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Newsline - November 25, 1996


RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENT SIGNED.
President Boris Yeltsin on 23 November signed a decree on the withdrawal from Grozny before 27 January 1997 of the two remaining Russian military brigades, whose continued presence Chechen separatist leaders claimed was an obstacle to the signing of an interim agreement on Russian-Chechen relations, Russian media reported. On the same day in Moscow, interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed the agreement in question. It provides for the restoration of transport links with Chechnya; the signing of new agreements on the extraction and processing of Chechen oil and on ensuring the security of oil pipelines transiting Chechnya; the resolution of social and humanitarian problems, specifically payment of wages and pensions; and coordination in the field of defense, according to ITAR-TASS. At a subsequent press conference, Maskhadov termed the agreement "a concrete step towards peace," according to AFP. A new agreement on economic relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation will be signed after the Chechen parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January. -- Liz Fuller

COMMUNISTS SLAM CHECHEN ACCORD.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov denounced the Chernomyrdin-Maskhadov agreement as "unconstitutional" and said it would lead to the disintegration of the country, NTV reported on 24 November. He warned that the withdrawal of troops would not calm the situation in the North Caucasus and blamed the agreement on a group of Yeltsin advisors including presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin. Zavtra editor Aleksandr Prokhanov called on Russians to "sabotage and boycott these anti-national and anti-state measures." Representatives of Yabloko charged that the Communists' statements demonstrated that they supported the use of force in Chechnya. At the Communists' insistence, the Duma Council on 24 November called an extraordinary Duma session for 29 November to discuss Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF CHUBAIS, ILYUSHIN.
The Duma adopted an appeal to Yeltsin on 22 November to suspend Anatolii Chubais and Viktor Ilyushin until a scandal over alleged financial irregularities during the presidential election campaign is clarified, international agencies reported. Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said he believed the transcript published by Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November that re-ignited the scandal over the $538,000 taken out of the White House was genuine. Yeltsin's press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 23 November that the president is aware of the appeal adopted by the Duma but that he believes it is an attempt to put pressure on the law enforcement agencies, which Yeltsin believes should be allowed "to work in normal conditions," Russian TV (RTR) reported. Chubais said the appeal was illustrative of the current flood of compromising materials, adding "it is no secret that certain political forces, backed by the Duma Communist faction, see such methods as their major tools," ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais, who argues that the Moskovskii komsomolets transcript is a forgery, said earlier he was ready to answer all questions and that he wants the truth to come out. -- Penny Morvant

KORZHAKOV INTERVIEW PULLED.
Another television program featuring Aleksandr Korzhakov has been canceled without explanation, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 November. The program, "Scandal of the Week," scheduled for broadcast on TV6 on the evening of 23 November, included an interview with Korzhakov. In it, the former presidential security chief reportedly repeated his claim that he had nothing to do with the bugging of the Ilyushin-Chubais conversation but he said he recognized their voices. He claimed that the third interlocutor was not presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko. Nezavisimaya gazeta earlier speculated that the "third man" was Sergei Shakhrai but later withdrew that claim. On 19 October RTR canceled transmission of an interview with Korzhakov. Meanwhile, on 22 November, the Main Military Procurator's Office launched a criminal case in connection with charges that Korzhakov destroyed important documents after his dismissal from the Presidential Security Service. -- Penny Morvant

DUBININ CLEARED OF EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES.
The procurator general cleared Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin of accusations that he had transferred money from the now bankrupt Tveruniversalbank into his personal bank account, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. A private citizen identified only as N. D. Kozhukhovksii filed the charges in September against Dubinin, former Tveruniversalbank Chairman Nikolai Ryzhkov, now a Duma member, and head of the Central Bank settlement center Fedor Tolstykh, and they received wide media attention. Meanwhile, Obshchaya gazeta (no. 46) argued out that anti-corruption campaigns are merely for show since only a few officials are ever sentenced and many continue to hold their positions after being charged or while they are under investigation. -- Robert Orttung

INCUMBENT LOSES GOVERNORSHIP IN KURGAN.
The incumbent governor of Kurgan Oblast, Anatolii Sobolev, failed to make it into the runoff after winning just over 13% of the vote among three candidates in the 24 November gubernatorial election. According to preliminary results, opposition-backed Oleg Bogomolov, chairman of the regional legislature, took 41%, while businessman Anatolii Koltashov, who served as Yeltsin's aide during the presidential campaign, finished second with 32%, RTR reported. The turnout was about 55%. Bogomolov and Koltashov will compete in the runoff which is scheduled for 8 December. Only nine governors have managed to hold on to their seats in the 21 races completed since 1 September (including Amur Oblast where the opposition victory is still being contested.) -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

YELTSIN MEETS NAZARBAYEV.
In his first meeting with a foreign leader since his 5 November heart surgery, President Yeltsin met on 23 November with his Kazakstani counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Barvikha sanatorium, Russian and Western agencies reported. During the 20-minute session, the two leaders discussed economic ties and the status of the Caspian Sea, according to presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Reflecting recent concerns in Moscow about Kazakh language policy, Yeltsin also suggested that Russia and Kazakstan issue a joint declaration on the status of the Russian language in Kazakstan. The two leaders agreed that a CIS summit marking the organization's fifth anniversary should be postponed from December to early January, presumably owing to Yeltsin's condition. Continuing the relentless tide of upbeat reports on Yeltsin's health by pro-government media, Nazarbayev told NTV that Yeltsin looked much better than he had anticipated. -- Scott Parrish

RODIONOV DENIES SOFTENING OPPOSITION TO NATO EXPANSION.
Partially retracting earlier comments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996), Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said on 23 November that "NATO's expansion to the east is under no circumstances acceptable to Russia," Western and Russian agencies reported. Speaking after a meeting with his visiting Slovak counterpart Jan Sitek, Rodionov declared that "I have always been an opponent of NATO expansion," adding that he would remain opposed until the problem was resolved. He did add, however, that NATO has the right to accept new members. Sitek and Rodionov also signed a plan outlining bilateral military cooperation during 1997. Sitek confirmed Slovakia's desire to join NATO, but said it would not hinder military-technical cooperation with Moscow. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE TO ACCELERATE URANIUM DEAL.
Russia and the United States have concluded a five-year contract that will speed up the sale of uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads to the U.S. under a 1994 bilateral agreement, The Washington Post reported on 24 November. The original agreement, calling for Russia to dilute 500 tons of weapons-grade uranium into reactor fuel for sale to the U.S. over a 20-year period, repeatedly hit snags over prices and annual delivery quotas. The new contract specifies that Russia will deliver 18 metric tons of the uranium in 1997, 24 tons in 1998, and 30 tons in 1999-2001, in return for about $2 billion. Negotiators are also near agreement on inspection measures which will verify that uranium shipped to the U.S. is from dismantled warheads, not stockpiles. -- Scott Parrish

TAX ARREARS MOUNT.
Russian firms now owe 51.3 trillion rubles ($9.3 billion) to the federal budget in unpaid taxes, according to Vladimir Popov of the State Tax Service, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 22 November. Of this sum 31 trillion rubles are owed by oil and gas enterprises - although they in turn are owed 19.4 trillion rubles by state-owned customers. 73 firms each have tax debts in excess of 100 billion rubles, including three oil and gas firms (Yuganskneftegaz, Nizhnevartovskneftegaz, and Noyabrskneftegaz), who owe more than 1 trillion rubles each. The auto giant AvtoVAZ alone owes 2.8 trillion rubles ($500 million). Popov said that 43% of Russian firms report that they running at a loss, up from 31% in 1995. The government claims that tax collection has improved in recent months, and stands at 75% of the target level for the first 10 months of the year. -- Peter Rutland

STOLICHNYI BANK WINS TENDER FOR AGROPROMBANK'S REHABILITATION.
Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii (SBS) has won a tender for the financial rehabilitation of Agroprombank (APB) in competition with Imperial bank, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. SBS is expected to provide APB with a 1 trillion rubles ($182 million) credit within the next ten days and purchase 51% of its shares worth 130 billion rubles (of that, 24.5% will be transferred under state management). In an interview with Kommersant-Daily on 21 November, SBS Chairman Aleksandr Smolenskii said that although APB's "agro" specialization will be preserved, new lending will focus on food processing enterprises with a distribution network. -- Natalia Gurushina

ELECTRICITY GIANT CANCELS EUROBOND ISSUE.
The State Property Committee (GKI) has announced that it will cancel the September tender for eurobonds in the national power grid EES Rossii, Segodnya reported on 23 November. The eurobond tender, with a 7.5% federal equity stake as collateral, was won by a consortium of Russian and foreign banks led by CS First Boston, although some of the foreign banks later withdrew from the deal, accusing EES Rossii of refusing to disclose vital information. Instead, GKI has now announced that it will sell 8.5% of federal shares in a public tender between 22 November and 23 December. GKI expects to raise some 1.5 trillion rubles ($273 million) from the sale. -- Natalia Gurushina



KOCHARYAN REELECTED PRESIDENT OF NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
The presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh took place on 24 November despite its condemnation by Azerbaijan, Russia, and major Western countries, Western agencies reported. According to the Central Electoral Commission in Stepanakert, 76% of the region's 89,000 voters turned out. Robert Kocharyan, the incumbent president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, who was opposed by two other candidates, won a decisive victory, Radio France Internationale reported on 25 November. Meanwhile, mass rallies were held in Azerbaijan to protest the election, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 November. Turan quoted Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev as saying that his country will never recognize the vote. Aliev said that besides Armenia some unspecified countries also "support separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh." -- Emil Danielyan

HIGH TURNOUT IN ABKHAZ POLL, GEORGIAN REFERENDUM.
Parliamentary elections were held in Abkhazia on 23 November despite an appeal by the EU on 22 November for their cancellation and the resumption of talks on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Eighty-one candidates, including 65 ethnic Abkhaz and three Georgians, contended the 35 seats; 30 deputies were elected in the first round. Voter participation among the 219,000 electorate was estimated at over 80%, according to AFP. Speaking at a press conference on 24 November, a spokesman for the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) characterized the elections as "the free expression of the people's will," ITAR-TASS reported. Voting was marred by a series of explosions in Gali raion, home to some 40,000 repatriated ethnic Georgians; an Abkhaz Interior Ministry spokesmen blamed the incidents on Georgian saboteurs, ITAR-TASS reported. Between 18 and 23 November some 230,000 ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the fighting in 1992-93 voted in a counter-referendum organized by the Georgian authorities and overwhelmingly registered their condemnation of the Abkhaz poll. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS FRESH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
The leader of the opposition National Democratic Union, defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan, has demanded a fresh election following the decision by the Constitutional Court to reject the opposition's appeal of the results of the 22 September presidential polls (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 November 1996), Noyan Tapan reported on 22 November. Manukyan called on the international community to exert pressure on the Armenian government to make the latter respect democratic principles. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTANIS RESIST CHANGE OF CAPITAL.
With the first transfer of ministries due to take place after the New Year, the Giller Institute conducted a poll which found only 5.6% of respondents would move from Almaty to Akmola, the future capital, according to a 24 November report from ITAR-TASS. Akmola lies on the steppe in the north of the country and has much colder winters and hotter summers than Almaty. The ministries of agriculture, transportation, and communications are the first of 26 ministries scheduled to move in 1997, but presently the Kazakstani government has only about one-tenth of the money it needs to complete the first stage of the transfer. -- Bruce Pannier



COMPROMISE OVER BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM COLLAPSES.
The Moscow-brokered compromise between the Belarusian president and parliament collapsed one day after it was signed, international agencies reported on 23 November. Each side blamed the other for the failure. Under the compromise, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka would have repealed his decrees making the constitutional referendum binding, while the parliament would have withdrawn its request to the Constitutional Court to start impeachment proceedings against the president. Deputies voiced skepticism over the agreement, and a two-thirds majority vote could not be mustered for its ratification. In response, Lukashenka announced the results of the referendum would be legally binding. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court failed to reach a final decision on the launching of impeachment proceedings. It is not scheduled to reconvene until 26 November. -- Ustina Markus

PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM.
Preliminary results show that 70.5% voted in favor of Lukashenka's draft constitution, international agencies reported on 25 November. Voter turnout was estimated at 84.05%. The lowest turnout was in Minsk, where only 68.84% voted, and the highest in Homel Oblast (89.41%). The night before the referendum, Lukashenka broadcast a lengthy appeal to voters urging them to support him in the referendum, saying the choice was between stability and chaos. After casting his vote, Lukashenka said he would not declare a state of emergency, and did not believe it would be necessary to dissolve parliament because he was confident agreement could be reached with the legislature. The OSCE refused to send observers to the poll, and the Council of Europe said the presidential draft of the constitution does not comply with European standards. A small delegation from the European Parliament arrived to monitor the overnight counting of the vote, but Reuters reported they were unlikely to receive accreditation. -- Ustina Markus

NUCLEAR MISSILES TO BE REMOVED FROM BELARUS.
The remaining 14 of a total of 18 SS 25 missiles deployed on Belarusian territory will be repatriated to Russia by 26 November, Reuters reported on 24 November. Under a Belarusian-Russian bilateral treaty, the withdrawal of the missiles was scheduled to be completed by 31 December 1996. President Lukashenka said there will be a ceremony marking the transfer of the last missile and that timing depends entirely on the Russian military, which will remove the weapons. Earlier, Lukashenka threatened to keep the remaining missiles as a bargaining chip against NATO's eastward expansion. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

RESULTS OF CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS.
Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has won the first-ever elections to the upper chamber of the Czech parliament but did not do as well as expected, Czech media reported. After the second round of elections on 22-23 November, the ODS had won 32 of the 81 Senate seats. The Social Democrats (CSSD) gained 25 seats, the Christian Democrats 13, the Civic Democratic Alliance seven, the Communists two, and the Democratic Union one. Trade union leader Richard Falbr, running as an independent but supported by the CSSD, was also elected. The ODS qualified for 76 run-offs but was successful in less than 40%. Supporters of all other parties banded together in a broad anti-ODS coalition to prevent Klaus's party from having a majority in the Senate. -- Jiri Pehe

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SUSPENDS PRIVATIZATION OF 'STRATEGIC' ENTERPRISES.
Lawmakers on 22 November voted to suspend the privatization of 208 state-owned enterprises deemed "strategically important" until laws governing investments in such businesses are adopted, UNIAN reported on 22 November. They also decided to investigate how the State Property Fund has so far conducted the privatization of such companies and to increase the number of state-owned enterprises barred from privatization from 1,475 to 7,111. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PRESENTS 1997 DRAFT BUDGET TO PARLIAMENT.
Pavlo Lazarenko submitted the 1997 draft budget to lawmakers on 22 November, Ukrainian agencies reported. The draft calls for a budget deficit of 5.8%. It also foresees payment in full of the government's debt for public sector wages and pensions by the end of the first quarter as well as increased credits to the agricultural sector. The draft incorporates deep cuts in spending on government and social benefits, including the elimination of all subsidies to residents for rents and utilities. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk said the plan cuts the total tax burden on enterprises by 7.3% and simplifies the tax system, although more tax reforms are still needed. Legislators are scheduled to debate the draft in committees this week. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE PROTESTS CRIMEAN GOVERMENT INTENTION TO OPEN TRADE MISSION IN TURKEY.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko has criticized the Crimean government's intention to open a trade and economic mission in Istanbul, UNIAN reported on 20 November. Udovenko called the proposal "illegal and politically unjustified," while President Leonid Kuchma said the authority to open trade missions lies only with the central ministries in Kyiv. In other news, Kuchma called on law enforcement agencies not to ignore the fact that information space in Crimea "had been farmed out to Russia." He added that Ukraine's constitution should be defended on the peninsula, and he instructed the Crimean parliament to speed up bringing the Crimean constitution into line with the Ukrainian one. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

EAST EUROPEAN STATES TO INCREASE COOPERATION IN FIGHTING CROSS-BORDER CRIME.
The interior ministers of Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, met near Warsaw over the weekend and agreed to draw up a timetable for stepping up police cooperation in fighting cross-border crime, Polish and international media reported on November 23. An agreement is expected to be signed on 1 March. The participating countries will allow foreign undercover agents to function on their territories. They will also exchange intelligence on criminals and tighten border control. -- Beata Pasek

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REPLACED.
Although all six ministers of the Reform Party submitted letters of resignation on 22 November, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi has passed onto President Lennart Meri only the resignation of Siim Kallas as foreign minister, BNS reported. Vahi said that it was impossible to have a foreign minister who at the same time was leader of the opposition. After Meri formally accepted Kallas's resignation, Vahi named European Affairs Minister Riivo Sinijarv as acting foreign minister. Vahi has 30 days to act on the other resignations. He will probably forward them only after he has formed a new coalition and found suitable replacements. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PEASANT PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADER.
The Polish Peasant Party (PSL), junior partner in the governing left-wing coalition, has re-elected Waldemar Pawlak as party leader, Polish media reported on 25 November. Pawlak received 695 votes, Agriculture Minister Roman Jagielinski 402, and PSL Warsaw branch chief Janusz Piechocinski 120. Pawlak, backed mainly by the Smallholders, has been accused both by coalition and opposition members of protectionism and slowing down market reforms. Analysts predict that opposition within PSL ranks will force Pawlak to loosen his control over the party. The congress also overwhelmingly re-elected Sejm speaker Jozef Zych as chairman of the party's council. -- Beata Pasek

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER RE-ELECTED.
The opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), convening for its ninth congress at the central Slovakian town of Banska Bystrica on 23 November, re-elected Jan Carnogursky as party leader, Slovak media reported. Carnogursky received 214 votes, while his challenger, Mikulas Dzurinda, who is considered to belong to the party's liberal wing, won 130 votes. According to Carnogursky, the KDH must consider forming a coalition with the Democratic Union and the Democratic Party for the 1998 parliamentary elections. The party's deputy chairmen are Ivan Simko, Vladimir Palko, Jan Figel, and Dzurinda. Founded in March 1990, the KDH is the most stable opposition party in Slovakia. Carnogursky has led it for the past six-and-a-half years. -- Anna Siskova

SLOVAK CABINET RESTORES ACCREDITATION TO JOURNALISTS.
The government press office on 22 November rescinded its decision three days earlier to suspend the accreditation of four journalists (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20-21 November), Slovak media reported. Under pressure from foreign and domestic critics, government spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova said the decision was made to "calm the situation." It followed a meeting between representatives of the press office, the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN), and leading Slovak dailies. The journalists lost their accreditation after they denied that President Michal Kovac had told them in May that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was suffering from a brain tumor. The SSN reacted to the press office's decision by removing its ban on government briefings. -- Sharon Fisher

LEADER OF HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS RE-ELECTED.
Ivan Peto on 22 November was re-elected for another two-year term as party president of the junior coalition party Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), Hungarian dailies reported. Peto, who was the only candidate to run, said in a keynote speech that quitting is not the ultimate answer to the problems the SZDSZ faces within the ruling coalition. The party did not vote on whether it should remain in or leave the coalition, although the issue has been strongly dividing party members since the privatization scandal emerged in October. But delegates did draw up draft resolutions setting key legislative tasks for the government and calling on the cabinet to make suggestions on how to make further progress. Among the tasks it set for the government were the speedy introduction of tax reductions, the implementation of a transparent privatization process, the passage of a new constitution, and the reform of funding for the judiciary and local government. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




SERBIA'S ZAJEDNO TO BOYCOTT NEXT ROUND OF LOCAL ELECTIONS IN BELGRADE.
Leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition have asked voters to boycott a third round of municipal balloting in Belgrade, slated for 27 November. Earlier, Belgrade's First District Court had declared void the returns in a number of local constituencies where opposition candidates won majorities following the 17 November run-offs. At mass rallies over the weekend, opposition leaders warned that the ruling Socialists' tactic in the third round of voting would be to overturn opposition wins by nullifying the results of the second round and falsifying those of the third. Early returns in the second round of voting had shown that Zajedno won at least 60 of the 110 seats in the Belgrade council. Meanwhile, the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), led by accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, will take part in the third round, Nasa Borba reported on 25 November. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

DRASKOVIC'S WIFE FREED FROM POLICE CUSTODY.
Danica Draskovic, wife of Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic, was freed from police custody on 22 November. She had disappeared the previous day, prompting her husband to express concern that she had been kidnapped. After her release, she told Nasa Borba that she was shanghaied by police and questioned about a public remark calling on violence to address regime repression. "They put a knife to my throat, pistol in my mouth, and they pulled my hair," she said. She added that the police had wanted to her to call her husband to say "they want to kill me if you don't stop the demonstrations ... and [concede] that the returns in Belgrade are nullified." -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

TUDJMAN SLAMS OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman returned to Zagreb on 23 November after spending just over a week in Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital, Croatian and international media reported. His office said the stay there was because of an ulcer and swollen lymph nodes, but unnamed U.S. and Croatian told CNN that he has terminal cancer. Television footage showed the president gaunt and weakened. He nonetheless attended a social function in the company of hard-line Minister of Defense Gojko Susak soon after returning home. He also made a tough speech in which he used communist-era language to blast unnamed sinister "European and trans-Atlantic powers" who, he alleged, are meddling in Croatia's affairs even though they "are not able to solve their own minority, racial or social problems." The address came in the wake of the 21 November demonstration in which 100,000 people in Zagreb protested in favor of independent Radio 101. -- Patrick Moore

PLAVSIC MOVES ARMY COMMAND CENTER.
Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic announced on 22 November that the army's command center will be moved from ousted Gen. Ratko Mladic's base at Han Pijesak to the northeastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina, Reuters reported. World Bank officials that same day pointed out that the Republika Srpska has received only 2% of the $900 million in reconstruction aid earmarked for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Bank blamed a number of factors but singled out a lack of cooperation from local officials, the VOA noted. All of Bosnia suffers not only from wartime devastation but also from massive unemployment aggravated by the demobilization of tens of thousands of soldiers. -- Patrick Moore

NATO CONFISCATES WEAPONS IN BOSNIA.
IFOR troops and UN police took a number of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and other weapons "one would not ordinarily expect to find in a police station" from Muslim police in Sanski Most, the BBC said on 24 November. The northwest Bosnian town was held by the Serbs for most of the war but captured by the Bosnian and Croatian armies in their fall 1995 offensive. Meanwhile in Mostar, the international community's Michael Steiner took part in the organizational meeting of a refugee group called Road to Return. -- Patrick Moore

UN FORCE IN MACEDONIA TO BE EXTENDED AT REDUCED STRENGTH?
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali on 22 November recommended that the mandate of the UN force stationed in Macedonia be extended by six months at a reduced strength, Reuters reported. Under the proposal , the UN Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) will be gradually reduced from 1,100 to 800 troops by 1 April. Boutros-Ghali, in a report to the UN Security Council, said recent developments in the region and Macedonia's increased international standing have made the possibility of a spread of violence from other parts of the former Yugoslavia less likely. He added that "the primary threat ... may come from internal tensions." -- Stefan Krause

DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE OVER BULGARIAN CURRENCY BOARD.
Bulgarian Premier Zhan Videnov on 24 November urged the heads of radio and television stations and news agencies as well as newspaper editors to help in gaining public support for the introduction of a currency board, RFE/RL and Pari reported the next day. The IMF has stipulated that such a board be established as a condition for the release of installments of a loan.
Videnov said such a board would enforce "iron financial discipline" by preventing the national bank from lending freely to banks and firms and by putting a stop to large budget deficits. Depositors fearing bank failures, lay-offs, and cuts in social benefits after the board's introduction are withdrawing leva from the banks and converting them into dollars at an accelerating rate. -- Michael Wyzan

UPDATE ON BULGARIAN BUGGING SCANDAL.
Interior Ministry Secretary Ivan Boyadzhiev told Bulgarian National Radio on 24 November that there was no motivation for bugging the headquarters of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the Bulgarian press reported. His statement was in response to SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov's claim that the SDS premises were bugged before the presidential elections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 November 1996). Boyadzhiev acknowledged that in theory, some ministry employees could have placed the microphones in return for bribes and without authorization. Demokratsiya claimed that Boyadzhiev's wife heads an "informal" eavesdropping group and that materials were directly handed to Boyadzhiev and then passed onto the Bulgarian Socialist Party headquarters. Even if Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev gave no written authorization, it does not mean that he did not know about the "criminal eavesdropping," the daily added. -- Maria Koinova

NEGOTIATIONS ON NEW ROMANIAN CABINET.
Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) participated in negotiations over the weekend on the new Romanian cabinet, Romanian media report. It is now considered certain that the UDMR will be included in the new government. According to some reports, the UDMR's Gyorgy Frunda will be minister of tourism and the National Liberal Party will have five ministers in the cabinet. Radio Bucharest reported on 23 November that during the negotiations, it was decided to restore the traditional designation "chairman of the Council of Ministers" to replace "prime minister." The new cabinet will have 27 members, of whom 23 will be in charge of portfolios. In other news, the Constitutional Court on 23 November confirmed Emil Constantinescu's election as the country's new president. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN UPDATE.
Parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi on 22 November said that if he is elected president on 1 December, he will implement a change of government, Infotag reported the same day. He dismissed "rumors," reportedly spread by incumbent President Mircea Snegur's supporters, that he intended to keep Andrei Sangheli's unpopular cabinet. He also accused Snegur of being responsible for the growing wage and pension arrears, which, he claimed, had grown most rapidly between 1991 and 1994, when Snegur had extraordinary powers. Meanwhile, Snegur appealed to Moldova's national minorities to support him, saying his adversary's allegations that he intended to limit the rights of minorities were "absurd." -- Michael Shafir



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