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Newsline - August 23, 1996

In eight hours of talks in the Chechen village of Novye Atagi on 22 August, Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov drafted and then signed a nine-point agreement on the technical aspects of demilitarization, including the withdrawal of both sides' forces from Grozny and the creation of a joint military headquarters to maintain order and preclude looting, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreement also includes a ceasefire scheduled to take effect at noon on 23 August. Lebed expressed confidence that the agreement would be implemented, noting that "all the commanders whom I brought together accepted this agreement as binding," according to ITAR-TASS. Lebed flew back to Moscow overnight, but will return to Chechnya in two days to sign a political agreement on future bilateral relations between Moscow and Grozny. -- Liz Fuller

Over 400 Russian troops have been killed and 1,264 wounded since the beginning of the Chechen offensive in Grozny on 6 August, according to Russian Public Television (ORT). Some 150,000 residents have fled Grozny; the International Red Cross estimated on 22 August that 50,000 people remain in the city, AFP reported. The head of the OSCE mission to Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, told a press conference in Vienna on 22 August that water, food and medical supplies are in short supply in Grozny, according to Reuters. ITAR-TASS quoted Guldimann, whose role in mediating an earlier peace agreement between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev was sharply criticized by the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, as saying that the OSCE would continue to seek a political solution to the Chechen conflict. -- Liz Fuller

President Boris Yeltsin criticized Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 22 August, ORT reported. Yeltsin said that Lebed promised during the presidential election campaign that if he held power, he would resolve the Chechen conflict, but "now that he has power, unfortunately, there are no apparent results." The president added that he would not "despair" and would continue seeking a negotiated solution to the war. He labeled the Chechen conflict a "bleeding wound" since it was claiming the lives of so many Russian Federation citizens, Radio Mayak reported. -- Robert Orttung

Defense Minister Igor Rodionov announced that Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii acted alone when he issued his 19 August ultimatum warning civilians to evacuate Grozny within 48 hours, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 23 August. The Defense Ministry did not prepare the ultimatum, nor did its leadership approve it, Rodionov said. Pulikovskii exceeded his authority in issuing the ultimatum and committed a serious mistake in doing so, the defense minister said. He stressed that the military would not be allowed to act independently of government policy. Pulikovskii's actions demonstrate a breakdown in the Russian chain of command and continue a trend of Russian commanders in ethnic hotspots, like Moldova and Abkhazia, acting independently. -- Robert Orttung

The main difference between the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and the ongoing war in Chechnya is that the U.S. learned lessons from Vietnam, while Russia has not yet learned anything from the Chechen conflict, according to a commentary in the 23 August Izvestiya. The author, who reported from New York and Washington during the Vietnam era, noted that Aleksandr Lebed's recent activities have been viewed favorably in the West but with suspicion in Moscow, and concluded that senior Russian officials sent Lebed to Chechnya hoping not to solve the crisis, but to discredit Lebed. The author also found many similarities between Chechnya and Vietnam. For instance, he said Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii's ultimatum to Grozny residents recalled a famous remark once attributed to an American colonel: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." -- Laura Belin

In his first TV interview since beginning his second term, Yeltsin looked hale and confident as he sought to demonstrate that he had a firm grasp on power, NTV reported on 22 August. Yeltsin denied rumors that he would be going to Switzerland for medical treatment, noting that there were many problems left for him to address in Russia. Yeltsin has not yet decided when and where he will vacation, Izvestiya reported on 23 August. He spent the last two days investigating resort sites, according to his press service. -- Robert Orttung

Aman Tuleev, the chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislative assembly and an opposition leader, has joined the new government to head the CIS Affairs Ministry. He had expected a higher position, such as first deputy prime minister. Half-Kazak and half-Tatar, Tuleev was born in Turkmenistan in 1944. A railroad worker and, later, engineer, he became a Communist Party functionary in 1985. He has been chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislature since 1990. A a long-time opponent of Boris Yeltsin, Tuleev ran in both Russian presidential races: in 1991, he finished fourth with about 7% of the vote; in 1996, he withdrew his bid several days before the first round and threw his support behind Gennadii Zyuganov. He is one of the five co-chairman of the Popular Patriotic Union of Russia, an opposition movement created earlier this month. Some observers suggest that Tuleev's appointment was aimed to push him aside from the Kemerovo Oblast gubernatorial race, where he had a good chance of defeating the incumbent. -- Anna Paretskaya

Presidential Aide Dmitrii Ryurikov said that "policy with regard to ethnic Russians living in CIS states will become much more active than it was previously," in an interview with Moskovskii komsomolets of 21 August. He accused the Estonian authorities of practicing "apartheid" and of not fulfilling agreements on the pensions and other social rights of Russian residents. He threatened that "specific steps will soon be taken which will make the Estonian authorities consider the justice of their actions" and claimed that "Lithuania, Latvia, and especially Estonia have no chance of joining NATO until the Russian problem is resolved." -- Peter Rutland

The 61-nation talks in Geneva seeking a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty ended without agreement on 22 August, after nearly three years of negotiations. The chief Russian delegate to the Conference on Disarmament, Grigorii Berdennikov, confirmed Russia's support for the comprehensive test ban, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. Speaking at the conference, he criticized India's refusal to sign the treaty, which is the sole remaining barrier to its adoption. India is insisting that the declared nuclear powers provide a timetable for complete disarmament, and Russia seems to have been unable to dislodge its traditional ally from this position. -- Peter Rutland

Employees of a local hospital picketed the building of the Magadan Oblast administration demanding payment of back wages, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 22 August. The doctors were last paid in May. The hospital administration canceled all operations except for emergency cases. No reaction from the oblast administration was reported. Meanwhile, transport workers went on a one-day warning strike in Kyzyl, the capital of Tyva. The strike was also prompted by overdue wages, which the workers have not received since January, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. -- Anna Paretskaya

The Primorskii Krai's regional duma will refuse to implement the State Energy Commission's decree on raising energy prices in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. To close the gap between costs and prices and restore the profitability of electricity producers, the decree triples electricity prices in the Far Eastern region, bringing them to 325 rubles ($0.06) per kilowatt-hour for residents, 573 rubles for industrial companies, and 1,410 rubles for commercial organizations. The duma complained that local customers will not be able to pay the new tariffs, and called upon Moscow to send 450 billion rubles to buy fuel supplies for next winter. They also suggested that the region's 1.8 trillion ruble tax obligation to the federal budget be canceled, given that Moscow owes the region roughly that amount in payments and subsidies. -- Natalia Gurushina

The newly appointed government hurriedly approved the draft federal budget for 1997 at its meeting on 22 August, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported. The government is legally required to submit the draft to parliament by 1 September. The draft assumes that GDP will not decline next year but will stay at around 1,620 trillion rubles ($300 billion), in contrast to the 3% fall expected this year. It expects annual inflation of 9.5% and a budget deficit of 3.3% of GDP (89 trillion rubles), down from the 3.9% target for 1996. Spending will be 512 trillion rubles and revenues 423 trillion. This is largely a hypothetical exercise. Even leaving aside the optimistic assumptions factored into the 1997 budget, experience this year indicates that the budget only imperfectly describes the actual pattern of government spending. On 21 August President Yeltsin finally signed into law a bill specifying the spending and revenue categories in the budget. The Duma has been trying to pass such a law since December 1994: Yeltsin vetoed two previous versions. -- Peter Rutland

Petr Rodionov, a 45-year-old member of the board of the gas industry giant Gazprom, has been appointed Russia's new Fuel and Energy Minister. Rodionov was also the director of Gazprom's subsidiary in St. Petersburg, where he earned a "tough man" reputation for cutting gas supplies to defaulting customers, Reuters reported on 22 August. In an interview with Russian Public Television (ORT), Rodionov said he will push for a revision of the energy sector's pricing policy. However, the capacity of his ministry to influence such decisions has been much reduced by the privatization program, which has created a number of autonomous corporations, and by the fact that responsibility has to be shared with other governmental agencies, such as the Federal Energy Commission, which sets transport tariffs. -- Natalia Gurushina

Georgian scholars have criticized what they regard as "insulting and unethical" comments in a new Georgian-language textbook published in England, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. A meeting of scholars at the Samshoblo publishing house in Tbilisi accused author George Hewitt of anti-Georgian bias, which they connected to the alleged fact of his marriage to an Abkhazian. Some participants even called for criminal proceedings against Hewitt. ITAR-TASS reported that an Indiana University professor, Dodona Kiziria, agreed with some of the criticism of the book. -- Peter Rutland

With a new outbreak of fighting reportedly in progress in the Tavil-Dara region, representatives of other interested countries have stepped up their efforts to achieve some resolution to the problems in Tajikistan. Officials of the Russian and Afghan border commands met on 22 August in the Tajik village of Tem, close to Khorog, to discuss means of stabilizing the area along the Tajik-Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of the two countries agreed on sharing information on border violations and on the creation of a border security zone stretching 2-5 kilometers south into Afghanistan. UN envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem was in Iran, where several United Tajik Opposition leaders live, on 22 August to enlist the aid of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, according to RFE/RL. Iran has played a constructive role in bringing the Tajik government and opposition to the peace table since the conflict began in 1992. -- Bruce Pannier

The Uzbek government has ordered Tashkent commercial banks to suspend all operations involving cash withdrawals unless specific permission has been given, Finansovye Izvestiya reported on 22 August. The paper reported that Uzbekistan's treasury is facing a $700 million tax shortfall. -- Lowell Bezanis

Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov held talks with visiting Uzbek Defense Minister Rustam Ahmedov on 20 August, Turkmen Press news agency reported the following day. According to the BBC monitored report, the two sides discussed cooperation between the Turkmen and Uzbek armed forces. -- Lowell Bezanis

The Donetsk Court of Arbitration ruled on 20 August to disband the Donetsk Workers' Committee for organizing illegal miners' strikes in July, blocking roads and railroad tracks, and causing huge losses for local mines and railroads, Ukrainian agencies reported on 20 and 21 August. The court used as evidence videotaped interviews by local TV reporters with the imprisoned leaders of the committee, arrested recently for organizing the strikes. The leftist Civic Congress of Ukraine has issued a protest against the court's ruling, calling it a sign of the "advance of totalitarianism . . . based on nationalist ideology" in Ukraine. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukala said President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposed referendum is legal under the constitution, Belapan reported on 21 August. Under Article 74 of the constitution, the president or the people can initiate a referendum and parliament should set a date within 30 days of the proposal. Any referendum questions are under the authority of the initiator. Parliamentary Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky agreed that parliament must set the referendum date within a month of receiving the proposal, but he said the full texts of the referendum questions have not yet been presented to the parliament. During a round-table discussion that day, it was suggested that parliament may add its own questions to the referendum or hold an alternative referendum. Under the constitution, parliament has the right to initiate a referendum if 70 deputies back the move. -- Ustina Markus

The trial of nationalist poet Slavomyr Adamovich began in Vitsebsk on 22 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Adamovich is being tried for instigating terrorism with his poem "Kill the President," which was published in the Vitsebsk paper Vybar. Adamovich is also accused of illegal weapons possession and trying to cross the border illegally. A day earlier, Belarusian TV reported on the beginning of the trial of seven Ukrainians accused of participating in activities leading to public disorder. The Ukrainians were apprehended during the 26 April Chornobyl demonstrations and face up to three years in prison. -- Ustina Markus

The Estonian and Latvian parliaments on 22 August unanimously ratified the agreement on sea borders signed by Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi and Andres Skele on 12 July, BNS reported. The agreement, which went into effect upon the ratifications, foresees conclusion of a bilateral agreement on fishing in the Gulf of Riga by 1 September. -- Saulius Girnius

The Saeima on 22 August did not ratify agreements with Amoco and the Swedish company Oljeprospektering AB for oil exploration off Latvia's coast, Radio Lithuania reported. This was not due to appeals by the Lithuanian parliament to postpone the matter but because the lawmakers ran out of time to discuss the 25th item on their agenda. The ratification is to be discussed at the next session on 29 August. Lithuania claims part of the territory where explorations are envisioned by the 31 October 1995 agreement and has asked that they not be ratified before the sea border is settled. -- Saulius Girnius

Data for the first seven months of 1996 released on 22 August by the Central Statistical Office show that Poland's economy continues to deliver strong results. According to reports in Polish dailies on 23 August, industrial production at the end of July was 10% above its July 1995 level, while prices actually declined by 0.1% in July. Industrial growth was powered by Poland's continuing investment boom--real investment spending at the end of June was 24% above mid-1995 levels--and by consumption, which reflected a 9.4% increase in real wages in July (relative to July 1995 levels). The price stability attained in July also means that the official consumer-price inflation forecast of 17% for the year remains within the realm of the possible. On the other hand, the rapid growth in real wages has pulled down state enterprises' profits. Also, Poland's trade deficit at the end of June had risen to $3.1 billion, compared with the $500 million deficit recorded in mid-1995. -- Ben Slay

Chemapol Group, a Czech trading and chemicals conglomerate, announced on 22 August that it had gained an 80% interest in Omnipol, the country's largest arms trader, Reuters reported. Chemapol's general director, Vaclav Junek, said his group hoped to double Omnipol's sales over the next two years. He also said that Chemapol would use Omnipol's connections in an effort to acquire the Czech aircraft builder Aero Vodochody. -- Doug Clarke

The Hungarian Defense Ministry on 22 August revealed the terms of a previously announced deal to purchase 100 T-72 tanks from Belarus, Napi Gzdasag reported. Hungary has agreed to pay $130,000 each for the tanks, which are to be shipped from Belarus later this year. Belarus would have had to destroy the tanks to meet its commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. In a related matter, the Hungarian Defense and Finance ministries were reported to have agreed on a governmental guarantee for a 30 billion forint tender to purchase new air defense missiles and radars. The tender is expected to be issued in two weeks. -- Doug Clarke

The government on 22 August announced that it will not raise energy prices until 1 January 1997, despite its earlier pledge to foreign investors to do so, Hungarian dailies reported. The decision comes in the wake of months-long debate within the cabinet and between government members and foreign investors over whether a price increase is justified. Socialist members of the government cited "social" reasons for putting off the rise, and Industry and Trade Minister Imre Dunai's resignation last week is thought to be owed to his firm stand in favor of raising the prices. The price hike would have been the second major increase this year. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV) on 22 August announced that it has approved Danubius Hotels' 8.1 billion forint ($52 million) bid for the 14-member HungarHotels chain, Hungarian media reported. Danubius's main rival was a domestic investment consortium that included HungarHotels' management. The consortium bid 6.6 billion forints. Danubius, the shares of which are held by both foreign and domestic investors, pledged to spend $13 million on development over the next three years and to keep the present work force for at least a year. The privatization of HungarHotels has been marked by controversy. Prime Minister Gyula Horn called off an agreement between APV's predecessor and the American General Hospitality (AGH) chain in 1994, saying it would have caused a serious loss to the country. AGH had offered 5.6 billion forints ($36.8 million at the current exchange rate) for a 51 percent stake in the entire chain, which then also included the Forum, one of Budapest's most luxurious hotels. In March, APV separated the Forum from the chain; it is now being offered for sale individually. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The UN spokesman in Sarajevo, Alexander Ivanko, said on 22 August that opposition parties' leaders and supporters are being increasingly intimidated by the ruling parties in the northern towns of Cazin and Teslic, Onasa reported. Along with eight explosions in the Bihac region during the past week, three explosions were reported in Cazin on 22 August, all of them believed to have been directed at supporters of opposition parties. The UN received a letter from a local opposition party accusing the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action of acts of intimidation in Cazin. Meanwhile, in the Republika Srpska, a police unit controlled by the ruling Serbian Democratic Party has taken into custody a factory director in Teslic who headed the local opposition party. Ivanko said special Serbian forces continue to operate around the town, with city officials refusing to explain their presence. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Graham Blewitt, prosecutor for the war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, on 22 August opened an office in Sarajevo and announced that a Belgrade office would open the next day, Onasa reported. Blewitt said the tribunal's Sarajevo office will assist the investigation team arriving in Bosnia in early September to resume mass-grave explorations. He said the Belgrade office represents a major step forward, since the prosecutor's office has been trying to establish a base in the city since 1994. The Belgrade office will allow the war-crimes tribunal to investigate alleged atrocities against Serbs. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Mate Granic on 23 August arrived in Belgrade, where he and rump Yugoslav counterpart Milan Milutinovic are to sign an agreement on the normalization of relations, Nasa Borba reported on 23 August. Earlier in the week, Croatian Foreign Ministry sources had hinted that a number of outstanding issues, including jurisdiction over the strategic Prevlaka peninsula and disagreements over the division of assets, could delay the signing (See OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August). But on 22 August, Zagreb announced that Granic would participate in the "landmark" ceremony in Belgrade. The BBC on 23 August, however, reported that a signing would not necessarily mean that all outstanding issues had been resolved; contentious issues could be deferred. -- Stan Markotich

Vojin Dimitrijevic, a member of the opposition Serbian Civic League, told a 21 August press conference that he thought it would be impossible for opposition parties to gain equal access to media coverage during the federal campaign. He also dubbed a recent agreement on media coverage little more than "a state order submitted for signature," reported the BBC monitoring service, citing Tanjug. As of 21 August, a total of 35 parties had signed an agreement on media coverage. -- Stan Markotich

Novak Killibarda, leader of the People's Party of Montenegro (NSCG), and Slavko Perovic, head of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG), released a statement on 22 August outlining a cooperation accord for the 3 November elections, Nasa Borba reported on 23 August. According to the agreement, the parties have resolved to campaign together, recognizing that "it is imperative for us to fold up our party banners and set aside those factors that divide us so as to raise the flag of democracy over Montenegro." The NSCG, which holds 14 seats in the 85-seat republican legislature, has advocated maintaining federal ties with Serbia, while the LSCG, which has 13 seats, has pushed for Montenegro's outright independence. -- Stan Markotich

The chairman of the Serbian parliamentary committee on security, Radmilo Bogdanovic, on 22 August said it is "time for serious talks on Kosovo" between the Serbian government and the Kosovo Albanians, Western media reported, citing state-run Borba. But at the same time, he set conditions that the Kosovars are likely to reject. Bogdanovic--a close aide to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and a former Serbian interior minister--said the Kosovars should take the first step and "ask for talks," and he rejected Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova's call for international mediation. Bogdanovic said that "the state does not need a witness to talk to its own citizens." -- Stefan Krause

Bosnian politicians Ivo Komsic of the Croatian Peasant Party and Nijaz Skenderagic of the Social Democratic Party on 21 August were detained by police in Slovenia as they were about to address a campaign meeting, Oslobodjenje reported. The police told them that according to Slovenian law they cannot hold a meeting that has not been properly announced. Komsic said Croatia and Slovenia are the only two European countries that do not allow such political meetings, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

A "national committee" supporting incumbent President Ion Iliescu's candidacy was formed on 22 August, Romanian television announced on the same day. The committee is chaired by Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. Iosif Borda, Romania's ambassador to Switzerland, has been appointed director of the president's electoral campaign. The Romanian ambassador to Moldova, Marian Enache, is also a member of the committee. The announcement was met with criticism in the opposition press. The daily Romania libera printed excerpts from the Statutes of the Diplomatic Corps, which forbid Romanian diplomats to be members of political parties or become involved in party activities. In other news, several Roma parties that had set up an umbrella organization called Roma Unification appointed sociologist Nicolae Gheorghe as their presidential candidate, Radio Bucharest announced. -- Michael Shafir

In a move obviously triggered by electoral considerations, the Permanent Delegation of the major coalition partner, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, on 22 August decided to freeze consumer prices of 54 products, Radio Bucharest reported. The freeze is to be in force till 1 January 1997. It will affect prices for gasoline and fuel for home heating, coal, public transportation, bread, milk, comestible oil, butter, pork and poultry, medicine and medical services, cigarettes, telephone charges, rents, and others. The independent daily Libertatea on 23 August called the move "a bomb whose exploding effects after the elections will be terrible." -- Michael Shafir

BASA-press reported on 22 August that the local authorities in Bendery (Tighina), a town in the Dniester region where the Chisinau authorities have managed to keep a police force that acts parallel to the Dniester forces, have started preparations for a state of emergency. The move reflects rumors of a concentration of Moldovan army units preparing an attack on the town. Sources close to the city administration told the agency that envelopes containing instructions on mobilization, to be opened only in case of an attack, have been distributed to workplaces. The authorities have also ordered a Dniester military unit to confine men to barracks and to start fortifications. Gen. Victor Catana, the Moldovan Deputy Interior Minister and co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission (JCC), said in a press release that the allegations on the impending attack are a "premeditated misinforming of public opinion." The JCC and the OSCE mission in Moldova on 21 August released a joint statement calling on public organizations, decision makers, and the population at large to "refrain from actions that may increase tension." -- Michael Shafir

Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, addressing a meeting of the National Press Club on 22 August, said that Moldova should become a presidential republic and that he intends to pursue this change if re-elected in November, Infotag reported on the same day. He said that if his main rivals in the electoral contest, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli and parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi, lose, it would mean that the government and the parliamentary majority have lost the trust of the electorate. -- Michael Shafir

The Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) candidates for president and vice president, Georgi Pirinski and Ivan Marazov, on 22 August handed in registration documents to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK), Trud reported. Pirinski, the current foreign minister, turned in a Justice Ministry certificate saying that he never lost his Bulgarian citizenship and is not a naturalized citizen. He did so to prove that he fulfills the constitutional requirement that the president be a "Bulgarian citizen by birth." TsIK Deputy Chairwoman Zlatka Ruseva said the opposition representatives on the commission will examine Pirinski's documents "very carefully." Standart reported that the BSP has two reserve teams, one of which will be registered in case the TsIK rejects Pirinski and Marazov, the current culture minister. Novinar reported that, in that case, Pirinski may replace Zhan Videnov as prime minister in the fall. On 23 August, registration documents for the united opposition's candidates, Petar Stoyanov and Todor Kavaldzhiev, were filed. -- Stefan Krause

Anne McGuirk, head of an IMF mission presently visiting Bulgaria, on 22 August said it was not clear whether the country will qualify for the second installment of a $580 million IMF loan, international media reported. McGuirk said the government has been slow in implementing economic reforms and singled out delays in closing down 64 major loss-making state enterprises. Closing those companies and cutting off subsidies to another 70 enterprises was part of a deal agreed on in May between Bulgaria and the IMF. McGuirk also voiced concern about the decline of the Bulgarian lev and called for tighter monetary policies. -- Stefan Krause

The lawyer for imprisoned Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano has contacted the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to secure Nano's release, Reuters reported on 22 August. Nano's lawyer, Perparim Sanxhaku, said he has direct contacts with the court and plans to launch an appeal there against Nano's sentence. Nano was sentenced in 1994 to 12 years in prison for embezzlement during his term as prime minister in 1991. President Sali Berisha has rejected domestic and international appeals for Nano's release. The Albanian parliament last month ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, from which the court draws its authority. -- Stefan Krause

Kostas Simitis on 22 August announced that early parliamentary elections will be held on 22 September, 13 months before the parliament's regular four-year term expires, Greek state radio reported. Simitis cited the need to revive the economy and to strengthen the country's position vis-a-vis Turkey as the main reasons for the early balloting. Under the Greek constitution, early elections can be held if the premier believes that a "major national issue" requires the government to be approved by popular vote. President Kostis Stephanopoulos signed the decree for new elections on 23 August. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Tim Rostan