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
MEDVEDEV DENIES LOCKING NTV OUT OF KREMLIN.
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
DUMA SEEKS FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE FROM PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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. --
UKRAINIAN SECURITY CHIEFS FIRED OVER CHINESE SPY CASE.
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
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.
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
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. --
SLOVAK CABINET ASKS PRESIDENT TO VETO ANTI-COMMUNIST LAW.
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.
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.
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." --
HERZEGOVINIAN-BASED CROAT COUNCIL ABOLISHES QUASI-STATE.
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.
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.
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?
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
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