Accessibility links

Newsline - February 8, 1996


YELTSIN CALLS FOR IMPROVED HIGH-TECH INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE.
At the meeting of the Security Council 7 February, Yeltsin called on Russia's special services to find ways to better utilize scientific information collected by foreign intelligence agencies in the interests of "technological rearmament," Ekho Moskvy reported. He told the Council that "it is better to have a leading technology than a leading ideology," Rossiiskie vesti reported on 8 February. He said only 10-20% of the information received from foreign intelligence is used, and argued that the key to success was not leadership in a particular technology, but the quick application of new technology in the economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin also expressed concern about the departure of Russia's most qualified specialists and the low level of university instructors. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN'S HEALTH.
A leading Russian cardiologist, Mikhail Alshibai, discussed Yelstin's heart condition in an interview for Novoe vremya, no. 5. Yelstin was hospitalized on 11 July and 26 October suffering from ischemia, or inadequate supply of blood to the heart. Alshibai, who did not treat the president, said that the second hospitalization was clearly more serious than the first. He argued that the condition can only be improved by surgery, which was presumably rejected for political reasons. Alshibai said that judging by Yeltsin's television appearances featuring slurred speech, that "There are some symptoms of arteriosclerosis of the vessels supplying blood to the brain." -- Peter Rutland

ZYUGANOV RESPONDS TO CHUBAIS' CHARGES.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov rejected former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais' charge that he said one thing at home and another abroad in a speech to the Duma, Izvestiya reported 8 February. Zyuganov stressed his party's "social-democratic" goals, emphasizing that the party supported private property and did not intend to carry out a policy of renationalization. However, the communists plan to prosecute instances of "illegal" privatization and do not support the selling of land. Zyuganov's attempts to move toward the center will undoubtedly complicate his relations with more orthodox communists. -- Robert Orttung

SPOKESMAN: NEMTSOV WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov is not going to stand for the June presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February citing the governor's spokesman, Aleksandr Kotyusov. The spokesman said that a group formed earlier this week in Moscow to nominate the popular Nemtsov for president was created without the governor's knowledge. -- Anna Paretskaya

CHECHEN GOVERNMENT ASKS DEMONSTRATORS TO DISPERSE.
In a television address on 7 February, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev called on the Dudaev supporters who have been demonstrating in Grozny the past four days to disperse, Russian media reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Premier Abdulla Bugaev as stating that the authorities would not use force against the demonstrators in what they describe as an "unsanctioned meeting" unless they resisted police. Russian Television reported that the withdrawal of Russian federal troops from Chechnya would begin on 8 February with a pullout from Shatoi raion, which is under the control of the pro-Moscow Chechen government. -- Liz Fuller

OFFICERS TO GO ON TRIAL FOR ACTIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Several Interior Ministry troops, including the commander of a division, will be tried for impeding a military prosecutor in carrying out his duties, Russian media reported on 6 February. The Main Military Prosecutor's Office said that case involved an incident on the Chechen-Ingush border on 24 December when federal soldiers beat up the driver of an inter-city bus. The report said the division commander would not allow prosecutors to visit the crime scene. -- Doug Clarke

FEDERATION COUNCIL WANTS NEW COMMISSION FOR CHECHNYA.
The Federation Council on 7 February called for the formation of a new governmental commission representing both houses of parliament, the president, the government, and the constitutional court to hammer out a unified policy toward the Chechen crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Council said that "a resumption of large-scale military actions must be prevented...and the war ended." President Yeltsin apparently plans to launch a new Chechen initiative soon. -- Scott Parrish

REGIONAL GOVERNORS ACTIVE IN FEDERATION COUNCIL.
Krasnaya zvezda reported on 8 February that Aleksandr Ryabov, recently elected governor of the Tambov Oblast on the Communist Party ticket, was picked to chair the upper house of parliament's Committee for Security and Defense Issues. Among his deputies are the respective governors of Sverdlovsk Oblast and Primorsk Krai, Eduard Rossel and Yevgenii Nazdratenko. The pro-government Yevgenii Savchenko, elected governor of Belgorod in December, will head the Federation Council's Committee for Agrarian Policy, while Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, will head the Budget and Finance committee, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 1 February. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN APPOINTS REPRESENTATIVES TO PARLIAMENT.
President Boris Yeltsin appointed his representatives to both houses of the Russian parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. Anatolii Sliva, who headed the Committee on Local Self-Government in the previous State Duma, will represent the president in the parliament's upper house, while Deputy Minister of Nationalities Aleksandr Kotenkov will be his representative to the Duma. The former presidential representative to the parliament, Aleksandr Yakovlev, resigned earlier this week (see OMRI Daily Digest 6 February 1996) -- Anna Paretskaya

DUMA PASSES LAW RAISING MINIMUM PENSION, WAGE.
The parliament's lower house passed a bill on 7 February raising the minimum wage to 75,900 rubles ($16) a month as of 1 February; 255 deputies voted for the hike and 17 against with four abstentions. According to ITAR-TASS, the Duma also raised the minimum pension to 75,900 rubles as of 1 March; this bill had the support of 282 deputies. Both the government and the Pension Fund are against the increases, arguing that they are unaffordable (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January). The law must still be approved by the Federation Council and signed by the president. -- Penny Morvant

ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR READY TO SUE YELTSIN.
"If Boris Yeltsin issues an edict forbidding St. Petersburg mayoral elections, then I will sue in the Constitutional Court," said St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 7 February. Under a decree of the city's Legislative Assembly, the mayoral elections are to be held on 16 June, along with presidential poll. Sobchak's term expires four days earlier. However, Yeltsin is against any local elections or referendums to be held that day, according to Sergei Tsyplyaev, a Yeltsin representative in St. Petersburg. Under a 17 September presidential decree, the elections of executive heads of federation subjects should be conducted in December 1996, with the exception of Moscow, where Yeltsin will allow a mayoral poll on 16 June. -- Anna Paretskaya

THERE WILL BE NO SUSPENSE IN TATAR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
The incumbent Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev is the only candidate for the March republican presidential elections, Russian news agencies reported. Communists, who had nominated local factory director Ramil Gabdrakhmanov as their candidate, decided "to quit the race" a few minutes before the deadline for handing in signatures for candidates expired. According to Russian federal laws, elections with only one candidate are illegitimate. However, re-election of the unopposed Kalmykian president in October caused nothing but verbal denouncement of the Central Electoral Commission's Chairman Nikolai Ryabov. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA AND GEORGIA DISCUSS AIR DEFENSE COOPERATION.
Georgian Defense Minster Vardiko Nadibaidze and First Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Defense Forces, Col.-Gen. Sergei Sapegin discussed the development of the integrated CIS air defense system in Tbilisi on 7 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Nadibaidze said that joint training exercises were already underway for the unified air defense system, which was formed by a February 1995 agreement signed by all CIS states except Moldova and Azerbaijan. Under a decision made at the January CIS summit, Russia will finance upgrades in the air defenses of Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Sapegin said that Russia planned to provide Georgia with 10 billion rubles ($2.1 million) for its air defenses. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, U.S. TO JOINTLY CLEAN-UP LAKE BAIKAL.
An agreement to work jointly to protect the ecology of Lake Baikal has been reached at the Russian-U.S. intergovernmental commission on economic and technical cooperation headed by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Albert Gore, Russian media reported on 6 February. The commission agreed to overhaul the Baikalsk pulp and paper factory, which according to the Russian branch of Greenpeace is the only firm that dumps its waste directly into the lake. -- Anna Paretskaya

NIZHNII NOVGOROD FIRM FINISHES BLUEPRINT OF NUCLEAR WASTE REPROCESSING VESSEL.
The Vympel design office in Nizhnii Novgorod has finished the blueprint for a vessel to reprocess liquid nuclear waste, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The vessel will be built by a shipbuilder in Komsomolsk-na-Amure and will be able to reprocess 7,000 tons of waste a year. The project is a joint effort by Russian, Japanese, and U.S. firms aimed at safeguarding the ecological security of the Russian Far East. It costs $26 million and is being paid for by the Japanese government as part of funds allocated in 1993 to support Russian nuclear disarmament. -- Penny Morvant

PRISON GUARDS PROTEST DELAYED WAGES.
Over 60 guards at a jail in Petrozavodsk in the republic of Kareliya have been on hunger strike for three days to protest wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. The guards, who are Interior Ministry (MVD) employees, were last paid in October. On 7 February, a battalion of the MVD's service for transporting detainees in Tula Oblast also proclaimed a hunger strike, again to protest arrears in wages and other payments. According to Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Durbazhev, the MVD began 1996 with debts of 3.4 trillion rubles ($720 million). He said the MVD needs 42 trillion rubles this year but has been allocated only 25 trillion in the 1996 budget. -- Penny Morvant

CANNIBALISM IN KEMEROVO.
Police in the Siberian city of Kemerovo said on 7 February they have detained a man who confessed to killing a local criminal, making ravioli out of him, and then eating the dish during a drinking session with two friends, Russian and Western agencies reported. Details of the crime emerged when a group of homeless people rummaging through a rubbish dump discovered a human head and other body parts later identified as the remains of Vladimir Laptin, a criminal with a string of convictions. An investigation led police to three suspects, one of whom confessed to the killing. Last July two prisoners in a Siberian prison were accused of eating their cell-mate. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA IMPOSES EXCISE DUTIES ON UKRAINIAN GOODS.
A presidential decree on levying excise taxes on goods manufactured in Ukraine will come into force on 18 February, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. The introduction of this measure signed on 19 January (which may seriously affect Ukraine's exports of tobacco, alcohol and cars) follows the Ukrainian government's decision to lift excise taxes from all goods exported to Russia, making them cheaper than Russian commodities. Officials at the State Customs Committee told OMRI that hitherto the trade flows between the two countries were exempt from import duties, excise tax, and value added tax. -- Natalia Gurushina



GOVERNMENT TROOPS PULL BACK IN TAVIL-DARA.
Tajik government troops on 7 February pulled back to positions in the Lyulikharv area, according to ITAR-TASS. The fighting has been going on for a week and according to a radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report on 7 February, the government dead total about 60 and more than 250 soldiers and officers have been taken prisoner. There was no mention of opposition force losses or any confirmation from the Tajik government on their casualties. The same radio report claimed opposition forces in Tavil-Dara have captured two ammo dumps, two tanks, and eight armored vehicles. Bad weather has so far prevented the Tajik government forces from employing air power. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKISTAN FACES SERIOUS FOOD SHORTAGE.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a statement on 6 February warning that Tajikistan is facing a serious food shortage, according to Western agencies. The FAO claims that Tajikistan has roughly 40% of the required food grain imports necessary this year. A poor harvest coupled with Tajikistan's emphasis on cotton has contributed to the situation as well as bad harvests in Russia and Kazakhstan, Tajikistan's main suppliers. Tajik authorities requested the U.S. government to speed up delivery of 20,000 tons of grain on 19 January, Tajik Radio reported. -- Bruce Pannier

NIYAZOV HOSPITALIZED FOR TESTS.
Before attending to official business in Turkey, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov will undergo a medical check up at the American Hospital in Istanbul, the paper Yeni Yuzyil reported on 8 February. The duration of his stay in hospital is unclear his doctor said, noting that cardiological tests on Niyazov can take several days. Niyazov's health has been monitored periodically over the past two years at the American Hospital following an operation on his leg in the U.S. in 1994, the paper reported. -- Lowell Bezanis



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES DECREE ON REFORMS IN COAL INDUSTRY.
Leonid Kuchma on 7 February issued a decree launching reforms in the country's troubled coal industry, Ukrainian TV reported. The decree calls for all enterprises under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Coal Industry, including the country's 227 coal mines, to be restructured into majority state-owned, joint-stock companies by 1 September. The firms will be able to conduct business dealings without government interference. Meanwhile, the government allocated six trillion karbovantsi ($32 million) to cover a portion of unpaid wages to striking coal miners. It also promised to allot another 15 trillion karbovantsi within 20 days. Union officials said 72 mines were still on strike and the shortage of coal was already affecting the coal regions' power supply. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN ROUNDUP.
Ukraine on 7 February formally took possession of Britain's Faraday research station in the Antarctic, Reuters reported. Agreement on the transfer of the station to Ukraine was reached in July after Russia had refused to hand over any stations to Kiev. ITAR-TASS reported that Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Kuras met with Israeli religious leader Rabin Adin in Kiev. The visit came at the same time when Israeli-Ukrainian relations are strained over the case of former Acting Prime Minister Yukhim Zvyahilsky, who was accused of embezzling $25 million. Zvyahilsky sought refuge in Israel, where he was granted the right to permanent residency under a law granting all Jews that right. Intelnews on 6 February reported that Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has denied that the three Chinese deported to Beijing last week were spies. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON PEACEKEEPING.
Leanid Maltseu said he was opposed to the participation of Belarusian troops in any peacekeeping missions, including those under UN auspices, Belarusian TV reported on 6 February. Maltseu added that without a Supreme Soviet resolution, the Defense Ministry has no intention of even considering such a possibility. Belarus has consistently rejected participating in any military operations beyond its borders, even within the context of the CIS Collective Security Pact. Meanwhile, the IMF is postponing issuing the second tranche of a $250 million standby credit because of concerns over the pace of economic reform in the country, Reuters reported on 6 February. The first $70 million tranche was released in September. -- Ustina Markus

BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN VILNIUS.
Povilas Gylys (Lithuania), Valdis Birkavs (Latvia), and Siim Kallas (Estonia) met in the Lithuanian capital on 7 February to discuss cooperation, Baltic media reported. The ministers pledged to continue their common efforts to integrate more fully into European structures. Noting the importance of Russia as a powerful neighbor, they expressed an interest in meeting with Russia's new foreign minister, Yevgenii Primakov. Birkavs agreed with the Lithuanian position that talks on the Latvian-Lithuanian sea border demarcation should begin by renouncing all previous agreements. Gylys said the talks could start next month if Latvia did not insist on waiting until Lithuania formed a new government. -- Saulius Girnius

VOTE ON LITHUANIAN PREMIER'S DISMISSAL.
The Democratic Labor Party on 7 February failed to reach agreement on how to vote the next day on the dismissal of its chairman Adolfas Slezevicius as prime minister, Radio Lithuania reported. Caucus deputy chairman Justinas Karosas said that the party's deputies could vote independently but that he would probably ask that the voting be secret. Slezevicius said that although he was likely to be dismissed, he would not resign as that would be an indirect admission that the charges against him were valid. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW GOVERNMENT IN POLAND.
Poland's new government was sworn in on 7 February by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. Like its two predecessors, it is a coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). The government is headed by Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, a 45-year-old lawyer from the SLD, who resigned his post as deputy Sejm speaker. There are six new ministers: Internal Affairs Minister Zbigniew Siemiatkowski (SLD), Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki (no party), Education Minister Jerzy Wiatr (SLD), Culture Minister Zdzislaw Podkanski (PSL), Labor Minister Andrzej Baczkowski (no party), and Leszek Miller (SLD), who is chief of the Office of the Council of Ministers. Cimoszewicz said he will maintain "continuity in foreign, economic, and social policy," Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

U.S. ENVOY IN POLAND.
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian Affairs, visited Poland on 7 February for talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, and former President Lech Walesa. Holbrooke said he assured his Polish hosts that the Clinton administration is fully aware of Poland's wishes to join NATO. He added that Poland's participation in the NATO mission in Bosnia "is going to make a very favorable impression on the United States and on other NATO allies," Polish and international agencies reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH GOVERNMENT EASES CITIZENSHIP RESTRICTIONS.
The Czech government on 7 February approved amendments to the citizenship law, removing the controversial requirement that applicants must have had a clean criminal record for five years, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. The Council of Europe and U.S. senators, among others, have strongly criticized the law as being restrictive. They say it discriminates in particular against Roma who have lived in the Czech Republic for a long time but are technically Slovak citizens. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told reporters that the amendments were primarily intended to ease the way for Slovaks to gain Czech citizenship. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH PREMIER SAYS NUCLEAR BILL IS NOT ABOUT WEAPONS.
Vaclav Klaus on 7 February said the government's "nuclear bill," which is due to go before the parliament soon, does not concern nuclear weapons but is "exclusively a bill about Temelin [the Czech Republic's second nuclear power station] and related matters," Czech media reported. Czech newspapers have claimed the proposed law would prohibit NATO nuclear weapons being deployed in the country. They have also published a paragraph that would ban the "export, production, import, operation, ownership, storing and any other handling of nuclear weapons." Klaus has called for the issue not to become part of the upcoming parliamentary election campaign, saying the Czech Republic must accept the possibility of nuclear weapons on its territory if it wants to join NATO. The main opposition wants the country to be a nuclear-free zone. -- Doug Clarke and Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION AMENDMENT.
The Slovak parliament on 7 February passed an amendment to the law on large-scale privatization under which company owners may be freed from the obligation to provide for employee participation in the privatization process. Sme on 7 February writes that the legislative initiative "strengthens the influence of today's buyers of direct-sale properties to the detriment of employees." The parliament also approved a law on the protection of state secrets, which replaces communist-era legislation. An opposition proposal that former members of the communist secret police be denied access to classified information was rejected. Meanwhile, a Czech-Slovak border agreement was approved, providing for a swap of 452 hectares of territory, Slovak media reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW TO GO TO HIGH COURT.
The opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH) agreed on 7 February to take the state language law to the Constitutional Court, Pravda reported. The Hungarian coalition--which has argued that the law infringes on minority rights--wants to lodge the complaint as "urgent" so it will be addressed as quickly as possible. The KDH was the only Slovak party that did not vote in favor of the law. MKDH Chairman Bela Bugar announced he intends to ask Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar for a meeting to discuss minority language usage and the new territorial administration bill. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY READY FOR OECD MEMBERSHIP.
The last obstacle to Hungarian membership in the OECD was removed on 7 February, when an OECD committee on foreign investment gave its approval, Reuters and Hungarian media reported. One day earlier, the committee had met in Paris with a delegation led by Finance Minister Lajos Bokros. Hungary can now join the organization as early as March, which would make it the second post-communist country, after the Czech Republic, to do so. Membership is conditional on parliamentary approval of amendments to the bank secrecy act. -- Sharon Fisher



MLADIC THREATENS TO BREAK CONTACT WITH NATO.
Bosnian Serb civilian authorities have made good on their threat to end contacts with the international community and the Bosnian government in Sarajevo over the arrest of suspected Serbian war criminals. The International Herald Tribune on 8 February said that indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic has broken two months of silence and threatened to end contacts with NATO as well. IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith spoke to Pale's legislative speaker Momcilo Krajisnik to urge calm and restraint and met with Bosnian Serb commanders. He told them he could not force the government to release the detained officers because it is the business of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and he is "out of it," AFP reported on 7 February. The news agency also quoted an IFOR spokesman as saying that the peacekeepers are avoiding arresting indicted war criminals since this would cause "political problems." -- Patrick Moore

MIXED REACTIONS TO DETENTION OF SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALS.
The BBC on 7 February quoted top officials of the tribunal as saying that the Bosnian government's actions were "quite proper" and that all sides "are duty bound" by the Dayton agreement to cooperate with the court and arrest war criminals. Onasa cited court officials as adding that they had asked the Bosnians to arrest General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic. The tribunal is considering asking the Bosnian authorities to arrest on its behalf other suspects held in Sarajevo. The BBC quoted President Bill Clinton's special envoy Robert Galucci as saying that the government had a point in arresting suspected war criminals, but he also expressed sympathy for the Serbian view that the detentions contravene the principle of freedom of movement. -- Patrick Moore

RED CROSS ON FATE OF BOSNIAN MUSLIMS IN SREBRENICA.
An official from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on 7 February that he believed the 3,000 Bosnian Muslims detained by Bosnian Serbs in July 1995 after Srebrenica's fall were killed, international media reported. He added that the fate of another 5,000 Bosnian Muslims who tried to flee the area needed to be "urgently settled." This is the first time the ICRC, which is known for its caution, has suggested that the 3,000 Srebrenica Muslims may be dead. Several thousand Muslim men reportedly crossed over into government territory last July after Srebrenica's fall, but the ICRC was unable to register them. The ICRC says it is finding new prisoners each day but the Bosnian factions are violating the Dayton peace accords by denying it access to them. -- Michael Mihalka

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BOSNIA.
Pavel Grachev arrived in Bosnia on 7 February to review the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, international media reported. He met with NATO commander U.S. General George Joulwan, who commented that "cooperation between U.S. and Russian troops [in Bosnia] can create a new relationship between NATO and Russia." Grachev noted that the deployment of Russian troops had occurred without incident. -- Michael Mihalka

CROATIAN PROTESTERS RANSACK EU OFFICE IN MOSTAR.
Following EU administrator Hans Koschnick's 7 February announcement of adminstrative reorganization of Mostar, a large group of Croats ransacked EU offices in the city, international and local media reported. Demonstrators trapped Koschnick for an hour in his car to protest his plan to unify the city. Mostar Mayor Mijo Brajkovic, who has rejected Koschnick's plans, joined the demonstrators, Hina reported. He told Reuters to expect Koschnick "to change his decision now." Meanwhile, NATO called on the Mostar Croats to halt all attacks on the EU administration and announced that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana will visit the town. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel asked Croatia to support and protect the EU mission and its staff in Mostar. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE.
The Slovenian parliament on 7 February elected three new ministers to portfolios that were vacated in late January when the coalition partner United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) broke away, Reuters reported. The coalition is now composed of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) and the Christian Democratic Party (SKD).Tone Rop, an LDS member, has been appointed labor minister; Andrej Umek of the Christian Democrats science minister; and Janez Dular, an independent and one-time deputy editor of the daily Slovenec, culture minister. The LDS now has seven portfolios, the SKD five, and independents three. -- Stan Markotich

GEN. SHALIKASHVILI IN ROMANIA.
General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 7 February began a two-day visit to Romania, Romanian and Western media reported. Shalikashvili met with Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Chief-of-Staff Gen. Dumitru Cioflina to discuss Romania's ambitions to join NATO and its participation in the Partnership for Peace Program. They also discussed U.S.-Romanian military relations, which Shalikashvili described as "very, very close." Shalikashvili is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca and to visit an army non-combat battalion that Romania has offered to send to Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping forces there. Romania was the first country to enroll in NATO's PfP program. -- Dan Ionescu

MORE STRIKES IN ROMANIA.
Following a warning strike earlier this week, some 4,000 employees at the Rodae car plant in Craiova began an indefinite walkout on 7 February, Romanian and international media reported. Workers at the plant, which is majority-owned by South Korean industrial giant Daewoo, are demanding cost-of-living wage increases, the dismissal of two Romanian directors at the plant, and expenses for Romanian workers who receive training in South Korea. The plant's management said it will go to court to have the strike called off. Meanwhile, metro workers in Bucharest staged a two-hour warning strike in support of higher wages and better working conditions. They are threatening an indefinite strike early next week. -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVAN, DNIESTER LEADERS MEET.
Mircea Snegur and Igor Smirnov met in Tiraspol on 7 February, Moldovan and western media reported. The two sides discussed financial and monetary issues, with Tiraspol insisting that Moldova allow the transit of Dniester bank notes printed in Germany. The disputed status of the Dniester region within the Moldovan state was not discussed, Infotag said. The only document the two sides signed was a protocol on cooperation on customs issues. The summit was scheduled for 31 January but was postponed by the Dniester leaders. -- Dan Ionescu

FORMER BULGARIAN MONARCH TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?
Former Tsar Simeon II, in an interview with the French royalist weekly Action Francaise Hebdo, has said he may run in the Bulgarian presidential elections later this year since he sees no reason "to limit his options to scenarios from the past," AFP reported on 8 February. With regard the constitutional provision that the president must have lived in Bulgaria for the past five years, Simeon said in his case"this condition is invalid because I am living abroad not out of choice but by force." One question that remains open is whether running for president means implicit recognition of the 1946 referendum abolishing the monarchy, which Simeon claims was invalid. -- Stefan Krause

RUMP YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTER IN SOFIA.
Pavle Bulatovic on 7 February concluded a two-day official visit to Bulgaria, Bulgarian and international media reported. Bulatovic and his Bulgarian counterpart, Dimitar Pavlov, signed a bilateral agreement on restoring military ties disrupted by UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said the agreement is part of the peace process in the Balkans and a good basis for the restoration of economic cooperation between the two countries. On the arrest of two high-level Bosnian Serb officers by the Bosnian government, Bulatovic said this "may have an adverse effect on the implementation of the Dayton and Paris accords." He called it "unacceptable" that state representatives on an official mission should be arrested, and he accused IFOR of indifference. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN, GREEK OFFICIALS HOLD TALKS IN TIRANA.
Greek Foreign Ministry legal and economic experts concluded two-day talks in Tirana with their Albanian counterparts on Albanian immigrants in Greece and the possible legalization of their status, ATSH reported on 7 February. Agreements on seasonal work and property regulations were discussed, as was the opening of Greek-language schools for ethnic Greeks in Gjirokastra, Delvina, and Saranda. Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi promised to introduce "the most advanced standards of education" for the Greek minority, while the Greek delegation promised to support Albania's efforts to join the EU. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave




XS
SM
MD
LG