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Newsline - February 26, 1996


INGUSH SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS.
The Security 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 Paretskaya

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

JOURNALIST BEATEN.
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.
President 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 Parrish

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. -- Peter Rutland

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 Gurushina



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.
The Tajik 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. -- Bruce Pannier

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.
Kazakhstan's 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.
Three centrist 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.
Latvia's Popular 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.
The council 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?
Prime 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 Mihalka

BOSNIAN FACTIONS AGREE ON GROUND RULES FOR ELECTIONS.
The Bosnian 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. -- Stan Markotich

U.S. AMBASSADOR'S STATEMENTS SPARK CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIA.
Alfred Moses 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. -- Dan Ionescu

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

BULGARIAN ROUNDUP.
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. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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