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Newsline - January 9, 1996


CHECHEN REBELS SEIZE HOSTAGES IN DAGESTAN.
Chechen rebels led by a son-in-law of President Dzhokhar Dudaev occupied a hospital and maternity home in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan in the early morning of 9 January, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. The rebels took up to 1,000 people hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. A fierce exchange of fire was reported between the Chechen contingent and several hundred Russian troops who surrounded the buildings; at least five civilians, two police officers, and five Chechen militants were reported to have been killed. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN BLASTS SECURITY MINISTRIES.
Following a 9 January meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other high-ranking officials to discuss the situation in Kizlyar, President Boris Yeltsin sharply criticized the leaders of Russia's security ministries for failing to prevent the attack by pro-Dudaev fighters. "How can we understand you generals?" said Yeltsin. "The lessons which should have been learned by the security services were apparently not sufficient," he added, in an obvious reference to last June's Budennovsk events, when Chechen fighters also seized a hospital and hundreds of hostages. "The Border Guards were sleeping," Yeltsin noted, pointing out that he had previously ordered the administrative boundary between Chechnya and Dagestan sealed against incursions. -- Scott Parrish

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPARATUS MISAPPROPRIATED FUNDS.
An audit of the Federation Council apparatus requested by the Council itself found that during 1994 and the first half of 1995, 700 million rubles ($152,000) in budgetary funds were misappropriated, Radio Rossii reported on 8 January. For instance, bureaucrats spent 82 million rubles ($18,000) on sportswear, 90 million rubles ($19,500) on holiday gifts, and 15 million rubles ($3300) on wine and vodka for trips abroad. -- Laura Belin

DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA MAY NOMINATE STAROVOITOVA FOR PRESIDENT.
In October, Democratic Russia withdrew from the party-list ballot and threw its support behind Yabloko for the Duma elections, but the movement appears unwilling to endorse Grigorii Yavlinskii for the presidency. Andrei Frolov, a Democratic Russia representative, told Interfax on 7 January that "all democratic forces" in Russia should unite behind one presidential candidate. But he added that Democratic Russia may yet nominate its own candidate, most likely co-leader Galina Starovoitova, who was elected to the Duma from a St. Petersburg single-member district. Democratic Russia helped form the Russia's Choice movement in 1993 but split with Yegor Gaidar the following year. -- Laura Belin

MORE CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG DEMOCRATS.
Dmitrii Kataev, a member of Democratic Russia's federal council, wrote in the 5 January issue of Kuranty that democratic parties must move beyond discussions and round tables and form a "single organization." He said this organization should include members of various parties and seek compromise positions on issues but should then enforce party discipline to support the positions agreed upon. Kataev said such an organization should be built from below, starting with local and regional branches of democratic parties. However, he admitted that unity is easier to support in principle than in practice. At Democratic Russia's April 1995 congress, delegates voted nearly unanimously to form a united democratic bloc, but only half as many voted to join Yavlinskii's party and half that number voted to unite with Gaidar. -- Laura Belin

GAIDAR: YABLOKO AND OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SHOULD COOPERATE.
In a 5 January interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said reconciliation between his party and Yabloko is no longer the "main question of democracy in Russia." He added that "however humiliating it may be for us," the main question now is a rapprochement between Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia (NDR). Gaidar said his party will try to persuade Yabloko and NDR to agree on a common presidential candidate in the first round of elections, so as not to leave Russians with a choice between Gennadii Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the runoff. He added, "Let Yabloko, which received fewer votes, and NDR, which received more votes, agree on whom they should nominate." Gaidar has already said he will not run for president in 1996. -- Laura Belin

KALMYKIYA CREATES OIL AND GAS MINISTRY.
Kalmykiyan President Kirsan Ilumzhinov has issued a decree creating a Gas and Oil Production Ministry in the republic, Interfax reported on 4 January. Under the decree, the ministry is to carry out land surveys and develop the republic's hydrocarbon resources. The ministry will also be responsible for implementing a $22 million project to build an oil refinery in the Kalmykiyan capital Elista. The refinery has been under negotiation with a number of foreign countries since August last year. Currently, Kalmykiya ships all its crude to neighboring regions for processing in return for manufactured goods. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA URGES IRAQ TO ACCEPT UN OFFER.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk, currently on a tour of the Middle East, urged Iraq to accept the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 986, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 January. Under the resolution, Iraq can sell a limited amount of oil under UN supervision in order to purchase food and medicine. Iraq has rejected the resolution as an infringement on its sovereignty. On 5 January, the UN Security Council again extended its trade embargo against Iraq, imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, citing Iraqi failure to cooperate with UN disarmament inspectors. -- Scott Parrish

MORE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO EAST SLAVONIA?
According to sources at the UN, Russia may be asked to boost the number of its peacekeepers in Eastern Slavonia,
Western agencies reported on 8 January. The UN will soon formally establish a new mission of some 5,000 peacekeepers in the Serb-dominated area of Croatia, which is to gradually revert to Croatian control under a 12 November agreement. Russia currently has about 950 peacekeepers serving in Eastern Slavonia under a previous UN mandate and could be asked to double that number for the new force. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that the lead elements of the Russian brigade participating in the Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR) will arrive in Bosnia on 11 or 12 January. How Russia will pay for its participation in these peacekeeping operations, however, remains unresolved, as Russian media have repeatedly pointed out. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSO-NORWEGIAN FISHING DISPUTE.
Russian fishermen are angered by restrictions recently placed on the amount of herring Russian trawlers can catch in Norwegian territorial waters, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 9 January. The Norwegian government's restrictions allow the country's own fishermen to catch 705,000 tons of herring annually, while Russia will be restricted to only 1/6 that amount. The Russian State Committee for Fisheries plans to protest the Norwegian regulations, saying they are a violation of earlier Russo-Norwegian agreements and unfair because the herring spawn in Russian waters but then migrate to Norwegian territory after they mature. ORT attributed the restrictions to purely financial motives, since herring sells for $500/ton on the world market. -- Scott Parrish

HEALTH MINISTER DENIES EMBRYO EXPERIMENTS.
Health Minister Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev denied on 8 January a television report claiming that aborted embryos are sold to foreign doctors in Moscow for use in developing a drug to treat Down's Syndrome, Russian media reported. The report, based on an investigation by Germany's Spiegel-TV and shown on NTV's "Itogi" on 7 January, claimed that more than 1,000 women went to a Moscow maternity center to have late-term abortions, signing documents giving doctors rights over the dead embryos, and that the drug used in the operations is banned in Germany. Tsaregorodtsev, who was ordered by the prime minister conduct an urgent investigation into the allegations, rejected the report, asserting that abortions in Russia are carried out within 21 weeks of conception. He also denied that footage showing abortions of almost fully formed embryos was shot in a Moscow clinic and said that the drug allegedly used in the abortions is not registered in Russia. -- Penny Morvant

AUTHORITIES IN BASHKORTOSTAN COVER UP SCALE OF OIL SPILL.
A leak from an oil pipeline running along the Belaya River in Bashkortostan that has contaminated the drinking water of dozens of villages near the capital Ufa is far larger than was initially reported, Bashkortostan's environment minister, Rustem Khamitov, said on 6 January. The authorities had initially maintained that the spill, which occurred on 27 December, involved only 100-150 tons of crude oil, but they now admit that thousands of tons of oil may have been lost. As of 8 January clean-up workers had recovered more than 560 tons of oil mixed with water and absorbents, and a higher than normal concentration of oil has been found downstream in neighboring Tatarstan. Authorities in Bashkortostan claim they were deliberately misled by the company that runs the pipeline. -- Penny Morvant

KIVELIDI REPORTEDLY KILLED BY CHEMICAL DEVELOPED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY.
Ivan Kivelidi, the late chairman of Rosbiznesbank and the Russian Business Roundtable, was poisoned by a chemical developed for the Russian military, according to an 8 January Interfax report citing a source close to the Moscow procurator. Kivelidi died in hospital on 4 August 1995 from heavy-metal poisoning; his secretary, who displayed similar symptoms, also died (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1995). A member of the Board of Rosbiznesbank was detained in connection with the investigation in October but released a month later without charges being brought. Most contract killings in Russia remain unsolved. -- Penny Morvant

EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN.
An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale shook northern Sakhalin on the night of 8-9 January rendering 14 apartment blocks uninhabitable, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no casualties and no serious damage to oil or gas pipelines. The epicenter of the quake was close to Neftegorsk, the oil town destroyed by a major quake last May that killed more than 1,800 people. Another minor quake was registered on 9 January near the Kuril Island of Urup. -- Penny Morvant

INVESTMENT BOOM UNLIKELY IN 1996.
In a debate on Radio Rossii on 8 January, presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits, seemingly recovered from his recent heart trouble, said the reduction in inflation may cause interest rates to fall from their current level of 100% per year, which would lead to a revival of domestic investment. Domestic investment has fallen to about 25% of its 1990 level. However, the prospects for an inflow of foreign investment look dim. Economist Pavel Bunich said there is little chance that Yeltsin will sign a bill on production sharing which was passed by parliament, because of the Duma's amendments limiting privileges for foreign investors. On 7 January, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on Radio Mayak that "the world reaction to the Duma elections has been strong, maybe too strong," which will unfortunately scare off foreign investors. -- Peter Rutland



KARIMOV AND NIYAZOV AGREE TO MEET.
After months of disagreements and canceled meetings, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov have finally agreed to meet in the Turkmen city of Chardzhou. According to Radio Mayak on 5 January, the leaders will meet on 16 January to discuss the problem of water conservation and management in the Amu Darya River, as well as the potential development of oil and gas reserves on the right bank of the river, which defines part of the Uzbek-Turkmen border. -- Roger Kangas

REBELS OR DRUG-RUNNERS?
On 7 January, Russian border troops killed four armed men out of a group of 15 who attempted to cross into Tajikistan from Afghanistan near Pyanj, while the rest fled back across the border, Russian and Western media reported. Although NTV reported that the group were rebels who had crossed to commit sabotage and terrorism, another band that was repelled in the same area by Russian forces on 6 January left behind 70 kg of narcotics valued at 300 million rubles (about $650,000). Meanwhile, in an area near Kalai-Khumb Russian troops detained two men and confiscated 8 kg of narcotics on 7 January. The recent incidents suggest that this latest outbreak of violence along the border is likely the result of the drug trade rather than intensified rebel activity. -- Bruce Pannier

IMF CONDITIONS FOR MORE AID TO GEORGIA.
The IMF has put forward several conditions for the continuation of financial aid to Georgia, Interfax reported on 8 January. According to the office of the Georgian Minister of State, the IMF requires that the budget be approved in January and that laws be adopted on commercial banks and the buying and selling of land. The initial draft predicted a budget deficit equal to 28% of GDP. -- Irakli Tsereteli



NEW BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES.
The new Belarusian parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time on 9 January, Belarusian Radio reported the previous day. The top item on its agenda is the election of a new speaker. Candidates for the post include former Prime Minister Vyachelsau Kebich, who is supported by the Accord faction; Syamon Shapetsky, is backed by the Agrarian Party; and former Foreign Minister Piotr Krauchanka, who is the candidate of the Social-Democratic bloc. -- Ustina Markus

DANISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN ESTONIA.
Hans Haekkerup on 6 January discussed with President Lennart Meri cooperation within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program and training of Estonian personnel in Denmark. Following meetings on 8 January with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, parliamentary chairman Toomas Savi, and Defense Minister Andrus Oovel, Haekkeup said the Estonian defense forces had developed quickly in an exemplary manner. He also stressed that Estonia must join NATO, ETA reported. Oovel noted that defense cooperation with Denmark was increasing. -- Saulius Girnius

TIGHTER LATVIAN BUDGET.
Finance Minister Aivars Kreituss told reporters on 8 January that the 1996 budget deficit should not exceed 60 million lati ($111 million), BNS and LETA reported. He noted that the budget will have no funds for the redemption of certificates issued by previous government as compensation for property taken over by the state. Nor will it compensate depositors in bankrupt banks or pay out 5 million lati in subsidies owed to farmers. The Finance Ministry hopes to end the special budgets of various ministries that spent 70-80 million lati last year without presenting accounts either to it or the Saeima. Kreituss on 5 January accused the previous cabinet of uncontrolled spending in the last two months of 1995, which, he said, had raised the budget deficit from 40 million lati to 92 million lati. -- Saulius Girnius

BANK OF LITHUANIA CHAIRMAN RESIGNS.
Kazys Ratkevicius on 8 January announced he has submitted his resignation to President Algirdas Brazauskas, Radio Lithuania reported. Ratkevicius noted that the Democratic Labor Party caucus's decision the previous day to support his ouster was a strictly political move, since no charges of irregular economic activity have been brought against him. Also on 8 January, Brazauskas said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys and Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius that he would not accepting their resignations; the two ministers will remain in office. A further blow to the credibility of the government is the revelation that Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius and Interior Minister Romasis Vaitekunas were receiving more than 30% interest on savings accounts in the recently suspended Joint-Stock Innovative Bank. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENT LIFTS VETO ON NATIONAL DEFENSE LAW.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 8 January withdrew his predecessor Lech Walesa's veto on national defense legislation, which places the chief of staff and secret service under the direct control of the civilian defense minister. Kwasniewski, following a visit to the General Staff headquarters, said he is planning to strengthen parliamentary control over the armed forces. He was accompanied on his visit by newly appointed Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, Polish dailies reported on 9 January. -- Jakub Karpinski

WALESA TO RESUME WORK AT GDANSK SHIPYARD?
The former president is considering taking up his old job at the Gdansk shipyard, Polish media reported on 8-9 January. His wife has confirmed the reports. Walesa had worked at the shipyard as an electrician since 1966 before becoming involved in politics full-time in April 1989. Rzeczpospolita on 9 January noted that former presidents have no particular rights, except to be accompanied by bodyguards and to accept medical treatment in the government hospital. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH REPUBLIC, KUWAIT SIGN INVESTMENT PROTECTION ACCORD.
The Czech Republic and Kuwait on 8 January signed a mutual investment protection treaty during a two-day visit to the Gulf state by Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, Czech and international media reported. Klaus told a press conference that Kuwait is also preparing to provide finance for the planned reconstruction of a railway corridor across the Czech Republic from its border with Poland to Austria. No further details were released. Klaus, who was accompanied by 25 Czech industrialists, also met with Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, and other officials for talks on potential Kuwaiti investment in the Czech Republic. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAKIA'S RULING COALITION TO EXPAND?
There is growing speculation among Slovak media that the anticipated leadership change at the April congress of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) may mean the party will join the coalition government. SDL chairman Peter Weiss, who is opposed to the coalition's political line, has said he will not run again. Head of the SDL shadow government Juraj Hrasko, in an interview with Narodna obroda on 9 January, noted that the party's republican council in November 1994 rejected joining the coalition because of the latter's "confrontational style of governing," including attempts to dismiss the president and massive purges. According to Hrasko, the decision on whether the coalition will be expanded is in the hands of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, rather than the SDL. "A correct political and program agreement" approved by both parties would be required for the SDL's entry into the coalition, Hrasko noted. -- Sharon Fisher

OSCE OFFICIAL IN SLOVAKIA.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel began a three-day visit to Slovakia on 8 January to examine the situation of the country's Hungarian minority, Praca reported. Topics of discussion include the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty; Slovakia's state language law, passed in November; preparations for a law on minority languages; "alternative" (bilingual) education; state subsidies for minority culture, and Slovakia's plans for territorial administration. With regard to territorial autonomy for minorities, Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova told Van der Stoel that Slovakia will follow the guidelines of the Framework agreement, which does not guarantee such rights. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN LOCALS COMPLAIN ABOUT IFOR TROOPS.
Several members of the town council of the southern Hungarian town of Kaposvar have complained about traffic jams caused by IFOR units, increasing air pollution, and damage to local roads, Nepszabadsag reported on 9 January. At the same time, the daily noted, the arrival of IFOR troops has boosted the economy of both Kaposvar and nearby Taszar, where the main air base is located. The paper also said that numerous IFOR soldiers have been taken ill and are now in quarantine. Both U.S. and Hungarian health experts denied that the troops have contracted measles, saying the soldiers picked up some kind of influenza virus on their way to Hungary. Hospital sources say that laboratory results in the second half of the week will reveal the nature of the ailment. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER DIES.
Karoly Grosz, a former prime minister and the last secretary-general of the Hungarian Communist Party, died on 7 January after a long illness, Hungarian media reported on 9 January. A government statement described Grosz, who was 65, as an "ambivalent but major political personality in the era of transformation" who strove to launch reforms. Magyar Nemzet, assessing his role in the reform process, remarked that Grosz only went so far as to give a cautious "yes" to the reform of the system. Grosz was prime minister from June 1987 to November 1988. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



UN SECURITY COUNCIL SLAMS CROATIA.
The top UN body on 8 January passed a resolution calling on Zagreb to cease human rights abuses in Krajina and work to remedy the situation, Hina reported. "The Security Council strongly condemns the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights . . . including killings of several hundreds of civilians, systematic and widespread looting and arson, and other forms of destruction of property." The resolution also accused Croatia of blocking the return of refugees, not bringing guilty parties to justice, not handing over indicted war criminals, and discriminating against remaining Serbian civilians. It called on Zagreb to restore Serbian property rights and provide humanitarian aid for stranded Serbian villagers. The Council asked the secretary-general to prepare a report on Croatia's compliance by 15 February. -- Patrick Moore

IS UN RESOLUTION AIMED AT EASTERN SLAVONIA?
The BBC on 9 January called the UN resolution on Croatia (see "Top Story") the organization's toughest condemnation of that country to date. The broadcast suggested that the council is under no illusions about any early or massive return of Krajina Serbs but is seeking rather to reassure the Serbs of eastern Slavonia, who are slated under a 12 November agreement to return to Croatian control within two years. AFP reported that Russia may be asked to help beef up the international military contingent in eastern Slavonia from fewer than 1,700 to some 5,000 troops as part of a general upgrading of the UN force in the region. There appears to be general concern in the international community that any problems in eastern Slavonia could adversely affect implementation of the Dayton agreement in Bosnia. Croatia has repeatedly warned that it reserves the right to retake the territory by force if the Serbs do not respect the current agreement. -- Patrick Moore

SUSAK BACKS DAYTON DEADLINES.
EU administrator Hans Koschnick said in Mostar on 8 January that Croatian and Muslim officials now seem anxious to implement the Dayton agreement. "Both sides, importantly, have managed to calm the situation down. As far as I'm concerned things seem to be getting better," he told Reuters. U.S. trouble-shooter Robert Gallucci said in Zagreb, however, that he was unhappy with current progress on the implementation of the peace treaty. But Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak, who is probably the most powerful of the Herzegovinian Croats, weighed in solidly on behalf of the Muslim-Croatian federation: "We have to go on with the federation. If we want the federation, if we want to stick with the Dayton agreement which has certain deadlines, then we have to have a much more active approach." AFP reported on 9 January that EU police officials in Mostar are nonetheless doubtful that a joint force can be set up by the 20 January deadline. -- Patrick Moore

MITTERRAND GETS COLD SHOULDER FROM BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT.
Many ordinary Sarajevans may fondly recall late French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in Paris on 8 January aged 79, for his daring if brief visit to their besieged city; but those sentiments are not necessarily shared by the mainly Muslim authorities. The BBC on 9 January quoted Vice President Ejup Ganic as saying that Bosnia has no reason to remember him. This presumably reflects the view widely held in Bosnia and Croatia that Mitterrand was pro-Serbian and sought to restore a united Yugoslavia as his ultimate goal. President Alija Izetbegovic told OMRI in Prague in October that he found little sympathy or understanding in Paris during the Mitterrand presidency but that things improved dramatically following the election of Jacques Chirac. -- Patrick Moore

MILOSEVIC SENDS "BEST WISHES" TO BOSNIAN SERBS.
Nasa Borba, citing Tanjug, on 9 January reported that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic sent the Bosnian Serbs his official greetings on the occasion of the "national day" of the Republika Srpska. Milosevic observed that this was the first such holiday commemorated "in peace," and he added that it is his hope that the Bosnian Serbs can look forward "to a successful economic and cultural recovery." -- Stan Markotich

HOLBROOKE ASKS MILOSEVIC TO ALLOW U.S. REPRESENTATION IN KOSOVO.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke told VOA on 8 January that he has held talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and that the U.S. is seeking permission to establish an official presence in Pristina. The representation will probably be a United States Information Agency office, Holbrooke said. He added that it might open "in the very near future" and will help reduce tensions in the region. Holbrooke stressed that the U.S. was not supporting the Kosovar Albanians' demand for independence. But he pointed out that "the oppression of the people there by the Serbs has been extremely bad." -- Fabian Schmidt

SLOVENIA TO OPEN NEW EMBASSIES?
Nasa Borba on 9 January reported that the Slovenian Foreign Ministry has announced it will open new embassies in Turkey, South Africa, Portugal, India, Slovakia, Denmark, and the rump Yugoslavia. But Ljubljana noted that these plans will have to take into account budgetary and other constraints. Slovenia currently has embassies in 28 nations. It was the first republic of the former Yugoslavia to recognize Belgrade (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN ROM TO RUN IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Ion Cioaba on 7 January announced he will run in the 1996 Romanian parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. The international and domestic media treat Cioaba, who declared himself "king of all Gypsies" in 1992, as something of a joke and typically focus on his Cadillac motorcades and other signs of opulence. Reuters writes that "he is not generally recognized by anyone beyond his family or people keen to do business with him." However, the agency noted that "his critics, including rival Gypsy leaders, say the ruling left-wing Party of Social Democracy in Romania uses him as a puppet in order to garner the substantial Gypsy vote." There are an estimated 2 million Roma in Romania. -- Alaina Lemon

UNIDENTIFIED VIRUS KILLS BABIES IN ROMANIA.
Six newborn babies died and 12 others were in critical condition owing to a unidentified virus at a maternity clinic in eastern Romania, Romanian and international media reported on 8 January. Rompres quoted doctors as saying the infants died from vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and asphyxiation. The Health Ministry has set up a special panel to investigate the mysterious deaths, sent expectant mothers to other hospitals, and shut down the clinic. Romania's infant mortality rate of 21.2 per 1,000 births in 1995 was one of the highest in Europe. -- Matyas Szabo

ASSOCIATION FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH FORMED IN BULGARIA.
Svobodno Slovo (Free Speech) officially constituted itself in Sofia on 8 January, Pari reported the following day. Around 100 journalists, translators, and sociologists adopted the forum's statutes and elected its administrative bodies. Former Bulgarian National Radio journalist Yasen Boyadzhiev was elected chairman of the organization. Svobodno Slovo defines itself as politically independent and committed to the defense of freedom of speech. The founding of Svobodno Slovo comes in the wake of ongoing quarrels within BNR. Dissenting journalists accused BNR's management of political censorship, while BNR Director-General Vecheslav Tunev responded by dismissing seven of the journalists who made the accusations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November and 19 December 1995). -- Stefan Krause

DID BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGN?
Pari on 9 January cited unnamed sources within the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party as saying that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev handed in his resignation and has been on leave since New Year. The resignation will be announced during a cabinet reshuffle in February, the sources said. Pari adds that Tsochev will take the blame for the ongoing grain shortage and leave the cabinet along with Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev. While 24 chasa carried a similar report, both dailies noted that other ministers denied any knowledge of Tsochev's resignation. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN COURT ORDERS ARREST OF FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIALS.
The Tirana Municipal Court, following a request by the Prosecutor-General's Office, has ordered the arrest of former Deputy Interior Minister Hysen Shahu and former Deputy Director of the state security Sigurimi Sulejman Abazi. Both officials held office from 1980-1990 and are accused of mass imprisonments in violation of communist-era laws and the constitution, ATSH reported on 8 January. The two officials are included on a list of 36 people accused by the Forum of Albanian Intellectuals of crimes against humanity. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREEK OPPOSITION FILES NO CONFIDENCE MOTION.
The conservative New Democracy party on 8 January submitted a no confidence motion against the government of ailing Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Reuters reported the same day. Leading ND members said the move was necessary because Greece has been "a rudderless ship" since Papandreou was admitted to the hospital on 20 November 1995. They urged the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to nominate a new premier and accused Papandreou of plunging Greece into political uncertainty by not resigning. The ND is supported by the small Political Spring party, but together they hold only 119 mandates in the 300-seat parliament. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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