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Newsline - July 3, 1996


YELTSIN AVOIDS JOURNALISTS AS HE CASTS HIS BALLOT...
President Boris Yeltsin voted near the Barvikha sanitorium where he is recuperating from his illness and avoided the throngs of journalists who were waiting for him at the polling place where he usually votes in Moscow, Reuters reported on 3 July. No journalists were present when Yeltsin voted, except an official photographer and a camera crew from ORT. The Kremlin released a one-minute film clip showing Yeltsin walking awkwardly, but speaking clearly as he exhorted all Russians to vote. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov reassured journalists that Yeltsin was fine, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov voted according to plan at his polling station in central Moscow, announcing that "the West should not be afraid of me" and that Yeltsin's health was "not good," Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung

...AFTER WEEKEND IN ISOLATION.
Yeltsin was isolated at the Barvikha sanitarium under medical supervision with only his family present over the weekend of 29-30 June, the Washington Post reported on 2 July. No presidential or campaign aides were present, suggesting that the president was seriously ill. Yeltsin cancelled a meeting with the presidents of Moldova and Ukraine scheduled for 1 July. The Russian media have generally ignored the issue of Yeltsin's health, fearing it will hurt his chances of reelection. On 2 July the Kremlin issued a press release officially denying rumors that Yeltsin was dead. -- Robert Orttung

VOTING BEGINS IN RUSSIA...
Polls opened early on 2 July in 2,200 of Russia's 93,500 polling stations, in regions where voting would be difficult to complete in one day. These included Chechnya and geographically isolated regions in the north. Regular voting will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on 3 July. Voting began in the region of Chukotka in the Far East at 8:00 am local time on 3 July, which was 1900 GMT on 2 July. By 10:00 GMT on 3 July, voting returns from the Far Eastern regions showed turnout by midday was some 5% to 6% below the level in the first round on 16 June. -- Peter Rutland

...AS VOTERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO TURN OUT.
The government and Central Election Commission (TsIK) stepped up their efforts to ensure a high turnout on 3 July. It is widely assumed that a good turnout (above 65%) will favor President Yeltsin. Advertisements encouraging voters to turn out continued to be shown on television. On 1 July the government announced that all train travel would be free on election day - to encourage people to travel back from their cottages. ORT ran the climax episodes of Brazilian soap opera on the morning of 3 July to encourage people to stay at home rather than go to the country. Other vote-boosting measures included a TsIK statement that voters would be allowed to use other forms of identification besides passports, such as military IDs, and that extra mobile voting boxes will be placed at stations and airports. AFP reported on 2 July that some Moscow residents were getting phone calls from TsIK workers asking if they intended to vote. -- Peter Rutland

COMMUNISTS ATTACK ORT OVER CANCELED AD.
The Communists vowed to take Russian Public TV to court after the station pulled a 10-minute ad featuring filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, AFP reported on 2 July (See OMRI Daily Digest, 1 July 1996). ORT had claimed that the Communists had not paid for the extra five minutes the ad would have run over the free time they were alloted. However, Communist campaign manager Valentin Kuptsov produced receipts for the money which he claimed had been blocked. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that he had protested the move to ORT and that an investigation was underway. The ad reportedly directed attention to Yeltsin's poor health, Reuters reported. At a 1 July news conference, Govorukhin said: "We are being asked to vote for a living corpse," and compared the situation with Stalin's death in 1953, which remained unannounced for three days, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 2 July. -- Robert Orttung

REGIONAL COMMUNIST ACTIVISTS VIOLATE CAMPAIGN RULES.
Communist Party (KPRF) local activists in several Russian regions have violated the electoral campaign rules, which prohibit any agitation on the day prior to elections, ITAR-TASS reported. It said a KPRF member appeared on local radio in Ust-Bachkare village in Tomsk Oblast on 2 July and called on local residents to vote for KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The same day in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, Zyuganov supporters put flyers in city residents' mail boxes which imitated a ballot with a tick next to Zyuganov's name. Khabarovsk Krai electoral commission member Vladimir Prokopenko, who was nominated by the KPRF, was fired from his duties for violating the electoral law by visiting a sick voter, who was unable to visit a polling station by himself, without the required mobile ballot box and an observer. -- Anna Paretskaya

LEBED SEEKS MORE POWERS, HITS OUT AT ENERGY BARONS...
Presenting his national security concept to journalists on 2 July, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said he needs additional powers to tackle Russia's immense security problems, Russian and Western agencies reported. He outlined a wide range of issues requiring attention, from the economy to the army to the environment, and promised to oversee the implementation of reforms. He was particularly critical of energy producers, accusing them of plundering the country's resources, and called for state regulation to ensure that they invest more of their profits in modernizing the oil industry. In what appeared to be a dig at Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who has close ties with the oil and gas industry, Lebed said the "energy barons" had acquired "overwhelming influence" in several regions, the government, and the president's entourage. -- Penny Morvant

...ADVOCATES TOUGH ANTICRIME MEASURES...
In his national security concept, Lebed also proposed a variety of measures for stepping up the fight against crime and corruption. According to NTV on 2 July, he said he intends to toughen the Criminal Code to introduce harsher penalties for members of organized crime gangs, bribe-takers and bribe-givers, and those who fail to observe contractual obligations, as well as set up special courts to deal with particularly grave crimes. The previous day, in an interview with Russian TV, Lebed spoke out more forcefully. Asked how he intended to combat crime, Lebed replied: "I will shoot them [criminals he cannot reason with], reasonably, with minimum wastage for the police...those who cannot be persuaded, I mean. In a civilized fashion." -- Penny Morvant

...AND REITERATES OPPOSITION TO FOREIGN SECTS.
Lebed apologized on 2 July for criticizing the Church of the Latter-Day Saints but reiterated his opposition to foreign sects in Russia. He said he did not want to offend anyone, but reiterated that sects such as the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo are alien to Russia and have no place there, Russian and Western agencies reported. He also qualified remarks he had made about Russia's main religions, which caused a stir because he had not included Judaism in his list. He said that the three he mentioned (Orthodoxy, Islam, and Buddhism) were just examples, adding "Judaism exists, just like Catholicism." -- Penny Morvant

BATURIN ON LEBED.
In an interview with Moskovskie novosti (no. 26), former presidential national security adviser Yurii Baturin spoke about his successor, Aleksandr Lebed. Asked to comment on Mikhail Gorbachev's allegations that Lebed was "bought" by Yeltsin's supporters before the election, Baturin rejected the idea that an agreement had been concluded beforehand. He said, however, that non-government structures close to the president's position did give Lebed both financial aid and guidance organizing his campaign. -- Penny Morvant

DEFENSE MINISTRY PURGE IN OFFING?
Rumors continue to circulate in Moscow over the anti-corruption purge which Aleksandr Lebed is thought to be planning for the defense ministry. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 2 July that many "enthusiasts" in the ministry, emboldened by Lebed's appointment, are collecting data on "by who, when, where, and how much was stolen." Attention is likely to focus on the acquisition of dachas and apartments. Novaya gazeta reported on 1 July that Yelena Agapova, the press-secretary of fired Minister Pavel Grachev, had acquired a dacha with a market value of $300,000, and an equally well-appointed apartment. -- Peter Rutland

CHECHEN PEACE TALKS IN JEOPARDY.
At a meeting of the Chechen defense council on the night of 1-2 July, military commanders resolved not to attend the meeting with the Russian federal delegation scheduled for 3 July to discuss implementation of the peace agreement signed in Nazran on 10 June, Russian media reported. Ekho Moskvy quoted Chechen Minister of Information Movladi Udugov as stating that further such meetings were pointless as the Russian side was "openly ignoring" the peace agreement. The OSCE mission in Grozny called on both sides in the peace talks to avoid actions or statements that could jeopardize the agreements already signed, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 2 July, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev flew to the town of Achkhoi-Martan to cast his vote in the second round of the Russian presidential election. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and the deputy head of the Russian state committee for a settlement of the Chechen conflict, Sergei Stepashin, traveled to Gudermes to assess the situation there. -- Liz Fuller

BAIL-OUT FOR BALTIC SHIPPERS.
President Yeltsin signed a decree on 2 July ordering a state bail-out of the troubled Baltic Shipping Line, ITAR-TASS reported. The shipping company, which is 29% state-owned, owes foreign suppliers some $150 million, as a result of which 21 of its 90 ships were detained in foreign ports as of 1 June. The company also owes 245 billion rubles ($48 million) to Russian creditors. -- Peter Rutland



Aliyev IN BONN.
Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, on the second day of a four-day official visit to Germany, met in Bonn with Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 2 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Kohl affirmed his country's support for democratic and market reforms in Azerbaijan and for the ongoing efforts of the OSCE's Minsk Group, of which Germany is a member, to mediate a political settlement of the Karabakh conflict. -- Liz Fuller

FEARS OVER "MAD COW" BEEF SALE IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstan's health officials are seeking to confiscate large quantities of Irish beef, believed to have been infected by the "mad cow" virus, which has been illegally brought into the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 July. Almaty's veterinary inspectorate reported that around 100 tons of infected beef has been smuggled into the country, possibly via Uzbekistan, since June. About 3.3 tons of infected beef has been confiscated and destroyed so far. -- Bhavna Dave

WORLD BANK LOAN TO BOOST KAZAKHSTAN'S OIL PRODUCTION.
The World Bank will offer a $109 million loan to Kazakhstan to aid the rehabilitation of the Uzen oil field, the country's second largest after Tengiz, AFP reported on 2 July. World Bank sources say that due to financial and operating problems, crude oil output in Kazakhstan has fallen to 17 million tons in 1995 from a peak of 25 million tons in 1991. The Bank predicts that by developing reserves oil production could be doubled by the turn of the century. -- Bhavna Dave

CHINESE PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN.
Jiang Zemin concluded a two-day official visit to Tashkent on 3 July, which included meetings with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, international sources reported. The two sides signed 21 intergovernmental agreements, ITAR-TASS reported, which address trade and economic relations, transport, and avoiding double taxation. Mutual trade dropped from $165 million in 1994 to $59 million in 1995 and $37 million for the first five months of 1996. According to Reuters, Jiang praised Uzbekistan's role in stabilizing Central Asia and expressed his appreciation for Karimov's supporting China's policies in Tibet and Xinjiang. Jiang will also meet with the Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan before returning to China on 6 July. -- Roger Kangas

INDIA MAY BUY TANKER AIRCRAFT BUILT IN UZBEKISTAN.
India is interested in buying several Ilyusin-78 airborne refueling tankers, an official of the Ilyushin design bureau told Reuters on 1 July. The Russian-designed aircraft, which is a modification of the Il-76 cargo plane, is built at the Valery Chkalov Aircraft Plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The plane was offered to the Indians by Tashkent Aviation, a joint venture of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan. They currently operate 17 Il-76 transports. -- Doug Clarke

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS IN TAJIKISTAN DETAIN OPPOSITION FIELD COMMANDER.
A group of 11 men were apprehended by Russian border guards near Khorog on 28 June, ITAR-TASS and Russian Independent Television (NTV) reported. The 11, who were in possession of weapons and drugs, included opposition field commander Khudoidod. According to the 2 July NTV broadcast, opposition members surrounded the border post and demanded the release of Khudoidod, threatening to resort to violence. The commander of the border guards in Tajikistan, Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, flew to the area to negotiate with the opposition. The Russians finally handed Khudoidod and six others over to Tajik authorities. -- Bruce Pannier



MAJOR TRAM ACCIDENT IN UKRAINE.
A crowded tram overturned in Dniprodzerzhynsk on 2 July killing 32 passengers and injuring 65, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. The tram was going down a hill when its brakes failed. An investigation is under way. Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma postponed celebrations marking the adoption of the constitution and declared 3 July a day of mourning for victims of the accident. -- Ustina Markus

NEW APPOINTMENTS, DISMISSALS IN UKRAINE.
President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree relieving Roman Shpek of his duties as deputy prime minister for economic issues and appointing him head of the Agency for Reconstruction and Development of Ukraine, Ukrainian Radio reported on 2 July. One day earlier, Vasyl Durdynets was dismissed from the post of head of the Coordinating Committee against Corruption and Organized Crime. He was replaced by Oleh Lytvaka, an assistant to the president on legal issues. Yurii Bochkarov was appointed energy minister and Anatolii Kuryzhka agriculture minister. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution stating that any deputies who do not give up posts in the government or commercial structures by 4 July will lose their parliamentary seats. Under the new constitution, deputies may neither hold a government post nor work in commercial enterprises while serving in the legislature. This affects some 70 legislators, about 30 of whom hold government offices, including Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINE, IRAQ DRAW UP BARTER DEAL.
A Ukrainian delegation headed by Chairman of the State Committee for Oil and Gas Yevhen Dovzhok was in Baghdad on 2 July to draw up a barter agreement with Iraq, AFP reported. Iraq signed an agreement with the UN on 20 May allowing it to exchange limited amounts of crude oil for emergency food and medical supplies despite the embargo against it. That deal has not yet been approved by the UN because it is believed Baghdad is trying to use the humanitarian clause to effect a broader suspension of sanctions. Ukraine plans to offer iron and other goods in exchange for some 4 million tons of oil. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SETS OUT NEW CURRENCY POLICY.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has taken further measures to institute a command economy, NTV reported on 2 July. It is now impossible to legally buy hard currency either from banks or currency exchanges. A member of the parliamentary Commission for Economic Reform, Paval Daneika, said this will force successful companies to take their profits out of the country, contributing toward capital flight. Lukashenka defended the move by saying the country was chronically short of hard currency. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA, FRANCE SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION PLAN.
Gen. Alain Faupin, deputy head of the French general staff's international relations department, and Estonian Defense Minister Andrus Oovel, meeting in Tallinn on 2 July, signed a defense cooperation plan for 1996-1997, ETA reported. The plan foresees 13 joint projects, including having Estonian officers and NCOs who can speak French spend one month in a French infantry regiment Faupin said France, together with other countries, will propose that the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty be revised to eliminate the concept of blocs and to minimize the number of troops and armaments stationed in border regions. He added that France understood the Baltic states' concern about the proposal to allow Russia to station more tanks in Pskov Oblast. -- Saulius Girnius

NO RUSSIAN ANSWER YET TO LATVIA'S PROPOSAL ON RETURNING REFUGEES.
Latvian Foreign Ministry press secretary Rihards Mucins told BNS on 2 July that Russia has not yet responded to Latvia's draft agreement on the return of refugees. The agreement, submitted in February 1995, stipulates that Russia take back all illegal refugees who arrive in Latvia from Russia. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had promised his Latvian counterpart, Andris Skele, at the 4 May summit meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States that he would receive a reply by 1 June. The premiers also agreed to meet again after the Russian presidential elections. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN SEIMAS PASSES MASS MEDIA LAW.
The Seimas on 2 July adopted the much-discussed mass media law, BNS reported. Until January 2002, state-owned Lithuanian Radio and TV is to be financed by budget allocations, subscription payments, sales of its programs, sponsorship, charity funds, and advertising revenues. The law establishes a National Radio and TV Board, which will appoint the LRTV director-general and approve programming. The Seimas also ratified the Lithuanian-Polish treaty on their common border. -- Saulius Girnius

TWO LADIES IN POLAND.
U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Poland on 2 July on the second leg of her East European tour aimed at demonstrating U.S. support for new democracies in the region, Polish media reported. She visited the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz to pay tribute to victims of the Holocaust. On 3 July, she will meet with members of Polish feminist organizations and visit a children's hospital before traveling to the Czech Republic. Over the next few days, Ms. Rodham Clinton is also to visit Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, and Finland. The same day, former British Prime Minister Lady Thatcher also arrived in Poland for a three-day visit. She met with former Prime Ministers Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Hanna Suchocka, both now in opposition, and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. On 3 July, she is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from the Economics University in Poznan, which receives funding from, among others, the Know-How Fund established by Thatcher. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PREMIER PRESENTS NEW GOVERNMENT.
Vaclav Klaus on 2 July presented a proposed list of his new minority government to President Vaclav Havel, Czech media reported. Havel said he expected to approve the list and swear in the 16 ministers on 4 July. Nine members of Klaus's previous government retain their posts, ensuring continuity in key areas such as finance, foreign affairs, internal affairs, and economic policy. Two other previous ministers switch posts, and there are five new ministers. The cabinet is a coalition of Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party, and the Civic Democratic Alliance. Once it has been sworn in, the government has 30 days to prepare a declaration of its policy program and put it to a vote of confidence in the parliament. -- Steve Kettle

EU OFFICIAL WARNS SLOVAKIA'S RULING COALITION.
Herbert Bosch, an Austrian who chairs a joint committee of European and Slovak parliamentary deputies, said on 2 July that the increased participation of opposition parties in exerting control over public life is "a crucial point" in Slovakia's relations with the EU, Slovak and international media reported. Bosch's statement, delivered at the end of a four-day visit, came one day after EU officials from France and Germany criticized certain aspects of the Slovak government's policy. Bosch said he has received assurances from Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic that the opposition will gain greater access to controlling organs by this fall. If this does not occur, it will be a "negative signal to the EU," Bosch warned. Also on 2 July, the Slovak parliament approved laws on lotteries and advertising. The latter prohibits advertising tobacco products and alcohol, with the exception of beer. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK RADIO LICENSE GRANTED TO COALITION SUPPORTER.
Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting chairman Peter Juras on 2 July announced that Radio Koliba will be granted a license to broadcast in Bratislava and Banska Bystrica, CTK reported. The new station's co-owner is Fedor Flasik, director of the Donar advertising agency, which has close ties with the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). Flasik was among the main organizers of the HZDS's 1994 election campaign, and he composed the party's election song "Vivat Slovakia." Juras said that by granting the license "we have used all free frequencies for the next six years." -- Sharon Fisher

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY IN HUNGARY.
William Perry, visiting the Taszar air base on 2 July, said two IFOR armored battalions will be withdrawn from Bosnia and replaced by U.S. military police units, Hungarian and international media reported on 3 July. The defense secretary said NATO has more than enough tanks and other heavy armor in Bosnia to complete the peacekeeping mission. According to other U.S. officials, the switch is designed to give the NATO-led force more mobility and flexibility as it increasingly focuses on overseeing the resettlement of refugees and preparations for the September elections. Perry also said he was confident the NATO-led military mission in Bosnia will end on schedule in December. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



UPDATE ON MOSTAR ELECTION RESULTS.
According to Onasa, the Muslim-dominated List of Citizens for a United Mostar won the Mostar municipal elections with 28,505 votes. The Croatian Democratic Community came second with 26,680 votes, while the third largest force, a list of anti-nationalist parties, received 1,937 votes. Two Croatian right-wing radical parties received 619 and 386 votes, respectively. The two main parties each gained the three districts located on their respective side of the divided city. The figures include the ballots from Oslo, Stockholm, Bonn and Bern, but official results are not expected until 3 July. EU officials said the results of the Mostar municipal elections indicate that the deep ethnic division in Bosnia is likely to remain after the September nationwide ballot, AFP reported on 2 July. -- Fabian Schmidt

EU WANTS MOSTAR MANDATE PROLONGED.
Meanwhile, EU spokesman Dragan Gasic said Mostar administrator Ricardo Perez Casado will ask Brussels to extend the EU mandate beyond 23 July, Onasa reported on 2 July. An EU official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that "the vote did not give a fair choice to the different candidates." He added: "I don't know why the September elections are likely to be any better. This is a fake success.... The result is that the division of the town has been legitimized." Opposition parties had almost no access to the mass media, which was controlled by the two nationalist parties. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said that "prolonging the EU action in Mostar remains subordinate to pursuing the reunification process in the city." -- Fabian Schmidt

STANDOFF BETWEEN PALE, WASHINGTON OVER KARADZIC.
Bosnian Serb Vice President Biljana Plavsic on 2 July said that Radovan Karadzic has not resigned as president of the Republika Srpska, Nasa Borba noted. While she did not spell out her own precise function now that he has formally handed over his duties to her, she added that he will not be sent to The Hague because that would be against the republic's law, the BBC reported. Plavsic also firmly refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which the Bosnian Serbs regard as a political instrument against them. The U.S., however, asserted that Karadzic must leave public office or Pale will face renewed economic sanctions. The State Department added that it may seek to ban the Serbian Democratic Party from the September elections if it does not dump Karadzic as its leader, news agencies reported. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS TURN BACK WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATORS.
Bosnian Serb police on 2 July barred the way to Finnish forensic experts who wanted to examine the remains of Muslims lying in a field near Srebrenica, where the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II took place last July. The Serbian authorities had earlier given the Finns permission to enter the area. The BBC said that a Serbian vehicle had been carting off any weapons lying about and that the incident was yet another humiliation for the international community at the hands of the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore

TRIAL OF SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BEGINS.
Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, went on trial on 2 July for accusing Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic of direct involvement in fraudulent activities, Beta reported. The charges against the opposition leader stem from a January 1995 advertisement published in Nedeljni Telegraf, which connected Marjanovic to a shady plot to sell some 1 million tons of wheat for an exorbitant profit. AFP added that Nedeljni Telegraf editor Dragoljub Belic is also standing trial and that representatives from the British, Swiss, French, German, and Canadian embassies are observing the proceedings. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAVIA, UNHCR SIGN ACCORD.
Federal Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslav Buljajic and Margaret O'Keefe, UN High Commissioner for Refugees mission head in rump Yugoslavia, signed an accord on 2 July aimed at strengthening cooperation and regulating the status of the UNHCR in rump Yugoslavia, Tanjug reported. The official news agency commented that the signing of the agreement represents "recognition" of Belgrade's compliance with the Dayton peace process. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN UPDATE.
The Council of Europe on 2 July invited Croatia to join that organization, Reuters reported. But it added that "the decision is not immediately effective as the [Council's ministerial] committee reserved the possibility of reconsidering it in the second half of September with reference to Croatia's observance of the Dayton peace agreement and, in particular, its attitude during the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina." An acrimonious exchange has been going on for some months between Zagreb and the Council over Croatia's record on human rights and media policy. Meanwhile, Novi list reported on 2 July that Croatian TV (HTV) suddenly dropped a popular late-evening news program. No reason was given, but the authorities later said it would be merged with another news program as part of summer schedule changes. HTV is tightly controlled by the governing party, but the banned program had managed to provide some coverage of stories the authorities would rather not publicize. -- Patrick Moore

MACEDONIAN ROUNDUP.
Macedonia and Slovenia have signed a free-trade agreement covering both industrial and agricultural products, Nova Makedonija and MILS reported on 3 July. Duties on all Macedonian industrial products will be lifted as of October, as will those on 60% of Slovenian industrial goods. Duties on the remainder will be reduced gradually. Free trade of agricultural products on a quota system will begin in December 1996. Goods exceeding the quota will be subject to regular duties. In other news, the EU has announced it will ban all meat imports from Macedonia following the outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease among cattle in parts of the country. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO COMPENSATE FOR PRICE HIKES.
The government, meeting with representatives of employers' unions and labor confederations on 2 July, discussed measures to compensate for massive hikes in the price of energy, fuel, and bread, Radio Bucharest reported. It offered a compensation payment to employees of 9,340 lei ($3) and an additional wage indexation of 4%.
Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu said the sharp increases were due to the recent devaluation of the national currency and the need to import oil, natural gas, and electricity in order to keep the economy afloat. Chairman of the Alfa Trade Union Cartel Bogdan Hossu was quoted as saying that the offer was not sufficient to compensate for the price hikes. Trade unions have threatened with massive protests against the government's economic policies. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY CRITICIZES PACT WITH DNIESTER REGION.
The opposition Party of Democratic Forces on 2 July strongly criticized a draft memorandum on normalizing Moldovan-Dniester relations, Infotag reported. It expressed concern about "the strange haste with which the document was drafted at Moscow's insistence." Party leaders also described the memorandum as "capitulating to both Tiraspol and Moscow," since, they said, it makes so many concessions to Dniester separatists that it is a de facto acceptance of Moldova's federalization. The draft was due to be signed in the Kremlin on 1 July, but the signing ceremony was postponed at the last moment until after the second round of the Russian presidential elections. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE.
The Union of Democratic Forces on 2 July decided to ask the Constitutional Court to clarify whether Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski can be elected president, Standart reported. Pirinski is to run in the fall elections as the candidate of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party. Article 93 of the Bulgarian Constitution stipulates that the president must be a Bulgarian by birth. Pirinski was born in New York in 1948 into the family of a Bulgarian emigre who later returned to Bulgaria. The opposition doubts whether this meets the constitutional requirements, while Pirinski notes that he relinquished his U.S. citizenship in 1974. -- Stefan Krause

U.S.-ALBANIAN UPDATE.
U.S. press attaché Charles Walsh has said that U.S. diplomats stayed away from the new parliament's opening session to make clear they do not consider disputes about the 26 May elections to be over, Reuters reported on 2 July. He added that "it's fairly urgent for the government to address these [election] irregularities." Virtually all other diplomatic corps attended the ceremony. Meanwhile, the first shipment of U.S. military equipment pledged by Defense Secretary William Perry in March arrived in Durres, ATSH reported. The shipment included 180 trucks, unused weapons, and other supplies mainly from German bases. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and

Jan Cleave



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