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Newsline - December 13, 1996


ON CONSTITUTION DAY, FILATOV WARNS OF CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS.
Russians marked 12 December, Constitution Day, in a subdued manner. The occasion has become Russia's "quietest holiday" and may have been observed this year for the last time, according to a 12 December commentary by NTV's Vadim Gluzker. He noted that the first anniversary of the 12 December 1993 constitutional referendum coincided with the escalation of fighting in Chechnya, which "was no cause for celebration."
Sergei Filatov, chairman of the All-Russia Coordinating Council responsible for electing pro-Yeltsin governors, warned on 12 December that a political crisis could be triggered by efforts by the Federation Council to amend the constitution. He claimed that, following the current round of gubernatorial elections, the leftist opposition will have more than enough members to put such amendments on the upper house's agenda, RIA Novosti reported. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, however, said that the governors tend to become moderate in their views after the elections no matter what their campaign rhetoric, Radio Mayak reported. -- Laurie Belin and Robert Orttung

PLANS TO ORGANIZE MUSLIM GROUP IN DUMA.
A spokesman for the Union of Muslims of Russia has announced plans to organize a Muslim deputies' group in the State Duma, according to a 12 December Interfax report monitored by the BBC. The union's chairman, Nadir Khachilaev, won a Duma by-election in Dagestan on 8 December, and the spokesman said Khachilaev's victory showed that the North Caucasus regions are experiencing an "Islamic revival." However, Khachilaev is known in Dagestan as a former karate champion and prominent businessman, not as a religious leader. Most of the 26 Muslims currently serving in the Duma belong to the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction. Even if all of them joined the new group, it would lack the 35 deputies needed to form an officially registered faction. Unlike small informal deputies' groups, registered Duma factions are represented on the Duma Council and may chair parliamentary committees. -- Laura Belin

ROKHLIN ON RODIONOV, MILITARY REFORM.
In an interview with NTV on 11 December, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin hailed President Yeltsin's decision to convert retired Army Gen. Igor Rodionov into a civilian defense minister, saying the move would improve coordination between the country's political and military leadership. Rokhlin, who like Rodionov is a retired general, said officers would respect a knowledgeable and qualified civilian defense minister and refuted criticism that the change would undermine military discipline. He added that plans to bolster the authority of the General Staff would ameliorate but not resolve the problem of rivalry among the various power ministries, which was highlighted by squabbles between the Interior Troops and Defense Ministry forces during the Chechen conflict. Rivalries will persist as long as the power ministries are directly subordinated to the president, and can appeal to him over the head of the General Staff, he argued. -- Scott Parrish

YANDARBIEV INJURED IN CAR CRASH.
Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev suffered a broken arm and other minor injuries while leaving Grozny on 12 December in what he said was "a simple car accident" that he blamed on his bodyguards, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yandarbiev was immediately hospitalized and is expected to be released today. Also on 12 December, two Russian Interior Ministry soldiers were found murdered in the village of Gerzel-Aul near Gudermes, NTV reported. Radio Mayak reported on 12 December that the payment of pensions and other social benefits will be resumed in Chechnya on 15 December. -- Liz Fuller

FATE OF TYUMEN ELECTIONS REMAINS UNCERTAIN.
Seven candidates are running for office in the 22 December Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial election. The incumbent, Leonid Roketskii, is leading in the polls with 53%, far ahead of his nearest rival, former Tyumen Credit Bank President and current Tyumen-2000 movement leader Sergei Atroshenko, who has 11%, RIA Novosti reported on 12 December. The participation of the oblast's two autonomous okrugs is still in doubt. The Yamal-Nenets Duma has declared that the okrug's voters will not participate in the elections, while Khanty-Mansi is preparing to take part in the vote but will only consider the candidate who wins on its territory to be the governor, ITAR-TASS reported. However, polls show that a majority of Yamal-Nenets residents plan to participate in the elections, despite the objections of their Duma. -- Robert Orttung

TATARSTAN EXPANDS REGIONAL, INTERNATIONAL TIES.
The State Council of Tatarstan on 12 December signed a protocol on interparliamentary cooperation with the Legislative Assembly of Ulyanovsk Oblast, RIA Novosti reported. The chairman of Tatarstan's legislature, Vasilii Likhachev, said 10 similar agreements have already been signed with the legislatures of neighboring republics and regions as well as with the parliaments of some CIS states, Canada, Turkey, and Hungary. Tatarstan's legislature also plans to sign such treaties with Amur and Khabarovsk oblasts, Primorskii Krai, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast to foster better economic ties. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

RUSSIA ON NEW UN SECRETARY-GENERAL.
Although some Russian officials had earlier suggested that Moscow would veto any candidate for UN secretary general other than Boutros Boutros Ghali, Russia has now accepted his withdrawal. Russian UN representative Sergei Lavrov told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 12 December that Russia will support any of the four African candidates currently under consideration by the Security Council. Lavrov said Russia insists only that the new secretary general be "qualified" but complained that some countries have "other" criteria. France has so far refused to support the leading candidate, Kofi Annan of Ghana, currently UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping. Paris reportedly resents Washington's earlier veto of Ghali's candidacy and opposes Annan because he does not come from a Francophone African state. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, CHINA RATIFY EXTRADITION TREATY.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin and Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Deguang exchanged instruments ratifying a bilateral extradition treaty in Beijing on 12 December, international media reported. According to AFP, citing the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the agreement is the first extradition treaty between China and a foreign country. The agency quoted a Chinese official as saying that growing economic ties between the two states had increased the need for cross-border cooperation in fighting crime, especially economic offenses. Meanwhile, after meeting Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng said "strategic partnership between China and Russia" is "our correct and historical option." Peng, scheduled to visit Moscow later this month to prepare for an April Russian-Chinese summit, said he hoped annual bilateral trade would quadruple to $20 billion by the year 2000. -- Scott Parrish

MINERS' STRIKE OVER, EXCEPT IN ROSTOV.
Some 60,000 miners from Rostov Oblast remained on strike on 12 December, despite a decision by the leadership of the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union to suspend a national strike begun on 3 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The suspension of the strike was announced late on 11 December, but union officials in Rostov said that they had not been consulted and that mines run by the coal concerns Rostovugol and Gukovugol would continue to stand idle. According to Reuters, the Rostov miners are also threatening to block railroads from 15 December if their wages are not paid. Miners in Tula have also reportedly refused to return to work, while six miners from Leninsk-Kuznetsk announced their intention to go on hunger strike. A senior representative of the coal company Rosugol acknowledged that the miners were unlikely to receive all their back wages, as the funds due from the federal budget are insufficient to cover the total backlog. -- Penny Morvant

LUZHKOV ORDERS EARLY START OF CHRISTMAS SEASON IN MOSCOW.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has officially brought forward the New Year and Christmas season in the capital in an attempt to boost trade turnover, loosen consumer purse strings, and cheer up fellow Muscovites, Reuters reported on 13 December. Under the decree, shops and businesses were ordered to move up the day when they display New Year and Christmas decorations from the traditional 15 December to 1 December. The Moscow government also dispatched teams of inspectors to ensure the decree is complied with. Some large department stores, including GUM, started the holiday season on 25 November. Many shops are also adopting new business practices, such as offering consumers holiday discounts. -- Natalia Gurushina

WAGE SURVEY PUBLISHED.
A VTsIOM survey has found that only 30% of wages in Russia were paid on time and in full in 1996, down from 45% in 1995, Segodnya reported on 11 December. Some 31% of wages were delayed and 39% of workers were not paid at all (compared to 38% and 17% in 1995). High-ranking officials and managers, white-collar workers, and inhabitants of Moscow, St. Petersburg and European North were more likely to get paid on time, while manual workers and those living in rural areas, the Far East and Siberia, had their salaries delayed. The proportion of people who say that price and wage arrear increases may cause social unrest in their regions and those who are willing to take part in protest demonstrations increased from 26% and 23%, respectively, in 1995 to 40% and 26%, respectively, in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina



ARMENIAN CHURCH HEAD MEETS WITH POPE.
Pope John Paul II said he hopes the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Church will eventually reunite, after meeting with Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin I in the Vatican on 11 December, Reuters reported. The independent Armenian church split from the Vatican in the 5th century. Garegin said he is praying for the pontiff's health for "the good of all humanity." -- Emil Danielyan

SELEZNEV IN TBILISI.
Georgian parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania made clear to visiting Russian State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev on 12 December that the future course of Russian-Georgian relations hinges on a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, NTV reported. Parliament deputies from the National Democrat faction staged a walkout prior to Seleznev's address to the Georgian parliament to protest Russia's role in the region. Seleznev proposed the opening of a Russian consulate-general in Batumi to safeguard the interests of more than 30,000 ethnic Russians in Adzharia, according to Radio Rossii. Meanwhile, the Russian government has closed a border crossing between Georgia and North Ossetiya on orders from the commander of the Russian Border Troops, Gen. Andrei Nikolaev. The move imposes a virtual economic blockade on Georgia, although goods and passengers headed for Armenia are being allowed to proceed, Iberia reported on 12 December. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN OWNERSHIP OF KAZAKSTAN INDUSTRIES.
The Russian electricity monopoly EES Rossii has taken over full ownership of the Severnii coal basin in Ekibastuz, Kazakstan, Radio Rossii reported on 12 December. An agreement to that effect was signed by the Russian and Kazakstani governments -- presumably as partial payment for Kazakstan's electricity debts to Russia. Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev commented the day before that "practically all of Kazakstan's industry is owned by third countries," mentioning India and the U.S. as examples, Radio Mayak reported. However, foreign companies which have leased Kazakstani enterprises often have a hard time. ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December that the Russian firm Postovalov and Co. was abandoning its control over the Katagaily ore factory despite having sunk $3.8 million into the project. -- Peter Rutland

YURII BATURIN IN TAJIKISTAN.
Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin arrived in Tajikistan on 12 December to review the ceasefire agreement signed by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Tajik opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in Afghanistan on 10-11 December, Russian media reported. High-ranking Russian officials always visit the Central Asian nation prior to peace negotiations. All sides involved in the Tajik conflict still agree Rakhmonov and Nuri will meet in Moscow on 19 December to sign agreements that UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem said will be even "more rewarding" than previous settlements. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK CEASEFIRE VIOLATED IN FIRST 24 HOURS.
The latest Tajik ceasefire, which came into effect at midnight on 11 December, has already been violated in the Garm region, Russian and Western media reported. The Tajik government complained to the UN, claiming that opposition forces in Garm, 150 km east of Dushanbe, attacked a special forces unit. At least two soldiers are reported dead. Another attack by opposition forces was reported in the village of Labijar, 120 km east of Dushanbe, but no casualty figures were given. The reports failed to mention that in the hours leading up to the signing of the latest ceasefire, government forces moved a brigade near the city of Garm, which was captured by the opposition on 1 December. Meanwhile, the opposition is denying that it was behind two bombs that went off in Dushanbe on 12 December, one near the parliament building and the other near the Pakistani Embassy. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINE'S PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW PRIVATIZATION LAW.
The Ukrainian parliament passed a new version of an enterprise privatization law on 11 December, UNIAN reported. According to the law, all Ukrainian citizens can purchase state property, but employees enjoy preferential treatment in acquiring shares in enterprises where they work. The law bans privatization of the property of the armed forces, underground mineral deposits, water resources, radio and TV transmitters and channels, pipelines, distilleries and weapons producing enterprises. The law allows Ukrainian citizens, foreigners, and persons without citizenship, along with Ukrainian and foreign corporate bodies, to purchase shares in privatized companies. Armed forces property will be subject to corporatization, with the state retaining 51% of the shares. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINE TO SET UP COMMISSION ON LIBYAN ARMS DEAL.
Ukraine's parliament set up a special commission to look into The Washington Times report alleging Ukraine was selling missiles and arms to Libya, ITAR-TASS and Ukrainian agencies reported on 12 December. The commission is to investigate the source of the allegations and dispel doubts over Ukraine's adherence to international embargoes. National Security Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin said a special investigation had proven the charges were groundless, and a document to that effect was signed by all relevant Ukrainian military chiefs. In a meeting with the U.S. State Department director for CIS affairs, James Collins, Horbulin said no documentary evidence concerning the Libyan deal was produced. He said the White House would soon publish its own findings over the charges, and hoped it would not affect the U.S. Congress in dispersing aid to Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CUTS EDUCATION SPENDING.
Education Minister Mykhailo Zhurovskii told the parliament that the country's education system is facing "total ruin," Ukrainian media reported on 10 December. The 1997 draft state budget covers only 55% of teachers' wages and 70% of students' stipends. Zhurovskii said the government will reduce spending on education by introducing partial payment for textbooks and cutting other benefits, as well as reducing the number of teachers by 23%. The Ukrainian government also decided to abolish stipends for university students from 1 January, Ukrainian television reported on 12 December. Stipends will be paid only to the best students and to those from poor families. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

BELARUSIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL RESIGNS; ELECTIONS SET.
Prosecutor General Vasyl Kapitan resigned on 12 December citing health reasons, international agencies reported. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepted his resignation and appointed Aleh Bozhelko as his replacement. Reuters reported that the real reason for Kapitan's replacement was not his health, but his disloyalty to the president. In other news, ITAR-TASS reported that Lukashenka signed a decree setting 26 December as the election date for the parliament's upper house. Lukashenka will appoint eight members, and the remaining 56 will be elected by secret ballot by deputies of local soviets in the country's six regions and Minsk. The 110 member lower house consists of deputies who recognized the 24 November constitutional referendum results. Meanwhile, Lukashenka appointed Ivan Luakh Minister of Labor, Belarusian radio reported on 11 December. -- Ustina Markus

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT URGES EU TO CUT BELARUS AID.
The European Parliament (EP) condemned Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as authoritarian and autocratic on 12 December, and urged the European Union to suspend financial aid to Belarus until "the Belarusian authorities have clearly indicated their intention to fully respect democratic and human rights," AFP reported. The European deputies also warned that they will not ratify the EU-Belarus partnership accord. The resolution issued by the parliament condemned the introduction of a new lower house of parliament that is completely under the president's control. It also observed that it recognizes only the previous democratically-elected parliament as the sole representative body in Belarus. The EP insisted on suspension of all aid programs except the two pro-democracy and press freedom initiatives. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS.
Toomas Ilves noted in his speech to the foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council on 11 December that his country wants to join NATO not because it fears Russia, but to contribute to peace and stability in Europe, BNS reported. He and his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov later discussed the signing of a border agreement and increasing cooperation between their ministries. The next day Ilves had talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on NATO expansion. European Union Commissioner Hans van den Broek Ilves that Estonia's responses to an EU questionnaire completed during the summer suggest that trade tariffs were the key problem in the country's efforts to join the EU. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO BE ELECTED FOR THREE YEARS.
The Seimas voted unanimously (118 votes) on 12 December to amend article 119 of the constitution and changing the term of office for local government councils from two to three years, Radio Lithuania reported. The requirement of obtaining at least 94 votes in two separate votes at least three months apart has thus been fulfilled. The next elections are to be held in the spring of 1997, probably on 23 March since by-elections for the four Seimas seats are scheduled for this day. -- Saulius Girnius

SOLIDARITY ELECTORAL ACTION WEIGHS ITS VOTES. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski established a draft allo
cation of votes that the member organizations will have in the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), a Solidarity-led alliance of some two dozen parties and organizations, Polish dailies reported. The AWS will prepare common lists of candidates in next year's parliamentary elections. Solidarity will have half of the votes in the AWS. The numbers of votes allocated to other organizations depends on the membership, financial possibilities and other abilities. The draft allocations are valid and "AWS can start to work as a shareholder company," Krzaklewski said. But three months are left for complaints and verification of data used as the base for the vote allocation. -- Jakub Karpinski

EU CALLS ON SLOVAKIA TO RESTORE DEPUTY'S MANDATE.
The European parliament approved a resolution on 12 December asking Slovakia to restore the mandate of Deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, Slovak media reported. Gaulieder quit the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia's parliamentary caucus in November. Although he said he wanted to retain his post, serving as an independent, the parliament stripped him of his mandate. The European Parliament pointed to Slovakia's EU Association Agreement, in which it pledged respect for human and minority rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The private Bratislava-based Radio Twist on 12 December reported that Western diplomats warned Bratislava that the Association Agreement could be canceled and visa requirements renewed if the cabinet does not follow general democratic standards. Ruling coalition representatives denied the news, Sme reported. Also on 12 December, 37 opposition deputies lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court regarding Gaulieder's replacement. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN UPDATE.
The Hungarian government on 12 December accepted a draft of a new pension system which should take effect in January 1998, Hungarian media reported. Before putting the bill up for parliamentary debate, the cabinet wants to hold consultations with parliamentary parties and interest groups . The cabinet also decided to increase the equity of national broadcaster Antenna Hungaria by 2.5 billion forints ($15.8 million). In other news, Viktor Orban, Chairman of the opposition Young Democrats said "March 1997 is the final date for [achieving] opposition cohesion," adding that the opposition will lose the 1998 general elections if it doesn't unite. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




BELGRADE PROTESTERS PRESS ON.
On 12 December, the 23rd day of peaceful mass protests, an estimated 30,000 students attempted to march to the Belgrade residence of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, but were halted by a cordon of well-armed riot police. The march was aimed at putting pressure on Milosevic to resign, but Reuters reported that the police managed to stop "the students under the windows of the U.S. embassy." Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini met with Milosevic and leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition. Dini stated that the opposition should drop demands to have the results of 17 November local elections validated, which gave Zajedno victories in Serbia's twelve largest municipalities. "Reinstatement of results seems to me to be something that is not in the cards," said Dini. Opposition leaders, however, say they will not compromise the election victory, Nasa Borba reported. -- Stan Markotich

BELGRADE INDEPENDENT RADIO SIGNS TEN YEAR DEAL.
Independent Radio B92 announced on 12 December that it had signed a ten-year contract with Radio and Television Serbia, allowing it to broadcast over a state-owned transmitter, Reuters reported. The station, shut down by Milosevic on 3 December for two days for its coverage and reporting of ongoing mass demonstrations in Serbia, says it will continue efforts to obtain its own frequency. -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRIN AUTHORITIES URGE AN END TO DEMONSTRATIONS IN SERBIA.
A representative for Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic has contacted the Serbian government requesting that the issue of ongoing mass demonstrations in Serbia be addressed, Nasa Borba reported. According to the Montenegrin government, it is incumbent upon Serbia's authorities to "sort out its internal problems at the earliest opportunity" because the political situation throughout Serbia may have "unpredictable repercussions" for Montenegro. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, however, has so far failed to respond to the Montenegrins' request, AFP reported on 12 December. -- Stan Markotich

MAN DIES AFTER TORTURE IN KOSOVO.
According to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Feriz Blakcori, 34, died in a hospital in Pristina on 12 December after allegedly being tortured by police, Reuters reported. Blakcori was arrested at his home on 9 December by a 40-strong police unit on suspicion of possessing firearms. Blakcori was a member of LDK's information commission and a teacher in a local elementary school. The LDK says Blakcori was the 14th victim of Serbian police violence in Kosovo this year. Meanwhile, the Kosovar shadow-state government issued a first official statement welcoming the Belgrade protests. However, it added that the Serbian opposition "still remains anti-Albanian" and "does not as yet deserve our full support." -- Fabian Schmidt

COLLECTIVE BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED.
The three-man joint presidency named the first ministers for the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 December, after three months of haggling, Oslobodjenje reported. The appointments reflect a careful balance of Muslims, Serbs and Croats on the model of the "nationality key" established under Tito, which had, however, eventually led to a gridlock. The co-prime ministers are the Muslim Haris Silajdzic and the Serb Boro Bosic, who will take turns in chairing weekly cabinet meetings. A Croat will be deputy prime minister, and each nationality will get one of the three ministries: foreign affairs (a Croat), foreign trade (a Muslim), and communications (a Serb). Each minister will have two deputies from the other two nationalities, and final appointments are expected on 17 December. -- Patrick Moore

ARMS FOR BOSNIA.
The U.S. "train and equip" program to arm the mainly Croat and Muslim Federation is now complete, Oslobodjenje reported. Special envoy James Pardew said: "This equipment will allow the federation to defend its people and their territory. Never again will people of Bosnia be unable to effectively respond to military aggression." Pardew also criticized the Serbs for not reducing their weapons stockpile, which is part of the overall program to level the two armies. Meanwhile, at Ploce on the Adriatic, two ships (one from Egypt, one from the United Arab Emirates) arrived with weapons for the federal army. -- Patrick Moore

SFOR GETS ITS MANDATE.
The UN Security Council approved the new 30,000-strong Stabilization Force (SFOR), which takes over from IFOR when the latter's mandate expires on 20 December. The resolution gave SFOR an 18-month mandate and also stressed civilian reconstruction tasks, Reuters wrote. Bosnian Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey said, however, that one must not "substitute superficiality for substance" and that real efforts must be made to ensure freedom of movement, freedom of the media, and the right of refugees to go home. It is not clear whether SFOR's mandate will be any tougher than IFOR's was, particularly regarding the matter of catching war criminals. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SACKED; MORE OFFICIALS RESIGN IN PROTEST.
Ivan Jarnjak's departure (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 December 1996) was announced on 12 December by the ruling Croatian Democratic Community's Secretary Ivan Valent--not by the prime minister or the president as required by the constitution--international and local media reported. Valent said Jarnjak was moving to another senior government position, "which will enable him to concentrate more on party activities," Vecernji List reported on 13 December. According to Valent, Jarnjak will be replaced by former privatization minister Ivan Penic. Local media reported that more members of Jarnjak's team had resigned as a sign of solidarity with their minister, but it was not officially confirmed. Analysts say Jarnjak was sacked for allowing the demonstration against the governments attempt to silence independent Radio 101 to proceed without police intervention. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN CUSTOMS CONFISCATE SOROS FOUNDATION MONEY.
Croatian customs on 12 December confiscated $65,000 from Croatian Open Society foundation officials, international agencies reported. State television said border police at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia will most probably confiscate the money that was not reported to the customs. But a Finance Ministry source told Reuters on 12 December that it was not necessary to report foreign currency upon entry to the country. The incident followed recent vows by President Franjo Tudjman to crack down on dissenters, in which he particularly named George Soros's Open Society Institute as the organization that has infiltrated the whole society in order to undermine the government. Zarko Puhovski of the Open Society foundation said the authorities were taking the issue "very seriously" this time, Reuters quoted him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NEW ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN IN.
Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's cabinet on 12 December took the oath in the presence of President Emil Constantinescu, Radio Bucharest reported. Ciorbea stressed that his government differed from the preceding ones in the fact that it had "the knowledge, the possibility, and the will to change the country's fate." Constantinescu said he thoroughly trusted Ciorbea and his cabinet. Almost six weeks after the 3 November elections, the new government finally started implementing its program. However, negotiations on distributing second-level ministerial and county prefect posts within the governing coalition will continue. -- Zsolt Mato

DID BULGARIAN COMMUNISTS ILLEGALLY TRANSFER $2 BILLION ABROAD? Pr
osecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev on 12 December said he has documents proving the existence of a financial network of the former Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP), reportedly used by nomenklatura groups to obtain start-up capital for their business empires, RFE/RL reported. Tatarchev said the money was transferred abroad before 1989 as aid to Third World revolutionary organizations but was never included in the state budget. In 1994, Financial Times reported that nomenklatura business groups with alleged links to organized crime had embezzled huge sums of state funds from secret BKP accounts in Austria and Switzerland. In November, former Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov told RFE/RL that $2 billion were transferred abroad during the term of then-Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov in 1990. This sum equals Bulgaria's debt to the Paris Club of lenders. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSED REVISED BUDGET.
The National Assembly on 12 December passed the second "actualization" of the 1996 state budget, Pari and Demokratsiya reported. The new revision puts the budget deficit at 125.3 billion leva ($762 million at the average exchange rate for 1996 so far). Expenditures for interest payments on domestic debt were increased by 125.3 billion leva to 356.3 billion leva. Some 308.5 billion leva will go for interest payments on domestic debt, and 47.8 billion for interest on foreign debt. The draft 1997 budget envisages an exchange rate of 350 leva for one dollar and a 40% annual inflation rate. In other news, the National Statistical Institute announced that unemployment stood at 12% in November, up from 11.3% in October. The number of unemployed went up from 425,419 to 460,061. Among them are 20,382 former employees from 64 state-owned firms slated for closure. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN STUDENTS THREATEN STRIKE.
The Independent Albanian Students' Union has issued a list with 11 demands and threatened to hold a strike unless the government meets the demands by 30 December, Koha Jone reported on 13 December. The demands include better working and living conditions in the university and dormitories, a 100% increase in stipends, the legalization of a student radio and newspaper, the setting up of a freedom monument in the Student City of Tirana and the official recognition of dissident Azem Hajdari's Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH). The students also demand the resignation of the director of Albanian Radio and TV, arguing that the public media misrepresented the recent dispute between Hajdari and his competitor, trade union leader Valer Xheka over the BSPSH leadership (see the OMRI Daily Digest, 26 November). -- Fabian Schmidt



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