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Newsline - November 19, 1996


RUSSIA, CHINA HAIL "BREAKTHROUGH" IN BORDER TALKS.
Speaking at a Beijing press conference with his visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen announced a "breakthrough" in talks on reducing troop levels along the 4,300 km Russian-Chinese border, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 November. Primakov said the troop reduction agreement, which would complement a frontier confidence-building agreement signed this past April, could be finished as early as next April, when Chinese President Jiang Zemin is scheduled to visit Moscow. Primakov hailed the development of a "strategic partnership" with China but denied that Russian-Chinese ties were directed at any third country. Qian said China is very satisfied with the development of bilateral ties but hopes to further boost bilateral trade, which totalled $5.4 billion in 1995, and is expected to exceed $6 billion this year. -- Scott Parrish

. . . BUT OTHER BILATERAL PROBLEMS PERSIST.
Meanwhile, an official from the Russian Border Service complained to ITAR-TASS about what he termed the "silent expansion" of illegal Chinese immigration into the Russian Far East. He said that during 1996, some 9,500 Chinese had been deported from Primorskii Krai for overstaying their visas. Although joint border control measures had helped somewhat reduce the flow of illegal migrants, he argued that lax visa regulations for Chinese tourists continued to make illegal immigration too easy. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that complaints of unfair competition from local traders in Birobidzhan had led the local authorities to establish a separate market for Chinese traders. -- Scott Parrish

ACCUSED RUSSIAN SPY ARRESTED.
Harold Nicholson, a former CIA station chief in Romania currently serving in the agency's counter-terrorism center, has been arrested on charges of spying for Russia, Western agencies reported on 18 November. CIA Director John Deutch and FBI Director Louis Freeh told a joint press conference that Nicholson had been delivering classified data to Moscow since June 1994, in exchange for more than $120,000. Freeh and Deutch said Nicholson, 46, had not done as much damage as the notorious Russian mole Aldrich Ames but had told Moscow the identities of agents he taught during a 1995-1996 stint as a CIA training instructor. Possibly reflecting official unease in Moscow, only NTV covered the story, while ORT and Russian TV (RTR) ignored it. After pulling one report, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis as refusing comment on the arrest. -- Scott Parrish

DAGESTAN EXPLOSION DEATH TOLL RISES TO 64.
The death toll from the 16 November explosion at the military apartment block in the city of Kaspiisk has risen to 64, including 20 children, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. So far, 39 people have been rescued from the rumble. President Boris Yeltsin has declared 19 November a day of national mourning. ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November that Federal Security Service head Nikolai Kovalev informed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that investigators had detained one suspect, but that information was later denied. Officials investigating the case rule out the possibility of an accidental gas explosion, since the house was not hooked up to gas supplies. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEITHER SIDE SHOWS UP FOR KORZHAKOV LAWSUIT.
Neither side turned up for a court hearing in former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov's lawsuit against President Boris Yeltsin and the presidential administration, NTV and Reuters reported on 18 November. Korzhakov is demanding a public apology for a presidential decree that accused him of slandering the president and divulging secret information (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 November and 29 October 1996). He is not seeking financial compensation or reinstatement in his former job. It was the second time the case was postponed because neither side showed up, and Judge Lidiya Sorokina said she would subpoena both sides for the next court hearing. NTV reported that Korzhakov is in the hospital but did not say for how long. He was taken to hospital on 8 November for treatment of a sports-related knee injury. -- Laura Belin

SEPARATISM THREATENS KABARDINO-BALKARIYA.
A congress of Balkar people voted on 17 November to establish the sovereign Republic of Balkariya, separate from the current North Caucasian Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya, Russian media reported the next day. The congress appealed to President Yeltsin to introduce direct presidential rule in Balkariya until an independent State Council and law enforcement authorities are formed. It also elected Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Sufeyan Beppaev, a former high-ranking Soviet officer in the Transcaucasus military district, to chair the new Balkariyan State Council. Kabardino-Balkariya's president, Valerii Kokov, an ethnic Kabardiyan, on 18 November accused the congress of "nationalist extremism" and pledged to take all legal means against "acts aimed at destabilizing peace and accord" in the republic. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that in 1995 Kokov cut off calls for separatism among Kabardiyans. The 1989 census estimated the number of Balkars at 71,000, making up about 9% of the population of Kabardino-Balkariya. -- Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA.
Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 18 November announced that the interim draft agreement on relations between Russia and Chechnya is "practically ready" for signing by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, Radio Rossii reported. His comments came after a meeting with Chernomyrdin and Chechen national security adviser Akhmed Zakaev. Also on 18 November, Chechen parliament chairman Akhyad Idigov argued that the two Russian brigades still stationed in Chechnya constitute "a destabilizing factor" and should be withdrawn before the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January 1997, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Kutaev similarly told RTR that all Russian troops must be withdrawn from Chechnya prior to the elections. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov argued that Russia should keep up to 5,000 troops in Chechnya permanently. -- Liz Fuller

VOLGOGRAD MAYOR SUES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
Volgograd Mayor Yurii Chekhov has asked the Procurator General's Office to open a lawsuit against the federal government in Russia's Supreme Arbitration Court, RTR reported on 18 November. Chekhov is seeking approximately 200 billion rubles ($37 million) that he says federal authorities owe his city; the funds are needed to pay wages, pensions, and social programs. Chekhov is contesting the 22 December gubernatorial election in Volgograd Oblast, and like many candidates for regional office, he is seeking to build a reputation as a defender of local interests against Moscow. Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, who is seeking re-election in December, recently threatened tough measures to force the federal government to meet its financial obligations to his region (see the Russian Regional Report, 13 November 1996). -- Laura Belin

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEN APPEAL TO YELTSIN.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and several other Republican members of Congress have sent a letter to President Yeltsin asking him to do "everything in his power" to solve the Moscow murder of U.S. entrepreneur Paul Tatum, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. The letter said that U.S. assistance programs for Russia will be influenced by the success of Russian authorities in combating crime and corruption, and warned that the current atmosphere of unrestrained crime undermines the willingness of U.S. businesses to operate in Russia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA ACCUSED OF VIOLATING OF CHILDRENS' RIGHTS.
The International Commitee for the Dignity of the Child, a human rights organization based in Switzerland, has accused Russia of violating international conventions on the rights of the child which it signed upon joining the Council of Europe earlier this year, AFP reported on 18 November. After a survey of four St. Petersburg prisons, the commitee pointed out that imprisoned adolescents are often held in very poor conditions and suffer from various abuses meted by the prison administration, including rape and other violence. The commitee said adolescents are subjected to the same penal code as adults from the age of 14 and undergo severe punishment ranging from a few months for a simple theft to seven years for burglary. In some cases, youths who were incarcerated for petty crimes suffer from tuberculosis. There are some 80 youth prisons in the CIS. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

MARTIAN PROBE FOLLOW-UP.
Russia's financial losses from the unsuccessful launch of the Martian probe, Mars-96, may top $122 million, since neither the booster nor the probe were insured, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. Although the failure dealt a serious blow to the Russian space program, foreign space experts say that occasional disasters like this are inevitable. Environmentalists are concerned over the presence of some 200 grams of plutonium in four of the probe's batteries, which they say may cause radioactive contamination. Russian officials, however, said the plutonium presents no danger as it is stored securely and sealed in a double casing, AFP reported on 18 November. -- Natalia Gurushina

GAZPROM CONTEMPLATES RESTRUCTURING AND CUTTING GAS TRANSIT THROUGH UKRAINE.
Speaking at a conference in London, the head of Russia's gas giant Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev, said that the company will restructure its operations in the near future, AFP reported on 19 November. Gazprom's management will impose stricter market discipline and discontinue certain activities that are not directly connected with its gas operations. Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov rejected rumors that the company will be split into several smaller units. Gazprom's new strategy may involve cutting the volume of gas moved through Ukraine, since, according to Vyakhirev, a substantial part of it is stolen en route. Gazprom is now working on an insurance deal that would require the Ukrainian side to pay compensation for stolen gas, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. -- Natalia Gurushina



SECRET GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met on 14 November in Tbilisi with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan to discuss "the full range of questions regarding the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict" including a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Reuters reported on 18 November, quoting Georgian presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze. Also on 18 November, Shevardnadze again condemned the Abkhaz parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November as "illegal" and "a masquerade." -- Liz Fuller

UZBEKISTAN, KAZAKSTAN SIGN GAS DEAL.
An agreement signed in Tashkent on 18 November will open the way for Uzbekistan to ship $150 million worth of gas to southern Kazakstan, the BBC reported on 19 November. The agreement resulted from a one-day meeting that focused attention on the fact that Kazakstan currently owes its southern neighbor $26 million for 1995 gas shipments. Kazakstan had no alternative but to sign the agreement after it failed to take advantage of its own untapped resources and finalize gas shipment arrangements with Turkmenistan. The deal is seen as a major step for Uzbekistan, which hopes to capitalize on its growing capacity to export raw materials and energy resources and, in the process, settle its own economic problems. -- Roger Kangas

CLINTON PRAISES AZERBAIJAN'S STANCE ON CFE.
U.S. President Bill Clinton on 18 November dispatched a message to his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev emphasizing the importance of reaching a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a basis for stability and prosperity in the Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported. Clinton also praised Azerbaijan's "firm stand" on compliance with the CFE (in contrast, Georgia has ceded to Russia part of its CFE allowance). Clinton further affirmed the U.S.'s intention to broaden its dialogue with Azerbaijan on issues of regional stability. -- Liz Fuller

OPPOSITION RALLY IN YEREVAN.
Speaking at their traditional weekly rally on 15 November, Armenian opposition leaders said they do not trust the Constitutional Court because it is "not independent," Noyan Tapan reported on 18 November. The Constitutional Court is to rule on the opposition's appeal of the recent presidential election results. Representatives of student organizations at the rally demanded the release of Mikael Surenyants and Vahe Varsamyan, two activists arrested during the violent 25 September protests against the election results. Meanwhile, some 300 protesters gathered in front of the Constitutional Court building in Yerevan on 18 November to demand a live TV broadcast of the court's hearings on the appeal. -- Emil Danielyan

FOUR RADIO STATIONS SUSPENDED IN ALMATY.
The Almaty-based independent radio stations Totem, RIK, NS, and Radio M have not been able to broadcast for the past several days, Kazakstani TV reported on 18 November, citing the radios' presidents. The stations were shut down because their frequencies allegedly interfere with the local airport's communications system, an official explanation dismissed by all four stations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 November 1996) Sergei Duvanov, director of Radio M, said the stations were shut down for "political reasons." Aidar Zhumabayev, president of the International Center of Journalism Akbar, said there are also possible commercial reasons for shutting down the stations, referring to an upcoming tender for frequencies to be held in 1997. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

TURKMENISTAN, TURKEY SIGN AGREEMENTS.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, on 18 November in Ankara and the two signed agreements covering environmental, educational, and economic cooperation, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Demirel said the two countries enjoy "perfect relations" and Niyazov mentioned that Turkish investors had already sunk $1.5 billion into Turkmen projects. Niyazov arrived in Turkey on 14 November for medical check-ups, but none of the reports carried any detailed information on the results. TRT TV in Ankara, monitored by the BBC, reported that Niyazov's examination had a "cardiac emphasis." Niyazov suffers from respiratory problems and had an operation on his leg to remove a blood clot in 1994. -- Bruce Pannier



BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 November accepted the resignation of Mikhail Chyhir and appointed his deputy, Syarhei Linh, as acting premier, Reuters reported. Chyhir's resignation was in protest over Lukashenka's proposed referendum aimed at increasing the powers of the president. Labor Minister Alyaksandr Sasnou also resigned the same day, while the parliament collected 75 signatures--five more than necessary--to start impeachment procedures against the president. In order to oust Lukashenka, the Constitutional Court will have to approve his impeachment and 132 deputies will have to vote in favor of his dismissal. Meanwhile, Lukashenka's top aide, Uladzimir Zametalin, has said the president could prevent his impeachment even if the Constitutional Court approved it. He did not rule out the possibility of dissolving the parliament and the Constitutional Court. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO BELARUSIAN POLITICAL CRISIS.
While the Russian government has not taken a firm position on the crisis, Minister for CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev, the only opposition cabinet member, insinuated that Western opposition to Lukashenka's staunch support for integration with Russia has triggered the crisis, Russian media reported. Georgii Tikhonov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, charged that the crisis "is being staged from abroad." Kommersant-Daily adopted a more moderate stance, urging the Russian government to use its influence to force a negotiated settlement. U.S. State Department spokesperson Glyn Davies said Lukanshenka's illegal firing of the Central Electoral Commission chairman had caused the crisis. Members of the North Atlantic Assembly came out in support of the Belarusian parliament, with assembly President Karsten Voigt calling Lukashenka's behavior "illegal, non-democratic, and sometimes even crazy." -- Scott Parrish and Sergei Solodovnikov

CLASH BETWEEN BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES, RUSSIAN MEDIA.
A statement issued by the Belarusian Security Council has accused Russian journalists, in particular correspondents for the network NTV, of "disinformation" in their coverage of the unsanctioned 17 November demonstration in Minsk (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 November 1996), NTV reported on 18 November. The network countered by re-broadcasting footage of the demonstration, and a reporter charged that Belarusian officials loyal to Lukashenka were themselves perpetrating disinformation by denying anyone was wounded in the street clashes. On 14 November, Lukashenka had accused some Russian journalists of carrying out an "information war" against his government. He also threatened to deport correspondents from NTV and state-controlled Russian Public TV from Belarus. -- Laura Belin

MOONLIGHTING LAWMAKERS STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY SEATS.
A Kyiv city court has ruled that 38 deputies who still hold posts in the government cannot retain their parliamentary seats, Ukrainian TV reported on 17 November. Parliamentary Speaker Oleksander Moroz had asked the court to make a ruling after the deputies--including Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko and Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteyko--refused to choose between serving in the legislature or keeping their government offices. It said that they were violating the new constitution. The deputies, meanwhile, have asked the prosecutor-general to punish Moroz for abusing his authority, claiming that he alone does not possess the authority to appeal directly to any court on such matters. They also claim that his action was politically-motivated and that he is turning a blind eye to leftist lawmakers who still hold top posts in the private sector. Moroz says the dispute should be handled by the new Constitutional Court. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

REMAINS OF MISSING UKRAINIAN MIG-29 FOUND.
A search team has found fragments of the MiG-29 that disappeared from radar on 31 October after taking off from Kirovsk airfield in east-central Crimea, international agencies reported on 18 November. Some parts of the fighter jet were found on the coast near Yevpatoria. According to the investigation commission, the plane is on the bottom of the sea. The cause of the crash--the third this year in Ukraine involving a Soviet-made MiG-29--is still unknown. Military officials say the pilot was a top-class professional. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

ESTONIAN REFORM PARTY GIVES ULTIMATUM TO COALITION PARTY.
The Reform Party on 17 November issued an ultimatum to the Coalition Party to revoke its cooperation agreement with the Center Party by 2 p.m. local time on 20 November, BNS reported. It added that if the Coalition party fails to do so, it will propose quitting the ruling coalition. Coalition Party Chairman Tiit Vahi responded by saying his party will not give up its agreement with the Center Party. But he expressed the hope that the Reform Party will remain in the government since its ministers' work is not yet over. Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar described the ultimatum as "posturing," adding that he does not believe the Reform Party will actually quit the government. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT, PARTY LEADERS CONFER ABOUT NEW GOVERNMENT.
Algirdas Brazauskas on 18 November met with the leaders of the five leading political parties to discuss the formation of a new government, Radio Lithuania reported. The current parliament meets for the last time today, while the newly elected one will convene on 25 November. Brazauskas rejected the proposal by Conservative leader Vytautas Landsbergis that the nominee for prime minister be announced at the new parliament's first session. Landsbergis complained that the current government had made insufficient preparations for the winter and was provoking Gazprom to reduce or cut off gas supplies by failing to pay long overdue debts. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH OFFICIAL TO CLAMP DOWN ON SECT.
The governor of Lublin province has set up a team of experts to ensure that members of the Niebo (Heaven) sect abide by the law, Polish media reported on 19 November. A spokesman said that sect members do not send their children to schools, refuse to perform military service, and have only recently begun using identification documents. The sect has been based near Lublin since the mid 1970s. For the last six years, it has been under strict leadership. In another development, the Gdansk University rector has canceled a series of cultural programs planned jointly by the Academic Cultural Center and an association with links to the Unification Church, established by Sun Myung Moon of South Korea. The Church was registered in Poland in 1990. -- Beata Pasek

SLOVAK TV LOSES CASE AGAINST PRESIDENT'S SON.
A Bratislava court on 18 November ordered Slovak TV to apologize and pay 250,000 crowns ($8,000) to Michal Kovac Jr. and his business partner Martin Syc-Mily for broadcasting false information late last year, Praca reported. STV had aired two interviews with Peter Krylov--who has been serving a jail sentence in Munich since 1993 in connection with a $2.3 million fraud surrounding the Slovak firm Technopol--in which Krylov accused Kovac Jr. and Syc-Mily of involvement in the affair. Three weeks ago, the state-run TV station lost a similar case against another of Kovac Jr.'s business partners, Marian Kocner. Also on 18 November, the pro-government Slovenska Republika lost a two-year-old case against Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky over a letter published by the daily, Pravda reported. Meanwhile, Ivo Nittmann, who was recently appointed chief editor of Narodna obroda, told Sme that he handed in his resignation on 18 November. -- Sharon Fisher

RICHEST MAN IN SLOVAKIA FEARS "PHYSICAL LIQUIDATION."
Jozef Majsky, president of the firm Sipox Holding and reportedly the richest man in Slovakia, told Radio Twist on 18 November that he has information about plans for his "physical liquidation," TASR reported. Majsky said he knows about those plans from two sources--one official, the other unofficial. He added that the reasons for killing him could not be linked to his business affairs, noting that it is more likely he is being targeted because he is "politically suspicious." A former supporter of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, Majsky is now allied with the opposition. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARIAN PREMIER REJECTS PROPOSAL TO STEP UP CONSULTATION WITH COALITION PARTY . . .
Gyula Horn on 18 November rejected a proposal by the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) that he consult with the junior coalition party before making major political decisions, Nepszabadsag reported. Horn described the proposal as an attempt to curtail his powers. The SZDSZ had suggested that both the Socialists and the Free Democrats make proposals in personnel issues and consult with each other before publicizing any important government-related decision. On several occasions, the SZDSZ has complained that Horn is not adhering to the spirit of the 1994 coalition pact. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

. . . AND REFUTES CLAIMS THAT CABINET RESHUFFLE IS IMMINENT.
Horn also denied media reports that he was planning a cabinet reshuffle early next year. Magyar Hirlap quotes him as saying that his only concern is the resignation earlier this month of Welfare Minister Gyorgy Szabo. Magda Kovacs Kosa, executive vice president of the Socialist party, denied that a "conspiracy" to bring about personnel changes is afoot. Senior party officials, meeting informally last week, had concluded that there was a need for a cabinet reshuffle. Among them were parliamentary Speaker Zoltan Gal, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy, and former trade union head Sandor Nagy. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




ROW OVER PLAVSIC MEETING WITH MLADIC BACKERS.
Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 18 November met with a general staff delegation for the first time since she cashiered the officers' former commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic. She was joined by Mladic's successor, Gen. Pero Colic, AFP reported. The group consisted of Gens. Manojlo Milovanovic, Zdravko Tolimir, Zivomir Ninkovic, Momir Talic, and Novica Simic. Plavsic had named Talic to command Banja Luka's First Corps and Simic to head the Third Corps in Brcko, but the other three men are Mladic loyalists. Her office later announced that the outcome of the meeting was that Mladic would go, but on 19 November his staff issued an angry denial saying all that was agreed on was that Plavsic would meet with Mladic on 20 November. -- Patrick Moore

NATO AGREES TO SET UP SUCCESSOR TO IFOR.
NATO ambassadors on 18 November voted to set up a Stabilization Force (SFOR) to replace IFOR when its mandate runs out on 20 December, the BBC reported. SFOR will have 31,000 members, which is just under half of what IFOR had at its peak. The ambassadors called for detailed contingency planning to provide for the new force, but they were unable to agree on the length of its mandate. The question of a clear and robust mandate is the key issue. The next step in establishing SFOR lies with the UN Security Council. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Bosnian Defense Minister Vladimir Soljic, an ethnic Croat, resigned as part of an apparent face-saving maneuver to enable his Muslim deputy, Hasan Cengic, also to leave office, Oslobodjenje reported on 19 November. The U.S. insists that Cengic, who has close Iranian links, leave before Washington resumes its military aid program. -- Patrick Moore

SECRECY SURROUNDS TUDJMAN ILLNESS.
The Croatian authorities have aroused deep suspicions among the public as to how ill President Franjo Tudjman is by ignoring or playing down news of his hospitalization in Washington. Officials on 16 November blocked the publication of the weekly Nacional because the latest issue was devoted to Tudjman's health, Novi List reported on 18 November. The government also refused to provide any information to another independent weekly, Globus, when it sought to cover the story. The authorities first tried to deny that Tudjman was ill and then sought to depict his problems as routine (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 November 1996). State-run dailies suggest today that Tudjman has already resumed work and are giving prominent coverage to the story of the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar. Opposition parties and independent media charged the state-controlled media and the authorities with behaving like their communist predecessors, Reuters noted. -- Patrick Moore

OPPOSITION VICTORIES IN FEDERAL YUGOSLAV LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Opposition parties have claimed victory in the local elections in Serbia's 12 largest cities, Nasa Borba reported on 19 November. Voters went to the polls on 17 November in a run-off ballot. Opposition parties won convincingly in Belgrade as well as in industrial centers such as Nis, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Cacak, and Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina. Preliminary results show the opposition winning some 70 out of 110 seats in Belgrade. Ivica Dacic, speaking on behalf of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, said the leftist coalition dominated by the SPS won 134 of the 174 municipalities in Serbia, but Reuters added that "none of the big towns were on his list." -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRO'S NEW LEGISLATURE CONVENES.
At its first session since the 3 November elections, the Montenegrin parliament re-elected Svetozar Marovic, a member of the ruling Democratic Socialist Party, as parliamentary speaker, AFP reported. The governing party has an absolute majority of 45 of the 71 seats in the legislature. -- Stan Markotich

KOSOVO'S PRIME MINISTER IN EXILE CRITICIZES PRESIDENT.
In an interview published in Koha on 6 November, shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi sharply criticized President Ibrahim Rugova. He said Rugova's office could function only as long as the Serbian authorities tolerated it. Bukoshi claimed that the president was sidelining the shadow-state government, noting that Rugova had not consulted the shadow-state education minister during negotiations over an education agreement with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. -- Fabian Schmidt

MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS UPDATE.
Preliminary results of the 17 November local elections indicate that the ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) remains the strongest party, despite a strong showing by the opposition, Nova Makedonija and Western agencies reported. Of the municipal council seats allocated so far, the SDSM has 503, the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO--DPMNE) 339, the Socialist Party (the SDSM's coalition partner) 147, the Democratic Party 104, the Liberal Party 102, the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) 92, and the Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians (PPDSH) 80. Of the 40 mayoralties decided in the first round, the SDSM won 13, the coalition of VMRO--DPMNE, the Democrats, and the Movement for All-Macedonian Action--Conservative Party 11, the PPD 9, the Socialists 4, and the PPDSH 1. Run-off elections for unfilled seats will take place on 1 December. -- Stefan Krause

WHO WILL BE ROMANIA'S NEW PRIME MINISTER?
Romanian media report that the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (PNT-CD) will decide today who will be Romania's new premier. The main candidates are Mayor of Bucharest Victor Ciorbea and Senators Radu Vasile and Ulm Spineanu, both of whom were elected to Romania's upper house on the PNT-CD ticket earlier this month. Meanwhile, the opinion poll institute IRSOP says that only about half of those who backed Petre Roman in the first round of the 17 November presidential elections followed his advice to vote for Emil Constantinescu in the second round. Supporters of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, however, appear to have rallied behind Constantinescu, while 3% of the Party of Social Democracy of Romania's backers also voted for him. Final results of the 17 November ballot are due today. -- Michael Shafir

FINAL RESULTS OF FIRST ROUND OF MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
According to the Central Electoral Commission on 18 November, incumbent President Mircea Snegur won 38.71% in the first round of the presidential elections the previous day. He was followed by parliamentary Chairman Petru Lucinshci with 27.69%, Chairman of the Communists' Party Vladimir Voronin (10.26%), Premier Andrei Sangheli (9.5%), and Valeriu Matei, leader of the pro-Western Party of Democratic Forces (8.88%). Four other candidates received between 0.43% and 2.13% of the vote. Snegur and Lucinschi will now take part in a run-off, scheduled for 1 December. -- Zsolt Mato

BULGARIAN POLITICIANS DISCUSS CURRENCY BOARD.
Outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev on 18 November met representatives of all caucuses to discuss the possible introduction of a currency board, Duma reported. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) representatives took part in the discussion, despite an earlier statement by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov saying they would not. Stefan Savov, joint leader of the People's Union, said his party would support a BSP draft law under certain circumstances that would "more or less amount to the resignation of this government." He added that the current opposition will take over only after early parliamentary elections. Ahmed Dogan, chairman of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, supported this position. Union of Democratic Forces politicians said they are still consulting with foreign experts and have not yet made a final decision on their stance. -- Stefan Krause

RUN ON BULGARIAN STATE SAVINGS BANK.
Bulgarians on 18 November formed long lines outside the State Savings Bank (DSK) offices throughout the country, national media reported. Fearing hyperinflation and the unforeseen consequences of the possible introduction of the currency board, people withdrew their savings to convert them into hard currency. DSK Director Bistra Dimitrova told the parliament that the bank's reserves are sufficient to meet its obligations only until next March. The DSK had retained until recently its reputation as trustworthy. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov told Pari that the lack of confidence in the DSK was "unfounded." -- Maria Koinova



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