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Newsline - November 7, 1996


YELTSIN HEALTH UPDATE.
Doctors say President Boris
Yeltsin has already started walking after his 5 November heart surgery, Reuters reported on 7 November. The same day ITAR-TASS, citing the presidential press service, reported that Yeltsin "is active, is able to sit, gets up and walks about the ward, and ate breakfast on his own." Yelsin also met with Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais for 15 minutes. Although Yeltsin wants to be transferred to the main Kremlin hospital where he has been treated in the past, his doctors advised him to stay at least another 24 hours under intensive care in the Moscow Cardiological Center where the operation was performed. According to AFP on 6 November, American cardiologist Michael DeBakey said Yeltsin should recover in six to eight weeks. Meanwhile, Yeltsin issued a decree on 7 November, the anniversary of the October Revolution, changing that holiday's name to the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

REACTION TO CLINTON VICTORY.
Yeltsin congratulated his American counterpart Bill Clinton on his re-election, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. In his message, Yeltsin described "constructive and equal partnership" between the U.S. and Russia as "an indispensable condition for global security." Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov likewise hailed Clinton's victory, terming him a "predictable" negotiating partner. Reuters cited a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying that Yeltsin and Clinton's warm personal ties would bolster bilateral relations. Duma First Deputy Vice Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin (Our Home is Russia), however, said Clinton's re-election would lead American "imperial ambitions" to "reach a new level," and he suggested Washington is deliberately exacerbating Russian-Ukrainian differences in order to use Ukraine as a "buffer zone" between Russia and NATO. -- Scott Parrish

ZYUGANOV DISCUSSES YELTSIN'S HEALTH, CLINTON'S VICTORY . . .
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov wished Yeltsin well but said the president should wait until his recovery is complete before taking back his powers. "He must get well first, and only then try to run the country. It's impossible to run a country from an intensive care unit, from a hospital, especially when the country itself is very seriously ill," Russian TV (RTR) reported Zyuganov as saying on 6 November. Zyuganov has previously called for Yeltsin to step down permanently because of his health problems. On the same day, Zyuganov congratulated Bill Clinton on his election victory, adding, "We respect the traditions and customs of elections for U.S. citizens, but we want America to respect our choice and our traditions, and interfere less in our internal affairs," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

. . . CALLS FOR "GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL INTERESTS."
Addressing more than 2,000 supporters who gathered to commemorate the 1917 revolution, Zyuganov criticized the current authorities and called for organized protests that could lead to the creation of a "government of national interests," Russian media reported on 6 November. Referring to the recent suicide of nuclear physicist Vladimir Nechai (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 October 1996), Zyuganov said, "We have become witnesses of a time when junior researchers, thieves, and drunkards are running the country, and at the same time talented academicians are shooting themselves," ORT reported. Zyuganov noted that his party favors an evolutionary rather than revolutionary path of development. -- Laura Belin

COMMUNISTS COMMEMORATE OCTOBER REVOLUTION.
About 20,000 people marched on 7 November from the Lenin statue on Moscow's Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad to the Karl Marx statue on Teatralnaya Ploshchad to mark the 79th anniversary of the October Revolution, AFP reported. Several radical communist groups, including Anatolii Kryuchkov's Russian Party of Communists, Stanislav Terekhov's Officers' Union, and the Russian Communist Party--Communist Party of the Soviet Union, had sought to march on Red Square. However, the Supreme Court rejected their appeal against the Moscow city government's decision not to allow demonstrations on Red Square, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. -- Laura Belin

KULIKOV SEES MORE CONSPIRACIES.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov defended his record at a press conference on 6 November, rejecting charges that he has become too involved in politics, NTV reported. He said preserving the constitutional order was his "direct responsibility." Commenting on the 3 November killing of U.S. businessman Paul Tatum, Kulikov noted that this occurred on the eve of the U.S. presidential election and Yeltsin's heart surgery, and suggested that it could have been part of a conspiracy to embarrass the police and destabilize the political system. Kulikov said that so far this year there have been 560 murders or attempted murders that appeared to be contract killings. (In Russia, professional assassins typically leave their weapon at the scene.) Only 10% of these had been solved. Overall, the total number of crimes in the first 10 months of the year fell by 4%, although Kulikov said that economic crime continues to rise. -- Peter Rutland

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHNYA.
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 6 November met with his deputies, Boris Berezovskii and Leonid Mayorov, and the newly appointed permanent representative of the Russian federal government in Chechnya, Georgii Kurin, to discuss the Chechen situation in the light of talks held with the Chechen leadership over the past two weeks, Russian media reported. Also on 6 November, a spokesman for the Russian military commandant in Grozny denied charges that Russian troops based at Grozny's Severnii airport had subjected the Argunskii farm to artillery fire during the night of 5-6 November. The spokesman admitted that flares were fired and would investigate the incident further. Interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov convened a meeting of field commanders in Argun on 6 November to discuss financing and discipline within the ranks of the Chechen armed forces, according to Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller

PRIMAKOV AT BARENTS-EUROARCTIC SUMMIT.
The Council of the Barents and Euroarctic Region held its fourth session in Petrozavodsk on 5-6 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov chaired the session, which was attended by foreign ministers and top diplomats from council members Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, plus observers from several other countries. Besides regional environmental and economic cooperation, the session discussed European security, with Primakov reiterating Moscow's opposition to NATO expansion. He argued that the OSCE should anchor a new European security system, and criticized those who view either NATO or a Russian-NATO charter as playing that role. In subsequent comments, Primakov cautioned that despite recent progress in border talks with Estonia, a final agreement would be contingent on the treatment of the Russian minority there, which Russia believes suffers discrimination. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN, INDIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS MEET.
Anatolii Kulikov met with his Indian counterpart Indraijit Gupta in Moscow on 6 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Kulikov described drug trafficking as the main problem that bilateral law-enforcement cooperation should address, attributing it to the "friendly" attitude of Indian authorities toward Russian visitors. He said the two countries would sign an extradition treaty in early 1997. While Kulikov hailed the "unlimited" possibilities of bilateral cooperation in law enforcement, Gupta pointed out that financial problems in both countries had hampered the effective implementation of four previous joint law-enforcement agreements. Gupta also met First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov to discuss economic and military ties. They predicted that Russo-Indian trade would increase this year by 30% over the $1.9 billion level reached in 1995. -- Scott Parrish

KHANTY-MANSI DECIDES TO PARTICIPATE IN TYUMEN ELECTIONS.
The Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug State Duma voted on 6 November to participate in the Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial elections set for 22 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Khanty-Mansi and the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, simultaneously subordinate to Tyumen and one of the 89 members of Russian Federation, control 53% of Russian oil and 90% of natural gas reserves. The legislature of Yamal-Nenets has already decided not to participate in the Tyumen elections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1996). The newly elected legislature of Khanty-Mansi on 27 October, on the other hand, chose to be a part of Tyumen. Khanty-Mansi's decision, however, does not resolve difficulties over the Tyumen gubernatorial elections, in which Yamal also should take part, according to the Russian constitution. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

OFFICIALS TO BE TRIED FOR FABRICATING CASE AGAINST VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR.
The Procurator-General's Office began criminal proceedings against four members of the Primorskii Krai Internal Affairs Department for allegedly fabricating a corruption case against Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov in 1994. A spokesman for the procurators said the charged officials had abused their power by fabricating evidence and inducing false testimony from witnesses, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. The charges against Cherepkov were eventually dropped, and two of those who will face trial were first arrested last year for framing him (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 May and 25 July 1995). Cherepkov has since been reinstated as mayor, but his relations with allies of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko remain strained (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 and 3 October 1996). -- Laura Belin

SMALL VICTORY FOR ENVIRONMENTALISTS.
A local court has fined the Saratov oil company 260 million rubles ($50,000) for damage to three hectares of arable land caused by leaks from an oil well in Bagaevskii one year ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. The suit was brought by the regional nature conservation committee, which is also pursuing a 1.5 billion ruble claim arising from a pipeline leak near Lysye Gory. The same day, Russian customs officials in Smolensk turned back five train cars laden with 150 tons of cyanide waste, Radio Rossii reported. They were headed from Poland for disposal in Krasnoyarsk, but did not have the required documentation. -- Peter Rutland

TAX COLLECTION IN OCTOBER.
Federal tax revenue in October reached 14.6 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion), ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November, citing the State Tax Agency. This is a 52% increase over September, when 9.6 trillion rubles were collected. However, 21% of tax "receipts" (3.1 trillion rubles) were in the form of treasury tax waivers and other surrogates. Non-cash sources accounted for 18% of tax receipts, or 1.7 trillion rubles, in September. Ten of Russia's 89 regions provide 60% of all federal taxes. They are Moscow; Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug; Tatarstan; St. Petersburg; Samara, Moscow, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, and Sverdlovsk Oblasts; and Krasnodar Krai. -- Natalia Gurushina

MARKET REACTION TO YELTSIN'S OPERATION.
International financial markets reacted positively on the news about Yeltsin's successful heart surgery, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. The prices of both Finance Ministry Foreign Currency Bonds and old Soviet commercial debt (Vneshekonombank debt) went up, with the latter surging over the last 48 hours by 6% to 80 cents on the dollar. In Russia, the price of state short-term securities also went up, pushing yields down by as much as 4% (compared to last week's auctions). Yeltsin's successful recovery should also improve the prospects for the forthcoming issue of Russia's eurobonds slated for mid-November. -- Natalia Gurushina



TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA


ARMENIA'S NEW PRIME MINISTER TO CONTINUE ECONOMIC REFORMS.
Armen Sarkisyan said he will continue the economic reforms of his predecessor, Hrant Bagratyan, with a "new impetus" and uphold the country's independence, international media reported on 6 November. According to Sarkisyan, Armenia should enter the 21st century with a competitive and modern economy so that certain unspecified "regional economic and political forces cannot swallow our state." Bagratyan's replacement is seen as an attempt by President Levon Ter-Petrossyan to soothe Armenia's tense internal political situation. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan told RFE/RL on 6 November that he and Foreign Minister Vahan Papazyan are ready to step down. Siradeghyan said he is ready to take over as mayor of Yerevan and suggested that Alexander Arzumanyan, Armenia's permanent representative to the UN, could succeed Papazyan. -- Emil Danielyan

NEW GEORGIAN OPPOSITION COMMITTEE CALLS FOR RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL.
Representatives of 18 Georgian opposition parties have formed a committee to lobby for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, Segodnya reported on 5 November. The committee is an offshoot of the National Liberation Movement of Georgia founded several months ago by 14 political parties not represented in the present parliament (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 August 1996). -- Liz Fuller

LEGITIMACY OF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SPEAKER QUESTIONED.
The Constitutional Court has begun reviewing the selection of Mukar Cholponbayev as speaker of the Kyrgyz parliament, RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Cholponbayev has been in trouble over the transfer of more than three million som ($200,000) from the parliamentary budget to a firm partly owned by his wife. He nonetheless received a vote of confidence from the Legislative Assembly on 24 September. When Cholponbayev was chosen speaker in March 1995, only 29 deputies were present and 17 voted for him. But, the number of deputies in the Legislative Assembly is 35, making 17 votes less than a majority. -- Bruce Pannier

PRINCE CHARLES BEGINS CENTRAL ASIAN TRIP.
The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, arrived in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 6 November, kicking off a six-day tour of four Central Asian states, RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS reported. The first member of the British royal family to visit the region, Charles will travel to Kazakstan on 7 November, to Kyrgyzstan on 9 November, and wind up the trip in Uzbekistan. -- Bruce Pannier



BLACK SEA FLEET TALKS STALL.
Ukrainian National Security Adviser Volodymyr Horbulin said the 6 November talks in Kyiv on the Black Sea Fleet did not go smoothly, ITAR-TASS reported. Horbulin said neither side will make concessions that may harm national interests. He added he was not optimistic about the current round of discussions and did not see any place for compromise. Both the closing session of the talks and the joint dinner were canceled. Horbulin said he doubted the Russian prime minister would visit Kyiv in November. The same day, Reuters reported that Horbulin said Ukraine did not exclude the possibility that it could eventually join NATO. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN CURRENCY SLIPS IN OCTOBER.
The value of Ukraine's new currency, the hryvnya, slipped by 3.5% in trading against the dollar in October, the first such depreciation of a Ukrainian tender in three months, Ukrainian TV reported on 5 November. Experts attributed the decrease--from 1.76 to 1.82 hryvnyas for $1--to a printing of unbacked hryvnyas by the National Bank to pay for energy supplies for the winter because of a huge shortfall in government revenues. National Bank Governor Viktor Yushchenko said he expected the hryvnya would remain within a corridor of 1.82 to 1.87 hryvnyas to $1 by the end of the year. The government revealed its total debt in public sector wages and pensions now amounts to 3 billion hryvnyas ($1.7 billion). -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES REFERENDUM DECREE.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's latest decree was published on 6 November saying, "changes and amendments may be made through a binding national referendum ... questions on changes to the constitution approved in a binding referendum are regarded as legally-binding and do not need to be confirmed," ITAR-TASS reported. The decree was publicized two days after the Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional referendum, scheduled for 24 November, would not be legally binding. Several leading Belarusian legal specialists, including Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukalo, said the court has overstepped its powers by ruling on the referendum. The same day, parliament decided the only two referendum questions that are legally-binding are the question on changing the national holiday, and the question on electing local authorities. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS AMNESTY LAW.
An amnesty law adopted on 5 November will allow for the release of some 10,000 people out of 60,000 currently in prison, Belarusian radio reported on 6 November. Deputy Minister of Interior Uladzislau Kashalenku said that this law, initiated by the president, would be of extreme importance to the state as it would save considerable financial resources--about 101 billion rubels ($6.7 million). Kashalenku said in some cases, people sentenced to two-years for stealing a sack of potatoes worth 250,000 rubels, while some 1,000,000 rubels was spent by the state each year on keeping them in custody. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST CENSORSHIP.
Some 50 journalists from Radio 101.2, which was closed down three months ago, rallied on 5 November in downtown Minsk protesting the government's crackdown on the independent media, Polish Radio 1 reported the same day. Association Deputy Chairman Uladzimir Glod compared the present situation in Belarus to that of the darkest periods of the USSR, when the only source of information was foreign broadcasts. A new threat hangs over Belarus's largest independent newspaper Svaboda, which may soon be shut down at the request of the State Committee on the Press for publishing what in the committee's opinion were untrue articles. During the rally, thousands of Minsk residents signed a petition demanding that Radio 101.2 be allowed back on the air. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RUSSIAN BORDER TREATY.
Andris Skele said on 6 November that Latvia should follow the recent example of Estonia in trying to settle its border with Russia, BNS reported. He suggested that Latvia should also give up its demand that a border agreement with Russia had to note the continued validity of the 1920 peace treaty. In his opinion, the border agreement should only precisely and accurately define the shared border. Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Indulis Berzins backed Skele's position, saying that Latvia was more interested than Russia in concluding a border agreement since better border control could reduce smuggling and illegal refugee migration, thus help obtain visa-free regimes with West European countries. -- Saulius Girnius

CONTROVERSY OVER TAXES CONTINUE IN POLAND.
Tax rates in 1997 remain an unresolved problem in Poland, while the Senate is expected to vote on the tax law. The Polish Sejm approved tax rates of 17%, 20%, 33%, and 45% on 24 October, while the government wanted tax rates of 20%, 31%, and 43%, lowering them from the current 21%, 33%, and 45%. Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, speaking to the Senate commission dealing with tax law, said on 6 November that he will support the government proposal. Kolodko said that if the Sejm proposals are accepted, the government will resign "because it would not be able to take responsibility for measures that are wrong from the economic point of view and irresponsible politically." Kolodko's statement, before the Senate vote on the tax law, is a threat to the government's junior partner, the Polish Peasant Party, supporting the Sejm proposal. -- Jakub Karpinski

KLAUS SETS UP COMMISSION TO FIGHT BUREAUCRACY.
The Czech Prime Minister on 6 November named former Transportation Minister Vladimir Budinsky to head the new Commission for Fighting Bureaucracy, Czech media reported. The commission will deal with citizens' complaints of state bureaucracy excesses in various areas. Klaus told journalists that the commission will not have its own bureaucracy; its only permanent staffer will be a secretary. None of the commission's 30 members will be paid. Klaus's initiative has been criticized by the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), who described it as a "Potemkin village." The CSSD is convinced that establishing an ombudsman would be a better solution. Klaus and his party oppose that idea. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK OPPOSITION DAILY LOSES SLANDER CASE.
A Banska Bystrica district court on 6 November ordered Sme to apologize to all 18 cabinet members for an article published on 14 May and demanded that its publisher pay each minister 400,000-500,000 crowns ($13,000-16,000), Slovak media reported. The article quoted a speech by Sme journalist Peter Toth at ex-policeman Robert Remias's funeral stating that "these are the first victims of a political cold war that the government is waging against Slovak citizens." Remias was the closest friend of a key witness in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, and the secret service was widely suspected of involvement in Remias's death in a car explosion in April. Sme's lawyer said the daily will appeal. Also on 6 November, the parliament refused to allow for the prosecution of Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Ladislav Pittner, who led a commission investigating the Kovac Jr. kidnapping and accused police of committing crimes. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN WELFARE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION CONFIRMED.
Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 6 November confirmed that Gyorgy Szabo has offered his resignation, citing personal reasons, Hungarian media reported. Horn said he was undecided whether to accept the resignation. Szabo has recently been under fire for cuts in services and medical supplies at hospitals and other health care institutions because of austerity measures. Szabo's resignation would be the 10th departure of a minister from Horn's government. Szabo's predecessor, Pal Kovacs, quit in March 1995 after former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros introduced austerity measures. Opposition representatives on 6 November criticized the government's health and social policies, noting that Szabo's fall should be a warning signal for Horn. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL UPDATE.
Marta Tocsik on 6 November refused for the fifth time to appear before the special parliamentary commission investigating the privatization scandal, Hungarian media reported. The commission is reviewing her 804 million forint ($5 million) "success fee" for negotiations between the state privatization company (APV) and municipalities. Noting that criminal proceedings have been launched against her, Tocsik said her answers to the commission could be used against her. Meanwhile, Tamas Toth, head of the APV secretariat responsible for submitting reports to the APV board, told the commission that unusual procedures were used in hiring Tocsik. He said her hiring report was not processed through regular channels nor was it filed in APV archives. -- Sharon Fisher




MUSLIM POLICE TORCH SERB HOMES?
A NATO spokesman said that IFOR personnel in a helicopter saw Muslim police speed away in a car from burning Serbian homes near Kljuc in northwestern Bosnia. The Canadian troops observed that the car returned to a police station in the area, which a Muslim-Croat offensive captured just over a year ago. NATO is investigating, Nasa Borba and the BBC reported on 7 November. In a related incident, the UNHCR said that the Serbs may have mined 96 Muslim homes near Prijedor on the basis of a UNHCR-supplied list of Muslims wanting to return to their homes. And in Mostar, Muslim refugees from Capljina protested the mining of 12 Muslim homes in the Croatian-controlled region to federal President Kresimir Zubak, Dnevni avaz noted. The Dayton agreement guarantees the right of all refugees to go home, but nationalists on all three sides are trying to block them. -- Patrick Moore

MUSLIMS AND CROATS DISCUSS DELEGATION OF FEDERAL POSTS.
The two governing parties in the Bosnian Federation met on 5 November in Sarajevo to discuss the assignment of leading posts in the federal government, Onasa reported. The Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) have to decide on candidates for the post of federal president and vice president, prime minister, parliament speaker and government ministers. The SDA allegedly wants Muslims to hold the post of president and prime minister. But Bosnian Presidency Croat member Kresimir Zubak suggested a principle under which the federal president and prime minister will not be of the same nationality. Zubak said that Muslims were federal prime ministers for two terms, and the post should be now commissioned to a Croat, Onasa reported. Meanwhile, the federal House of Representatives held its inaugural session the next day and adopted a binational flag, coat-of-arms and seal, Oslobodjenje reported on 7 November. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SOLANA WANTS FULL NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA NEXT YEAR.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said on 6 November in Bonn that he hoped all 33 countries taking part in the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia would agree to join a follow-on force after the current mandate expires on 20 December, Reuters reported. Solana said that NATO's obligation in Bosnia is to help cement peace and aid in reconstruction. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said Germany would start to train some 3,000 soldiers for a new Bosnian mission. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said he was confident the U.S. force would be part of a new mission, although Solana did not specifically mention it. NATO is considering plans for a new 20,000-30,000-man multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia once the IFOR mission ends. -- Daria Sito Sucic

FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ELECTION FINALS.
The leftist coalition headed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his wife Mirjana Markovic, and its potential supporters, have failed to win a two-thirds majority in the 138-seat federal parliament. A two-thirds vote there can assure a potential candidate election to the post of federal president, an office Milosevic may seek when his mandate as Serbian president expires in late 1997. Nasa Borba on 7 November reported Milosevic's leftist coalition holds 64 seats, and a likely ally, the Democratic Socialist Party, has 20. It is Montenegro's ruling party. Milosevic's main opposition, the Zajedno or Together coalition, has 22 seats, the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party 16, and the remainder are parceled out among six minor parties and coalitions. Milosevic may curry favor with the minor parties as a way of gaining the support of 91 deputies in a bid for the federal presidency. -- Stan Markotich

HOW MUCH ARE BELGRADE'S ARMS WORTH?
Federal Yugoslavia could earn up to $200 million by selling its surplus arms, Onasa, citing Nedeljni Telegraf, reported on 6 November. According to the terms of the Dayton accord, Belgrade must dispose of the weapons before year's end. The report says federal Yugoslav authorities have gone on record pledging the weapons will be destroyed and that Belgrade has already allocated about $10 million "for dismantling and shredding expenses." Onasa also reported several domestic and international companies, as well as countries in Africa, are interested in making purchases, and have floated "tempting offers." -- Stan Markotich

ILIESCU PLEDGES STABILITY IF RE-ELECTED.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu said on 6 November, that, if reelected in the runoff to the presidential election on 17 November, he would be the "guarantor of [political] stability" in Romania. Iliescu launched thinly-veiled attacks at the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), saying there are "too many ambiguities" in CDR's policies and that "radical groups" had too much influence within that alliance. The CDR won the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, cabinet negotiations between the CDR and the Social Democratic Union (USD) continued, with the USD reportedly insisting on portfolios of foreign affairs, defense, labor, tourism, and telecommunications. Also on 6 November, the Central Electoral Bureau announced that more than two million ballots were declared invalid, which amounts to some 5% of the total number of votes cast. -- Dan Ionescu and Zsolt Mato

BULGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and the Sofia branch leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Nikola Koychev, are the frontrunners to succeed Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Standart reported on 7 November. Koychev, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Economics Commission, said he was ready to take over if necessary, while Pirinski did not comment. Former BSP leader Aleksandar Lilov told Duma that the BSP must reform itself and will disintegrate as a political force if no new government is formed soon. Local party leaders increasingly call for a national conference of party congress. Meanwhile, President-elect Petar Stoyanov on 6 November resigned as deputy chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), as deputy chair of the SDS parliamentary faction, and as parliamentary deputy. The Central Electoral Commission confirmed that he won the presidential elections with 59.73% against 40.27% for Culture Minister Ivan Marazov of the BSP. -- Stefan Krause

GAZPROM TO AVOID BULGARIA IN ROUTING GAS PIPELINE.
Russia's Gazprom decided on 5 November to route a new pipeline under the Black Sea via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and beyond, avoiding Bulgaria, which will now miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fees, Standart reported on 6 November, citing ITAR-TASS. The paper reports that a former Russian diplomat in Bulgaria said the Bulgarian "government finally has to understand that it cannot fool around with Russia." Experts believe Bulgaria's failure to approve by 15 October a proposed arrangement for a routing through Bulgaria contributed to Gazprom's decision. Gazprom also views Turkey as a more financially solvent partner. The news is a blow to Premier Zhan Videnov, whose Bulgarian Socialist Party rival, Andrey Lukanov--who was assassinated on 2 October--had close connections with Gazprom. -- Michael Wyzan

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES COMMUNIST-ERA SECRET SERVICE WITH BOMB BLAST.
Albanian President Sali Berisha blamed former Sigurimi agents for the bomb attack that destroyed appeals court chief judge Prel Martini's house on 6 November, injuring five people. Berisha said: "I guarantee the ... determination of the Albanian state to face crime forcefully and give terrorists what they deserve," reported Reuters. Prime Minister Alexander Meksi linked the bombing to a trial on 5 November in which Martini upheld long prison sentences of nine senior communist-era officials. Police said they did not know what kind of device caused the explosion. A special group has been set up to investigate. Interior Minister Halil Shamata said that police evidence pointed to a link between the attack and an alleged terrorist group called Revenge of Justice. -- Fabian Schmidt

MYSTERY SURROUNDS INVESTIGATIONS INTO ALBANIAN TERRORIST GROUP.
The Albanian daily Koha Jone on 6 November raised serious doubts about allegations by Interior Minister Halit Shamata that Klement Kolaneci, son-in-law of late communist dictator Enver Hoxha, was in possession of about $1 million that was allegedly stolen by the mysterious Revenge of Justice group. According to a protocol, signed by Kolaneci and two policemen, a safe found in Kolaneci's office contained only about 1040 lek ($10), 16,000 Greek drachmas ($67) and several documents. Kolaneci was only interrogated once, but not about any of the charges against him. He also has been denied free access to his lawyers and only met them twice briefly. Meanwhile, Kolaneci should have been released, since no court hearing concerning the legitimacy of his pre-trial detention took place within ten days, but he still remains in detention. -- Fabian Schmidt






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