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Newsline - October 25, 1996


YELTSIN DENOUNCES INFIGHTING, CALLS FOR COOPERATION.
In his regular radio address on 25 October, President Boris Yeltsin denounced political infighting among his subordinates and called on all parts of the state and society to work together, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin blamed the infighting for holding up the payment of wages and pensions and warned that he would continue firing those responsible. He said that he had taken the first step to promote cooperation by ordering regular meetings between the prime minister, presidential chief of staff, and the speakers from both houses of parliament. He also said he was prepared to work with all elected governors. Yeltsin reminded politicians that Russia had elected him as its leader for the next four years and that it was not time to engage in electoral campaigns. The day before, Yeltsin rejected statements by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed that he was about to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Public TV reported. -- Robert Orttung

KUCHMA AND YELTSIN ANNOUNCE "AGREEMENT" ON BLACK SEA FLEET . . .
Following Yeltsin's 24 October meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma at the Barvikha sanatorium, his spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced that the two leaders had reached agreement "on all questions connected with the problem of the Black Sea Fleet," Russian and Western agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii added that the agreement "resolved" the problem of the status of Sevastopol, where much of the fleet is based. He said Chernomyrdin would travel to Kyiv in mid-November to sign a formal agreement on the fleet, and also declared that Yeltsin's first foreign visit after he recovers from his scheduled heart surgery will be to Kyiv for the signing of the long-delayed bilateral friendship treaty. -- Scott Parrish

. . . BUT DETAILS REMAIN UNCLEAR.
Yeltsin's and Kuchma's dramatic announcement bears many of the hallmarks of previous failed agreements supposedly resolving the fleet problem, which foundered amid disagreements over the terms under which Russia will lease facilities in Sevastopol. Yastrzhembskii told journalists that it was "too early" to disclose the details of the agreement, while Kuchma later admitted that a Russian-Ukrainian working group under the chairmanship of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets would have to hammer out some remaining points before Chernomyrdin came to Kyiv. When later pushed for details, Kuchma was vague, promising only that the "necessary conditions" would be provided, and refusing to specify the length of the lease Ukraine would be willing to grant Russia. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA WARNS UKRAINE ON SEVASTOPOL.
The Duma adopted a resolution by 282-0 calling on the Ukrainian Rada to reverse its "unilateral approach" to the division of the Black Sea Fleet, the status of Sevastopol and the "arbitrary" 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine, Russian agencies reported on 24 October. Citing Soviet-era documents, the resolution repeated claims that Sevastopol remains under Russian jurisdiction. It also proclaimed that Sevastopol "has been, and will be the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet." Ukrainian President Kuchma said the Duma's recent resolutions on the fleet and Sevastopol "alarmed" Kyiv. -- Scott Parrish

DISAGREEMENT OVER RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA.
The deputy prime minister of Chechnya's newly created interim coalition government, Ruslan Khutaev, told the Russian State Duma's Committee on Geopolitics on 24 October that the Chechen leadership insists on the withdrawal from Chechnya of all Russian forces, NTV reported. Under the terms of the June Nazran agreement, two Russian brigades are to be permanently stationed in Chechnya; the Khasavyurt agreement signed in late August by then Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov fails to clarify the troop withdrawal issue. Also on 24 October, a spokesman for the Chechen interim government said that the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for January 1997 will be organized directly by Chechnya's Central Electoral Commission without help from its Russian counterpart, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

RYBKIN, AUSHEV CALL FOR AMNESTY.
Following a lengthy discussion of the situation in the North Caucasus, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Ingushetiyan President Ruslan Aushev called on 24 October for an immediate amnesty for all participants in armed conflicts in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. The two also called for joint measures to preclude attempts by "extremist forces" to sabotage the peace process. -- Liz Fuller

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Nicolae Vacaroiu met with his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin on 24 October to discuss bilateral economic ties and cooperation in the fight against organized crime, ITAR-TASS reported. The two approved an agreement between Gazprom and the Romanian gas company Romgaz, under which Russia will deliver 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Romania and export another 24.8 billion cubic meters to third countries via Romania in 1997. Those numbers will increase to 14 billion cubic meters and 50.7 billion cubic meters by 2010. -- Scott Parrish

RUTSKOI OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH TO YELTSIN.
Aleksandr Rutskoi, who won the gubernatorial election of Kursk Oblast by a landslide on 20 October, said in a TV interview on 24 October that he is willing to find a compromise with Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin, ITAR-TASS reported. The new governor, whose election victory also provided him a seat in the Federation Council, noted that he is going to work without conflict with Russian leaders and said he wants to meet with Yeltsin. On the same day, Yeltsin sent Rutskoi, his long-time foe, a telegram congratulating him on his victory. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

UDMURTIYA LEGISLATURE FIRES ELECTED MAYOR.
Udmurtiya's State Council fired Anatolii Saltykov, the mayor of the republic's capital Izhevsk, who was elected to his office in 1994, Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 October. The move follows the State Council's April decision to eliminate all elective local government posts and subordinate all local leaders directly to the republic's legislature. In April, the legislature abolished the post of mayor and appointed Saltykov as the city's chief administrator. Udmurtiya does not have a presidency. The Russian Constitutional Court is currently examining the validity of the State Council's April decision and Saltykov has been one of its most vocal critics (see OMRI Russian Regional Report, 16 October 1996). State Council Speaker Aleksandr Volkov charged that Saltykov was removed for irregularities in the use of the city's money. In a similar case, a Moscow court ruled that a Yeltsin decree removing Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov was unconstitutional. -- Robert Orttung

FEDOROV BROUGHT BACK TO NATIONAL SPORTS FUND.
Boris Fedorov, former president of the National Sports Fund who was sacked in May, was appointed vice president of the fund for a four-month trial period, Russian media reported on 24 October. By January, Fedorov has promised to locate $100-$120 million that has gone missing from the fund's coffers. Fedorov was nearly assassinated in June and recently filed charges against former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, whom he accused of trying to extort $40 million from him (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7, 10 and 15 October1996). In the personnel reshuffle, former Olympic diving champion Vladimir Vasin was elected president of the sports fund. Citing Vitalii Smirnov, the head of Russia's Olympic Committee, ORT and NTV reported that Korzhakov is being considered to head one of Russia's sports federations. -- Laura Belin

PRESSURE ON JOURNALISTS INCREASING.
Russian regional authorities have increased their pressure on journalists, according to Oleg Panfilov, who monitors media freedom for the Glasnost Defense Foundation. He told OMRI on 24 October that the current regional elections had intensified the struggle for power and increased constraints on the media. However, he said the situation for journalists had improved in Chechnya since a ceasefire agreement was reached there. According to the foundation's latest report on the CIS, two Russian journalists and one Armenian were detained during the month of September; another 12 journalists were beaten up, including five from Russia. Kim Yen Chan, a print journalist from Sakhalin Oblast, was killed in Moscow on 19 September, but Panfilov believes that murder was not related to Chan's journalistic work. Infringements on journalists' rights have increased during the last month in Belarus and Armenia, while remaining rather steady in other CIS countries, Panfilov said. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

COURT REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE RIGHT TO ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE.
A Moscow court sentenced Aleksandr Seregin to two years in jail for draft dodging on 24 October after refusing to recognize his constitutional right to alternative service, Ekspress-Khronika reported. The court, however, suspended the sentence for three years. The judge said that there is currently no law defining how conscientious objectors can use their right to participate in alternative service. Seregin is a member of the Anti-military Radical Association. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski.

ALCOHOL PRIME IN DEATHS.
The director of the Anti-Alcoholism Center in Moscow, Aleksandr Nemtsov, told ITAR-TASS on 25 October that alcohol is the "main culprit" in the decline of male life expectancy from 65 years in 1990 to 57 in 1996. Nemtsov said that 400,000 Russians died in 1994 from over-consumption and drinking adulterated alcohol products. Alcohol abuse is involved in 80% of murders and 50% of suicides and road accidents. -- Peter Rutland

IMF TO DELAY LOAN PAYMENT.
An IMF delegation visiting Moscow this week was unable to report that Russia is in compliance with the terms of the $10.1 billion extended fund facility agreed to in April, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 24 October. The IMF will reconsider release of the $340 million payment in three weeks. The July tranche was similarly delayed. The Russian Central Bank said that the IMF was concerned over alcohol import quotas, foreigners' access to the GKO market, and delays in the introduction of new tax measures. Tax receipts in the first nine months of the year were only 65% of the planned level. Worse still, in September tax revenue was 24% down on August, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. -- Peter Rutland

GOVERNMENT HAS NEW DRAFT BUDGET.
On 24 October the government presented a revised draft of the 1997 budget which was returned by the State Duma on 16 October, Reuters reported. The new draft shaves 800 billion rubles ($150 million) off total spending and revenue -- a change of 0.25% -- but includes a new 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) item to finance cuts in the army. The new draft will be resubmitted to the Duma next week. -- Peter Rutland

TATARSTAN FACES FINANCIAL SQUEEZE.
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev criticized the federal government's efforts to increase tax collection, saying it was like "trying to get more milk from chronically undernourished cows," Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 October. He opposed the plan to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the local truck manufacturer KamAZ, and said the federal budget owes Tatarstan some 300 billion rubles ($60 million). At the same time, under a 1994 agreement between Russia and Tatarstan, the Central Bank has agreed to give the republic a 100 billion ruble, one-month loan to ease its acute financial problems. Tatarstan's wage arrears alone top 1.7 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina



SHEVARDNADZE CALLS ON ABKHAZ POPULATION TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS.
In a statement issued on 24 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called on the population of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia not to participate in the parliamentary elections which its leadership has scheduled for 23 November, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. Georgia's parliament declared the planned elections illegal on 2 October; on 22 October the UN Security Council called for their postponement pending a formal agreement on the status of Abkhazia vis-a-vis the government in Tbilisi that would expedite the repatriation of some 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting in Abkhazia in 1993. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
Defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan has formally filed an appeal with the Armenian Constitutional Court, asking that it annul the 22 September election results, Noyan Tapan reported on 24 October. Manukyan's campaign officials submitted a document of more than 500 pages containing "the evidence of election rigging." According to Armenian laws, the court must issue its verdict within one month of the appeal being lodged. Ashot Manucharyan, another opposition candidate and leader of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, will also appeal to the court on 25 October. Meanwhile, several Armenian political parties, including the pro-government Shamiram party, have called for a boycott of the local elections scheduled for November. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTANI OFFICIAL ON CIS ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.
First Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the custom's union committee Nigmatzhan Isingarin was interviewed in the 24 October edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He said that agreements between CIS states are often ineffective, and bilateral deals more useful. He said that in some respects integration is proceeding slower with CIS members than with other countries. Kazakstan has signed 20 agreements preventing double taxation with non-CIS countries and only one with another CIS country. Agreements on investment protection were signed with 12 foreign countries but not a single CIS country. With regard to VAT, Isingarin noted that Ukraine did not sign the relevant agreement and does not levy VAT on its exports, which complicates trade relations. He argued that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan support the CIS politically, but not economically. -- Bruce Pannier



BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO RULE ON REFERENDUMS.
The Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Valeryi Tsikhinya, told Belapan on 23 October that the court will examine both President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposed constitution and the parliament's. Under the current constitution, amendments may be put to a national referendum but not new constitutions. If the court finds the two drafts are equivalent to new constitutions, then a referendum would be illegal. The same day, Belarusian TV reported Justice Minister Valentin Sukala (a Lukashenka appointee who was also a member of the All Belarusian Congress) as saying it was not within the Constitutional Court's purview to judge whether the draft constitution proposed by the president was actually a new constitution or amendments to the basic law. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S APPOINTEE TAKES OVER PARLIAMENT'S NEWSPAPER.
The conflict over two editors-in-chief of Narodnaya Hazeta--Leanid Yunchyk and Mikhail Shymanski, who were appointed by the parliament and president, respectively--has reached the boiling point, Belarusian Radio reported on 24 October. President Lukashenka has ordered that his decrees on the appointment of Shymanski be implemented, assuring the editorial staff of his support and confidence in their "ability to withstand...all provocations from political bankrupts." The Main Directorate of Sociopolitical Information of the presidential administration has put the blame for the conflict on political forces that are trying to play out a "scandalous farce" around Narodnaya Hazeta. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

CANADA TO OFFER SOME $550 MILLION IN CREDITS TO UKRAINE.
Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy concluded agreements worth almost $550 million with Ukraine, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 25 October. Axworthy was in Kyiv on an official visit with some 40 Canadian businessmen who concluded investment deals amounting to around $425 million. In addition, the Canadian government has agreed to offer $100 million to Ukraine in credits and project grants. -- Ustina Markus

GERMAN NAVAL ASSISTANCE TO ESTONIA.
Nine German minesweepers and a supply ship carrying 20 tons of donated medical supplies arrived in Tallinn on 24 October, ETA reported. Commander Manfred Nielson said Germany will soon give Estonia two used minesweepers with special equipment worth some $26 million and provide training for ten officers and forty seamen. The ships would form the core of the Estonian navy and help clear mines remaining from World War II that are still found in gulfs along Estonia's coast. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA, SOUTH KOREA SIGN INVESTMENT AGREEMENT.
Latvian and South Korean Foreign Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Gong Ro Myung, meeting in Seoul on 23 October, signed an agreement on the protection and promotion of mutual investments, BNS reported. Latvia is hoping to receive South Korean investments in heavy industry, textiles, shipbuilding, forestry, and computer software. The two ministers also discussed increasing bilateral trade, which totaled almost $16 million in 1995. Birkavs and a delegation of businessmen will leave Seoul on 28 October to visit Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENT IN GREAT BRITAIN.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, during his two-day visit to London from 23-24 October, met with British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind to discuss issues such as NATO and EU enlargement as well as technical details related to achieving that foreign-policy goal. In an interview with the Financial Times, Kwasniewski said that for the Polish side it is unacceptable that NATO enlargement should be preceded by the reform of the organization and a special treaty between NATO and Russia. Kwasniewski also met with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister John Major. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH SEJM ON 1997 TAX RATES.
In a surprise vote on the 1997 income tax rates, the Sejm has lowered the 21% rate to 20% and introduced an additional rate of 17% for those in the lowest income bracket, Polish dailies reported on 25 October. Both measures had been proposed by the opposition Labor Union (UP). The Sejm also decided that tax rates will range from 17% to 45%. The government's proposal to lower rates for all taxpayers was rejected. The co-ruling Polish Peasant Party's (PSL) motion to vote on UP's proposal was supported by all parliamentary parties except for the PSL's coalition partner, the Democratic Left Alliance. After the vote, Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said the outcome of the vote is the "result of political game" before the 1997 parliamentary elections. He called it a "shame for the Sejm's majority." -- Beata Pasek

CZECH PREMIER, PRESIDENT DISCUSS CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
Vaclav Klaus and Vaclav Havel met on 24 October to discuss how the Czech-German declaration should be adopted, Czech media reported. Preparations for the declaration, which is intended to promote reconciliation between the two nations, began almost two years ago. The Czech and German governments hope that their parliaments will approve the declaration by December. Some Czech opposition parties, however, have suggested that the parliament be given the right to either change the text of the declaration or pass an accompanying resolution. Both Klaus and Havel categorically reject such an option. Klaus has said any additional resolution would "depreciate the declaration," while Havel argues that "it is absurd that the parliament should adopt a resolution on its resolution." -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAKIA PLANS REFERENDUM ON EU, NATO.
Pavol Kacic, secretary of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), has announced that Slovakia may hold a referendum next year on NATO and EU membership, Slovak media reported on 24 October. The HZDS's junior coalition partners--the Slovak National Party and the Association of Workers--have frequently questioned the need for Western integration. Following numerous signals that Slovakia has fallen from the first tier of candidates for NATO and EU membership, Prime Minister and HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar has recently begun questioning the benefits of joining such organizations. Kacic also denied recent reports in the Russian media that Meciar has a brain tumor and is preparing to undergo surgery in Germany. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT WITHDRAWS PENAL CODE AMENDMENT.
The parliament has withdrawn from its current agenda the controversial amendment on the protection of the republic, Slovak media reported on 24 October. The legislation has drawn strong warnings from the West. But HZDS legal expert Jan Cuper told Reuters that there is no direct relationship between the withdrawal and recent U.S. and EU criticism. The parliament is expected to approve the amendment in a future session after toning down controversial points (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 October 1996). Also on 24 October, the parliament approved the law on parliamentary procedures, which had been vetoed by President Michal Kovac. A provision preventing the president and other constitutional officials from participating in closed parliamentary sessions was dropped. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is waiting for the Slovak government's response to a confidential report criticizing its human rights record, Narodna obroda reported on 25 October. -- Sharon Fisher

UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL.
The supervisory board of the state privatization agency APV on 24 October submitted an investigative report on the Marta Tocsik case (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1994), Hungarian media reported. The board blames a number of top privatization officials for the scandal and questions whether Tocsik, a lawyer who received an 804 million forint ($5.1 million) consulting fee for negotiating with municipalities on the APV's behalf, did any work of substance. It also says that APV officials committed numerous irregularities in swapping shares for land with local governments. The board plans to send the report to the prime minister, the parliamentary constitutional and economic committees, the special investigative commission, and the State Auditing Office. Also on 24 October, the government appointed eight out of eleven new members of the APV board of directors. -- Sharon Fisher and Petronella Gaal

HUNGARIAN POLICE INTERROGATE NEO-NAZI.
Budapest police are interrogating Albert Szabo after establishing that statements made during a 23 October rally could be interpreted as an incitement against a community, Hungarian media reported. Szabo, head of the Hungarian People's Welfare Federation, had called for the resettling of Hungarian Jews to Israel. The presidium of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party on 24 October dissociated itself from Szabo's rally and asked police to keep both him and his associates away from their gathering outside the parliament scheduled for 27 October. -- Sharon Fisher



U.S. ARMS FOR BOSNIAN FEDERATION ARRIVE.
A U.S. arms shipment for the Bosnian Federation army arrived on 24 October in the Croatian port of Ploce, AFP reported. In addition to tanks, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers, the $100 million "Train and Equip" program includes some 45,000 M16 assault rifles and ammunition, and 800 M60 machine-guns, 840 anti-tank weapons. The U.S. aid is aimed at creating a military balance between the Muslim-Croat federation and Bosnian Serbs. Meanwhile, James Pardew, U.S. envoy for military stabilization in the Balkans, told Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic that a last shipment of military supplies will be conditional on the resignation of Hasan Cengic, the Muslim deputy defense minister. Cengic, a Muslim hard-liner, is suspected of blocking the implementation of a defense law calling for a joint command for the Muslim-Croatian forces. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN UPDATE.
Bosnian Serb presidency member Momcilo Krajisnik has told Roberts Owen, international arbitrator for the disputed northern town of Brcko, that a wrong decision on Brcko would be catastrophic for peace, relations between the two entities, and the functioning of joint institutions, AFP reported. In other news, Bosnian Serb assembly speaker Dragan Kalinic said the Muslim and Croatian deputies must swear an oath of allegiance to the Republika Srpska before taking up their duties. Muslim and Croatian deputies, together with Serbian deputies of the opposition coalition Alliance for Peace and Progress, refused to take the oath at the 19 October inauguration of the Bosnian Serb Assembly.
-- Daria Sito Sucic

INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL SAYS MASS GRAVE BODIES ARE FROM VUKOVAR HOSPITAL.
Clint Williamson of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia confirmed on 24 October that bodies found in a mass grave in eastern Croatia were patients from the Vukovar hospital killed by Serbs in 1991, international and local media reported. Some 90 autopsies and 30 tentative identifications have been carried out on the 200 bodies exhumed. Almost all those identified appear on the list of names from the Vukovar hospital, according to Williamson. The Hague-based tribunal has indicted three former Yugoslav army officers for the Vukovar hospital killings. Meanwhile, Manfred Nowak, a member of the UN Human Rights Commission, said on 22 October that some people registered as missing in Croatia are being secretly held in concentration camps in Serbia, Hina reported. Nowak said that documentation on the 1,400 missing persons existed but Belgrade has not submitted it to international organizations. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN PARTY OFFICIAL ON SECRET SERVICE, CRIME FIGHTING.
Radmilo Bogdanovic, a high ranking official of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia, told the daily Dnevni telegraf on 23 October that the government will redouble efforts to fight crime and even abolish the state security service. Bogdanovic added that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will adopt a legislative system ensuring that federal Yugoslavia "will be well rounded as a legal state." But when questioned about the activities of war criminals--in particular the internationally wanted Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan--Bogdanovic replied that he took his hat off to "anyone who helped the Serbian people [in Bosnia and Croatia] and fought as a volunteer." -- Stan Markotich

YUGOSLAV, AUSTRIAN OFFICIALS MEET.
Milan Milutinovic, foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, arrived in Vienna on 23 October for an official visit, the first by a high-ranking Belgrade official since 1991. According to Tanjug, the main purpose of Milutinovic's trip is to help restore bilateral ties and promote the normalization process. Milutinovic told Austria's ORF Television that the Austro-Hungarian empire had adopted "a more balanced approach" than Austria today, adding that "I cannot tell you that as foreign minister but only as a private person." Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel said that Belgrade and Vienna were only a "few days" away from signing a bilateral economic accord, Reuters reported on 24 October. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 25 October reported that Milutinovic will travel to Zagreb next week. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY TO SUE INDEPENDENT PAPER.
Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak has said his ministry will sue the independent weekly Globus over a report that a Bosnian Croat war crimes suspect is living in the hotel in Split owned by the ministry, international agencies reported on 24 October. According to Globus, Gen. Ivica Rajic, who is accused by the Hague-based criminal tribunal of massacring Muslim civilians during the Muslim-Croatian war, is living in the state-owned hotel. Meanwhile, AFP on 24 October quoted a tribunal official as saying that the tribunal has been informed of the alleged presence of Rajic in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MACEDONIA REACHES AGREEMENT WITH LONDON CLUB.
Following four days of negotiations in New York, Macedonia and the London Club of commercial banks have reached agreement on reducing and rescheduling the country's $644 million debt to the club,
Nova Makedonija reported on 25 October. The deal reduces that debt by $364 million and stipulates Macedonia's acceptance of 4.99% of the former Yugoslavia's debt to the club ($280 million) and the rescheduling of payments on that sum over 15 years, with a four-year grace period. Macedonia is the third former Yugoslav republic to reach an agreement with the club. Slovenia accepted 18% of the debt and Croatia 29.5%. -- Michael Wyzan

SLOVENIAN UPDATE.
For two hours on 24 October, most factories in Slovenia shut down as part of a nation-wide general strike action, Reuters reported. According to some estimates, nearly 300,000 workers took part in the action, which is in protest of employers' plans to reduce benefits in 1997. In other news, the European parliament on 24 October approved a partnership accord between Slovenia and the EU--a move "which could pave the way for EU membership," AFP reported. Finally, a poll published recently by the daily Dnevnik shows the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) in the lead ahead of the 10 November elections. A recent telephone survey in Delo, however, suggests that the LDS is trailing in rural constituencies, behind the Slovenian People's Party. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIA, NATO WRAP UP LATEST ROUND OF TALKS.
The third round of "enhanced dialogue" between NATO and Romania came to an end in Brussels on 23 October, Radio Bucharest reported. The talks ended the second phase of evaluating candidates for NATO membership. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is expected to submit a report on the talks with all prospective candidates at a NATO summit meeting in early December, which is to set the agenda for next year's NATO summit on the alliance's enlargement. RFE/RL reported on 24 October that while Romania and Slovakia are still under consideration to be among the "first group" of countries admitted to the alliance, they are unlikely to end up with an invitation to join. Slovenia has a good chance, however, alongside the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. -- Zsolt Mato and Michael Shafir

TWO CANDIDATES IN DNIESTER "PRESIDENTIAL" ELECTIONS.
Only two contenders have registered as candidates in the December "presidential" elections in the breakaway Dniester region, BASA-Press reported on 24 October. They are the current leader of the region, Igor Smirnov, and Vladimir Malakhov, manager of the Tiraspol Mestprombyt Association. The deadline for submitting supporting signatures, as required by the electoral law, was 24 October. -- Michael Shafir

MORE ON BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
A 24 October poll shows the united opposition presidential candidate Petar Stoyanov with an 11% lead over Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) candidate Ivan Marazov, Reuters reported. Bulgarian Business Bloc leader Georges Ganchev, a populist candidate offering an alternative to those disillusioned with both the BSP and the Union of Democratic Forces, is close behind Marazov. Sofia University political analyst Ognian Minchev said Ganchev could become the next president if he is backed by socialist supporters in a second round of voting, RFE/RL reported. Today is the last day of the election campaign. -- Maria Koinova

ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS.
The Central Electoral Commission, announcing on 24 October the official results of the first round of the local elections, has confirmed that the Democratic Party scored an overwhelming victory in 88% of the county halls, Dita Informacion reported on 25 October. The Socialists gained only 10%. Democrats will govern in 37 municipalities and the Socialists in four. The Greek minority Human Rights Party--considered influential in the south of the country--gained less than 3%. According to the commission, run-offs will take place between Democratic and Socialist candidates in 22 municipalities. -- Dukagjin Gorani

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave







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