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Newsline - April 24, 1996


IS DUDAEV DEAD?
Conflicting reports appeared on 23 April over whether or not Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had been killed in a rocket attack on the village of Gekhi-Chu southwest of Grozny during the night of 21-22 April. Khodzh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, who initially represented the Dudaev camp at last summer's Chechen-Russian peace talks, told ITAR-TASS that Dudaev had been killed, but later on 23 April a Chechen government official said in Istanbul that he had spoken to Dudaev by telephone that day. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov questioned Yarikhanov's reliability, saying he has had no contact with Dudaev for three months, according to Ekho Moskvy. On 24 April, however, AFP reported that Chechen military commander Shamil Basaev had confirmed the reports of Dudaev's death and had told Interfax that Vice President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev had assumed the presidency. Yandarbiev, 44, is a former writer who founded the Vainakh Democratic Party in May 1990. ITAR-TASS on 24 April quoted President Boris Yeltsin as saying that a peace agreement would be signed with or without Dudaev. -- Liz Fuller

CHAIRMAN OF ST. PETERSBURG LEGISLATURE CHARGED WITH ABUSE OF OFFICE.
The Procurator General's Office has charged St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Chairman Yurii Kravtsov with abuse of public office, forgery, and incitement to steal property from the mayor's housing department, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April. Kravtsov was ordered to remain in the city, but this restriction will probably be lifted so that he can travel to Moscow to participate in meetings of the Federation Council as a member. In March, Kravtsov was charged with illegally using state money to remodel his apartment at a cost of 350 million rubles ($73,000). Kravtsov and many of the deputies in the assembly believe the charges are an attempt to discredit the city legislature on the eve of the 19 May gubernatorial elections. Kravtsov has no intention of resigning and the deputies will work to prevent any attempt to remove him. -- Robert Orttung

ITAR-TASS: YELTSIN MUST BRING MILITARY LEADERSHIP TO HEEL.
The president must take action so that he does not appear before the voters as a commander whose orders are not obeyed, ITAR-TASS commentator Tamara Zayatina argued on 23 April. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's admission that he did not implement the president's 31 March order to halt combat activities in Chechnya until 6 April show that the "military leadership is practically blocking presidential policy" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 April 1996). She added that Grachev's statements are causing "disorder and unsteadiness" in the military. -- Robert Orttung

FEDOROV ANNOUNCES "THIRD FORCE" AGREEMENT.
Presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov announced that he and fellow candidates Grigorii Yavlinskii and Aleksandr Lebed would soon sign a charter on economic priorities for the next two years and allow opinion polls to decide which one of them should stand for the presidency a month before the election, NTV reported on 23 April. Fedorov announced his willingness to step aside and then either "disappear into the shadows" or take a position in the executive branch. He said that different economic approaches would not divide the candidates and that he would invite Yavlinskii to his ophthalmological institute to convince him that "facts are much more important than the theories of Milton Friedman and Adam Smith." -- Robert Orttung

DEMOCRATS CALL FOR PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY.
Seven pro-reform Duma deputies, including Sergei Yushenkov of Russia's Democratic Choice, Vladimir Ryzhkov of Our Home Is Russia, Democratic Russia co-leader Galina Starovoitova, Common Cause leader Irina Khakamada, and Forward, Russia! leader Boris Fedorov, signed an appeal for holding "preliminary" presidential elections on 15-16 May in the city of Moscow and in Moscow Oblast, Russian media reported on 23 April. Republican Party leader Vladimir Lysenko, who also signed the document, said a primary election would reveal the most promising candidate from the democratic camp and would allow other presidential contenders to drop out of the race "without losing face." Many pro-reform politicians, in particular members of Russia's Democratic Choice, are torn between supporting President Yeltsin despite misgivings or supporting Grigorii Yavlinskii despite his relatively small chance of winning. Our Home Is Russia, Khakamada, and Fedorov have already endorsed Yeltsin's candidacy. -- Laura Belin

ANTI-COMMUNIST NEWSPAPER FOUNDED IN ZYUGANOV'S HOME REGION.
A newspaper called Ne dai bog (God forbid), which is entirely devoted to agitating against Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, has appeared in Zyuganov's home region, Orel Oblast, Ekspress-khronika reported on 24 April. The first issue was left free of charge in the mailboxes of practically all subscribers to other newspapers. It is not clear who is financing the new paper, which did not call on readers to vote for any other specific presidential candidate. President Yeltsin's supporters are counting on the anti-communist press to help dissuade swing voters from backing Zyuganov. -- Laura Belin

WORKERS AT SARATOV TRANSMITTER STATION GO ON STRIKE OVER WAGE ARREARS.
Workers at the Saratov Radio and TV Center have stopped transmitting Russian Public TV (ORT) and Russian TV (RTR) programs because of delays in wage payments, ORT reported on 23 April. The chairman of the Communications Workers' Union, Anatolii Lazeikin, said that transmitter stations are owed more than 700 billion rubles ($140 million) by television companies. ORT and RTR are two of the biggest debtors. If the issue is not resolved quickly, media coverage of the presidential election campaign could be disrupted. Russian television stations will begin broadcasting election campaign advertisements in mid-May. -- Penny Morvant

SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR FIRES HEAD OF REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel sacked Valerii Trushnikov, the head of the region's government, ostensibly for failing to implement the regional budget and pay wages and children's allowances, Kommersant-Daily reported on 23 April. The move is widely seen as politically motivated, since Trushnikov supported a competitor to Rossel's bloc, Transformation of the Urals, in the 14 April election to the Sverdlovsk legislature (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). Rossel admitted to Russian TV (RTR) that those elections had exhausted his patience with Trushnikov. Trushnikov ran against Rossel in the first round of the August 1995 gubernatorial election but supported him in the second round in exchange for keeping his job as head of the oblast government. -- Laura Belin

OPEN COMPETITION FOR AIR TIME ON RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV.
Three hours of air time on Sunday mornings on Russian Public TV (ORT) will be distributed after a competition in which any television program or production company can participate, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April. The network's deputy general director said the open competition will be the first in the history of Channel 1. -- Laura Belin

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENOUNCES ESTONIAN "PROVOCATION."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin accused the Estonian government of deliberately pursing an anti-Russian policy and preventing the development of friendly relations, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported on 23 April. Demurin denounced Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas's recent assertion that Russia is developing "a mentality of revanchism," saying the remark was intended to frighten Europe with what he termed "a mythical Russian threat." He accused Tallinn of fostering anti-Russian alarmism in order to facilitate Estonian integration into Western institutions and divert attention from discriminatory policies against the Russian minority in Estonia. Recent Russian moves to deepen CIS integration have increased tensions in already rocky Russo-Estonian relations. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP MIDDLE EAST SHUTTLE TOUR.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov returned to Moscow on 23 April after shuttling between Damascus, Beirut, and Jerusalem in an attempt to broker a ceasefire in Lebanon, Russian media reported. Primakov told Russian Public TV (ORT), that Russia is "doing everything" to resolve the crisis in Lebanon. He emphasized, however, that Israeli troops must withdraw from southern Lebanon before a settlement can be achieved, a position not shared by the U.S. Later the same day, First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov accused the U.S. of attempting to "monopolize" efforts to broker a settlement. Komsomolskaya pravda on 24 April reported that Primakov had intended his visit to bolster Russia's role in the region, where it has been marginalized by the U.S. in recent years. -- Scott Parrish

LOCAL LEGISLATURES SEEK TO RESTRICT FOREIGN VISITORS.
The Chita Oblast Duma has voted to restrict visits by foreigners to the region to a maximum of 15 days and to require all foreign visitors staying for more than three days to register with the police, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April. The law also stipulates that local residents may only rent apartments to foreigners if there is at least 12 square meters of living space for each guest. The law is probably aimed against visitors from China, which borders the oblast. Legislators in Omsk Oblast, which borders on Kazakhstan, have also passed a law imposing restrictions on foreign visitors, Kommersant-Daily reported on 19 April. The regional procurator opposes the law, arguing that federal laws already require foreigners to register and that the passage of such a law at the regional level is unconstitutional. -- Penny Morvant

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICE FORCE BEING SET UP.
Yet another law enforcement body, this time to protect the environment, is being created in Russia. Moskovskii komsomolets on 23 April quoted Environment Minister Viktor Danilov-Danilyan as saying the president's administration has already approved a plan to set up an ecological police force and that discussion is currently centering on whether it should be a department within the Environment Ministry or a separate federal agency. The force's task will be to prevent the violation of legislation on the environment. Danilov-Danilyan said that the first units should be set up in Moscow within a few months. -- Penny Morvant



SHEVARDNADZE FLIES HOME AFTER THREE KILLED IN TBILISI EXPLOSION.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze interrupted his visit to Brussels to return to Tbilisi on 23 April after three people were killed in an explosion at a local store, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Preliminary reports suggest the blast was an accident rather than sabotage. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN SECURITY CHIEF VISITS TAJIKISTAN.
The Russian presidential security adviser, Yurii Baturin, met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 23 April to discuss bilateral military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. He also attended military exercises of the Russian 201st Motorized Infantry Division, which is based in the country. Baturin will also make an appearance at an OSCE seminar on confidence-building measures that begins on 24 April. -- Roger Kangas

PRISON CRISIS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstan urgently needs more prisons, according to Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Vlasov. He said the prison system has only been allocated 1.9 billion tenge of the estimated 4.5 billion tenge ($70 million) that it requires, Reuters reported on 23 April. As a result, corruption and theft among guards is common and the conditions in the prisons are "appalling." Health standards are virtually non-existent, and of the 76,000 prisoner population, an estimated 1,300 died from tuberculosis last year and an additional 10,000 were afflicted with the disease. Vlasov endorsed a proposed 10-year program that is supposed to bring the country's prisons up to international standards. The need for more prisons is expected to increase if President Nursultan Nazarbayev continues to implement his policy of handing down harsher prison sentences for convicted criminals. -- Roger Kangas

OSCE SYMPOSIUM IN TASHKENT.
Representatives from 30 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, and Korea, met in Tashkent on 23 April to participate in an OSCE-sponsored conference on regional security, Russian media reported. Topics ranged from the OSCE security model to discussions of Tajikistan as the "southern gate" of the OSCE, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April. Russian Public TV (ORT) highlighted the pressing need to resolve local conflicts in the region and the growing problem of drug trafficking in Central Asia. This is the latest in a series of conferences sponsored by the international organization in an effort to bring the Central Asian states closer together on regional issues. -- Roger Kangas



MAJOR FIRE NEAR CHORNOBYL.
Five deserted villages near Chornobyl caught fire on 23 April, releasing radioactive particles into the air, international agencies reported. The villages are located in some of the most contaminated areas around the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. The fire blazed for more than seven hours. Officials at the power plant said the fire had no effect on radiation levels or operations at the plant itself. No casualties were reported, and it is unknown how much radiation was released into the air. The fire, believed to have been caused by an unextinguished cigarette, spread quickly because of winds. Some 150 hectares were engulfed by the flames. The blaze occurred three days before the 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
Leonid Kuchma, addressing the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 23 April, said Ukraine aims to become a full-fledged member of the EU, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. He also reiterated his position that NATO should not be enlarged without taking Russia's interests into account, but he added he was not opposed to the alliance's expansion. Kuchma noted that creating a nuclear-free zone in Eastern Europe would have a stabilizing effect on European developments. He called upon the international community to help finance the resettlement of minority groups who were deported by Stalin and now want to returning to their former homelands in Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

JAPAN PLEDGES $25 MILLION TO UKRAINE.
According to Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto has promised President Kuchma $25 million to help ensure safety standards at Ukraine's nuclear reactors, Reuters reported on 23 April. Hashimoto made the pledge at the G-7 summit meeting in Moscow. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at five power stations, which provide 40% of the country's electricity. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN GERMANY.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrived in Germany on 24 April for a three-day visit, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka will visit Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Berlin. He is also scheduled to meet with German President Roman Herzog to sign an agreement on cooperation over liquidating Belarus's nuclear weapons. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA'S RUSSIANS OPPOSE LOCAL ELECTIONS LAW.
The Estonian United People's Party on 23 April appealed to President Lennart Meri not to sign the local elections law passed by the parliament last week, BNS reported. A majority of the Narva city councilors made a similar appeal to Meri the previous day. Both the United People's Party and the councilors oppose the provisions requiring candidates to be highly proficient in the Estonian language and stipulating that voters have a permanent residence permit. Chairman of the Narva Russian Citizens' League Yuri Mishin warned that alternative bodies of power would be formed in Narva if non-citizens were not allowed to vote in the municipal elections on 20 October. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA, SLOVENIA SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT.
Latvian and Slovenian Foreign Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Zoran Thaler, meeting in Riga on 22 Monday, signed a free trade agreement and a cooperation protocol between the two countries' Foreign Ministries. Thaler also met with President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Andris Skele, and parliamentary chairwoman Ilga Kreituse. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS EARLY ELECTIONS.
The Seimas on 23 April voted to reject a proposal to bring parliamentary elections forward from 20 October to 30 June or 6 July, Radio Lithuania reported. It also ratified three agreements with Belarus signed by the countries' presidents on 6 February 1995. Meanwhile, President Algirdas Brazauskas signed a decree appointing Albertas Valys, the 43-year old director of the Seimas's Secretariat, as minister of justice. His appointment means that all posts in Mindaugas Stankevicius's cabinet have been filled. -- Saulius Girnius

FORMER POLISH PREMIER SAYS "JUSTICE HAS BEEN DONE."
Jozef Oleksy on 23 April said the spy allegations were brought against him during the final days of Lech Walesa's presidency by people who had wanted to destroy the former communist Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland. The party forms the core of the Democratic Left Alliance, which has been a member of the ruling coalition in Poland since 1993. "Justice has been done," Oleksy said in a statement read to journalists after the Military Prosecutor-General's Office closed the case, having found no incriminating evidence. Meanwhile, opposition leaders, including former Internal Affairs Minister Krzysztof Kozlowski, said they were not convinced by the prosecutor-general's arguments, Polish dailies reported on 24 April. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN NEW YORK.
Dariusz Rosati on 23 April met with US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright, who told him that the U.S.'s position on Poland's admission to NATO has not changed, Rzeczpospolita reported. Rosati had asked her to comment on reports from Moscow saying that U.S. President Bill Clinton promised his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, that the process of NATO enlargement will be temporarily halted. Rosati said Albright reinforced the "hard-line standpoint" on NATO enlargement adopted by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher during his recent visit to Poland. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PARLIAMENT SESSION FINALLY GETS UNDER WAY.
Czech deputies on 23 April voted by 94 to 47 with 36 abstentions to approve a truncated agenda and begin a rearranged session, Czech media reported. The last scheduled session before general elections was aborted last week when deputies of the governing coalition failed to agree on the order of business (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 and 18 April 1996). Members of one coalition party, the Civic Democratic Alliance, voted against the revised agenda. The parliament's first act was to approve a treaty amending the Czech-Slovak border. A second vote, needing at least 120 deputies in favor, is required for ratification of the treaty as a constitutional law. In the first round of voting, only 106 deputies were in favor. The opposition objects to the treaty provision transferring a village to Slovakia, making ratification unlikely. Slovakia has already ratified the treaty. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH FUNDS EARMARKED FOR ROMANI MUSEUM.
The lion's share of the 1.8 million crowns earmarked by the Czech Culture Ministry for Roma will go to the Society of Experts and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture, CTK reported on 23 April. Other Romani organizations will split the about 300,000 crowns leftover. The society, founded in 1991, has been raising funds to renovate a Brno building for a permanent exhibit of Romani art and cultural artifacts. Some 27 million crowns are required for the renovations. -- Alaina Lemon

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL BILL ON FOUNDATIONS.
The Slovak cabinet on 23 April approved a bill on foundations proposed by Justice Minister Jozef Liscak, Slovak media reported. The bill requires that foundations have a start-up capital of 100,000 crowns ($3,333) and register with the Interior Ministry. They are prohibited from taking part in political activities. The Third Sector Association, which began its campaign against the bill in mid-January, called the new legislation an attempt to liquidate foundations and associations dependent on them. Liscak argued that the foundations bill is similar to those in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, and Denmark. Meanwhile, the cabinet also approved a draft law regulating the operations of lotteries and similar institutions and requiring the state to have a 51% stake in companies owning casinos. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN RADIO PREPARES FOR BELT-TIGHTENING.
Hungarian Radio, currently facing severe financial difficulties, has drawn up a plan introducing austerity measures at the station, Hungarian dailies reported on 24 April. Broadcasting is to be reduced on one of the three channels, and several programs will be cut on the other two. Honorariums will also be cut by 55%. Management says Hungarian Radio's financial predicament results from the state budget's failure to guarantee subscription revenues since 1995. It added that advertising has not brought in the expected revenues because of competition from commercial stations. The cabinet is expected later this week to discuss a proposal granting an additional 4.5 billion forints subsidy to Hungarian Radio and TV. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

FBI ACADEMY OPENS IN HUNGARY.
One year after it began operations, an FBI Academy has officially opened in Budapest, Hungarian media reported on 23 April. The inauguration of the first police academy of its kind outside the U.S. was postponed due to the Oklahoma bombing last April, which prevented FBI Director Louis Freeh and U.S. Attorney-General Janet Reno from attending. The academy's curriculum includes training to combat international terrorism, drug smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BELGRADE AUTHORITIES ARREST BOMB SUSPECTS.
Belgrade police on 23 April arrested Alexander Gajic and Milan Dobrilovic on charges related to the 1992 bombing of Belgrade's central mosque, Reuters reported. The two are also suspects in the May 1993 bombing of St. Ann's Catholic Church in the capital city. Some media have speculated that they may have also been involved in the 30 March 1996 attack against the Bajrakli Mosque in Belgrade, which caused serious damage to the building but no casualties. The suspects were apprehended carrying 1.9 kilograms of explosives, three hand guns, and three grenades. -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRIN OFFICIALS IN WASHINGTON.
Premier Milo Djukanovic and Finance Minister Predrag Goranovic have decided to extend their visit to the U.S. "by a few days," Nasa Borba reported on 24 April. The two men left Montenegro on 21 April for a working visit aimed at restoring political relations with Washington as well as with international financial and political institutions. Nasa Borba also reports that the rump Yugoslav embassy in Washington claims to have no knowledge of the Montenegrins' visit. Embassy officials told a VOA correspondent they have nothing to do with the visit and that Djukanovic has not contacted the embassy. -- Stan Markotich

VIOLENCE ESCALATES IN KOSOVO.
At least five Serbs have been killed and four injured since a Serbian civilian killed an Albanian student on the weekend, AFP reported on 24 April. The Serbs who died are three men who were in a cafe in Decani when a gunman entered and sprayed the bar with automatic gunfire; a policeman who was shot outside a police station in Stimlje, near Urosevac; and a woman who was gunned down while sitting inside a police car in Sipolj. Some 10,000 women on 23 April gathered at the site where the Albanian student was killed, QIK reported the same day. The Democratic League of Kosovo strongly condemned the killings, adding they had added a "dangerous dimension" to the Kosovo conflict. It also stressed its policy of non-violence. -- Fabian Schmidt

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH KOSOVO ALBANIANS.
The spokesman for the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement has said that "if negotiations do not take place soon with representatives of the Kosovar Albanians, there will be no solution for Kosovo," Nasa Borba reported on 24 April. The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, however, accused the "separatist Albanian movement of choosing terrorism as the means for its struggle." It warned that this could "exclude a peaceful settlement" in Kosovo, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

TUDJMAN CALLS FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION . . .
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, in an important interview with leading pro-government media, said his principal aim is to urge a balanced historical view of all major personalities and movements in modern Croatian history, Vecernji list reported on 23 April. He accordingly condemned the World War II ustasha leader Ante Pavelic but noted that Pavelic did meet a popular demand for an independent Croatia. Tudjman at the same time praised former Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito as the most successful modern Croatian politician and traced the roots of the current Republic of Croatia back to Tito rather than to Pavelic. Tudjman stressed that it is wrong to continue demonizing one or another of the major political movements, saying it is time to bring back to Croatia from abroad the remains of Tito, Pavelic, and Dr. Vladko Macek, who led the powerful Croatian Peasant Party in the 1930s. -- Patrick Moore

. . . AND SPARKS CONTROVERSY.
The Croatian president went on to deny that he--a former member of the communist party and a general under Tito--was still "an old communist" at heart and that he had made the current state apparatus a safe haven for officials of the old regime. He noted that only 2% of the Foreign Ministry's staff are holdovers from the former Yugoslavia, while some 22% are former emigres. But the most controversy was generated by his attempt to present a balanced view of Croatian history and his call for reconciliation, Croatian dailies and Nasa Borba the next day. As was the case with calls for reconciliation in post-dictatorship Spain and Greece, many people across the political spectrum see his remarks as an attempt to whitewash evil deeds. His earlier call for turning the Jasenovac concentration camp in to a memorial for all war dead has been slammed as a move to equate murderers with victims. -- Patrick Moore

ROMANIAN DAILY SUES SWISS FOREIGN MINISTRY OVER SPY CHARGE.
Evenimentul zilei, Romania's top-selling tabloid, has said it is suing the Swiss Foreign Ministry for alleging one of its reporters is a spy, Reuters reported on 23 April. The move came after Switzerland recalled its ambassador to Bucharest because of his relationship with a 21-year-old political reporter accused of working for the Romanian Intelligence Service (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 April 1996). Ion Cristoiu, chief editor of the daily, said "the Swiss statement has damaged the newspaper by creating the impression that we have journalists who are undercover agents for various secret services." He has asked for the Swiss Ministry to provide "hard evidence." The newspaper is seeking token damages of 1 leu (less than 1 cent). -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA.
Teodor Melescanu, at the start of an official visit to the Republic of Moldova, discussed bilateral relations with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, Parliamentary Chairman Petru Lucinschi, and Foreign Minister Mihai Popov, Radio Bucharest reported on 23 April. Melescanu told Radio Bucharest that the long-delayed bilateral basic treaty was included on their agenda. He is scheduled today to attend a meeting of a Romanian-Moldovan interdepartmental commission that is expected to focus on boosting bilateral economic and cultural cooperation. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BONN.
Georgi Pirinski and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, on 23 April launched a German-Bulgarian Forum aimed at boosting bilateral economic and political ties, international agencies reported. Pirinski noted that Germany is Bulgaria's most important partner in achieving the "national goal" of EU membership. -- Stefan Krause

UPDATE ON BULGARIAN-MACEDONIAN "DIPLOMATIC SCANDAL."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Pirinski's decision to cancel a visit to Skopje has received wide media coverage in both countries. Macedonian Ambassador to Bulgaria Gorgi Spasov said the decision was related to Sofia's ongoing refusal to meet Skopje's condition that bilateral agreements be drawn up in both the Bulgarian and Macedonian languages, Kontinent reported. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski stressed his country's good will to solve "this comical dispute," Nova Makedonija reported. Georgi Parvanov, deputy chairman of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, said his party did not know why the visit has been canceled. He added that the language issue has been raised by people who do not want relations between Sofia and Skopje to improve, according to Demokratsiya. -- Stefan Krause

GREENPEACE WANTS BULGARIA TO CLOSE DOWN KOZLODUY.
Greenpeace on 23 April called on the Bulgarian government to close down the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Reuters reported. The spokesman for the organization's Greek branch said Kozloduy is one of the world's three most dangerous nuclear plants and that "the question is not if an accident at Kozloduy will happen; the question is when." He added that a study commissioned by Greenpeace showed Bulgaria could close down the plant if it learned to conserve and economize on energy. The Bulgarian government claims it wants to phase out the reactors but that they are still necessary because they supply 40% of the country's electricity. Greenpeace says 15 accidents at Kozloduy were made public between 1990 and 1993, including three radiation leaks. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS APPEAL BY DEPUTIES BANNED FROM ELECTIONS.
The Albanian Supreme Court on 23 April rejected an appeal by 13 deputies who have been banned from running in the upcoming general elections, Albanian media reported. A commission screening candidates for the elections ruled that they have a communist past. The Supreme Court rejected the deputies' request that they be given access to the documents on which the commission based its decision. It argued that there was enough evidence against them, since their names were included in a file listing those who collaborated with the Sigurimi, the communist-era secret service. Another 26 deputies have also appealed to the court. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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