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Newsline - March 29, 1996


FOUR CIS PRESIDENTS MEET IN MOSCOW.
The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan met in Moscow on 29 March for a one-day conference on regional integration, Russian media reported. Among the issues discussed were the customs union, military cooperation, and social and energy matters, RFE/RL reported. While each leader has indicated that their countries will remain sovereign states, they also recognized that existing economic links necessitate greater cooperation. Regional security, as discussed at the 27 March CIS defense ministers' meeting, is another aspect of this cooperation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 March 1996). Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev stressed that such efforts do not signal the return of the USSR but rather the "coming together of its former republics on a new basis," ITAR-TASS reported. Russia's increased importance in these measures was underscored by the announcement that the CIS headquarters is scheduled to move to Moscow from Minsk in 1998. -- Roger Kangas

YELTSIN CRITICIZES RED PROFESSORS. . .
President Boris Yeltsin charged that "some social science instructors remain ideologists and active functionaries for parties of a communist orientation" in a speech to the Union of Rectors on 28 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said that it is unacceptable to pine for the past and "not understand that the so-called tranquillity was paid for with camps, the destruction of entire social groups, the exile of the best minds, and the devastation of the soul." He also accused the Communists of organizing party cells at the universities, an illegal activity following the 1991 ban on party activities in schools, and said the responsible rectors will be prosecuted, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung

. . .YELTSIN DECREES MORE FUNDS FOR SCIENCE AND EDUCATION.
The same day he addressed the congress, President Yeltsin issued a decree outlining a number of new measures to support science and higher education, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 29 March. The decree provides for 100 presidential grants worth a total of 6 billion rubles ($1.2 million) to be awarded annually to young scientists and calls on the government to draft a law on higher retirement pensions for professors and researchers. Yeltsin also ordered the transfer to higher educational establishments of state-owned buildings they have leased for over 10 years. Scientists have repeatedly protested underfunding of their sector. -- Penny Morvant

CHUBAIS BACKS YELTSIN.
Former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais backs a second term for President Yeltsin as the only way to prevent Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov from becoming president, Reuters reported on 28 March. Chubais said that he is actively participating in the campaign and that he meets with Yeltsin more often now than when he was in power. Yeltsin sacked Chubais on 16 January, blaming his conduct of economic policy for the poor performance of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia bloc in the December State Duma election, when it won only 10% of the vote. -- Robert Orttung

CLINTON PART OF RE-ELECT YELTSIN TEAM?
In a private meeting during the anti-terrorism summit in Egypt on 13 March, U.S. President Bill Clinton promised that he would help President Yeltsin win re-election, according to a 27 March Washington Times report, based on a leaked State Department memorandum written by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Yeltsin supposedly appealed for U.S. support, and Clinton said that "He wanted to make sure that everything the United States did would have a positive impact, and nothing should have a negative impact." White House spokesman Mike McCurry said that the report is "inaccurate," since the U.S. is keen to preserve good relations with Russia but is not specifically concerned with Yeltsin's re-election chances, Reuters reported. -- Peter Rutland

DEPUTY MAYOR TO RUN AGAINST SOBCHAK IN ST. PETERSBURG.
Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev announced on 27 March that he would run against Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in St. Petersburg's 19 May gubernatorial elections, RFE/RL reported. Yakovlev said that Sobchak speaks of democratic principles but fails to act on them. He expects Sobchak to fire him and blame him for many of the city's problems. Yakovlev's program focuses on uniting Leningrad Oblast with St. Petersburg, economic development, and road-building. Sobchak has a long history of conflict with his subordinates, including former Vice Mayor Vyacheslav Shcherbakov. -- Robert Orttung

SUPPORT FOR REFORMERS WEAK OUTSIDE MAJOR CITIES.
The December Duma elections show that reformers are losing support in Russia's regional capitals, presidential adviser Leonid Smirnyagin argued in Rossiiskie vesti on 29 March. Moscow and St. Petersburg are pro-reform, but they have lost their influence over the capitals of the other federation subjects, who are now more influenced by the conservative rural areas where they are located. The elections also suggest that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, regional elites are very weak in their ability to influence the attitudes of the local public. The governors of the Russian areas are less influential in this regard than the leaders of the republics because the republican leaders are involved in political dispute resolution on a day to day basis while the governors tend to function as economic managers. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA.
Russian federal troops continued their artillery and aerial bombing attacks on the villages of Bamut, Orekhovo, and Stary Achkhoy on 28 March in an attempt to inflict the maximum damage on forces loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev prior to President Yeltsin's unveiling of his master peace plan for Chechnya on 31 March, Russian media reported. Three other mountain villages in southeastern Chechnya, where Dudaev's headquarters are reportedly now located, have been surrounded by Russian troops. Izvestiya on 29 March published details of alleged routes for clandestine arms shipments from Turkey and Iran via Azerbaijan to Chechnya; however, Yeltsin's adviser on military affairs, Boris Kuzyk, told Ekho Moskvy on 28 March that it would be impossible for the Turkish government to re-export to Chechnya weaponry it had purchased from Russia. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIA REVIVES OLD TIES.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov left for a three-day visit to India on 29 March, where he is expected to sign $3.5 billion worth of contracts, mainly for weapons, Reuters reported. It was also announced that India will revive the direct "hot line" telephone link with Moscow, which was disconnected after the collapse of the Soviet Union. India accounted for 40% of Russia's weapons sales in 1995, AFP reported on 28 March. Meanwhile, an MI5 report released in Britain said that Russia has revived its intelligence activities in that country, AFP reported on 29 March. MI5 is obliged to devote 20% of its resources to monitoring Russian agents. -- Peter Rutland

BUMPER YEAR FOR ARMS EXPORTS.
Russian arms producers have orders for more than $7 billion in foreign sales this year according to Aleksander Kotelkin, the general director of the state-owned Rosvooruzhenie arms export company, Russian media reported on 28 March. This compares with 1995 sales of $2.8 billion. ITAR-TASS quoted Kotelkin as saying that his company had invested heavily in domestic defense enterprises in 1995 to support promising export producers. It also dramatically increased its spending on advertising, and has offices in 30 countries. -- Doug Clarke

SOLDIER IN FAR EAST STARVES TO DEATH.
A conscript serving in the army in the Far East has died of starvation, a press officer of the Far Eastern Military District told ITAR-TASS on 28 March. The official cause of his death was reported to be "acute cardiac insufficiency with a deficit of the weight of the body." The press service said that the district's Military Council had fired the commander of Mikhail Kubarskii's regiment along with several other medical and commissary officers. In 1992, four Russian naval cadets in the Far East died of starvation. Military commanders have complained that they have not received enough money to feed their troops adequately while press reports of corruption in food procurement are not uncommon. -- Doug Clarke

THE NUMBER OF FOREIGN TOURISTS DOUBLES IN 1995.
The number of foreign tourists in Russia in 1995 reached 1.8 million, double the 1994 figure, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. This figure is still rather low, but the rapidly developing service sector and transport infrastructure may boost the tourist industry. There are currently 27 top class hotels under construction in Moscow, and regions most popular with tourists, from Kamchatka to the Black Sea resorts, are getting their own international airports. The number of Russians traveling abroad in 1995 increased only by 2% and totaled 2.4 million. Of this number, 30% were participants in package tours for shoppers to such destinations as Turkey and Bahrain. -- Natalia Gurushina

IMF LOAN CONDITIONS.
The managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus, told a Washington press conference on 27 March that the $10.1 billion loan approved on 26 March may have to be withdrawn if a Communist candidate wins the June presidential election, Western agencies reported. However, he said if a Communist-led government adhered to the terms laid down as conditions for the loan, the disbursements could continue, but a wave of renationalization would not be acceptable. Yusuke Horiguchi, the IMF official who negotiated the loan, said that import duties should be cut by one-third over three years, Reuters reported. Russia has agreed to abolish export duties from 1 April, except for oil which will have its export duties removed from 1 July. Loan conditions also reportedly include the abolition of Gazprom's tax-free stabilization fund. Camdessus insisted that the IMF does not consider the political impact of its loans, but Russia's Communists are likely to take a different view. -- Peter Rutland



RESULTS OF AKAYEV-YELTSIN MEETING.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akayev, signed several agreements in Moscow on 28 March that are meant to increase cooperation in economic, financial, and defense spheres, Russian and Western sources reported. Anticipating a subsequent meeting with the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus, both members of a customs union with Russia, the Russian-Kyrgyz agreements remove tariffs and other limitations to trade between the two countries. Yeltsin called Kyrgyzstan "a model for all the CIS countries," noting that many of the more than 100,000 Russians who left Kyrgyzstan when reforms began there, are now thinking of returning. Earlier, Akayev met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss migrant workers, conversion of national currencies, the transmission of Russian television and radio broadcasts in Kyrgyzstan, and cooperation in electricity and air connections. They agreed to set up an inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation. -- Bruce Pannier

TALKS RESUME ON CASPIAN PIPELINE CONSORTIUM.
Talks on the future of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), founded by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman to transport oil from western Siberia and Kazakhstan to Black Sea ports in Russia, resumed in Moscow on 28 March with a visit by a delegation from the Oman Finance Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Ministry of Fuel and Energy is working to reach an agreement on the size of the respective shares in the Caspian deal that will be allotted to the three founding states of the CPC and foreign oil companies. According to a preliminary accord, 50% will be held by CPC countries, and the remaining half will be distributed between the Russian oil companies Rosneft, Transneft, and LUKoil, and the Western oil companies Agip, Mobil, Arco, and Chevron. The participation of Shell and Amoco is also being discussed. -- Bhavna Dave

TUBERCULOSIS CASES INCREASE IN KAZAKHSTAN.
The incidence of tuberculosis in Kazakhstan is about seven times that in the West, with at least 50,000 people, or 67 out of every 100,000, suffering from the disease, RFE/RL reported on 28 March. Aldesh Zhunsbekov, director of the Kazakhstani Research Institute of Tuberculosis, said that 4,500 deaths from tuberculosis were reported last year, up from 3,000 the previous year. He added that medication shortages and inadequate government support, in addition to poor nutrition and bad hygienic conditions, are to blame. -- Bhavna Dave

WARM RELATIONS BETWEEN ASHGABAT AND TEL AVIV.
Relations between Turkmenistan and Israel are "not just good but even excellent," according to the new Israeli ambassador to Turkmenistan, Shmuel Meir. His remarks and equally warm replies from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov were reported by the state-controlled Turkmen Press news agency on 27 March following a meeting. The flourishing relationship between Tel Aviv and Ashgabat does not appear to be impinging on Turkmenistan's close ties with Iran. -- Lowell Bezanis



UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov met with his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, in Tysovets, Ukraine on 28 March, Western and Ukrainian media reported. The ministers finalized 10 documents on expanding military-technical cooperation between their countries and fixed a schedule for the transfer of Ukraine's dismantled nuclear arms to Russia. They also agreed to a timetable for the second phase of the division of the Black Sea Fleet, but offered no details. However, the ministers decided the issue of sharing Crimean naval facilities -- the last unresolved matter in the dispute -- was political and should be handled by the countries' prime ministers. Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he would cancel his scheduled visit to Kyiv on 4-5 April if a final agreement on division of the fleet is not included in the overall bilateral treaty, Russian agencies reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

TEXT OF RUSSO-BELARUSIAN UNION TREATY REVEALED.
Russia and Belarus are due to sign a new treaty on 2 April, called "On deepening integration and comprehensive drawing together." The treaty has not yet been publicly released and the Belarusian parliament debated the issue on 27 March without having the text before them. OMRI has obtained a copy of the treaty draft in Minsk, and its 26 articles suggest that the two countries seriously intend to merge many of their economic and legal policies. They will form a "Union (Community)" with a set of supranational institutions including a Union Council (Sovet Soyuza), consisting of the two presidents and the heads of the governments and parliaments. The two states will retain their independence, and decision-making in the supranational bodies will be by consensus. Thus the main thrust of the treaty lies in the voluntary harmonization of economic and social legislation. The two sides commit to joint protection of their common outside border, but there is no specific pledge to introduce a common currency. -- Peter Rutland

BELARUS OPPOSITION SENDS LETTER TO YELTSIN.
Fifteen opposition parties and organizations in Belarus, including the Belarusian Popular Front, sent an open letter to Yeltsin on 27 March urging him not to sign the union treaty with Belarus on 2 April, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported the next day. By signing the treaty, Yeltsin would share responsibility with Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the betrayal of the interests of the Belarusian people, the letter noted. The signers stated the treaty would hinder the good neighborly relations between the two countries and reserved the right to defend the independence of Belarus by all available means. -- Saulius Girnius

NO PROGRESS IN ESTONIA, RUSSIA BORDER TALKS.
Estonian and Russian delegations in Tallinn on 27-28 March failed to move closer to an agreement on a border treaty, BNS reported. Although admitting the question of recognizing the validity of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty remained unresolved, Russian delegation deputy head Sergei Lazarev said that "the negotiations were not in a deadlock" The next round of talks are scheduled for 22-23 May in Pskov. There are no disputes on the sea border and it should be settled after a meeting on 3 April with Finnish experts that is to establish the point where the three borders meet in the Gulf of Finland. -- Saulius Girnius

GDANSK COURT BEGINS TRIAL ON 1970 MASSACRE.
Court proceedings began on 28 March in the Gdansk provincial court against former President Wojciech Jaruzelski and 11 former communist leaders for their alleged role in the 1970 deaths of 44 workers during violent protests in coastal towns, Polish and international media reported. More than 1,000 protesters were also injured in the violence. The former officials are charged with ordering fire on demonstrators who were protesting food price increases. Jaruzelski, who at that time was defense minister, pleaded not guilty, while expressing his "regret and feelings of compassion" to the families of the victims in the courtroom. The trial, which may last into the next century, comes after a five-year investigation that did not begin until the former opposition took power in 1989. The Gdansk court decided to reconvene on 13 June. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CONTROVERSY OVER POLISH PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO BELARUS.
Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski will meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 30 March, Polish dailies reported. The opposition had earlier said Kwasniewski's planned Saturday visit to Belarus could be seen as a sign of support for Lukashenka's policy of trying to unite his country with Russia. The Freedom Union (UW) and Movement for Restoration of Poland (ROP) headed by former Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski have opposed the visit and there have also been appeals from the opposition in Belarus for Kwasniewski to stay away. Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati and Sejm Speaker Jozef Zych, consulted by Kwasniewski, both urged him to make the long-projected visit. Rzeczpospolita on 29 March quoted Rosati as saying that "the basis for resolving all difficult problems and reaching any agreements is to maintain dialogue." -- Dagmar Mroziewicz


BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY MEETS WITH CZECH REPRESENTATIVES.
Malcolm Rifkind on 28 March met with top Czech officials to discuss EU and NATO enlargement, CTK reported. As British Queen Elizabeth II spent the day in the Moravian capital of Brno, Rifkind told Czech President Vaclav Havel that her visit to the Czech Republic is not only of symbolic importance but also reflects the two countries' effort to strengthen ties. Rifkind said he believes in closer relations between Britain and the Czech Republic in the framework of European and other Western institutions. Before his visit to Prague, Rifkind stressed that more access to EU markets should be given to Central and East European countries. -- Sharon Fisher


UPDATE ON CASE OF SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON.
Police investigator Jozef Ciz on 28 March said he has written proof that a suspect identified by Michal Kovac Jr. as one of his kidnappers was somewhere else at the time of the abduction, Narodna obroda reported. Appointed to the case after two previous investigators found evidence of involvement by the Slovak Information Service, Ciz also confirmed that he has questioned Peter Krylov, an ethnic Slovak who made accusations against Kovac Jr. from his German prison cell. Also on 28 March, Ladislav Pittner, a Christian Democratic Movement deputy who heads an independent investigation group, demanded that Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek explain why Jan Kostov was named director of the police investigation department despite suspicion of his involvement in serious criminal activities. A 28 March headline in the pro-government Slovenska Republika read: "Opposition efforts to cripple the SIS are directed at the destabilization of the state." -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT SIGNS WAGE DEAL WITH PUBLIC EMPLOYEES.
The Hungarian government on 28 March signed a three-year wage agreement with public sector unions, Hungarian dailies reported. The deal guarantees that real wages will not decrease by more than 2% this year and will not fall after 1997. Prime Minister Gyula Horn, speaking at the signing ceremony, described the agreement as a political milestone. The long-debated deal was sealed ahead of the ruling Socialist Party's annual congress this weekend. Ways of protecting the population from sinking living standards will be high on the agenda of the congress. Real wages fell by an average of 14% in the public sector in 1995, prompting a number of unions to hold protest rallies. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



WASHINGTON MAY BE "HIDING EVIDENCE" OF SERBIAN WAR CRIMES.
Bosnia's UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey said that the US is concealing evidence linking Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic -- a signatory to the U.S.-sponsored Dayton agreement -- to indicted war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic, known as "Arkan." Sacirbey claimed that former U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke gave Milosevic a whole file of evidence on Arkan, Nasa Borba reported on 29 March. Sacirbey added that the U.S. has not made the evidence public or brought charges against Milosevic for his ties to the man widely believed responsible for some of the most grisly war crimes. -- Patrick Moore

UN FINDS MASS GRAVES IN SARAJEVO SUBURB.
International police confirmed on 29 March that five graves in Hadzici contain at least 20 bodies, AFP reported. The return of the area to Bosnian government control and the arrival of spring weather has enabled investigators to look for evidence of atrocities by Serbs against their Muslim and Croat neighbors at the start of the war four years ago. Police spokesman Alexander Ivanko said that this was not the first, but certainly the largest of such finds. The biggest single grave held at least ten corpses. -- Patrick Moore

"WAR AGAINST CROATIA PLANNED IN BELGRADE."
Testimony continues before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague regarding three officers of the rump Yugoslav army. They are charged in connection with the massacre of Croats, including hospital patients, after Vukovar fell to the Serbs in November 1991. The hearings clearly indicate that that war was planned and directed from Belgrade, Novi list reported on 29 March. In Washington, the State Department said it would protest plans by President Franjo Tudjman to re-bury Croatian soldiers from World War II at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, news agencies noted on 28 March. A spokesman likened this to honoring murderers along with their victims. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIA'S SERBS ORGANIZE.
The mass exodus of Serbs from formerly Serb-held Croatian territories in 1995 reduced the republic's Serbian minority from about 12% of the population to only perhaps 2-3%. Those remaining Serbs insist nonetheless that the government guarantee their rights. The Supreme Council of the Community of Serbs of Croatia (ZSH) met and called upon the government to guarantee funds to ensure the Serbs' "civil, cultural, and national rights," including cultural autonomy, Slobodna Dalmacija said on 29 March. In Zagreb, representatives of the Serbian Democratic Forum, the Prosveta cultural society, and some regional Serbian groups founded the League of Serbian Organizations (SSO). Spokesmen said that no political parties have been included at this stage to underscore the SSO's non-party character. Its chairman is nonetheless likely to be the prominent Serbian political figure Milorad Pupovac, Novi list reported on 29 March. The SSO stresses the traditional Austro-Hungarian concept of "personal ethnic autonomy" as opposed to group territorial autonomy, which is realistic given that the remaining Croatian Serbs live widely dispersed. -- Patrick Moore

FORMER CROATIAN MINISTER KILLED.
Anton Marcelo Popovic was shot dead outside his home in Vrsar, Istria, on the night of 27 March, Hina reported the next day. He had been minister of tourism in 1991-1992 and most recently was director of the Anita-Vrsar hotel chain. Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak said that the killing had been planned and that "there are indications that it was the work of a professional killer." An investigation has been launched, but persons close to Popovic ruled out any political motive for the killing, Vjesnik noted on 29 March. Popovic belonged to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and was active in sports as well as in politics and business, Vecernji list said. -- Patrick Moore

WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR CALLS BELGRADE A CRIMINAL REGIME.
Prosecutor Clint Williamson concluded before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that the rump Yugoslav authorities are a "criminal" government, AFP reported on 28 March. Prompting the justice's remark was the fact that Belgrade has refused to extradite the three officers of the Yugoslav army (JNA) involved in the Vukovar massacre(see above). "When a government gives refuge and support to criminals in the eyes of the world that government then too becomes criminal.... And that is exactly what the Belgrade government has done in this case, "Williamson said. Not only has Belgrade failed to extradite the accused war criminals, but the independent Radio B92 on 21 March reported that one of the suspects, Veselin Sljivancanin, was even promoted recently from major to colonel. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN PRESIDENT HONORED ON "NATIONAL DAY."
Most high-ranking political and military officials in rump Yugoslavia extended Serbian President Milosevic "congratulations" on the occasion of the 28 March national day, Tanjug reported the previous day. On that date in 1989, the Serbian legislature passed amendments to the republic's constitution that revoked the political autonomy of Vojvodina and Kosovo. What characterized this year's "national day" was the somewhat toned-down, albeit far from absent, nationalistic rhetoric. Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic's message to Milosevic observed that "owing to a persistent policy of peace, Serbia's people have secured a place in the international community... [something] to which Serbia's unity and stability had contributed." -- Stan Markotich


MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW, BLOCKS PETITION DRIVE FOR EARLY ELECTIONS.
The Macedonian parliament on 28 March voted in favor of a law governing citizens' petition drives for parliamentary elections. The law carried with 53 deputies for, 15 against, and one abstention, according to Nova Makedonija. It invalidated a four-day petition drive for early parliamentary elections mounted by the largest opposition bloc, made up of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity and the Democratic Party. The bloc was able to garner a reported 162,000 signatures from voters seeking early parliamentary elections, according to Dnevnik and Nova Makedonija. A Liberal Party initiative to have the law exclude the current petition drive failed. The law seems to guarantee the continuation of the seated parliament in office through the conclusion of its term in 1998. -- Duncan Perry in Skopje

ROMANIAN ARMS INDUSTRY WORKERS PROTEST DEFENSE BUDGET.
Five trade union organizations on 28 March staged a rally in Bucharest to protest what they described as insufficient budgetary allotments for their industry, Radio Bucharest reported. The protesters asked that their demand for increases be discussed with cabinet members in the presence of President Ion Iliescu. They threatened to stage a further rally on 3 April in case negotiations failed. Romania's arms industry has been in a deep crisis in recent years. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIANS, ITALIANS DISCUSS ORGANIZED CRIME.
An Italian delegation of experts in Mafia-style organizations visited Romania between 27 and 29 March, Radio Bucharest reported. The delegation discussed ways to step up the exchange of information on organized crime with senior Romanian officials from the Interior Ministry. Romanian Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila said that the two countries plan joint actions in combating trans-border crime. -- Dan Ionescu


MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO FIGHT CRIME, CORRUPTION.
The Moldovan government on 28 March ordered the Interior Ministry to form a department to fight crime and corruption, Moldovan agencies reported. It also announced that inspections at some 100 financial institutions revealed hard-currency revenues totaling $18 million and DM 6.3 million that have illegally been kept abroad. Foreign Affairs Minister Mihai Popov noted that almost half of the diplomatic passports issued since 1993 have gone to people not entitled to such documents. Justice Minister Vasile Sturza said that despite decentralization, many state organs and civil servants still have the authority to issue permits. The government also decided that within three months, all civil servants will have declare revenues, bank accounts, and other assets. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES WATER, BORDER TREATIES WITH GREECE.
The Bulgarian parliament on 28 March ratified an accord with Greece on the use of water reserves, ending a long-standing dispute between Sofia and Athens, Reuters reported. Under the accord, Greece is guaranteed 29% of the average annual water flow of the River Mesta/Nestos, totaling 1.5 billion cubic meters, over the next 35 years. The opposition refused to vote on the agreement and accused the government of betraying national interest by agreeing to deprive some Bulgarian communities in the area of needed water. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN ROUNDUP.
Officials from nine Balkan countries agreed on 28 March to hold a conference on regional security and cooperation in Sofia, AFP reported. The conference is likely to take place in June and will be attended by the foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and rump Yugoslavia. In other news, 24 chasa reported that the Bulgarian government called on former Tsar Simeon II to renounce all claims to the throne before visiting Bulgaria. Government spokesman Nikola Baltov said Simeon is expected to "make a clear public statement that he is a loyal citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria who obeys...the constitution and laws of the country." The government also said it will ask President Zhelyu Zhelev to recall the ambassador to Spain, Mihail Petkov, for inviting Simeon to a National Day reception at the embassy on 3 March. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN ILLEGAL EMIGRANTS PERISH IN ADRIATIC.
Some 29 illegal emigrants perished in the southern Adriatic Sea in an attempt to reach the Italian coast, international media reported on 28 March, citing Albanian state radio. The emigrants, among them women and children, had left the Albanian port of Vlora in one of several boats. Italian coast guards found the bodies of two Albanians. Illegal traffic to Italy is in the hands of the local Albanian mafia, which reportedly asks up to $600 for the passage. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Chrystyna Lapychak




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