NEW HOSTAGES TAKEN IN GROZNY.
Early on 16 January,
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." --
EXCEPT ZHIRINOVSKY, POLITICIANS DENOUNCE ATTACK ON PERVOMAISKOE.
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
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.
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.
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
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
. . . 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. --
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.
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
"EUROROMA" HOLDS ORGANIZATIONAL CONFERENCE IN BUDAPEST.
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
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
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
UN NAMES HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL POLICE FORCE IN BOSNIA.
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