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Newsline - November 26, 1996


ILYUKHIN SEEKS IMPEACHMENT OR NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE.
Following the decision to withdraw troops from Chechnya, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin called for discussing the impeachment of President Boris Yeltsin and voting no confidence in the government at the Duma's special hearing on 29 November, Reuters reported on 25 November. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the Duma would consider action against the executive branch if it had violated the constitution but impeachment was not an option now, Russian TV (RTR) and Ekho Moskvy reported. A statement from the Popular-Patriotic Union (NPSR) published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 26 November, however, limited itself to asking the Constitutional Court to examine the decisions, calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, and calling an extraordinary NPSR congress. Impeaching the president is extremely difficult and the Duma has backed down from no-confidence votes in the past because the president can call new parliamentary elections if the Duma votes no confidence twice in three months. -- Robert Orttung

KABARDINO-BALKARIYA PRESIDENT TO RUN UNOPPOSED.
The incumbent president of Kabardino-Balkariya, Valerii Kokov, was the only candidate to submit documents by 25 November, the deadline to register for the 12 January 1997 elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Several months ago, Kokov had declared his republic the most stable in the North Caucasus, but on 17 November a congress of Balkar people revived earlier demands to set up a separate Balkar Republic. Kokov has strongly denounced the separatists and a criminal case has been filed against them. Kokov was elected to a five-year term on 5 January 1992. -- Robert Orttung

MAVRODI'S WIFE AND CHESS CHAMPION TO RUN FOR DUMA SEAT.
Yelena Mavrodi, the wife of the infamous MMM pyramid-scheme operator Sergei Mavrodi, and FIDE world chess champion Anatoly Karpov, have announced their intention to run for a Duma seat in Tula Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. They must gather 4, 518 signatures before 15 December to register. Yelena Mavrodi campaigned unsuccessfully for a Duma seat in Kolomna in 1995. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 10 April and 16 May, 1995.) The only candidate officially registered so far in Tula Oblast for the 9 February 1997 elections is former Yeltsin Security Service chief Aleksander Korzhakov. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

KAZAKSTANI PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his visiting Kazakstani counterpart Akezhan Kazhegeldin signed three economic agreements in Moscow on 25 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreements covered agricultural equipment, scientific-technical cooperation, and the broadcasting of each country's television programs. Chernomyrdin said that the two countries have "no major differences," while Kazhegeldin termed Russia a "strategic partner" for Kazakstan. Chernomyrdin added, however, that the "main task" facing Russia and Kazakstan is making more rapid progress toward economic integration. Although it was signed with much fanfare this spring, for example, the March 1996 quadripartite Russia-Belarus-Kazakstan-Kyrgyzstan integration accord has remained largely unimplemented. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. BLOCKS SUPERCOMPUTER EXPORTS TO RUSSIA.
The U.S. Commerce Department has refused to grant export licenses to IBM and a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary, blocking them from selling high-speed computers to the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, The Journal of Commerce reported on 25 November. The computers were intended for the Arzamas-16 (Kremlev) and Chelyabinsk-70 (Snezhinsk) research laboratories, where they would have helped Russian weapons designers conduct simulated nuclear explosions, improving the safety and reliability of the Russian nuclear arsenal while assuring adherence to the recently-signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. American critics of the proposed sale had argued that the computers would be used to improve Russian weapons design, injuring U.S. national security. The paper said Russian weapons designers had viewed the computer sales as linked to Russia's signing of the CTBT, and may now push to resume nuclear testing. -- Scott Parrish

FINNO-RUSSIAN TRANSPORT DISPUTE.
Finnish trade unions on 25 November launched an indefinite boycott of all Russian trucks, refusing to load or unload trailers from Russia until a dispute over border charges is resolved, ITAR-TASS reported. The boycott is in protest against taxes and fees imposed by Russian border guards on Finnish trucks crossing the Russo-Finnish border. The unions claim the fees are illegal and inconsistent with bilateral border agreements, but several rounds of intergovernmental talks have failed to resolve the dispute. The unions also are demanding increased security for Finnish truck drivers in Russia, who are frequently robbed or hijacked, and protesting the increasing use of Russian drivers by Finnish firms exporting to Russia. According to the agency, 50% of truck traffic in Finland is now conducted by lower-cost Russian trucks and drivers. -- Scott Parrish

CONCERN OVER INCREASED USE OF KOMPROMAT.
The Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, chaired by Anatolii Vengerov, has expressed concern over the increased use of the media to disseminate material aimed at compromising a business or political rival, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 November. The chamber noted that anonymous sources or illegally obtained information are often cited as proof of scandalous disclosures, arguing that such practices flout the presumption of innocence, damage the reputation of individuals and organizations, and "run counter to the spirit and letter of legislation on the media" and journalistic ethics. It also criticized the slow response of law enforcement bodies to such publications. A flood of articles have recently appeared in the press accusing prominent figures of criminal offenses and cover-ups. The chamber is an advisory body. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS THREATEN TO DISRUPT HOLIDAY BROADCASTS.
Workers at radio and television transmitter stations are threatening to disrupt broadcasts over the New Year holidays if back wages are not paid, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 November. Communications workers are owed 92 billion rubles and have not been paid for three to six months. On 20 November, workers at a Murmansk transmission center, who have not been paid for six months, staged a one-hour strike, disrupting ORT, RTR, and St. Petersburg Channel 5 programs in several northern cities. In general, however, such disputes tend to be resolved before broadcasts are canceled. -- Penny Morvant

POLL SHOWS MAGNITUDE OF WAGE ARREARS PROBLEM.
Only 22% of respondents in a recent poll received their wages in full and on time, Izvestiya reported on 26 November. The survey, which involved about 1,500 Russian citizens, was carried out by the Public Opinion foundation in mid-November. Sixty-two percent of the respondents were not paid on time, while another 16% did not work. Residents of small towns and villages were the most likely to be paid late in October (70% of those surveyed), while Muscovites were in the best position. Of the residents of the capital surveyed, 64% were paid on time and only 18% suffered wage delays. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT PICKS RUSSIAN BANKS FOR TELECOM PRIVATIZATION.
The Russian government is expected to announce on 26 November the cancellation of the planned public sale of $1 billion worth of shares in the state-owned telecom companies Rostelekom and Svyazinvest, AFP and the Financial Times reported the same day. The sale was being prepared by a Western consortium headed by N.M. Rothschild and in part funded by the World Bank. Last week the government apparently decided to switch the project to Alfa Bank and the Most group, two of the largest donors to Yeltsin's election campaign. One can expect that the flotation of telecom shares will now be confined to insider bidders, along the lines of the 1995 loans-for-shares auctions. One Western observer opined that "This will be the biggest scandal yet in the sorry history of Russian privatization." -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA WILL REPAY TSARIST DEBT TO FRANCE.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the Russian government will repay the debt to French holders of tsarist bonds, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 25 November. He did not elaborate on details of the repayment mechanism. France ranked first in the total volume of foreign investment in late-imperial Russia and was the largest official creditor of the tsarist government. The French Association for holders of Russian bonds claims that the tsarist debt (including interest accrued since 1917) totals $27-31 billion. Russian officials, however, insist on taking into account the value of Russian assets seized by French authorities when the Bolshevik government refused to honor tsarist debts after 1917. Due to the rumors surrounding the redemption of tsarist bonds, the French stock market authorities temporarily suspended trade in tsarist securities. -- Natalia Gurushina

BANKING SYSTEM REVIEW.
Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that only 38% of all Russian banks are stable, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 November. In Moscow and the Moscow Oblast this figure is 51%, while in the Far East it is as low as 14%. According to a Finansovye izvestiya report on 26 November, the number of banks declined from 2,295 to 2,090 in the first 10 months of the year. The number of commercial bank branches fell from 5,581 to 5,218 and those of Sberbank (Savings Bank) from 38,567 to 34,326 over the same period. The banking system's capitalization increased from 11 trillion rubles ($2.3 billion) in January to 17 trillion rubles ($3.1 billion) in October. -- Natalia Gurushina



NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS DEADLOCKED.
Yet another round of negotiations to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which began on 18 November in Finland, have failed to make any progress, RFE/RL reported on 25 November. The parties could not agree on a declaration of principles for ending the conflict that was intended to be signed at the OSCE's upcoming summit in Lisbon. Observers note that, as a result, the summit will probably adopt a nonbinding statement urging all sides to reach a peaceful resolution. Diplomats who attended the talks said there was a "slight movement" in Azerbaijan's position, whereas the positions of Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh representatives remained unchanged. Armenia's chief presidential aide Gerard Libaridian said his country will veto any document at the Lisbon summit that runs counter to its interests, according to RFE/RL. In other news, commenting on the 24 November presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh, chairman of Azerbaijan's Supreme Court Hanlar Hajiev said it was the "result of the thoughtless policy of Russia," Turan reported on 25 November. -- Emil Danielyan

MORE CRITICISM OF ABKHAZ ELECTIONS.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, in his regular Monday radio broadcast on 25 November, condemned as "a serious mistake" and "a political farce" the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia on 23 November, Reuters reported. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement released on 25 November and quoted by Radio Rossii similarly asserted that the elections constituted "a violation of universally accepted norms of human rights and basic civic liberties" and willfully ignored international public opinion. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY'S OFFICE REOPENED.
The office of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) was reopened on 25 November. It was sealed on 25 September by police following violent protests by opposition supporters against the official results of the presidential election. An AZhM representative told Noyan Tapan that the office suffered serious material damage and that the party's property has not yet been returned by the Interior Ministry. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTANI LOWER HOUSE PASSES LANGUAGE LAW.
The lower house of the Kazakstani parliament approved a language law on 22 November, according to ITAR-TASS. After "three days of heated debates" it was decided that ethnic Kazaks would be required to know the state language (Kazak) by January 2001 while the Russian-speaking population must know Kazak by January 2006. Television and radio must broadcast at least half their programming in the state language. Also mentioned was that the state language is used along with Russian in "all types of military formations." On 20 November Aman Tuleyev, the Russian Minister for Cooperation with CIS States, warned that passing such a law could lead to a mass exodus of Russia-speakers from Kazakstan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER TO MEET IN DECEMBER.
Western sources reported on 25 November that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov will meet United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri on 9 December in northern Afghanistan. The exact location of the meeting has not been disclosed. The meeting will lay the groundwork for a 23 December "official" meeting in Moscow. Expectations are that an agreement on power sharing will be signed at the Moscow meeting. Opposition forces have moved steadily westward since early 1996 and are now about 80 kilometers east of the capital Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK PARLIAMENT OPENS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS AGENDA.
The 7th session of the Oliy Majlis opened on 26 November with a list of "democratization" proposals on the agenda, Uzbek TV reported. The steering committee of the legislature, under the leadership of speaker Erkin Khalilov, met on 22 November to set the agenda, which includes the creation of a government institution designed to ensure that legislation abides by international standards of "democracy and human rights." In addition, the Oliy Majlis is expected to pass legislation on political parties, the protection of independent journalists, and greater access to state information. While other legislation will be considered, it is evident that this session will be marked as one in which human rights became a high priority for the government, Uzbek officials note. -- Roger Kangas



VOTERS SUPPORT LUKASHENKA'S CONSTITUTION.
The parliament's draft constitution received only 7.9% of votes cast in the 24 November referendum, international agencies reported the next day. Earlier, it was reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's draft constitution won 70.5% of the vote. 88.5% of respondents voted in favor of changing the national holiday from 17 July, when the republic declared independence, to 3 July, when the Red Army liberated Minsk from the Germans. Lukashenka's other two questions--on banning the free sale and purchase of land and on retaining the death penalty--also passed by a wide margin. Neither of the parliament's two questions passed. Only 29.9% voted for electing local administrations by direct popular vote and only 32.1% were in favor of funding all state agencies directly from the budget. Voting among the KGB and military was particularly high, with 99.6% casting ballots. Former head of the Central Electoral Commission Viktar Hanchar said the results were forged, and independent observers claimed irregularities in voting procedures. -- Ustina Markus

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES TO BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM.
A number of western countries and organizations have voiced concern over the results of the referendum, AFP reported on 25 November. The EU and the OSCE insisted that the Constitutional Court's decision on the consultative, non-binding nature of the referendum must be respected. A U.S. State Department spokesman emphasized the lack of open debate before the referendum, which, he said, deprived it of legitimacy. He added that the plebiscite was "neither free, nor fair". Russia, however, said the result of the referendum was "normal" and concluded that its bid to diffuse the political crisis in Belarus had been successful. Meanwhile, Belarus has turned its last 18 nuclear warheads over to Russia. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES PRESSING FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Leonid Kuchma has denied accusations by lawmakers that he is leading a campaign to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections, Ukrainian agencies reported on 22 November. Legislators have drawn that conclusion from his recent appeal to the Constitutional Court to review two parliamentary decisions that he believes violate the country's basic law. The next parliamentary elections are not due until spring 1998. Kuchma said an early vote would be too costly and could destabilize the country. Deputies have postponed until April a second reading of a new election bill that would transform Ukraine's electoral system. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE OFFICIALS SURVIVED HIJACK CRASH.
Three members of a Ukrainian Defense Ministry mission survived the hijack crash of the Boeing-767 on 23 November in the Comoro Islands, international agencies reported on 25 November. They are Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force Lt. Gen. Viktor Strelnikov and two other high Ukrainian military officials who were in Addis Abeba to negotiate modernizing MiG-21s belonging to the Ethiopian Air Force. The fate of the fourth member of the mission is still unknown. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS AGREEMENTS WITH ISRAEL.
Leonid Kuchma on 25 November signed several economic agreements with Israel, AFP and Ukrainian radio reported. Those accords are on sea trade, protection of resources, and cooperation on customs issues. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he received assurances from Kuchma that Ukraine is not signing any arms deals with Iran and that it has decided not to sell tanks to Baghdad. He stressed that Ukraine was not seeking any compensation from Israel for this, nor was Israel offering any to Kyiv. Netanyahu also said Israel hoped Ukraine's government would work to reduce the risks for foreign investors in Ukraine. He added he had accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine, and would come along with a delegation of businessmen. -- Ustina Markus

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ESTONIA.
Davorin Kracun, during his visit to Tallinn on 25 November, discussed EU expansion with President Lennart Meri, ETA reported. He repeated Slovenian President Milan Kucan's invitation that Meri make a state visit to Slovenia. Kracun also held talks with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on developing economic and trade relations and on achieving integration into European economic and defense structures. Kracun and acting Foreign Minister Riivo Sinijarv are scheduled to sign a free trade agreement today. Together with agreements on the protection of investments, the prevention of double taxation, and visa free travel that are still being prepared, that accord is expected to significantly boost trade. -- Saulius Girnius

FIRST SESSION OF NEW LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT.
The 137 deputies elected to the Seimas have been formally sworn in by Constitutional Court Chairman Juozas Zilys, Radio Lithuania reported on 25 November. President Algirdas Brazauskas urged the deputies not to make sharp changes in foreign policy and to continue the main goals of membership in the EU and NATO. Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis was the only candidate nominated for the post of Seimas chairman. He was elected in a secret ballot by a vote of 107 to 28. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH SHIPYARD WORKERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDING.
Some 1,500 workers at the Gdansk shipyard--birthplace of the Solidarity movement in 1980--demonstrated in front of the local governor's building, Polish and international media reported on 26 November. Two hundred or so stayed on to occupy the building. The workers are demanding that the government issue restructuring plans and financial guarantees for building ships for Germany. Last week, Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko refused to extend credit guarantees for the bankrupt shipyard, but Treasury Minister Miroslaw Pietrewicz said today that the government may consider offering guarantees if the management proposes viable restructuring plans. The shipyard has debts totaling 415 million zlotys ($148 million) and currently employs about 5,000 people. -- Beata Pasek

VAST MAJORITY OF POLES CLAIM MASS PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS.
More than 25 million Poles--or 95% of those eligible--have claimed a total of 25,675,090 privatization vouchers over the past 12 months, Polish and international media reported on 26 November. A year ago, only one in ten Poles said they would claim vouchers, and the government expected to distribute about 10 million. Wieslaw Kaczmarek, head of the privatization agency at the Treasury Ministry, said that his ministry, encouraged by the success of the first stage of mass privatization, will draft a new version of the program including other state-owned companies. Vouchers sold by state banks for 20 zlotys ($7) are currently selling for some 150 zlotys on the stock exchange. Next year, the vouchers will be exchanged for shares in 15 investment funds managing some 500 enterprises. -- Beata Pasek

SLOVAKIA, RUSSIA STRENGTHEN TIES.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 25 November received a delegation led by Slovak parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic to discuss economic and political ties, Slovak media and ITAR-TASS reported. Gasparovic stressed that although Slovakia wants to decide for itself on EU and NATO membership, "we do not want to take these steps violently
and without consideration, and they will certainly be decided in a referendum." Gasparovic's four-day trip to Russia coincides with a visit by Culture Minister Ivan Hudec to launch a Slovak cultural festival in Moscow. On 23 November, Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik announced in Bratislava following an intergovernment meeting that a free trade agreement with Russia is expected by late June. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK MEDIA ROUNDUP.
The Slovak PEN Club on 26 November protested the recent ruling by a Banska Bystrica court ordering the opposition daily Sme to apologize to and pay cabinet ministers 7.5 million crowns ($242,000) in compensation for publishing a "damaging" article (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 November 1996), Praca reported. The PEN Club stressed that the court made the ruling without questioning the ministers or examining the extent of their "psychological trauma." The group also noted that the European Court of Human Rights has approved verdicts making it clear that individuals have broad rights to criticize politicians, public servants, the government, and state institutions. Sme is appealing the ruling. In other news, the private TV Markiza share of hours viewed daily grew to 37.3% (36% in prime time) in October, while Slovak TV's share fell to 23.9% (27.4%), according to TASR on 25 November. With regard to news programs, Slovak TV remains the most popular with 25%, while Markiza news has 20-22% viewership. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY WILL SOON INVITE BIDS FOR COMMERCIAL BROADCASTS.
The National Radio and Television Commission will publish tenders for commercial television and radio stations in early December, Hungarian and international media reported on 26 November. Two commercial TV channels and two commercial radio stations will start broadcasting on 1 September 1997. The primary owner can have up to 49% ownership and the secondary owner 25%, with a minimum of 26% remaining in Hungarian hands. Under the media law, at least 51% of the programs must originate in Hungary and another 30% from other parts of Europe. U.S.-led consortia headed by Ronald Lauder and Mark Palmer, Germany's West Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and Bertelsman Group, as well as and France's TF1 are all expected to bid. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

CORRECTION:
The item "Ukrainian Parliament Suspends Privatization of 'Strategic' Enterprises" in the 25 November 1996 issue of the OMRI Daily Digest incorrectly listed the number of state-owned enterprises originally barred by Kyiv from privatization. The item should have read that Ukrainian lawmakers have increased the number of those enterprises from 5,500 to 7,111.




BELGRADE PROTESTS GAIN MOMENTUM.
Up to 200,000 people marched in downtown Belgrade on 25 November to protest the authorities' decision to nullify opposition wins in the 17 November local elections, Radio B92 reported. It was the sixth consecutive day of mass demonstrations in the capital, which are reported to have been larger than the 1991 anti-government demonstrations. Landmarks such as the Serbian legislature, the Politika publishing house, and TV Serbia were pelted by thousands of eggs. March organizers urged participants to remain calm and to "peacefully" target only designated landmarks. Mass demonstrations are planned to continue daily both in and outside Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

OTHER NEWS FROM SERBIA.
The opposition coalition Zajedno has appealed to the Serbian Supreme Court to overturn the authorities' decision to nullify its local election wins, Nasa Borba reported on 26 November. Meanwhile, Ilija Djukic, chair of the Democratic Party's foreign affairs committee, said he received a favorable hearing from Western officials whom he had briefed on the current situation in Serbia. He added that he would not like to be in Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's place when Milutinovic explains to leaders from other countries currently meeting in Brussels about ongoing developments in Serbia. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL WINDS TO A CLOSE.
U.S. Deputy Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said in The Hague on 25 November that accused Bosnian Serb war criminal Dusan Tadic is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. She argued that witnesses' testimony clearly identified him as being present with "a special status" at the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje concentration camps in 1992, AFP reported. Tadic's lawyers maintain that many of the witnesses are unreliable and that, at best, charges against their client are based on mistaken identity. Meanwhile in Croatia, the authorities have placed 39 ethnic Serbs on trial for war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict in 1991 and 1992, Hina noted. Twelve are present in the court in Split, while the rest are being tried in absentia. And in Zagreb, a top-level international commission on missing persons in the wars of the Yugoslav succession met with President Franjo Tudjman. The group is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. -- Patrick Moore

ISLAMIC COUNTRIES DISCUSS AID TO BOSNIA.
The group for aid mobilization to Bosnia-Herzegovina of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) convened for a two-day meeting in Sarajevo on 22 November , Oslobodjenje reported. Representatives of 12 countries and the Islamic Bank discussed economic, social, humanitarian, and military issues. Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said the Islamic world has provided 15% of the total amount of reconstruction aid to date. Muratovic criticized High Representative Carl Bildt for trying to postpone some reconstruction projects until the three-man presidency agrees to appoint the Council of Ministers. Muratovic also complained that Bildt was attempting to postpone a forthcoming donors' conference in Brussels. "If Bildt does not change his attitude very soon..., we'll be forced to ask for diplomatic help from our friends," he added. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

PROBLEMS FACE TRANS-BORDER BOSNIAN TV.
Representatives of four local Bosnian TV stations participating in the internationally sponsored project TV International/Open Broadcast Network (TVIN/OBN) have announced they will complain to sponsors about their status in the project, Oslobodjenje reported on 24 November. TVIN/OBN was designed as an independent television network aimed to overcome internal borders in Bosnia. But local TV stations participating in the $10 million project complain they have been excluded from the financial planning and the decision-making on programs. Local stations were granted equipment worth $1 million to improve their programs and broadcasting facilities. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

ROMANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE SEES ECONOMIC REFORM AS PRIORITY.
Victor Ciorbea has said he plans to focus on economic reforms in order to woo international financial institutes back into the country, Radio Bucharest and AFP reported on 25 November. He said he will meet with an IMF delegation on 30 November and try to mend fences with that organization. The IMF suspended part of a $250 million loan to Romania earlier this year, accusing the outgoing government of failing to meet a pledge to reduce the budget deficit and restructure state institutions. Ciorbea said this year's budget deficit will reach 4.5% of GDP, more than double the 2% pledge made to the IMF. He added that his government will speed up privatization by eliminating bureaucratic and legal obstacles. Meanwhile, Cronica romana reports on 26 November that the decision to change the title of premier to chairman of the Council of Ministers has been revoked because it would have required a constitutional amendment. -- Michael Shafir

UKRAINE OPPOSES RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE IN MOLDOVA.
Radio Bucharest reported on 25 November that Ukraine has expressed opposition to a recent Russian State Duma resolution calling for a permanent status for the Russian contingent in Moldova. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Ukraine is opposed because it respects Moldova's territorial integrity, which extends to the breakaway Dniester region. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS CURRENCY BOARD TO BE INTRODUCED IN EARLY 1997.
Zhan Videnov on 25 November said that a currency board would be introduced in the first weeks of 1997, Bulgarian media reported. He added that the parliament would have the final word on the matter. According to Videnov, there are three outstanding issues: whether the 1997 budget will be balanced, whether the banking system will maintain strict discipline, and what level of funding will be provided by international financial institutions to support the currency board's fixed exchange rate. Other issues currently being debated are whether to tie the lev to the dollar or the German mark and whether to set the current exchange rate or a further devalued one. Videnov also said that no foreigners or representatives of Bulgarian political parties or banks would sit on the board. -- Michael Wyzan

BULGARIA TO REOPEN UMBRELLA MURDER CASE?
President-elect Petar Stoyanov told The Times on 25 November that the murder case of Georgi Markov will be reopened, AFP reported. Stoyanov said that clearing up Markov's murder will be one of his priorities after assuming office in January 1997. He noted that "for Bulgarian society, this question has acquired symbolic importance." Markov was a prominent writer who fled Bulgaria after falling out with the communist authorities. In 1969, he settled in London, where he worked for the Bulgarian section of the BBC World Service. Later, he joined RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service in Munich. He was murdered in September 1978 in the British capital, most likely stabbed by a specially prepared poisonous umbrella. A tiny pellet containing the highly poisonous ricin was found in his leg after his death. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN TRADE UNION LEADERS FILE CHARGES AGAINST EACH OTHER.
Azem Hajdari and Valer Xheka, presidents of their respective factions of the Unions of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH), have filed charges against each other, ATSH reported on 25 November. Hajdari wants the court to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the BSPSH and to order the assets of the BSPSH frozen until a court ruling. Xheka says the Durres congress at which Hajdari was elected as president of the breakaway BSPSH violated the trade union's statutes. He wants Hajdari to be banned from using its name. He also charged Fatmir Musaku, an ally of Hajdari, with embezzling $4,168 during a visit to China in May. Meanwhile, Hajdari was re-elected president of his faction at a congress on 23 November, Dita Informacion reported. -- Fabian Schmidt



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