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Newsline - July 31, 1996


RUSSIANS DENY INVOLVEMENT IN ATTACK ON MASKHADOV.
Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov on 30 July accused Russian intelligence of instigating the failed assassination attempt on chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 29 July, but Sergei Slipchenko, spokesman of the Russian government commission on resolving the Chechen conflict, ruled out Russian involvement and said the attack had been staged by supporters of rival Chechen field commander Salman Raduev, ITAR-TASS reported. Maskhadov canceled a planned 31 July meeting with the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, pending investigation of the assassination attempt. At its session on 30 July the Russian State Commission for resolving the Chechen conflict issued an official statement calling on acting Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to clarify his stance on Raduev and the latter's repeated threats to perpetrate further terrorist acts in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

ROKHLIN ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION.
A 30 July article in Izvestiya contended that Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who has accused a number of high-ranking Defense Ministry generals of corruption, has himself been involved in dubious financial transactions, centered in Volgograd oblast. Izvestiya detailed the activities of a volunteer society of Reserve Soldiers and Officers that Rokhlin allegedly headed and four commercial companies associated with it, suggesting that Rokhlin and his family benefited financially from their dealings. It also accuses Rokhlin of disregarding Defense Ministry orders. Rokhlin has denied any wrongdoing and puts the allegations down to the fact that he is not on good terms with the Volgograd mayor and the heads of the region's law enforcement bodies. -- Penny Morvant

CHUBAIS GETS OFFICE NEXT TO YELTSIN'S.
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais' new office is near President Boris Yeltsin's on the third floor of the former Senate in the Kremlin, NTV reported on 30 July. Yeltsin's powerful First Aide Viktor Ilyushin previously occupied this office. Chubais' location will give him crucial access to the president and, perhaps, an edge over Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, his competitors for power within the president's inner circle. Ilyushin took leave to work on Yeltsin's presidential campaign and is expected to be named first deputy prime minister. His departure, combined with the purge of the hard-liners, will make Chubais a much stronger chief of staff than his immediate predecessors, Nikolai Yegorov and Sergei Filatov. -- Robert Orttung

DEMOCRATS DECRY DUMA'S INEFFICIENCY...
Russia's Democratic Choice Duma Member Sergei Yushenkov described the Duma as less efficient than a steam engine and said that it was possible Yeltsin would disband it and call new elections, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 30 July. Although Yushenkov suggested that opposition leaders in the current Duma were slowly adopting more constructive positions, his colleague Viktor Pokhmelkin warned that the communist majority was seeking to strengthen its position while torpedoing the president's program. The deputies claimed that only one third of the legislation adopted by the Duma has been signed into law by the president, ITAR-TASS reported. They called for a shake-up of the Duma leadership, including the removal of Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, whose recent accusation that the CIA was preparing subversive actions against Belarus "caused enormous damage to Russian interests." -- Robert Orttung

...SEE CONSOLIDATION OF REFORM PARTIES.
Both deputies believe that pro-reform parties would win if early elections were called. Although the reformers split into more than 10 parties in the 1995 elections, they are now forming three large blocs, defined by liberal (including Russia's Democratic Choice, Forward, Russia!, and Common Cause), centrist (Our Home is Russia and the Party of Russian Unity and Accord), and social-democratic (Yabloko) leanings. The communists and their nationalist allies are seeking to establish a unified popular-patriotic bloc, whose first congress is planned for 7 August. -- Robert Orttung

YELENA BONNER HOSPITALIZED.
Human rights activist Yelena Bonner, 73, was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack on 30 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, has had a history of heart problems. Earlier this month, human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev was hospitalized following a heart attack (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 July 1996). Bonner and Kovalev have been among the most vocal critics of the war in Chechnya; in recent months, they urged Russia's democrats not to support President Yeltsin's re-election. -- Laura Belin

RYZHKOV: POPULAR-PATRIOTIC UNION NOT DOMINATED BY COMMUNISTS.
Communist Party (KPRF) activists will not dominate the new Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR), the movement formed from the coalition that backed Gennadii Zyuganov for president, according to NPSR organizing committee chairman Nikolai Ryzhkov. In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 30 July, Ryzhkov said Zyuganov lost the presidential election because Yeltsin's team successfully used the anti-communist card, and that Zyuganov's political future will depend on his ability to represent a broader organization. Ryzhkov added that KPRF officials will not lead more than one half of the NPSR's regional branches, and that in upcoming regional elections the NPSR may support the re-election of some non-communist incumbent governors. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIAN DELEGATION AT PARIS ANTI-TERRORISM MEETING.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev represented Russia at a 30 July conference of officials from the G-7 plus Russia to discuss joint action to combat international terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. The session approved a list of 25 measures, including improvements in intelligence-sharing, police cooperation, monitoring of banks and computer networks, and extradition procedures. Primakov used the session to argue that the Chechen conflict is an example of international terrorism, repeating allegations that separatist fighters receive arms from abroad. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST NATO EXPANSION CONTINUES.
Despite recent statements by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 July 1996), other Russian officials continue to vocally criticize plans to expand NATO. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov, visiting Oslo on 30 July, said that expanding NATO would not improve European security. He pointedly questioned how expansion would affect the security of those European countries "not wanting to join NATO or not wanted inside" the alliance. The same day, meeting with his British counterpart Malcolm Rifkind in Paris, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Moscow wants to deepen cooperation with NATO, but not if it expands. In the 28 July issue of Moskovskie novosti, First Deputy Defense Minster Andrei Kokoshin contended that expanding NATO would provoke "a confrontation that nobody needs," and urged that alternative means of building a new European security system be found. -- Scott Parrish

PERSONNEL RESHUFFLE AT FOREIGN MINISTRY.
Grigorii Karasin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Information and Press department and its chief spokesman since July 1993, has been appointed Deputy Foreign Minister, Russian media reported on 30 July. According to Izvestiya, Karasin will supervise the several Asian departments of the ministry, largely taking over the responsibilities of Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov, who will soon take up the post of ambassador to Japan. Gennadii Tarasov, currently ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will reportedly replace Karasin as chief spokesman. The paper also criticized Karasin for restricting journalists' access to diplomats during his tenure, a policy which it said had tightened further since the January appointment of Yevgenii Primakov as foreign minister. -- Scott Parrish

PRAVDA-5 PUBLISHES DAILY.
The left-wing tabloid Pravda-5, formerly a weekly, has begun to publish daily as the standoff between the Pravda editorial board and the paper's Greek financiers continues. Pravda suspended publication on 24 July, and Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, who own the joint-stock company that publishes both papers, have asked Pravda editor Aleksandr Ilin to resign. Ilin told Komsomolskaya pravda on 31 July that since the Pravda editorial collective is the paper's founder, Pravda staff--not the Greek owners or Pravda-5--have the right to publish daily, collect money from subscriptions and elect Pravda's editor. -- Laura Belin

ELECTIONS SAID TO REFLECT "SOVIETIZATION" OF PRESS.
Aleksei Simonov, head of the watchdog group Glasnost Defense Foundation, said at a 29 July round table in Moscow that the recent presidential elections reflected "the clear Sovietization of the press," Ekspress-khronika reported the next day. He admitted that opinion poll projections were more accurate than in previous elections but said "the bright democratic future is as distant as it was before the first elections [in Russia]." Covering the same round table, the official ITAR-TASS news agency misleadingly quoted Simonov as saying that cooperation among politicians, journalists and sociologists during the campaign was "fruitful," and that journalists presented information about the campaign to the public "more precisely and competently" than they did before last year's parliamentary elections. Simonov told OMRI on 30 July that Ekspress-khronika quoted him accurately and that he never described journalists' cooperation with politicians as "fruitful." -- Laura Belin

GOVERNMENT SENDS MONEY TO PAY PRIMORSKII MINERS.
Yeltsin's economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits announced on 30 July that the government will transfer 45 billion rubles ($8.7 million) from the federal budget to miners in Primore, Russian and Western agencies reported. Unofficial strikes, involving more than 10,000 people, have taken place at a number of pits in the area over the past 20 days. The miners are owed an estimated 130 billion rubles in wage arrears, and they and their families are said to be on the verge of starvation. Union leaders in the Far East threatened to call an official strike from 31 July and miners said they would block the Trans-Siberian railway. -- Penny Morvant

KOREAN FIRM LAUNCHES AUTO PLANT IN KALININGRAD.
South Korea's car manufacturer KIA Motors has signed an agreement to build a plant in Kaliningrad Oblast to assemble 55,000 jeeps and minibuses a year, AFP reported on 30 July. The Korean company intends to invest over $1 billion in the project ($180 million has already been spent), which also envisages upgrading existing plants, including a former navy shipyard. KIA expects to create 50,000 new jobs over the next five years and manufacture at least 65% of car parts locally. Meanwhile, French technical experts, inspecting the VAZ car plant in Togliatti, determined that the new model VAZ-2110 does not meet the technical parameters required for sale in the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. This ban will not affect the sales of older VAZ models. -- Natalia Gurushina



CONFUSION SURROUNDS ABKHAZ TALKS.
The virtual news blackout imposed on the UN/Russian-mediated talks in Moscow between Georgian and Abkhaz representatives on renewing the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force in Abkhazia continues to give rise to unverifiable rumors. ITAR-TASS on 29 July again reported that a compromise had been reached on the peacekeeper issue. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze similarly stated on 29 July during his weekly radio broadcast that some progress had been made. BGI on 30 July quoted Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili as confirming that Shevardnadze had met on several occasions with his Abkhaz counterpart Vladislav Ardzinba but failed to reach an agreement; Shevardnadze's press secretary Vakhtang Abashidze had told RTR on 19 July that no meeting between the two presidents had taken place. On 30 July Noyan Tapan cited Caucasus Press as reporting that the Moscow talks have been suspended indefinitely at the initiative of the Russian mediator, Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN BANKS IN CRISIS.
The deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Armen Darbinyan, told a conference in Yerevan on 30 July that up to one-third of Armenia's 36 banks may close over the next year, Noyan Tapan reported. The banks are owed a total of 20 billion drams ($48 million) and have authorized capital of only 5.5 billion drams ($13 million). Speaking on 27 July, the president of the Armenian Banks Association, Tigran Sarkissyan, had urged the government not to go ahead with its plan to remove privileges for foreign investors, since this would choke off the inflow of private investment. -- Peter Rutland

BAKU DEMONSTRATORS DISPERSED.
A group of demonstrators in front of the Russian embassy in Baku on 26 July was broken up by baton-wielding police, Noyan Tapan reported as monitored by the BBC. The demonstration, organized by 10 youth groups, was protesting the police actions in Moscow which in the name of fighting crime and terrorism are often targeting "persons of Caucasian nationality." (See OMRI Daily Digest 29 July.) -- Peter Rutland

FOOD RIOT REPORTED IN TAJIK CITY.
Five people were killed and 11 injured when a riot broke out over food prices on 30 July in the eastern Tajik city of Khorog, according to the opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan as monitored by the BBC. The trouble apparently began when a shipment of meat, which has been a scarce commodity in the city recently, arrived and a dispute developed over pricing and distributing it. Three of those killed were policemen. -- Bruce Pannier

DEMONSTRATION OVER LIVING CONDITIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Some 2,000 people gathered in the southern city of Zhanatas on 28 July to protest living conditions, Kazakh Television First Channel reported as monitored by the BBC. The demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the head of the city administration and the formation of a special commission to correct the "ruinous social and economic situation in the city." Those at the illegal rally said they would meet again on 11 August if their demands were been met. -- Bruce Pannier



TOP BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS RESIGN...
Deputy Prime Ministers Leanid Sinitsyn, Vasil Dolhalyau, and Syarhei Ling as well as Economics Minister Hryhorii Badzei have handed in their resignations, international agencies reported on 30 July. The move came after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, speaking at National Security Council meeting,
blamed
them for the state of the country's economy. Lukashenka accepted the resignations of Sinitsyn and Badzei, but it is unclear whether the others were also accepted. Sinitsyn, who led the president's election campaign, had been a member of Lukashenka's team from the outset. He was appointed head of the president's administration after Lukashenka's election but was demoted to deputy prime minister last year, indicating that he was falling out of the president's favor. Parliamentary deputy speaker Henadz Karpenka said the resignations had nothing to do with the parliament. He added that the economic crisis was reaching chronic proportions and that the ministers wanted to distance themselves from the regime's policies. -- Ustina Markus

...WHILE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS APPLY FOR ASYLUM IN U.S.
Leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Zyanon Paznyak and BPF spokesman Syarhei Naumchyk have applied for asylum in the U.S., international agencies reported on 30 July. Paznyak and Naumchyk left Belarus in March after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a warrant for their arrest on charges of organizing demonstrations against both his regime and integration with Russia. The two men said they fear for their lives if they have to return to Belarus because Lukashenka has ordered their "neutralization." They also asked the U.S. not to grant Belarus the $13 million economic aid package for 1997. -- Ustina Markus

RENTS, UTILITIES GO UP IN UKRAINE, BUT SO DO WAGES, PENSIONS.
The Ukrainian government has increased rents and utilities and consumer energy prices but at the same time raised public sector wages and pensions, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported. The increases go into effect on 1 August and are part of the government's effort to reduce subsidies and force consumers to pay 80% of the real costs of services. Rents are to be raised by 20-80%, depending on the size of the flat, while water and heating will go up by some 140-150%. Energy prices will jump by 130%. At the same time, public sector wages will increase by nearly 11% and pensions by 10%. Alex Sundakov, the IMF's Kyiv-based representative, said the planned increases will allow Ukraine to meet its budget deficit target this year. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Statistics Ministry reported that GDP fell by 8.7% during the first half of the year, compared with a 3.1% decrease over the same period last year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS CRITICIZE NEW CONSTITUTION.
The Union of Communists of Ukraine has issued a statement condemning the country's new constitution, UNIAN reported on 29 July. The union noted that the new basic law "legalizes social injustice and the robbery of the working people" by bourgeois mafiosi. It also claimed that the Socialist Party and Communist Party deputies who voted in favor of the constitution's adoption betrayed the working people's interests. Meanwhile, Volodymyr Stretovych, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and Judicial Reform, said that more than 90 lawmakers refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the new constitution during a ceremony on 12 July. However, he said the names of the legislators would remain secret, adding that their refusal to take the oath carried no penalty because they had been elected before the basic law was adopted. Under the new constitution, newly elected deputies are required to take the oath; if they refuse do so, they can lose their seats. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE SAYS ITS POSITION ON BLACK SEA FLEET TO BE BASED ON CONSTITUTION.
Head of Ukraine's Foreign Ministry information department Yurii Serheyev said Ukraine's position during negotiations over the Black Sea Fleet will be based on the country's new constitution, Ukrainian radio reported on 30 July. He emphasized that Sevastopol cannot be the base of the Russian part of the Black Sea Fleet, adding that only some bays can be allocated for the use of the Russian part of the fleet. -- Ustina Markus

LITHUANIA, RUSSIA CONTINUE BORDER TALKS.
Russian-Lithuanian border talks resumed in Vilnius on 30 July following a three-month pause due to the Russian presidential elections, BNS reported. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary Rimantas Sidlauskas said he would like the border to be settled before the end of the year. He added that he hoped the Russian delegation head, former ambassador to Vienna Valerii Popov, would make new proposals to eliminate "the hitches" in determining about a tenth of the Lithuanian border. Outstanding issues include Lithuania's proposal to share fishing rights in Lake Vistytis and the exact border along the Nemunas River. Determining the Lithuanian-Russian sea border is likely to prove a more complicated task. -- Saulius Girnius

POLES APPEAL FOR PEACE IN CHECHNYA.
Prominent public figures in Poland have signed an appeal addressed to the Council of Europe and world public opinion for the Chechen people to have the right to self-determination, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 31 July. Among the signatories are former foreign affairs ministers Wladyslaw Bartoszewski and Andrzej Olechowski, former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, Mayor of Warsaw Marcin Swiecicki, and Mayor of Cracow Jozef Lassota. The appeal holds the Russian government responsible for brutal assaults on civilians and for the escalation of the war in Chechnya. -- Jakub Karpinski

BALTIC CABLE TO LINK POLAND, SWEDEN?
Construction of an underwater cable linking the Polish and Swedish electricity systems is to begin in the spring, Zycie Warszawy reported on 31 July. The cable, which is to stretch 200 kilometers along the Baltic sea bed to link the Swedish town Karlsham with Koszalin in Poland, is due to become operational in 1997. The cable's owners--Poland's PSE electricity distribution company and two Swedish utilities--will be able to send 600-800 megawatts of electricity in either direction. Polish officials say this arrangement will reduce electricity prices in the energy-poor northwestern regions of Poland, while simultaneously helping to reduce the acid rain linked to emissions from Poland's coal-fired power plants. But Swedish environmental groups are opposed to the cable, which, they say, will increase pollution and electromagnetic disturbances in the Baltic Sea. -- Ben Slay

CONTINUED CULTURAL CONTROVERSY IN SLOVAKIA.
Culture Ministry official Marian Kovacik announced on 30 July that two theaters in Banska Bystrica and one in neighboring Zvolen will be merged to form a single Central Slovak Theater, which will open on 1 September, Slovenska Republika reported. This follows a similar move in eastern Slovakia and recent personnel changes at the Slovak National Theater, which are rumored to be connected with aims to merge it with Bratislava's Nova scena theater. Culture Minister Ivan Hudec told TASR on 30 July that the current situation of theaters in Slovakia, where almost 25 are financed from the state budget, is unparalleled in developed democracies. Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky told Sme that Hudec "had not forgotten anything from the 'normalization' policies of the 1970s and had not learned anything about tolerance." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK CITIZEN KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA.
Stefan Hajdin, a construction site manager, was abducted in Grozny on 29 July by a group of unidentified people dressed in police uniforms, international media reported. An employee of the Czech firm Stavoinform, Hajdin was working on the reconstruction of damaged buildings. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but the Slovak and Czech embassies in Moscow are working on the case. A number of specialists on reconstruction projects in Grozny have been kidnapped by Chechen separatists, but Hajdin is the first non-Russian victim. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN ECONOMY STAGNATES IN FIRST HALF OF 1996.
Preliminary figures released by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) show that zero -- or even negative --GDP growth was attained in the first half of 1996, Hungarian dailies reported on 31 July. This follows a 1% year-on-year decline in GDP in the first quarter. Commenting on this year's trends, economist Laszlo Csaba told Vilaggazdasag that "the moment of truth has arrived: the government has been unable to realize its hopes of attaining an improvement in the current account deficit and a GDP growth at the same time." The KSH's January-May report also shows a continued fall in domestic demand owing to the austerity measures introduced in May 1995. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

NEW MEDIA COUNCIL SET UP IN HUNGARY.
The eight-member National Communications and Information Council (NHIT) has begun operating, Hungarian media reported on 31 July. The NHIT replaces the National Frequency Council and is the last of the new organizations set up in accordance with the media law, passed last December. The body is charged with advising the government on a wide range of mass media issues, including preparations for bringing the country's mass media in line with EU norms. It will also help organize international tenders and liberalize media regulations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




REFUGEE CAMP FOR BOSNIAN MUSLIMS TO BE CLOSED IN CROATIA.
The Croatian government has set 31 July as the deadline for 2,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees to leave the Kuplensko camp, Onasa reported. They have been given the choice to move to other refugee camps in Croatia, to go to a third country, or to return to Bosnia. The refugees are the last of the 20,000 followers of the Muslim kingpin Fikret Abdic who fled to Croatia last year when Bosnian army forces pushed them out of Velika Kladusa, their stronghold in northwestern Bosnia. Most of the refugees have already returned to their homes in Bosnia, but those who remain in Croatia fear political persecution if they return. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko supported this fear, saying that the bridge blast on 29 July near Velika Kladusa may have been "an attempt to prevent refugees from the camp returning [to Bosnia]," AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES RULING PARTY OF UNFAIR PLAY.
Bosnian opposition parties have accused the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of replacing the managers of state-run companies in Tuzla with party candidates, AFP reported on 29 July. In the first prewar elections, Tuzla was the only town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where national parties did not win a mandate. It remains the only town where the SDA is not the dominant party. Opposition spokesman Jasmin Imamovic said the state has the right to administer the companies but only in accordance with federal law. -- Daria Sito Sucic
UPDATE ON FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IN BOSNIA.
A Serbian mob armed with iron bars, sticks, and stones have attacked a UN bus carrying passengers from the Bosnian Federation, AFP reported on 30 July. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said the attack, which took place in the Serbian stronghold of Banja Luka, was "clearly orchestrated" by the Bosnian Serb authorities. He added that the UN was holding Serbian Premier Gojko Klickovic "personally responsible" for the safety of passengers and drivers in the Republika Srpska. In other news, the first train since the beginning of war in April 1992 set out on 30 July from Sarajevo via Mostar to the port of Ploce, on the Adriatic coast, Oslobodjenje reported. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said the renewed rail link to the sea marked "the second lifting of the Sarajevo siege," identifying a tunnel dug three years ago under the city's airport as the first one. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR ELECTIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
Zlatko Matesa on 30 July said he will send a letter to Jacques Klein, head of the UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), demanding that local elections be held in the last Serb-held enclave of eastern Slavonia, Croatian radio reported on 30 July. The elections are the last condition to be met before Zagreb can take over jurisdiction and the UN depart from the enclave. Reuters quoted Matesa as saying there is "not a single important reason not to hold the elections in December." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mate Granic, during his visit to Rome on 29-30 July, met with his Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini to discuss taxation policies, tourism, and minority rights. Dini said the meeting was constructive and that Italy will support Croatian efforts to become a member of the Council of Europe. -- Stan Markotich

CENTRIST UNION FOUNDED IN ROMANIA.
The Democratic Agrarian Party, the Ecological Movement, and the Humanist Party on 30 July signed a protocol founding a National Centrist Union (UNC), Radio Bucharest reported. The document stresses that the parties' complementary platforms facilitate the setting up of the new alliance, whose goals and structure will be determined following further negotiations. The union plans to nominate a joint candidate for this autumn's presidential elections and will welcome the membership of groups with similar political leanings. -- Dan Ionescu

TOP ROMANIAN DIPLOMATS SUMMONED TO BUCHAREST.
Heads of Romania's diplomatic missions, consular offices, and cultural centers attended a conference in Bucharest on 29-30 July to discuss the country's policy for joining European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Radio Bucharest reported. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, who presided over the meeting, described integration with the West as Romania's "strategic" foreign policy goal, noting that the present period was "crucial" for achieving that goal. President Ion Iliescu also addressed the participants, saying that Romania's image abroad has improved over the last year but should be further "consolidated" by stressing both the country's internal stability and its contribution to regional stability. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIA ANNOUNCES ANTI-CRIME MEASURES. T
he Interior Ministry on 30 July announced a package of measures to fight crime and terrorism, Reuters and Bulgarian newspapers reported. Security is to be stepped up at airports, ports, railroad and bus stations, border crossings, important public buildings, and key strategic installations. The ministry will also tighten control over the production, transport, storage, and sales of arms, ammunition, explosives, and poisonous substances. It noted that there were 173 bombings in Bulgaria last year and 92 in the first half of 1996, adding that foreign criminal organizations might use Bulgaria as a transit route for illegal arms trade. Opposition deputies said they support the package, adding that they conform with existing legislation. -- Stefan Krause

BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY IN BULGARIA.
Michael Portillo, arriving in Sofia on 30 July for a two-day visit, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Dimitar Pavlov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, Bulgarian and Western media reported. After those talks, Portillo commented that Bulgaria's "special relationship" with Russia could contribute to European security and build a bridge between the West and Moscow. He told Trud that it is entirely in Bulgaria's hands whether it wants to join NATO. Bulgarian politicians are divided over this issue. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LAYS DOWN CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATING IN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Nine opposition parties on 30 July said they will participate in the October local elections only if the ballot is free and fair, international media reported. In a joint statement, the groups called for an improved local election law, international monitoring, equal TV air time, and a review of the genocide law, which bans many opposition from political office until 2002. The groups also demanded that the ruling Democratic Party immediately start a dialogue with the opposition to discuss early parliamentary elections. Other demands included an independent judiciary, free electronic media, civilian control over the police and secret service, a neutral presidency, and independent local government. Finally, the opposition groups proposed that a constituent assembly be elected to draft a new constitution. A basic law drafted by the Democrats was rejected in a 1994 referendum. -- Stefan Krause

FOUR ALBANIANS ON TRIAL FOR REVIVING COMMUNIST PARTY.
Four Albanians have gone on trial on charges of founding a communist party and conspiring to overthrow the government, Reuters reported on 30 July. Three of the accused said they had attempted to create a communist party but denied they had supported violence or anti-constitutional measures. The fourth refused to comment. All four face up to five years in prison if convicted. The prosecution claims that they tried to establish contact with communist parties and associations abroad, including the Cuban government, while the secret police says it possesses incriminating faxes sent by the four to the Cuban embassy in Rome. The Albanian parliament declared all communist organizations illegal in July 1992. -- Stefan Krause



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