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Newsline - March 5, 1996


ZYUGANOV BECOMES FIRST REGISTERED CANDIDATE . . .
The Central Electoral Commission has registered Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov as the first candidate for the 16 June presidential elections, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 March. Zyuganov may now officially begin campaigning and may collect money from the electoral commission, which will be allocated to all registered candidates. Along with a list of 1.7 million signatures supporting his candidacy, Zyuganov submitted tax returns for the last two years to the commission, declaring his total pre-tax income for 1995 at about 30 million rubles ($6,300), Reuters reported. -- Laura Belin

. . . BUT MAY LOSE HARDLINE COMMUNIST SUPPORT.
Representatives of 25 left-wing groups, including Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin and Power to the People head Nikolai Ryzhkov, formed an electoral "bloc of popular patriotic forces" and signed an agreement supporting Zyuganov as their sole presidential candidate, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 March. However, according to RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS, some hardliners including Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, the Russian Communist Workers' Party, and Sergei Baburin's Russian Public Union refused to sign the document because it does not call for a restoration of the Soviet Union. Zyuganov said he still hopes to cooperate with politicians such as Aleksandr Rutskoi, Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, and Stanislav Govorukhin, all of whom agreed last week to form a "third force" supporting neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov for president. -- Laura Belin

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN SERNOVODSK.
Federal forces used artillery and helicopter gunships on 4 March to attack what they claimed was a force of 500 separatist fighters in the western Chechen town of Sernovodsk, Russian and Western agencies reported. Around 16,000 refugees have fled the town to neighboring Ingushetiya. Although journalists have not been permitted to enter the town, relief workers told NTV that shelling had destroyed a sanitarium that houses refugees, burying 300 people in the ruins. -- Scott Parrish

GRACHEV CHANGES TUNE.
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev retracted his earlier statement about his willingness to meet separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 March. Earlier in the course of his one-day visit to Grozny Grachev had said "for such a meeting, I am willing to go anywhere." But following a meeting with Moscow-backed Chechen Head of State Doku Zavgaev, Grachev declared it is "time to forget about Dudaev," whom he described as a "murderer." Grachev, who later departed for North Ossetiya, was gathering information for a meeting later this week of the Russian Security Council, which will discuss ways to resolve the Chechen conflict. Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, who is in hospital recovering from heart bypass surgery, will miss the meeting. -- Scott Parrish

CHERNOMYRDIN ON YELTSIN CAMPAIGN.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev in a meeting on 4 March that if a deputy prime minister is put in charge of Yeltsin's re-election headquarters, he will work in that capacity on a "voluntary basis," NTV reported. Yeltsin's campaign staff is currently headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets. A spokesman for Soskovets said he currently works from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm for the government, and then another two to two and a half hours for the Yeltsin campaign. -- Laura Belin

WOMEN'S GROUPS APPEAL TO DUMA.
Representatives of 53 women's associations appealed to the Duma on 4 March to improve the legal status of women, ITAR-TASS reported. The groups are concerned by the disproportionate number of women are out of work (constituting 62% of the officially registered unemployed) and that women are discriminated against in hiring and firing. The appeal also drew attention to the sharp increase in salary differentials between men and women and the lack of women in senior positions. It proposed that the Duma create a body to assess all draft legislation from the point of view of equal opportunities for men and women. -- Penny Morvant

NATIONALITIES MINISTRY REORGANIZED.
President Yeltsin has reorganized the Ministry of Nationalities and Regional Policy and renamed it the Ministry of Nationalities and Federal Affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. Vyacheslav Mikhailov is to stay on as minister. -- Anna Paretskaya

ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR OPPOSES EXPANSION OF LEGISLATURE'S POWER.
St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak has turned down the city legislature's Law On State Power Structure in St. Petersburg and returned it to the city's Legislative Assembly, Ekspress-khronika reported on 5 March. According to the bill, two-thirds of the legislature's deputies could pass a vote of no confidence in any executive official of the city (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 February 1996). Sobchak also signed laws on gubernatorial elections in the city, proposing that a simple, one-round election be held due to the lack of finances. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA CONDEMNS TIGHTENING OF CUBAN SANCTIONS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin on 4 March criticized the toughened economic sanctions against Cuba contained in proposed U.S. legislation, Russian and Western agencies reported. In the aftermath of the recent incident in which Cuban fighters shot down two U.S. light civilian aircraft, U.S. President Bill Clinton has agreed to sign the bill, which contains provisions that have provoked objections from the EU, Canada, and Mexico. Karasin termed the bill "contradictory to international law" and said it "infringed on the rights of sovereign states" by allowing U.S. nationals to sue foreign citizens using expropriated property in Cuba formerly owned by U.S. citizens. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN ARMY EMPLOYS LARGE NUMBER OF GENERALS.
Citing the General Staff's latest report, Obshchaya gazeta reported on 3 March that there are currently 1,800 generals in the 1.5 million strong Russian Armed Forces, with one general for each 833 servicemen. An additional 3,000 generals serve in paramilitary forces of the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, External Intelligence Service, and other government agencies. A general's average monthly salary is 2.1 million rubles ($438). -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA TO BOOST MILITARY EXPORTS TO INDIA.
A 70-member Russian delegation arrived in New Delhi on 4 March to participate in an international exhibition of military and civilian equipment, Russian and Western media reported the same day. Russian military manufacturers have brought samples of brand-new "Konkurs-M" anti-tank missiles, "S-300" air defense systems, "Smerch" multiple-launch rocket systems, and other kinds of military equipment. In 1994, the two countries signed a six-year agreement on military-technical cooperation worth $7 billion, and in 1995 Russia sold the Indian Air Force $220 million worth of MiG-29 jet fighters. -- Constantine Dmitriev

FIRE CAUSES CHAOS ON MOSCOW METRO.
A fire broke out in the Moscow metro on 4 March, bringing the city's circle line to a halt during the morning rush hour, Russian and Western agencies reported. Four people were slightly injured as a result of the incident, caused by a short circuit in a stretch of high-voltage cable in a tunnel. Concern over subway safety mounted last year following a fire in the Soviet-era metro in the Azerbaijani capital Baku that killed about 300 people. Moscow subway workers have long complained that maintenance work is underfunded, and Izvestiya quoted the head of the Metrostroi company as saying equipment in older stretches of the system is so worn out that there could be a repetition of Monday's accident with more serious consequences. -- Penny Morvant

STAVROPOL MANAGERS FINED FOR WITHHOLDING WAGES.
The Stavropol Krai labor inspectorate has fined the heads of 34 businesses and organizations in the region for paying wages late, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. The fines varied from 500,000 rubles to 3 million ($100 to $600). Managers of another 92 organizations have been set deadlines for the payment of wage arrears. Krai Governor Petr Marchenko, appointed by President Yeltsin after the Budennovsk hostage crisis last summer, issued a resolution threatening to fire managers and officials guilty of withholding wages. Also on 4 March, presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits reiterated the government's intention to eliminate budget wage arrears by the end of March. -- Penny Morvant

NEW ATOMIC POWER STATIONS.
Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said on 4 March that four atomic reactors of the new light-water VVER-640 design will be built in the next few years, ITAR-TASS reported. A new complex is under construction at Sosnovyi Bor near St. Petersburg, and other blocs will be added to the existing Kalinin and Novo-Voronezh reactors. Russia currently has 29 reactors at nine sites, four of them added in the last decade. Eight of the first-generation reactors are due to be dismantled by 2001. -- Peter Rutland

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM MURMANSK.
The 150,000 worker Apatit chemical and fertilizer plant, which was bought by Menatep Bank in 1994, is now showing signs of economic recovery, according to a report in the pro-communist Pravda on 5 March. Output has fallen by half since 1991, and by the end of 1995 the average wage was only 400,000 rubles, and the minimum consumption basket for Murmansk Oblast, where Apatit is located, is 560,000. However, in response to worker protests wages were raised 30% in January and the factory reintroduced subsidies for canteen food and public transport. Fertilizer is one of the few sectors of the Russian economy which saw output grow in 1995 (by 17%), largely driven by rising exports. -- Peter Rutland

DIAMOND DEAL DETAILS.
ITAR-TASS released on 4 March some details of a three-year agreement between Russia and South Africa's De Beers signed on 23 February. De Beers' will continue to sell 95% of the first $550 million of Russia's rough diamond exports. Russia will be allowed to independently export 20% of diamonds above the $550 million level, and promised to curtail the "leakage" of stones onto the world market outside the De Beers contract. Russia was estimated to have some 25% of the $5 billion world trade in uncut stones in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina

MOSCOW-BERLIN ART EXHIBITION OPENS.
The exhibition "Moscow-Berlin/Berlin-Moscow," covering Russian and German art from 1900 to 1950, opened on 5 March at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported. ITAR-TASS reported that the exhibition is aimed at illuminating "objectively and without bias" both the positive moments in the two nations' histories and the destructive results of the clashes between them. However, some works shown in the Berlin Gallery were removed from the Pushkin Museum version, including two portraits of Hitler and Stalin working at their desks and another pair of similar paintings depicting idealized family life in Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR. -- Laura Belin



TRIAL OF OPON REBELS IN AZERBAIJAN.
The military bench of Azerbaijan's Supreme Court found Elchin Aliev, a former OPON police officer, guilty of murdering Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Afiyaddin Jalilov and Security Chief Shamsi Ragimov in 1994, Reuters reported on 4 March. Both men were close aides of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. Three other OPON officers were sentenced to jail terms of 13 or 14 years and one other received two years. Elchin Aliev and other rebel OPON members fled to Russia but were extradited in late 1995. -- Lowell Bezanis

VELAYATI-HASANOV TRADE ACCUSATIONS.
During his recent visit to Baku, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati traded barbs with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Hasan Hasanov, at a joint press conference on 3 March, Western agencies and Turan reported. Velayati repeated Tehran's demand that Azerbaijan limit its ties with Israel, while Hasanov criticized Iran for its close ties with Armenia. He accused Tehran of helping circumvent the Baku-imposed economic blockade on Armenia. Relations between the two countries have been particularly frosty since April 1995 when Baku, at the behest of the U.S., effectively insured that Tehran would not participate in the exploitation of three offshore Caspian Sea oil fields. -- Lowell Bezanis

GEORGIA CALLS FOR TIGHTER BLOCKADE OF ABKHAZIA.
A spokesman for Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze complained that food and fuel are still reaching Abkhazia "without permission," Reuters reported on 3 March. He claimed that food is being delivered by sea from Turkey and fuel from Stavropol Krai in Russia. The Abkhaz authorities have decided to set up a new battalion, named Kolkheti, in Gali District, Iberia news agency reported on 2 March. It will be staffed by ethnic Georgians and headed by Yurii Badzaghua, a comrade-in-arms of former Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. -- Irakli Tsereteli and Lowell Bezanis



IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati visited Kiev on 4-5 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Velayati met with his Ukrainian counterpart Hennadii Udovenko and Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk. Talks focused on economic issues. Iran invited Ukraine to participate in a free economic zone being created along Iran's and Turkmenistan's border, and Udovenko and Velayati stressed the importance of realizing the trilateral agreement between Iran, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan over Turkmen gas deliveries to Ukraine. Under the agreement, Iran covers part of Ukraine's gas bill to Turkmenistan. Udovenko and Velayati noted that their countries held similar positions on most regional and international issues. Velayati flew to Belarus at the end of the visit, and will also visit Russia. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA, FLANDERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
Flanders Prime Minister Luc van den Brande and Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas on 4 March signed an agreement on cooperation in transport, trade, tourism, science, and culture, BNS reported. Flanders has signed similar agreements with Hungary and Poland. In meetings with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, President Lennart Meri, and Agriculture Minister Ilmar Mandmets, van den Brande noted the problems smaller languages and cultures face in the process of European integration, but expressed support for Estonia's entry into the European Union. -- Saulius Girnius

OUTBREAK OF SWINE FEVER IN LATVIA.
The Estonian veterinary service on 4 March imposed a 12-month ban on the import of swine, pork, and pork products from Latvia due to an outbreak of swine fever in the Talsi region of Latvia, BNS reported. Arnolds Zilinskis of the Latvian veterinary service said that the last outbreak of swine fever in Latvia was in 1993. At that time, no vaccinations were carried out in Talsi and five other regions. -- Saulius Girnius

BELARUS COMPLETES CFE AIRCRAFT REDUCTIONS.
Belarus has met its obligations in aircraft reductions as specified by the CFE treaty, Belarusian television reported on 2 March. Under the terms of the treaty, Belarus was to dismantle 130 military aircraft. The last were destroyed at the air base at Baranavichi with an inspection group from Norway overlooking the operation. By 26 April, Belarus should fulfill all of its treaty reductions. Under the terms of the treaty, the reductions should have been completed by November 1995. In February 1995, Belarus suspended its reductions because of financial difficulties, and only resumed them after Western countries promised additional aid. Because of its geographic position, Belarus had been the most militarized republic in the former USSR. -- Ustina Markus

WALESA CALLS FOR PARTY CONSOLIDATION.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa said on 4 March he expects the parties that emerged from the "Solidarity" trade union to agree on a common basic program and run on the same list during the forthcoming parliamentary elections. At a public meeting held at the University of Gdansk, Walesa recommended at most two party lists. The public opinion organization "Demoskop" says that if Walesa succeeds in constructing a center-right alliance, the chances are that the bloc will gain 30% of the vote. This would put it ahead of the Democratic Left Alliance (28%). If the Freedom Union (UW) and Jan Olszewski's Movement for Poland's Reconstruction (ROP) run separately, Walesa's bloc could count on 21% support, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 5 March. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

MYSTERIOUS ARSON AT POLISH JOURNALIST'S APARTMENT.
A fire was set during the night of 2-3 March outside the Warsaw apartment of Polish political journalist Jerzy Slawomir Mac, who has recently written articles about spying allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and financial support given to Poland's communist party by Moscow. Mac said he and other journalists at Wprost had recently received threatening letters and phone calls. He told Polish Television that he suspected the arson was politically motivated. One suspect was arrested on 4 March and two others detained but initial evidence points to a purely criminal and not political act, Polish dailies reported. In other news, Dariusz Fikus, the 64-year old editor-in-chief of the Rzeczpospolita daily, died of a heart attack on 2 March. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PREMIER IN BELGRADE, FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Vaclav Klaus, beginning a two-day visit to rump Yugoslavia and Croatia, on 4 March called for Belgrade to be reintegrated into international organizations, Czech media reported. "I personally regard is as reasonable and rational because it is senseless for Yugoslavia to remain outside," he was quoted as saying. Klaus had talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and rump Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, centering on boosting trade links and removing bilateral visa requirements. Meanwhile, Josef Zieleniec discussed repayment of Russian commercial debts to the Czech Republic - worth some $380 million - with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during a visit to Moscow. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTRY PREPARES DRAFT LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC.
Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy chairwoman Anna Malikova expressed satisfaction with the Justice Ministry's proposed amendment to the criminal code, Narodna obroda reported on 5 March. Malikova, noting that the amendment was inspired by her party's law on the protection of the republic which was drafted last April, said the SNS will submit the legislation to the parliament this month. Although the ministry's draft has not yet been publicized, the SNS version would inflict punishment on participants in activities aimed against Slovakia, including activities which are only "a potential threat." Other crimes would include "the spreading of false news on Slovak territory or abroad which endangers the security of the republic or damages its interests." The bill is reportedly aimed mainly against representatives of the Hungarian minority and journalists. -- Sharon Fisher

UPDATE ON KIDNAPPING OF SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON.
Christian Democratic Movement deputy Ladislav Pittner, a former interior minister who now heads an independent group investigating the Michal Kovac Jr. abduction, announced on 4 March that the case could be closed within a month, Narodna obroda reported. Pittner said his group, which was created a month ago because of dissatisfaction with the state of the police investigation, already has evidence pointing to the participation of the Slovak Information Service. In other news, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's long-awaited invitation for an official visit to Germany will not arrive until the kidnapping case is cleared up, Narodna obroda reported on 5 March, quoting "well-informed sources" in Bonn. Germany has apparently coordinated this position with other EU members, the paper said. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY'S MDF SPLITS.
The Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), the country's major opposition party and senior coalition partner in the former government, split into two on 4 March, Hungarian and international media reported. The split followed the MDF national convention, which was called to decide on the future direction of the party, and the election of a new party presidium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 March 1996). The election of Sandor Lezsak as president led to the more liberal members of MDF to dissociate themselves from the party. The group, led by former executive president and parliamentary caucus leader Ivan Szabo, includes former senior members of MDF, among them Geza Jeszenszky, Gyorgy Szabad and Imre Konya. After reconciliation talks with Lezsak failed, Szabo announced the formation of the Hungarian Democratic People's Party. Szabo and his adherents will form a new caucus in parliament once their party is registered later this week. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

COURT ACQUITS HUNGARIAN NEO-NAZIS.
A municipal court in Budapest found the leaders of two extreme right-wing organizations innocent of violating the law which bans incitement to hatred and use of prohibited symbols, Hungarian media reported on 5 March. In the first ever neo-Nazi trial in Hungary, which began last November, chief defendants Albert Szabo, 41, and Istvan Gyorkos, 55, were acquitted under freedom of speech provisions. The two men have used prohibited swastika-like symbols and circulated neo-Nazi propaganda material. They were arrested after a march in Budapest on 23 October 1995. The president of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, Peter Feldmajer, said that the court decision "only focuses attention on the shortcomings of Hungarian legislation in this regard". The state prosecutor said an appeal will be launched and the case will go to the Supreme Court. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SERBS LAUNCH NEW WAVE OF ETHNIC CLEANSING.
Serbs arriving from Sarajevo have begun forcing some of the few remaining Muslims and Croats in the Banja Luka area from their homes. Onasa on 4 March quoted a UN spokesman as saying that reports of expulsions are coming in "almost daily." Elderly Serbs were said to be moving into empty houses vacated earlier by Muslims and Croats in Trebinje, the Serbian stronghold in eastern Herzegovina. Meanwhile in Brussels, NATO has been discussing the idea of putting teeth into IFOR's mandate to enable it to take a more active role in catching war criminals and protecting the evidence of war crimes, AFP reported on 4 March. -- Patrick Moore

FRENCH OFFICIALS FREE KARADZIC'S VICE PRESIDENT.
French police briefly arrested Bosnian Serb Vice President Nikola Koljevic In Paris on 2 March on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued in Sarajevo in 1992 for genocide, AFP noted on 4 March. He was freed after French government officials intervened and he went on with an advisor to Radovan Karadzic to visit the Serbian community in France. In The Hague, indicted war criminal General Djordje Djukic of the Serbian army said he "does not feel himself guilty" as charged, Nasa Borba wrote on 5 March. And in Croatia, the Helsinki Committee reported on atrocities committed against mainly elderly Serbs by uniformed Croats in Krajina since the area fell last summer, Novi list reported. -- Patrick Moore

BILDT, REHN: TRIALS FOR WAR CRIMINALS ESSENTIAL TO PEACE.
Carl Bildt, the high representative for civilian affairs in Bosnia, told an international conference in Vienna on 4 March that the prosecution of alleged war criminals before the Hague-based international tribunal is a crucial element in the Bosnia peace process, AFP and Nasa Borba reported. The UN reporter on human rights in former Yugoslavia, Elisabeth Rehn, said recognition of rump Yugoslavia must depend on the human rights situation there. She appealed to the international community to make the lifting of sanctions and provision of reconstruction assistance to Yugoslavia contingent on that. Bildt announced that the chamber of human rights, an independent court of justice, would be constituted in the middle of March. The conference, held to discuss the human rights provisions of the Dayton accords, was sponsored by the Austrian Foreign Ministry and attended by 150 delegates from 30 countries. -- Daria Sito Sucic

TUDJMAN APPOINTS NEW ZAGREB LEADER.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 2 March named Marina Matulovic-Dropulic as a commissioner to fulfill the duties of mayor of Zagreb, Croatian media reported the following day. Tudjman earlier refused to confirm two candidates for mayor nominated by the opposition majority on the city council, and instead decided to appoint a commissioner while calling for new elections. Zagreb City Assembly President Zdravko Tomac said the council would not confirm Matulovic- Dropulic's appointment. The opposition alliance will nominate another candidate for the post of mayor, Hina reported. "We will not give in, because it is Zagreb that will decide whether democracy is to stay or vanish," Vjesnik quoted Tomac as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

WILL SESELJ DIVIDE THE SERBIAN OPPOSITION?
Nasa Borba on 5 March runs a series of articles which attempt to evaluate the impact of the controversial Serbian Radical party (SRS) and its leader, accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, on opposition party relations. A recurring theme appears to be a suspicion in opposition ranks that any serious cooperation aimed at forging unity aimed to dislodge the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia likely shall not or cannot include the SRS. In one piece, titled "What Opposition Colleagues Say About the Radicals," Aleksandar Cotric of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) argues: "The question is just whether or not Seselj is really even a member of the opposition, because everybody remembers a time when there was tight cooperation [between the SRS] and the socialists...when he [Seselj] even told his voters to cast their ballot for Milosevic for president." -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN EGYPT.
Zoran Thaler met in Cairo with Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ahmad al-Janzuri and Foreign Minister Amr Musa on 3 March, STA reported that same day. At the top of the agenda were continuing and developing bilateral economic ties, but the possibility for Slovenian-Egyptian cooperation on issues relating to Bosnia-Herzegovina was also discussed. "Slovenia and Egypt have a similar point of view on resolving the Bosnia crisis...and [our] two countries will cooperate in reconstruction projects for Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Thaler. -- Stan Markotich

METRO STRIKE CAUSES TRAFFIC CHAOS IN BUCHAREST.
Metro workers in Bucharest on 4 March went on an indefinite strike to press demands for a 30% pay rise and better terms, Radio Bucharest reported. The strikes will be held daily from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get around legal requirements that metro workers must not strike for more than two-thirds of the 19-hour-a-day timetable. The strike has affected some 700,000 commuters in Romania's capital who use the underground rail network regularly. On 4 March, thousands of commuters lined up at bus and tram stops despite low temperatures of some -10 Celsius. Romania's Transport Ministry declared the strike "illegal" and "unwarranted," pointing at the fact that the metro system receives state subsidies. Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu also spoke of an "illegal" strike and urged the workers to resume their activity. -- Dan Ionescu

SIX ROMANIANS DIE IN JERUSALEM BOMB ATTACK.
Five Romanian guest workers and a tourist were among the victims of last weekend's suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem, Romanian and international media reported on 3-5 March. President Ion Iliescu condemned the attack, and expressed hopes that such fanatical acts would not derail the peace process. The Romanian Foreign Ministry released the names of the six victims and said the bodies will be repatriated on 6 March. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN INTEREST RATE GOES UP.
The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) on 4 March raised the prime interest rate by 7%, Pari reported. The new rate of 49% becomes effective on 6 March. BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said "chaos on the currency market" necessitated the move but he hopes the rate will fall under 25% by the end of 1996. The raise came just one month after the BNB raised the prime interest rate from 34% to 42% on 1 February. In 1995, the rate was lowered seven times. Trud cited Filipov as saying that without help Bulgaria can not meet its obligations to repay foreign debts in 1996 because it would have to use its foreign currency reserves which would further devalue the lev. 24 chasa said the BNB's foreign currency reserves fell from $1.4 billion on November 1995 to $930 million. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN UPDATE.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic
Development Rumen Gechev and Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev are likely to be replaced soon, 24 chasa reported on 5 March. A report by the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) sociopolitical commission said they must leave the government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov immediately. BSP Deputy chairman Georgi Parvanov called for immediate personnel changes, an intensified fight against crime, and a smoother implementation of economic reforms. In other news, Standart reported that official documents were falsified in order to allow for increased grain exports. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) claims that more than one million tons of grain were exported instead of the 500,000 tons the government had approved, thus causing a severe grain shortage. -- Stefan Krause

GREEK "SPY STORY" UPDATE.
Greece on 4 March demanded that Italy and the Netherlands replace their military attaches, Reuters reported. Rome and The Hague had recalled the attaches after Athens accused them of spying (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 March 1996). A senior government official said Greece "will not accept the same people." Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo called the row "a little storm in a very big teacup" and said there was no question of the Netherlands spying on a NATO partner. But parliamentary deputies in The Hague said that if Greece does not withdraw its accusation it will be asked to recall a diplomat from the Netherlands. Italy said it will not send its military attache back until Athens ends the "blown-up episode." -- Stefan Krause

TWO ALBANIAN PAPERS CLOSE DOWN.
The Koha Jone publishing house has announced it will close down two of its smaller publications to overcome a financial crisis following a police crackdown on its delivery system, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 3 March. Editors-in-Chief Nikolle Lesi and Aleksander Frangaj argued that Koha Jone is forced to close down AKS and Sport Ekspres as police are continuing to impound nine of the daily's delivery vans, some for over a month. Koha Jone has also been charged with tax evasion for wrongly registering as a magazine rather than a newspaper. -- Fabian Schmidt

FOUR ALBANIANS ARRESTED FOR FOUNDING COMMUNIST PARTY.
A Tirana court ordered the continued detention of three people who tried to re-found a Communist Party and youth organization, Koha Jone reported on 5 March. A fourth man, aged 73, has been put under house arrest. All those arrested are over 50 years old and will be charged with founding anti-constitutional parties or organizations. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle



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