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Newsline - December 4, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 234, 4 December 1995
ROSSEL WANTS SHUMEIKO BLOC TO JOIN HIS TRANSFORMATION OF THE FATHERLAND.
Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel confirmed that he will work with Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko's new movement but only under certain conditions, Interfax reported on 1 December. A special congress of his Transformation of the Fatherland movement will discuss merging with Shumeiko's Russian Reforms-A New Course. He objects to the New Course name and wants the movement to adopt Transformation of the Fatherland as its name. Rossel said that President Yeltsin had banned the creation of the organization until after the Duma elections. The founding congress is scheduled to take place on 21 December. -- Robert Orttung

VOX POPULI: SEVEN PARTIES TO ENTER DUMA.
The Communists, Our Home Is Russia, the Congress of Russian Communities, the Agrarian Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Women of Russia, and Yabloko are likely to win representation in the Duma in the 17 December elections according to a recent poll conducted by Vox Populi, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 2 December. Women of Russia and the Congress of Russian Communities have dramatically improved their position, while Yabloko and Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats (which is not among the parties now likely to enter the Duma) have lost support in comparison with an earlier poll published in the same paper on 21 November. -- Robert Orttung

CHUBAIS: ELECTIONS COULD STOP REFORM.
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais warned on 1 December that the Duma elections could slam the brakes on reform, Reuters reported. Chubais said that the worst outcome would likely cause a slow down or a halt to the creation of a legal base for reform, but he said he could not imagine any steps being taken to undo the reform process. Chubais believes that the Communists' recent overtures to Russian and foreign entrepreneurs shows that they are willing to compromise on their economic ideas. -- Robert Orttung

FEDOROV HAS CANDIDATES SIGN CONTRACT.
At the third congress of Boris Fedorov's Forward, Russia! movement in Moscow on 2 December, parliamentary candidates signed a contract of 15 measures they will implement if the movement is able to form a government after the December elections (even though the Russian government is not formed from a parliamentary majority). The promised measures are: a guarantee of strict adherence to the constitution and all laws, elimination of the nomenklatura's privileges, enactment of tougher measures against crime, and a referendum within a year on a union with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The strategy is clearly modeled on the U.S. Republican Party's successful "Contract with America" during the 1994 campaign, and after the signing Fedorov told OMRI that his party of conservative democrats is philosophically close to the Republicans. Fedorov's comments on his party's prospects, its aggressive advertising strategy, and its differences with Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice will be published in the 5 December OMRI Special Report on the Russian Elections. -- Laura Belin in Moscow

NEW PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES APPEAR.
Aleksandr Rutskoi, the former vice president and leader of the social-patriotic movement Derzhava, confirmed that he would run for president in the June 1996 elections, Russian and Western media reported on 3 December. Rutskoi has said he intends to quit politics if he loses both the Duma and presidential elections. Another potential candidate for the presidency, Grigorii Yavlinskii, announced on 1 December that he has already collected 800,000 of the 1 million signatures required to register for the presidential elections, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The number three candidate on the Communist Party list for the Duma elections, Aman Tuleev, said he would run for the presidency if President Yeltsin decides to run for a second term. In 1991, Tuleev won about 7% of the vote. Petr Romanov, another candidate, was nominated for the presidential race by the Assembly of National Democratic and Patriotic Forces of Russia, Interfax reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

LDPR GETS BIGGEST FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM VOTERS.
According to the Central Electoral Commission's report on campaign funding, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has obtained more money from voters than any other party, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 December. More than 700 people have donated a total of 1 billion rubles (about $222,222) to the LDPR campaign. The Communist Party has received donations from about 400 people totaling more than 140 million rubles (about $31,000). The Pamfiliva-Gurov-Lysenko bloc received 500,000 rubles from just one supporter. -- Anna Paretskaya

ACTING HEALTH MINISTER APPOINTED.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has appointed Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev as acting health minister in the wake of Eduard Nechaev's dismissal from the post on 28 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 December. Tsaregorodtsev was made a deputy health minister in 1994 and first deputy this year. Nechaev had been severely criticized following a number of financial scandals within the ministry, and he was jeered at during a recent congress of doctors devoted to the sorry state of Russian health care. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNISTS AND PATRIOTS LEAD IN BY-ELECTIONS IN CHUVASHIYA.
According to preliminary results, candidates from the Communist and Patriotic blocs are leading in the 3 December by-elections to the Chuvashiyan Federal Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. The Federal Assembly was elected in March 1994. Fourteen parliamentary deputies were dismissed this summer after the Russian Federation's Constitutional Court ruled that they were elected illegally; the case was put forward by Chuvashiyan President Nikolai Fedorov. The second round of the by-election is scheduled to be held on 17 December, the same day as the State Duma elections. -- Anna Paretskaya

GRACHEV PROPOSES SECURITY SYSTEM FOR MIDDLE EAST.
During his visit to Israel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995), Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev extended an offer to help set up a new regional security system for the Middle East, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. Grachev said that Moscow is attempting to pursue a balanced policy in the Middle East, strengthening its ties with Arab countries as well as with Israel. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posyvaliuk, the presidential envoy to the Middle East, held talks with officials in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa blasted the Russo-Israeli agreement on military cooperation, saying it complicates the regional peace process. -- Constantine Dmitriev

FNPR RENOUNCES STRIKE ACTION BEFORE ELECTIONS.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) said on 1 December that it would refrain from calling strikes until after the 17 December parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported. It may, however, organize demonstrations and meetings. FNPR spokesman Andrei Isaev attributed the decision to an agreement reached between Vorkuta miners and the state coal association Rosugol on paying wage arrears. Commenting on the 30 November day of action (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995) Isaev said the largest rallies took place in Krasnodar (30,000 participants), Bryansk (13,000), and Voronezh and Belgorod (10,000 each). -- Penny Morvant

DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN CHECHNYA.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman on 1 December denied a Komsomolskaya pravda report that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had nuclear weapons stored near the settlements of Shali and Bamut in Chechnya. The spokesman said there have never been any nuclear weapons at those locations. That claim contradicts a January statement by Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin, the chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces, who said that there had been an R-12 (SS-4) intermediate-range nuclear missile base near Bamut in the 1970s. Yesin said the base's weapons and equipment were destroyed when the location was abandoned in 1980. -- Doug Clarke

REGIONAL LEGISLATION ON THE INCREASE.
Addressing a conference of regional officials in Volgograd, Aleksandr Morozov, head of the Volgograd Oblast Duma Budget Committee, said that since 1993 many oblasts have started passing their own statutes to plug the gaps in federal legislation, Radio Mayak reported on 1 December. Morozov noted that Volgograd has passed laws regulating non-state pension funds, the issuance of promissory notes, and credit unions. Morozov complained that the courts and Procurator's Office are still waiting for instructions from federal authorities and are not adapting to the emergence of regional legislation. -- Peter Rutland

EXPORTERS WELCOME SHIFT IN RUBLE CORRIDOR.
Representatives of the forestry industry welcomed Friday's ruble devaluation, Interfax reported on 1 December, claiming that the imposition of the ruble corridor had cost them 5 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion) in lost exports since July. However, the Russian Metallurgy Committee was disappointed that the shift in the corridor was so modest. The committee estimates the devaluation will only boost metal exports by 1.2 trillion rubles, while exports of 8.5 trillion rubles were lost this year because of the ruble corridor. On 1 September, the government helped them out by slashing taxes on non-ferrous metals by 30% and on iron and steel by 50%. -- Peter Rutland

ITALIAN COMPANY WINS RUSSIA'S BIGGEST PRIVATIZATION DEAL.
The Italian state-controlled company, STET, won a 25% stake in Svyazinvest, the smaller of Russia's two national telecommunications companies, Reuter reported on 1 December. STET, which beat out a consortium of France Telecom, Deutsche Telecom and US West, is offering 2.9 trillion rubles ($640 million) for the shares. Svyazinvest has a controlling interest in 85 regional telecommunications companies. Under the terms of the deal, STET will also invest at least 3.5 trillion rubles ($764 million) over the next two years. The results of the tender revived the government's hopes to raise 8.7 trillion rubles ($1.9 billion) from privatization for the federal budget by the end of 1995. To date only 3.5 trillion rubles ($764 million) has been raised. -- Natalia Gurushina



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 234, 4 December 1995
TAJIK TALKS BREAK DOWN ON FIRST DAY.
The Tajik opposition called off talks with Tajik government officials on the first day of the UN-sponsored negotiations in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 2 December, Russian and Western agencies reported. The chief opposition representative, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, forwarded a complaint from United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri, saying that Russian planes were bombing opposition outposts in the Garm and Pamir regions of Tajikistan. Turajonzoda said his delegation would remain in Ashgabat but would not resume negotiations until Russia ceased its "direct interference in the internal conflict." The Tajik government delegation countered by offering to allow opposition representatives to travel to the areas in question to see the situation for themselves. -- Bruce Pannier

MORE DEAD BODIES FOUND ON UZBEK-KAZAKHSTANI BORDER.
Following the discovery of 16 dead bodies in the Keles River bordering Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan last month, a joint investigation team has found up to 14 more bodies in a case in which a Tashkent drug mafia is suspected of killings, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 2 December. One of the suspected murderers is a former convict who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Kazakhstan several years ago but was later released. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

CONCERNS OVER LOW ELECTION TURNOUT IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Noting widespread voter apathy toward next week's parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Yurii Kim told Panorama in an interview on 2 December that the elections will be considered invalid if less than 50% of the registered electorate turns out to vote. He likened the candidates' passive election campaigns to "students who prepare for exams only on the very last day, despite being given ample time," adding that the incumbent parliamentary deputies and candidates with prior election experience have displayed a more "professional" approach. Kim noted that so far he has received fewer complaints from candidates than in the previous elections. He promised legal action against incumbent deputies and akims (oblast heads) who are using their official positions to prevent other candidates from campaigning. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

ALMATY ASSUMES MORE DIRECT CONTROL OVER EAST KAZAKHSTAN OBLAST.
Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin removed East Kazakhstan Oblast Akim Yurii Lavrinko from his post on 29 November and appointed Deputy Akim Leonid Desiatnik as the new regional head, Panorama reported on 2 December. Kazhegeldin denied claims published in Karavan-Blitz on 30 November that protests by pensioners, who blocked public transport during a demonstration, and the Slavic movement Lad led to Lavrinko's removal. Lavrinko was named to take over the Ministry of Transport and Communication. The largely Slavic oblast of East Kazakhstan fell into a serious economic crisis after the closure of several industrial plants, including the bankrupt Ust-Kamenogorsk metallurgical plant which is now seeking a foreign buyer. Kazhegeldin said he plans to visit East Kazakhstan more often in order to deal with the economic crisis and has given the new regional head "six months to improve the region's economy," Karavan-Blitz reported. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 234, 4 December 1995
BLACK SEA FLEET UPDATE.
Segodnya on 2 December reported that the transfer of Black Sea Fleet installations in Crimea has officially begun and that by the beginning of next year, the Black Sea Russian navy will be deployed only at the Sevastopol base and the Kacha and Hvardiiske airfields in Crimea. Outside Crimea, Russia will be able to retain a weapons testing center at Feodosia and a shipyard. Segodnya said the sudden withdrawal of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from so many bases in Ukraine was a natural outcome of downsizing the Russian armed forces and navy. Since 1991, the fleet's personnel has decreased from 67,000 to 35,000, and further cuts are envisaged. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW COAL INDUSTRY MINISTER.
President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Serhii Polyakov as minister of the coal industry, Ukrainian TV and Eastern Economist Daily reported on 1 December. The 49-year-old Polyakov was chairman of the Torez City Council in Eastern Donetsk Oblast. He replaces Viktor Poltavets, who was recently fired from his post for failing to launch reforms in the troubled coal sector. The drastic decline in coal production has forced Ukraine to increase imports of coal from Poland and Russia to meet domestic needs. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL TO SEVASTOPOL LIFTED.
Restrictions on entry to the Crimean city of Sevastopol have been lifted as of 1 December, Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAR reported on 1-2 December. Victor Semyonov, chairman of the Sevastopol city administration, ordered the city open to Ukrainian citizens and foreigners alike. The Ukrainian government voted on 21 November to overturn a May 1993 resolution extending Soviet-era travel restrictions to the port city and base of the Black Sea Fleet. Until now, travelers needed an invitation from a resident or military officer for entry. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Syarhei Naumchyk, spokesman for the nationalist opposition Belarusian Popular Front, on 1 December said there is evidence that election results were incorrect in the Smorhon constituency in Minsk, where BPF leader Zyanon Paznyak ran for office, Belapan reported. Naumchyk said that more than 2,000 ballots were invalid. He also claimed observers from political parties were not allowed into polling stations in that constituency. Paznyak received 47 percent of the vote, just failing to gain enough votes to win outright; but because it was a two-person race, he cannot run in a second round. In other news, Belapan reported that Presidium member Uladzimir Novikau has appealed to voters to take part in the 10 December runoff elections. The Presidium has proposed asking the Belarusian Television and Broadcasting Company for more air time to publicize the runoffs. Novikau cast doubt over whether President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has so far been hostile to media coverage of elections, will allow increased air time. -- Ustina Markus

BALTIC ASSEMBLY MEETING.
At its seventh session in Tallinn on 1-2 December, the Baltic Assembly passed documents on increasing the effectiveness of the assembly, on socio-economic and political issues, and on refugees, Interfax reported. It also requested that the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, prior to voting on Russian membership, ask Russia to "undertake to respect the independence and sovereign rights of the Baltic states." The session urged the Baltic governments to expand cooperation in protecting aerial and maritime borders and to make joint efforts to standardize armaments and communication systems. -- Saulius Girnius

ESTONIAN ARMED FORCES COMMANDER RESIGNS.
President Lennart Meri on 3 December said he has reluctantly accepted the resignation of Lt.-Gen. Aleksander Einseln as commander-in-chief of the Estonian armed forces, Western agencies reported. Einseln, who served 35 years in the U.S. military, was undermined by several recent scandals in his general staff and a public dispute with Defense Minister Andrus Oovel. To show gratitude for his work in establishing the Estonian armed forces, Meri said he was promoting Einseln to the rank of full general and asking him to remain in Estonia to head the nation's military academy. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH POLITICAL PARTIES SETTLE ACCOUNTS AFTER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The National Council of the opposition Freedom Union (UW) on 3 December dismissed Jan Maria Rokita from the party's presidium, saying he had breached party discipline and had not given his full support to the UW's presidential candidate, former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron. UW President and former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz had said earlier he would resign if Rokita were not dismissed because he did not want to be head of such an undisciplined party. Former Prime Ministers and UW members Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Hanna Suchocka criticized Rokita's dismissal. The previous day, the Labor Union (UP) dismissed Wojciech Lamentowicz from its Presidium. Lamentowicz had supported President-elect Aleksander Kwasniewski after heading the campaign staff of the UP candidate, ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinski, Polish dailies reported on 4 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

SEJM OVERRIDES WALESA'S VETO OF TAX LAW.
The Sejm on 1 December overrode President Lech Walesa's veto on the 1996 tax law (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1995) by a narrow majority. Walesa has said he will appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal. Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy said the government is prepared to implement either the old or the new law but he stressed that a decision must be reached quickly. Should the Constitutional Tribunal not reach a verdict by 22 December, the new president will be able to sign the law, Polish dailies reported on 2 December. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLISH WORKERS PROTEST PLAN TO BUY FOREIGN JETS.
Workers at the Polish aircraft company PZL-Mielec staged a two-hour work stoppage on 1 December to protest government plans to buy second-hand Alpha-Jet trainers from Germany rather than the "Iryda" trainers built by Mielec. PAP quoted the strike committee as saying the strikers were "defending the achievements of the Polish aircraft industry and our jobs." The government has argued that the Alpha-Jets are cheaper and would therefore be better for the armed forces, given the limited defense budget. The strike committee warned it would step up the protests if the government did not reconsider the purchase. -- Doug Clarke

CZECH CENTRIST PARTIES MERGE.
The extra-parliamentary Free Democrats (SD) and the Liberal National Social Party (LSNS), which has five seats in parliament, formally merged on 3 December, Czech media reported. SD leader and former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier and LSNS head Vavrinec Bodenlos were elected joint chairmen of the party, to be known as the SD-LSNS. Recent opinion polls show that, even together, the SD and LSNS are unlikely to gain parliamentary representation in next year's general election. But Dienstbier said the Czech political scene has become polarized and that the new party will campaign as a centrist alternative. Deputy Prime Minister Josef Lux, leader of the Christian Democratic Union-Czech People's Party, addressed the new party's founding session and said he was willing to work with the SD-LSNS. -- Steve Kettle

EASTERN EUROPE'S FIRST GAS SUPPLIER SALE.
The Hungarian privatization agency (APV Rt.) on 29 November sold a majority stake in Tigaz, the country's biggest gas supplier, to an Italian consortium, Hungarian media reported. The sale is the first of its kind in Eastern Europe. Italgas bought a 50% plus one vote stake in Tigaz for almost $172 million. Tigaz supplies 2.3 billion cubic meters of gas a year to more than 800,000 consumers in northeastern Hungary and has registered capital worth $116.2 million. Italgas plans to extend service to 200,000 more consumers and wants to invest $255 million over the next five years. No sizable reduction in the number of staff is envisaged. The APV Rt. is to decide on the sale of four other gas suppliers this week. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 234, 4 December 1995
FRENCH COMMANDER IN SARAJEVO RECALLED.
The French minister of defense has called home General Jean-Rene Bachelet following the latter's remarks to journalists critical of the Dayton agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). Nasa Borba on 4 December reported that the statements put the general in the same camp as "Serbian extremists" and provoked incomprehension from the Bosnian authorities. The New York Times on 3 December said that Hasan Muratovic, minister for relations with the United Nations, called for the French forces in Sarajevo to be replaced by Americans since the government now finds it difficult to trust the French. French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette tried to smooth things over and told AFP that his country "will have the means to enable the Serbs of Sarajevo to stay." Meanwhile, top U.S. officials have recently stressed that the Dayton agreement is final and that no changes can be considered. Their concern is that to discuss any one issue would permit the reopening of all others. -- Patrick Moore

GENERAL MLADIC REJECTS DAYTON AGREEMENT . . .
International media on 3 December reported that the Bosnian Serb military commander the previous day made his first public statements on the peace treaty. He said it was unacceptable because "some territories in which Serbs have lived for centuries have been handed over to the Croat-Muslim coalition.'' CNN showed the internationally wanted war criminal reviewing smartly dressed and well-disciplined troops whom he told that "we cannot allow our people to come under the rule of butchers." The network also interviewed U.S. Chief of Staff General John Shalikashvili, who said that NATO troops would not conduct a house-to-house search for Mladic and other Bosnian Serb war criminals but would hand them over "to the civilian authorities" if caught. -- Patrick Moore

. . . BUT CLINTON EXPECTS MILOSEVIC TO BRING HIM INTO LINE.
In apparent response to Mladic's implicit threats, President Bill Clinton on 3 December said that "we fully expect that [Serbian] President [Slobodan] Milosevic will take the appropriate steps to ensure that the treaty will be honored as it is written, and that we will not have undue interference with implementing it," the International Herald Tribune reported. On 2 December, the BBC said that Clinton again defended his call for U.S. forces to help enforce the Bosnian settlement. He said that the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia "asked us to help implement their peace treaty." -- Patrick Moore

NATO AGREES TO SEND FORCES TO BOSNIA.
The NATO Council, at a meeting in Brussels on 1 December, agreed to send a 2,600-strong "enabling" force to Bosnia to prepare for the deployment of the 60,000 troops comprising the NATO implementation force, Western agencies reported. U.S. President Bill Clinton the next day authorized the participation of the 700-strong U.S. contingent. This is the first time that American troops will be deployed in Bosnia. The "enabling" force will prepare headquarters, communications, and transport sites in anticipation of the arrival of the main force, expected to take place after the peace treaty is signed in Paris later this month. -- Michael Mihalka

POLITICAL SHOWDOWN IN ZAGREB.
Croatia's seven-party opposition coalition on 2 December elected new officials to the Zagreb City Assembly after deputies from the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Croatian Party of Rights had walked out the previous day, international media reported on 4 December. Hina quoted President Franjo Tudjman on 1 December as saying that he "cannot allow Zagreb, whose population constitutes a quarter of the whole of Croatia's, to get a city or county authority that would oppose state policy" and that "all democratic means" will be used to prevent such a scenario. The next day, HDZ members, who hold a third of the city assembly's 50 seats, walked out in an attempt to block an opposition coalition from taking power in Zagreb. Nonetheless, Zdravko Tomac was unanimously elected speaker of the assembly and Goran Granic Zagreb mayor, Novi List reported. Meanwhile, 10,000 Posavina Croats gathered at a protest rally in Zagreb on 2 December to demand an emergency session of the Croatian Assembly over the Dayton accord, the BBC reported on 4 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTY PURGES RANKS.
BETA on 2 December reported that the Democratic Party (DS) voted to dismiss two prominent members from its ranks. Dragoljub Micunovic, former party president and member of the federal legislature, and Veselin Simonovic, a deputy in the Serbian legislature. DS Vice President Miodrag Perisic explained that "the [party's] main committee considered that through their recent activities, [the two men] had caused political harm to the party." Micunovic responded that the dismissals meant that from now on, the DS is a party "without either a soul or a brain." -- Stan Markotich

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL ON ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS.
Following a one-week visit to Romania, Laszlo Labody, director of the office in charge of Hungarians living abroad, told a press conference in the Transylvanian city of Cluj that the Romanian education law should be modified. Labody said it was "not normal that street demonstrations by a few thousand students [in Bucharest] could lead to the amendment of the law, whereas the 500,000 signatures gathered from among members of the Hungarian community in a legislative initiative to amend that law are being ignored." Radio Bucharest on 3 December quoted him as saying that Romania and Hungary will certainly reach a historic reconciliation because the Hungarian government's program and Romanian President Ion Iliescu's proposal have the same aim. According to Duna TV Budapest, Labody said the only remaining impediment to concluding the basic treaty between the two countries is the disagreement over the paragraph on national minorities. -- Matyas Szabo

YELTSIN RESPONDS TO MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S LETTER.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, responding to a 17 November letter from Mircea Snegur on the Russian State Duma's resolution on the Transdniester (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1995), stressed that his country's policy toward Moldova has not changed and that Moscow continues to support a political solution to the conflict with the breakaway region. He added that the Transdniester should be granted a "special status" and that "Moldova's independence and territorial integrity" should be preserved. Infotag on 1 December reported that Yeltsin reiterated his readiness to hold a summit meeting with Snegur after an agreement is reached between Chisinau and Tiraspol and that he added such an agreement would also allow for the participation in the summit of the Tiraspol leadership. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS GOVERNMENT BID FOR EU MEMBERSHIP.
The Bulgarian National Assembly on 1 December voted to authorize the government to request full EU membership, RFE/RL reported. The motion was approved by a vote of 212 to one. The Bulgarian government the previous day had decided to formally apply for full EU membership. In an address on state-owned TV and radio, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said EU membership is in the strategic interest of the country. Videnov will submit Bulgaria's application during the EU summit in Madrid in December. Bulgaria has been an associate EU member since February 1995. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA PROTESTS ROMANIAN SEIZURE OF NUCLEAR FUEL.
Bulgaria on 1 December protested Romania's decision to halt a cargo of nuclear fuel bound for Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear plant (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). Reuters cited Yanko Yanev, head of the Atomic Energy Committee, as saying that Romania's action contravenes an international convention. A transport of nuclear waste would have needed permission to transit Romanian waters but "such requirements do not refer to fresh fuel, which is not radioactive," he argued. According to Yanev, such fuel transports have been going on for 20 years. An official at the Romanian port of Cernavoda on 2 December said the two Bulgarian vessels are still being held there. -- Stefan Krause

INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO HEAD OF BALLI KOMBETAR.
An investigation has been launched into Abaz Ermenji, chairman of the Balli Kombetar (National Front), Zeri i Popullit reported on 1 December. According to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the National Committee of World War II Veterans has charged Ermenji with committing crimes against humanity between 1941-1945. The former partisans claim that Ermenji was involved in the massacre of 114 innocent citizens in the southern region of Skrapari and the killing of 24 family heads. Ermenji returned to Albania on 21 October 1995 after 49 years in exile and was welcomed by friends and party members of the Balli Kombetar, which was reestablished after 1991. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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