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Newsline - October 24, 1996


CHERNOMYRDIN ADDRESSES FSB.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 23 October urged the Federal Security Service (FSB) to steer clear of political conflicts, international agencies reported. At an unusual meeting with senior FSB officers, he warned that "unspecified people are taking advantage of the democratic transformation" to create extremist and paramilitary organizations, noting a tendency toward "essentially forcible methods of resolving social problems in unconstitutional ways." Chernomyrdin's comments came a week after Aleksandr Lebed was fired following charges that he was plotting to form his own army. Chernomyrdin also said no major personnel changes were planned. There have been rumors that 30 FSB generals are to be fired, including Director Nikolai Kovalev. The meeting was attended by Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. -- Penny Morvant

LEBED UPDATE.
The Interior Ministry has sent the Procurator-General's Office documents concerning allegations that Lebed was plotting a military coup before he was sacked on 17 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. In an interview with Argumenty i fakty (no. 43), Lebed again dismissed the coup allegations and claimed President Yeltsin is "easily persuaded" through his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. In a recent interview with the American television network ABC, Lebed accused Chubais of feeding the president "distorted information," Izvestiya reported on 24 October. Lebed also told Argumenty i fakty that he will not contest a December gubernatorial election in Tula Oblast, where he was elected to the State Duma last year. -- Laura Belin

DUMA APPEALS ON FUNDING FOR JUDICIARY.
The State Duma asked the Constitutional Court to examine the government's decision not to include allocations for the judicial system in the so-called "protected articles" of the 1996 budget, funds that absolutely must be paid out, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. The Duma argued that Article 124 of the constitution requires the federal government to fund courts adequately. Chronic underfunding has left some courts unable to pay their workers' salaries or to provide adequate security for judges. In St. Petersburg, a majority of district courts were recently forced to shut down (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996). Also on 23 October, the Duma passed on the third reading a draft law outlining the procedure for passing constitutional amendments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 October 1996). The law will now be sent to the Federation Council. -- Laura Belin

COURTS CONVICT RUTSKOI OF LIBEL, ZHIRINOVSKY OF SLANDER.
A Moscow court ordered newly elected Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi to apologize to Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, Radio Rossii and Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 October. In a November 1995 article published in Argumenty i fakty, Rutskoi accused Gaidar of exporting $96 million worth of diamonds while he served in the government in 1992 and 1993. On the same day, a different Moscow court ordered Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to pay 10 million rubles ($1,800) in damages to former Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin for calling him an agent of the CIA and Mossad in late 1994. The court also instructed Zhirinovsky to renounce that accusation in the next session of the State Duma. -- Laura Belin

YBKIN MEETS WITH GULDIMANN.
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met on 23 October with the head of the OSCE mission to Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, Russian media reported. Rybkin also asked Guldimann to convey to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and interim Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov a verbal message reiterating his commitment to the peace process and proposing a meeting with them. Also on 23 October, Rybkin met with pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev and concurred with the latter's argument that "the peace agreements should be fully implemented by both sides and not just by the federal side as is currently the case," Russian Public Television (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller

DUMA PASSES LAW BARRING DIVISION OF BLACK SEA FLEET.
On the eve of a Moscow visit by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Duma overwhelmingly gave final approval to a bill halting the division of the Black Sea Fleet, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 October (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1996). The bill, which has prompted threats of retaliation from Kyiv, would ban the transfer of Black Sea Fleet ships and related infrastructure to Ukraine until a bilateral treaty regulating "all aspects" of Russo-Ukrainian relations is signed. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin said it reflects deputies' frustration that Kyiv has "torpedoed" some 15 previous agreements on the fleet. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, criticized the bill, which now goes to the Federation Council. -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO CLINTON SPEECH ON NATO.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov responded indifferently to President Clinton's pledge to admit the first East European members of NATO by 1999, refusing to make any "specific comment" and merely reasserting Moscow's opposition to enlargement of the alliance, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 October. Asked if he thought the alliance would actually manage to accept new members by 1999, he replied: "We'll wait and see." Komsomolskaya pravda on 24 October described Clinton's announcement in Michigan as largely aimed at courting the state's ethnic East European voters, while Izvestiya termed Clinton's support for a special relationship between NATO and Russia "the most important thing" in his speech. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, INDIA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and his Indian counterpart Mulayam Singh Yadav signed a defense cooperation agreement in New Delhi on 23 October, Russian and Western media reported. The agreement provides for information exchange, joint exercises, and officer exchanges, according to ITAR-TASS. Rodionov did not, however, conclude an anticipated $1.8 billion sale of 40 SU-30 fighter-bombers to India. Rodionov complained that uncooperative bureaucrats in Moscow were hindering arms sales to India. On 22 October, Rodionov met with Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda and the two issued a joint denunciation of "fundamentalist" and "extremist" forces in the region, a reference to recent developments in Afghanistan, which have disturbed both Moscow and New Delhi. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA SAYS NUCLEAR ARMS UNDER CONTROL.
Russian officials and experts rebutted on 23 October the findings of a leaked CIA report suggesting that Moscow's control over its nuclear arsenal is deteriorating, Reuters reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 October 1996). A Defense Ministry spokesman declared that "there can be no doubt about the control over strategic missile forces," adding that a U.S. arms control inspection team would be reviewing Russian weapons control procedures in the next few days. Georgii Nasonov, a spokesman for the Ministry of Atomic Power, said that his American counterparts had expressed "no reservations" like those detailed in the report. ITAR-TASS highlighted statements by Nicholas Burns, the U.S. State Department spokesman, who expressed confidence in Russian control over its nuclear arsenal. -- Scott Parrish

REGIONAL ELECTORAL LAWS VIOLATE FEDERAL STANDARDS.
The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) charged on 23 October that electoral laws in about 25 regions violate federal law by illegally including residency and language requirements for candidates, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. The violators include the republics of Adygeya, Buryatiya, Kareliya, Marii-El, Sakha (Yakutiya), Khakasiya, and several oblasts and autonomous okrugs. The TsIK also charged local authorities with interfering with the work of local electoral commissions. The TsIK noted violations in Amur, where the communists' challenger apparently won by 189 votes, but found no evidence of foul play in Rostov, where the incumbent won by a comfortable margin. The TsIK has no enforcement power over the conduct of regional elections and can only make recommendations to the president. -- Robert Orttung

YAMAL-NENETS REJECTS RESCHEDULED TYUMEN ELECTIONS.
The Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug State Duma voted on 23 October not to participate in the Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial elections now set (after being changed twice) for 22 December. Yamal is simultaneously a part of Tyumen oblast and one of the 89 members of the Russian Federation. Yamal and Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, also a part of Tyumen Oblast, control 90% of Russia's gas and two-thirds of its oil reserves. The Tyumen authorities want the separatist okrugs to participate in the elections so that Tyumen can share in their wealth, while the okrug leaders want to deal with Moscow directly. Kommersant-Daily on 24 October labeled the elections "the most important of the fall." -- Robert Orttung

RICH REGIONS BLAST 1997 BUDGET.
The Federation Council on 23 October heard loud protests from the 10 regions which will be donors to the federal budget in 1997, Kommersant-Daily reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov complained that the budget has only one idea - "fleece the donors." He said donors such as Moscow should keep 60-65% of their taxes and the other 79 regions should be told "look after yourself." Konstantin Titov, head of the Federation Council Budget Committee, urged the donors to "start dictating their conditions" to the government. Luzhkov said "everyone in Russia should live under the same economic laws" and "I jokingly suggest that [Moscow] becomes a city of Tatarstan or Yakutiya, since they have a completely different set of budget rules." The 1997 budget leaves all the regions responsible for financing 80% of education, 88% of health care, 70% of social spending, and 70% of economic projects. -- Peter Rutland

DUMA CRITICIZES TAX COLLECTION . . .
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told the Duma on 23 October that in the first nine months of the year the government raised only 71% of expected revenue and 65% of planned taxes, a shorfall of 71 trillion rubles ($13 billion). Spending was 77% of the expected level, Segodnya reported on 23 October. The Duma passed a resolution deeming the implementation of the 1996 budget unsatisfactory, ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Livshits said he would recommend that the government lift tax exemptions for companies and regions worth some 3 trillion rubles ($550 million), AFP reported. -- Natalia Gurushina

. . . AS TAX COMMISSION ANNOUNCES FIRST TARGETS.
The special tax commission (VChK) created on 11 October held its first meeting on 22 October, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 October. The commission dismissed First Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee Valerii Kruglikov for granting unjustified customs privileges, and issued a "strict warning" to Livshits and to the head of the State Tax Agency Vitalii Artyukhov. The commission said it will start bankruptcy procedures against four companies -- KamAZ, Moskvich, Achinsk Alumina Plant, and Krasnodarnefteorgsintez. However, KamAZ officials argue that their budget debts were rescheduled under an April presidential decree. -- Natalia Gurushina



ABKHAZ ELECTION UPDATE.
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said on 23 October that the Georgian leadership is appealing to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to abide by the 22 October statement of the UN Security Council and cancel the parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the Abkhaz Central Election Board, Vyacheslav Tsugba, told ITAR-TASS that 90 candidates of various nationalities, including three ethnic Georgians, had registered to contend the 35 seats in the new parliament. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SACKED.
Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan has sacked three top government officials, including Deputy Minister of Science and Education Ashot Bleyan. Bleyan used to be a leading figure in the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement party. He became notorious for controversial plans to reform Armenia's secondary education system and after a 1992 visit to Azerbaijan, where he called for unilateral concessions by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. -- Emil Danielyan

TURKEY TO OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA.
Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller said on 23 October that Turkey will open its border with Armenia "after overcoming a few difficulties," AFP reported. The border has been closed since 1992. Turkey was set to open the border in March, but backed down at Azerbaijan's request. Ciller's statement may sour Turkey's relations with Azerbaijan. -- Emil Danielyan

UZBEKISTAN TIGHTENS CURRENCY CONTROLS.
In response to the recent drop in the value of the som, only two banks -- the Bank for Foreign Economic Activities and the Uzbek Industry and Construction Bank -- will be allowed to trade in hard currencies, Savdogar reported on 22 October, as monitored by the BBC. Previously, 12 had been able to do so. In addition, the number of licensed exchange offices has been reduced from 95 to 39, 23 of which are located in Tashkent. ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October that the Uzbek government has also signed a currency and export control agreement with Russia in an effort to prevent the circulation of "dirty" money. -- Roger Kangas

HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER OPENS IN TURKMENISTAN.
President Saparmurat Niyazov officially opened the Democracy and Human Rights Institute in Ashgabat on 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The institute will handle complaints from citizens about human rights and democratic freedoms and will work closely with the UN. Its opening appears to be a gesture to the international community after Turkmenistan received the lowest rating for political rights from the Freedom House organization last December. Niyazov said the purpose of the institute is to protect the presidency "from the influence of other branches of power," and warned citizens not to take their complaints too far. -- Bruce Pannier



CORRECTION:
In issue 206 of the OMRI Daily Digest, Vytautas Landsbergis and Gediminas Vagnorius were incorrectly identified as president and chairman of the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania), respectively. Their correct titles are chairman and board chairman of that party.

UKRAINIAN NAVAL COMMANDERS RESIGN OVER BLACK SEA FLEET.
On the eve of President Leonid Kuchma's visit to Moscow, the Black Sea Fleet issue is provoking strong reactions in Ukraine, international agencies reported on 23 October. Ukrainian naval commander Volodymyr Bezkorovainy, his first deputy, Mykola Kostrov, and deputy naval commander Oleksandr Ryzhenko have all tendered their resignations, which have been accepted by Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk. Russian Public TV speculated that they resigned because of concessions Kyiv has made over the fleet. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN DUMA VOTE ON FLEET.
Parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz has said the Russian Duma vote to halt the division of the fleet has no legal force in Ukraine, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 23 October. He said he agreed with the parliament's statement that if the Duma tried to enforce that vote, Ukraine should insist on the immediate withdrawal of the fleet from Ukraine, At the same time, National Security Advisor Volodymyr Horbulin said Russia and Ukraine have never been so close to resolving the fleet dispute. President Kuchma said the vote could have a negative effect on Russian-Ukrainian relations, but his spokesman Dmytro Markov said it would not influence his meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 24 October. -- Ustina Markus

CRIMEANS PROTEST UKRAINIAN BAN ON RUSSIAN TV.
Some 200 people picketed the Crimean parliament to protest the recent ban on Russian Public TV broadcasts in Ukraine, Ukrainian media reported on 23 October. Crimean deputies warned the move could lead to a significant deterioration in the situation on the peninsula. The Crimean government has requested that Kyiv maintain Russian broadcasting in Crimea, while the Ukrainian government alleges that Russian Public TV has run up a large debt for broadcasting in Ukraine. Russian radio programs were squeezed out of Ukraine in 1993. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

LUKASHENKA SAYS HE HAS SUPPORT OF BELARUSIAN PEOPLE.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Luakshenka told Russian Public TV on 22 October that he has the support of the Belarusian people and that the communists will not be able to take over the presidency because of divisions among themselves. He claimed that 120 out of a total of 199 deputies attended the recent All Belarusian Congress and that all but two supported his position. Lukashenka also denied having praised Hitler, claiming his comments had been twisted by journalists. -- Ustina Markus

CONSTRUCTION OF YAMAL GAS PIPELINE STARTED IN BELARUS.
Work has begun in Belarus on part of a 4,000 km pipeline connecting the Yamal peninsula with Hamburg, Germany, Vremya reported on 23 October. Estimated to cost $40 billion, the pipeline will transport natural gas from Russia to Western Europe. Two 575 km pipelines are to be built in Belarus. President Lukashenka has expressed the hope that the project will strengthen economic cooperation between Russia and Belarus and help improve relations between his country and Gazprom. Belarus currently owes the Russian gas company some $300 million. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Assembly of Russia and Belarus convened in Moscow on 24 October. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev emphasized that development of relations between the two parliaments is essential for the integration of the two nations. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

LATVIAN, ESTONIAN PRESIDENTS ISSUE JOINT DECLARATION.
Guntis Ulmanis and Lennart Meri, meeting in Riga on 23 October, signed a joint declaration stressing the need to deepen cooperation to achieve their common strategic goals of membership in NATO and the EU, BNS reported. The declaration called for setting up a Baltic customs union, forming joint border-crossing points, and coordinating activities in fighting organized crime, illegal migration, weapons and drugs smuggling, and money laundering. This was the first official state visit by an Estonian president to Latvia since the re-establishment of the countries' independence. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS STATEMENT ON LATVIAN OIL LICENSING CONTRACT.
The Seimas on 23 October unanimously adopted a statement declaring as illegal the licensing contract between Latvia and the AMOCO and OPAB oil companies for exploring off-shore oil deposits, BNS reported. It stated that Latvia would violate Lithuania's rights to its continental shelf, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Final Act of the 1975 Helsinki Conference if it ratified the contract. Until an agreement with Latvia is reached on delimiting the sea border, Lithuania will insist that it has sovereign rights to the sea territory south of a straight line extending west from the point where the two countries' borders converge on the Baltic Sea coast. The Latvian parliament, however, ratified the contract on 24 October. -- Saulius Girnius

ABORTION LAW LIBERALIZED IN POLAND.
The Sejm on 24 October voted by 228 to 195 with 16 abstentions in favor of a bill allowing an abortion before the 12th week if the woman has financial or personal problems, Polish media reported. Fifty percent plus one of the votes were needed to reject the Senate veto of the draft law earlier this month. Under a 1993 law, abortions were allowed only if a pregnancy threatened a woman's life or health or resulted from incest or rape. They could also be performed if a fetus was irreparably damaged. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has promised to sign the liberalized bill into law. More than 30,000 people marched in Warsaw on 23 October to protest the liberalization of the law. Opinion polls show that Polish society is almost equally divided over the legalization of abortion. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH PARLIAMENT ON RESPONSIBILITY FOR MARTIAL LAW.
The Sejm has rejected a motion to have officials responsible for the introduction in 1981 of martial law appear before the State Tribunal, Polish dailies reported on 24 October. The former communist Democratic Left Alliance deputies' supported the proposal to halt the proceedings. The majority of deputies belonging to the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party abstained, while the remainder voted against the motion. Solidarity Electoral Action, which is not represented in the Sejm, criticized the Sejm's decision. It announced that it would seek to resume the proceedings following the fall 1997 parliamentary elections. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH POLICE CHARGE 25 PEOPLE WITH BANK FRAUD.
A spokesman for the Czech Internal Affairs Ministry on 24 October told journalists that 25 people have been charged with defrauding 10 Czech banks of millions of crowns in unsecured loans from 1992-1994. The spokesman refused to name the banks but said the credits ranged from 5 million crowns to 450 million crowns ($16.5 million). He put total losses at "hundreds of millions of crowns" but declined to offer further details on how the frauds were carried out. Among those charged are businessmen, former professional soldiers, former policemen, and former prison officers. The ministry's Division for Investigation of Organized Crime had been investigating the bank frauds for more than a year. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RE-APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL LAWS.
Ignoring vetoes by President Michal Kovac, the parliament on 23 October re-approved legislation on universities and prosecution, Slovak media and Reuters reported. The first of those two laws was criticized for increasing the Education Ministry's control over academic affairs, while the second leaves the prosecutor's office unsupervised, allowing for political abuse of power. Kovac is now obliged to sign the laws, but they can be taken to the Constitutional Court. -- Sharon Fisher

DANUBE RIVER ACCIDENT HALTS TRAFFIC.
Austrian officials on 23 October announced that the Danube will be closed between Vienna and Bratislava for several days following a barge accident the previous evening, international media reported. Eight Slovaks are believed dead after their tug boat pulling a barge collided with a dam and sank. One person survived and was taken to the hospital. The accident occurred during strong winds and currents on the river, which was swollen by heavy rain in Germany and Austria. The exact cause of the accident is unclear, but police have ruled out engine failure. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIANS COMMEMORATE 1956 UPRISING.
Low-key celebrations were held throughout Hungary on 23 October to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the anti-Soviet uprising, Hungarian and international media reported. Some 1,000 people stood outside the parliament as President Arpad Goncz lit a flame that will burn until 4 November, the day the rebellion was crushed. The mood of the crowds was far from festive, with veterans of the uprising complaining about the difficult economic situation. Many Hungarians have grown apathetic about the 1956 events, and young people in particular stayed away. Meanwhile, several hundred neo-Nazis gathered in Budapest on 23 October, calling for Hungarian Jews to be resettled in Israel. The skinheads also demanded the re-nationalization of banks and firms "privatized by foreigners" and the ousting of "anti-Hungarian politicians," AFP reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SUSPENDED.
Arpad Kovacs, the nominee for chairman of the board of the state privatization company APV, announced on 22 October that privatization is to be suspended following a recent scandal involving controversial payments to consultant Marta Tocsik, Hungarian media reported two days later. Addressing the parliament's Economic Committee, Kovacs promised radical changes in the work of the board--including more openness --and noted that privatization should be completed by 1998. The committee unanimously supported Kovacs's nomination. Also on 22 October, Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Hungarian TV that he is willing to give up his post if an appropriate replacement is found. Stating his commitment to completing the transformation process, Horn emphasized the benefits of privatization. He also stressed that the Tocsik case is not a privatization scandal and denied the Socialist Party's involvement. -- Sharon Fisher




BOSNIAN SERBS WILL NOT EXTEND OSCE MANDATE.
Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told U.S. envoy John Kornblum that Pale will not agree that the OSCE's mission for organizing elections be extended into next year for the local vote, Nasa Borba reported on 24 October. Kornblum said he will nonetheless try to persuade the Serbs to change their mind, adding that he is also concerned "about a continuing record of less than full implementation of the [peace] process" by the Republika Srpska, Reuters noted on 23 October. Plavsic also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afansievskii and the head of the Russian mission to Bosnia, Yakov Gerasimov. Afansievskii said that "Russia has a positive stance toward the Republika Srpska's efforts to settle relations with the Bosnian Federation peacefully," while Plavsic praised "our traditional friends, the Russians," Onasa stated. Finally, Nasa Borba discusses widespread but unconfirmed reports that Plavsic has sacked Gens. Ratko Mladic, Milan Gvero, and Momir Talic, together with some 80 other top officers, in the latest chapter of the long-standing dispute between the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leaderships. -- Patrick Moore

BILDT REASSURES NATO AFTER POSTPONEMENT OF BOSNIA VOTE.
High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt told NATO on 23 October that the postponement of the Bosnian municipal elections does not mean that IFOR needs to remain at full strength beyond the end of its mandate on 20 December, AFP reported. Bildt mentioned the possibility of bringing in some troops for a limited period. Meanwhile, the Pentagon said on 22 October that the U.S. forces plan to pull out of Bosnia by mid March, despite the vote postponement. A Pentagon spokesman said that since the elections will not be held in November, as previously scheduled, it is possible that the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be accelerated. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO will stay at full strength in Bosnia until the end of the year. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES ARREST "FIVE TERRORISTS."
Five members of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) have been arrested on charges of arms and munitions possession, Tanjug reported on 22 October. They are also suspected of carrying out terrorist acts, including the November 1994 bombing of a bridge on the Sombor-Bezdan road. Four of the five are from Sombor, in Vojvodina, and were apprehended in possession of a large number of weapons, including a hand-held rocket launcher and 55 land mines. Until mid-1993, the SRS and the ruling Socialists were political allies. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had called SRS leader and accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj "my favorite opposition leader." -- Stan Markotich

SERBIA, MONTENEGRO ELECTION UPDATE.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's electoral commission says a total of 7,597,504 voters have registered to take part in the 3 November elections, Nasa Borba reported on 23 October. Of those, 448,325 are registered in Montenegro. A total of 812 candidates are vying for 138 seats in the federal legislature. Meanwhile, Beta on 22 October reported that Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic has requested that OSCE election observers register with Yugoslav embassies by 30 October. -- Stan Markotich

W.H.O. FINDS NO EXPLANATION FOR MYSTERIOUS

DISEASE AMONG ALBANIAN SCHOOL CHILDREN IN MACEDONIA.
A group of WHO experts has issued a report on its investigation into a mysterious illness contracted by 1,000 ethnic Albanian school children in Tetovo. Some 600 had to be hospitalized for up to three days. The team conducted various tests but found no evidence of infection or poisoning to explain the illness, which causes headaches, stomach and muscle pains, breathing difficulties, and dizziness, AFP reported. Albanian political parties have alleged that Macedonians tried to poison the children. -- Fabian Schmidt

POLLS ON ROMANIAN ELECTIONS.
An opinion poll conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Sociology (CURS) on 22 October shows incumbent President Ion Iliescu in the lead before the 3 November presidential elections. Iliescu has 33.5% of popular support, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) candidate Emil Constantinescu 27%, and the Social Democratic Union (USD) candidate Petre Roman 22.5%. The CURS poll shows the opposition CDR leading in the parliamentary contest, with 31.%. The ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) follows with 27.2%, and the USD with 18.1%. But a poll conducted by the rival IRSOP institute suggests the PDSR is ahead in the parliamentary race (31%), followed by the CDR (21%) and by the USD (13%). It also says Iliescu has 36% of popular support, Constantinescu 21%, and Roman 19%. Cronica romana explains the divergence by noting that the CURS poll was financed by the Soros Foundation and the IRSOP poll secretly commissioned by the PDSR. -- Michael Shafir

OPPOSITION PARTIES AGREE ON ANTI-FRAUD PACT.
Several opposition parties are to sign a pact aimed at preventing electoral fraud by the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Romanian TV reported on 23 October. The signatories will be the Democratic Convention of Romania, the Social Democratic Union, the National Liberal Alliance, the Liberal-Ecologist Alliance, the National Centrist Union and the National Party of Car Drivers. Other formations are welcome to join, according to a statement by the pact's initiators. -- Michael Shafir

RUSSIAN TROOP COMMANDER OPPOSES DNIESTER AMMUNITION RECYCLING.
Lt. Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the Russian troops deployed in the breakaway Dniester region, has said the building of an ammunition recycling plant is not economically expedient, Infotag reported on 23 October. Yevnevich proposed instead that the ammunition stock be transferred to Russia and sold to "interested countries." The earnings, he added, should be shared between Moldova, the "Dniester Republic," Russia, and, as a transit country, Ukraine. Meanwhile, Moldovan Premier Andrei Sangheli on 23 October met Dniester leader Igor Smirnov in Tiraspol, BASA-Press reported. The two discussed the possible participation of Dniester residents in the 17 November Moldovan presidential elections, which Tiraspol has so far opposed. -- Zsolt Mato

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS UPDATE.
Novinar, citing three opinion polls, has predicted that the united opposition candidate, Petar Stoyanov, will be Bulgaria's next president. The daily said on 23 October that Stoyanov will win if he runs against the Bulgarian Socialist Party's presidential candidate, Cultural Minister Ivan Marazov, in a second round. The polls predict a turnout of more than 50% in the first round on 27 October. Meanwhile, Trud commented on the performance of the major candidates in the last three debates broadcast on state TV. It argued that the BSP's vice presidential candidate, Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova, was "most adequate" in terms of professionalism, polemics, and politics, while Stoyanov behaved like a "typical lawyer" and Marazov failed to rid himself of his "professorial attitude." Meanwhile, Kontinent reported that former Tsar Simeon II told the Spanish newspaper ABC that if a socialist wins the presidential elections, there could be "negative consequences" for Bulgaria. -- Maria Koinova

ALBANIAN APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS SENTENCES FOR COMMUNIST PARTY FOUNDERS.
An appeals court on 23 October upheld jail sentences of between one and two-and-a-half years for four Albanians who formed a communist party, Reuters reported. The men, aged between 45 and 73, pleaded guilty but appealed the length of the sentences on grounds of old age and alleged irregularities during the investigation that led to their trial.
The parliament outlawed all communist organizations in July 1992 as anti-constitutional. -- Fabian Schmidt




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