YELTSIN, SELEZNEV MEET TO DISCUSS BUDGET.
President Boris Yeltsin and
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev met on 3 December to discuss ways to pass the
1997 budget. Yeltsin expressed his displeasure with the Duma's recent actions,
warning that they were not helping to stabilize society, Russian TV reported.
Seleznev distanced himself from Deputy Duma Speaker Sergei Baburin's attempts
to place a no-confidence vote on the Duma's agenda, NTV reported. The meeting
was the second between Yeltsin and Seleznev; the first was on 21 October. The
president has yet to participate in a meeting of the "permanent four"
Consultative Council, and, for the time being, is happy to meet with its
members one by one, Kommersant-Daily reported on 4 December. Seleznev
said that Yeltsin would return to work full-time at the end of December. --
CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER GROUND FORCES COMMANDER.
As the scandal
surrounding Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's attempt to dismiss Army Gen.
Vladimir Semenov as Ground Forces commander intensified, the Defense Ministry
announced that Rodionov had postponed his scheduled 5 December visit to the
U.S., Russian and Western media reported on 3 December. Russian commentators
linked the decision, for which no official explanation was offered, to the
imbroglio over Semenov's ouster. Further distancing Yeltsin from the move to
dismiss Semenov on misconduct charges, presidential press secretary Sergei
Yastrzhembskii said on 3 December that while Yeltsin had approved the sacking
"in principle," he had left the justification for the dismissal in Rodionov's
hands. He added that Semenov is temporarily suspended from his post pending a
final decision by the president. Meanwhile, Semenov protested his dismissal in
a letter to Yeltsin, vowing to fight the misconduct allegations "until the
end." -- Scott Parrish
MASKHADOV TO RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT.
Chechen interim Prime Minister
Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny on 3 December that he will
definitely contest the presidential election scheduled for 27 January 1997,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev
had told ITAR-TASS on 2 December that he favored a single candidate
representing the Chechen opposition forces; this approach has been rejected
both by Maskhadov and by field commander Vakha Arsanov, who was nominated as a
presidential candidate by the Party of National Independence of Chechnya on 2
December. Also on 3 December, a spokesman for the European Commission announced
that it has allocated an additional $2.8 million in humanitarian aid for
Chechnya, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller
MINERS' STRIKE CONTINUES.
Tens of thousands of miners are striking for a
second day in Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. According to
the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union (Rosugleprofsoyuz), workers at 161 of
the country's 189 mines and 27 of 69 open pits stopped work on 3 December to
protest wage arrears. The coal company Rosugol said work stopped at about 100
mines and 23 open pits. According to Rosugleprofsoyuz Chairman Vitalii Budko,
miners are owed 2.6 trillion rubles ($470 million) in back wages and 1.5
trillion in subsidies; another 8 trillion rubles are owed by coal customers.
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said all federal budget allocations have
been paid out. The miners are also seeking the resignation of the government.
The stoppage is opposed by the Independent Miners' Union, NTV reported. --
TVER PENSIONERS PROTEST.
About 80 pensioners blocked a railway line near
Tver for four-and-a-half hours on 3 December to demand the payment of their
pensions on time, ITAR-TASS reported. The protest delayed one service between
Moscow and St. Petersburg and several trains between Moscow and Tver. A
spokeswoman for the Russian Pension Fund said on 3 December that the fund owed
pensioners 17.5 trillion rubles ($3.2 billion) at the beginning of December.
The worst situation is in Kemerovo Oblast, where pensioners have still not
received August payments. -- Penny Morvant
SARATOV SETS UP SECURITY COUNCIL.
Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov has
set up a regional security council, the first such body in an oblast, Radio
Mayak reported on 3 December. It will handle questions concerning the vital
interests of the oblast and individual rights, state, economic and ecological
security, and try to predict emergency situations and deal with their
consequences. Ayatskov named police Col. Aleksandr Kosygin as the council's
secretary. Three years ago he was the director of the Ministry of Internal
Affairs' Saratov branch. Like its federal counterpart, the Saratov Security
Council will try to coordinate the actions of the existing branches of the
oblast government. -- Robert Orttung
CONGRESS OF JUDGES OPENS IN MOSCOW.
The fourth all-Russian Congress of
Judges opened in Mosow on 3 December to discuss the crisis in the judical
system, Russian media reported. The state owes the courts 540 billion rubles
($100 million) from this year's budget. Wages are low and paid late, courts are
understaffed--there are more than 1,200 vacancies for judges--and trials are
delayed. Nine district courts in Kaluga Oblast recently stopped work due to
lack of funds. Before the congress opened, President Yeltsin signed a decree on
stabilizing the judicial system. It promises to pay wage arrears to judges and
other court workers by the end of this year and orders the Interior Ministry to
take steps to provide judges with weapons in 1997. A Moscow judge was killed in
her office earlier this year by a defendant. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski and Penny
RUSSIA ISOLATED AT OSCE SUMMIT.
Russia's proposal that the OSCE, not
NATO, play the leading coordinating role in a new European security
architecture was effectively rebuffed as the OSCE summit in Lisbon ended on 3
December, Izvestiya reported on 4 December. The most Moscow could
accomplish was the omission of any mention of the disputed issue of NATO
expansion in the final summit communique, which tried to please everyone by
declaring that no new dividing lines should be created in Europe, while also
stating that each country has the right to choose its own means of assuring its
security, NTV reported. Russia also found itself in the minority on other
issues, RFE/RL reported, pressing for the omission of criticism of Serbia from
the final communique, and also defending Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka against charges that he has violated democratic norms and
principles. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA WARNS U.S. OVER "SUBCRITICAL" BOMB TESTS.
Responding to a 2
December report in The San Francisco Examiner that the U.S. Energy
Department is planning a series of test explosions involving small amounts of
fissile uranium and plutonium, Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy spokesman
Georgii Kaurov said any nuclear explosion would be a violation of the
recently-signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 3
December. Kaurov said the treaty contained no minimum threshold for nuclear
explosions, and argued that "if an explosion sets off a chain reaction, the
treaty will be violated ... no matter what amount of fissionable material is
used." U.S. officials insist the planned tests will not trigger a chain
reaction and are hence permissible under the CTBT, although American critics
claim they will undermine the treaty by violating its spirit. -- Scott
TROPHY ART ON DISPLAY.
The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg on 3
December opened its third exhibition of art transferred from Germany to the
Soviet Union in 1945, Nevskoe Vremya reported. The museum put on display
89 drawings of 13 European artists of the late 18th-early 20th centuries,
including works by Goya and Van Gogh. All were taken from private collections
and kept hidden for half a century. The first exhibition of the trophy
masterpieces opened in the Hermitage in the spring of 1995 and sparked a
dispute between Germany and Russia over ownership rights. Considering the booty
art as part of compensation for enormous losses in World War II, Russia is
reluctant to return it to the former owners, despite the Germans' strong legal
claims on the art. "We need to get ready for long and serious negotiations with
the German side to decide the fate of the transferred art," Hermitage Director
Mikhail Piotrovskii said. -- Elena Zotova in St. Petersburg
INTERNATIONAL MONEY LAUNDERING IS WELL ENTRENCHED.
The OECD has issued a
report analyzing the work of the Financial Action Task Force, which was set up
by a G-7 summit in 1989 to combat money laundering, RFE/RL reported on 3
December. The report concludes that Russian and East European gangs are very
active in laundering money from drug-running, prostitution, car theft,
extortion, and corrupt privatization deals. They have established a broad
network of legitimate businesses to convert the illicit receipts into legal
assets. Favorite channels include the purchase of real estate, art works, and
the tourism business. -- Peter Rutland
AVTOVAZ BANKRUPTCY AVERTED?
The government and the management of AvtoVaz
have agreed to a plan to avert the auto manufacturer's bankruptcy, issuing
additional shares worth 50% of its authorized capital over the next two months,
ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. The government had threatened to initiate
bankruptcy proceedings against AvtoVaz, which owed 2.8 trillion rubles ($508
million) in federal taxes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1996).
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin noted that it is best for AvtoVaz
to find a strategic investor, such as BMW, Ford or Opel. Initially, government
officials favored Fiat, which founded AvtoVaz, but the Italian company said
that it had no interest in taking over the company. -- Ritsuko Sasaki
LAST-MINUTE OSCE COMPROMISE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
compromise wording proposed by the U.S. prevented Armenia and Azerbaijan from
vetoing the final communique by the OSCE summit in Lisbon, international media
reported on 3 December. Armenia had objected to an article of the draft
communique which upheld Azerbaijan's territorial integrity as a guiding
principle for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The provision was
included following vigorous efforts by Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, who
said he would block the entire document unless it formally recognized
Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky
told RFE/RL that Flavio Cotti, the Swiss chairman of the OSCE, might condemn
Azerbaijan's tactic. Yet, according to CNN, Aliev's position was strongly
backed by the European Union. As a result of the compromise, the contentious
language was removed from the final communique and adopted as a separate
document. -- Emil Danielyan
GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY TALKS.
Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko
Nadibaidze and his Russian counterpart Igor Rodionov met on 3 December in
Moscow to discuss "issues of mutual interest," no details of which were
subsequently disclosed, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same day, Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev told journalists that at last week's round
of inter-governmental Russian-Georgian talks in Tbilisi, the Georgian side
"raised or repeated some problems that do not promote Russian-Georgian
relations." Specifically, Georgia refused to endorse a Russian draft agreement
on developing military cooperation. Agreement has also not been reached on
payment in Georgian laris to finance the presence of Russian troops in Georgia.
-- Liz Fuller
KYRGYZ MINISTRIES CUT.
President Askar Akayev signed a number of decrees
on 2 December, reducing the number of ministries in the Kyrgyz government from
22 to 15 and cutting the government staff by 3,000 people, RFE/RL reported.
Among the changes, former Finance Minister Kemelbek Nanayev was appointed First
Deputy Prime Minister and is replaced by Taalaibek Koichumanov, the former
economics minister. The economics ministry ceases to exist. The ministries of
education, culture, and agriculture and water were combined. Akayev's decree on
cutting personnel will effect 30% of the presidential and parliamentary staffs,
20% of government and ministerial officials and at least 10% of local
government staffs. On 25 November Akayev signed a decree allowing private
ownership of land, effective on 1 January. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov
KAZAKSTANI PENSIONERS DEMAND RESULTS.
The Pensioner's Fund of Kazakstan
has appealed to local government officials to take action in paying arrears to
pensioners, who in some cases have not been paid for several months, according
to a 3 December ITAR-TASS report. Unpaid pensions total 40 million tenge (about
$545,000) despite government efforts to free money for payments. Inspectors
have found many cases of pension money being loaned by state officials to
commercial enterprises or as short-term loans for quick profits, some funds
being simply embezzled or misappropriated. The ITAR-TASS report claims some
pensioners have given up on using official channels and are engaging in actions
such as blocking roads and rail lines to bring attention to their plight. --
MINISTRY ABOLISHED IN TURKMENISTAN.
Turkmenistan's Ministry of
Construction and Architecture was abolished by presidential decree on 3
December, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. In an address to ministry personnel,
President Saparmurat Niyazov charged that the ministry's enterprises have been
unprofitable, operate at 50% of their capacity and construct facilities which
are substandard. The industry is to be de-centralized with existing enterprises
shared out between regional administrations, the republic's ministries of
building materials, power-engineering, and Turkmenneftgaz. -- Lowell Bezanis
BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUSTICES RESIGN.
Three justices from the
Constitutional Court have resigned to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's
new constitution, international agencies reported on 3 December. One of the
justices, Mikhail Pastukhau, said the existence of a Constitutional Court was
meaningless under the new basic law, which allows the president to appoint the
majority of the court's members, including the chief justice. Under the old
constitution, Lukashenka repeatedly ignored the court's rulings, including its
decision that the 24 November referendum be non-binding. AFP reported there may
be some complications with the resignations since they must be approved by the
parliament. The three justices, however, sent them to Syamyon Sharetsky,
speaker of the old parliament, which no longer exists. Pastukhau said a
two-thirds majority (133 votes) was needed to dissolve the old legislature. He
added that since the new lower house passed the law with a simple majority of
103 votes, the legislation has no legal force. -- Ustina Markus
UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT AT OSCE SUMMIT.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has
had to withstand further criticism from member countries attending the OSCE
summit in Lisbon, AFP reported on 3 December. OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti told
Lukashenka that the 24 November referendum was illegal and should be declared
null and void. The OSCE leadership urged the Belarusian government to show
restraint toward and start up a dialogue with the opposition. It also pressed
for freedom of the media in Belarus as well as full respect for internationally
accepted democratic and constitutional principles and practices. Meanwhile,
RFE/RL reported on 3 December that the constitutional crisis in Belarus is not
mentioned in the summit's final declaration, since Belarus, Russia, and some
other countries imposed a veto. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
CHORNOBYL VICTIMS, AFGHAN VETERANS PICKET UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT.
dozen Chornobyl victims, Afghan war veterans, and Ukrainian pensioners picketed
the parliament to protest proposed cuts in benefits next year, Ukrainian and
Western agencies reported on 3 December. The Chornobyl Union and the Veterans
of Afghanistan organization have appealed to President Leonid Kuchma and
Speaker Oleksander Moroz to prevent lawmakers from approving large social
spending cuts in the draft 1997 budget. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko insisted the cuts were necessary because they would provide the
government with 2.9 billion hryvnyas ($1.5 billion) to pay off all wage and
pension arrears early next year. The planned cuts would eliminate subsidies on
public transport for working people and benefits for several categories of
Chornobyl victims. The draft budget would also raise the retirement age in
Ukraine and place limits on pensions for working retirees. -- Chrystyna
LATVIA SEEKS SOLUTION TO SEA BORDER DISPUTE WITH LITHUANIA.
Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins, head of the Latvian delegation on
border talks with Lithuania, held informal talks in Vilnius on 3 December with
Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and future Foreign Minister Algirdas
Saudargas, BNS reported. It is unclear why Riekstins made the trip since his
Lithuanian counterpart, Rimantas Sidlauskas, was busy hosting a Russian border
talk delegation. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele has said Latvia should
have control over possible oil deposits in a disputed area since foreign
companies would not begin exploration work until the Lithuanian-Russian sea
border had been determined. Previously, he offered to share oil revenues evenly
if Lithuania gave up its claim to the area. Lithuania maintains that the border
must be determined before dividing revenues can be discussed. -- Saulius
CZECH, GERMAN LEADERS DISCUSS JOINT DECLARATION.
Czech Premier Vaclav
Klaus and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting during the OSCE summit in
Lisbon on 3 December, discussed the bilateral declaration soon to be adopted by
their two countries, Czech media reported. The document is to address past
mutual grievances, such as the expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from
Czechoslovakia after World War II. Negotiations have been continuing for the
past two years. "We are both convinced that the negotiations can be completed
by the end of the year," Kohl told a news conference. Klaus noted that "talks
are practically finished," adding that the declaration is to be initialed by
the countries' foreign ministers before being ratified by the parliaments and
then signed by himself and Kohl. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES MODIFIED PENAL CODE AMENDMENT.
The government on
3 December approved a modified version of the amendment on the protection of
the republic, TASR reported. Previous versions of the legislation, which is
aimed at preventing economic crime and protecting Slovakia's territorial
integrity, have attracted strong criticism from domestic and international
observers. The parliament plans to discuss the legislation at its session
beginning today. The cabinet also approved a controversial bill on the
nationalist cultural organization Matica slovenska. Meanwhile,
representatives of all opposition parties--excluding the Party of the
Democratic Left--met on 3 December to discuss a common strategy for the
parliament session. -- Sharon Fisher
STATE SECRETARY OF SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS ATTEMPTS TO "DISCREDIT"
Jozef Sestak on 3 December denied the validity of a letter broadcast
the previous day by RFE/RL's Slovak Service and expressed his full support for
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the government, CTK reported. The "strictly
confidential" letter was addressed to opposition representatives in February
1994, shortly before the fall of Meciar's government at the time. "It is clear
to all of you that it is impossible to cooperate with a government headed by
Meciar," Sestak had written in the letter. He added that each day Meciar
remains in office means that "not only the internal political, economic,
social, and moral situation of the country gets worse but also the position of
our young republic internationally." Sestak also proposed that opposition
leaders establish "a coalition of democratic forces." Democratic Union deputy
Milan Knazko told CTK that the letter is authentic. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ON POLICE DISMISSALS.
commenting on his decision last week to dismiss the four top police officials
for their failure to halt gang-land bombings and shootings in the capital, said
he has tried many times to restructure the police force in order to break the
National Police Headquarters' centralization of power, Hungarian dailies
reported on 3 December. He also commented that the firings were necessary
because inefficient management practices and differences among top police
officials have undermined the authority of law-enforcement executives. Some
opposition figures have demanded Kuncze's dismissal as well, pointing to the
spread of corruption in the police force, the failure to tackle organized
crime, and the increase in crime in general. Several ministers have recently
been replaced for failing to resolve the crises in their sectors. Premier Gyula
Horn's camouflaged cabinet reshuffle is believed to be aimed at improving the
chances of the government parties in the 1998 elections. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
BELGRADE CLAMPS DOWN ON INDEPENDENT RADIO STATION.
In another effort to
muzzle the independent media and thwart the ongoing peaceful protests in
Serbia, the Belgrade authorities have taken Radio B 92 off the air. The radio
station has been giving extensive coverage to the protests. B 92 Editor Veran
Matic told reporters that the station received a letter from the federal
Ministry of Transport and Communications saying that B-92 does not have the
necessary authorization to broadcast. The student-run Radio Index has also been
taken off the air. VOA reported today that B 92 is continuing to broadcast on
VOA's Serbian-language frequencies. -- Stan Markotich
MASS PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SERBIA.
For the 15th consecutive day, mass
demonstrations took place throughout Serbia to protest the authorities'
decision to nullify the results of last month's run-off municipal elections,
Nasa Borba reported on 4 December. An estimated 100,000 people again
gathered in Belgrade. Demonstration organizers have vowed to continue with the
protest action until all second-round municipal election returns are "honored."
Meanwhile, Belgrade's electoral commission has questioned the legality of the
nullification of the election results, which showed the opposition
Zajedno coalition winning in the 12 largest municipalities. AFP on 3
December reported that the commission has sent a letter to authorities
outlining its position. CNN on 4 December reported that the regime is stepping
up the police presence at demonstrations. -- Stan Markotich
WASHINGTON WARNS SERBIA.
U.S. press spokesman Michael McCurry said on 3
December that Washington could retaliate against Belgrade in the wake of the
clampdown on two independent radio stations. He noted that the U.S. still
maintains its own "outer wall" of sanctions against federal Yugoslavia and
could block that country's return to international organizations, AFP reported.
Washington is also working to prevent EU countries from extending trade
benefits to Belgrade at a meeting slated for 6 December, the BBC reported on 4
December. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that "the Serbian
government has painted
itself into a corner," the VOA noted. Numerous
international journalists' organizations and other NGOs have joined in the
protest. Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia rejected the complaints, arguing
that "elections in a country are above all a domestic matter," AFP reported. --
CALL FOR JUSTICE ON BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES.
The International Crisis
Group--an NGO consisting of prominent people and headed by former U.S. Senator
George Mitchell--has called for tough measures against war criminals. Noting
that the big fish are still on the loose, it wants IFOR to receive a mandate to
arrest indicted individuals, the VOA reported on 3 December. The ICG urges
donors to withhold aid from any country or locality that harbors war criminals
and to give the money instead to the underfunded Hague-based war crimes
tribunal instead. -- Patrick Moore
EXPULSIONS CONTINUE IN BOSNIA.
The UN reported that over 30 Muslims have
been driven from their homes in the Bosanska Gradiska area of northern Bosnia
over the past ten weeks, Oslobodjenje noted on 4 December. Their
property is being taken by Serbs whose former homes in Donji Vakuf are now
under federal control. A report by Human Rights Watch says that Serbian
paramilitaries were involved in the expulsions and that the local authorities
did nothing to stop them. Meanwhile, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
noted in its latest newsletter that the campaign to force Serbs to leave Ilidza
is continuing. One man noted that "after every quarrel or beating, four or five
Serb houses are sold cheap." -- Patrick Moore
CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
For the first time since 1991,
Franjo Tudjman has visited the last Serb-held territory in Croatia,
international and local media reported on 3 December. Speaking in the region's
main town of Vukovar, the Croatian symbol of war-time suffering, Tudjman said
his visit as president of Croatia is a sign that peaceful reintegration is on
the right track, Vecernji List reported. He added that his visit is a
signal for Croatian refugees that they should return to their homes and for
local Serbs that they should opt for the Croatian state. Tudjman met with UN
administrator for eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein and with a group of local
Serbian officials. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIAN RAIL WORKERS HALT ALL TRAINS.
The railroad union has shut down
the country's railroad network, accusing the state railroads management of
blacklisting and firing workers who took part in a general strike six days ago
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 December 1996), Novi List reported on 4
December. Union President Zlatko Pavletic said only army trains will continue
to run if needed. He added that all other traffic will be suspended until the
rail worker who was sacked on 2 December for continuing to strike is
reinstated. The railroads management has denied threatening or sacking workers
who refused to sign written statements criticizing the strike. Meanwhile,
Hungarian Television (MTV) said some 600 freight cars have been held up on the
Croatian-Hungarian border owing to the strike, Reuters reported on 3 December.
MTV added that rail traffic between the two countries has virtually ground to a
halt. -- Daria Sito Sucic
LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS IN MACEDONIA.
Preliminary results show that 114
of the country's 123 mayors have so far been elected following last week's
local ballot, MILS reported on 3 December. The governing Social Democratic
Alliance won 52 mayoralties, the right-wing opposition coalition 28, and the
ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity 12, plus one in coalition with
the Democratic People's Party (PDP). The Party of Democratic Prosperity of the
Albanians won only four mayoral mandates plus three in coalition with the PDP.
The Socialists won three, the Turkish Democratic Party two, and the Serbian
Democratic Party and the Party for Full Emancipation of the Roma one each.
Returns have still to come in from Valandovo, Ohrid, Prilep, and Probishtip. --
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, HUNGARIAN PREMIER DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS.
Constantinescu and Gyula Horn, meeting in Lisbon on 3 December during the OSCE
summit, agreed that Romania's new foreign minister will visit Hungary soon,
Romanian media reported the same day. Horn said that the Hungarian parliament
will ratify the friendship treaty next week. That document was signed in
September and ratified by Romania in October. The previous day, Horn had noted
that Hungary backs Romania's efforts to achieve EU and NATO integration, and he
had offered to "do [his] utmost to fulfill [that] goal." Constantinescu said
Romania has the "historic chance" to become a stabilizing factor in the region.
He added that all neighbors are "viewed as partners and not competitors" on the
road toward integration. -- Zsolt Mato
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS CABINET RESIGNATION.
The parliament on 3
December unanimously accepted the resignation of Andrei Sangheli's government,
BASA-press and Infotag reported the same day. It also asked the government to
continue carrying out its duties until a new cabinet has been formed. Before
the 1 December presidential run-off, Sangheli had said his government would
resign immediately after the run-off results had been released in order "to
allow the new president to form a cabinet with which he can cooperate in a more
efficient way." Meanwhile, President-elect Petru Lucinschi described the
cabinet's decision to step back as "just," arguing that Sangheli had not been
"frank" about his ministers' mistakes. -- Dan Ionescu
MOLDOVA'S OUTGOING PRESIDENT URGES RUSSIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWAL.
Snegur, addressing the OSCE summit in Lisbon on 3 December, urged Russia to
withdraw its troops from eastern Moldova, BASA-press reported. He complained
that Moscow has not "honored the commitments" laid down in an October 1994
bilateral agreement. The troops withdrawal was a key factor to finding a
peaceful settlement to the Dniester conflict, he added. Snegur also appealed to
the summit to issue a "political declaration" on "the current state of affairs"
in Moldova. The 1994 Russian-Moldovan accord has not yet been ratified by the
Russian State Duma. -- Dan Ionescu
NATIONAL STRIKE IN BULGARIA.
The Confederation of the Independent Trade
Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) has called a 24-hour national strike for 4 December,
Reuters and local media reported. Some 1 million people--mostly miners,
teachers, and light industry workers--are expected to support the strike. KNSB
spokesman Snezhana Lyubenova said the action is to protest "incompetence and
corruption within [Premier] Zhan Videnov's Socialist cabinet." The KNSB
believes that the strike will help force early parliamentary elections. Another
large trade union confederation, Podkrepa, has urged its members to join
the strike if they wish, but it has not given its official backing. Some
opposition parties have also expressed their "moral support," Kontinent
noted. -- Maria Koinova
ALBANIAN COURT SENTENCES COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS.
A Tirana court has
sentenced communist-era Interior Minister Vladimir Hysi to 18 months in prison,
Zeri i Popullit reported on 4 December. Irakli Kocollari, former
chief of the communist secret service, was given a six-year sentence. The two
men were charged with abuse of office for ordering the destruction of secret
service files. They argued that the files had been put away for a limited
period only and that the deadline for keeping them in storage had expired.
Kocollari is still facing charges for human rights abuses committed when he was
working for the secret services in Korca.
-- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIA CHARGES MONTENEGRO WITH BLOCKING RAILROAD LINE.
authorities have criticized Montenegro for refusing to unblock the
Shkoder-Podgorica railroad line, international agencies reported on 3 December.
The link has been closed for more than three years owing to international
sanctions imposed against the federal Yugoslavia. The Albanian railroads have
repaired their part of the line and are ready to reopen it. The line was
scheduled to have opened at the beginning of this year. Local traders and the
Albanian economy have suffered considerable losses as a result of the closure.
Completed in August 1986, the Shkoder-Podgorica line is Albania's only
connection with the international railroad system. -- Fabian Schmidt