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Newsline - March 12, 1996


YELTSIN CONSIDERING REPLACING LOBOV WITH GRACHEV ON SECURITY COUNCIL.
President Boris Yeltsin is considering replacing Security Council Chairman Oleg Lobov, who is unable to perform his duties because of a severe heart condition that requires hospitalization, with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. ITAR-TASS claimed that Yeltsin advisers such as First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, who is organizing the president's re-election campaign, are warning the president that he will not be able to win the election with Grachev as defense minister. However, unidentified Security Council staffers told ITAR-TASS that Grachev is "unsuited for the analytical activity" the job requires. Yurii Baturin, national security adviser to the president, and former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko are also candidates for the Security Council position. ITAR-TASS suggested that the Security Council will play an increasingly important role as Yeltsin tries to end the Chechen war and restructure his social policies. -- Robert Orttung

DEFENSE MINISTRY REJECTS RUMORS OF GRACHEV DISMISSAL.
The Collegium of the Defense Ministry rejected any rumors about Grachev's resignation and said that this speculation is causing an "unacceptable destabilization of the situation in the armed forces," in a statement to politicians and the media published in the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda on 12 March. The statement denounced "deliberately false allegations" that cast doubts on the effectiveness of the armed forces, claiming that "this kind of activity suits certain forces which are taking part in the campaign." NTV viewed the statement as a response to the Security Council staff's disparaging remarks about Grachev. Grachev's dismissal has long been rumored, but he survived Yeltsin's sacrifice of other top ministers in June 1995 following a Duma vote of no confidence after the Budennovsk hostage-taking incident. -- Robert Orttung

KULIKOV ASSESSES GROZNY FIGHTING.
Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has criticized the inability of Russian federal forces, Interior Ministry troops, and Chechen Interior Ministry forces to coordinate the defense of the city during the past five days of fighting against Chechen militants loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian TV reported. Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 11 March following a session of the Chechen government, Kulikov said that 79 Russian troops were killed in the fighting, 276 wounded, and 40 missing; he estimated the Chechen casualties at 300 dead and 350 wounded, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Vakha Sagaev told ITAR-TASS on 12 March that isolated groups of Chechen militants still in Grozny continued to subject some areas of the city center to sporadic sniper fire. Meanwhile, a Chechen military commander in the village of Bamut close to the Ingush border threatened on 11 March to begin executing Russian troops held prisoner if Russian air raids on the village continue, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN SEEKS TO CO-OPT LEBED.
A representative of the government has proposed to Duma member Aleksandr Lebed that he take charge of a "federal foundation" to return illegally-exported capital to Russia, Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The plan is likely aimed at winning over some of the pro-communist electorate and removing one of Yeltsin's opponents from the race. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN TURNS DOWN CHANGES TO SELF-GOVERNMENT LAW.
President Yeltsin has turned down a bill passed by the Duma on amendments to the local self government law, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. The bill, passed in February, would have prolonged the terms of office of all local administrations until January 1997. The law on self-government, adopted in August 1995, stipulates that elections to all local legislatures and executives will be held in March 1996. However, in September, Yeltsin issued a decree postponing all local elections until December 1996; in December, he proposed that the law be amended to give both regional and local legislatures time to prepare for the elections. In his rejection of the latest bill, Yeltsin said that postponing the date of the elections until December 1996 is not enough to ensure "efficient self-government." -- Anna Paretskaya

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Lazlo Kovacs met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on 11 March, Russian and Western media reported. Afterwards, Primakov said Russia remains opposed to NATO expansion, but he expressed hope that a compromise "taking into account the concerns of all sides" could form the basis for a new European security system. He suggested that such a compromise could include a decision by NATO not to station troops in Eastern European countries if they joined the alliance. Kovacs reiterated Hungary's desire to join NATO but said the policy is not directed against Moscow. The two diplomats also agreed to form a new bilateral working group that will strive to reduce Hungary's trade deficit with Russia by stimulating Hungarian exports. In 1995, Hungary ran a $1 billion trade deficit with Russia, accounting for almost half of its overall trade deficit. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN AID CONFERENCE.
Russian UN Representative Sergei Lavrov announced on 11 March that Russia will not participate in an international conference on military assistance for the Muslim-Croat Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. The 41-state meeting, to be held on 15 March in Ankara, aims to foster a stable military balance in Bosnia, where the Serbs have held an advantage because of access to cadres and heavy weapons from rump Yugoslavia. Lavrov said that although Russia shares the goal of promoting stability in Bosnia, efforts should center on political rather than military means. He criticized the conference's focus on augmenting the federation's military capabilities, saying it should be working on regional arms control as specified in the Dayton accords. Lavrov's statement came on the same day that the U.S. announced a $100 million military assistance package for the Muslim-Croat Federation. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN TO VISIT CHINA IN APRIL.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov confirmed on 11 March that President Yeltsin will make an official visit to Beijing during the second half of April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Other officials told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin will sign at least 10 agreements during the visit, including a multilateral border security agreement that will also be signed by the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Panov said that recent tensions between China and Taiwan would not block Yeltsin's trip. He reiterated that Russia views Taiwan as a part of China, and called for a "peaceful solution" to their dispute. Yeltsin canceled a scheduled November 1995 visit to China when he was hospitalized with heart problems. -- Scott Parrish

SWISS EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA.
Swiss police on 7 March handed over former Kontinent Bank Chairman Igor Kosarev to Russian authorities at Sheremetevo airport, Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The paper said it was the first extradition of a criminal suspect from Western Europe to Russia. Kosarev is under investigation for the April 1995 killing of Maj. Vladimir Markov, an inspector with the Russian Tax Police. Before his death, Markov had conducted an audit of Kontinent Bank which resulted in the bank paying a $360,000 fine, and he had also begun an investigation into the business activities of some of the bank's shareholders, including Kosarev. Swiss authorities had delayed extraditing Kosarev because of doubts about the evidence against him, but finally did so when the Moscow prosecutor proposed that Kosarev could await trial under house arrest, rather than in jail. -- Scott Parrish

COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF MAYAK VICTIMS.
The Constitutional Court ruled on 11 March that all those affected by the nuclear accident at the Mayak combine in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1957 are eligible for compensation payments, Russian TV reported. A 1993 law provided for benefits to be paid only to people who were evacuated from the area completely, excluding those who were moved to neighboring streets where radioactive contamination was lower. The court ruled that the legislation contravenes Russian citizens' constitutional right to equal treatment under the law and to live in decent environmental conditions, Ekho Moskvy reported. The ruling significantly increases the number of people entitled to benefits and will require extra regional and federal spending. -- Penny Morvant

SAFETY STANDARDS AT NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITY QUESTIONED.
Media reports on 11 March claimed that safety standards are being violated at a nuclear storage facility southeast of Moscow, but a spokesman for the Nuclear Power Ministry denied the allegations. NTV said that a warehouse at the ministry's Lytkarino Research Institute about 35 km from the capital, where about 40 tons of radioactive waste is being stored, failed to meet safety requirements. Security was also said to be lax. Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS, however, that although more waste than normal is currently being stored there because of construction work on the road outside the warehouse, radiation levels both in and around the facility are normal. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT SET TO CLEAR WAGE ARREARS.
The government still intends to clear all wage arrears to state employees by the end of this month, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told ITAR-TASS on 11 March. On top of the March wage bill for federal employees of 7.9 trillion rubles ($1.6 billion), 3.8 trillion in wage arrears will be paid. The Finance Ministry will also lend 2.5 trillion rubles interest free to regional governments to help them pay off their wage debts. Panskov explained that the money will be raised by issuing more government bonds. This will not feed inflation but will push up the cost of capital and thus hinder investment. -- Peter Rutland

WESTERN TELECOM COMPANIES GET ULTIMATUM.
Russia has asked U.S. West, France Telecom, and Deutsche Bundespost Telecom to confirm their participation in the 50x50 project by the end of March, AFP reported on 11 March. The consortium, set up in October 1994, aims to connect 50 Russian cities with a digital and optical fiber network adding 20 million telephones to the existing 26 million by 2010. The government is also proposing to cut by about half the 49% of 50x50 equity which the Western firms were initially offered -- Natalia Gurushina

ZAVERYUKHA ON THE LAND DECREE.
Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, speaking on Russian TV on 11 March, defended the land decree issued by President Yeltsin on 7 March. The Agrarian Party's faction leader in the Duma, Nikolai Kharitonov, said his party will challenge the decree's constitutionality, Pravda reported on 12 March. Zaveryukha revealed that he "temporarily" suspended his own involvement in the Agrarian Party last week. Zaveryukha said the decree will make it easier for the 12 million former collective and state farm members to claim personal land shares from their farm, and to sell the land or bequeath it to their heirs. It also loosens the size limits on dacha plots. It remains to be seen whether this measure will be implemented more effectively than a similar decree issued by Yeltsin in October 1993. The Duma is scheduled to start debating a new comprehensive Land Code in April. -- Peter Rutland



RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN, AND OMAN SIGN FINAL PIPELINE DEAL.
Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman signed a final agreement on the construction of a pipeline that will run from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to the Russian port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea, Western media reported on 11 March. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman are to hold half of the shares together, with the other half going to the Russian company LUKoil and the Western firms Mobil Oil, British Gas, and Agip. Oman, which was originally supposed to hold half of the consortium shares and undertake most of the financing, has a reduced share of 10% in the $1.8 billion construction project. Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) manager Edward Smith said the deal will speed up construction, which had been stalled due to disputes over shares. -- Bhavna Dave

TAJIK PARLIAMENT OPENS.
The Tajik parliament opened an extraordinary session on 11 March without the participation of opposition representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov praised the opposition for extending the ceasefire agreement until 26 May but also had harsh words for their decision to boycott the session. The opposition explained its decision by citing the government's inability to guarantee the safety of opposition representatives. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that if one of his members was killed while attending the session, his group would have to retaliate and any chance of peace would be destroyed. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS PRESS AHEAD WITH PLANS TO CURB CRIMEAN AUTONOMY.
The Ukrainian Constitutional Commission on 11 March voted overwhelmingly to submit to the parliament a draft Ukrainian constitution limiting Crimean autonomy, Reuters reported. The commission decided to press ahead despite reservations by President Leonid Kuchma about the document. Crimean lawmakers have threatened to call a referendum on the region's status if Ukraine fails to approve a new Crimean constitution by 31 March. Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz, and legal experts have complained that the authors of the draft failed to take into account Crimean public opinion. The draft constitution curbs, among other things, the Crimean legislature's authority to initiate legislation. Hard-liners in Ukraine have said they cannot accept two republics and two constitutions within one country. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

FIRE DAMAGES UKRAINIAN TV, RADIO STUDIOS.
A fire destroyed three floors of Ukrainian State TV and Radio's main broadcasting facility on 10 March, international and Ukrainian agencies reported. Programming was disrupted, but no one was injured. The cause of the blaze remains undetermined. Management said the fire caused damage totaling millions of dollars and destroyed the company's main TV and radio studios. Broadcasts resumed the next day from reserve studios. The government has set up a special commission to investigate the cause of the fire. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN INDUSTRIAL CONVERSION MINISTER IN INDIA.
Ukrainian Minister for Industrial Conversion Valerii Maleev arrived in Delhi, India, on 12 March for the opening of a Ukrainian industrial-trade exhibition intended to promote cooperation between Ukraine and India in that sphere, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 80 Ukrainian enterprises are participating in the exhibit, including ones from the metal and electrical industries and the aerospace sector. Maleev said bilateral trade between Delhi and Kiev accounts for one-fifth of Indian trade with the CIS. He noted that there was the potential to expand bilateral trade and singled out cooperation in the aerospace industry as an area for development. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUS CONSIDERS ESTABLISHING DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH IRAQ.
Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvostau on 11 March said Belarus is considering establishing diplomatic relations with Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported. A document has already been drawn up and will be forwarded to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for his approval in the near future. Khvostau said establishing relations with Baghdad paves the way for Minsk to cooperate with the Middle East regardless of the political situation there. He stressed that Belarus was most interested in economic cooperation and therefore should not postpone establishing formal relations. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN JAPAN.
Siim Kallas, during his visit to Tokyo on 11 March, met with his Japanese counterpart, Yukihido Ikeda, to discuss strengthening bilateral relations, BNS reported. The two sides agreed on an exchange program for doctors, teachers, and diplomats. Ikeda said more time would be needed to study the possibility of introducing visa-free travel between the two countries. Kallas also met with bank heads and signed a memorandum of intent with the president of the Japanese Industrial Bank on financing joint Estonian-Japanese projects. Kallas is also scheduled to hold talks with Japanese industrialists. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN FARM SUBSIDIES.
The Latvian Agriculture Ministry has decided to allot some 4 million lati ($7.3 million) in farm subsidies, BNS reported on 11 March. More than half (2.15 million lati) will be used to improve the quality of corn, flax, and other crops as well as to pay the interest on debts for mineral fertilizers. Some 1.9 million lati will be used for animal breeding, primarily for cows, but also for swine, sheep, and horses. In 1995, the ministry earmarked 4.9 million lati for cattle breeding but disbursed only 2.9 million lati. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH JEWS OPPOSE SHOPPING CENTER NEAR AUSCHWITZ.
Polish Jewish groups on 11 March raised strong objections to plans to open a shopping center opposite the gate of the Auschwitz death camp, Polish and international media reported the next day. Local authorities and the director of the museum at the camp site have agreed to the center. Szymon Szurmiej, head of a committee representing Jewish groups in Poland, said Auschwitz was a sacred place and that a 500-meter "quiet zone" should be maintained around its perimeter so that visitors would not be distracted. Government spokeswoman Aleksandra Jakubowska said Warsaw has no right to intervene in the matter. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLISH PRESIDENT EXPLAINS DECISION TO SCRAP WALESA'S DRAFT LAWS.
Danuta Waniek, head of the Polish President's Office, said Aleksander Kwasniewski has scrapped Lech Walesa's draft laws because they were part of the former president's election campaign, Polish dailies reported on 12 March. One of these bills gave the president the right to ratify the concordat. Waniek said the government will prepare draft legislation on the document between the Vatican and Warsaw, adding that the issue is not urgent. Waniek also said that Kwasniewski withdrew Walesa's draft election law because he wanted the government to draw up that legislation. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH MINISTER PROPOSES DISBANDING COMMUNIST GROUP.
Interior Minister Jan Ruml on 11March formally proposed that the extra-parliamentary Party of Czechoslovak Communists (SCK) be disbanded, Czech media reported. If the government accepts the proposal, the Supreme Court will rule on the issue. Ruml said the SCK has broken both the law on political parties, under which it was founded and registered one year ago, and 1993 legislation outlawing the pre-1989 governing party, the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSC). At its Congress last month, the SCK presented an election program in which it claimed to be the successor of the KSC. SCK chairman Miroslav Stepan was a leading member of the KSC and served a jail term after the fall of communism for abuse of power. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH HEALTH WORKERS BEGIN PROTEST ACTION.
Doctors, nurses, and other health service workers on 11 March started a series of protests to demand higher pay and better working conditions, Czech media reported. The first protest wave consists of collecting signatures on petitions to be delivered to the government and holding meetings at hospitals across the country. The protests are due to culminate in a two-day strike on 25-26 March and a major rally in central Prague. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES MEET.
Representatives of Slovakia's right-of-center opposition parties on 11 March met with their leftist counterparts to discuss calling an extraordinary parliamentary session on the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, TASR reported. Democratic Party Chairman Jan Langos said the kidnapping case is interfering with the work of several state bodies. The proposed agenda for the parliamentary session includes reports by Prosecutor-General Michal Valo, police investigators, and the civil investigation group led by Christian Democratic Movement deputy Ladislav Pittner. The opposition called for a similar session last October, but coalition deputies blocked it by rejecting the proposed agenda. -- Sharon Fisher

NEW CAUCUS IN HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT.
Breakaway deputies opposed to the rightward shift in the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) on 11 March achieved formal recognition as an independent caucus, international media reported. The Hungarian Democratic People's Party (MDNP), led by Ivan Szabo, former industry minister and finance minister, has 15 deputies (the minimum number required for a caucus). It aims to form a center-right alternative to the ruling socialist-liberal coalition. Meanwhile, the rump MDF has only 19 deputies and will seek to renew ties with the Hungarian Truth and Life Party, which is led by extremist Istvan Csurka. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN BORDER GUARDS SEIZE HEROIN.
Hungarian customs officials on 11 March announced the arrest of three Bulgarians attempting to smuggle 28 kilograms of heroin across the Hungarian-Romania border the previous day, international media reported. The officials said the highly pure heroin was found hidden in the back seat of a Mercedes at the Battonya border crossing. The Bulgarians were handed over to the police for questioning. Sharon Fisher



ILIDZA CHANGES HANDS.
A Bosnian government multi-ethnic police force entered Ilidza on the morning of 12 March, making it the fourth of five suburbs to be transferred from Pale's control. CNN said that gangs of arsonists and thieves submitted the few remaining mainly elderly residents to a final night of terror. One Serbian woman said she was glad the federal police would arrive because IFOR refused to protect her building. The police station, hospital, and a major factory went up in flames, despite last-minute attempts by IFOR and the Sarajevo fire department to end the blazes. Departing Serbian police fired pistols and grenades as IFOR troops scattered for cover. It was difficult to escape the impression that "once again thugs had made fools out of what is supposed to be the most professional army in the world," a BBC reporter said on 11 March. The UN's Kris Jankowski said that a prominent local Serb, Danilo Staka, disappeared with his daughter after urging other Serbs to stay, Onasa reported. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS CLAIM NATO USED NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
Soldiers of the Atlantic alliance may now be reluctant to protect pensioners in Sarajevo suburbs, but Bosnian Serb TV claims that last year NATO planes used nuclear weapons in the air strikes on Serb positions that helped make the Dayton conference possible. "In their combat assaults on Serb defence positions and Serb villages, the NATO air force and rapid reaction force used the most modern combat weapons including low intensity nuclear weapons that caused a certain degree of long-term radiation. In the course of their investigations, teams [of experts from Pale and Belgrade] detected symptoms of radiation-linked diseases in several dozen people and unusual behavior in cattle," AFP on 12 March quoted the broadcast as saying. -- Patrick Moore

EU TO OVERSEE MOSTAR CENTRAL DISTRICT.
Mostar EU administrator Hans Koschnick announced that the EU will take over administration of the central Mostar district until new city authorities and a mayor for the whole of Mostar have been appointed, Oslobodjenje reported on 11 March. Mijo Brajkovic, mayor of the Croatian-held part of Mostar, said the Croatian side had not agreed to this decision, Nasa Borba and Vjesnik reported the next day. Meanwhile, La Stampa announced that a possible replacement for Koschnick, who is leaving his post at the end of April, is Giorgio Giacomelli, a UN official known for his diplomatic experience and expertise in fighting organized crime. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN SHORTS.
General Jovo Maric, a senior Bosnian Serb air force commander, died in a road accident near Rogatica the previous week, AFP reported on 11 March. In Belgrade, the deputy prosecutor from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has arrived to seek the extradition of two witnesses to the massacres at Srebrenica. They disappeared following their recent arrest by Serbian police (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1996). In Sarajevo, the canton assembly held its opening session but without deputies from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), Oslobodjenje reported on 12 March. The HDZ and its Muslim counterpart, the Party of Democratic Action, have been engaged in a running power struggle within the federation. -- Patrick Moore

RUMP YUGOSLAV BUSINESS LEADERS PROMISE TO HELP REBUILD REPUBLIKA SRPSKA.
A delegation of businessmen from Serbia and Montenegro are currently in Banja Luka to meet with ranking political officials of the Republika Srpska, Television Serbia reported on 10 March. The main item on the agenda was economic cooperation between rump Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serbs. SRNA quoted Mihajlo Milojevic, head of rump Yugoslavia's Chamber of Commerce, as saying that "Serbia and Montenegro have no plans to abandon our [Bosnian Serb] brethren." He added that "with its rich resources and our aid, the Republika Srpska will become a modern state." -- Stan Markotich

REFUGEES IN MONTENEGRO.
International Red Cross sources reported that some 200 refugees arrived in Podgorica last month, including some 53 families from the Republika Srpska and 16 from territories once held by rebel Croatian Serbs. An estimated 12, 500 refugees are now in Podgorica, Montena-fax reported on 11 March. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIA, RUMP YUGOSLAVIA SEEK TO NORMALIZE RELATIONS.
Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 11 March signed memoranda on opening an Adriatic oil pipeline, a Zagreb-Belgrade highway, railroad and air links, and consular offices in Belgrade and Zagreb, Croatian media reported. The previous day, Croatian and rump Yugoslav delegations, led by Foreign Ministers Mate Granic and Milan Milutinovic, had met for one-day talks. Granic said the main goal is to reach an agreement on normalizing bilateral relations as soon as possible, Hina reported. Croatian President Tudjman said that to speed up the normalization process, eastern Slavonia into Croatia must be returned to Croatian control and the division of former Yugoslav assets expedited. -- Daria Sito Sucic

U.S., MACEDONIA HOLD FIRST JOINT MANEUVERS.
The U.S. and Macedonia on 11 March began their first joint military maneuvers, international agencies reported. The exercises were held on the Sar Planina mountains, and a special U.S. elite unit from Colorado took part. The U.S. and Macedonia previously signed a military cooperation agreement. Macedonia will participate in joint NATO military exercises in Albania in July. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT GIVES SUBWAY WORKERS ULTIMATUM.
The Romanian government on 11 March gave Bucharest's subway workers until midnight to end a week-old wildcat strike or face instant dismissal, RFE/RL's correspondent in Bucharest and international media reported. OMRI was informed on 12 March that the strikers had not returned to work. In a related development, dock workers at six ports on the Danube went on strike for two hours in demand of more pay and threatened to launch a general strike later this week. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION TO BILATERAL TREATY WITH UKRAINE.
Nine cultural and other organizations on 11 March sent an open letter to President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and the parliament demanding that Romania not sign the basic treaty with Ukraine, Radio Bucharest reported the next day. The signatories said the treaty should not be approved unless territories incorporated into the Soviet Union after World War II and now in Ukraine are returned to Romania. Among the organizations that signed the letter was Vatra Romaneasca (Romanian Cradle), whose political arm, the Party of Romanian National Unity, is a member of the ruling coalition. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES MESSAGE FROM YELTSIN ON TRANSDNIESTER.
Yurii Karlov, envoy to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, has handed Mircea Snegur a message on ways to solve the conflict in the breakaway region of Transdniester, Radio Bucharest reported quoting Moldpres. The message proposes a summit meeting at which an intermediary agreement would be signed on the basic principles for solving the dispute. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION ON JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) still has not clarified its position on how the opposition to the Socialists should elect a joint candidate
for president. Kontinent on 12 March quotes an unnamed source within the SDS leadership as saying that some SDS leaders are against preliminary elections among opposition party members unless "all conditions for the SDS candidate to win exist." Opinion polls suggest that none of the three SDS contenders for the post of presidential candidate--Petar Stoyanov, Asen Agov, and Aleksandar Yordanov--would win primaries against incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev. Most SDS politicians are opposed to his candidacy. The SDS National Coordinating Council is to ask for guarantees from SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov that "Zhelev will not win the primary elections," Trud reported. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN UPDATE.
The Democratic Alliance, the Social Democratic Party, the Party of Human Rights, and the Christian Democrats have decided to form a coalition for the upcoming elections, Koha Jone reported on 12 March. The centrist coalition is to be known as the "Pole of the Center" and will challenge the two main parties, the Democrats and the Socialists, who are expected to run a close race. Meanwhile, unknown assailants have broken into the offices of the Democratic Party of the Right, but they apparently stole only protocols and a list of speakers at party meetings. The party accused the ruling Democrats of involvement in the incident. In unrelated news, the monarchist Legality Party has collected 100,000 signatures since November 1995 calling for a referendum on a constitutional monarchy, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 12 March. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREEK DEVELOPMENT MINISTER PROPOSES BALKAN COUNCIL.
Vaso Papandreou on 11 March proposed the formation of a Balkan council to encourage regional cooperation and help Balkan countries make good use of EU funds, AFP reported. Papandreou said such a body could gradually widen its activities to include industry, infrastructure policy, and, eventually, "political cooperation and preventive diplomacy for defusing crises." She said that, within such a framework, Greece would support other Balkan countries in their dealings with the EU. Papandreou added that the EU should send a representative to the council. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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