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Newsline - September 5, 1996


CHECHEN POLITICAL PARTIES DISCUSS PREPARATIONS FOR NEW ELECTIONS.
Meeting on 4 September in the village of Noviye Atagi south of Grozny, representatives of various Chechen political parties and OSCE representative Tim Guldimann discussed preparations for a January parliamentary election in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, speaking from Moscow, said that no parallel government may be formed in Chechnya before that election takes place. Many members of Zavgaev's government have already resigned in order to avoid impeding the peace process. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov appealed to the population of Chechnya to refrain from ostentatious demonstrations on 6 September to mark the fifth anniversary of the advent to power of late President Dzhokhar Dudaev. On 3 September, Chechen separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov denied claims by Russian military sources that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's supporters are planning to hold a military parade in Grozny on 6 September. -- Liz Fuller

CHUBAIS CAUTIOUS ON LEBED PEACE PLAN . . .
While President Boris Yeltsin has not publicly commented on Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Chechen peace plan, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais said that the plan needs serious analysis, NTV reported on 4 September. Chubais praised the current lull in the fighting but said that the plan should be treated with caution. He said that it is neither a capitulation--as Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has charged--nor grounds for calling Lebed a "national hero," Russian TV reported. He noted, however, that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's positive appraisal of the plan was "just." Chubais reiterated his commitment to "preserving the integrity of the Russian state" and stressed that Chechnya is not a country. Chubais implicitly criticized Lebed, who has been dismissive of Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow Chechen government, by saying that "we cannot pretend that Zavgaev's government doesn't exist. -- Robert Orttung

. . . SAYS MORE INFORMATION FORTHCOMING ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH.
Chubais admitted that the lack of information on Yeltsin's health has created conditions for speculation and rumors. He said that the administration would begin to release more information about the president's condition, and hinted that there would be important announcements soon, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. He claimed that Yeltsin would emerge from his vacation "as energetic as [he was] during the campaign," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

NEW BLOC TO BACK LEBED.
The "centrist" political bloc "For Truth and Order," will be established on 5 September to support Security Council Secretary Lebed, maintain constitutional order in the country, fight crime and corruption, and ensure the country's economic security, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed's political allies, the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) and the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), will join the bloc and their leaders Dmitrii Rogozin and Sergei Glazev will serve as its co-chairmen. Lebed's role in the bloc is unclear, although his Honor and Motherland group will join, Ekho Moskvy reported. Although the KRO did not cross the 5% threshhold in the December State Duma election and the DPR has suffered several splits, "For Truth and Order" intends to participate actively in the local elections scheduled for this autumn. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

COMMUNISTS PESSIMISTIC ON CHECHNYA PROSPECTS. . .
Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov repeated his call for parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, to convene an emergency session on the Chechnya crisis, saying it should not "remain on the sidelines concerning questions affecting Russian territorial integrity," Russian media reported on 4 September. The State Duma, where deputies sympathetic to Zyuganov enjoy a majority, has not moved to call a special session on the matter. A KPRF statement noted that when fighting first escalated in Chechnya in December 1994, the government said it aimed to restore constitutional order and disarm "bandits." Instead, the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement was "a political and moral defeat," tantamount to handing over Chechen territory to "bandit formations." The KPRF also questioned Lebed's authority to sign the document, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin

...BUT UPBEAT ON GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS.
Zyuganov and Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, the number two figure in the KPRF, predicted that left-wing opposition candidates from the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia would win the 22 September gubernatorial election in Amur Oblast, as well as races in Rostov and Leningrad oblasts set for 29 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. Commenting on the 1 September gubernatorial election in Saratov Oblast, where Communist challenger Anatolii Gordeev gained just 16% of the vote against 82% for the incumbent Dmitrii Ayatskov, Zyuganov praised Ayatskov's professionalism, Kommersant-Daily reported. According to Izvestiya on 5 September, some disappointed KPRF activists blame the Saratov result on the party leadership's "passivity" in recent weeks concerning the Chechen crisis. Zyuganov did not outline his stance on the peace talks until 3 September, days after the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement was signed. -- Laura Belin

$2.5 BILLION SPENT ON RENOVATION IN MOSCOW.
Moscow Deputy Mayor Aleksandr Muzykantskii has announced that some $2.5 billion is spent on renovations in the city every year, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. He said the bulk of that money comes from private investors. About 600 buildings in the city have been renovated in recent years and local officials are hoping to have the downtown core completed by next September, when Moscow will celebrate its 850th anniversary. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMAKOV MEETS KINKEL IN BONN.
On his first trip to the West since being appointed in January, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on 4 September. While neither side changed its stance on NATO expansion, they agreed to hold talks on defining Russia's relationship with the alliance, Reuters reported. Additionally, the two sides will work to strengthen the OSCE at that organization's summit scheduled for December. -- Robert Orttung

MORE DENUNCIATIONS OF U.S. ATTACKS AGAINST IRAQ.
The Russian government issued a second official statement condemning the U.S. missile strikes against southern Iraq, accusing the U.S. of trying to "replace the Security Council, which under the UN Charter holds the exclusive right to authorize the use of force," Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 September. Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais said President Yeltsin fully concurred with the government statement, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking from Liechtenstein and later from Germany, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov warned that the U.S. missile strikes against southern Iraq were a "dangerous precedent" and could lead to "anarchy in international relations," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov agreed with Primakov's remarks and criticized the U.S. for attempting to be "the world's policeman," while the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee denounced U.S. attempts to "settle the score" with Iraqi leaders. -- Laura Belin

CRISIS IN IRAQ SEEN HURTING RUSSIAN ECONOMIC INTERESTS.
Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk noted that the U.S. missile strikes against Iraq will significantly damage Russian economic interests, ORT reported on 4 September. He said Iraq owes the Russian government more than $7 billion, which it will not be able to repay until the UN embargo against Iraq is lifted. In addition, the crisis will delay Russian companies' plans to help rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure once normal trade resumed. The press service of the oil giant Lukoil, which stands to gain from such projects, told Kommersant-Daily on 5 September that it fully agrees with government statements condemning the U.S. attacks against Iraq. -- Laura Belin

SWEDES ACCUSED OF SPYING.
NTV on 4 September showed a videotape of the arrest of a Swedish man, Hans Peter Nordstrem, who met a Russian contact in the Naval Museum in St. Petersburg in February and handed over $2,000 in return for a matrioshka doll containing a microfilm with sensitive defense information. Sergei Gorlenko, a Federal Security Service official, said that as a sign of goodwill, Nordstrem was expelled from the country rather than prosecuted. Gorlenko claimed that the Swedish secret service has been very active, using businessmen to gather information about security issues, particularly connected to the navy. According to Reuters, another Swede, a senior diplomat in Moscow, was also expelled for spying. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has refused to comment. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow and Penny Morvant

CONSUMER PRICES FALL FOR FIRST TIME.
Consumer prices fell by 0.2% in August in comparison with July, the first drop since economic reforms began, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September citing Goskomstat. Food prices fell by 1.7% while consumer goods prices were up 1.1% and the price of consumer services up 2.7%. Some observers believe that the fall in prices is due to the increase in wage arrears, which is dampening demand. Since the beginning of the year, consumer prices have risen by 16.1%, with food prices up 13.1%, prices for non-food goods up 13.2%, and the price of consumer services up 35.7%. Inflation in July was 0.7%. -- Penny Morvant

CRISIS CONTINUES IN PRIMORE.
Energy workers in Primore, who are protesting continuing wage arrears, called on 4 September for the resignation of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and his administration and the introduction of direct presidential rule, NTV and ORT reported. The workers did not, however, support the call of the krai's Duma for a regional referendum on 22 September on confidence in Nazdratenko, who was elected in December 1995 with 90% of the vote (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 August 1996). The governor himself blamed the crisis in the fuel and energy sector, which has resulted in new labor disputes and power cuts to customers, on the introduction of higher energy prices in Primore following the July crisis there. On local television he contended also that the power workers' call was motivated by his decision to conduct an independent audit of their employer, Dalenergo. -- Penny Morvant and Anna Paretskaya

SPENDING CUTS WERE KEY TO STABILIZATION.
Maksim Boiko, deputy chief of staff in the presidential administration, said at a 4 September seminar in the New Economic School that economic stabilization has been a success and that he expects economic growth "very soon." Boiko, formerly chief aide to Anatolii Chubais when the latter was first deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform, attributed the success of stabilization to the tight monetary and fiscal policies introduced in 1995. He conceded that revenue from taxes and from the sale of treasury bonds (GKOs) was lower than expected, which meant that the stabilization was achieved thanks mainly to a reduction in federal government spending, which was only 17% of GDP in 1995, against a planned level of 27%. A similar pattern is unfolding in 1996. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow

GOVERNMENT MEMBERS ON CONTROVERSIAL TAX DECREE.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's press secretary, Viktor Konnov, told ITAR-TASS on 4 September that the government intends to amend a controversial 18 August presidential decree on personal income tax. The decree caused an outcry because it appears to subject all bank deposits held by individuals to income tax (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 August 1996). Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais on 4 September also suggested that the decree will be amended, ORT reported. Chubais said that if the "justified criticism" the decree has received in the press and the concern it has aroused among the general public leads to a massive outflow of savings from commercial banks, then it will be clear that the decree was a mistake. -- Penny Morvant



ARMENIA IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON EMIGRATION OF DRAFT AGE MEN.
The Armenian Defense Ministry has called for closer monitoring of all men aged 18-30 who wish to leave the country in order to prevent them from avoiding the draft, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 September. The call comes after a 22 August Armenian government decree on drafting first category reserve officers in September 1996. Armenian officers who graduate from military academies in Russia are increasingly seeking postings at the two Russian military bases in Armenia in order to avoid service in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported on 28 August. Russian-Armenian joint military maneuvers have been scheduled for 23-27 September, immediately after the Armenian presidential election, according to Noyan Tapan. -- Liz Fuller

BOMB ATTACK IN GORNO-BADAKHSHAN.
A bomb exploded in front of the regional administration building of Gorno-Badakhshan on 4 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian border guards claimed that local drug rings planted the bomb as a reaction to an official crackdown on narcotics trafficking, a curfew in force in some border areas, the tightening of passport controls, and Russian efforts to cooperate with Afghan border troops to prevent Tajik opposition from making an incursion from Afghanistan into Tajikistan. The explosion reportedly occurred minutes after regional officials and police chiefs had concluded a meeting in the building. It may have been intended to dynamite Russian efforts to pacify the Pamir region. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIAN TROOPS OUT OF KAZAKSTAN.
Russia is currently withdrawing two divisions of Strategic Rocket Troops from Kazakstan that had been stationed in the Turgaisk and Semipalatinsk regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. The last Russian strategic missile nuclear warheads were pulled out of Kazakstan in April 1995. The joint Russian-Kazakstani commission dealing with the withdrawal met in Almaty on 4 September. In future meetings, they plan to discuss the work of destroying the SS-18 missile silos and the transfer of military infrastructure and equipment to Kazakstan. -- Doug Clarke



COMPLICATIONS IN HRYVNYA INTRODUCTION.
Some complications have emerged involving the introduction of the hryvnya, Ukrainian Radio reported on 2 September. Although the old karbovantsi are to be exchanged for the new currency without restriction at a rate of 100,000 for one hryvnya, some banks ran out of the new currency by midday. In Crimea, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September, the new currency is practically nonexistent because Kyiv failed to provide the peninsula with a sufficient supply. Most Crimeans have only seen the hryvnya on TV. In addition, Crimeans are confused as to whether the new currency should be called by its Ukrainian name, "hryvnya," or its Russian name, "gryvna." -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING.
The Russian-Belarusian Executive Committee held its fourth meeting in Moscow on 4 September, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV reported. Russian Minister for CIS Cooperation Aman Tuleev said it was decided that Russia and Belarus should synchronize their tax systems by January 1997. The committee also decided to set up a joint customs union. The committee will discuss the establishment of a joint border guard in the next session. Tuleev said the future of the integration process depended on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Any change in the Belarusian leadership could nullify all previous agreements. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
The controversy over President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's referendum has heated up. While most deputies oppose it and back parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky, a group of 60 legislators met with the president on 4 September and signed a statement supporting the president and his referendum, Russian Public TV reported. Lukashenka has been dipping into the state treasury to gain support. He issued a series of decrees increasing pensions, student stipends, aid to families with many children, and child support. Enterprises were also ordered to pay workers all back wages owed, and prices on energy, transport, medicine, and several consumer goods, including milk and bread, are to remain regulated until the end of the year. -- Ustina Markus

HEARING FOR RUSSIAN ACTIVIST DEPORTED FROM ESTONIA POSTPONED.
A district court in Tallinn on 4 September postponed the hearing of the appeal by Petr Rozhok that his deportation from Estonia in March 1995 was illegal, BNS reported. Rozhok, who was the representative of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in Estonia, unsuccessfully appealed the deportation twice before and both times was forcibly expelled again after the visa given to him for the hearings expired. The hearing this time was postponed until 4 October at the request of the Estonian immigration officials after Rozhok's new lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, reportedly one of highest paid defense lawyers in Russia, filed a 19-page supplement to the appeal. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA, NETHERLANDS SIGN AGREEMENT ON MARITIME TRANSPORT.
Dutch Transport Minister Annamari Jorritsma-Lebbink and Latvian Communications Minister Vilis Kristopans signed a bilateral agreement on maritime transport in Riga on 4 September, BNS reported. They also signed a memorandum on the introduction of the information system Eucaris to Latvia. The system, currently operating in the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, provides for data exchange on cars and their drivers, thus making transit of stolen cars through Latvia more difficult. -- Saulius Girnius

CRISIS IN THE POLISH RULING COALITION: FOREIGN TRADE MINISTER FIRED.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, on Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's motion, on 4 September dismissed Jacek Buchacz, foreign trade minister since early 1995. Buchacz, is a member of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the ruling coalition's junior partner. The government said the grounds for Buchacz's dismissal were "insufficiently clear links between public and private capital in export insurance." Buchacz said his dismissal is "a clear breaking of the coalition agreement" and he accused the senior coalition partner, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), of using methods reminiscent of the communist regime. Tensions in the ruling coalition have been provoked by the current government reform. The PSL has demanded the government's resignation, the SLD only changes in ministerial posts. The PSL is expected to decide on 6 September whether to continue coalition talks. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH PUBLIC OPINION ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
According to a poll by the Public Opinion Research Center published earlier this week, if the parliamentary elections had been held in August, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) would have received 21% of the votes; Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), also 21%; former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski's Movement for Poland's Reconstruction, 14%; the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), 10%; the Freedom Union (UW), 6%; the Labor Union (UP), 4%; and the Union of Real Politics (UPR), 3%. Only four of those--the SLD, PSL, UW, and UP--are now represented in the Sejm. The latter two parties may lose their Sejm positions in the next election because of the 5% threshold. Recently, the SLD proposed an alliance with the UP, while the UW is negotiating an alliance with the AWS. -- Jakub Karpinski

U.S. PRESSING POLAND ON TANKS FOR BOSNIA.
A special U.S. envoy is traveling to Warsaw this week to urge Poland to provide tanks to Bosnia, Reuters reported on 4 September. U.S. Balkan envoy James Pardew is to meet with Polish officials on 6 September to try to convince them to sell up to 45 T-72 tanks. They would be paid $50 million by NATO for the deal. Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati has said Poland will not sell the tanks because it has an agreement with the EU not to supply arms to countries in the former Yugoslavia. -- Doug Clarke

CZECH TRUCKS FOR AMERICAN JET FIGHTERS?
A spokesman for the Czech Skoda engineering group proposed on 4 September that Skoda's Tatra factory supply trucks to the U.S. in return for American F/A-18 "Hornet" jet fighters, Reuters reported. Skoda is the local agent for McDonnell Douglas, maker of the F/A-18. Karel Samec said it would be "a barter deal. They would supply the fighters, and we would supply Czech goods to the states, namely Tatras and other things." The Czechs have been looking for a replacement for their aging MiG-21s. Radio Prague reported that Czech Chief of Staff Jiri Nekvasil had grounded the MiGs following the crash of one of the Russian-built planes on 2 September. -- Doug Clarke

SLOVAK POLICE ADMIT BOMB KILLED FORMER COLLEAGUE.
Police investigation department head Jan Kostov on 4 September announced that the car explosion that killed police officer Robert Remias in late April was "most probably" caused by 150 to 200 grams of explosives, Narodna obroda reported. Remias was the close friend of Oskar Fegyveres, a key witness in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son. While police previously claimed the explosion was due to the malfunctioning of Remias's car, opposition representatives said he was the victim of political murder. Slovakia's new Interior Minister Gustav Krajci said on 4 September that he will not devote himself to the Kovac Jr. case, noting that he currently has "other, more important tasks." The investigation was adjourned for a second time on 30 August. -- Sharon Fisher

ANOTHER BOMB IN BRATISLAVA.
A bomb destroyed a car in Bratislava's Ruzinov district on 3 September, CTK reported the following day. It was the third explosion in the city in less than two weeks. No one was injured, but the explosion damaged several cars and shattered the windows of an apartment building. The motives remain unknown. Krajci and Police President Jozef Holdos on 4 September announced the preparation of measures to prevent the growing wave of bomb attacks. They said the effects should be felt within a few months but refused to give details. Krajci also warned about a drop in police discipline--a policeman is suspected of involvement in the 26 August explosion. So far this year, 15 explosions have taken place in Slovakia, causing damage of almost 3.5 million Slovak crowns ($114,000), while 34 explosions were reported last year. -- Sharon Fisher

DATE SET FOR SIGNING ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TREATY.
A spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on 4 September that the basic treaty between the two countries will be signed on 16 September in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, Romanian and Hungarian media report. The news was confirmed by the office of Hungarian Premier Gyula Horn in Budapest. Horn and Prime Minister Nicoale Vacaroiu will sign the document in the presence of Romanian President Ion Iliescu. Reuters reported that the choice of Timisoara was a compromise, since neither side agreed to have the document signed in the other's capital. It was also announced that two additional documents stemming from President Ion Iliescu's August 1995 initiative for a "historic reconciliation" between the two countries are to be signed later. -- Michael Shafir and Zsofia Szilagyi.

SECOND HUNGARIAN MINORITY SUMMIT CONVENES IN WESTERN HUNGARY.
A second round of the ethnic Hungarian minority summit was held in the western Hungarian city of Papa on 4 September, Hungarian media reported. Discussion focused on the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty, and its impact on Romania's 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians. Participants strongly objected to the choice of Timisoara as the venue for the signing of the treaty. Bela Marko, president of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania called the two governments' choice of venue a "mockery of the revolutionary traditions of Timisoara." -- Zsofia Szilagyi



IZETBEGOVIC: SDA WILL BOYCOTT VOTE IF HERCEG-BOSNA REMAINS.
Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president and leader of the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), on 4 September said his party will boycott the forthcoming Bosnian ballot if the Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna is not dissolved, AFP reported the next day. Izetbegovic also said he would not recognize the Serbian entity in Bosnia unless 600,000 non-Serbs expelled during the war return there. Speaking to a meeting of 20,000 SDA supporters in the southern town of Jablanica, Izetbegovic threatened for the second time this week that the largest Muslim party might boycott the 14 September poll. According to a U.S.-brokered agreement, Herceg-Bosna should have been dismantled on 31 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 August 1996). But as of 4 September its government was still working, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

PLAVSIC WARNS FEDERATION DELEGATION NOT TO VISIT BRCKO.
Acting Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic on 4 September informed Roberts Owen, the Brcko arbitration group chairman, that the Republika Srpska has not approved an announced visit by a federal delegation to this northern Bosnian town, Nasa Borba reported. Owen had earlier said a delegation from the Bosnian federation should come to Brcko to inspect the town's infrastructure. But Plavsic warned that if the federal delegation tries to enter Brcko--which both entities claim--they will be stopped, and if incidents develop, those who authorized the arrival will bear the responsibility. Plavsic also said Owen does not have "jurisdiction" to give permission for inspection, and only Republika Srpska authorities have such powers. Meanwhile, Bosnian Serbs, Muslims and Croats agreed on 4 September to allow the exhumation of alleged mass graves in territories they control, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

OSCE FUNDS PARTY OF ETHNIC CLEANSING.
The OSCE, which is supervising the 14 September Bosnian elections, has paid $222,000 to the Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) out of a $3.4 million fund to help political parties. The SSJ is headed by Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, who is an internationally wanted felon and a suspected war criminal. His paramilitary gangs are generally believed to have committed some of the worst atrocities associated with ethnic cleansing in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. German taxpayers provide over half the funds, AFP reported on 5 September, quoting The Guardian. The OSCE's Jean Ouellet defended the payment, saying, "The political campaign funding is basically for all political parties to get their message across. We may not agree with some of them, but we cannot censor them. There is still the right to free speech in this particular country." -- Patrick Moore

SERB POLICE, MOB BLOCK BRITISH TROOPS.
Bosnian Serb police and--in a now familiar pattern--"a typical Balkan mob" of 300 civilians blocked British IFOR soldiers who were attempting to remove illegal weapons near Banja Luka. The NATO troops left only after taking shelter at a Bosnian Serb army base, the BBC reported on 5 September. In Bihac, the trial in absentia of local kingpin and accused war criminal Fikret Abdic began on 4 September, Oslobodjenje reported. In Sarajevo, the OSCE has confirmed 3,398 candidates for the 14 September elections. -- Patrick Moore

NEW ETHNIC CLEANSING IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA.
Ethnic-related incidents continue as the 14 September elections approach, news agencies reported on 3 September. The common denominator seems to be the determination of nationalists to consolidate "ethnically pure" regions as a prelude to a possible breakup of the country along ethnic lines. In a Banja Luka suburb, some of the town's few remaining Muslims were driven from their homes by Serbs and had to be evacuated by the UN. In Croatian-held west Mostar, a gang tried to throw a Muslim woman from her balcony, while other Croats succeeded in driving an ethnically mixed couple out of town. In the strategic Serbian-held town of Brcko, a series of incidents has taken place against Muslim property. In Muslim-held Bugojno, former Croat residents returning for an election meeting were pelted with stones by Muslims, although the rally nonetheless took place, Vecernji list reported on 4 September. -- Patrick Moore

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF SERBIA SNUBS "TOGETHERNESS."
Vojislav Kostunica, head of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said 4 September that his party would not accept an invitation to join several other opposition parties in a grand coalition aimed at ousting the ruling Socialists in the 3 November elections. Nasa Borba on 5 September reported that Kostunica said one major point of contention with the "Zajedno" (together) coalition agreement is that it bars signatories from joining with non-signatories in a postelection coalition. We're going to the polls by ourselves," Kostunica said. The leaders of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), the Democratic Party (DS), and the Serbian Civic League (GSS)--Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic, and Vesna Pesic--on 2 September signed the agreement, which gives the SPO 54% of allotted federal list seats, with 41% for the DS and 5% for the GSS. -- Stan Markotich

SKOPJE, BELGRADE SIGN TRADE AGREEMENTS.
Visiting Prime Minister Radoje Kontic of rump Yugoslavia and his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski on 4 September signed seven trade and economic agreements aimed at liberalizing bilateral trade, Reuters and Nova Makedonija reported. Kontic said the agreements "envisage [a total of] $1 billion [in bilateral trade] over the next year." The documents include agreements on protection of investments, against double taxation, on customs cooperation, and on the regulation of air and rail traffic. In 1989, trade between the then-Yugoslav republics of Macedonia and Serbia-Montenegro totaled $2.5 billion. -- Stefan Krause

SNEGUR PROPOSES RESUMPTION OF TALKS ON DNIESTER STATUS.
In a letter addressed to the leader of the breakaway Dniester region, Igor Smirnov, Moldovan President Mircea Snegur proposed the resumption of talks on the region's special status, Moldovan agencies reported on 4 September. Snegur said after the two sides' teams meet to discuss the negotiation process, a summit of the two leaders should have on its agenda "the current situation and the most urgent economic issues." He denied accusations that a "standstill" had been reached on the special status talks. The two leaders had agreed in June on a memorandum on normalizing relations, but Snegur later refused to sign the document, saying it would legitimize the separate existence of the Dniester region and infringe on Moldovan sovereignty. The leadership in Tiraspol reacted by calling the proposal "one more change" in Snegur's stance and said there was "no hope for the resumption of negotiations before the Moldovan presidential elections" scheduled for 17 November. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE.
The Supreme Court on 4 September overruled the Central Electoral Commission and ordered it to register the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the united opposition, Petar Stoyanov and Todor Kavaldzhiev, Demokratsiya reported. The decision of a five-member magistrate was unanimous. It is final and cannot be appealed. Meanwhile, Prime Minister and Bulgarian Socialist Party Chairman Zhan Videnov called on his party's followers over the national media to support the Socialist team: Culture Minister Ivan Marazov and Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova. -- Stefan Krause

BIG BREAKTHROUGH IN ALBANIAN DOMESTIC POLITICS.
A round table of 13 political parties and President Sali Berisha agreed to change various procedures to ensure fair local elections on 20 October, Koha Jone reported on 5 September. The agreement is the first step toward ending a political deadlock after the disputed parliamentary elections in May. The agreement foresees that the deputy chairmen of the permanent central election commission and all local election commissions including the polling stations come from the Socialist Party. The only exception are electoral zones in which the ethnic Greek Human Rights party gained a majority before. The duties and rights of the deputy chairmen and the Democratic Party appointed chairmen are equal. The agreement also rules that the opposition gets equal airtime on television and that a disputed screening law, banning former communist official from running, would be changed. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Janet Hofmann









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