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Newsline - December 5, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 235, 5 December 1995
YELTSIN VETOES BILL ON MILITARY SERVICE.
President Boris Yeltsin vetoed on 4 December amendments to the Military Service Act passed by the State Duma on 15 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 November 1995), Interfax reported. The Duma wanted to release current conscripts after 18 months instead of prolonging their service to two years. Yeltsin rejected the law, citing procedural violations. However, Yeltsin did issue a decree on 3 December allowing troops to be discharged after 18 months if they had been wounded or involved in combat duty for at least a month. -- Constantine Dmitriev

"UNDECIDEDS WILL WIN" IN DECEMBER POLL.
Speaking on NTV on 5 December, pollster Dmitrii Olshankii predicted that "the undecideds will win" in the Duma election since only 55% of Russia's 102 million electors intend to vote. Of those, another 10% may spoil their ballot or not vote for the party-list candidates, which means that the parties may be competing for only 45% of registered voters. He expects the Communist Party to win 14%, Our Home Is Russia 8%, the Congress of Russian Communities 8%, Yabloko 8%, the Liberal Democrats 7%, Women of Russia 6%, and Democratic Choice of Russia 6%. He predicts a tight and unpredictable race for the single-mandate seats, principally between the Communist Party and Our Home Is Russia. -- Peter Rutland

CANDIDATES ATTEND ORTHODOX CHURCH CONFERENCE ON RUSSIA'S FUTURE.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky told a conference on "Russia in the 21st century" that he sees the Russian Orthodox Church as the basis for the country's spiritual revival and that Orthodox Christianity should remain the only state-recognized religion in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. The conference, organized by the Russian Orthodox Church, was attended by the leaders of 17 other electoral blocs, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin. Lapshin said he sees Russia as a great agricultural country in the next century, while Gaidar stressed the fatal consequences of a halt to the reform process. -- Anna Paretskaya

DUMA DEPUTY'S APARTMENT BOMBED.
On the night of 2 December, a small bomb, estimated to contain 150 grams of TNT, blew in the windows of Duma Deputy Artem Tarasov's Moscow apartment, Interfax reported on 4 December. Coincidentally, in a 1 December television election broadcast for the Kedr (Cedar) Ecological Party monitored by the BBC Tarasov had said, "Like contract killings, there are contract public opinion polls, according to which a particular party comes ahead of others. They are made to order, hence their results vary so much." -- Peter Rutland

SHOOTING IN MOSCOW RESTAURANT.
One person was killed and five wounded in a shooting at a Moscow cafe over the weekend, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 December. Police say two gunmen burst into private rooms at the Angara cafe on Novyi Arbat Street, killing a Muscovite and wounding two of his friends. The other casualties, including a British businessman, were injured when the gunmen opened fire in the dining room as they fled. Also on 4 December, ITAR-TASS reported that Albert Apollonov, a prominent local businessman, was murdered in Petrazavodsk in Kareliya in what police say was a contract killing. Apollonov headed the Rosika company that trades in oil products. Interior Minster Anatolii Kulikov called on 1 December for the creation of a special bureau to investigate the large number of contract killings. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN CUSTOMS FINISH DEMARCATION OF RUSSO-BALTIC BORDER.
State Customs Committee Chairman Anatolii Kruglov opened the last checkpoint on Russia's border with the Baltic states, Shumilkino, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. According to Kruglov, up to $67 million and 20 billion rubles ($4.4 million) were spent on the demarcation of the Russian borders with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Meanwhile, Estonia and Latvia continue to insist on border revisions despite Russian objections. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN SECURITY SERVICES AGREE TO COOPERATE.
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Mikhail Barsukov and his Belarusian counterpart, Uladzimir Yahorau, signed a cooperation agreement last week, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 5 December. The Belarusian service agreed to safeguard Russian troops temporarily stationed in Belarus. The two directors also appealed to the Russian and Belarusian governments to develop bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and arms smuggling. -- Constantine Dmitriev

YELTSIN PASSES AGREEMENT ON RUSSIAN-EU COOPERATION TO DUMA.
President Boris Yeltsin submitted an EU partnership and cooperation agreement to the State Duma for ratification, Interfax reported on 4 December. The agreement was signed on 24 June 1994. However, the interim trade accord, which was part of the agreement, was frozen by the EU in January 1995 due to the war in Chechnya and then reactivated in April 1995 after the opening of an OSCE mission in Grozny. The agreement grants Russia "most favored nation" status and recognizes it as a "transition economy" rather than a "planned economy," which makes it more difficult for the EU to levy anti-dumping tariffs against Russian imports. -- Constantine Dmitriev

VLADIMOV WINS BOOKER PRIZE.
Former human rights activist Georgii Vladimov has been awarded the Russian Booker Prize for best novel of the year for his A General and His Army, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 December. Vladimov, who is living in exile in Germany, is the first emigre writer to win the prize. His novel is devoted to Andrei Vlasov, a captive Russian general who led a force of Soviet PoWs that fought on the German side during World War II. There are still debates about whether Vlasov was a cowardly collaborator or an anti-Communist patriot. -- Penny Morvant

INTELLECTUALS IN DEFENSE OF CULTURE.
Representatives of the "creative intelligentsia" gathered in the Bolshoi Theater on 4 December to discuss the crisis in Russian culture. Their discussion focused on the theme, "a civilized market can only be built in a civilized society," Russian TV reported. The conference was addressed by such figures as author Fazil Iskander and Academician Dmitrii Ligachev, who warned against the "self-isolation" of Russian culture. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also attended. He promised to double budget spending on culture to 2 trillion rubles ($435 million) next year and to introduce tax breaks for cultural organizations. -- Peter Rutland

SPENT FINNISH NUCLEAR FUEL SENT TO RUSSIA.
A trainload of spent nuclear fuel from a Finnish nuclear power plant arrived in Russia on 2 December for processing at the Mayak plant in Chelyabinsk-65, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 5 December. According to the paper, it is not clear whether the nuclear residue remaining after processing will be shipped back to Finland or kept in Russia. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 4 December that a German company has signed a contract with the Kursk nuclear power plant to construct a nuclear waste storage facility and 240 containers to store the plant's radioactive waste. The German Company for Nuclear Containers, a subsidiary of Nukem, will control production quality, train specialists, and provide the know-how for container production. According to Gosatomnadzor, the state agency responsible for monitoring nuclear safety, the solid waste storage facilities at the Kursk plant are full. -- Penny Morvant

NEW BILLS FOR OLD.
The Russian Central Bank is taking steps to calm anxiety about the U.S. government's plan to introduce a new $100 bill in January. The bank's deputy chairman, Aleksandr Khandruev, said that financial institutions will be forbidden from charging more than 2% commission for exchanging the old bills, Russian TV reported on 4 December. The main fear is that the process will reveal large numbers of fake old bills. Already there have been several cases of "new" $100 notes turning up--even though the U.S. has not yet released any. An estimated $15 billion in cash is circulating inside Russia (see OMRI Economic Digest, 16 November 1995). -- Peter Rutland

GOVERNMENT PRE-ELECTION SPENDING SPREE WIDENS BUDGET DEFICIT.
According to First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov, additional spending in December may widen the federal budget deficit from the projected 3.2% of GDP to 4%, Western agencies reported on 4 December. The government has promised to spend an additional 9 trillion rubles ($1.96 billion) on defense and 5.8 trillion rubles ($1.3 billion) for the Pension Fund, and to pay off a large amount of wage arrears. The government has recently renewed efforts to collect taxes from delinquent enterprises, and hopes to raise several hundred million dollars from the auction of a 78% stake in the YUKOS oil company, which will take place on 8 December. Petrov also reported that the IMF has agreed to double the next two monthly payments under the 1996 standby loan. At the same time, the IMF warned the Russian government to stay within the target budget figures. -- Natalia Gurushina



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 235, 5 December 1995
SEVEN UZBEK NEWSPAPERS CEASE PUBLICATION.
Financial difficulties have forced a prominent Uzbek publishing house to suspend publication of seven Tashkent-based newspapers, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 December. The Sharq publishing house, which owns the papers, is currently facing a debt of more than 2 million sum ($57,000). The papers that ceased publication on 30 November are Tashkentskaya pravda, Toshkent khakikati, Turkiston, Molodezh Uzbekistana, and the dailies Watan, Vecherniye Tashkent, and Toshkent oqshomi. No word was given as to when they will resume publication or if the publishing house is repaying its debt. -- Roger Kangas

KARIMOV AND AKAYEV MEET TO DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov held talks in the Uzbek sity of Andijan on 4 December with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akayev, Interfax reported. The leaders focused on increased economic cooperation, particularly in the field of natural gas and oil deliveries from Uzbekistan to energy-starved Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev will reportedly join the meeting to discuss the Central Asian economic union established in January 1994. To date, in spite of calls for regional cooperation, the union has achieved very little. -- Roger Kangas

FOUR CANDIDATES FOR KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL RACE.
The deadline for hopefuls in the 24 December Kyrgyz presidential election passed on 3 December and the field of candidates has been narrowed from 13 to just four, Radio Rossii reported. The officially registered candidates are President Askar Akayev, former speaker of parliament Medetken Sherimkulov, former Communist Party First Secretary and current Communist Party Chairman Absamat Masaliev, and former Communist Party Secretary and current Deputy Prime Minister Jumgalbek Amanbayev. Ata Meken Party leader Omurbek Tekebayev, Adilet Movement leader Yuruslan Toychubekov, and the former director of the Kadamzhay Antimony plant, Mamat Aybalayev, had their applications for registration rejected for unspecified reasons. -- Bruce Pannier

RADIOACTIVE WASTE PROBLEM IN KAZAKHSTAN.
The amount of radioactive waste accumulating at uranium mining and processing plants in Kazakhstan is reaching alarming proportions, according to ITAR-TASS on 4 December. Since the country became independent in 1991, the quantity of radioactive waste stored in Kazakhstan has grown to 219 million tons. The republic's Ministry of Ecology and Biological Resources claims the aggregate radioactivity from the waste comes to 250,000 curies, which is "many times more than the accepted norm." Kazakhstan does not have the means to deal with the waste because under the Soviet Union disposal was a national responsibility carried out by the government in Moscow. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKISTAN OPENS EMBASSY IN ANKARA.
Tajikistan opened an its first embassy outside the former Soviet Union in Ankara on 4 December, AFP reported. In August, reports surfaced that former Interior Minister Yaqub Salimov would be Tajikistan's ambassador to Turkey. Salimov was removed from office that month amid charges that he headed a personal army of 20,000 troops. In 1994, Turkey opened an embassy in Dushanbe in an effort to show that it was not only focusing on the Turkic-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union. -- Lowell Bezanis

CURFEW IN DUSHANBE.
The Tajik government imposed a curfew on the capital, Dusahnbe, effective on 1 December, according to a 2 December report on the opposition's radio station, the Voice of Free Tajikistan. The radio interpreted the move as a preventative measure to ensure stability in Dushanbe during the peace negotiations between the government and opposition in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. -- Bruce Pannier



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 235, 5 December 1995
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN CHINA.
Leonid Kuchma, in China on an official four-day visit, signed several agreements with his counterpart, Jiang Zemin, on 4 December, international agencies reported. Included were accords on the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of double taxation. The same day, the Ukrainian National Bank and the People's Bank of China also signed an agreement. Kuchma told reporters that China is Ukraine's second-largest trading partner and that bilateral trade this year will exceed $900 million. According to official figures, trade between China and Ukraine in first nine months of the year reached only $310 million. Ukrainian officials claim this figure is distorted since most trade is conducted through intermediaries in Russia. It is hoped that the banking agreement will accurately reflect the volume of trade by eliminating middlemen and the use of third currencies. Kuchma said he hoped bilateral trade will reach at least $2 billion annually by the end of the decade. So far, there are 56 Sino-Ukrainian joint-ventures, but Kuchma said these were insufficient to realize the real trade potential between the two countries. -- Ustina Markus

NEW BELARUSIAN AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 4 December told Interfax that a unique air defense system has been developed by the Belarusian military-industrial complex. His announcement comes some three months after a U.S. air balloon was shot down in Belarusian air space, killing both pilots. The new system is to be marketed abroad, and Defense Minister Leanid Maltseu is to submit a proposal on the subject in the near future. Lukashenka said China has shown a special interest in the system. -- Ustina Markus

TWO ESTONIAN PARTIES MERGE.
The right-of-center Pro Patria and the Estonian National Independence Party, meeting in Tallinn on 2 December, completed their merger to form a new party called the Fatherland Union, BNS reported. Former Economics Minister Toivo Jurgenson was elected party chairman. -- Saulius Girnius

BIRKAVS REELECTED HEAD OF LATVIA'S WAY.
At a congress in Riga on 2 December, Latvia's Way reelected Valdis Birkavs as party chairman, BNS reported on 4 December. The congress also adopted a resolution noting that the current division of the Saeima into two equal blocs was unfavorable for the formation of a stable government and that a broad coalition would be in the best interests of Latvia. It also decided to forge ties with democratic and reformist forces in Russia such as Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia. The party has 435 members, of whom 150 are involved in private business, 67 are politicians, and 93 work in other government offices. -- Saulius Girnius

CLOSE SUBORDINATES DEFEND POLISH CHIEF OF STAFF.
Four Polish generals on 4 December published an article in the military daily Polska Zbrojna in defense of chief of the General Staff General Tadeusz Wilecki, who is currently hospitalized. Colonel Zbigniew Czekierda, spokesman for the General Staff, said the article was a clear signal that there is unity among the General Staff's leadership, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 5 December. The daily added that the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance and Polish Peasant Party has been looking for a new chief of General Staff among Wilecki's deputies. Wilecki is considered a strong supporter of outgoing President Lech Walesa. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH MILITARY WANTS MORE NCOS.
Defense Minister Vilem Holan on 4 December announced that by the year 2005, there will be more non-commissioned and warrant officers than commissioned officers. CTK quoted Holan as saying there are currently 20,000 commissioned officers in the Czech armed forces and only 10,000 NCOs and warrant officers. "Over the next 10 years we are going to have to turn this pyramid around by 10% each year," he said, adding that in 1996 the military would dismiss 1,400 officers and only recruit 400. About 100 NCOs would be retired while 1,100 would be recruited. -- Doug Clarke

SLOVAK RULING PARTY REJECTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION.
Leaders of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 4 December criticized a ruling by the Constitutional Court that the creation of parliamentary investigative commissions is illegal, Slovak dailies reported the following day. In particular, the ruling (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 November 1995) affects the bodies set up to examine the events surrounding the fall of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's previous government in March 1994 and the circumstances of the death of Alexander Dubcek in 1992. After a meeting in Bratislava, the HZDS leadership said it could not accept that the court's ruling was "non-partisan." It added that the constitution authorized the parliament to create committees within which such commissions could operate. -- Steve Kettle

U.S. ADVANCE FORCE FAILS TO SHOW UP AT HUNGARIAN AIR BASE.
Some 100 domestic and foreign journalists waited in vain for the arrival of a U.S. advance force at Hungary's Taszar air base on 4 December, Nepszabadsag reported. The arrival date was apparently changed because of U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Germany last weekend. The newspaper also reports that U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry has signed an order to send 3,000 U.S. soldiers to Hungary, of whom 2,000 will be in charge of logistics, and 1,000 will serve in technical teams. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO FUND PROGRAMS FOR ROMA.
Csaba Tabajdi, political state secretary at the Hungarian Prime Minister's Office, has announced that the government will develop a program to improve living standards for Roma, MTK reported last week. The program is intended to promote initiatives in several areas, including education, agriculture, social welfare, and affirmative action. The cabinet also announced the establishment of a Coordination Council for Gypsy Affairs and a Public Foundation for Gypsies in Hungary; the 1996 national budget allocates 150 million forints ($1.15 million) to funding these new bodies. Tabajdi stressed that Romani citizens in Hungary have been more adversely affected by the market changes than any other group. -- Alaina Lemon



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 235, 5 December 1995
CROATIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION BATTLE FOR CONTROL OVER ZAGREB ASSEMBLY.
The Croatian government on 4 December overruled decisions taken by the opposition coalition in the Zagreb City Assembly and Zagreb County Assembly two days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 December 1995). The government said these two bodies had not been legally established because they lacked a two-thirds quorum and thus the documents they adopted were invalid, Hina reported the same day. The first full sessions of the two assemblies are scheduled for 2 January 1996. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Croat military organization has a new chief. General Zivko Budimir replaces indicted war criminal Tihomir Blaskic, whom Croatian President Tudjman recently promoted, the BBC reported on 5 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

"FORGOTTEN SERBS" HAVE IDEAS ON SARAJEVO.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 5 December pointed out that many Bosnian Serbs reject the nationalism of Radovan Karadzic. They have chosen to remain in government-held areas under the leadership of Mirko Pejanovic's Serbian Civic Council (SGV) and deny Karadzic's claim to speak for all Serbs. The newspaper suggested that as many Sarajevo Serbs live in government-held areas as those run by Pale and that Serbs in the Bosnian capital have experienced the shelling and siege just like their Muslim and Croat neighbors. Pejanovic told the daily that international bodies should begin soon to send mediators to calm the fears of Serbs in Sarajevo suburbs that are about to pass from Pale's to government control. He also called for restoring telephone links between the divided halves of the city and for amnesty for Serbian militia members who have not committed war crimes. -- Patrick Moore

SOME PROBLEMS FROM WAR WILL TAKE TIME TO SOLVE.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata has said that Bosnian refugees should be allowed to go home gradually. Hina reported on 4 December that this means that those who do not wish to return immediately should not be forced to leave their countries of refuge. She called for the UNHCR to prepare a plan for resettlement and for those refugees living in Serbia and Croatia to come back first. The Bosnian authorities, however, want refugees "in remote countries" to return first before they adapt to their new surroundings. In another development, the Croatian news agency said that some 3 million mines were laid in that country after 1991 and that 100,000 unexploded shells also remain. Croatia's top defense council met to discuss the big problem of these dangerous devices in the "newly liberated areas" and to deal with the transition to a peacetime military. -- Patrick Moore

EU DELAYS CONFERENCE ON BOSNIA RECONSTRUCTION.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on 4 December, decided to postpone a conference on funding the reconstruction of Bosnia until 1996 because of uncertainties over how much funding individual countries will commit, Western agencies reported. The EU had scheduled a conference for 18-19 December in the expectation that EU, the U.S., and Japan and the rest of the world would each pay one-third of the estimated $6 billion required. But the Clinton administration has said it cannot contribute more than $600 million. -- Michael Mihalka

TURKISH DIPLOMATS IN BELGRADE.
A Turkish diplomatic mission arrived in the Serbian capital on 4 November as part of a move to normalize relations between Ankara and the rump Yugoslavia, AFP reported. This is the first time high-level diplomats have held talks in one of the two capitals since ties were reduced to the level of charge d'affaires in 1993. Relations began to thaw after Turkey sent Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic a note last month expressing appreciation for his role in the peace process. In other news, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has announced that Turkey is prepared to contribute 1,300 troops to the NATO force that will oversee the enforcement of the peace accord signed in Dayton, AFP reported. -- Lowell Bezanis

SLOVENIA'S RECOGNITION OF RUMP YUGOSLAVIA STIRS ACRIMONY IN BELGRADE.
Tanjug on 3 December carried a vitriolic commentary on Ljubljana's 30 November decision to recognize the rump Yugoslavia. Serbia's state-run news agency suggested that Slovenia's move was prompted by self-interest and that the Slovenian government has retained its "hard-core anti-Serb and anti-Yugoslav position." The report goes on to maintain that economics played a determining role in Slovenia's move, since prior to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia's exports to Serbia and Montenegro amounted to some $3 billion. Total exports to the rump Yugoslav now hover around $7 million. -- Stan Markotich

WAS SARIN USED IN KOSOVO IN 1990?
The Kosovo Information Center has linked mysterious poisonings in Kosovo in April 1990 to reports about Sarin nerve gas production in rump Yugoslavia and Serb-held territory in Bosnia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1995). Some 7,000 Kosovar youngsters were hospitalized five years ago with symptoms of nerve poisoning. ATSH says that UN toxicologists have come to the conclusion that some unspecified kind of nerve gas was used in 1990, probably Sarin or Tabun. -- Fabian Schmidt

POLICE RAID SKOPJE SUBURB IN CONNECTION WITH ATTEMPT ON PRESIDENT'S LIFE.
Macedonian police on 2 December conducted large-scale raids in the Skopje suburb of Kisela Voda in connection with the assassination attempt on President Kiro Gligorov, MIC reported on 4 December. Some 3,000 houses, garages, basements, and shacks as well as a couple of thousand cars were searched. Passers-by were also searched. According to Vecher, the police were interested in scissors for cutting wire, anyone involved in the sale of spare car parts, and legal and unregistered car services. The police also handed out a photograph of a man believed to be linked to the attempt. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH UKRAINE.
Teodor Melescanu on 4 December told the Senate that Romania has a "well-prepared file" on the territorial dispute with Ukraine over the Serpent Island in the Black Sea, Radio Bucharest reported the next day. He said Romania is ready to settle the dispute in parleys with Ukraine but added that if necessary, it is prepared to take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He said that the Serpent Island is not an economic asset at the moment but may become one due to "important oil and natural gas reserves" found there. The island is also important for the purpose of drawing marine boundaries between Romania and Ukraine, Melescanu added. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIA RELEASES BULGARIAN NUCLEAR BARGE.
Romania has released a barge carrying nuclear fuel to Bulgaria's controversial Kozloduy power plant , Reuters reported on 4 December. The barge was stopped last week because it lacked transit documents (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). "The barge and the tug have left after the Transport Ministry and nuclear authorities granted permission to cross our territorial waters", the deputy commander of Romania's Danube port of Cernavoda was quoted as saying. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIAN CDR LEADER JOINS OPPOSITION PARTY.
Emil Constantinescu, chairman of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), has joined the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic and will run on its lists in the 1996 elections to the Senate, Radio Bucharest reported on 4 December. Constantinescu is also the chosen CDR candidate for the 1996 presidential elections. Radio Bucharest also carried a CDR press release saying the selection of CDR candidates running in the 1996 local and general elections will be made on the basis of evaluating the candidates' "morality, correctness, professional skill, and organizational capability." -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON NATO EXPANSION.
Mircea Snegur has said he sees no danger for Moldova if NATO expands eastward, Radio Bucharest on 4 December reported, citing ITAR-TASS. But he added that NATO would be well advised to consider all consequences deriving from such a step. Snegur reiterated that, as a neutral state, his country is constitutionally prevented from joining NATO or any other military pact, including the CIS Collective Security Pact. -- Michael Shafir

PRO-SNEGUR PARTY TO SEEK ALLIES AGAINST "ANTI-REFORMISTS."
President Snegur, in a veiled allusion to the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova, has said his Party of Revival and Conciliation of Moldova (PRCM) will "start consultations with other parties and political movements" with an eye to devising "common tactics to counter-balance the anti-reformist and anti-democratic actions of some political formations," BASA-press reported on 4 December. Snegur told the PRCM Edinet branch, which held its first gathering, that the party has 27 local branches and that more branches are "to be set up throughout Moldova by the end of this year." -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIA STRIKES OIL DEAL WITH IRAN.
During Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev's visit to Tehran, Bulgaria and Iran on 4 December signed an agreement on broad economic cooperation, AFP reported the same day. Most notably, Iran will sell more than 2 million tons of crude oil to Bulgaria annually. The two countries also agreed to raise the level of bilateral trade to $500 million and to establish a regular airline connection between the two capitals. The agreement was signed at the end of a three-day session of the two countries' joint economic commission. -- Stefan Krause

DISBURSEMENTS ON BULGARIAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS LOAN HALTED.
The World Bank, the EBRD, and the EIB all confirmed on 3 December that there have been no disbursements in 1995 on a joint 1993 loan to Bulgaria's telecommunications sector, Demokratsiya reported the next day. The heads of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) and the Committee for Posts and Telecommunications denied that this is the case, however. Bulgaria received $4.24 million and 92.26 million DM during 1993 and 1994 under this agreement. Resumption of disbursements depends on BTK's substantially raising prices and paying off debts to foreign telecommunications companies. -- Michael Wyzan

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO ITALY DIE IN BOAT ACCIDENTS.
A boat carrying 23 illegal immigrants from Albania to Italy has sunk and another with 16 Albanians on board has been missing for 10 days, Koha Jone reported. Two bodies from the first boat were found near the Puglian coast on 1 December, and five survivors were rescued by the German military vessel Koln; the remaining 16 illegal immigrants are missing. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN CHIEF EDITOR'S TRIAL DROPPED.
Human Rights Watch officials have announced that the trial of Blendi Fevziu, the chief editor of Aleanca, was dropped on 4 December. Head of the State Control Commission Blerim Cela had charged Fevziu with slander. Fevziu in August published a list of allegedly corrupt officials; that list had previously been read out in the parliament by Democratic Alliance deputy Perikli Teta. Cela's name was included on the list. International human rights groups had protested the trial. Fevziu, a Democratic Alliance candidate, could have been barred from running for the parliament in May if convicted. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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