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Newsline - February 9, 1996


YELTSIN INSTRUCTS CHERNOMYRDIN TO FIND CHECHNYA SOLUTION.
President Boris Yeltsin has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to choose one of seven options for ending the war in Chechnya discussed at a recent Security Council meeting, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. Chernomyrdin has long been associated with those who seek a negotiated end to the conflict. Yeltsin admitted in an interview with ITAR-TASS that he needs a compromise: withdrawing the troops would lead to "carnage," but he will not win reelection in June unless the Chechen war is brought to an end. Yelstin is expected to officially announce his candidacy for the presidency in his hometown of Yekaterinburg on 15 February. -- Laura Belin

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA GIVES "UNCONDITIONAL" SUPPORT TO YELTSIN.
Meanwhile, the council of Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement expressed its "total and unconditional support" for the presidential candidacy of Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The prime minister told the 9 February Izvestiya that he is confident Yeltsin will win reelection in June. Although some NDR members were apparently dissatisfied that Chernomyrdin himself will not seek the presidency, Izvestiya reported that there were few objections raised at the council meeting. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN UPDATES SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP.
President Boris Yeltsin formally removed former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin and former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko from the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported 7 February. However, the agency stated that Yeltsin does not intend to replace them with the new speakers, Gennadii Seleznev and Yegor Stroev, on the grounds that this would violate the separation of powers. The Council includes Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the power ministers, and a variety of other executive branch officials. It meets infrequently, but usually deals with important issues such as the consequences of the Black Tuesday ruble crisis or the decision to use force in Chechnya. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the new director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, became a non-voting member of the Council. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN MEETS UNION LEADERS.
At a meeting in the Kremlin on 7 February, President Boris Yeltsin and trade union leaders discussed the problem of wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the government is currently working out a schedule to pay off its debts to the state sector and promised that its implementation would be strictly monitored, Russian Television reported. Wage arrears in the Russian economy now amount to more than 13 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion), and the issue has prompted numerous labor disputes. At a meeting of Our Home Is Russia leaders on 8 February, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said arrears in wages and other social payments in budget-funded enterprises and organizations now total 7.5 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion), ITAR-TASS reported. -- Penny Morvant

POLICE CORDON OFF DEMONSTRATORS IN GROZNY.
The situation in Grozny remained tense as the mass demonstration in the town's central square entered its fifth day. During the afternoon of 8 February, Russian and Chechen Interior Ministry forces cordoned off the square occupied by some 2,000 pro-Dudaev demonstrators, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Attempts by Chechen parliament deputies to persuade the demonstrators to disperse proved unsuccessful. Despite assurances by Chechen officials that violence would not be used against the demonstrators, early on 9 February police opened fire on a man who allegedly attacked a security official, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH DUMA MEMBERS.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with the Duma International Affairs Committee on 8 February and called for close cooperation between the Duma and the foreign ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov pledged to "defend Russia's national interests more actively than perhaps was the case in the past," although he added that he would seek to prevent any drift towards confrontation with the West, with which he said Russia had many common interests. Primakov said he planned to give priority to "accelerating integrative processes within the CIS," but dismissed as "primitive and untrue" Western worries that Russia aims to resurrect the USSR. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA OFFICIALLY INVITED TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers gave final approval on 8 February to Russian membership in the organization, Russian and Western agencies reported. The ministers endorsed a 25 January recommendation by the council's Parliamentary Assembly. Russia will become the 39th member of the council, following approval by the Russian parliament. Russia applied for membership in May 1992, but doubts about democratic standards, human rights, and the war in Chechnya led to repeated postponements of its application. -- Scott Parrish

IRAQ AND RUSSIA SIGN OIL DEAL.
Russia and Iraq have concluded a $10 billion deal to revitalize the Iraqi oil industry and boost its production capacity by 1 million barrels/day after the UN economic embargo is lifted, Western agencies reported on 8 February, citing Iraqi sources. The deal covers all aspects of oil exploration and production, and include provisions for Iraq to pay off its estimated $7 billion debt to Russia with oil deliveries. It will not be fully implemented, however, until Iraq complies with the disarmament provisions set by the UN Security Council and the sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait are lifted. Russia has long pressed for the speedy lifting of the sanctions, as has France. Both countries had extensive trade ties with Iraq prior to 1990. -- Scott Parrish

PAPER: RUSSIA OFFERS MIGs TO GERMANY.
Russia has offered Germany 200 MiG-29 jet fighters to offset $2.5 billion worth of debt, NTV reported on 6 February, quoting Argumenty i fakty. The German Air Force inherited a squadron of MiG-29s from East Germany following German unification, and has elected to keep them in service. -- Doug Clarke

AUTHOR LYDIA CHUKOVSKAYA DIES.
Lydia Chukovskaya, who chronicled life during the Stalinist terror in her works The Deserted House and Going Under, died on 8 February at the age of 88 in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. A famous defender of dissident literature, Chukovskaya saved some of her friend Anna Akhmatova's poems by memorizing them and published an open letter denouncing the 1966 show trial and imprisonment of the authors Andrei Sinyavskii and Yulii Daniel. She also befriended Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and was herself expelled from the USSR Union of Writers in 1974. -- Laura Belin

ZIL WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE.
More than 1,500 workers at the indebted ZIL truck plant in Moscow held a one-hour warning strike on 8 February to demand the payment of 31 billion rubles ($6.4 million) in wage arrears and the preservation of their jobs, ITAR-TASS reported. Some Moscow government officials have suggested that the plant should be renationalized. According to Izvestiya on 8 February, ZIL's workforce has fallen from 75,000 to 23,000, while output was only a quarter of planned levels. By the end of the year, the company's total debt had risen to 1 trillion rubles ($210 million). Earlier this month general director Alexander Yefanov was fired and replaced by vice president Viktor Novikov. -- Penny Morvant

ARMY SHORT OF MONEY TO FEED TROOPS.
Following criticism that Russian soldiers in Chechnya are poorly fed and clothed, Deputy Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Vladimir Churanov acknowledged that the army is facing problems but blamed them on a lack of government funding. Churanov, who is head of the base forces, said that supplies to troops elsewhere have been cut to try to ensure that troops in Chechnya receive all they need, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. He noted that the 1995 military food budget was cut from 3.5 trillion rubles to 1.7 trillion, and that in December the ministry received no money whatsover. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said last week that an inspection of troops in Chechnya showed glaring problems, including malnutrition and inadequate winter clothing. -- Penny Morvant

IMF APPROVES RELEASE OF LOAN . . .
The International Monetary Fund said on 8 February that it had approved the release of a $1.05 billion loan to Russia, the final tranche of a $6.3 billion dollar stand-by facility signed with Moscow in April 1995, AFP reported the next day. An IMF spokesman said the IMF board "expressed its satisfaction with Russia's track record in 1995 of full implementation of (an) economic stabilization and reform program." IMF head Michel Camdessus is expected to visit Moscow on 21 February to sign a three-year, $9 billion loan agreement. -- Peter Rutland

. . . QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER OIL LIBERALIZATION.
Reuters reported on 9 February that the IMF is insisting that Russia lift all oil export duties as a precondition for the new $9 billion loan. Most such duties were lifted from 1 January this year, but some categories (such as fuel oil) were exempted. Also unclear is the rate at which oil and gas companies will be allowed to raise their domestic prices, which were frozen in the last quarter of 1995. The government is discussing plans to index energy prices to the general level of inflation. Meanwhile, on 8 February the five largest Russian oil companies called a press conference to denounce a recent government instruction ordering them to revalue oil company assets (currently valued in 1992 prices). They claim this will lead to price increases of up to 80%. Revaluation would make it more difficult for these companies to buy up their own assets. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIAN-U.S. TECHNOLOGY DEALS.
On 8 February representatives of the Russian rocket manufacturer, Energiya, Gazprom, and U.S. space companies including Loral signed an agreement to produce a new generation of telecommunications satellites. The deal was finalized in the meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on 29-30 January. Gazprom will provide some of the financing for the project, which may be worth up to $1 billion over 20 years. The group plans to start with the launch of two Yamal satellites in 1997, using Molniya booster rockets. However, another Gore-Chernomyrdin deal drew criticism yesterday. ITAR-TASS reported that the managers of the Perm Motors plant protested the plan to purchase engines for the IL96 aircraft from the U.S. firm Pratt and Whitney, rather than ordering the latest engines from Perm. -- Peter Rutland



BODY OF RUSSIAN REPORTER FOUND IN TASHKENT.
Sergei Grebenyuk, a reporter for Interfax, was found dead on 8 February in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, western agencies report. Police said he was last seen leaving his brother's house on the night of 27 January. The body was recovered from the nearby Karasu canal. The cause of death for Grebenyuk, who had been working in Uzbekistan since 1992, is under investigation. -- Roger Kangas

NEW PRIME MINISTER IN TAJIKISTAN.
Tajik Prime Minister Jamshed Karimov was dismissed and replaced by Yakhiye Azimov, Reuters and AFP reported on 7 February. Karimov is the latest official to be dismissed after the Tajik government announced on 4 February that three other members of the government had left their posts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1996). The changes are being made in response to demands by armed opposition groups in the cities of Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube. The groups captured those cities and came within 20 kms of the capital, Dushanbe, at the end of January. Azimov, 48, runs the largest carpet company in Tajikistan. In other news, the first brigade, which was at the center of the uprising in Kurgan-Tyube, has made good on its promise to go to Tavil-Dara and fight the Tajik opposition group there. -- Bruce Pannier

KYRGYZSTAN SET FOR REFERENDUM ON AKAYEV'S POWERS.
A popular referendum on changes to the Kyrgyz Constitution will take place on 10 February, Reuters reported. The referendum would change more than half of the present constitution and provide President Askar Akayev with enhanced powers. Akayev complained shortly after his 24 December election that he was little more than a figurehead and compared himself to Queen Elizabeth. The changes to the constitution would give Akayev the right to appoint all top officials except prime minister, which would require parliament's approval. If the parliament rejects three of Akayev's candidates then he could dissolve the body. -- Bruce Pannier

ASIAN SECURITY FORUM CONCLUDES IN ALMATY.
A pan-Asian security forum proposed by Kazakhstan to serve as an Asian variant of the OSCE concluded a two-day meeting in Almaty without signing a charter of common principles, Russian and Western media reported on 9 February. Representatives from 14 nations, including Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and the five Central Asian states except Turkmenistan attended. They formally pledged support to a new forum, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), agreeing to hold higher-level meetings by mid-1997. -- Bhavna Dave



LITHUANIAN PREMIER DISMISSED.
The Seimas on 8 February voted 94 to 26 with four abstentions to dismiss Adolfas Slezevicius, Radio Lithuania reported. President Algirdas Brazauskas said he proposed the vote because the premier had removed savings worth 135,162 litai ($33,790) from the LAIB bank two days before its activities were suspended. He added that the government had worked well for three years and that there was no reason to make any major changes in its policies. He appointed Minister for Government Reforms and Local Rule Mindaugas Stankevicius as interim prime minister. -- Saulius Girnius

UKRAINIAN PREMIER WARNS MINERS' STRIKE IS BECOMING `POLITICAL.'
Yevhen Marchuk on 8 February said the ongoing coal miners' strike is turning into a political campaign against the government, Ukrainian TV reported the same day. His remarks came after trade union officials blasted President Leonid Kuchma's economic reform policies at a large rally in Donetsk. Strike organizers vowed to press on with their strike until all their demands are met. Although the government has allotted at least 21 trillion ($110 million) to cover a portion of the miners' unpaid wages, Marchuk warned the unions that the state-owned coal pits could no longer expect government subsidies. Meanwhile, Ukraine's energy minister told Ukrainian TV that the country was close to using up its energy reserves and that several power stations were on the brink of shutting down because of the strike. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

U.S. TO BACK UKRAINE OVER IMF LOAN.
The U.S. has said it will support Ukraine in its attempts to secure the next tranche of a stand-by loan from the IMF, international agencies reported on 9 February. President Leonid Kuchma, in Helsinki on an official visit, met with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who was also in the Finnish capital to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. The Ukrainian and U.S. leaders held a hastily arranged meeting just before Christopher went to meet with Primakov. This is interpreted as Washington's way of tacitly demonstrating its support for Ukraine in front of Russia. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PASSES DECREE ON EXPORT TARIFFS.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree on export tariffs in a move to control the export of various commodities from Belarus, Belarusian Radio reported on 7 February. If the parliament approves the decree, tariffs introduced in April 1994 will remain in force until 1 January 1997. Meanwhile, the Party for the Belarusian Patriotic Movement wants to collect signatures in the Chkalauskai district in Minsk to remove deputy Stanislau Bahdankevich from office, Belarusian radio reported on 8 February. The party's press service alleged that Bahdankevich allowed many serious breaches of law when he was head of the National Bank of Belarus. Lukashenka is known to hold Bahdankevich in contempt. -- Ustina Markus

THREE ESTONIAN PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD.
The Fatherland Union, the Republican and Conservative People's Party, and the Farmers' Union on 8 February signed a cooperation agreement, BNS reported. Parliamentary deputies of the first two parties will coordinate actions in the legislature and will share seats on standing committees. Representatives of the Farmers' Union, which has no deputies, will be allowed to attend the caucus meetings. The three parties set up a joint work group to draft a plan of action and platform for the fall local elections. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ON FOREIGN POLICY.
Dariusz Rosati, speaking to foreign journalists on 8 February, underlined the continuity in Polish foreign policy priorities--namely, EU and NATO membership, despite Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement. Rosati underlined the need for dialogue with Russia, saying "Poland is the last country that would seek a confrontation" with that country. Rosati and Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski the same day expressed Poland's wish for an individual dialogue with NATO in a letter sent to Brussels, Polish dailies reported on 9 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH BUSINESSMAN EXTRADITED FROM SWITZERLAND.
Boguslaw Bagsik on 8 February was extradited from Switzerland to Poland under heavy escort of anti-terrorist police, Polish media reported. Until 1991, Bagsik was co-owner of a conglomerate known by the acronym Art-B, which took advantage of poor inter-bank communications by transferring large deposits from one bank to another and drawing interest on both accounts. Art-B is estimated to have made some $100 million in this way. Bagsik was arrested by the Swiss police in June 1994. Under international law, he can be sentenced in Poland only for crimes identified as such by Swiss law. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK DEPUTY: HUNGARY SHOULD APOLOGIZE FOR OCCUPATION.
Zora Lazarova on 8 February asked Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk why he has not made the signing and ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty conditional on receiving an apology from Hungary for the occupation of southern Slovakia during World War II, Narodna obroda reported. Lazorova is chairwoman of the Slovak Green Alternative, which ran on the ticket of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in the last election. Also on 8 February, Ladislav Pittner of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement addressed several questions to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar regarding the "illegal activities" of the Slovak Information Service. These include SIS chief Ivan Lexa's alleged efforts to transfer the protection of constitutional officials from the police to the SIS and his demand that violations of the law on the protection of the republic (which has not yet been approved) be investigated by the SIS. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK OPPOSITION DEPUTY WARNS OF `ABSOLUTE CONTROL.'
Democratic Union deputy chairman Ludovit Cernak, at a press conference on 8 February, compared the current role of HZDS to that of the Communist Party under the previous regime. According to the new territorial administration system currently being prepared, several thousands of jobs will be created and filled not by experts but by individuals with the "right" party membership, Cernak said. He also warned that the next elections may not be fair, noting that free competition among political parties is being violated since the opposition has insufficient access to Slovak Radio and TV. -- Sharon Fisher



BOSNIAN SERBS THREATEN RETALIATION OVER ARRESTS.
Bosnian Serb Justice Minister Marko Arsovic said his side will detain Muslims and Croats crossing Bosnian Serb territory if the eight Serbs arrested on 30 January for suspected war crimes and other offensives are not released. TV Pale on 8 February also urged Serbs to postpone visits to areas controlled by the government or the Croats until "the security situation becomes more favorable." Oslobodjenje said on 9 February that the Serbs have temporarily detained two AP correspondents. Onasa news agency reported that international policemen visited six of the arrested Serb officers, including General Djordje Djukic. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko added, however, that "international police did not get requested information about the remaining prisoners. No one knows where they are." -- Patrick Moore

MILOSEVIC MEETS WITH KARADZIC.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other Bosnian Serb leaders met on 7 February with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Onasa news agency reported unnamed sources as telling Reuters that Milosevic has agreed with Pale's suspension of Dayton-based contacts until the arrested officers are freed. Milosevic is a signatory to the Dayton agreement, which binds him to cooperate with the Hague-based tribunal in bringing indicted war criminals like Karadzic to justice. -- Patrick Moore

NATO REJECTS BOSNIAN SERB ANNOUNCEMENT ON SEVERING TIES.
NATO on 8 February rejected the Bosnian Serb army's announcement cutting off all military ties to IFOR unless two Serbian officers held by the Bosnian government are released, international media reported. A NATO spokesman stressed that the organization questioned the validity of the order, which was signed by General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander. "Under the Dayton peace accords we are not authorized to communicate with indicted war criminals and we do not recognize General Mladic as an official representative of the Republic of Serbska," he said. The spokesman added that NATO saw no connection between the detention of Serbian soldiers and the military side of the agreement. -- Michael Mihalka

U.S. MOVES TO REVIVE BATTERED PEACE PROCESS.
The U.S. on 8 February announced it will send its A-team back to Bosnia in an attempt to revive the faltering Balkan peace process, international media reported. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher telephoned the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia, and rump Yugoslavia to inform them that the chief Dayton peace negotiator, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Holbrooke, will return to the region on 11 February. He will be accompanied by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck and Robert Gallucci, special envoy for implementing the civilian side of the accords. -- Michael Mihalka

KARADZIC KICKS OFF ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN PRIJEDOR.
Although banned by the Dayton agreement from running in the elections because he is an indicted war criminal, Bosnian Serb leader has launched the campaign of his Serbian Democratic Party. He announced on 8 February that he has not given up his goal of uniting the Republika Srpska with rump Yugoslavia. He also urged toughness: "At no cost must we allow the degree of [our] autonomy to be reduced" in favor of the central government. He implicitly accused unnamed Serbian parties of being willing to make compromises with Sarajevo. Several opposition Serbian parties have indeed made contacts with the opposition in Sarajevo in the spirit of the Dayton accords. This is anathema to nationalists like Karadzic, who added: "we will never renounce the fruits of our combat," AFP reported on 9 February. -- Patrick Moore

MOSTAR IMBROGLIO CONTINUES.
The situation remains outwardly calm in Herzegovina's largest city following the rampage by Croats against the EU and its administrator Hans Koschnick on 7 February. Onasa said the next day that the EU has asked NATO to protect the former mayor of Bremen, whose car was battered for an hour by Croatian protesters. Koschnick had handed down a binding decision to create a large ethnically mixed central district in the city, which is overdue to be reunited. The Croats want to control the center, at least in their western half of town. Vecernji list on 9 February quoted Bosnian Croat leader and Federal President Kresimir Zubak as rejecting Koschnik's decision as "an act of self-will" that is not in keeping with Dayton. -- Patrick Moore

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH MILOSEVIC.
Pavel Grachev on 9 February met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade to discuss the Bosnian peace process, AFP reported. The two leaders agreed that the peace agreements should not be implemented in an "arbitrary" manner. They also concluded that so far the results of the peace process were good and were attributable to the efforts of international players, notably Russia and the rump Yugoslavia. Grachev also met with Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, who described the arrest of the Serbian officers in Bosnia as "a very worrying matter." -- Stan Markotich

LIBERALS THROWN OUT OF MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT.
The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has rejected President Kiro Gligorov's calls to keep the governing coalition together by ruling out the participation of Liberal Party ministers in a new government, MIC and ONASA reported on 8 February. The party leadership asked SDSM Chairman and Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski to draw up a new government by the end of the week. The Liberals supported Gligorov's appeal and have expressed readiness to "search for solutions" to solve disputes within the coalition. In the past, the Liberals had refused to meet with the Social Democrats and may thus have contributed to the ongoing government crisis. -- Fabian Schmidt

SHALIKASHVILI CONCLUDES ROMANIAN VISIT.
U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili, at the end of his two-day visit to Romania, praised bilateral military cooperation with Romania and the country's efforts to modernize its army, Romanian and international media reported on 8 February. But he added that NATO membership for Romania was not imminent. Following talks with President Ion Iliescu and Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, Shalikashvili said he was "heartened" by what he had heard. He noted that the airport offered by Romania in Timisoara, close to the Yugoslav border, was currently not needed as a support base for the NATO-led peace mission in Bosnia, but he said an assessment team will visit it to ensure it is suitable should the need arise. Shalikashvili also said in Bucharest that there was no need for "buffer zones" between NATO and Russia because the alliance was "not in confrontation with Russia." He said NATO "extends its hand of friendship to Moscow." -- Michael Shafir

SENIOR EU OFFICIAL IN BUCHAREST.
EU Commissioner for relations with Eastern Europe and the CIS Hans van den Broek, on an official visit to Bucharest from 7-8 February, said "Romania is definitely on the right track" toward EU integration, Romanian and international media reported. At the same time, he urged the country to speed up economic reforms and to bring its legislation in line with that of the EU. With regard to negotiations on Romania's EU membership, Van den Broek said they will not start before the end of the next year. He met with President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and the two parliamentary speakers. -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RUSSIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWAL.
Mihai Popov, speaking at a press conference on 8 February, said "now that Russia has entered the Council of Europe, it is easier for us to negotiate the Russian troop withdrawal from Moldova," BASA-press reported. He added that Moldova supported Russia's membership in the CE on the condition that the Russian State Duma ratifies the evacuation agreement within six months. He proposed setting up a special commission to report periodically to the parliament on the implementation of the many bilateral agreements with Russia that Moscow has not yet implemented. Popov confirmed Chisinau's refusal to transform some Russian military subdivisions in the Dniester region into peacekeeping forces. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1996 BUDGET.
The Bulgarian parliament passed this year's state budget on 9 February, Bulgarian media reported. Opposition deputies criticized the document as anti-social and relying on changes to tax legislation that have not yet been enacted. They also pointed out the need for a medium-term program on servicing the country's large foreign and internal debts. The government's official macroeconomic projection for 1996 envisions a budget deficit of 4.5-6% of GDP. -- Michael Wyzan

BULGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
The Bulgarian parliament on 8 February rejected a motion by the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) to dismiss parliamentary chairman Blagovest Sendov, Pari reported. Sendov came under fire for controversial statements about NATO enlargement allegedly made during a visit to Moscow (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January 1996). Reuters on 8 February reported that four Defense Ministry employees working in the ministry's radioelectronic defense department institute have been arrested on charges of illegally transferring or selling to private firms military technology and information "related to national security and defense." Defense Ministry spokesman Tsvyatko Donchev said his ministry so far has no information on the involvement of foreign firms. Western firms have shown strong interest in buying Bulgarian-produced radio defense systems. -- Stefan Krause

CHIEF OF GREEK GENERAL STAFF FIRED OVER DISPUTED ISLET.
The Greek government's Defense and Foreign Affairs Council on 8 February dismissed Admiral Christos Limberis as chief of staff of the armed forces, Reuters reported the same day. Limberis was sacked for the military handling of the conflict with Turkey over a disputed islet last week. He offered military options for driving Turkish commandos from territory that Athens considers Greek, but those options were rejected by Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on the grounds that military action might have fueled a major conflict. Simitis was also furious at Limberis for publicizing what was said at confidential talks that the two held during the crisis. Limberis had refused to resign. Meanwhile, international agencies reported that the EU on 7 February expressed its "full solidarity with Greece" and thanked both sides for peacefully resolving the crisis. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PRISONERS IN GREECE DEMAND EXTRADITION.
Albanian prisoners being held in Greece have threatened to go on hunger strike if they are not extradited to Albania, Western agencies reported on 9 February. In an open letter to Albanian President Sali Berisha, published in Albanian newspapers, the prisoners say they are mistreated by Greek prison guards who frequently beat them up without reason. They also complain that they do not receive enough food and that living conditions in the cells are unbearable. In August 1995, Greece and Albanian signed a prisoner exchange agreement. Last month, Gazeta Shqiptare reported that 790 Albanian prisoners would be sent to Albania to serve the rest of their sentence there. -- Stefan Krause

TURKEY TO HOST CONFERENCE ON MILITARY AID TO BOSNIA.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced it will host an international conference to bring together countries and organizations willing to support a "train and equip" program for the Bosnian federation, AFP reported on 8 February. The decision to hold the conference followed discussions in Ankara between Turkish Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal, former Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey, and James Pardew, U.S. special representative for military stabilization in the Balkans. Sacirbey told reporters that Turkey's military contribution to Bosnia "is not a program of war but is aimed at developing peace." -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave




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