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Newsline - July 22, 1996


STEPASHIN ASSERTS THAT DUDAEV IS DEFINITELY DEAD.
Following a session on 19 July of the Russian government commission on resolving the Chechen conflict, commission secretary Sergei Stepashin told journalists he can assert with 100% confidence that Chechen President Dzhokar Dudaev is dead, Reuters reported. Stepashin also said he does not doubt that the Chechen field commander who claimed in a televised press conference in Gudermes on 18 July that Dudaev is alive is Salman Raduev. ITAR-TASS quoted a senior German government spokesman as stating that Germany has no record of Raduev's presence in Germany, where he claimed to have undergone plastic surgery. -- Liz Fuller

CHECHEN COMMANDER ACCEPTS OFFER OF TALKS.
Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 20 July accepted an offer made the previous day by the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, to meet and discuss implementation of the 10 June Nazran peace agreement. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov similarly stated that the Russian government is ready to resume talks on implementation of the demilitarization agreements. On 20-21 July Russian air, artillery and infantry forces launched an attack on Chechen detachments in the southeastern village of Shatoi. Both sides claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy; a Russian military spokesman rejected Chechen claims to have shot down a Russian helicopter and warplane and destroyed several armored vehicles, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIA DENOUNCES EUROPARLIAMENT RESOLUTION ON CHECHNYA.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 19 July rejected as "unacceptable" a resolution on the Chechen conflict passed by the European Parliament the previous day, Russian and Western media reported. The Europarliament's resolution condemned Russia for violating the recent ceasefire accord in Chechnya, and called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement charged that the resolution "misinterpreted" recent developments in Chechnya, and blamed the current upsurge of fighting on "aggressive terrorist actions" by Chechen fighters. Meanwhile, Amnesty International blasted the Clinton Administration for failing to criticize human rights violations in Chechnya, charging that the administration views the conflict there as merely "a footnote" to the development of democracy in Russia. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN UNDER DOCTORS' CARE.
President Boris Yeltsin is under doctors' care, according to his spokesman Sergei Medvedev, Russian TV reported on 21 July. Medvedev said the president is undergoing "necessary restorative procedures." The spokesman said that the president is spending time watching television, especially news programs from state broadcasters. -- Robert Orttung

CASE OPENED AGAINST CAMPAIGN AIDES.
The procurator general has opened a criminal case against Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev, the two Yeltsin campaign aides detained while allegedly taking more than $500,000 out of the White House, Ekho Moskvy reported 19 July. The procurator's Moscow office will conduct the investigation. Lisovskii has denied that they were carrying the money, although Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has stated that they were authorized to have the cash. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 21 June 1996.) -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN NAMES KAZAKOV AS CHUBAIS' FIRST DEPUTY.
President Boris Yeltsin named Aleksandr Kazakov as his first deputy chief of staff under Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, NTV reported 19 July. Kazakov was the head of the State Property Committee (GKI) and a deputy prime minister just before his new appointment. He served as Chubais' assistant at the GKI when Chubais headed it. Additionally, he is chairman of the Gazprom board of directors, a member of Our Home is Russia, and known to have close relations to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. Kazakov headed the presidential administration's office for coordinating regional policy from 1994 to 1996, experience that will be valuable as the president seeks to influence the outcome of regional elections set for later this year. Kazakov's replacement at the GKI has not been announced. -- Robert Orttung

ROKHLIN FLESHES OUT CORRUPTION CHARGES . . .
Speaking to the Duma on 19 July, Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin brought further charges of corruption against senior military officers. Rokhlin caused a stir on 5 July by accusing former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev of allowing massive embezzlement in the armed forces (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 and 9 July 1996). Rokhlin has now accused Col.-Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, former head of the Defense Ministry's Main Administration for Military Financing and the Budget, of making money out of a currency speculation scam using Defense Ministry funds and of shady dealings with the Gorno Altai commercial bank, Dom i otechestvo (no. 19) reported. Rokhlin also detailed further alleged cover-ups by chief Accounting Chamber auditor Yurii Rodionov, contending that Rodionov had failed to report on large amounts precious metals collected from military scrap. -- Penny Morvant

. . . MILITARY PROCURATOR CONFIRMS SOME IRREGULARITIES.
In a report to the Duma on 19 July, Military Procurator Valentin Panichev said that checks carried out by his office corroborated Rokhlin's allegations of financial irregularities in the construction of housing for servicemen, ITAR-TASS reported. He said new violations had been uncovered in dealings between the construction firm Lyukon and the Defense Ministry. Panichev also said criminal proceedings had been launched in connection with servicemen repairing generals' apartments for free but he had found no violations in the construction of generals' dachas. A number of newspapers have published reports on luxurious dacha complexes built for high-ranking generals near Moscow using soldiers' labor. Panichev said that the generals had borrowed money from commercial banks to construct the dachas and that it is not illegal to employ servicemen for construction work, Russian Public TV reported. -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN HINTS AT COMPOSITION OF NEW GOVERNMENT.
Chernomyrdin said that there will be three first deputy prime ministers in the new cabinet supervising financial-economic, social, and industrial issues, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 July. A fourth first deputy prime minister may cover the defense industry. Three deputy prime ministers will oversee the agrarian sector, the media, and the power ministries (which are directly subordinate to the president), Kommersant Daily reported on 20 July. Chernomyrdin ruled out the return of former First Deputy Prime Minster Oleg Soskovets, who was purged with several other hardliners following the first round of the presidential election. He also cast doubt on the inclusion of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, calling him a "strong economist" but one whose "character and personal ambitions hinder him," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

ANPILOV EXPELLED FROM HARDLINE COMMUNIST LEADERSHIP.
Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the Working Russia movement, has been dismissed from his position as first secretary of the Moscow branch of the radical Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP), because the party's work was deemed inefficient, Radio Rossii reported on 21 July. The closed plenum of the RKRP leadership also decided to join the new opposition movement formed on the basis of Gennadii Zyuganov's electoral bloc only if it proclaims its definite pro-socialist orientation. Zyuganov's opposition movement will not be weakened by the radicals' absence, Valentin Kuptsov, one of the leaders of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), announced. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMAKOV IN INDONESIA.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov arrived in Jakarta on 20 July to attend several meetings under the auspices of ASEAN, Russian and Western media reported. The same day, Primakov met his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas, and the two diplomats emphasized the importance of ASEAN's recent decision to grant Russia "dialogue partner" status at its upcoming postministerial conference. Primakov described building ties with ASEAN as a "priority" which would help "diversify" Russian foreign policy. On 22 July, Primakov met with Indonesian President Suharto, and declared that Russia supports ASEAN's push to establish a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia. His remarks indirectly criticized the United States, whose worries about transit rights through Indonesian territorial waters for nuclear-armed American naval vessels have kept Washington from joining the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, signed last December by ASEAN leaders. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA RAISES MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION.
The Duma voted on 19 July to increase the monthly minimum wage from 75,900 rubles ($14.70) to 95,320 as of 1 August, ITAR-TASS reported. It also voted to increase pensions by 37% as of 1 August, bringing the minimum up to 95,320 as well. Both bills will now go to the Federation Council. Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk spoke against the proposed pension hike, noting that it would require additional expenditure of 15 trillion rubles by the end of the year and lead to massive delays in pension payments, Radio Rossii reported. -- Penny Morvant

POWERFUL BOMB FOUND IN VORONEZH.
A bomb containing about 1.5 kilograms of TNT was discovered by police at the railway station in Voronezh on 19 July, international media reported. The bomb failed to explode because of a faulty detonator. Russian police have been high alert for bomb attacks since an explosion in the Moscow metro in June and two bombs went off on Moscow trolley buses earlier this month. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA PASSES BILL LIFTING IMPORT TARIFFS.
The Duma unanimously approved on third reading a bill lifting tariffs on imports of equipment paid for by international loans or with government guaranteed credits, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 July. Such imports had been tariff-free until 15 March 1995. Since then many firms, especially in the energy sector, complained that they lacked the money to pay tariffs, which meant machinery was sitting unused in customs warehouses. The new measure, if signed into law, will cost the budget about 6 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion), although First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov claimed that increased output at the firms receiving the machinery will lead to higher profit tax revenues. -- Peter Rutland

MORE PROBLEMATIC BANKS.
Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 July that one more commercial bank -- Kontinent-bank -- has stopped operations. Meanwhile, Chairman of the Central Bank Sergei Dubinin rescinded on 20 July the license of Tveruniversalbank (See OMRI Daily Digest, 9,11 July 1996). However, he asserted that the situation at Inkombank is stable, RTR reported on 21 July, contradicting widespread press speculation about Inkombank's imminent demise. Dubinin blamed the rumors on the unapproved publication of the TsB's preliminary inspection report, parts of which were later withdrawn. -- Natalia Gurushina



GOVERNMENT PURGE IN AZERBAIJAN.
President Heidar Aliyev on 19 July accepted the resignation "on health grounds" of Prime Minister Fuad Kuliev, Western agencies reported. At a session of the Cabinet of Ministers to assess the country's economic performance for the first six months of this year, Aliev then dismissed several more senior ministers and officials, including Deputy Premier and Economics Minister Samed Sadykhov and managers in the oil, gas and transport sectors. All were accused of incompetence or corruption. Both Aliev and Parliament Chairman Rasul Guliev had previously criticized Kuliev's government for failing to expedite economic reform. No replacement for Kuliev has yet been appointed. -- Liz Fuller

FIRST CENTRAL ASIAN AUTO PLANT OPENS IN UZBEKISTAN.
The Daewoo plant in Asaka, Andijon region, officially opened on 19 July with a ceremony attended by President Islam Karimov, ITAR-TASS reported. The automotive plant, the first of its kind in Central Asia, will produce minivans and two models of cars and will be at full capacity in 2002. Karimov said that the goal is to have 70% of the parts manufactured in Uzbekistan, RFE/RL reported on 19 July. -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT QUICKLY BROKEN.
An agreement by representatives of the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition on ceasing hostilities in central Tajikistan was broken within 48 hours of its signing, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Though the agreement on a ceasefire in the Tavil-Dara region of Tajikistan was signed on 19 July, reports from 21 July indicated that fighting had resumed between government troops and the opposition. Both sides accuse the other of initiating the latest battles. -- Bruce Pannier

TYPHOID EPIDEMIC WORSENS IN TAJIKISTAN.
An epidemic of typhoid which broke out in late May has worsened, AFP reported on 22 July. Heavy rains and flooding devastated sewage and drainage systems, spreading the infection that has now been reported in areas as close as 18 kilometers to the capital Dushanbe. The World Health Organization representative in Tajikistan, Rakhmatullo Rakhmonov, said 3,500 cases of typhoid have been registered, mainly in rural areas, and 45 people have died so far. He added that the "epidemic is generally under control." -- Bruce Pannier

THREE BOMBS EXPLODE IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL.
Bombs exploded on 19 July at three buildings belonging to Kyrgyzstan law enforcement organizations, Russian television and Reuters reported. No casualties were reported. The bombs were detonated almost simultaneously at the Alamedin district prosecutor's office, a Bishkek police headquarters, and a prison administration building. The Interior Ministry blames the incidents on smuggling groups, which vowed to avenge police confiscations of contraband alcohol, leather, and non-ferrous materials earlier this year. However, there were also bomb explosions in April 1996 and police later arrested a former disgruntled member of its own ranks. -- Bruce Pannier



KYIV MAYOR RESIGNS.
Leonid Kosakivsky on 19 July resigned as Kyiv mayor following months of allegations of mismanagement, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. President Leonid Kuchma had called upon him to resign in May because of his poor performance, but Kosakivsky then became ill. Under Ukrainian law, officials cannot be dismissed while they are sick. Kosakivsky was accused of blocking foreign investment, and lavishly spending funds on self-promotion. Of the 68 city councilors, 40 asked Kuchma to remove him. Koskaivsky's successor has not been named. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REPLACES DONETSK GOVERNOR.
Leonid Kuchma on 18 July issued a decree dismissing Donetsk governor Volodymyr Shcherban, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Coal Minister Serhii Polyakov has been appointed as Shcherban's replacement. The dismissal came after a government commission investigating the coal industry urged Kuchma to replace Shcherban for having lost control of the situation in the region. Coal miners in the Donbas recently went on strike over back wages, also demanding that Polyakov be dismissed as coal minister. The Donbas prosecutor's office has filed charges against strikers for impeding public transport. On 19 July, workers at only 14 mines remained on strike. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINE OFFERS REWARD FOR BOMB ATTACKER.
Ukrainian authorities have offered a 15 billion karbovantsy ($86,000) reward for information on leading to the arrest of those responsible for the 16 July bomb attack on Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, AFP reported on 19 July. A limited state of emergency was introduced and paramilitary groups banned following the attempt on Lazarenko's life. UNIAN on 18 July reported Volodymyr Chernyak, deputy leader of the national-democratic Rukh party, as saying the assassination attempt was the result of a mafia struggle between the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk mafia clans. -- Ustina Markus

U.S.-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS.
Belarusian Defense Minister Leanid Maltseu met with his U.S. counterpart, William Perry, in Washington on 19 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks focused on regional stability in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, embracing issues such as Belarus's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program (which Belarus joined in January 1995), NATO expansion, and nuclear security in Belarus. The previous day, Belapan reported that U.S. special envoy for CIS Affairs James Collins told Belarusian parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky he was not fully satisfied with U.S.-Belarusian relations. U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Kenneth Yalowitz signed an agreement legally defining the mechanism for providing American aid to Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

POLISH, UKRAINIAN, BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET.
Dariusz Rosati, Hennadii Udovenko, and Uladzimir Slenko, meeting on 20 July in the Belarusian city of Brest, discussed prospects for regional cooperation, Rzeczpospolita reported. The possible inclusion of Brest Oblast in the "Bug" Euroregion--which currently consists of Polish and Ukrainian territories--was discussed, as were border controls and illegal immigration. Rosati's use of the phrase "Brest Triangle" and his promises that Poland would search for Western funding to finance Belarusian participation in the Bug Euroregion both highlight Poland's attempts at slowing Belarus's integration with Russia. -- Ben Slay

ESTONIA MAY BE AMONG FIRST NEW EU MEMBERS.
Minister of State at the British Foreign Office Sir Nicholas Bonsor told reporters in Tallinn on 19 July that it will be natural for Estonia to be among the first new members joining the EU, ETA reported on 19 July. He called the republic's advances to a market economy "remarkable," adding that the country already most of the requirements for membership. But he added that it will take longer for Estonia to join NATO. During his two-day visit, Bonsor met with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, Foreign Minister Siim Kallas, and European Affairs Minister Endel Lippmaa. -- Saulius Girnius

ACTING MINISTERS APPOINTED IN LATVIA.
Prime Minister Andris Skele has appointed acting replacements for three ministers who recently resigned, BNS reported on 19 July. Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs will serve as culture minister from 22 July. Economics Minister Guntars Krasts will serve as environmental protection and regional development minister until 30 July, when he will be replaced by Agriculture Minister Roberts Dilba. Krasts will also serve as acting industry state minister from 27 July. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA, LATVIA SEA BORDER TALKS POSTPONED.
The fifth round of sea border talks, scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 22 July, have been postponed owing to the reshuffle in the Latvian government, BNS reported on 19 July. Lithuanian delegation head Foreign Ministry Secretary Rimantas Sidlauskas pointed out that the Latvian delegation head, Foreign Ministry State Minister Juris Sinka, held one of the three ministerial posts that are to be eliminated. He said that while there were no disagreements in principle between the two delegations, he doubted the next round of talks would lead to the signing of a sea border treaty. The main problem remains possible off-shore oil deposits for which Latvia has signed licensing agreements with U.S. and Swedish companies. -- Saulius Girnius

VATICAN MARKS THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF UNRATIFIED CONCORDAT WITH POLAND.
The Vatican pointed out in a statement released on 21 July that the concordat on Polish Church-state relations has gone unratifed for nearly three years, Rzeczpospolita reported. The concordat was approved by the post-Solidarity government of Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka in July 1993, but the left-of-center parliament formed after the September 1993 elections has thus far failed to ratify the treaty. While the Vatican charged that the concordat is "often the subject of political games and electoral declarations," a spokesman for the governing post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) told Zycie Warszawy that "the SLD is only articulating the unease that the concordat evokes in much of society." -- Ben Slay

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTIES NO CLOSER TO ELECTORAL COALITION.
The anti-communist Movement to Reconstruct Poland (ROP) has rejected an open letter from Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski asking the ROP to participate in an election dialogue with Solidarity's opposition coalition in preparation for the 1997 parliamentary elections, Polish media reported on 22 July. Krzaklewski's letter to ROP leader Jan Olszewski did not ask the ROP to join Solidarity's electoral coalition and requested only a "dialog without aggression" between the two opposition organizations. According to recent public opinion polls, Solidarity and the ROP each
have the support of about 10-15% of the Polish electorate and are lagging well behind the Democratic Left Alliance. -- Ben Slay

SLOVAKIA SUBMITS EU QUESTIONNAIRE.
Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk on 19 July handed over his country's completed questionnaire to EU Ambassador to Slovakia, Georgios Zavvos, Slovak and international media reported. Aske about German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's recent remarks questioning Slovakia's readiness for speedy EU integration (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 July 1996), Schenk stressed that "Slovakia's problems have so far not been resolved through undemocratic or unconstitutional means." He added that he believed the problems will soon be overcome. Slovakia applied for EU membership in June 1995, but both the EU and the U.S. have made private and public statements expressing concern about developments in the country. -- Sharon Fisher

NATO EXERCISES IN HUNGARY.
NATO on 20 July began its first air maneuvers in Hungary within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, international media reported. The exercises involve some 50 planes and 1,100 troops from eight NATO-member countries, Austria, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Some 300 people representing the communist Workers' Party, which has demanded a referendum on whether Hungary should join NATO, protested the maneuvers. Worker's Party President Gyula Thurmer said the demonstration was aimed at those who want Hungary to be involved in military ventures and costly arms purchases and to surrender its independence. -- Sharon Fisher



BOSNIAN SERBS CLOSE RANKS BEHIND KARADZIC.
Radovan Karadzic may have agreed to give up his party and state offices (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 July 1996), but his supporters still clearly regard him as their leader, AFP reported on 22 July. Biljana Plavsic, his hard-line deputy who took over the presidency of the Republika Srpska, told Bosnian Serb radio on 20 July that "there will be no essential changes because the state and party policies were designed in a broader circle that is still in place." Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha, who replaces Karadzic as head of the governing Serbian Democratic Party, told Der Spiegel that "no one can destroy Karadzic's authority.... There are examples of men without any official function who determine the fate of their country." -- Patrick Moore

IS KARADZIC ANY CLOSER TO THE HAGUE?
Those who have defended the step-by-step approach to dealing with Karadzic have said that each move brings him closer to the war crimes tribunal. In any event, Karadzic probably will not have to worry about U.S. troops coming to arrest him. Vice President Al Gore on 21 July said "We don't believe that U.S. troops should be assigned the mission of going door-to-door hunting a single individual in circumstances where it would be very difficult to complete that mission." But the tribunal's chief justice, Richard Goldstone asked: "With regard to the tens of thousands of lives that [Karadzic] may have been responsible for, is it too much to ask for some risk to be taken to bring him to justice?" Nasa Borba and Onasa carried the report on 22 July. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. FIGHTER ACCIDENTALLY DROPS BOMB IN BOSNIA.
During a routine simulated attack on practice targets over the weekend, a U.S. Navy fighter plane accidentally dropped
a 225 kg bomb over Bosnia-Herzegovina, AFP reported. The bomb exploded and narrowly missed a base occupied by 600 NATO peace keepers, some 5 km from the strategic Serb-held town of Brcko. No military or civilian casualties were reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CONTRACT FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF MOSTAR BRIDGE SIGNED.
Eastern Mostar Mayor Safet Orucevic has signed a contract with a Sarajevo-based company for the reconstruction of Mostar's historical bridge, Onasa reported on 20 July. Built by the Ottoman architect Hajrudin in 1596 and destroyed by Bosnian Croat forces in November 1993, the bridge is a registered UNESCO cultural monument. A Mostar-based institute for the preservation of monuments will assist in the reconstruction. Fragments of the original bridge that fell into the river are to be used. Meanwhile, EU Administrator Ricardo Perez Casado is scheduled to quit his post on 22 July. He will be replaced by Britain's Sir Martin Garrod. -- Fabian Schmidt

BOSNIAN FEDERATION VICE PRESIDENT RISKS ARREST IN BELGRADE?
Ejup Ganic, who is scheduled to head a Bosnian economic delegation to Belgrade on 25 July, could be arrested on war crimes charges when he arrives, AFP reported citing the Belgrade-based Politika Ekspres. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic invited Ganic to Belgrade to demonstrate that Serbia is determinate to re-establish relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina. But an arrest warrant for Ganic--issued in July 1994 for his alleged responsibility for the death of Yugoslav People's Army troops in Sarajevo in 1992--is still in force. Nasa Borba on 22 July cited Ganic as saying that he will be heading a team of people able to step up relations between the two countries. -- Daria Sito Sucic

U.S. CONGRESS DELEGATION IN KOSOVO.
Six members of the U.S. congress, headed by Democrat Eliot Engel, paid a visit to Kosovo on 20 July, ATSH reported. They attended the inauguration of the electronic library of the recently opened USIA office in Pristina. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and Serbian administrator Aleksa Jokic were also present. Engel had met earlier with Serbian President Milosevic in Belgrade. -- Fabian Schmidt

SLOVENIAN COURT NOT TO DETAIN SERBIAN GENERAL.
A Ljubljana district court on 19 July decided not to detain Gen. Milan Aksentijevic, an ex-Yugoslav officer accused of seeking to undermine Slovenian independence during the 1991 war (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 July 1996). Aksentijevic is awaiting trial in Slovenia. The court observed that he had twice applied to visit relatives in Slovenia and that "therefore there seems to be no danger that the defendant will escape and avoid the trial," Reuters reported. In other news, Davorin Kracun, a 45-year-old economics professor in Maribor, is to replace Zoran Thaler as foreign minister, Thaler was defeated in a no confidence motion earlier this year. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Ion Iliescu, in an interview with Die Presse on 19 July, reiterated his positionthat Romania and Hungary will either join NATO together or not at all. He said any "discrimination" in Hungary's favor would produce a "climate of competition, mistrust, and instability." Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, at the end of a five-day working visit to the U.S., said that if priority were given to some East European countries applying for membership, a new dividing line would be created between NATO and Eastern Europe, Reuters reported. In an apparent reference to Russia, he said such an approach would leave Romania vulnerable to other competing influences. Meanwhile, on 19 July, the U.S. Senate approved by "voice vote" a bill granting Romania permanent most-favored-nation status. The bill now needs President Bill Clinton's approval. -- Michael Shafir

NATO NAVAL EXERCISE IN ROMANIA.
A week-long naval exercise involving NATO forces and countries participating in the Partnership for Peace program began on 22 July in Romanian territorial waters in the Black Sea, Romanian and international media reported. The exercise is described as the biggest of its kind staged within the framework of the program. Some 30 ships from eight NATO countries, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine are taking part. -- Michael Shafir

IMF APPROVES $580 MILLION LOAN TO BULGARIA.
The IMF on 19 July approved a $580 million loan to Bulgaria, Pari reported. A first installment worth $116 million is expected to arrive this week and will be used to pay $128 million owed to the London Club by 28 July. The remaining installments will be spread over the next two years. The IMF agreed to grant Bulgaria a new loan after the government announced strict austerity measures and vowed to close down unprofitable state firms. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTES GOVERNMENT OVER NATO.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 19 July accused the government of isolating Bulgaria by not applying for full NATO membership, Reuters reported. In his annual lecture to the Atlantic Club, Zhelev said that owing to the government's reluctance to seek closer ties with NATO, "Bulgaria is increasingly beginning to look like a gap in the security framework." The president claimed that the government has failed to capitalize on Bulgaria's strategic location in the Balkans. He also noted that by favoring Greece over Turkey, Bulgaria has abandoned its traditional policy of Balkan equidistance. In other news, the parliament on 19 July set the first round of the presidential elections for 27 October. The next day, the BSP nominated Culture Minister Ivan Marazov as its vice presidential candidate, Duma reported. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN SOCIALIST FACTION WANTS VIDENOV'S HEAD.
The Association for Social Democracy (OSD), a faction within the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, has demanded that Zhan Videnov resign as BSP chairman and prime minister before the October presidential elections, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 22 July. The OSD said Videnov has failed as prime minister and no longer enjoys the BSP's confidence. It also adopted an alternative program for dealing with the present crisis and called for a dialogue with other political forces on the course of reform. The OSD believes that changes in the government and the BSP will help the party's candidate, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, win the presidential elections. Pirinski is also OSD deputy chairman. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT HAS NO TIME TO MEET WITH U.S. OFFICIAL.
Sali Berisha on 19 July refused to meet with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Timothy Wirth, arguing he had "no time and more important things on his agenda," Koha Jone reported. The daily quotes State Department sources who did not want to be identified. Wirth undertook the visit as an initiative to restart the dialogue between the U.S. and the Albanian government, which stopped after the State Department sharply criticized the May elections, alleging massive irregularities. Koha Jone wrote that Berisha is seeking to "convert relations with the U.S. into a personal inat [spiteful defiance]." -- Fabian Schmidt

FATOS NANO CALLS FOR REFORM OF ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PARTY.
Imprisoned Socialist leader Fatos Nano last week sent a letter to party members repeating calls for a comprehensive reform of the party, Koha Jone reported on 21 July. He pointed out that the party will miss a historic chance and become even more isolated politically if it proves unable to implement such a reform. Meanwhile, Gazeta Shqiptare reported that the Center Pole coalition has been excluded from round-table talks between the Socialists and the ruling Democrats to discuss the upcoming local elections. Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi called on the Socialists to participate only in multi-party talks that include other opposition parties, Poli i Qendres reported on 20 July. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave





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