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Newsline - September 24, 1996


SELEZNEV: YELTSIN SHOULD STEP DOWN IF OPERATION IS CANCELED.
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that
President Boris Yeltsin should step down if doctors refuse to perform bypass surgery, since Russia cannot afford to have its president adopt an "easy work schedule," Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 September. Article 92 of the Constitution stipulates that the president must step down if he becomes persistently unable to fulfill his duties but outlines no procedure for evaluating the president's abilities. Also on 23 September, while visiting the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Reuters that the Kremlin had committed "falsification" by not informing voters before the second round of the presidential election that Yeltsin was having serious heart trouble. -- Laura Belin

KREMLIN DENOUNCES ARTICLE ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii denounced an article which appeared in the Financial Times that claimed Yeltsin is so sick that he can work only 15 minutes a day and is unable to sign documents, Russian Public TV reported on 23 September. Yastrzhembskii said that the article was full of incorrect information and wondered why the paper would print a report that caused the price of Russian debt to drop on the London exchange. The Russian press widely reported the arrival of American surgeon Michael DeBakey, who will participate in the 25 September meeting to determine when Yeltsin's operation will take place. DeBakey said that the doctors would not operate if there was a great risk to Yeltsin or if surgery would not improve his condition. -- Robert Orttung

CHAOS IN GROZNY.
An NTV correspondent in Grozny described the current situation there as "destruction and chaos." The former fear of aerial attack has been replaced by a fear of marauders and thieves. Although Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs Valerii Fedorov announced that Russian law rather than Islamic law would prevail, there are no police, courts, or prisons. The united law enforcement agencies set up following the Lebed-Maskhadov accords have about 500 members, ITAR-TASS reported. These men are operating check points, removing explosive devices, and escorting troop columns. -- Robert Orttung

YANDARBIEV ADDRESSES CHECHENS.
Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev was hospitalized at an undisclosed location early on 23 September for food poisoning. In an evening broadcast, however, he looked healthy, ITAR-TASS reported. He called on the residents of his republic to seek national agreement, since "it will be practically impossible to build an independent state in Chechnya without mutual forgiveness and understanding." He said it was acceptable to form an unarmed opposition to the authorities, but not an unarmed or armed opposition to one's own people. He stressed that the new criminal code he introduced on 12 September remained in effect throughout the republic, except in the parts of Grozny under joint Russian-Chechen patrols. School children will study Arabic and the basics of Islam, but the state languages will remain Chechen and Russian. -- Robert Orttung

COUNCIL OF EUROPE POSTPONES CHECHNYA HEARING.
In the absence of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 23 September postponed its hearing on the Chechen conflict until at least November. Russia had objected to the session, arguing that Chechnya was an internal problem. However, members warned that the assembly should not be intimidated by Russia and argued that Chechnya is "Europe's problem," RFE/RL reported. The chairwoman of the assembly, Leni Fisher, expressed dismay at the political games in Moscow surrounding the session, NTV reported. A lower ranking Chechen group, including the rebels' designated foreign minister Ruslan Chimaev, attended the Strasbourg session, as did Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Reuters and NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

GAIDAR CALLS FOR LIBERAL COALITION.
Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) leader Yegor Gaidar said that his party resolved at its 21 September congress to make "presenting a liberal alternative to the status quo" its new primary objective, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported on 23 September. In the past, Gaidar noted, the DVR's main task had been "preventing a Communist revanche," but now the party would focus on changing the "corrupt" form of capitalism developing in Russia. Gaidar said Democratic Russia, Irina Khakamada's Common Cause movement, and Yurii Chernichenko's Peasants' Party might join a new alliance of liberal groups. However, he said Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko would not be included, since it was more a "social-democratic" than a liberal party. -- Laura Belin

LEBED: SANCTIONS FOR WESTERN FIRMS IF NATO EXPANDS.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph published on 24 September, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed threatened to impose economic sanctions against American and German firms operating in Russia if NATO expands eastwards. He told the British paper that "we will find ways to hit the proponents of this policy where it hurts," warning that "German and American interests in Russia will suffer directly as a result of enlargement plans." Lebed, who has expressed contradictory opinions about NATO enlargement in the past, argued that NATO expansion could be seen as an attempt by Germany to establish a "Fourth Reich," contending that German policy on the issue appears "sinister" to "foreign observers." Lebed, who has never visited the West, is slated to visit NATO headquarters to discuss the issue on 7-8 October. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, U.S. ISSUE JOINT DECLARATION ON ABM TREATY.
Meeting in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart Warren Christopher issued a joint declaration partially clarifying the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty, Western and Russian agencies reported on 23 September. Ongoing talks seek agreement on the technical parameters defining which missile systems are prohibited by the treaty and which permitted. The declaration confirms a June agreement by Russian and American negotiators, under which missile defense systems with interceptor velocities under 3 km/second will be regarded as "tactical" and hence permitted under the treaty. A second phase of the talks, scheduled to open on 7 October will discuss how to treat systems with higher interceptor velocities. The two diplomats also discussed NATO expansion, the former Yugoslovia, and the situation in Iraq, but failed to resolve outstanding differences on these subjects. -- Scott Parrish

ROKHLIN AGAINST START-II RATIFICATION.
The State Duma is unlikely to ratify the START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty, according to Lev Rokhlin, the chairman of the Duma's defense committee. He told ITAR-TASS on 23 September that signing the treaty was "a serious unilateral concession to the West" on Russia's part and implementing it would mean "betraying the national interests of Russia." Under Russian law, a majority of the members of both houses of the Federal Assembly must vote for ratification if the treaty is to be approved. -- Doug Clarke

ST. PETERSBURG-LENINGRAD OBLAST MAY MERGE.
St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev and Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov initialed an agreement on 22 September on the gradual unification of the city and oblast into a single administrative unit, Radio Rossii reported. The agreement will be discussed by the city and oblast legislatures, and the final decision on the projected merger will be made by a popular referendum.
-- Penny Morvant

STRIKES SPREAD IN ENERGY SECTOR...
As a strike and hunger strike by energy workers in Primorskii Krai continued on 23 September, a strike committee representative threatened acts of civil disobedience if wages are not soon paid, ORT reported. Seven hunger strikers who have been without food for three weeks are said to be in a serious condition. Blaming the energy crisis on the coal company Rosugol and Russia's Joint Energy System, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contended that many regions have similar problems but their leaders conceal their difficulties for fear of the central authorities. In Sakha (Yakutiya), 6,000 power workers went on strike over wage arrears; one of Yakutenergo's largest debtors is Diamonds of Russia-Sakha, which owes 400 billion rubles. In Kamchatka, the local power company has asked the oblast governor to declare a state of emergency in the sector because of payments problems. -- Penny Morvant

...AND DEFENSE INDUSTRY.
Workers at the Zvezda nuclear submarine maintenance plant in Bolshoi Kamen in Primore staged a one-day strike on 23 September to protest wage arrears, ORT reported. A similar stoppage took place the same day at a nuclear submarine plant at Severodvinsk near Arkhangelsk. The enterprise is owed about 1 trillion rubles for state orders and is unable to pay wages or taxes, ITAR-TASS reported. The tax shortfall means that social services for the city's 250,000 residents have also been badly affected. -- Penny Morvant

IMF SATISFIED WITH RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE.
IMF experts visiting Moscow on a working mission to monitor Russia's adherence to the conditions of a $10.1 billion extended facility fund were satisfied with the country's economic performance, Segodnya reported on 21 September. The budget deficit was only 2.2% of GDP (according to Russian calculating procedures) and the rate of inflation almost hit zero in August. The IMF hailed the government's efforts to boost tax revenue, which peaked at 20 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion) in August. The disbursement of July's tranche of the loan was delayed due to insufficient tax collection in the first half of the year. The IMF group was also satisfied with the state of Russia's net domestic assets and net foreign exchange reserves, which did not overshoot the target levels. -- Natalia Gurushina

LEBED SEEKS ROLE IN LOANS-FOR-SHARES AUCTIONS.
President Yeltsin has instructed Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to work together on the issue of loans-for-shares auctions and to report on a draft decision by 1 October, Kommersant-Daily reported on 21 September. Yeltsin's instruction is in response to a request by Lebed and Sergei Glazev, the head of the Security Council's administration of economic security, to put off the deadline for such sales. Lebed also suggested that the shares be sold in 10-15% packages, following international tender rules. Lebed's proposals concern not only the sale of shares but the whole loans-for-share system and related investigation of banking activities. The government, criticizing the draft resolution of the Security Council, is preparing its own version, which does not change the sales deadline. -- Ritsuko Sasaki



ARMENIAN ELECTION RESULTS IN DISPUTE.
The outcome of Armenia's presidential election appears unclear in the face of contradictory figures emanating from the Central Election Commission, claims and counter-claims of victory made by rival sides, and charges of ballot rigging, international media reported on 23 September. Incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan claimed victory on the basis of incomplete results which gave him 56.9% of the vote to 35.6% for his chief rival, Vazgen Manukyan. Manukyan and his supporters claim that these figures are the reverse of the truth. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people, according to varying estimates, joined an opposition rally in Yerevan on 23 September and marched on the Central Election Commission building to demand Ter-Petrossyan's resignation. The New York Times, citing an unnamed "senior election monitor," reported on 24 September that "a lot of clear and blatant fraud" occurred during the balloting. -- Lowell Bezanis

IDA LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN.
The World Bank's International Development Association has approved a credit of some $20 million to rehabilitate and improve Azerbaijan's gas delivery system, RFE/RL reported on 23 September. The credit will be given to the government of Azerbaijan which, in turn, will lend it to Azerigas to upgrade the gas system's analytical equipment and improve its corporate management. The bank had identified Azerbaijan as the country most dependent upon natural gas in the world. The present distribution system loses or is unable to account for an estimated 20% of its inputs. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST IN TROUBLE OVER SECRET LETTER.
The publication of a letter allegedly sent by Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 September 1996) has been traced back to a Russian journalist working for Izvestiya, NTV reported on 23 September. The report quoted Kazakstani media as saying Nazarbayev has promised to expel the journalist, Vladimir Ardiev. The letter reportedly referred to Kazakstan's disenchantment with the customs union of Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. Nazarbayev denies any such letter was ever sent and called reports of it "provocation." NTV noted the letter was first reported by RFE/RL and later obtained by at least four other agencies, but that only the Izvestiya reporter was facing trouble on account of it. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

TAJIK DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM IRAN.
The Iranian government on 23 September told the Tajik Charge d'Affaires in Tehran, Tashmet Nazirov, to leave the country within 24 hours, AFP reported. The reason given for the expulsion was "activities incompatible" with Nazirov's diplomatic status. The move by the Iranians is seen as retaliation for the 20 September arrest and expulsion of an unnamed Iranian diplomat in Dushanbe, who was accused of committing unspecified "hostile acts." -- Bruce Pannier



U.S. DEMANDS EXPLANATION FROM BELARUS.
The U.S. embassy in Minsk has announced it is asking the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to clarify President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's televised statements that the U.S. and other Western embassies are trying to destabilize Belarus, international agencies reported on 23 September. U.S. State Department spokesman Glyn Davies called the statements "outrageous and provocative." Lukashenka the previous day had appeared on Belarusian TV claiming that U.S. and British diplomats were offering cash to Belarusian politicians who stymied his initiatives. Meanwhile, Belarusian Defense Minister Leanid Maltseu met with his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, in Beijing on 23 September, international agencies reported. Chi said China's armed forces were ready to develop "all-round and all-faceted friendship and cooperation" with the Belarusian military. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT COMPLETES FORMATION OF NEW GOVERNMENT.
Leonid Kuchma has completed forming the new government, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 23 September. He appointed Viktor Pynzenyk as deputy prime minister for the economy and Anatolii Minchenko as minister for industrial policy and the energy complex. Pynzenyk, a prominent reformer, is unpopular with the large leftist contingent in the parliament. He is due to present the government's economic program to lawmakers on 25 September. Minchenko is an academic and former head of the Ukrainian Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE TO SEEK FULL CONVERTIBILITY OF HRYVNYA.
National Bank of Ukraine Governor Viktor Yushchenko has said Ukraine will soon take steps to make its new currency, the hryvnya, fully convertible on international markets, Radio Ukraine reported on 23 September. Yushchenko said the move is aimed at boosting the new tender. The government will consider such measures as pegging the hryvnya to another currency and introducing a narrow currency exchange band similar to Russia's. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN NEWS ROUNDUP.
The World Bank has approved a $2.6 million loan to Ukraine to finance the installation of an automated data processing system for its Housing and Municipal Service program, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 23 September. Ronald Freeman, vice president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, met with Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in Kyiv last week to discuss exploration projects for oil and gas in the Black Sea shelf and the completion of two reactors at the Khmelnitsky and Rivne nuclear power stations, Ukrainian radio reported. Lazarenko said there could be no delay in completing the reactors because 103 coal mines were to be closed by the end of 1997. Meanwhile, Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak arrived in Kyiv on 24 September. The two countries signed an agreement on military cooperation. -- Ustina Markus

U.S. DAILY QUERIES UKRAINE'S ENTRY INTO MISSILE PACT.
The Washington Times on 23 September criticized proposed U.S. policy changes allowing Ukraine to join the 28-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) while continuing to produce missiles. The MTCR restricts members from exporting missiles whose range exceeds 186 miles and warheads heavier than 1,100 pounds. It also facilitates sharing missile technology among members. Argentina and South Africa both gave up their missile programs to join the MTCR, but in 1993, the U.S. redefined the MTCR restriction as covering only "offensive" missiles. This created a loophole for MTCR members to build space launchers, which are virtually identical to warhead-carrying missiles. It is unlikely Ukraine would be willing to give up it missile programs to join the MTCR, but several unnamed U.S. officials are afraid that if an exception is made for Ukraine, the MTCR would be dealt a "mortal blow." -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA, RUSSIA AGREE TO EXCHANGE LAKESIDE REGIONS.
Delegations to the Estonian-Russian border talks in St. Petersburg on 19 and 20 September, while failing to reach a final solution, did agree on the exchange of territory bordering Lake Peipus, BNS reported on 21 September. Estonia is to give Russia 4.9 square kilometers of land to the north of the lake, receiving in exchange an equal-sized area near the island of Piirissaar and the Varska area to the south. The next round of talks is tentatively scheduled for the end of October in Tallinn. -- Saulius Girnius

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA.
Leonid Kuchma, during his two-day visit to Lithuania from 23-24 September, met with his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Brazauskas, Radio Lithuania reported. The presidents signed a joint declaration affirming that the two countries are prepared to contribute to the creation of a new European security system. Foreign Ministers Povilas Gylys and Hennadii Udovenko signed an agreement on travel by their citizens and on the return of illegal migrants. The countries' finance ministers also signed agreements on avoiding double taxation and financial violations. Kuchma also met with Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius and Lithuanian businessmen. -- Saulius Girnius

POLAND HAD SPIES IN VATICAN DURING COMMUNIST ERA.
Poland's communist-era Interior Ministry (MSW) had agents in the Vatican during the 1960s and 1970s, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel revealed on 21 September. The paper quoted East German secret service (Stasi) files that included reports on Pope Paul VI's talks with the French and British foreign ministers as well as German Chancellor Willy Brandt. A former Polish secret service officer told Zycie Warszawy that a clergyman close to two popes was an MSW agent whose reports to Warsaw were forwarded to Moscow and Berlin. But former MSW Minister Krzysztof Kozlowski said Polish priests in the Vatican were too low-ranking for them to have access to the kind of information included in the Stasi files. -- Jakub Karpinski

JOURNALIST ON U.S. FUNDING FOR SOLIDARITY IN 1980s.
In a
book due to be published in the U.S. today, journalist Carl Bernstein says that during the 1980s, the CIA and Western trade unions financially supported Solidarity to the tune of some $50 million, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. Bernstein claims his information was obtained from confidential CIA sources and confirmed by retired CIA head Robert Gates and former President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, William Clark. Gates denied revealing such information, adding that the amount quoted by Bernstein is too high and that information on CIA funding is classified.
Bernstein is known for his role in uncovering the Watergate affair, which ended President Richard Nixon's political career in 1974. -- Jakub Karpinski and Beata Pasek

STRIFE AMONG CZECH OPPOSITION PARTIES.
Leaders of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) have criticized the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) for refusing to back the KSCM's demand to recall the minority government, Czech media reported on 24 September. The KSCM intends to propose a vote of no confidence in Vaclav Klaus's government at the next parliamentary session. The extreme-right Republican Party has announced it will support the KSCM, but CSSD representatives have indicated that the two other opposition parties cannot count on its support. CSSD deputy Pavel Dostal on 22 September called the attempts to dismiss the right-of-center government "a populist measure." He said that dismissing the government amid the current banking scandal would further shake foreign investors' confidence in the country. -- Jiri Pehe

OPINION POLL SHOWS CZECH RULING COALITION AHEAD.
An opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IVVM) in early September--before the latest banking scandal--indicated that the ruling coalition would gain 114 seats in the 200-strong parliament. In the June elections, the three coalition parties gained only 99 seats and had to form a minority government. The poll, published in the Czech press on 24 September, showed that Klaus's Civic Democratic Party would gain 25% of the vote, the Social Democrats 24%, the Christian Democrats 11%, the Communist Party 9%, and the Civic Democratic Alliance (8%). The extreme-right Republicans would fail to win any seats. However, the Republicans traditionally gain more support in elections than in opinion polls. -- Jiri Pehe

U.S.-SLOVAK MILITARY COOPERATION OFFICE OPENS IN BRATISLAVA.
Slovak Defense Minister Jan Sitek opened a Consolidated Military Assistance Office in Bratislava on 23 September, TASR reported. U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson and military and air force attaches accredited in Slovakia attended the opening ceremony. The office is to coordinate all joint military activities undertaken by the Slovak and U.S. armed forces. -- Jiri Pehe

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT CRITICIZES SLOVAK BAN ON FOREIGN ANTHEMS.
The Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), the junior coalition partner, and the opposition parties on 23 September strongly criticized the Slovak parliament's recent ban on singing foreign national anthems in public, Hungarian media reported. They argued that the ban violates the basic treaty between the two countries, which entered into force earlier this year. The Foreign Ministry has already protested the issue to Slovakia. Opposition politicians warned that there is no guarantee that Romania will not act in a similar fashion, thereby violating the basic treaty it signed with Hungary last week. Meanwhile, the opposition has called on the government to clarify why both countries' media were given a preliminary rather than final version of the text of the Romanian-Hungarian treaty. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



DOUBTS GROW ABOUT BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
A quick recount of votes on 22 September confirmed that the three nationalist parties won the 14 September vote, but more questions are being raised about how free and fair the ballot was. No single example of gross fraud has been given, but various violations across Bosnia-Herzegovina led to vote totals vastly exceeding the originally estimated 60-70% turnout, Reuters reported on 24 September. In some cases, the results were as high as 111% in what a spokesman for the NGO International Crisis Group called "a mathematical impossibility." Controls were lax, monitors were present at only a third of the stations, and one monitor told OMRI that IFOR seemed to regard his colleagues as a nuisance. The OSCE, which supervises the elections, nonetheless appears anxious to validate the vote. OMRI's special correspondent reports from Sarajevo that the OSCE may well say that the various sides' "dirty tricks" canceled each other out and that the vote was basically fair. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS GIVE MUSLIMS ULTIMATUM TO LEAVE VILLAGE.
Bosnian Serb authorities have given an ultimatum to a group of some 100 Muslims who on 22 September returned to the village of Jusici, in eastern Bosnia, carrying weapons that are banned in the separation zone, Reuters reported. The Muslims were told to leave by the next day or to be thrown out. That deadline was later extended to 25 September. AFP quoted NATO sources as saying that moving armed people into sensitive areas was clearly "provocative" and should have been done in "phases." Oslobodjenje on 24 September argued that while the Dayton peace agreement provides for the right of refugees to return to their homes, international mechanisms were not designed to ensure their safe return. The Muslims in Jusici were quoted as saying they will stay in the village at the cost of death, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

FIFTY BODIES RECOVERED FROM PILICA MASS GRAVE.
International experts working at the Pilica mass grave site in eastern Bosnia have recovered 50 bodies so far, AFP reported on 23 September. The grave--the fourth Srebrenica site to be excavated--is believed to contain some 100 bodies of Muslim men killed after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. Some 154 bodies were recovered from the Cerska mass grave, 33 from Nova Kasaba and at least 58 from Lazete. Meanwhile, Bosnian government experts have been recovering bodies left in the open on the Kravice hillside, close to Srebrenica. Finally, war invalids and dependents of soldiers killed in the war demonstrated in Tuzla and the village of Gornji Rahici on 23 September to demand their pensions, Oslobodjenje reported. They have received no payments in six months. -- Daria Sito Sucic

LIFTING OF SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA TO BE POSTPONED?
The independent Serbian daily Nasa Borba on 24 September reported that a disagreement between Moscow and Washington may mean that a UN Security Council resolution on lifting sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia will be postponed. Under the Dayton accords, sanctions were to be removed 10 days after elections took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Sergei Lavrov, argues that sanctions should be lifted on 24 September, since the elections took place on 14 September. Washington, however, stresses that the 10-day period cannot be considered to commence until the election results have been validated. -- Stan Markotich

UPDATE ON RUMP YUGOSLAV-CROATIAN RELATIONS.
Veljko Knezevic, an official at Belgrade's embassy in Zagreb, is quoted by Politika on 24 September as saying that Belgrade is prepared to eliminate visa restrictions for Croatian citizens. He added that owing to Croatians' "great interest" in traveling to the rump Yugoslavia, Belgrade is considering opening consular offices throughout Croatia, including in Osijek and Split. Meanwhile, the Croatian parliament on 20 September ratified the 23 August accord normalizing relations with Belgrade. It also adopted legislation granting amnesty to rebel ethnic Serbs, excluding war criminals, who fought against Croatia in 1991. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ENTERS ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Gheorghe Tinca, speaking on the Radio Bucharest program "Election Tribune" on 23 September, praised the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) for favoring Romania's integration into the EU and NATO. He said that President Ion Iliescu was "probably the only politician who was doing his best for Romania's [European and Euro-Atlantic] integration." Tinca announced over the 21-22 September weekend his intention to run for the Senate on the PDSR's ticket in Cluj-Napoca. Last week, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said he would join the ruling party and run for the Senate. Both Melescanu and Tinca were senior Foreign Ministry officials under communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. -- Dan Ionescu

MAJOR HASHISH SEIZURE IN ROMANIA.
In the biggest drugs seizure in Romania so far this year, border police on 20 September confiscated more than 4.5 tons of hashish at a crossing point on the border with Hungary, Jurnalul national and Reuters reported on 23 September. The drugs were hidden in two containers filled with furniture. Romanian investigators are cooperating with the Bulgarian and Turkish police to find out how the drugs were smuggled into Romania. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NEW OSCE MISSION HEAD.
Mircea Snegur on 23 September received Donald Johnson, the new head of the OSCE mission in the Republic of Moldova, BASA-press reported. Johnson told Snegur that he will continue to uphold the OSCE's position that the breakaway Dniester region is part of the Moldovan state. Snegur said that Moldova will carry on seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict. Meanwhile, Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popov and his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, discussed the Dniester issue in New York, where they are participating in the 51st session of the UN General Assembly. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE.
The Central Election Committee has refused to register former caretaker premier Reneta Indzhova as a presidential candidate, Reuters reported on 23 September. It explained its decision by noting that her vice presidential candidate, Gen. Stoyan Tsonkov, is still a member of the armed forces and, as such, is precluded by the election law from running in the ballot. Indzhova announced that she will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, saying a candidate's military status should not nullify his candidacy. Meanwhile, the parliament has supported a presidential veto of the country's new coat of arms (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 September 1996), Duma reported on 21 September. -- Maria Koinova

BULGARIAN ENTERPRISES FOR SALE, BANKS UNDER SUPERVISION.
The government has approved a list of 15 state-owned enterprises to be privatized in a bid to gain a $116 million loan from the IMF, international media reported. On that list are seven major chemical works, two metallurgic plants, two shipyards, and four engineering companies. Meanwhile, the National Bank on 23 September placed nine banks teetering on the brink of collapse under government supervision. It also ordered the restructuring of several others. Five banks--including the major state-owned Mineral bank and the largest independent bank, First Private--are currently undergoing bankruptcy procedures, AFP reported on 24 September. -- Maria Koinova

ALBANIAN PUBLIC WORKS MINISTER RESIGNS.
Albert Brojka has resigned in order to be able to run as a candidate for the Tirana mayoralty in the 20 October local elections, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 24 September. Meanwhile, Dita Informacion says that the permanent Central Electoral Commission is not performing its work properly and that disputes between the Democrats and the opposition are still prevalent. No consensus seems to have been reached over the radio and TV coverage to be granted each party during the election campaign. Zeri i Popullit has protested that the local election law has been violated by President Sali Berisha, who has engaged in election campaigning, and by public TV, which broadcast four times the opening of the ruling Democrats' 22 September election campaign. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave





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