Accessibility links

Newsline - February 14, 1996


GAIDAR CALLS ON YELTSIN NOT TO RUN.
Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar called on President Boris Yeltsin not to run for re-election, saying it would "virtually guarantee" Zyuganov's victory in the runoff, Express-Khronika reported on 14 February. Gaidar has rejected an alliance with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, arguing that "many democrats have refused to vote for him under any conditions." Gaidar believes that Yeltsin's exit would open the door for more palatable candidates, such as Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov or Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. A recent VCIOM poll suggested that Zyuganov would beat Yeltsin or Zhirinovsky in the second round, but would lose to Yavlinskii. -- Robert Orttung

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PREPARE TO ANNOUNCE.
On 14 February President Boris Yeltsin travelled to his hometown of Yekaterinburg, where he is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency the next day, Russian media reported. Also on 15 February the Communist Party of the Russian Federation will convene a national conference which is expected to nominate Gennadii Zyuganov as its presidential candidate. On 13 February Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev claimed that a number of other left and nationalist candidates will withdraw in favor of Zyuganov, including Sergei Baburin, Vasilii Starodubtsev, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Petr Romanov, and Aman Tuleev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. He even included Lt.Gen (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed on the list, although Lebed himself has given no public indication of such an intention. -- Peter Rutland

MEDVEDEV DENIES LOCKING NTV OUT OF KREMLIN.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said he was "surprised" by NTV's claim that it had been denied access to the Kremlin, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Medvedev said that there are varying degrees of access to events and that journalists cover them on a rotating basis because there is not enough room for everyone. Medvedev contended that NTV's statement was an attempt to attract larger audiences, a method he described as "regrettable." While NTV stuck to its guns, Aleksei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Fund, described its charges as a "canard," Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 14 February. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA SEEKS FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE FROM PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION.
At a meeting with presidential administration business manager Pavel Borodin, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that the Duma should be funded directly by the Finance Ministry rather than via the presidential administration as is now the case, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 14 February. Seleznev said such a change is necessary to make it clear that the president does not control the Duma. He said that when the pay of Duma members and and staff was delayed in January, many believed that it was because the president disliked the new Duma rather than the result of general difficulties in paying state sector employees. -- Robert Orttung

CAMPAIGN PROMISES COST MORE THAN 41 TRILLION RUBLES.
The president's recent promises to increase social spending on the eve of the elections could increase budget expenditure by as much as 41 trillion rubles ($8.6 billion), Andrei Illarionov, the director of the Institute for Economic Analysis, argued in Izvestiya on 14 February. In the past six weeks, he said, Yeltsin has promised higher pensions and student stipends, greater benefits for miners, higher defense spending, and large sums to rebuild Chechnya. Illarionov argues that such spending could drive inflation to 10% a month, cause the International Monetary Fund to deny Russia further credits, and increase the budget deficit. -- Robert Orttung

LDPR SAYS NEMTSOV ATTEMPTED TO KILL ZHIRINOVSKY.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Duma faction has accused Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov of attempting to kill party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aleksei Batogov from the faction's press office told OMRI on 14 February. Batogov alleged that Nemtsov hired an assassin for $5,000 but that the killer decided not to commit the muder "after he listened to a speech by Zhirinovsky." He also said that Nemtsov was possibly planning to assassinate President Yeltsin. The LDPR has called on federal authorities to sack Nemtsov from the post of governor and arrest him. Earlier this week, the deputy leader of the LDPR's Duma faction was shot and wounded by unknown assailants (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). -- Anna Paretskaya

TALMUD PUBLISHED IN RUSSIAN.
The first volume of the Babylonian Talmud in Russian was presented at the Moscow Mayor's Office on 13 February, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first time since before 1917 that the Talmud, the central work of Jewish civilization, has been published in Russia. It was translated from the original Aramaic and Old Hebrew by Israeli Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who has the title of spiritual rabbi of Russian Jews. The full Babylonian Talmud is about 2.5 million words long, and Steinsaltz estimates that, along with commentaries and interpretations, the Russian version could fill 150 to 200 volumes. -- Anna Paretskaya

GUNMAN ATTACKS RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA.
An unidentified Korean gunman burst into the Russian trade mission in Pyongyang on 14 February and exchanged gunfire with North Korean police guards, killing three and wounding others, ITAR-TASS reported. Citing anonymous Russian sources at the Pyongyang embassy, where the trade mission is located, the agency said that no Russian personnel had been injured and that negotiations are now under way with the gunman, who is demanding political asylum but is not holding any hostages. Russian relations with North Korea have been strained since the Soviet Union recognized South Korea in 1990. The incident could heighten tension, since a 1957 Soviet-North Korean Treaty obligating each country to repatriate fugitives accused of crimes in the other remains in force. -- Scott Parrish

FSB DENIES ADMITTING SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM IN GERMANY CAME FROM RUSSIA.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a statement to ITAR-TASS on 13 February denying that it had sent a letter to the German Justice Ministry admitting that plutonium seized by German agents at the Munich airport in August 1994 came from Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). The statement asserted that the FSB had sent a letter to Bonn requesting that samples of the "radioactive material" seized in Munich be sent to Moscow for testing, adding that the origin of the material could be determined only after such tests were completed. The FSB also criticized Germany for failing to respond to the request, thereby hampering its investigation, and accused German media of fostering the impression that Russia cannot adequately guard its nuclear arsenal by intentionally misquoting excerpts from the letter. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA CRITICIZES ARREST OF BOSNIAN SERB OFFICERS.
On 13 February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin protested the transfer of Bosnian Serb General Djorje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). According to Russian and Western agency reports, Karasin described the transfer of the two officers as "unacceptable" and warned that it could undermine the implementation of the Dayton Accords. Karasin said Russia planned to discuss the incident with both the International Tribunal and the other members of the international Contact Group. -- Scott Parrish

SELEZNEV ENDORSES START II TREATY.
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 13 January that he supports the ratification of START II, Russian and Western agencies reported. The communist Seleznev, cautioned, however, that enlargement of NATO or the withdrawal of the United States from the 1972 ABM Treaty would kill any chance of ratification. He added that ratification would not be "simple" but concluded that most deputies would eventually support the treaty because "we simply do not have the economic means" to maintain the current nuclear arsenal. Earlier remarks by communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that his party might not support the treaty. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that military officers will present expert testimony on the treaty to several Duma committees on 19 February. -- Scott Parrish

COAL MINING MAYORS UNITE.
The mayors of 38 towns in mining regions met in Moscow on 12 February to form an Association of Coal Mining Towns, Radio Rossii reported the same day. Association President Vladimir Astafev, mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, insisted that the group will discuss social issues such as miners' pensions and "will not engage in political battles." Yet in the next breath he went on to voice support for the re-election of President Yeltsin. Comentators suggested that the initiative for forming the association came from the presidential administration. -- Peter Rutland

WAGE ARREARS SPARK MORE STRIKES.
Workers at Promtraktor, Russia's largest tractor plant, in Cheboksari, Chuvashiya, went on strike on 12 February, Russian Television reported. The workers, who have not been paid since September, held a meeting addressed by radical communist leader Viktor Anpilov. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, wage arrears in Russia now total 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion), of which 3 trillion are in federal budget agencies, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. The head of the federal labor inspectorate, Vladimir Varovoi, told Trud on 14 February that inspections show that 90% of firms that were late paying wages did in fact have money available. -- Peter Rutland and Penny Morvant

SCIENTISTS JOIN PROTESTS.
Scientists held meetings to protest wage arrears in St. Petersburg and other scientific centers on 13 February, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1995, the Russian Academy of Sciences received only two-thirds of the money allocated to it in the federal budget. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kinelev told ITAR-TASS that by the end of February 436 billion rubles ($92 million) will be transfered to the Academy to eliminate their debts. he said that a bigger problem is the 1.5 trillion rubles owed to secondary school teachers, since that comes out of local budgets. The number of scientific workers has fallen by two-thirds since 1992. -- Peter Rutland

NOVOROSSIISK STEAMSHIP GETS $225 MILLION LOAN.
Russia's largest tanker fleet company, Novorossiisk Steamship, signed a $225 million credit deal with 13 foreign banks, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 13 February. Out of that, $60 million will be granted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The credit will be used to buy 11 tankers to be built in Croatia. On 13 December a daughter company of Novorossiisk Steamship, Novoship, bought a 20% stake in the company in a loans-for-shares auction. -- Natalia Gurushina



MINERS IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN ON HUNGER STRIKE.
About 25 miners in Kentau in southern Kazakhstan, who have not been paid for 15 months, have begun an indefinite hunger strike, an ITAR-TASS correspondent reported on 14 February from the Press Bureau of the Independent Trade Union of Kazakhstan. The union speculated that the strike could spark countrywide mass protests as wages are long overdue in a number of other state enterprises as well. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS CHINA.
Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev, who is on a three-day visit to China, assured his counterpart Qian Qichen of Kazakhstan's support for the "one China" policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Tokayev said that the Kazakhstani government has set up a demarcation committee on the bilateral border agreement that went into effect last September. Tokayev's visit is seen as a preparation for a five-nation border summit to be held in April in Shanghai on creating a 100 km demilitarized zone between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan and China share a 1,700 km border, some parts of which are disputed. -- Bhavna Dave

GOVERNMENT CONVOY AMBUSHED IN TAJIKISTAN, 22 REPORTED DEAD.
A convoy bringing supplies to government troops in Tavil Dara was ambushed on 11 February, killing 22 people, according to Russian and Western sources. The convoy was attacked near the village of Sicharog in the Komsomolabad region about 100 km from the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 12 February that the battle lasted several hours and that 22 border guards were killed during the fighting. -- Bruce Pannier

SHEVARDNADZE CRACKS DOWN ON GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered the public prosecutor, the auditing department, and the Interior Ministry to examine the government's financial activity over the last six years for possible incidents of corruption, Russian media reported on 12 February. Shevardnadze stated that "outrageous instances of corruption" had come to light in the government, including among deputy prime ministers. -- Irakli Tsereteli



UKRAINIAN SECURITY CHIEFS FIRED OVER CHINESE SPY CASE.
President Leonid Kuchma has dismissed acting head of the Ukrainian Security Service Ukraine (SBU) Andrii Khomych and head of the service in Dnipropetrovsk Volodymyr Sobodenyuk, Reuters and AFP reported on 14 February. Head of the National Security Council Volodymyr Horbulin did not directly link the dismissals to the January deportation of three Chinese nationals for alleged spying, but it is clear that there is a link. The Chinese were expelled for illegally appropriating ICBM designs from the Pivdenmash rocket plant in Dnipropetrovsk. Beijing denied they were spies and demanded that Kiev take appropriate action over the incident. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the incident a misunderstanding, saying that some Ukrainians had tried to pass sensitive information to the Chinese without authorization. Horbulin said the SBU officials forgot they did not have ultimate authority over such information and had thereby caused an international scandal. China is one of Ukraine's main trading partners. Kiev has recently been seeking to expand ties with Beijing. -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIA REMOVES UKRAINE FROM POWER GRID.
Russia has removed Ukraine from their joint electricity grid after noting a surge in demand that the grid could not handle, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 13 February. Energy Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Liven said it was unlikely that Ukraine will be reconnected anytime soon. The cut-off forced a number of factories to close. Meanwhile, Kiev is considering temporarily closing major industrial sites to prevent the collapse of the entire system. The cut-off comes amid severe weather conditions and a coal miners' strike. -- Ustina Markus

MERGER OF ESTONIAN POLITICAL PARTIES.
The Estonian Rural Center Party and the Social Democratic Party, which formed an election alliance for last year's parliamentary elections, met on 12 February to exchange their position on main policy issues, BNS reported the next day. They also set up a working group to draw up a draft program for a new formation, which is to be called the Moderate Party. The reformed Communists of Estonia's Democratic Labor Party (EDT) made another effort to establish closer ties with the SDP in the hope of setting up an alliance of left-wing forces. The SDP rejected a previous appeal saying that the EDT must first clearly renounce its communist past. -- Saulius Girnius

DANISH DELEGATION IN LATVIA.
A Danish parliamentary delegation, headed by parliamentary speaker Erling Olsen, held talks on 12 February with Prime Minister Andris Skele and President Guntis Ulmanis. The next day, the delegation agreed to an exchange of visits with Latvia's parliamentary deputies and discussed the possibility of introducing visa-free travel between the two countries, BNS reported. The Danes said the ongoing training of Latvian troops in Denmark for peacekeeping duties in Bosnia was an example of successful cooperation. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PREMIER CANDIDATE REVEALS KEY GOALS.
President Algirdas Brazauskas on 13 February formally presented Mindaugas Stankevicius to the Seimas as his candidate for prime minister, Radio Lithuania reported. Although pledging to continue the program of the previous government, Stankevicius said his key goal is the revival of the economy, Radio Lithuania reported. He pledged to "do everything possible" to attract foreign banks to Lithuania, to increase the number of establishments to be privatized, to develop small businesses and promote investment, to modernize the tax system, and to improve relations between central authorities and local governments. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH MARTIAL LAW SUIT TO BE DISCONTINUED?
Following four years of deliberations, the Sejm Commission on Constitutional Oversight on 13 February announced it will recommend to the Sejm that General Wojciech Jaruzelski and other authors of 1981 martial law do not face prosecution. The opposition continues to insist that the former members of the Military Council of National Salvation and the State Council of the Polish People's Republic should appear before the State Tribunal. Meanwhile, the Gdansk District Court has set a date for the first trial of people linked to the December 1970 massacre, in which 44 people were killed by military and police units. Jaruzelski, at the time defense minister, is among the defendants. His lawyer has filed an appeal to discontinue the lawsuit, claiming his client should appear before the Constitutional Tribunal instead, Polish dailies reported on 14 February. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

SLOVAK CABINET ASKS PRESIDENT TO VETO ANTI-COMMUNIST LAW.
The Slovak government on 13 February rejected the retroactive nature of the law on the immorality and illegality of the communist regime and asked Michal Kovac not to sign it, Narodna obroda reported. The law was passed by the parliament earlier this month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February 1996). The cabinet also approved a blueprint for the establishing a permanent CEFTA Secretariat in Bratislava, which would have 15 employees. According to government spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova, the National Property Fund will decide on the privatization of Slovakia's financial sector by the end of February, two weeks later than the date given by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Meanwhile, the cabinet agreed that a decision will be made on Slovakia's new territorial arrangement by the end of the month. -- Sharon Fisher

AUSTRIAN POLICE QUESTION FORMER SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE AGENT.
Oskar F., who made headlines last fall when he accused the Slovak Information Service of involvement in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, on 13 February told his story to Austrian investigators, Sme reported. Czech TV the same day broadcast details of a "secret" meeting between Oskar F. and Sme editor Peter Toth in which Oskar F. reasserted previous accusations of SIS involvement in the kidnapping of Kovac Jr. According to Czech TV, Oskar F.'s family is now being harassed and he wants to seek asylum in a "democratic country." -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES INCOME TAX AMENDMENT.
The parliament and coalition partners are considering amending the income tax law, passed by the parliament last December, Hungarian media reported on 13 February. The opposition has called for fewer tax burdens and for the 48% tax rate on annual incomes over 900,000 forints to be lowered. The junior coalition partner Alliance of Free Democrats, which did not vote in favor of the bill, supported the amendment. It also reminded the Socialists about the negative impact of the new tax brackets. In a related development, the Finance Ministry plans to introduce a "social insurance tax "in order to reduce the 60 billion forints social insurance deficit. The Justice Ministry warned that the Constitutional Court would most probably declare such a provision unconstitutional. The Pension Insurance Commission said that a new tax would further increase tax evasion and strengthen the black economy. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN IMBROGLIO OVER DETAINEES CONTINUES.
Oslobodjenje on 14 February reported that the Bosnian Serbs are still holding the photo journalist Hidajet Delic, whom they have charged with war crimes. Pale's interior minister, Dragan Kijac, informed NATO of the case, which follows Delic's arrest in the Serb-held suburb of Grbavica on 9 February. The Union of Journalists of Bosnia-Herzegovina has protested to the international community's Carl Bildt and to Bosnian Serb journalists about the affair. Meanwhile, AFP on 13 February quoted Bosnian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mirza Hajric as confirming that the government continues to hold four Serbs whom it arrested at the end of January. Hajric said that one might be released soon but there may be a case against the other three. Under the terms of the compromise worked out by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, only those persons whom the Hague tribunal has already indicted for war crimes may now be arrested on such charges. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS CONTINUE BOYCOTT.
Bosnian Serbs are continuing their boycott of dealings with international agencies, international media reported on 14 February. A NATO spokesman in Sarajevo said that contacts with Bosnian Serb army officers are "non-existent" at the most senior level and "spotty" lower down. The Bosnian Serb army seems to be complying with an order by its commander Ratko Mladic on 8 February to break contacts with NATO over the Bosnian government's detention of several Bosnian Serb soldiers. Meanwhile, the OSCE said that Bosnian Serb representatives did not attend arms control talks in Vienna on 13 February. Robert Frowick, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo that the Bosnian Serbs were also boycotting the talks on elections. Frowick maintained, however, that the boycott was not harming preparations for the elections. -- Michael Mihalka

NATO TO RECEIVE BETTER INFO ON INDICTED WAR CRIMINALS.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry has said IFOR will receive better information and photographs on indicted war criminals, international media reported. But he added that "we are not going to do manhunts." His statement comes in the wake of reports that Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic passed unhindered through IFOR checkpoints. A U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the U.S. could not confirm those reports, which, he said, came from Bosnian Serb officials. The spokesman stressed that the purpose of the checkpoints was to control the movement of arms and military personnel, not civilians. -- Michael Mihalka

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT IN SARAJEVO.
International media on 13 February reported that Milan Kucan arrived in Bosnia the same day in an effort to "reconstitute good [bilateral] economic ties." Kucan also said he fully supported Bosnia's "multicultural, multinational, and multireligious society." He was accompanied by Economy Minister Janko Dezelak. -- Stan Markotich

BELGRADE REACTS TO EXTRADITION OF WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS.
Belgrade has said that the extradition to the Hague of Bosnian Serb Gen. Djordje Djukic and Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic for questioning has put a severe strain on the regional peace process. Federal rump Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic said the move was "one-sided and biased" and was aggravating the Bosnian Serbs, who, he added, may become irreversibly distrustful of both The Hague and the NATO presence in Bosnia. He added that "we are now just a step away from a more dangerous reaction or incident." Meanwhile, international media reported that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met with a delegation of Bosnian Serbs on 13 February. No details of the meeting have been revealed. -- Stan Markotich

PRESSURE ON ZAGREB OVER CROAT-MUSLIM FEDERATION.
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, meeting with his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, in Zagreb, said Bonn's support is not unconditional and that Croatia must help reunify Mostar in keeping with the Dayton accords. Granic replied that his country is not willing to do so under the arbitration package drawn up by the EU's German administrator in Mostar, Hans Koschnick, which Croatia and the local Croats say favors the Muslims. International media on 13 February added that President Bill Clinton's envoy, Robert Galucci, stated his support for Koschnick. Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak, who is also the most influential Herzegovinian Croat, seems to be getting a similar message during his current visit to Washington. Meanwhile in Zagreb, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke arrived for talks with President Franjo Tudjman aimed at shoring up the shaky Federation, Onasa reported. It quoted him as calling the situation in Mostar "quite serious" and warning that "we need to make the federation work or else there is going to be a disaster in Bosnia." -- Patrick Moore

HERZEGOVINIAN-BASED CROAT COUNCIL ABOLISHES QUASI-STATE.
The Presidential Council of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna met in Mostar on 13 February and approved measures to transform itself from a quasi-state into a political organization. Croats regard the entity as a form of protection against their being dwarfed by the more numerous Muslims in the Federation, while the Muslims see it as secessionist. The Council also voted to resume contacts to the EU to seek a settlement in Mostar, Onasa quoted Habena as reporting. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN DEPUTY PREMIER WAVES GUN AT JOURNALIST.
The Croatian Journalists' Association has protested over the government's silence following an incident in which Deputy Prime Minister Borislav Skegro brandished a pistol in the face of a journalist from Novi list, the country's only independent daily. Her paper on 14 February also ran an article on the press conference of Milorad Pupovac, who heads the Independent Serbian Party of Croatia. Pupovac warned against tendencies to equate calls for protecting minority rights with treason. -- Patrick Moore

UN CHANGES UNPREDEP MANDATE.
The UN Security Council on 13 February unanimously approved changes in the mandate of the UNPREDEP forces stationed in Macedonia, Reuters reported the same day. The council agreed to allow UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali to appoint an UNPREDEP force commander, in effect making UNPREDEP an independent mission reporting directly to New York. So far, it was part of UNPROFOR and reported to its headquarters in Zagreb. The Security Council also approved sending another 50 soldiers to join the 1,100-strong force. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIA, HUNGARY TO RESUME BASIC TREATY TALKS.
Romania and Hungary on 13 February agreed to resume talks on a basic treaty at the beginning of March and on Romanian President Ion Iliescu's reconciliation initiative later this month, Romanian and international media reported. Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister Marcel Dinu told his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Ferenc Somogyi, that Romania's 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections will not influence the talks. Somogyi said Iliescu's proposed meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn in March could result in the signing of the basic treaty. He added, however, that it was not necessary for the two countries to join NATO at the same time and that Hungary's earlier admission would not have a destabilizing effect on the region. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, in Bucharest on 13 February, urged the two countries to sign the treaty if they wanted to be admitted into NATO. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN MINORITY CONCERNED ABOUT DRAFT LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
A spokesman for the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) told OMRI on 14 February that the draft law on political parties, currently being debated in the Senate, is causing concern within the UDMR. Anton Niculescu said this was due to provisions requiring political parties to have branches in at least 21 of the 41 administrative counties and allowing minority ethnics to set up their own organizations or become members of political parties but forbidding them to set up ethnic political formations. The UDMR--defined as an umbrella organization of political, cultural, and professional organizations of the Hungarian minority open to all nationalities--would not be prevented from running in the elections under the new law. Nonetheless, Niculescu said, the new regulations pose a potential danger. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON REASONS FOR SEEKING RE-ELECTION.
Zhelyu Zhelev, responding to questions posed by a group of intellectuals a month ago, on 13 February summed up what he considers his main achievements as president to date and his reasons for seeking re-election, Standart reported. Zhelev singled out the peaceful transition from communism to democracy, the absence of ethnic strife, and continued unity within the army. With regard to his credentials as president, Zhelev said he took his work seriously, did not seek personal gain from his office, and always put Bulgaria above party interests. Asked about his role in the fall of the government of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) in October 1992, for which the SDS blamed mainly him, he said neither he nor the SDS had wanted it to happen but that he takes his "share of the responsibility." -- Stefan Krause

DID ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ORDER INDEPENDENT DAILIES CLOSED?
Koha Jone on 13 February reports that Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni last week signed an official document ordering the director of the printing house Demokracia not to print 14 periodicals beginning on 23 February. According to Koha Jone, Vrioni argued that the periodicals were registered at the Tirana Licensing Court as magazines or weeklies but are in fact regular newspapers. The order affects, among others, Koha Jone, Albania, Dita Informacion, Populli Po, Aleanca, and AKS. Koha Jone called the order "absurd," saying it has registered all its publications properly and calling Vrioni's move a "war against the independent press." Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Alliance leader Neritan Ceka has predicted that the Democratic Party will abuse its power to make unfair use of public Radio and Television in the upcoming election campaign. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREECE WILL NOT TAKE ISLET CASE TO COURT.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on 13 February said that Greece will not take the case of a disputed islet to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, international agencies reported the same day. Both Athens and Ankara claim the islet, which the Greeks call Imia and the Turks Kardak. Pangalos said the Greek government "will not seek recourse anywhere because it does not contest or doubt anything." But it added that "if someone else goes to the Hague, then we will deal with it." -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave




XS
SM
MD
LG