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Newsline - May 21, 1996


DISUNITY WITHIN ZYUGANOV'S COALITION . . .
Representatives of Gennadii Zyuganov's coalition met on 20 May to discuss campaign strategy and sign a document backing Zyuganov for president, Russian and Western media reported. Viktor Tyulkin's extreme Russian Communist Workers' Party, which had refused to endorse Zyuganov, joined the coalition, according to NTV; meanwhile, Russian Public Union leader Sergei Baburin, who pledged to back Zyuganov in April, refused to sign the document. Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, who like Tyulkin advocates more traditional communist policies, asked Zyuganov to be "more bold" and call for nationalizing all banks. Komsomolskaya pravda alleged on 21 May that a split within the KPRF ranks is widening, with Zyuganov among those supporting more compromises with the current authorities, while others favor a more radical stance. -- Laura Belin

. . . AS SELEZNEV SWITCHES JOBS.
At a closed meeting of the KPRF Central Committee on 18 May, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev was removed from the post of Central Committee secretary at his own request, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. He also quit as editor of the KPRF weekly paper Pravda Rossii. Seleznev denied rumors that colleagues were dissatisfied with his work, explaining that as speaker of the Duma he did not have the time to perform the full-time job of party secretary. Party spokesmen described the move as a promotion, since Seleznev was elected to the KPRF presidium. -- Laura Belin

FEDOROV'S EYE CLINIC FORCED TO SHUT DOWN.
The main branch of the famous eye surgery clinic operated by presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov was forced to close on 20 May due to financial problems, NTV and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Since 15 February, the clinic has received no money from the Moscow City Mandatory Insurance Fund, which used to finance many of the hundreds of surgical operations performed there each day at no cost to the patients. According to Komsomolskaya pravda on 18 May, the clinic's 11 affiliates throughout Russia are not affected and continue to be partly financed by local authorities. Fedorov has complained that the money was shut off because he is running against President Yeltsin. In his campaign speeches, Fedorov frequently describes his clinic as a model of how the Russian economy can be rebuilt on the model of "private workers' collectives." -- Laura Belin

LEBED ISSUES ELECTION PLATFORM.
Campaigning in the Urals industrial city of Chelyabinsk, Aleksandr Lebed issued his election platform, containing eight "strategic tasks" for Russia, Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Among Lebed's stated priorities are: preserving the country's unity, filling the treasury, ending the war in Chechnya, taking steps to prevent environmental disasters, reorganizing and cutting the state bureaucracy, and preparing a referendum on private land ownership. He expressed optimism about his prospects, saying he hopes to win the support of the 60% of Russians who are against both "reds" and "whites." Also on 20 May, Svyatoslav Fedorov blamed Lebed's ambition for the fact that the "third force" alliance never took hold, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin

TIKHOMIROV CONFIDENT OF WIPING OUT CHECHEN RESISTANCE.
The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, told journalists on 20 May that Chechen resistance would be eliminated by early to mid-June, i.e. prior to the Russian presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, diversions against both military and civilian targets continue in Grozny and elsewhere. A power line in Grozny was blown up on 20 May, Russian media reported. More evidence is emerging of the scale of embezzlement of federal funds intended for reconstruction in Chechnya. AFP, quoting Itogi, reported on 20 May that more than $2 billion is unaccounted for, and that food and humanitarian aid for Chechnya is still stockpiled in Moscow and other Russian cities. -- Liz Fuller

LUZHKOV DECLARED MAYOR OF THE YEAR.
On 20 May, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was announced as the winner in the national competition "Russian mayors 1995," ITAR TASS reported the next day. Of the 50 mayors competing for the honor, there was only one woman--Elenora Sheremeteva of Uglich. Luzhkov described the mayors as "the pivotal mechanism upon which the whole structure of our state rests." On 20 May, Luzhkov flew to Tajikistan, where he visited the troops of the 12th Moscow Border Guards detachment and gave them food and medicine worth 1.5 billion rubles ($500,000). -- Peter Rutland

SELEZNEV SLAMS CIS LEADERS.
Addressing a 20 May meeting of CIS journalists, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev (KPRF) accused the leaders of the other CIS states of meddling in Russia's internal affairs by openly supporting President Yeltsin's re-election campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev cited the public declarations of several CIS leaders following their 17 May summit (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). He also hinted at future retaliation, reminding his audience that all agreements with CIS states must be ratified by the Duma. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA SNUBS NORDIC DEFENSE MEETING.
Russia will snub a meeting of Nordic defense ministers, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May, suggesting the decision reflected Russian uneasiness about international concern over the safety of Russian nuclear submarines. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had originally agreed to attend the 20-21 May meeting in Norway and to jointly inspect decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines stored on the Kola Peninsula with his Norwegian counterpart, Jorgen Kosmo. Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Grachev would not attend the meeting, although Norway announced that one of his deputies would come instead. But ITAR-TASS reported that the Defense Ministry has now decided against any participation in the meeting, meaning that Kosmo's visit has also been canceled. -- Scott Parrish

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REAFFIRMS LAW ON RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP.
The Russian Constitutional Court issued a decision on 16 May that confirms a broadly inclusive citizenship policy, ITAR-TASS reported. The court ruled that all persons who were born in the Russian Federation; all former Soviet citizens who did not acquire citizenship in a CIS or other country; anyone deprived of Russian citizenship against their will; and all persons who once left Russia for other Soviet republics and then returned to Russia for permanent residence can claim Russian citizenship by birth. The ruling came about in the case of Aleksei Smirnov, who was born in Russia, moved to Lithuania, but did not acquire Lithuanian citizenship after the break-up of the USSR. When he returned to Russia, local courts denied him Russian citizenship. The court ordered that Smirnov be granted citizenship. -- Constantine Dmitriev

SAKHAROV MUSEUM OPENS.
The Museum of Peace, Progress, and Human Rights, dedicated to the memory of dissident nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, opened in Moscow on 20 May, Reuters reported. The museum, housed in a former police station, includes relics of the totalitarian past, but also video footage of the Chechen war. The papers of Sakharov, who died in 1989, are housed in an archive at Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts. The only leading politician to attend the museum opening was Grigorii Yavlinskii. On 21 May, which would have been Sakharov's 75th birthday, President Yeltsin laid flowers at his grave. On 19 May, Yeltsin issued a decree listing the new members of his presidential commission on human rights. A number of liberal members of the commission, including its chairman Sergei Kovalev, stepped down in the wake of Yeltsin's use of force to crush the Pervomaiskoe hostage-taking (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January 1996). -- Peter Rutland

AIDS REMEMBRANCE.
International AIDS Day was marked in Moscow on 17 May with a memorial exhibition of quilts in front of the Central Artists' Hall prepared by the friends and families of the deceased and organized by the group "Names" (Imena), ITAR-TASS reported. Russia currently reports 1,157 persons infected with HIV and 205 suffering from AIDS, with 177 deaths, Izvestiya noted on 18 May. These low official figures undoubtedly understate the real extent of the disease; there is concern that it may be spreading among drug addicts. -- Peter Rutland

BUDGET PLANS. . .
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov told the government's operational commission for improving payments that the tax burden on the energy sector is "exceptionally heavy," ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Firms in the sector are expected to pay 74 trillion rubles ($15 billion) in taxes in 1996, amounting to 27% of total federal budget revenue. However, fuel and energy enterprises are already 19 trillion in arrears on their tax payments. Aleksandr Kazakov, head of the State Privatization Committee, told ITAR TASS on 20 May that revenue from the privatization of 703 firms in the first quarter of 1996 amounted to a mere 500 billion rubles. The same day, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov denied earlier reports that the government will be taking loans from commercial banks to finance the Defense Ministry.
-- Peter Rutland

. . .AMID ONGOING BATTLE TO PAY WAGE ARREARS.
Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov told the government's operational commission for improving payments that 30.7 trillion rubles ($6.1 billion) has been dispensed since the beginning of the year to eradicate wage arrears in budget organizations, ITAR TASS reported on 20 May. However, the commission deemed the implementation of the program unsatisfactory because of widespread misuse of the funds by managers and local government officials. The head of the Federal Labor Inspectorate, Vladimir Varov, said that 23,000 cases of the misallocation of funds, involving 2 trillion rubles, has been discovered, ORT reported. A total of 400 cases have been forwarded to the procuracy for criminal prosecution. -- Peter Rutland

NEW WORLD BANK LOANS IN THE PIPELINE.
Russia and the World Bank are preparing to negotiate a $500 million loan to restructure the coal industry, AFP reported on 17 May. The loan will be used to finance the closure of loss-making pits and provide new investment for viable mine operations. Russia is also seeking a $25 million credit for the reconstruction of the historical part of St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. -- Natalia Gurushina



ARMENIA ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OVER PRISONER RELEASE.
Many of the 34 supposed Armenian prisoners of war released by Azerbaijan and brought to Armenia on 9 May by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov were in fact Azerbaijanis who had been convicted of criminal offenses in their home country, according to ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan. Noyan Tapan also reported on 20 May that three of the Azerbaijani prisoners of war released by the Karabakh Armenian leadership (one Afghan and two Russian mercenaries) declined to be repatriated to Azerbaijan for fear of reprisals from the authorities. -- Liz Fuller

TURKISH DIPLOMAT WARNS GEORGIA ON RUSSIAN BASE.
The Turkish Ambassador to Georgia Tofik Okiauz told the Georgian newspaper Rezonansi that Turkey would respond in kind if Tbilisi allows Russia to establish a military base near the Turkish border, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. A 1994 basing agreement gave Russia the right to base troops at Akhalkalaki, some 20 km from the Turkish border, where a Soviet motorized-rifle division was once based. Okiauz said that in such an event "Turkey will build a military base on its territory, in direct proximity to the Georgian border." Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili said that countries in the region should "strive to switch over from confrontation...to international cooperation." He noted that the Russian-Georgian basing agreement would not come into force until Georgia's territorial integrity is restored." -- Doug Clarke

MARKET COMPETITION DECREED IN UZBEKISTAN.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 15 May established a Demonopolization and Competition Committee in the Finance Ministry, which will have the authority to penalize companies that break Uzbekistan's antimonopoly legislation, the BBC reported on 21 May. The committee will also take on the role of "consumer advocate" for both citizens and foreign companies. This development is part of a recent effort by the Uzbek government to encourage foreign investment. -- Roger Kangas

VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN.
Violence continued in northeastern Tajikistan despite the recent signing of another three-month extension to the ceasefire agreement. Reuters reported that battles raged around the city of Tajikabad on 17-18 May and ITAR-TASS reported that two Tajik police officers were killed and four captured in a raid on an Interior Ministry department on 19 May in Jirgatal. Both cities lie on the road leading eastward from Dushanbe toward Kyrgyzstan. One police officer was killed and another wounded in an 18 May attack on a police check point in the Dushanbe suburbs. On 19 May, police opened fire on a vehicle containing an Iranian embassy employee in Dushanbe, injuring him and his five-year-old son. The Iranian embassy is demanding the arrest of the officers. -- Bruce Pannier



DRAFT CONSTITUTION SUBMITTED TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT.
A conciliatory commission of the Ukrainian legislature on 20 May handed over a draft constitution to Leonid Kuchma, international media reported. The draft provides, among other things, for coordinating the selection of the prime minister with the legislature and granting the president the power to pass decrees that have legal force. Less clear from the draft is whether Ukraine would have a unicameral or bicameral parliament. Ukrainian speaker Oleksander Moroz has voiced his concern over the document, suggesting that one proposed by the Communists is "more democratic," ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma has noted that he has made compromises on several issues--including keeping the provisions for a unicameral legislature on a temporary basis--in the hope that others would do the same, UNIAN reported, as cited by the BBC on 18 May. -- Roger Kangas

UKRAINE PREPARES TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.
Ukrainian President Kuchma has created a commission for phasing out the death penalty, international media reported on 20 May. The commission, chaired by Justice Minister Serhii Holovaty, will draw up a draft document in compliance with Council of Europe guidelines. The Ukrainian legislature, which has expressed support for the death penalty, must still approve the ban. The issue has become controversial in Ukraine following public concern over the recent actions of a serial killer. There have been no executions in more than six months. -- Roger Kangas

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ON RUSSIAN ELECTIONS, ANTI-TREATY RALLY IN MINSK.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in an interview with Russian TV on 19 May, said that although he was "on the closest possible terms with the Russian president," he has never publicly announced that he favors Boris Yeltsin in the upcoming elections, He regretted that the Russian media have paid so much attention to the anti-treaty rally in Minsk in late April, thereby giving the false impression that the Belarusian people are against the recently signed union treaty with Russia. He referred to the Ukrainian and Polish participants in the rally as "rebels arriving from another state in Belarus to impose their own rules there." -- Saulius Girnius

BALTIC PRESIDENTS REJECT JOINING CIS.
Presidents Algirdas Brazauskas (Lithuania), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Lennart Meri (Estonia) on 20 May issued separate statements rejecting Russian President Boris Yeltsin's recent suggestion that their countries join the CIS, BNS reported. Brazauskas expressed his willingness to meet with Yeltsin but noted that 1992 legislation explicitly prohibited the country from joining any post-Soviet bloc. Ulmanis said that joining the CIS would be against the interests of the Latvian people since the republic wants integration into European and trans-Atlantic economic and security organizations. Meri stressed that Estonia's place is in Europe as an independent country. -- Saulius Girnius

U.S., GERMANY TOP FOREIGN INVESTMENT PARTNERS IN ESTONIA.
Foreigners invested about 800 million kroons ($70 million) through the Estonian Foreign Investment Agency last year, ETA reported on 20 May. This figure represents one-quarter of the total foreign investments in 1995. The largest number of cooperation partners came from the U.S. (17% of all projects), Germany (16%), Great Britain (11%), and Denmark (9%). More than half of the investments (57%) were to projects in Tallinn and 19% in Harju County. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECT IN SHOOTING OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT.
The police on 20 May arrested Lesiek Rinkiewicz, 22, and charged him with the shooting five days earlier of Russian Embassy First Secretary Vladimir Pozdorovkin, BNS reported. The police had been informed that the embassy's Volvo-940, which was stolen during the shooting, was hidden in a garage in downtown Vilnius. They arrested Rinkiewicz when he entered the garage. He denied any involvement in the shooting, saying he had been asked only to keep an eye on the car. Pozdorovkin, who was shot in the left hip, is now able to walk with crutches and is expected to be discharged from the hospital next week. -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON OLEKSY AFFAIR.
Two Warsaw dailies last week published extracts from the document naming the alleged Russian double agent in Russian intelligence who sold classified information to Poland. His activities prompted accusations that former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy had spied for Moscow. According to Trybuna and Zycie Warszawy, the agent was former Russian Embassy First Secretary Grigory Yakimishin, who left Poland in October last year apparently to work in the Russian Foreign Ministry. But the ministry has said that Yakimishin "does not work here any more." The Warsaw Provincial Prosecutor last week launched an investigation into how classified information was leaked. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS.
State Secretary Marek Siwiec on 20 May said that, acting on behalf of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, he had responded to Belarusian National Front leader Zyanon Paznyak's appeal to intervene in the case of the imprisoned Belarusian opposition politicians. Siwiec assured Paznyak that Kwasniewski will do so. Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovych admitted the same day at a press conference in Warsaw that some difficulties have emerged in Polish-Belarusian relations following the detainment of Solidarity President Marian Krzaklewski in Minsk on 14 May and what Antonovych called his subsequent transport to the frontier. -- Jakub Karpinski

DECLINING POPULARITY OF CZECH RULING PARTY.
Two opinion polls released 10 days before parliamentary elections are due to take place in the Czech Republic indicate that the popularity of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has declined. Published in Mlada fronta Dnes on 21 May, the polls were conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IVVM) and the Center of Empirical Studies (STEM). Of the respondents in the IVVM poll, 22% said they would vote for the ODS and 17.7% for the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD). One month ago, IVVM reported that the ODS had 25.5% popular support and the CSSD 15.5%. In the STEM poll, 24% of the respondents supported the ODS, while 19% backed the CSSD (last month, these figures were 27% and 21%, respectively). According to both polls, four other parties would pass the 5% barrier necessary to gain seats in the parliament: the Christian and Democratic Union, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the extreme-right Republicans. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK POLICE INVESTIGATOR ADJOURNS KIDNAPPING CASE.
Jan Kostov, director of the police investigation department, on 20 May announced that owing to lack of evidence, chief investigator Jozef Ciz will postpone bringing charges in the kidnapping case of President Michal Kovac's son, Slovak media reported. Kostov noted that the case has been adjourned mainly because the principle witness, former Slovak Information Service agent Oskar F., is unreachable. He added that Oskar F.'s testimony last September was "insufficient." Kostov went on to say the results of the independent commission headed by opposition deputy Ladislav Pittner were "insignificant and unusable." The commission had accused the SIS of involvement in the kidnapping. According to TASR, Slovak law prevents Kovac Jr. from lodging a complaint against Ciz's decision. Also on 20 May, Kovac Jr. testified before the Constitutional Court requesting that it declare that "a Slovak citizen who was abducted abroad against his will has the right that the appropriate Slovak organs...ask for his return." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY CRITICIZES CZECH PRESIDENT.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovksy on 20 May criticized Vaclav Havel for making "inappropriate and tactless" comments on Czech radio, Praca reported. Havel, in his weekly radio address, said that European officials, in particular Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, have told him they are following political developments in Slovakia "very closely" and are becoming "increasingly concerned with some developments on the Slovak political scene." Matejovsky said Havel's comments showed his patronizing attitude toward Slovakia. He asked the Czech president to respect Slovakia's sovereignty. The Foreign Ministry "regrets that the head of a neighboring state, with his forceful comments, is not helping to develop good neighborly relations," Matejovsky stressed. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SUFFERS MAJOR DEFEAT OVER PROPOSAL FOR INVESTIGATIVE OFFICE.
Gyula Horn has abandoned his controversial plan to establish a central investigative office to curb white-collar crime, Hungarian dailies reported on 21 May. Following a meeting the previous day of the Coalition Consultative Council, whose task is to settle disputes between the coalition parties, Horn said that, given the Alliance of Free Democrats' (SZDSZ) rejection of the plan, he saw no possibility to receive a two-thirds majority in parliament, as the opposition was also against his proposal. The new office would have impinged on the competence of Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze (SZDSZ). Observers believe there was no danger of a coalition break-up over the dispute. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

RUSSIAN MANUFACTURERS TO BID IN HUNGARY'S JET FIGHTER TENDER?
Citing unidentified sources, Magyar Hirlap on 21 May reported that Russian airplane manufacturers will submit bids in Hungary's imminent tender for new fighters for the Hungarian Air Force (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 May 1996). The daily says the Russian firms will offer to sell MiG-29 fighter jets and possibly SU-27 superbombers. Although Hungarian air force experts have held preliminary negotiations with several foreign companies, no bids have yet been made to the Defense Ministry. While the ministry is expected to issue a call for tenders in September, it can conduct negotiations over prices only with the authorization of the cabinet or the parliament. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



KARADZIC REMAINS BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT?
Biljana Plavsic--vice president of the Republika Srpska, whom Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has named to take over all dealings with the international community--has stressed that Karadzic has not resigned, international and local media reported on 20 May. Plavsic says that Karadzic is still president of the Republika Srpska and that, according to the constitution, he has the right to delegate certain duties to his deputy. Meanwhile, the international community's Carl Bildt has announced that he will work together with both new Bosnian Serb Premier Gojko Klickovic and his predecessor, ousted Rajko Kasagic, Onasa reported on 20 May. Bildt explained his decision by saying Klickovic was appointed by the Bosnian Serb assembly. -- Daria Sito Sucic

REQUESTS FOR MOSTAR ELECTIONS TO BE POSTPONED.
Mostar Muslims on 20 May sent a letter to the city EU administrator Ricardo Peres Casado requesting that municipal elections be postponed, AFP reported. Former Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic the same day called for the ballot to be held in September, when general elections are scheduled. Meanwhile, Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia's ambassador to the UN and one of the signatories to that part of the Dayton peace accord on Mostar and the election regulations, said the signing was the result of a mutual misunderstanding between the Bosnians and the international community, Oslobodjenje reported on 21 May. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES HARASS INDEPENDENT RADIO.
The Banja Luka station Radio Big was taken off the air briefly on 20 May but was later allowed to resume broadcasting. The authorities said that the programming was cut because the station "had not paid its electricity bill." Editor Igor Crnadak called it "organized harassment." It is unclear how or why the station was allowed to resume broadcasting, AFP said. The privately owned station is easily the most popular one in the northern part of the Republika Srpska and the only one to give anything resembling impartial coverage of the ongoing power struggle between Bosnian Serb leaders. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIANS BEGIN TRAINING IN TURKEY.
Some 200 soldiers from the Bosnian-Croatian Federation armed forces officially began to train in Turkey on 20 May, Western and Turkish media reported. They are to receive tank warfare and artillery practice at two bases near Ankara. The Turkish Daily News cited Maj. Mirsad Gutic as saying the training would be largely technical and would focus on operating the M60 A3 tank. The U.S. has pledged to donate 45 such vehicles to Bosnia. Turkey is fulfilling a pledge made in January to provide training worth $2 million under a U.S.-sponsored program for the federation. Washington's European allies have expressed anger over the project to boost the Bosnian government forces. -- Lowell Bezanis

SERBIAN HEALTH-CARE WORKERS STRIKE.
An estimated two-thirds of Serbia's 140,000 or so health-care workers have gone on strike to demand a 50% wage increase and improved working conditions, Beta reported on 20 May. Minister of Health Leposava Milicevic has offered a 30% hike. According to official government statistics, health-care workers earn on average the equivalent of $130 a month. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER RESIGNS OVER DISMISSAL OF RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR.
Radoljub Draskovic, vice president of New Democracy, has resigned from both his post and the party over the firing last week of National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic, Beta reported on 18 May. Draskovic said he was concerned that the party had compromised its integrity by supporting Avramovic's ouster. New Democracy is a wing of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia and gives the SPS its de facto majority in the republican legislature. The alliance seems to have remained intact despite Draskovic's resignation. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIA RECEIVES LOAN FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT.
The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) has approved a virtually interest-free loan of around $7.9 million to Macedonia, RFE/RL reported on 20 May. The loan is intended to help fund pilot projects in agriculture, support privatization of veterinary and epidemiological services, and improve small farmers' access to commercial credits. According to the IDA, agriculture accounts for some 20% of Macedonia's economy, while some 70% of farmland remains divided into small private plots. The loan is repayable over 35 years, with a 10-year grace period. -- Stefan Krause

SOUTH KOREAN PRIME MINISTER IN ROMANIA.
Lee Soo-sung on 20 May began a three-day official visit to Romania, local media reported. Invited by Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, the South Korean premier is accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen from companies such as Hyundai, Samsung, and Kia Motors. Meanwhile, Council of Europe Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys was received in Bucharest on 20 May by Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. Among the topics discussed was Romania's possible participation in the implementation of the Dayton agreements. The same day, Anne-Marie Drague, Secretary of State at the French Ministry for Transportation and Tourism, and Romanian Minister of Transportation Aurel Novac met in the Romanian capital to sign a cooperation accord. The agreement provides for French participation in overhauling Romania's transportation infrastructure as well as the purchase of French-built Airbus planes, trains, and buses. -- Michael Shafir and Matyas Szabo

NEW SOCIALIST PARTY IN MOLDOVA.
The Socialist Action Party has been founded in Chisinau by some 100 delegates, BASA-Press reported on 18 May. Aurel Cepoi, a deputy of the Socialist Unity caucus and chairman of the new party, said that Moldova lacked a truly leftist formation. He commented that the two existing left-wing parties--the Socialist Party and the Communist Party--are trying to revive the Soviet regime and are "discrediting the young democracy" by attacking President Mircea Snegur. According to its charter and manifesto, the new party aims to apply market principles in order to restructure the country's economy. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN ROUNDUP.
Zhan Videnov on 20 May arrived in Beijing for a four-day official visit, Duma reported. Videnov's visit is mainly aimed at intensifying economic and trade relations. Meanwhile, Ahmed Dogan, chairman of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), has received a death threat, Standart reported. At a rally on 20 May, DPS parliamentary deputy Remzi Osman called on his party's followers to be prepared to take to the streets when the party tells them to. He said 100,000 people blocking roads would be enough to topple the government. In other news, Plovdiv Mayor Spas Garnevski of the Union of Democratic Forces refused to meet President Zhelyu Zhelev during the latter's visit there. Garnevski was quoted by Trud as saying he neither wishes to meet with the president nor has time to do so because he is busy preparing for "the [upcoming] visit of His Majesty the Tsar." -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIA, GREECE AGREE TO BOOST MILITARY COOPERATION.
Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali and his Greek counterpart, Gerasimos Arsenis, have pledged to boost cooperation in the spheres of arms production and training of troops. They also agreed to increase the number of joint maneuvers within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. Arsenis said Greece will support Albania's application for full membership in NATO. Zhulali, who is on a three day visit to Athens, called on Greece to use its influence over Serbia to persuade that country to start negotiations on the Kosovo crisis, the Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 20 May. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, at a meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly in Athens, called for Macedonia's rapid integration into the alliance, Nova Makedonija reported on 21 May. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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