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Newsline - November 21, 1996


YELTSIN MAKES FIRST POST-OPERATION TV APPEARANCE.
In his first television appearance since his 5 November heart operation, President Boris Yeltsin said he is "in a fighting mood" but did not comment on any specific political matters, Russian and Western media reported on 20 November. Yeltsin was shown walking near the Kremlin Central Hospital with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. While admitting he is not "completely and firmly back on my feet," he said he no longer suffers from heart pain. He is expected to be moved to the Barvikha sanitarium soon for further recuperation before returning to the Kremlin. In an interview published in Izvestiya on 21 November, Naina Yeltsin said the president's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, does not interfere in personnel matters or prepare presidential decrees but often helps Yeltsin by not deceiving him and telling him "what others will not." -- Laura Belin

BEREZOVSKII NOT AN ISRAELI CITIZEN.
Israel's ambassador to Russia, Aliza Shenhar, announced on 20 November that Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii is not an Israeli citizen, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. Berezovskii has admitted that he sought Israeli citizenship in late 1993, but he said he asked Israeli authorities to cancel his citizenship after being appointed to the Security Council in October. Some commentators had argued that it was inappropriate for a person with dual citizenship to hold high government office, and Izvestiya questioned Berezovskii's truthfulness about the matter (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 and 15 November 1996). -- Laura Belin

AGRARIANS CHANGE STANCE ON LAND SALES.
Leaders of the Agrarian Party of Russia (APR) have agreed to change their stance toward the buying and selling of farmland, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. APR Chairman Mikhail Lapshin said his party would not oppose "restricted" sales or what he called a "civilized land market." The shift could pave the way toward passage of a land code. A presidential decree in March allowed sale of farmland with some restrictions, but the APR and its left-wing allies in the State Duma strongly opposed the measure. The Duma passed a draft land code in May banning all sales of arable land but was unable to override the Federation Council's veto on the code (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 May, 27 June and 15 July 1996). -- Laura Belin

DEFENSE COUNCIL INCREASES MILITARY BUDGET.
The Defense Council decided at its 20 November meeting to increase the 1997 state defense order by 6 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion), with 1.6 trillion rubles allocated to clothing and food, and 4.4 trillion rubles for weapons and equipment, Russian and Western agencies reported. That would increase defense expenditures in the 1997 draft budget from 102 trillion rubles ($20.4 billion) to 108 trillion rubles. The Duma has postponed until 4 December consideration of the draft 1997 budget approved by the joint government-parliament conciliation commission. -- Scott Parrish

POLICE KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA.
Two Russian Interior Ministry OMON soldiers were kidnapped near Grozny by gunmen on 20 November while on joint patrol with two Chechen fighters, Russian media reported. NTV reported that the officers were being held hostage by a Chechen field commander in exchange for the release of three of his men who were arrested earlier this month and are now being held in a Stavropol prison. A Chechen representative of the joint Russian-Chechen command of Grozny later negotiated the officers' release, but on the morning of 21 November they had not yet been freed. Also on 20 November, in a separate attack near Grozny, four Russian soldiers were killed. Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Duma rejected a draft law presented by the government on providing compensation to victims of the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Scott Parrish

CONFUSION IN MOSCOW OVER NATO?
"Mutually exclusive" statements from the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on Russia's stance toward NATO raise the question of "whether Russia has a unified and comprehensive position on NATO, and if so, what is it?" commented Izvestiya on 21 November. The paper noted that while Defense Minister Igor Rodionov was saying that NATO does not threaten Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1996), Russia's ambassador to Sweden, Oleg Grinevskii, was telling a Stockholm conference that NATO expansion would increase the risk of nuclear war, warning that Russian nuclear forces could destroy Europe and the U.S. Those contradictory statements follow a disagreement between Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov over whether Russia should apply for NATO membership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November 1996). -- Scott Parrish

PROGRAM TO AID FORMER SOVIET SCIENTISTS SAID TO BE WORKING.
An international program aimed at providing scientists from the former USSR with nonweapons-related work is paying off, according to a report by the U.S. government-funded National Research Council. The EC (now the EU), Japan, and the U.S. set up an International Science and Technology Center in Moscow in 1992 in the hope of dissuading former Soviet scientists and engineers from selling their expertise to rogue countries and terrorist groups eager to acquire weapons of mass destruction, RFE/RL reported on 21 November. The center has received almost $140 million and undertaken 236 projects, employing about 12,000 scientists, in Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Penny Morvant

KUZBASS SALVATION COMMITTEES CALL FOR REGIONAL PROTEST.
A coordinating council of salvation committees of Kuzbass cities meeting in Prokopevsk has called for a regional protest action, NTV reported on 20 November. The proposal was advanced by Anatolii Chegis, chairman of the council of oblast trade union organizations. The form of the protest will vary from enterprise to enterprise and will coincide with the opening of a trade union congress in Moscow. The heads of the salvation committees decided against holding a regional political strike for the time being but threatened to go ahead with such a protest if the government does not send a commission to Kemerovo Oblast to deal with the region's payments crisis and provide additional support to the coal industry. -- Penny Morvant

MORE DETAILS ON KISIN FIRING.
Vadim Kisin, the first senior government official to fall victim to the crackdown on tax evasion, was dismissed after depositing $300,000 in a foreign bank account without paying the appropriate taxes in Russia, AFP reported on 20 November, citing Interfax. Kisin, 34, was deputy minister in charge of CIS affairs until his removal on 19 November. He will now be charged with large-scale tax evasion and faces up to five years in prison and the confiscation of his assets, according to tax officials. Kisin reportedly opened several accounts in West European banks between 1992 and 1994. Investigators found 10 bank cards in his or his parents' names issued by foreign banks. -- Penny Morvant

KILLINGS IN TYUMEN, ST. PETERSBURG.
Leonid Sidorov, general director of a housing construction company in Tyumen and an aide were killed in a bomb attack in the Siberian oil town on 20 November, ITAR-TASS reported. They were on their way to their office when the explosive device--apparently remote-controlled--went off. Sidorov was also a Cossack general. Also on 20 November, the agency reported that Sergei Rogov, a businessman from St. Petersburg and the organizer of a "festival of laughter" scheduled to be held this weekend, was shot dead on 19 November. -- Penny Morvant

ANOTHER SOLDIER GOES ON SHOOTING SPREE.
An Interior Ministry soldier murdered his patrol commander and a private and wounded three others on 20 November while they were escorting a convoy of prisoners at a railway station in Tula Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. The soldier attempted to escape after the shooting but was detained five hours later in a nearby village. The crime is the latest in a series of similar cases in which servicemen have killed their colleagues. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

TENDER FOR AGROPROMBANK.
The government announced on 12 November that it will not buy a controlling stake in the financially troubled Agroprombank (APB) but will put the bank up for tender on 22 November, Segodnya reported on 21 November. The decision is opposed by the Duma's Agrarian faction, which worries that a new private owner will not be willing to allow APB to continue making loans to farms, many of which are not repaid. Central Bank officials say that any new investor will be required to ensure that 60% of APB's loans will go to agriculture. The Agrarians also doubt whether any private bidder will come up with the 1 trillion rubles ($180 million) credit the bank requires to resume operations. -- Natalia Gurushina

MENATEP TO SELL STAKE IN YUKOS.
Menatep bank will become the first bank to sell the government stake that it holds under the 1995 loans-for-shares scheme, Kommersant-Daily reported on 21 November. In December 1995, an intermediary firm Laguna (backed by Menatep, Tokobank, and Stolichnyi Bank) won a loans-for-shares auction by offering a $159 million credit for the state's 45% stake in Russia's second-largest oil company YUKOS. The stake was then transferred under Menatep management. In September 1996, the federal stake held by Menatep was diluted to 33.3% as a result of an additional share issue, needed to help pay off YUKOS's 2.25 trillion ruble wage and tax debts. Menatep plans to sell its stake in an auction slated for 23 December 1996. Its plan has been approved by the Finance Ministry, State Property Committee, Federal Property Fund, and by YUKOS itself. -- Natalia Gurushina



AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH PEACE TALKS.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov has refuted Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan's statement that Azerbaijan refused to participate in drafting a declaration of principles on a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1996), Turan reported on 20 November. Hasanov said a draft declaration proposed by the Armenian side contradicts the "interests of Azerbaijan," because it does not respect his country's territorial integrity. -- Emil Danielyan

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN ARMENIA.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution challenging the legitimacy of the 22 September Armenian presidential election and calling for a new round of elections to be held in those electoral districts where serious violations took place, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 November. The resolution condemned the crackdown on the opposition and the media and called on the Armenian government to adhere to democratic principles. -- Emil Danielyan

GEORGIA REINFORCES ITS BORDER TROOPS.
Georgia has sent seven warships to patrol its territorial waters amid reports that it plans to deploy an 800-strong police unit along the border with its breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November, citing the Georgian Defense Ministry. A Defense Ministry official described the move as "planned combat duty," yet some observers believe it is connected with the upcoming parliamentary elections in Abkhazia that have been denounced by Georgia and the international community. Georgia does not recognize the legitimacy of holding such elections since some 200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees who fled the region in 1993 are barred from participating in the vote. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTAN AGREES WITH UZBEKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN ON GAS DEBTS.
Kazakstan has signed an agreement with Uzbekistan in Tashkent on paying off its $24 million debt for Uzbek gas, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 19 November. In October, Uzbekistan withheld gas deliveries due to nonpayments and the Kazakstani capital, Almaty, received only half of what it needed for that month, leading to a severe gas deficiency in many households. Besides direct monetary compensation to pay for Uzbek gas, Kazakstan also offered to supply gas from Caspian Sea regions of Kazakstan to western Uzbekistan. Kazakstan is also close to completing a deal with Kyrgyzstan on electricity supplies to southern Kazakstan. The Kyrgyz have agreed to defer Kazakstan's $8 million debt for Kyrgyz electricity but prices for electricity will now be higher. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty and Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI OPPOSITION LEADERS CHARGED WITH VIOLATING PUBLIC ORDER.
The Kazakstani government has accused Leonid Solomin, head of the independent confederation of trade unions, of "violating public order" and conducting "unlawful actions" during a recent anti-government rally in Almaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 November 1996), KTK TV reported on 20 October. Police have laid similar charges against Peter Svoik, the co-chairman of the opposition Azamat Movement. Before the rally, President Nursultan Nazarbayev had called for the jailing of "all violators of public stability." Meanwhile, the opposition applied to Almaty municipal authorities for permission to hold another demonstration on 1 December. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

KYRGYZSTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPS.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has ordered all religious groups in Kyrgyzstan to register with the proper authorities within a month, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. A source in the Justice Ministry claimed that there are more than 200 religious organizations in the country but only 47 of them are registered. The head of the State Commission on Religious Affairs, Emil Kaptagayev, said the registration of the groups would allow his commission to "compare the tasks and aims of the religious organizations not registered so far with Kyrgyz laws as well as the principles of state security." The Kyrgyz parliament is due to review a new law on religion at the end of this year. -- Bruce Pannier



RUSSIA CALLS ON BELARUS TO RESOLVE CRISIS . . .
The Russian State Duma on 20 November voted by 349 to nine to call on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the parliament to resolve the political crisis within the framework of the current Belarusian constitution, AFP and Russian agencies reported. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev then went to Smolensk to attend a meeting between the Belarusian president and parliament, which was also attended by Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev. Stroev urged the two sides to compromise over amending the constitution and spoke against dividing parliament into two separate chambers. Belarusian deputy parliamentary speaker Vasil Novikau said parliament would drop impeachment procedures against the president if Lukashenka canceled the referendum, rescinded his unconstitutional decrees, reinstated Viktar Hanchar as head of the Central Electoral Commission, and gave parliament air time. -- Ustina Markus

. . . BUT LUKASHENKA THWARTS RUSSIAN MEDIATION EFFORTS.
Russian attempts to mediate in Belarus's political crisis failed when President Lukashenka declined to attend the Smolensk meeting, international agencies reported on 20 November. Earlier the same day, Russian President Boris Yeltsin telephoned Syamyon Sharetsky and Lukashenka to ask them to reach a compromise and "not allow Belarusian society to be split." Afterwards, Sharetsky and Belarusian Communist leader Syarhei Kalyakin went to Smolensk. Lukashenka refused to attend the meeting, saying he was "very busy." Russian agencies attributed his refusal to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's absence from the meeting. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER REFUSES TO MEET WITH PRESIDENT.
On arriving at Lukashenka's residence on the morning of 20 November, Sharetsky ordered some 70 deputies holding consultations with the presidential administration to leave the building. He professed to be angry that the deputies were not at the Supreme Soviet while a session was under way. Explaining his refusal to meet with the president, Sharetsky said that "there can be no talks whatsoever between the president and the parliament speaker until all deputies are at their posts." The President's press office commented that the speaker's "hysterical scene" showed his unwillingness to resolve the political crisis. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court announced it will commence hearings on the president's alleged violations of the constitution on 22 November. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Leonid Kuchma, in an interview with the Czech daily Lidove Noviny, said NATO enlargement to the east must be accompanied by a moratorium on nuclear arms deployment in Central Europe, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Kuchma said that every state has the right to decide for itself which international structures it wants to join and that only NATO members have the right to veto new members joining the organization. He also said integration into European structures is the priority in Ukraine's domestic and foreign policy. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

SIX ESTONIAN MINISTERS RESIGN.
Six ministers from the Reform Party on 20 November sent an open letter to Prime Minister Tiit Vahi announcing they were resigning because Vahi signed a cooperation agreement with the Center Party behind their backs, Reuters reported. The Reform Party council was scheduled to vote the next day on whether to break its coalition with Vahi's Coalition Party. Reform Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Siim Kallas said that Vahi was apparently trying to change foreign policy by bringing Estonia closer to Russia. He noted that the cooperation agreement's chapter on international relations mentions Russia but not the EU. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PARTIES SIGN FORMAL COALITION AGREEMENT.
The Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) and the Christian Democratic Party (LKDP) have signed a formal coalition agreement, Radio Lithuania reported on 20 November. The two parties, which together have 86 of the 137 seats in the Seimas, agreed to cooperate fully on all internal and foreign policy matters and to submit a joint government program. Earlier, it was announced that three ministers, including foreign affairs and defense, would be LKDP members. The LKDP would also have the right to propose a candidate for one of the secretary posts in each ministry. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission decided that by-elections would take place on 23 March in the four districts where no deputies were elected. Local elections are likely to take place the same day. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENT SIGNS ABORTION LAW.
Aleksander Kwasniewski has signed an abortion law that permits an abortion in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy if the woman is in a difficult social or financial situation, Polish media reported on 20 November. The law allows private clinics to perform abortions; under the previous legislation, only state clinics were authorized to do so. The Sejm passed the law last month, overriding a previous Senate veto. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, secretary of the Episcopate, criticized the new law as "damaging for the Polish nation." Kwasniewski, for his part, called abortion "evil." He said that "we must do away with its causes," adding that "cooperation between the state, the church, and social organizations is needed." -- Jakub Karpinski

POLAND STRENGTHENS CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER ARMY.
Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski has signed defense ministry bylaws providing for the direct subordination of commanders of all branches of the armed forces to the defense minister, Polish media reported on 21 November. According to Sejm deputies, the General Staff's role will be reduced to planning and the most important person in the army will be the ground forces commander, a newly created post to be filled by Gen. Zbigniew Zalewski. Zalewski is one of the two generals who refused to support the defense minister's dismissal at the infamous 1994 "Drawsko lunch," organized by then President Lech Walesa. Dobrzanski also plans to introduce limited terms of office for the most important army posts. -- Beata Pasek

NEW MEDIA SCANDAL IN SLOVAKIA.
The Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN) on 20 November protested the barring of four reporters from cabinet press conferences and called for a boycott of government briefings, Slovak media reported. The journalists' accreditation was removed after they refuted Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's accusations that President Michal Kovac told them at a May meeting that Meciar was dying of a brain tumor. An SSN statement said "we appeal to all media not to yield to government pressure." The government press office called the SSN statement "demagogic," adding that it has offered the journalists' employers the possibility to accredit other reporters. If the four journalists "prove their professionalism" by no longer "abusing information they receive at informal meetings," the cabinet will "gladly change its decision," the office added. Meciar on 20 November alleged that several journalists had offered the government information from the May meeting and that one had done so for money. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRESIDENT RETURNS LAW ON SECURITIES.
Michal Kovac on 20 November vetoed the law on securities passed by the parliament earlier this month, TASR reported. The bill, which amends the Commercial Code, allows shareholders to remain anonymous and gives joint-stock companies the possibility to halt public trading in their shares. Critics have complained that the law limits transparency on the stock market and violates the rights of small shareholders who took part in the first wave of coupon privatization. In a letter to parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic, Kovac stressed that he received the law just one day before the 15-day deadline stipulated in the constitution. The president asked the parliament to amend the law to ensure that securities can be traded only on the public market and to stop issuers from preventing securities from being traded on the public market. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REOPENS DEBATE ON CONCEPT FOR NEW CONSTITUTION.
The parliament has resumed the debate on the new constitution, Hungarian media reported on 20 November. Its constitutional committee drew up a new concept after the Socialist Party leadership rejected an earlier one in June on the grounds it was "too liberal." The Socialists said at the time that they wanted the new constitution to include references to social rights, make "interest coordination" compulsory for governing parties, and stipulate that the president be elected directly. Besides including these provisions, the new concept puts an additional emphasis on the interests of Hungarians living abroad and limits the president's sphere of competence. The parliament is expected to vote on the concept in December. The country's current constitution dates back to 1949, although various amendments have been made since 1989. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY'S "OILGATE COMMITTEE" CALLS ON CHAIRMAN TO RESIGN.
Members of the so-called oilgate committee investigating a corruption case linked to the repayment of Russia's debt to Hungary have called on chairman Ervin Demeter to resign, Hungarian media reported on 21 November. They charge Demeter, a member of the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, with breaking internal agreements. Those who oppose his chairmanship come from the ruling coalition and the opposition Smallholders. The committee will soon make public its final report on the case, which involves former Industry and Trade Ministers Laszlo Pal and Imre Dunai as well as a number of Socialist deputies. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




MASS PROTEST IN ZAGREB OVER SHUTDOWN OF INDEPENDENT RADIO.
The Croatian authorities announced on 20 November that they will not renew the license of the popular Radio 101, Novi List reported. Radio 101 is probably the only independent station there that deals with news and politics as well as broadcasting rock music. Several thousand people then staged a protest rally in which opposition politicians, journalists, and union leaders blasted the government's decision, while an army captain renounced his rank and medals, Reuters noted. U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith and the State Department also criticized the move, saying it raises basic questions about freedom of expression. Nino Pavic, a government loyalist who was awarded the frequency license for his planned Radio Globus 101, renounced the concession, saying he did not want to be seen as a threat to media freedom. The city branch of the governing Croatian Democratic Community also hinted that the government's decision might not be final. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERB POWER STRUGGLE UNRESOLVED?
Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic held a four-hour meeting with cashiered army chief Gen. Ratko Mladic at his headquarters in Han Pijesak, Nasa Borba reported on 21 November. A statement from Mladic's office said there was no information on the contents of the talks. Plavsic has insisted that the general and his 80 loyalists must go, but Mladic is believed to be trying to maintain his influence in the army from behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) began destroying 13 tanks, 30 mortars, and two armored personnel carriers in Banja Luka as part of a month-long program to meet arms reduction quotas. The deadline for meeting all the limitations is the end of 1997, AFP reported. The OSCE criticized the Croats and Muslims for not having started their own program, the VOA noted. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN, CROATIAN SHORTS.
NATO troops confiscated illegal mines, rockets, and explosives from the Croats at Orasje in northern Bosnia, news agencies said on 20 November. In Ploce, a $100 million U.S. arms shipment is being unloaded, Oslobodjenje reported on 21 November. In the village of Hajvaci near Mahala in northeast Bosnia, 12 houses were destroyed by anti-tank mines. The formerly Muslim village is on Serb-held territory in an area where Muslim refugees have been trying to go home, as they are entitled to do under the Dayton agreement. In Zagreb, Croatian and Slavonian Serb representatives signed several documents on the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia, Vecernje list wrote. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND MILOSEVIC RESPECT ELECTION RESULTS.
An estimated 5,000 people gathered outside the Serbian parliament on 20 November to show solidarity with deputies from the Democratic Movement of Serbia (DEPOS) and the Democratic Party who are on a hunger strike inside the building. The strikers allege that the ruling authorities are guilty of political fraud, as demonstrated most recently by their refusal to recognize the returns of the 17 November local elections. DEPOS leader Vuk Draskovic told demonstrators outside the legislature that defending the 17 November victory was critical and that government tampering with returns amounted to "a great crime against the democratic will of the Serbian people." The opposition won the 12 largest districts, which account for roughly 60% of the republic's population. Both the strikers and leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition have sent letters to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic appealing for him to stop undermining the election results. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

OSCE OPTIMISTIC AFTER MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
OSCE observers on 20 November said they found few flaws in the first round of the Macedonian local elections on 17 November, Reuters reported. Most problems involved mistakes or omissions in electoral lists. Observers said that in some stations they monitored, 10-20% of the voters were not registered. EU monitors had previously said around 25% could not vote because their names were not on the electoral lists. On the other hand, the OSCE monitors said 89% of voters asked felt the voting process was conducted properly. "The information gathered and the friendly contacts we had ... give us an optimistic outlook on the development of the country's democratic future," the OSCE statement said. -- Stefan Krause

INFLATION IN ROMANIA REACHES 45%.
The National Statistics Commission reports that the annual rate of inflation in Romania has reached 45%, Radio Bucharest reported on 20 November. Inflation rose 3.4% in October compared with September and has increased by 35.5% since December 1995. Outgoing Finance Minister Florin Georgescu said the state's hard-currency reserves stand at $800 million, while the total amount deposited in Romanian banks is $2.1 billion. The country's foreign debt on 30 September reached $7 billion. -- Zsolt Mato

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXCHANGE SWIPES.
President Mircea Snegur has accused parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, his rival in the 1 December presidential run-off, of usurping legislative power, Infotag reported on 20 November. He pointed to Lucinschi's decision to cancel a parliament session on 20 November, which was to discuss the taping of a conversation between Snegur's campaign chief and Moldova's ambassador to Germany, Alexandru Burian (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 November 1996). In turn, Lucinschi said a Snegur victory in the second round would "stir up confrontation in society" because of Snegur's intention to transform Moldova into a presidential republic. In other news, Premier Andrei Sangheli made a contradictory statement saying he was ready to resign after the presidential elections but would give up his mandate as prime minister only "when the time comes." Sangheli's mandate expires in 1998. He also accused Snegur of having falsified the election results. -- Michael Shafir

MAIN BULGARIAN OPPOSITION GROUP DIVIDED OVER PROPOSAL TO BECOME PARTY.
Many organizations belonging to the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) have reacted unfavorably to a SDS National Executive Council proposal the previous day to transform the organization from a coalition of parties and movements to a single party, Bulgarian media reported. Leaders of 11 of the 15 SDS member organizations said the move was untimely, adding that early elections should first be called and won. Former SDS leader Filip Dimitrov supported that position, while SDS deputy leader Nadezhda Mihaylova stressed the benefits of transforming the union into a party. Meanwhile, seven member organizations announced that they have formed a "Union for National Renaissance" within the SDS before the presidential elections and that the SDS leadership knew of the idea well in advance. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN LEV HITS NEW ALL-TIME LOW.
The lev was trading at exchange offices around the country at 331-332 to the dollar, up from 290 leva the previous day, Pari reported on 21 November. According to Standart, the dollar was trading for 360-370 leva. In some towns, most goods were marked in dollars. Pari said there were three reasons for the hike: rumors about an unnamed company seeking to buy large sums of hard currency, lack of intervention from the Bulgarian National Bank, and the withdrawal earlier this week of several billion leva from the State Savings Bank. Kontinent predicted that by the end of the year, the lev will be trading at 600 leva to $1. In other news, electricity and coal prices are to go up by 14% on 1 December, following a 9.7% increase last week. -- Maria Koinova

CAMPAIGN AGAINST DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEPUTY IN ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT.
Democratic Party deputies have called on the parliament to lift Azem Hajdari's immunity and to remove him from the chairmanship of the parliamentary commission on the secret service and police. They also accused Hajdari, who is also a Democratic legislator, of deliberately not purging the secret service SHIK of some communist-era secret service agents in 1992. They called for his removal from the party's caucus, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 19 November. Hajdari, meanwhile, said he will organize a congress of his breakaway Independent Trade Unions in December and organize a strike, Koha Jone reported on 20 November. Elsewhere, police in Gjirokaster arrested Hajdari's driver without explanation, according to Dita Informacion on 21 November. -- Fabian Schmidt



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