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Newsline - March 19, 1996


ZYUGANOV CLAIMS YELTSIN PLOTTING TO DISSOLVE DUMA.
Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov stood by his 18 March allegations that President Boris Yeltsin's camp is preparing measures to dissolve the Duma, despite Yeltsin's assurance that he has no such plan and that Zyuganov "does not need to ride to work in an armored personnel carrier." In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Zyuganov claimed the president's circle is "distorting facts" to prepare the ground for action against the Duma. Meanwhile, Yeltsin adviser Georgii Satarov told ITAR-TASS that the Kremlin will not hand such a "gift" to the Communists before the presidential elections, and an ITAR-TASS commentator suggested that Zyuganov's accusation is designed to attract public sympathy by portraying his party as a victim of official intrigues. -- Laura Belin

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO CONSIDER DUMA DENUNCIATION.
President Yeltsin has asked the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, to examine the Duma's denunciation of the Belavezha accords at its 19 March session, Russian media reported on 18 March. Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said the upper house would try to find a "mutually acceptable way out of the situation." In thinly-veiled criticism of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Stroev said the council would not be governed by the "wave of populism that certain participants in the [presidential] election campaign are trying to use," ITAR-TASS reported. Sources inside both houses of parliament indicate that lawmakers are searching for a face-saving way to settle the issue following the storm of protest provoked by the Duma's action. -- Laura Belin

PRIMAKOV ATTACKS DUMA RESOLUTION.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov blasted the recent Duma resolutions denouncing the Belavezha accords that formed the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. Primakov said the resolutions undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable international partner, and by effectively denying the sovereignty of the other former Soviet republics, would "virtually torpedo the trend towards integration" within the CIS. Primakov added that the Duma's actions would strengthen the arguments of Eastern European supporters of NATO expansion, fostering the impression that Russian policy is unpredictable and aims to re-establish the USSR. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), who voted against the resolutions, echoed these comments, saying the Duma had handed the proponents of NATO expansion "a real trump card." -- Scott Parrish

FILATOV ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
Visiting Kaluga Oblast on 18 March, Sergei Filatov, one of President Yeltsin's top campaign organizers, emphasized the central message of the president's campaign: anti-communism. Filatov said the contest between Yeltsin and Zyuganov will be a "battle between two systems," one that would preserve the reforms, and another that would destroy economic and political stability in the country, Radio Rossii reported. Filatov also told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin will unveil his election platform on 6 April. -- Laura Belin

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIYA ADOPTS CONSTITUTION.
The republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessiya has a new constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 March. In February, the Congress of Karachaevo-Cherkess Peoples denounced an earlier draft of the constitution for strengthening the personal authority of current republican head Vladimir Khubiev. Republican parliament member Murat Khatukaev worked out an alternative draft, modeled on a parliamentary rather than presidential system, but it was not considered. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON CONTACT GROUP MEETING.
Reversing a decision announced on 15 March, Russia decided at the last minute to send an observer to the 18 March meeting of the international Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, Russian spokesmen had described the U.S.-sponsored meeting with the Serbian, Croatian, and acting Bosnian presidents as "useless," since the foreign ministers of the Contact Group have long been scheduled to meet in Moscow on 23 March. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov agreed to send a counselor to participate in the Geneva meeting after U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher assured him that the session would only be a prelude to the Moscow meeting. Russian diplomats were annoyed that the last-minute Geneva meeting, organized by the U.S., might overshadow the long-planned Moscow session. -- Scott Parrish

EUROPEANS URGED TO GET TOUGH OVER CHECHNYA.
Human Rights Watch urged European governments to pressure Moscow to end human rights abuses in Chechnya, Western agencies reported on 18 March. Rachel Denber, head of the organization's Moscow office, criticized the EU for ratifying an interim trade accord with Russia this past November despite continued fighting in Chechnya, which she estimated had killed 9,000 civilians. Lotte Licht, another spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, urged the EU and the Council of Europe to end their "silent diplomacy" on Chechnya and "make it absolutely clear to Moscow that violations must cease." Meanwhile, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek, visiting Moscow, expressed "concern" with the excessive use of force by federal troops in Chechnya, but he blamed the continued fighting on separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He said Dudaev's "impossible" demand for independence had blocked any negotiated settlement. -- Scott Parrish

LACK OF LEGISLATION PREVENTS RUSSIA FROM DESTROYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
Protests by environmentalists and the lack of appropriate legislation continue to prevent Russia from implementing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russian TV reported on 18 March. Plans to construct a chemical weapons destruction facility to process the mustard gas and lewisite near Gornyi in Saratov Oblast (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1996) have been stalled by local environmentalists demanding further safety studies. Meanwhile, the steel tanks in which the chemicals are stored could start leaking. The State Duma has yet to ratify the 1993 convention and it has not passed legislation on the destruction of chemical weapons. -- Constantine Dmitriev

GERMANY TO SEND PLUTONIUM TO RUSSIA FOR TESTING.
Germany will send a 10g sample of the 360g of plutonium seized by its agents at the Munich airport in August 1994 to Russia for testing, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March, citing German government official Bernd Schmidbauer. German media reports in February claimed that the material was stolen from a research reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, but the Federal Security Service said the origins of the plutonium could only be determined after tests were carried out and criticized Bonn for failing to respond to its request for a sample (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 and 14 February 1996). A German parliamentary commission has been investigating the plutonium case since May 1995 following allegations that the German security services instigated the operation to pressure Moscow into taking more steps to prevent the theft of nuclear material. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA GETS 900 MILLION ECU GRANT FROM EU.
The EU signed an agreement with Russia on 18 March to provide a 900 million ($1.14 billion) ECU grant under the TACIS program to facilitate economic restructuring and set up business training programs, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. The deal was negotiated by EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek and Russian First Deputy Premier Vladimir Kadannikov. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said that part of the grant may be used for modernizing the Russian textile industry. He noted that if the EU participates in reconstructing this sector, the government may refrain from imposing quotas on EU textile imports. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW $100 BILLS TO ENTER CIRCULATION.
Assistant Treasury Secretary Darcy Bradbury said the U.S. will start issuing new version $100 bills next week, Reuters reported on 19 March. The new design will be more difficult to counterfeit. Some $20 billion in cash is thought to be held by Russians, most of it in $100 bills. There is concern that Russians may panic when the new bills appear, fearing that the old ones will not be accepted. A major publicity campaign has been launched to reassure Russians that the U.S. government will continue to redeem the old $100 bills in perpetuity. The Russian government persuaded banks to limit their commission for changing new bills for old to 2%, although there are already reports of banks charging up to 5% to cash in torn or defaced bills. -- Peter Rutland



KARIMOV SUPPORTIVE OF RUSSIA'S ROLE IN CENTRAL ASIA.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov sent a telegram to President Boris Yeltsin in which he rejected the Russian State Duma's resolution to denounce the Belavezha accords, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. Karimov also expressed support for Russia's democratic reforms and Russo-Uzbek cooperation. He noted that there is no alternative to the CIS and affirmed Russia's right to play a "leading role" in the region. Such praise is tempered by some Uzbek government statements, for example following Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Tashkent in January, stressing that Russia should recognize Uzbekistan's status as an "equal partner." -- Roger Kangas

NIYAZOV IN AZERBAIJAN.
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov signed several agreements with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, during a visit to Baku on 18 March, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. The agreements included a friendship and cooperation treaty, and accords on free trade, pensions, an international air corridor, national security, education, health care, and exchanges of legal and scientific information, Turan reported. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), Niyazov expressed his desire to see Turkmenistan's hydro-carbons moved to Western markets via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Niyazov's press secretary told Turan that Turkmenistan wants all states bordering on the Caspian Sea to determine the status of the sea and to cooperate in fighting naval piracy and weapons and drugs smuggling. -- Lowell Bezanis

MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN AZERBAIJAN.
A harassment campaign aimed at opposition journalists attempting to cover the work of the recently-elected Milli Mejlis (People's Assembly) is continuing, according to Turan on 16 March. The correspondents for Turan and the Azerbaijan Popular Front newspaper Azadlyg have been deprived of their accreditation. In addition, parliament member Jalal Aliev, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's brother, has called for the closure of all opposition newspapers. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER ASSESSES SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN.
In an analysis of the Russian presence in Tajikistan, the 17-24 March edition of the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that "it would be a big mistake" to allow countries such as Iran and Pakistan to gain access to Tajikistan's strategic resources such as uranium ore. The report also noted that cotton, which is abundant in Tajikistan, is important for the production of explosives. The article claimed that Tajikistan's radar stations had been destroyed during the civil war and that "a plane could fly without any problem from Tajikistan straight to Moscow unnoticed." The article also reported that a Russian credit of 80 billion rubles earmarked for the ethnic Russian community in Tajikistan had "disappeared into thin air." It concluded that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is too weak to protect Russia's interests in the region but that there is no suitable replacement at this time. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKHSTANI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DISMISSED.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 14 March relieved First Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Mette from his post, ITAR-TASS reported. Mette's ouster, the first major change in the top echelons of power, was likely brought about by internal squabbles within the government and the need to blame a scapegoat for the country's poor economic performance, ITAR-TASS added. Mette, the former director of the nuclear fuel producer Ulba Metallurgical Plant in East Kazakhstan, was appointed first deputy prime minister a year and a half ago. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES A UNIFORM POLICY ON NAMING PLACES.
In an effort to regulate the onomastics policy of naming places according to their etymology, the Kazakhstani government issued a formal statement on the rules of naming and renaming geographical locations, organizations, streets, and government offices, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. According to this statement, original place names that were changed arbitrarily are to be restored. Transliterations of the new names in Russian and other languages are to be based on the original spelling in Kazakh. Since Kazakh was declared the sole state language in 1993, several thousand names of regions, cities, towns, and streets have been changed from Russian, or russified renderings of Kazakh names, to what government officials claim to be the original Kazakh names, based on Kazakh orthography. -- Bhavna Dave



CHRISTOPHER IN UKRAINE.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived in Ukraine on 19 March for meetings with President Leonid Kuchma, parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Moroz, Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk, and Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks are to focus on a wide range of subjects, including disarmament and the Russian-Ukrainian-U.S. trilateral treaty, economic reforms in Ukraine, and the Balkan conflict. Christopher will leave Kyiv for the Czech Republic the same day. -- Ustina Markus

LUKASHENKA ON INTEGRATION WITH RUSSIA.
Belarusian officials met at President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's residence on 18 March to discuss an agreement on a union between Russia and Belarus that is expected to be signed by the Russian and Belarusian presidents at the end of the month or in early April, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Lukashenka, union between the two countries is dictated by the times and cannot be rejected. He said all reasonable political forces in Russia and Belarus must work with the presidents to correct past mistakes. Lukashenka recommended that the Belarusian parliament look into ways of speeding up the integration process at its next session and said he would be willing to attend the session if parliament would support his proposals. -- Ustina Markus

NATO SEMINAR CONCLUDES IN LATVIA.
Sixty officers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Romania attended an 11-15 March seminar in Jurmala, BNS reported. NATO North West Allied Force Staff head Ola Aabakkem said it was the first seminar on the territory of the former USSR conducted by NATO experts for Partnership for Peace members. The seminar was devoted to the planning and management of international exercises, ranging from staff drills of separate units to broad multinational maneuvers. -- Saulius Girnius

PROPOSAL TO GUARANTEE STABILITY OF LITHUANIAN CURRENCY REJECTED.
Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius, Bank of Lithuania Chairman Reinoldijus Sarkinas, and representatives of the major political parties declared on 15 March that the law on the stability of the litas would not be changed, Radio Lithuania reported. The ruling Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party had earlier supported a proposal by President Algirdas Brazauskas that the law be amended to guarantee the value of the litas until the end of 1998 in order to boost foreign investment. Opposition parties were against the amendment, asserting that it would have a negative effect on the economy. -- Saulius Girnius

OPPOSITION ALLIANCE IN POLAND.
Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, the leader of the Movement for the Restoration of Poland (ROP), spoke on 18 March with Solidarity trade union leader Marian Krzaklewski in Gdansk, Polish media reported the next day. Olszewski said the two would form a "programmatic union that will continue Solidarity's halted revolution after victory at the polls." The "programmatic union" would include the Solidarity-sponsored draft constitution of which Olszewski was a co-author. Olszewski said the chances of a common Solidarity-ROP electoral bloc and its electoral victory "border on certainty." ROP can count on 3% to 9% of support and Solidarity on 10% to 16% in a parliamentary election, according to a Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) poll conducted on 7-12 March. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for next year. -- Jakub Karpinski

FORMER SECURITY POLICEMAN JAILED IN POLAND.
A Polish court has jailed a former security policeman for five years for beating and maltreating captives during interrogations in 1948, Polish and international media reported on 19 March. The regional court in Radom, south of Warsaw, found Marian Nowak, 79, guilty on all six counts in the case). -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLAND CLAIMS HELICOPTER PARTS SEIZED IN JORDAN NOT ILLEGAL.
The general manager of the Polish helicopter builder Swidnik on 8 March said that the spare parts seized in Jordan the previous day were civilian in nature and did not violate the UN arms embargo against Iraq. Reuters quoted Mieczyslaw Majewski as saying the shipment "had nothing to do with arms." He added that his company had received a UN permit in 1995 to export parts for civilian helicopters to Iraq. According to CET, Jordanian authorities said spare parts and equipment for military aircraft were concealed in a consignment of agricultural equipment that was seized at the Amman airport after arriving from Warsaw. Majewski said the parts were agricultural sprayers that could be fitted to helicopters and had been imported by a Jordanian firm. -- Doug Clarke

CZECH GOVERNING PARTY SUBMITS ELECTORAL LISTS.
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 18 March submitted its lists of candidates for the parliamentary elections to be held on 31 May-1 June, Czech media reported. The ODS was the first party to deliver its lists to regional election committees; the deadline for registering is 1 April. Up to 18 parties are expected to contest the elections. Klaus himself will be a candidate in northern Moravia, standing directly against opposition Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman. Among those on the ODS lists are candidates from the small Christian Democratic Party (KDS), which will soon cease to exist following its merger with the ODS. KDS leaders said they would apply on 19 March to have their party removed from the Interior Ministry's register of political groupings. -- Steve Kettle

CZECHS LIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
President Vaclav Havel on 18 March signed a law lifting sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, Czech media reported. The law, in line with UN resolutions, was passed by the parliament six days earlier. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, during a visit to Belgrade on 4 March, said he hoped trade links would redevelop rapidly after the lifting of sanctions. -- Steve Kettle

CZECHS FORM INTERDEPARTMENTAL COMMITTEE ON NATO MEMBERSHIP.
A special coordinating committee including members of the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry as well as representatives of the finance, industry, and trade sectors has been established, Radio Prague reported on 15 March. A representative of the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying the committee would coordinate all activities regarding Czech integration into NATO. He said he hoped the committee would eventually produce a "National Plan of Compatibility With NATO." -- Doug Clarke

CZECH POLITICIAN POSTS `NO-ROMA-ALLOWED' SIGN.
A candidate from the Free Democrats-Liberal National Social Party (SD-LSNS) in southern Moravia, Rudolf Baranek, has barred Roma from a hotel he operates, CTK reported on 18 March. After some Roma allegedly took $400 from the cash desk, Baranek posted a sign announcing a ban on all Roma. Romani representatives in Breclav have labeled the act racist, which Baranek has denied. A party co-chairman of the SD-LSNS called Baranek's act indefensible, recommending that the sign be taken down, but he declined to call it racist. -- Alaina Lemon

MORE SLOVAK CELEBRATIONS OF WARTIME STATE.
More than 1,500 Slovaks on 16 March gathered in Bratislava to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Nazi-allied Slovak state. The event was co-sponsored by the Confederation of Political Prisoners, the Association of Slovak Soldiers, the Andrej Hlinka Society, the Slovak Society for the Protection of Human and National Rights, and the nationalist cultural organization Matica slovenska. Historians who addressed the crowd praised the state and its president, Jozef Tiso, and noted that Slovaks do not need to feel "any collective guilt." Attempts to rehabilitate the wartime state were criticized by opposition parties, the president's office, the Slovak Anti-Fascist Fighters' Union, and other groups. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' RALLY PROVOKES RANCOR.
The two governing-party caucuses are considering concrete measures against the opposition Smallholders Party (FKGP) in reaction to a harsh anti-government speech by FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan last week, Hungarian media reported. In his speech, the populist Torgyan labeled ruling political elites "disgusting pseudo-liberal worms and vultures that have inundated [our] country" and added that "as spring is coming, it is time for Hungarians to launch a `de-worming' campaign." Torgyan also called on the cabinet to resign and promised to create a "Canaan of milk and honey." The socialist-liberal coalition and the opposition Young Democrats explicitly dissociated themselves from Torgyan's tone, saying it was inadmissible in a parliamentary democracy to describe the advocates of an internationally accepted political trend as worms and vultures. The Socialists suggested an end to all parliamentary cooperation with Torgyan and his party. The coalition liberals oppose such a move, arguing that it would grant Torgyan a wider opportunity to attack the governing parties. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN FEDERAL POLICE ENTER GRBAVICA.
The Sarajevo suburb was "in flames" on the eve of being ceded to federal control, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 March. Grbavica passed into government hands around dawn on 19 March, the day on which all territorial exchanges in Bosnia were to be completed in keeping with the Dayton agreement. Sarajevo thereby became a fully reunited city. Federal police were welcomed by the 1,000-2,000 mainly elderly Serbs who braved days of Serbian violence and virtual anarchy to stay in their homes. The police set up checks of those wanting to enter Grbavica to make sure that only former residents came in, Reuters reported. This was to thwart attempts by Muslim gangs to bother the Serbs and loot their property, as happened in Ilidza. Onasa on 18 March quoted NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana as saying that "in forcing people to leave, the Bosnian Serb authorities have behaved abominably, and the actions of the federation authorities have been far from reassuring." The BBC added the next day that many felt IFOR had not done enough, either. -- Patrick Moore

IZETBEGOVIC CONDEMNS MUSLIM VIOLENCE.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has written Interior Minister Avdo Hebib to criticize attacks by Muslims against Serbs and their property in Ilidza, Onasa reported on 18 March. He seemed intent on preventing such incidents in the future. The president said that "Serbs who have decided, despite the crazed Pale propaganda and threats, to stay in Sarajevo deserve our full protection, and they must get it. ... With a feeling of bitterness, I listened in the past days to reports about the behavior of a group of [Muslim] residents. ... We want an integral and democratic Bosnia. [Pale] wants a divided and ethnically cleansed Bosnia. Our goals diametrically differ from theirs, so the paths and methods are different as well. There will be no integral and democratic Bosnia without strict respect of laws and human rights for all." -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN PRESIDENT ON BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic said in Geneva on 18 March that elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina ought to be held as soon as possible. "The best way to stabilize the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is to overcome current problems, to apply the Dayton peace accord in a coherent fashion, and to speed up preparation of the elections," he said. "Only representatives and institutions elected in a regular fashion can guarantee a normal life in the Republika Srpska as well as the [Muslim-Croat] federation and in the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina." He seemingly referring to Bosnian Serb leaders not elected but appointed by an assembly in 1991. Both AFP and Tanjug reported Milosevic's remarks. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN JOURNALISTS ON STRIKE.
Journalists employed at the state-funded Radio and Television Slovenija Corporation went on strike on 18 March, demanding higher salaries and improved working conditions for freelancers and causing a news blackout on RTV Slovenija. Roughly 10% of the company's 350 employees are freelancers. Full-time staff members have asked for a 15% pay increase, which would bring an average monthly gross salary to $1,200. Union officials have vowed to continue with their job action until their demands are met, according to Belgrade's Beta, while management representatives say they will keep the avenues of dialogue open. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAVIA EASES BORDER TRAFFIC WITH ALBANIA AFTER 15 YEARS.
The rump Yugoslav government on 14 March announced a plan to scrap exit visas for ethnic Albanians who want to travel to Albania, international agencies reported. The Albanian government welcomed the move as a "step in the right direction," adding that "the free communication of people ... would contribute to understanding and a spirit of a dialogue in the region." Kosovar and Montenegrin Albanians have needed exit visas since 1981, when Albanian students rallied for the establishment of a Kosovar republic. ATSH reported on 18 March, however, that the ruling had not yet taken effect. In related news, on 15 March, police detained Kosovar human rights activist Adem Demaci for two hours and confiscated documentation on human rights abuses that he intended to present to the European Parliament. -- Fabian Schmidt

BALKAN DIPLOMATIC UPDATE.
Italian Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli visited Skopje and Tirana on 18 March. Talks with the respective presidents and foreign ministers focused on future association agreements of the Balkan countries with the European Union. Both Albania and Macedonia said EU association is a high priority. Macedonia urged that individual Balkan countries that meet the necessary association criteria not be forced to wait for their neighbors, Reuters and MILS reported. Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos called on Belgrade not to recognize Macedonia until the name issue is resolved between Athens and Skopje, MILS reported. The Macedonian agency also noted that Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski has accepted Pangalos's invitation to visit Athens. Macedonian sources say the meeting will take place at the end of March or the beginning of April. -- Fabian Schmidt and Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL WARNS OF FOREIGN TERRORISM.
General Vasile Lupu, deputy chief of the Romanian Intelligence Service, said that Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups are planning to use Romania as a base for terrorist action, international agencies reported on 18 March, quoting a Romanian newspaper. According to Lupu, opponents of peace in the Middle East and other militant groups are particularly active among Iranian and Palestinian students at Romanian universities. Lupu also claimed to have proof that the Kurdistan Workers' Party was considering opening an Eastern European headquarters in Romania, which would allegedly open the way for the traffic of weapons, ammunition, and explosives through Romania. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES HIGHER WAGES.
The government on 18 March decided to raise the minimum salary for people employed in the state sector to 3,040 leva ($39) as of 1 April and to 3,340 leva as of 1 October, Duma reported. The minimum pension will be increased to 1,800 leva and 2,000 leva on the respective target dates. The cabinet also decided to fully compensate people paid directly out of the state budget if inflation rises above the projected 20%, provided it does not exceed 25%. Average wages of state employees are to rise by 10% in 1996 (by 30% in the education sector). The government announced its decision during a meeting of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation, which comprises representatives of the government, trade unions, and employers. The union representatives left the meeting demanding "new starting levels" for wages and compensation based on real rather than projected inflation rates. The employers also voiced displeasure with the government plan. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA, GREECE SIGN MILITARY PLAN.
Officials of the defense ministries and general staffs of Bulgaria and Greece on 15 March signed a 70-point military-cooperation program for 1996, Bulgarian media reported. The annual programs are based on a 1992 agreement. The 1996 program calls for joint exercises on the territories of both countries as well as in their territorial waters. For the first time, it also calls for joint special-forces exercises. -- Doug Clarke

SON-IN-LAW OF FORMER BULGARIAN DICTATOR ACQUITTED.
Ivan Slavkov, head of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee and the Bulgarian Soccer Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee, on 15 March was found not guilty of embezzlement and illegal firearms possession, Reuters reported. The son-in-law of former communist strongman Todor Zhivkov in an interview with Pari on 12 March had called the trial against him "boring" and had ridiculed it by claiming he intended to use his sporting rifles "to overthrow the government," adding that he was referring to "the former one, since this one will overthrow itself." Meanwhile, Slavkov's son Todor, who had been behind bars for a year on charges of participating in a group rape in 1988, was released from prison on 18 March and placed under house arrest, Duma reported. His trial was scheduled to start on 18 March but has been postponed until 16 April. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN TOWN DECLARES IMPRISONED SOCIALIST LEADER HONORARY CITIZEN.
The Socialist-dominated municipality of Tepelena declared Socialist leader Fatos Nano an honorary citizen, international agencies reported on 17 March. Nano is serving the remaining two years of an original 12-year sentence for misappropriation of humanitarian-aid funds in the prison of Tepelena. The Socialists regard Nano as a political prisoner and point to various irregularities in his detention and trial. The honor was awarded in defiance of the ruling Democratic Party. Elsewhere, a court in Saranda has sentenced five communist activists for distributing propaganda leaflets. The leader of the group was sentenced to four years in jail and three others to six months each. A fifth was given a three-year suspended sentence. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Tim Rostan




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