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Newsline - January 11, 1996



RUSSIA

HOSTAGE DRAMA IN DAGESTAN CONTINUES.
The Chechen militants who left Kizlyar early on 10 January in a convoy of buses with some 160 hostages were halted in the morning by Russian federal troops in the village of Pervomayskoe near the Chechen-Dagestani border, Russian media reported. Negotiations are reportedly underway between the Chechens, led by Salman Raduev, and Dagestani officials. Representatives of the Russian forces are insisting that the Chechens fulfill their promise to release their hostages at the border, according to ITAR-TASS. The Chechens demanded, first, a Russian Ministry of Interior escort through Chechnya, and then, talks with representatives of the Russian federal government, according to ITAR-TASS. Radio Rossii on 10 January quoted ITAR-TASS as reporting that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev said the hostage taking in Kizlyar had been undertaken on his instructions. In Grozny, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev has dismissed the entire government, according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV, ZHIRINOVSKY PRAISE PRIMAKOV APPOINTMENT.
On 10 January,
Gennadii Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), described recently appointed Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as "an experienced and skilled statesman," Russian and Western agencies reported. Zyuganov said Primakov's appointment "implies open political efforts to protect Russia's national interests which were sacrificed to enemies of our state," adding that his party's victory in the 17 December Duma elections demonstrated that voters did not trust the government's foreign policy. Liberal Democratic Party Leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called Primakov's appointment "the best option possible." Zhirinovsky predicted that Primakov would "turn Russia's foreign policy toward the Arab world, India, and China." Western experts are divided in their assessment of Primakov, with some regarding him as a hard-liner, while others view him as "pragmatic." -- Scott Parrish

TRANSPORT MINISTER SACKED.
President Yeltsin dismissed Transport Minister Vitalii Yefimov on 10 January, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin also formally released from duty Minister without portfolio Nikolai Travkin and State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev, who are taking up seats in the new Duma. Yefimov recently came under fire in the Russian press for the country's poor air safety record. According to Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Materov, there were three times as many civil aviation accidents in 1995 as in 1991. On 9 January, Interfax reported that Moscow Airlines, the company running the Antonov-26 plane that crashed in Zaire on 8 January killing 300 people, had been suspended by the Moscow Air Transport Department five days earlier for safety violations. -- Penny Morvant
ZHIRINOVSKY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
To no one's surprise, the seventh congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) unanimously nominated Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a candidate in the presidential election of June 1996, Russian media reported on 10 January. In his 45-minute address, Zhirinovsky asked President Yeltsin to napalm all Chechen rebel bases and promised to do so himself by 1 July if elected. He also said the LDPR were the true winners of the Duma elections, since the apparent victory of the Communist Party was only its "swan song." However, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that the LDPR branch in Krasnoyarsk sent an appeal to the congress accusing Zhirinovsky and his family of pocketing party funds, encouraging a cult of personality, and talking nonsense: "Today the name Zhirinovsky is practically a diagnosis." The appeal asked the party to choose a different presidential candidate. -- Laura Belin

AGRARIAN DUMA FACTION TO BE FORMED.
Duma Deputy Nikolai Kharitonov of the Agrarian Party of Russia (APR) announced that he has recruited more than the 35 deputies needed to form an officially registered Duma faction, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 January. The APR failed to clear the 5% threshold, but 20 deputies were elected in single-member districts. Kharitonov said the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) remains the APR's closest political ally, adding that some KPRF deputies elected in individual districts will join the Agrarian Duma faction. APR Chairman Mikhail Lapshin has returned to his home in Moscow Oblast, since he did not contest a single-member district and will therefore not have a seat in the new Duma. -- Laura Belin

CHANGING STRUCTURE OF FEDERATION COUNCIL.
The new Federation Council will meet for the first time on 23 January, but many questions remain about the structure of the upper house of parliament, according to the current edition of Moskovskie novosti. Under a new law on its formation, the Council will consist of two deputies from each region, the leaders of the legislative and executive branches. The old Council appealed that law to the Constitutional Court, which has not yet heard the case. The Council's staff will most likely be expanded, since deputies running regional governments or legislatures will not be able to devote their full attention to their parliamentary duties. -- Laura Belin

DATE OF MOSCOW MAYORAL ELECTIONS FIXED.
On 10 January, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree setting 16 June as the date for the Moscow mayoralty election, the same day as the presidential election, Russian and Western agencies reported. The decree also prohibits other Russian regions and republics from holding referendums or elections on that day. A 17 September presidential decree postponed all local elections until after the presidential election in June. Later, 12 regions were allowed to hold gubernatorial elections in December 1995. Gavril Popov won the first mayoral election in Moscow in June 1991, and upon his resignation in 1992 he was replaced by vice mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Luzhkov will almost certainly run for a second term. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF. . .
President Yeltsin appointed Col. Gen. Vyacheslav Trubnikov as director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) on 10 January, ITAR-TASS reported. He replaces Yevgenii Primakov, who was recently appointed foreign minister. Trubnikov, 51, graduated from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO) with a specialization in Asian countries. He spent his entire career in the KGB, and became first deputy director of the new SVR in January 1992. Both Yeltsin and Primakov expressed confidence that Trubnikov will make an excellent intelligence chief. -- Constantine Dmitriev

. . .AND SIGNS LAW ON FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE.
Meanwhile, President Yeltsin signed on 1O January the law on foreign intelligence that was passed by the old Duma in December 1995, ITAR-TASS reported. The law determines the structure, main principles and government control over the SVR. The law stresses the importance of human rights, and stipulates that any cooperation between the SVR and private citizens should be voluntary. According to the new law, the SVR is subordinated directly to President Yeltsin. -- Constantine Dmitriev

YELTSIN IN PARIS.
President Yeltsin arrived in Paris on 10 January to attend a memorial service for former French President Francois Mitterand, who died on 8 January. Speaking at Orly airport, Yeltsin hinted that he will seek re-election in June. He told reporters, "it is necessary to prevent the country from turning away from its current path." -- Scott Parrish

BOLSHAKOV ON RUSSIAN CIS POLICY.
Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, who chairs a governmental commission on cooperation with the CIS, said Russia needs to develop a more coherent policy toward the CIS, Russian agencies reported on 10 January. CIS integration is proceeding only "with difficulty," he added, since other CIS states fear Russian domination. Bolshakov also said that "The USA and its allies are achieving more and more new positions in CIS countries, which often harms Russian interests of Russia." In the coming year, Russia will focus on forming multinational firms involving other CIS states, and increasing the share of exports which go to the CIS, which now takes only 22% of total Russian exports. -- Scott Parrish

CHANGES TO MOSCOW REGISTRATION SYSTEM MAINLY COSMETIC.
As of 1 February, the Moscow and Moscow Oblast authorities will no longer require residents to have a propiska, or residence permit, but residents will still have to register with the authorities, Interfax reported on 10 January. The propiska system, first instituted in 1932, violates the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to freedom of movement. It was technically abolished by a USSR Constitutional Supervision Committee decision in 1991 but continued to be enforced in some parts of Russia, including Moscow. The new system is still restrictive in that registration can be denied to people who do not have sufficient living space; the current norm is 18 square meters per person. -- Penny Morvant

JEWISH CONGRESS OPENS.
A unifying convention of the Russian Jewish Congress opened in Moscow on 10 January, Russian media reported. The forum was organized by Most Bank President Vladimir Gusinskii, Rossiiskii Kredit Bank President Vladimir Malkin, and Alfa-Bank board chairman Mikhail Fridman. It aims to unite the Jewish community in Russia and encourage Jewish business leaders to donate money for causes such as supporting synagogues and medical centers, building day-care centers and homes for the elderly, and opening Jewish Sunday schools. -- Penny Morvant
CENTRAL BANK REVIEWS WORK IN 1995. . .
Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said at a meeting of the heads of the bank's regional branches that 315 commercial banks, 12% of the total number, had their licenses revoked in 1995, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported the same day. He said the bank found serious procedural violations in 80% of banks investigated. Dubinin welcomed the fact that inflation had been brought down to 3.2% in December and noted that the federal deficit was covered by the emission of treasury bills rather than the printing of money. The same day, Radio Rossii reported four senior officials of the bank went on trial in Moscow for awarding 5 billion rubles ($4 million) credits in return for bribes in 1992. -- Peter Rutland

. . .BUT DEBTS REMAIN A PROBLEM.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also spoke at the bankers' meeting, noting that the non-payment of debts by firms and municipalities is a threat to economic recovery, Radio Rossii reported on 10 January. Sergei Yegorov, chairman of the Association of Russian Banks, estimates that late payments now total 300 trillion rubles ($65 billion), Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 January. As for old debts, the government has prepared a law on compensation for people who lost their savings in Sberbank in the great inflation of 1992, ITAR-TASS reported 10 January. However, only partial compensation can be expected, since the current value of the lost savings is equal to the entire annual GDP of Russia, according to Moskovskaya pravda of 6 January. -- Peter Rutland




TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA


UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ADVOCATES EXTENDING ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE.
In a report to the UN Security Council made public on 10 January, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali proposed that the mandate of the 136-person UN observer team in Abkhazia be extended by six months, Western agencies reported. Reuters quoted Security Council Chairman Sir John Weston as calling on both Georgians and Abkhaz to show greater flexibility in the currently deadlocked peace talks on Abkhazia's future status within Georgia. -- Liz Fuller

NEW AGENCY CREATED FOR MEDIA IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree establishing a reorganized National Agency for the Media, according to a 10 January Radio Rossii report. The agency is a state organ but is not responsible to the government--only the president has the power to appoint and dismiss the chairman. Many Kazakhstani journalists say the new agency gives Nazarbayev control over all newspapers and magazines that are financed through the republic's budget, according to the report. -- Bruce Pannier

RUSSIA AND KYRGYZSTAN SIGN TRADE AGREEMENT.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov met on 10 January to sign several trade accords and to discuss the 19 January CIS summit, Western and Russian sources reported. Jumagulov noted that Kyrgyzstan is ready to join the customs union currently involving Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan has also committed itself to formal involvement in the customs union. -- Roger Kangas

CONSTRUCTION OF OIL REFINERY BEGINS IN UZBEKISTAN.
A number of foreign companies are involved in the construction of a refinery at the Kokdumalak oil and gas field in the Bukhara region. According to Interfax of 9 January, the Uzneftegaz company is overseeing the $200 million project, which involves the Turkish GAMA and French Technip companies and financial support from the World Bank and the EBRD. The participants hope that by the end of 1996, the plant will process gas condensate and oil at annual rates of 2.5 and 5 million tons respectively. -- Roger Kangas




CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

UKRAINE ALLOWS RUSSIAN OIL THROUGH PIPELINES.
Ukraine on 10 January allowed Russian oil to flow through the Druzhba pipeline to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, ITAR-TASS reported. The pipeline was closed on 1 January after Russia refused to pay $5.23 (an increase of 70 cents) for pumping one ton of oil through 100 km of Ukraine's territory. Two days later, oil supplies resumed to Hungary, but not to other countries. Slovakia grew concerned that its economy would suffer if supplies were not resumed, since Russia is its only supplier of crude. Russian oil exporters stand to lose up to $20 million because of the tariff dispute. The Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry has not decided whether to accept the new transportation rate, which would make Russian oil more expensive on the Central and West European markets. -- Ustina Markus

NO PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN BORDER DEMARCATION.
Borys Danilchenko, head of Ukraine's Foreign Ministry CIS Department, said Russia is delaying demarcating its border with Ukraine, Interfax reported on 9 January. According to Danilchenko, work on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border is almost complete. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUS ELECTS NEW PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER.
Semyon Sharetsky, leader of the Agrarian Party, has been elected chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet after two rounds of voting, international agencies reported on 10 January. Three other candidates competed in the first round of voting: head of the United Civic Party Stanislau Bahdankevich, former speaker Mechyslau Hryb, head of the Communist caucus Syarhei Kalyakin. With the Communists holding the largest number of seats in the new parliament and the Agrarians the second largest, Kalyakin and Sharetsky won the most votes in the first round of voting. In the second round, centrists and pro-reform deputies threw their support behind Sharetsky. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES ALIEN PASSPORTS.
Interior Minister Mart Rask on 9 January announced that the government has decided to grant alien status and alien passports to some 300,000 residents who have only former USSR passports, ETA reported the next day. The Soviet passports expire on 12 July. The Citizenship and Immigration Department will issue alien passports valid for five years in conjunction with a residence permit. Rask was instructed to tell the government by 30 January how much the operation is expected to cost. -- Saulius Girnius

LAND SALES TO FOREIGN COMPANIES IN LATVIA.
Prime Minister Andris Skele hinted that the current restrictions on the sale of land to foreigners may be abolished because they are discouraging foreign investment, BNS reported on 10 January. Two months ago, Latvia began to sell land to companies from countries with which it has concluded agreements of the promotion and protection of investments--namely, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Norway, Poland, Finland, and Sweden. Germany is expected to sign a similar agreement soon. Companies from other countries are allowed to buy land only when Latvian citizens provide at least 51% of the company's founding capital. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA PLANS TO SIGN NATO AGREEMENT ON STATUS OF FORCES.
The government on 10 January said it will ask President Algirdas Brazauskas to give Darius Cekuolis, Lithuania's ambassador in Brussels, the authority to sign a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO as a Partnership for Peace program member-nation, Radio Lithuania reported. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius noted that because Lithuanian forces were being sent abroad more often to participate in PfP exercises, it was important to settle their legal status in foreign countries. Without SOFA, Lithuania has to prepare a separate agreement for its troops for each mission. Several NATO and PfP countries have already signed such agreements. -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON POLISH PREMIER SPY AFFAIR.
Poland's chief military prosecutor Ryszard Michalowski has indicated that he may decide against launching a formal investigation into allegations that Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy spied for the Russians. Michalowski told Zycie Warszawy on 10 January that to find someone guilty of espionage, it must be proven that the accused acted "consciously." Oleksy says that while he was acquainted with Col. Vladimir Alganov, he did not know that he was a KGB agent. Meanwhile, former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski told Polityka that in July 1992 Oleksy began to meet confidentially with a new Russian diplomat in Poland who was also an intelligence agent and who took over some of Alganov's tasks. -- Jakub Karpinski

ISRAELI PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE.
Ezer Weizman began a three-day visit to the Czech Republic on 10 January at the start of a European tour, Czech and international media reported. President Vaclav Havel awarded Weizman the Czech Republic's highest honor--the Order of the White Lion with Chain--and discussed with him bilateral ties and the Middle East peace process. Weizman said Israel was grateful for Czechoslovakia's military and political support when the Jewish state was founded in 1948. Bilateral relations were broken off relations in 1967 and restored only after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. Weizman is scheduled to visit the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin and then to continue his tour in Germany. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTERS MEETS WITH OSCE OFFICIAL.
Vladimir Meciar on 10 January met with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel at the end of his three-day visit to Slovakia. Van der Stoel recommended that the government approve a law on the use of minority languages to accompany the state language law approved in November, Pravda reported. Meciar noted that he would like to receive a report on the situation of minorities in EU countries, adding that "if the results show that there is a higher level of minority rights in other countries, we will be glad to adapt." Meciar assured Van der Stoel that the Slovak parliament will pass the Slovak-Hungarian treaty in January or February with the support of deputies from the government coalition, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

RFE/RL TO LOSE SLOVAK LICENSE?
Peter Juras, chairman of Slovakia's Board for Radio and TV Broadcasting, told reporters on 10 January that RFE/RL will lose its license to broadcast in Slovakia "if it does not improve" within the next 30 days. He accused RFE/RL of failing to fulfill conditions set when the license was granted, including "objectivity, impartiality, and a reassuring tone," and said "the question arises as to whether the Slovak service of RFE/RL is an ideological tool in the hands of interest groups in the U.S. against an independent Slovakia." Juras noted that even the opposition and the president were not spared of RFE/RL criticism for their support of the controversial language law. RFE/RL Director of Broadcasting Robert Gillette issued a statement saying the station's management "fully respects the professional integrity of its Slovak service." According to RFE/RL sources, the station learned about the board's criticisms only through the press conference. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS MEDIA LAW.
Arpad Goncz on 10 January signed Hungary's long awaited media bill, which was passed by the parliament last month, Hungarian media reported. Magyar Hirlap reported that the law will take effect on 1 February. Four parliamentary parties have agreed to meet to prepare parliamentary and governmental measures on the implementation of the law. The opposition Smallholders and Christian Democrats declined to take part in the talks. Among the most pressing tasks are reportedly establishing public service foundations and electing the 31 members of the National Radio and Television Committee. Parliamentary commissioners may be appointed to supervise the operations of Hungarian TV and Hungarian Radio. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ASKED TO RULE ON NATO REFERENDUM PETITION.
The extra-parliamentary Hungarian Workers' Party on 10 January appealed to the Constitutional Court to overturn what it called the parliament's unconstitutional rejection last month of its petition calling for a referendum on Hungary's NATO membership, Hungarian dailies reported. The party said the parliament used an arbitrary interpretation of the law on referendums to reject the petition. The party had collected 142,000 signatures endorsing a referendum on NATO membership (100,000 are required by the constitution) but the parliamentary Constitutional Committee subsequently rejected the petition. Government officials said it was to early to call a referendum since the country had not yet been invited to join the alliance. -- Zsofia Szilagyi






BOSNIAN MINE MAY BE MASS GRAVE FOR 8,000 MUSLIMS, CROATS.
The New York Times on 11 January reported that a huge open-pit iron mine near Ljubija may hold the remains of thousands of victims of Serbian "ethnic cleansing." Many of the corpses seem to have been reburied from other sites among northwestern Bosnia's Serbian killing fields and concentration camps. The bodies were often mauled by mining equipment, doused with chemicals, and dumped under tons of debris. British spokesmen said their troops frequently come across decomposed corpses, which the Serbs then quickly remove. Local residents said they saw bus after bus filled with Muslims and Croats enter the mine gates, but none of the passengers ever returned. Human rights groups want to investigate Ljubija and mass grave sites near Srebrenica to prove that the Serbs deliberately committed genocide, but they say IFOR is unwilling to help them. -- Patrick Moore

MILOSEVIC TO HELP PREVENT FURTHER ATTACKS?
NATO commander Admiral Leighton Smith on 10 January said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has promised to help prevent future incidents like the bazooka attack in Sarajevo that killed one and injured many more (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 January 1996). Both men agreed that the shelling was an isolated terrorist incident and not part of some Bosnian Serb project to torpedo the Dayton agreement, the International Herald Tribune reported on 11 January. Nasa Borba added that Milosevic pledged the attack will not go unpunished. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said diplomats and military experts in the Bosnian capital fear that the Serbs intend to torch their suburbs rather than hand them over to government authority. The Serbs there made up only about half of the prewar population, and thousands of expelled Muslims and Croats now want to go home. Meanwhile, the VOA's Croatian Service reported that President Bill Clinton will visit Tuzla in the near future but will not go to Sarajevo because of security concerns. Hina noted that he will also go to Zagreb. -- Patrick Moore

BILDT BRINGS SERBS, GOVERNMENT TOGETHER.
The international community's Carl Bildt on 10 January chaired the first publicized meeting in four years in Sarajevo between representatives of the Bosnian Serb civilian leadership and their government counterparts. Nasa Borba said on 11 January that Bildt's spokesman called the session "the beginning of a process of resolving urgent problems relating to the Sarajevo area," but Reuters noted that any solution is a long way off and that the government representatives have no intention of visiting Serb-held territory. Meanwhile, Muslim and Croat leaders have apparently agreed on Izudin Kapetanovic as the Federation's new prime minister. He comes from Tuzla and belongs to the mainly Muslim Party of Democratic Action. -- Patrick Moore

SHELLS FLY IN MOSTAR.
The EU on 10 January blamed primarily the Croats for continued shelling in the divided Herzegovinian city, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service said. The EU administrator, Hans Koschnick, again threatened to resign unless the Croats and Muslims get to work on breathing life into their federation, AFP reported. President Clinton's trouble-shooter is making the rounds in the region to try to bring an end to Croatian-Muslim tensions. Hina noted on 8 January that German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that he and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher would both become more involved in settling the Mostar issue. Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 9 January that the town of Citluk, located between Mostar and the pilgrimage site of Medjugorje, has offered to provide a home for Mostar's new airport. -- Patrick Moore

POLITICAL STANDOFF INTENSIFIES IN ZAGREB.
Novi list reported on 11 January that President Franjo Tudjman still will not confirm Goran Granic of the opposition coalition as mayor of Zagreb. It was made clear to Granic that he would not receive presidential approval, and on 10 January he offered his resignation to the opposition-dominated city council that elected him. That body rejected the offer. Zagreb county council chairman Zdravko Tomac said the standoff is likely to continue "until somebody drops dead." -- Patrick Moore

ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS MEET.
Ion Iliescu on 10 January met with his Moldovan counterpart, Mircea Snegur, who is currently vacationing in Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. The two presidents focused on the main political, economic, and social problems posed by the reform process in their countries. They expressed their desire to expand bilateral relations, regardless of political development in 1996, which is election year in both Romania and Moldova. Snegur also met with Metropolitan Daniel of Moldova, with whom he discussed a possible reunification of the countries' Christian Orthodox Churches. During the Soviet era, the Moldovan church was subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVA, UKRAINE STRENGTHEN COOPERATION.
Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Valentin Cunev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Anatolii Kinakh, have signed a protocol on trade cooperation and setting up a customs union, BASA-press reported on 10 January. The protocol outlines the main areas of cooperation, including the establishment of a free exchange regime. It was signed at the end of a two-day visit to Moldova by a Ukrainian government delegation. Interior Ministers Constantin Antoci and Yurii Kravchenko signed the same day an agreement on cooperating to combat weapons and drug trafficking as well as car theft. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SURVIVES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE.
A no confidence vote against the cabinet of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 10 January was rejected by 130 to 105 votes with five absentees, Bulgarian and international media reported. The opposition had demanded the resignation of the Socialist cabinet because of the ongoing grain crisis. After the vote, Videnov said the government will use the state reserves but not the military reserves to regulate supplies. Union of Democratic Forces leader Ivan Kostov argued that those reserves should be used only in case of war or natural disasters. "The sole cause of this crisis is the government's incompetence," he said. RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported that at least five Socialist deputies voted against the government. Since the Socialists hold 125 seats, this suggests that 10 deputies from other parties supported the government. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA WILLING TO TAKE PART IN IFOR.
Duma on 11 January, citing information from the presidential Consultative Council on National Security, reported that the Bulgarian government is holding talks with the IFOR command about the possible participation of Bulgarian troops. Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov have reportedly suggested to the cabinet that Bulgaria contribute a pioneer unit, a field hospital, and civil staff as well as hospital beds and rehabilitation centers in Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIA LIFTS VISA REQUIREMENT FOR GREEKS.
Albanian President Sali Berisha has decreed the lifting of visa requirements for Greek citizens, Reuters reported on 10 January. The decision was made in an attempt to further improve bilateral relations. Visas for Greeks were introduced in September 1994 after Greece closed its border to Albania when six ethnic Greeks suspected of espionage and illegal arms possession were arrested in Albania. Relations improved after their release February 1995. -- Fabian Schmidt

FORMER TIRANA PROSECUTOR "FLEES" TO U.S.
Former Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Tirana Genc Gjokutaj has fled the country on a U.S. tourist visa, Koha Jone and international agencies reported on 10 January. The 27-year-old Gjokutaj--who took part in the trials of imprisoned Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, a number of bank directors charged with corruption, and communist dictator Enver Hoxha's son, Ilir--is suspected of having accepted large bribes. He was suspended from the bar, and investigations were launched by the Prosecutor-General's office. Koha Jone suggested that he received some $40,000 in one instance alone. -- Fabian Schmidt
GREEK PARLIAMENT REJECTS NO CONFIDENCE MOTION.
The Greek parliament on 10 January voted against a no confidence motion in the government of ailing Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Greek and international media reported. Antonis Samaras, the leader of the opposition Political Spring (POLA) party, said POLA deputies will boycott parliament sessions until a new premier is elected. Meanwhile, Papandreou has asked to meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos, AFP reported on 10 January. This has raised speculation about his political future, since the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement is divided over whether Papandreou should be replaced. His doctors over the past few days have repeatedly said his health is improving but have not said if he will be able to resume his duties. -- Stefan Krause

GREEK PEACEKEEPERS LEAVE FOR BOSNIA.
A contingent of 180 Greek soldiers and 80 vehicles left for Bosnia on 10 January to join IFOR, AFP reported the same day. They will be stationed in Visoko, northwest of Sarajevo, as part of a Belgian-commanded transport unit. Seventy Greek soldiers and officers are already based there. -- Stefan Krause


As of 1200 CET


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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