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Newsline - August 29, 1996


RUSSIAN, CHECHEN FORCES PULL OUT OF GROZNY.
The demilitarization of Chechnya got underway in earnest on 28 August, with 2,000 Chechen fighters and 3,900 Russian army and Interior Ministry troops withdrawing from Grozny and a further 4,200 Russian troops from southern Chechnya, Reuters and AFP reported. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov ordered his men to locate and return to the Russian federal command a truckload of 40 Grad missiles hijacked near the village of Vedeno on 27 August, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 28 August, meeting in the village of Noviye Atagi, Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, reached agreement on the unconditional release by both sides of all detained persons, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller

IS A NEW POWER STRUGGLE IN THE MAKING?
Tikhomirov expressed concern, however, over what he termed attempts by the Chechen opposition to establish alternative organs of executive power in various regions, including Grozny, where a nephew of deceased President Dzhokhar Dudaev has reportedly been installed as city mayor, according to Reuters and ITAR-TASS. Aleksandr Barkhatov, spokesman for Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, similarly told ITAR-TASS on 28 August that the agreement between Lebed and Maskhadov excludes the creation of parallel organs of power in Grozny. Speaking in Moscow, a spokesman for pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev fueled the latter's argument that the Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya will lead to civil war by claiming that 2,000 of Zavgaev's supporters are preparing for armed resistance, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

LEBED WAITING FOR YELTSIN REACTION TO CHECHNYA PLAN.
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed is waiting for President Boris Yeltsin's approval so that he can return to Chechnya at the end of the week to continue his talks with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. Lebed spokesman Aleksandr Barkhatov indicated Lebed's impatience by noting that "a dangerous situation is emerging, when military accords are being made, but the corresponding political basis for their successful implementation is lacking," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Yeltsin is studying Lebed's peace proposals, but currently has no plans to meet with him, according to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. The media have expressed growing concern that Yeltsin's failure to meet with Lebed is hindering the peace process. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke with Yeltsin by phone on 28 August and arranged to visit him at his vacation home on 7 September. -- Robert Orttung

KREMLIN INFIGHTING HINDERS YELTSIN DECISION.
The uncertain balance of forces in the Kremlin and attempts to remove Lebed from power are the main reasons Yeltsin has not responded to Lebed's plan, Izvestiya reported on 29 August. Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev's charge that Yeltsin shares his hatred of Lebed has not been denied by the presidential press service, the paper noted. If Lebed is able to end the war he will clearly be the favorite in the next presidential election, making Kremlin insiders nervous. If he fails, he will lose much of his credibility with voters. Of Lebed's main competitors for Kremlin influence, no one has stepped into open confrontation with him. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, now on vacation, recommended that Yeltsin sign the decree giving Lebed wide powers, while Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has cautiously praised his efforts, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: DISINFORMATION CIRCULATED TO MEDIA.
"Certain political forces" in Moscow who oppose Lebed's peace plan for Chechnya are circulating false statements to the media in the name of the Security Council's press service, according to council spokesman Aleksandr Barkhatov. By way of example, he characterized as "distorted" reports about why a planned meeting between Lebed and President Yeltsin has been delayed, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. Barkhatov said those behind the false reports were trying to "drive a wedge" between Lebed and the country's top leadership. -- Laura Belin

TROOPS CHARGED AFTER ABANDONING GROZNY BUILDING.
Criminal proceedings have been launched against a unit of Interior Troops which abandoned the guarding of an important military center in Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Military sources were quoted as saying the building, site of the Chief Directorate of Allied Staffs, containing 20 billion rubles-worth of equipment including computers, mobile and satellite communications, and "a huge store of munitions." They said that the building was a "real fortress" which could not have been seized by the rebels. -- Doug Clarke

POLL SHOWS ONE-THIRD OF YELTSIN VOTERS INDIFFERENT TO HIS VICTORY.
According to a recent survey by the Public Opinion Foundation, 32% of those who voted for Boris Yeltsin in the presidential election described themselves as "indifferent" to his victory, while 67% were pleased and 1% were unhappy with the election result, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. The poll indicates that many Russians voted for Yeltsin solely not to allow a Communist back into power, and could also reflect discontent with broken campaign promises, such as the pledge to end the fighting in Chechnya. On the other side of the divide, 25% of those who voted for Gennadii Zyuganov said they were indifferent to his loss, while 73% were unhappy and 2% were pleased with the election result. Among all respondents, 35% expected their lives to improve after the election and roughly the same number expected no change. -- Laura Belin

DAGESTANIS CALL FOR GOVERNMENT RESIGNATION.
Leaders of the Public Headquarters, a civic organization set up to investigate the Dagestani finance minister's murder, have called on the republican government to resign, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. They claimed that the government condones criminals and demanded that all of the more than 20 terrorist acts carried out in recent years be investigated. The Headquarters' leadership announced that signatures are being collected to convene an emergency session of the republican legislature to consider a vote of no-confidence in the government. Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov was killed on 20 August when a bomb exploded in front of the government building. The Headquarters' leaders suggested that Gamidov was murdered because he was investigating embezzlement of public funds in the republic. -- Anna Paretskaya

GREENPEACE PROTEST AT LAKE BAIKAL.
Activists of the international environmental organization Greenpeace climbed two 80-meter high chimneys at the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill to fly banners declaring "Stop" and "Save Lake Baikal," Russian and Western media reported on 28 August. The environmentalists are demanding that the mill stop processing cellulose and pay its large pollution fines. The mill, built 30 years ago, produces 440 tons of cellulose a day and dumps 210,000 cubic meters of waste water into the world's biggest and deepest lake. The mill failed to comply with a government order to redirect its activity by the end of 1995 since, as its management claims, the mill provides employment for the majority of the population of the city of Baikalsk. Earlier this year, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed protecting the lake from industrial pollution. -- Anna Paretskaya

HUMAN ERROR RESPONSIBLE FOR KAMCHATKA PLANE CRASH.
An investigation has concluded that mistakes made both by pilots and air traffic controllers caused a Krasnoyarsk Airline plane to crash in Kamchatka on 5 April, killing 19 people. Incorrect coordinates entered into the plane's computer caused it to veer off course, so that the pilots began their descent too early, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. In addition, the pilots, who were not experienced in flying over mountainous Kamchatka, ignored three warning signals that they had descended below a safe altitude. ORT noted that plane crashes in Russia caused 245 deaths in 1995 and 68 deaths during the first half of 1996. -- Laura Belin

LAES WORKERS SUSPEND PROTESTS.
Workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant (LAES) have suspended protests over wage arrears after the Atomic Energy Ministry allotted 10 billion rubles (about $2 million) for the plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. LAES workers started the protest on 26 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 August 1996). According to the agreement between the Atomic Energy Ministry and plant employees, the ministry has to earmark a further 5 billion rubles to finish paying off workers' four-month wage arrears. LAES trade union leader Aleksandr Barantsov said that the protests will be suspended until 3 September, when employees will consider an anti-crisis plan drawn up by the LAES administration and decide on further action. -- Anna Paretskaya

NEW BOOK ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.
A collection of articles on the hitherto taboo topic of domestic violence and rape was launched at a press conference in Moscow on 28 August. The book, "Who Defends Women," was compiled by members of the Association of Women Journalists and funded by the group Rule of Law in Russia. Editor Nadezhda Azhgikhina said that it is the first book of its kind. There are some 14,000 rapes registered in Russia each year, but sociologists estimate that more than 9 out of 10 cases of sexual assault go unreported. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow

DEBATE ABOUT PRODUCTION-SHARING AGREEMENTS INTENSIFY.
A suggestion by Sergei Glazev, deputy secretary of the Security Council in charge of economic affairs, to cut the number of mineral deposits eligible for development on the basis of production-sharing agreements from 250 to 10-15, has intensified debate on this issue. Industry officials and regional authorities argue that production-sharing agreements will stimulate the development of domestic industry (some 70% of equipment and spare parts are expected to be produced locally) and bring additional revenue to local budgets, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 29 August. According to Natural Resources Minister Viktor Orlov, such agreements do not threaten Russia's national interests. Until now, of 10,500 licenses for the development of mineral deposits, only 200 were given to joint ventures and four to foreign firms, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Still, Orlov noted that there will be further cuts in the list of potential production-sharing projects, and only 10-30 production-sharing licenses will be granted annually. -- Natalia Gurushina



DIVERGING VIEWS ON REPATRIATION TO ABKHAZIA.
On 28 August Russia's representative to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, reported to the Security Council on last week's tour of Abkhazia by UN, Abkhaz, Georgian and Russian representatives, including Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, ITAR-TASS reported. Lavrov echoed Pastukhov's positive assessment, given to Georgian and Russian media on 24 August, of the situation in Gali raion, the predominantly Georgian population of which was forced to flee in 1992-93. Pastukhov estimated that over 50% of the ethnic Georgian residents of Gali have returned home; the Abkhaz government puts the figure at 60%, while the Georgian government in Tbilisi claims no more than 33% have returned, according to the Iprinda news agency. Georgian First Deputy Minister of State Security Avtandil Ioseliani told ITAR-TASS that there are no mechanisms either to guarantee the repatriants' safety or to enable them to earn a livelihood. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIA TO EXTEND NEW LOAN TO ARMENIA.
Under the terms of an agreement signed last week in Moscow by Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and Armenia's Minister for Relations with the CIS, Gagik Shahbazyan, Russia will provide Armenia with a 100 billion ruble ($20 million) loan to finance safety procedures at the Medzamor nuclear power station and the purchase of nuclear fuel, according to Noyan Tapan on 27 August and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 28 August. In 1994, Russia provided Armenia with a 60 billion ruble credit towards the cost of restarting the power station, which was closed in 1989. It was successfully reopened a year ago, but maintenance work scheduled for July 1996 was postponed because of lack of funds. -- Liz Fuller

WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN TAJIKISTAN?
Military sources in Dushanbe claim government troops in central Tajikistan have consolidated and expanded their positions, freeing a stretch of road northwest of the town of Tavil-Dara, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Government forces retook Tavil-Dara on 23 August but sources in Dushanbe say the town is deserted after three months of fighting in the area. The opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 28 August that opposition fighters hold the northern road from Faizabad, 70 kilometers east of Dushanbe, to Jirgatal, 80 kilometers from the Kyrgyz border. The report admitted that opposition fighters held the road only "partially" during the daytime but "completely at night." The report also claimed government forces could only reach the Tavil-Dara area via a southern route through Kulyab and the Karnak Pass. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK DISSIDENT RETURNS TO TASHKENT.
Human rights campaigner Abdulmanop Pulatov returned to Tashkent last week, AFP reported on 28 August. Pulatov, who has been living in Washington, D.C., since 1993, returned following the visit of Uzbek President Islam Karimov to the United States in June. According to Pulatov, Karimov "personally guaranteed" his safety and assured him he could continue his political activities in Uzbekistan. The softening of Karimov's line comes at a time when Uzbekistan is trying to improve relations with the U.S. -- Lowell Bezanis



BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS "ILLEGAL" DECREES ABOLISHED.
Representatives of a large cross-section of parties opposed to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime met for a second round table on 28 August, Russian Public TV and AFP reported. They asked the president to abolish 16 decrees found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. They added that if he did not do so by 15 September, he would face possible impeachment. Among the parties represented at the round table were the Agrarians, Communists, Social Democrats, and United Civic Party. Together, the four have more than 70% of parliamentary seats. Parliament can impeach the president by a two-thirds majority vote. The parties also said that they were ready to hold an alternative referendum to Lukashenka's 7 November ballot and that they favored creating a commission to look into the financial activities of the president's administration. -- Ustina Markus

OPPOSITION TO LATEST BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC DECREES.
Shopkeepers and traders in Minsk stopped doing business on 27 August in reaction to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's latest decrees on trade, Russian and Western agencies reported the following day. In order to protect Belarusian goods from cheaper imports, Lukashenka decreed that shops must stock at least 75% of locally manufactured goods. He also raised the price of imported goods by 50%. Reuters reported that some 11 trillion Belarusian rubles ($848 million) worth of local goods are stockpiled. According to ITAR-TASS, around 5,000 market traders gathered in the city's Dynamo stadium to protest a new trading tax that will require them to pay 1.3-1.5 million Belarusian rubles ($110-120) annually. Previously, traders had to pay only a 12% income tax. Many said the new levy will force them out of business. -- Ustina Markus

LEAK SHUTS DOWN LITHUANIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.
A reactor at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power station was shut down on 27 August after a leak was discovered, Reuters reported. Because its other reactor was recently shut down for routine maintenance, the plant has been temporarily closed. It provides 85% of the country's electricity. The Elektrenai plant, which burns heavy fuel oil, is currently making up for the shortfall. The leak is considered minor, and the reactor is to restart on 3 September. Ignalina has raised safety concerns because its Soviet-era RBMK reactors are the same model as those of Ukraine's Chornobyl. -- Ustina Markus

DATE SET FOR NEXT ESTONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Following the parliament's failure to elect a new president in three rounds of voting (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 August 1996), parliamentary speaker Toomas Savi has announced that an electoral college will convene on 20 September, Reuters reported. The college will be composed of the 101 parliamentary deputies and 273 representatives of local government. -- Ustina Markus

HEATED DEBATE ON ABORTION IN POLISH SEJM.
A proposed amendment to the abortion law provoked a heated debate in the Sejm on 28 August. The amendment allows abortion in cases where women are in financial straits or other disadvantageous circumstances. Supreme Court President and former presidential candidate Adam Strzembosz expressed his opposition, saying that hardships should not be sufficient cause for an abortion. Izabela Sierakowska from the Democratic Left Alliance defended women's right to choose. Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka from the Labor Union also supported the amendment, saying that the current regulation is "hypocritical." A vote on the amendment is expected on 31 August. -- Jakub Karpinski

WALESA'S WAX EFFIGY HALTED AT AIRPORT.
A wax figure of former Polish President Lech Walesa was halted at Warsaw airport on 28 August by customs because of a "lack of requisite documents," international agencies reported. Jerzy Urban, former spokesman for communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who introduced martial law in 1981, bought the figure for $1,000. It had been exhibited in Copenhagen's Louis Tussaud's wax museum before being replaced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Urban, who is now the editor in chief and owner of the satirical magazine Nie, intended to parade Walesa's figure through Warsaw in an open car before putting it on display at the Nie offices. Walesa was a frequent target of Urban's publication. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH GOVERNMENT REJECTS BILL ON OMBUDSMAN.
The Czech government on 28 August rejected a draft law on ombudsman submitted by a group of deputies, Czech media report. But the bill is likely to be approved by the parliament because it has the support of the coalition Civic Democratic Alliance, two of the three opposition parties, and some deputies from the Christian Democratic Union. The government was not unanimous in its rejection of the bill. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which is strongly opposed to introducing an ombudsman into the Czech constitutional system, had prevented the legislature from voting on a similar bill before the June parliamentary elections. ODS officials argued that such an institution was redundant and that opposition parties wanted to use it to undermine the ODS's political authority. -- Jiri Pehe

CZECH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS CRITICISM OF SLOVAKIA.
Vaclav Havel, speaking on 28 August during his trip to eastern Bohemia, stressed his support for the leader of the Czech Social Democrats, Milos Zeman, who during his recent visit to Slovakia criticized what he saw as the Slovak government's poor policy toward minorities, abuse of secret services, and restrictions on freedom of speech. Havel argued that if the Czech Republic wants to have good relations with Slovakia, Czech politicians "must be able to reproach their Slovak colleagues for their mistakes." Some Slovak politicians recently criticized Havel for meddling in Slovak domestic affairs and adopting a paternalistic attitude toward Slovakia. -- Jiri Pehe

REACTIONS TO SLOVAK CABINET CHANGES.
Lubomir Fogas of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) told Slovak Radio on 28 August said he does not expect the previous day's cabinet reshuffle to have a "fundamental" effect on government policy. SDL deputy Brigita Schmoegnerova noted that although the move gives hope for improvement, the extent of change will remain unclear until the parliament convenes in September. She attached particular importance to the departure of Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek but expressed concern about the lack of experience of his replacement, Gustav Krajci, a former physical education teacher. Speaking on Slovak TV, Krajci dismissed questions about his professional qualifications, stressing that he had gained experience in the state administration while serving as head of a district office. He said he plans to appoint an experienced specialist in police affairs as his state secretary. Most commentators expect more changes in the future. -- Sharon Fisher

FUNERAL HELD IN SLOVAKIA FOR SLAIN SKINHEAD.
A funeral was held in the central Slovak town of Prievidza on 28 August for Jaroslav Bahn, a 19-year-old skinhead, TASR reported. Bahn was reportedly stabbed to death with a kitchen knife while getting off a bus in Prievidza four days earlier by a 26-year-old Roma. Bahn, who had been doing compulsory military service, was buried with military honors. More than 2,000 people, including 300 skinheads from around Slovakia, attended the ceremonies. Also present were Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy Arpad Tarnoczy, and Prievidza district council head Miroslav Milos. The funeral ceremony proceeded calmly. Following the funeral, Slota expressed "deep indignation" at Bahn's "brutal murder" and called for a referendum on the death penalty. -- Sharon Fisher

U.S. ARMY TO SELL OFF NON-MILITARY PROPERTY IN HUNGARY.
Private individuals and enterprises will have the opportunity to purchase recyclable equipment and other materials used by IFOR troops in Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungarian media reported on 29 August. The goods for sale include telecommunications and office equipment, construction materials, general mechanical equipment and recyclable waste. No military hardware will be offered. Revenues from the sales will be used to support the IFOR mission. The Logistics Directorate of the Hungarian Army will be in charge of the sales. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SERBS APPEAR TO ACCEPT POSTPONEMENT OF BOSNIAN VOTE.
The acting leader of the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of the Republika Srpska, Aleksa Buha, said in Doboj on 28 August that it is "very probable" that his party will accept the OSCE's postponement of the municipal elections until next spring, Nasa Borba reported. Parliamentary Speaker Momcilo Krajisnik went on, however, to accuse the OSCE of siding with the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in making the decision, AFP noted, quoting SRNA. "The postponement of local elections . . . is a desperate attempt to postpone the final defeat of the Muslims. . . . But whether [the elections are held] in September 1996 or in April 1997, the . . . SDS will repeat the results of all the Serb plebiscites and win the support of 90% of the electorate," he said. -- Patrick Moore

CONFUSION REIGNS OVER BOSNIAN REFUGEE VOTING.
The two leading Muslim parties have called for a suspension of voting by Bosnian refugees abroad until the issue of widespread fraud in voter registration is clarified, the BBC reported on 28 August. The SDA and former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina were seconded by the small Bosnian Patriotic Party, led by Muslim wartime Gen. Sefer Halilovic. Onasa reported from a refugee camp in Hungary that voting is, in any event, confused. Hungarian camp director Lajos Horvath said of the balloting to date: "For the most part, [the refugees] really didn't understand what was going on. It was confusing, they had no experience of voting, many...are only semi-literate, and none of them knew anything about the candidates. They just voted along ethnic lines where they could." Meanwhile in Serbia, refugee voter turnout is low, Reuters noted. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SHORTS.
Some 5,000 U.S. troops have begun training in Germany to assist in the eventual withdraw of IFOR from Bosnia, news agencies reported on 28 August. In Washington, the State Department supported complaints by senior international officials in Bosnia-Herzegovina that the government there is obstructing the launching of independent television, despite promises by President Alija Izetbegovic to get it started, Reuters and Oslobodjenje said. The wife of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic told a Serbian weekly that the Americans also asked her husband to leave Pale for Montenegro but that he refused, the BBC noted on 29 August. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN UPDATE.
Nasa Borba on 29 August ran the headline "An eighth day of protest, a first day of hunger strike" in reference to the growing labor action at the Zastava arms plant, the linchpin facility of Serbia's arms production and output. The plant's workers are striking over unpaid wages and are demanding the sacking of the general manager, who on 27 August had told some 3,500 workers to take forced leave until 2 September, when the plant's problems are to be discussed with officials in Belgrade. In other news, Slavko Milosavlevski arrived in Belgrade on 28 August to become Macedonia's first ambassador to the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAV ARMY OFFICERS INSPECT CROATIAN ARMS.
A team of five army officers from the SRJ arrived in Croatia to inspect that country's artillery stocks, Reuters reported on 27 August, citing local Croatian media, The officers' visit was in accordance with a clause on "subregional arms control" in the Dayton accord, Croatian TV reported. The Serbian officers' inspection tour began at a barracks in the town of Varazdin. A team of Croatian officers is slated to arrive in the SRJ for a similar inspection tour in mid-September. -- Stan Markotich

WERE POWS, REFUGEES FROM SREBRENICA FORCED TO WORK IN KOSOVO MINES?
Kosova Communication on 28 August reported that more than 350 Bosnian POWs and refugees from Srebrenica were forced to work in the Trepca mines. It also quoted Deutsche Welle's Serbian department as saying that an additional 1,500 POWs and refugees from other regions worked there. The report has allegedly been confirmed by the Bosnian government's Commissioner for Refugees and the Serbian Helsinki Committee. First reports suggesting forced labor in Trepca date back to 25 January, when AIM noted that work had resumed at Trepca and that the Serbian government had claimed 280 "ethnic Albanians" were employed there. AIM, however, suggested that the workers were prisoners from Srebrenica. The mines stopped working in February 1989 when Albanian employees staged a strike to protest the abolition of the province's autonomy. The International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia has set up a commission to investigate the case. -- Fabian Schmidt

POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN KOSOVO.
Two gunmen on 28 August killed an ethnic Turkish police officer in Donje Lupce, 30 km north of Pristina, AFP reported. The previous night three hand grenades were thrown at a police station in Celopek, near Pec. Nobody was injured in the explosion, which caused damage to the building. The Liberation Army of Kosovo has claimed responsibility for earlier similar attacks. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT FORMALLY ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY.
Ion Iliescu on 28 August announced he will be seeking a third term in office, Romanian and Western media reported. The 66-year-old incumbent president is running in the November elections as a candidate for the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. Addressing a gathering of several thousand politicians, government officials, and supporters, he vowed to continue reforms, encourage economic recovery, and fight both corruption and the country's "unscrupulous" economic mafia. Iliescu also pledged to improve social protection for workers, pensioners, and other disadvantaged groups. The opposition has argued that the constitution bars a person from seeking more than two terms in office as president. But supporters contend that Iliescu's first term (1990-1992) should not be taken into consideration since the new constitution was not adopted until 1991. -- Dan Ionescu

SENIOR NATO OFFICIALS PRAISE ROMANIA.
General Klaus Naumann, head of NATO's Military Committee, on 28 August ended an official visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. Naumann, who met with President Ion Iliescu, Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and other high-ranking Romanian officials, praised Romania for its active participation in the alliance's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. On the same day, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter, currently in Bucharest, described Romania's PfP record as "superb." He further hailed the recent agreement between the Romanian and Hungarian governments over the text of a bilateral basic treaty. -- Dan Ionescu

NEW-OLD BANKNOTES TO CIRCULATE IN THE DNIESTER REGION.
Tiraspol has announced that "new" bank notes will go into circulation on 29 August, BASA-press and Reuters reported. The new banknotes are, in fact, the old 1, 50, and 100 Dniester ruble notes on which extra zeros have been stamped to make them worth 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 Dniester rubles, respectively. The local currency traded at 257 to $1 when it was introduced in January 1994; today, the exchange rate is 520,000 to $1. Experts believe that the exchange rate will now soar to between 600,000 and 1 million rubles to $1. -- Dan Ionescu

FORMER BULGARIAN DICTATOR CLEARED OF ABUSE OF OFFICE.
Todor Zhivkov on 28 August was acquitted of charges of abuse of office, Pari reported. The Supreme Court ruled that under the present constitution, Zhivkov cannot be held accountable because as head of state he enjoyed immunity. It argued that while communist Bulgaria formally had no head of state, Zhivkov was the unchallenged state leader in his capacity as chairman of the State Council from 1971-1989. Charges relating to his term as prime minister in 1962-1971 are barred by the statute of limitations, the court ruled. Zhivkov was sentenced in 1992 to seven years in prison on those charges. He was acquitted earlier this year pending a special judicial review. Zhivkov remains under house arrest because three cases against him are still pending, including the forceful Bulgarization of the country's ethnic Turks in the 1980s. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS UPDATE.
The presidential and vice presidential candidates of both the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party and the united opposition have appealed the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register them for the upcoming elections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 August 1996). The Supreme Court has three working days to issue binding decisions on the rulings. -- Stefan Krause

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DISCUSSES ALBANIAN DEADLOCK WITH POLITICAL PARTIES.
A delegation of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 28 August held round-table talks with the ruling Democrats and the opposition to discuss the current political deadlock. The council had suggested that the parties hold a dialogue, but they have so far failed to do so. Domenic Columberg from the council's Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee said the aim of the visit was to prepare the ground for 20 October's local elections, international agencies reported. The council pledged to send monitors to the ballot. According to ATSH, the Socialists disputed a call by the delegation to take up its seats in parliament. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave





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