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Newsline - September 13, 1996


TIKHOMIROV SAYS TROOP PULLOUT HALTED FROM CHECHNYA . . .
The commander of federal troops in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, announced on 12 September he has halted the federal withdrawal from the republic until all problems connected to the exchange of prisoners of war are resolved, NTV reported. The Chechens are demanding the release of prisoners held throughout Russia on various criminal charges, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Russia claims that these individuals do not fall under the framework of the POW exchange, and Tikhomirov said Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed agrees. Tikhomirov accused the Chechen separatists of taking counter-productive positions in the negotiations and trying to take power in the republic. There are currently 11,000 Russian soldiers in the republic. -- Robert Orttung

. . . LEBED DISAGREES, BUT THERE ARE CONFLICTING REPORTS ON PULLOUT.
Lebed, however, said that while it is necessary to work out a list of POWs to be exchanged, Tikhomirov had been "a little hot-headed" in his statements, NTV reported. He noted that both sides are working calmly to resolve the outstanding issues. ITAR-TASS reported that the withdrawal is continuing on schedule. Russian TV (RTR), however, said that it has been halted, not by Tikhomirov, but by orders from Moscow. -- Robert Orttung

YANDARBIEV CALLS FOR GOOD RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA.
Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev said the main task is to find a mutually acceptable formula for relations between Chechnya and Russia and that the question of Chechnya's independence is no longer an issue, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September, citing an interview in the Egyptian weekly Al Musavvar. He said that he is prepared to hold a referendum in Chechnya, but that such a vote is not necessary to confirm Chechen independence. Yandar-biev said reconstruction and compensation agreements should be signed with Russia. Once all Russian troops leave the republic, he added, it would be possible to sign a "treaty between two states" on the presence of some federal military personnel in Chechnya on a temporary basis. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 12 September re-emphasized the need to preserve Russia's territorial integrity and Lebed told the German journal Stern that he believes Chechnya will still be a part of Russia 10 years from now. -- Robert Orttung

JUSTICE MINISTER INSISTS LEBED-MASKHADOV AGREEMENT HAS NO LEGAL FORCE.
Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev defended his 11 September statement that the 31 agreement signed by Security Council Secretary Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov is only a "political declaration" with no legal force, Russian media reported on 12 September. During an appearance on Ekho Moskvy, Lebed described Kovalev as an "unwise" minister. Kovalev countered that Lebed is unable to evaluate the legal significance and consequences of the accords he signed. He added that Russia's territorial integrity must be rigorously protected, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV ON TRANSFER OF POWER, CHECHNYA.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called on President Yeltsin to issue a formal decree transferring power to Chernomyrdin for the duration of his illness, Russian media reported on 12 September. According to Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov, a Zyuganov ally, the Duma will soon discuss a formal transfer of power to the prime minister, Kommersant-Daily reported on 13 September. Ryzhkov added, "I personally do not want [Chief of Staff Anatolii] Chubais to govern the state, which he is essentially doing today." Also on 12 September, Zyuganov and Chernomyrdin met to discuss a range of topics and agreed that any solution to the Chechen conflict must preserve Russia's territorial integrity, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Chernomyrdin's press secretary. Zyuganov has unequivocally denounced the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement; Chernomyrdin has said he "does not like" certain aspects of the agreement but generally praised the halting of bloodshed. -- Laura Belin

FOREIGN DOCTORS TO PLAY ROLE IN YELTSIN OPERATION.
Foreign doctors, including U.S. surgeon Michael DeBakey of Baylor Medical Center in Houston, will participate in a series of meetings in late September to decide when to operate on President Yeltsin, according to Sergei Mironov, director of the presidential medical center, NTV reported on 12 September. The foreign experts may also be present at the operation, but Russian doctors will do the actual work. Yeltsin is to make a public announcement soon on whether he will hand over control of the country's nuclear arsenal to Chernomyrdin during his hospitalization, ORT reported, citing presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED CRITICIZES BUDGET.
Security Council Secretary Lebed criticized the 1997 draft budget in a letter to President Yeltsin dated 29 August, asserting that the government's proposed policy neglects the state's economic security, Izvestiya reported on 13 September. Lebed, clearly hoping that the council's role in economic issues will be strengthened, called for more financing for the military, industrial, construction, and agricultural sectors, as well as for science and culture. The Security Council's Economic Security Department chief, Sergei Glazev, played a role in formulating the letter. He has long been critical of the government's economic policies. -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Robert Orttung

CHAMBER ON INFORMATION DISPUTES RULES IN PRAVDA'S FAVOR.
The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes ruled that the publishers of Pravda infringed on the rights of subscribers and the editorial staff when they suspended the paper's publication in late July, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. Pravda was shut down following a protracted conflict between its editor, Aleksandr Ilin, and the paper's Greek publishers, who soon began publishing Pravda-5, originally a weekly, as a daily in place of Pravda (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25, 29, and 31 July 1996). The chamber said that the publishers usurped rights reserved under Russian media law for a newspaper's founder, in this case Pravda's editorial staff. In addition, the judges found that publishers misled readers by using the Pravda logo at the top of Pravda-5. The chamber asked the Procurator-General's Office to examine whether the publishers' actions unlawfully interfered with the work of journalists. -- Laura Belin

RAION LEADERS KEY TO GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS.
Elections analyst Aleksandr Sobyanin on 13 September argued that a gubernatorial candidate's election would be guaranteed if supported by the raion leaders, since they determine who will sit on the local electoral commissions, NTV reported. The governors appointed by President Yeltsin are strong enough to make sure that sympathetic people are in charge of most of their oblast's raions, he asserted. In the case of Saratov, Yeltsin appointed the victorious candidate, Dmitrii Ayatskov, to the post of governor less then five months before the election and he replaced 27 raion leaders in the run-up to the voting. Ayatskov, however, told a seminar attended by top-level campaign organizers from the presidential administration and campaign chiefs from 18 regions that the key to his success was the resolution of social issues, Kommersant-Daily reported on 13 September. -- Robert Orttung

CHEREPKOV COURT CASE CONTINUES.
The case of Viktor Cherepkov, reinstated as mayor of Vladivostok by the Khamovniki Raion Court in Moscow on 14 August, is continuing. Lawyers representing President Yeltsin, who sacked Cherepkov in December 1994, contested the verdict in the Moscow City Court--but not within the 10-day period allowed for such appeals. The city court has now returned the case to the raion court for a ruling on whether the appeal should still be considered, ITAR-TASS reported. Cherepkov's lawyer said the Primorskii Krai administration, whose head Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has long been a bitter opponent of Cherepkov, was responsible for the appeal and that the aim was to delay a final decision until 6 October, when new elections for the post of Vladivostok mayor are scheduled, NTV reported. Cherepkov argues that there is no need for the election as he was elected in 1993 for a five-year term. -- Penny Morvant

MORE CRITICISM OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S PLANNED CHECHNYA HEARINGS.
Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said the Kremlin viewed the Council of Europe's planned hearings on Chechnya as "direct interference in Russian internal affairs," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. He added that the status of Chechnya should not be discussed at any international forum. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin had already written the council to protest its intention to invite Chechen Chief of Staff Maskhadov to the hearings, and Lukin warned that Russia may not send a delegation to the session. The Foreign Ministry on 12 September expressed its full agreement with Lukin's statements on this matter. The council also invited Security Council Secretary Lebed to the hearings, scheduled for later this month, but he has not announced whether he will attend. -- Laura Belin

DEBTS AROUSE DISCONTENT IN ARMY.
Union representatives of military and defense industry personnel in Moscow and Moscow Oblast resolved on 12 September to picket the Russian White House on 19 December to protest the lack of funding for the Defense Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the federation of trade unions of servicemen and defense workers said the Defense Ministry owes its personnel about 6.1 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion) in pay and allowances, about 500 billion rubles for child allowances, and 200 billion for victims of Chernobyl. The ministry also owes about 25 trillion rubles for equipment and utilities. According to a survey of military personnel carried out at the beginning of September, a massive 97% of respondents were unhappy with the state's treatment of the army, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 13 September. -- Penny Morvant

TATARSTAN'S LEADING AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURER SUSPENDS PRODUCTION.
Tatarstan's largest aircraft manufacturer, Gorbunov Company, has suspended production, ORT reported on 11 September. The company assembles Russia's newest passenger airplane TU-214, and the stoppage is believed to be connected to Aeroflot's recent decision to buy 10 Boeing 737-400s (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 September 1996). Aeroflot General Director Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, however, said that TU-214 has problems with engines. Such engines are installed on airbus IL 96-300s, and 31 of them had to be replaced in 1995. Moreover, the new aircraft still has to get an international certificate. Shaposhnikov added that if Aeroflot tries to save the Russian aircraft manufacturing industry, "it will perish." He suggested that the government should perform this task. -- Natalia Gurushina



ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON FOREIGN POLICY AND KARABAKH.
Levon Ter-Petrossyan said that "normalizing" relations with Turkey was his main foreign policy success over the last six years, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 September. He said ensuring that "Turkey remained neutral in the Karabakh conflict" was a great achievement. Ter-Petrossyan said relations with Russia have not been as good as they are now for 300 years but warned that "one careless step" may spoil them. He also expressed satisfaction that Iran is now Armenia's main economic partner. On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he was optimistic that an "interim solution" that would "satisfy all three parties" can be found. -- Elin Suleymanov

COUNCIL OF CIS BORDER FORCES MEETS IN TBILISI.
The commanders of the CIS border guard services gathered in Tbilisi to discuss several agreements aimed at closer cooperation among their forces, including a declaration of demarcation and external border protection principles, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 September. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkmenistan did not sign part of the package, including the declaration, and Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan did not attend the meeting at all, NTV reported on 12 September. Special attention was paid to extending the 22 January 1993 CIS agreement "On measures to stabilize the situation on the state border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan" until 1997. Speaking after his meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian Federal Border Service Director Andrei Nikolaev denied that Russian-Georgian relations had worsened and noted that Russia pays for 60% of Georgia's external border patrols. -- Elin Suleymanov

STRATEGIC MISSILE FORCE ALMOST OUT OF KAZAKSTAN.
Russia and Kazakstan signed an agreement in Almaty on 10 September on the withdrawal of the Russian strategic missile force from Kazakstan, according to an Interfax report monitored by the BBC. According to the commander in chief of Russia's strategic missile forces, Gen. Igor Sergeyev, 16 missile regiments have been disbanded, while 898 warhead charges, 98 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and more than 18,000 metric tons of missile fuel components have been removed to Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

OLD TECHNIQUES TO INJECT NEW IDEAS.
A decree published in Pravda Vostoka on 10 September and monitored by the BBC sheds light on President Islam Karimov's efforts to supplant "old totalitarian, dictatorship ideology" with "spiritual reform and enlightenment." The decree itself orders regional administration heads to undergo spiritual ideology tests by the end of the year. It also significantly strengthens the role of the Manaviyat and Marifat (Spirituality and Enlightenment) public center. The latter will work to achieve the basic aim of the country's ideological policy of improving "national thinking and historical freedom" and "awakening the spirit of independence." Along with its subsidiary, the Golden Heritage (Oltin Meros) charity fund, the center will work in conjunction with the Uzbek Culture Ministry, Uzbekturizm, the Kamolot republican youth fund, and Uzbek Television and Radio to "spread spirituality and enlightenment." -- Lowell Bezanis



UKRAINE'S DRAFT 1997 BUDGET FORESEES ECONOMIC GROWTH.
The Ukrainian government's 1997 draft state budget predicts economic growth (of 1.7%) for the first time since independence, Ukrainian agencies reported on 12 September. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk said the budget foresees a record low deficit of 4% of GDP, or by IMF calculations 2.4% of GDP. Over half of the planned shortfall is to be financed by the sale of treasury bills with the rest to be covered by foreign loans. The government predicts an annual inflation rate of just under 25%. Pynzenyk said the satisfactory progress of monetary reform will result in no extension of the 16 September deadline to exchange karbovantsi for the new hryvni and the lifting of the nationwide price freeze on 11 September. He said 74% of all karbovantsi in circulation had already been exchanged with the rate of the new hryvya remaining steady at 1.76 to the US dollar. Pynzenyk said he expects September inflation to remain at its August level of 5.7%. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE TO OPEN REPRESENTATIONS IN LATIN AMERICA.
Ukraine's parliament decided to open a series of diplomatic consulates and representative offices in Central and South American countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. The countries include Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandohy said the countries could become economic partners for Ukraine, and are potential markets for Ukrainian goods such as machinery, chemical products, military hardware, airplanes, equipment for port facilities, and energy storage and transport facilities. Ukrainian radio reported that parliament also ratified an agreement on friendship and cooperation with Brazil. -- Ustina Markus

EU TO OFFER $700 MILLION TO UKRAINE.
EU Commissioner in charge of relations with the former Soviet Union, Hans van den Broek, was in Ukraine on 12 September, Ukrainian radio and international agencies reported. Van den Broek and Head of Ukraine's National Agency for Reconstruction and Development Roman Shpek signed two agreements. Under the TACIS program, Ukraine is to receive some $700 million between 1996-99 for various economic projects. A memorandum was also signed, under which Ukraine is to receive an additional $50 million for restructuring its energy sector and closing the Chornobyl nuclear power station. Van den Broek said there were currently no obstacles for ratifying a partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Although he called the long and complicated process of individual ratification by each of the 15 EU countries the biggest problem he told President Leonid Kuchma that it would not hinder developing ties between Ukraine and the EU. -- Ustina Markus

U.S. DIPLOMATS PRESENT BALTIC ACTION PLAN.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Adair and National Security Council's department head Dan Fried began a tour of the Baltic states in Tallinn on 10 September by talking with President Lennart Meri. Their visits are intended to acquaint with and get reaction from Baltic leaders on the Baltic Action Plan, drafted in August by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. After meetings with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and Foreign Minister Siim Kallas, the officials traveled to Riga where they met with President Guntis Ulmanis on 12 September. Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs presented them with 11 proposals to be worked into the plan, but stressed that it will not be accepted as a substitute for NATO membership, BNS reported. The U.S. officials are scheduled to hold talks in Vilnius on 14 September with Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN COMMUNIST LEADER'S SENTENCE NOT EXTENDED.
The Riga Latgale District Court on 11 September found former Latvian Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks guilty of not informing the Central Election Commission that he had been a member of Communist Party after 13 January 1991, BNS reported. The court, however, did not impose the six month sentence asked by the prosecution saying that his crime was no longer publicly dangerous. Rubiks, who has already completed half of his eight year prison sentence for attempting to overthrow the government in 1991, plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court since it might influence his possible pre-term release. -- Saulius Girnius

CZECH POLITICIANS ON CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec told reporters on 12 September that the Czech-German declaration the two countries' parliaments are planning to adopt will not change any of the laws under which some three million Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, Czech media reported. For more than a year, the two countries have been engaged in difficult negotiations on the declaration, which they hope will settle controversial historical issues and improve bilateral relations. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told the German parliament on 11 September that he wanted the declaration to be adopted by the end of this year. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, however, announced that no talks between him and Kohl on the declaration are scheduled in the foreseeable future. Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, who has been so far critical of the declaration, on 12 September expressed satisfaction with the declaration, saying it will describe the expulsion of Germans as "injustice." -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN PRAGUE.
Pavol Hamzik told Czech officials on 12 September that he sees no reason why Slovakia should be excluded from [the European] integration processes, Czech media reported. "We should not be viewed only through the prism of the Slovak opposition," argued Hamzik. After meetings with his Czech counterpart, Josef Zieleniec, as well as President Vaclav Havel and Parliament Chairman Milos Zeman, Zieleniec told reporters that "it is our vital interest that Slovakia become a member of the same organizations, that is NATO and the European Union." Hamzik expressed objections when Zeman repeated his recent criticism of some political developments in Slovakia. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAKIA SETS UP COMMITTEE ON EUROPEAN INTEGRATION.
The Slovak parliament on 12 September approved the creation of a 17-member parliamentary committee that will deal with issues of European integration, Slovak media reported. Parliament deputy chairman Marian Huska proposed the creation of the committee, which will tackle a broad range of questions related to European integration, including studying documents drafted by the European Commission and evaluating the feasibility of incorporating various laws into Slovakia's legislation. Huska was elected chairman of the committee, in which all the coalition and opposition parties are represented. -- Jiri Pehe

POLISH-FRENCH-GERMAN RELATIONS.
French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to Poland on 11-12 September gave the year 2000 as the date of Poland's possible EU entry. He also proposed that a conference of NATO nations, those seeking to join, and potential NATO partners (suggesting that Russia should be included) be held. Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski, after a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, announced on 12 September that he will host a Franco-German-Polish summit early next year in Poland, Polish media reported. Kohl told Kwasniewski that the final decision on NATO expansion will be made in June or July 1997. -- Jakub Karpinski

HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC NEWS ROUNDUP.
According to the Central Statistical Office, consumer prices in Hungary increased by 0.3% in July, the lowest monthly figure in three years, Hungarian dailies reported on 13 September. Hungary's inflation rate since July 1995 is now 22% which, while down from last year's 28%, is still more than twice the rates in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The good news about the declining inflation seems to have been lost on the American credit rating agency Moody's, whose recent study decided not to upgrade Hungary's Ba1 international credit rating. Hungarian officials had been hoping for a better rating, since this would both serve as a recommendation to investors and allow the government to borrow abroad at lower interest rates. Moody's cited Hungary's trade and budget deficits as key concerns, while exports and foreign investment were seen as the country's strong points. -- Ben Slay

POLL SHOWS ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN ROMANIA SUPPORT BASIC TREATY.
Some 74% of ethnic Hungarians in Romania recently polled by the Romanian Public Opinion Research Institute believe that the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty to be signed in Timisoara on Monday is equally beneficial for ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, Magyar Hirlap reported on 12 September. These sentiments, if correctly gauged, would seem to take the wind out of the nationalist opposition in Hungary, which claims that the treaty will worsen conditions for Hungarians living in Romania. The poll was jointly commissioned by the Bucharest-based daily Curierul National and the Budapest-based Magyar Hirlap, and was based on interviews conducted during 4-9 September with 1,300 adults. In other treaty-related news, the Hungarian cabinet on 12 September unanimously authorized Prime Minister Gyula Horn to sign the treaty in Timisoara on Monday. -- Ben Slay



CROATIAN OFFICIAL ON REFUGEE ISSUES.
Ivica Vrkic, the head of the Croatian government's office for the UN administered area of Eastern Slavonia was quoted by Hina on 11 September as saying that all citizens had legal and constitutional rights to return to their homes. In what appeared to be a direct observation relating to ethnic Serb refugees from western Slavonia now in Eastern Slavonia, Vrkic said that any mass return of displaced persons and refugees was "not possible" and that the issue had to be resolved "gradually." Vrkic added that "What [is]...needed first is the establishment of an open dialogue, regardless of differences in views, so that we can solve problems of all people affected by war." Vrkic, along with UN officials, visited with local authorities the Serb-held town of Bilje, in eastern Croatia. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIA ON THE DOMESTIC, MONTENEGRO ON THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT.
Strikers at the Kragujevac arms plant continue their job action, Nasa Borba reported on 13 September. The previous day, the daily noted strikers were being joined by their children in this latest round, quoting one participant that "we are [including] our children not because we have anything to fear [or] want them to shield us, but because they should learn how to struggle." Montena-fax reported that Montene-grin President Momir Bula-tovic met with UN Secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali on 11 September. He urged that sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro be fully lifted and that Belgrade move towards integration into international organizations. "It's high time that [rump] Yugoslavia be able to continue its work in international organizations, and particularly the United Nations," said Bulatovic. -- Stan Markotich

POLLING STATIONS OPEN FOR BOSNIA'S MILITARY VOTING.
The OSCE ruled that the soldiers in the mainly Muslim Bosnian army, the Bosnian Serb army, and the Bosnian Croat forces, the HVO, will vote on 13 September, a day ahead of the Bosnia's general elections, AFP reported. The decision will keep the armies in their barracks on the day of the voting. The Bosnian Serb army has also protested plans to hand over its command and assets to the Bosnian Serb political leadership, AFP reported the previous day quoteng Tanjug. The Bosnian Serb parliament is due to discuss a defense law that would transfer total control of the army and the armament industry to the civilian authorities. The protests reflect the long standoff between the Bosnian Serb military and political hierarchies, which started with a conflict between Gen. Ratko Mladic and civilian leader Radovan Karadzic in summer 1995. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIA'S NATIONALIST PARTIES END CAMPAIGN WITH GIANT RALLIES.
The ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) held a rally with some 60,000 supporters in Sarajevo on 12 September, AFP reported. Bosnian President and the SDA President Alija Izetbegovic appealed to the crowd for calm elections, asking voters to avoid any sort of incidents. That same day, Momcilo Krajisnik, a Bosnian Serb candidate for Bosnia's new-style rotating presidency, at the rally in Pale told Serbs to let Muslims who would come over to the Republika Srpska to vote to "do so with dignity," promising that "they will leave as they came," AFP reported. The previous day in Banja Luka, another Bosnian Serb leader, Biljana Plavsic, told a crowd of 20,000 that Bosnian Serbs were chosen by God to fulfill the centuries-long Serb dream of creation of a united Serb state. Plavsic repeated the statement at a Pale rally the next day, neglecting for a second time the OSCE's warning to avoid secessionist rhetoric. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MULTIETHNIC OPPOSITION COALITION SPOKE TO 20,000 PEOPLE IN TUZLA.
Joint List, the opposition coalition consisting of five parties --the Socialist Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina (SDP), the Muslim Bosniak Organization (MBO), the Union of Bosnian Social-Democrats (UBSD), the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) and the Republican Party (RS)-- held a big rally on 12 September in Tuzla in support of a multiethnic and multicultural Bosnia-Herzegovina, AFP reported. "We have only one homeland and all its nations are part of it," Tatjana Ljuic-Mijatovic, a Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, was quoted as saying. That same day, the two main Serb opposition parties, the left-leaning Alliance for Peace and Progress, led by Zivko Radisic, and the Democratic Patriotic Bloc, led by former Banja Luka mayor Predrag Radic, announced they will form a coalition after elections in the Republika Srpska. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIA CALLS EPIDEMIC ALERT.
Health Minister Daniela Bartos declared an epidemic alert on 12 September after the death toll from viral meningitis reached 24 with 417 people infected, Radio Bucharest and Reuters reported. She admitted that the authorities have been "unable yet to say what kind of virus caused the disease," and added that samples were sent for analysis to the Paris-based Pasteur Institute. Meanwhile, the political row over the epidemic has continued. Bucharest's Prefect Grigore Simion, a member of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania, expressed "surprise" over the announcement by mayor Victor Ciorbea from the opposition Democratic Convention postponing the start of the school year. Such a decision, Simion added, can only be taken in conjunction with the health and education ministries. -- Dan Ionescu

SOME FORMER ROMANIANS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently instructed consulates abroad to issue visas to former Romanian citizens without a fee. OMRI has, however, learned from first-hand sources that the tax-free visa is obtainable only when the applicant produces proof that his parents had held Romanian citizenship and were of "ethnic Romanian origin." In other words, the fee exemption does not apply to Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and people of other nationalities, even if they meet all other requirements. -- Michael Shafir

COUNCIL OF EUROPE FACT-FINDING MISSION IN CHISINAU.
A group of rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe (CE) started a visit in the Republic of Moldova on 12 September, Infotag reported. The delegation, headed by Lord Finsberg, was received by Parliament Speaker Petru Lucinschi, one of the candidates in the presidential election scheduled for 14 November. Lucinschi assured his guests that the parliament would remain a factor of stability during the rather stormy presidential run-up. The CE delegation will report on the way Moldova complies with the commitment taken upon its admission to the Council in June 1995. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION CHAIRMAN ANNOUNCES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE, SLAMS SOCIALISTS.
Asserting that the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was polarizing society ahead of the presidential elections, Union of Democratic Forces Chairman (SDS) Ivan Kostov on 11 September announced that the SDS will ask for a no-confidence vote against the government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov after the elections, Pari reported. Kostov said that by instigating mistrust and inspiring nostalgia toward communist times, the Socialists want to politically polarize the elections. He said hardline BSP voters would not accept a defeat of the Socialist candidate, Culture Minister Ivan Marazov, and that they would be ready to provoke unrest and turmoil. Kostov said the SDS will not ask for a no-confidence vote before the elections because it would consolidate the BSP. But he announced that a vote of no-confidence in the entire government policy will be called immediately following the elections. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN UPDATE.
Bulgaria, anticipating problems with energy supply throughout the upcoming winter, is planning to import by air nuclear fuel from Russia for the country's Soviet-made Kozloduy power plant, Reuters reported on 12 September. One Bulgarian official, declining to be named, remarked "We are in the process of negotiating consignments of nuclear fuel by land from Russia with Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania as we need their agreement." In other news, the US-based Human Rights Watch has criticized Bulgarian authorities for their treatment of street children. According to the report, police employ intimidation, harsh physical violence, and arbitrary arrest against the children, who are also, if deemed incorrigible, punished by being sent to workhouses. -- Stan Markotich

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Saulius Girnius





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