INGUSH SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS.
Council of Ingushetiya, meeting at night on 24 February, denounced a military
operation being carried out by federal troops in the republic as
unconstitutional and demanded the withdrawal of the units, Russian media
reported. According to Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, army units and Interior
Ministry troops entered the republic on 21 February and sealed off two Ingush
villages near the Ingush-Chechen border, Arshty and Dattykh. According to
commanders from the 58th Army, Chechen militants ambushed Russian troops en
route through Ingushetiya near Arshty, killing 14 of them, NTV reported. The
Ingush government claims that the federal air force bombed Arshty and the
Chechen village of Bamut on 23 February, killing seven civilians. The Defense
Ministry denies that it used aviation and artillery in the area. -- Anna
ZYUGANOV LEADS PRESIDENTIAL POLLS.
A VCIOM poll shows that Gennadii
Zyuganov continues to lead the presidential preference polls with 18% support,
3% more than a month ago, NTV reported on 25 February. Zhirinovsky is in second
place with 10%, up 1% from a month ago, and Yeltsin is third with 8%, up 2%
from January. Yavlinskii dropped from 11% to 8% during the last month and lost
his former second place position. KRO leader Aleksandr Lebed dropped from 8% to
7%. These figures include the 37% of repondents who said they do not intend to
vote. If they are excluded, Zyuganov's score rises to 24% and Yeltsin's to 9%.
Zyuganov was the first candidate to turn in the 1 million signatures necessary
to run, the BBC reported. -- Robert Orttung
ZYUGANOV SLAMS YELTSIN SPEECH.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
denounced President Boris Yeltsin's 23 February speech to the parliament,
saying that it was a "populist" speech that had "no conceptual view of the
development of the country nor an honest, critical evaluation of everything
that is taking place," NTV reported on 23 February. Vladimir Zhirinovsky
supported the speeches' "centrist policy" of denouncing "capitalist ministers
and communist deputies" in the Duma. Duma Deputy Galina Staro-voitova described
it as a "campaign speech" in which the president simultaneously spoke as the
head of state and as an opposition leader criticizing his own policies, Radio
Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung
ILYUSHIN NOW KEY YELTSIN ADVISER.
First Presidential Aide Viktor
Ilyushin is now Yeltsin's key adviser, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta
on 23 February. With the removal of Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov,
he controls most personnel decisions. The article also asserts that the head of
Yeltsin's security service, Alexander Korzhakov, is losing influence while the
current chief of staff, Nikolai Yegorov, is an "independent and weighty"
figure. Yeltsin is unhappy with Korzhakov because of the "scorched earth"
tactics used recently in the Chechen conflict. -- Robert Orttung
SOSKOVETS FAILS TO EXPLAIN CAMPAIGN OFFICE TO DUMA.
First Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Soskovets failed to testify before the Duma on the activities of
the office on preparing for the presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported on
23 February. Instead, he sent a letter saying that he thought it is "pointless"
for the Duma to examine the issue. Many deputies believe that the president is
using Soskovets' office to funnel state money into his campaign. At a press
conference following his meeting with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus,
Soskovets said the president had asked him to organize his re-election
campaign, Russian Public TV reported. -- Robert Orttung
HOSTAGES IN CHECHNYA.
Eleven Russian power plant workers were kidnapped
on 23 February in Grozny, then released when their captors' truck broke down,
ITAR-TASS reported the same day. A group of 29 power workers were seized on 16
January and are still in captivity. Other hostages held by Chechen rebels
include 36 Russian construction workers, three Russian Orthodox priests, a
Muslim cleric, two ministers of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, and nine
Chechen police officers. The State Duma commission on hostages and POWs
negotiated the release of 12 Novosibirsk OMON police officers who had been
seized during the Pervomaiskoe raid last month. They were released in Dagestan
on 19 February in exchange for 11 Chechen fighters, captured in Pervomaiskoe,
who had been amnestied by the State Duma. -- Peter Rutland
Moskovskie novosti correspondent Aleksandr
Krutov was beaten by two men in the Volga region city of Saratov, NTV reported
on 23 February, citing the Defense of Glasnost Foundation. The journalist was
hit over the head with metal pipe more than 10 times. The attack is thought
have been a response to an article written by Krutov for Moskovskie
novosti in early February, titled, "The Chechen syndrome in the Volga
region." -- Anna Paretskaya
FBI ARRESTS SUSPECTED SOVIET SPY.
The FBI arrested Robert Stephan Lipka,
50, a former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), on charges of
espionage, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 February. Lipka worked
at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland from 1964-67, where he had access
to top-secret intelligence communications data. ITAR-TASS reported that the FBI
arrest warrant for Lipka cited passages from retired KGB Maj.-Gen. Oleg
Kalugin's book, The First Directorate. In the book, Kalugin, a former
head of the KGB's foreign counterintelligence operations who served at the
Soviet Embassy in Washington in the late 1960s, describes an unidentified
Soviet agent who worked at the NSA. The agency suggested that Kalugin's book
may have played a key role in Lipka's arrest. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA UNILATERALLY SUSPENDS SANCTIONS ON BOSNIAN SERBS.
Yeltsin issued a directive on 23 February unilaterally withdrawing Russia from
UN sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs, Russian and Western media reported.
Russian UN Representative Sergei Lavrov told journalists the directive
implemented UN resolution 1,022, passed in November 1995, which called for the
automatic suspension of the sanctions after Bosnian Serb forces withdrew behind
separation lines designated in the Dayton accords. A formal UN Security Council
suspension of the sanctions has been blocked by disagreement between Russia and
the U.S. over whether the Bosnian Serbs had met those conditions (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 13 and 16 February 1996). A U.S. spokesman called the Russian
decision "premature" but described the differences between Russia and the other
members of the Security Council as technical, rather than substantive. -- Scott
YELTSIN ON FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES.
In his State of the Nation Address
on 23 February, President Yeltsin mentioned the possible expansion of NATO as
the most serious current challenge to Russian interests, ITAR-TASS reported.
The president also expressed concern with Western policies which attempt to
limit Russian influence in the CIS, marginalize Russia's role in the Yugoslav
settlement, and undermine the 1972 ABM treaty. Among the accomplishments of
Russian foreign policy, Yeltsin mentioned accelerated CIS integration, warming
ties with China, Russian admission to the Council of Europe, and ongoing
nuclear arms reductions. Yeltsin also appeared to undermine his own warnings
about NATO expansion when he declared that for the first time this century,
Russia does not face any real military threat. -- Scott Parrish
ORTHODOX CHURCHES DISPUTE OVER ESTONIA.
The decision of the
Constantinople patriarchate to reinstate its jurisdiction over the Estonian
Apostolic Orthodox Church evoked a sharp protest from the Russian Orthodox
Church on 23 February, Western agencies reported. The Moscow patriarch formally
suspended relations with Constantinople. The Estonian church split from Moscow
in 1919 and its leadership moved to Stockholm during World War II. After
independence was restored, the church registered again in Estonia. This move
prevented Orthodox believers who wanted to be subordinate to Moscow to register
under the same time. The Russian Orthodox Church has accused the Estonian
authorities of having an anti-Russian policy. -- Saulius Girnius
ANTI-CORRUPTION DRIVE INTENSIFIES.
President Boris Yeltsin pledged to
wage a war on corruption in his state of the nation speech on 23 February,
which was carried by Russian TV. He reported that 1,200 state officials have
been charged in 1995, including 109 from the procuracy itself, which is charged
with preserving the integrity of the legal system. Some 23,000 personnel have
been fired from the Interior Ministry for disciplinary infractions, of which
1,500 are being prosecuted. Aleksei Ilyushenko, acting procurator-general from
February 1994 to October 1995, has been in detention in Lefortovo prison since
15 February. He is charged with taking bribes (art. 173) and abuse of office
(art. 170). Ilyushenko is implicated in illegal dealing by Balkar Trading, a
small company licensed for oil exports, which has been under investigation by
the Federal Security Service since February 1995. -- Peter Rutland
SOVIET ARMY DAY HONORED.
The Day of Defenders of the Fatherland,
formerly Soviet Army Day, was marked on 23 February by various events held
throughout the country. Some 5,000 communist-patriotic hardliners marched in
Moscow and were addressed by Gennadii Zyuganov. In other cities wreaths were
laid, medals awarded, and special privileges granted to veterans, such as
apartments and free transport passes. According to a survey reported by
ITAR-TASS on 23 February, 77% of Russians consider the day a family holiday. --
RUSSIA AND DE BEERS SIGN NEW AGREEMENT.
The Russian government renewed
its contract with South Africa's De Beers on 23 February, ITAR-TASS reported
the same day. The new agreement preserves De Beers's role as the main agent for
Russian diamonds. The present contract, which expired in December and was
extended until March, entitled De Beers to handle 95% of Russia's diamond
exports. Details of the new agreement are not yet available. The same day,
ITAR-TASS reported that YUKOS plans to cooperate with the U.S. firm AMOCO in
the development of the giant Priobskii oil field in northern Tyumen Oblast. The
field is expected to produce 20 million metric tons of oil annually. -- Natalia
ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH COMPLICITY IN "COUP ATTEMPT."
Adil Gadzhiev, a former state counselor to former Azerbaijani President Ayaz
Mutalibov has been apprehended by Russian intelligence and extradited to
Azerbaijan, Radio Mayak reported on 24 February. Gadzhiev has reportedly
confessed to involvement in what has been called a "coup attempt" in March
1995. -- Liz Fuller
TAJIK OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVE TO UN COMMISSION ABDUCTED.
opposition representative to the UN commission on monitoring the ceasefire
agreement in Tajikistan was kidnapped in the capital, Dushanbe, on 24 February,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Four men seized Zafar Rakhmonov as he
exited a shop and threw him into a waiting car. The government and the
opposition are accusing each other of the crime. News of Rakhmonov's abduction
sparked fighting in the Tavil Dara region, about 280 km east of Dushanbe. --
CONFLICTING VIEWS ON RUSSO-UZBEK RELATIONS.
In an interview published in
Pravda on 22 February, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov voiced
his concern over CIS integration and objected to binding decisions being passed
at CIS sessions. He said Uzbekistan has shown its reluctance to become enmeshed
in an organization dominated by Russia by not signing the CIS treaty on border
protection and not attending the recent Interparliamentary Assembly session
held in St. Petersburg (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1996). On 23
February, Segodnya noted that during a recent visit to Tashkent, Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov managed to conclude only one of six proposed
agreements with his Uzbek counterpart. -- Roger Kangas
INDEPENDENT KAZAKHSTANI TV CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT CONTROL.
independent television companies, the national information agency Khabar, and
the association of independent electronic mass media of Central Asia issued a
statement criticizing the government's decision to grant the state company
Kazakh Kino the power to act as a "censor" over other television stations in
the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 February. The statement argues that under
the guise of combating video piracy, the government has vested Kazakh Kino with
the right to charge a fee for the screening of any film in a movie theater or
on television. -- Bhavna Dave
IRAN WINS TENDERS FOR PRO-JECTS IN TURKMENISTAN.
According to Iranian
Oil Minister Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iranian contractors have won a tender for
two projects in Turkmenistan worth about $150 million, Reuters reported on 24
February, citing IRNA. The projects include the construction of gas pipelines
and an oil refinery. On the same day, ITAR-TASS reported that Turkmen and
Iranian telecommunications companies signed a $22 million contract to lay the
Turkmen section of the 19,000 km long Trans-Asia-Europe fibre-optic
communications line. Iran's telecommunications company is scheduled to complete
the 711 km-long Turkmen segment by March 1997. The Islamic Development Bank
will finance the contract with a loan, the agency noted. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINIAN CENTRISTS FORM POPULAR-DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
political groups, meeting in Kiev on 24 February, agreed to merge into a single
political party, the Popular-Democratic Party of Ukraine, Radio Ukraine and
UNIAN reported. The new party--composed of the Party of Democratic Rebirth of
Ukraine, the Labor Congress of Ukraine, and the New Ukraine alliance--is the
first serious consolidation of political forces in Ukraine's fragmented party
system. Deputy Anatolii Matvienko was elected party chairman, and delegates
adopted a program backing President Leonid Kuchma's political and economic
reforms. Meanwhile, two other centrist parties, the Ukrainian Social-Democratic
Party and the Ukrainian Solidarity and Justice Party, announced plans to form
an alliance. They intend to campaign jointly in future elections and to publish
a joint newspaper. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
KUCHMA ON COMPENSATION FOR TACTICAL NUKES.
Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma has said the issue of compensation for tactical nuclear weapons removed
from the country's territory must be addressed, Radio Rossii reported on 23
February. The weapons were removed to Russia in 1992. Ukraine now wants Moscow
to compensate it for the plutonium and other valuable materials contained in
those weapons. Kuchma said he raised the issue with Russian President Boris
Yeltsin during their meeting in January. Experts say the value of the materials
in the tactical weapons amounts to $500-700 million. -- Ustina Markus
EXTRAORDINARY CONGRESS OF LATVIA'S POPULAR FRONT.
Front, at an extraordinary congress on 24 February, decided to re-register as a
public organization and create a new political party, Latvian media reported.
The new party will be called the Christian People's Party. The 153 delegates at
the congress approved a draft declaration that mentions justice, honesty,
freedom, responsibility, solidarity, and democracy as the fundamental
principles of the new party. Deputy chairman Uldis Augstkalns said the party
will remain center oriented and may form an alliance with the Christian
Democratic Union. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT.
Algirdas Brazauskas on 23
February approved Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius's new government, Radio
Lithuania reported. The cabinet has five new ministers: Vaidotas Abraitis
(communications and information sciences), Aldona Bara-nauskiene (construction
and urban planning), Algimantas Krizinauskas (finance), Virgilijus Bulovas
(interior), and Petras Popovas (government reforms and local rule). The first
three previously served as deputy ministers and the last two as Seimas
deputies. Stankevicius did not name new economics and energy ministers but is
expected to do so before 6 March, when he is to present his government program
to the Seimas for approval. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH POLITICAL UPDATE.
The 42-year-old historian Marian Pilka replaced
Ryszard Czarnecki as leader of the Christian-National Alliance (ZChN) at the
party's congress on 24-25 February, Polish media reported. Czarnecki resigned
after the ZChN switched its support from National Bank President Hanna
Gronkiewicz-Waltz to former President Lech Walesa in the November 1995
presidential elections. The National Council of the Labor Union decided not to
change its leadership until the party's next congress.
criticized the party's strategy in last year's presidential elections. Finally,
the two Polish Socialist Parties merged to a form a single party; 82-year-old
Jan Mulak became the new party's president. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH TAX PAYERS ANXIOUS ABOUT DONATIONS.
Deputy Prime Minister
Grzegorz Kolodko's announcement on Polish TV on 23 February that donations may
be checked before tax exemptions are granted has triggered concern among Polish
tax payers, Gazeta Wyborcza reported the next day. Kolodko said both
donors and beneficiaries may be called to financial offices to prove that a
donation was made. Legal experts claim that offices have no right to summon
people before launching legal proceedings. A tax payer can make donations for
education, culture, sport, and health and can deduct up to 15% of annual income
from tax payments. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON RETURNS HOME.
Michal Kovac Jr. returned to
Slovakia on 23 February, six months after his abduction to Austria, Slovak and
international media reported. Kovac Jr. said he plans to travel to Germany soon
to "clear all charges" related to his alleged involvement in the Technopol
fraud case. Also on 23 February, Slovak Information Service director Ivan Lexa
announced his plans to sue President Michal Kovac for statements made about the
SIS during his son's hearing at a Vienna court. An SIS statement maintained
that "Nobody...has the right to incriminate others without sanction, to
repeatedly and falsely accuse and disinform citizens." -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES INCOME TAX BILL.
Michal Kovac on 23 February
returned the income tax bill to the parliament for further discussion, saying
it contravenes the constitution, TASR reported. The opposition had complained
that the bill would give special privileges to owners of newly privatized
firms. It also claimed the draft law was passed in an unconstitutional way,
with fewer than the mandatory 76 deputies present for the vote. The law will
now not take effect before 31 March, the deadline for submitting 1995 tax
returns. -- Sharon Fisher
MEDGYESSY TO REPLACE HUNGARY'S OUTGOING FINANCE MINISTER?
Gyula Horn plans to nominate former finance minister Peter Medgyessy to replace
outgoing Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, Nepszabadsag reported.
The 53-year-old Medgyessy is currently president and director-general of
the Hungarian Investment and Development Bank in Budapest. He served as finance
minister from December 1986 to December 1987 in Hungary's communist government.
Medgyessy has said he essentially agrees with Bokros's pragmatic economic
policy, including the implementation of public finance reform and the
transformation of the social welfare system. But he has said he will allow for
broader political compromise. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARIAN PREMIER QUESTIONS BOKROS'S RIGHT TO SEVERANCE PAY.
Horn on 23
February said he will not allow Bokros to collect 2 million forints in
severance pay until it is certain that the move does not violate the law,
Hungarian dailies reported on 26 February. The Prime Minister's Office has
turned to the Supreme Court for an official position on the issue. The present
law on the legal status and allowances of cabinet ministers dates back to 1973
and includes legal categories that are out of date. Horn's insistence on
investigating Bokros's severance pay is reportedly related to the controversial
16 million forints payment last spring when Bokros left the Budapest Bank to
become finance minister. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
ROMANI MUSEUM OPENS IN HUNGARY.
An exhibition featuring crafts,
photographs, videos, and the works of Romani painters and authors has opened in
the new Romani museum in Pecs, Hungary's Romani news agency, ORS, reported on
23 February. Two Romani museums already exist in Tarnow, Poland, and Brno, the
Czech Republic. The Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education has allotted 2
million forints to the museum. -- Alaina Lemon
NATO ALLOWS SARAJEVO EVACUATION.
NATO is allowing the Bosnian Serb army
to evacuate the remaining Serb-held areas of Sarajevo, international media
reported on 25 February. Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN. High Commissioner
for Refugees, said Bosnian Serb leaders incited the local population to flee,
but he also criticized the Muslim-Croatian police for "insensitivity" in
handling the remaining Serb residents. IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton
Smith faced an angry crowd of Bosnian Serbs demanding transportation for
evacuation when he toured Vogosca with Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik on
24 February. -- Michael Mihalka
CONTACTS RESUME WITH BOSNIAN SERBS.
Senior IFOR commanders met with
their Bosnian Serb counterparts on 23 February, marking the end of the Bosnian
Serb boycott of all contacts with the international community, international
media reported. The Bosnian Serbs broke off contacts on 8 February in protest
at the Bosnian government's detention of several Bosnian Serb soldiers, two of
whom were subsequently sent to The Hague. British Lt.-Gen. Sir Michael Walker,
commander of IFOR ground forces, met on 24 February with deputy Bosnian Serb
military commander Gen. Zdarko Tolimir in Ilidza, one of the Serb-held suburbs
of Sarajevo due to be returned to Bosnian government control by 19 March. They
discussed the plans to evacuate Bosnian Serbs from those suburbs. -- Michael
BOSNIAN FACTIONS AGREE ON GROUND RULES FOR ELECTIONS.
factions on 23 February agreed to the ground rules for organizing elections by
September, Reuters and TANJUG reported. Robert Frowick, OSCE mission head to
Bosnia, who chairs the provisional election commission, said everyone,
including refugees, will be allowed to vote at the place where they lived in
1991. Lists of voters, based on the 1991 census, are expected to be drawn up by
31 March. -- Michael Mihalka
MOSTAR'S EU ADMINISTRATOR TO QUIT.
Hans Koschnick, told the German
weekly Bild am Sonntag he would step down from his post in July and
would not prolong his stay "under any circumstances," Reuters reported on 24
February. He has recommended that the EU Ministerial Council accept the
Croatian and Muslim authorities' demand that the EU mandate in the city be
extended for another six months. But he stressed that someone will have to
replace him. Meanwhile, international agencies report free movement in Mostar,
although the total number of crossings from the eastern to western part of the
city is still small. A young man on 23 February was hit on the head with a
stone in the Croatian part of Mostar, while vehicles with Bosnian-Croat license
plates were stoned in the Muslim-populated neighborhood two days later, Hina
reported on 25 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SOROS FOUNDATION "BANNED" IN RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
The New York-based Soros
Foundation has been banned in the rump Yugoslavia, international media reported
on 24 February. A Serbian court ruled that the group is not properly registered
and therefore has no legal right to operate. Sonja Licht, head of the
foundation in Belgrade, said the organization will try to re-register. The
Foundation opened its Belgrade office in 1991 and supports a number of
humanitarian and democratic projects, including aiding independent media. In
recent weeks the Belgrade regime has renewed its attacks against the
independent media, declaring the independent broadcaster Studio B TV illegal in
a bid to take over the station. -- Stan Markotich
CROATIAN PRESIDENT TAKES AIM AT OPPONENTS...
Franjo Tudjman addressed a
congress of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) on 24-25
February. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service and news agencies noted that he struck
out at the labor unions, opposition, and independent media, warning them that
he would not allow anyone to turn "democracy into anarchy." He said that the
HDZ had "created Croatia" and would be needed "for decades to come." Tudjman
called the opposition "a coalition of communists and fascists" that provoked
strikes and social unrest. A railroad strike is entering its fifth day, while
Zagreb city and county governments have been without top leadership for almost
four months because Tudjman refuses to recognize the opposition majority's
choice for mayor. The independent daily Novi list--one of the few
mass-circulation non-party periodicals--said his speech reflected "anger and
panic." -- Patrick Moore
...WHILE SUSAK BLASTS BOSNIAN ARMAMENTS PROGRAM.
Also speaking at the
HDZ meeting, Defense Minister Gojko Susak attacked Sarajevo's current military
expansion program. He warned that "it will be the Croatian army, if necessary,"
that will "protect Croatian strategic interests." He added that at this moment,
uncontrolled rearming of the Bosnian army represents the gravest danger to the
implementation of the Dayton peace agreement and stability of the
[Muslim-Croat] federation." The speech comes at a time when the Bosnian Croat
and Bosnian government commanders are on their way to the U.S. to discuss a
weapons-and-training program and when Zagreb has been criticized for the
conduct of the Croats in Mostar. Before closing, the HDZ congress sent a letter
to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl protesting West German Radio's merging of its
Croatian program into one for all the former Yugoslavia. The congress accused
Bonn of trying to "create a Euro-Slavia." -- Patrick Moore
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS.
Stojan Andov on 23 February
resigned as chairman of the Macedonian parliament, Reuters reported. His
decision followed the parliament's approval of the new government of Prime
Minister Branko Crvenkovski, which excludes members of Andov's Liberal Party.
Andov chaired the parliament for five years. After the attempt on President
Kiro Gligorov's life in October 1995, he was acting president. The Liberals
said they are now in the opposition and will support an initiative for early
elections. -- Stefan Krause
SLOVENIA REOPENS TRADE WITH FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
Slovenian companies are
beginning to re-establish trade relations with rump Yugoslavia and Bosnia,
Reuters reported on 23 February. But an official from the Slovenian Ministry of
Economic Relations said restoring links with Belgrade may be difficult, if not
impossible. "I expect that an economic agreement [with Belgrade] will have to
wait until urgent political issues are resolved," he said. Those issues include
the division of assets among the former Yugoslav republics. An agreement on
trade ties with Bosnia-Herzegovina is slated to be signed later this year. --
U.S. AMBASSADOR'S STATEMENTS SPARK CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA.
has said that extremist parties such as the Party of Romanian National Unity
(PUNR), the Socialist Labor Party, and the Greater Romania Party have no place
in Romania's government if the country wants to join Euro-Atlantic structures,
Romanian media reported on 24-26 February. Meeting with members of opposition
parties in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, Moses urged them to vote against
Gheorghe Funar, the city's controversial mayor and PUNR chairman, in the
upcoming local elections. The PUNR leadership reacted promptly, by accusing
Moses of having "overstepped his competence" and of "breaching diplomatic
practice." Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the ruling Party of Social
Democracy in Romania, said that Moses would do better to comment on the U.S.
elections. -- Matyas Szabo
FORMER CEAUSESCU COURT POET TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY.
The Socialist Labor
Party (PSM), Romania's reborn communist party, has nominated its first deputy
chairman, Adrian Paunescu, as presidential candidate for the fall 1996
elections, Radio Bucharest reported on 25 February. A former poet laureate
under late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Paunescu pledged to work
toward establishing "democratic socialism" in Romania if elected president.
Until recently, the PSM was considered a member of the ruling coalition. Its
relations with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania have deteriorated. --
STRIKES IN ROMANIA.
Some 100,000 railroad workers on 23 February took
part in a two-hour warning strike, Romanian media reported. The strikers
demanded that the minimum wage be raised from 126,000 lei ($45) to 280,000 lei
($99). The National Railroad Company management, which offered a 20% wage hike
in preliminary negotiations, said the strike was "a deliberate act aimed at
destabilizing national security." It also asked the pro-secutor's office to
investigate. Union leaders accused the administration of trying to intimidate
the strikers. Also on 23 February, 3,000 workers went on strike at two
factories in the town of Megidia to protest interruptions in electricity
supply. Romania is currently facing an acute energy crisis. -- Dan Ionescu
FIVE DIE IN TIRANA SUPERMARKET EXPLOSION.
A car bomb exploded outside a
supermarket in central Tirana on 26 February, killing at least five people and
wounding several dozens, international media reported. Two nearby kiosks were
destroyed and the windows of surrounding houses were shattered. The
supermarket, which opened just over a week ago, was one of two in Tirana run by
the company Vesa Holding. President Sali Berisha, who visited the site of the
explosion with several cabinet ministers, blamed former communist secret
service agents for the blast. It has been suggested that the explosion may be
related to growing concern among owners of small shops that they will be put
out of business by larger stores. -- Fabian Schmidt
President Zhelyu Zhelev in a TV address on 22
February called on Bulgarians to form local committees to push for the return
of land to its former owners, Reuters reported. Zhelev said land restitution is
still incomplete because of "narrow party interests and the political
prejudices of a few people" within the Bulgarian Socialist Party. He added that
only "pressure from below combined with the support of democratic institutions
and political forces" can help speed up the process. Prime Minister Zhan
Videnov on 23 February said the price of electricity will go up by 20% at the
end of April, RFE/RL's Bulgarian service reported. Videnov was speaking at the
inauguration of a new 440-kW reactor at the Maritsa Iztok power plant. --
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave