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Newsline - February 15, 1996


YELTSIN ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY IN YEKATERINBURG.
In Yekaterinburg on 15 February, President Boris Yeltsin officially announced that he will seek a second term. He said that his electoral platform is "practically ready" but needs some "smoothing" and that he will return to the city to present it,
ITAR-TASS reported. The president said that he did not want to leave office when the future of reform still hangs in the balance. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN CALLS FOR SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION OF CHECHEN CONFLICT...
Yeltsin said that he hoped the Chechen war would be concluded before the presidential elections, arguing that "they are sending 18-year-old kids with no experience to fight against professionals, trained in camps in Turkey, Iran, and other countries, who are armed to the teeth." He asserted that he could not just pull the troops out, because in the case of Afghanistan, once the troops were withdrawn, "civil war flared up with new force." In issuing a decree on the establishment of a new anti-terrorist center, he demanded the capture of Chechen leaders Dzhokhar Dudaev, Salman Raduev, and Shamil Basaev, saying that they should be shot. -- Robert Orttung

...CRITICIZES PACE OF ARMY REFORM.
During his visit to Yekaterinburg, Russian President Boris Yeltsin expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of military reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. Yeltsin criticized Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, saying that "reform is proceeding badly, but Grachev seems to think it is going well." Disagreement among the top brass has hampered efforts to restructure the post-Soviet Russian military. Yeltsin said a special presidential commission is considering an overall concept of military reform. -- Constantine Dmitriev

...GETS MIXED RECEPTION FROM LOCAL
DIRECTORS.
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel recommended that local factory directors support
Yeltsin's reelection, but his call did not meet with unanimous support, Izvestiya reported on 15 February. At a meeting with Rossel, the directors complained that Yeltsin's current policies are damaging production and entrepreneurship. Viktor Korovin, director of Uralmash, said that people are looking for someone to blame and thus creating an atmosphere in which "extremist forces" could come to power. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS BACK ZYUGANOV.
A conference of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) opened on 15 February in Moscow to nominate Gennadii Zyuganov as the party's presidential candidate, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy KPRF leader Valentin Kuptsov said that the party had already collected 2.2 million signatures in his support. Kuptsov also asked the conference to support the candidacy of Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman Aman Tuleev. Tuleev's candidacy would attract more voters, and he would then withdraw in favor of Zyuganov. Duma member Anatolii Lukyanov said that Tuleev might become the vice president, a post that Yeltsin eliminated after his conflict with former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi and that could only be restored by amending the constitution. -- Robert Orttung

TsIK EXAMINES YELTSIN ELECTION VIOLATIONS.
At a meeting on 14 February, the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) found no evidence that the Railway and Communications Ministry had pressured its employees to sign petitions supporting Yeltsin's presidential candidacy, but it is still investigating another 46 complaints, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. When TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that the Communists have been the main force behind discussion of the incidents, Duma deputy Aleksandr Kravets protested that he was trying to deflect attention away from possible abuses. On 13 February, Selskaya zhizn reported new allegations of pressure and bribery during the campaign to collect signatures for Yeltsin, this time in Orenburg Oblast. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON MILITARY SERVICE LAW.
The Duma has again failed to override President Yeltsin's veto of proposed amendments to the law on military service that were approved by the previous Duma in December 1995 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 January 1996), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. The Duma Defense Committee strongly recommended that the Duma support Yeltsin. Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Nikolai Bezborodov said that approving amendments that shorten the service term for certain categories of draftees and exempt others would further aggravate the shortage of enlisted personnel in the military. -- Constantine Dmitriev

DUMA CANNOT AGREE ON LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER.
The Duma failed on 14 February to pass in the second reading a draft law that defines the position of the Russian Federation human rights commissioner, ITAR-TASS reported. Only 217 deputies voted in favor of the bill, which, as a constitutional law, requires 300 votes to pass. The law was passed in the first reading back in the summer of 1994 but has now failed on three occasions to clear the next hurdle, despite numerous amendments. According to Ekho Moskvy on 14 February, the Communists favor appointing Vladimir Isakov, an outspoken opponent of President Yeltsin, to the post of commissioner. The previous commissioner, Sergei Kovalev, was dismissed by the Duma early last year following his outspoken opposition to the government's military operation in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant

KARELIYA TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION.
A working group has been set up in Kareliya to consider proposed amendments to the republic's constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. Republican deputies are unhappy about provisions in the existing constitution, which was adopted two years ago, on the separation of powers between local legislative and executive bodies. In particular, they want the right to assess the performance of government members. The need for a two-chamber parliament in a republic with a population of only 800,000 has also been questioned, especially as the powers of the chambers sometimes contradict each other. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN REGIONS ON CHECHEN WAR.
Supporting the initiative of Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov, who on 12 January published an open letter to Yeltsin urging the president to end the Chechen war, various political organizations in Chuvashiya have started petitions calling for an end to the Russian military operation, Russian TV reported on 14 February. Meanwhile, Cossacks in Stavropol Krai have started a petition opposing groups that are collecting signatures in favor of an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya; they believe constitutional order must be established first, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

GUNMAN IN PYONGYANG EMBASSY KILLED.
The gunman who had forced his way into the Russian embassy compound in Pyongyang was killed (or committed suicide) during an operation by North Korean commandos, which had been approved by Russian diplomatic officials, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 February. The gunman, identified as Cho Myong-kil, 25, a sergeant in the North Korean security services, had killed three North Korean guards before entering the compound on 14 February, where he demanded political asylum. -- Scott Parrish

COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND EU OFFER RUSSIA AID PACKAGE.
Officials of the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe signed a 1.2 million ECU ($1.7 million) aid package for Russia designed to foster democratic institutions, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 February. The package, developed in consultation with Russian officials, aims to assist Russia to make the legal and human rights reforms it has pledged to carry out to comply with the standards laid out by the Council of Europe, which has invited Russia to become its 39th member. It contains six programs, which will assist the development of local government, human rights organizations, legal education, prison reform, and law enforcement. -- Scott Parrish

GROMOV DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF MILITARY AID TO AFGHANISTAN.
Interviewed on the seventh anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Col.-Gen. (ret.) Boris Gromov, now the chairman of the State Duma's subcommittee on international security, told an RFE/RL correspondent on 14 February that he could not confirm Western reports that Russia was providing technical aid to the Afghan government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Gromov, the last Soviet commander in Afghanistan, admitted some Russian military technicians might be in Afghanistan, but said he did not regard their work as "something negative." He said that there was a Russian-Afghan agreement that included military aid, but foreign ministry sources say there are no current military agreements, only an economic one. Many Western analysts contend that Russia is propping up the Rabbani government to prevent the opposition Taliban movement from taking power. -- Doug Clarke

RUSSIA EXPECTS TO INCREASE ARMS SALES TO IRAN AND TURKEY.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Trade revealed on 14 February that Tehran hopes to purchase $1 billion in military equipment from Russia over the next two years, and said arms sales to Iran in the next decade could total $4 billion, Russian and Western agencies reported. The official said $437 million of military-related goods were sold to Iran in 1994, accounting for over 85% of all Russian exports there. The United States reacted negatively to the news that Iran might purchase more Russian weapons, with State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns expressing "great concern" about the arms relationship between the two states. On 13 February, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov also predicted that Russia might sell NATO member Turkey up to $300 million in military equipment. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish

GAZPROM ANSWERS ITS CRITICS.
Valerii Remizov, deputy chairman of Gazprom, refuted charges by Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that the gas monopoly is a "parasite" on the state, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. Remizov claimed that Gazprom, which is still 40% state-owned, is paying more taxes than other companies and noted its ability to maintain its output level in recent years, while industrial output as a whole has fallen by 30%. The company's ability to pay more taxes is limited by the fact that it is owed 36 trillion rubles ($7.6 billion) by Russian customers and a further $2.2 billion by CIS customers. Belarus owes $910 million, and has paid nothing since the beginning of January. As a result, gas supplies to that country are being cut by 30% from 15 February. -- Peter Rutland



NIKOLAEV TOURS THE TRANSCAUCASUS.
The head of the Russian Federal Border Troops, Col.-Gen. Andrei Nikolaev, has toured the Transcaucasus states in an attempt to drum up support for a proposed common security system to guard the southern borders of the CIS, with or without the participation of Azerbaijan, Russian agencies reported. After meeting in Erevan on 12 February with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Nikolaev said financing of the Russian border troops in Armenia and Georgia had improved in 1995; he further described Armenian-Russian relations as harmonious, according to Noyan Tapan. Nikolaev discussed joint control of the Abkhaz sector of the Russian-Georgian border with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 13 February, Segodnya reported. The Georgian Parliamentary Press Service subsequently issued a statement saying that the Georgian parliament would only ratify the agreement on the status of Russian border troops in Georgia after the resolution of the Abkhaz conflict and after the Russian State Duma ratifies the Russian-Georgian Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

ABKHAZIA PROPOSES "FEDERAL UNION" WITH GEORGIA.
According to Anri Jergenia, a personal envoy of Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, Abkhazia has proposed the creation of a federal union of Georgia and Abkhazia, Russian media reported on 13 February. Abkhaz negotiators, who have been holding consultations with Russian officials in Moscow, submitted the proposal to Georgian ambassador Vazha Lordkipanidze at a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry. According to Jergenia, the proposed union would contain elements of both a federation and a confederation. Hitherto, Abkhazia has rejected Georgian proposals that Abkhazia become a federal unit within Georgia, favoring a confederation. -- Irakli Tsereteli

TOKAYEV CONCLUDES CHINA VISIT.
At the end of a three-day visit to China, Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev told ITAR-TASS in Beijing on 14 February that he shared Russia's concerns about NATO's eastward expansion. Tokayev and his Chinese hosts agreed to hold the third session of an intergovernmental commission on economic, trade, scientific, and technological cooperation in November in Beijing. A trade panel will meet in October to discuss measures to improve bilateral trade, which totaled only $390,000 in 1995. -- Bhavna Dave

KYRGYZ MUSLIMS STATE POSITION ON SALMAN RUSHDIE.
Seven years after Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa or death sentence on writer Salman Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses, Kyrgyzstan State Mufti Kimsanbay Abdurakhmanov has vowed that the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan "are ready to carry out this divine decree against the apostate," Reuters reported on 14 February, quoting the Iranian Republic News Agency (IRNA). Abdurakhmanov said that even if the Ayatollah had not issued the decree, "the Ulema of Central Asia would have given the same verdict today." -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINE NEEDS FUNDS NOW TO MEET CHORNOBYL CLOSURE DEADLINE.
Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko has said that procedures for obtaining credits from the West need to be simplified if Ukraine is to meet its deadline for shutting down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by 2000, UNIAN and Reuters reported on 13 February. Kostenko noted that according to current procedures, it will be 18 months before Kiev receives any funds for completing construction of new nuclear reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytsky atomic energy stations, which are to replacing Chornobyl's two still-functioning reactors. He warned it would take another 30-35 months to finish construction, after which the lengthy process of testing would have to begin. The minister said he would lobby at this year's G-7 summit to speed up the allocation of the $2.3 billion in loans promised by the G-7 powers for the shutdown. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT FINDINGS.
The Belarusian Constitutional Court has ruled that the rights of citizens as guaranteed by the country's constitution have not been upheld over the past year, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. The court found 16 legislative acts that either partly or fully contravened the constitution, including 12 presidential decrees. In addition, the court said it was "criminal" that the economic crisis in the country had not been dealt with. It stressed that there has been no real parliament for most of the year, almost paralyzing the legislative process and contravening the principle of balance of powers. -- Ustina Markus

PRIVATIZATION OF ESTONIAN AIR.
The Estonian Privatization Agency has received six offers to buy shares in the state-owned national airline, Estonian Air. Two-thirds of the company's stock is to be sold. The bidders were Scandinavian Airlines System, American Airlines, two Latvian aviation companies, and two Estonian companies currently holding talks with other West European air companies. The EPA, which has until 26 May to make a final decision, began negotiations with officials from the Scandinavian airlines on 14 February, ETA reported. The airline had a turnover of 306 million kroons ($26 million) and a deficit of several million kroons in 1995. -- Saulius Girnius

GAZPROM REDUCES GAS SUPPLY TO LITHUANIA.
The Russian concern Gazprom on 13 February reduced the daily amount of natural gas shipped to Lithuania from 12 to 9.1 million cubic meters after Lithuania failed to reduce its financial debt of $27 million. Linas Cepukonis, commercial director of Lietuvos Dujos, said gas supplies have been reduced to power companies. Interim prime minister Mindaugas Stankevicius sent a message to Gazprom on 14 February asking for the restoration of normal gas supplies and proposing that Gazprom accept government securities in partial payment of the debt, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES SEJM.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, presenting his political program to the Sejm on 14 February, declared he would seek to improve the credibility of Poland's state institutions. He also pledged a full investigation into spy allegations against his predecessor, Jozef Oleksy. Cimoszewicz promised to continue market reforms and to pursue Poland's goals of joining Western institutions, including the European Union and NATO. The Sejm is to take a vote of confidence in the new cabinet on 15 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTRY ON KALININGRAD-HRODNA TRANSIT ROAD.
Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski on 14 February commented on recent Russian and Belarusian press reports on the possible construction of a transit road and railway tracks linking Kaliningrad with Hrodna in Belarus via Poland. Dobrowolski said Polish experts' initial response is that Poland should not approve the project. Rzeczpospolita on 15 February comments that if Poland agreed to the links, it would strengthen Russian arguments against Poland's NATO membership. Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported recently that the idea of the transit road was raised by Kaliningrad Oblast governor Yurii Matochkin in a letter to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAKIA DEVELOPS RELATIONS WITH AUSTRIA, OECD.
Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar met with Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in Austria on 14 February to discuss bilateral ties, Slovak media reported. Vranitzky expressed support for the Visegrad countries' membership in the EU. Meciar assured Vranitzky that the Slovak-Hungarian treaty will be ratified in March and that Mochovce will be Slovakia's last nuclear plant. With regard to the August abduction of President Michal Kovac's son, Vranitzky stressed it is a matter for the courts, not a political one. Also on 14 February, Jean-Claude Paye, secretary-general of the OECD, held talks with top politicians in Bratislava over Slovakia's membership in the organization. Paye praised Slovakia's macroeconomic results and said full OECD membership is just "a matter of months." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY QUESTIONS BANK PRIVATIZATION.
Association of Workers of Slovakia Chairman Jan Luptak on 14 February criticized Meciar's plans to privatize the country's entire financial sector by mid-February, saying it requires more thought. Luptak told TASR that the issue has not been discussed at coalition meetings and that he fears it will have a negative impact on citizens. While his party's view differs from that of the other governing parties, it does not threaten the coalition's stability, Luptak stressed. Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik told OECD representatives on 14 February that privatization of the banking sector will be concluded in the first half of the year. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
The parliamentary caucus of the opposition Christian Democrats on 14 February re-elected Tamas Isepy as its leader after party president Gyorgy Giczy walked out of the meeting along with his supporters. Isepy said the vote has no political message and stressed that the parliamentary caucus will continue to support the president, Hungarian media reported. Also on 14 February, Lajos Fur, head of the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, announced he will not run for re-election as party president at the national convention in March. No reason was given for the decision. Sandor Lezsak, a founder of the forum, and executive president Ivan Szabo are the only candidates to date. -- Sharon Fisher



U.S. CALLS NEW BOSNIAN SUMMIT.
The State Department on 14 February announced a top-level meeting to be held in Rome on 16-17 February. Participants include the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, as well as the foreign ministers of the Contact Group countries. The BBC on 15 February reported that the purpose is to conduct "an intense overview" of the implementation of the Dayton agreement and impress upon the three presidents that they must meet their obligations. There will be no renegotiation of the treaty or approval of any breaks in the implementation schedule. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic will be pressed to bring the Bosnian Serbs back to the implementation process, while Croatia's Franjo Tudjman and Bosnia's Alija Izetbegovic will be told to end the feud over the reunification of Mostar. -- Patrick Moore

HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO INDICT MUSLIMS.
A spokesman for the International Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 14 February said that the court intends to issue its first indictments against Muslims soon. Serbs and Croats have charged that the tribunal is biased, since to date it has indicted 45 Serbs and seven Croats but no Muslims. The spokesman told the BBC, however, that the reason for the delay is that Belgrade and Zagreb have not cooperated in preparing cases against Muslims. Croatia said it wants to press charges against some Muslims who served in the rump Yugoslav army during its war against Croatia in 1991. Nasa Borba added on 15 February that the first trial at the court, namely that of the Serb concentration camp guard Dusan Tadic, is slated to begin on 7 May. Elsewhere, news agencies reported that the U.S. has again called on the Bosnian government to release the four remaining Serbs it is holding, since there are no charges of war crimes against them. -- Patrick Moore

IFOR WARNS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBIAN ATTACK.
U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, IFOR commander, warned in Sarajevo on 14 February that if Bosnian Serbs attacked his forces, it would be their "worst mistake," international media reported. He was responding to Vice President of the Republika Srpska Nikola Koljevic's threat the previous day of an "appropriate response" to the "illegal" detention of the Bosnian Serb soldiers by the Bosnian government. International media reported that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic equated their continued detention with a return to a state of war. While Smith highlighted the practical difficulties of NATO pursuing war criminals, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels that NATO was considering setting
up checkpoints to make it easier to encounter and detain such criminals. Meanwhile, Senator Bob Dole and three colleagues have sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton expressing "outrage" at reports that Karadzic avoided apprehension at NATO checkpoints over the weekend. -- Michael Mihalka

U.S. TROOPS FULLY DEPLOYED IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
The U.S. has completed the deployment of more than 23,000 troops in Bosnia and Croatia, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense John White said in Tuzla on 14 February, international media reported. He stressed that the troops will not remain longer than 12 months . Speaking earlier in Budapest, he said that "under the auspices of NATO," U.S. troops may extend their stay beyond a year at bases in southern Hungary." -- Michael Mihalka

SERBIAN GENERAL IN BOSNIAN ARMY TO BE SACKED?
The weekly Svijet on 8 February quoted General Jovan Divjak as saying Izetbegovic is trying to force him into retirement. Divjak is a Serb who remained loyal to a multi-ethnic Bosnia throughout the war. Almost one-fifth of the Bosnian army is non-Muslim, but critics charge that Izetbegovic is trying to subordinate it to his Muslim nationalist party. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba reported on 14 February that the Bosnian parliament has passed an amnesty law for soldiers in all three armies. It covers deserters but does not extend to war criminals. Its passage is considered crucial by Serbs who served in the Bosnian Serb army and are now concerned about their future under the Bosnian government. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN RADICAL LEADER TO VISIT THE HAGUE?
Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and accused war criminal, says he has applied for a visa to visit The Hague, Nasa Borba reported on 14 February. Seselj has claimed that he does not fear prosecution because he is not guilty of crimes against humanity and that Hague officials have backed him on this point, BETA reported on 12 February. Seselj, whose paramilitary Cetniks are thought to have committed some of the most heinous crimes against humanity during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, said he wishes to testify against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT IN KOSOVO.
Zoran Lilic has called on the Kosovar Albanians to "renounce separatism" and stop boycotting Serbian government institutions, AFP reported on 14 February. Lilic said that the "Albanians [are] contaminated by separatism [and] should give up this crazy idea since Kosovo will never secede from Serbia." Meanwhile, Vojislav Zivkovic, head of the Socialist Party of Serbia's Kosovo branch, said autonomy should not be restored, arguing it would only "encourage separatist aims." -- Fabian Schmidt

UPDATE ON MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT CRISIS.
Since Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski's decision to appoint a new government earlier this week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February), President Kiro Gligorov has twice made public statements aimed at saving the ruling coalition. Gligorov on 13 February admitted that the coalition has a poor track record but that he would continue to act as president on the basis of the coalition's platform. The new government reportedly will include only Gligorov's Social Democrats, the Party of Democratic Prosperity, and the Socialists. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS IN PROTEST OVER CORRUPTION AMONG JUDGES.
Gen. Ion Pitulescu on 14 February tendered his resignation in protest at what he called corruption among some magistrates, local and international media reported. Pitulescu said individuals involved in crime and corruption have repeatedly been set free or released on bail by some judges who drive expensive cars and live in luxurious villas, which, he said, they could not have bought on their incomes alone. Minister of Interior Doru Ioan Taracila, reportedly taken unawares by Pitulescu's statement, said he agreed with Pitulescu over the "system's failure to fight against offenders." It is unclear whether Pitulescu's resignation will be accepted. Taracila said he will discuss the matter with Pitulescu. -- Michael Shafir

MAJOR ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS.
The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic on 14 February announced it will submit to the parliament a resolution on early parliamentary elections. The party leadership proposed that the ballot take place in May, following the local elections, instead of in the fall. Emil Constantinescu, presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania, said there was a good chance that the parliament would pass the resolution in view of the legislature's changing structure. But it is unlikely elections will take place early since the laws on elections and political parties have not yet been passed by the parliament. -- Michael Shafir

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA.
Kostyantyn Hrishchenko, on a three-day working visit to Moldova, said he has a mandate from Kiev to look for new ways to solve the Dniester crisis and to consolidate peace in the region, Moldovan agencies reported on 13-14 February. Following his meeting in Tiraspol with Igor Smirnov, president of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, Hrishchenko said that given the large number of Ukrainians living in the Dniester region, Ukraine was interested in solving the conflict as soon as possible and in improving the economic situation in the region. Smirnov said Russia and Ukraine could become guarantors of stability in the region. Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popov recently suggested that "Ukrainian blue helmets might be included in the peacekeeping troops." -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN INTELLECTUALS ON ZHELEV'S CANDIDACY.
Accord for Bulgaria, an association of Bulgarian intellectuals, on 14 February announced its support for President Zhelyu Zhelev's candidacy for a second term, Trud reported. The intellectuals said they are content with the way Zhelev answered their questions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 February 1996) and will start consultations with all opposition forces for a joint presidential candidate. The writer Georgi Mishev called the Presidency "the last fortress against a total seizure of power" by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA TO SEND POLICE TO BOSNIA.
The Bulgarian parliament on 14 February approved dispatching 50 police officers to Bosnia, Bulgarian and international media reported. The officers will form part of an international police force under UN auspices and will remain in Bosnia for up to one year. Bulgaria has also offered to send a 350-strong pioneer battalion if its mission is internationally funded. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY BANS NATIONALIST PARTY.
The Albanian Justice Ministry has refused to register the Party of National Reconstruction, Reuters reported on 14 February. Justice Minister Hektor Frasheri said the party's manifesto accepts directly or indirectly the use of force to achieve its aims, including "liberating" the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The National Reconstruction Party argued that the ministry has overstepped its competence, and it denied endorsing violent or non-democratic means. It will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREEK MEDIA LAMBASTED FOR COVERAGE OF ISLET CRISIS.
The Greek National Audiovisual Council on 14 February said three domestic TV channels provided coverage of the recent Greek-Turkish crisis that was "lacking in journalistic ethics," AFP reported the same day. Mega, Antenna, and Star--which together account for about half of audience ratings--were criticized for bombarding viewers with footage of Turkish soldiers planting their flag on the disputed islet of Imia/Kardak. The commission said it "did not consider the journalists responsible but rather the heads of the stations." Parliamentary President Apostolos Kaklamanis last week accused the stations of disseminating "Turkish propaganda." Meanwhile, the opposition criticized the government for seeking "to gag the media to conceal its dangerous fiasco over the Imia crisis." -- Stefan Krause

TURKISH ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRITAIN.
Deniz Baykal arrived in London on 14 February to discuss with his British counterpart, Malcolm Rifkind, the crisis last month over the Kardak-Imia islet in the Aegean, international media reported the same day. Baykal has begun recently to adopt a more conciliatory line, while continuing to push for direct negotiations between Athens and Ankara over disputed islets in the Aegean. Rifkind noted the "tremendous need" for such a dialogue, saying he would appeal for direct talks when he goes to Athens next week. Baykal is currently visiting various European capitals to garner support from among Turkey's allies. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave



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