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Newsline - June 27, 1996


YELTSIN APPEALS TO ZYUGANOV VOTERS.
President Boris
Yeltsin on 27 June appealed to voters who backed his communist rival in the first round "not to vote against a new life, even if you are unaccustomed to it today," ITAR-TASS reported. The president warned against dividing the country between red and white and said that he was ready for dialogue and cooperation "with all whose main priority is the fate of Russia." He was very critical of the communist past, warning pro-Gennadii Zyuganov voters that they might remember cheap bread, but have probably forgotten rationing coupons and shortages. The unusual appeal reflects Yeltsin's two-pronged campaign tactics: denouncing the communist past, while incorporating many of the communists' points into his own program. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS ACCUSE YELTSIN OF ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN PRACTICES . . .
Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov asserted in a letter to the parliament, the Central Electoral Commission, and the media that President Boris Yeltsin was buying votes with money that should be used to pay wage and pension arrears and that he had pressured local leaders into working for his campaign. The letter was published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 27 June. Zyuganov claimed that regional leaders had been told they would be fired if Yeltsin lost in their territory. He also said that Yeltsin was using "tens of trillions of rubles" from the state budget for campaign purposes. Zyuganov argued that such practices would call into question the results of the voting and urged immediate measures that would insure equal conditions for the candidates. -- Robert Orttung

. . . AND BLAST MASS MEDIA.
Zyuganov charged that radio and television broadcasters are "stirring up social tensions and civil conflict," NTV reported. He laid primary responsibility on the Chairman of Russian Television Eduard Sagalaev, General Director of Russian Public TV Sergei Blagovolin, and the president of NTV Igor Malashenko. Zyuganov claimed that if the media continues its current policies, there will be a civil war. -- Robert Orttung

ILYUKHIN CLAIMS WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION.
Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin charged that the law enforcement agencies have considerable evidence that high government officials are engaged in corruption, bribe-taking, and squandering money allocated by the Central Electoral Commission, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 27 June. However, when former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov and former head of the presidential security service Aleksandr Korzhakov tried to stop Yeltsin's aides from taking $500,000 from the White House, they were fired, calling into question Yeltsin's commitment to fighting crime, Ilyukhin charged. He explained the recent firings in the Kremlin as the result of the ongoing battle between three groups: the former heads of the power ministries, representatives of the energy complex, and representatives from financial circles, Russian Public TV reported. Ilyukhin has had a long career in the procuracy. -- Robert Orttung

PRAVDA: ALTAI VOTERS UPSET AT YELTSIN-LEBED ALLIANCE.
The pro-communist newspaper Pravda reported on 26 June that Lebed supporters in Altai Krai are "indignant" about the retired general's recent alliance with Yeltsin. The paper quoted Aleksei Shevdov, Lebed's agent in the krai, as saying that Yeltsin is unacceptable to the majority of Lebed's electorate and that most will vote for Zyuganov in the run-off. He proposed that Yeltsin withdraw his candidacy in the second round in favor of Lebed, arguing that the general would retain the votes of those who opted for him in the first round and gain part of Zyuganov's electorate and all of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's voters. According to preliminary figures released by the Central Electoral Commission on 17 June, Zyuganov won 42% of the vote in Altai Krai, Yeltsin 22%, and Lebed 19%. -- Penny Morvant

CONTROVERSY OVER RESULTS IN TATARSTAN CONTINUES.
Zyuganov's supporters intend to contest the results of the first round voting in Tatarstan in the Supreme Court, Ekho Moskvy reported on 26 June. Communist deputy Aleksandr Salii contended that vote-rigging in the Tatar capital Kazan added 60,000 votes to Yeltsin's total. Salii earlier noted a large discrepancy between the results of the voting in the capital and rural areas of the republic (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 June 1996). Vitalii Khavkin, a lawyer for the Central Electoral Commission, refuted the charges, accusing the communists of bias. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN MEETS REGIONAL LEADERS.
Yeltsin met with regional leaders from the Federation Council on 26 June after that body rejected the Duma land code for its anti-market character, NTV reported. Yeltsin stressed that the regional leaders must work to ensure a high turnout for the 3 July voting, according to Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel. Yeltsin said that there would be further personnel changes in his government but that they would not be announced until after the elections. Yeltsin also announced that former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin would lead his new Political Consultative Council. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov added some teeth to Yeltsin's remarks, announcing that turnout would be a measure of the authority of Russia's regional leaders, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

LEGAL STATUS OF SECURITY COUNCIL UNCLEAR.
The legal status of the Security Council remains ill-defined, and it is not clear that Aleksandr Lebed had the authority to carry out some of his actions, ITAR-TASS suggested in a commentary on 26 June. Under Article 83 of the Russian Constitution the role of the council should be defined by a federal law, but no such law has yet been adopted. In the interim the council functions on the basis of presidential decrees, which state that it has a consultative role. The day of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's removal, Lebed issued a number of instructions to military commanders, telling them to stay at their posts and not send telegrams of condolence. -- Peter Rutland

ECONOMIC SECURITY A TOP PRIORITY FOR LEBED.
A document prepared by the Security Council, "A new approach to national security issues," was leaked to the press: extracts were published in Kommersant Daily on 26 June. Initial press reports attributed the report to Aleksander Lebed, but the latter told ITAR-TASS on 27 June that most of the document had been prepared before his appointment as Secretary of the Security Council. The report proposes extending the Council's remit to include economic issues, such as privatization auctions and the dumping of minerals abroad at low prices. It calls for strict control over export earnings, and is concerned at the size of Russia's foreign debts. It proposes a tax amnesty for Russian capital that has moved abroad. It calls upon the intelligence services to play an active role in monitoring foreign banks and firms, and says that it will stop the selling of weapons to "potential adversaries." -- Peter Rutland

MIKHAILOV, STEPASHIN IN GROZNY.
Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and the secretary of the Russian State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, Sergei Stepashin, flew to Grozny on 26 June and traveled with pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev to Vedeno raion (which is controlled by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev) to discuss with village elders the holding of further peace talks, NTV reported. According to ORT, Mikhailov told journalists he plans to clarify why the peace agreements signed in Moscow on 27 May and in Nazran on 10 June are being violated by both the Russian and Chechen sides, and to investigate "contradictions" between the members of the two working groups set up to implement the peace agreements and between the Russian federal troops and the OSCE mission in Grozny, which the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, has accused of bias towards the Chechen separatists. -- Liz Fuller

VICTORY FOR CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS.
The Moscow Oblast court on 25 June upheld a not guilty verdict in the case of a pacifist who refused to perform military service on the grounds that he had a constitutional right to opt for alternative service, Ekho Moskvy and Ekspress-khronikha reported. Vadim Gesse spent 40 days in jail after his request for alternative service was turned down, and he was arrested for failing to report for the draft. The Noginsk city court ruled in his favor in May, but the decision was appealed by the prosecutor. The case may now go to the Constitutional Court. The right to alternative service is enshrined in the Constitution, but it is strongly opposed by the military and there are no procedures for refusing conscription. -- Penny Morvant

MORE SBERBANK SAVERS TO BE COMPENSATED THIS YEAR.
Pensioners born between 1917 and 1921 whose deposits in the state savings bank (Sberbank) were devalued as a result of economic reform will receive compensation this year, presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits told ITAR-TASS on 26 June. Compensation for pensioners born in 1916 or earlier began to be paid on 10 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 June 1996). Livshits did not say how much the pensioners will receive; those eligible for payments in the first wave received up to 1 million rubles. Livshits said that about 40% of account holders in bankrupt private financial companies were pensioners. He added that a presidential decree is being prepared on compensation for those who lost their money in pyramid schemes. -- Penny Morvant

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAND CODE.
The parliament's upper house on 26 June rejected a communist-backed draft land code that restricts land ownership and the sale of land, Russian and Western agencies reported. The draft code was approved by the Duma on 22 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 May 1996), which Yeltsin said he would veto. Yeltsin issued a decree in March allowing the partial sale of farmland, but the communists and Agrarians have opposed all such moves, arguing that they would deprive the agricultural sector of the best land. The code will now go to a conciliation commission. -- Penny Morvant

EMPLOYMENT MINISTER READY TO STEP DOWN.
Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan said on 26 June that changes are needed in the government team handling social issues and that he is ready to step down if need be, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin has said that more changes in the government are in the offing but will not be announced until after the second round of the election. Melikyan reported that 6.5 million people are now unemployed in Russia (8.9%), about 2.7 million of whom are registered with the Federal Employment Service. On the subject of wage arrears, Melikyan said the total debt is now 29.8 trillion rubles ($5.8 billion). The state debt is 5 trillion, 4.6 trillion of which is owed from regional budgets. -- Penny Morvant



VERDICTS HANDED DOWN IN PARAVAKAR CASE.
An Armenian court on 24 June handed down verdicts of between 2 and 3 years' imprisonment on four men charged with an attack on presidential candidate Paruir Hairikyan in the village of Paravakar during the runup to the 1991 presidential elections, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 June. On that occasion, Hairikyan's car was damaged and he was threatened at gunpoint by men who demanded that he withdraw his candidacy, some of whom he identified as members of the personal staff of then parliament chairman Levon Ter-Petrossyan, the eventual presidential election winner. Hairikyan has been nominated by the Union for National Self-Determination to stand as a candidate in this September's presidential elections but is undecided whether to accept the nomination; he argued on 26 June that the results are predetermined, and that Ter-Petrossyan will be reelected. -- Liz Fuller

PROTESTS OVER ALMATY AIRPORT DEAL WITH LUFTHANSA.
The Kazakhstani government's decision of 28 May to transfer the administration of Almaty airport to Lufthansa has led to protests from airport workers and trade unions, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June. The Professional Union of Aviation Workers claim that Lufthansa incurred losses of $132 million so far this year and is unable to compete with other international airlines. Kazakhstani authorities say that the renovation of landing fields at the airport alone will cost $12 million; Lufthansa has offered to invest about $17-18 million in the next 5 years. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN REPORTS HUGE OFFSHORE OIL RESERVES.
As a result of seismic explorations of the Caspian Sea continental shelf conducted by the Caspian Sea Consortium, Kazakhstani authorities estimate crude oil reserves of 10 billion metric tons and 2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, Reuters reported on 26 June. If confirmed, these offshore oil reserves would be10 times bigger than those of its onshore Tengiz oilfield and exceed Russia's entire oil reserves of 6.7 billion tons, Reuters added, citing British Petroleum's (BP) Statistical Review. However, Caspian Sea Consortium members, such as British Gas, BP, Agip, Mobil, Shell and others say that as no drilling has taken place yet, the estimated oil deposits are unlikely to exceed 4 billion tons. -- Bhavna Dave

UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY.
President Islam Karimov paid his first visit to the Pentagon on 26 June, meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry. A Pentagon press release said that the two discussed security issues in Central Asia and "the strong cooperative relationship between the United States and the Republic of Uzbekistan." Karimov said Uzbekistan was eager to strengthen its involvement in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL reported. -- Doug Clarke



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DECREES REFERENDUM ON DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
In an apparent effort to end months of wrangling among lawmakers, Leonid Kuchma signed a decree on 25 June calling for a 25 September national referendum on a draft Ukrainian constitution, Reuters and NTV reported on 26 June. The president's chief of staff, Dmytro Tabachnyk, said Kuchma went ahead with the decision after winning the support of the country's National Security Council. He said delays in adopting the new constitution by the divided parliament posed a threat to national security and stability. The decree will put to a nationwide vote the draft approved in March by the Constitutional Commission, without any of the changes adopted by deputies over the past two months. That version gives the president stronger powers, provides for a bicameral legislature, and limits Crimean autonomy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

POLITICAL FIGURES REACT TO KUCHMA'S DECREE.
Parliamentary Speaker Oleksander Moroz called the decision to hold a referendum on the draft constitution socially divisive, while leftist forces vowed to campaign for a "no" vote. Although some national democrats, such as Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, hailed the move, others said it would split the country and deepen the economic crisis. They also claimed the choice of the unamended draft undermined Kuchma's supporters in parliament and would turn the poll into a vote of confidence in the president. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

KUCHMA ON SECURITY.
Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw (see below)
the Ukrainian president once again warned against creating a new border between East and West in Europe, international agencies reported on 26 June. Kuchma reiterated Ukraine's interest in integrating with Western political and economic structures and said that Kyiv is seeking associate membership in the EU and Western European Union, the EU's defense arm. He also touted his previous proposal to make Central Europe a nuclear-arms-free zone. -- Ustina Markus

DEFENSE FACTORY STRIKE IN BELARUS.
The largest strike in Belarus so far this year took place at a defense factory in Minsk, NTV reported on 26 June. Some 5,000 workers rallied, demanding wages that had not been paid since April. The factory formerly employed 12,000 workers and produced precision instruments for missiles and submarines. Now it works only four days a week, producing mixers and other appliances, and employs only 5,000. Unsold goods worth 30 billion Belarusian rubles ($1.9 million) lie about the premises. Workers say the only section of the plant that still functions normally is that producing medals, such as the medal of "Mother Heroine" (for women who have multiple children), or the "Medal for Valiant Labor." The spontaneous strike is the first since last August, when organizers of a transport-worker strike were arrested and picketers forcibly broken up by security forces. -- Ustina Markus

ALTERNATIVES TO LITHUANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES.
The founding congress of a new public organization, Lietuvos Samburis (Gathering of Lithuania), was held in Vilnius on 22 June, Radio Lithuania reported. The congress elected a 27-member council including independent Seimas deputies Kazimieras Antanavicius and Antanas Baskas. The main address at the congress was given by Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official whom polls indicate is among the leading presidential candidates in Lithuania. Seimas deputy Julius Veselka announced on 25 June that another new group, Rinkimai `96 (Elections `96), will hold its founding congress on 6 July. Both groups present themselves as alternatives to the leftist ruling party and the conservative opposition. While not planning to compete in party-list voting, both groups intend to run candidates for the 71 single-mandate seats in this fall's parliamentary
elections. -- Saulius Girnius

SOLIDARITY CONGRESS MEETS IN POZNAN.
Some 400 delegates started a three-day discussion of Solidarity's strategy and political alliances for the 1997 parliamentary elections at the trade union's eighth national congress in Poznan on 26 June. A recent Public Opinion Research Center poll showed Solidarity with 14% of voters' support, while the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance has 18%, former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski's new party Movement for Poland's Reconstruction (ROP) has 16%, the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party 14%, the Freedom Union 11%, and the Labor Union 4%. Former President Lech Walesa, also the former Solidarity chairman, is attending the congress, but no other politicians were invited. The ROP signed an agreement on 26 June on collaboration with Rural Solidarity and has asked the Solidarity trade union to join on. -- Jakub Karpinski

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN THE POLISH PARLIAMENT.
Quoting Polish interwar leader Jozef Pilsudski, Leonid Kuchma told the Polish parliament on 26 June that there is no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine, Polish dailies reported. Wrapping up a two-day visit in Warsaw, Kuchma did not rule out expansion of NATO to former East Bloc countries but said the security of all countries had to be considered. Kuchma asked Warsaw for its support in admitting Ukraine into the Central European Free Trade Agreement, and proposed Kyiv be admitted to the Weimar Triangle, a special understanding between Poland, Germany, and France. His Polish hosts proposed granting Ukraine $25 million in credits to stimulate its economy. On 25 June, Kuchma and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski signed a joint declaration on forming a "strategic partnership" and signed accords on visa-free traffic and the return of cultural treasures "lost and illegally moved during World War II." -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH RULING COALITION AGREED ON.
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Vaclav Klaus, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) of Jan Kalvoda, and the Christian Democratic Union (KDU) of Josef Lux on 26 June reached an agreement on the division of posts in a new minority government and the text of their coalition agreement, Czech media reported. The future government, led by Klaus, will have 16 members; the ODS will hold 8 portfolios, including the finance, foreign affairs, and internal affairs ministries. The KDU will get, among others, defense and regional development ministries, while the ODA will be responsible for justice, trade and industry. The coalition agreement is to be officially signed on 27 June. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK POLICE CONFISCATE PASSPORT OF PRESIDENT'S SON.
Border police seized Michal Kovac Jr.'s passport as he attempted to travel to Munich via Austria on 26 June, Slovak media reported. Kovac Jr. intended to testify in Germany concerning the $2.3 million fraud case involving the Slovak trade firm Technopol. His passport was confiscated on the orders of an investigator at the Bratislava City Office of Investigation. Although fraud charges were brought against Kovac Jr. in Slovakia in December, Sme reported on 20 June that his passport was not blocked until 6 June, after he announced his intention to travel to Germany. Kovac Jr.'s lawyer, Jan Havlat, had the German arrest warrant suspended until 20 July so that his client can go to Germany; however, it now seems unlikely that Kovac Jr. will be able to travel by that date. Kovac Jr. said the police action shows that the authorities do not want the case resolved. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY'S INTEGRATION COMMITTEE ANGRY OVER EU QUESTIONNAIRE SECRECY.
Members of the Hungarian parliament's European Integration Committee are complaining about secrecy surrounding the government's responses to the EU's questionnaire on potential membership, Hungarian dailies reported on 27 June. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Ferenc Somogyi--who has been coordinating the work in the respective ministries--said on 26 June that parliamentary deputies will only be able to see the finalized version of the EU questionnaire responses and that Integration Committee members would be given only a verbal briefing by the prime minister. The forms are due to Brussels by 26 July. The various bodies involved in coordinating Hungary's EU integration have been battling over turf for the past year. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

SOROS: HUNGARIAN INTERNET CENTER PROMOTES OPEN SOCIETY.
A new Internet and computer-arts center set up by his foundation in Hungary will promote the free flow of ideas and information in post-communist Eastern Europe, Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros said on 26 June. The center will "facilitate a horizontal, non-hierarchical network of communication which fits in with our concept of an open society," Soros told Reuters at the opening of the Center for Culture & Communications. The equipment, including advanced computer-imaging equipment and 14 Internet terminals, is valued at $1.5 million. Soros is a leading advocate of communications technology as a means of promoting democracy. In May he announced a five-year, $100 million program to install Internet connections at universities across Russia. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



U.S. SAYS ISLAMIC FIGHTERS ARE GONE FROM BOSNIA.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has ended its "military and intelligence relationship" with Iran and there are no "organized" foreign fighters left on government-controlled territory, the White House announced on 26 June. This opens the way for a $70 million American program to train and equip the mainly Muslim and Croatian armed forces. The statement was issued in Lyon, France, in conjunction with the G-7 conference there, news agencies reported. National Security Council spokesman Brian Cullin said some former Iranian fighters remain "in civilian roles, but we see no evidence of any remaining organized mujahedin units, nor do we believe that any of the individuals remaining are engaged in military or intelligence activity." Lingering Iranians were a point of contention between Washington and Sarajevo, which had agreed that all foreign fighters were to leave Bosnia by January. -- Patrick Moore

BOUTROS GHALI BLASTS SEPARATISM IN BOSNIA.
The UN has issued a report under the name of its secretary general charging the Bosnian Serbs with consolidating and continuing ethnic cleansing, Reuters and AFP reported on 26 June. The study cites the resettling of Serbs from Sarajevo suburbs in the Brcko area of northern Bosnia, the fate of which is to be determined by international arbitration later this year. Boutros Boutros Ghali concluded that "it appears that the Republika Srpska remains active in its efforts aimed at separation, as publicly declared by its present leadership and reflected by events on the ground." The report added that UN efforts to improve police work throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina will be meaningless if local police continue "to discriminate against, harass, and intimidate citizens who are not of their own ethnicity." He also condemned Croatia for the killing of Krajina Serbs and the pillaging of their property. -- Patrick Moore

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL TO HEAR CASE AGAINST KARADZIC, MLADIC.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was to begin hearing testimony against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic on 27 June, AFP reported. The hearing is not a trial in absentia, and is based on the tribunal's Rule 61, drawn up specifically to deal with cases in which the accused is hiding behind a state's refusal to hand him over. Two lists of charges have been drawn up for each of the two accused. The first concerns the war in Bosnia in general, and the other concerns the "direct responsibility" of Karadzic and Mladic in the killings that followed the fall of Srebrenica. At the end of the hearings, the tribunal is expected to issue an international arrest warrant for the two accused. -- Daria Sito Sucic

KARADZIC MAKES HIS STEPPING DOWN CONDITIONAL ON RS STATUS.
Unconfirmed sources from the Republika Srpska (RS) say that Radovan Karadzic has already signed his resignation from the post of RS president, but made it conditional on the RS having a "minimum status as a state" enjoying full sovereignty within Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nasa Borba reported on 27 June. However, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic said on 26 June that Karadzic will not run in September elections, but will stay on as president until elections are held, AFP reported. After the vote, Karadzic will remain only as "president of the Serbian Democratic Party," Nasa Borba quoted Klickovic as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT ON BOSNIAN SERB AFFAIRS.
Momir Bulatovic went on record saying that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic "may not officially and legally enter Montenegro," Nasa Borba reported. When told at a 26 June press conference that "some months ago Karadzic was not apprehended during `a walkabout of Montenegro,'" Bulatovic said he had no "official information" about Karadzic's "sojourns in these parts." Bulatovic described Karadzic as "a very well-protected man ... his house is guarded by some 500 heavily armed men." He added that he did not believe the Republika Srpska would collapse if Mladic and Karadzic were to give up politics and, according to 26 June Montena-fax reports, felt "that not even the international community insists on [Karadzic] being sent to The Hague, but only on his removal from political life." -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIA BECOMES ASSOCIATE WEU MEMBER.
Slovenia has become the tenth country to gain associate partner status in the Western European Union (WEU), the defense structure of the European Union, local Slovenian media reported on 25 June. Full WEU membership is contingent on EU membership. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek signed an agreement on Slovenia's EU associate member status on 10 June. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION PROPOSES NEW MEDIA HEAD.
The parliamentary commission in charge of nominations and appointments to state posts proposed on 26 June that Macedonian Radio and Television (MRT) Director General Melpomeni Korneti be dismissed and Slobodan Trajkovski be appointed in her place, Nova Makedonija reported. The ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) officially blamed Korneti for failing to present a report on MRT's 1995 activities, but the real reason appears to be her affiliation with the Liberal Party (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 June 1996). The SDSM's Nako Stojanovski asked whether in any other state the member of a party that had left the government and joined the opposition would stay on. Liberal deputies defended Korneti, who they argued built up a functioning state media despite the lack of a legal framework. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT AGAINST JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CONGRESS.
An international congress of Jehovah's Witnesses scheduled to take place in Bucharest on 19-21 July has aroused a storm of protests in Romania, Radio Bucharest and Western media reported on 25 and 26 June. The government's General Secretariat declared on 25 June that it considers "thoroughly inopportune the attempt to improvise such a meeting in Bucharest in July or at any time in the future." The announcement came in response to a strongly worded communique issued by Patriarch Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church on 21 June. Teoctist expressed concern over the planned meeting and accused the sect of "irresponsibly contributing to growing violence and hatred in the world." Romanian students announced that they would stage a demonstration in downtown Bucharest on 31 June to protest what they described as the "satanic congress." -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT SETS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS DAY.
The parliament formally selected 17 November as the date for this year's presidential elections, Infotag reported on 26 June. The election campaign will officially start on 17 August, three months before the vote. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, a run-off between the two best-placed rivals will be staged on 1 December. Meanwhile, Nicolae Andronic, deputy chairman of the Party for Revival and Conciliation in Moldova (PRCM), announced that the party's council had nominated the incumbent President and PRCM Chairman Mircea Snegur as its candidate in the elections. A formal announcement will be made at the PRCM's second national congress on 13 July. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIA WANTS CLARIFICATION FROM GREECE ON POMAKS.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on 26 June said it had asked the Greek government to clarify its position on the status of the 35,000 Bulgarian-speaking Muslims of Western Thrace, Reuters reported. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski called in Greek Ambassador Anastasios Sideris and demanded an "unequivocal statement" on the matter. Bulgaria regards the Muslim Pomaks, who live on both sides of the common border, as ethnic Bulgarians. Greek media in recent months suggested Athens would like to treat the Pomaks as a separate community, apart from the region's ethnic Turks. Some Greek politicians suggested that this would not include tuition in Bulgarian, but textbooks, dictionaries, and grammars of the "Pomak language." They made it clear that this move is aimed against Turkey, which wants to exert influence over Greece's Muslim minorities. -- Stefan Krause

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS FOR ALBANIAN ROUND TABLE.
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on 26 June called for roundtable talks between all Albanian political groups, Reuters reported. The assembly issued a resolution assigning responsibility for election irregularities on 26 May to both the opposition and the government. The resolution did not explicitly demand new elections but said the credibility of democratic procedures in Albania has been shaken and a new ballot should be planned after new legislation is enacted. The resolution said "free and fair elections ... are an essential condition for Council of Europe membership," implying that failure to comply may lead to suspension. The assembly added that it would send its own delegation to Tirana to investigate fraud allegations. Meanwhile, the opposition has called for a protest rally in Tirana on 28 June, Gazeta Shqiptare reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Tom Warner







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