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Newsline - February 29, 1996


YELTSIN CALLS FOR UNION WITH BELARUS.
After a 28 February Kremlin meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, President Yeltsin said that deeper Russo-Belarusian integration is aimed at eventually reach the "goal" of "unity" between the two states, Russian and Western agencies reported. Without defining unity, Yeltsin described this goal as "achievable" during his presidency. Lukashenka agreed, and subsequently told journalists that in March a major agreement would be signed accelerating the integration of the two states and creating a supra-national organization with a jointly funded budget to oversee military cooperation and work on overcoming the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. Later on 28 February, Lukashenka departed for a two-day tour of oil and gas producing enterprises in Tyumen Oblast. -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO LUKASHENKA VISIT.
Under the deal signed on 28 February, Russia will cancel $470 million in outstanding state credits and in return Belarus will waive their $300 million claim on Russia. Russian commentators observed that Yeltsin used Lukashenka's visit to bolster his re-election campaign, casting himself as the champion of reintegration among the former Soviet republics. Russian TV reported that Yeltsin and Luka-shenka's agreement on the goal of "unity" would deprive the Russian president's communist and nationalist opponents of "one of their main trump cards...the promise to restore the USSR." Izvestiya warned on 28 February that "only the blind" could fail to see that the "cause of integration" is being used as "a bargaining chip in the presidential campaign," a charge Segodnya bolstered by questioning the economic wisdom of integration with Belarus. -- Scott Parrish

LEFT-CENTER POLITICIANS CREATE "THIRD FORCE."
A group of Duma members including Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, Stanislav Govorukhin, and other politicians, including Sergei Glazev, Konstantin Zatulin, and Oleg Rumyantsev, have agreed to create a coalition called "Third Force" that will support neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov in the presidential campaign, Segodnya reported on 28 February. The new group is expected to back Lebed or Fedorov as its candidate. The absence of the Congress of Russian Communities' Yurii Skokov suggests that the fissures in that party are growing more serious. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN TELLS DEMOCRATS THAT HE IS THEIR ONLY CHOICE.
President Boris Yeltsin said on 28 February that pro-reform activists and voters "have no other choice but to support me" since "there is nobody else," Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that his support will grow as the elections approach, an assertion borne out by the latest VCIOM polls which show him closing in on Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, with 27% to Zyuganov's 39% in a one-on-one race. However, Konstantin Borovoi's Party of Economic Freedom announced that it would support Yabloko's Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

MUSCOVITES BACK LUZHKOV.
One hundred well-known Muscovites have signed a letter published in Obshchaya gazeta on 29 February endorsing the re-election of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Among the signatories were Duma deputies Irina Khakamada and Svyatoslav Fedorov, former Russian TV head Oleg Poptsov, and actors Aleksei Batalov and Oleg Yefremov. According to the latest opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of Muscovites want Luzhkov to run for re-election and 70% of respondents said they would not want Luzhkov to leave his post, even to run for the presidency. Moscow's mayoral elections will take place on 16 June along with the presidential poll. -- Anna Paretskaya

ST. PETERSBURG LEGISLATURE EXPANDS ITS POWERS.
The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly passed a bill on 28 February that considerably extends the powers of the city's legislative institutions, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the bill, two-thirds of the legislature's deputies can pass a vote of no confidence in any executive official of the city, including head of local administration and the Constitutional Court will have the power to resolve any conflicts between the city's executive and legislative bodies. The law also introduces the post of a city governor to replace that of mayor and sets gubernatorial elections for 16 June. The new law must now be approved by the current Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA JOINS COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
At a Strasbourg ceremony on 28 February, Russia officially became the 39th member of the Council of Europe, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov handed council Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys documents affirming Russian adherence to the council charter. Primakov then signed the European Human Rights Convention, a convention outlawing torture, a charter on local self-government, and a convention to protect minorities. Primakov said Russia's acceptance into the council showed that Europe believes it will continue with democratic reform. Russian human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev urged the council to carefully monitor Russian compliance with the obligations of council membership, especially in Chechnya. Otherwise, he said, "nothing good will come" of Russian membership. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN CHIDES U.S. OVER CUBAN PLANE INCIDENT.
President Yeltsin told journalists on 28 February that he was "concerned" by the recent incident in which a Cuban fighter shot down two U.S. civilian aircraft, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin praised the UN Security Council--which adopted a resolution with softer wording than that requested by the U.S.--for "diplomatically telling the U.S. that it cannot declare war over every such incident." The council's resolution "deplored" the incident, and called for an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization but did not impose any sanctions against Cuba. Yeltsin added that Russia is "re-establishing" its ties with Cuba, which broke down after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Last week, Russian Nuclear Power Minister Viktor Mikhailov visited Cuba to discuss the possible completion of the unfinished Juragua nuclear plant, which the U.S. opposes, citing safety concerns. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN ARMS COMPANIES GET GREEN LIGHT.
Five major Russian military companies have been granted the right to sign export deals independently, AFP reported on 28 February. According to a spokesman for the state-owned export firm Ros-vooruzhenie, the firms Rosvertol (helicopters), Antei (anti-aircraft systems), Gipromash (hydraulic systems), Ufim plant (jet engines), and the Tula instrument design bureau (anti-tank weapons) can now sign deals without intermediation by Rosvooruz-henie. Since 1994, only Rosvooruzhenie and MIG-MAPO aircraft company have been allowed to sign independent deals with foreign clients. Podgrebenkov said Ros-vooruzhenie regards these companies "as colleagues, not competitors." He added that other Russian companies may soon be granted similar privileges. -- Constantine Dmitriev

WAGE DEBT CONTINUES TO GROW.
By 20 February, the total Russian wage debt had grown to 23.7 trillion rubles ($4.9 billion) from 20.4 trillion a month earlier, Trud reported on 28 February. The largest debt is in the engineering sector (3.75 trillion rubles), followed by education (1.87 trillion), the coal industry (1.28 trillion), and health (1.22 trillion). President Yeltsin has repeatedly promised to resolve the wage arrears crisis, but presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits was forced to acknowledge on 28 February that the situation remains difficult, Ekho Moskvy reported. Officials in public and private firms who delay wage payments are being threatened with criminal prosecution. -- Penny Morvant

ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES.
Citing a source in the Presidential Security Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February that $3 million worth of jewels bought with embezzled funds had been confiscated at Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow in a case of high-level corruption. The report did not name the accused but said that the investigation, which began a year ago, is under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Security Service and the main military procurator, suggesting that the suspects are from the military or the KGB. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Anatolii Golovaty, who was responsible for overseeing Ros-komdragmet, has tendered his resignation over charges that senior committee officials robbed the state of more than $170 million. -- Penny Morvant

STRIKES INCREASING.
Strikes occurred at 2,108 enterprises and organizations in Russia in January, the BBC reported, citing Interfax. Labor Ministry official Valentin Tinyakov said all but 31 of the strikes were in the education sector. In 1995, a total of 8,856 strikes were recorded, up from 514 in 1994, according to Goskomstat. Unpaid wages were the main grievance. The number of hunger strikes has also increased dramatically in recent months, indicating the degree of despair felt by employees in a number of sectors, including education, health, mining, and law enforcement. At present, guards are on hunger strike at a penal colony in Kareliya, the second such protest by Interior Ministry officials in the republic this year. -- Penny Morvant

BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS.
In a 29 February speech to the government on economic policy, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reaffirmed his commitment "to use basic market instruments for managing the economy," even while trying to reduce the social costs of reform, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he identified low tax revenues as a major problem. Budget income in the first two months was 15 trillion rubles ($3.1 billion), only 33% of the planned level, while spending was 33 trillion rubles, 70% of the planned level, according to Segodnya of 28 February. The gap was plugged in part by the sale of 7.5 trillion rubles worth of treasury bonds. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov presented a similar gloomy prognosis in an interview with ITAR-TASS on 28 February, in which he said they expect tax receipts of 22 trillion rubles in March but plan to spend 32 trillion rubles. -- Peter Rutland

COAL INDUSTRY SUBSIDIES.
The Russian coal industry should receive 10.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) in subsidies this year, about 1% of GDP. This includes 7.4 trillion rubles from the budget, a $500 million loan from the World Bank, and $100 million credit from British and German equipment suppliers, Russian TV reported on 27 February. It is expected that pit closures will mean the firing of 100,000 of Russia's 800,000 miners this year. Yurii Malyshev, the head of the monopoly state company Rosugol, complained that the World Bank loan is aimed at closing pits rather than investing in new capacity, in an interview with the New York Times of 29 February. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA RUNS TRADE SURPLUS WITH U.S.
In 1995, Russia ran a $1,209 million trade surplus with the U.S., exporting $4,035 million and importing $2,826 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. This was up from a surplus of $667 million in 1994. The U.S. ran a surplus of $109 million with the remaining CIS countries in 1995 (down from $381 million in 1994), with imports of $875 million and exports of $984 million. -- Peter Rutland



GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION CRITICIZES LATEST BILLS.
The parliamentary faction of the opposition Georgian National Democratic Party lambasted the hasty passage of new bills on land privatization, the budget, and commercial banks, Russian media reported on 27 February. According to the party's political secretary, Mamuka Giorgadze, the bills were not properly prepared. Parliament rejected a proposal by the National Democrats that the bills be re-drafted. The IMF had set the passage of these bills as a condition for the release of its $240 million Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) loan to Georgia. -- Irakli Tsereteli

OPPOSITION TURNS DOWN TAJIK GOVERNMENT INVITATION.
A spokesman for the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Ali Akbar Tura-jonzoda, said the UTO will not send any representatives to an 11 March session of the Tajik parliament, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan broadcast monitored by the BBC. The parliament had offered the opposition an opportunity to address the session, which would also have been attended by Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, and representatives of observer states to the Tajik peace talks. Turajonzoda claimed that "the Dushanbe regime will not be able to ensure either their own security or that of the guests that parliament has invited to take part in the session." -- Bruce Pannier

WOLVES THREATEN HUMANS IN NORTHWESTERN KAZAKHSTAN.
The Kazakhstani government has set aside 3 million tenge ($46,000) to organize special brigades of hunters and offer bounties to deal with an increasing number of attacks on humans by a growing wolf population, Kaztag reported on 28 February. An Almaty zoologist reported that the number of wolves in the country has grown to 60,000 since the government stopped paying bounties a few years ago. A region in Eastern Kazakhstan pays a bounty of about $74 per wolf. -- Bhavna Dave



CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS ELECT PRIME MINISTER.
Crimean deputies have elected Arkadii Demydenko as the region's prime minister, interna-tional and Ukrainian agencies reported on 28 February. The 46-year-old engineer is considered a moderate and served as deputy prime minister in the government of Anatolii Franchuk, who was dismissed in December for his alleged pro-Kiev sympathies. Demydenko promised to pursue greater economic independence for the peninsula, particularly through developing offshore oil and gas deposits and alternative energy sources. UNIAN on 26 February reported that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma expressed satisfaction with Demy-denko's nomination for the post. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

EUROPEAN COMMISSION URGES TRADE ACCORD WITH BELARUS.
The European Commission has proposed that EU countries sign a temporary trade agreement with Belarus, Reuters reported on 28 February. The accord will apply until a comprehensive agreement on partnership and cooperation comes into force. The comprehensive accord was signed last March but has not been ratified because the EU has been waiting for confirmation that Belarus is sincere in its commitment to economic and political reform. -- Ustina Markus

DENMARK TO HELP ESTONIA PREPARE FOR EU MEMBERSHIP.
Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas and Danish Ambassador to Estonia Sven Roed Nielsen on 28 February signed an agreement on Danish technical and expert assistance to help Estonia join the EU, BNS reported. The accord allows Estonian ministries and other institutions to receive advice on how to amend legislation to bring it into line with EU requirements. The implementation of the agreement will be controlled by a committee of Estonian senior officials set up to coordinate EU-related questions. -- Saulius Girnius

ENERGY PRICES IN LITHUANIA MAY INCREASE.
Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius, speaking on Radio Lithuania on 28 February, said the government will probably have to raise energy costs for consumers since the budget deficit is growing. He noted that while Lietuvos Dujos owed $36 million to Russian natural gas suppliers, Lithuania's consumers owed the energy system more than $75 million. He regretted that the government used a large part of foreign loans to pay energy debts rather than for investments to increase production. He also said he expected to announce the appointment of a new energy minister by the end of the week. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW CHIEF OF POLISH STATE SECURITY OFFICE.
Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 28 February accepted the resignation of Gromoslaw Czempinski, head of the Polish State Security Office (UOP). Czempinski stepped down in connection with the leaks to the press about spy allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Cimo-szewicz the same day named Andrzej Kapkowski as the new UOP chief. Kapkowski has worked in counter-intelligence since 1968, Polish dailies reported on 29 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH TELEVISION PRESIDENT TENDERS RESIGNATION.
Wieslaw Walendziak has tendered his resignation, Rzeczpospolita reported on 29 February. Walendziak gave no reasons for his decision. He had supported extending the contract of Maciej Pawlicki, former director of Polish TV's First Channel, but three deputy presidents had opposed such a move. Rzeczpospolita said that Walendziak may have resigned on finding out that he had limited influence over the day-to-day running of the company. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLAND, UKRAINE TO FORM JOINT PEACEKEEPING BATTALION.
Poland and Ukraine have agreed to form a joint peacekeeping battalion, Interfax reported on 28 February. The unit will be financed by both countries and will consist of Ukrainian units based in Lviv and Polish units in Przemysl. The first joint military exercise are to be held in April on the outskirts of Lviv. English will be the battalion's official language. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECHS RELAX MONETARY PO-LICY, CUT TAXES.
The Czech National Bank (CNB) on 28 February widened the band in which the koruna can fluctuate from plus or minus 0.5% of the basket of currencies to which it is fixed (the German mark and U.S. dollar) to plus or minus 7.5%, Czech media reported. CNB Governor Josef Tosovsky said the move would aid anti-inflation policy and keeping the currency stable. The Czech (and previously, Czechoslovak) koruna had been kept under tight control for more than five years. IMF officials had recommended easing monetary policy to help stem a large inflow of foreign speculative capital into the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, the government approved cuts in income tax and VAT that will remove 9.4 billion koruny ($348 million) from the 1997 state budget. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH DEPUTIES DESERT PARTY.
The caucus leader of the centrist Free Democrats-Liberal National Social Party (SD-LSNS) on 28 February announced that at least five of its six deputies have formed a new group called the Civic National Movement, Czech media reported. The deputies, who previously represented the LSNS, have been in conflict with the new party leadership since last fall when the LSNS merged with the SD, headed by former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier. Caucus leader Tomas Sterba has been threatened with expulsion from the party for contravening official policy. He has accused the SD of highjacking the LSNS. The split comes exactly three months before parliamentary elections are due to be held. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY TO JOIN COALITION?
Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) chairman Peter Weiss on 28 February told reporters that his party will not join the current government. Weiss called it "unacceptable" for the SDL to work with the Slovak National Party, which "is in the cabinet only to profit from privatization" and which has "repeatedly tried to rehabilitate the quasi-Fascist war-time state." Weiss said the SDL is considering joining a restructured cabinet because of increasing social tension and Slovakia's weak international position at a time when expansion of the EU and NATO is being decided. Criticizing the cabinet's plans to privatize Slovakia's biggest banks by selling them to the country's largest firms (which are also the banks' debtors), Weiss stressed the need to restructure the banks' portfolios, to weaken their monopoly, and to pass legislation on state supervision and protection of deposits. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER OUTLINES REFORM PROGRAM.
Peter Medgyessy has said he wants to continue with the stabilization program of his predecessor, Lajos Bokros, and will aim for larger economic growth, Hungarian media reported on 29 February. Medgyessy was addressing the parliamentary Economic Committee, which backed his ideas. Medgyessy said there is a realistic chance of increasing economic growth from 1.5% of GDP in 1995 to 4-5% in 1997. He added that reducing inflation from the current 29% to 20%, as stipulated by the government, is his top priority. Medgyessy also aims to reduce interest rates and reform the pension and health insurance systems. -- Szilagyi Zsofia



BOSNIAN FEDERAL POLICE ENTER ILIJAS.
The multi-ethnic police force of the Bosnian Federation has taken up posts in the second of the formerly Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo to pass to federal control under the terms of the Dayton agreement. The 90-strong contingent included 25 Serbs and 15 Croats. As before, most local Serbs were driven out by their own authorities, which withdrew essential services and utilities and contributed to a climate of panic and fear but did not always provide transportation. Armed gangs then looted and intimidated local residents, so that only the old and infirm remained. This will help consolidate "ethnic cleansing" and is in keeping with the view of the Bosnian Serb leadership that people of different nationalities cannot live together, but it is not the concept of the Dayton accords. -- Patrick Moore

IFOR FAILS TO ARREST KARADZIC AGAIN.
IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith admitted that Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic was in Banja Luka at the same time as some of Smith's men on 27 February. Smith claimed, however, that they could not have arrested him. Reuters on 28 February quoted Smith as saying: "We did not have Karadzic in our hands. We happened to be in the same city. He happened to have a fairly substantial number of guards. He was also in public places where civilians were around. If IFOR had attempted to detain him, there clearly would have been some resistance. It would have been unwise frankly on the part of those IFOR people who may have seen him in Banja Luka to have pursued any sort of a detention." This is the latest in a series of reports that Karadzic was in the vicinity of the peacekeepers, who did nothing to apprehend him. -- Patrick Moore

WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
Nasa Borba and Novi list on 1 March reported that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has deferred until 2 March its ruling on a request to free Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic. This was a rebuff to his lawyer's request for him to be released by 1 March "at the latest," AFP reported. Onasa on 28 February quoted Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic as saying that evidence is being collected against Canadian General Lewis McKenzie on suspicion of his participating in war crimes, "mainly rapes," when he was UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia. McKenzie was linked to reports about gatherings at a Serb-run brothel near Sarajevo and later became a lobbyist for the Serbian cause. Meanwhile in Zagreb, parliament agreed on 27 February after heated discussion to postpone until March a vote on a bill to enable Croatia to extradite suspected war criminals wanted by the tribunal. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN JOURNALISTS BOYCOTT CARL BILDT.
The Independent Union of Professional Journalists of Bosnia-Herzegovina broke off all contacts with the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt as of 1 March, Onasa reported on 27 February. This is to protest the Serbs' continued detention of Bosnian photographer Hidajet Delic, whom the Serbs captured and accused of "war crimes" on 8 February in apparent response to the arrest of Djukic and other Serb officers. The journalists said that Bildt is responsible for ensuring freedom of movement in Sarajevo. OMRI special correspondents Jan Urban and Yvonne Badal visited Delic and said he "was not in a good mental state, although he kept repeating he had not been physically abused." Urban added that the Serbs have not filed charges against Delic or let him contact a lawyer. -- Patrick Moore

EU MAINTAINS ARMS EMBARGO AGAINST BOSNIA, CROATIA, RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
The EU Council of Ministers, meeting in Brussels on 27 February, decided maintain its arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and the rump Yugoslavia until the IFOR mission ends and eastern Slavonia is transferred to the Croatian government, Novi list reported on 29 February. The embargo does not include equipment needed to clear mines. Requests by Slovenia and Macedonia to be allowed to import arms will be discussed on a "case-by-case" basis. The EU will reconsider its decision again shortly before the IFOR mandate in Bosnia and the UN mandate in eastern Slavonia expires. -- Daria Sito Sucic

INTERNATIONAL MONITORS CONCLUDE RUMP YUGOSLAV MISSION.
International monitors observing cross-border activity between the rump Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska have ended their mission following the lifting of sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs, Nasa Borba reported on 29 February. The mission began in September 1994, after Belgrade had agreed to halt all traffic, except humanitarian aid deliveries, to the Bosnian Serbs. Belgrade will now resume responsibility for monitoring the border. In other news, on 28 February Tanjug reported that UN special representative Kofi Annan, who on 27 February announced he was resigning his post, paid a visit to Belgrade where he met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and other officials. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN CARDINAL WARNS OF DANGER OF "ISLAMIZING" BOS-NIA.
Vinko Puljic, during a visit to Bonn for talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, has warned of the danger of "Islamizing" Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nasa Borba reported on 29 February, citing Deutsche Welle. Puljic asked Kohl for political, moral, and material aid in the reconstruction of Bosnia. He expressed special concern for the refugees who have found safe haven in Germany, saying he feared they would become beggars on returning home. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SLOVENIA REACHES DEAL WITH FOREIGN CREDITORS.
Slovenia has become the first former Yugoslav republic to reach a deal with its foreign creditors to pay its share of the former Yugoslavia's debts, Radio Slovenia reported on 28 February. The parliament formally approved the deal. Governor of the Bank of Slovenia France Arhar was quoted as saying "the bonds for covering the debt will be issued before the end of June." Slovenia and the London Club of creditors last year agreed that Ljubljana will pay 18% of the former Yugoslavia's debts. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIAN WRAP-UP.
Mace-donian President Kiro Gligorov was awarded the annual peace prize of the Crans Montana Forum, MIC reported on 28 February. Gligorov will receive the prize at the next session of the forum, which will be held under the auspices of the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNIDO, and UNESCO. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Blagoy Handziski on 27 February received the first Russian military attache to Macedonia, Col. Stanislav Gromov. The EU Council of Ministers concluded that the EU should adopt a restrictive approach toward arms exports to Macedonia and Slovenia, given the situation in the former Yugoslavia. Export licenses will now have to be approved on a case-by-case basis. Finally, Politika on 29 February reported that rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic is in Skopje to negotiate preparations for the mutual recognition of the two states. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN SENATE CHAIRMAN IN U.S.
A Romanian parliamentary delegation headed by Senate Chairman Oliviu Gherman is paying an official visit to the U.S., Radio Bucharest reported on 28-29 February. Gher-man, who is also chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania, met with U.S. congressmen and members of the Clinton administration to discuss the progress of reforms in Romania and its efforts to join Euro-Atlantic structures. The visit has been sponsored by the congressional research service, which has launched an assistance program for Romania. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIA RESUMES TREATY TALKS WITH NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES.
Romanian Foreign Ministry official Dumitru Ceausu and Vladimir Vasilenko, a special envoy to Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, resumed bilateral treaty talks in Bucharest on 27 February following a four-month break, Romanian and international media reported. Negotiations on a Romania-Yugoslav Federation basic treaty began in Belgrade the same day. The talks had been postponed after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the rump Yugoslav government. A new round of negotiations between Romania and Hungary over Romanian President Ion Iliescu's "historic reconciliation proposal" also began on 28 February in Bucharest. -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ON BASIC TREATY WITH RUSSIA.
Petru Dascal on 28 February said Moldova and Russia should denounce both the 1990 bilateral treaty and a 1995 additional protocol stipulating military assistance in case of need. Moldovan agencies quoted him as saying that due to the rapid development of events over the past several years, the treaty is outdated, although it has not yet been ratified by the Russian State Duma. Dascal said the two countries should begin negotiations on a new treaty that would take into account the current state of bilateral relations. -- Matyas Szabo

BANK TAKEOVER IN BULGARIA.
The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) has effectively taken over the private Bank for Agricultural Credit Vitosha (BZK), Pari reported on 29 February. BZK's shareholders will hand over their shares to BNB without compensation and BNB will continue to refinance BZK. Since the beginning of 1996, BNB has pumped some 2.5 billion leva ($33.1 million) into BZK in order to avoid insolvency. The latest move is aimed at stabilizing the bank and protecting depositors. BZK head Atanas Tilev, who is also the biggest shareholder with some 40%, has agreed to the deal. The BNB insists on changes in BZK's statutes and management. Such changes have to be approved by 75% of shareholders. -- Stefan Krause

BOMBS EXPLODE THROUGHOUT ALBANIA.
Unrelated bomb explosions took place throughout Albania on 27-28 February. Unidentified assailants in Vlora blasted a hole in the balcony of an apartment building, Koha Jone reported on 29 February. The blast shattered glass in the building. A bailiff in Gramsh found a bomb with a burning fuse on his balcony but was able to throw it away before it exploded. Gazeta Shqiptare reported that a garbage can near an apartment block in Shkoder was blasted by a bomb. The explosion was so loud that it could be heard in most parts of the city. Investigations into all three incidents have begun. Meanwhile, police have published sketches of a person who left the car containing the bomb that went off in Tirana on 26 February, Lajmi i Dites reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

AGREEMENT REACHED "IN PRINCIPLE" TO FORM TURKISH COALITION GOVERNMENT.
Turkish caretaker Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, leader of the True Path Party, and Mesut Yilmaz, chief of the Motherland Party, have agreed "in principle" to form a "grand coalition," Western agencies reported. But the former bitter rivals reportedly remain divided over who should initially serve as prime minister if a rotation scheme is agreed on. A second round of talks between Ciller and Yilmaz is scheduled for 1 March. There have been three abortive attempts to form a coalition government since the general elections last December. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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