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Newsline - December 8, 1995


RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENT SIGNED.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, his Chechen counterpart, Doku Zavgaev, and the Russian presidential representative in Chechnya, Oleg Lobov, signed an agreement "On the basic principles of relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Chechnya" in Moscow on 8 December, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Chernomyrdin, the agreement gives Chechnya rights that are equal to those of other constituent republics of the Russian Federation; Zavgaev told Interfax on 7 December that the agreement would serve as the basis for a full-fledged power-sharing treaty. Also on 7 December, Russian TV quoted Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as affirming that he had met in late 1994 with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev in an attempt to avert a war in Chechnya. Grachev said he had steadfastly opposed starting a war but Dudaev had refused to make any concessions on the grounds that to do so would inevitably lead to his ouster. -- Liz Fuller

OSCE: CHECHNYA ELECTIONS PREMATURE.
A report by the OSCE mission in Chechnya argues that the republic's planned 17 December election for a new head of state is being held prematurely, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. The report, circulated at the 7-8 December OSCE meeting in Budapest, concludes that the conditions for free and fair elections do not exist and criticizes the lack of progress in the negotiations between Russia and the Chechen separatists. -- Michael Mihalka

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TURNS DOWN FEDERATION COUNCIL APPEAL.
The Constitutional Court refused to consider a Federation Council appeal to clarify passages of the constitution concerning the formation of the Council, on the grounds that the appeal did not specifically address the law on the Council's formation recently adopted by parliament and signed by the president, Russian media reported on 7 December. Article 96 of the constitution states that the Council's formation must be determined by federal law; it does not further specify how the two deputies representing each region should be selected. Council Deputy Yelena Mizulina told Russian TV that at its 9 December session, the last before its term expires, the Council will draft a new appeal asking the court to examine the constitutionality of the new law. -- Laura Belin

UNION OF MUSLIMS SUPPORT PRIME MINISTER'S BLOC.
Russia's
Union of Muslims called on its supporters to vote for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, in the December Duma elections, Russian TV and Interfax reported on 7 December. The union failed to submit the necessary 200,000 signatures to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) in time to be registered. Chernomyrdin, in turn, supported the idea of building a Muslim humanitarian center and university. On 4 December, three other blocs which were refused registration, the National Salvation Front, Sazhi Umalatova's Our Future bloc, and Zemskii Sobor, appealed to the Supreme Court to refute the TsIK's argument that 50,000 signatures from each bloc were faked, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. -- Anna Paretskaya

CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES' REFERENDUM IDEA REJECTED.
The Moscow Electoral Commission voted 9-3 to reject the registration of two referendum questions proposed by the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), Russian media reported on 7 December. The first proposed question would have asked whether the "main goal" of state policy and government activities should be "to increase the well-being of the citizens of Russia." The second question concerned amending the constitution to define the Russian Federation as a "union of peoples of Russia." The commission ruled that the second question contradicts the constitution. Dmitrii Rogozin, a KRO representative who attended the commission's meeting, said that the KRO will challenge the commission's decision in court, Interfax reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

DUMA CANDIDATE MURDERED IN CHELYABINSK.
Mikhail Lezhnev, a candidate for the Duma and a leading local businessman, was murdered in Chelyabinsk, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 December. ITAR-TASS, citing unofficial sources, said he had been shot in the head. Lezhnev, a representative of Our Home Is Russia, was running in a single-mandate district. He is the second Duma candidate to be murdered since the campaign began. Senior Interior Ministry officials have announced increased security measures to prevent violence from disrupting the 17 December vote. -- Penny Morvant

BARSUKOV PROHIBITS CONTACTS WITH MEDIA.
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Mikhail Barsukov has signed an order prohibiting FSB employees, except members of the service's public relations department, from estalishing contact with the mass media, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 7 December. As of 7 December, FSB employees have been ordered to report any unauthorized contacts with the media to their superior. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIAN SECURITY EXPERT BLASTS MODIFICATIONS TO ABM TREATY.
General Viktor Gumenkov, an expert on defense and security issues, told ITAR-TASS on 8 December that proposed modifications to the 1972 ABM Treaty could threaten Russian national security (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 December 1995). Gumenkov claims that the Pentagon deliberately leaked information on the Russo-U.S. modifications agreement to prepare public opinion for major changes in the treaty. Gumenkov claimed that Washington wants to have a free hand to deploy missile-defense systems that would eliminate nuclear parity between the U.S. and Russia and thus threaten global security. -- Constantine Dmitriev

MORE REFUGEES FLEE TO RUSSIA FROM CIS COUNTRIES.
More than 946,000 refugees and forced migrants are registered with the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS), Radio Mayak reported on 7 December. According to FMS experts, majority of the migrants come from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. It also reports a large number of Russian speakers moving out of Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. -- Constantine Dmitriev

MEETING OF CIS GENERAL PROSECUTORS IN MOSCOW.
The general prosecutors of all the CIS states signed an extradition treaty and other accords designed to bolster the struggle against cross-border crimes, Russian TV reported on 7 December. According to the Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov the agreements are aimed at coordinating the CIS countries' efforts to reduce crime and at eliminating the bureaucratic formalities that delay the process. At the meeting, Skuratov was appointed chairman of the new Coordinating Council of the CIS General Prosecutors. -- Constantine Dmitriev

GENERAL MOTORS TO SET UP JOINT VENTURE IN RUSSIA.
The Russian government and U.S. car manufacturer General Motors have signed a joint-venture agreement to produce 50,000 Chevrolet Blazers a year in the town of Yelabuga in Tatarstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December. General Motors, which has a 50% stake in the venture (the remaining 50% is divided equally between the Russian and Tatar governments), will invest about $250 million in the project. Production will begin in late 1997, and the cars are expected to sell for about $24,000. The venture will eventually create some 8,000 new jobs, including some at defense sector plants, which will produce parts for the new cars. -- Natalia Gurushina

MEZHDUNARODNAYA FINANSOVAYA KOMPANIYA WINS SIDANKO AUCTION.
The bank Mezhdunarodnaya Finansovaya Kompaniya (MFK) won a 51% stake in the oil company Sidanko at the loans-for-shares auction, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December. MFK offered $130 million (guaranteed by ONEKSIMbank). The Sidanko auction was one of four loans-for-shares tenders held on 7 December. The other three companies whose shares were on offer were LUKoil, Murmansk Sea Lines, and the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant. The auctions will raise some 952 billion rubles ($207.7 million) for the federal budget. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA RETURNS TO THE WORLD GRAIN MARKET.
According to a spokesman for the Russian Agriculture Ministry, Roskhleboprodukt (a private company linked with one of the largest Russian commercial banks, ONEKSIMbank) has paid about $300 million for 1.5 million tons of wheat and corn from Austria, Hungary, and the U.S., Reuters reported on 7 December. The deal raised expectations that Russian firms will make further purchases on the European and world grain markets and boosted Chicago wheat futures prices above $5 per bushel. The ministry's spokesman stressed that the Russian government, which has neither cash nor credit lines to buy wheat, will not finance grain imports this year. -- Natalia Gurushina



NAZARBAYEV ASSURES, "PARLIAMENT WILL BE ELECTED."
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev told observers from the OSCE and the European parliament "not to worry," adding that the "parliament will be elected," Kazakhstani media reported on 7 December. An OSCE observer alluded to the absence of opposition in the Senate elected on 5 December, specifically the "friendly relations between the deputies and the government," to which Nazarbayev responded by stressing the need for cooperation between the government and parliament in times of crisis. Nazarbayev noted that his administration had passed about 70 decrees, including laws on taxation and land ownership, which "for years were being debated by the deputies." Those decrees have the force of law but "can be reviewed by the new parliament," he added. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

KAZAKHSTANI ELECTORATE STILL IGNORANT ABOUT ELECTION.
Only 27% of respondents to a survey of Almaty residents said they knew the names of the candidates in their constituencies, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 6 December. At a 7 December press conference attended by international election observers, representatives of private television channels pointed out that each candidate is allowed only 15 minutes of advertising time on state television, 10 minutes on state radio, and about 100 words in the state newspapers. The Central Electoral Commission allocates $2,500 to each candidate for campaigning purposes; unlike in Russia, Kazakhstani private enterprises have little interest in the elections. As a result of sketchy information on election procedures, parties, or candidates, and the fact that this is the second parliament to be elected in less than two years, many voters have lost interest in the procedure. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA CREATE TRANSNATIONAL OIL COMPANY.
Representatives of the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry and the Kazakhstani Oil Industry Ministry agreed to create a transnational oil company on 6 December, Radio Rossii reported. The Russian oil company ONAKO and the Kazakhstani oil company Aktyubinskneft were also involved in the deal. The agreement is seen as a revival of links severed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. -- Bruce Pannier

JAPANESE GIVE MONEY FOR KYRGYZ ELECTIONS, TWO MORE CANDIDATES NAMED.
Japan pledged to give Kyrgyzstan $100,000 to pay for voting booths and ballot boxes to be used in the country's upcoming presidential election, AFP reported on 8 December. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has described the donation as a sign of support for democratization. Meanwhile, two additions have been made to the original list of four candidates: Mamat Aybalayev, former director of the Kadamzhay Antimony plant, and Omurbek Tekebayev, leader of the Ata Meken (Fatherland) Party. The insertion of new candidates is unlikely to have much effect on the outcome as President Askar Akayev appears to have the support of nearly three-quarters of the voters. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKS COME BACK TO THE TABLE.
The inter-Tajik talks, postponed amid accusations from both sides of ceasefire violations, have resumed in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, according to RFE/RL, although rifts have started to appear in the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). In a 7 December interview with Russian TV, the chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Azam Afzali, questioned the competence of the representatives of the Islamic Renaissance Party conducting the negotiations who "somehow forgot" to include other branches of the UTO, such as the Democratic Party, at the table. Also, a unilateral ceasefire, called for by UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri, has been ignored along the Tajik-Afghan border. The border posts there have been shelled 69 times since 1 December, according to NTV on 6 December. The opposition argues the shelling is a retaliation for government troop attacks on rebel forces in Tajikistan's Tavil-Dara region. -- Bruce Pannier




ANOTHER MISHAP SHUTS DOWN SECOND REACTOR AT UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR PLANT.
Another mishap at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has shutdown Reactor No. 5 only days after a leak of radioactive steam prompted management to close the station's first reactor, Interfax-Ukraine and Reuters reported on 7 December. The automatic shutdown occurred after the water level fell in three steam generators in the fifth reactor. Managers said no radiation was leaked. The shutdown within one week of two of the plant's six reactors, which provide 33% of the country's nuclear energy, now threatens the power supply to consumers as energy demand reaches peak winter levels. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

SAIEMA FAILS TO APPROVE NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT AGAIN.
The Saeima on 7 December voted 50 to 45 with five abstentions to approve the government proposed by National Conciliation Bloc prime minister candidate Ziedonis Cevers, BNS reported. But this was one vote short of the 51 required for approval. Cevers had expected to get 52 votes, but two members of the Unity Party decided not to vote in his favor because they were opposed to the system of political blocs in the Saeima. The Saeima in November rejected the right of center National Bloc premier candidate Maris Grinblats. It is unclear whom President Guntis Ulmanis will select as a third candidate, but Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse has been mentioned as a possible choice. -- Saulius Girnius

BALTIC STATES, EFTA SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS.
Estonian Economics Minister Andres Lipstok, Latvian State Minister for Foreign Trade and European Affairs Olgerts Pavlovskis, and Lithuanian Minister of Industry and Trade Kazimieras Klimasauskas--attending the European Free Trade Association annual ministerial meeting in Zermatt, Switzerland, on 7 December--signed free trade agreements with EFTA, BNS reported. Lithuania was given five years to abolish duties on a limited number of industrial products. Trade in farming produce will be subject to bilateral agreements between individual countries. The accords also contain provisions relating to rules of competition, protection of intellectual property, public procurement, state monopolies and state aid, as well as updated rules of origin. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT URGES APPLICATION FOR EU MEMBERSHIP.
The Seimas on 7 December voted 77 to two with one abstention to adopt a declaration calling on the president and premier to submit a formal application for membership to the European Union, Radio Lithuania reported. The declaration stressed that EU membership is "one of Lithuania's most important domestic and foreign policy goals, the implementation of which will encourage economic and social progress and enhance the country's security." Presidential adviser on foreign policy Justas Paleckis said the application is expected to be submitted before the EU summit meeting in Madrid next week. The major parliament factions that day also agreed on an amendment to Article 47 of the Constitution, which prohibits the sale of land to foreigners and thus is an obstacle to Lithuania's integration into the EU. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH JUDGES ON PROTESTS OVER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RESULTS.
By 7 December, the five teams of judges examining the 593,000 complaints lodged against the outcome of the presidential elections had completed their work. Two teams concluded that while President-elect Aleksander Kwasniewski lied about his university education, this did not influence the outcome of the elections. Two other teams said that the complaints were well founded and that Kwasniewski broke the law. The Supreme Court will decide on 9 December whether infringement of the law could have influenced the outcome of the presidential elections. In the second round Kwasniewski beat Walesa by 646,243 votes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1995). According to the Supreme Court, the election results could have been influenced if the margin of Kwasniewski's victory was half this figure. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLISH SOLDIERS TAKE PART IN EXERCISES IN GERMANY.
Polish-German-Danish maneuvers began in Bavaria on 8 December within the Partnership for Peace framework, Rzeczpospolita reported. Some 100 Polish soldiers from the Wroclaw Military College are taking part in the week-long exercises. Beginning 11 December, French-German-Polish officers will take part in a staff training program in Muhlheim, Germany. This is the first time that a non-NATO member will participate in a training program at this level, Polish dailies reported on 8 December. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER ON SECRET SERVICE.
Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky on 6 December held a meeting with former Slovak Information Service (SIS) agent Oskar F., who was recently pardoned by President Michal Kovac for his alleged participation in the abduction of Kovac's son. Carnogursky told journalists the following day that the meeting, which took place outside Slovakia, convinced him that the SIS was directly involved in the kidnapping of Kovac Jr. In other news, Carnogursky's wife on 6 December filed charges against Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar for statements made on Slovak Television on 5 September. Responding to her husband's inquiry about whether Meciar was on the Slovak-Austrian border shortly after the abduction of Kovac Jr., Meciar said Carnogursky should ask his wife where he was that night. Marta Carnogurska had demanded an apology, but Meciar did not respond, Pravda reported on 8 December. -- Sharon Fisher

OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE ON OSCE TASKS.
Hungarian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Laszlo Kovacs, in a keynote speech to the two-day conference of OSCE foreign ministers in Budapest, voiced concerns about the situation of non-Serbs in several Serbian regions, international and Hungarian media reported on 8 December. Kovacs stressed that the OSCE should continue to look at the human rights situation in Kosovo, the Sandzak, northeastern Montenegro and Vojvodina, which are all multiethnic regions. He added that the OSCE hopes to establish a long-term presence in Croatia, where it would assist central and local authorities in building democracy, protecting human and minority rights, and promoting the safe return of refugees. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

"OILGATE" SCANDAL IN HUNGARY.
As the privatization of the Hungarian Oil company MOL continues, a scandal has erupted in Hungary that domestic media have dubbed "Oilgate." The opposition has accused socialist ministers and deputies of involvement in controversial oil deals with Russia over the past few years. Minister of Industry and Trade Imre Dunai and his predecessor Laszlo Pal are charged with helping private companies with close ties to the Socialist Party to benefit from oil deals related to Russia's repayment of its $900 million debt to Hungary. Following the accusations earlier this week, Dunai removed Otto Hujber of the Socialist Party from an inter-ministry commission on Russia's debt and oil shipments. Hujber previously had been in a position to decide which companies could take part in oil deals and was also chairman of one of the companies involved. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has ordered an investigation into the case. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN SERBS TORCH, LOOT GORAZDE VILLAGES.
Bosnian Serbs are torching and looting houses in an area near Gorazde slated to pass to government control, RFE/RL and Nasa Borba reported on 7-8 December. The BBC on 8 December reported that about 200 Bosnian Serbs from Ustikolina, outside Gorazde, are moving to Foca rather than live under government control. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb forces on 7 December agreed to permit free movement of traffic, after blocking UN-escorted civilian convoys to Gorazde earlier this week, Reuters reported the next day. The move came after the UNPROFOR commander had said he would consider the use of Rapid Reaction Force artillery if they continued to block traffic. Access to Gorazde is especially important since its 60,000 residents are surrounded by Bosnian Serbs and are entirely dependent on outside aid for survival. -- Daria Sito Sucic

PERRY SAYS U.S. IS NOT NEUTRAL OVER BOSNIA.
Secretary of Defense William Perry said "we believe that the Bosnian government and people have suffered atrocities and killings, and we don't approach [implementing the Dayton peace agreement] as psychologically neutral." He added that the U.S. will nonetheless try to be "evenhanded," the International Herald Tribune reported on 8 December. Monitor Radio the previous evening said "thousands of Bosnian Serbs stomped on the American flag" in a demonstration that Nasa Borba on 8 December called "well organized." The BBC reported that U.S. diplomats are urging the Bosnian government to send home the roughly 2,000 Islamic fighters from around the Muslim world. The tough irregulars are seen likely to cause problems for implementing the peace settlement. -- Patrick Moore

ARMING MUSLIMS IS CENTRAL TO U.S. STRATEGY IN BOSNIA.
As the deployment of NATO troops in the former Yugoslavia gathers pace, the arming of the Bosnian government has become a central element in the Clinton administration's strategy to gain U.S. congressional support for the deployment of American troops to the region, Western agencies reported. Addressing the U.S. Senate on 6 December, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke said the U.S. has assured the Bosnian government in Dayton that the US "will lead an international effort to ensure that the Bosnians have what they need to defend themselves adequately when IFOR [the NATO implementation force] leaves." He added that the U.S. will not train troops but will rely on "third parties" such as the private company MPRI, composed of retired U.S. officers, who helped train Croatian forces. -- Michael Mihalka

SERBIA REJECTS FRENCH WARNING OVER PILOTS.
The rump Yugoslav Foreign Ministry rebuffed the French demand that President Slobodan Milosevic ensure the quick return of the two downed aviators. The Serbian statement rejected "all tendentious interpretations of the incident." The International Herald Tribune on 8 December also reported that the UN has protested the eviction of 60 Muslim families by the Serbs in northern Bosnia. Hina the previous day said that a joint commission for missing persons has been set up by Belgrade and Zagreb and has already begun work. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS PEACE ACCORD.
Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), has become the first head of a major Serbian opposition party to back the Dayton peace plan for Bosnia. Nasa Borba on 8 December published an article by Draskovic in which he explained his position by saying "I do not want to be associated with the charges that in Dayton [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic sold out the Serbs on that side of the Drina and shamed the ones on this side of the Drina." He went on to write that the current peace "is neither righteous nor base. It is woven from blood and tears, from illusions and deceit . . . , from ideological and mafia-backed patriotism . . . and from wounds that will not be able to heal for a long time to come. . . . But this peace is the one outlet, the only hope and chance, that our future generations will not be born into a life [world] that resembles ours." -- Stan Markotich

RUGOVA ASKS U.S. FOR MEDIATION IN KOSOVO CONFLICT.
Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has asked U.S. secretary of State Warren Christopher to mediate in the Kosovo conflict. After meeting with Christopher in Washington on 7 December, Rugova said he had received a pledge of support. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns pointed out that the U.S. has pressed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to respect the rights of the Albanian majority and that "we have a general assurance from the Serbs that the rights of the Albanian community will be respected," Reuters reported on 7 December. -- Fabian Schmidt

"OIL MEN ARE FASTER THAN STATES."
This is how Slobodna Dalmacija on 7 December described a secretive meeting two days earlier between representatives of the Croatian oil company INA and its Serbian counterpart, Jugopetrol. The daily said that the two oil giants are anxious to start doing business again even before relations between Zagreb and Belgrade have been formally normalized. In particular, the firms want to see the Adriatic oil pipeline reopened "as soon as possible." This quick readiness to do business suggests that the war has been not the inevitable result of "ancient hatreds" but rather about land, money, and power. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIA TO COOPERATE WITH HAGUE-BASED TRIBUNAL.
Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mate Granic has said that Croatia wants to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and will act in accordance with its requests regarding Dario Kordic, who has been charged with war crimes. He added, however, that Croatia will also try to defend him, RFE/RL and BETA reported on 7 December. According to Granic, Kordic has shown his understanding of the seriousness of the charges by resigning as head of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Granic added that he is negotiating with Justice Richard Goldstone on the possibility of Kordic's remaining in Croatia while defending himself. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SLOVAK PREMIER IN SLOVENIA.
Vladimir Meciar, during a two-day visit to Slovenia, concluded with his Slovenian counterpart, Janez Drnovsek, an air traffic agreement, Slovak and Slovenian media reported. Meciar observed that relations between Slovakia and Slovenia are "very close" and will certainly improve, especially in the economic realm, once Slovenia becomes a full member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) on 1 January. Meciar also met with Slovenian President Milan Kucan and opened a Slovak embassy in Ljubljana. -- Stan Markotich and Sharon Fisher

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS . . .
Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu told a press conference in Bucharest that "anti-reconciliation attitudes" are being constantly expressed both in Hungary and among leaders of the Hungarian minority in Romania, Romanian media reported on 7-8 December. Chebeleu said "extremist voices are emerging, as if coordinated, to undermine" President Ion Iliescu's proposal for a historic reconciliation with Hungary. As an example, he quoted Bela Pomogats, chairman of the Writers' Union of Hungary, as saying "the initiative is wrong and inopportune" and makes only empty promises. The Hungarian minority's claim to have Church properties restituted is viewed by Iliescu as "an aberration," he noted. -- Matyas Szabo

. . . AND ON REVIVAL OF IRON GUARD.
Chebeleu also said that President Iliescu was "concerned" about growing signs that a revival of the fascist legionary movement was under way. He pointed to legionary instruction camps, marches, the dissemination of overtly pro-legionary literature and articles, and veiled pro-legionary television programs. Chebeleu said the president was "astonished" by the attempt to "justify legionary assassinations." The latter reference was apparently directed at opposition senator Sabin Ivan who criticized Iliescu's address commemorating the assassination of historian Nicolae Iorga by members of the legionary movement in 1940. Sabin had said the "crimes" committed against the movement by its adversaries should also be revealed. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POPE.
Zhelyu Zhelev was received by Pope John Paul II in a private audience on 7 December, 24 chasa reported. The Pope said he will travel to Bulgaria, adding that his visit should silence all allegations about a Bulgarian involvement in the attempt on his life in May 1981, Zhelev's spokesman Valentin Stoyanov said. With regard to the so-called "Bulgarian trail," the Pope noted that "guilt is always personal." Ali Agca, who tried to kill the Pope in 1981, said in September that Bulgaria was not involved in the attempt. After meeting with the Pope, Zhelev left Italy for an official visit to Albania (see below). -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA WILL PROVIDE AID, BUT NO TROOPS TO EX-YUGOSLAVIA.
Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Stefan Staykov on 7 December said his country will provide medical and technical aid to the peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia but has no plans to send military personnel, Reuters reported. Staykov also announced that Bulgaria and rump Yugoslavia next week will sign agreements on economic cooperation and air traffic control. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LIBERAL ABORTION LAW.
The Albanian parliament has passed legislation allowing abortion as a "family planning method," international agencies reported on 8 December. Abortion was considered a crime under communism. But with the current lack of contraceptives in the country, lawmakers appear to have adopted a more liberal stance. Some 30,000 abortions are estimated to take place every year. Often illegal abortions end fatally because of poor medical equipment and knowledge. -- Fabian Schmidt

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN ALBANIA.
During his visit to Tirana on 7-8 December, Zhelyu Zhelev discussed with his Albanian counterpart, Sali Berisha, plans to build a highway, railway, and telecommunications corridor between Durres, Skopje, Sofia, and Istanbul. According to Zhelev, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro has said Italy will financially back the project. Both presidents called for regional cooperation in the Balkans following the end of the Bosnian war and for talks between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, international agencies reported on 7 December. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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