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Newsline - April 16, 1996


ROSSEL PARTY WINS SVERDLOVSK ELECTIONS.
Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel's party, Transformation of the Urals, led the field in the competition for the lower house of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma, with 36% of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The Communist bloc came in second with 15% of the vote. Our Home-Our City, the regional affiliate of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia, won 13%. About 3% supported Yabloko and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Both Rossel and Our Home-Our City have pledged to back Yeltsin in the June presidential election. The Sverdlovsk Duma elections were held exclusively on party lists. The results of the upper house and local government votes are still being tabulated. -- Robert Orttung

MORE CANDIDATES TURN IN SIGNATURES.
Kemerovo Oblast legislature Chairman Aman Tuleev, Democratic Russia leader Galina Starovoitova, and former Federation Council member Vladimir Podoprigora turned in their nomination signatures to register for the presidential election ahead of the 6 p.m. 16 April deadline, NTV reported on 15 April. The Central Electoral Commission is still considering the signatures of Grigorii Yavlinskii, Svyatoslav Fedorov, Aleksandr Lebed, and Sergei Mavrodi. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN RAISES PENSION COMPENSATION PAYMENTS . . .
In an attempt to boost his standing with Russia's 3.7 million poorest pensioners, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree on 15 April raising pension compensation payments, ITAR-TASS reported. The maximum compensation payment, received by those on the minimum pension (63,500 rubles a month), will be doubled on 1 May to 150,000 rubles ($31), bringing the monthly total received by such pensioners to 213,250 rubles. Compensation payments for those on higher pensions will be lower, falling to a minimum of 85,000 rubles. Yeltsin also instructed the government to submit a bill to the Duma raising pensions by 10% a month from 1 May. The Duma has repeatedly sought to raise the minimum pension by 20%--a move opposed by the government as too expensive. The cost of the president's initiatives is estimated at 1.7 trillion rubles a month. -- Penny Morvant

. . . PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE. . .
Turning his attention to Russia's impoverished scientific community, Yeltsin
also pledged on 15 April to lend greater support to fundamental scientific research and the Russian Academy of Sciences, NTV reported. Speaking at a meeting marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nobel prize winning scientist Nikolai Semenov, Yeltsin appealed for support for a second term as president in order to prevent "a political and social Chornobyl." -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND WAVES RED FLAG.
Yeltsin is preparing to sign a decree allowing the display of the "red banner of victory" alongside the Russian tricolor flag when marking state holidays, military events, and other ceremonies, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting unnamed sources. Yeltsin hopes the decision will honor the Russian heroes who planted the red flag of the Soviet Union over the Reichstag in May 1945. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED PROPOSES SHARP REDUCTIONS IN ARMY.
Duma deputy and presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed told RFE/RL on 10 April that he would drastically cut the size of Russian military forces if elected president. Recent Western estimates say the Russian army now has 91 divisions, although many are severely undermanned and lacking in combat-readiness. Lebed suggested that Russia now needs only 15 fully-manned regular armored and infantry divisions supplemented by 5-6 airborne brigades, plus 15 reserve divisions. Lebed suggested the Air Force could be reduced from its current level of 6,000 planes to 1,000. Smaller forces would be more effective and less expensive to maintain, the former general contended. -- Scott Parrish

GRACHEV ON RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA.
Speaking in Yekaterinburg on 15 April, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that Russia would station 10,000 troops in Chechnya permanently but that the remainder would be withdrawn in three phases--one to begin immediately, the second in early May, and the third in November--from those areas controlled by the Zavgaev leadership, AFP reported, citing Interfax. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, however, told Reuters in a telephone interview that he would only agree to negotiations with the Russian leadership on the condition that all
Russian troops withdraw. In a move that suggests a split in the Dudaev camp, several of his field commanders, including Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, met with representatives of various Chechen political parties on 15 April and agreed to convene a forum on 18 April to facilitate direct talks between Dudaev and President Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

TURKISH JOURNALISTS SENTENCED IN DAGESTAN.
Two Turkish journalists have been sentenced to three years imprisonment for attempting to enter Chechnya from Azerbaijan via Dagestan in violation of Article 83 of Russia's Criminal Code, according to a 12 April Turkish Radio and Television report monitored by the BBC. The two men, Mehmet Ali Tekin and Talip Ozcevik, are connected with the pro-religious conservative daily Selam. The sentence they received was the maximum possible under Russian law. Russia has repeatedly accused elements in Turkey of supporting the Chechen rebels. -- Lowell Bezanis

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: IRAN REACTOR DEAL THREATENS RUSSIA.
Aleksei Yablokov, head of the Ecological Safety Commission of the Russian Security Council, told a Moscow press conference on 15 April that the controversial Russo-Iranian deal to finish the uncompleted nuclear power station at Bushehr could give Iran access to technology that would allow it to build nuclear weapons, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yablokov said that training Iranian specialists to run the plant would permit Iran to make significant progress "toward the creation of its own nuclear armaments." The remarks, which come shortly before the 19-20 April G-7 nuclear security summit in Moscow, directly contradict the official Russian government position. -- Scott Parrish

SERGIEV POSAD PROTESTS CHEMICAL DISPOSAL PLANT.
Residents of Sergiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk), about 70 km north of Moscow, oppose plans to reprocess toxic liquid missile fuel in the town, NTV reported on 13 April. A plant there will reprocess up to 10,000 tons of heptyl, much of it removed from deactivated Russian ballistic missiles, at a new facility there, constructed with U.S. assistance under the Nunn-Lugar program. Vasilli Goncharov, the mayor of the town, told NTV that hundreds of local residents had signed petitions opposing the plant, citing fears of environmental damage. Residents also object to what they claim are plans to import foreign heptyl for processing. Genrykh Matysyak, director of the plant, said only Russian heptyl will be processed there and argued that the facility will boost the local economy by creating new jobs. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA URGES RESTRAINT ON NORTH KOREA.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko said he managed to "somewhat shake North Korea" into softening its stance on relations with South Korea during his 10-12 April visit to Pyongyang, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tensions have been high along the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas since Pyongyang renounced the 1953 armistice agreement earlier this month. Ignatenko admitted, however, that North Korean officials had repeatedly said they viewed war between North and South Korea as "inevitable." Backtracking from earlier statements, Ignatenko also acknowledged that no progress had been made on settling North Korea's debts to the former USSR, valued at over 3 billion transferable rubles, which Russia inherited in 1991. -- Scott Parrish

MYSTERIOUS URALS COMPLEX THREATENS NUNN-LUGAR AID.
The Russian Defense Ministry is building an underground complex near Beloretsk (Bashkortostan), that may threaten U.S. disarmament aid to Russia, The New York Times reported on 16 April. Russian officials refuse to reveal the purpose of the huge complex, which Clinton administration officials speculate may be anything from a command-and-control bunker for Russian nuclear forces to a secret weapons depot. Russia claims financial hardships will hamper the full implementation of arms control agreements such as START II, but it appears that the complex in the Urals is swallowing significant funds. Under current U.S. law, Nunn-Lugar disarmament aid can only be disbursed to Russia if the U.S. president can certify that Russian military programs do not exceed "legitimate defense requirements." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSO-ESTONIAN WATER DISPUTE.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov delivered a formal protest to Estonian Ambassador Mart Helme on 12 April, complaining that authorities in the Estonian border city of Narva had cut off water supplies to the neighboring Russian town of Ivangorod, ITAR-TASS reported. Narva authorities cited unpaid bills as the reason for shutting off the water. Krylov added that 880 million rubles ($180,000) in back payments had been made by 12 April, and that all outstanding debts for water would be paid during the next week. Russian gas supplies to the Baltic states have frequently been shut off since 1991 because of unpaid bills. -- Scott Parrish

LIVING STANDARDS IMPROVE IN FIRST QUARTER.
Average real income increased by 2% in the first three months of 1996 in comparison with the same period last year, Radio Rossii reported on 15 April, citing Goskomstat. The number of people living below the poverty line fell from 45.1 million (30%) in the first quarter of 1995 to 35.9 million (24%). Income differentials between the richest and poorest social groups have shrunk somewhat, with the ratio between the income of those in the top 10% and the bottom 10% falling from 13.6:1 to 13.5:1. -- Penny Morvant

AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURERS IN CRISIS.
In the first three months of this year, Russian airlines did not place a single order for a new aircraft from domestic producers, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. Viktor Samokhin, the head of the aviation department of the Transport Ministry, said that the number of civilian aircraft commissioned fell from 292 in 1992 to 180 in 1993, 47 in 1994, and 28 in 1995. Russian airlines cannot raise loans to buy replacements to modernize their aging stock of 8,500 aircraft, while Boeing has leased 15 of its craft to Russian companies. The Finance Ministry has set aside just $100 million to finance the construction of seven aircraft this year. -- Peter Rutland

LACK OF CAPITAL THREATENS RUSSIA'S SECURITY.
A report for the Security Council prepared by the government's Financial Academy concludes that the shortage of capital in Russia is a threat to national security, Izvestiya reported on 16 April. Russia needs $150 billion to restart economic growth, but this investment capital cannot be generated either domestically or through foreign investment. The report also warned against the current practice of funding the budget deficit by issuing GKOs. A financial crash could provide a pretext for an attempted return to a planned economy, which would leave Russia "among the lagging economies of the Third World." Bella Zlatkis, the head of the Securities Department at the Finance Ministry, denied that GKO emissions amount to a "pyramid scheme," although she admitted that the government is in danger of "putting all its eggs in one basket." -- Peter Rutland



YILMAZ IN BAKU.
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz held talks in Baku on 14-15 April with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Turan and Western agencies reported. Yilmaz also stated Turkey's readiness to offer "all kinds of assistance" to Azerbaijan in modernizing its armed forces, according to Turan on 14 April. Aliyev said the views of the two countries' leaders on all regional and international issues are close if not identical. Yilmaz promised Aliyev Turkey's Alican border gate with Armenia would not be opened unless Armenia began to retreat from Azerbaijani territory, Yeni Yuzyil reported on 15 April. Cumhuriyet on 16 April quoted Aliev's foreign policy adviser, Vafa Guli-Zade, as saying that although Yilmaz is a "great politician," he is "an amateur" on the subject of Karabakh. -- Liz Fuller

EU OFFICE OPENS IN ALMATY.
The EU established an official representative office in Almaty on 12 April, Russian TV reported. EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that EU measures to consolidate relations with Kazakhstan will not affect the union's partnership with Russia. The EU has offered another long term package in addition to the $100 million in technical aid, which makes it the single largest donor to Kazakhstan. The EU is especially interested in the construction of pipelines to export Kazakhstan's oil and gas. -- Bhavna Dave

RUSSIA GAINS KYRGYZ ASSETS IN RETURN FOR DEBTS.
The Kyrgyz government has agreed to repay part of the country's $132 million debt to Russia in the form of state-owned shares in 39 industrial and mining enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. The debts stem from the credits granted to Kyrgyzstan in 1992-1993. Russia has agreed to take 66% and 70% stakes in two tobacco companies, a 34% stake in the Kyrgyz Electromechanical Plant, and a 70% stake in the Kyrgyz Chemical-Metallurgical Plant. Russia is also interested in acquiring shares in electrical energy companies. New owners of the transferred stakes in Russia will be registered as Russo-Kyrgyz joint ventures. -- Natalia Gurushina



GERMAN WEEKLY LEAKS INFORMATION ON CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
Der Spiegel reports in its latest issue that in the Czech-German declaration currently being drafted by both countries' government representatives, the Czech Republic will express regrets over the fact that innocent people suffered during the expulsions of Sudeten Germans after World War II. Such a formulation would allow the two countries to bypass the question of the expulsions' legality. However, Mlada fronta Dnes reported last week that the declaration is to contain a Czech apology for the "wild expulsions" and the excesses that occurred during the so-called "transferals" of Sudeten Germans (see the Daily Digest of 9 April 1996). Der Spiegel claims that Germany will accept the results of World War II in the declaration, making it difficult for any future German government to defend Sudeten German claims. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus stressed last week that the declaration is still under discussion and its final version will not be ready before the Czech parliamentary elections in June. -- Jiri Pehe

OPINION POLL ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN AGREEMENT.
An opinion poll conducted by the Zerkadlo sociological service in Belarus showed that most Minsk residents support the 2 April agreement forming a Community of Sovereign States between Russia and Belarus, Belapan reported on 15 April. Out of 300 people polled, 47% said they completely supported the community's formation, 16% voiced partial support, while 17% said they did not support it at all. A further 20% found the question too difficult to answer. When asked about the effect the community would have on Belarus' sovereignty, 30% responded it would be strengthened by the community, 28% said it would be lost, 16% felt it would make no difference, and 26% said they did not know. -- Ustina Markus

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL IN KIEV.
Secretary General Javier Solana arrived in Kiev on 15 April for an official visit, NTV and Russian Public TV reported. Solana met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Yevhan Marchuk, and Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko. Kuchma said that Ukraine was in favor of developing political, not military, ties with NATO. Russian media noted that as Russian elections approach, the West is becoming more active in developing ties with the Baltics and Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

WORLD BANK TO OFFER AGRICULTURAL CREDITS TO UKRAINE.
The World Bank signed a conditional agreement with Ukraine on extending a $700 million loan to support the country's agricultural sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 April. Among the conditions attached are that Ukraine lift its moratorium on the sale of land for six years, and that collective farms are stripped of their pre-emptive right to buy land. The bank also agreed to extend a $250 million credit to support structural reforms, and $170 million to set up an export guarantee fund. The first tranche of a $250 million credit to reform Ukraine's coal industry should be made available by the World Bank in May. -- Ustina Markus

CRIMEA SETS UP CONSTITUTIONAL COMMITTEE.
Democratic leaders of 38 Crimean public and political organizations set up a committee for the promotion of the constitutional process in Ukraine, UNIAR reported on 12 April. The organizations claim the current draft constitution does not guarantee the rights of Crimean Tatars and has other shortcomings. The committee will insist that the draft constitution be amended to incorporate their concerns. -- Ustina Markus

PROPOSAL FOR BALTIC SECURITY CIRCULATED.
In the run-up to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's visit to the Baltics, a Rand Corporation paper advocating a security concept short of NATO membership has been circulating in the Baltic foreign ministries, BNS reported on 14 April. Western officials have acknowledged that the Baltics are too difficult to defend, and their sizable Russian minorities do not allow for quick NATO membership. The Rand report proposes basing Baltic security on "five pillars": strengthening reforms, solving the minority issues, cooperating with the Nordic countries, EU membership, and cooperation with Moscow. The report says NATO membership should not be excluded as a future possibility for the Baltics, but that the "five pillar" approach would buy time and acknowledge Russian sensitivities in the region. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA, ESTONIA REACH TEMPORARY DEAL ON FISHING ZONES.
Latvia's Prime Minister Andris Skele and his Estonian counterpart Tiit Vahi reached a temporary agreement valid until 1 August on fishing in their disputed waters, BNS reported on 15 April. According to the agreement, both sides will have access to waters near the island of Ruhnu in the Gulf of Riga, and agree not to hinder each other's fishing vessels. The statement was made in Vilnius where the Baltic Assembly met on 14 April. Vahi said the two reached an agreement on sea borders and fishing rights for this year and next. An Estonian government spokesman said Latvia accepted Estonia's proposals regarding the sea border, while Estonia compromised on its fishing rights in the region. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA, CZECH REPUBLIC SIGN FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT.
Czech Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy and Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Valdis Birkaus on 15 April signed an agreement establishing a free-trade zone between the two countries, Czech and Latvian media reported. In 1995 the two countries traded goods worth $24.1 million; the new agreement is expected to increase that volume. Dlouhy told Birkaus that the Czech Republic will ask the World Bank to give Latvia new credits to be used for purchasing Czech-made mass transportation vehicles. Meanwhile, Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, agreed there was no alternative to joining NATO for future security, but that partnership with Russia was also vital. -- Jiri Pehe

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL OPENS IN PRAGUE.
A Holocaust memorial, listing all available names of Czech Jews killed by the Nazis, was shown to reporters in Prague on 15 April, Czech media report. The memorial is located in the Pinkas Synagogue that recently reopened after several decades. Some 80,000 names are listed over 170 sq. m. area of the synagogue's wall. Prague's Rabbi Karol Sidon will unveil the memorial officially on 16 April which is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The memorial was first opened in 1959 but closed in 1968 as relations between Czechoslovakia and Israel deteriorated. During the renovation, names were removed and added on the basis of new information. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DELEGATION IN U.S.
A group of Slovak Constitutional Court judges, led by Chairman Milan Cic, arrived in Washington on 14 April for a 12-day visit. In an interview with Slovakia, Cic said the main goal of the visit is to find out how the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts function. He said the delegation will brief American officials on Slovakia's Constitutional Court. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRESIDENT IN CHINA.
Michal Kovac, on a five-day official visit to China, met with Chinese leaders on 12 April to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries, Slovak media report. On 13 and 14 April, Kovac visited Xi'an, one of China's greatest industrial centers. On 15 April, Kovac and his entourage traveled to Shenzen, an economic zone in China's Guangdong province. -- Jiri Pehe

NEW POLISH PUBLIC TV PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON HIS WORK.
Ryszard Miazek, Polish public TV's new president, spoke on 15 April on his vision of public TV and journalism. Miazek, supported by the ruling left-wing coalition, said in an interview with Zycie Warszawy, "TV should not itself aspire to express opinions because that is the task of the parliament and other state representatives." Polish journalists from Rzeczpospolita, the left-wing Trybuna, and the satirical Nie, were critical of Miazek's comments. A commentator from Rzeczpospolita said "this is the end of independent TV's role as a balancing instrument." Miazek replaced Wieslaw Walendziak who was considered too opposition-minded by the ruling coalition. -- Jakub Karpinski

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER IN POLAND.
Leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Zyanon Paznyak and the Front's Press Secretary Syarhei Naumchyk said on 15 April during a visit to Wroclaw that they intend to organize support for Belarusian opposition abroad. Paznyak says he hopes Wroclaw will become a center of support for Belarusian democracy. Paznyak was critical of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski's recent visit to Belarus, adding Kwasniewski met in Minsk with individuals who do not represent Belarusian opposition but support "constructive collaboration" with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. He went on to say Lukashenka is doing "dirty work" for Russia with the help of the KGB generals in Belarus, Polish dailies reported on 16 April. -- Jakub Karpinski

CONTROVERSY OVER ALLEGED GUARANTEES BY HUNGARY'S FORMER GOVERNMENT.
The senior coalition Socialist party is at odds with former government representatives over guarantees to various business organizations that the present government allegedly inherited from the Boros-government in 1994, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Gyula Horn's unexpected statement two weeks ago that the present cabinet has to make good on 600 billion forints ($4 billion) sparked a heated debate. On 15 April, Horn accused former governing parties of financial mismanagement and falsifying files on international negotiations, and he increased the debated amount to 900 billion forints. The statement led to an acrimonious debate, with the former ruling parties disputing Horn's claim. Neither side has revealed any evidence in the case. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIA BEGINS FORMAL PAYMENTS TO SOLDIERS.
Bosnian authorities held official ceremonies to start paying soldiers, invalids, and families of dead soldiers for their contributions during the war, Oslobodjenje reported on 16 April. The problem is that the government has little or no money to meet its obligations, so instead of paying in cash it is issuing "bank books" that show exactly how much each man earned, Onasa noted. The average salary for soldiers is DM 400 per month, which is still a princely wage by Bosnian standards. The authorities expect to distribute up to 3,000 of the bank books daily. It is not clear exactly when and how the men or their families can convert the paper payments into hard cash. All three sides in Bosnia face huge problems connected with the demobilization of tens of thousands of soldiers. -- Patrick Moore

BIHAC KINGPIN LAUNCHES NEW PARTY.
Fikret Abdic, one of the country's most controversial figures, has launched a new party, the Democratic People's Community (DNZ), Nasa Borba reported on 16 April. The Bihac-area kingpin has been living in Croatia since his Serb-backed empire fell to joint Croatian and Bosnian government forces last fall. Among his enemies are Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. However, thousands of people from the Bihac region, refer to Abdic as "Babo," or "Daddy," crediting him with bringing prosperity and peace. He appears to have exchanged Serbian for Croatian backing, and some observers have suggested that the Croats' recent arrest of five Muslims allegedly sent to kill Abdic was merely a publicity stunt on Abdic's behalf, Novi list and Politika noted. The renegade Muslim politician himself said that he "was not surprised" that assassins were sent to kill him, claiming that Izetbegovic cannot tolerate the presence of a politican who got more votes than he did in the 1990 elections. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIA'S EX-COMMUNISTS APPEAL FOR ANTI-NATIONALIST VOTE.
The Union of Bosnian Social Democrats (UBSD) is the successor to the former communist and reformist party that took only 10% of the vote in the parliamentary elections, but it held on to the mayor's seat in multi-ethnic Tuzla throughout the war. Mayor Sejfudin Tokic has launched the UBSD's republic-wide electoral campaign by stressing that his party seeks to represent all Bosnians, which, he claims, Izetbegovic never did, Nasa Borba reported on 16 April. Tokic claims that his party has 40,000 members, including some from Serb-held regions. He stated that the Serbian and Croatian nationalist parties will fall apart under internal pressures, but that Izetbegovic's Muslim nationalist party will be a tougher nut to crack because of its radical populist profile. -- Patrick Moore

PALE LEADERSHIP TEST TERMS OF PEACE TREATY.
Vice President Nikola Koljevic, whom some see as a possible successor to the indicted war criminal and civilian leader Radovan Karadzic has publicly stated views that are openly at variance with the Dayton peace accord. Koljevic told Nasa Borba on 16 April that "boundaries no longer matter" between the Bosnian Serb state and rump Yugoslavia. He also said that it is not permissible that Muslims and Croats return to their homes on Serb-held territory until Serbian refugees there have been settled. Koljevic noted that the major European powers are coming to accept the Serbian view that Bosnia has no multi-ethnic future. The Economist also said that Europe is rejecting the American and Dayton concept of a multi-ethnic state in favor of a more "evenhanded" approach. -- Patrick Moore

SLOVENIA AND CROATIA PLEDGE AID FOR BOSNIA.
The war-torn republic's two northern neighbors have promised financial backing for Bosnia through the World Bank, Onasa noted on 15 April. Ljubljana is offering $3.5 million to repair the homes of 18,000 Bosnian refugees living in Slovenia on the condition that they return to Bosnia. Zagreb will make available a total of up to $20 million by 1999 to rebuild the port at Ploce, reconstruct the Sava bridge at Orasje, and develop waterworks. -- Patrick Moore

SLOVENIAN--RUMP YUGOSLAV RELATIONS REMAIN STRAINED.
A normalization of mutual relations between Ljubljana and Belgrade remains unlikely. The Slovenian foreign ministry announced that it is still waiting for a response to its recognition of rump-Yugoslavia, pointing out that this would be a precondition for establishing diplomatic ties. -- Fabian Schmidt

MOLDOVA: A CROSSROADS FOR ILLEGAL MIGRATION.
Moldova has detained 500 illegal migrants this year, Reuters reported on 15 April. Moldova's border with Romania has become a crossroads for illegal migrants from Southeast Asia, according to a National Security Ministry statement aired on national TV on 14 April. -- Michael Shafir

UPDATE ON EBRD MEETING IN SOFIA.
EBRD President Jaques de Larosiere urged Eastern European Banks to strengthen banking regulation, Bulgarian Economic Review reported on 16 April. He said governments should focus on "macroeconomic stabilization, bank rehabilitation and banking supervision." Larosiere noted bank debts and failure of private banks to stick to basic banking principles as the main problems. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Deputy Premier and Minister of Economic Development Rumen Gechev estimated that Bulgaria may be legislatively and economically ready for EU membership in eight years. Gechev added that 106 state-owned companies were listed for liquidation, but pointed out that Bulgaria attracted $60 million in foreign investment in the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov promised tax concessions for companies, more than 66% of which are privately owned, Demokratsiya reported. -- Fabian Schmidt and Miat Sadiku

KIRO GLIGOROV REJECTS EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
In an interview given to the Croatian daily Vecernji List, Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov ruled out early parliamentary elections in Macedonia, Politika reported on 16 April. Politika claims that Gligorov's ruling angered organizers of a citizen's initiative which collected 220,000 signatures demanding new elections. Gligorov defended his objections to early elections arguing that "there is no [democratic] country with regulations that allow early elections based on a citizens' initiative," MILS reported. Meanwhile, Gligorov said in an interview to Oslobodjenje on 16 April that he and Bosnian President Alia Izetbegovic planned to establish an association of the Yugoslav republics before the breakup of the state, but were blocked by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his Croatian counterpart Franjo Tudjman's oppositions. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES ELECTION COMMISSION.
The Albanian opposition has criticized the commission which approves candidates for the upcoming May elections. The commission has banned more than 42 candidates from running, charging them with either holding high government office in communist times or with collaboration with the former secret police. Socialist Party Deputy Leader Namik Dokle accused the Democratic Party government of arbitrarily changing laws in order to keep party leader Fatos Nano in prison. He also accused the government of changing electoral districts to increase the electoral chances of its own party. -- Fabian Schmidt

MONTENEGRIN SUPREME COURT TO REVIEW LAW ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT?
The Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court, demanding a review of a law on local self-administration, Beta reported on 15 April. The law was decreed by the Montenegrin government on 1 April and the Helsinki Committee argues that it unconstitutionally increases central authorities' power to interfere in local affairs. The new law practically suspends a number of rights that had been guaranteed to the mainly ethnic Albanian community of Ulcinj. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels







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