus in the Crimean legislature have begun a hunger strike demanding that lawmakers restore quotas of seats reserved for ethnic minorities and left out of the new regional constitution, UNIAN and ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November. The deputies--all of whom are members of the Kurultai faction--insist that the Crimean parliament reconsider its decision to omit a clause in Article 14 of the new constitution that would have retained a quota of 14 seats to represent some 200,000 Crimean Tatars living on the peninsula. The clause was included in the old constitution, annulled by Ukrainian authorities in March as separatist. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
After approving Article 1 on 1 November, lawmakers have approved the remaining articles of the draft constitution. The document provides for three state languages: Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar but designates Russian as the official language of government. It also asserts that the Crimean government is the leading authority in the region and that is led by a prime minister appointed by the Crimean parliament. The head of the Crimean Security Service is to be appointed by the chief of the Ukrainian Security Service with the approval of the leaders of the Crimean Assembly. Ukraine's interior minister names his representative to head the Crimean branch of the Interior Ministry with the approval of the Crimean legislature. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

EU OFFICIAL ON BELARUS.
Interfax on 2 November reported that European Commission member Hans van den Broek said Belarus was "on the farthest approaches from being admitted into the European Union." Van den Broek was on a one-day working visit to Minsk. He said he assumed Belarus would put forward its candidacy to be admitted to the EU but warned that first it must ensure not only economic stability but also democratic reform. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN ARMS DEALS ANGER RUSSIA.
ITAR-TASS on 3 November reported that Belarus has been negotiating another arms deal that is harmful Russian interests. Last year Minsk reportedly sold an anti-aircraft missile system to the U.S. Now it is said to be attempting to sell two top-of-the-line SU-27 fighter aircraft from its base at Baranovichy. Documents on the sale have been handed over to the aircraft manufacturing plant at Komsomolska-na-Amure. The deals are perceived in Moscow as detrimental to both Russia's defense capacity and its arms exports. The documents will be handed over to the Russian State Duma for appropriate action, according to the news agency. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA ADOPTS PENSION LAW.
The Latvian parliament on 2 November adopted a law on pensions, BNS reported. Earlier recommendations that the pension age be raised to 65 were defeated. Men will be able to draw pensions at 60 and women at 55. Those who are of pension age, however, can continue working, and their contributions to the social fund will increase the size of their pensions. Latvian citizens will receive pensions for all years worked, regardless of where, while non-citizens will be paid only for the years worked in Latvia. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN, LITHUANIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS BORDER DISPUTE.
Maris Gailis and Adolfas Slezevicius agreed in telephone talks on 2 November on the need to determine their sea borders peacefully, BNS reported. Slezevicius accepted Gailis's suggestion that a third party be invited to help settle the border dispute. The premiers also agreed that representatives from the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and parliament travel to Riga next week to acquaint themselves with the agreement on oil exploration that Latvia signed on 31 October with the American Amoco and Swedish OPAB oil companies. Gailis confirmed that no exploratory work for oil in the disputed area would be started before an agreement with Lithuania is signed. He also noted that any contract with the oil companies would have to be ratified by the new parliament that holds its first session on 7 November. * Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN UPDATE.
Campaign staff of Aleksander Kwasniewski, leading candidate in the 5 November Polish presidential elections, have accused the secret services of intervening in the campaign, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 3 November. Kwasniewski's staff suspects the secret services of revealing to the press the financial assets of Kwasniewski's wife (a topic that has received much press attention) and of organizing violent protests at Kwasniewski's campaign meetings. Spokesmen for President Lech Walesa, who has control over the secret service, and the Internal Affairs Ministry denied the accusations. Presidential candidates Leszek Moczulski and Bogdan Pawlowski withdrew from the race on 2 November, asking their supporters to vote for Walesa. The presidential campaign ends at noon, on 3 November. -- Jakub Karpinski in Warsaw

POLISH SENATE REJECTS PROPOSED REFERENDUM ON DISTRIBUTING STATE PROPERTY.
The Polish Senate on 2 November rejected a presidential proposal for a referendum on dividing up state and communal property. The president was asked by Solidarity to make the proposal. Senators criticized the proposed questions as unclear and violating the constitution. The president the same day signed a cooperation agreement with Solidarity stating that the president will put his right to initiate legislation at Solidarity's disposal, Warsaw dailies reported on 3 November. -- Jakub Karpinski in Warsaw

CZECH PARLIAMENT TIGHTENS CONFLICT OF INTERESTS LAW.
By a near-unanimous vote, the Czech parliament on 2 November passed wide-ranging revisions to the law on conflict of interests. As of 1 January, government ministers, other high state officials, parliamentary deputies, and members of the still-to-be-created Senate will have to declare any potential conflict of interests involving not just themselves but also their spouses and close relations. Members of the government will be barred from engaging in any business activities. All those covered by the law will have to declare additional income and gifts of higher value than their monthly salary and, after next June's elections, declare all property they own or sell. The need for a new law was discussed for almost three years, following a series of scandals involving leading politicians. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PRESIDENT LAUNCHES COUNTERATTACK.
Michal Kovac, in a speech on 2 November broadcast on Radio Twist and Slovak Radio, reacted to a series of attacks by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his allies aimed at forcing the president's resignation. Kovac called on Meciar to "give up plans to usurp and concentrate power" and to move toward cooperation. Sharply criticizing the activities of Meciar's coalition, Kovac demanded that Meciar change his domestic policy, which is "challenging the principle of a law-abiding state and leading Slovakia into international isolation." Meciar's party--the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--said Kovac's speech demonstrated his collaboration with opposition parties and said the address was "undignified" for a head of state, Pravda reported. -- Sharon Fisher

UPDATE ON SLOVAK-RUSSIAN RELATIONS.
Meciar, returning on 3 November from a four-day trip to Russia and Turkmenistan, denied that Slovakia wants to form a customs union with Russia. Meanwhile, the opposition reacted negatively to Meciar's visit, saying he is putting too much emphasis on the East. The Party of the Democratic Left on 2 November expressed concern about Slovakia's increasing economic contacts with Russia and stressed that Meciar has not convinced anyone that Czech-Russian financing of the Mochovce nuclear plant (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 November) is the best option regarding safety issues. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN NEO-NAZI TRIAL OPENS.
Two neo-Nazi leaders have appealed to the right to free speech at their trial in Budapest, which began on 1 November. The two men, along with several others, are charged with inciting racial hatred at numerous meetings where they denied that the Holocaust took place. They have also been accused of using prohibited symbols and circulating neo-Nazi propaganda material. Both denied the charges, saying that Hungarian neo-Nazi circles were formed "to serve the Hungarian nation . . . and to protect Hungarian culture and language." Meanwhile, liberal deputies suggested that President Arpad Goncz's earlier proposal to redefine what is meant in the criminal code by combatting extremism and incitement against minority groups. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HEROIN SEIZURE IN HUNGARY.
Hungarian customs officials on 2 November found almost 14 kg of heroin in a Bulgarian car at the Romanian border , Hungarian newspapers reported. The smugglers said they wanted to travel to Western Europe with their haul. The amount of drugs seized in Hungary so far this year totals 493 kilograms. Meanwhile, Hungary and Ukraine the same day reached an agreement to improve coordination to curb cross-border crime. The accord comes in the wake of a series of attacks by Ukrainians on tourist buses in eastern Hungary. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 215, 3 November 1995
BOSNIAN REFUGEE DEAL REACHED IN DAYTON.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman have reached agreement on a deal that would see the return of hundreds of Muslim and Croatian refugees, international media reported on 2 November. A joint statement by the two leaders stressed that the deal addresses only "the first phase" of the refugee issue. In another development, AFP reported that the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian delegations at the talks have so far received four draft proposals from international mediators focusing on the broad question of peace, a constitutional structure for the Bosnian state, electoral issues, and "the separation of military and paramilitary forces." -- Stan Markotich

MILOSEVIC, TUDJMAN AGREE TO FIND PEACEFUL SOLUTION IN SLAVONIA.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, agreed in Dayton to continue talks on eastern Slavonia, AFP reported on 2 November. Both sides pledged to work toward "full normalization of their relation" on the basis of " full respect" for human rights and the right of all refugees to return home or receive a just compensation. The aim is to find "a peaceful resolution . . . as rapidly as possible," a U.S. State Department spokesman said. As yet, the two sides appear to have agreed only that Croatia and Serbia will not intervene militarily. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith and UN negotiator Thorvald Stoltenberg began a visit to the region on 2 November. -- Fabian Schmidt

HAS MILOSEVIC ABANDONED BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS?
BETA on 2 November reported that Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic, are likely to resign from their posts in the very near future, apparently because of pressure to do so from the U.S. According to the report, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, eager to accept some key US demands, has agreed to the idea of the two leaving their posts. AFP the same day reported that "a few days ago" at a meeting in Pale, the Bosnian Serb leadership agreed in principle that Karadzic and Mladic would step down. U.S. State Department official Nicholas Burns has said "We don't believe these two individuals should be among the leaders of the new state that emerges from a peace agreement." -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN MUSLIMS RECOUNT MASSACRES.
AFP on 2 November reported accounts of massacres by Bosnian Serbs in Sanski Most who earlier this week were among a group of 303 Muslim civilians and 21 soldiers exchanged for 135 Serbian troops and two civilians. They told The Guardian that Serbian paramilitaries executed at least 11 men before fleeing from the approaching Bosnian Army; 30 prisoners who were taken from a factory outside Sanski Most are still missing. Eleven bodies have been found, Bosnian government officials and foreign observers reported that another 110 remain scattered around the town and surrounding villages. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIA CRITICIZES UKRAINIAN ENVOY.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana, at a press conference on 1 November, said Romania was "surprised" by Ukrainian special ambassador Vladimir Vasilenko's recent statements on the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty. Vasilenko heads the Kiev side in parleys on the treaty. Romanian media reported that Geoana rejected Vasilenko's accusations that Romanian insistence on mentioning the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in the treaty constitutes an attempt to question the borders between the two states. He also criticized his comment that Bucharest's position was influenced by internal political considerations. Vasilenko was violating the two side's agreement not to involve the press in the parleys, he said. The last round of treaty negotiations ended in Bucharest on 26 October, apparently without any results. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ON 1996 BUDGET.
Finance Minister Florin Georgescu told a press conference in Bucharest on 1 November that the 1996 budget was one of "austerity" aimed at "reducing to a minimum non-productive costs" and encouraging the growth of public services. The budget foresees a 4.5% growth in GDP, a 4.7% growth in industrial production, a 3.5% increase in agricultural production, and an 8.8% rise in investments. Inflation is forecast at 20%. The budget was submitted to the parliament after discussions with representatives of the opposition parties, Romanian media reported. -- Michael Shafir

EU OFFICIAL PRAISES MOLDOVAN PROGRESS.
EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek said in Chisinau on 2 November that "Moldova's success in establishing a genuine democracy is convincing" and that "economic stabilization has been achieved and true progress made in privatization and restructuring," Reuters and Moldovan agencies reported the same day. Van den Broek paid a one-day visit to Moldova, meeting President Mircea Snegur, parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, and Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli. He said the parliaments of EU member states and the European Parliament are likely to ratify next year a cooperation partnership agreement signed in 1994. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INITIATES JUDICIAL REFORM.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur has sent to the parliament a legislative proposal calling for the abolition of the death penalty. He has also petitioned the Constitutional Court to comment on whether the basic document should be changed to provide for judges to be appointed for life after an initial five-year term, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 30 October and 1 November. Meanwhile, the Moldovan parliament on 1 November adopted laws on state security and state security organs, BASA-press reported on the same day. Threats to state security are defined as "actions whose purpose is the violent change of the constitutional regime, suppression of independence and territorial integrity, provoking civil war or military actions against the state, [and] treason through helping foreign states in organizing hostile acts" against Moldova. -- Michael Shafir

EXPLOSION AT BULGARIAN ARMS PLANT.
Bulgarian Radio on 2 November reported a major explosion the same day at the Arsenal plant killing one person and wounding three. Minister of Industry Kliment Vuchev said a fire caused the blast and added that damage was serious. Arsenal is located in the town of Kazanlak and is one of the nation's largest arms production centers. -- Stan Markotich

ALBANIAN POLICE LOSES BATTLE WITH FUEL SMUGGLERS.
Albanian police lost a fierce five-hour battle with fuel smugglers armed with automatic weapons and grenades near the Montenegrin border, Reuters reported on 2 November. During a routine check, police managed to block the path of 20 smugglers and 10 fuel trucks but suddenly found itself surrounded by armed men. After five hours of fierce fighting, local police and special Interior Ministry forces from Tirana ran out of ammunition and were forced to leave, abandoning three destroyed police vehicles. The smugglers continued their journey. The Interior Ministry was not immediately able to confirm the battle. -- Fabian Schmidt

BOMB ATTACK ON HOUSE OF ALBANIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER CHIEF.
Unknown assailants on 1 October carried out a bomb attack on the house of Nikolle Lesi, chief editor of Koha Jone, according to Gazeta Shqiptare on 3 November. Nobody was injured in the attack, which caused considerable damage to Lesi's apartment. Lesi said the assault must be seen against the background of the upcoming parliamentary elections. He said that in his capacity as chief editor, he was recently offered thousands of dollars to support "a big party in the elections"; he rejected that offer. He did not specify who had offered him the money. Gazeta Shqiptare reported that five suspects have been detained but gave no details. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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