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Newsline - October 17, 1996

Minister of Internal Affairs Anatolii Kulikov held a press conference on 16 October at which he accused Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed of plotting to seize power by force, NTV reported. Kulikov charged that in August Lebed had called on the power ministers to create a Russian Legion of up to 50,000 men, whose ostensible purpose was to suppress political and military conflict and eliminate terrorist and separatist leaders who threatened Russia's security. However, the Legion's main goal, Kulikov charged, was to subordinate all Russia's security agencies directly to Lebed and give him the power to eliminate Russia's leadership. He also asserted that the Chechens promised Lebed 1,500 fighters if he needed to use force. Kulikov said he had sent documents proving his allegations to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Moskovskie novosti in its 13-20 October issue claimed that Lebed had planned to bring troops into Moscow on the night of 2-3 October to pressure the government and parliament into declaring President Boris Yeltsin incapable of fulfilling his duties and calling early presidential elections. -- Robert Orttung

Lebed denied that he planned an insurrection and said he intends to sue Kulikov for libel, NTV reported. He repeated a 16
August demand that Yeltsin remove either Kulikov or him. He confirmed that he had proposed setting up a Russian Legion to strengthen the power of the state, but stressed that it was still a draft document that was openly proposed for discussion to Kulikov and Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, among others. He claimed that Kulikov was making these charges to prevent the resolution of the Chechen war. Lebed also denied preparing a coup on the night of 2 October and claimed that he was under surveillance, ITAR-TASS reported. On October 17, Lebed's bodyguard seized and disarmed a group of interior ministry officials who were shadowing the Security Council secretary, Reuters reported. Earlier in the day, ITAR-TASS reported that Lebed had applied for a two-week vacation, but that Yeltsin had yet to respond. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov denied that Chechen fighters were prepared to help Lebed, claiming Chechens never interfere in the "internal affairs of other states." -- Robert Orttung

Following a 17 October meeting with the power ministers that was attended by Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Lebed, Chernomyrdin said that he found that much of what Kulikov said about the Russian Legion "corresponded to reality" and "alarming," ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chernomyrdin said he was far from believing that Lebed was involved in "rebellions and putsches." He warned that "homegrown Bonapartism in the country is getting out of hand." The prime minister demanded that Lebed provide an answer to Kulikov's charges. Chernomyrdin will report to Yeltsin on 17 October. -- Robert Orttung

In the wake of his allegations against Lebed, Kulikov said tighter security measures were being taken in Moscow and other major cities after information was received about possible attacks by criminal and terrorist groups, primarily of Chechen origin, NTV reported. The measures reportedly include the establishment of roadblocks and the reinforcement of street patrols and involve the Federal Security Service (FSB) as well as Interior Ministry (MVD) forces. ITAR-TASS on 17 October said the Moscow police had yet to go to a higher state of alert but quoted sources in Primorskii Krai as saying the MVD and FSB there had received telegrams from Kulikov and FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev ordering tighter measures. Chernomyrdin said on 17 October he had given an order to step up security but gave no details. -- Penny Morvant

Rodionov defended his plan to reduce the airborne forces from 63,000 to 48,500 troops as part of the broader plan to cut the armed forces and put them on a more sound financial footing, NTV reported on 16 October. Security Council Secretary Lebed had denounced the directive as a "criminal document" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1996), but Rodionov countered that Lebed was only objecting because he himself had been a paratrooper. Rodionov complained, "Everybody says [military] reform is needed, but don't reform my troops," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

The State Duma passed in the second reading a draft law on the procedure for amending the constitution, Kommersant-Daily reported on 17 October. Under the constitution, amendments must be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma, a three-fourths majority in the Federation Council, and two-thirds of the legislatures in Russia's 89 regions. The draft law spells out how this procedure would be followed; for instance, it stipulates that if a regional legislature does not vote on a proposed amendment within six months, it will be considered to have approved that amendment. According to Kommersant-Daily, the draft law is designed to prevent the upper house from rejecting constitutional amendments on the grounds that no law on adopting them existed. Opposition deputies in the Duma have long advocated amending the constitution to reduce the president's powers. -- Laura Belin

The Russian State Duma delegation headed by deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev returned on 15 October from its tour of North Ossetiya, Ingushetiya and Chechnya with proposals submitted by the Chechen separatist leadership for Russian-Chechen cooperation in the military, economic and political spheres, ITAR-TASS reported. These do not, according to Gutseriev, touch on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. Under a compromise reached on 16 October between supporters of acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, the constitution of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria will be extended to Zavgaev's home base of Urus Martan, although the local administrator appointed by Zavgaev will remain in power, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen separatist Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov has confirmed that he will be nominated as prime minister in the provisional coalition government, RFE/RL reported on 17 October. -- Liz Fuller

After losing appeals to a Kursk Oblast court and the Supreme Court, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi finally won the right to contest the 20 October gubernatorial election in his native region of Kursk when the presidium of the Supreme Court overruled the Kursk Electoral Commission's refusal to register him, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 October. Rutskoi was denied registration because he did not meet a residency requirement, but the presidium found that such requirements violated federal legislation. Rutskoi immediately flew from Moscow to Kursk to begin his campaign. -- Laura Belin

On 16 October, at the start of his three-day visit to Moscow, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry met with Defense Minister Gen. Igor Rodionov for more than two hours, NTV reported. The two men discussed NATO expansion, the Partnership for Peace program, and START 2 ratification. Rodionov said after the meeting "I not only favor it [START 2], I favor the next treaty, the START III treaty, that would continue the reduction of atomic weapons," AFP reported. On 17 October, Perry will address the Duma on this topic. -- Peter Rutland

The Russian State Duma overwhelmingly passed a law suspending the division of the Black Sea Fleet and having Russia take over sole financing of the fleet and Sevastopol, Ukrainian radio reported on 16 October. Yeltsin's representative, Aleksandr Kotenkov, berated the Duma for interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, and said Yeltsin would veto the law. The former speaker of Russia's upper house, Vladimir Shumeiko, said the law would not amount to anything tangible because the Russian state budget, which is currently under debate, did not have a "single line devoted to the financing of the fleet." Extremist Duma Deputy Albert Makashov proposed imposing a gas and oil embargo on Ukraine and said the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Dnipropetrovsk, as well as Crimea, were prepared to join the Russian Federation. -- Ustina Markus

The average monthly wage from January through September 1996 was 773,000 rubles (about $150), ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October, citing official data from the State Statistics Committee. Real monetary income, adjusted for inflation, was 0.8% down on the first nine months of 1995. The subsistence minimum in September 1996 was 363,000 rubles, down from 369,000 rubles. The number of people living in households with average per capita income below the poverty line fell from 39 million (26%) in the first three-quarters of 1995 to 33 million (22%) from January through September this year. The difference in the incomes of the 10% best off and 10% worst off also fell, from 13.4 times to 12.9 times. The average monthly pension was 311,200 rubles in September 1996, up from 310,700 in August. -- Penny Morvant

The Duma on 16 October mustered the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the Federation Council veto on a bill introducing financial penalties for the late payment of wages, pensions, grants, and other social allowances, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the bill, the state would be obliged to pay a fine equal to 0.3% of the sum owed for every day that the benefit was late. Officials ignoring written appeals about late payments would be liable to administrative sanctions. The draft law will now be forwarded to Yeltsin, who rejected an earlier version of the bill in 1995. The total wage debt to Russian workers equaled 40.2 trillion rubles on 23 September, almost 12% up on 26 August, according to Goskomstat. About 7 trillion rubles was owed by the state. -- Penny Morvant

The head of the IMF's Moscow office, Thomas Wolf, said that the IMF approves the creation of a special emergency commission to boost tax collection (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996), ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 16-17 October. Wolf noted that the problem of tax collection will be the focus of the IMF's working group monitoring the Russian economy, which arrives in Moscow on 17 October. Poor tax collection in the first half of the year caused a delay in the disbursement of the July tranche of the IMF $10.1 billion extended facility fund. -- Natalia Gurushina

Georgian police on 16 October dispersed three separate demonstrations in Tbilisi by supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. Some 30 demonstrators were arrested. One demonstration took place outside the Russian embassy to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya; a second was held outside the Georgian Supreme Court, where the trial of four Gamsakhurdia associates is about to conclude, including the commander of his private army, Loti Kobalia. The prosecutor has demanded the death sentence for Kobalia on charges of high treason, banditry, and murder. -- Liz Fuller

Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 16 October, unnamed representatives of the opposition coalition National Accord that backed presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan reiterated that the results of the 22 September elections were rigged and that the country faces a serious political crisis as a result, ITAR-TASS reported. The opposition plans to appeal the election results a second time with the Armenian Constitutional Court; a first appeal by Manukyan was rejected as incorrectly phrased. Manukyan said he anticipated reprisals against his National Democratic Union, according to Noyan Tapan. The last two of the six opposition deputies arrested on 26 September were released on 16 October. Also on that day, an OSCE representative told RFE/RL that the OSCE has asked the Armenian authorities to investigate the disappearance of tens of thousands of ballot papers. -- Liz Fuller

The Milli Mejlis on 16 October elected the rector of Baku State University, 68-year-old Murtuz Nadjaf ogly Alesqerov, as its new speaker, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. A lawyer by training, Alesqerov taught for decades in Moscow before returning to Baku. He was a leading member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front in the late 1980s, but left that organization in 1991. In 1992, Alesqerov helped organize the campaign for the return to Baku of Heidar Aliev, at that time chairman of the Nakhichevan parliament, who was elected president in1993; he is one of the founders and deputy chairman, of the Yeni Azerbaycan party created by Aliyev and which holds the majority of seats in the present Milli Mejlis. Alesqerov replaces Rasul Guliev, who was forced to resign last month (ostensibly for health reasons) after expressing harsh criticism of the Azerbaijani leadership's failure to implement reforms. -- Liz Fuller

Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev is looking for foreign investors to help cover the cost of moving the capital from Almaty to Akmola, according to a 17 October article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Nazarbayev announced the move two years ago, but according to the deputy director of the state committee for moving the capital, Bair Dosmagmbetov, only $50 million has been raised so far, barely enough to build the presidential residence. Some foreign investors are contributing to the costs of the move in order to win the government's favor. The Japan Chromium Corp., for example, has given $1 million. Total cost of the move is estimated to be $400 million. -- Bruce Pannier

Two Socialist deputies were on hunger strike for the fourth day, refusing to leave the parliament building in Kyiv until the body's leadership reviews their demands of raising public-sector wages and pensions, Radio Ukraine reported on 16 October. Natalia Vitrenko and Volodymyr Marchenko, the outspoken leaders of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, accused the parliament's leaders of violating their rights as legislators by ignoring their proposals to amend the law on wages and pensions, pay off wage arrears, and amend the tax code. They also claim the economic program approved by the legislature on 15 October is unconstitutional and violates social and labor laws. Meanwhile, the parliament approved a slight increase in the official poverty line to 70.9 hryvnyas ($40) monthly effective 1 January. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk told lawmakers that raising the level any higher could increase inflation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

In his first consultations with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv since his recent appointment as Crimean parliamentary speaker, Vasyl Kyselyov discussed the draft Crimean Constitution, the regional budget, taxes, and the ongoing resettlement of previously deported ethnic groups in the region, Radio Ukraine reported on 16 October. Kyselyov, who met with President Leonid Kuchma, Parliamentary Speaker Oleksander Moroz, and Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, agreed to encourage his assembly to take constructive steps toward a resolution of conflicts over these issues between Kyiv and Simferopol. In other news, the Crimean government switched the region one hour back from Moscow to Kyiv time and ordered all transport and businesses to change their schedules to the new time immediately. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the Barvikha sanatorium outside of Moscow on 16 October, international agencies reported. Lukashenka said the purpose of the visit was to boost the integration process, which had begun to decline. He said he did not come as a president, but as the chairman of the Russian-Belarusian Community. NTV said the real reason behind the visit was Lukashenka's desire to appear to have Moscow's backing in the run-up to the constitutional referendum in Belarus. Lukashenka also met with Patriarch Aleksii II and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He admonished the Russian press for misreporting on the situation in Belarus, and assured journalists that the remaining nuclear missiles in Belarus would be removed to Russia by the end of the year. He also denied that he was blackmailing the West with the weapons. -- Ustina Markus

Ten miners' union leaders were arrested in Belarus when they began a protest march from Saliyorsk to Minsk because of poor work conditions and low wages, RFE/RL reported on 16 October. The miners meant to walk more than 100 kilometers to Minsk and participate in a rally against President Lukashenka's proposed constitutional referendum. Parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky said he was concerned about the possibility of violence on 19 October, the day Lukashenka's new constitution is to be debated by a 5,000-member "All Belarusian Congress." The opposition is planning to stage a massive protest demonstration the same day. Deputy parliamentary speaker Yuryi Malumau tendered his resignation on 15 October, Belapan reported, citing fears of unrest because of parliament's failure to compromise with Lukashenka. In other news, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October that the Communist Party -- one of Belarus's largest parties -- had split into factions under Viktar Chikin, who supports the president, and Syarhei Kalyakin, allied to parties that oppose the president. -- Ustina Markus

The Latvian Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Rannikh to Riga on 16 October to express concern about the anchoring of three Russian warships in Latvia's exclusive economic zone, BNS reported. Although ships are not banned from entering such territories and informing the country involved is not compulsory, Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins said that doing so would help create greater stability between the two countries. The ships were the recently built nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, an anti-submarine ship, and a tug boat, and were on their way from St. Petersburg to the naval base in Kaliningrad. Later that day, a Swedish Viggen jet crashed into the sea while carrying out radar reconnaissance over the ships. -- Saulius Girnius

The Sejm will in the future need a two-thirds majority to overrule a presidential veto, rather than an absolute majority, the parliament's Constitutional Commission decided on 16 October, Polish media reported. Kazimierz Janik, a deputy from the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance and undersecretary in President Aleksander Kwasniewski's chancellery, moved for the amendment to the commission's draft constitution, arguing it was necessary if the president's veto is to have any practical meaning. The weaker presidential veto was decided when Kwasniewski presided over the commission and Lech Walesa was president. Majorities of both the governing coalition's and opposition's members on the commission voted for the change. -- Jakub Karpinski

Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz appointed 24 politicians, civil servants, and academics on 16 October to form a new Civil Service Council, Polish media reported. Opposition politicians complained that the majority of politicians appointed are from the ruling coalition. Government Office Chief Leszek Miller rejected the accusations and said the council will be above politics. The recently adopted law on civil service proclaims the body's apolitical character. The council will pronounce opinions on civil servants' professional ethics and advise on the criteria for their evaluation and promotion. The prime minister will soon appoint the civil service chief who the laws says should be apolitical; however, in the first years after the law's adoption the chief may be appointed from among political party members. -- Jakub Karpinski

The Czech government agreed on 16 October to set up a state company that will buy bad loans from small banks. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists the creation of the company is not a temporary solution to the problems faced by small banks; the company is to function from five to seven years. Klaus said the banks will not be forced to sell bad debts to the company; the relationship will be voluntary. He said the program is designed to stabilize small banks, which the government hopes will be able to buy back their loans when they recover. Ten small banks have collapsed in the last three years. -- Jiri Pehe

Ivan Peto, leader of the junior coalition party Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) said on 16 October that unless there is a major improvement in the functioning of the coalition, its dissolution should be raised at his party's November convention, Hungarian dailies reported. The coalition crisis stems from the recent privatization scandal; also, the SZDSZ resented Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn's announcement, without prior consultation,
of his candidates for two new ministers to replace the recently sacked privatization minister. Meanwhile, opposition Smallholders chairman Jozsef Torgyan asked Horn to call a vote of confidence on himself and his cabinet. In other news, ongoing investigation of the scandal revealed that the former chief executive officer of the state privatization agency stopped an internal investigation into the affair in May, on orders of Imre Szokai, then chairman of the agency's board. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Theodoros Pangalos announced in Sarajevo on 16 October that Greece will open an embassy in the Bosnian capital this month and pledged $7 million in aid to Bosnian reconstruction programs, international media reported. During the visit, Pangalos met with Bosnian Presidency Chairman Alija Izetbegovic, Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic, and Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic. Greece, which has traditionally close ties with the Serbs and during the war in Bosnia had almost no contacts with the Bosnian government, will in the future meet only with representatives of the republican government, Pangalos announced, saying that meetings with Bosnian Serb representatives "will not be necessary in the future." Pangalos will also visit Zagreb and Belgrade for talks with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. He will brief Athens' partners in the European Union and the United States about his talks. -- Stefan Krause

Two Bosnian Serb children were shot while riding on a bus on the road between Ugljevik and Priboj on 15 October, AFP reported. They were sent home after treatment. On the same section of road in northeast Bosnia, a bullet also hit a Republika Srpska police car, but it was not clear if anyone was injured. The area is very near the inter-entity border and in a region where tensions are high as Muslims try to return to their homes now under Serb control. UN police are investigating the incident. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Bosnian officials said the three-man presidency will finally meet next week, Oslobodjenje reported on 17 October. The time and the crucial issue of place have yet to be determined, however. -- Patrick Moore

Franz Egle, a spokesman for OSCE President Flavio Cotti, said the organization was fulfilling its obligations in Bosnia "100%," AFP reported. He was responding to Carl Bildt, the international community's high representative for Bosnia, who disputed a recent OSCE decision that it had neither the mandate nor the structures to install elected officials (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 October 1996). According to Egle, the OSCE's mandate is to oversee the preparation and holding of elections, and if the agency is to do anything else, its mandate should be changed. Egle added that Cotti believes local elections should be held in the spring instead of November, as currently scheduled. Robert Frowick, the head of the OSCE's mission in Bosnia, is expected to make a final decision this week. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Some 40 opposition deputies walked out of the Sabor on 16 October to protest the lack of media coverage. They want parliament debates to be broadcast live on television and radio, arguing that the state-run electronic media have cut them off from all direct contact with the public, Vecernji list reported. The opposition particularly want voters to hear current discussions on key financial issues, including one on state reserves of commodities. The press recently uncovered a scandal involving officials from the governing party withholding reserves of wheat from the market. This considerably forced up prices in a country where at least one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty level and most of the rest have difficulty making ends meet. Novi List wrote on 17 October that one Croatian citizen in four goes hungry. -- Patrick Moore

A Croatian court was to begin the trial in absentia on 17 October of Momcilo Perisic, the current head of the federal Yugoslav army, for the bombardment of the Adriatic port of Zadar, Novi List reported. The Zadar regional tribunal will try Perisic and 18 other former Yugoslav army officers on war-crimes charges for allegedly ordering artillery attacks on the town in which 30 civilians were killed and dozens injured. Zagreb opposition figures and diplomats speculate that the trial could be the result of a deal between Zagreb and Belgrade, to help distance Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from military officials he was previously close to, AFP reported on 16 October. Stipe Mesic, president of the Croatian Independent Democrats, said the trial could be "a present" from Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to Milosevic ahead of elections in Serbia and Montenegro. In other news, a group of 53 refugees is to return to Croatia from Serbia under the auspices of the UN high commissioner for refugees, Politika and AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Simonovic and his Italian counterpart Piero Fassimo agreed on 16 October to sign an agreement on minority rights next month, Croatian media reported. Fassimo said he hopes that after the agreement is signed, the Croatian government will pass a bill on bilingual education, Novi List reported on 17 October. Fassimo also took part in an Italian delegation's talks in Zagreb on the strengthening and promotion of political relations between the two countries and on Italian investments in Croatia. A joint business commission on 17 October is to draw up contracts on avoiding double taxation and on stimulating investments in the fields of tourism, energy supplies, and fishery, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Belgrade prosecutor Svetozar Vujacic has filed criminal charges against the leader of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, Radio B92 reported on 15 November. According to Vujacic, Djindjic had slurred Slobodan Milosevic while addressing a crowd of about 6,000 during a 10 October election campaign rally in Vranje, calling the Serbian President a "sick man." Vujacic charged Djindjic with insulting the president and defaming Serbia's reputation. On 20 September, Djindjic received a four-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of libeling Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic in an advertisement placed in Nedeljni Telegraf (See OMRI Daily Digest, 23 September 1996). -- Stan Markotich.

A group of European banks will loan $175 million to Romania, RFE/RL and Romanian television reported on 16 October. The loan agreement, signed in London by Romanian National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu, calls for the loans to be repaid over three years. Isarescu said the loan is aimed at helping Romania pay its $7 billion foreign debt while keeping foreign-currency reserves at a high enough level to maintain imports. In 1996, Romania has received over $1.4 billion in foreign aid and loans. In other news, RFE/RL reported that oil giants Shell and Agip are criticizing Romania's privatization policy. In an open letter to the newly founded oil company ROC, which has a legal monopoly on distribution in Romania, the two foreign companies assert discriminatory practices affecting private investors and warn that they could jeopardize future investments. -- Michael Shafir

In meetings with top Bulgarian officials on 15-16 October, Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of Russia's General Staff, discussed the possibility of closer ties in the fields of military and technological cooperation, including the possibility of joint manufacture of military hardware, ITAR-TASS and Bulgarian media reported. Kolesnikov met with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, President Zhelyu Zhelev, and Parliament Speaker Blagovest Sendov. Before the talks, Kolesnikov said that "no spectacular results should be expected" from his visit. Kolesnikov said Bulgaria will receive spare parts for its military planes worth $48 million by the end of the year as partial payment of Moscow's $100 million debt to Bulgaria. Russian Duma Deputy Chairman Mikhail Yuryev, heading a separate delegation in Sofia, told Zhelev that Russia will repay the debt by the end of 1996. A Bulgarian official said Zhelev and Kolesnikov had not discussed Bulgaria's potential inclusion in NATO, which Zhelev favors. -- Stefan Krause

Police arrested 14 people on 15-16 October suspected of committing 26 crimes, including the murder of General Prison Director Bujar Kaloshi and a bomb attack on a Tirana supermarket in February, in which four people died and 27 were injured. Interior Minister Halit Shamata also charged them with planing to assassinate President Sali Berisha by blasting a bridge, Dita Informacion reported on 17 October. The group was allegedly led by three sons of communist-era secret police chief Hajredin Shyti -- Orik, Roland, and Leart -- and called itself "Revenge of Justice," AFP reported. Hajredin Shyti was sentenced in December 1992 to 17 years in prison in connection with the killings of pro-democracy protesters in 1991. Police also seized a machine gun, several hand and anti-tank grenades, pistols, and mines. The police action came days before 20 October local elections, and followed pro-government media reports suggesting that the orders for the terrorist acts were given by members of the communist nomenclature currently imprisoned in Tepelena -- where Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano is serving a prison term. Among those arrested was Klement Koloneci, the son-in-law of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha. -- Fabian Schmidt

The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) announced on 16 October that it will not send observers to Albania's local elections, AFP reported. The Foreign Ministry had granted only 15 of the ODIHR's requested 37 accreditations. The ODIHR said the number of observers attending an election "is not a matter for negotiation with the host government," adding that otherwise it "could not mount a viable observation effort." Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu said the lower number of observers approved by the ministry "does not mean we are opposed to ODIHR taking part in the monitoring of the elections," but admitted there was a "crisis of confidence." The ODIHR issued a highly critical report after parliamentary elections on 26 May. The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the U.S., and Italy will be sending observers. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Tom Warner