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Newsline - December 7, 1995


Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region.

This week's edition includes stories on the economic turbulence in Macedonia caused by the lifting of sanctions, and the superior performance of Russia's privatized enterprises compared to state-run outfits.

For subscription and rate information, please send a message to econ@omri.cz DUMA APPROVES 1996 BUDGET.
On 6 December, the State Duma passed the final draft of the 1996 federal budget on both second and third readings, by a vote of 253-71 with six abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. The budget puts monthly inflation at 1.9%, revenue at 347 trillion rubles ($75.8 billion), and expenditure at 436 trillion rubles ($95.1 billion), leaving a deficit of 88.6 trillion rubles ($19.3 billion). As a result of Duma objections during the first reading, planned spending has been increased for defense by 3.5 trillion rubles ($764 million), farming and housing construction by 8 trillion rubles ($1.8 billion), welfare by 2 trillion rubles ($444 million), and law-enforcement by 1.37 trillion rubles ($304 million). Deputies voted not to allocate an additional 5 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion) for reconstruction work in Chechnya. The budget's approval is an important prerequisite for reaching an agreement with the IMF on a three-year loan of $9 billion. The Federation Council will consider the budget on 9 December. -- Natalia Gurushina

YELTSIN SIGNS FEDERATION COUNCIL LAW.
President Boris Yeltsin signed the law on the formation of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, one day after the State Duma overrode the Council's veto of the law, Russian media reported on 6 December. Under the law, each of Russia's 89 regions will have two representatives in the Council: the governor or chief administrator, and the head of the regional legislature. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, who will lose his position once the law goes into effect, said he still considers the law unconstitutional but noted that it "must be fulfilled" now that it has been signed by the president, Russian TV reported. Governors must be popularly elected by December 1996, but Shumeiko, who is from Kaliningrad, said he would not run for governor in any region next year, according to NTV. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN VETOES CRIMINAL CODE.
President Yeltsin has rejected the new Criminal Code passed by the Duma on 2 November, Russian media reported on 6 December. According to an explanatory note issued by the presidential press service, Yeltsin used his veto because the code has not been linked to the current Criminal Procedures Code--a situation that could make it virtually impossible to institute criminal proceedings and would thus result in a crisis in the country's law enforcement system. The president also expressed surprise that the code does not deal with a number of crimes, such as the obstruction of a journalists' professional duties, that threaten the development of a civil society. A conciliation commission will now be set up to amend the draft code. -- Penny Morvant

PLANE DISAPPEARS IN FAR EAST . . .
An Aeroflot plane en route from Sakhalin to Khabarovsk with 97 people on board disappeared from radar screens early on 7 December and is presumed to have crashed, Russian and Western agencies reported. Rescuers temporarily gave up their search for the missing plane, a TU-154, when darkness fell. A total of 302 people died in air crashes in Russia in 1994, up from 222 the previous year, according to Reuters. -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND FOUR KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH.
Four people were killed when a military helicopter crashed about 20km from the Ingush capital of Nazran early on 7 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency said the MI-24 helicopter gunship was escorting an MI-8 transport helicopter evacuating Russian servicemen wounded in Chechnya. According to Ingush Vice President Boris Agapov, the MI-24 hit a high-voltage power line. Earlier reports quoting a spokeswoman from the Emergencies Ministry said that both helicopters had crashed. -- Penny Morvant

NEW HEALTH MINISTER APPOINTED.
President Yeltsin has signed a decree appointing Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev to the post of health minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. Tsaregorodtsev, who has been acting minister since the dismissal of Eduard Nechaev (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 November and 4 December 1995), is a specialist in children's diseases. He graduated from the Kazan medical institute in 1970 and was head of the Tatar ASSR Health Ministry from 1986 to 1989. -- Penny Morvant

EDITORS DISCUSS PROBLEMS OF REGIONAL PRESS.
A 6 December Moscow round-table discussion involving regional newspaper editors illustrated the limits on freedom of the provincial press in Russia. Some participants said newspapers are forced to choose between criticizing the authorities and survival. For instance, if a paper has the local administration as a co-founder, it may be protected, but to keep that protection it will have to support the authorities or at least refrain from open criticism. Sergei Titov, editor of the independent Simbirskii kurer in Ulyanovsk (considered one of the regions of Russia least changed by reforms), said the economic pressure on his paper amounted to a "blockade" by the authorities. He said some private businesses had been threatened with tax inspections if they placed advertisements in or otherwise financed his paper. When asked whether he had turned to the local chapter of the Union of Journalists for help, Titov noted that the chairman of the union's Ulyanovsk branch also works in the press service of the local administration. -- Laura Belin

SECURITY TIGHTENED AFTER DUMA EXPLOSION.
Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said on 6 December that security at the entrance to the parliament would be tightened following an explosion the day before in the office of National Republican Party leader Nikolai Lysenko, Russian and Western media reported. Lysenko said he believed the blast, caused by three hand grenades triggered by a timing device, could have been the work of "the Caucasian mafia" or even the Turkish secret services. A spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Moscow was quick to reject the latter allegation as absurd. A number of reports in the Russian press speculated that Lysenko staged the attack himself for propaganda purposes. Meanwhile, President Yeltsin met with Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov to discuss the upsurge of violence in Chechnya and moves to bolster national security in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. -- Penny Morvant

MORE CORRUPTION IN VLADIMIR OBLAST.
Ivan Morozov, the head of administration of the town Gus-Khrustalnyi in Vladimir Oblast, has been detained on suspicion of accepting bribes amounting to more than 20 million rubles ($4,370), ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. The first deputy governor of Vladimir Oblast and the chairman of the region's department of the Central Bank have already been convicted on corruption charges, and two other oblast officials have been accused of bribe-taking. -- Penny Morvant

KOZYREV: "YES TO PARTNERSHIP, NO TO ENLARGEMENT."
With that phrase, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev expressed his country's policy toward NATO at the meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council on 6 December, Western agencies reported. The day before, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said his country takes credit for engineering the "pause" in NATO plans for enlargement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 December 1995). A former member of U.S. President George Bush's staff, Peter Rodman, wrote an article for the December issue of National Review in which he suggests that U.S. President Bill Clinton assured Russia that NATO enlargement would be placed on the back burner in exchange for its support of the Bosnian peacekeeping operation. Izvestiya carried a commentary on the article in its 7 December issue. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking in Brussels on 6 December, dismissed Rodman's claims as "nonsense." -- Michael Mihalka

GRACHEV CALLS CHINA A KEY MILITARY PARTNER.
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev met with the Chinese Central Military Council Deputy Chairman Liu Huaqing to discuss bilateral military cooperation and Asia-Pacific security, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. After purchasing 26 Su-27 fighters in 1992, China is interested in manufacturing Su-27 warplanes under Russian license. According to Interfax, Russian and Chinese experts are currently working on an intergovernmental agreement to be signed by Liu before the end of his visit on 8 December. Grachev and Liu agreed that better Sino-Russian ties would serve to strengthen regional security and international peace. Russia views closer cooperation with China as a possible counterbalance to NATO's eastward expansion, but China is primarily interested in gaining access to Russia's advanced weapons' technology, and has ruled out the idea of a military alliance. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE TO CHANGES IN ABM TREATY.
During talks in Geneva, Russian and the U.S. officials reached an understanding on changes to the ABM treaty that would allow for some high-speed missile defense systems, Western agencies reported on 6 December. Negotiations aim at resolving the dispute over the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. Russia argues that U.S. intentions to develop more sophisticated missile-defense systems are undermining the treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 November 1995). State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said that Russia would not oppose the deployment of an Upper Tier high-speed defense system, which is considered to be the most promising defense system in the U.S, AFP reported. Davies' statement contradicts earlier reports that the Upper Tier missile would be prohibited because it exceeds the velocity cutoff under the terms of the Russo-U.S. "agreement" published last week by the Washington Times. -- Constantine Dmitriev

NORWAY FEARS RUSSIA, SWEDEN DOES NOT.
The Norwegian government decided to conduct joint exercises with NATO close to the Russian border, thereby lifting its voluntary limitation on such exercises, Segodnya reported on 7 December. Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Siri Berke said that Russian military activities on the Kola Peninsula, including the disposal of nuclear waste, represent a new challenge to Norwegian security. Meanwhile, Sweden plans to reduce its military expenses by 4 billion Swedish krona by the year 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. Swedish Defense Minister Tage Peterson said that although Russia retains its nuclear capabilities, it has lost its economic and military might since the dissolution of the USSR. -- Constantine Dmitriev

DEFENSE MINISTRY BLOCKS ROCKET DEAL.
The Russian Defense Ministry is blocking export permits for the sale of NV-33 rocket engines by Samara Dvigateli to the California-based Aerojet company, Interfax reported on 6 December. The Russian government approved the $100 million deal in October, but a Defense Ministry official claimed that the U.S. side changed the terms to allow the rockets to carry military cargoes. The official also objected to the low price tag, describing the $5 million license fee as "absurd." Rather than selling the 25-year-old NV-33, the Defense Ministry would like to see the development of a new RD 180 engine, which is part of a joint venture by Pratt and Whitney and Energomash. The companies are bidding to supply engines to Lockheed-Martin's Atlas booster rockets. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA WANTS MORE TIME TO CUT OZONE-THREATENING SUBSTANCES.
At a conference in Vienna to review the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone protection, Russian
Environment Minister Viktor Danilov-Danilyan said Russia needs more time and investment aid to develop substitutes to ozone-harming substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), AFP reported on 6 December. Under the protocol, signed by 150 countries, industrialized countries are to stop producing CFCs by 1996 and the rest of the signatories by 2010. Danilov-Danilyan said Russia is now producing only half the ozone-threatening chemicals it was in 1987, but he added that the drop was a byproduct of the fall in industrial output. -- Penny Morvant



Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region.

This week's edition includes stories on the economic turbulence in Macedonia caused by the lifting of sanctions, and the superior performance of Russia's privatized enterprises compared to state-run outfits.

For subscription and rate information, please send a message to econ@omri.cz UZBEK, US OFFICIALS DISCUSS MILITARY CONVERSION.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov and U.S. Under-Secretary of Commerce Barry Carter discussed the conversion of the Uzbek military industrial complex in Tashkent on 6 December, Interfax reported. Karimov expressed the hope that U.S. businessmen accompanying Carter would propose joint ventures with Uzbek defense-oriented enterprises. -- Liz Fuller

ZAVGAEV IN ALMATY.
Chechen Premier Doku Zavgaev and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed the political implications of the Chechen crisis during talks in Almaty on 6 December, Russian TV reported. They signed a number of bilateral agreements on cooperation, including one that provides for the refining of Kazakhstani oil in Grozny once the political situation in Chechnya stabilizes. -- Liz Fuller



Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region.

This week's edition includes stories on the economic turbulence in Macedonia caused by the lifting of sanctions, and the superior performance of Russia's privatized enterprises compared to state-run outfits.

For subscription and rate information, please send a message to econ@omri.cz UKRAINE, ROMANIA WRANGLE OVER SERPENT ISLAND.
Ukrainian officials are dismayed by recent comments by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu that his government is considering taking its claim on a tiny Black Sea island, now part of Ukraine, to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, international agencies reported on 6 December. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko told reporters during his visit to China that the suggestion "was tantamount to Romania making territorial claims on Ukraine." Udovenko said that Ukraine will not make any territorial concessions and that it has decided to recall its ambassador in Bucharest for consultations. Romania claims Serpent Island was unjustly turned over by Communist authorities to the USSR in 1948. According to Ukraine, there are potentially lucrative oil and gas deposits off the coast of the island. Romanian claims on land annexed by the Soviet government and now part of Ukraine have long held up the signing of a border agreement between the two countries. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC RECESSION DEEPENS.
An economic study conducted by the Geneva-based International Labor Organization reveals that the ailing Ukrainian economy is sinking further into recession, international agencies reported 6 December. The report said industrial production in Ukraine has halved since 1991, and a quarter of all managers fear bankruptcy. Hidden unemployment affects one out of three factory employees, with many on unpaid leave owing to their employers' inability to pay wages. Some managers have paid workers in factory products or food and health care goods, instead of money. The survey said some 15% of women have been put on maternity leave, despite not being pregnant. The official unemployment rate this year is 0.5% because many cases are not reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT.
Prime Minister-designate Ziedonis Cevers presented his cabinet to President Guntis Ulmanis on 6 December, BNS reported. The cabinet consists only of members of the National Conciliation Bloc, as efforts to garner the support of other right of center parties have failed. It is composed of five ministers from Cevers' Saimnieks party, four from the Popular Movement for Latvia, and two each from the Unity and National Harmony Parties. Only three of the ministers are not Saeima deputies. The Saeima session on 7 December, voting on the approval of the government, was delayed two hours when it was noticed that one of the deputies was absent. -- Saulius Girnius

ASIAN IMMIGRANTS DETAINED IN LITHUANIA.
The police in Vilkaviskis Raion arrested 92 Asian immigrants on 5 December, BNS reported the next day. Twenty-eight of the immigrants came from Sri Lanka, 23 from Pakistan, and 21 from Bangladesh. The police also found the corpse of a 29-year-old Sri Lankan who apparently suffered from diabetes and died after his supply of insulin was exhausted. Almantas Gavenas, deputy director of the immigration department of the Interior Ministry, said all refugee quarters have been overcrowded for a long time and that it is becoming more difficult to persuade Belarus to take back illegal migrants. -- Saulius Girnius

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN DENIED TV APPEARANCE.
Belarus Television refused to broadcast a message from Mechyslau Hryb urging people to take part in the second round of the parliamentary elections on 10 December. Hryb then asked Russian Television and Radio Company Chairman Oleg Poptsov to be allowed to appear on Russian Television to do so, RFE/RL radio reported on 6 December. -- Saulius Girnius

SOLIDARITY TO CREATE ANTI-COMMUNIST BLOC.
The National Commission of the Solidarity trade union, at its meeting on 6 December, has said it wants to create an anti-communist bloc. In order to gain entry to the alliance, groups will have to support Solidarity's draft constitution and agree to endorse citizens being allowed to own shares in state property. Commission chairman Marian Krzaklewski said that Solidarity will respect the Supreme Court's verdict on the validity of the elections, which is expected to be announced on 9 December, Rzeczpospolita reported on 7 December. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

AMERICAN FINANCIAL GROUP TAKES STAKE IN CZECH TV STATION.
Stratton Investments, which in recent weeks has spent more than $200 million acquiring controlling stakes in several Czech companies, on 6 December bought 15% of the ailing television station Premiera for an undisclosed figure, Czech media reported. Stratton, headed by financier Michael Dingman, purchased the stake from Investicni a postovni banka (IPB), which owned 45% of Premiera. A bank spokesman said IPB will sell a further 20% by the end of the year. IPB has been looking for investors for more than a year for Premiera, the first Czech commercial station to go on the air. Since its debut in 1993, Premiera has been plagued by financial difficulties and its status as a regional station; it reaches only about 60% of the Czech Republic. Stratton's investment has to be approved by the Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY ON MEDIA.
Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Peter Weiss, in a letter to parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic, has called for opposition representation on the boards overseeing state-run Slovak Television (STV) and Slovak Radio (SRo), Slovak media reported on 6 December. He also proposed the creation of a commission to work out a new law on STV and SRo. Since November 1994, the STV and SRo boards have consisted only of members proposed by the ruling coalition. According to Weiss, STV is being "used directly in the political battle." In particular, he criticized the two appearances by Peter Krylov, who is the main witness against the son of Slovak President Michal Kovac. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MAIN POINTS OF 1996 BUDGET.
The Hungarian parliament, in a marathon session on 6 December, approved setting the 1996 budget deficit at 132.6 billion forint ($1 billion)--3 billion forint more than originally planned--and the state sector deficit at below 4% of GDP, Hungarian media reported. Deputies approved, among other things, allocating 15 billion forint for a wage increase for state-sector employees and a 2 billion forint
subsidy for Budapest public transportation. The vote on the 1996 budget came in the wake of the passage on 5 December of an amendment to the law defining tax brackets. In 1996, a 48% tax will be levied on annual gross incomes over 900,000 forint. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

MAX VAN DER STOEL IN BUDAPEST.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel arrived in Budapest on 6 December on a fact-finding mission to investigate the status of Hungarian minorities in Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia. Van der Stoel held talks with Csaba Tabajdi, state secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, who stressed that international organizations must consider how to stop the increasingly grave trends in the situation of Eastern Europe's minorities. Tabajdi also asked Van der Stoel to use his good offices to ensure that the Slovak language law takes effect simultaneously with a minority language law offsetting some of the discriminatory provisions of the law. The high commissioner later told reporters that he would visit Bratislava in January to discuss the minority issue with Slovak government officials in light of the contentious language law and pending minority bill. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

EASTERN EUROPEAN FOREIGN MINISTERS ATTEND NACC MEETING.
Foreign ministers from neutral and former Warsaw Pact countries joined their NATO counterparts in Brussels on 6 December for the semi-annual meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Western agencies reported. The ministers were eager to take part in NATO's deployment operations in Bosnia but were disappointed to hear that NATO has effectively shelved plans for enlargement for at least a year. Bulgaria has proposed participating in the NATO force, although Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said this was unlikely to involve military troops and would require external financing, BTA reported on 6 December. -- Michael Mihalka



Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region.

This week's edition includes stories on the economic turbulence in Macedonia caused by the lifting of sanctions, and the superior performance of Russia's privatized enterprises compared to state-run outfits.

For subscription and rate information, please send a message to econ@omri.cz DEPLOYMENT OF NATO TROOPS IN BOSNIA GETS UNDER WAY.
The first U.S. military flight landed in Tuzla on 6 December, bringing a 12-member liaison team tasked with maintaining a permanent link with UN troops on the ground until they are replaced by NATO forces, Reuters reported. According to international media on 7 December, 10 planes arrived in Sarajevo the previous day, despite delays owing to heavy snow. Of the more than 700 military personnel the U.S. is contributing to NATO's vanguard in Bosnia, only 41 had arrived by 6 December--the delay being explained by the political sensitivity of having U.S. troops arrive before the Bosnia peace accord is signed and before UN peacekeepers are officially replaced by NATO troops. British soldiers arrived in Sarajevo on 6 December and headed to Gornji Vakufas, where the 13,000 British contingent will patrol central and western Bosnia. AFP on 7 December quoted Pentagon officials as saying that mines, snipers, and the cold weather will be the main obstacles that NATO troops face in Bosnia. A British officer told news agencies that the new rules of engagement will be very different from UNPROFOR's and that he intends to take firm action against Bosnian Croat soldiers who torch and loot Serbian villages. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CHIRAC WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER FATE OF PILOTS.
At a time when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic seems eager to make domestic and international political capital out of his new-found role as a man of peace, French President Jacques Chirac reminded him in a telephone call on 6 December of his obligations stemming from the Dayton treaty. That document, plus an earlier agreement between Belgrade in Pale, makes Milosevic responsible for the conduct of the Bosnian Serbs. Chirac warned Milosevic that if the two pilots shot down in August "were not released in the coming days, France would be forced to draw all the appropriate conclusions," the International Herald Tribune and Nasa Borba reported on 7 December. The Bosnian Serbs originally said they were holding the two men and providing medical treatment, but later Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic claimed they had been "kidnapped" by unknown abductors. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS DENY KARADZIC'S IMMINENT DISMISSAL.
After several days of speculation that Milosevic was about to remove Karadzic from power (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 December 1995), Karadzic's colleagues have formally denied the rumors. Pale's SRNA news agency said that the leadership "is absolutely united on all the essential matters" and that the report, first carried by the independent Beta agency, "is just another attempt to cancel out the results of four years' struggle by the Serb people for their basic right to liberty in their own country and in their own state. This manner of proceeding has no chance of succeeding, because the people and the army are backing [their] leaders, despite attempts to sow dissension among them." -- Patrick Moore

GERMAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO PARTICIPATE IN NATO BOSNIAN FORCE.
By a surprising vote of 543 to 107, the German parliament on 6 December voted to send 4,000 troops to participate in the NATO force in the former Yugoslavia, Western agencies reported. Even half of the deputies belonging to the leftist Green party voted for the resolution, signaling a considerable turnaround in German policy toward the region. As recently as June, the Bundestag agreed by a vote of 386 to 258 to send Tornados to support UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. Meanwhile, NATO officials are expressing concern that the deployment of the civilian administration provided for by the Dayton peace accord is not keeping pace with that of its military counterpart. -- Michael Mihalka

SLOVENIA ENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
STA reported on 6 December that Slovenia has become the first former Yugoslav republic to lift sanctions regime against the rump Yugoslavia. The announcement followed in the wake of a parliamentary vote held the previous day. Despite the decision to lift sanctions, Ljubljana is to continue to insist that all assets from the former Yugoslavia remain frozen until their distribution can be negotiated. According to Ljubljana, its share of assets includes at least $2 billion worth of property that remains in the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM "DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE."
BETA on 6 December reported that Milorad Jovanovic of the Democratic Party of Serbia announced that his party has reached an agreement with the Democratic Party, the Serbian Liberal Party, and the Parliamentary People's Party to forge a coalition--the Democratic Alliance--in the near future. While the objective is to coordinate efforts in upcoming electoral contests, Jovanovic stressed that each party will "retain its full autonomy." Jovanovic also remarked, presumably only on behalf of his own party, that the presence of NATO troops in Bosnia amounts to "a [foreign] invasion." Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 7 December reported that Milos Minic, former minister of foreign affairs, is appealing for the release of General Vlada Trifunovic and several of his co-defendants. Trifunovic and other officers are currently serving sentences for undermining national security. In 1991, the Varazdin corps, which at the time were under their command, fled from advancing Croatian troops. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN-GERMAN RELATIONS THREATENED BY ROMANIAN CRIMINALS IN GERMANY.
Romanian Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila on 6 December began an official visit to Germany to discuss cooperation between the two countries' Interior Ministries in combating crimes committed by Romanians on German territory, Radio Bucharest reported. German police sources quoted by the Romanian press suspect that the criminals, who are reported to be well trained, have links to the Bucharest authorities. Die Welt quoted a high-ranking German government official as saying the Romanian authorities' unwillingness to cooperate may affect relations between the two countries, which he described as "tense." -- Matyas Szabo

JEWISH BLOOD LIBEL REVIVED BY BABY SMUGGLING SCANDAL IN ROMANIA.
Romanian police on 6 December announced they had detained an Israeli citizen and three Romanians in Iasi on suspicion of smuggling babies across the border into Moldova and to Israel, Reuters reported the same day. A spokesman for the police identified the Israeli citizen as Mahmud Asadi, a Palestinian who converted to Judaism and claims to have been a personal secretary to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Resurrecting a centuries-old anti-Semitic blood libel, the Bucharest weekly Baricada had written in mid-November that there was no chance of ever seeing the smuggled children alive because "as is well known, Jewish matza [unleavened bread] demands kosher, young Christian blood." But "as long as the Jewish Mafia" involved in "collecting kosher blood" is protected by the Mossad, it is "unlikely" that proof of the horrible deed can be produced, the weekly said. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN STATE RADIO BOSS SACKS DEPUTY.
Director-General of Bulgarian National Radio Vecheslav Tunev on 4 December dismissed his deputy, Rayna Konstantinova, saying it was "in the interest of the [radio's] work," Demokratsiya reported on 7 December. Tunev reportedly accused Konstantinova of involvement in the protest staged by 53 BNR journalists who accuse the radio's management of censorship. Konstantinova claims not to have met with them, and her claim is supported by the dissenting journalists. In an interview with 24 chasa, Tunev said the dismissal has "neither political nor professional reasons." Konstantinova in an interview with the same paper stressed that she did not have anything to do with the program on which the journalists worked, since she was responsible for BNR's foreign language service. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN HEALTH MINISTER SAYS SHE WILL NOT RESIGN.
Mimi Vitkova, responding to demands by medical organizations and trade unions that she resign, said on 6 December that there is no need for her to do so since "the reform of the health care [system] is not blocked--on the contrary it is starting to take effect," 24 chasa reported the following day. Vitkova is accused of hindering reforms in the health care sector, putting obstacles in the way of physicians running private practices, and preventing the creation of an effective health insurance system. Vitkova announced that a new salary scale will be introduced in 1996, leading to a significant hike in doctors' incomes. The average salary among physicians is currently 9,000 leva ($128). -- Stefan Krause

ARTICLE 19 EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER LUSTRATION LAW.
The International Center Against Censorship (also known as Article 19) sent a letter to Albanian President Sali Berisha on 4 December expressing concern about Albania's screening law, adopted on 30 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). Article 19 criticizes the fact that the commission reviewing communist-era secret service files will be composed of seven people nominated by the premier, the justice, defense and interior ministers, the parliament, and the head of the secret service. The group argues that the commission will not be independent and could veto the right of citizens to participate in elections. It also says that since journalists are included in the categories of people to be examined by the commission, freedom of expression is endangered in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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