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Newsline - April 2, 1996


YELTSIN, LUKASHENKA SIGN INTEGRATION AGREEMENT.
In a 2 April ceremony broadcast live on Russian TV, the Belarusian and Russian presidents signed a treaty of union that closely binds the two states together by creating new supranational political institutions. Yeltsin termed the agreement "highly symbolic" and said it "opens a qualitatively new phase in relations between Russia and Belarus." With an eye towards his re-election campaign, he promised that the new union aimed "to do everything to achieve progress in the social sphere." Lukashenka also hailed the agreement, which he termed the "highest form of community within the CIS." Under the agreement, a joint Supreme Council will be established to direct the activities of the union, and ITAR-TASS reported that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had been appointed to head its executive committee. (see related story in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE section) -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN POSTPONES VISIT TO KYIV.
Presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev announced on 1 April that President Yeltsin had postponed his scheduled 4-5 April visit to the Ukrainian capital, Russian and Western agencies reported. Medvedev blamed the decision on continued disagreement with Ukraine about the terms under which the Black Sea Fleet will lease port facilities in Sevastopol. Yeltsin could not "sign agreements which, in his view, do not fully correspond with Russian interests," added Medvedev. Russia wants Sevastopol to be an exclusively Russian base, while Ukraine insists on joint use of it. NTV linked Yeltsin's decision not to go to Kyiv with his election campaign, saying that the president could not afford to appear to have "lost" Sevastopol by signing a lease agreement on Ukrainian terms. The visit has been postponed six times in the past 18 months. (see related story in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE section) -- Scott Parrish

CHECHEN REACTION TO YELTSIN'S PEACE PLAN.
At a 1 April session of the Chechen government, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev termed Russian President Boris Yeltsin's peace plan "a great victory for all peace-loving forces" and said that it fully corresponds to his government's proposals, Radio Rossii reported. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev has not yet formally commented on the peace plan, although several of his military commanders have expressed skepticism at its viability. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, named by Yeltsin to head a state commission to monitor compliance with the peace plan, told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 1 April that considerable responsibility for its implementation would devolve to the Chechen authorities. Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said the commission would endeavor to preclude further instances of embezzlement of funds allocated for reconstruction in Chechnya; some 90 billion rubles ($18.8 million) went missing in November 1995 alone. -- Liz Fuller

DUMA CONSIDERS CHECHEN AMNESTY.
An amnesty for the Chechen fighters is a key element of President Yeltsin's peace plan, his adviser Emil Pain argued in Rossiiskie vesti on 2 April. Presidential legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov said that the amnesties could even include rebel Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. According to the Russian constitution, only the Duma can issue amnesties. Although some deputies have expressed qualms about taking responsibility for such a step, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev did not rule out the possibility of granting Dudaev amnesty in order "to stop the war" and "for the sake of the lives that we can save," ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. -- Robert Orttung

WESTERN POWERS HAIL YELTSIN'S CHECHNYA INITIATIVE.
Western government, including the U.S. and Germany, endorsed President Yeltsin's latest initiative to end the Chechen conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 April. Anthony Lake, U.S. President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, "welcomed" Yeltsin's proposal, and called on the Chechens to "respond in a similar spirit." State Department spokesman Glyn Davies termed the proposal "a significant opportunity for peace," and urged both sides to accept OSCE mediation. The endorsements by the leading Western powers mirror their strong support for Yeltsin's re-election campaign. Meanwhile, on 2 April OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti declared that the OSCE mission in Grozny stands ready to mediate a settlement. The mission played a significant role in the talks that produced the ultimately abortive military accord signed by federal and Chechen negotiators in July 1995. -- Scott Parrish

LIBERALS SUPPORT YAVLINSKII.
Prominent pro-reform activists Elena Bonner, Sergei Kovalev, Yurii Afanasev, Ella Panfilova, and Arkadii Murashev announced on 1 April that they had formed a committee to support Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential campaign, saying he has the best chance of defeating the Communists. The members of the committee were skeptical about Yeltsin's plan to resolve the Chechen conflict peacefully because Dudaev had not agreed to it and because it did not have a mechanism for restraining the activities of those who supported the war, Radio Rossii reported. The timing of the committee's formation, coming after Yeltsin's peace plan announcement, suggests that the president's measures may be too little, too late to bring together a broad pro-reform coalition before election day. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN GAINING ON ZYUGANOV.
Yeltsin's popularity rose from 15% to 18% during the last two weeks, but Zyuganov remains ahead with a stable 25%, according to the latest VTsIOM figures, NTV reported 31 March. In third place, Lebed improved his showing from 8 to 10 percent. Yavlinskii and Vladimir Zhirinovsky each have 9%, while eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov has 7%. -- Robert Orttung

LESS THAN A THIRD OF RUSSIANS SUPPORT DECISION TO RESTORE SOVIET UNION.
Russians remain divided over the fate of the former Soviet Union. Less than one third of Russians support the Duma's 15 March denunciation of the treaty that formally disbanded the USSR. About 40% reject it, believing that the Duma's action will only cause a deterioration in relations with Russia's neighbors, according to VTsIOM figures reported by Radio Rossii. Also, 46% believe that the restoration of the Soviet Union is not realistic and only detracts attention from other problems, 14% believe it is a high priority task, and almost a quarter feel it deserves some attention. -- Robert Orttung

CHINESE PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN MOSCOW.
In Russia for a six-day official visit,
Qiao Shi, the chairman of the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 1 April, international media reported. At their Kremlin meeting, Yeltsin told Shi that China is a "priority" for Russian foreign policy, and confirmed that he will visit Beijing on 24-26 April. The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported that Yeltsin reiterated Moscow's position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, while Shi said China views the Chechen conflict as Russia's "internal affair." Shi later met with Chernomyrdin, who said that Shi's visit would give a "new impulse" to the development of bilateral ties. Shi will also visit St. Petersburg before departing Russia. -- Scott Parrish

ITAR-TASS JOKE STORY CAUSES STIR IN EAST EUROPE.
The official ITAR-TASS news agency caused a stir on April Fool's Day by running a joke item reporting that the State Duma was considering a resolution that would restore the Warsaw Pact. The item, a spoof of the recent Duma resolution denouncing the formation of the CIS, claimed the Duma resolution was a "secret weapon" intended to block the eastward expansion of NATO. Several news agencies mistakenly regarded the item as authentic, and Czech media even reported the story as "a sensation of international proportions." ITAR-TASS later issued a retraction, chiding these agencies for lacking a sense of humor. It did, however, cite Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Karel Boruvka, who said that jokes about restoring the Warsaw Pact could "give the shivers" to anyone who forgot that it was April Fool's Day. -- Scott Parrish

CIS JOINT AIR PATROLS BEGIN.
The integration of the CIS United Air Defense System took another step forward on 1 April when Russian and Belarusian air defense forces went on joint duty, ITAR-TASS reported. Last week, the deputy chairman of the CIS Air Defense Coordinating Committee said that joint patrols with Kazakhstani air defense troops would start on 1 May, and those with Georgia would begin the following month. All CIS countries except Moldova and Azerbaijan have indicated they will become part of the united system, although the nature of Ukraine's participation remains unclear. -- Doug Clarke

COLD WELCOME FOR REFUGEES.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has issued an order forbidding the registration of refugees in Moscow unless they can move in with relatives who have a resident permit for the city. Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 27 March. Presumably this rule applies to forced migrants from within the Russian Federation as well as refugees from other countries. Similarly, the authorities in Kabardino-Balkariya announced on 29 March that they will no longer accept refugees from Chechnya due to a lack of funds, ITAR-TASS reported. Of the 10,600 refugees currently registered in the republic, only 3,600 have been officially re-registered and provided with temporary housing in holiday homes and the like. The remainder must fend for themselves. -- Peter Rutland

CALL FOR DECENTRALIZATION OF SOCIAL POLICY.
A conference on the concept of "State social orders" convened in Moscow on 29 March under the sponsorship of the Moscow City Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants discussed the idea of "contracting out" the provision of services for alcoholics, refugees, and the homeless to voluntary organizations on a competitive basis. The deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Social and Religious Organizations, Valerii Bortsov, said that "social policy should not be a centralized monster." -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA INTERRUPTS OIL EXPORTS VIA DRUZHBA PIPELINE.
Russia halted its oil exports on 29 March to Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline across Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The stoppage was initiated by the three countries, who argued that they satisfied their requirements in Russian oil and are also receiving oil from other suppliers. Hungary is now getting oil via Croatia's Adria pipeline, while the Czech Republic is using Germany's Ingolstadt-Litvinov pipeline. On 29 March, Russia reportedly agreed to levy the higher transit fee of $5.2 per ton of oil which Ukraine unilaterally introduced for its section of the pipeline on 1 January, RFE/RL reported on 2 April. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA WILL NOT INTRODUCE IMPORT QUOTAS FOR ALCOHOL.
The State Customs Committee announced that it will not impose restrictions on issuing excise stamps on imported alcohol, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. The introduction of licensing stamps and import quotas, which were to have been auctioned through commodity exchanges, were part of a package of proposals approved by the government in late January. The IMF, EU, and WTO had objected to the measures. -- Natalia Gurushina

CENTRAL BANK TO CUT GKO YIELDS.
Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that the bank intends to cut yields on short-term state treasury bills (GKO), Segodnya reported on 30 March. At present, GKO is the most profitable financial instrument on Russia's stock market, and Dubinin noted that the minimum-risk securities should not have the highest yields. GKO yields surged by 27% to 121% on 26 March. The Finance Ministry has also decided to cut the six-month GKO issue scheduled for 3 April by 2.5 trillion rubles ($500 million) to 6 trillion rubles, and to reduce the share available to foreign buyers from 50% to 30%. -- Natalia Gurushina

NUMBER OF JOINT VENTURES ON INCREASE.
The number of joint ventures with foreign companies and foreign firms operating in Russia reached 14,600 in 1995, a 31% increase over the previous year, Western agencies reported on 30 March, citing the State Statistical Committee. Of that number, 2,611 joint ventures were set up by U.S. companies and 1,971 by German firms. Companies from China and Ukraine founded 1,376 and 1,341 joint ventures, respectively. In 1995, joint ventures' industrial output totaled 44 trillion rubles ($9.7 billion), of which goods worth $5.8 billion--mostly fuel--were exported. Joint ventures accounted for 7% of Russia's total exports and 6% of total imports. -- Natalia Gurushina



NO PROGRESS (YET AGAIN) IN OSCE KARABAKH TALKS.
The OSCE-mediated talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict held in Moscow from 25-30 March again failed to make any progress, primarily because new proposals to resolve the conflict tabled in March by the OSCE, Russia, and the U.S. were rejected, Turan and RFE/RL reported. No date has been set for the next round of talks. Russia and Finland intend to convene a special meeting with the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh to convey to them the OSCE's dissatisfaction with their unwillingness to compromise. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN MILITARY AGREEMENTS.
Defense officials from Russia and Georgia signed 12 agreements on military cooperation in Tbilisi on 1 April and expected to sign another eight the following day, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said the agreements on bilateral cooperation in training, cooperation between the air forces and navies of the two countries, and on the transfer of Russian arms to Georgia are of special importance. He said two countries are cooperating in "the spirit of friendship and mutual understanding." -- Doug Clarke

GRACHEV: GEORGIA ENTITLED TO SOME BLACK SEA FLEET WARSHIPS.
Following his 1 April meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that Georgia is entitled to "at least a few ships of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet as its own." ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying the matter would be discussed in detail at a later date. He noted that Georgia would need to create the "required infrastructure, including piers, control systems, and other vitally important installations." -- Doug Clarke

MANDATORY HEALTH INSURANCE IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstan has introduced mandatory health insurance for all its citizens in a bid to solve the country's health care problems, RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. The government created a fund for that purpose that will pay for 90% of all insurance costs. RFE/RL reported that the government plans to spend more than $300 million on insurance this year. Health care in Kazakhstan has deteriorated due to a lack of medicine, outdated equipment, and poorly-paid medical staff. It is not clear how the government plans to acquire the funds to introduce the new program. -- Bhavna Dave

500 KG OF MARIJUANA SEIZED IN CENTRAL KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstani police seized 500 kg of marijuana from the apartment of a resident of Karaganda in Central Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 March. Police are looking for other members of the drug ring, which is involved in shipping marijuana from the Chu valley in southern Kazakhstan to other countries. About 140,000 hectares of land in the Chu valley is used for marijuana cultivation, capable of producing an estimated 5,000 metric tons of hashish. The authorities seized only 5 metric tons last year. -- Bhavna Dave

PRICE INCREASES IN UZBEKISTAN.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov ordered that prices for various goods and services be increased to better reflect their current worth, RFE/RL reported on 1 April. For example, public transport rates increased 50%, housing and rent payments by 80-100%, and the prices for bread and milk increased by 40% and 30%, respectively. To compensate for the price hikes, wages and pensions have also increased in Uzbekistan, with the minimum wage increasing from 250 sum ($6.79) to 400 sum a month, and retirement pensions to 900 sum a month (see OMRI Economic Digest, 28 March 1996). The government insists that such centralized control over wages and prices is necessary during this "transition period" in order to prevent hyperinflation and economic collapse. -- Roger Kangas

KYRGYZSTAN REORGANIZES LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has ordered a reorganization of the country's local administration in order to fulfill his promise that 1996 will be the turning point in the Kyrgyz economy, Radio Mayak reported on 31 March. Under the decree, oblast akims will be renamed oblast governors and given new rights and responsibilities. Tulebek Muraliev, the head of the president's department for local organs of government, said the governors will be responsible for implementing reform programs and for taking an inventory of the social infrastructure of villages and cities in order to facilitate a management take over by local organizations. MurAliyev said the plumbing system would be an example of duties that would fall under the responsibility of local leaders. The reorganization is essential for further privatization, but it also arguably provides ready scapegoats should reforms prove ineffective. -- Bruce Pannier



RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TREATY SIGNING PROMPTS PLANNED DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK.
As Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka met in Moscow to sign the integration treaty between Russian and Belarus, opponents and supporters of the treaty prepared to take to the streets to voice their opinions. There were reports overnight that police have been raiding the offices of nationalist groups in order to forestall the opposition demonstrations. (see related story in Russian section) -- Ustina Markus in Minsk

UKRAINE RESPONDS TO YELTSIN'S DECISION TO DELAY VISIT YET AGAIN.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on 1 April reacted "with understanding" to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decision to again postpone his official visit to Kyiv, Ukrainian TV reported. The ministry said Ukraine has made every effort to resolve remaining differences with Russia over the basing of the countries' Black Sea Fleets in Crimea, which Moscow has made a prerequisite for the visit. It added that Kyiv was ready to continue negotiations but that the basing of Ukrainian naval forces was strictly an internal matter and would not be influenced by Russian objections to sharing a base in Sevastopol. The ministry stressed that Ukraine regretted Russia's decision to link the signing of the long-awaited friendship and cooperation treaty to the last unresolved issue on the fleet. Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Bizhan said Ukraine could not "agree to compromises...when Sevastopol is Ukrainian territory," ITAR-TASS reported. Bizhan said if no agreement were reached on the sharing of bases, the parliament might vote to remove the Russian portion of the fleet from Ukrainian waters. (see related story in Russian section) -- Chrystyna Lapychak

ESTONIAN CENTER PARTY RE-ELECTS SAVISAAR AS CHAIRMAN.
Estonia's Center Party on 30 March overwhelmingly re-elected Edgar Savisaar as chairman, BNS reported. Savisaar received 468 out of 607 votes. Meanwhile, Rein Veidemann, one of Savisaar's closest former allies, announced the next day that he was resigning from the party. Speaking to journalists, Savisaar denied the existence of a "Veidemann wing" within the party. He described the congress as an important step toward internal stabilization. Savisaar last fall had announcement his retirement from politics because of a spying scandal. -- Dan Ionescu

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST RUSSIAN EXPANSION.
Siim Kallas on 1 April told journalists in Prague that an expanded Russia could pose a security threat to his country, CTK reported. Kallas, who is paying an official visit to the Czech Republic, said he was worried about not only the regional integration treaty signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan but also the recent vote in the Russian State Duma annulling the 1991 decision to dissolve the Soviet Union. He described the trend as "very serious." Kallas and his Czech counterpart, Josef Zielenec, discussed security in Eastern-Central Europe, prospects for NATO enlargement and European integration, and bilateral relations. -- Dan Ionescu

LATVIAN CONSERVATIVES HOLD CONGRESS.
The Latvian National Conservative Party (LNNK) on 30 March elected Andrej Krastins as chairman to replace Anna Seile, who had declined to run for another term, BNS reported. The vote came at the end of the LNNK's ninth congress. Krastins, who is defense minister in Andris Skelle's cabinet, pledged to focus on ensuring his party's success in the next local and parliamentary elections. The congress adopted five resolutions on social, economic, and political issues, including one condemning the recent decision of the Russian State Duma to denounce the Belovezh treaty, which put a formal end to the Soviet Union. -- Dan Ionescu

FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT RETURNS TO GDANSK SHIPYARD AS ELECTRICIAN.
More than 150 reporter crews from around the world waited at the Gdansk shipyard for Lech Walesa's return to work as an electrician on 2 April. Walesa, who lost the November 1995 presidential elections, arrived in a black Mercedes accompanied by two bodyguards. He has no pension as former president, but under Polish law, he is entitled to an official car and bodyguards. A farewell bonus of three monthly salaries ran out at the end of March. The Sejm is expected to vote next week on a bill allowing pensions for former presidents. Meanwhile, the Treasury is selling its 60% share in the shipyard to save it from bankruptcy. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE CONVENES.
The first meeting of the Polish National Defense Committee (KOK) to be headed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski took place on 1 April, Polish media reported. On the agenda were foreign-policy activities aimed at Poland's admission to NATO and internal security. Internal Affairs Minister Zbigniew Siemiatkowski addressed the meeting. KOK secretary Jerzy Milewski said that local administrations had not fulfilled their defense obligations last year. Kwasniewski revealed that within the next month, he wants to create a National Security Council, which would advise the president on security issues. -- Jakub Karpinski

FURTHER PRE-ELECTION WOES FOR CZECH CENTRIST PARTY.
Martin Bursik, a deputy chairman of the Free Democrats-Liberal Social National Party (SD-LSNS), resigned his party post on 1 April and stepped down as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Czech media reported. Bursik said he was protesting that party co-chairman Vavrinec Bodenlos and businessman Rudolf Baranek are still SD-LSNS candidates despite scandals surrounding them. It was recently revealed that Bodenlos received a suspended prison sentence four years ago for assaulting a neighbor with an ax, while Baranek put up a sign in a hotel he owns banning Roma from the premises. Bursik complained that the other SD-LSNS co-chairman, former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, backed Bodenlos and failed to condemn Baranek clearly. As a result of these scandals, the liberal SD-LSNS is not expected to gain enough votes to be represented in the next parliament. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY CRITICIZES CATHOLIC BISHOPS.
The Slovak National Party (SNS) on 1 April rejected eight Slovak bishops' protest against the law on the protection of the republic (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 March 1996). Accusing the bishops of promoting confrontation and uncertainty, SNS chairman Jan Slota told TASR that his party regrets that Church representatives could make such a statement. He added that unlike Church representatives of the past, who led the nation in its fight for sovereignty, these eight bishops had revealed themselves as clearly "anti-Slovak." Signatories to the statement included Conference of Bishops chairman Rudolf Balaz. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION KNOCKS GOVERNMENT OVER BASIC TREATY.
Opposition deputies have harshly criticized the government's reaction to the Slovak parliament's decision to include interpretation clauses in the basic treaty, Hungarian media reported on 2 April. Many called for the treaty to be revised or even abrogated. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, who was Hungary's main negotiator on the treaty, said the cabinet had pointed out to the Slovak Foreign Ministry on 29 March that a one-sided interpretation of the basic treaty has no legal force. He added that Hungary will refuse to exchange ratification documents-- thereby preventing the treaty from going into effect--if those documents are not identical. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



KARADZIC PLEDGES UNITY WITH RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic told the parliament in Pale that he will continue to work for unification with Serbia and Montenegro, although the Dayton agreement says that Bosnia must remain united, AFP reported on 1 April. He otherwise pledged to execute the agreement faithfully, Nasa Borba noted the following day. Karadzic called on the assembly to pass a law making all Serbs in the former Yugoslavia eligible for citizenship in his Republika Srpska. Social problems loomed large in his speech, including the return of property to refugees. Speculation about problems within the Bosnian Serb leadership was heightened by the absence of two key figures: Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic and military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic. -- Patrick Moore

INDICTED CROAT GIVES HIMSELF UP.
Bosnian Croat Gen. Tihomir Blaskic arrived in The Hague on 1 April, becoming the first indicted war criminal to give himself up voluntarily to the tribunal, Slobodna Dalmacija and Nasa Borba reported. Croatia had been under intense pressure from Washington to comply with a request for his extradition. In Belgrade, UN administrator for Eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein told Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that it is imperative that Serbs there remain after the region returns to Croatian control by end of 1997. In Zagreb, Defense Minister Gojko Susak was taken to hospital, Vecernji list wrote. He had just returned to Croatia in order to meet his American counterpart, William Perry, following a lung operation in the U.S. -- Patrick Moore

GRENADE ATTACK ON BELGRADE MOSQUE.
One person was injured when an unidentified man threw a hand grenade at the only existing mosque in the rump Yugoslav capital, local Belgrade media reported on 30 March. Reports conflict over whether there were casualties and, if so, how many. Witnesses said the man first brandished a gun at worshippers and then reached for the explosive. Since the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 1992, the Bajrakli Mosque has been bombed once and been the target of two arson attacks. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER REMAINS TARGET OF STATE-RUN MEDIA.
Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), remains the target of a state-run media campaign, Nasa Borba reported on 2 April. The campaign was triggered by a letter that Draskovic sent to several foreign ministries criticizing Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 March 1996). The state authorities have gone so far as to label Draskovic "the number one enemy of the state," Nova Makedonija observed on 1 April. -- Stan Markotich

NATO DELEGATION IN ROMANIA.
A high-ranking NATO delegation led by Lt. Gen. Gerrit Jan Folmer, director of International Military Staff, is in Romania to discuss possible cooperation between the Romanian Army and NATO structures, Romanian media reported on 1-2 April. At meetings with Romanian Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca and Chief of Staff Gen. Dumitru Cioflina, Folmer said that future NATO expansion should first take into account European stability and that the "geostrategic factor" should be of secondary importance. Meanwhile, the Romanian Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill on the ratification of the agreement between NATO member states and countries participating in the Partnership for Peace program. The neo-communist Socialist Labor Party voted against the bill, arguing that the agreement would limit "the country's national sovereignty." -- Matyas Szabo

MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN MOSCOW.
Andrei Sangheli on 31 March arrived in Moscow for talks with the Russian government, Infotag reported on 1 April. Sangheli is scheduled to meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Bolshakov and several members of the cabinet. Talks are expected to focus on Russian excise duties on Moldovan goods, which have significantly reduced Chisinau's exports to Russia. Other topics for discussion are the Russian troops withdrawal from the Dniester region and the settlement of Moldova's gas debts to Russia. -- Dan Ionescu

CONTINUED CONTROVERSY IN BULGARIA OVER YELTSIN'S REMARK.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin's recent remark about Bulgaria's possible membership in a new political union (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 April 1996) continues to cause controversy in Sofia, Bulgarian media reported. The government on 1 April said there is consensus among the country's political forces that Bulgaria's main foreign-policy goal is integration into European structures. Parliamentary President Blagovest Sendov noted he was "surprised and bewildered" by Yeltsin's remark. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) caucus leader Krasimir Premyanov stressed that Bulgaria's sovereignty is not negotiable. Opposition parties argued that government and BSP statements were insufficient and asked both to distance themselves from Yeltsin's remark. The Union of Democratic Forces has called a protest meeting outside the parliament building for 2 April. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN WRAPUP.
Aleksandar Marinov, BSP leader in Sofia, has said that members of his party in the capital favor Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski as BSP presidential candidate, Bulgarian media reported. Marinov said Pirinski leads over former party leader Aleksandar Lilov. In other news, Neven Kopandanova of RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service has been chosen as editor-in-chief of the Union of Democratic Forces daily Demokratsiya. She will take over on 15 April. Finally, the National Commission on Prices has proposed that electricity prices for private households increase by 47.7%, 24 chasa reported. The prices of electricity, fuel, heating, and spirits are all expected to rise this month, leading to an additional 2% increase in inflation, the National Statistical Institute announced. -- Stefan Krause

BALKAN, ITALIAN, U.S. DEFENSE MINISTERS AGREE ON JOINT MANEUVERS.
The defense ministers of Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, and the U.S., meeting in Tirana for a two-day conference, have agreed to hold joint military exercises this year, international agencies reported on 2 April. The exercises will focus on what to do in the case of natural disasters. The ministers also agreed to exchange information and opinions on military issues. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry urged the Balkan countries to increase contacts and dialogue and to reduce their troops along common borders as part of confidence-building measures. He added that UNPREDEP forces may remain in Macedonia after IFOR has withdrawn from Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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