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Newsline - February 12, 1996


STATE DUMA PASSES AMNESTY FOR CHECHEN GUERRILLAS.
The Duma passed a decree on 9 February offering an amnesty to nine Chechen militants who participated in the January hostage-taking in Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe and who are currently in Russian captivity, on condition that the 12 Russian OMON troops held by Dudaev's forces are released, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. On 10 February, the supporters of Dudaev who had demonstrated for six days in Grozny to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the resignation of the pro-Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev, dispersed peacefully, NTV reported. Up to ten people had died in shooting during efforts to disperse the demonstrators by Russian troops. A contingent of Russian troops withdrew on 11 February from Shatoi Raion following the signing of a peace protocol and an agreement to exchange prisoners by Russian federal troops commander Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev, and local officials, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

MORE REDS AND BROWNS BACK ZYUGANOV.
Leaders of 17 left-wing opposition movements, including Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, agreed in Moscow to back Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov for president, NTV reported on 11 February. However, a meeting of extreme nationalist movements in St. Petersburg failed to produce unanimity. Groups including Pamyat and the National-Republican Party of Russia endorsed Zyuganov's candidacy, but Eduard Limonov, the emigre novelist turned leader of the National-Bolshevik Party, denounced Zyuganov for not being a true communist. Limonov surprisingly called on nationalist forces to support President Boris Yeltsin's re-election. Meanwhile, the KPRF says it has already collected more than 1.4 million signatures supporting Zyuganov's nomination (only 1 million are needed to put him on the ballot), according to NTV. However, as the preparations for the presidential elections continue a VCIOM survey found almost two-thirds of Russians expect some level of falsification of the election results, Radio Mayak reported on 9 February. -- Laura Belin

GAIDAR'S PARTY PROPOSES NEMTSOV FOR PRESIDENT.
In an attempt to find a consensus candidate who might make the second round of the presidential elections, the Moscow branch of Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice party proposed nominating Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov for the presidency, Russian media reported on 11 February. Gaidar suggested that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who has open presidential ambitions, could be prime minister under a Nemtsov administration, Russian TV reported. However, Yavlinskii is unlikely to agree to such a deal, and Nemtsov told NTV that despite Gaidar's suggestion he has no plans to run for president. -- Laura Belin

CADRE RESHUFFLES.
Vladimir Antipov has been appointed deputy head of the presidential administration and head of the administration for state service and cadres, Radio Rossii reported on 11 February. Meanwhile, Oleg Vyugin was appointed deputy minister of finance in charge of macroeconomic policy and the securities market, Segodnya reported 9 February. The next day, ITAR-TASS reported that President Yeltsin had fired Deputy Finance Minister Stanislav Korolev for culpability in the delay of releasing funds to cover wage arrears. -- Peter Rutland

ANOTHER ZHIRINOVSKY PUBLICITY STUNT.
In a ceremony where television crews reportedly outnumbered the guests, Vladimir Zhirinovsky wed his wife again in a Moscow church, 25 years after they were first married, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 February. Invoking fanfare reminiscent of the tsarist era, the couple arrived in a horse-drawn troika and offered free money and candy, plus a glass of Zhirinovsky-brand vodka, to the crowd of onlookers. The leader of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was a guest of honor. On 10 February, Le Pen endorsed Zhirinovsky's candidacy for president and announced plans to co-found a "European center for right-wing forces" with him later this spring. -- Laura Belin

KOSTIKOV SUBMITS RESIGNATION.
Russian Ambassador to the Vatican Vyacheslav Kostikov has submitted his resignation, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 February. Kostikov, who served as President Boris Yeltsin's press secretary from May 1992 to December 1994, came under fire from the Foreign Ministry last week for critical statements he made about Yeltsin in a 4 February interview with NTV (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1996). On 11 February, NTV broadcast a second segment of the interview, in which Kostikov again described Yeltsin as obsessed with power and denounced what he termed the excessive influence of presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. Nevertheless, Kostikov closed by arguing that Yeltsin remains the only figure in Russia who can prevent a "communist revanche." -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV AND CHRISTOPHER HOLD TALKS.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart Warren Christopher held seven hours of talks in Helsinki on 9 and 10 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. At a subsequent press conference, the two diplomats tried to put the best possible spin on their first meeting, with Christopher terming it "a very good start" and Primakov calling their talks "very useful." Primakov admitted, however, that differences, especially on the possible enlargement of NATO, continue to divide the two countries, although he pledged that they would be resolved without "confrontation." Primakov also assured Christopher that Russia will adhere to UN sanctions against Iraq until it fulfills the conditions laid out by the UN Security Council, but he rejected U.S. criticism of Russia's sale of nuclear reactors to Iran, which he denied would help Tehran obtain nuclear weapons. -- Scott Parrish

TALKS ON ABM TREATY TO CONTINUE.
After meeting with Christopher, Primakov told ITAR-TASS on 10 February that the two diplomats had agreed to search for a mutually acceptable resolution of the ongoing talks on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. The talks seek to outline technical parameters defining which interceptor systems are "tactical" and permitted by the treaty, and which are "strategic" and hence banned. The United States wants to develop new "tactical" ABM systems, but Russia rejected earlier American proposals for distinguishing between the two types of systems, which they claimed undermined the logic of the treaty. Primakov said he agrees with those Duma deputies who argue that START II should only be ratified if the United States continues to adhere to the ABM treaty. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke

GRACHEV THREATENS TO COUNTER NATO.
Speaking at a 9 February press conference closing a two-day official visit to Belgrade, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said Russia would take "appropriate measures" to counter enlargement of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. If NATO accepts new members, Russia "would start to look for partners in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE and in the CIS with a view to setting up a military-political alliance," Grachev warned. One of the results of Grachev's visit was the signing of a bilateral military cooperation agreement, under which Russia will consider supplying Yugoslavia with spare parts for its Soviet-designed weapons systems, and also consider selling new weapons to Belgrade, according to NTV. Under the Dayton Accords, Yugoslavia can purchase "defensive weapons" from 13 March. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke

GERMANY COMPENSATES FORMER NAZI PRISONERS.
Germany has paid compensation to 7,500 former Nazi concentration camp inmates in Novgorod Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. The former prisoners received DM 30 ($20) for every month they spent in the camps. The payments follow the recognition three years ago that former inmates have a right to compensation and the subsequent creation of a Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation, financed by Germany, with branches in 12 regions. Prior to the 1992 agreement, Germany had not paid any money to Nazi victims in Russia. Gennadii Medvedev, the fund's representative in Novgorod, said that testimony from three to five former inmates is sufficient to secure compensation. -- Penny Morvant

KULIKOV URGES NATIONALIZATION OF COMMERCIAL BANKS.
In an unusual foray into the economic sphere, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov submitted proposals to the government on 9 February for raising extra revenue for the cash-strapped army and Interior Ministry (MVD), ITAR-TASS reported. Kulikov's suggestions included nationalizing some commercial banks and raising oil export tariffs. The MVD, overstretched by the military campaign in Chechnya, had debts of 3.4 trillion rubles ($720 million) at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, 63 prison guards on hunger strike in Kareliya ended their five-day fast on 9 February after receiving assurances from the Finance Ministry that the 19 billion rubles the Kareliyan police are owed will soon be paid.
-- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT DEBATES PROTECTIONISM.
At its 9 February meeting, the government discussed measures to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competition, Russian TV reported. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin stressed the importance of export promotion, such as lifting remaining export duties, introducing export credits, and exempting exports to the CIS from VAT. (Exports to the "far abroad" are already exempt.) Yasin argued against the idea of import quotas, saying "we have done all we can" given the rules of the World Trade Organization. However, newly appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov suggested introducing more radical measures such as import quotas and criticized Yasin's draft for failing to address the problems of specific industrial sectors. Yasin's proposal was sent back for two weeks' reworking. Imports account for more than half of consumer goods sales, according to Ekonomika i zhizn no. 5. That paper wryly observed that "everything with which we are competitive, from the SU-27 fighter bomber down to our ballet, was created during the 70-year period of communist rule." -- Peter Rutland

INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DOWN 5% IN JANUARY.
Russia's industrial output continues to slide, falling 5% in the first month of 1996 in comparison with January 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February, citing the State Statistical Committee. Total output was valued at 97 trillion rubles ($20.5 billion). Production of electrical goods plunged by 60%, while output of clothes and shoes halved in comparison with January 1995. Crude oil production was down 3%, natural gas fell 0.3%, and fuel oil 14%. The decline in these sectors is attributable to shrinking demand and increasing stockpiles of manufactured goods. Output did rise in a number of sectors: fertilizers by 5% and electrical energy by 1%. -- Natalia Gurushina

FOREIGNERS ENTER STATE SECURITIES MARKET.
For the first time on 7 February foreigners were allowed to participate in an auction of state securities. They bid for bonds worth 120 billion rubles ($25 million), less than 2% of the 6.5 trillion-ruble issue, Kommersant-daily reported the next day. The slow start may be due to the fact that the Central Bank requires foreigners' bids to be mediated by Russian banks (currently Eurobank), thus reducing yields earned by foreign traders. -- Natalia Gurushina



KYRGYZSTAN VOTES MORE POWER FOR AKAEV.
More than 96% of Kyrgyzstan's 2.36 million eligible voters took part in the 10 February referendum on constitutional changes, international agencies reported. More than 94% of those voting approved the draft law, proposed by President Askar Akayev less than two weeks after he was reelected president on 24 December, that concentrates much more power in the hands of the president. Akayev now appoint all top ministers, except the prime minister, whose candidacy needs the approval of parliament. According to Reuters, Akayev is already promising "big government changes." -- Bruce Pannier

LEADER OF RUSSIAN CENTER IN KAZAKHSTAN FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES.
Nina Sidorova, the leader of the movement Russian Center, is being charged with contempt of court for filing a civil case against President Nursultan Nazarbayev for allegedly defaming her and the Russian Center on state TV, Radio Rossii reported on 10 February. An Almaty court on 9 February refused to examine her case, claiming that the president is immune to all criminal proceedings. The Justice Ministry has refused to register Russian Center as a public organization. Just 3 days before last December's parliamentary elections, the authorities revoked Sidorova's registration in Almaty as an independent candidate, accusing her of making anti-constitutional remarks. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN SIMPLIFIES PASSPORT SYSTEM.
Kazakhstan has done away with the old Soviet-era practice that required citizens to have a mandatory residential registration stamp (propiska) and to indicate their nationality on their passports, Russian Public TV reported on 11 February. -- Bhavna Dave



UKRAINIAN CHIEF OF STAFF FIRED.
General Anatolii Lopata, the chief of the Ukrainian General Staff, was dismissed as chief of staff and first deputy defense minister "in connection with his transfer to another job," Ukrainian television reported on 10 February. Lopata has held those posts since February 1993. Neither his new post nor his replacement were mentioned. -- Doug Clarke

DOOMSDAY CULT LEADERS SENTENCED IN UKRAINE.
Three leaders of a doomsday cult that led hundreds of people to believe that the world would end in November 1993 were sentenced by a Kiev court to varying terms for disrupting public order, Ukrainian TV and Reuters reported 9 February. Maryna Tsvyhun-Kryvonohov, who declared herself a "living god," her husband Yurii Kryvonohov, the cult "prophet," and Vitalii Kovalchuk, the "archibishop" of the White Brotherhood Sect, were sentenced to four-, seven- and six-year terms in labor camp. Each was also fined the equivalent of $300 for damage to priceless icons in Kiev's St. Sophia Cathedral, where they had barricaded themselves to await doomsday. They and several dozen followers clashed with militia before they were arrested. The cult leaders called on hundreds of believers to hold a hunger strike and Ukrainian authorities feared they would attempt mass suicide. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT MEETS.
Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir's report on the state of the Belarusian economy was the focus of attention during the 8 February parliamentary session, Belarusian radio reported. According to Chyhir, one of the problems the country faces is the rising cost of energy. In 1993 Belarus paid $21.70 for a ton of Russian oil and $35.70 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas. In 1994 this rose to $57 and $50 respectively, and in 1995 to $80 and $53. The price increases mean Belarus had to pay $825 million more for those commodities between 1993-95 than it had before. Raw materials have also risen 30-50 percent, creating a critical situation for the country's industries which rely on imported raw materials. -- Ustina Markus

POLISH RIGHT-WING PARTIES PROPOSE UNITY.
The Confederation of Independent Poland (KPN), a political party formed in 1979 and which is currently in opposition, reelected Leszek Moczulski as its chairman during its 5th Congress on 10 February. The KPN has 16 deputies in the Democratic Left Alliance dominated Sejm. The KPN Congess called for "the total integration of the right." The Center Alliance (PC) and the Christian-National Association (ZChN) have made similar calls. Neither the PC, nor the ZChN have been represented in the Sejm since the 1993 elections. -- Jakub Karpinski

FOREIGN EXPERTS CRITICIZE HUNGARY'S MEDIA LAW.
During a conference organized by the Prime Minister's Office, representatives of the European Media Institute and the International Press Institute made critical remarks about Hungary's media law, Hungarian media reported on 10 February. Many foreign experts agreed that the law was overly complicated, and could allow for further political infighting and exertion of political pressure. In response, Hungarian experts said Parliament tried passing a law that is consistent with general European principles, and the complicated nature of the law resulted from the domestic state of affairs. They accepted the criticisms, and said the success of the law will depend on its implementation in practice, the future election of boards of trustees, and the intentions of political parties.-- Zsofia Szilagyi

CZECH PREMIER DENIES RELATIONS WITH GERMANY ARE A FIASCO.
Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 11 February said Czech-German relations are good and have not turned into a fiasco, Pravo reported the following day. Negotiations over the preparation of a proposed parliamentary declaration designed to ease tensions between the two countries are stalled (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 and 17 January 1995). But, speaking in a television debate, Klaus said any problems could be sorted out if they were left to himself and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He accused leftist Czech media and the leader of the opposition Social Democrats of stirring up anti-German feelings, and the Munich-based Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft of complicating Czech-German relations. -- Steve Kettle

CZECHS SEIZE POWERFUL EXPLOSIVE.
A cache of potent explosives was seized by Czech police, Reuters reported on 9 February. An Interior Ministry spokesman said that the organized crime squad seized 15 tons of explosives, and their haul included 450 kilograms of Tritolhexogen found in the garage of a cottage in Mlazivice, 90 kilometers northeast of Prague. The spokesman, Jan Subrt, confirmed that the material had originally belonged to the Czech military, and said that tritolhexogen "exceeds Semtex in its potency." The police have reportedly detained a 45-year-old man identified only as P.V, who was the co-owner of a company that had been awarded contracts to dispose of Czech army ammunition. He is to be charged with the illegal possession of arms. -- Doug Clarke

EU FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER IN SLOVAKIA.
Hans van den Broek visited Bratislava on 9 February to discuss Slovakia's EU integration and to assess the country's progress since the EU's issuance of a demarche in October, particularly regarding the observance of democratic principles, minority rights, and press freedom. Van den Broek expressed satisfaction with Slovakia's macroeconomic results, but he pointed to the need for transparent privatization and more openness to foreign investment. Political criteria will be as important as economic when judging candidates for EU membership, and Slovakia will need to take a number of legislative measures if it wants to be considered in the first group of countries to join the organization, he stressed. The commissioner met with a number of top Slovak officials, but his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was canceled because of the latter's illness, Slovak media reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRIVATIZATION AMENDMENT TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
Having collected the signatures of 56 deputies, Ivan Simko of the Christian Democratic Movement on 9 February took an amendment to the large-scale privatization law passed in November 1994 to court, TASR reported. Simko said the amendment, which transferred the authority to approve direct sale projects from the cabinet to the National Property Fund, is unconstitutional because, according to a 1995 Constitutional Court case, "decisions about the privatization of state property through direct sales...are a basic responsibility of the cabinet," Praca reported on 9 February. -- Sharon Fisher

NEW LITHUANIAN PREMIER NOMINATED.
President Algirdas Brazauskas on 9 February announced that he would nominate Minister of Government Reforms and Local Rule Mindaugas Stankevicius to replace Adolfas Slezevicius as prime minister, and Finance Minister Reinoldijus Sarkinas as chairman of the Bank of Lithuania. The Seimas still has to confirm the nominations. The next day the Democratic Labor Party council decided not to call a special congress to replace Slezevicius as party chairman, Radio Lithuania reported. The elections of the party's leaders will take place at the scheduled congress in second half of May. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA, AUSTRIA SIGN PROTOCOL ON HEALTH INSURANCE.
Latvian and Austrian officials on 9 February signed a protocol on the intention to cooperate in establishing a state health insurance system, BNS reported. Under the agreement that will be in force for three years, Austrian specialists will give advice on legislative issues, accreditation of medical establishments, and drafting health care standards. Latvian State Health Board Head Andris Glazitis said that obligatory health insurance will be introduced in Latvia from 1 January 1997 with the Saeima passing the necessary law probably by 1 July 1996. -- Saulius Girnius



HOLBROOKE BACK IN THE BALKANS.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke returned to the former Yugoslavia on 10-11 February, visiting Sarajevo, Belgrade, and then Sarajevo again. The BBC said on 11 February that he was seeking to remove the most serious obstacle to confront the Dayton peace process, namely a Serb boycott of contacts with the government and IFOR. On 30 January Bosnian government forces arrested some Serbian officers and said two are guilty of war crimes, while the Serbs demanded they be freed in the name of ensuring freedom of movement, and launched the boycott in response. The two are now being held under the authority of the Hague-based tribunal, which makes it difficult for Holbrooke to free them in a deal. Holbrooke nonetheless was upbeat, calling the developments a "bump in the road" and saying that the Bosnian and Serbian presidents are committed to Dayton "in full." He also said that ensuring freedom of movement was "equally important" to catching war criminals, the BBC reported on 12 February. -- Patrick Moore

KINKEL WANTS ARREST WARRANTS FOR KARADZIC AND MLADIC.
Onasa reported on 10 February that German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel has called on the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal to issue arrest warrants for the top Bosnian Serb civilian and military leaders for genocide. Karadzic told the Sunday Times the next day that he had given strict orders at the beginning of the conflict to protect human rights, that there were no mass killings, and that "had there been I would have known about it." The Bosnian news agency added that the Serbs still hold 700 slave laborers, according to the Red Cross. AFP noted that the government is still keeping 88 Serbian POW's in Tuzla and it is not clear when they will be freed. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS TO MAINTAIN CONTACTS WITH IFOR.
The Bosnian Serb political leadership has disavowed an order by the army commander, Ratko Mladic, to sever ties with IFOR until two senior officers are released by the Bosnian government. According to international media, the self-styled Bosnian Serb prime minister, Rajko Kasagic,called the order "invalid" and added that "President [Radovan] Karadzic has warned the army chief of staff that he was not in a position to take such a decision" after a meeting of the Bosnian Serb government in Pale on 11 February. Meanwhile, the Bosnian government released four of the eight Bosnian Serb soldiers detained on 30 January. On 9 February, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, reacting to the Bosnian Serb cutoff of contacts, warned that any threats against IFOR would be dealt with harshly. -- Michael Mihalka

CROATIA AGREES TO HELP SOLVE MOSTAR DISPUTE.
Ivo Sanader, a senior aide to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, said on 11 February after talks with Boris Biancheri, an Italian foreign ministry envoy, that Croatia had agreed to help solve a dispute between EU mediators and Bosnian Croats over the future administration of the divided Bosnian town of Mostar, Hina reported. As an immediate result, the mayor of the Croat-held part of the city said he was prepared to negotiate a new solution after rejecting the EU administrator's plan to redraw boundaries in Mostar. He told the German weekly Der Spiegel that Bosnian Croatians are ready to talk, "but not on the basis of the Koschnik's decree," and on that they won't budge a single millimetre, Reuters reported. The Bosnian Croatians want the borders between Croatian and Muslim parts of the city to be identical to the military lines of separation. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MOSTAR EU ADMINISTRATOR WILL NOT RESIGN.
Hans Koschnik said he will not resign and will keep his post as long as EU wants him to, Nasa Borba reported on 12 February. During his visit to Sarajevo on 11 February, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke underscored America's support for Koschnik's proposal for Mostar, Hina reported. That same day Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic held talks with his Bosnian counterpart Jadranko Prlic, and agreed on the necessity of settling the Mostar crisis. Meanwhile, Bosnian Federation President Kresimir Zubak sent a letter to the political mediator in Federation disputes, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, to inform the German parliament and public of all the facts regarding Mostar, since he claimed it was owing to their being "insufficiently informed" that they started the "real anti-Croat campaign," Hina reported on 11 February. In another development, the arrival of Croatian police to Mostar as agreed by Dayton accord has been postponed, Nasa Borba reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER A WELCOME GUEST IN MONTENEGRO?
Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic said at a 9 February press conference that Bosnian Serb civilian leader and accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic is welcome to visit Montenegro anytime, SRNA reported that same day. Djukanovic said that since Karadzic has visited the rump Yugoslavia a number of times in the past, "there is no reason for anyone to try to now keep him out of Montenegro." Djukanovic also spoke on a number of other key issues relating to the Dayton accord, including prospects for mutual recognition between rump Yugoslavia and Croatia. He observed that such an eventuality could follow only after Zagreb was prepared to fully honor the Dayton accord, hinting that rump Yugoslavia still harbored claims to Croatia's strategic Prevlaka peninsula. He also remarked that Montenegro's ongoing aid program for Herzevinian Serbs "was not motivated by political interests." -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION BRACES FOR LOCAL, GENERAL AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Meeting in Bucharest on 9 February, the National Council of the main opposition alliance, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), chose Victor Ciorbea as its candidate for mayor of Bucharest in the local elections due to be held in the spring. Ciorbea is the chairman of the Confederation of Democratic Trade Unions. The incumbent mayor, Crin Halaicu, was elected in 1992 on the CDR lists, but is no longer backed by it, after accusations of incompetence and corruption. Domestic media reported on 9-10 February that at the urging of the National Liberal Party, the CDR decided it will not enter into any "understanding agreements" with the ruling Party of Social Democracy of Romania before or after the general elections scheduled for autumn. It also ruled out an understanding with the Democratic Party-National Salvation Front for backing that party's candidate in the presidential elections in a second round of elections. Earlier, the chairman of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, Ion Diaconescu, said that the CDR might back Petre Roman in a second round of elections, if the CDR candidate, Emil Constantinescu, does not make it to that round against incumbent president Ion Iliescu. In another development, Horia Rusu was elected executive chairman of the opposition Liberal Party `93. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS LANGUAGE RENAMING INITIATIVE.
Moldova's parliament on 9 February rejected by a 58 to 25 vote President Mircea Snegur's legislative initiative on renaming the official language from Moldovan to Romanian, Moldovan and international media reported. Victor Cecan, head of the parliament's Legal Committee, said the proposal "does not correspond to the political will of the population," and the name could be changed only if people decide to do so in a referendum. According to parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi, who submitted a rejected compromise draft resolution of his own that would have allowed the use of both language names, some think that legalizing the term "Romanian language" improves the chances of possible unification with Romania, while others believe using only "Moldovan language" offers extra guarantees for the country's independence. Snegur submitted the initiative in April last year after a series of student protests against the constitution which designates the official language as Moldovan. -- Matyas Szabo

FORMER BULGARIAN LEADER CLEARED OF EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES.
On 9 February Todor Zhivkov, hardliner and last communist ruler of Bulgaria, was acquitted of charges of embezzling the equivalent of some $21 million in state funds, AFP reported that same day. Some four years earlier Zhivkov had been sentenced to seven years in prison on the same charges. Zhivkov said after this latest reversal by the country's Supreme Court, "I am happy...This disgraceful seven-year trail has discredited the Bulgarian people." Bulgarian dailies on 10 February reported that Milko Balev, former Zhivkov aide and Politburo member, was also acquitted. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER PROPOSES NEW GOVERNMENT . . .
Premier Branko Crvenkovski fired four Liberal Party cabinet ministers on 10 February, international agencies reported the same day. Former deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski will be replaced by former Interior Minister Ljubomir Frckovski. Former Economics Minister Risto Ivanov's position will be taken by former Development Minister Beqir Zhuta, who will also keep his position as vice premier. The new Interior Minister will be Tomislav Cokrevski, and Taki Fiti will replace Jane Miljovski as Finance Minister. The latter will also become deputy premier. The reshuffle also affects six other ministries. Branko Crvenkovski asked parliament to approve the new cabinet on 13 February. -- Fabian Schmidt

. . . PRESIDENT EXPRESSES SKEPTICISM.
President Kiro Gligorov criticized the government reshuffle, saying it "no longer represents the political formation which brought me to the head of the country and for which the electorate voted." Out of 20 new ministers, 13 will belong to the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, five to the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and two to the Socialists. The conflict between the former communist Social Democrats and the Liberals sharpened over the privatization of industry since mid 1995. Analysts, suggest that Liberal Party Leader Stojan Andov became rich over privatization. Meanwhile, rump Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said that "the normalization of relations [with Macedonia] will soon be formalized," MIC reported on 9 February. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Penny Morvant and Ustina Markus






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