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Newsline - October 15, 1996


YELTSIN NAMES LEBED TO HEAD NEW COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA.
President Boris Yeltsin on 14 October approved the creation of a new 17-man commission to conduct negotiations with the Chechen leadership, Russian media reported. The commission is to be headed by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and includes the presidents of three North Caucasian republics, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and presidential adviser Emil Pain, according to ITAR-TASS. No details have been released concerning the Russian members of the other joint Russian-Chechen government commission that was announced on 3 October and is charged with implementing the agreement signed in Khasavyurt on 31 August by Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. The division of responsibilities between the two commisions is unclear. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV SAYS YELTSIN INCAPABLE OF WORK . . .
Comparing
Russia to a ship "in a stormy sea without a captain," Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov charged that President Yeltsin "has not worked a day" since 17 June and will not be able to resume work again, Western agencies reported on 14 October. Zyuganov once again demanded the creation of a state medical commission to evaluate the health of leaders, noting that Yeltsin was unable to work for health reasons for the better part of five months in 1995. Zyuganov argued that extraordinary measures are required to save Russia from total collapse and repeated calls for forming a State Commission on which the presidential administration, government, and parliament would all be represented, ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Laura Belin

. . . TV NETWORKS IGNORE OR DISMISS COMMENTS ON HEALTH.
Although Zyuganov's assertion that Yeltsin will never be able to work again made headlines in Western news agencies, state-run Russian TV (RTR) and the leading private network NTV ignored those comments, focusing on other aspects of Zyuganov's press conference, as did the official ITAR-TASS news agency. State-controlled Russian Public TV (ORT) noted toward the end of its report that Zyuganov "yet again did not pass up the chance to talk about the president's incapacity for work" but immediately quoted Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov, who had earlier in the day called the opposition's behavior regarding the president's health "un-Christian" and "cynical." Recent television coverage has tended to support claims by Yeltsin's aides and doctors that the president is capable of working several hours a day. -- Laura Belin

FEDOROV TO APPEAL SACKING.
Boris Fedorov said on 14 October he plans to appeal his dismissal as president of the National Sports Fund, Russian media reported. The foundation's board sacked him in late May after he had been charged with possession of cocaine. Fedorov has since filed charges against former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov for extortion and Col. Valerii Streletskii, Fedorov's successor as fund head, for corruption. Fedorov also alleged that Korzhakov and Streletskii might have been involved in a June attempt on his life. Some speculate that Fedorov's disclosures are aimed against Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who is supporting Korzhakov's bid for a Duma seat in Tula. RTR quoted current fund head Sergei Leonyuk as alleging that Fedorov was telling everybody that presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais had called him and promised to secure his reinstatement as fund head. -- Penny Morvant

WATCHDOGS: NO INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN PRIMORSKII KRAI.
There are no independent media in Primorskii Krai, according to experts for the Glasnost Defense Foundation who just spent a week in the krai, ITAR-TASS and RTR reported on 14 October. They said journalists have been fired for criticizing the authorities and noted that most publications cannot survive without state subsidies. Appearing at the same press conference, a press secretary for Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko complained that the watchdog group is biased. She admitted that local media are politically engaged but denied that pressure from the authorities is responsible. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIA, VENEZUELA OPPOSE U.S. EMBARGO OF CUBA.
Following a Moscow meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Miguel Burelli, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov declared that both Moscow and Caracas oppose the Helms-Burton law tightening the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Primakov said discussions continue on reviving a trilateral oil supply arrangement which was in effect from 1978-1990; under which Venezuela delivered oil to Cuba in return for Russian oil deliveries to Venezuelan clients in Europe. Primakov reiterated that Russia will "fulfill all its obligations toward Cuba," including completing the controversial Juragua nuclear power station. However, Russia and Cuba have failed to find international financial backing for the $750 million project. -- Scott Parrish

JAPANESE TRAWLER SEIZED NEAR SOUTH KURILS.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry on 14 October reiterated its demand that Russia release a Japanese trawler and its five crew members, who were detained on 12 October by Russian border guards on charges of poaching in Russian territorial waters, Russian and Western agencies reported. The incident took place about 9 km off the coast of Kunashir Island, one of the four disputed southern Kuril islands claimed by both Russia and Japan. Multiple rounds of ongoing bilateral talks on fishing rights in the waters around the disputed islands have failed to reach agreement, and Russian border patrols frequently chase Japanese trawlers out of waters claimed by Russia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, LITHUANIA SIGN BORDER CONTROL AGREEMENT.
Director of the Russian Federal Border Service Andrei Nikolaev and acting Lithuanian Border Police Director Audronis Beisys met in Kaliningrad on 14 October to sign a protocol outlining joint measures to control the Russian-Lithuanian border, RTR reported. The network said the protocol is the first intergovernmental agreement on border control issues signed by the two countries since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, blaming ongoing talks over the demarcation of their sea border for the delay. Nikolaev likened the protocol to similar agreements Russia has signed with Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, creating a "regional system of border security" to combat illegal immigration, arms smuggling, and drug trafficking. -- Scott Parrish

NIYAZOV IN MOSCOW.
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in Moscow on 14 October for two days of talks with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and President Yeltsin on economic relations, Afghanistan, and resource exploitation in the Caspian Sea, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. Niyazov and Chernomyrdin failed to come to an agreement on Russia's estimated $500 million debt to Turkmenistan for natural gas. The situation is complicated by the fact that Russia controls 45% of the Turkmen-Russian joint venture Turkmenrosgaz which enjoys sole rights to export Turkmen natural gas within the CIS. Ashgabat hopes to export 5 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia in 1997--half the amount planned last year--and secure payment in a mixture of hard currency (20%) and industrial goods (80%). Niyazov said views on Afghanistan vary among CIS member-states but added that Ashgabat would coordinate its policy with Moscow. -- Lowell Bezanis

ILYUSHIN DISCUSSES SOCIAL CRISIS.
First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin described Russia's current socioeconomic situation as disastrous at a news conference on 14 October, ORT reported. He noted that real incomes have fallen about 40% since 1991, that the pension debt is rising by about 2 trillion rubles ($370 million) every month, and that education, health care, and culture have received only 65%, 60%, and 30% of the funds designated to them in the budget, respectively. According to Reuters, Ilyushin also complained that he has little money or power to put things right. The government has drafted a two-stage social policy program to try to raise living standards, rationalize the labor market, and improve infrastructure. The first phase covers the rest of 1996 and 1997, when financial resources are limited, and the second covers the 1998-2000 period, when it is hoped that economic growth will allow greater social spending. -- Penny Morvant

CHUBAIS ON STRENGTHENING THE LEGAL SYSTEM.
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais told the Council of Judges at the Russian Academy of Law in Moscow that President Yeltsin has instructed his administration to find solutions to the problems facing Russia's legal system, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Chubais emphasized the importance of strengthening the judiciary, given the current lack of laws in Russia and the inability of the state to enforce them. Referring to the funding problems experienced by judicial bodies, he blamed the crisis on poor tax collection. Some local courts have ground to a halt due to a lack of money to pay staff. Chubais promised that money obtained by the Provisional Emergency Commission for Strengthening Tax and Budget Discipline established recently by Yeltsin (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996) will be used to finance the federal legal system. -- Penny Morvant and Ritsuko Sasaki

PRIVATIZATION REVENUE IN 1996.
The consolidated budget's privatization revenue in the first nine months of 1996 reached 1.67 trillion rubles ($307 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October, citing the State Tax Agency. The collected revenue amounts to less than 1% of budget revenue and is only 14% of the target of 12 trillion rubles for 1996. In 1995 as a whole, privatization revenue totaled 2.4 trillion rubles, according to Ekonomika i zhizn (no. 40). Last year's privatization target was reached due to the launch of the controversial loans-for-shares scheme in November 1995. Later this year, the government hopes to sell a 25% stake in the telecom company Svyazinvest and 7.5% of the shares in the national power grid EES Rossii. -- Natalia Gurushina



ABKHAZIA REJECTS NEW GEORGIAN PEACE PROPOSAL.
Abkhaz parliament chairman Vladislav Ardzinba has rejected a new Georgian proposal for talks on resolving the issue of Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the Georgian government in Tbilisi with the participation of Western powers, according to an 11 October Republic of Abkhazia Radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali's envoy to Abkhazia, Edouard Brunner, endorsed the Abkhaz proposal to hold a new parliamentary election on 23 November, following a meeting with Ardzinba on 10 October. The proposal has been condemned by Tbilisi. The Abkhaz Supreme Soviet in exile in Tbilisi condemned Brunner's statement and called on the UN to replace him, Iberia news agency reported on 12 October. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 14 October said he believed that "the UN, European structures, and Russia have not yet exhausted the possibilities for a political settlement" in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

CHEVRON/SOCAR OIL SWAP IN PROGRESS.
The first tanker of oil from Kazakstan's Tengiz oil field docked at the Dyubendi terminal north of Baku on 11 October, Turan reported. Under an agreement between Tengizchevroil and Azerbaijan's state oil company, SOCAR, 20,000 metric tons of oil from Kazakstan is to be transported across the Caspian Sea; in return, SOCAR will deliver the same amount by rail to the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi for export. The one-time swap is intended to test the viability of using routes to export oil from Kazakstan avoiding Russia; if it proves successful, the Batumi route could be used to export 1 million tons per year. Chevron President Richard Matzke arrived in Baku on 11 October from Georgia where he held talks on this project with President Eduard Shevardnadze and Adzhar parliament chairman Aslan Abashidze. -- Liz Fuller

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION VISITS ARMENIA.
A three-member delegation of the Council of Europe has concluded a visit to Armenia aimed at assessing the post-election situation in that country, Noyan Tapan reported on 14 October. The delegation met with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and his main opposition challenger, Vazgen Manukyan. The delegates said on 11 October that they do not consider the Armenian opposition to be "fascist." During one of his campaign speeches, Ter-Petrossyan said Armenia would be faced with fascism if the opposition came to power. The delegation will release its final report in November. In other news, the OSCE's Warsaw Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights told RFE/RL on 14 October that its final report on the presidential election in Armenia "will be consistent with" its previous statement that questioned the validity of the vote. -- Emil Danielyan

UZBEK SOM IN TROUBLE?
The Uzbek Central Bank has refuted rumors that the country's currency is unstable, Ozbekiston Ovozi reported on 12 October. In a published statement, the bank said there is no government plan to introduce a new currency in Uzbekistan or devalue the existing som as a means of putting a stop to the currency's steady decline. While the som remained stable for most of 1995 and 1996, it began to fall from its rate of 35/$1 in the summer of 1996 to the current level of 40.50/$1. More telling is the fact that the black market rate has jumped from 40/$1 to more than 70/$1 over the same period. Curiously, the currency woes are taking place when Uzbekistan's economic output and foreign investment are increasing. -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK OPPOSITION ATTACK.
The United Tajik Opposition radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 12 October that its forces in the Gorno-Badakhshsan area attacked Russian troops in the Darvoz district, killing 36 Russian border guards and capturing 15 others. The broadcast also claimed that the opposition shot down three helicopters and seized some ammunition. However, RTR on 14 October and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 15 October suggested that no Russian border guards have been killed and that five opposition fighters were killed while trying to cross the Pyanj River. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN MINERS' UNION LEADERS SENTENCED FOR JULY STRIKE.
Petro Kyt and Mykhaylo Skrynsky, leaders of the Independent Miners' Union, were sentenced in Luhansk for organizing an illegal strike in July to protest unpaid back wages, UNIAN reported on 10 October. The labor leaders were given prison terms of two and a half and three years, respectively, for disturbing the public peace and disrupting traffic. Their attorneys plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. The miners' union has claimed the charges are part of a government campaign to suppress the independent labor movement. Another union activist awaiting trial for similar charges, Mykola Krylov, accused Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko of purposely withholding wages to provoke miners into striking, in order to clamp down on the unions and oust his political rival, Donetsk Governor Volodymyr Shcherban, Ukrainian TV reported on 11 October. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE HOSTS FEDERAL YUGOSLAV DELEGATION.
A parliamentary delegation from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia paid an official visit to Ukraine on 14 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Led by parliamentary speaker Radoman Bozovic, the delegation discussed cooperation and how Ukraine could help restore Serbia-Montenegro's economy with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, and Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko. Kuchma told the UN administrator of eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, who was in Kyiv the same day, that Ukraine had not stood on the sidelines during the Balkan war and will not do so during peace and reconstruction. Kuchma suggested that Ukraine could help supply specialists to aid Belgrade in its economic reconstruction, and said that Ukraine might send more troops to the UN contingent in eastern Slavonia. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN, RUSSIAN DEPUTIES DISCUSS INTEGRATION.
A round-table discussion between Russian and Belarusian parliamentary deputies in Moscow on 14 October focused on the issue of Russo-Belarusian integration, Russian Public Television reported. Because the meeting was organized by independent research centers from both countries, many Russian Duma deputies expected it to be an anti-Lukashenka and anti-integration meeting. However, of those attending -- including deputies from the Russian Communist and Yabloko factions and all five parliamentary factions in Belarus -- both sides agreed there was not a single solidly-backed political force in Belarus that opposed integration. -- Ustina Markus

LITHUANIAN PREMIER ON SEA-BORDER DISPUTE WITH LATVIA.
Mindaugas Stankevicius said on 14 October that he hopes Latvia's parliament will not ratify agreements on offshore oil exploration with the U.S. company Amoco and OPAB of Sweden, and instead draw up new trilateral agreements with Lithuania and the two companies, Radio Lithuania reported. Stankevicius said he had made that proposal to his counterpart Andris Skele in Palanga on 11 October. He called Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs's proposal to take the countries' sea-border dispute to an international court an attempt to "avoid responsibility." He also denied Latvian media reports that Lithuania is trying to attract oil companies from the East, saying Lithuania wants to keep Amoco in the Baltic Sea. He said Lithuania's ambassador in Washington had already informed Amoco about the trilateral agreement proposal. -- Saulius Girnius

ONE VICTORY, ONE DEFEAT FOR POLISH ENVIRONMENTALISTS.
Reconstruction of the largest radio tower in Europe has been definitively halted by a decision of the Supreme Administrative Court in Lodz, Polish dailies reported on 12 October. Polish Telecom (the tower's owner) claims that if the tower is not rebuilt, Polish programming may no longer be transmitted to Poles living in the former Soviet Union. Polish environmentalists and local residents claimed the 646-meter-high structure posed health risks. Environmentalists were less pleased by a decision to more than double the number of wolves targeted during the November-February hunting season, from last year's 30 to 72, Reuters reported on 13 October. Poland's 208 wolves are blamed for killing 500 deer, 80 wild boars, and 230 sheep in mountainous southeastern Poland. French film star Brigitte Bardot last year called on then President Lech Walesa to ban the "massacre" of Poland's wolves. -- Ben Slay

PIRATE POETRY EDITION IN POLAND.
A collection of Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska's (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 October 1996) poems have appeared in Warsaw in a pirate edition, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 15 October. The collection, Great Number, was originally published in 1976 by the Czytelnik publishing house. The pirate publishers identified themselves only as the Poetry Lovers Society, giving no address for themselves or the printer. The book is being sold at street-side bookstands and distributed by wholesale book traders. Booksellers risk confiscation of books, and the publishers potentially up to two years of prison. Czytelnik recently re-released Szymborska's volume End and Beginning, published in 1993. A new selection of 101 of her poems will be published soon. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON NATO, EU.
Speaking on Slovak Radio on 14 October, Vladimir Meciar reconfirmed that his country wants to join the European Union and NATO as soon as possible and again placed the blame for Slovakia's lack of progress in that regard on his critics. Meciar said Slovakia has some advantages in comparison with other countries, "but also has the huge disadvantage of questioning itself." The premier said "the level of political dialogue is low" and that "certain individuals, who are driven by their personal traumas," are sending signals abroad that damage Slovakia's image. Meciar said objections to developments in Slovakia "are being raised during every discussion I take part in," but when he analyzes the contents of such objections, "they prove to be insignificant." -- Jiri Pehe

THREE SLOVAK PARTIES TO JOIN 'BLUE OPPOSITION.'
An agreement on cooperation among the Democratic Party (DS), the Democratic Union (DU), and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) will be signed by the end of October, Slovak media reported on 15 October. "Voters are waiting for a real alternative to the current governmental power," said DU Chairman Jozef Moravcik. "Our objective is to form the next government, in which the KDH, the DU, and the DS will have a majority," Moravcik said. The so-called "blue opposition" coalition is likely to put forward a common list of candidates in the next general elections. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARY'S DISMISSED PRIVATIZATION MINISTER RESENTFUL IN OPEN LETTER.
In an open letter to his Socialist Party, Tamas Suchman blamed his dismissal on the media and the Socialists' junior partner in the governing coalition, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), Hungarian media reported. He accused the media of bias, claiming "some of the press have not pardoned us for our 1994 electoral success." Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze of the SZDSZ described the letter as the statement of a hurt man, and said his party had always been against political interference in the privatization process. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party presidium issued a statement on 14 October refuting statements by opposition parties and the Free Democrats that left-wing policy is marked by corruption. The statement described the conduct of opposition parties in the scandal that led to Suchman's dismissal as irresponsible and accused the Free Democrats of trying to wriggle out of the responsibility of joint governance. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS SEPARATION STILL A PRIORITY.
Independence from the Croat-Muslim federation and union with Serbia still top the governing Serbian Democratic Party's (SDS) agenda, Aleksa Buha, the foreign minister of the Republika Srpska and head of the SDS said on 14 October. He demanded that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the UN set up diplomatic offices in Pale. Buha added that the Republika Srpska's government and parliament will meet there on 19 October, news agencies and Nasa Borba reported. Buha said the Serbs might take until 28 October to return to the three-man Bosnian presidency, which he said will determine its own rules and procedures. -- Patrick Moore

CROATS BLOCK SERB REFUGEES FROM RETURNING HOME.
Bosnian Croats prevented 250 Serbs from visiting their homes in Drvar on 13 October, forcing the refugees to go back to Banja Luka, Nasa Borba reported. Tens of thousands of Croatian and Bosnian Serbs fled the Croatian advance roughly one year ago. They have since charged the Croats with conducting a policy of "ethnic cleansing" and using violence and intimidation against the mainly elderly or infirm Serbs who stayed behind. The Dayton agreement guarantees freedom of movement and the right to return to one's home. Onasa quoted a UNHCR spokesman on 14 October saying the incident was particularly "tragic" since the association of Serbs from Drvar is one of the few voices in the Republika Srpska calling for all people to return to their homes. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN MUSLIM REBEL'S BACKERS ARRESTED.
Muslim authorities arrested 18 people in Bihac and Velika Kladusa on suspicion of war crimes over the weekend, AFP reported on 14 October. Critics charge that the 18 are being hounded because they support former local kingpin Fikret Abdic, a bitter enemy of the Sarajevo government who has left the country.
A judge released 13 but ruled the remaining five could be held for a month. That violates the 1996 Rome agreement between all three sides in Bosnia not to hold any suspects who have not been indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the first bus from Belgrade since April 1992 arrived on 14 October, Nasa Borba and Onasa reported. -- Patrick Moore

MORE CALLS FOR DELAYING BOSNIA'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS.
Echoing comments by OSCE chief monitor Ed van Thijn (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 October 1996), UN human-rights rapporteur Elisabeth Rehn said on 14 October that municipal elections should be postponed until spring because of continuing human-rights violations as well as the winter weather, AFP reported. Former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said the elections should wait until spring "because time is needed to remove evident irregularities and mistakes noticed during the September polls." A final decision on when the elections will be held will be taken this week, according to Robert Frowick, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the international community's High Representative, Carl Bildt, urged the OSCE to continue follow-up work after the elections. The agency recently decided it has neither the mandate "nor structures necessary for the installation of elected officials." Installing the candidates elected in Bosnia's September general elections has proved difficult, and more problems are expected as Muslims will presumably be elected to municipal councils in the Republika Srpska. -- Daria Sito Sucic

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS ZAGREB CITY COUNCIL.
The Alliance of Opposition Parties began a 30-day boycott of Zagreb's city council to force President Franjo Tudjman to accept one of their own as the Croatian capital's mayor, international and local agencies reported. The six opposition parties warned last month they would boycott the council if Tudjman does not agree to an opposition mayor, but received no response. The statement warned of additional pressure if Tudjman failed to respond positively to their requests. In the past year, Tudjman has rejected four candidates for mayor nominated by the council's opposition majority, arguing that the capital cannot be run by opponents of state policy. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL ON PROPERTY OWNERSHIP.
The lower house of the Croatian parliament approved a bill compensating people whose property was nationalized or confiscated under communist rule, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 15 October. An estimated $57 billion worth of property is involved, including land, apartments, and business locations. Justice Minister Miroslav Separovic said the government strove for a balance between the state's means and legitimate requests for restitution. Critics said the bill does not return enough property. The Ministry of Justice has registered more than 67,000 applications for restitution, including several hundred applications by the Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches, as well as by the Croatian Jewish community. The latter criticized the legislation because it ignored assets seized by fascists during World War II. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BELGRADE JOURNAL PUBLISHES VUKOVAR ACCOUNT.
A member of the federal Yugoslav army has become the first official to give a statement to the Belgrade media confirming that Serbs committed atrocities after the fall of the Croatian city of Vukovar in 1991, Reuters reported on 14 October. According to an unnamed soldier cited in Dnevni Telegraf, drunken Serbian paramilitaries assaulted and robbed Croatian men before taking them to a location just outside Vukovar to be executed. The Yugoslav army has denied all charges that it was aware of such atrocities or that it was in any way connected to them. Reuters also quoted Dejan Anastasijevic, a journalist with the independent weekly Vreme, speculating that the soldier's remarks "may be a sign that [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic is preparing the ground for extraditing" Colonel Veselin Sljivancanin, indicted for participating in the Vukovar atrocities. -- Stan Markotich

LJUBLJANA-BELGRADE RELATIONS AT A STALEMATE.
Ivo Vajgl, a representative of Slovenia's foreign ministry said on 14 October that despite Belgrade media reports to the contrary, relations between Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are not likely to advance or improve in the near future. The Ljubljana daily Delo quoted Vajgl saying that "except for the fact that we've both recognized each other, we have yet to get any official word from Belgrade that it intends to normalize bilateral ties." Vajgl said many "open" questions remain between Ljubljana and Belgrade, Onasa reported, notably regarding the former Yugoslavia's succession. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN POLITICIANS PAY RESPECT TO ORTHODOX RELICS.
Politicians joined thousands of Romanian Orthodox worshippers visiting the northeastern city of Iasi on 14 October, on a pilgrimage to relics believed to be those of St. Andrew, Reuters reported. The faithful queued for hours at Iasi cathedral to touch a silver casket holding the relics, which were flown in from Greece by the Romanian Orthodox Church. Half of the Romanian presidential candidates took their turn at the casket, including incumbent President Ion Iliescu (a former communist) and his two main rivals, Democratic Convention leader Emil Constantinescu and the leader of the Social Democratic Union, Petre Roman. St. Andrew, one of the 12 Apostles, is believed to have brought Christianity to what are today the Romanian lands. -- Zsolt Mato

NEW COALITION GOVERNMENT IN BULGARIA?
A new coalition government of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and a splinter faction of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) will be formed after the 27 October presidential elections, Kontinent predicted on 15 October. According to the daily, the BSP will split immediately after the elections. SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov was cited as saying that the time is ripe for his party to assist in the BSP's breakup. Dimitar Popov, prime minister of Bulgaria's first post-communist coalition cabinet in 1990-1991, said the idea of a coalition had been ripening for some time in both the BSP and SDS. Popov said he was asked whether he would head such a government and said a coalition was necessary but difficult to achieve given the present confrontation between the two blocs. Sources within the BSP said there has been no consideration of starting talks with the opposition. -- Stefan Krause

ALARMING STATISTICS IN BULGARIA.
The cost of living in Bulgaria has tripled in 1996, Trud and Kontinent reported on 15 October, citing a survey of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions. Due to rising prices and high inflation, a four-member family needs 991,522 leva ($4,593) annually to cover its basic needs. In September, one person's monthly living expenses were 20,658 leva, half of that for food. Prices of bread and cheese -- the most basic staple in Bulgaria -- nearly doubled over the last three months. Meanwhile, Duma reported that Bulgaria's population has decreased by 600,000 over the last seven years due to a declining birth rate.
The survey also showed a high number of extramarital children and a changed ethnic structure. The surveyors also noted that children were putting greater value on material prosperity, and that they were increasingly victimized by violence, prostitution, drugs, and other criminality. -- Maria Koinova

PRO-GOVERNMENT DAILY SUGGESTS ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS BEHIND MURDER.
Police have arrested two men suspected of the 26 July murder of Bujar Kaloshi, general director of Albanian prisons, Albania reported on 15 October. The pro-government daily claims the two suspects, whose identities were not disclosed, were involved in a conspiracy involving a "terrorist organization of a political character." The order to kill Kaloshi, the paper claims, came from people who are currently imprisoned in Tepelena, adding that "the heads of the organization have proven links with some of the most well-known names of the old communist nomenclature." Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano is currently serving a prison term in Tepelena, but Albania -- known for its sensationalist and often careless reporting -- does not mention him explicitly. Police arrested another murder suspect in early August. -- Fabian Schmidt



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