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Newsline - September 9, 1996


RUSSIAN TROOPS BEGIN LEAVING CHECHNYA.
Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev on 6 September declared an amnesty for all Chechens who collaborated either with the Russian federal forces or with the pro-Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Zavgaev again stated that he does not intend to resign as head of state. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov denied reports that his men had shot 10 of Zavgaev's supporters in the town of Shatoi on 6 September, Radio Mayak reported on 7 September. Representatives of the Russian Security Council Commission on Chechnya and Russian and Chechen Interior Ministry officials met in Novye Atagi on 7-8 September to discuss implementation of the 30 August Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev rejected a Russian proposal to create a joint Russian-Chechen police force, according to Radio Rossii. The scheduled Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya began on 8 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller

KOHL MEETS YELTSIN AT VACATION HOME.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited President Yeltsin at his vacation home outside of Moscow on 7 September. Yeltsin expressed "complete satisfaction" with the talks. The leaders agreed to "intensive negotiations at various levels" on NATO expansion and said they hope to find a solution by the end of 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin did not agree with Germany's support for the recent U.S. bombing of Iraq. The Russian leader told Kohl that he supported Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's efforts to bring peace to Chechnya, while Kohl described the conflict as an internal issue for Russia. On the former Yugoslavia, the leaders agreed that the world community should exert pressure on all sides to ensure that they fulfill their obligations. They also discussed who will control Russia's nuclear weapons while Yeltsin is in hospital for heart surgery but agreed not to discuss the details with the press. -- Robert Orttung

POLITICIANS WORRIED OVER WHO WILL RULE WHILE YELTSIN IS IN HOSPITAL.
Security Council Secretary Lebed on 6 September said President Yeltsin should sign a special document allowing Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to take charge of his office while Yeltsin is in the hospital. Article 92 of the constitution mandates that the prime minister takes charge if the president is incapacitated, but does not specify the exact procedure. It is unclear how long Yeltsin would be incapacitated; Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais said it could be "hours, days, or just a couple of days." First Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin argued that Yeltsin should explicitly hand power to Chernomyrdin to avoid giving "annoying people" a chance to push through their own programs during his absence. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for a meeting of ministers and parliamentary party representatives to discuss Yeltsin's health. -- Robert Orttung

KORZHAKOV'S POLITICAL ACTIVITIES.
Former top presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov may run for parliament in the Tula Oblast district where Aleksandr Lebed was elected in December 1995, Radio Rossii reported on 6 September. Lebed cannot serve both in parliament and as Security Council secretary, and a by-election to fill his seat should be held by the end of this year. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 8 September that Korzhakov unexpectedly visited Primorskii Krai recently and urged locals to support Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in an upcoming referendum on his rule. Some Moscow officials--in particular presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, a longtime enemy of Korzhakov--have blamed Nazdratenko for the ongoing energy crisis in the krai. Citing anonymous sources in the administration, NTV suggested that Korzhakov had refused various posts offered to him after the election and might be trying to connect his own political future with Lebed rather than Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin

MOSCOW PROCURATOR TAKES ACTION OVER $500,000 IN BOX INCIDENT.
The Moscow City Procurator's Office has initiated criminal proceedings against Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev on charges of "attempted violation of hard-currency regulations involving especially large sums," Obshchaya gazeta reported on 5-11 September. Lisovskii and Yevstafev, both top Yeltsin campaign aides, were detained at the Russian White House by the Presidential Security Service (SBP) on 19 June as they left the building with a box reportedly containing $500,000 in cash. Chubais and other opponents of former SBP head Aleksandr Korzhakov accused the special services of staging a provocation aimed at derailing the election, and Korzhakov and his allies Mikhail Barsukov and Oleg Soskovets were fired. In the furor over the dismissals, relatively little attention was paid to the $500,000. The 2 September issue of the magazine Litsa printed what they claim is a transcript of the videotaped interrogation of the two men on 19 June, with photos. -- Penny Morvant
LDPR TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON CHECHNYA AGREEMENT.
Duma deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) plan to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the agreement signed on 31 August between Security Council Secretary Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Maskhadov, Russian media reported on 6 September. According to Russian TV (RTR), the deputies say the agreement leaves three questions unanswered: on what basis was Chechnya recognized a subject of international law, how should Russia deal with the pro-Moscow Chechen government from now on, and whether Lebed exceeded his authority by signing the document. On the same day, the Federation Council formed a special commission on Chechnya, which will include all leaders of the North Caucasus regions, the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and representatives from standing Council committees on constitutional law, regional policy, defense, and international affairs. -- Laura Belin

CREW WHO FIRED ON JAPANESE FISHING BOATS NAMED FOR MEDALS.
The Pacific Border District command has recommended that medals "for protecting the state border" be awarded to the crew of a coast guard ship that fired on two Japanese fishing boats on 26 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 August 1996). The captains of both Japanese boats were wounded in the incident, although ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September that their health is now "satisfactory." On previous occasions this year, Russian coast guards fired warning shots on boats fishing in Russian waters near the disputed Kuril Islands but did not shoot to kill. In a similar incident on 6 September, only warning shots were fired at the Japanese boats. -- Laura Belin

ANTI-U.S. DEMONSTRATION IN MOSCOW.
About 100 people on 8 September took part in a noisy demonstration organized by hardline opposition groups to protest the U.S. missile attacks on Iraq, Russian and Western agencies reported. ITAR-TASS said two demonstrators were briefly detained, including Stanislav Terekhov, the head of the right-wing Officers' Union. Police said they took action because the rally, held outside the U.S. Embassy, had not been sanctioned by the authorities. Russia has condemned the U.S. airstrikes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3-6 September) and expressed "deep concern" over Turkish plans to set up a "security zone" in northern Iraq. Izvestiya on 7 September focused on the concerns of Russian oil companies preparing to operate in Iraq and Russia's potential economic losses resulting from the UN trade embargo. -- Penny Morvant

LABOR DISPUTES CONTINUE AT POWER PLANTS.
More than 140 workers at the Primorskii power plant at Luchegorsk are now taking part in a hunger strike that began a week ago in protest against delays in wage payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Wage arrears at the power plant exceed 13 billion rubles. In Khakassiya, 15 workers at the Sayano-Shushensk hydroelectric power station have been on hunger strike since 3 September in an attempt to draw attention to the desperate situation in the energy sector and at their plant in particular. Workers at the station, which is deeply in debt to the state and suppliers, have not received wages for five months. Meanwhile, Yurii Vishnevskii, head of the Federal Committee for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, warned that more accidents could occur at nuclear power plants because of delays in wage payments, which damage worker morale. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN RESCINDS NEW DECREE ON TAXATION.
Following government recommendations, President Yeltsin has rescinded his 18 August decree on changes in personal income tax and insurance payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. The decree was strongly criticized by lawyers, businessmen, and journalists for contradicting the constitution and existing tax legislation, for causing the double taxation of people's wages, and for triggering a massive outflow of personal savings from banks. Meanwhile, Radio Rossii reported that the government is planning to introduce a 15% tax on interest accrued from personal bank deposits. The government as also likely to increase taxes on profits from with corporate and state securities. -- Natalia Gurushina

CHUBAIS CONCERNED ABOUT NONPAYMENT PROBLEM.
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais on 7 September described nonpay-ments as the most serious problem in the Russian economy and asserted that tax revenues are extremely low, ITAR-TASS reported. Nonpayments in the energy sector are the most serious, accounting for 51% of all tax and other budget nonpayments in 1995-96, according to Finansovye izvestiya. Federal budget revenue for the first half of 1996 is 9.5% of GDP, while it was 13% in 1995, Segodnya reported. Chubais stressed the importance of measures to increase tax collection and cited "ineffective work" and ignorant leadership as one of the reasons for the problem. -- Ritsuko Sasaki



THREE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WITHDRAW.
Three of the seven registered candidates for the 22 September Armenian presidential election withdrew on 7 September and pledged their support for former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan, the main challenger to incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Reuters reported on 8 September. A further opposition candidate, Ashot Manucharyan of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, may also withdraw, but Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan has said he will not. Manukyan is reportedly gathering considerable support for his pledges to crack down on corruption and the shadow economy, to introduce more equitable social and economic policies, and to revise the constitution in order to curtail the powers of the president. -- Liz Fuller

SOUTH OSSETIA TO HAVE PRESIDENT?
The Georgian National Security Council views the South Ossetian parliament's 6 September resolution to create a presidency in South Ossetia as a serious threat to the peace process in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. The Georgian presidential service stated that the resolution undermines agreements reached by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and South Ossetian parliament chairman Ludwig Chibirov at their 27 August meeting. According to Chibirov, the final decision by South Ossetian parliament is expected by 13 September. On 7 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the South Ossetian parliament's resolution as well. -- Elin Suleymanov

ONE MORE VOTE PLANNED IN ABKHAZIA.
Abkhazian President Vladislav Ardzinba plans to hold a referendum in October in which residents of the region will be asked whether they "want to live in an independent Abkhazia or in an Abkhazia that is part of Georgia or some other country," BGI reported. The Georgian government has already expressed its opposition to holding a new parliamentary election (scheduled for 23 November) in Abkhazia before ethnic Georgian refugees are allowed to return to Abkhazia. -- Elin Suleymanov

UZBEKISTAN'S HUMAN RIGHT SOCIETY HOLDS CONGRESS.
Delegates to a congress of Uzbekistan's Human Rights Society (HRS) in Tashkent on 7 September noted that the human rights situation in Uzbekistan is "beginning to improve," RFE/RL reported. Until virtually the last minute it was unclear if the Uzbek authorities would permit the gathering to take place. The fact that it did take place may be attributed to Tashkent's efforts to burnish its tarnished human rights image and improve relations with the U.S.. The HRS was founded in 1992 but is still not officially registered in the country. HRS Chairman Abdulmanop Pulatov returned recently to Tashkent after the activities of his group were given an unofficial green light from Uzbek President Islam Karimov. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK OPPOSITION SEIZES DJIR-GATAL.
Rebel units led by a commander identified only as Akhmadbek on 7 September seized the town of Djirgatal, 280 km northeast of Dushanbe, and killed two Tajik militia members, Russian and Western agencies reported. The operation appears to have been staged to coincide with the republic's fifth anniversary of independence on 9 September. The 300-400 rebels disarmed and expelled 46 Tajik militiamen to Kyrgyzstan across the border. The UN envoy in Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, issued a letter of protest on 8 September urging an immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with the existing ceasefire agreement. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON ISLAM AT DIASPORA CONGRESS.
Imomali Rakhmonov told some 250 delegates from 19 countries at a congress of Tajik diaspora that the country's opposition forces are trying to establish an Islamic regime in Tajikistan, Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 September. At the same time, he declare that "we respect" Islam as a "base of moral and spiritual cleanliness and source of culture," Reuters reported. The first Tajik diaspora congress was held in 1992. -- Lowell Bezanis



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF TRADE WAR WITH RUSSIA.
Leonid Kuchma warned that Russia's proposed tax on Ukrainian imports could lead to a trade war, Reuters reported on 7 September. Last month Moscow said it would impose a 20% value added tax on imports from Ukraine to curb Kyiv's mass dumping on the Russian market. A one million ton quota on Ukrainian sugar was also to be introduced. Kuchma said the moves violated a free trade agreement signed within the context of the CIS. Moscow has postponed imposing the tax and quota until October. According to Kuchma, since the measures apply only to Ukraine, they are not motivated by economic considerations, but political ones, and must be resolved politically. Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko was more upbeat about relations. During a visit to Stockholm on 6 September, he said relations with Russia were developing successfully, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT SETS REFERENDUM DATE.
The parliament set 24 November as the date of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's referendum and parliamentary by-elections, international agencies reported on 6 and 7 September. The parliament also decided to place its own questions on the referendum. Lukashenka proposed asking the electorate if they agreed with extending his term of office and his powers. He confidently told reporters he expected to remain president for 12 more years. Parliament added two of its own referendum questions, including asking the people whether they preferred the pre-sident's or the parliament's version of the constitution. The parliament's version abolishes the presidency. -- Ustina Markus

MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS.
Over 3,000 people gathered on 8 September in Minsk to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Orsha in 1514, when Lithuanian and Belarusian forces defeated Moscow, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. The rally turned into a protest against Lukashenka and his pro-Russian orientation. Speakers denounced Lukashenka for trying to impose dictatorial rule, violating the constitution, and selling the country out to Russia. The demonstration ended peacefully. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES LAYOFFS.
Finance Ministry official Ingrid Preeks on 6 September announced the government's plans to lay off 963 officials and dissolve 36 executive agencies and inspectorates in the course of administrative reform, BNS reported. The dismissals, beginning as early as October, should result in salary increases of about 10% for the some 62,000 remaining employees financed from the state budget. According to the Public Service Act, dismissed employees must be paid six months salary. -- Saulius Girnius

FOLLOW UP TO BUCHACZ'S DISMISSAL.
Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 7 September explained his recent decision to dismiss Foreign Trade Minister Jacek Buchacz, Polish media reported. Cimoszewicz accused Buchacz -- a member of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) -- of badly managing state funds. He said the chemical trade corporation Ciech's president wrote to him that he was pressured by Buchacz to sign documents conflicting with the Ciech board's resolutions. Ciech's president questioned a plan to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds to a private bank in Ukraine. The PSL had threatened to quit the coalition with the Cimoszewicz's Democratic Left Alliance, arguing that the unexpected dismissal was a breach of the coalition contract; however, meeting on 6 September, PSL leaders failed to decide on the matter. President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the ruling coalition should continue until the end of the parliament's term, in fall next year. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK ACADEMICS PROTEST UNIVERSITY BILL.
Slovak university representatives gathered in Bratislava on 6 September to protest a draft law that restricts academic freedom, Slovak and international media reported. The controversial bill was approved by the government last month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 August) and is expected to be placed on the parliament session beginning on 11 September. The academic community asked the parliament to confirm academic rights and freedoms and the autonomous position of university bodies and asked that the new university law respect the Rectors' Conference's recommendations. Meanwhile, on 5 September, some 700 cultural figures gathered to demand the dismissal of Culture Minister Ivan Hudec based on his interference in the operation of theaters, museums, and other cultural institutions. Although the opposition hopes to discuss Hudec's dismissal during the upcoming parliament session, both Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota have supported him. -- Sharon Fisher

POPE ENCOURAGES HUNGARIANS.
Pope John Paul II, appearing frail and exhausted, visited Hungary on 6-7 September for the first time since 1991, Hungarian and international media reported. On the second day of his visit, the pope celebrated mass in the western Hungarian city of Gyor, drawing some 150,000 people despite bad weather. He asked Hungarians not to be discouraged by economic and social difficulties, including unemployment, impoverishment, and declining moral values. The pope also held talks with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and Prime Minister Gyula Horn. Horn and the pope approved three agreements between the Vatican and Hungary concerning state financing of churches, restitution of church property, and the financing of church schools. It was the pope's second visit to Hungary. -- Sharon Fisher and Petronella Gaal

NEW HUNGARIAN INDUSTRY MINISTER APPOINTED.
President Arpad Goncz on 6 September appointed Tamas Suchman as Industry and Trade Minister, AFP reported. Suchman, 42, replaced Imre Dunai, a non-party technocrat who resigned in mid-August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 August). In his new post, Suchman -- a Socialist Party member who had overseen privatization as minister without portfolio -- said he aims to promote exports and to serve businesses rather than control them. Although the cabinet scrapped the privatization portfolio, Suchman will continue to control privatization. -- Sharon Fisher



OSCE WARNS BOSNIAN SERBS NOT TO VIOLATE ELECTORAL RULES...
Judge Finn Lynhgjem of the OSCE announced that "public statements that undermine or deny the sovereignty and territorial integrity of ... Bosnia-Herzegovina constitute serious violations of the [Dayton] agreement," and he called on those who have made such statements "to retract them," AFP reported on 6 September. This declaration comes after weeks of Bosnian Serb leaders openly campaigning for the division of Bosnia. Senior officials of the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) publicly declare that Republika Srpska (RS) has the right to secede from Bosnia and join Serbia. The OSCE has done nothing to punish the parties violating the electoral process, arguing that it can only act when receiving a complaint. The main Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has lodged a complaint on the Serb campaigning, and is waiting for the OSCE's ruling. -- Daria Sito Sucic

...BUT SERBS INTENSIFY SEPARATIST RHETORIC.
Despite the SDS spokesman's denials of violating the electoral rules while campaigning, party officials have continued their campaign tour in the same tone. On 7 September SDS head Aleksa Buha said in the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Brod that Bosnia will disintegrate into separate states, AFP reported. The next day in Trebinje, southeastern Bosnia, acting RS President Biljana Plavsic said Serbs who decide to live with Muslims "will no longer be Serbs, but Turks or Catholics (Croats)," AFP reported. Also on 8 September, in the northern Bosnian town of Kotor-Varos, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb candidate for Bosnia's new rotating presidency, promised to lead his supporters into a union of Serb states. He devoted much of his speech to the strategic town of Brcko, claimed by both the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serbs, saying it was "alpha and omega of the RS," AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

IZETBEGOVIC FOCUSES CAMPAIGN ON RETURN TO BRCKO.
During an 8 September SDA rally held in a village near this northern town, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic underscored the importance of Muslim refugees' return to Brcko, Oslobodjenje reported. Otherwise, he warned of serious trouble but did not clarify. Bosnian federation Prime Minister Izudin Kapetanovic told the crowd "a big battle for Brcko is ahead of us," AFP reported. The town is vitally important for Serbs because its narrow corridor links the western and eastern parts of the RS. It also controls a major communication route between the Muslim-Croat federation and Croatia. If international arbitration on Brcko fails, the issue could result in renewed fighting. In other news, a Ukrainian peacekeeper was shot dead on 8 September early morning by an unknown assailant. The soldier was guarding a warehouse where voter ballots were stored. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIANS LOOK AT HERZE-GOVINIAN NEIGHBORS.
A survey conducted by the pro-government weekly Odbor showed that some 58% of Croatians surveyed think parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina controlled by Croats will eventually join with Croatia, AFP reported on 8 September. The Bosnian Croat mini-state of Herceg-Bosna was to have been dissolved on 31 August, with its powers devolving to the Muslim-Croat federation, but so far this has not taken place. In addition, only 19% of the 450 respondents said they feel 14 September elections in Bosnia will have the effect of reinforcing Bosnia as a multiethnic state made up of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Nearly 61%, however, said they feel the elections will divide Bosnia's ethnic communities. -- Stan Markotich

VOJVODINA HUNGARIAN PARTY'S RESERVATIONS ABOUT COALITION POLITICS.
The Democratic Community of Hungarians in Voj-vodina (DZVM), during its annual general meeting in Subotica on 7 September, resolved to stay out of any coalitions heading into federal rump Yugoslav general elections on 3 November. According to party leader Andras Agoston, joining a coalition, which may include parties not advocating regional autonomy for Vojvodina, may compromise the DZVM in its aim of promoting this objective, Nasa Borba reported on 9 September. Agoston, however, did not rule out coalition politics in local balloting to be held that same date. In related news, Sandor Pal, in behind closed-door plenary sessions that Nasa Borba reported went "late into the night," lost his post as deputy head of the DZVM. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN UPDATE.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on 6 September announced his country's candidacy for membership in the UN Security Council. "Membership in the Security Council would give Slovenia a much better chance to gain international recognition," he said. In other news, Reuters on 6 September reported that a section of border tunnel between Slovenia and Austria crashed that day, injuring one Slovene and two Slovaks. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN MILITARY TREATY.
Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca and his Hungarian counterpart Gyorgy Kelety on 6 September signed in Arad, western Romania, a treaty providing for enhanced mutual trust and security. The treaty, which expands on the measures provided for by the 1994 Vienna OSCE document, stipulates that the two states will notify each other 42 days in advance on troop movements larger than one battalion within a radius of 80 kilometers at their common border, exchange information, and raise the frequency of mutual military inspections while at the same time reducing early notification of intended inspections. They are also to exchange observers at military exercises and conduct two yearly joint maneuvers. The treaty is not limited in time, and Radio Bucharest said it provides a proper background for the signing of the basic treaty on 16 September. -- Michael Shafir

COURT REJECTS OBJECTIONS TO ILIESCU'S CANDIDACY.
The Constitutional Court has unanimously rejected objections raised to President Ion Iliescu's candidacy in the presidential elections scheduled for 3 November, Radio Bucharest reported on 8 September. The court said the objections lacked foundation and that its decision was "final." It ruled that the number of mandates, limited by the constitution to two, counted only from the time of the basic document's adoption, and that consequently Iliescu's service as president before 1992 was not to be taken into consideration for this purpose. -- Michael Shafir

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY "SWALLOWS" ALLY.
The extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 6 September merged with the small non-parliamentary Romanian Party for a New Society (PRNS). The latter formation had been part of the National Bloc, an alliance with non-parliamentary formations established by the PRM. The PRNS's leader, retired Gen. Victor Voichita, became a vice-chairman of the PRM. In other news, Titus Raveica, a former senator representing the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and later chairman of the Audio-Visual Council, announced his intention to run for parliament on the PRM lists, Curierul national reported on 7 September. Finally, PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor demanded that the U.S. withdraw Ambassador Alfred Moses, whom Tudor accused of interfering in internal Romanian politics for having stated that Romania's post-electoral government should be "centrist." Calling him "an obscure provincial lawyer" and "an old man with dictatorial inclinations," Tudor said Moses displayed "political primitivism." -- Michael Shafir

CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS TO BE RESUMED?
Infotag reported on 6 September that the leadership of the breakaway Dniester region will "consider" Moldovan President Mircea Snegur's recent proposal to resume negotiations on drafting a special status for the region. The region's leaders, President Igor Smirnov and Supreme Soviet chairman Grigorii Markutsa, stated their intent to resume negotiations following a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Moldova, Alexander Papkin, and the special representative of the Ukrainian president, Yevhen Levitsky. Levitsky said after the meeting that there was now hope that the process may break out of its present standstill. -- Michael Shafir

IMPRISONED MOLDOVAN LEA-DER QUITS PARTY.
Ilie Ilascu, who is imprisoned in the breakaway Dniester region where he has been accused of terrorist actions and condemned to death, has resigned from the Popular Front Christian Democratic Party (FPCD). In a letter addressed to the FPCD leadership and published in Saptamana, Ilascu, who earlier announced his intention to run for president, said he considers the party's decision to back President Mircea Snegur in the 17 November electoral contest "unwise," BASA-press reported on 6 September. Ilascu said he fails to understand why a party that is pro-Romanian unionist should help people who are "generally unfriendly to our national ideals." -- Michael Shafir
IMF DELAYS LOAN TO BULGARIA.
The IMF decided to withhold further loan disbursement to Bulgaria until the government speeds up promised economic reforms, RFE/RL and The Wall Street Journal reported on 7 September. IMF officials said Bulgaria is ineligible for the second installment of a $580 million standby loan because it did not get a favorable review during an IMF mission's recent visit. It is unclear when the installment of $116.7 million will be disbursed. The IMF mission said the government failed to implement structural reforms in the banking system and to close down 64 unprofitable state firms as agreed on with the IMF. Only five of those companies were closed down. The Bulgarian government had agreed with the IMF to implement a comprehensive reform package but after announcing it and receiving the first installment of the loan took no further action. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS GOVERNMENT.
In a state TV address on 7 September, Zhelyu Zhelev accused the Socialist government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov of leading Bulgaria to a "catastrophic state " and to economic collapse, Reuters reported. He blamed the Socialists in particular for the ongoing grain crisis and the rapid decline of the standard of living of large parts of the population. Zhelev said that if the situation does not improve, "responsibility will be sought not only through resignations but probably also through the courts." Zhelev accused Videnov of using rhetoric reminiscent of the "darkest years of Stalinism" in order to lay the blame on other people. The government in turn issued a statement the following day accusing Zhelev of delaying reform by vetoing legislation and of being irresponsible. The statement said Zhelev "relies on rude demagogy to force society to work against its own interests." -- Stefan Krause

BIGGEST BALKAN SYNAGOGUE REOPENS IN SOFIA.
The Sofia synagogue reopened on 8 September after major renovation, Reuters reported. More than 1,000 Jews from all over the world gathered for the ceremony that was attended by Zhelev and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dan Tihon. The synagogue was first inaugurated in 1909. It was hit by a bomb during World War Two and restoration was forbidden by the Communist regime. The renovation so far cost $370,000, mostly donations by the international Jewish community. Tihon said the synagogue was "a house of Jewish culture...not just a religious center." He noted that tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews were "saved by the Bulgarian people" from Nazi concentration camps. Around 5,000 Jews still live in Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIA REJECTS MACEDONIAN ACCUSATIONS OF INTERFERENCE.
The Albanian government on 7 September rejected Macedonian accusations that it interfered with Skopje's domestic affairs, international media reported. The Macedonian government over the past week repeatedly accused Tirana of supporting the right of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia to higher education in their mother tongue in an attempt to divert attention from domestic political problems. A statement by the Albanian Foreign Ministry said Albania wanted good relations with Macedonia but added that it would continue to demand those rights because they are "based on international norms and documents." -- Stefan Krause

As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Sharon Fisher









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