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Newsline - September 12, 1996

Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that nothing was accomplished at the 10 September congress of Chechen parties in Grozny, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12 September. The congress merely approved the idea of forming a coalition government without deciding who would rule the republic or control the money set aside for reconstruction. Lebed will not return to Chechnya until the government is named. Lebed said the main problem is deciding who will handle the federal funds allotted for reconstruction work in the republic since Chechen acting President Zelimkhan Yandar-biev's government does not recognize pro-Moscow leader Doku Zavgaev while Moscow does not recognize Yandarbiev. Lebed said he hopes to find someone else, but there is no obvious candidate. -- Robert Orttung

Che-chen separatist forces are continuing to concentrate their forces near Grozny, NTV reported on 11 September, citing federal forces. The sources cited two groups of Chechens gathering near the city, one of 800 men and another of 500. Mines remain one of the most dangerous problems in the city; one federal soldier was injured by a mine overnight, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung

After meeting with Security Council Secretary Lebed on 11 September, Chechen head of state Zavgaev described the situation in Chechnya in bloody terms, NTV reported. He claimed that separatist Chechen forces are interning anyone who fought against them in two concentration camps, public executions are taking place, and few apartments have not been robbed. At the same time, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov warned of civil war in Chechnya, pointing out that 10 Chechens were executed on 5 September by other Chechens "on suspicion of marauding and banditry, Moskovskie novosti reported in its issue of 8-15 September. He also denounced the separatists' imposition of Islamic law on the areas they control. Kulikov warned that if Russian troops are completely withdrawn, a campaign of terror will be unleashed against all Chechens who cooperated with Moscow and that armed Chechens will start making incursions into neighboring territories. -- Robert Orttung

In a joint letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin said a Russian delegation will not attend the scheduled 23 September hearings on Chechnya in Strasbourg because of the council's decision to invite Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov but not the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 September. Lukin described the invitation of Maskhadov as "flagrant, brazen, and unprecedented interference by the Council of Europe in Russian internal affairs," Ekho Moskvy reported. The radio noted the "strange coalition" of politicians who have recently spoken out in defense of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Zavgaev, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Communist Party member Seleznev, and Lukin, a leading figure in Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party. -- Laura Belin

Security Council Secretary Lebed denied that he told the German journal Stern that President Yeltsin should resign, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 11 September. Lebed's press secretary, Aleksandr Barkhatov, blamed the problem on a bad translation of the retired general's comments. According to AFP, Stern's journalists say they asked Lebed about statements he had made claiming it was time for Yeltsin to step down, and Lebed replied "Am I not right?" In another part of the interview, Lebed used a joke from the Brezhnev era to describe the current Kremlin administration: "Today, following a long illness and without regaining consciousness, the secretary general resumed his functions." Lebed also said he would run in the next presidential election. He said that Russia needs democracy but admitted that he is "not cut out to be a democrat...We must, first of all, restore order, and for that you cannot always act with kid gloves." -- Robert Orttung

According to a recent opinion poll, pro-Yeltsin Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov has the support of 47% of oblast residents, while his closest rival, Vadim Gustov--the chairman of the oblast soviet President Yeltsin disbanded in 1993--is polling only 15% before the 29 September election, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12 September. Although Gustov is not a Communist, the local branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation decided to support him since it does not have its own candidate. Gustov has formed an alliance with four other candidates to oppose Belyakov, Radio Rossii reported on 10 September, citing Nikolai Smirnov, a member of the coalition, who is running at about 10% in the polls. The group hopes to name a single candidate by next week. -- Robert Orttung

A spokesman for the Ministry for Emergency Situations said Russia will offer humanitarian aid to victims of the recent U.S. missile strikes against Iraq this month, AFP reported on 11 September. The official said the aid should be delivered by the Geneva-based International Civil Defense Organization, to which Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu has just been elected president, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk again criticized the U.S.'s unilateral action against Iraq, calling it a violation of international law. However, he added that Russia's disagreement with the U.S. over Iraq "has not undermined our cooperation as co-sponsors of the Middle East Peace process," AFP reported, citing an interview with Posuvalyuk published in the latest edition of Argumenty i fakty. -- Laura Belin

The Foreign Ministry released a statement welcoming UN approval of a treaty to impose a worldwide ban on nuclear tests, AFP and Reuters reported on 11 September. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said he hoped all UN member states would sign the treaty, which was adopted by a vote of 158-3 (Bhutan, India, and Libya voted against), with five abstentions. Russia and the world's other four declared nuclear powers--the U.S., Great Britain, France, and China--have already agreed to unilaterally end nuclear tests. -- Laura Belin

Meeting in Brussels, the NATO Council approved in principle a Russian suggestion that mutual liaison bureaus be opened in Belgium, the U.S., and Russia, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 11 September. A 26 September meeting of NATO defense ministers, to be attended by Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov as well, will consider a specific proposal on the matter, which would allow Russia to open liaison offices at the U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe in Mons, Belgium, and possibly also at NATO headquarters in Brussels. At the same time, NATO would open a liaison office in Moscow. -- Laura Belin

Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contended in an 11 September interview with NTV that he has fulfilled President Yeltsin's August orders giving him until 15 September to take steps to deal with the krai's energy crisis (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 and 15 August 1996). Nazdratenko said that, as requested, he has fired his deputy and transferred funds to the krai's miners. He admitted that there are problems with wage arrears but contended that the situation in the energy sector has been misrepresented by the mass media. He also stressed that the federal government still owes money to the local defense industry. In a reference to local press reports on the possible establishment of an autonomous far eastern republic, he ruled out any talk of separatism while he is governor. Commenting on speculation that Yeltsin will fire Nazdratenko, Kommersant-Daily on 12 September quoted Constitutional Court judge Vladimir Strekozov as saying he believes Yeltsin does not have the power to dismiss a popularly elected governor. -- Penny Morvant

Workers at the nuclear submarine repair plant Zvezda have demanded that the regional referendum on confidence in Governor Nazdratenko be called off, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. They oppose the referendum, set by the krai Duma for 22 September, on financial grounds, arguing that the 6 billion rubles needed to pay for it should be used to repay debts. The workers have also threatened to take protest actions on 16 September. Meanwhile, about 200 workers are still on hunger strike at the Primorskii and Artem power plants, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a union official at the Primorskii plant. A Dalenergo official warned that stocks of coal and fuel oil at power stations are again so low that operations could "stop at any moment." -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Penny Morvant

Tatar Prime Minister Farid Mukhmedshin has expressed concern over Aeroflot's intention to replace 13 TU-134 passenger airplanes with 10 U.S. Boeing 737-400s, RTR reported on 10 August. Mukhamedshin accused Aero-flot, Russia's largest airline, and its general director, Yevgenii Sha-poshnikov, of betraying Russia's national interests and said the company's decision is likely to push the domestic aircraft manufacturing industry into a crisis. Shaposhnikov, however, responded by saying that as a commercial enterprise, Aeroflot cannot afford to spend money on refurbishing and modernizing newly purchased aircraft. In 1995 alone, Aeroflot had to replace 31 engines on five Aerobus IL-96s. Furthermore, Aeroflot has to meet international standards, especially environmental regulations, which is often impossible with Russian-manufactured airplanes. -- Natalia Gurushina

Azerbaijani parliament chairman Rasul Guliev resigned from office on 11 September, Russian and Western media reported the same day. His resignation had been expected to be the locus of a stormy extraordinary session of the parliament, the Milli Mejlis, but the matter was wrapped up in 15 minutes when Guliev asked to resign due to ill health, ITAR-TASS reported. Parliament accepted his resignation in a vote of 98-8, with four abstentions. During his speech, Guliev pledged his full support to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who was in attendance. It has been rumored that Guliev is to serve as Azerbaijan's ambassador to Norway. A Norwegian company, Statoil, is part of the international consortium involved in exploiting three oil fields off Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea. -- Lowell Bezanis

Almaty's city authorities on 9 September refused to allow the Center of Russian Culture of Almaty to stage a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy, RFE/RL reported. The demonstrators intended to protest the recent U.S. airstrikes on Iraq. In other news, Rakhmankul Berdibay has been elected president of the recently founded Baba Turkti Shashti Aziz Foundation, RFE/RL reported on 12 September. Baba Turkti Shashti, whose mausoleum is in Chimkent along with a foundation of the same name, is revered as the common ancestor of the Karakalpak, Nogay, Tatar, Kazak, Kyrgyz, and Bashkort peoples. Meanwhile, a training school for sergeants, manned by instructors from the U.S. and Turkey, is to open in Kazakstan, the Turkish Daily News reported on 12 September. The 100-student school is to form the backbone of the Kazakstani army's non-commissioned officer corps. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan

A three-day OSCE-sponsored conference on human rights--bringing together non-governmental organizations operating in Central Asia, government officials, and government-selected media representatives--opened in Tashkent on 11 September, Western agencies reported. Human rights are far from respected in Central Asia with print and broadcast media carefully censored or directly controlled by the government and minimal tolerance shown for political opposition. Among a litany of other human rights violations, AFP noted that 40 journalists have been killed in Tajikistan since 1992, some 30 prisoners of conscience are presently in Uzbek jails, and 600 prisoners died in Kazakstani jails of tuberculosis last year and another 101 were executed. The venue of the conference is considered a further signal of Uzbekistan's desire to soften the regime's image abroad. -- Lowell Bezanis

Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor signed a memorandum of cooperation in Paris on 11 September, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. According to the agency, UNESCO is to help Turkmenistan reform its education system, train journalists, create a management information network, support national radio programming, establish various cultural programs aimed at the protection of historical sites, and analyze the environmental problems of the Caspian Sea. -- Lowell Bezanis

State Property Fund Chairman Yurii Yekhanurov told parliament on 11 September that Ukraine had completed its small-scale privatization program, except in Crimea, Ukrainian TV reported. Yekhanurov said 80% of small enterprises were taken over via employee buyout lease options. He said 80% of privatization revenues went to local budgets. In regard to large-scale privatization, he said over 40 million residents had already picked up their vouchers. He complained, however, that investment declined because many potentially profitable companies were barred from privatization. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Two new caucuses were formed within the legislature, Ukrainian TV reported on 8 September. A new center-left group, called Social-Market Choice, is made up of prominent figures such as former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk, former President Leonid Kravchuk, and ex-Donetsk governor Volodymyr Shcherban. The caucus has declared its opposition to the current government of Pavlo Laza-renko. The second caucus is a pro-government group comprising members of the Popular-Democratic Party and former members of the Statehood, Center, Unity, and Agrarians caucuses. Communist Party of Ukraine leader Petro Symonenko told Ukrainian agencies that his party will no longer argue against the legitimacy of the newly-adopted Ukrainian constitution, but will begin a campaign this autumn for early presidential and parliamentary elections. He said the group was also planning to organize mass labor strikes then. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Syamyon Sharetsky in an article in Narodnaya Volya on 11 September said that the new Constitution proposed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "prepares the ground for a totalitarian fascist state," Reuters reported. In a strident attack Sharetsky noted: "There will be unlimited power for a single person. Such a draft can only be proposed by a person with a maniacal drive for power." The same day parliament deputies accused the presidential security service of searching their offices overnight under the pretext of searching for a bomb. Opposition leader Alyaksandr Dobro-volsky said that the police seemed to have been looking in vain for lists of deputies who signed a document on impeaching the president. He accused Lukashenka of using again the tactic of intimidation he had applied in April 1995, when opposition deputies on a hunger strike were thrown out of the parliament building and beaten up by masked guards. -- Saulius Girnius

The Defense Council, made up of the president, parliament chairman, prime minister, foreign and defense ministers, decided on 10 September that Lithuania's defense expenditures in 1997 should increase to about one percent of gross domestic product (GDP), Radio Lithuania reported. This year the budget provided expenditures of 0.56% of GDP or about 200 million litai ($50 million). Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said that the increased military spending was linked to Lithuania's effort to seek NATO membership. He noted that attention was already given this year to the purchase of needed military hardware as shown by the government guaranteeing the credit for the purchase of anti-tank armaments. -- Saulius Girnius

Helmut Kohl told the German parliament on 11 September that the Czech-German declaration should be signed by the end of this year, Czech and German media reported. The declaration, to be adopted by the parliaments of both countries, will address some unresolved historical issues and hopefully help improve bilateral relations. Kohl has rarely commented on the declaration in the past. He admitted that the negotiations on the declaration have been more difficult than anticipated and that "the common past still stirs too many emotions." He noted that it was "Germans who attacked Czechoslovakia and Hitler's policies that caused injustice." Kohl suggested that Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec address the German parliament. -- Jiri Pehe
Slovakia's opposition failed in its efforts to add most of its "democratization" proposals to the agenda of the parliament session that began on 11 September, Slovak media reported. In an unusual sign of unity, the opposition agreed to the moves during round-table discussions two days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 September). However, only one of these proposals made it to the parliament's agenda: the no-confidence vote in Culture Minister Ivan Hudec, who has been under attack for his controversial policies on theaters and museums. The deputies also approved a separate proposal by Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky demanding that Interior Minister Gustav Krajci explain the spread of child pornography in Slovakia and the police's failure to stop it. -- Sharon Fisher

The Sejm rejected on 11 September a motion demanding that the 30 August vote on the abortion law be repeated. The law broadened the conditions under which abortion is legal (See OMRI Daily Digest, 3 September 1996). Three deputies declared that their votes had been wrongly recorded by the Sejm's computerized system. Sejm Speaker Jozef Zych, however, noted that experts determined that the counting device was not broken during the August vote. The motion to repeat the August vote was supported by 158 deputies, mostly from the opposition, but also by 60 from the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party; 234 deputies, coming mostly from the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance and the leftist Labor Union, were against and 31 deputies abstained. -- Jakub Karpinski

French President Jacques Chirac told the Polish parliament on 12 September that France hopes Poland will join the EU by the year 2000. Chirac also supported Poland's desire to enter NATO quickly, saying this process should begin next year. "The year 1997 should engage the process, in an irreversible way," he said. Chirac arrived in Warsaw the previous day accompanied by four ministers for a three-day visit. Chirac also met his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski and said Poland will be "one of the first or the first to enter the EU." Leader of the Lithuanian Conservatives and former parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis held talks with Kwasniewski and parliament speaker Jozef Zych. Kwasniew-ski said Warsaw will make efforts that Lithuania would not be left outside the European security structure. -- Jakub Karpinski

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia arrived in Hungary on 10 September for a three-day official visit at the invitation of Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, international media reported. The highlight of the king's second trip to Hungary was his address to the parliament the next day, during which he expressed support for Hungary's European integration. "Hungary is destined to play an important role in building the new European security structure," Juan Carlos said. He also expressed appreciation for Hungary's stand on relations towards the neighboring countries, but warned that eventual NATO membership should not lead to further splits. -- Sharon Fisher and Petronella Gaal

Most Hungarian parties on 11 September agreed on a proposal to handle the restitution of Jewish property, Hungarian media reported. The proposal states that restitution will take place in accordance with paragraph 27 of the Paris Peace Treaty, which stipulates that the Hungarian government must compensate all victims of racial, religious, or fascist discrimination and transfer the compensation to the organizations that represent the victims. The Constitutional Court ruled that parliament had to settle the issue by 31 December 1993; however, few efforts were made before 1994, when the government of Gyula Horn established a committee to negotiate with Jewish organizations. In recent discussions, the parties agreed to create a foundation whose board of trustees will handle the property transfers. Foreign Affairs State Secretary Istvan Szent-Ivanyi said the restitution will be partial and gradual. -- Petronella Gaal

Republika Srpska's (RS) acting President and the Serbian Democratic Party's (SDS) candidate for RS president Biljana Plavsic has again spoken out on the question of a Greater Serbia. Plavsic, in remarks reported by Nasa Borba on 12 September, observed that there is "no peace without the unity of all Serb lands." Plavsic also went on record as saying that the RS "has only that sovereignty which is afforded it by the Dayton peace, and for now we are happy with that." Nevertheless, she said "there won't always be this kind of anti-Serb climate in the world," implying that her commitment to partitioning Bosnia remains solid. -- Stan Markotich

But there is open speculation that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is influencing parties under his control in the Republika Srpska to address, or specifically to evade, the issue of the Bosnian Serb entity's status. On 12 September Nasa Borba reported that Milosevic recently held a closed-door meeting with officials from the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), including its chairman, Zivko Radisic, who subsequently dropped his candidacy for the RS presidency. Radisic maintains he was not forced to withdraw his candidacy, but only that Milosevic asked him to mute any rhetoric dealing with "the issue of unity with Serbia because they [Milosevic's governing Socialist Party of Serbia] are under great international pressure to recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina." The limelight and the politicking of dealing with the RS's status, noted Nasa Borba, was the "hot chestnut [Milosevic] tossed into Plavsic's hands." -- Stan Markotich

A survey in September of 517 voters in the Bosnian federation conducted by the Sarajevo magazine Dani and the U.S. Information Agency indicated that 54.8% would vote for the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), 17.2% or the opposition parties' coalition Joint List, 12.3% for former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1.3% for the Liberal Party, and 0.1% for the Women's Party, Onasa reported. It also revealed that in the Bosnian presidential elections 63.2% would vote for incumbent President Alija Izetbegovic, 23.1% for Silajdzic, and 5.8% for Social-Democratic Party candidate Sead Avdic. A poll of 1,000 Bosnian Serbs in the Republika Srpska conducted by the Bijeljina Extra Magazine indicated that 37.4% would vote for the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), 16.8% for the opposition coalition Alliance for Peace and Progress (SMP), and 16.4% for the opposition Democratic Patriotic Bloc (DPB). In the presidential race, 30.1% would vote for DPB's president Predrag Radic, and 29.4% for Biljana Plavsic from the SDS, Nasa Borba reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Interior ministers of the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska on 10 September agreed on 19 routes across the entity line that voters could take to cast ballots in Bosnia's general elections on 14 September, Onasa reported. Bosnian Serb Interior Minister Dragan Kijac predicted that about 350,000 people would cross inter-entity borders that day. People will be able to cross the borders only in approved vehicles. The three officials in a joint statement assumed joint responsibility for ensuring maximum police presence along the agreed routes "to provide for the safety of all citizens." According to the agreement, voters have to return to their entities immediately after casting their ballots, and rallies and demonstrations are forbidden on election day. The mass movement of people will be closely watched by IFOR forces. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The OSCE said that three-quarters
of the nearly half million Bosnian refugees registered to vote abroad have already cast their ballots for Bosnia's elections, AFP reported on 10 September. The figure of 75% is provisional, because voting slips are still arriving, and the final tally would be known only the day after the vote in Bosnia itself. Of 58 countries that accepted Bosnian refugees, Austria has the highest voter turnout with 86%, followed by Germany with 83%, and Serbia-Montenegro with 73%. Some 140,000 other Bosnians living abroad have registered to vote in person on 14 September in Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Bujar Bukoshi voiced careful optimism about the latest agreement between Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic allowing Albanian children to return to school (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 September 1996), Illyria reported on 10 September. He said it would be a "significant moment in our political movement" if Albanian children returned to school. But Bukoshi also warned against "uncontrolled euphoria," noting that Belgrade had signed and then broken agreements before. He predicted Belgrade will put forward "substantial problems and obstruction" when it comes to implementing the agreement and noted that the agreement contained many "ambiguities leaving room for different interpretations." Bukoshi charged that Kosovo's Albanians gained nothing from the agreement while Milosevic manipulated all the parties involved to score points both at home and abroad. -- Stefan Krause

Bucharest's mayor Victor Ciorbea on 11 September announced that the start of the new school year would be delayed from 16 September until 1 October because of a meningitis epidemic that has swept through Romania since early August, Radio Bucharest reported. But Romanian Education Minister Liviu Maior said on the same day that mayors do not have the competence to interfere in the functioning of the educational system. The controversy appears to be of political nature, since Ciorbea is a member of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania. Meanwhile, the epidemic of meningitis and meningo-encephalitis continues to spread. According to the latest data released by the Health Ministry, 414 cases have been registered until 11 September, of which 50 are children. The epidemic has resulted in 21 deaths so far. -- Dan Ionescu

The third international meeting of government offices for ethnic minorities questions ended in Bucharest on 11 September, Radio Bucharest reported. The two-day conference, sponsored by the Council of Europe (CE) and the Executive Commission of the European Union, was attended by delegations from 17 former communist countries from CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. This year's seminar, presided over by CE Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht and Viorel Hrebenciuc, Coordinator of the Romanian government's Council for National Minorities, focused on the implementation of the CE Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, as well as on cooperation among governmental offices dealing with minorities. -- Dan Ionescu

In a letter addressed to Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, the president of the self-declared Dniester Moldovan Republic, Igor Smirnov, suggested that they resume talks only after the signing of a memorandum on the normalization of relations between the two sides, Infotag reported on 11 September. Smirnov repeated earlier accusations that the present deadlock in negotiations was caused by Moldova's reluctance to sign the memorandum. His letter came in reply to a 3 September message from Snegur, urging the Dniester leadership to resume talks on the region's future legal status within the Republic of Moldova, as well as regular summit meetings. Infotag also reported that Moldovan and Dniester experts will meet in Tiraspol on 16 September to continue drafting the status, after a break of more than two months. -- Dan Ionescu

The Defense Ministry on 11 September dismissed as "pure insinuation" a report in Moscow's Komsomolskaya Pravda that Soviet nuclear missiles were stationed in Bulgaria in the 1980s, Bulgarian and international media reported. The Russian daily cited a former Soviet Army captain's assertion that he served in a "super-secret base" near the resort of Borovets, 60 kilometers from Sofia, which he claims contained 70 nu-clear warheads. President Zhelyu Zhelev and Chief of General Staff Tsvetan Totomirov in a joint statement denied the report and suggested someone might want to cause friction between Bulgaria and its neighbors Greece and Turkey, which are named as possible targets in the Russian publication. Former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov also dismissed the report, while then-Defense Minister Dobri Dzhu-rov did not comment. Komso-molskaya Pravda said former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov confirmed the existence of the base. -- Maria Koinova and Stefan Krause

Agriculture Minister Krastyo Trendafilov and Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov on 11 September informed the BSP Executive Bureau about efforts to ensure sufficient grain supplies, Pari reported. Trendafilov said that currently 130,000 tons of grain are being imported and a further 680,000 tons were purchased domestically. He assumed responsibility for ensuring the bread supply of Sofia and some mountainous regions. He said that other regions should take care of their problems by themselves, claiming that there are large amounts of grain in private bakeries and households. He said Bulgaria wants to import more grain, but needs credits because the government does not want to strain further the balance of payments. Paparizov called the grain problem short-term and financial. The grain and bread shortage that started at the beginning of 1996 has so far caused the resignations of two agriculture ministers. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Saulius Girnius