Accessibility links

Newsline - April 17, 1996


DUMA PASSES LAW ON ELECTION MONITORING.
The Duma on 17 April passed a bill on election monitoring aimed at strengthening oversight of all federal, regional, and local elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Article 6 of the bill provides for recounting a randomly chosen sample of 2% of the precincts within a district. If any errors are found, the new law would trigger further recounts. The bill also allows ordinary citizens to monitor the elections, whereas under existing law only party and candidate representatives have this right. Additionally, the bill allows monitors to watch the work of the territorial electoral committees, which summarize results coming in from the precincts and are thought to be responsible for falsifying vote totals. There is considerable evidence that the 1993 Duma elections and referendum to ratify the constitution were falsified and widespread suspicion that Yeltsin will alter results to prevent a Communist victory. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA APPROVES LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER.
In a 303-2 vote with one abstention, the Duma finally approved the constitutional law on the Russian Federation human rights commissioner, first submitted to the Duma in July 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The bill had been blocked by deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Russian Regions faction, who disagreed with the provisions on the appointment of the commissioner. Consensus was finally reached after amendments were introduced stipulating that each nominee for the post must be approved by a two-thirds majority and that the successful candidate must also win the support of two-thirds of the deputies in the final, secret ballot. The commissioner will have the right to demand information from government organs to review complaints about human rights violations. -- Penny Morvant

HECKLERS GREET YELTSIN IN KRASNODAR.
President Boris Yeltsin got a mixed response in Krasnodar 16 April during his second campaign swing since becoming an official candidate. One veteran told him that he was too old to run and "had done a lot of evil to the people," Reuters reported. Some groups chanted "put Yeltsin and his band on trial." The president was not cowed by the protests, however, and announced new state handouts, promising veterans that he would increase their pension 125% within a month, Radio Mayak reported. The president also pledged greater benefits for the Cossacks, and announced his intention to sign decrees stimulating the economic development of Krasnodar Krai and Russia's agro-industrial complex, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 17 April. On foreign affairs, he said building closer links with the CIS should be the primary policy focus, and characterized the Black Sea Fleet, partly based in Krasnodar Krai, as an "indispensable element of Russian strategic security." -- Robert Orttung and Scott Parrish

LUKOIL HEAD BACKS YELTSIN.
Vagit Alekperov, the head of LUKoil, Russia's largest oil company, announced that he would back Yeltsin in the presidential campaign, saying that he was alarmed by talk of nationalizing his firm, AFP reported 16 April. Although Americans own 16% of the company's shares, the share price has frozen around $5, because of fears of a Communist victory, he said. Formed in 1993, LUKoil produced 20% of all Russian oil in 1995 and signed a major deal with ARCO last month that includes a $3 billion loan. Alekperov is considered the second most influential industrialist in Russia, following Rem Vyakhirev, the head of Gazprom, who is also backing Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung

DEADLINE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXPIRES.
Voter initiative groups supporting 78 different would-be presidential candidates sprang up in Russia this year, but only 17 of them managed to submit petitions with at least 1 million signatures to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) before the 16 April deadline expired, Russian and Western media reported. The TsIK has already registered Gennadii Zyuganov, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Mikhail Gorbachev for the ballot. It refused registration to two little-known candidates, Vladimir Bryntsalov and Martin Shakkum, on technical grounds. The commission must review lists submitted by the remaining 11 candidates within the next 10 days. -- Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV SERVES UP MIXED MESSAGES ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
As Yeltsin's camp continued its attempts to portray its main rival Gennadii Zyuganov as a dangerous extremist, the Communist Party leader spoke cautiously in Bashkortostan's capital city of Ufa, portraying himself as a reasonable alternative to the current regime. Zyuganov told local officials that "reform is essential" and "we cannot go back," Reuters reported on 16 April. He characterized economic reforms as "irreversible" but said communists would carry them out by different means. Zyuganov also assured local officials that he respects their "sovereignty" or autonomous powers granted in recent years to ethnically-defined republics like Bashkortostan. At the same time, he argued that a "centralized economy" would benefit the development of both Russia and Bashkortostan. -- Laura Belin

COMMUNIST DEPUTY PROMISES TO DEVELOP ECONOMIC POLICY THROUGH "SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP."
Communist Party member Yurii Maslyukov, the chairman of the Duma Economic Policy Committee, also struck a conciliatory tone in an interview published in Pravda on 17 April. Maslyukov stressed the importance of building a "social partnership" of three forces--the state, employers, and trade unions--to find a "common point of view" on economic questions. He criticized the current government for not seeking consensus on economic policy. Maslyukov called for the state to manage its "natural monopolies" more effectively and said his committee would focus on finding ways to increase production, not just in the energy sector but in all branches of industry. -- Laura Belin

DUDAEV PROPOSES DEMIREL AS MEDIATOR.
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev has suggested that in addition to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, a senior Muslim statesman such as Turkish President Suleyman Demirel could also act as a mediator between himself and President Boris Yeltsin, Russian media reported on 16 April. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said Russia would have no objections to Turkish mediation, AFP reported, citing Interfax. Various Russian agencies, including the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Foreign Ministry, have repeatedly accused the Turkish authorities of supporting Dudaev; Turkey has consistently denied these charges. Also on 16 April, Ekho Moskvy quoted Yeltsin as saying he would never agree to direct talks with Dudaev whom he termed "a bandit." -- Liz Fuller

CHECHNYA OVERSHADOWS TURKO-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS.
Russia is allegedly holding up payment of its debts to Turkish contractors due to its displeasure with Turkey's Chechnya policy, Yeni Yuzyil reported on 16 April. The total sum owed was not cited by the paper. Officially, Russia attributes non-payment to a lack of money; unofficially nonpayment is attributed to Turkish provocations in Chechnya. The matter is likely to be taken up by Turkish Energy Minister Husnu Dogan when he arrives in Moscow for two days of talks on 17 April. Turkish contractors have $6 billion worth of contracts in Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

MAJOR GAS PIPELINE BLOWN UP IN DAGESTAN.
Two explosions destroyed a 450-meter stretch of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline near Pervomaiskoe in Dagestan on 15 April, the Russian Emergencies Ministry announced the following day. ITAR-TASS reported that it was the third such explosion on the pipeline since the beginning of the year, and cited experts as concluding that it was the work of Chechen rebels. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA CRITICAL OF U.S. PROPOSAL FOR KOREAN TALKS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin criticized U.S. President Bill Clinton for proposing multilateral negotiations on Korea that exclude Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. Clinton had proposed discussing recent tensions between North and South Korea at quadripartite talks between the two Koreas, China, and the U.S. Demurin said Russia favors calling an international conference involving "all interested parties" to discuss the creation of a new security regime on the Korean peninsula. Demurin's comments indicate that Moscow wants to avoid being marginalized in the formulation of a future Korean settlement, as happened in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA URGES ISRAEL TO END ATTACKS IN LEBANON.
Russia urged Israel to end its attacks on Hezbollah guerrilla positions in Lebanon, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 April. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin condemned Hezbollah attacks on Israel but termed the Israeli response "disproportionate" and "counterproductive," suggesting that it could threaten the Middle East peace process. He added that Russia views the developing situation in Lebanon "with growing alarm." Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posavlyuk met in Moscow with both the Israeli and Lebanese ambassadors, and Demurin said the upcoming Moscow visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara would focus on the Lebanon situation. Russia has been more critical than other major powers of the recent Israeli offensive in Lebanon. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. OFFICIALS SAY URALS PROJECT IS DEFENSIVE.
Clinton administration officials declared on 17 April that the large underground military complex under construction in Bashkortostan would not hinder U.S. disarmament aid to Russia, Western agencies reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). White House spokesman Brian Cullins admitted that the purpose of the facility is "unclear," except that it is "military in a broad sense." But he added that doubts about it would not prevent President Bill Clinton from recommending that disarmament aid to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program continue. Defense Department officials suggested that the project is "defensive" in nature. -- Scott Parrish

RADIOACTIVE RODS DISCOVERED IN MOSCOW REGION.
The Emergencies Ministry announced on 16 April that an unauthorized radioactive waste dump has been discovered in the hamlet of Glazynino in Moscow Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. Rods discovered at the site emit radiation levels up to 1,600 microroentgens an hour (over 100 times the normal level). AFP, citing a television report, said that the dump was uncovered by a local man using a radiation detector and that the rods and boxes they came in had been used by local people for various purposes. -- Penny Morvant

AIOC CRASH MAY COST RUSSIAN BANKS $70 MILLION.
Russian banks and companies that financed the activities of the U.S. commodities trading company AIOC in Russia may lose up to $70 million following its collapse, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The company conducted operations on the metals market and began its activities in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in the mid-1980s. Its Moscow office, which used to employ 200 people, was closed on 15 April. AIOC reportedly suffered losses of more than $22 million following a sharp drop in the price of ferrochrome. -- Natalia Gurushina

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE TO SUPPORT AGRO-COMPLEX.
President Yeltsin signed on 16 April a decree on measures to stabilize the economic situation in the agro-industrial complex, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree covers all agricultural producers regardless of their organizational or ownership structure. It stipulates that the government will write off all farm debts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 April 1996), set up lower electricity fees starting from 1 May, give farms a 5.1 trillion ruble ($1.04 billion) commodity credit, and allocate another 800 billion rubles to individual farmers for land purchases. -- Natalia Gurushina



GAZIEV EXTRADITED TO BAKU.
Former Azerbaijani Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, who was arrested on 14 April in Moscow where he has been living in exile since escaping from detention in Azerbaijan in September 1994, was extradited on 16 April to Baku where he has been sentenced to death in absentia on charges of treason, Turan and Radio Mayak reported. The Russian procurator-general has asked the Azerbaijani authorities to provide evidence to support similar charges brought against former President Ayaz Mutalibov, who was hospitalized after his arrest in Moscow on 11 April with high blood pressure, Turan reported. Amnesty International has expressed concern that the two men "will be in grave danger of violation of their human rights" if they are handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities. -- Liz Fuller

YILMAZ MEETS WITH MESKHETIANS.
During his recent two-day visit to Baku, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz met with representatives of the Meskhetian community in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 16 April. Some Meskhetians have been lobbying for years for permission to return to those areas of southwestern Georgia from which they were deported in 1944; others wish to emigrate to Turkey. The chairman of the Meskhetian community, Khalid Tashtanov, asked for Yilmaz's help, together with that of Russia and Georgia, in resolving the issue of the Meskhetians' repatriation. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION AGREE TO RESUME PEACE TALKS.
The Tajik government and opposition have expressed their readiness to begin a new round of UN-mediated peace talks, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reports of 15 and 16 April. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told ITAR-TASS on 15 April that peace talks had been suspended due to the UN's failure to appoint a successor to its peace envoy Ramiro Piriz Ballon, who was transferred to a new position. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, the leader of the Tajik opposition delegation, told RFE/RL that his party has reconsidered its views and supports a dialogue with the government, urging the UN to nominate a new envoy this week. -- Bhavna Dave

TURAJONZODA ON RUSSIA.
Recent remarks by Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) Deputy Chairman Akbar Turajonzoda may shed light on Dushanbe's relations with Moscow, Tashkent, Bishkek, and Almaty. In a 12 April broadcast of the opposition Voice of Free Tajikistan monitored by the BBC, he accused the government of selling off the country's "best enterprises, power stations, and natural resources" in a bid to curry favor with Moscow, and claimed that the deployment of increasing numbers of Russian troops in the republic is disturbing Central Asia's leaders. He alleged that relations between Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the Dushanbe leadership have been particularly strained of late over the troop deployments which Turajonzoda said could be used in the future to restore a "great Russia." -- Lowell Bezanis



BAN ON CIGARETTE AND ALCOHOL ADS STIRS CONTROVERSY.
President Leonid Kuchma has sent a law banning tobacco and alcohol advertising back to parliament for revision, after the law met with extreme opposition, Ukrainian TV reported on 15 April. Opponents of the law argue that the ban is detrimental to Ukraine's economy and will not decrease alcohol and cigarette consumption. Under the constitutional arrangement between the president and parliament, Kuchma has the right to return legislation to parliament. -- Ustina Markus

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ENDS VISIT TO UKRAINE . . .
President Leonid Kuchma told NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana that Ukraine will not oppose NATO expansion as long as nuclear weapons are not deployed in new members' territories, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 15 April. Kuchma maintained that any expansion of the alliance should be gradual and take Ukrainian and Russian interests into account. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov told Solana that Ukraine may eventually change its non-aligned status, but not anytime soon, while Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko ruled out Ukraine's participation in NATO. Solana recognized Ukraine's strategic importance for NATO and European security. -- Ustina Markus

. . . AND ARRIVES IN BALTICS.
After concluding his visit to Ukraine, Solana flew to Vilnius and met with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas, BNS and international agencies reported on 17 April. Solana refuted suggestions that East European countries may be offered political, not military membership, saying he did not know what "political membership" meant. From Vilnius, Solana flew to Latvia and Estonia. He said by the end of the year, all countries participating in the Partnership for Peace Program will be evaluated for full membership. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BILL.
The Latvian government approved on 16 April a bill on obligatory military service and passed it on to the Saeima for consideration, BNS reported. The bill had been under consideration by the government for some time, but the cabinet had been unable to agree on draft rules. The new bill enlarges the pool of people eligible for the draft including all able-bodied 19-27 year-olds, but excludes clergymen and Latvian citizens in ecclesiastical schools. Under current legislation, some 87% of conscription-age people are exempt from serving in the armed forces. -- Ustina Markus

RED CROSS OPENS OFFICES IN BELARUS.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent opened offices in Minsk in an official ceremony on 15 April, Belarusian TV reported. The office will deal mainly with treating victims of the Chornobyl nuclear accident. To date, the Red Cross has helped 12.5 million people affected by the Chornobyl disaster. Belarus has been allocating 15-20% of its annual state budget to coping with the Chornobyl aftermath, but due to economic difficulties, has relied heavily on foreign aid. In 1994, Red Cross aid to Belarus amounted to $4 million, and a further $2 million was spent in 1995. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was to meet with Secretary General of the Red Cross and Red Crescent George Beber on 16 April. -- Ustina Markus

BUDGET LAW DECISION BY POLISH CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION.
The Polish parliament's Constitutional Commission accepted 26 articles on state budgetary issues for the country's future constitution on 16 April, Polish dailies reported the next day. The commission proposed to strip the president of his current veto right on the budget law. The president would instead be allowed to send budget laws to the Constitutional Tribunal for a final ruling. The commission will vote on the constitution articles concerning the national bank on 17 April. Meanwhile, the Polish government approved on 16 April Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Kolodko's macroeconomic program, which lists the following aims: 5-7% annual inflation, 5% minimum GNP growth, and an 8-10% annual export growth. -- Jakub Karpinski

MEMORIAL MARCH ON AUSCHWITZ.
About 5,000 young Jews from 38 countries took part in a 3.5 kilometer Holocaust memorial march on 16 April from Auschwitz to Birkenau concentration camp, Polish media reported. The march was in memory of more than a million people, mostly Jews, murdered by German Nazis in the camps. Marek Siwiec, aide to Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Israeli Minister of Environment Yossi Sarid represented their respective governments. Some participants in the march will fly from Poland to Israel to take part in Israel's Independence Day celebrations on 24 April. -- Jakub Karpinski

FRANCE TO SUPPORT POLAND IN OECD.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has invited French President Jacques Chirac to Poland, Polish media reported on 17 April. Kwasniewski visited France in January of this year. A Polish presidential spokesman said that Chirac promised to support Poland in its efforts to join OECD and the EU. The presidents discussed over the phone Kwasniewski's recent visit to Moscow, deeming it a success. Kwasniewski also plans to discuss the results of his Moscow visit with U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Polish dailies reported on 17 April. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PARLIAMENT SESSION ENDS BEFORE IT BEGINS.
The last scheduled session of the Czech parliament before the general elections to be held at the end of May, failed to get underway on 16 April due to disagreement among deputies over the session's agenda, Czech media reported. The leader of the Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party, Josef Lux, said the proposed order of business did not correspond with the one agreed upon by the three coalition parties. Only 65 deputies, 15 short of the number needed, voted to approve the agenda; 47 voted against and 40 abstained. Among the 153 points on the agenda were proposals to redefine the country's local administrative districts, and to reduce income and corporation tax. Parliament Speaker Milan Uhde said another session could be called for 18 April. -- Steve Kettle

DEAL SIGNED FOR SLOVAK NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.
The head of Slovenske elektrarny and representatives of a consortium of foreign firms on 16 April signed contracts to complete building the first two blocks at the Mochovce nuclear power plant, Slovak media reported. The project will cost 26 billion crowns ($850 million) and is being financed by Slovak, Russian, French, German and Czech banks. The EBRD pulled out of an earlier funding project. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who attended the signing ceremony in Bratislava, said that Slovakia's nuclear power program will be completed when the third and fourth blocks at Mochovce are built. -- Steve Kettle

HUNGARIAN PREMIER REASSERTS NEED FOR OFFICE TO INVESTIGATE WHITE-COLLAR CRIME.
Gyula Horn reconfirmed his intention to establish a national investigation office to curb the black economy, Hungarian media reported on 17 April. Horn emphasized the need for the office given the relative ineffectiveness of government efforts in this area. He added that the office would not undermine the jurisdiction of existing state authorities with investigative duties, such as the police and the Tax and Customs Office, and predicted that his party would succeed in "reaching a consensus" with the coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) on the matter. The SZDSZ is presently opposed to the idea (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 April 1996). -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY STEPS UP SECURITY AFTER TWO JEWS STABBED.
The Hungarian police announced on 16 April that they would step up security in the Israeli embassy, Jewish community buildings, and the Israeli airlines after two Jews were stabbed in Budapest last week, Hungarian media reported. The Israeli ambassador to Hungary had requested security to be tightened after an Afghan stabbed and wounded two staff members at a Budapest Jewish school in response to the Israeli bombing of southern Lebanon. The suspect, identified as Wahab Abdul Bashkir, is a 40-year-old from Afghanistan, who settled in Hungary 10 years ago. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



INTERPOL ISSUES WARRANTS FOR BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS.
Interpol has issued international warrants for the Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart Gen. Ratko Mladic, Onasa reported on 16 April. Interpol's 176 member states are obliged to provide Interpol with any information they have regarding such persons, and may be called on to assist in their apprehension. Bosnian Serb Vice President Nikola Koljevic told Reuters, however, that his people will not hand over their leaders to the war-crimes tribunal "for money," an apparent reference to the international community's growing view that the Serbs will not get much foreign reconstruction aid as long as they have indicted war criminals for leaders. Denmark's Foreign Minister Neils Helveg Petersen said flatly that there will be no Danish money for the Bosnian Serbs as long as the two men are in power, Onasa added. Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic noted that there can be no progress in reintegrating the two halves of Bosnia as long as Karadzic is in office, Oslobodjenje reported on 17 April. -- Patrick Moore

TUZLA AS MODEL FOR BOSNIA?
The leader of the ex-communist Union of Bosnian Social Democrats (UBSD), Sejfudin Tokic, stressed that his party is in the best position to overcome the ethnic divide in the war-torn republic, Nasa Borba reported on 16 April. The next day, the same paper carried an interview with leading UBSD politician and mayor of Tuzla, Selim Besagic, who also backed Tokic's opinion, pointing out that multi-ethnic Tuzla could serve as a model for the rest of Bosnia. Both men claimed that the UBSD has already begun to attract much attention from Serbs in the Republika Srpska (RS). Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has apparently organized his own party bloc to compete with Karadzic's group in the RS elections due to be held across Bosnia by mid-September. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN AID UPDATE.
The EU is looking into a case of corruption surrounding its administration in Mostar, AFP reported on 16 April. An EU spokesman said, however, that it was simply a case of "irregularities" amid difficult circumstances and apparently not one of widespread graft. Former EU Adminstrator Hans Koschnick defended his record and told the Berliner Zeitung that it was simply a question of "technical accounting matters" and that "there is no suggestion of any misappropriation of funds." Elsewhere, the OSCE expressed concern that there might be insufficient funding to promote independent media amid Bosnia's nationalist-dominated media landscape, Reuters noted. Although a number of potential financial sources have expressed interest, few have commited specific sums (see OMRI Special Report, 16 April 1996). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has signed a $3 million agreement to repair Bosnia's railways, Onasa said. The governor of Bosnia's Central Bank, Kasim Omicevic, added that he is anxious that the international community's monetary pledges be translated into deeds. -- Patrick Moore

U.S WITHHOLDS RECOGNITION OF RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
State Department officials assured Kosovar shadow state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi that the U.S. will withhold recognition of rump Yugoslavia, AFP reported on 15 April. The officials told Bukoshi that Washington wants Belgrade to deliver on the Bosnian peace agreement before making such a decision, but gave no assurance that a solution to the Kosovo conflict would be a precondition for recognition. Nonetheless, U.S. officials said that Kosovo "is very high on our agenda." Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rudolph Perina "reconfirmed the U.S. desire to be helpful in finding a peaceful solution." Bukoshi said he was satisfied with the U.S. assurances. Austria recognized rump Yugoslavia on 16 April, Nasa Borba reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

BOMB ATTACK ON BELGRADE MOSQUE.
A powerful bomb severely damaged Belgrade's Bajrakli Mosque and shattered windows of surrounding buildings on 16 April, Onasa and Reuters reported. Although there were no casualties, Mufti Hamdija Jusufspahic called it "the most powerful attack on the mosque and on the Islamic community in Belgrade ever." He said the explosion caused substantial damage outside and inside the building. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was the third attack on the mosque since 1992. Mayor Nebojsa Covic visited the scene soon after the attack and promised Mufti full cooperation. The opposition Reform Democratic Party in Vojvodina called on authorities to seize and punish the terrorists, while Democratic Party President Vojislav Kostunica commented that the act harmed the country's international relations. -- Fabian Schmidt

CROATIAN POLITICAL CONFRONTATION ENTERS NEW PHASE.
President Franjo Tudjman has vetoed for the fourth time in a row the opposition's candidate for mayor of Zagreb, Novi list reported on 17 April. A loose opposition coalition won a majority in the city council in last October's elections, but Tudjman has thus far blocked every candidate for mayor proposed. He claims that he will not hand the capital over to "enemies of state policy." Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community Party (HDZ) candidate is presently acting-mayor despite a vote of no-confidence from the council. There is widespread suspicion that the HDZ's real aim is to hide evidence of its own past corruption. New elections seem inevitable, and the polls suggest that the voters are angry with Tudjman's behavior. Seven parties ranging from the right to the left have formally reaffirmed their alliance. -- Patrick Moore

ROMANIA INAUGURATES CANADIAN-DESIGNED NUCLEAR POWER PLANT . . .
At a ceremony scheduled to take place on 17 April, visiting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and President Ion Iliescu will officially inaugurate Romania's first nuclear power plant. The plant, located in Cernavoda and built with Canadian Candu technology, will eventually have five units. The first unit, already completed, has a production capacity of 705 megawatts, Romanian and international media reported. It is scheduled to begin functioning in May and will reach its full production capacity in August, meeting some 10% of the country's electricity needs. -- Michael Shafir

. . . AS ROMANIAN-CANADIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION INTENSIFIES.
The Canadian Bombardier Company President, Laurent Beadoin, will deliver on 17 April the first of 24 planes ordered by the Romanian airline Dac Air, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 16 April. Dac Air is buying a fleet of 24 planes of the 8-3000 model. The first plane will be presented at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu. On 16 April, President Ion Iliescu visited the Bucharest Turbomecanica factory, which specializes in producing plane engines. He said the Canadian Pratten Whitney Company is interested in acquiring 51% of Turbomecanica shares, Romanian TV reported on the same day. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIA SETS DATE FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Local elections in Romania will be held on 2 June, Radio Bucharest announced on 16 April. Octav Cosmanca, who is in charge of local government affairs, said on Radio Bucharest that the electoral campaign for local elections will start on 19 April. No date has yet been set for the autumn parliamentary and presidential elections. Cosmanca added that due to a recently-passed new law on local administration, prefects will no longer be able to dismiss mayors without prior judicial approval. International bodies had harshly criticized earlier practices, which allowed for the dismissal of mayors. -- Michael Shafir

NINE ALBANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS TO STAND TRIAL.
Nine defendants stood trial on 16 April under charges of committing crimes against humanity, Reuters reported. In a series of trials, a total of 38 defendants are accused of conducting mass deportations and executions of fugitives and political prisoners. The charges also include exiling dissidents. The nine defendants who appeared in the first trial include ex-Defense Minister Prokop Murra, head of Tirana's secret police Zef Loka, National Police Chief Dilaver Bengasi, former President Ramiz Alia's chief ideologist Foto Cami, and five former local party secretaries. Another trial against five other former senior officials, including a parliamentary speaker and an ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will open on 24 April. No trial date has yet been set for the remaining 24 accused, including Alia. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels





XS
SM
MD
LG