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Newsline - November 22, 1996


YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL; ZYUGANOV DOUBTS HIS STRENGTH.
President Boris Yeltsin left the Central Clinical Hospital for the Barvikha sanitarium on 22 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, however, charged that the president has not made enough progress. "Anyone who knows anything about medicine knows that after three heart attacks, five bypasses, and with concerns about a number of other organs, a person cannot work at full strength," Reuters quoted him as saying. Zyuganov noted that in a crisis, Yeltsin might have to work around the clock. -- Robert Orttung

CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST MEETING.
The Consultative Council, which is supposed to bring together the president, prime minister, and the speakers of both houses, met for the first time on 21 November to discuss Belarus and Chechnya, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais sat in for President Yeltsin, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev attended even though on 30 October he had announced he would not attend any council meetings in which Chubais replaced Yeltsin. He said the importance of the Belarusian situation made him change his mind. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Sergei Belyaev, and Liberal Democratic Party representative Stanislav Zhebrovskii attended as well. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Zyuganov did not participate, although they were invited. After the meeting, Chernomyrdin, Seleznev, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev flew to Minsk. -- Robert Orttung

IZVESTIYA ACCUSES YELTSIN OF VIOLATING LAW WITH BEREZOVSKII APPOINTMENT.
Izvestiya on 22 November continued its campaign against Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, charging that the president and other executive branch officials violated Russian legislation prohibiting the appointment of foreign citizens to Russian state bodies. Berezovskii held Israeli citizenship for the first three weeks of his appointment the paper charged, asking why the law did not apply to Russia's top officials. Meanwhile, Moskovskii komsomolets asked if there would be any investigation into numerous illegal operations which Berezovskii allegedly conducted as the general director of the auto trading company LogoVAZ. -- Robert Orttung

TOP POLITICIANS TO BE QUESTIONED OVER LISOVSKII-YEVSTAFEV CASE.
Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov on 21 November ordered his office to begin a criminal investigation into the 19 June incident in which Yeltsin campaign aides Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev were stopped by the Presidential Security Service as they were carrying $538,000 in cash out of government headquarters, ITAR-TASS reported. The case was previously under the purview of the Moscow Procurator's Office. The agency quoted "reliable sources" as saying the investigators plan to question a number of senior figures linked to the scandal, including Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko, and former Presidential Security Service chiefs Aleksandr Korzhakov and Valerii Streletskii. Krasavchenko featured along with Chubais and Ilyushin in a transcript of an alleged conversation of plans to cover up the incident published by Moskovskii komsomolets, but Nezavisimaya gazeta speculated on 20 November that the third speaker was actually Sergei Shakhrai. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA DENIES HIRING CIA AGENT.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin denied that Russia had hired CIA officer Harold Nicholson to conduct espionage, Russian and Western agencies reported on 21 November. Demurin said "We have no information to confirm the report" that Nicholson had worked as Moscow's paid agent. Referring to U.S. threats of retaliation, Demurin warned against "any attempt to artificially complicate Russian-U.S. relations under any pretext." The same day, however, a federal grand jury in Virginia found the evidence against Nicholson convincing enough to return an indictment against him on charges of conspiring to spy for Russia. -- Scott Parrish

OMON SOLDIERS STILL CAPTIVE.
The two OMON soldiers who were taken hostage by Chechen gunmen on 20 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996) remain captive, NTV reported on 21 November. The field commander holding them will free them only after three of his men are released from federal custody. Chechen officials, including acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, however, did convince the same field commander to release two International Red Cross workers whom he had also been holding hostage. A Chechen member of the Grozny joint command said such incidents would likely recur, since many Chechen field commanders want their men who were captured by federal forces to be released, but federal authorities regard these prisoners as criminals. Meanwhile, bad weather delayed Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's arrival in Nazran, Ingushetiya, where he is scheduled to discuss the planned Russian-Chechen treaty with Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov -- Scott Parrish

MORE MIXED SIGNALS ON NATO.
Speaking after a Versailles session of the North Atlantic Assembly, Duma Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin said Moscow "must become accustomed" to the idea that the eastward enlargement of NATO "is inevitable," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. In order to avoid the emergence of "new dividing lines" in Europe, Shokhin also said NATO enlargement should be accompanied by a restructuring of other European security organizations, like the OSCE, and said that arms control agreements like START II and CFE would need revision as well. He also said that a NATO guarantee not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members would help Moscow accept enlargement. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told visiting British Defense Minister Michael Portillo that NATO enlargement would divide Europe, and insisted that the OSCE play the leading role in European security. -- Scott Parrish

LEBED CONCERNED ABOUT "UNSATISFACTORY" NUCLEAR SAFETY.
In Washington on his first visit to the U.S., former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that the insufficient security measures at Russian nuclear installations make them vulnerable to terrorist attack and theft. After a meeting with Senator Richard Lugar, who co-authored legislation aimed at assisting Russia to upgrade the security and safety of its nuclear facilities, Lebed said that "any cost is justified" to rectify the situation. The Clinton administration and the Russian government have officially insisted that the current safeguards are adequate. Lebed later held a "warm and friendly" meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Russian press coverage of Lebed's visit remained derisive. NTV pointedly omitted Lebed's substantive comments, while ridiculing his statement that he would be willing to re-enter the government if invited. -- Scott Parrish

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ON TORTURE IN RUSSIA.
In a new report, "Torture and ill-treatment in Russia," Amnesty International says that decrees issued by President Yeltsin have made it easier for police to torture and ill-treat suspects and that ethnic minorities are particularly at risk. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, Amnesty says it has received numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody and prisons, and within the context of the Chechen conflict. It specifically criticized Yeltsin's June 1994 decree against organized crime, which allows the detention of suspects for up to 30 days without charge, and the July 1996 decree on combating crime in Moscow that authorizes law enforcement organs to detain vagrants and homeless people for 30 days. -- Penny Morvant

NEW FUEL CRISIS IN PRIMORE.
The mayor of a city in the Far East warned his fellow residents on 21 November that they are likely to be evacuated because of a shortage of fuel for local heating plants, RTR reported. The mayor of Bolshoi Kamen, a city of 30,000, said supplies would run out on 25 November. He sent a telegram to Moscow asking for help and appealed to other city administrations to house Bolshoi Kamen's residents temporarily. According to ITAR-TASS, stocks of fuel oil at power stations elsewhere in Primore are once again extremely low. Vladivostok has received 600 metric tons of fuel oil from the Pacific Fleet, enough to keep one of the two boilers at the city's heat and power plant in operation, but apartment blocks will receive only enough warm water to prevent pipes from freezing. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA ISSUES EUROBONDS.
Russia has successfully launched its first $1 billion issue of eurobonds in major international financial markets, AFP reported on 21 November. Five-year bonds will bear a coupon income of 9.25%. The success of the issue is ascribed to progress in negotiations with the Paris Club of official creditors and the London Club of commercial creditors over the rescheduling of Russia's external debt; and the decision last month of major international credit rating agencies to give Russia its first credit grades. Also encouraging was the favorable outcome of President Yeltsin's heart operation and the government's resumption earlier this week of payments on stolen state foreign currency bonds (OVVZ) that were frozen in June. Russian authorities plan a series of similar issues in 1997 expecting to raise $1.3 billion for the federal budget. The eurobond issue may now pave the way to the international financial markets for Russian companies and local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina

NET FOREIGN EXCHANGE RESERVES DECLINING.
Russia's net foreign exchange reserves (NFER) dropped by nearly 30% during the period from the presidential election until October, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21 November. In October, NFER stood at $3.2 billion. During the presidential campaign, Russia sold $4.4 billion of the reserves, which led to the reduction of the NFER from $8.7 billion to $4.3 billion. According to the report, Russia's NFER may shrink to $1.9 billion by the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, Russia's gold output continue to decline. In the first 10 months of 1996, it reached 100 metric tons, 7 tons less than the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. As a result, the 1996 federal budget will not receive some $400-$450 million in tax revenue from the gold mining industry. -- Natalia Gurushina

GOVERNMENT TO MAINTAIN REFORM COURSE.
The government on 21 November approved an economic program for the 1997-2000 period, Kommersant Daily reported. It plans to hold inflation below 8% while stimulating a 5% annual growth in GDP and cutting all budget subsidies (estimated to amount to 8% of GDP, according to Segodnya on 21 November). Meanwhile, a new IMF team was in Moscow, following up the inconclusive visit of a team in October. Due to worries over tax collection, the IMF delayed the release of the October tranche, worth $340 million, of the $10.1 billion Extended Fund Facility approved in April, and will probably delay the November tranche. Reuters reported on 22 November that tax revenues rose from 13.5 trillion rubles in September to 17 trillion in October, and are running at a rate of 25 trillion (12% of GDP) in November. The reliability of these figures--for example, the extent to which they reflect actual cash payments rather than "tax credits"--is unclear. -- Peter Rutland





ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION APPEAL.
The Constitutional Court on 22 November rejected the opposition's appeal to annul the results of the 22 September controversial presidential election, Reuters reported, citing ITAR-TASS. Observers note that the decision, which is not subject to appeal, may trigger a new wave of mass protests by opposition supporters. Also, commenting on the resolution of the European Parliament condemning the ballot (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996), acting presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan said "it was based on inaccurate and unverified data," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. -- Emil Danielyan

EU CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF ABKHAZ ELECTIONS.
The EU has called on the leadership of Abkhazia to cancel the parliamentary election slated for 23 November, arguing that it could fuel tensions and violence in the region, Reuters reported on 22 November. It said the election should take place only after a final decision on Abkhazia's status within Georgia. According to ITAR-TASS, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said the multiethnic composition of the candidates legitimizes the vote. Ardzinba said he hopes Abkhazia's ethnic Georgian population will participate in the election. -- Emil Danielyan

IRANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN VISITS KAZAKSTAN.
The head of the Iranian Mezhlis, Ali Akbar Notik Nuri, met with Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty on 22 November, Khabar TV reported. Nazarbayev emphasized Iran's "strategic importance" for Kazakstan and increasing bilateral trade, especially in view of the recent oil swap agreements signed earlier this year. Nuri also shared the achievements of the Islamic revolution in Iran, especially in fighting "pseudo-Western culture." -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

CABLE TV IN ALMATY.
The joint U.S.-Kazakstani company Alma TV has announced the launch of the first cable TV station in Almaty, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 21 November. About 2,000 cable TV sets will be installed during the first trial, able to broadcast more than 30 channels. The company, established by the U.S. International Telcell company and its Kazakstani partner in 1994, has already been offering satellite TV retranslating service in Almaty. The first attempt to introduce a cable system in Almaty in 1992 failed due to low market demand. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES HOLD BACK REBEL ADVANCE.
Tajik Defense Ministry forces repelled opposition attacks on military posts in the Khaburabad Pass on 21 November, according to Reuters and ITAR-TASS. The pass, located 300 km east of Dushanbe, overlooks the main highway running east from the capital. The Defense Ministry sent a protest to the UN observer mission, stating that this and similar attacks on Komsomolabad and in the Tavil-Dara area are a clear violation of the Tehran ceasefire agreement signed in 1994. -- Bruce Pannier

RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN TAJIKISTAN DEMANDS ACTION ON TERRORISM.
Lt.-Gen. Viktor Zavarzin, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan, sent a note to Tajik law enforcement agencies expressing his dissatisfaction at their efforts to combat attacks on the CIS force troops, according to ITAR-TASS on 21 November. Zavarzin's protest comes after the 19 November murder of a Tajik Defense Ministry officer, who was Russian, the abduction on the same day of the wife of a Russian serviceman, and the shooting of two soldiers from the 201st Motorized Rifle Division on 20 November. All the crimes occurred in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier

AFGHAN REFUGEES SHOW UP IN TURKMENISTAN.
The Red Cross announced that 800 people fleeing the fighting in western Afghanistan have crossed into Turkmenistan, RFE/RL reported on 21 November. Red Cross spokesman Thorir Gudmundsson said the number could climb to as high as 18,000 if fighting continues near Herat. At least 50,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting in the Badghis province of Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier





COMPROMISE DEAL HAMMERED OUT IN BELARUS.
Following a night of negotiations, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky have signed an accord, Reuters reported on 22 November. The negotiations were mediated by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the speakers of Russia's two houses of parliament. The agreement states that the 24 November referendum will not be legally binding and that the parliament will drop impeachment moves against Lukashenka. It also provides for a constitutional committee composed of 100 representatives, half of which are to be chosen by the parliament and the other half by the president. The committee is to be headed by the president and will be formed over 20 days following the referendum. Its aim will be to draw up a new constitution based on the results of the plebiscite. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER TAKE HARD LINE ON BUDGET DEFICIT.
Leonid Kuchma and Pavlo Lazarenko have told representatives of some caucuses that they will fight any attempts by lawmakers to increase social spending and the 1997 budget deficit, Ukrainian agencies reported on 21 November. Lazarenko said the government has prepared a package of amendments to the draft 1997 budget that provides for further reductions in social benefits, the laying-off of civil servants, and tax cuts for Ukrainian industry. Many lawmakers, including Speaker Oleksander Moroz, have promised to boost social benefits and increase the projected deficit from 5.8% to as much as 20% of GDP. Lazarenko said current spending rates and high taxes on industrial enterprises, which alone owe 1.2 billion hryvnyas ($640 million) in revenues this year, have resulted in a hidden deficit totaling 8 billion hryvnyas. In other news, the parliament voted in favor of an amnesty for all coal miners who took part in illegal mass strikes protesting the public sector wage debt this year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

ESTONIAN REFORM PARTY QUITS GOVERNMENT AND COALITION.
The council of the Reform Party on 21 November voted to leave the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, Reuters reported. The decision came after Vahi's Coalition Party and the Center Party signed a cooperation agreement without first informing the Reform Party. It is expected that Vahi will form a new government with the Center Party, thereby restoring the alliance that ruled Estonia in March-October 1995. The coalition had collapsed over a scandal on illegal surveillance involving then Interior Minister and Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S PROPERTY BANK RECEIVES OPERATING LICENSE.
The Central Bank of Lithuania on 21 November registered joint-stock capital totaling 83 million litai ($20.75 million) for the Property Bank, BNS reported. It also issued the new state-owned bank an operating license. The Property Bank was created to purchase "bad loans" from the Lithuanian Joint-Stock Innovation Bank, the Savings Bank, and State Commercial Bank at market prices. It will then manage the loans and sell them. The bank is not allowed to accept deposits or extend loans. It is expected to terminate its activities within ten years. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH SEJM ADOPTS TAX LAW.
The Sejm on 21 November voted in favor of the tax law approved by the Senate earlier this month, Polish media reported. Under the new law, income tax rates will range from 20% through 32% to 44%. Some 280 deputies, mostly from the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance and opposition Freedom Union, voted in favor;135 deputies, the majority of whom are members of the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party and opposition parties, voted against. Thirty-one deputies abstained. -- Jakub Karpinski

SECOND ROUND OF CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS KICKS OFF.
The second round of the first-ever elections to the upper chamber of the Czech parliament takes place on 22-23 November. Czech media report that 154 candidates will compete in 77 run-offs. Only four candidates were elected in the first round. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party candidates is competing in 76 districts, while the opposition Social Democrats qualified for run-offs in only 48 districts. Seventeen candidates represent the coalition Christian Democratic Union, seven the coalition Civic Democratic Alliance, four the Communists, and one the extraparliamentary Democratic Union. Only one candidate is independent. In the first round, turnout was less than 35%. Participation in the second round is not expected to be much higher. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON PRIVATIZATION.
The Constitutional Court on 21 November ruled that legislation transferring control over privatization from the government to the National Property Fund (FNM) is illegal, Slovak media reported. The legislation was approved by the parliament in November 1994. Since gaining control over privatization, the FNM--all of whose board members of representatives of the ruling coalition--has rushed to sell off state property through direct sales, often at prices far below market value. The sales are often carried out in a secretive way, and the true owners of certain key firms remain a mystery. Under the 1994 legislation, the government, the Supreme Supervisory Office, and courts had no control over the FNM. The court noted that although the 1994 law is illegal, it is impossible to change privatization decisions that the FNM has since taken. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK NATIONALITIES COUNCIL REJECTS MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW.
The government's Nationalities Council on 21 November voted not to recommend the approval of a draft law on the use of minority languages submitted by ethnic Hungarian representatives, CTK reported. Following the passage of the state language law last November, the government promised to submit a minority language law as well. Jozef Kalman, deputy premier and deputy chairman of the Nationalities Council, said the majority of the council's members, including some representatives of national minorities, regard existing legislation as sufficient. The OSCE, the EU, and other international organizations have all recommended that a minority language law be approved. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK-RUSSIAN INTERGOVERNMENT COMMISSION CONVENES.
A Slovak-Russian intergovernment commission for trade, scientific, and cultural cooperation met on 21 November in Bratislava to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties, Slovak media reported. Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik, who is also co-chairman of the commission, told ITAR-TASS that "Slovakia attaches great importance to the talks. Problems of developing bilateral trade and of its liberalization unquestionably dominate the agenda." Also on 21 November, Slovak Defense Minister Jan Sitek arrived in Moscow to discuss opportunities for cooperation. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY TO INCREASE ENERGY PRICES NEXT YEAR.
The cabinet has announced that as of 1 January, natural gas will increase by 18.8%, electricity by 24.9%, and heating by 21.9%, Hungarian dailies reported on 22 November. The increases guarantee only a 4% annual profit for energy distribution companies. Earlier, the government pledged to guarantee an 8% profit to energy companies with foreign ownership. The cabinet also decided to raise pensions by 19.5% next year and to reduce expenditures in the 1997 budget by 14-14.5 billion forints to ensure that the public finance deficit does not exceed 4.9% of GDP. Meanwhile, the National Bank announced it will likely repay $1 billion in foreign debts ahead of schedule. -- Zsofia Szilagyi





BELGRADE RALLIES CONTINUE.
Leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition organized another rally in the city center to protest the regime's alleged tampering with the results of the 17 November local elections. Nasa Borba on 22 November estimated the rally to be the largest anti-government demonstration since 9 March 1991, attracting some tens of thousands of people. No serious incidents were reported. Demonstrators marched toward the state TV building, where well-armed riot troops could be seen. Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic summed up the proceedings by remarking that "this evening, some 100,000 people passed along the main streets of Belgrade, and all was peaceful." -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

OFFICIAL MEDIA COVERAGE OF FEDERAL YUGOSLAV LOCAL ELECTIONS.
RTS I news on 21 November intimated that the main aim of the demonstrations was to incite mob violence and "terrorism." The broadcast also noted that while the protest leaders claimed to "defend democracy..., their [actions] and tactics serve only to undermine it." Meanwhile, Vecernje novosti on 21 November reported that the local election authorities consider the ruling Socialists to have won a majority of municipal council seats in Nis, a town earlier claimed by Zajedno. The daily observed that the situation in Uzice, which also initially seemed to have gone to the opposition, was dead-locked and would be resolved in a third round. At an earlier rally in Nis, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic expressed fears that the Socialists would engage in massive electoral fraud to win the city (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1996). Meanwhile, Radio B-92 has reported that Draskovic's wife has been kidnapped. Draskovic has accused President Slobodan Milosevic of involvement. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

100,000 DEMONSTRATE IN ZAGREB FOR RADIO.
One of the largest mass meetings in Croatian history took place on 21 November in Zagreb's central Jelacic square. Protesters representing a broad cross-section of society showed their support for independent Radio 101, which had lost its license the day before (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996). The authorities had meanwhile restored the license in the course of the day, but the crowds turned out in the evening anyway. What began as a protest in favor of freedom of speech turned into one for democracy as well. The independent daily Novi List wrote on 22 November of a "revolution in the air waves." It added that a wave of protests from foreign governments and NGO's had turned "a local radio [into] a global problem." Radio 101 also received a message from the 202nd rocket-artillery unit, saying "we are with you with our voices, manpower, and weapons if necessary." -- Patrick Moore

CROATIA'S TUDJMAN WEAK AFTER HOSPITALIZATION.
President Franjo Tudjman left Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington for a brief visit to the Croatian embassy on 21 November. Croatian television showed him looking "thin and exhausted," AFP reported. Government officials and the state-run media continue only to say that he has received "treatment" for an ulcer and swollen lymph glands. CNN earlier quoted unnamed State Department officials and a Croatian diplomat as saying that he has cancer and does not have long to live. Tudjman will return to Zagreb on 23 November. -- Patrick Moore

MISTREATMENT OF SARAJEVO SERBS.
UN police spokesman Alexander Ivanko said that Serbs are still victims of attacks in the capital. A list of incidents prepared by the Democratic Initiative of Serbs includes the bombing or torching of homes of prominent Serbs or their families and the mistreatment of elderly Serbian women. The report also notes an apparent singling out of ethnic Serb males between 16 and 60 years of age for military call-ups, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina reports in its latest newsletter. Meanwhile, the leader of the Islamic community, Mustafa Ceric, urged President Alija Izetbegovic to take action to prevent the Serbs from building on the land in Banja Luka on which mosques once stood. The Serbs systematically destroyed the all city's mosques, including two historic ones that had been registered with UNESCO. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SHORTS.
Federal Vice President Ejup Ganic spoke of an "historic day" as $100 million-worth of U.S. weapons for the Bosnian army were unloaded in Croatia's port of Ploce. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights reported on violations of rights of refugees as they attempt to go home in keeping with the Dayton agreement. The group singled out local officials of the Republika Srpska in this context, Oslobodjenje noted on 22 November. Also in the capital, a Muslim threw a bomb into a cafe belonging to the Croatian cultural society "Napredak." The man was arrested but his motives are not known. -- Patrick Moore

KOSOVO EDUCATION SECRETARY DIES IN CAR ACCIDENT.
Xhavit Ahmeti, education adviser to Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, died on 21 November when the car he was traveling in crashed with a truck near Smederevo. Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) deputy chairman Hydajet Hyseni, LDK secretary-general Fatmir Sejdiu, and the driver were injured but are out of danger, Deutsche Welle's Albanian language service reported. The four were on their way to Belgrade for meetings with Western diplomats. Ahmeti was the key negotiator in talks with the Serbian authorities that resulted in an education agreement that Rugova and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic signed on 1 September. -- Fabian Schmidt

ILIESCU TO BECOME PARTY CHAIRMAN.
Oliviu Gherman, chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has resigned his post, Romanian TV reported on 21 November. Gherman said the "soul chairman" of the PDSR has always been outgoing President Ion Iliescu, while he himself was only a "modest substitute." He added that now that Iliescu is no longer constitutionally barred from belonging to the party, it is Gherman's "moral duty" to resign and ask the PDSR leadership to replace him with Iliescu. In other news, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) has held separate negotiations over the new coalition with the Social Democratic Union and the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, also conducted "preliminary discussions" with the PNTCD leadership, saying his formation will not necessarily demand portfolios affecting national minorities and may receive the Health Ministry. -- Michael Shafir

FURTHER ACCUSATIONS IN MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur has charged that Premier Andrei Sangheli is "dragging the government into an exceptionally hazardous game." Referring to Sangheli's accusation that pro-Snegur forces rigged the elections and bought votes, he said that Sangheli's government was "anti-democratic and anti-reformist" and that Moldova's independence was "in danger," Infotag reported on 21 November. In other news, the leadership of the Edinstvo-Unitatea Party has announced it will back Snegur's rival, parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, in the run-off scheduled for 1 December. Radio Bucharest announced that chairman of the Party of Democratic Forces Valeriu Matei, who ran in the first round, announced his party will back Snegur in the run-off. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN CURRENCY CONTINUES TO PLUNGE.
The lev on 21 November continued its free fall, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. The U.S. dollar was selling at Sofia exchange bureaus for around 405 leva, up from 360-370 the previous day. Demokratsiya reported that in Burgas, the dollar was trading at as much as 500 leva. Many private exchange offices refused to sell the dollar at all. Outside those continuing to sell hard currency, fist-fights broke out for good positions in the line. The Bulgarian National Bank's response was to increase the exchange rate from 287.91 leva to 344.29 leva for 22 November. Shop owners selling imported goods now either mark their stock in dollars or adjust prices by the hour. Meanwhile, official figures suggest an 8-10% GDP decline for this year. Director of the National Statistical Institute Zahari Karamfilov told Kontinent that he "can no longer project inflation." -- Stefan Krause

HAJDARI FIRED FROM ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ON SECRET SERVICE.
Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari has been dismissed as chairman of the parliamentary commission for public order and the secret service, Albanian media reported on 22 November. Hajdari fell out of favor with President Sali Berisha following his election as chairman of the breakaway Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH). Hajdari has called for an extraordinary BSPSH congress for 22 September, saying he will declare war against corruption and fight for higher salaries. He compared the current situation in Albania with December 1990, when he was leading the pro-democracy student movement that brought about the end of communism, Koha Jone reported on 22 November. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN POLIO OUTBREAK CLAIMS 15TH VICTIM.
A 14-year-old boy has died of polio in Albania, the 15th victim of the outbreak, Reuters reported on 21 November. The boy had been hospitalized for the past three months. The polio outbreak has affected 137 Albanians since April. The Albanian health authorities and the World Health Organization launched a nationwide immunization campaign in October. No new cases have been reported since 12 November. -- Fabian Schmidt





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