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Newsline - May 7, 1996


YELTSIN: ELECTION WILL BE HELD ON SCHEDULE.
President Boris Yeltsin announced that the election will be held on schedule on 16 June and criticized his body guard Aleksandr Korzhakov for suggesting that they would be postponed, NTV reported on 6 May. Yeltsin said he told Korzhakov not to get involved in politics and not to make such statements in the future. Korzhakov's proposal provoked wide-ranging denunciations in the Russian press, ranging from Constitutional Court justices to the organizers of Yeltsin's campaign effort. The timing of the generally secretive Korzhakov's proposal is peculiar since Yeltsin has now drawn even with Zyuganov in opinion polls. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED REJECTS ALLIANCE WITH YAVLINSKII.
Lt. Gen. (retired) Aleksandr Lebed announced on 6 May that he would not withdraw his candidacy in favor of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and that he would fight to the end of the campaign. For the past two months, the Russian press has speculated over whether Lebed and eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov would withdraw from the race in favor of Yavlinskii. -- Robert Orttung

BUSINESSMEN ISSUE ANOTHER APPEAL TO CANDIDATES.
The thirteen
businessmen whose 26 April appeal asked President Yeltsin and Zyuganov to compromise issued another letter on 6 May denouncing the "extremist forces" surrounding the main candidates. The statement equated Korzhakov's call for postponing the elections with communists who summon their supporters to fight until "the last drop of blood" has been shed, NTV reported. The appeal and Korzhakov's statement may be part of an orchestrated effort to drive a wedge between the moderate and extreme communists. Yeltsin can now say that he has disciplined the extremists in his camp, after reprimanding Korzhakov, but Zyuganov has yet to denounce the extreme communists he has worked so hard to include in his coalition. -- Robert Orttung

YAVLINSKII'S CONDITIONS TO YELTSIN.
Excerpts from a letter Grigorii Yavlinskii gave President Boris Yeltsin during their 5 May two-hour meeting were published in Izvestiya on 7 May. Yavlinskii stated that his conditions for supporting the president include the implementation of an economic policy "to stimulate production and relieve the tax burden," a social policy to guarantee that real income increases and wages are paid on time, and military reform. He also demanded that Yeltsin end the war in Chechnya, take "urgent measures" to stop crime, and stop putting political pressure on the media. Yavlinskii's chances of being elected president are considered slim, but his support in a second round between Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov could be crucial. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN WARNS OF REFORMS BEING REVERSED.
In an interview with Delovye lyudi, President Yeltsin argued that his reforms are not irreversible, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. He rejected the arguments of "some factions within Russia's democratic forces" that the legal base created in the last few years would prevent a return to the past. He also criticized the idea that conditions in the country would force any political party that comes to power to carry on the current economic reforms. He said that his opponents were prepared "to act without any limits, as happened after 1917." He characterized the Communists as a "party of revanche" that rejects "any moral norms" and is driven by a thirst for revenge against "those who managed to employ their talents, live better, or see the world previously hidden by the iron curtain." -- Robert Orttung

ZYUGANOV WARNS WEST AGAINST SUPPORTING YELTSIN.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, on a visit to Germany, warned the West against backing President Yeltsin in the June election, saying it would be a mistake to support just one politician, Reuters and AFP reported on 6 May. Although Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel refused to meet with Zyuganov, he did meet with all of the parliamentary party leaders, including Wolfgang Schaeuble, leader of Kohl's Christian Democrats. Zyuganov also had an off-the-record exchange of views with about 40 bankers and industrialists. Zyuganov said his visit to Germany, at the invitation of the German Foreign Policy Society and German-Russian Forum, will be his only trip abroad during the campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN DECREE INCREASES JUSTICE MINISTER'S POWERS.
A presidential decree signed on 3 May will speed up legal reform by granting the Justice Ministry some powers previously assigned to the procuracy, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 6 May. Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev said that from now on judicial bodies will be able to open criminal cases and carry out investigations concerning crimes in the justice system. Kovalev added that the decree will help make sure judicial decisions are better enforced, especially in the civil liberties area. In addition, the decree expands the ministry's rights to monitor the compliance of public organizations' activities with their statutory aims, as well as the implementation of the constitution, federal laws, presidential decrees, and government resolutions, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 May. -- Laura Belin

MASKHADOV, IMAEV AGREE TO TALKS.
Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov formally stated on 6 May that he is ready for talks with the Russian military command in Chechnya on military but not political issues, Russian media reported. Usman Imaev, the former procurator in Dzhokhar Dudaev's leadership and one of the Chechen representatives to last summer's peace talks, also said talks could take place soon. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev, however, ruled out acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev as a negotiating partner, saying he is incapable of "a sensible compromise," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Also on 6 May, Chechen and Russian Interior Ministry forces checked the identification of residents of the town of Shali, which has been blockaded for two weeks by Russian troops because of the alleged presence of Chechen rebel fighters. The verification proceeded without incident, but no information is available concerning the number of weapons confiscated and persons detained, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIA, CHINA TO SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENT.
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and Chinese Chief of Staff Fu Quanyou met in Moscow to discuss Russian-Chinese military relations and sign a military-technical cooperation protocol, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. Although no details were released, the protocol specifies the terms of the 1993 bilateral military-technical cooperation agreement. Following the April 1996 Shanghai agreement signed by Russia, China, and three Central Asian states on creating a buffer zone along their borders, Grachev and Fu Quanyou discussed reducing armed forces stationed on the Russia-Chinese border. Grachev said the two countries are "strategic partners," but both Russia and China have repeatedly insisted that such a partnership is not a military alliance. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIAN-BRITISH ESPIONAGE ROW.
A diplomatic scandal has broken out following the arrest by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of a Russian citizen allegedly spying for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Russian and Western agencies reported. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said the unnamed Russian was apprehended while making radio contact with London. The suspect later confessed to working for SIS and revealed details of its Moscow network, which operates out of the British Embassy, he added. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov subsequently called in British Ambassador Andrew Wood to protest and expel several members of the British Embassy staff "for activities incompatible with diplomatic status." The British Foreign Office has denied the allegations, and British Foreign Minster Malcolm Rifkind later threatened retaliation if Russia goes ahead with the expulsions. -- Scott Parrish

CUBAN-RUSSIAN BARTER CONTRACT HITS SNAG.
Vladimir Bzhdugov, deputy director of international ties for the Russian firm "Alfa-Eko," told ITAR-TASS on 6 May that his company has suspended implementation of the Cuban-Russian sugar-for-oil barter deal signed in October 1995. The contract calls for firms chosen by the Russian government to deliver 1.5 million metric tons of oil to Cuba in exchange for 500,000 tons of sugar during 1996. Bzhdugov said the contract was frozen because Cuba had fallen behind in delivering the sugar. -- Scott Parrish

OFFICIAL: PLUTONIUM STORAGE SITE UNDERFINANCED.
Viktor Fetisov, director of the "Mayak" nuclear reprocessing plant, told ITAR-TASS on 6 May that shortfalls in government financing are hindering the construction of a $300 million storage facility for weapons-grade plutonium and uranium at his plant. The facility, which is being financed jointly by the U.S. and Russia, is intended to provide secure storage for fissile materials from dismantled former Soviet nuclear weapons and should be finished by 1998. Fetisov warned that the failure of the Finance Ministry to deliver the necessary funds could lead to the suspension of construction work. -- Scott Parrish

NUCLEAR MATERIAL STOLEN FROM SIBERIAN LABORATORY.
A scientist in an institute in Krasnoyarsk has been arrested by the Federal Security Service in connection with the theft of radioactive materials, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The scientist had reportedly processed and smuggled out of the country more than 1 kg of materials that could be used in the preparation of nuclear weapons. The closed city of Krasnoyarsk 26 was one of the main centers of plutonium production, while Krasnoyarsk 45 formerly manufactured enriched uranium. -- Peter Rutland

INFLATION HITS RECORD LOW.
The April inflation rate was only 2.2%, the lowest since 1991 and down from 2.8% in March, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 May. Goskomstat suggests that annual inflation for 1996 may be as low as 34%, compared to 131% in 1995 and 300% in 1994. The government argues that the slowdown in inflation will encourage investment, but there is no sign yet that economic growth has restarted. Most analysts expect serious financial instability in the second half of this year, not least because of the yawning budget deficit, which stands at 20 trillion rubles ($4 billion) for the first quarter, according to Finansovye izvestiya of 7 May. -- Peter Rutland

TELECOM SEEKS FOREIGN INVESTMENT.
Russia is again looking for foreign capital to revive the "People's Phone" project, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak said that in order to add 20 million new telephones to the existing 26 million by 2010, Russia will need to attract $750 million worth of foreign investment in 1996. (Foreign investment in the sector totaled $520 million in 1995.) The project was launched in October 1994 by the 50/50 consortium of Western and Russian companies. Western firms withdrew in March 1996 following Russia's attempts to halve their equity participation, while the ministry's efforts to set up a new consortium favoring Russian companies (Rostelekom, Svyazinvest and Rossiiskie Nalozhennye Seti) failed due to the latter's lack of capital. -- Natalia Gurushina

AVIATION COMPANIES' PLANS TO BUY FOKKER MAY BE HALTED.
The Russian government is blocking the plans of the Tupolev Aircraft Company and Yakovlev Aircraft Design Bureau to buy a controlling interest in the bankrupt Dutch aviation firm Fokker, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. In order to raise $370 million to buy Fokker shares, the companies sought a government-guaranteed loan. However, Finance Ministry officials said that the 1996 budget does not envisage such expenses, and suggested that the money would be better spent investing in Russian aircraft manufacturers. The takeover may also be obstructed by Fokker's former owner, the German company DASA, which holds licenses for the production of aircraft equipment and plans to develop its own manufacturing of short-range flight planes in cooperation with West European firms. -- Natalia Gurushina



MOSCOW UNWILLING TO HAND OVER MUTALIBOV.
Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov arrived in Moscow on 6 May in the hope of expediting the extradition to Baku of former president Ayaz Mutalibov, accused of masterminding two alleged unsuccessful coup attempts, Russian media reported. Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov told ITAR-TASS that Baku has not yet provided the necessary evidence against Mutalibov, whose fate must be decided by 12 May--one month after his detention in Moscow. -- Liz Fuller

URANIUM SMUGGLERS APPREHENDED IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Authorities in Kazakhstan have detained two men from Ust-Kamenogorsk, who were in possession of more than 100 kg of low-enriched uranium-235, according to the 5-11 May edition of Obshchaya gazeta. The two men were connected to the Ulba holding company, which has previously sold uranium to the U.S. The authorities recently found 4 kg of uranium, one kilogram of thorium, which can be converted into uranium-233, and 10 kg of indium, an extremely rare element, in a car attempting to leave the Ust-Kamenogorsk area. -- Bruce Pannier

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA BANNED IN KAZAKHSTAN?
The Procurator-General has asked the Supreme Court to ban the Russian weekly Komsomolskaya pravda from Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The justification for the move, according to Kazakhstani officials, is that an 23 April article entitled "Conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn" was a "rude interference in the internal affairs of an independent government." The government said that the move was prompted by a group of Kazakhstani writers. -- Roger Kangas

MORE TERROR IN TAJIKISTAN.
The 65-year-old rector of the Dushanbe Medical School, Yusuf Iskhaki, was gunned down on 6 May near the capital, according to RFE/RL and AFP. Another six people were killed in a separate attack on a road some 50 km outside Dushanbe. There has been an increase in the number of violent attacks in Tajikistan as the 26 May deadline for the ceasefire agreement to expire approaches. -- Bruce Pannier

RAKHMONOV IN TURKEY.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov arrived in Turkey on 5 May to sign nine bilateral agreements, such as accords on mutual investment protection and judicial, sports, tourism, and transport cooperation, Western and Turkish media reported the same day. Rakhmonov's first visit to Turkey follows Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's first trip to Tajikistan last September. To date, Turkey has invested an estimated $150 million in Tajikistan according to AFP. Turkey's belated expressions of interest in Tajikistan are part of its efforts to gain credibility in Central Asia and compensate for its earlier stress on supporting Turkish ethnicity in the region. Rakhmonov also told Demirel that Dushanbe has definitively identified the exact location of the remains of General Enver Pasha, the leading member of the triumvirate that effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1908 until its collapse in World War I. The remains will be returned to Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis



BELARUSIAN ROUNDUP.
The trial of opposition leader Yuriy Khadyka began in Minsk on 6 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Khadyka has been charged with causing public disorder for his part in the 26 April demonstrations. He faces up to three years in jail if found guilty and has been on a hunger strike since his arrest. Khadyka's lawyer said no journalists or spectators were allowed into the courtroom. She added that she was told to sign a declaration promising not to reveal details of the proceedings. UNIAR reported on 4 May that members of the Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO who were sentenced to 30 days detention for their role in the demonstrations have also started a hunger strike. -- Ustina Markus

CRIMEAN UPDATE.
Crimea celebrated Constitution Day on 6 May, which marks the anniversary of the passage of the 1992 separatist constitution, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV reported. That basic law was annulled by Kyiv last year. The Republican Party of Crimea issued a statement condemning Kyiv for stripping the peninsula of its powers and leaving it in control only of its police force, television, and economy. The party also noted there were forces that wanted to turn Crimea into a national state for Crimean Tatars. In other news, 2,150 cases of hepatitis "A" have been reported in Sevastopol since the beginning of the year. The main reason for the spread of the disease is the poor quality of Sevastopol's drinking water. More than 300 km of water pipes in the city need to be changed or repaired. No fewer than 95 accidents occurred along them in the first quarter of the year. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON EU.
Hennadii Udovenko told EU and Ukrainian officials in Kyiv that Ukraine's strategic goal is to become a full-fledged member of the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. He said this will be possible only once Ukraine has became economically "strong." He called on the EU to help the country not only in its fiscal and technical planning but also in expanding trade with EU countries. -- Ustina Markus

BLACK SEA MERCHANT VESSELS HELD IN PORTS WORLDWIDE PENDING DEBT PAYMENTS.
Twenty-six vessels from the Black Sea Merchant Fleet are being held in various ports throughout the world over the company's debts, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. The company owes more than $207 million. The Odessa has been held in Naples for more than a year, and its crew has begun a hunger strike in protest over non-payment of wages. The Indira Ghandi has been held in the Suez Canal since last August and is without electricity supplies. A meeting of Transport Ministry officials is to be held in Odessa in mid-May to solve the shipping company's problems, but any financial assistance will depend on municipal budget revenues. -- Ustina Markus

ICELAND'S PREMIER VISITS ESTONIA.
David Oddsson told Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi in Tallinn on 6 May that while Iceland has no objections to visa-free relations with Estonia, such an arrangement would have to be coordinated with other Nordic countries, ETA reported. He added that Estonia would first have to ratify the European refugee convention and pledge to step up its fight against crime. Vahi said his Finnish counterpart, Paavo Lipponen, has confirmed that visa-free travel between Finland and Estonia will probably be introduced in 1997. Oddsson agreed with Vahi's suggestion that visa-free travel with Iceland begin at same time. The two leaders also discussed trade relations and the results of the recent Visby summit meeting. Before leaving Tallinn, Oddsson met with President Lennart Meri and parliamentary chairman Toomas Savi. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER SACKED.
Prime Minister Andris Skele on 6 May dismissed Alberts Kauls for calling the government's farm policies "destructive" at a meeting with farmers in Skrunda three days earlier, BNS reported. Skele, who reportedly was not pleased with Kauls's work, had called the farming bill drafted by the Agriculture Ministry "catastrophic." Kauls said his dismissal was a deliberate attempt to "squeeze out" the Unity Party, which he heads, from the ruling coalition. Skele appointed Economics Minister Guntis Krasts as interim agriculture minister and asked the Unity Party to propose a successor to Kauls. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA, RUSSIAN PREMIERS MEET IN VISBY.
Mindaugas Stankevicius and Viktor Chernomyrdin primarily discussed economic matters at their meeting in Visby on 3 May, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported two days later. Stankevicius was surprised by Chernomyrdin's unexpected proposal that the two countries sign an oil transit agreement that could result in Russia abandoning its plans to build oil terminals in Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg. Responding to Stankevicius's comment that most illegal Asian immigrants to Lithuania have Russian visas, Chernomyrdin said they were probably forged. -- Saulius Girnius

MINSK PROTESTS ANTI-BELARUSIAN DEMONSTRATION IN POLAND.
The Belarusian Embassy in Warsaw on 6 May protested to Poland's Foreign Ministry over a demonstration on May Day outside the Belarus consulate in the Polish northeastern town of Bialystok, Polish press reported. Some 50 people protested the crackdown on journalists in Belarus, and one demonstrator burned a portrait of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Among the protesters were representatives of Poland's leftist Labor Union party as well as members of the country's Belarusian minority. Minsk expressed "astonishment" that the Polish authorities refrained from taking action against the demonstrators. Meanwhile, Warsaw and President Aleksander Kwasniewski have declined to comment on the incident. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

UPDATE ON OLEKSY ESPIONAGE CASE.
Poland's chief military prosecutor on 6 May instructed several state prosecutors to review the results of the investigation into espionage allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Last month, Col. Slawomir Gorzkiewicz, who headed the investigation, confirmed it had been closed after no evidence could be found that Oleksy passed on information to the intelligence services of a foreign country. Gazeta Wyborcza on 7 May quoted Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki as saying that this is a routine check. Oleksy rejected all accusations but resigned as premier when the investigation was launched. He said the accusations, which came in the wake of former President Lech Walesa's failure to be re-elected, were politically motivated. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

POLISH CABINET CONSIDERS CHANGING ANTI-TERRORIST LAW.
Poland is considering tightening the country's anti-terrorist law following the bomb attack last month on a Shell gas station in Warsaw (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 May 1996). Polish government spokeswoman Aleksandra Jakubowska on 6 May said that an investigation has been launched and that the government is "concerned" about the incident. She added that if it were concluded that similar incidents could recur, "legal and organizational measures will certainly be taken," Rzeczpospolita reported on 7 May. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SIGNS TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Michal Kovac on 6 May signed the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, Slovak and international media reported. The treaty was signed by Prime Ministers Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn in March 1995 and ratified by the Hungarian parliament last June. The Slovak parliament ratified it in March this year, but it was submitted to Kovac only on 2 May amid continuing discussions between the two countries' Foreign Ministries over the interpretation of the treaty's provisions on protecting minority rights. The date and place for the final exchange of documents still have to be agreed, but Praca on 7 May quoted a Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the remaining steps before the treaty comes into force will proceed normally. -- Steve Kettle

HUNGARY'S SOCIAL SECURITY DEFICIT SET TO SOAR.
The Hungarian Finance Ministry estimates that the country's social security deficit will amount to 41.3 billion forints by year's end, Magyar Hirlap reported on 7 May. This amount is well above the 17.8 billion forints laid down by the IMF as a condition for releasing a $300 million standby credit. The ministry says, however, that the effects of such a large deficit will be mitigated by a budget deficit that is expected to be below the initial projection. It is now estimated that the deficit will be 3.9% of GDP in 1996. Following the departure of Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, who was a strong advocate of radical social welfare reform, the government has still not revealed a plan to reduce the social security deficit. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



FIRST BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL BEGINS.
The trial of the Bosnian Serb prison worker Dusan Tadic began at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 7 May, international and local media reported. This is the first war crimes trial since the ones at Nuremberg and Tokyo, and Tadic was the first indicted war criminal to be arrested and sent to The Hague. The International Herald Tribune the previous day quoted a senior Western diplomat as saying that "Tadic is nothing.... It is doubtful that this trial will make much of an impact." The man in the dock is accused of killing, raping, and torturing, but he held no major position in either the army, the civilian apparatus, or the concentration camp system. Many observers doubt that any major war criminals will ever be brought to justice. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERB SOCIALIST LEADER SAYS KARADZIC IS BEHIND BOMBINGS.
The political rifts among the Bosnian Serbs continue to deepen. Dragutin Ilic, leader of the Socialist Party, which is an ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, accused Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic of being responsible for a campaign of violence against the opposition. Karadzic allegedly is to blame for intimidation, bomb attacks, and sabotage in the run-up to the September elections, Reuters quoted Tanjug as saying on 6 May. Meanwhile, the power struggle between Karadzic and his loyalists in Pale, on the one hand, and the Banja Luka leadership, on the other, has intensified, AFP reported on 7 May. Banja Luka was known to the UN as "the heart of darkness" during the war because of the Serbs' ruthlessness in conducting "ethnic cleansing" and in destroying historical mosques. But the leadership there has since tried to portray itself as a moderate alternative to the men in Pale. Karadzic controls the police in Banja Luka and has used death threats and intimidation against local leaders. Finally, the Sarajevo bi-weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna reported that Karadzic held a secret meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Herzegovina last week. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIA CHARGES BOSNIANS WITH TERRORISM.
Croatian Public Prosecutor Drago Marcinel has formally charged five Bosnians with planning to kill former Bihac pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic, who now lives in Rijeka, Novi list reported on 6 May. A sixth man, a Croat, is accused of aiding "international terrorism." The prosecutor said that they were acting on orders from Bihac state security chief Ejub Ikic and were promised DM 100,000 for the murder. The Bosnian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations and suggested that the Croats and Abdic manufactured the incident as a publicity stunt to promote Abdic's political comeback. -- Patrick Moore

BELGRADE-ZAGREB HIGHWAY RE-OPENS.
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic has announced that the main highway between Belgrade and Zagreb will be re-opened for civilian traffic on 7 May, Nasa Borba reported. The highway was closed to private vehicles in 1991 when the war broke out. The re-opening marks the beginning of concrete efforts aimed at the peaceful reintegration of the Serb-held areas of eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and western Srijem into Croatia. The Adriatic pipeline is also expected to be re-opened soon. Meanwhile, the Croatian government on 6 May adopted a program of peaceful reintegration, Hina reported. It also approved a law granting an amnesty to rebel Serbs in Eastern Slavonia who committed criminal offenses other than war crimes. The law is scheduled to take effect by 15 July. U.S. Gen. Jacques Klein, the UN transitional administrator for eastern Slavonia, also attended the session and said later that the reintegration of occupied areas could be expected to be completed by mid-1997. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BELGRADE PROPOSES ELECTORAL REFORM.
The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia has proposed legislative amendments increasing the number of federal electoral districts to 27 in Serbia and 12 in Montenegro and stipulating that each party gain a minimum of 25% of the vote in a district to qualify for parliamentary representation, Tanjug reported. Under existing legislation, a party needs to win only 5% of the vote to hold a seat. Opposition parties allege that the amendments are designed to keep them out of office and will benefit the SPS and its allies. -- Stan Markotich

KOSOVAR LEADER ADVOCATES CONFEDERATION WITH RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Adem Demaci, head of the Kosovo Human Rights Council, has said that it is "imperative" for the Kosovar leadership to open talks with Serbia and Montenegro on forming a "confederal Balkan community" in the event that Kosovo gains independence. He pointed out that the recent outbreak of violence in the region shows the need for urgent talks, adding that "We have to do all we can to prevent an escalation [of the conflict]." Demaci also called on the international community to force Belgrade to the negotiating table. He rejected the idea of autonomy for Kosovo, AFP reported on 6 May. -- Fabian Schmidt

CROATIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ACCUSED OF WORKING FOR COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE.
Vjesnik, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community, has accused human rights activist Ivan Zvonimir Cicak of working for the former Yugoslav secret police after 1966. The Croatian Journalists Association, the Croatian PEN Center, and all non-government organizations and media have protested the accusation. Cicak was imprisoned by the former Yugoslav regime for alleged Croatian nationalist activities. The Vjesnik article is seen as part of an ongoing campaign against opposition figures in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE.
Opposition leaders have accused the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania of setting up bureaucratic hurdles to prevent opposition candidates from registering for the 2 June local elections, Romanian media reported. Ziua quoted a representative of the Liberal Party `93 as saying that some election officials have illegally demanded police clearance from candidates to discourage them from taking part in the elections. Harassment and intimidation of candidates have also been reported. In a separate development, the BBC rejected accusations by Chamber of Deputies Chairman Adrian Nastase that it is meddling in the Romanian election campaign by openly favoring the opposition. Nastase has asked the National Audio-Visual Council, the country's media watchdog, to investigate BBC reporting practices. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVA, RUSSIA RESUME TALKS ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL.
Talks between Moldova and Russia on the withdrawal of Russian troops in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region resumed in Chisinau on 6 May, Moldovan and international agencies reported. Defense and Foreign Ministry officials took part in the negotiations, which have been deadlocked since February 1995. Meanwhile, Yurii Karlov, the Russian presidential special envoy to the Chisinau-Tiraspol talks, told Moldovan President Mircea Snegur that Boris Yeltsin firmly intends to abide by the 1992 Moldovan-Russian agreement ending the military conflict in the region. He added that Yeltsin will consider signing an interim document stipulating the basic principles of a conflict settlement that provides for Moldova's territorial integrity. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR UNITY ON NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Zhelyu Zhelev--speaking at a military parade on 6 May, which is St. George's Day in Bulgaria--appealed to the public to support the idea of Bulgaria's joining NATO, Bulgarian media reported. He noted that NATO membership is "one issue that should not prove divisive" but, on the contrary, should "unite us." Zhelev also said that NATO membership "would increase our chances of solving national security problems." The government, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), seems to be in favor of closer ties to Moscow, which is against NATO expansion. -- Stan Markotich

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave











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