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Newsline - December 19, 1995


COMMUNISTS MAINTAIN LEAD AS VOTE COUNT ADVANCES.
With 65% of the vote counted, Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has won 22.3% of the vote on the party list, twice as much as its nearest competitor, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which received 10.9%, Russian and Western media reported on 19 December. The only other parties to break the 5% barrier were Our Home is Russia (9.6%) and Yabloko (7.6%). Zyuganov said the KPRF would form a shadow government in parliament and propose a "realistic" economic program. He said his party will decide next month whether to nominate him for the presidency. -- Laura Belin

DISAPPOINTMENT FOR GAIDAR.
According to results released by the Central Electoral Commission at 12:30 Moscow time on 19 December, with 45 million votes counted Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats had only 4.4% of the party-list vote, trailing Women of Russia (4.7%), and Viktor Anpilov's Communists-Working Russia (4.5%). Gaidar chose not to run for a single-member seat, so he will not be a member of the new Duma if his party fails to clear the 5% barrier. Earlier reports had put Gaidar's party over 5%, but they were never confirmed. The Central Electoral Commission issued some contradictory statements about the proportion of votes counted on Monday, and has come under criticism for the unexplained delay in completion of the count. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNISTS CRUSH OUR HOME IS RUSSIA IN SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICTS.
Despite having recruited prominent local figures to contest many of the 225 single-member districts, Our Home Is Russia has also lost to the KPRF in the single-seat competitions. Returns from 179 districts indicate that the KPRF had won 45 seats to just nine for the prime minister's bloc, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. The Agrarian Party, which is ideologically close to the KPRF, won at least 15 seats. Yabloko won 12 seats, Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats won eight, Women of Russia won two, and the Congress of Russian Communities won a disappointing three seats. Independent candidates are likely to win more seats than any single party. -- Laura Belin

WELL-KNOWN POLITICIANS ENTER DUMA IN SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICTS.
Many famous politicians will join the next Duma from single member districts, according to NTV on 18 December. They include current Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, Power to the People's number two candidate Sergei Baburin, Party of Workers' Self-Management leader Svyatoslav Fedorov, My Fatherland leader Boris Gromov, former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, presidential aide Gennadii Burbulis, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, and Congress of Russian Communities leader Aleksandr Lebed. Among the losers were hard-line Communist Viktor Anpilov and the MMM fund chairman Sergei Mavrodi. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS APPROVE DUMA ELECTIONS.
At an 18 December Moscow press conference, international observers from the EU, Council of Europe, and OSCE characterized the 17 December Duma elections as free, fair, and democratic, NTV reported. The 434 observers from 32 countries concluded that the elections were carried out in accordance with democratic standards, despite isolated violations at some polling stations. The observers did however, criticize Russian Public TV (ORT) for biased campaign reporting, which gave a disproportionate amount of favorable coverage to Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia and Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice, while running negative stories about various opposition parties. The observers praised Russian TV and NTV, on the other hand, for their unbiased election coverage. One issue that remains unresolved is that several parties have not yet provided a full account of their campaign spending. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow

PRESIDENTIAL AIDES TRY TO STRIKE POSITIVE NOTE.
Commenting on the preliminary election results on 18 December, presidential aide Georgii Starov told Interfax that he did not find them alarming. He denied that the "political pendulum" had swung to the left, arguing that Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko, and Democratic Russia, will together have enough seats to balance the Communists, Radio Rossii reported. Yeltsin's economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits said he did not think that the composition of the new Duma would be radically worse than the old one from the point of view of economic reform. However, the president's chief of staff Sergei Filatov said the number of votes won by the Communists and the LDPR reflect the dissatisfaction of poorer sections of society and the need to alter government policy, NTV reported. Yeltsin himself refrained from public comment on the election results. -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN PUTS BRAVE FACE ON OUR HOME IS RUSSIA'S SHOWING.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he is "satisfied" with the election results, characterizing his bloc's worse than expected showing as neither a success nor a failure. "The Communist Party has existed for 97 years and won only 20%. Our Home Is Russia has worked only four months and we were able to win 10%," he told Russian TV on 18 December. He did not say whether he planned any cabinet changes but described the government as a "living organism," which suggests that changes cannot be ruled out. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow and Penny Morvant

LUKIN: "NOTHING SUPER-DRAMATIC" IN EARLY RESULTS.
Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin declared that there was "nothing super-dramatic" in the early returns of the elections before noon on 18 December, Russian media reported. He said that the Duma will be balanced between the democratic parties and the communist and nationalist parties. Lukin also said that Yabloko is willing to work with other pro-reform parties, including Our Home Is Russia, and urged the "non-left" forces to unite behind a single candidate for the presidency. Speaking on NTV on19 December, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii welcomed the victory of only four parties in the party-list contest as a sign that Russia had outgrown the "infantile stage of multi-partyism." -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

KOZYREV TO LEAVE FOREIGN MINISTRY FOR DUMA?
According to preliminary data released by the Central Electoral Commission, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is almost certain to win the Duma seat from the Murmansk single-member constituency, NTV reported on 18 December. Kozyrev, running as an independent, faced 12 opponents in the district, including Vladimir Zhirinovsky's sister. Should Kozyrev take the seat, he will likely resign as foreign minister. Under the 1993 constitution, members of the just-elected Duma will not be permitted to hold ministerial posts. Resigning to take a seat in the Duma would be a face-saving way for the heavily-criticized Kozyrev to leave the government. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow

EARLY RETURNS IN GOVERNORS' RACES.
Incumbents appear to have triumphed in most of the 13 regions that also held gubernatorial elections on 17 December, Russian TV reported on 18 December. Boris Nemtsov was re-elected in Nizhnii Novgorod with more than 60% of the vote, and Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko also won about 60% compared with just 15% for his main rival, the ousted mayor of Vladivostok, Viktor Cherepkov. Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn, Orenburg Oblast Governor Vladimir Yelagin, and Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak were also re-elected. Observers reported that the gubernatorial races generated more media coverage than the Duma elections in those regions. -- Laura Belin

BASHKORTOSTAN REFERENDUM RESULTS.
Voters in Bashkortostan were also asked to give their opinion on land reform and the republic's economic policies when they went to the polls on 17 December. According to preliminary results cited by Ekspress-khronikha, about 83% of voters voted against the unrestricted sale of land, while about 80% voted in favor of strengthening the republic's economic independence. According to Interfax, the Communists won about 30% of the vote in Bashkortostan, the Agrarians 20%, and Our Home Is Russia 16.5%. -- Penny Morvant

MIXED VERDICT IN LIBEL CASE AGAINST YELTSIN.
Former Supreme Soviet Deputy Iona Andronov plans to appeal to the Supreme Court following a mixed verdict in his libel case against President Yeltsin, Pravda reported on 19 December. Andronov was called a fascist in the English-language version of Yeltsin's memoirs Presidential Notes. The judge found that the book incorrectly labeled Andronov a fascist but rejected the plaintiff's demand that Yeltsin apologize publicly and pay damages. Andronov spent several years in the U.S. during the 1980s as a correspondent for Literaturnaya gazeta. He was a close supporter of Yeltsin during the 1991 presidential campaign. In late 1991, he became the main foreign policy adviser to then-Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIAN ADVANCE PARTY TO BOSNIA.
An advance team of 12 paratroop officers flew to Belgrade on 18 December, then on to Croatia where they joined other Russian peacekeepers, Interfax reported. The team, led by Maj. Gen. Nikolai Staskov, second in command of the Airborne Troops, will travel to Tuzla where, among other things, they will establish an air traffic control center to receive the Russian brigade that will be part of the international peace implementation force. Interfax also quoted the Ministry of Defense as saying that the brigade, from the 106th Airborne Division, was also leaving for Bosnia that day. -- Doug Clarke

RUSSIA SIGNS DEBT-RESTRUCTURING AGREEMENT WITH TURKEY.
The Russian and Turkish governments signed an agreement on rescheduling Russia's $370 million debt and on the clearing of mutual debts amassed by companies in the two countries, Segodnya reported on 16 December. Under the agreement, Russia's debt to Turkey will be reduced by $112 million (via $100 million in arms deliveries from Russia and the writing off of Turkey's $12 million debt to Russia). The deal is expected to stimulate Turkish investment in Russia. Turkey will also open a $350 million credit line to the Russian government. -- Natalia Gurushina

PLANE WRECK FOUND.
The wreckage of the TU-154 airliner that went missing on 7 December en route from Sakhalin to Khabarovsk Krai with 97 people on board has been found in Khabarovsk Krai, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 18 December. The chairman of a government commission investigating the accident said he does not believe that anyone could have survived the crash. -- Penny Morvant

WAGE ARREARS EQUAL 13.6 TRILLION RUBLES.
The total amount of overdue wages in Russia increased by 11.7% in November, reaching 13.6 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) on 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December, citing officials from the Economics Ministry. Delays in the payment of wages are the main cause of industrial disputes in the country. -- Penny Morvant



IMF EXTENDS NEW CREDIT TO UZBEKISTAN.
The IMF approved a $259 million credit to Uzbekistan on 18 December, which will be used to continue market reforms in that country, Western sources reported. As part of a larger two-year aid package, the new credit will include $185 million in stand-by credit and $74 million from the IMF's systemic transformation facility, and will be used to help turn around the decline in GNP as well as hold the annual inflation rate to an anticipated target of 21-25%. IMF officials expressed their approval of the Uzbek government's tight monetary and fiscal policies, paralleling an October World Bank report (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1995). -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES 17 PRISONERS.
After a month of promises, the Tajik opposition has released 17 government soldiers, part of a larger group taken hostage in the Tavil Dara region in the middle of October, Radio Rossii reported on 16 December. Despite the release and the ongoing peace talks in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the fighting in Tavil Dara continues. -- Bruce Pannier

THREE CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS LOOK TO FORM UN PEACEKEEPING FORCE.
The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, meeting in Zhambyl, Kazakhstan on 15 December, agreed to ask for UN approval to form a joint peacekeeping battalion, according to Reuters. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the force could serve "anywhere in the world, including Bosnia." All three countries currently have peacekeeping troops in Tajikistan, but they operate under CIS auspices. It is unclear whether the units now in Tajikistan would be part of the proposed UN force. The three leaders also sanctioned investments by the new Central Asian Bank for Reconstruction and Development. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S ADVISERS RESIGN.
UNIAN on 18 December reported that three of Leonid Kuchma's top advisers have resigned as a result of infighting within the president's administration. Presidential chief adviser Oleksandr Razumkov, macro-economic adviser Anatolii Halchinsky, and domestic policy adviser Dmytro Vydrin said their resignations were in protest against the influence of certain staff members. Two days earlier, Ukrainian Radio broadcast a statement by the parliament's press service criticizing the head of Kuchma's administration, Dmytro Tabachnyk, who has recently given interviews expounding his views on the constitutional process and relations between the legislature and executive. The statement said Tabachnyk did not have the experience, expertise, or authority to make "tactless definitions on the course of debates in the parliament." Tabachnyk is considered one of Kuchma's closest advisors and has often been criticized for wielding undue influence over the president. -- Ustina Markus

IMF CRITICAL OF BELARUSIAN REFORMS.
Belapan on 15 December reported that IMF head Michel Camdessus has sent a letter to Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir expressing dissatisfaction with the country's economic reforms. The letter referred to exchange rate problems, government intervention in propping up the Belarusian ruble, the National Bank of Belarus's lack of authority over exchange rate and credit policy, the discrepancy between budget revenues predicted for 1996 and reality in the republic, the lack of progress in privatization and reforming enterprises; and the failure of the government to make foreign payments. The letter said the government was not following the IMF-approved program on economic policy and that this could threaten the release of a second tranche of a standby loan. Deputy Prime Minister Leanid Sinitsyn said the letter was merely a statement of temporary problems between Belarus and the IMF and that Belarus intends to continue the reforms it had agreed on with the IMF. -- Ustina Markus

SWEDISH TOBACCO FIRM TO STOP INVESTING IN ESTONIA.
Svenska Tobaks, the owner of two-thirds of the Estonian tobacco manufacturer Eesti Tubakas, has decided to stop further investment in Estonia and is considering continuing production in some other country, BNS reported on 18 December. Eesti Tubakas currently has about 70% of the Estonian tobacco market. As of 1996, the excise tax on locally produced cigarettes will be the same as on imported cigarettes, forcing a steep rise in prices. The price hike is expected to result in lower consumption and increased smuggling of cigarettes. Svenska Tobaks may then decide to end cigarette manufacturing in Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN UNITY PARTY TO JOIN NEW GOVERNMENT.
Prime minister-designate Andris Skele announced on 18 December that the Latvian Unity Party has decided to join the government he is forming, BNS reported. Skele said its leader, Alberts Kauls, would be given the post of agriculture minister. The Saeima is scheduled to vote on the new government on 21 December. Chairman of the Popular Movement for Latvia Joachim Siegerist announced he will be "in an unmasking and fierce opposition" to the Skele government, which, however, is expected to be approved because it has the support of the right-of-center National Bloc and the left-of-center Democratic Party Saimnieks. -- Saulius Girnius

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND.
Yevhen Marchuk, heading a senior economic delegation, visited Poland on 17 December and met, among others, with his Polish counterpart, Jozef Oleksy. Polish and Ukrainian ministers of industry, transport, communications, farming, and finance signed agreements determining timetables for various projects. The communications ministers agreed to extend the existing telecommunication highway between Lviv and Rzeszow to Kiev and Krakow. The Polish side expressed interest in buying shares in privatized Ukrainian iron mines and steelworks, Polish dailies reported on 19 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

TWO PROSECUTORS FIRED IN POLAND.
A spokesman for the Polish Justice Ministry on 18 December confirmed that Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Jerzy Jaskiernia has fired two prosecutors involved in investigations into the finances and education history of President-elect Aleksander Kwasniewski. The spokesman denied the dismissals had political motives. Warsaw chief prosecutor Jerzy Labuda resigned in protest, Polish dailies reported on 19 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

KLAUS LOSES DISPUTE OVER ELECTION DATES.
President Vaclav Havel, trying to cut short a lingering dispute within the governing coalition, on 18 December formally proposed that the Czech Republic's parliamentary elections be held on 31 May and 1 June next year, while the first elections to the Senate should take place on 15 and 16 November 1996. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) last week confirmed that it wanted the elections to be held simultaneously, while two of its coalition partners --the Civic Democratic Alliance and Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party--insisted on them being separated. After meeting with Havel, Klaus reluctantly accepted the president's proposal and said the ODS would support it to prevent a constitutional crisis, Czech media reported. Under the constitution, the president calls elections but the dates must be confirmed by the prime minister. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK CEREMONIES MARK RETURN OF BOJNICE ALTARPIECE.
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and other Slovak officials on 18 December attended lavish ceremonies at Bojnice Castle marking the return of its altarpiece from the Czech Republic. Bishop Dominik Hrusovsky consecrated the altarpiece and held a mass in the castle's chapel, which was broadcast on Slovak TV. After 62 years, the 14th century Florentine altarpiece was returned to Slovakia on 15 December, following an agreement between Czech Culture Minister Pavel Tigrid and Slovak Ambassador to the Czech Republic Ivan Mjartan whereby the altar was exchanged for 10 Gothic wood paintings of Slovak origin. The altar had been a subject of Czech-Slovak dispute since the split of Czechoslovakia. Meciar called its return a Christmas present to the Slovak nation. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK TRADE UNIONS REFUSE TO SIGN GENERAL AGREEMENT.
The assembly of the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ) on 18 December discussed the 1996 General Agreement between the government, unions, and employers, Slovak media reported. KOZ officials said they will not sign the agreement until promises included in the 1995 agreement are fulfilled and demands made by the unions in the 23 September protest rally are met. KOZ President Alojz Englis announced his union was recently accepted into the European Trade Union Confederation. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS NATO REFERENDUM INITIATIVE.
The parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has rejected a Workers' Party initiative to call a referendum on Hungary's accession to NATO, Hungarian media reported on 19 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 December 1995). Committee Chairman Matyas Eorsi explained that deputies believe it makes no sense to stage a referendum until Hungary's terms of admission have been clarified. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party caucus said it does not back a referendum on accession since the country is not in a position to make a decision on the matter. However, it said that if Hungary receives a request for admission, and negotiations on accession conclude successfully, then the country should decide on NATO membership by means of a referendum. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

NO FOUL PLAY IN HUNGARY'S OILGATE AFFAIR.
A governmental commission has concluded that no illegal acts were committed in the recent "oilgate" affair (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 December 1995), Hungarian media reported on 19 December. But the commission called for clearing up issues related to the settlement of the Hungarian-Russian debt, which the cabinet is to debate this week. All parliamentary caucuses have endorsed setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate the affair, in which it is alleged that there were links between oil dealers and Socialist Party figures in Russian oil shipments in partial payment of Russia's debt to Hungary. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BALKANS ARMS CONTROL PROCESS BEGINS.
A one-day international conference on arms control in the former Yugoslavia took place in Bonn on 18 December, with both Croatia and Serbia threatening to pull out of the process, Western agencies reported. The Bonn talks met the Dayton peace accord requirement that signatories begin negotiations on arms control within seven days of signing the treaty. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic warned that Croatia will withdraw from the process unless Serbia recognizes Croatian sovereignty over eastern Slavonia. Serbian Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic made a similar threat unless the former Yugoslavia was readmitted to the OSCE, which is to oversee the arms control negotiations, Tanjug reported. Many delegates at the conference expressed skepticism that the parties will take the arms control process seriously. -- Michael Mihalka

A FEDERAL MODEL FOR SARAJEVO?
Boza Kljajic of the Serbian Civic Council has suggested that Sarajevo be set up as s special federal district on the model of Brussels, Mexico City, or Washington. The Council represents the anti-nationalist Serbs who have spent the entire war in the part of Sarajevo controlled by the Bosnian government. Nasa Borba on 19 December quoted him as saying that the city should remain a united and undivided one in which all citizens and peoples would enjoy total equality. Reuters said the previous day, however, that the Serbian nationalist leadership in Pale has other ideas. It met with Belgrade architects to plan a new city consisting of Serbian refugees from Sarajevo who refuse to live under government rule. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that rump Yugoslavia will foot the bill. -- Patrick Moore

SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINAL ARRESTED.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 19 December reported that an unnamed man was arrested in Dusseldorf on the suspicion of having assisted in genocide. The 48-year-old Serb was supposedly the leader of a chetnik gang that committed atrocities in Bosnia in the spring and summer of 1992. The paper added that a sniper in Sarajevo fired on a tram and wounded a woman. -- Patrick Moore

WORLD BANK REQUESTS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR BOSNIA.
The World Bank is asking Western countries to finance a $100 million assistance initiative for Bosnia, Hina reported on 16 December. The money would go for establishing state institutions, financing small and medium-sized enterprises, and funding social welfare. The bank estimates that reconstructing Bosnia will cost $5.1 billion. -- Michael Wyzan

BELGRADE BLAMES BOSNIAN MUSLIMS FOR SREBRENICA MASSACRE.
Reuters on 18 December reported that official Belgrade has defended the Bosnian Serbs against charges of massacring Bosnian Muslims and forcing some 5,500 people to go "missing" when Bosnian Serbs overran the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in July. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Belgrade's representative to the UN and former Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic charges that the Bosnian Muslims were themselves responsible for the atrocities. He asserted that as the Bosnian Serbs approached Srebrenica, "those [Bosnian Muslim] units which wanted to continue fighting were mercilessly killing those who wanted to surrender and were in favour of a ceasefire." Reuters suggests Jovanovic's remarks may be an effort to "head off" an expected UN resolution condemning the Bosnian Serbs for the atrocities. -- Stan Markotich

TETOVO UNIVERSITY CELEBRATES FIRST ANNIVERSARY.
The illegal Albanian-language university in Tetovo celebrated its first anniversary on 16 December, MIC reported two days later. At a ceremony attended by Culture Minister Eshtref Aliu and ethnic Albanian legislators, university dean Fadil Sulejmani called 17 December, the day the university was founded, a "day of Albanian liberation in Macedonia." Police earlier this year destroyed parts of the self-proclaimed university's premises and prevented students from entering the building. Nonetheless, according to Sulejmani, the university has underground faculties of math, natural sciences, law, economy, philology, philosophy, and the arts. The university claims to have 1,300 students and 150 professors. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY SPARKS CONTROVERSY.
Valentin Gabrielescu, head of the Romanian Senate's Commission of Inquiry into the Events of December 1989, has accused President Ion Iliescu of being responsible for the bloodshed that followed the fall and execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian and international media reported on 18 December. Iliescu was also accused of having used the revolt to stage a coup and of ordering Ceausescu's killing to prevent him from revealing what he knew about the country's new leaders. Some participants in the December 1989 events have decided to stage a posthumous retrial of Ceausescu because, they maintain, none of the charges against him holds water. President Iliescu told Mediafax that he may sue Gabrielescu. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIA TO TIGHTEN CONTROL ON CIVIL AVIATION.
Romanian Transport Minister Aurel Novac, speaking on Radio Bucharest on 18 December, announced plans to tighten control on the country's civil aviation following two fatal crashes involving Romanian airliners this year. Novac said that aviation officials would conduct stricter controls to determine pilot errors or technical deficiencies. He expressed the hope that the new measures "will prevent accidents in the future." An Antonov-24 charter plane belonging to the Banat Air company crashed near Verona, in Italy, last week, killing all 49 people aboard. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN ELECTIONS.
The outcome of the Russian parliamentary elections will not influence Moldovan foreign policy, an adviser to President Mircea Snegur told Infotag on 18 December. He described Russian Communist Party Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov's statement that the restoration of the USSR was inevitable as "irresponsible" and out of touch with reality. Another presidential adviser was quoted as saying that Moldova hoped that the new Russian State Duma would adopt a more realistic stance on both the ratification of the Russian-Moldovan Army Withdrawal Agreement and the settlement of the Dniester conflict. In a related development, leader of the Moldovan Communist Party Vladimir Voronin hailed the Communists' strong showing in the Russian elections. According to BASA-press, Voronin plans to discuss the Dniester conflict with the communist Duma deputies soon. -- Dan Ionescu

SEVEN BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS FIRED.
Seven of the Bulgarian National Radio journalists who signed a declaration on 21 November accusing BNR's management of censorship were dismissed on 18 December, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The dismissals occurred despite assurances from BNR Director-General Vecheslav Tunev that none of the protesters would be fired. Tunev said their actions would lead to a split within the radio. According to Trud, he accused them of "complete disloyalty." Among those dismissed are two deputy directors of BNR's Radio Horizont. Duma reports that the director and the editor-in-chief of BNR's [international] Radio Bulgaria were also replaced. -- Stefan Krause

KOZLODUY COULD AFFECT BULGARIAN TIES WITH EU.
French European Affairs Minister Michel Barnier on 18 December said Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear plant could be a major obstacle in Sofia's efforts to join the EU, Reuters reported the same day. Speaking to a news conference in Sofia after talks with Bulgarian officials, Barnier said that "without wishing to point the finger at anyone . . . , [the nuclear issue] is an important one . . . and could be a determining factor in the process of EU enlargement." The decision to restart Kozloduy's Reactor No. 1 in October 1995 led to sharp reactions from Western countries that question the reactor's safety. Barnier said that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev told him the reactor will be shut down in April for further checks. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT IN GERMANY.
Sali Berisha, on an official visit to Bonn, met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on 18 December, the Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported. Berisha discussed economic cooperation between the two countries and urged Albania's integration into the European Union and NATO. Berisha will also meet with German President Roman Herzog, Finance Minister Theo Waigel, and Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Carl-Dieter Spranger as well as representatives of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Berisha urged international support for a resolution of the Kosovo crisis that respects internationally recognized borders. -- Fabian Schmidt

FIRST GREEK-MACEDONIAN TALKS ON NAME ISSUE.
Greek Ambassador to the UN Christos Zacharakis and his Macedonian counterpart, Ivan Toshevski, met in New York on 16 December for first talks about the disputed name issue, Nova Makedonija reported on 18 December, citing Greek media reports. According to those reports, the talks took place in a positive and "very encouraging" atmosphere and lasted more than four hours. Both sides said the problem should be solved as soon as possible and both made suggestions for a possible solution. Further progress is expected after both sides report to their governments. UN mediator Cyrus Vance called the meeting "extremely interesting" and said similar meetings are expected to take place after the Christmas holidays. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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