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Newsline - February 28, 1996


STATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA LACK FUNDS TO PAY TRANSMITTERS.
State-controlled television and radio stations owe transmitters 521 billion rubles ($109 million) for 1995 and an additional 93 billion rubles ($19 million) for January 1996, Anatolii Nazeikin, the chairman of the Communication Workers' Trade Union central committee announced on 27 February, ITAR-TASS reported. For 1995, Russian Public TV (ORT) owes 77 billion rubles ($16 million) and Russian TV owes 27 billion rubles ($6 million). Many of the transmitting stations are in danger of shutting down because their employees have not been paid and they lack the necessary spare parts. ORT General Director Sergei Blagovolin complained that the president has issued decrees authorizing payment, but they have not been carried out, Russian TV reported. In addition, there is no money for ORT in the 1996 budget, even though it is 51% state owned. -- Robert Orttung

STATE MEDIA LEADERS UNHAPPY WITH RULES FOR CAMPAIGN COVERAGE.
State-controlled media leaders want the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) to specify who will compensate them for giving free air time to presidential candidates since the stations have yet to receive payment from the government for air time given to Duma candidates in last December's election. The issue was not covered in the new draft instructions on the role of the media in the presidential campaign recently prepared by the TsIK, NTV reported on 28 February. The media leaders complain that the law does not require candidates to participate in debates rather than presenting pre-packaged clips or monologues in their free air time. ORT General Director Blagovolin questioned how the candidates, including Yeltsin, would meet the requirement not to use their current position to gain advantage over other candidates. -- Robert Orttung

INGUSHETIYA TO SUE OVER TROOP INCURSION.
Ingush President Ruslan Aushev told ITAR-TASS on 27 February that he plans to sue the Defense Ministry for the damage and loss of life caused by the 58th Army in his republic (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1996). He said that the operation "did not raise the authority of the Russian president as the commander-in-chief, especially on the eve of the presidential elections." The troops were pulled out on 26 February. -- Robert Orttung

PUBLISHER ISSUES BOOK ON NORTH KOREAN LEADER.
At a 27 February Moscow ceremony, the Paleya publishing house unveiled a book on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the first in a planned 80-volume series on 20th century world leaders, ITAR-TASS reported. The series will include volumes on Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, Chinese leader Deng Xiao-ping, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Indonesian President Suharto. Not intended for a broad readership, the series will be distributed directly to world political leaders in order to "demonstrate the diversity of contemporary society." Among those present at the ceremony was former Soviet Defense Minister and 1991 coup plotter Dmitrii Yazov, who said Kim had suggested the series to him during a visit to North Korea last year. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov chairs the series' editorial board. -- Scott Parrish

DEPUTY PRAISES INTEGRATION WITH BELARUS.
Duma Deputy Nikolai Gonchar told ITAR-TASS on 28 January that he regarded the debt renunciation deal signed with Belarus as "extremely favorable for Russia." Gonchar emphasized the "economic and geopolitical" importance of Belarus as a market for Russian industrial products. He also praised Yeltsin and Lukashenka's intention to construct a new highway linking Russia with its Kaliningrad enclave via Belarus and Poland. Gonchar added that the new agreements could foster the creation of a new union of the two states "without the words Soviet or Socialist," which might encourage Russia's southern and southeastern neighbors to accelerate their economic integration with Russia. -- Scott Parrish

FRANCE PAYS $16 MILLION FOR SPACE FLIGHT.
The French National Space Agency agreed to pay $16.4 million to send one of its astronauts for a two-week flight on the "Mir" orbital space station in July 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 February. The cost will be split between the Russian Space Corporation Energiya and the Cosmonauts' Training Center in Zvezdnyi gorodok near Moscow. Russia also has signed an agreement with Australia to use "Start" booster rockets for launching Australian communications and ecological monitoring satellites beginning in fall 1998. Satellites will be launched from the Woomera space center in Australia. -- Natalia Gurushina

SEMENOV CRITICIZES NATO EXERCISES IN NORWAY.
Current NATO naval and ground exercises in northern Norway "jeopardize Russia's security," according to Col. Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the commander-in-chief of Russia's Ground Forces. ITAR-TASS on 26 February quoted Semenov has saying that Russian troops in the region had been put on alert and instructed to keep a close watch on the situation. He expressed puzzlement at the type and location of the exercises and claimed that they reflected "continued Cold War thinking" on the part of Western military leaders. -- Doug Clarke

NEW JOB FOR PACIFIC FLEET COMMANDER.
Admiral Igor Khmel-nyov, the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, has been appointed chief of the Main Staff of the navy, Reuters reported on 27 February, quoting a statement from the fleet's press office. His successor was reported to be Vice-Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, who had been chief of staff in the Baltic Fleet. Khmelnev will replace Admiral Valentin Selivanov on the navy staff. -- Doug Clarke

FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE AND INTERIOR MINISTRY HOLD CLOSED MEETING.
The leadership of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry held a joint closed meeting on 27 February, Russian media reported. FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov, and Presidential National Security Adviser Yurii Baturin attended the meeting. Both Barsukov and Kulikov admitted that terrorism and organized crime are destabilizing reforms in Russia and may threaten the forthcoming presidential election. They pledged to strengthen interdepartmental cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime. A similar joint meeting took place in 1992. -- Constantine Dmitriev

WARRANT ISSUED FOR ARREST OF SERGEI STANKEVICH.
Sergei Stankevich, a former Duma deputy, presidential adviser, and deputy chairman of the Moscow City Duma, is the latest prominent public figure to face corruption charges in a campaign that has already seen the institution of criminal proceedings against former acting Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko and former Roskom-dragmet Chairman Yevgenii Bychkov. According to Ekho Moskvy, on 26 February the Moscow Procurator's Office issued a warrant for the arrest of Stankevich, who is suspected of accepting a $10,000 bribe during preparations for a gala concert on Red Square in the summer of 1991. Ilyu-shenko asked the Duma to lift Stankevich's immunity in April 1995, but that request was turned down. Stankevich did not run in the December parliamentary elections, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Stankevich was a leading figure in the democratic movement in the late Gorbachev era, and with his fluent English was often seen on Western TV screens. -- Penny Morvant

JOURNALIST, BUSINESSMEN MURDERED.
A Russian photographer, Feliks Solovev, who occasionally freelanced for the German newspaper Bild, was shot dead in Moscow on 26 February, Russian and Western agencies reported the following day. The motive for the killing is unclear. Also on 26 February, three people, including a British businessman, were killed when gunmen burst into the prestigious Nevskii Palace Hotel in St. Petersburg, Reuters reported. The gunmen opened fire on a group sitting at a table in the hotel's Vienna Cafe, killing two off-duty policemen who were working as bodyguards for a Russian businessman. The Briton, John Hyden, was apparently hit by a stray bullet. -- Penny Morvant

DEBATE CONTINUES OVER OIL EXPORT DUTY.
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov now says that the oil export duty will be reduced from 20 to 14 ECU per metric ton on 1 April, not to 10 ECU, as earlier reported. Also, he told ITAR-TASS on 27 February that from 1 July the oil export duty will be replaced by only a 3 ECU rise in excise tax, so as to protect domestic oil consumers. Instead, revenue will be raised from a new 17 ECU tax on pipelines, presumably on export pipelines. It appears that the government is looking for a way to formally comply with the IMF condition that export duties be lifted. However, Kadannikov did confirm that the 5 ECU export duty on natural gas will be removed beginning on 15 March. -- Peter Rutland

U.S. COMPUTER MAKER HALTS RUSSIAN PRODUCTION.
IBM has decided to stop assembling its own PCs at the Kvant enterprise in Zelenograd, near Moscow, AFP reported on 27 February. The joint venture at the former defense plant began in 1993, and was producing 40,000 units a month. The Moscow authorities granted the plant an exemption from taxes on imported components, but in 1994 in response to a Duma law barring such waivers they reimposed the taxes, adding 8.5% to the final cost. IBM was unable to compete with imports of finished PCs by Russian trading companies which continued to enjoy tax exemptions. In 1995, Russians bought roughly 1 million PCs. -- Peter Rutland



OPPOSITION INVITED TO ADDRESS TAJIK PARLIAMENT.
The Tajik government has offered the opposition an opportunity to speak at a session of the Tajik parliament on 11 March, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. However, a spokesman for the opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said the oppo-sition's participation hinged on the release of Zafar Rakhmonov, the opposition's representative to a joint commission monitoring the ceasefire and supported by the UN. Rakhmonov was taken by four men in the capital Dushanbe on 24 February and his whereabouts since remain unknown. Speaking from Tehran, Turajonzoda said "nobody would dare go to Dushanbe, even if they were told to do so. There is no guarantee of personal safety," Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier

COSSACK LEADER ACCUSES KAZAKHSTAN OF BEING A "FASCIST" STATE.
At a press conference in at the headquarters of the extreme nationalist movement Pamyat in Moscow on 27 February, the Semi-rechie Cossack leader, Nikolai Gunkin, accused Kazakhstan of being a "fascist" state which endorses a "genocide of Russians," Russian TV reported. Gunkin was released on 27 January after serving a 3-month sentence in an Almaty prison for allegedly holding unauthorized public rallies. Gunkin told an Express-Khronika correspondent that he expects the new Russian State Duma to put more pressure on Kazakhstan over human rights issues. He claimed that if Russians continue to migrate and if Russia abandons Kazakhstan, the country will be "annexed" by China. -- Bhavna Dave

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TASHKENT.
Kicking off a tour of Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati traveled to Uzbekistan on 28 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Velayati is to leave for Dushanbe this evening to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakh-monov and discuss possible resolutions to the ongoing conflict in that country. Velayati will also visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turk-menistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in an effort to assert Iran's role in the region. -- Roger Kangas

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH/HEL-SINKI CRITICAL OF KARIMOV.
In a letter to Uzbek Prime Minister Islam Karimov dated 22 February, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki organization expressed its "extreme disappointment and distress" at his assessment of a series of meetings held in December 1995. The letter, obtained by OMRI, complains that in an interview given to Pravda vostoka on 30 December 1995, Karimov misinterpreted the organization's findings on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. The report also noted that Karimov's office inexplicably declined to meet with them during the trip, showing a "disturbing disdain for human rights concerns." Human Rights Watch/Helsinki said an accurate depiction of their findings will be made available shortly. -- Roger Kangas



ZYUGANOV ENDS UKRAINIAN VISIT.
Russian Communist Party leader and presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov on 27 February ended a two-day visit to Kiev, international agencies reported. Small groups of Ukrainian nationalists staged protests during his visit. Zyuganov said regardless of who won Russia's presidential election, Moscow would continue to base its foreign policy on the principle of non-interference. He added that Ukraine remained a top priority. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma did not meet with Zyuganov because he had only heard of the visit last week and was out of the country at the time. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINE MAY SHUT DOWN UP TO 70 LOSS-MAKING COAL MINES.
Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk says his government may close down up to 70 unprofitable coal mines in the next few years, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. Kiev had announced earlier it would shut down 28 pits in an effort to restructure the ailing coal industry. Marchuk said he believes the coal sector still has a bright future because the country has enough coal deposits to allow mining for another 600 years. However, his government intends to support only profitable and efficient mines, he added. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUS AND RUSSIA SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS.
Visiting Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, signed an agreement renouncing all mutual debts, including Belarus's unpaid energy bills and its claims to compensation for nuclear weapons transferred to Russia, international media reported on 27 February. Yeltsin strongly endorsed closer integration with Belarus but denied that it would recreate the Soviet Union, which he accused the communists of "dreaming about." -- Scott Parrish

CENTER-RIGHT POLITICAL PARTIES UNITE IN BELARUS.
The Bela-rusian Christian-Democratic Party on 26 February joined the union of center-right parties called Civic Action, Belarusian TV reported. The union, which was formed in September 1995, describes itself as "liberal-conservative" and upholds market reforms and private ownership of land. The Christian Democrats have been cooperating with the union since last year's election campaign. Civic Action is led by deputy Stanislau Bahdankevich, the former head of the National Bank of Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

PROTESTS BY HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN ESTONIA.
Archbishop Kornilii on 26 February sent a letter to Constantinople Patriarch Bartholemew I protesting his decision to reclaim jurisdiction over the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, BNS reported the next day. Kornilii expressed his total support for the Moscow patriarch's decision to suspend relations with Constantinople and accused Bar-tholemew of forming a political alliance with the Estonian authorities against the non-native population. Kornilii also sent a letter to Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari accusing Archbishop Johannes of Finland of interfering in the affairs of the Estonian Orthodox Church. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT MAKES SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW GOVERN-MENT'S FINANCIAL POLICY.
Algir-das Brazauskas, in his weekly interview with Radio Lithuania on 26 February, said Mindaugas Stanke-vicius's new government should present a program for dealing with the republic's financial problems. He said the law on free economic zones was problematic since it did not grant privileges offered in other countries to attract foreign capital. Brazauskas suggested the law on foreign investments should be amended to reduce the investment needed to gain a two-year tax exemption from $2 million to $500,000 or even less. He also said that to end the fears of the possible devaluation of the litas, the law on litas stability should be amended to state that the government guarantees its stability at least until 1 January 1999. -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON PROPOSED KALININ-GRAD HIGHWAY.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, speaking during Bela-rusian President Alyaksandr Luka-shenka's visit to Moscow, said on 27 February that Russia will seek Poland's consent to build a road link between Belarus and Kaliningrad. "We are planning to reach an accord with the Poles to build a stretch of road across their territory," Yeltsin said. Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobro-wolski said that Poland has not been officially notified about the plan but added that the subject may come up during Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Warsaw on 14 March. Polish Transportation Minister Boguslaw Li-beradzki said Poland can neither agree to building an "extraterritorial" highway nor sign special transit agreements because such matters are regulated by all-European agreements, Polish dailies reported on 28 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

ROMA SENTENCED IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
The 24 Vlax Roma, mostly women, accused of organized pick-pocketing in downtown Prague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 February 1996) have been convicted to up to four years in prison by a Czech court, CTK reported on 27 February. In addition, three of the women were barred from Prague for four years and one is to be deported. Vlax Roma are a minority among Roma in the Czech Republic and are newer to the region and less well assimilated. Some Roma blame them for the minority's criminal image. Around 50 Romani protesters gathered outside the courthouse. The verdict raises questions about collective trials, especially assumptions related to minority "gangs" or "clans" in court proceedings. -- Alaina Lemon

TROUBLED SLOVAK-EU RELATIONS.
EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, attending the Slovak-EU Association Council session in Brussels on 27 February, called on Slovakia "to further develop and strengthen democratic institutions and to respect ethnic minority rights and freedom of speech." Van den Broek expressed the hope that Slovakia will soon ratify the Slovak-Hungarian treaty and pass a law on minority languages. He also asked that Slovakia cancel its 10% import surcharge by 30 June, show more openness toward foreign investment, close unsafe nuclear reactors, and harmonize its legislation with that of the EU. Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk, who led the Slovak delegation, called the meeting "a breakthrough" in bilateral relations, stressing that no one questioned Slovakia's domestic political path or discussed its internal instability, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK SECRET SERVICE CHIEF SUES PRESIDENT.
Slovak Information Service director Ivan Lexa on 27 February filed a libel suit with a Bratislava court against Michal Kovac over assertions at a Vienna court hearing about the involvement of the SIS and Lexa in his son's kidnapping, Narodna obroda reported. According to Slovak law, the president is required within 30 days to submit evidence backing his statements. Slovak opposition media pointed out that this will not be difficult, since Kovac can present the police investigation reports and testimony by former SIS agent Oskar Fegyveres. -- Sharon Fisher

FORMER HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER WILL NOT RECEIVE SEVERANCE PAY.
The Supreme Court has ruled that outgoing Finance Minister Lajos Bokros is entitled to six months' salary--over 1 million forints ($7,000)--but no severance pay, Hungarian dailies reported on 28 February. The Prime Minister's Office had asked the Supreme Court to clarify which rules should apply to the legal status of ministers, since the relevant law dates back to 1973. None of the six ministers who quit in 1995 received severance pay, because they all stayed on as deputies. Reports that Bokros was about to get 2 million forints in severance drew heated debates in the parliament earlier this week. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS MEDIA ORGANS.
The Hungarian parliament on 27 February elected Socialist Party member Mihaly Tamas Revesz as chairman of the National Radio and Television Board (NRTB), Hungarian media reported. Deputies also elected chairmen of the Board of Trustees of the Hungarian Radio Foundation, Hungarian Television (MTV), and Hungaria Television. The most controversial member elected to the NRTB was Gabor Nahlik, the candidate of the opposition Smallholders, who was appointed acting chairman of MTV in 1993 by Jozsef Antall's government and who played a prominent role in the so-called media war. In other news, the parliament amended the banking law to allow tax customs and social insurance authorities to gain access to bank data under certain circumstances. This was a prerequisite for OECD membership. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BELGRADE LIFTS BLOCKADE AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS...
The federal government of rump Yugoslavia on 27 February voted to lift its blockade against the Republika Srpska, Nasa Borba reported. The blockade, which was implemented on 4 August 1994 and sealed the Drina River border between Repu-blika Srpska and rump Yugoslavia, was lifted officially at midnight, local time, on 28 February. -- Stan Markotich

...BUT U.S. WARNS THAT SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA MAY NOT BE LIFTED.
The U.S. government has warned Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that international sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia will stay in place if the Belgrade regime continues its crackdown on independent media and humanitarian organizations, international media reported on 27 February. U.S. government spokesman Glyn Davies said that "Milosevic has to understand that he's not operating in a vacuum.... The Dayton Accord calls for certain standards in human rights and we're going to hold [Belgrade] to it." -- Stan Markotich
MOST EE FOREIGN MINISTERS BACK EU ARMS EMBARGO.
East European foreign ministers, meeting with their EU counterparts in Brussels on 27 February, discussed the EU arms embargo on Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, international media reported. Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia immediately endorsed the embargo. Poland, the Czech Republic, Albania, and Bulgaria weclomed the idea but said they needed to consult with their governments before adopting the measure. They cited a "lack of precision" in the requirement that countries "show restraint" in selling arms to Slovenia and Macedonia, Rzeczpospolita reported. -- Michael Mihalka

THREE BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET.
Republican Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic, his federal counterpart Izudin Kapetanovic, and the Republika Srpska's Rajko Kasagic met with the international com-munity's Carl Bildt in Banja Luka on 27 February. Their agenda centered on restoring infrastructure across the boundaries between the Serbian and Muslim-Croat entities. International and regional media said that water will be piped to Gorazde and power lines rebuilt from Visegrad and Sarajevo via Gorazde to Foca. Rail transport will be resumed from Serb-held Zvornik to Banja Luka via federal Tuzla. Kasagic told reporters that there will be a common customs policy based on the German mark as a reference currency. -- Patrick Moore

WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia based in The Hague on 27 February concluded its hearings against Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic in just one day. Martic is in Banja Luka, and the VOA on 28 February quoted him as saying that any attempt to arrest and extradite him would be "a terrorist act." He is wanted for an indiscriminate rocket attack on civilians in Zagreb in 1995. The hearings were wound up because of the need to address a request by the lawyer of Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic that his client be freed immediately, Nasa Borba noted. Oslobodjenje reported that the Bosnian Serb authorities have drawn up a list of 2,388 people suspected of committing attrocities against Serbs, including 11 Serbs "who betrayed their own people." * Patrick Moore

SARAJEVO SERB EXODUS NEARLY OVER.
The evacuation of the Serb-held suburb of Ilijas is almost complete on the eve of the arrival of government police. Bosnian Serb refugees blamed their leaders for ordering them out on short notice and withdrawing essential services at the same time. AFP on 28 February quoted one man as saying that the Serbian "leaders could have let us known of their intentions earlier, instead of shunting us out like cattle at the last minute." The Guardian reported the previous day that the Serb-held suburbs are in the hands of drunken armed bands that terrorize the remaining inhabitants, most of whom are sick and old, and loot what property is left. -- Patrick Moore

INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE GRANTS $14 MILLION TO SARAJEVO.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it will allocate $14 million for the reconstruction of the destroyed Olympic arenas in Sarajevo, Nasa Borba reported on 28 February, citing Deutsche Welle. Meanwhile, AFP on 27 February reported that international aid agencies are shunning the Bosnian Serbs and concentrating their efforts on the Muslim-Croat Federation. Aid workers said donor governments are reluctant to support the Serbian side because they see no guarantee of long-term stability. An unidentified source told AFP that development aid would target exclusively government-controlled territory, while humanitarian aid projects would remain universal. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIA SAYS COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL IS CONDITIONAL.
The Croatian parliamentary legislative committee has supported in principle the proposal on Croatia's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. But it said Croatia's support is conditional on changes being made to the tribunal statutes in accordance with the legislative systems of Croatia and other successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Novi List reported on 28 February. Croatian law prohibits the extradition of a citizen who has already been tried in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN LABOR UNREST ENTERS DRAMATIC PHASE.
The railroad strike that began on 22 February has succeeded in shutting down 90% of the trains, AFP reported on 28 February. The main union grouping, the SSSH, planned to launch a general strike last week but postponed it without giving a reason. President Franjo Tudjman has said that the labor unrest is "not democratic," but the unions have asked to negotiate with him personally over pay and the high cost of living. -- Patrick Moore

ROMANIA-EU ASSOCIATION COUNCIL CONVENES.
Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, presiding over a meeting of the Romanian-EU Association Council in Brussels on 27 February, presented his country's strategy for joining the EU, which includes bringing its legislation in line with EU standards and speeding up economic reforms. Radio Bucharest reported that he also renewed Romania's request that EU member states abolish visa requirements for Romanian citizens. The meeting was attended by EU Council President Susanna Agnelli and by Hans van den Broek, EU commissioner for relations with Eastern Europe and the CIS. Van den Broek said he was satisfied with Romania's "considerable efforts to pave the way for full EU membership." -- Dan Ionescu

U.S. DEFENSE OFFICIAL IN ROMANIA.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Paul Kaminski paid a four-day visit to Romania to discuss bilateral military cooperation, Romanian and international media reported on 26-28 February. Kaminski and his Romanian counterpart, Gen. Florentin Popa, signed an agreement on the exchange of information in military research and development. Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu told Kaminski that Romania continues to aim for NATO integration. The two sides discussed the possibility of U.S. support in modernizing the Romanian army and defense industry. Kaminski also met with President Ion Iliescu, Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, and other senior officials. -- Matyas Szabo

RUSSIAN TANKS TO BULGARIA.
Russia is to provide Bulgaria with 100 T-72 tanks and other armored "fighting vehicles," Kontinent reported on 27 February. The daily noted that relations between Russia and Bulgaria have always been close, observing "Bulgaria is one of those few countries in Eastern Europe that is not pressing for NATO membership." Meanwhile, Demo-kratsiya reported that Gen. Mikho Mikhov last week refused Moscow's "gift" of 12 Mi-24 helicopters because of their low technical grade and the high cost need to repair and maintain them. The arms transfer was agreed to in 1995. -- Stan Markotich

ALBANIAN POLICE ARRESTS MEDIA EMPLOYEES IN CONNECTION WITH BOMB ATTACK.
Albanian police on 27 February arrested the two bodyguards of Koha Jone editor in chief Nikolla Lesi in connection with the bomb explosion in Tirana the previous day, Albanian media reported. This move came after police had interrogated 33 Koha Jone staff members on the day of the blast. State radio said the bodyguards resembled police sketches of the alleged perpetrators. Police also raided Lesi's apartment and confiscated a hunting rifle and a safe box containing tapes of a 1994 trial in which two journalists were convicted of slander and revealing state secrets. Meanwhile, the Association of Professional Journalists has protested the police raid on Koha Jone. President Sali Berisha said "the government is com-mitted...to iden-tifing the perpetrators, and I believe Albanian justice will give them the punishment they deserve --capital punishment." The Socialist Party has rejected claims it was involved in the attack and has called on all political parties to "unite in the fight against terrorism." -- Fabian Schmidt

GREECE, MACEDONIA FAIL AGAIN TO REACH AGREEMENT ON NAME ISSUE.
Greece and Macedonia, meeting at UN headquarters in New York on 27 February, failed again to reach agreement on the issue of a permanent official name for Macedonia. Both parties agreed, however, to continue the dialogue in April. Macedonia was admitted to the UN in April 1993 under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece continues to object to the use of "Macedonia" in its name, arguing it implies territorial claims against the northern Greek province bearing the same name. -- Lowell Bezanis and Stan Markotich

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave








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