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Newsline - July 24, 1996


YELTSIN: NO MAJOR CHANGES IN THE GOVERNMENT.
After meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 23 July, President Boris Yeltsin announced that the changes in the personnel and structure of the government will be "substantive" but not "major," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the government will be trimmed but the number of power ministries will remain the same. Government staff are now paralyzed with fear that their jobs will be eliminated, forcing Chernomyrdin to set up ad hoc groups to carry out his orders, Segodnya reported on 23 July. Additionally, the Duma has gone into summer recess just as the discussion of the government's composition is entering its final phase, demonstrating its lack of influence over questions of real power in Russia, Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out on 23 July. -- Robert Orttung

CHUBAIS TAKES OVER INAUGURATION PREPARATIONS.
Yeltsin named Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais as chairman of the commission charged with preparing the inauguration ceremony set for 9 August, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. The ceremony will include 3,000 guests, among them most of Russia's major political and cultural leaders, representatives of Moscow's foreign diplomatic corps, and the leaders of the CIS countries, Izvestiya reported on 24 July. -- Robert Orttung

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CALL FOR LEFT-CENTER COALITION.
Several social democratic parties called for negotiations to set up a left-center coalition, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. Yeltsin's attempts to set up a similar bloc under then Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin failed last year. The initiators include Rybkin's Socialist Party of Russia, Vasilii Lipitskii's Social Democratic Union, Gavriil Popov's Russian Movement for Democratic Reform, Aleksandr Yakovlev's Russian Party of Social Democracy, and Sergei Belozertsev's Social-Democratic Party of Russia. All these groups backed President Yeltsin's re-election except for Lipitskii's, which supported Mikhail Gorbachev. Social democratic parties have had little electoral success on their own in recent elections. -- Laura Belin and Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS SAID TO HAVE SAVED MONEY FOR REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
Gennadii Zyuganov spent far less than the legal limit of 14.4 billion rubles ($2.9 million) on his presidential campaign, the anti-communist newspaper Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 23 July. It said that, by economizing on campaign trips and advertising in the regions, the Communist Party saved at least 6 billion rubles ($1.2 million) "for a rainy day," which they will spend on campaigns for the regional and local elections scheduled for later this year. If several dozen "red governors" are elected this fall, the paper warned, the Federation Council (parliament's upper house) could swing from a pro-Yeltsin to a pro-Zyuganov orientation. The paper suggested that, to stave off this threat, the president will soon begin replacing unpopular governors in regions where Zyuganov outpolled Yeltsin in the presidential election. -- Laura Belin

NDR TO CONTEST COMMUNISTS IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
The pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) bloc will challenge the Communist Party candidates in this fall's elections to regional legislative and executive bodies and local authorities, NDR executive committee head Vladimir Babichev announced. He said that the movement should not allow Communists to take over the Federation Council, Russian media reported on 23 July. Babichev suggested that NDR will cooperate with all pro-reform organizations on fielding joint candidates for the elections. From September to December this year, 50 governors, 32 regional legislatures and 23 mayors of big cities should be elected. -- Anna Paretskaya

NEW KRASNODAR GOVERNOR RESHUFFLES ADMINISTRATION.
Nikolai Yegorov, who was appointed Krasnodar Krai Governor last week, will restructure the krai's administration which was created by his predecessor, Radio Rossii reported on 23 July. Yegorov will create a regional government to deal with economic problems and will personally control regional law enforcement agencies. In addtion he intends to cut the staff by 20%. Yegorov plans to stand for reelection in the gubernatorial election in October (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 July 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

KHASBULATOV TO MEDIATE IN CHECHNYA?
In an official statement on 23 July, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev reaffirmed his readiness to continue peace talks with the Russian leadership despite the latter's failure to implement the agreements of 27 May and 10 June, but confirmed his commitment to the cause of Chechen independence, Reuters reported. Yandarbiev also named ex-Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, himself an ethnic Chechen, as one of a group of advisors who would hold new peace talks with Moscow. Khasbulatov said that these should begin with a new meeting between Chechen representatives and President Boris Yeltsin, whom he termed the sole Russian official capable of assuming responsibility for ending the conflict, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 23 July, Russian warplanes resumed their bombardment of the villages of Shatoi and Itum-kale, and warplanes and artillery began a new offensive against Nozhai-Yurt, Vedeno, Gudermes, and Achkhoi-Martan, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

MILITARY DENIES USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN CHECHNYA.
The commander of Defense Ministry troops in Chechnya, Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, on 23 July denied that his forces had used chemical weapons against the Chechen separatists, ITAR-TASS reported. He was responding to a charge made earlier that day by a separatist spokesman, Khozh-Akhed Yarikhanov. Shamanov said his forces had never had any chemical weapons at their disposal. In Moscow, Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Orlov, chief of the Chemical, Bacteriological and Radiological Defense Troops, termed Yarikhanov's charge "ill-intentioned disinformation." Yarikhanov had reported that several militants killed by federal troops in the districts of Itum-kale and Shatoi had signs similar to those left by toxic agents. He admitted that no laboratory analyses had been made. -- Doug Clarke

PRIMAKOV, CHRISTOPHER ENDORSE COMPROMISE ON NUCLEAR TEST BAN.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart Warren Christopher announced in Jakarta on 23 July that their countries will sign a compromise Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the next session of the multilateral Geneva talks on the issue, international media reported. According to Primakov, the compromise draft, proposed by Dutch diplomat Jaap Ramaker last month, "does not fully satisfy both sides." But both decided to accept it in order to persuade other countries--such as India and China--to do likewise and speed the establishment of an international ban on nuclear tests. The Russians were unhappy with some of the monitoring provisions. The U.S. wanted the treaty to come into effect if 40 country signed it: the current draft insists that all five current nuclear powers and three "threshold" powers must sign before it comes into effect. The two diplomats also discussed a number of other issues, but reportedly made little progress resolving differences between Moscow and Washington on such issues as NATO enlargement and the candidacy of UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for a second term. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA ON BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
Vladimir Andreev, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, declared on 23 July that the removal of former Bosnian Serb President and internationally wanted war criminal Radovan Karadzic from his government and party posts had "removed all obstacles to the normal organization of elections" in Bosnia, ITAR-TASS reported. Andreev said that holding the elections, currently scheduled for mid-September, should now be viewed as the "main strategic objective" in Bosnia, to which the international community should "direct all its efforts." He cautioned against "ill-considered actions," like the arrest of Karadzic or Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic on war crimes charges, which he claimed might torpedo the elections. Moscow has consistently argued that arresting Karadzic or Mladic would undermine the Bosnian peace process. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA DELEGATION IN NICARAGUA.
A delegation led by Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev arrived in Nicaragua on 23 July on the first leg of a Latin American tour which also includes Cuba and Venezuela, Russian and Western agencies reported. The delegation met with Nicaraguan President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro to discuss bilateral ties. Seleznev later said that the discussion had revealed "many similar moments" in Nicaraguan and Russian politics, especially in the area of legislative-executive relations. The Russian parliamentarian also took the opportunity to denounce the recent tightening of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, saying that the controversial Helms-Burton act, should be revoked. Latin American countries have also condemned the American legislation. -- Scott Parrish

GLOBAL RADIO BROADCASTING CONTINUES.
The Russian state radio company Golos Rossii still broadcasts worldwide in 32 different languages for a total of 539 hours per week, Argumenty i fakty reported in issue no. 28. This is down from 66 languages and 1638 hours per week in 1991. The broadcasts currently use 19 European languages plus a broad range of African and Asian tongues, including Arabic, Korean, and Nepalese. Interestingly, there are no broadcasts in the languages of CIS member countries, although they can all receive Russian-language domestic radio broadcasts. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIAN PRESS CHARGES OLYMPICS RIDDLED BY U.S. CHAUVINISM.
Russian newspapers on 23 July charged that the Atlanta Olympics have been poorly organized and marred by jingoism and favoritism for U.S. competitors. "Politics always played a leading role at the Olympics, but judging by the way they have started, politics have eclipsed all else at these Games," Izvestiya quoted Vladimir Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to the U.S., as saying. Moskovskii komsomolets , meanwhile, claimed that "the Americans, without any restraint, give the impression (as always) that non-native sportsmen do not exist," according to Reuters. ITAR-TASS complained about the NBC television coverage of the Games, saying U.S. athletes received a disproportionate amount of air time. The Russians are not the only ones to have complained about organizational problems in Atlanta: the BBC has quoted British athletes bemoaning poor transport and accommodation arrangements. -- Penny Morvant

MORE MINERS STRIKE IN PRIMORE.
Miners at another pit in Primorskii Krai went on strike on 24 July, bringing the total number of strikers up to about 3,500, ITAR-TASS reported. Mines in Partizansk have been idle for about a week because of a dispute over wage arrears. According to union official Petr Kiryasov, mines in Primore are owed 450 billion rubles by consumers. The massive, interlocking problem of nonpayments in the region last week resulted in severe power cuts as the local electric company Dalenergo could not afford to purchase supplies of diesel oil. -- Penny Morvant

FINANCIAL SITUATION IN ENERGY SECTOR.
Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik said that in the first half of 1996 the sector contributed 26 trillion rubles ($53 billion) to the budget, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 23-24 July. Customers' debts to fuel and energy companies rose by 60% over the same period, reaching 179 trillion rubles (54% of the total customers' debt in industry). Shafranik noted that high taxes have pushed domestic prices on fuel and energy products up to 75-95% of the world price level. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW CUSTOM DUTIES FOR SHUTTLE-TRADERS.
The government will lower the level of duty-free imports for individual travelers, known as shuttle-traders (chelnoki), from $2,000 to $1,000 per person starting from 1 August, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 23-24 July. Duties will be set at 30% of the goods' value, but not less than 4 ECU per one kilogram. If the goods' total value exceeds $10,000 or their total weight is over 200 kilograms, shuttle traders will have to pay the same duties as legal entities. There are some 10-30 million people involved in the shuttle trade and their turnover is estimated at around $10 billion a year. According to the First Deputy Economic Minister Yakov Urinson, the new measures should increase tax receipts and help fight corruption among customs officers. -- Natalia Gurushina



CRACKDOWN ON GEORGIAN INDEPENDENT TV STATION.
The management of the private Georgian TV station Rustavi-2, which has an estimated audience of 300,000 people, continues to protest the station's closure by the Georgian authorities on 17 July, allegedly because the station's charter did not allow it to broadcast on a TV frequency. The station's management has produced documentation proving that it received the appropriate license from the Ministry of Communications, and claims the crackdown was initiated by unspecified forces seeking to sabotage the process of democratization in Georgia, Radio Rossii reported on 23 July. -- Liz Fuller

NEW UN OFFICE OPENS IN UZBEKISTAN.
The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) officially opened an office in Tashkent on 22 July, Uzbek TV reported as monitored by the BBC. The UN permanent representative to Uzbekistan, Khalid Malik, and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Saidmukhtar Saidkasymov attended the ceremony. The center is to study the problems of "health services, education and social welfare" in Uzbekistan. The office joins a growing list of UN institutions working in Uzbekistan, including UNHCR and UNESCO. -- Roger Kangas



U.S. HOUSE CALLS FOR NATO EXPANSION. T
he House of Representatives on 23 July called for expansion of the military alliance and authorized up to $60 million to help Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to prepare for membership, Reuters reported on 23 July. The leading applicant countries were said to have made the most progress on meeting NATO criteria. But the bill left the timetable for these countries' entry uncertain. According to the measure, which yet has to be taken up by the Senate, the aid could be extended to other countries of the region in the future upon the approval of the U.S. president. Representative Benjamin Gilman, who serves as chairman of the International Relations Committee, said neither the United States nor the new European democracies "can afford to wait any longer" and the bill was needed to keep pressure on the US administration to seek prompt enlargement of NATO. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

UKRAINE READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH RUSSIA.
Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said Ukraine has invited Russia to restart negotiations in all areas of cooperation, UNIAN reported on 23 July. He said there are plans to invite his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, to Ukraine. In addition, activities of a joint commission headed by the prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine are to be stepped up, Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko is to pay an official visit to Russia, and negotiations on border issues should begin. During the Russian elections, there was no progress in negotiations on the long-delayed treaty on friendship and cooperation. It is hoped that headway on the treaty will be made when Yeltsin meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma in August during his inauguration in Moscow. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN COAL MINERS DEMAND RELEASE OF ARRESTED UNION LEADERS.
Two coal mines held a day-long strike and nearly 1,000 miners held a rally in Krasnodon to demand the release of two local union leaders arrested for organizing recent strikes in the country's coal mining region, Ukrainian agencies reported on 22-23 July. Petro Kyt and Mykhailo Skrynsky, local independent miners' union leaders, were arrested on 18 July and charged with disrupting public order by organizing illegal mass strikes and blocking railroads. The latest round of strikes by coal mines demanding payment of back wages owed them by the Ukrainian government ended recently when the miners and Kyiv signed an agreement outlining a payment schedule. In the meantime, Ukrainian radio reported on 22 July that the government had allocated 1 trillion karbovantsi ($5.4 million) for payment of wage arrears to employees of the mine-construction industry and for the industry's restructuring. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN TURKEY.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrived in Turkey on 24 June for a three-day official visit to sign a treaty on friendship and cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka is to meet with his Turkish counterpart Suleiman Demirel to conclude agreements on double taxation, cooperation in tourism and in fighting organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism. A Turkish bank will offer Belarus a $20 million credit. -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN BELARUS.
Russian deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov was in Minsk on 22 July for talks on problems with the Russian-Belarusian customs union, Russian Public Television reported. Minsk has asked Moscow to impose tariffs on practically all imported consumer goods because it wants to protect its own producers from competition from cheaper imports. Moscow is unwilling to do that, and the customs union appears to be threatened. The visit comes after Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka criticized Russia for not honoring the terms of the union, and failing to write off Belarus's gas debt even though Minsk allows Russian troops to remain in Belarus free of charge. -- Ustina Markus

SEVASTOPOL OPENED TO FOREIGN SHIPPING.
Sevastopol has opened its port to foreign non-military shipping, AFP reported on 23 July. The city had been closed to foreigners until last year as a security precaution because it was the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. The city's authorities have decided to develop it as a tourist attraction and commercial seaport. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA'S COALITION AND PROGRESS PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
The Coalition Party and the Progress Party (Arengupartei) signed a cooperation agreement on 23 July in Tallinn, ETA reported. The two parties could not forge a formal alliance for the October local elections because the Progress Party had not officially registered with the National Election Committee by the 17 July deadline. It has only 260 members and 1,000 members were needed in order to register. The party was founded in late May by former members of the Center Party dissatisfied with the return of Edgar Savisaar as that party's leader. Coalition Party head Tiit Vahi said that its ruling alliance partner, the Reform Party, had approved the cooperation agreement. -- Saulius Girnius

EXTRADITION OF WAR CRIMINALS TO LITHUANIA DEMANDED.
The public Baltic Unity Organization (BVO) demanded on 22 July that war criminals Petras Raslanas and Noachim Dusanski be extradited from Russia and Israel, respectively, to Lithuania, BNS reported the next day. They are accused of participating in the
NKVD -organized murder of 74 people in the Rainiai forest in 1941. Noting that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had successfully prosecuted a number of people involved in the killing of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries, BVO Chairman Vytautas Nezgada said that the center could aid in extraditing the two war criminals and clarifying crimes committed against other nationalities. At the end of June, 10 Seimas opposition deputies circulated a statement urging President Algirdas Brazauskas to demand the extradition of Raslanas and Dusanski. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH ECONOMIC RECOVERY CONTINUES.
Preliminary data for the first half of 1996 released 23 July by the Central Statistical Office show continued strong economic growth in Poland. Polish dailies reported the following day that industrial production was up 7.9% and real wages grew by 6.1% over mid-1995 levels, while the unemployment rate fell to 14.8%, its lowest level since 1992. However, consumer prices during the first half of the year rose by 11.4%, while the trade deficit climbed to $2.6 billion. While above-forecast figures for inflation, the trade deficit, real wage growth, and the government budget deficit suggest that the Polish economy may be overheating, they are not dramatically out of line with last year's numbers. Likewise, the Polish economy appears to be on track for realizing the official forecast of 5.5-6.0% real GDP growth in 1996. The Polish economic recovery, which began in 1992, is the longest and most durable in Eastern Europe. -- Ben Slay

CZECH PRESIDENT URGES OPPOSITION TO APPROVE GOVERNMENT.
Vaclav Havel, in a speech to the parliament on 23 July, urged opposition deputies to approve the minority coalition government led by Vaclav Klaus, Czech media reported. Havel argued that the government's composition and program were good, and should be given a chance. The opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) have threatened to vote against the government, the main sticking point being its plan to return, by decree, a large number of properties to the Catholic Church. The CSSD proposed on 23 July that the parliament approve a resolution taking the restitution of Church property out of the government's hands and requesting that the parliament first approve a special restitution law. However, the parliament would not put the proposal on the agenda of its current session, giving the government a surprising victory. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRIVATIZATION TO CONTINUE DESPITE CONTROVERSY.
National Property Fund (FNM) Presidium President Stefan Gavornik told Slovak Radio on 23 July that direct sale privatization projects will continue although the opposition remains unrepresented on the FNM's boards. During June's coalition crisis, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar reportedly signed an agreement with the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) guaranteeing that privatization would be halted until the FNM boards are reconstructed. Gavornik stressed "it is not possible to stop the privatization process...since the Presidium's most important role is to issue decisions on direct sale privatization projects." The FNM Presidium is expected to decide on about 30 direct sale privatization projects on 25 July. Meanwhile, SDL deputy chairwoman Brigita Schmoegnerova said that if Meciar breaks his pledge, her party will publish the agreement's contents, Narodna obroda reported on 23 July. -- Sharon Fisher



BOMB EXPLODES AT UN POLICE STATION ON SERB TERRITORY.
An explosive device went off late on 22 July outside an International Police Task Force (IPTF) office in Doboj in northern Bosnia, news agencies reported. There were no injuries or casualties. The IPTF monitors local police forces and will play a key security role in the fall elections. The latest bombing fits into a pattern of intimidation and threats against the IPTF on Bosnian Serb territory. -- Patrick Moore

SERBS ALREADY BREAKING LATEST ELECTION AGREEMENT.
The governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) has used Radovan Karadzic as a vote-getter in an ad in Vesti, a daily aimed at Serbs living abroad, Onasa reported on 22 July. The text appealed for votes for some of his staunch supporters, including acting President Billjana Plavsic, parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik, and Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha. The ad said that "they are the closest partners of Radovan Karadzic, who is the best fighter for a free and democratic Republika Srpska. Our enemies hate him because he cannot be blackmailed and because he will not sell at any price the Republika Srpska, which was obtained [so] painfully. He is a symbol of Serb heroism and many rightly compare him to the greatest figures of our history," Beta stated. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke clinched a deal on 19 July requiring the indicted war criminal and SDS chairman to withdraw from politics--including media appearances--so that the 14 September elections can go ahead with SDS participation. The OSCE said it will raise the issue with the SDS, Reuters reported. -- Patrick Moore

UN STARTS WORK ON THIRD MASS GRAVE.
International forensic and archeological experts began work on 24 July on a third site believed to contain the remains of Muslim males executed by the Serbs following the fall of Srebrenica one year ago. Evidence from other graves points to a huge massacre of civilians, many of whom had their hands wired together behind their backs. The Serbs claim that the men are military casualties, but chief investigator William Haglund told Reuters: "I don't know how many soldiers fight with their hands tied behind them." But a local Serb resident said that "there are bodies there. We plow them up all the time, but they are all of Serbs whom the Turks [Muslims] killed. Why is it that the world blames us Serbs, when everyone was involved in a war?" -- Patrick Moore

EU TRIES TO NEGOTIATE AFTER CROATIAN BOYCOTT OF MOSTAR CITY COUNCIL.
At a meeting with Michael Steiner, deputy to the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, and EU envoy Tom Bolster, Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) leader Mile Puljic, whose party boycotted the opening session of the Mostar City Council on 23 July, claimed he did not receive proper notification of the session, AFP reported. After the meeting with international officials, Puljic said that the "conversation wasn't fruitful." EU spokesman Tom Walker said there was no sign that an agreement was imminent, Reuters reported. The HDZ is pushing for a joint interim administrative body that would run the city pending a final decision on whether to annul the controversial 30 June elections. Meanwhile, Croat West Mostar mayor Mijo Brajkovic said that "whatever the [new city] council decided today is completely irrelevant for us" and threatened not to extend the EU administration's mandate. -- Fabian Schmidt

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE ON BOSNIA'S RECONSTRUCTION OPENS.
Representatives of 200 European companies and banks on 23 July attended the meeting called by the European Commission to bid for Bosnia's reconstruction program, Nasa Borba reported. Hans Van den Brock, EU commissioner for central and southeast Europe, said the success of Bosnia's reconstruction will greatly determine the future and even survival of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state. Van den Brock also said that the war damage in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been estimated to be between $30 and $50 billion. The international community has pledged $5 billion for reconstruction of Bosnia, of which $1.8 billion will be spent by the end of 1996. More than one third of this amount has been pledged by the EU. U.S. companies have already started business negotiations in Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN DELEGATION IN SERBIA.
Bosnian Vice-President Ejup Ganic led 15-member delegation that arrived in Belgrade on 23 July for a landmark visit designed to restore contacts and promote bilateral trade, Nasa Borba reported on 24 July. The arrival of the Bosnian delegation is the first such since war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina four years ago, and observers have hailed the development as the first significant step towards possible mutual reconciliation. Ganic, who met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, said just prior to departing that his was a "risky step for me but a very sure and safe step for Bosnia," Reuters reported. Ganic, who advocated strong military resistance to Serbian aggression, was throughout the conflict dubbed "a war criminal" by the Belgrade state-run media. After meeting with Milosevic, Ganic remarked that talks were "open, straightforward. The two countries are closer than they were before." -- Stan Markotich

LJUBLJANA, BELGRADE TAKE SHOWDOWN TO OFFSHORE BANKS?
Belgrade's assets in Cyprus have been frozen by court order, Nasa Borba reported first on 22 July. Beobank director Borka Vucic initially responded saying "our resources are not blockaded." Reuters, however, quoted Cypriot lawyer Evros Evripido, acting for the Slovenian government, as saying on 22 July that Ljubljana was seeking its share of assets, totaling some $650 million. Efforts to freeze the assets stemmed from the position that as a former Yugoslav republic, Slovenia had both a right and obligation to maintain a portion of those federal assets now hidden on Cyprus. The issue of resources in Cyprus is of paramount concern to Belgrade, which likely weathered the storm of sanctions by dipping into the cash reserves ensconced on the island. Slovenia's case is slated for a 29 July hearing, and on 23 July Nasa Borba added that other claimants are surfacing. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIA FEARS NATO BASES IN HUNGARY.
Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca said in an interview with the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet that his country fears that the setting up of NATO bases on Hungarian territory might encourage "Hungarian extremist forces," the daily Evenimentul zilei reported on 24 July. Tinca said these forces might believe the NATO presence would make it possible for them to achieve "their decades-long dream" of "recuperating Transylvania." -- Michael Shafir

UNEMPLOYMENT IN MOLDOVA.
According to data released by the Moldovan State Statistics Department, 26,100 persons were officially registered as unemployed, two thirds of whom were women, Infotag reported on 23 July. About 28% of those unemployed receive unemployment benefits averaging 68 lei (about $15.50) per month. In addition, 124,000 persons were on forced leave, the average duration of which is 39 days. -- Michael Shafir

SOCIALIST CANDIDATE BARRED FROM BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
A decision of the Constitutional Court on 23 July effectively prevents Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski from seeking the country's presidency, RFE/RL reported. Under the constitution, the president must be "Bulgarian by birth." Pirinski, who was born in New York in 1948 to the family of a Bulgarian emigre, could not acquire immediate Bulgarian citizenship under the citizenship law valid at that time since he already had U.S. citizenship by birth. Nine of the 12 judges ruled that whether someone is "Bulgarian by birth" is determined by the legislation valid at his birth. The opposition had asked the court to rule on the question. Judge Ivan Grigorov said the ruling was not directed against any single person. Pirinski can still be registered with the Central Electoral Commission, but his candidacy could then be overruled by the commission or the Supreme Court. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS SAY PIRINSKI REMAINS THEIR CANDIDATE.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) reacted harshly to the latest Constitutional Court ruling. The BSP daily Duma called the decision political and claimed that the judges violated the constitution. BSP parliamentary faction leader Krasimir Premyanov said Pirinski remains the party's candidate despite the Constitutional Court's ruling, but Kontinent cites unnamed sources as saying the BSP is already looking for a new candidate. Pirinski himself has not commented on the ruling so far, but he is expected to make a statement on 24 July. Pirinski is widely seen as the only Socialist candidate who can win the presidential elections in the fall. The Union of Democratic Forces daily Demokratsiya called on the BSP to withdraw Pirinski's candidacy and said the BSP should not have nominated him in the first place if it is worried about society's stability. -- Stefan Krause

ROMA COVERED WITH FUEL AND BURNT IN ALBANIA.
At least four men on 17 July kidnapped three teenage Roma near Tirana's train station, took them to a field outside the city, robbed and then tortured them for some three hours, the European Roma Rights Center reported on 22 July. They reportedly then poured gas over the head of 15-year-old Fatmir Haxhiu and set him on fire. He was able to testify to human rights organizations before he died of severe injuries on 21 July. Two of the culprits have reportedly been arrested. There was no independent confirmation of the incident. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Carla Atkinson





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