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Newsline - August 26, 1996


TIKHOMIROV, MASKHADOV REACH AGREEMENT ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL.
Meeting in Noviye Atagi, south of Grozny, on 23 August, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, reached "unanimous" agreement on the withdrawal from Grozny of Chechen, Russian federal and Russian Interior Ministry forces, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Russian troop withdrawal began as planned on 24 August. -- Liz Fuller

LEBED BREAKS OFF TALKS WITH MASKHADOV, RETURNS TO MOSCOW . . .
Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed flew back to Grozny on the morning of 24 August. After meeting with Russian commanders at Khankala airbase, he proceeded to Noviye Atagi to discuss with Maskhadov a political solution to the Chechen conflict which postpones a decision on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis Moscow pending completion of the Russian troop pullout, new parliamentary elections and the adoption of a new Chechen constitution, AFP reported on 24 August. Instead of continuing these talks on 25 August, however, Lebed flew back to Moscow because of "legal difficulties," in connection with which he planned to consult Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. Speaking at a press conference prior to his departure, Lebed appealed to the Chechen population to refrain from any further attacks on Russian troops, according to ITAR-TASS. The agency attributed the suspension of the talks to Lebed's dissatisfaction over the seizure of weapons by Chechen fighters in Grozny on 24 August from Russian Interior Ministry troops, although Lebed himself dismissed the incident as "a misunderstanding." AFP quoted Chechen press spokesman Movladi Udugov as claiming that the Chechen fighters responsible were a renegade group who wished to disrupt the peace process, and that most of the arms had been returned. Tikhomirov also canceled a planned meeting with Maskhadov because of the weapons issue, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

. . . BUT LOWER-LEVEL TALKS CONTINUE.
On 24 August acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev met with former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to discuss possible solutions to the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Khasbulatov's trip to Chechnya was arranged by Chernomyrdin. On 25 August Russian and Chechen commanders met in Grozny to discuss the work of the joint Russian-Chechen patrols intended to maintain order and prevent looting in the city, AFP reported. The head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, told Russian Television (Channel 2) on 23 August that the OSCE would work together with Lebed to resolve the Chechen conflict as it had previously done with Chernomyrdin's now disbanded commission. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN BACKS LEBED NEGOTIATIONS.
President Boris Yeltsin, in a telephone conversation with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 23 August, approved Lebed's negotiations with the Chechen separatist fighters and backed his search for a political solution to the conflict, but insisted that any agreement must ensure that Chechnya remains within the Russian Federation, NTV reported. A day earlier, Yeltsin had said that he was not satisfied with Lebed's work since he had not achieved any clear results. The Yeltsin-Lebed conversation took place at 10 p.m., following a day of confusion over whether the two men would meet. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON CHECHNYA'S STATUS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested in an interview with Russian TV that the Chechens hold a referendum on independence in five years after normal living conditions had been restored in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. He said that the people's decision in the vote would be implemented, but reiterated his belief that "Chechnya should remain within Russia." He stressed that the issue of Chechnya's secession from Russia should not be part of the current peace negotiations. Secession is one of the rebel's main demands. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN EXPECTS CONSTRUCTIVE WORK FROM TULEEV, GLAZEV.
Chernomyrdin said that former opposition leaders Aman Tuleev, newly appointed CIS minister, and Sergei Glazev, chief of the Security Council's Economic Security Directorate, are "now full members of the president's team" and that they should switch "from criticism to concrete suggestions and work," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. Tuleev said that he does not intend to engage in confrontation with the government or the prime minister, NTV reported on 23 August. -- Robert Orttung

TULEEV'S RELATIONS WITH OPPOSITION.
It is not clear whether Tuleev will resign as one of five co-chairmen of Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) following his cabinet appointment. In an interview with Rossiiiskaya gazeta published on 24 August, Tuleev said he might resign his post within the opposition movement, even though the NPSR leadership council advised him to join the government. Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the same day that while most opposition leaders had not criticized Tuleev's appointment, they had not praised it enthusiastically either. Two other NPSR co-chairmen, Aleksandr Rutskoi and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, described Tuleev's move as proof of the constructive nature of the main opposition movement. Meanwhile, Anatolii Kryuchkov, whose Russian Party of Communists considers Zyuganov's organization too moderate, denounced Tuleev's appointment and said the government remains "inimical to the interests of Russian workers," Radio Rossii reported on 24 August. -- Laura Belin

U.S. STUDY SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY CAPACITY MUCH DIMINISHED . . .
In a report submitted to the U.S. Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency depicts the Russian military as a dilapidated force that will not be capable of mounting effective offensive operations against China or deep into Europe for at least 10 years, AFP reported on 23 August. The same day Reuters quoted Gen. Eugene Habiger, head of U.S. nuclear forces, as saying that budgetary cutbacks would bring Russia down to the START-2 level of less than 3,500 nuclear weapons by 2005 whether or not Russia ratified the treaty. He said Russia was making some progress towards developing a new single-warhead Topol ICBM, and slower progress with a new submarine-launched missile. -- Peter Rutland

. . . WHILE RODIONOV PROTESTS DEFENSE BUDGET.
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said the 1997 budget plan allows for defense spending of 101 trillion rubles ($20 billion), far short of the 260 trillion rubles requested by the defense ministry, AFP reported on 23 August. Lebed's ally, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, complained that "the defense ministry's budget request was virtually ignored." Defense spending for 1996 is estimated at around 80 trillion rubles ($17 billion), or 10% of the U.S. level. The Russian Army has about 1.5 million troops compared to 4.5 million in the former Soviet Army. -- Peter Rutland

FOREIGN MINISTRY: RUSSIA READY TO RATIFY CHEMICAL BAN.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said on 22 August that Russia plans to be among the first 65 nations to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, ITAR-TASS reported. The 1993 treaty goes into effect 180 days after it has been ratified by 65 signatories. So far, 61 nations have ratified it, but not Russia or the U.S., the countries with the largest declared chemical weapons stockpiles. Some Russian officials have complained in the past about the expenses that will be involved in complying with the convention. -- Doug Clarke

MINERS AND AIR WORKERS CALL OFF STRIKE.
Coal miners and civilian air workers have called off nationwide strikes they planed to hold on 26 and 27 August, respectively, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, new Fuel and Energy minister Petr Rodionov, and Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov met with miners' trade union representatives and agreed to pay all debts and wage arrears by the end of the month. According to Yurii Malyshev, general manager of the federal coal company Rosugol, wage debts to miners totaled 2 trillion rubles (about $390 million) by the end of July, while the total debt to the mining industry was about 7 trillion rubles. The air workers called off their strike after they reached an agreement on tariffs with the federal aviation service, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 24 August. However, Independent Trade Union Federation Secretary Galina Strela suggested that a new wave of strikes may be expected in the fall due to growing wage arrears that now total 34 trillion rubles in all industries. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR OPPOSES KREMLIN DECISION.
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has sacked his deputy, Mikhail Savchenko, complying with President Yeltsin's orders although he says he did not agree with them, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. Yeltsin ordered Savchenko's dismissal after the Main Oversight Administration (GKU) commission found he was responsible for the financial and energy crises in the krai in July. The same day, the manager of the energy company Dalenergo, Yurii Bashsarov, was fired. Meanwhile, the krai legislature decided to hold a referendum on public trust in Nazdratenko on 22 September, Russian Public TV reported. The krai duma decision was caused by a presidential decree warning Nazdratenko that he was not fully competent. -- Anna Paretskaya

FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR.
An initiative group in Kursk Oblast has notified the regional electoral commission that it has nominated former Russian vice president and leader of the Derzhava social-patriotic movement Aleksandr Rutskoi for the October gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported on 24 August. Other candidates are the incumbent Vasilii Shuteev and an unemployed deputy of the 1990-1993 Supreme Soviet, Petr Zorin. -- Anna Paretskaya

OLYMPIC CHAMPION STABBED.
Aleksandr Popov, who won two Olympic gold medals in swimming last month in Atlanta, is hospitalized in serious condition following surgery to treat stab wounds in the stomach, lung and kidney, Russian and Western media reported on 25 August. A doctor told ITAR-TASS the next day that Popov's condition had improved slightly. On the evening of 24 August, Popov was attacked following an argument with fruit vendors who apparently did not know his identity. -- Laura Belin

BOMB EXPLOSION AT MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE.
A small bomb exploded in front of a synagogue in the center of Moscow late on 22 August, a Federal Security Service spokesman told ITAR-TASS. The device, with a charge equivalent to 300 grams of TNT, went off when the building was empty. No one was injured though the blast broke windows and knocked over Torah scrolls, causing $15,000 worth of damage, according to Reuters. Rabbi Berel Lazar said that the explosion was clearly an anti-semitic act. The synagogue, which burned down in 1993, was reopened in June. -- Anna Paretskaya

NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS MAY FACE STOPPAGE.
A shortage of cash may lead to the closure of some of Russia's nine nuclear power stations, Reuters and Radio Mayak reported on 25 August. Rosenergoatom is owed some 5 trillion rubles ($940 million) by the EES (Russia's United Power Grid), and is unable to finance repair works at nuclear plants. Low energy prices paid by consumers are often considered a major reason for the debt. Meanwhile, workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant are going to resume protest action over wage arrears totaling 30 billion rubles ($5.6 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The 5 billion rubles credit provided by the Nuclear Energy Ministry last week was used to pay May's wages. Another 10 billion rubles credit, earmarked for paying June salaries, will be disbursed in the next week. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW DECREE ON TAXATION STIRS CONTROVERSY.
The publication on 22 August of a new presidential decree on taxation sent shock waves through financial circles. The decree stipulates, in particular, that income tax and insurance payments will be levied on all transfers to bank accounts of individuals or companies, including interest on deposits in banks, Russian media reported on 23-24 August. The decree, therefore, leaves a possibility for double taxation of people's wages, since such levies are usually already collected at work. It also contradicts the existing legislation which does not tax interest on banking deposits, pensions and yields on state savings bonds. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits attempted to ease the tension by saying that in the near future there will be no changes in the taxation procedure. He pointed out that the new decree aims to reinforce tax discipline and reduce unaccounted cash transfers. -- Natalia Gurushina



TAJIKISTAN'S NEIGHBORS WORRIED ABOUT SITUATION.
Although ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August that Tavil-Dara has been recaptured by Tajik government troops, officials from Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have met to discuss the Tajik conflict. The presidents of the three countries met in Almaty on 24 August to discuss economic cooperation and the creation of a common economic space by the end of 1997, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Prior to the meeting, Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov to emphasize the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Nazarbayev also sent letters to United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri and Afghan President Burhanaddin Rabbani expressing the same. There is speculation Nazarbayev warned Nuri and Rabbani that Kazakstan will not remain idle should the situation in Tajikistan worsen. -- Bruce Pannier

CABINET RESHUFFLE IN TURKMENISTAN.
President Saparmurat Niyazov relieved Valery Otchertsov, Minister of Economy and Finance as well as deputy chairman of Turkmenistan's cabinet, of his duties on 22 August, RFE/RL reported the next day. He was appointed economic counselor to Turkmenistan's embassy in Moscow and granted what were termed emergency powers as an envoy to Russia. Otchertsov's replacement as Minister of Economy is Matkarim Rajapov. Russian agencies noted that Otchertsov was shifted "at his own request" due to matrimonial problems. -- Lowell Bezanis



U.S GRANTS POLITICAL ASYLUM TO BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on 23 August informed Belarusian Popular Front leaders Zyanon Paznyak and Syarhei Naumchyk that it was granting them political asylum, Western agencies reported. The service said "it has been determined that you have established a well-founded fear of persecution were you to return to your country." This is the first time since the 1991 collapse of the USSR that leaders from a former Soviet republic have been granted asylum. Poznyak said the decision will help his "work to save democracy in Belarus." Vladimir Zametalin, deputy head of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, said the decision "only arouses amazement and regret." He added that he hopes it does not signal U.S. backing for what he called political "adventures" to undermine Belarusian authorities. -- Saulius Girnius

UKRAINE TO INTRODUCE NEW CURRENCY SOON. President
Leonid Kuchma on 25 August issued a decree providing for the introduction on 2 September of a permanent currency, the hryvna, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported. National Bank of Ukraine Governor Viktor Yushchenko said on national TV that residents will have until 16 September to exchange the current temporary tender, the karbovanets, for the hryvna. An exchange rate of 100,000 karbovantsi to one hryvna will be used. Yushchenko said there will in principle be no limit to the amount that can be exchanged at the 20,000 or so exchange booths being set up at the country's banks. But he added that the banks are hoping people agree to allow sums over 100 million karbovantsi to be deposited into their accounts, instead of requesting cash. He said wages and pensions for September will be paid in the new currency. He also noted that Kyiv is still awaiting the IMF's decision on a $1.5 billion stabilization fund for the hryvna. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIANS CELEBRATE FIVE YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE.
Ukrainians celebrated the fifth anniversary of independence from the former USSR on 24 August with a military parade in Kyiv, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. President Leonid Kuchma, government officials and lawmakers watched a parade of several thousand soldiers and officers from Ukraine's armed forces in downtown Kyiv. Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk affirmed the military's loyalty to the new state and called for further modernization of the army. At a ceremony on European Square, the flags of Ukraine and the Council of Europe (CE) were raised side-by-side in the presence of Kuchma and CE officials, who praised Ukraine's progress toward democracy. In a televised address on the eve of the anniversary, Kuchma hailed his country's success in avoiding the kind of violence that has plagued other former Soviet republics. He said Ukraine has entered a new phase since the adoption of a new constitution, which, he said, provides for a clear path toward democracy and a market economy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

MOSCOW, CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCHATES REACH ACCORD ON ESTONIAN CONGREGATIONS.
Delegations from the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates reached an initial accord in Tallinn on 23 August on how to divide the Orthodox congregations in Estonia, BNS reported. Although two congregations have not yet decided whose rule to observe, only 30 or so of the 84 Orthodox congregations will be under Moscow's jurisdiction. But together they constitute some 40,000 of the estimated 55,000 believers in the republic. The delegations also signed a memorandum on the canonical settlement of the dispute over the congregations. A joint commission will be set up and its conclusions presented to Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi. The delegations will meet again in a few months, probably in western Europe. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN DECLARATION OF OCCUPATION SURPRISES RUSSIA.
Sergei Prikhodko, the Russian Foreign Ministry official in charge of relations with the Baltic states, on 23 August expressed surprise over the Saeima's passage of a declaration on the USSR's and Germany's occupation of Latvia during World War II, BNS reported. The declaration had been approved the previous day by a vote of 76 to 10. Prikhodko commented that "we did not expect there to be so many open opponents to the normalization of relations between Latvia and Russia." The document expresses regret that "the Russian Federation has not admitted that what the USSR did [amounted to] an occupation." It also calls on the world community to help Latvia remove the consequences of Soviet rule, pointing out that the Abrene district of Latvia was unlawfully incorporated into Russia in 1944. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH POLITICAL UPDATE.
The Supreme Council of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has concluded that the government should be recalled through a "constructive" no-confidence vote, Polish media reported. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski expressed his opposition to the idea, saying that the re-negotiation of agreements between the PSL and the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) will take too much time and consume too much energy. SLD leader and former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy also criticized the PSL's announcement. Meanwhile, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski on 24 August said that former President Lech Walesa will "certainly" support Solidarity Electoral Action, because he "always supports what is strong." Leszek Balcerowcz, leader of the opposition Freedom Union, called on 25 August for unity between all Solidarity successor parties. -- Jakub Karpinski

CONTROVERSY OVER SALARIES OF TOP CZECH OFFICIALS.
Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny, who is a leader of the coalition Christian Democratic Union, has criticized Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's announcement that he will personally prepare a bill on pay cuts for top officials, Czech media reported on 26 August. Klaus said last week he will submit the draft legislation as a deputy, thereby excluding the government from its preparation. Vyborny argued that the government should prepare such a bill. The current salaries of deputies, ministers, and other top officials are several times higher than the average wage. Klaus, whose minority government is under pressure, apparently sees his initiative on cutting wages as a way of increasing his popularity. The extreme-right Republican Party recently submitted a bill proposing significant cuts in the salaries of top officials. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PREMIER DENIES CROWN TO BE DEVALUED.
Economic ministers of the Slovak government met at Trencianske Teplice on 24 August to discuss the future development of the economy, Narodna obroda reported on 26 August. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a press conference after the meeting that fears about a possible devaluation of the Slovak crown are speculative and unjustified. "On the contrary, the hard currency reserves of the National Bank have grown by $200 million recently, so there is no reason for devaluation," Meciar said. -- Steve Kettle

CAR BOMB IN BRATISLAVA.
A car bomb exploded in central Bratislava on 25 August, causing damage to other cars parked nearby and to buildings but no injuries, Slovak media reported. The blast occurred in front of an apartment rented by a group of Ukrainians who were not at home at the time. Police refused to give any details about the explosion. Previous car bombings in and around Bratislava have been blamed on disputes between rival criminal gangs. -- Steve Kettle

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA.
Four out of Hungary's five opposition parties are collecting signatures from deputies to convene a special parliamentary session on the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, Hungarian media reported on 24 August. While the opposition Hungarian Democratic People's Party has not officially supported the move, several of its deputies--including former Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky--have joined the initiative. Smallholders' Chairman Jozsef Torgyan noted that a special session of the legislature cannot prevent the basic treaty from being signed, since the governing parties have a parliamentary majority. The Hungarian Democratic Forum commented that if the cabinet signs the current draft of the treaty, those parties now in opposition will review the basic treaty after the 1998 elections. Ethnic Hungarian leaders from Romania are expected to discuss the treaty with Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 26 August. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



ARE 8,000 CANDIDATES TO BE DROPPED FROM BOSNIAN BALLOTS?
A statement issued by the OSCE says that the status of 8,000 out of the 28,000 declared candidates for the 14 September elections is in doubt because the individuals' names do not appear on the election rolls. Those rosters are based on the 1991 census, and it thus appears that the 8,000 may have subsequently come to Bosnia from elsewhere. The OSCE did not identify the names of the candidates or their parties but said it was working to clarify matters. Two of the candidates are ineligible because they are indicted war criminals, AFP noted on 25 August. Meanwhile, the OSCE's election supervisor, Robert Frowick, is consulting with all three sides about postponing the municipal elections, which are one of the seven components of the 14 September vote. A postponement seems likely after it came to light that the Serbs were registering voters on a massive scale in key strategic towns, although all three nationalist parties have engaged in the practice to at least some extent. -- Patrick Moore

CROATS, SERBS, MUSLIMS ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) officially launched its campaign on 25 August in Sarajevo, AFP reported. The party is the leading Croatian party in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Bosnian federal President Kresimir Zubak told 1,000 supporters at the local sports center that Bosnia must be the home of Croats, Serbs, and Muslims alike. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Bosnian Serb acting President Biljana Plavsic argued for "a single Serb state" and ruled out any union with other nationalities. She slammed the idea of "unification with the Muslims and Croats," claiming that Bosnian Serbs "want the unification of all the Serbs of the Balkans in a single state called Serbia." Plavsic added that "there is an alternative to peace. . . . The Serb nation and its state are more sacred than any peace." In Croat-held Capljina, a local imam told a rally of the Muslim Party for Democratic Action (SDA) on 24 August that "the Koran is our constitution. Jihad is our path, our salvation." -- Patrick Moore

ZAGREB, BELGRADE SIGN NORMALIZATION ACCORD.
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his rump Yugoslav (SRJ) counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, have signed an agreement on the normalization of bilateral relations, Tanjug reported. The two leaders met in Belgrade on 23 August. While parts of the text remain open to interpretation, the document notes that the two countries will establish "full diplomatic and consular relations . . . within 15 days of the signing." Tanjug noted that Zagreb has accepted the continuity between the SRJ and the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that the outstanding issue of succession is to be resolved by consensus. Outstanding territorial questions, such as the Prevlaka peninsula, are to be considered within "the framework of negotiations and in the spirit of the UN Charter and good-neighborly relations." Nasa Borba reported that Western diplomats have praised the accord for its importance to regional peace, while the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party dubbed it "the biggest treason and capitulation." -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN COURT RELEASES SERBIAN GENERAL.
A Ljubljana district court on 23 August found Gen. Milan Aksentijevic not guilty of serving "an enemy army," Delo reported. Aksentijevic was indicted in September 1995 on charges related to his leading Yugoslav army forces against Slovenia during the 1991 war. He was detained on 12 July while visiting relatives in Slovenia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 July 1996). The court ruled that the Yugoslav army had not been formally designated an "enemy" before the war; and, on these grounds, it decided in the general's favor. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIA, HUNGARY TO ABOLISH PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS.
Hungarian President Arpad Goncz met with his Slovenian counterpart, Milan Kucan, in the Slovenian town of Prosenjakovci on 25 August, AFP reported, citing Hungarian radio. They agreed to abolish passport requirements for citizens crossing the Hungarian-Slovenian border. Hungary will now have to make some legislative changes enabling its citizens to cross the border with only an identity card. -- Stan Markotich

NEW CABINET APPOINTMENTS IN ROMANIA.
Two new ministers were appointed on 23 August to replace those who resigned earlier last week, Radio Bucharest reported. Daniela Bartos, a 44-year-old cardiologist, is the new health minister and the first woman to be given a portfolio since the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. She pledged to continue reforming the health system in Romania, saying she will ask for more funding for the sector. Grigore Zanc, a university professor and a former prefect of Cluj County, was appointed culture minister. He said he plans to reform the department's structures. A government spokesman announced further personnel changes, including the replacement of two secretaries of state at the Industry Ministry and one at the Health Ministry. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES TREATY TALKS WITH HUNGARY.
The cabinet on 23 August discussed progress to date in the negotiations over the basic treaty with Hungary, Radio Bucharest reported. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said the current draft was a "reasonable compromise," and he suggested that the text could be signed in the first half of September. Melescanu's remarks were made after a two-day meeting of experts in Budapest designed to put the finishing touches to the treaty. Also on 23 August, Gheorghe Funar, chairman of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, asked for an extraordinary meeting of the parliament's two chambers to debate the treaty, which he described as "crucial for Romania's future." Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party, said his party "vehemently opposes" the inclusion in the treaty of the "villainous" Recommendation No. 1201 of the Council of Europe. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN AGRARIANS SACK LEADER . . .
The Governing Council of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (BZNS), meeting in an extraordinary session on 24 August, dismissed Anastasiya Dimitrova-Mozer as the BZNS chief secretary, Demokratsiya reported. Party speaker Georgi Pinchev has been appointed to replace her. The council said Dimitrova-Mozer will no longer represent the party within the People's Union, a coalition of the BZNS and the Democratic Party. She was blamed for "the deep organizational crisis" within the BZNS and for trying to usurp the party's name. Her dismissal follows long-standing conflicts within the party in which she has been directly involved. Dimitrova-Mozer, who is currently in the U.S., said she will not accept her dismissal. She called the present Governing Council "illegitimate," arguing that procedures for a party congress are under way and that calling a council meeting now thus contravenes the BZNS statutes. -- Stefan Krause

. . . AND CAST DOUBT OVER OPPOSITION COOPERATION.
President Zhelyu Zhelev on 23 August warned that Dimitrova-Mozer's sacking will inevitably lead to breakups of both the BZNS and the People's Union, RFE/RL and Bulgarian newspapers reported. He said her dismissal means that one of the signatures to the opposition agreement on a common presidential candidate is no longer valid and thus the agreement as a whole has been "nullified." Under that agreement, Zhelev will not run in the 27 October presidential elections after losing in the primaries to Petar Stoyanov of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS). Zhelev did not say whether he will run after all. SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov criticized Zhelev's statement, saying the agreement was signed by political forces and not by individuals. But Kostov and many other opposition leaders, including People's Union Co-Chairman Stefan Savov, were critical of Dimitrova-Mozer's dismissal shortly before the presidential elections and in her absence. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS DROP MARXIST DOCTRINE FROM PARTY PROGRAM.
The Socialist Party, convening for its annual congress in Tirana on 25 August, officially condemned the former Stalinist dictatorship and dropped all references to Marxist philosophy from its program, Reuters reported. The move is seen as the biggest push for reform since the fall of communism in 1990. The congress voted for the party program to be reformed to embrace social democratic elements and expressed its commitment to stimulate the private sector. Delegates re-elected imprisoned party leader Fatos Nano, who previously had rallied for such reform and had criticized the current leadership for resisting change. Servet Pellumbi, acting party leader, resigned, saying that his viewpoints differ too much from those of Nano. The Socialists also decided to continue their boycott of the parliament, which they started after the elections because of alleged fraud. -- Fabian Schmidt

U.S. CALLS FOR BROADER POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN ALBANIA.
The U.S. State Department has called for "broadening the political dialogue in Albania between the ruling and opposition parties as the first step toward holding free and fair local elections," Reuters reported.
The statement also called for adopting a new constitution and holding new parliamentary elections "at the earliest opportunity." The Democrats should offer the opposition a substantive role in preparing local elections and in the electoral commission, the statement continued. It called on the opposition to participate fully in the election process. The opposition has threatened to boycott a new ballot, saying the makeup of the electoral commission is no better than it was during the parliamentary elections. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave







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