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Newsline - January 16, 1996


NEW HOSTAGES TAKEN IN GROZNY.
Early on 16 January,
unknown gunmen kidnapped at least 30 workers from an electric plant in the Grozny suburb of Kirov, ITAR-TASS reported. The workers were loaded onto a bus and driven away. On 14 January, the commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, had told ITAR-TASS that fighters led by Shamil Basaev, who masterminded the June 1995 raid on Budennovsk, were planning terrorist acts in Grozny to divert attention from Pervomaiskoe. The kidnapping occurred despite heightened security measures in Grozny, including a warning that federal forces would open fire without warning on any vehicles driving in the city after 7 p.m. -- Scott Parrish

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN PERVOMAISKOE.
Under the light of air-dropped flares, heavy fighting continued overnight and through Tuesday morning in Pervomaiskoe, as Russian troops attempted to dislodge the Chechen fighters led by Salman Raduev and free their hostages, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 January. Although a Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman claimed the attack was being carried out with "surgical precision," correspondents reported that the village, including the buildings where the hostages were believed to be held, was in flames. By noon on 16 January (Moscow time), Russian troops had captured much of the village, but several buildings remained in Chechen hands. Precise casualty figures are not being released. An FSB spokesman could confirm only that 15 of the hostages had been freed. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN SAYS ATTACK WAS JUSTIFIED.
Speaking at a 15 January Moscow press conference, President Boris Yeltsin defended his decision to storm Pervomaiskoe, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin said the "well planned" assault had been ordered only after Raduev's fighters, whom he said included mercenaries from Pakistan and Iran, had received orders by radio from separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to begin shooting their hostages. Russian spokesman earlier claimed that before the attack began the fighters had shot six hostage policemen and several Dagestani elders who were trying to negotiate the hostages' release. However, Dudaev spokesman Movladi Udugov denied that Raduev had executed any hostages. -- Scott Parrish

GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF DISINFORMATION.
On 15 January Ekho Moskvy commentator Andrei Cherkizov blasted government policy in Chechnya and ridiculed the Federal Security Service's (FSB) attempts to justify the decision to storm Pervomaiskoe. Cherkizov called reports that Dudaev ordered the fighters to begin executing hostages as "obvious disinformation" designed to justify the storming of the village. He accused the FSB of mounting a disinformation campaign of the sort perfected by the Soviet-era KGB. The station closed by heaping scorn on President Yeltsin's claim that the indiscriminately destructive Pervomaiskoe operation was "well-planned." -- Scott Parrish

EXCEPT ZHIRINOVSKY, POLITICIANS DENOUNCE ATTACK ON PERVOMAISKOE.
The leaders of the new State Duma almost universally condemned President Yeltsin's decision to use force in Pervomaiskoe, even before the results were known. Communist faction member Anatolii Lukyanov said that the "government's irresponsible actions" and the terrorist acts of the Chechen fighters could lead to a war throughout the Caucasus region and would have a negative impact on the president's campaign, Russian TV reported 15 January. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii warned that the attack would have "an enormous impact on the political life of the country" and said he would propose a Duma vote of no confidence in the government. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has called for napalming Chechen villages, supported the president, saying that a military solution is the only one possible since the rebels will never surrender, Interfax reported. -- Robert Orttung

TEREK COSSACKS TO SEND BATTALIONS TO CHECHNYA.
In the wake of the Dagestani hostage crisis, the Terek Cossacks have decided to form three mobile battalions for deployment in Chechnya, Radio Rossii reported on 14 January. The Cossacks say their units will arrive in the war-torn republic in the next few weeks to reinforce military and Interior Ministry forces. Last week, Cossack Ataman Aleksandr Martynov told a press conference in Moscow that Cossacks, many of them Afghan veterans, were signing up for volunteer self-defense units, and he lamented the failure of the Russian authorities to respond to the Cossacks' numerous offers to aid the government's forces in Chechnya. ITAR-TASS, meanwhile, reported on 9 January that Terek Cossacks had begun guarding public places such as schools and hospitals in Stavropol Krai. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN PUTS SOSKOVETS IN CHARGE OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS.
In yet another sign that he plans to run for re-election, President Boris Yeltsin announced the creation of an "All-Russian presidential campaign headquarters," to be headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, Russian agencies reported on 15 January. Yeltsin insisted that the headquarters is not "connected to a specific name" and that he will only announce his intentions in mid-February. Recently dismissed Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov will be Soskovets' deputy at the headquarters. ITAR-TASS commentator Tamara Zamyatina observed that Soskovets, with his close ties to the military-industrial complex, will help Yeltsin's re-election campaign in regions with a high concentration of defense industry, while Filatov works well with the intelligentsia, the backbone of the "democratic camp" that Yeltsin will count on for support. -- Laura Belin

BACKGROUND TO YEGOROV APPOINTMENT.
Liberal observers have reacted negatively to Nikolai Yegorov's appointment as presidential chief of staff in place of Sergei Filatov. Nikolai Bodnaruk of Izvestiya said the move "sends shivers down my spine." The 44-year-old Yegorov graduated from an agricultural school and spent 10 years doing Communist Party work in Stavropol and Krasnodar krais, which border on the North Caucasus. In 1984, he became the chairman of a state farm. His career took off in 1991, when he was appointed deputy and later head administrator for Krasnodar Krai. Yegorov faithfully "fulfilled the will of the center," taking strong measures to deal with the flood of refugees from the Caucasus and from Central Asia, according to NTV on 15 January. In 1994, he replaced Sergei Shakhrai as Minister for Nationalities, and from November 1994 to February 1995 he was the president's representative in Chechnya. Yegorov was sacked following the June 1995 Budennovsk crisis but was reappointed as a presidential adviser in August. -- Laura Belin

PARTY LEADERS FAIL TO AGREE ON DISTRIBUTION OF DUMA LEADERSHIP POSITIONS.
The leaders of the four main factions in the Duma met again in Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov's office on 15 January to divide up the house's leadership positions but failed to make progress. Zyuganov blamed the delay on Our Home Is Russia (NDR) which he said constantly "puts forward new conditions" undermining possible deals, NTV reported. NDR faction leader Sergei Belyaev does not want all the positions decided in advance with the other faction leaders, as happened in the last Duma. Instead, he wants to elect the speaker and 23 committee chairmen separately, on the floor of the parliament. Belyaev wants the speaker to come from the ranks of independent deputies, while the Communists argue that they are entitled to the speaker's position. Belyaev denounced the "ideological pressure" exerted by the Communists and walked out of the talks along with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung

COMPOSITION OF UPPER HOUSE NOT COMPLETE.
The composition of the new Federation Council, which will convene for the first time on 23 January, is not complete because of some organizational and legal obstacles, according to Kremlin officials cited by Interfax on 11 January. Sergei Samoilov, the presidential administration official who works with the regions, said that the bicameral parliaments of Kareliya, Yakutiya, and Kabardino-Balkariya have not decided which of their two speakers should go to the Federation Council; the legislative assemblies in Tambov, Yaroslavl, and Sakhalin oblasts have to elect new chairmen for various reasons. Under Russian law, the Federation Council is made up of regional executive and legislative heads. -- Anna Paretskaya

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS INSTITUTED AGAINST MAVRODI.
The Procurator-General's Offices has instituted criminal proceedings against Sergei Mavrodi, the president of the notorious MMM investment fund in which thousands of Russians lost their savings, Russian media reported on 12 January. He is being charged with tax evasion. The authorities have long been investigating Mavrodi, who earlier escaped prosecution by winning a seat in the Duma. Mavrodi lost his mandate in the December elections, and he is now planning to run for the presidency. -- Penny Morvant

BORDER DISPUTES CONTINUE IN THE CIS.
Cooperation on external borders and territorial disputes still plague the CIS, Federal Security Service Deputy Director Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Manilov said in the December issue of Granitsa Rossii. Some 13,500 km of Russia's 61,000 km border is not "formally recognized and specified in any international legal acts." Manilov noted that the CIS Concept of Border Protection has helped in negotiations with Belarus and Kazakhstan. However, disputed claims in the Baltic region, particularly with Estonia, remain at an impasse. Thus, Russia has already "unilaterally demarcated" the Russo-Estonian border although it hopes to revive the negotiations. According to Interfax on 12 January, Ukrainian officials object to the concept of "internal" and "external" borders, arguing that all borders should be considered "state borders." However, some cooperation has occurred, notably a recent decision by Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to exchange maps with China as part of an effort to settle the China-CIS border, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 January. -- Roger Kangas

DEMOGRAPHIC SITUATION IMPROVING.
After a dramatic fall in the birthrate and an increase in mortality in recent years, Russia's demographic situation is showing signs of stabilizing. According to Goskomstat figures cited by ITAR-TASS on 12 January, the birthrate for 1995 was 9.5 per 1,000 people, up from 9.4 in 1993. (The birthrate for 1994 has been variously reported at 9.4 and 9.6 per 1,000.) The number of deaths from January to September 1995 fell by 77,700, giving a death rate of 15 per 1,000 population in comparison with 15.6 in 1994. As a result of the decline in mortality, the rate of natural increase (births over deaths) went from -5.9 per 1,000 from January to September 1994 to -5.5 during the first nine months of 1995. The mortality rate fell in 67 of Russia's 89 republics and regions. -- Penny Morvant

COURT CLEARS GOVERNMENT SALE OF DEFENSE STOCK.
The Supreme Arbitration Court on 15 January ruled that the government could sell its 37% interest in the troubled Rybinsk Motors aircraft engine manufacturer, Reuters reported. The company wanted the sale declared illegal. The Federal Bankruptcy Agency has rescheduled the auction for 12 March. Rybinsk provides the engines for nearly all of Russia's military transports and more than half of its civil air fleet. It was declared insolvent by the Bankruptcy Agency last year. -- Doug Clarke



NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS UPDATE.
A "rather productive" round of talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended in Moscow on 12 January, Interfax reported on 14 January. The two sides agreed to expand a draft political deal to include a supplementary document on the security of the population in Karabakh. The draft agreement allows Karabakh Armenians to maintain their defense forces "without qualitative or quantitative limitations" and identifies Armenia as a guarantor of Karabakh's security. It also provides for the deployment of OSCE peacekeeping forces, the demilitarization of liberated territories, and free communication between Armenia and Karabakh via the Lachin corridor. In one of his first statements since being appointed Russian foreign minister, Yevgenii Primakov pledged on 13 January that Moscow would undertake "top level" efforts to settle the conflict. -- Lowell Bezanis

IRANIAN VICE PRESIDENT IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Iranian First Vice President Hasan Habibi signed several bilateral agreements on economic and energy relations with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty on 15 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Agreements on mutual defense and prevention of double taxation are scheduled to be signed as well, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January. The two leaders also discussed oil shipments from Kazakhstan via the Caspian Sea and the disputed status of the sea itself. Meanwhile, a security seminar focusing on the conflicts in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia has begun in Tehran. -- Roger Kangas



OPINION POLL ON DIVIDING BLACK SEA FLEET.
An opinion poll carried out by the education department of the Black Sea Fleet showed that 47% of officers are disillusioned over the division of the fleet, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. Another 33% said they were dissatisfied with what was happening around them. The report said the majority of those responding negatively in the poll were servicemen living in garrisons which have been handed over to Ukraine, or are slated to be transferred to Ukraine. The Black Sea Fleet command recommended that the issue of citizenship be decided, and a program worked out to move Russian servicemen out of Ukrainian garrisons to Russia. -- Ustina Markus

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN ESTONIA LIKELY TO SPLIT.
Bishop Ambrosius of the Orthodox Church of Finland and the Rev. Heikki Huttunen, a representative of the Constantinople patriarchate, held talks on 15 January with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and Interior Minister Mart Rask, BNS and ETA reported. Huttunen said that a recent meeting in Turkey of representatives of the Constantinople and Moscow patriarchates had agreed that orthodox believers in Estonia would have two churches. The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, established in 1923, would retain its name while the Orthodox Church with an allegiance to Moscow would choose a new name. The final agreement between the patriarchates is to signed in February in Helsinki. -- Saulius Girnius

PENTAGON TO GIVE MORE AID TO LITHUANIAN ARMED FORCES.
National Defense Deputy Minister Valdas Serapinas told a news conference on 15 January that the Pentagon increased the aid it is giving to the Lithuanian armed forces this year, BNS reported. The amount for training Lithuanian troops was increased from $200,000 in 1995 to $350,000 this year. Two joint Lithuanian-American war exercises in the framework of the Partnership for Peace program will be held on Lithuanian territory and also involve Danish and Polish troops. -- Saulius Girnius

PLATINUM TRIAL IN BELARUS.
The Belarusian military prosecutor is trying a case over the theft of 7.8 kilos of platinum worth 15 billion Belarusian rubles ($13 million) from the former 25th arsenal of the strategic rocket forces, Belarusian radio reported on 15 January. The commander of the unit, Uladzimir Zhykharau, the head of the laboratory, Henadz Davodovich, and his deputy Dzmitrii Muryn, have all gone missing. The military prosecutor is bringing charges of desertion against the three as well as theft. The investigation into the case has uncovered the fact that the thefts had been going on for five years. -- Ustina Markus

KWASNIEWSKI MEETS DIPLOMATS IN WARSAW . . .
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski met foreign diplomats on 15 January and underlined continuity in Polish foreign policy, Polish media reported. He said that NATO enlargement does not threaten anyone, in particular Poland's biggest neighbors, Russia and Ukraine. Kwasniewski, accompanied by Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati, is to visit EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels during his second foreign trip starting on 16 January. Andrzej Styrczula, a former graduate philosophy student at a Jesuit college in Krakow and Radio Free Europe journalist, became Kwasniewski's spokesman, Polish media reported on 16 January. -- Jakub Karpinski

. . . WHILE WALESA ADVISES SOLIDARITY IN GDANSK.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa began work on 15 January as a Solidarity consultant in Gdansk. He does not receive any income for the consultancy and has confirmed his intention to work in the Gdansk shipyard as an electrician, unless some new legal arrangements establish a particular status for him as a former president. Walesa said that he would "sometimes agree and sometimes disagree" with Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, Polish dailies reported on 16 January. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH PUBLIC OPINION ON OLEKSY AFFAIR.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (OBOP) on 8-9 January, Poles are divided over the espionage allegations against Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. 40% of respondents said that former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski was right when he formally notified the prosecutors' office about the allegations, 32% said it was irresponsible behavior; 32% of respondents said Oleksy should continue at his post, 31% that he should take leave of absence, and 19% that he should resign. Oleksy, who was on holiday last week, resumed his duties on 15 January. -- Jakub Karpinski

HUNGARY PLEASED BY SLOVAK PARTY'S CHANGE OF HEART ON TREATY.
A statement by Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota indicating that his party is no longer opposed to the Slovak-Hungarian treaty was called "an unquestionably good sign" by a Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman, CTK reported on 15 January. The spokesman noted that Hungary "has high expectations in connection with the ratification of the treaty," not only concerning relations with Slovakia, but also regarding regional stability. Slota announced on 13 January that the SNS would support the treaty if certain compromises are made, including the approval of laws on the protection of the republic, the state of emergency, local elections, and education, Narodna obroda reported on 15 January. The SNS, a junior coalition member, had previously been strongly opposed to ratifying the treaty, which was signed last March. -- Sharon Fisher

"EUROROMA" HOLDS ORGANIZATIONAL CONFERENCE IN BUDAPEST.
An international meeting of Roma was organized in Budapest on 12 and 13 January by the Autonomy Foundation, ORS (Romani National News Service) reported on 15 January. Its goal was to establish a program called "Euroroma," supported by 350,000 ECU. Four countries -- Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania -- will participate in Euroroma. Besides setting up educational courses and Romani media in Romania and Slovakia, Euroroma will establish legal offices for Roma, which already function in the other two countries. -- Alaina Lemon

VAN DER STOEL CRITICIZES SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW?
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel reportedly criticized the Slovak language law in a document that has not been made public. In an item citing "reliable sources," the Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap reports on 16 January that van der Stoel's most serious objection to the law is that it terminates the act which had regulated the use of minority languages in offices in Slovakia. He also noted that less money was spent on minority printing press products and institutions in 1995 than in 1994 although the Slovak Ministry of Culture was granted more funds from the budget. Van der Stoel recommended that the ministry give the responsibility of allocating funds to the minorities. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN PRISONER EXCHANGE BREAKS DOWN.
Red Cross spokesman Jacques De Maio told AFP on 15 January that a planned swap of some 900 prisoners has collapsed. "The parties are not complying. Nobody abided by our plan. Only nine people have been released," he said. A central issue has been the demand of the Bosnian government that the Serbs first clarify the status of thousands of missing persons, arguing that it is impossible to prepare accurate lists for the exchange of prisoners until the fate of the missing is clear. A Serbian civilian group of relatives of missing persons has raised similar demands. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said that the Serbs are holding nearly 1,000 persons in slave labor camps, and he fears they might be killed. The 19 January deadline for exchanging prisoners as set down in the Dayton agreement is approaching, and to let it lapse without the swap taking place would not augur well for implementing other parts of the timetable. -- Patrick Moore

CONFERENCE ON BOSNIAN REFUGEES OPENS.
UNHCR chief Sadaka Ogata addressed a meeting in Geneva on 16 January to discuss the resettlement of up to 2.5 million Bosnian refugees. She stressed that the difficulties will be enormous. The BBC said that plans are to relocate first the one million displaced persons within the republic itself; then those 670,000 living elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia; and finally those abroad, of whom 700,000 are in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. The Bosnian government had asked that those settled in distant countries be brought home first. Problems include how to resettle people whose homes and property have been destroyed, and what to do with those victims of "ethnic cleansing" who cannot or will not return to their former places of residence. The costs will be up to $400 million in the first year alone. The UNHCR has asked European countries not to complicate things further by sending refugees home soon. -- Patrick Moore

EARLY AUTUMN ELECTIONS IN BOSNIA POSSIBLE?
The international community's High Representative in Sarajevo, Carl Bildt, said on 15 January that the September deadline for holding elections in Bosnia will be extremely difficult to meet, Reuters reported the same day. Elections are due to be held in five to eight months from now, which is not realistic according to Bildt. Speaking at the Stockholm conference on planning the elections, he also stressed that the international community would have to meet the deadline, set out in the Dayton peace agreement, in order not to jeopardize the reconciliation process. Bildt added that the biggest obstacle to the election process was election registers, which were destroyed during the war, as well as huge migrations. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said that the elections should be postponed rather than simulated, Nasa Borba reported on 16 January. "The key issue is not only to hold elections, but to hold free, fair and democratic elections," AFP on 16 January quoted him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

UN NAMES HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL POLICE FORCE IN BOSNIA.
UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on 15 January named an Irish assistant police commissioner, Thomas Peter Fitzgerald, to head the UN international police force in Bosnia. Fitzgerald has served in UN police missions to Namibia, El Salvador and Cambodia. The UN wants some 1,700 officers deployed and most of these have been pledged although only about 150 have so far arrived. A UN spokesman acknowledged that full deployment will probably not occur by the 31 January date set in the Dayton peace accords. The UN force is expected to train, assist and supervise the Bosnian police but not to undertake actual police work. -- Michael Mihalka

TUDJMAN'S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 15 January addressed a joint session of both chambers of the Parliament on the state of the nation in 1995, Hina reported the same day. He defined 1995 as a year in which "the establishment of independent Croatia was completed and in which Croatia gained full international recognition," while 1996 is expected to be a year of peace when "the occupied Danubian area" will be finally integrated into the Croatian constitutional and legal system. His two-and-a-half hour speech focused on the war with the Serbs and the liberation of occupied areas, foreign policy, government administration and democratic order, the economy, social issues, and state policy targets for 1996. Tudjman said that Croatia has become a strategic partner of the U.S. and an irreplaceable factor in the establishment of a new international order in the region. -- Daria Sito Sucic

UN AGREES ON FORCE FOR E. SLAVONIA.
The UN Security Council authorized on 15 January a 5,000-strong force and a civilian transitional authority for Eastern Slavonia, international agencies reported. An American diplomat, Jacques Klein, is expected to head both missions which have a mandate of one year with an option for a second. An agreement concluded on 12 November on the sidelines of the Dayton negotiation on Bosnia stipulated that Eastern Slavonia would be reintegrated into Croatia within two years. The UN mission is expected to serve as an interim political authority, oversee the return of refugees, organize elections, train a provisional police force, collect weapons and restart utilities. -- Michael Mihalka

"AMBASSADORS ARE RETURNING TO BELGRADE".
This is how Politika on 16 January headlines a report, which says that in the near future a number of western countries are expected to reestablish contacts with the rump Yugoslavia at ambassadorial level. According to the article, French authorities, in a move that may pave the way for others, have said they will restore their ambassador. Most western nations withdrew their ambassadors, leaving charges in authority, in May 1992 with the imposition of strict sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT VISITS MACEDONIA.
Milan Kucan paid a one-day visit to Macedonia on 15 January, Nova Makedonija reported the next day. Kucan met with President Kiro Gligorov and Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski and discussed political and economic cooperation. Macedonia is currently the seventh largest foreign trade partner of Slovenia. Both presidents concluded that the Balkan crisis can only be solved with a European perspective and expressed their desire for membership of the European Union. They also stressed that "all former Yugoslav republics have equal status in their succession to former Yugoslavia," thus rejecting Belgrade's claims to be the sole legal successor, Politika reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY IN BUCHAREST.
President Ion Iliescu on 15 January received French European Affairs Minister Michel Barnier, who is paying an official visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. Barnier also met with Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Senate Chairman Oliviu Gherman, Chamber of Deputies Chairman Adrian Nastase, and with leaders of various political parties. The talks focused on Romania's efforts of integration into European structures. The same topic figured high in Iliescu's speech delivered on the same day at a traditional new year reception for the diplomatic corps. In a separate development, Romanian media reported on a visit to Bucharest by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel. He discussed with Gherman, Nastase, and Education Minister Liviu Maior issues related to the treatment of ethnic minorities in Romania, including a controversial education law, adopted in 1995. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PREPARED TO RESUME DNIESTER TALKS.
Mircea Snegur on 15 January called for the resumption of the monthly meeting of all parties involved in the settlement of the Dniester conflict, BASA-press and Infotag reported. Snegur made the remark in a conversation with Russia's newly-appointed special envoy to the negotiations, Yurii Karlov. Talks between Chisinau and Tiraspol were suspended following an unsuccessful summit meeting in mid-September between Snegur and the president of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, Igor Smirnov. -- Dan Ionescu

RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN BULGARIAN PRESIDENT AND OPPOSITION?
A newly formed group of intellectuals called "Concord in Bulgaria" is considering supporting the candidacy of President Zhelyu Zhelev for another term in office and is trying to reach a rapprochement between Zhelev and the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), 24 chasa reported on 16 January. Some 50 writers, artists and scholars will meet Zhelev on 16 January to "build a bridge" between Zhelev and the SDS and to assess the president's five years in office. Meanwhile, Zhelev invited SDS leader Ivan Kostov to talk about domestic political questions next week. Kostov has not replied so far and is waiting for the SDS's ruling bodies to decide. -- Stefan Krause

PAPANDREOU RESIGNS . . .
After almost two months in hospital, Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou on 15 January submitted his resignation, Greek radio reported the same day. Papandreou said his illness "should not become an obstacle for the country" and called on the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to proceed immediately with the election of a new premier. PASOK Secretary-General Kostas Skandalidis called the resignation "a historic moment for our party and . . . a courageous act" by Papandreou. Parliament Chairman Apostolos Kaklamanis said the PASOK deputies will probably convene on 18 January and elect a new premier by 20 January at the latest. Papandreou did not resign as PASOK chairman. The Athens stock market rose by 1.79% on 15 January when it became apparent that Papandreou would resign, Reuters reported. -- Stefan Krause

. . . AND SIMITIS ANNOUNCES HIS CANDIDACY.
Former Industry Minister Kostas Simitis on 16 January officially announced his candidacy to succeed Papandreou, Reuters reported. The contest is likely to be decided between Simitis and Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis, who is regarded as a Papandreou loyalist who would probably continue his predecessor's policies. Simitis would likely try to reform both the party and the state apparatus. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CHINA.
Sali Berisha arrived in Beijing on 16 January, international agencies reported. Berisha met with President Jiang Zemin, and the two sides signed agreements to cooperate in science and technology, and radio and television. Albania has debts to China amounting to $35 million. It is the first visit by an Albanian president since communist Albania broke relations with China in 1978 over ideological disagreements. Albania and China have increased bilateral trade since 1992, amounting to about $20 million in 1995.-- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle





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