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Newsline - May 2, 1996


YANDARBIEV STILL ALIVE.
Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev appeared on the pro-Dudaev Chechen TV channel during the night of 30 April--1 May, saying that reports of his death in a shootout two nights earlier were premature, Russian media reported. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 1 May, Yandarbiev said that "in order to save human lives we are ready at any time to begin talks with Moscow at the appropriate level" but only on condition that Russian troops are withdrawn from Chechnya. At a joint press conference with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov on 1 May, Yandarbiev dismissed reports of a rift between himself and Maskhadov as a Russian intelligence fabrication, NTV reported. Also on 1 May, ITAR-TASS quoted Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev as saying that Russian President Boris Yeltsin intends to visit Chechnya prior to the June presidential election. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN ADDRESSES MAY DAY RALLY. . .
Several thousand people took part in a May Day rally organized by Moscow trade unions and addressed by President Boris Yeltsin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin appealed to voters to support him in the June presidential election to ensure democracy, "social justice," and the continuation of reform. He blamed wage and pension payment delays on unscrupulous managers, and noted that 1,261 criminal cases have been opened against offenders. Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) leader Mikhail Shmakov said that rallies under the slogan of "Employment, Earnings, Law" were held in more than 60 regional centers. Some in the Far East expressed support for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The FNPR has not endorsed any presidential candidate. -- Penny Morvant

. . . BUT ZYUGANOV ATTRACTS MORE MARCHERS.
On the other side of Moscow, Russian communists and other leftist groups took part in a larger, old-style May Day rally attended by Zyuganov and other leading left-wingers, including Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Agrarian leader Mikhail Lapshin, and Workers' Russia head Viktor Anpilov. Some 8,000 attended the Moscow gathering, while a rally in St. Petersburg attracted up to 35,000 marchers, according to Reuters. All the major rallies took place peacefully, in contrast to the violence that marred the 1993 May Day celebrations. -- Penny Morvant

ZYUGANOV MEETS BANKERS, CHERNOMYRDIN.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov held a two-hour meeting behind closed doors with the 13 bankers and entrepreneurs who recently appealed for a political compromise before the presidential election, Russian media reported on 30 April. Logovaz Director Boris Berezovskii, who is also deputy chairman of the board of Russian Public TV (ORT), said the meeting went "splendidly," NTV and ORT reported. Zyuganov was also satisfied with the meeting; he told Russian TV (RTR) that he understood the businessmen's worries about the fate of the economy. On the same day, in his capacity as leader of the largest State Duma faction rather than as a presidential candidate, Zyuganov met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss a number of issues, including the need to preserve order at the May Day rallies,
ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

DEPUTY ON ZYUGANOV'S PLANS TO CREATE DEFENSE COUNCIL.
Duma deputy Mikhail Surkov, a member of the presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, told RFE/RL on 30 April that Gennadii Zyuganov plans to set up a special Defense Council if he is elected president. Surkov said the council would be chaired by the president himself and would control the "power ministries" of defense, interior, and the Federal Security Service. He added that the General Staff of the Armed Forces would report directly to Zyuganov rather than to the defense minister, as is now the practice.
-- Laura Belin

COURT CONFIRMS PRESIDENT'S POWER TO APPOINT REGIONAL GOVERNORS.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the president may appoint and dismiss regional administration heads as well as set the dates for gubernatorial elections, Russian media reported on 30 April. President Yeltsin gave himself those powers in an October 1994 decree. The court case was initiated by the State Duma and the Kamchatka and Kursk oblast legislatures, which argued that the decree violated the constitution and deprives voters of their right to participate in the formation of regional governments. The court decreed that the president may appoint and dismiss regional leaders in all federation subjects that have no legislation on the election of regional administration heads. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN MUSLIMS UNITE.
Russia's two largest Muslim organizations, the Union of Muslims of Russia (SMR) and Nur movement, have agreed to establish a single association of Muslim organizations, Radio Rossii reported on 1 May. The new organization, to be called the Russian Muslim Union, is aimed at defending and expressing the interests of Muslims more effectively than the numerous existing small groups and all Muslim organizations in Russia are welcome to join it, according to SMR President Mukhtar Seibulaev. According to official statistics, there are about 2,300 Muslim organizations in Russia serving the interests of the country's estimated 12-20 million Muslims. -- Anna Paretskaya

CHECHEN OIL BLAZE.
On the night of 30 April, two tanks with 10,000 metric tons of oil were set ablaze in the Zavodskoi district of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. There was speculation that the act may have been intended to conceal evidence of theft. So far this year, 156 underground mini-oil refineries have been discovered in Chechnya, up from 72 last year. Each operation typically drains off 7-8 tons of oil per day from the pipeline crossing the territory. The pipeline has continued to function despite the military hostilities. -- Peter Rutland

FOREIGN MINISTRY: AGREEMENT WITH CHINA IS NON-AGGRESSION PACT.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 30 April that Russia considers the five-nation border security agreement recently signed with China (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 April 1996) as "in effect a non-aggression treaty." Panov suggested that the treaty could serve as a model for other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and said that the next step in building a security regime along the Russian-Chinese border would be an agreement on mutual troop reductions. While denying that Russia plans to form a political or military alliance with China, Panov added that there are no outstanding bilateral problems. Meanwhile, on 2 May, the chief of staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, General Fu Quan-Yu, arrived in Russia for a six-day official visit. -- Scott Parrish

MINISTER UPBEAT ON MILITARY SALES TO JAPAN.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov said on 1 May that the way is open for the export of advanced Russian weapons such as the Su-27 jet fighters to Japan, ITAR-TASS reported. During the recent visit of the head of the Japanese Self Defense Agency to Moscow, some Japanese officials expressed an interest in this aircraft. Panov admitted that the Japanese have not yet officially raised the matter but said that Russia "would only welcome such an approach." -- Doug Clarke

JEWISH EMIGRATION ORGANIZATION PROTESTS BAN.
The Jewish Agency for Immigration has protested the 30 April closure of a seminar it had organized in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Krai), AFP and RFE/RL reported. Russian police officials said they closed the meeting because of a 2 April decision revoking the agency's accreditation to operate in Russia. The agency, which assists Jewish emigration to Israel from countries all over the world, organized the seminar in Pyatigorsk because it said Jewish refugees fleeing violence in the Caucasus region have concentrated there. The agency's chairman, Avraham Burg, said the agency "has never been subjected to such treatment" anywhere else in the world. Since 1989, the agency has helped about 630,000 former Soviet Jews to resettle in Israel. On 1 May, the U.S. State Department also expressed concern about possible limitations on Jewish emigration from Russia. -- Scott Parrish

FSB SEIZES COPIES OF BELLONA REPORT.
Russian Federal Security Service officers on 30 April confiscated copies of a report by the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona on the environmental threat posed by the Northern Fleet's nuclear installations on the Kola Peninsula, AFP reported. The reports were seized from the home of Bellona activist Aleksei Klimov in Severodvinsk by FSB officers brandishing a document issued by the security service in St. Petersburg stating that circulation of the report in Russia is prohibited. A Russian employee of Bellona, retired navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin, is facing charges of espionage for his contribution to the report, released on the eve of the Moscow nuclear safety summit in April. Bellona representative Thomas Nilsen said the FSB's action ran counter to President Yeltsin's statement in Oslo in March that the Russian authorities have nothing against Bellona, and speculated that the FSB may be working independently. -- Penny Morvant

WORLD BANK LOAN FOR SOCIAL SERVICES APPROVED.
The World Bank has approved a $200 million loan to support local social services in Russia, including health care, education, water supplies, and sanitation, Reuters reported on 1 May. The money, to be repaid over 17 years, will finance improvements in key facilities in Novosibirsk and Rostov oblasts. Since 1992, local and regional authorities have taken on new responsibilities in the education and health sectors, while the contribution of the federal government and enterprises has declined. Another $537 million in loans for social services are in the pipeline: $300 million for housing, $200 million for education, and $37 million for health. -- Penny Morvant



ABASHIDZE CHALLENGES SHEVARDNADZE.
Adzhar parliament chairman Aslan Abashidze, whose All-Georgian Union of Revival is the third largest party in the Georgian parliament, has threatened to thwart plans for the export of Azerbaijan's oil via Batumi unless Adzharia's status as a sovereign republic within Georgia is formalized in the near future, according to a 29 April Iberia news agency report monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN SOLDIERS TARGETED IN INCIDENTS ON ARMENIAN-TURKISH BORDER.
Russian soldiers guarding the Armenian-Turkish border were allegedly shot at from Turkey for the third time this month, AFP reported on 1 May. The incidents may be connected with Turkey's ongoing war with Kurdish rebels operating in Kars, the province adjacent to Armenia. On 26 April, Turkey once again declared the border area with Armenia a military zone. Later this week Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev will visit Yerevan to sign a bilateral military-technical cooperation agreement. -- Lowell Bezanis

UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstani Deputy Minister of Oil and Gas Industries Viktor Begin has arrived in Tashkent to resolve the conflict over Uzbekistan's decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Kazakhstan due to unpaid bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May. Observers speculate that Kazakhstan will agree to settle the debt with shipments of petroleum and other fuels. Current gas supplies in Kazakhstan could be exhausted as early as 3 May. -- Roger Kangas

A "CHINA PIPELINE" FOR KAZAKHSTAN?
Following the recent reconfiguration of the Caspian Sea Consortium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996), Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov announced that Kazakhstan is seriously considering a pipeline route that would travel eastward through China to the Pacific Ocean, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. Such a project would cost up to $12 billion and would create the world's longest pipeline. -- Roger Kangas

CENTRAL ASIAN BATTALION TO BE DEPLOYED IN TAJIKISTAN.
A future joint battalion of Kazakhstani, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz forces under UN command will be based in Tajikistan, the three countries' respective foreign ministers announced in Almaty on 30 April. The 500-person unit, which will trained under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, is to be formed later this year, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Roger Kangas

AFGHANS READY TO NEUTRALIZE TAJIK OPPOSITION IN NORTH.
A commander of the Afghan government forces, Said Najmuddin, met with the commander of the Russian border forces, Pavel Tarasenko, in the southeastern Tajik city of Khorog on 29 April, RFE/RL and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Najmuddin told Tarasenko that the Afghan government is prepared to launch strikes against Tajik opposition forces that have attacked the CIS peacekeeping force guarding the Tajik-Afghan border from their bases in northern Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

NEW UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has selected a new special envoy to Tajikistan, according to a 30 April Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. Dietrich Mehrer, until now the deputy executive director of the UN Drug Control program, will replace Ramiro Piriz Ballon. Talks between the Tajik government and opposition have been on hold since the announcement of Ballon's departure in early April. -- Bruce Pannier



MAY DAY DEMONSTRATIONS IN UKRAINE.
Several thousand communists and democrats demonstrated at separate gatherings on May Day in Kyiv, Russian Public TV reported on 1 May. Authorities gave seven political parties permission to rally in Kyiv,
designating their rallies to different sections of the city to avoid conflict. Both leftists and democrats criticized the government at their respective demonstrations, but there were no outbreaks of violence. Radio Mayak reported that 8,000 people in Simfereopol also demonstrated. -- Ustina Markus

MINSK COURTS TRY OPPOSITIONISTS.
Judges sentenced participants in the 26 April demonstrations in Minsk to five to 10-day prison terms, Reuters and Belapan reported on 30 April. In all, 204 people were detained. Some reports stated that authorities mistreated the prisoners by not giving them food or water and by keeping lights on at night so they could not sleep. Seventeen Ukrainians were among those arrested, and Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko sent a memorandum to Ukraine's Foreign Ministry charging the demonstrators with participating in destabilizing actions, ITAR-TASS reported. Opposition parties signed a statement denouncing the dictatorial regime in the country and calling upon all democratic forces to unite against the country's leadership. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee appealed to Russian President Boris Yeltsin to exert his influence to stop "flagrant human rights violations in Belarus." -- Ustina Markus

MAYDAY DEMONSTRATIONS IN MINSK.
Up to 50,000 people demonstrated in Minsk on 1 May, the majority protesting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's leadership, international agencies reported. Communists and the official Federation of Trade Unions were also present to celebrate Labor Day. Security forces were stationed around Independence Square, and the rally did not turn violent. The demonstration was the fourth mass action since 24 March condemning Lukashenka's policies. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAND REFORM LAW.
The parliament adopted on 30 April a law aimed at speeding up land reform, BNS and ETA reported. The law, which makes amendments to 15 laws and other acts, was debated for four months with more than a thousand changes proposed. The law grants land users privileged rights of purchase and limits bidding. Permanent residents of Estonia can buy the plots where their houses and summer cottages are located at half the established market price. Buyers can purchase land in installments over a five-year period for purchases exceeding 25,000 kroons ($2,000), up to a 15-year period for purchases exceeding 5 million kroons. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT PROLONGS RESIDENCE PERMITS FOR 76 RUSSIAN MILITARY RETIREES.
The government on 30 April prolonged the residence permits of 76 Russian military retirees from 1 May until 1 September, BNS reported. In 1994, officers who retired after 28 January 1992 and their families were originally required to depart along with the Russian army, but because no housing was available for the retirees in Russia, the Latvian government allowed them to remain. As many as 22,320 Russian military retirees have the right to stay in Latvia, but 3,200 of them have chosen to leave the country. -- Saulius Girnius

OPINION POLL IN LITHUANIA.
A poll taken in April by the Lithuanian-British joint venture Baltic Surveys revealed that the share of respondents expressing trust in emigre Valdas Adamkus, a potential presidential candidate, rose to 54%, a 5% increase since March, Radio Lithuania reported on 30 April. Seimas Deputy Chairman Egidijus Bickauskas, who formerly led popularity polls, is trusted by 51% of the respondents. Trust in President Algirdas Brazauskas declined by 4%, to 39%. When asked which party they would vote for if parliament elections were held that day, 19.9% of respondents said they would not vote and 26.6% said that they did not know. The most popular party remained the Christian Democrats with 13.6% of the support, a 2.2% increase since March. The popularity of the Conservatives declined by 1.3%, while the ruling Democratic Labor Party fell to fifth place with 5.3%, falling behind the Center Union (7.5%) and the Women's Party (5.7%). -- Saulius Girnius

YOUNG RIGHTISTS DISRUPT MAY DAY EVENTS IN POLAND.
Young rightists flung fireworks and eggs during a May Day march in Warsaw sponsored by Poland's leftist parties (the Social Democracy of Poland (SdRP), the All-Poland Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) and the Polish Socialist Party), international media reported on 1 May. Several thousand people gathered for the march. The demonstrators broke through police ranks, shouting "Poland's shame" and "Commies out." Police detained several of the demonstrators. Similar clashes occurred in Poznan and Krakow. Ex-communist leader Jozef Oleksy, who heads the SdRP, accused rightist politicians of kindling historical animosities and hatred during the celebrations. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLAND TO DECIDE ON WEAPONS DEPLOYMENT IN TALKS WITH NATO.
Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati on 1 May said at a meeting with his Danish counterpart, Niels Helveg Petersen, that Poland will not make any promises on nuclear weapons deployment prior to talks with NATO, international media reported the same day. Rosati said it is now unnecessary for Poland to have nuclear weapons within its borders as he `sees no threat,' however, he reaffirmed Poland's commitment to joining NATO. The talks were held just before a major forum of the Council of Baltic States scheduled to begin later in the week. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

MAN TIED TO KIDNAPPING CASE OF SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON KILLED IN EXPLOSION.
Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Ondera told TASR on 30 April that Robert Remias died when his BMW exploded the previous night on the outskirts of Bratislava. Ondera said the explosion probably resulted from a breakdown in the car's propane-fueled engine. Jaroslav Simunic, a former police investigator who was fired from the Kovac Jr. case last September after announcing his suspicions of involvement by the Slovak Information Service, claims that Remias was murdered. An editor of the daily Sme, Peter Toth, told the RFE/RL Slovak Service that Remias, a former policeman, was a close friend of Oskar F., a key witness in the Kovac Jr. case who is now in hiding. Remias was Oskar F.'s intermediary with the outside world, Toth said. Toth added that he and Remias were being followed by the same cars. -- Sharon Fisher

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL ON SLOVAKIA'S POTENTIAL MEMBERSHIP.
Javier Solana said during his 30 April visit to Slovakia that the country is still a candidate for NATO membership, international media reported. He added that "the alliance consists of countries that share the values of democracy, of respect of human rights, [and] of the protection of minorities," and that Slovakia must uphold these values to become a member. He told President Kovac that it is too early to "classify" countries; however, consideration of individual candidates will be completed at the end of the year. After meeting with Solana, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar emphasized that there are no obstacles to Slovakia's membership. However, visiting Slovakia on 30 April, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke warned Meciar that completing the Slovak-Hungarian treaty's ratification process is an essential condition for further discussions on Slovakia's NATO membership. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER, GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY RISE IN POLLS.
Gyula Horn's popularity rose nine points in April while his government's rating reached its highest point since the introduction of austerity measures more than a year ago, Hungarian media reported on 2 May. In a poll conducted by the Sonda-Ipsos agency, Horn rose to 55% from 46% a month earlier, gaining personal support even from people who said they would not vote for his Socialist Party. The government as a whole received a 53.4% rating, up from 51.1% in March. Officials of the polling organization said the rise in the government's popularity was likely influenced by the recent change of finance ministers and antipathy created when the leader of the opposition Smallholders' Party made a controversial speech in mid-March. -- Steve Kettle



BOSNIAN REFUGEE INCIDENT TO BE INVESTIGATED.
Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic and the speaker of the Bosnian Assembly Momcilo Krajisnik agreed to begin a criminal investigation into the killing of two Muslim refugees, who were killed after entering Serbian held territory on 29 April. The meeting was mediated by the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, Onasa reported on 1 May. Bildt's office and the international police deployed in Bosnia will meet with interior ministers from both sides. Muratovic and Krajisnik also agreed to give the UNHCR full support to organize visits of refugees to their respective hometowns. IFOR, meanwhile, said that freedom of movement is one of the crucial segments in the Dayton peace accord and its obstruction constitutes a violation of human rights. -- Fabian Schmidt

ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED FOR MOSTAR.
The EU administrator for Mostar Ricardo Perez Casado announced that town elections will be held 31 May, Onasa reported on 1 May. Lists of candidates are to be finalized by 10 May. Elsewhere, the International Federation of Journalists has pledged financial aid to the independent media in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure accurate information during the pre-election period later this year. The federation's General Manger Aidan White said that the elections will be the best test of the quality of Bosnian journalism. Aid will consist of technical equipment and seminars. Meanwhile, the Reporters Without Borders has protested an incident in late April when two journalists from Austria and Novi Sad were restricted in the Republika Srpska. -- Fabian Schmidt

BELGRADE RELEASES MUSLIM PRISONERS.
Belgrade authorities finally released five Muslim refugees on 1 May, following a series of protests from the international community, Reuters reported the same day. The five were among some 800 refugees who fled to Serbia from Bosnia after Bosnian Serb forces captured the Bosnian Muslim "safe havens" of Srebrenica and Zepa in the summer of 1995. According to rump Yugoslav authorities, the refugees were war crimes suspects, and thus were incarcerated. With the release of the five, rump Yugoslavia reportedly no longer detains any Bosnian Muslims who fled to Serbia following the collapse of Srebrenica and Zepa. Reuters also noted that the UN High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) chartered the plane that flew the five freed refugees home. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN UN AMBASSADOR SAYS BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL PROVIDES LINK TO BELGRADE.
Muhamed Sacirbey said before the International Court of Justice on 1 May that Bosnian Serb logistics General Djorde Djukic is a "smoking gun" between Belgrade and its involvement in Serb genocide campaigns conducted in Bosnia, Reuters reported the same day. According to Sacirbey, Djukic, who was held at The Hague on war crimes charges but released because of ill-health, is "the connection between the Belgrade regime and the so-called Bosnian Serb army." Belgrade continues to assert that it was never involved in the Bosnian conflict, and that the court should drop Bosnia's case against Belgrade. The Bosnian government, however, asserts that Belgrade violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by arming and encouraging Bosnian Serbs' efforts. -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRIN PREMIER ON RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE.
After his visit to the U.S., Milo Djukanovic gave an interview to Montenegrin state radio and TV in which he indicated a desire to mend relations between his republic and Belgrade. Montena-fax on 30 April reported that Djukanovic approved of, what he dubbed, a change in Belgrade's position vis-a-vis the IMF. Relations with the IMF has been one issue of public disagreement between Djukanovic and the federal authorities under Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's control. -- Stan Markotich

U.S. OFFERS MEDIATION IN KOSOVO ESCALATION.
A U.S. State Department delegation visited Kosovo on 1 May offering to mediate in the Kosovo conflict, ATSH reported. The delegation was headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for former Yugoslavia Rudolph Perina and met with Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. Perina expressed concern about recent shoot-outs in which six people died and five were injured and stressed the need for a non-violent solution. He added that since the Dayton agreement was signed, Kosovo has priority on the U.S. diplomatic agenda in the Balkans. Negotiations between Belgrade and the shadow-state remain in a deadlock due to the Serbs' rejection to negotiate under international mediation. -- Fabian Schmidt

MACEDONIA, RUMP-YUGOSLAVIA SIGN AIR TRAFFIC ACCORD.
Rump Yugoslav Minister of Transport Zoran Vujovic and his Macedonian counterpart, Dimitar Buzlevski, signed and agreement resuming air traffic between both countries beginning this month. Following both countries' mutual recognition on 8 April, Macedonia will take full control of the air space above its territory from 7 November this year. The agreement will be finalized in Belgrade on 20 May. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIA WARNS AGAINST IMPORTED TERRORISM.
A senior security force official warned that Romania is being increasingly used as a channel for "terrorists" from the Middle East and Asia, Reuters reported on 30 April. Gen. Gheorghe Aradavoaice, deputy head of the Protection and Guard Service (SPP), told journalists that "Romania has become a bridge between terrorist organizations in Asia and the Arab world and their branches in some western European countries." The statement, made on SPP's sixth anniversary, echoes warnings from the annual report of the Romanian Intelligence Service that Kurdish and Islamic extremists are based in Romania. However, Reuters quoted Western diplomats as saying that the country has a plethora of security services that suffer from inter-agency competition and are striving to justify their existence. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIANS RALLY FOR, AGAINST GOVERNMENT ON MAY DAY.
Around 12,000 supporters of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 1 May rallied in support of the government, Bulgarian and Western media reported. Prime Minister and BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov at the rally accused President Zhelyu Zhelev, the opposition, and the trade unions of destabilizing the country and leading it into a new economic crisis. Also in central Sofia, several thousand people attended an anti-government rally organized by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) and the Confederation of Labor "Podkrepa." KNSB Chairman Krastyo Petkov called on the cabinet to "stop the anti-social policy" and resign. Podkrepa leader Konstantin Trenchev at a rally in Kazanlak said Bulgaria "is facing a national catastrophe." -- Stefan Krause

PREMIER ADMITS BULGARIA NEEDS IMF CREDITS TO REPAY DEBTS.
Zhan Videnov on 30 April said Bulgaria needs a new debt agreement with the IMF in order to meet foreign debt payments due in three months, RFE/RL and AFP reported. Following a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in Vienna, Videnov said Bulgaria "will be able to meet its repayments this year" but added that it needs an agreement on stand-by credits from the IMF. Bulgaria and the IMF have failed to reach an agreement so far this year, mainly because of Sofia's failure to resolve the problems of unprofitable state enterprises and insolvent state and private banks. Videnov conceded that Bulgaria will have to "drastically reduce the number of unprofitable state enterprises." Bulgaria's external debt totals nearly $11 billion. More than $1 billion is due this year, but Bulgaria's foreign currency reserves only hold $720 million. -- Stefan Krause

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS ALBANIA.
Javier Solana called Albania a "very important" part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, after arriving in Tirana for a two-day visit on 1 May, AFP reported. Solana discussed deepening Albanian NATO cooperation with President Sali Berisha, who repeated his country's determination to become a full NATO member. Berisha said Albania was a small but determined and strategically important ally. Both men expressed concern over developments in Kosovo, and Berisha called this "the most serious crisis facing the Balkans." Solana stressed the need for OSCE monitors in the region, who were expelled by Belgrade in summer 1993. Berisha, after the meeting announced that some 40 Albanian soldiers will join German IFOR units in Croatia. Albanians have trained in the U.S. for peacekeeping missions since summer 1995. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN UPDATE.
A dispute has developed between the opposition and the ruling Democrats about TV broadcasting time given to the respective parties before the 26 May elections. The electoral commission has allotted the the ruling Democrats with as much broadcasting time as all other opposition parties received together. The opposition complained that state TV covered the Democrats' election rallies in-depth for 30 minutes, while a comparable Socialist rally only received 30 seconds of air-time. Earlier this week, police broke into a Socialist party office in Tepelena removed the party's flag from the balcony and tore down posters. Elsewhere, police detained two people in Cerrik for writing Socialist slogans inside their shop, Koha Jone reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS SAY THEY HAD WARNED WESTERN LEADERS.
The Socialist Party published a letter its imprisoned leader Fatos Nano wrote to world leaders in October 1995. In the letter, Nano claims that "the government's arbitrary actions against the opposition and the independence of the courts have increased so much that they actually threaten the process of the free, democratic elections." In other news, German former President Richard von Weizsaecker during a visit to Albania praised the country's success in developing democracy and market reforms, Reuters reported on 1 May. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels







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