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Newsline - January 22, 1996


CIS LEADERS MEET IN MOSCOW.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin opened the 17th meeting of the CIS Council of heads of state by praising the "significant practical steps" taken in 1995 toward CIS economic integration, which he described as "a free choice" by its members that preserved their "sovereignty and independence," Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin also called for tighter coordination of defense and foreign policies within the CIS, arguing that only collectively could they resolve their security problems. The 12-member council re-elected Yeltsin as its chairman, who continues to hold the post despite a 1993 agreement to rotate it. The council addressed 24 topics during its meeting and agreed on a number of issues, including expanding the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan customs union, forming a CIS Council of Interior Ministers, extending the mandate of CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan, resolving the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and bolstering CIS air defense. -- Scott Parrish

HEADS OF STATE APPROVE UNITED CIS AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
At their 19 January meeting in Moscow, the CIS heads of state unanimously approved a general plan for guarding their mutual airspace, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian president's press service said the plan, which was endorsed by CIS defense ministers last November, contains the "main guidelines" for a united system and a long-term goal of creating an integrated aerospace defense system. The first stage includes, among other programs, the creation of air defense systems in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and the improvement of the systems in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The united system includes all the CIS countries except Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. -- Doug Clarke

FERRY HIJACKERS SURRENDER.
The pro-Chechen hijackers of the ferry Eurasia surrendered to Turkish authorities on 19 January, ending a four-day hostage crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported. The hijackers' leader, Mohammed Tokcan, and three of his men gave themselves up. Turkish police searching the vessel later arrested another five gunmen who were hiding. A Turkish spokesman said all nine men would face criminal charges. Although it ended without bloodshed, the incident further strained already cool Turkish-Russian relations. Shortly before the hijackers surrendered, Russian President Yeltsin had harshly criticized the Turkish handling of the crisis, while on 21 January, Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said "mothers and children are being massacred" in Chechnya and called for international mediation to foster a "peaceful settlement." -- Scott Parrish

BARSUKOV ASSESSES PERVOMAISKOE OPERATION.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov and Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov held a press conference in Moscow on 20 January to discuss the operation to free the hostages held by Chechen rebels in Pervomaiskoe, Russian media reported. Barsukov described the hostage-taking in Kizlyar as revenge for the "defeat of Dudaevism" in the December elections in Chechnya and as part of Dudaev's aim of "spreading the fire of war" to neighboring regions. He claimed that if Russian forces had not taken action to end the crisis, it would have resulted in the escalation of terror in the North Caucasus and Russia as a whole. Barsukov estimated that about 300 rebels took part in the initial raid on Kizlyar and that 153 were killed during the Pervomaiskoe operation, meaning that a large number escaped. With regard to the hostages, he said 82 of the 120 or so who were taken to Pervomaiskoe were freed. Other estimates place the number of hostages as high as 200. He added that more than 2,400 federal forces took part in the operation, of whom 26 were killed and 95 wounded. Asked if the operation could be regarded as a success, he said that it could, "if only because the bulk of the gang was annihilated." -- Penny Morvant

PRESS HAMMERS YELTSIN OVER PERVOMAISKOE.
Otto Latsis wrote in Izvestiya on 20 January that Yeltsin's defense of the Pervomaiskoe operation showed that the president "was doing everything to destroy his already weak chances of regaining popular support." Latsis slammed the use of force in Pervomaiskoe as a misguided attempt to present Yeltsin as a decisive leader, demonstrating instead the incompetence of the Russian military and the bankruptcy of the government's Chechen policy. Another Izvestiya article likened Yeltsin's decisions on Pervomaiskoe to the brutal Chechen policy suggested by LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, contending that the opposition is gaining influence over Yeltsin's decisions. Ekho Moskvy and NTV also offered harsh criticism of Yeltsin's justification of the bungled Pervomaiskoe operation. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA APPROVES COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN.
The State Duma selected leaders for 28 committees, five more than in the last Duma, Russian media reported on 19 January. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation will head nine committees, including legislation (Anatolii Lukyanov), economic policy (Yurii Maslyukov), security (Viktor Ilyukhin), and veterans' affairs (1991 coup plotter Valentin Varennikov). Our Home Is Russia (NDR), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and Yabloko were each assigned four committees. NDR's posts include the committees on privatization (Pavel Bunich) and defense (Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin). The LDPR will head committees on labor and social protection (Sergei Kalashnikov), geopolitics (Aleksei Mitrofanov), and information policy (Oleg Finko). Yabloko kept the two major committees it held in the last Duma: budget (Mikhail Zadornov) and foreign affairs (Vladimir Lukin). The People's Power faction was assigned three committees, including CIS affairs (Georgii Tikhonov) and culture (Stanislav Govorukhin). The Agrarian faction and Russian Regions each got two posts. However, Russian Regions leader Vladimir Medvedev denounced the way that committee chairmanships were handed out and his deputy group refused to accept the two committee chairmanships designated for them, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 19 January. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN SLAMS CHUBAIS . . .
At a press conference on 19 January, President Yeltsin blamed former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais for the poor showing of Our Home Is Russia in the December Duma elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin said that the champion of tight monetary policy, who resigned on 17 January, did a lot of good things but also made mistakes, and claimed that if he had removed Chubais earlier, the pro-government party would have got 20% not 10% of the vote. Yeltsin stressed, however, that reform would not be affected by Chubais' departure. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the Russian people had been swindled by Chubais's privatization measures, which should be investigated by the Procurator's Office, Radio Mayak reported. However, in a 19 January interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Deputy Economics Minister Sergei Vasilev expressed concern that Chubais's removal would have an adverse affect on Russia's loan negotiations with international financial organizations and thus on the 1996 budget. -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND YAVLINSKII.
Yeltsin also blamed the election of Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, on Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction, Russian TV reported 19 January. "If Yabloko had not supported the Communists, Seleznev would not have been elected," he claimed. Yavlinskii rejected the charges, saying that a Communist speaker was inevitable following the 17 December election, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Yabloko Duma member Viktor Sheinis said that Yabloko, whose members all voted for Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin as speaker, must "go it alone" in the new Duma because Our Home Is Russia and the newly formed deputy groups have little future and are riddled with internal disagreements, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 January. -- Robert Orttung

MOSCOW MAYOR JOINS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS.
Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has joined the headquarters for the election of the Russian president, which is chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, Interfax reported on 19 January. Luzhkov and former Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov have become Soskovets' deputies at the headquarters. Interfax reported that Luzhkov will be responsible for preparing the presidential elections in Moscow, where President Yeltsin has enjoyed strong support. Meanwhile, the governors of Amur and Moscow oblasts and Stavropol Krai, Vladimir Dyachenko, Anatolii Tyazhlov, and Petr Marchenko, have been named heads of committees for the re-election of President Yeltsin in their respective regions, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Yeltsin has not announced whether he will run for re-election in June. -- Anna Paretskaya

TATARSTAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SUSPECTED OF MURDER.
A candidate in Tatarstan's 24 March presidential election, Tatar Communist Party member Ramil Gabrakhmanov, has been arrested in connection with a murder case. Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 January that Gabrakhmanov, who is the director of the Kazan Vinegar factory company, is suspected of involvement in the murder of former Kazan criminal police chief Vladislav Baranov. Several other people have already been detained in the same case. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA BLOCKS PROGRESS ON NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS.
Frustrated U.S. officials say Russia has torpedoed the implementation of a nuclear security and weapons inspection agreement reached by President Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, at their May 1995 summit meeting, The Washington Post reported on 22 January. The officials said that the mutual inspections and data exchanges called for by the May 1995 joint statement on "transparency and irreversibility" of nuclear weapons reductions, which are intended to facilitate mutual monitoring of nuclear weapons and fissile materials stockpiles, have not occurred. The joint statement also called for the conclusion of a legal agreement to ensure protection of the exchanged data, but that has not happened either. Nicholas Burns, a spokesman for the State Department, said the U.S. still hopes to implement the agreement, suggesting that high-level involvement might be needed to push it forward. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA'S PRODUCTION OF GOLD FALLS . . .
Russia produced 111 metric tons of gold in 1995, a 12% drop compared with 1994, Radio Rossii reported on 21 January, citing the State Statistical Committee. In 1994 gold output dropped by 11% from 1993. The fall in gold output has been blamed on rising production costs. The slump in the gold mining industry contributed to the slowdown in the growth of the non-ferrous metals industry in 1995, according to the report. -- Natalia Gurushina

. . . WHILE FOREIGN TRADE SOARS.
The volume of Russia's foreign trade totaled $135.7 billion in 1995, a 16% increase over 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January, citing the State Statistical Committee. Exports increased 18% to $77.8 billion and imports increased 15% to $57.9 billion. The formation of the customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus boosted Russia's trade with the former Soviet republics, which in 1995 increased by 5% to $29.8 billion (22% of Russia's 1995 foreign trade turnover). At the same time, there was a 9% decline in Russian exports to the former Soviet republics (the bulk of which were fuel and energy resources), whereas imports soared by 21% to $16.3 billion. Russia's trade turnover with countries outside the former Soviet Union was up 20% in 1995, reaching $105.9 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina



CIS SUMMIT TIGHTENS SCREWS ON ABKHAZIA.
Meeting in Moscow on 19 January, CIS heads of state, with the exception of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, approved a proposal by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to ban trade, financial, and economic transactions with the government of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Food and medical supplies may be transported to Abkhazia with Georgia's permission. They also affirmed collective recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity and extended for a further three months the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces that have been stationed in Abkhazia since July 1994. The first deputy speaker of the Abkhaz parliament, Stanislav Lakoba, told Interfax on 20 January that the sanctions may prevent a mediated settlement to the conflict and said that Russia is no longer an impartial mediator. -- Liz Fuller

MANDATE OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED.
The CIS heads of state decided to extend the term of the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan until 30 June at their 19 January summit meeting in Moscow, according to ITAR-TASS. This extension may be the last. President Yeltsin reportedly told Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov that he had six months to "get a grip on things." Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov have made similar statements. Troops from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have been helping to defend Tajikistan's border from Tajik rebels based in Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKISTAN'S STATE MUFTI MURDERED.
The state-sanctioned spiritual leader of Tajikistan and his family were found murdered at their house west of the capital, Dushanbe, Western sources reported on 22 January. Fatkhullo Sharifzoda, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and one other person were found dead shortly before midnight on 21 January. The 53-year-old mufti had occupied his position since December 1992, when current Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov came to power. -- Bruce Pannier



CONFUSION OVER BLACK SEA FLEET COMMAND.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma says Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral Eduard Baltin, has been fired (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 January 1996), but Baltin says this is news to him. Kuchma at an 18 January press conference said he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Baltin. Radio Ukraine on 19 January quoted Baltin as saying that the only word he had heard about his status was from the Ukrainian mass media. ITAR-TASS reported that neither the Russian Defense Ministry, the main navy headquarters, nor the Black Sea Fleet headquarters has received any official documents on the subject. -- Doug Clarke

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS PREPARE ALTERNATIVE DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
Members of Ukraine's socialist and communist parties have begun collecting signatures in support of an alternative draft constitution drawn up by their leaderships, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 19 January. They say their goal is to have the special commission currently debating a final draft of the new Ukrainian constitution change provisions they are most opposed to. The leftist forces said they strongly oppose a provision in the current draft calling for a bicameral legislature. They added that the selection of a Senate made up of local government representatives would encourage regionalism. They also said they favor a strictly parliamentary system in contrast to the presidential-parliamentary rule outlined in the latest draft. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZED OVER STATEMENT ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
Several Belarusian deputies have criticized Alyaksandr Lukashenka's statement that Belarus may be forced to redeploy nuclear weapons on its territory if NATO expands, NTV and Reuters reported on 20 January. Deputy parliamentary speaker Henadz Karpenka said he was at a loss for words, and other senior deputies expressed concern that such declarations would antagonize the West. In other news, ITAR-TASS reported that Lukashenka said he did not support the latest CIS agreement on imposing economic sanctions against Abkhazia. He maintained Belarus's traditional position that the country will not send troops to serve on foreign soil. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA TO OPEN NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE.
Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs and head of the UN Development Program in Latvia John Hendra on 19 January signed an international project to fund a Latvian National Human Rights Office, BNS reported. Finland, Holland, and Sweden have joined the UN in allocating a total of $1.7 million to set up for the office over the next four years. The office will help inform society about human rights and will deal with complaints about violations of those rights. It will also cooperate with international organizations and experts. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS.
Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius on 20 January announced he had received a letter of resignation from Interior Minister Romasis Vaitekunas, Radio Lithuania reported the next day. President Algirdas Brazauskas had asked Vaitekunas to resign because he closed his savings account in the LAIB bank shortly before the government suspended its activities. Vaitekunas, however, had delayed doing so after the Democratic Labor Party caucus voted that he should remain in office. If accepted, the resignation will put pressure on Slezevicius to resign because he also withdrew savings from the same bank as Vaitekunas. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENT IN FAVOR OF PUBLISHING DOCUMENTS ON OLEKSY.
Aleksander Kwasniewski has said he is in favor of publishing documents related to the spy allegations against Premier Jozef Oleksy. An official at the president's office said Kwasniewski will submit to the Sejm draft legislation providing for the publication of files from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office for State Protection. A special commission, headed by Deputy Sejm Speaker Aleksander Malachowski, will determine which documents are to be published. It will also deal with complaints from those people who consider they have been falsely documented as collaborating with the secret services, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 22 January. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH PREMIER SAYS RELATIONS WITH GERMANY HAVE CALMED DOWN.
Vaclav Klaus, after meeting with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in Bonn on 20 January, said that relations between their two countries are calm and undramatic, Czech media reported. Kinkel last week said Czech-German negotiations on a joint parliamentary declaration are "disastrously bogged down" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 January 1996), but Klaus said the talks could proceed without delay. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH OPPOSITION WANTS REFERENDUM ON NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Delegates to a conference of the Czech Social Democratic Party over the weekend overwhelmingly voted in favor of the question of NATO membership being put to a referendum, Czech media reported. The government of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus has accepted the possibility of a referendum on joining the EU but says a plebiscite on NATO is unnecessary because membership in the alliance does not involve relinquishing any sovereignty. Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman said that if a referendum on NATO is held, his party will recommend membership. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER BACKS DOWN ON GERMAN NAME ISSUE.
Vladimir Meciar, visiting Bonn on 19-20 January to attend a Bertelsmann Foundation conference, told German Foreign Minister Kinkel that Germany can decide for itself what its official name is to be in Slovak, thus settling a dispute that has blocked the signing of several bilateral treaties. Meciar's government previously insisted on the Cold War name--the German Federal Republic--rather than Germany's preferred name: the Federal Republic of Germany. In other news, Meciar on 20 January said that the Slovak-Hungarian treaty will be signed by the end of March. Slovak parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic announced the previous day that the treaty's ratification will not be included in the parliament session beginning on 31 January. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY DIVIDES UP SURPLUS PRIVATIZATION REVENUE.
The cabinet on 18 January reached a compromise over how to spend 240.3 billion forints ($1.7 billion) in surplus privatization revenues, Hungarian dailies reported the next day. Some 100 billion forints will be allocated to the State Treasury, 92 billion forints will be used to repay state debts, and the remaining 48.3 billion forints will stay with the State Privatization and Holding Co. The country's Finance Minister Lajos Bokros and Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman had been at odds over the issue in recent weeks, with Bokros in favor of using all extra revenues to repay the foreign debt and Suchman advocating spending the money on infrastructure development. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SILAJDZIC TO QUIT AS BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER.
Haris Silajdzic has said he will give up his office after objecting to new regulations that will greatly curb the role of the central government, Oslobodjenje reported on 22 January. His replacement will reportedly be Hasan Muratovic, who has been handling the government's relations with NATO. Silajdzic's announcement that he will resign comes in the wake of a long-standing dispute with the religious hard-liners in the mainly Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA). It also reflects the current shadow-boxing going on in the SDA and in other Bosnian parties over new divisions of offices and authority. Silajdzic's statement that he will not stay on may prove to be only a phase in the internal SDA power struggle or it may be part of a possible new realignment of political forces in postwar Bosnia as the three ethnically-based parties finally face up to their own internal divisions. * Patrick Moore

TROOPS IN BOSNIA MEET DEADLINE FOR WITHDRAWAL . . .
The withdrawal of government, Serbian, and Croatian forces from the zones of separation took place in Bosnia by midnight on 19 January, the deadline set in the Dayton peace accords, international and local media reported. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith said there was "substantial compliance on the military issues of the peace agreement by all parties." However, although the some 1,400 minefields along the 1,000 km-long zones have been identified, not all mines have been removed, as called for by the agreement. Speaking in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana praised progress to date but expressed concern about the continuing conflict in Mostar, which, he said, was the "key for the whole peace process." -- Michael Mihalka

. . . BUT PRISONER EXCHANGE NOT YET COMPLETED.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, only 217 prisoners were released by the midnight 19 January deadline laid down in the Dayton accords. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith, citing ICRC sources, said that 318 prisoners remain in Bosnia, 151 in Serbia, and 177 in Croatia. The Bosnian government is refusing to release more prisoners until the Bosnian Serbs account for some 1,000 Bosnian Muslims who are thought to be in Bosnian Serb labor camps and thousands more believed to have been killed. -- Michael Mihalka

NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT MASS KILLINGS.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck on 21 January spoke of what the BBC the next day called "mass killings and crimes against humanity" committed by the Bosnian Serbs. He referred to a warehouse at Kravice, near Srebrenica, where up to 2,000 people were shelled to death or shot as they fled. The VOA's Croatian Service quoted him as saying that he even saw blood on the ceiling and that he would pass on evidence to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Shattuck feared that up to 7,000 Muslims could have been massacred in the wake of the Serbian seizure of Srebrenica last July. He noted that what he found in the area confirmed reports he had heard from witnesses and survivors. -- Patrick Moore

KASAGIC ON MASS GRAVES.
Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic told Radio Kragujevac that his government has no information on what happened in a Ljubija mine where 8,000 Muslims and Croats were allegedly disposed of by Serbs in 1992 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 January 1995), Nasa Borba reported on 22 January. He rejected claims about mass killings in the Srebrenica and Prijedor areas, saying that there was a lack of evidence and that "these accusations are old as war itself." He also said that Bosnian Serb authorities will allow UN Special Envoy for Human Rights Elizabeth Rehn to visit the sites of alleged mass graves from 4-8 February in order "to stop disinformation." -- Daria Sito Sucic

WHAT WILL IFOR DO?
Central to the discussion about investigating possible sites of atrocities in Bosnia is the role of the NATO troops there in carrying out or assisting in the investigations. IFOR's position is that it will not carry out such missions on its own but will provide protection for international investigators who request it. IFOR spokesmen have been quick to add that they have received no such request. Shattuck noted, however, that the Serbs are trying to hide or destroy evidence near Srebrenica and at the Ljubija mine. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that IFOR will prevent the destruction of evidence, but he would not say how, AFP reported on 22 January. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN INFORMATION MINISTER CRITICAL OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA.
Ratomir Vico, in an interview with Deutsche Welle cited by BETA on 19 January, said independent broadcasters in Serbia will not be granted frequencies because their reporting is anti-government, inaccurate, and patently "one-sided." Vico went on to lambaste the German press, which he said continued to be biased in its reporting of the Balkan conflicts. He said the German media had inaccurately portrayed the Serbs as "the sole aggressors." -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRIN UPDATE.
Montena-fax on 19 January reported that an official Montengrin delegation completed a visit to Hong Kong and was traveling to neighboring Macao for a one-day stay. The purpose of the visits was to promote Asia-Pacific investment and Montenegrin economic cooperation with Asian communities. -- Stan Markotich

MINOR CABINET RESHUFFLE IN ROMANIA.
Nicolae Vacaroiu on 19 January made some changes in his government, Romanian and international media reported the same day. Dan Ioan Popescu, formerly deputy minister of trade, replaced Petru Crisan, who resigned last month amid allegations of corruption, as trade minister. Alexandru Stanescu, a deputy minister of industry, has taken over the portfolio following the resignation of Dumitru Popescu, criticized for the slow pace of rebuilding this sector. Vacaroiu also said Research and Technology Minister Doru Dumitru Palade has resigned but that his replacement will be announced later this month. This is the fifth cabinet reshuffle since Vacaroiu became premier in autumn 1992. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CHOOSES NEW LEADER.
Ion Diaconescu on 19 January was re-elected chairman of the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic. Romanian and international media reported that the 78-year-old Diaconescu, defeated party deputy chairman Ion Ratiu. He replaces Corneliu Coposu, who died last year. The ballot took place on the first day of the party's congress. -- Michael Shafir

NATO WILL NOT KEEP PEACE IN MOLDOVA.
A NATO official on 19 January told a group of Moldovan journalists attending a seminar in Brussels that he "cannot imagine even for a second" that the mission of peacekeeping in Moldova would be taken over by a NATO multinational force. He said the Transdniester dispute should be settled politically with the assistance of international organizations, including the UN and the OSCE. With regard to the Russian proposal to give peacekeeping status to the military contingent now deployed in the breakaway region, the official said any decision should take into consideration "Russia's interests and the situation there and only with the approval of the OSCE," Infotag reported. -- Michael Shafir

NEW BULGARIAN MINISTERS NOMINATED.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its coalition partners--the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and the Political Club Ekoglasnost--on 21 January nominated new trade and agriculture ministers, Duma reported. If approved by the parliament, Atanas Paparizov (BSP) will replace Kiril Tsochev as trade minister, while Agrarian Chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Svetoslav Shivarov will take over the Agriculture Ministry from Vasil Chichibaba. Tsochev and Chichibaba resigned over the ongoing grain crisis. Paparizov and Shivarov were the only candidates, and their nomiations were unanimously approved by the ruling parties. Also on 21 January, the BSP nominated Lyubomir Filipov as governor of the Bulgarian National Bank. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CHANGES TO PERSONAL INCOME TAX.
The Bulgarian cabinet on 18 January approved changes to the tax code, including raising the minimum annual tax-exempt income from 30,000 leva ($412) to 36,000 leva ($494), Bulgarian media reported. Traders will have to make advance tax payments. According to Pari, the progressivity of the tax in all but the lowest brackets has been increased. In other news, the parliament's legal commission approved laws on the collection of state loans, tax administration, and tax procedures. The opposition criticized the proposed creation of a Service for Prevention and Discovery of Tax Violations, which would have access to information on bank accounts and conduct on-site inspections, as a violation of privacy. -- Michael Wyzan

MORE COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN ALBANIA . . .
Nine Albanian former communist officials have been arrested on charges of authorizing deportations and other political actions violating communist legislation, Reuters reported on 21 January. Among those arrested were former Interior Ministers Hekuran Isai and Simon Stefani, former Supreme Court Chief Judge Aranit Cela, and former Prosecutor-General Rrapi Mino. The group also included high-ranking officials of the Sigurimi and former politburo members. These latest arrests bring the number of communist-era officials detained over the past five weeks to 30. -- Fabian Schmidt

. . . AND RAMIZ ALIA TO BE NEXT?
Former Albanian President Ramiz Alia may also face arrest soon, Albania reported on 21 January. Tirana prosecutors said about 70 charges have been brought against Alia by individual citizens and the National Forum of Intellectuals. Among other things, he is accused of involvement in authorizing the killing of Albanians trying to flee the country as well as the killing by the police of three opposition activists during demonstrations on 2 April 1991. Alia has already served a prison sentence for abuse of power. He was released in June 1994 following the introduction of a new penal code and a various amnesties by President Sali Berisha. -- Fabian Schmidt

NEW "REFORMIST" GOVERNMENT IN GREECE.
The government of newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis was sworn in on 22 January, Western media reported. Simitis has appointed a number of so-called reformists to replace ministers loyal to former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and downsized the cabinet from 51 to 41 members. Theodoros Pangalos replaces Karolos Papoulias as foreign minister. Former EU Commissioner Vaso Papandreou will head the newly formed Development Ministry, which includes the industry, commerce, trade, and tourism portfolios. Both ministers are regarded as strongly pro-EU. Simitis retained Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and Interior Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, both Papandreou loyalists, as well as Education Minister Georgios Papandreou, the former premier's son. Finance Minister Alekos Papadopoulos and Economy Minister Jannos Papantoniou also keep their posts, suggesting that austerity measures will continue. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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