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Newsline - January 30, 1996


RUSSIAN PRIEST ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA.
The deacon of a Russian Orthodox church in Grozny was abducted on 29 January by Chechen militants loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian media reported. Meanwhile, talks continued on conditions for the release of 29 Russian power plant workers abducted in Grozny on 16 January and 17 Novosibirsk police officers captured by Salman Raduev's men in Pervomaiskoe. The Chechen side has offered to exchange the police officers for their own men who were taken prisoner during the storming of Pervomaiskoe, and on 30 January they released 5 of the captive policemen who were lightly wounded. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry claimed that only Russian federal authorities--not the Dagestani intermediaries currently conducting the talks--have the authority to release Raduev's guerrillas. -- Liz Fuller

NEMTSOV ASKS YELTSIN TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM CHECHNYA . . .
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov gave President Yeltsin a petition signed by one million residents of his region demanding that the war in Chechnya be ended and Russian troops be withdrawn, Russian media reported on 29 January. Nemtsov told Radio Rossii that the vast number of signatures, collected in only a few weeks, "speaks for itself." He added that Yeltsin is being cut off from information that his advisers deem to be not good for him. Nemtsov said he will support Yeltsin's re-election if the president changes his Chechnya policy. -- Laura Belin

. . . BUT ROKHLIN DISAGREES.
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who was elected to the Duma on the pro-government Our Home Is Russia ticket, said recalling troops from Chechnya now would only allow Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to import more weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. He added, "Dudaev clearly is not satisfied with the territory of Chechnya itself" and will attack neighboring republics of the Russian Federation if "decisive measures" are not taken to destroy his armed formations. Lt. Gen. Rokhlin led troops during the storming of Grozny in the early weeks of the fighting but refused to accept a medal for his efforts. -- Laura Belin

NATIONAL-SOCIALIST TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Aleksandr Barkashov, the leader of the national-socialist party Russian National Unity (RNE), announced that he will seek the presidency, Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 January. An open admirer of Adolf Hitler, Barkashov left the nationalist movement Pamyat in 1990 to form the RNE. At an October 1995 party conference, he announced that he would not run for the Duma because he considered it beneath his dignity, NTV reported on 15 October. -- Laura Belin

AGRARIANS TO BACK COMMUNIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Agrarian Party will back Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential elections, party leader Mikhail Lapshin announced on 29 January, Reuters reported. Now the three leftist blocs that competed in the Duma elections against the Communist Party but did not clear the 5% barrier have lined up behind the victorious party. In the pro-reform camp, Republican Party leader Ella Pamfilova has called for a forum of "democratic and centrist" parties to support a common candidate, but none of the major players have supported her proposal, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

33 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN GROUPS REGISTERED.
On 29 January, the Central Electoral Commission authorized another five groups to begin collecting the 1 million signatures necessary to put forward a candidate in the presidential election. There are now 33 groups, including six that support President Boris Yeltsin, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Among the latest crop of contenders is National Republican Party leader Nikolai Lysenko, whose extreme nationalist advertisements attracted lots of publicity but few votes (0.48%) in the Duma campaign. The parliamentary leader of Our Home Is Russia, Sergei Belyaev, announced on 29 January that the bloc, created initially to support Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, would now devote itself to electing Yeltsin, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN SEEKS STRONGER REGIONAL TIES.
On 30 January, President Boris Yeltsin signed agreements with the governors of Krasnodar Krai and Orenburg Oblast on the division of powers with federal authorities, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. This follows similar agreements signed on 12 January with Sverdlovsk and Kaliningrad Oblasts. The same day, Yeltsin instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to review the work of regional administrators by the end of February and "take serious steps, including dismissal" of those who do not carry out presidential decrees. Yeltsin said he now requires weekly reports from each region on the fulfillment of his orders. These steps are mainly aimed at dealing with the immediate problem of wage arrears. -- Peter Rutland

FIRED ADMINISTRATIVE HEAD OF CHITA OBLAST COMPLAINS.
Boris Ivanov, who was removed from the top executive post in Chita Oblast on 22 January, ostensibly "at his own request," claims he was forced to leave office, Radio Rossii reported on 29 January. Ivanov said he was sacked because of the disappointing Duma election results in the oblast: the Communist Party took 21.6% of the vote in Chita, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 20.6%, and the pro-government Our Home Is Russia just 4.3%. Ivanov also said the federal government has unfairly blamed "him and him alone" for the economic troubles of the eastern Baikal region. -- Laura Belin

DUMA MAY NOT RATIFY START II TREATY.
Leading figures in the Duma have responded coolly to President Yeltsin's call for a quick ratification of the START II treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 January. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said the treaty should be ratified because Russia cannot afford to maintain a large nuclear arsenal. However, the leaders of the Communist Party (KPRF), the Popular Power faction, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) all expressed serious reservations about the treaty. Since those three groups hold 237 of the Duma's 450 seats, the prospects of the treaty garnering the majority support necessary for ratification seem slim. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that he would not support the ratification of START II as long as NATO expansion remains a possibility--a view supported by other opposition deputies. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. WORRIES ABOUT NUCLEAR DEAL WITH RUSSIA.
There is concern in Washington that Russia is not living up to the terms of a 1992 deal to sell weapons-grade uranium to the United States, The New York Times reported on 29 January. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia is to take the enriched uranium out of dismantled nuclear weapons. The uranium is then diluted from 90% U235 to 4% U235 so that it can be used as fuel in nuclear powerplant reactors. But this dilution process is carried out in Russia and critics worry the U.S. does not have adequate inspection rights. Russia has already shipped the equivalent of six metric tons of enriched uranium to the U.S. in diluted form, but some have speculated that the original uranium did not come from dismantled weapons warheads but was either from a stockpile or from continued production. -- Doug Clarke

CHERNOMYRDIN-GORE COMMISSION MEETS.
Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin opened the sixth session of the Russo-U.S. commission on economic and technical cooperation in Washington on 29 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chernomyrdin sought to reassure U.S. officials, and the IMF which is currently negotiating a $9 billion three-year extended facility loan with Russia, of his government's continued commitment to market-oriented economic reform. Russian officials said that the commission session will produce several new bilateral agreements, including one on increasing the number of U.S. commercial satellites that can be launched by Russian boosters and another one on launching joint exploration of the Timano-Pechora oil field in northern Russia. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV ON TAJIK CONFLICT.
Returning from a three-day visit to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), his first foreign trip since his appointment, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists that Russia will not withdraw its troops from Tajikistan soon, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 January. While pledging support for the latest round of inter-Tajik talks, Primakov warned that if Russian forces left the republic "a wave of destabilization could sweep across all Central Asia," which he described as the strategic "underbelly" of Russia. Rossiiskaya gazeta emphasized that Primakov's trip, which will be followed by a visit to Kiev on 31 January, demonstrates that the CIS is a top priority for the new foreign minister. -- Scott Parrish

OVERDUE WAGES TOTAL 13.4 TRILLION RUBLES.
Industrial and public sector workers were owed 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) on 1 January in late wages, an increase of 219% in comparison with the previous year, Izvestiya reported on 30 January. The average industrial worker is owed 529,000 rubles ($113), equal to 78% of their monthy salary. A third of the January wage arrears (4.1 trillion rubles) are at least two months overdue. The largest amounts are owed in Tyumen Oblast (1.5 trillion rubles); Kemerovo Oblast (685 billion); Krasnoyarsk Krai (616 billion); and Bashkortostan (534 billion). Wage arrears have provoked several labor disputes. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January that more than 4,500 educational establishments would take part in strike action scheduled to begin today. -- Penny Morvant

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS RESTARTED AGAINST STANKEVICH.
The Moscow Procurator's Office has resumed criminal proceedings against former State Duma deputy Sergei Stankevich, Russian media reported on 29 January. Criminal proceedings have also been restarted against MMM investment fund head Sergei Mavrodi (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1996). Stankevich, formerly a political adviser to President Yeltsin, was accused of accepting a bribe of $10,000 for helping to arrange a concert of Russian classical music on Red Square in 1992, but the criminal proceedings were suspended because of his parliamentary immunity. -- Penny Morvant

HOUSING CONSTRUCTION EXPANDS IN 1995.
In 1995, Russia's housing construction totaled 49 million square meters (a 25% increase over the 38.5 million square meters built in 1994), Russian agencies reported on 26 January, citing Construction Minister Yefim Basin. Of this amount, 5 million square meters were built in Moscow and the Moscow region. Housing construction expanded despite the fact that the industry is owed some 8 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion) from the federal budget. Federal spending now accounts for only a small proportion of housing construction, having given way to bank credits, foreign investment, and spending by local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina



GEORGIAN ECONOMY MINISTER ON ACHIEVEMENTS AND ENERGY CRISIS.
Georgia's engineering, metallurgical, light, and chemical industries all posted higher than expected production figures for 1995, bringing five years of declining industrial output to an end, Russian media quoted Georgian Economy Minister Vladimer Papava as saying on 28 January. Papava also said 1995 saw achievements in financial stabilization and the successful introduction of monetary reform. The minister described last year's annual inflation figure of 60% as "rather promising". At the same time he warned that a "serious shortage of energy supplies" could overshadow the country's economic achievements. -- Irakli Tsereteli

TAJIK PEACE TALKS RESUME IN ASHGABAT.
The fifth round of peace talks between the Tajik government and the opposition began again in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 29 January, Western media reported. The talks had broken down almost immediately after they began in December. During his 28 January visit to Tajikistan, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov urged the Tajik government to come to an agreement with the opposition. The Tajik government has replaced Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubadollayev with Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov as the chief negotiator at the talks. Ubadollayev was alleged to be a "hardliner." A spokesman for the opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said the personnel change does not mark a change in the government's position. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS PAYMENT OF MINERS WAGES ON EVE OF STRIKE.
Leonid Kuchma ordered the Ukrainian Finance Ministry and National Bank to find an "uninflationary source" of funds to pay back wages to thousands of coal miners, set to begin an indefinite nationwide strike on 1 February, Interfax-Ukraine reported 29 January. The state-owned coal mines owe their workers 78 trillion karbovantsi (around $43 million) in back wages, and many miners have not been paid in six months. Union leaders have appealed to Russian and Polish coal miners' unions to support them by impeding coal imports to Ukraine. They complain that Kiev imported 20 million tons of coal for $520 million last year, but failed to pay wage arrears. ITAR-TASS reported that leaders of Ukraine's machinists' and defense workers' unions have promised to hold a one-day solidarity strike. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

IMF IN UKRAINE AND BELARUS.
An IMF delegation arrived in Minsk on 29 January to determine whether the next tranche of a Stand-by credit should be released, Belarusian radio reported. The credit, worth almost $300 million, was approved last February, but the release of funds was frequently delayed by Minsk's non-adherence to the reform program. On 30 January AFP reported that an IMF team arrived in Kiev to examine Ukraine's abidance to the austerity program necessary to secure the release of the fourth tranche of its Stand-by credit. Last year the IMF agreed to grant $1.5 billion credit to Ukraine, but the release of the fourth tranche was delayed this month because parliament failed to pass laws on budget revenues. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN MILITARY DELEGATION IN BELARUS.
A Ukrainian military delegation headed by Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov arrived in Belarus on 20 January for a two day official visit, ITAR-TASS and Belarusian radio reported. Shmarov will meet with his Belarusian counterpart Leanid Maltseu, as well as President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, and CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Karatchenya. Documents are to be signed on cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries, cooperation in air-defense, and exchanges between the defense ministries' research and educational institutions. The defense ministries of Ukraine and Belarus have been concluding cooperation agreements on an annual basis since independence. -- Ustina Markus

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT STILL WANTS PREMIER TO RESIGN.
Algirdas Brazauskas on 29 January signed a decree asking the Seimas to vote on the removal of Adolfas Slezevicius as prime minister on 8 February, Radio Lithuania reported. Brazauskas said that he had not yet decided whom he would ask to be prime minister if Slezevicius were removed and thought that the most of the ministers in the present cabinet would retain their posts. Slezevicius, on the other hand, asserted that he thought that there was a good possibility that early parliament elections would be necessary. Brazauskas also signed a decree accepting the resignation of Romasis Vaitekunas as interior minister. -- Saulius Girnius

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN SUGGESTS CONTROL LINE AND NOT BORDER TREATY WITH RUSSIA.
Eino Tamm, the chairman of the parliament foreign affairs commission, called on 29 January for a broad discussion on the necessity of concluding a border treaty with Russia, BNS reported. He said that since a Russian-Estonian border treaty could cancel the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 it would be wiser for Estonia, after reaching an agreement with Russia, to declare that its control line passed through such and such geographical points. He noted that there were many countries that have no bilateral agreements on borders, but boundaries recognized de facto. -- Saulius Girnius

COALITION TALKS ON FUTURE PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND.
After Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's resignation was accepted on 26 January, the leaders of ruling coalition parties, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), agreed on 29 January that the government's economic policies would continue. Polish dailies on 30 January reported that the candidacy of PSL's Aleksander Luczak for prime minister was being considered seriously and the PSL no longer insisted on the candidacy of Central Planning Office head Miroslaw Pietrewicz. The dailies reported that the SLD is backing the candidacies of Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD) and Marek Borowski (SLD). -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK THEATERS PROTEST MINISTRY MOVE.
Association of Theater Unions of Slovakia representative Jozef Horvath on 29 January announced that charges have been filed at a local court following a decision by the Culture Ministry earlier this month to join the State Theater in Kosice with the Theater of Jonas Zaborsky in Presov, creating the East Slovak Theater, Sme reported. The decision was made without any public discussion, and employees of the Kosice theater have been striking, while those of the Presov theater are also ready to strike. Despite the protests, the ministry issued a statement on 29 January refusing to change its stand. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK WORKERS CHAIRMAN ON TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Jan Luptak, chairman of the Association of Workers of Slovakia, a junior coalition partner, told TASR on 29 January that certain steps must be taken prior to ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. Luptak mentioned in particular the adoption of a law on the protection of the republic, which he said should prevent the creation of autonomous regions. Luptak also stressed that the interpretation of the treaty must be clear before ratification takes place, noting his frustration that the Council of Europe has yet to clear up its position on Article 11 of its Recommendation No. 1201, which deals with autonomy for minorities. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY MAKES STEADY PROGRESS TOWARDS OECD MEMBERSHIP.
OECD legal counselor Christian Schricke arrived in Hungary on 29 January to prepare the documentation for an eventual membership agreement with the organization, Magyar Hirlap reported. His visit follows the OECD's approval of Hungary's tax and environment policy last week. The long-pending issue of bank secrecy was also resolved when Hungary undertook to comply with OECD regulations allowing tax authorities to look into the accounts of bank clients suspected of wrongdoing. The next step in Hungary's negotiations will be in early February when OECD officials will meet a Hungarian delegation -- led by Finance Minister Lajos Bokros -- in Paris and examine Hungary's foreign exchange, privatization, and economic policies. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



PRISONER RELEASE STILL INCOMPLETE.
An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman told OMRI on 30 January that Bosnian factions still hold 103 registered prisoners, at least 40 in defiance of the Dayton peace accords. Bosnian Serbs hold 39 prisoners, five as suspected war criminals, which they are entitled to do under the accords. All 50 prisoners held by the Croats are classified as suspected war criminals. The Bosnian government holds 14 prisoners, eight as suspected war criminals. The ICRC stresses that the situation remains fluid and the numbers may change. Over 500 prisoners were handed over in last three days in an exchange that should have been completed by 19 January. All sides claim that the others are holding many unregistered prisoners. Serbs claim the Bosnian government holds over 200 prisoners in Tuzla's prison and several dozen elsewhere with some 250 also imprisoned in Croatia. The Bosnian government wants the Bosnian Serbs to account for several thousand missing Muslim men. -- Michael Mihalka

SREBRENICA WOMEN OCCUPY ICRC SEAT IN TUZLA.
After a peaceful rally in front of the ICRC office in Tuzla on 29 January morning, angry women refugees from Srebrenica, fearing for the fate of 8,000 men missing after the fall of Srebrenica, occupied local Red Cross offices, Reuters reported. The ICRC has acknowledged 8,000 people from Srebrenica as missing, and most of them are feared dead, for several possible mass graves had been reported in the area. A delegation of 20 women demanded to know the truth about the missing, and to have an IFOR escort on their way back to Srebrenica. Meanwhile, the ICRC Sarajevo office issued a strongly-worded statement denouncing the violent protest, defending its own position, but also calling on the Sarajevo government to guarantee the security of ICRC staff, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ON REFUGEE REPATRIATION TO CROATIA AND BOSNIA.
Croatian Foreign Minister Deputy told Vjesnik daily on 29 January that 30,000 refugees are expected to repatriate to Croatia, and 900,000 to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996, Nasa Borba reported the next day. The Croatian government estimates 57,000 Croats are refugees abroad with some 37,000 in Germany. In Croatia itself there are 187,000 Bosnian refugees, 80,000 of whom have applied to the UNHCR to return. The issue of the return of Croatian Serbs and the problem of Vojvodina Croats will be solved when Croatia and rump Yugoslavia normalize their relations, Nasa Borba cited him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BELGRADE TO RECOGNIZE MACEDONIA.
Tanjug on 29 January reported that rump Yugoslavia adopted an agreement on the recognition of and normalization of relations with Macedonia. The report said the agreement will be signed by both Skopje and Belgrade at some as yet "unspecified date." Nova Makedonija on 30 January suggested that the recognition was prompted by the hopes that it could help it to gain European Union recognition of its own state. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 30 January reports that recognition of Macedonia under the name of "republic of Macedonia" could place a strain on Belgrade's friendly relations with Greece, which continues to oppose usage of the name "Republic of Macedonia." -- Stan Markotich

SLOVAK PREMIER IN RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Nasa Borba on 30 January reports that Slovak premier Vladimir Meciar arrived in Belgrade the previous day, where he met Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Meciar's government delegation included members of the Slovak business community, and the purpose of the visit was to restore bilateral ties, particularly economic, in the energy, pharmaceuticals, and tourism sectors. Meciar called his visit a "symbol" of Slovakia's efforts to maintain balanced relations with all Balkan countries, stressing that Slovakia never looked for the guilty party in the conflict but was always looking for peace, TASR reported. According to AFP, Meciar said that Slovakia will support rump Yugoslavia's membership in the UN and the IMF, and its joining the World Trade Organization and CEFTA. He also announced that he had proposed negotiations for the creation of a free trade zone with Belgrade. -- Sharon Fisher and Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN MINISTERS TO RESIGN.
Reuters on 29 January reported that four ministers, who are members of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), will resign from their cabinet posts on 30 January, while "ten of the ZLSD's state secretaries will offer their resignation when new ministers are appointed." On 26 January the ZLSD left the three-party governing coalition, following an inter-party row precipitated by Premier Janez Drnovsek's call for the ouster of Economic Activities Minister Maks Tajnikar of the ZLSD (see OMRI Daily Digest 29 January). The two remaining coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats, hold 45 of the 90 legislature's seats, and both Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan have ruled out the need for early elections. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY RESPONDS TO ALLY'S ATTACKS.
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 29 January responded to attacks by Gheorghe Funar, the leader of the extremist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR). In a statement read on Radio Bucharest, the PDSR press bureau expressed surprise over Funar's allegations that the PDSR had struck a "secret pact" with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania for the upcoming local elections. The charge had been formulated in a letter addressed by Funar to President Ion Iliescu. The PDSR further accused the PUNR of trying to make political capital by artificially stirring up tension in Transylvania, where most of Romania's ethnic Hungarians live. The PUNR has several portfolios in the PDSR-dominated cabinet of Nicolae Vacaroiu. Romanian dailies wrote on 30 January that the PDSR-PUNR coalition seems doomed to end soon. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT HOSTS PARTY TALKS.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 29 January invited leaders of the political parties represented in parliament to a meeting, Romanian and international media reported. The discussions focused on the upcoming elections, the law on local government, the project on the state budget, and Romania's foreign policy. Iliescu called for a civilized electoral campaign, and expressed hopes that local elections could be held in April and parliamentary and presidential ones in September. He asked the participants to support the privatization process and the country's integration in the EU. The stage of the negotiations over the bilateral basic treaties with Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia were also discussed. The press did not have access to the meeting. -- Matyas Szabo

HUNGARIAN AND CROATIAN ROMA PLAN EXCHANGES.
The Ministry of Education and Sport of the Croatian Republic sponsored a conference on Romani education last week in Krizevcima, HINA reported on 27 January. Among those invited were representatives from the Ghandhi high school for Roma in Pecs, who told MTI on 29 January that the Hungarian and Croatian teachers should share experiences in teaching for minorities, and would plan exchanges. The Ghandhi school representative said that many Roma in Pecs and across the border in Croatia are Beash and speak the same dialect, but have been separated since the Trianon Treaty. According to the last official census, there are 6,695 Roma in Croatia, but according to Romani organizations, there are 150,000, 80% of whom are Beash-speaking rather than Romani-speaking. -- Alaina Lemon

GREEK-TURKISH DISPUTE OVER ISLAND ESCALATES . . .
The dispute between Greece and Turkey over the uninhabited rock islet Imia escalated on 30 January as both sides sent warships into the southeastern Aegean, international media reported. Turkish frigates and patrol boats crossed between the Turkish coast and Imia while Greece assembled several warships near the island and put all military airfields in the Aegean on alert. Greek Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said a Turkish vessel and a helicopter violated Greek territory. "Imia is Greek and it is the duty of the Greek armed forces to defend it," he added. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on 30 January met with four ministers, including Arsenis, and Chief of Staff, Admiral Christos Lyberis to discuss the situation. -- Stefan Krause

. . . AS BOTH SIDES STICK TO THEIR POSITION.
Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller on 29 January said Ankara will take "all necessary measures" if Greece does not withdraw its troops from Imia "shortly." Athens denies Turkish side claims that at least 12 Greek soldiers are on the island. Turkey will not give up its "national rights," Ciller said, but noted Turkey's readiness to hold talks with Athens about the status of Imia. Also on 29 January, Simitis said Greece's response "to this and every [act of] aggressive nationalism" will be "strong, immediate, and effective." He said that Greece "has the means and will use them without hesitation" and that "we will accept absolutely no questioning of our territorial rights." -- Stefan Krause

YELTSIN MEETS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN.
President Boris Yeltsin met with the Bulgarian parliament chairman Blagovest Sendov in Moscow on 29 January to discuss bilateral relations and NATO expansion, Russian agencies reported. According to the presidential press service, the two agreed that NATO expansion is unnecessary and they both called for strengthening the "traditional friendship" between Russia and Bulgaria. Also on 29 January, Yeltsin had a telephone conversation with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev during which he underlined Russia's opposition to NATO expansion. Although they two presidents pledged to intensify Russo-Bulgarian cooperation, Zhelev, unlike Sendov, did not endorse Yeltsin's statement on NATO. Sendov was elected to the Bulgarian parliament on the Socialist Party ticket and opposes NATO expansion, while Zhelev favors Bulgarian membership in the alliance. -- Scott Parrish

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT INVESTIGATES SOCIALIST PARTY FUNDING.
The Albanian parliament set up a commission to investigate the funding of the Socialists, AFP reported on 29 January. The move follows earlier allegations by Italian journalist Pietro Zannoni that the Serbian government paid about $20 million to the Socialists "to support the return of communists to power," (see OMRI Daily Digest 25 January). The report alleged that Belgrade had acted "under orders from Russian communists," and that the independent daily Koha Jone was similarly financed. Meanwhile, Zannoni in an interview to the BBC, published in Zeri I Popullit on 27 January said that he met an agent of the communist-era secret service Sigurimi in summer 1995 in the house of a high ranking Socialist Party official where he received two documents, proving the charges. Zannoni failed to mention names. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN PARTY LEADER ARRESTED FOR COMMUNIST-ERA CRIMES.
Party of National Unity (UNIKOMB) leader Idajet Beqiri has been arrested after he was accused with crimes against humanity, committed as a communist prosecutor, international agencies report on 30 January. Beqiri is charged by the National Forum of Intellectuals with ordering deportations in the early 1980s. He is the 31st former communist official to face trial following the Forum's charges. UNIKOMB called the arrest part of the strategy of "tension and violence" pursued by the ruling Democratic Party against the opposition. Meanwhile, in unrelated news, the vans of the independent daily Koha Jone remain blocked by police -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAEL.
Sali Berisha met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Shimon Peres on 29 January, AFP reported the same day. Berisha, who is on a three-day visit is also scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Ehud Barak and Education and Culture Minister Amnon Rubinstein. During the stay Israel and Albania will sign a series of scientific and cultural cooperation agreements. Afterwards Berisha will spend two days on a visit to Malta. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Saulius Girnius




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