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Newsline - December 31, 1996


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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 247, Part I, 31 December 1996

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

RUSSIA

YELTSIN ISSUES UPBEAT YEAR-END MESSAGE. While acknowledging that 1996 had been "difficult," President Boris Yeltsin stressed the positive in his New Year's address in the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses, Russian media reported on 30 December. Yeltsin noted that "our hopes came true" as Russians "chose the path of freedom, strengthening order and continuing the transformations." He also expressed hope that 1997 would be a year of "accord and cooperation." In an interview with ITAR-TASS the same day, Yeltsin cited the presidential and regional elections, the end of fighting in Chechnya, and the curbing of inflation as the major events of 1996. He pledged to continue the peace process in Chechnya and make efforts to improve the economic situation but also urged citizens to remember that the days of consumer goods shortages and runaway inflation were past. -- Laura Belin

POLL SHOWS LEBED STILL MOST POPULAR. The latest VCIOM poll of 1,600 respondents across Russia indicated that Aleksandr Lebed remained the country's most popular politician at year-end, with 29% support, NTV reported on 30 December. President Yeltsin finished second with 14%, followed by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov with 10%, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov with 6%. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and U.S. President Bill Clinton were all named by 5% of respondents each. -- Laura Belin

DUMA PASSES BILL ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The Duma on 25 December approved by a vote of 387-0, with 1 abstention, a bill on human rights commissioners that had been nearly three years in the making, Izvestiya and Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. The Federation Council rejected one earlier version because it stipulated that regional human rights commissioners would be appointed from Moscow. In the final version, regional authorities will appoint the regional commissioners, but citizens will retain the right to file complaints with the federal commissioner if they distrust their local one. The Duma has the right to elect and dismiss the federal commissioner, who cannot be a Duma deputy or associated with any political party. The Duma fired Sergei Kovalev, its last human rights commissioner, in March 1995 following his vocal criticism of the war in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin

DUMA TO GET TV SHOW, OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER. Although the government did not meet all 11 conditions set by Communists in the State Duma in exchange for supporting the 1997 budget, ministers did accede to opposition demands for more media exposure. On 20 December, the government promised that the state-run network Russian TV (RTR) will soon begin airing a regular parliamentary program and that the official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta, will become the joint newspaper of the government and parliament, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. (Rossiiskaya gazeta was the parliament's newspaper until October 1993, when the Supreme Soviet was forcibly disbanded.) On 25 December, the Duma passed a bill "on legal guarantees of opposition activities," which seeks to provide opposition groups with more access to the state- controlled media. -- Laura Belin

RYBKIN GIVES INTERVIEW OVER INTERNET. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 30 December gave an interview to NBC that was conducted in real time over the Internet, Russian and Western agencies reported. Rybkin said that regional conflicts, organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism are the most significant threats to Russian security. Rybkin said Russia and NATO should compromise their differences, arguing that the main threat to Russia comes not from the West but rather from "nationalist fanatics" and "fundamentalists" to the south. Rybkin contended that rumors of "military instability" in Russia are "greatly exaggerated" and said that Russia remains a major military power despite its "temporary economic difficulties." -- Scott Parrish

GLAZEV MOVES TO FEDERATION COUNCIL STAFF. Sergei Glazev, recently sacked as deputy Security Council secretary for economic issues, has been appointed to head a newly-formed informational-analytical department of the Federation Council staff, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 December. The new department will provide expert analysis of draft legislation, and according to the agency is part of Council Chairman Yegor Stroyev's effort to boost the legislative role of the upper house. Kommersant- daily reported on 25 December that Glazev, a close associate of former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, was removed from his Security Council position the previous day. The paper reported that Glazev had submitted a resignation letter shortly after Lebed was sacked on 17 October, but his successor Ivan Rybkin asked him to stay on temporarily. -- Scott Parrish

BEREZOVSKII ON CHECHNYA. In an interview with Rossiiskaya gazeta published on 28 December, Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii said, "I have no doubts that Chechnya will remain a part of Russia, and this will be the choice of the Chechen people." He said that for economic reasons the Chechen leaders "have realized that there is no alternative to staying together with Russia." He added that "genetically the Chechens are Russians. They studied in Russia, they worked in Russia...Today we probably have the last chance to preserve this genetic unity." Berezovskii also said he has proposed building an automobile plant in Chechnya to employ the 10,000 idle guerrillas. -- Peter Rutland

SIX CANDIDATES FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENCY. Six of the 19 candidates for the Chechen presidency have so far provided the 10,000 signatures to register for the 27 January election, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 December. They are interim President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, interim Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, field commander Shamil Basaev, national security adviser Akhmed Zakaev, former spokesman Movladi Udugov, and Yusup Soslambekov, the president of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus. The first five men met on 26 December but failed to nominate a common candidate for the post of president, although they agreed to serve together in the newly elected government. Udugov resigned from his post as deputy prime minister on 27 December in order to run in the election. -- Peter Rutland

SUSPECTS APPREHENDED IN RED CROSS KILLING. Chechen Security Council spokesman Rizvan Zu-khairaev said on 29 December that a group of 15 men were detained in Grozny on 26 December on suspicion of involvement in the killing of six Red Cross workers on 17 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The group, led by Ruslan Totiev, included 11 Ossetians, and were allegedly loyalists of the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus, whose leader Yusup Soslambekov is running for the Chechen presidency. The Chechen authorities may have felt obliged to round up some suspects to reassure international agencies considering sending observers for the 27 January elections. Seven armed Chechens were killed while trying to cross into North Ossetiya on 22 December, ITAR-TASS reported, while the North Ossetiyan officials reported kidnapped in Chechnya on 16 December were released on 26 December. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA, CHINA TO SIGN BORDER TROOP REDUCTION AGREEMENT. Russian, Chinese, Kazakstani, Tajik, and Kyrgyz negotiators announced agreement on the terms of a five-nation accord reducing troop levels along China's border with the four CIS states, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December. Izvestiya on 31 December said the agreement will limit troops and weapons in a 100 km-wide zone on both sides of the frontier. -- Scott Parrish

CIA TO SLASH MEDIA MONITORING? The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a branch of the CIA, may cease publishing translations of daily world media broadcasts, possibly including those from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, The Washington Times reported on 30 December. CIA officials declined to discuss the budget cuts with the paper since the agency's budget is classified, but congressional sources said FBIS's overseas bureaus will probably be closed, meaning that FBIS would continue to publish only untranslated reports. The Federation of American Scientists is leading a protest against the proposed cuts, which reportedly will save $18 million. The U.S. is estimated to spend about $30 billion annually on all intelligence activities. -- Scott Parrish

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASED. The Federation Council on 25 December approved a law passed by the Duma on 20 December to increase the monthly minimum wage by 10% to 83,490 rubles (about $15), effective on 1 January, 1997, Russian media reported. Duma deputies originally wanted to raise the minimum wage by 25% but reduced the rate of increase to improve chances for approval by the Council. The law, if signed by the president, would require substantial additional budget spending, since many other wages and social benefits are calculated as multiples of the minimum wage. Also on 25 December, the Duma overrode a presidential veto and passed a law raising the minimum pension from 69,500 rubles ($12.60) to 76,530 rubles ($13.90). That law has yet to be considered by the upper house (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

IMF TIGHTENS CONDITIONS. The IMF has apparently informed Russian officials that for 1997 it will insist that the government include federal wage and pension arrears and interest on government borrowing in federal-deficit calculations, Segodnya reported on 28 December. That will make it more difficult for the government to keep the deficit within the agreed 3.85% limit, since those two items will widen the gap by an estimated 18 trillion and 87 trillion rubles, respectively, in 1997. The IMF also said that payment of the delayed November and December loan tranches, each $340 million, has been postponed until February. On 24 December, however, the World Bank released the delayed second half of its $500 million loan for coal-industry restructuring, the first half of which was paid in June. -- Peter Rutland



To: OMRI-L
From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI DAILY DIGEST I, No. 247, 31 Dec. 1996 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 247, Part I, 31 December 1996

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN UPDATE. Georgian, Russian, and Abkhaz representatives met in Sochi on 23-24 December to discuss the impasse over the 250,000 refugees from Abkhazia living in Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Abkhazian Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan said the return of the refugees could not be discussed until the economic sanctions on Abkhazia enforced by Russia had been lifted. Meanwhile, torrential rains and snowfalls in Georgia destroyed 50 bridges and closed many roads, killing 10 people, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 December. The Georgian Military Highway which leads to North Ossetiya has been blocked since 25 December. Three hundred people were trapped in the Rotskii tunnel, among whom two premature babies were born. -- Peter Rutland

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Armen Sarkisyan said he agreed with Russian officials in Moscow on 28 December on the construction of a pipeline to run from Russia to Turkey via Armenia, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 30 December. Sarkisyan described the move as "politically important." He added that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin described the current state of Armenian-Russian ties as "unsatisfactory for the strategic partners in the region." The two leaders agreed to restore the railway connection (which has been broken off since 1992 as a result of the Azerbaijani blockade and the war in Abkhazia) between Armenia and Russia. -- Emil Danielyan

ANOTHER FRENCH COMPANY TO PARTICIPATE IN AZERBAIJANI OIL CONTRACT. The French oil company Total will participate in an international consortium, led by the French group Elf, to develop the Lenkoran Deniz and Talish Deniz shelf deposits in the southern part of Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea, AFP reported on 27 December, citing Interfax. A representative of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, which has a 25% stake in the project, said that the German Denimex firm and the U.S. Mobil group are also likely to get involved in the $2 billion deal. The project is the latest in a series of multibillion-dollar oil contracts that Azerbaijan has signed with the world's leading oil companies in recent years. -- Emil Danielyan

RUSSIAN ACTIVIST IN KAZAKSTAN RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE. The Medeo regional court gave Nina Sidorova, the former leader of Kazakstan's Russian Center, a suspended sentence of two years in prison, RFE/RL reported on 25 December. Sidorova was found guilty of insulting and physically harming law enforcement officers while they were performing their duties and insulting the court. The Russian press has been highly critical of the court proceedings, arguing that they were biased against Sidorova because she is Russian. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 1997 BUDGET. The Uzbek parliament on 27 December approved the state budget for 1997, according to ITAR-TASS. The budget deficit for 1997 is set at 26.8 billion som ($515 million), or 3% of GDP. Revenue will be 124 billion som and expenditure 150 billion. Uzbek President Islam Karimov claims annual inflation will drop from 60% in 1996 to below 27% in 1997. At a conference of journalists and diplomats in Tashkent on 27 December, Karimov observed that industrial output had risen by 6% while foreign trade turnover was at $8.3 billion, an increase of 40% from 1995. Uzbekistan turned out 60 metric tons of gold in 1996 and its gold and hard currency reserves grew to $1.5 billion. He also said about 47% of budget revenue in 1996 went to social programs and a mere 4.3% was spent on defense. -- Bruce Pannier

TURKMENISTAN CUTS GAS DEALS WITH TURKEY, IRAN. The oil ministers of Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Iran met in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on 29 December and agreed to a deal to bring Turkmen and Iranian gas to Europe via Turkey, IRNA and Reuters reported. The new deal revives a 1995 plan on a pipeline project that was scrapped due to financial problems and U.S. pressure on Turkey aimed at dissuading it from dealing with Iran. The first gas between Iran and Turkey is expected to flow in 1998. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI DAILY DIGEST II, No. 247, 31 Dec. 1996 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 247, Part II, 31 December 1996

This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html



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From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI DAILY DIGEST I, No. 247, 31 Dec. 1996 Cc:
Bcc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 247, Part I, 31 December 1996

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

IS VODKA DISRUPTING RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS? Bela-rusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has denied that the issue of vodka has become a problem in Russian-Belarusian relations, Bela-rusian TV reported on 29 December. Three days earlier, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced that the Russian government would impose a state monopoly over alcohol sold in Russia and that it would increase customs posts along the border with Belarus and Ukraine to control vodka shipments into Russia. Lukashenka stressed this move would not cause problems for the proposed customs union between the two countries. He added that it was absurd to claim that Russia's budget had fallen short in 1996 because the government was unable to collect revenues from alcohol sales owing to cheap Ukrainian vodka entering the country via Belarus. Vodka passes through all CIS states to Russia, and Belarus was suffering equally from Ukraine's cheap spirits, Lukashenka noted. -- Ustina Markus

CENSORSHIP IN UKRAINE? A television news show critical of President Leonid Kuchma's administration is to be taken off the air in the new year, AFP reported on 31 December. The show, called Vikna, is to be dropped because the government has granted the German-funded company Studio 1+1 a license to transmit on the same wavelength as Vikna. Deputies have criticized the way the license was granted to Studio 1+1, saying it demonstrates increased control over the media in the run-up to the 1998 parliamentary elections. Mykola Knyahitsky, head of the media organization that produced Vikna, said the abolition of the program was a result of indirect censorship. The government was irritated when Vikna ran an interview with Serhii Krylov, leader of the independent miners' union, while he awaited trial for his part in organizing widespread miners' strikes in July. Studio 1+1 denies that it has agreed not to criticize the government in exchange for the broadcasting license. It says it was the only station that could afford the permit. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON AGRICULTURAL REFORM. President Leonid Kuchma has said agricultural reform is the main precondition for Ukraine to emerge from its economic crisis, Ukrainian radio reported on 30 December. He noted that besides the insufficient volume of agricultural and dairy products, there were many complex social problems associated with rural settlements. Kuchma said agrarian reforms, which began in 1994, reached only a certain point and then ground to a halt. He added that prices for agricultural goods were driven by the "wild market" and that agricultural theory and practice were operating independently of each other. Director of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences Petro Sablyuk said the concept of land as a commodity had to be accepted, otherwise there could be no agricultural reform. -- Ustina Markus

DUDAYEV AIDE MURDERED IN KYIV. Ruslan Badayev, an aide to the late Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, has been stabbed to death in Kyiv, AFP reported on 28 December. His assailant has been arrested, but no details have been disclosed about the motive for the murder, except that it appeared to be "a settling of accounts." NTV reported that Badayev had not been involved in politics in recent months and that the murder seemed to have been connected with his personal business dealings. -- Ustina Markus

NEW POLISH MINISTERS NAMED. The designation of new government ministers, which is part of Poland's administrative reform, has been completed, Rzeczpospolita reported on 31 December. Wieslaw Kaczmarek and Leszek Miller of the Democratic Left Alliance have been named ministers of the economy and of administration and internal affairs, respectively. Janusz Szekulowicz and Zbigniew Kuzmiuk of the co-governing Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) will head the newly-created Civil Service and Center for Strategic Studies. Former Internal Affairs Minister Zbigniew Siemiatkowski will remain in the cabinet as minister without portfolio, while Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko will keep his post. The division of economic-policy responsibilities between Kolodko, Kaczmarek, and Treasury Minister Miroslaw Pietrewicz (PSL) has yet to be determined. It is also unclear whether Kolodko will retain his deputy premiership. All state secretaries, deputy state secretaries, and local administration heads have now formally resigned. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has three months to accept or reject their resignations. -- Ben Slay

PRODUCTION GROWTH SLOWS, DEFICITS INCREASE IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Industrial production in November stood only 1.5% above November 1995 levels, Czech media reported, citing preliminary figures from the Statistical Office. That is the smallest monthly increase this year compared with 1995. Between January and November, production was up only 7.4% on the same period in 1995--the first time in 1996 that this indicator has fallen below 8%. The foreign trade deficit for 1996 is expected to reach a record 160 billion crowns ($6 billion), Mlada fronta Dnes reported on 30 December. Meanwhile, the state budget is expected to run a deficit this year for the first time ever, totaling some 6 billion crowns. -- Victor Gomez

SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE. Jan Langos, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, said on 30 December that 1996 had witnessed the "brutal continuation of the ruling coalition's post-election strategy," TASR reported. He remarked that as a result of government policy, "democracy in Slovakia was largely restricted and the country became a tyranny of the majority." He also noted that Slovakia's international position radically worsened and that the country fell from the first group of Central European countries being considered for NATO and EU entry. Also on 30 December, Constitutional Court Chairman Milan Cic told TASR that "the essence of good relations between people, political parties, representatives of state organs, and other citizens in our country is based on good will and positive thinking. [In those areas], we have big insufficiencies." Finally, Sme on 31 December reported that two days earlier, VTV again aired a program attacking President Michal Kovac (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). The two "secret witnesses" featured in the program are reportedly producers of pornographic films. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK ROMA TO ESTABLISH MILITIAS. Marek Balaz, a Romani spokesman from the town of Prievidza, has said that if the state does not do something about skinheads in Slovakia, there will be a danger of civil war, Pravda reported on 31 December. His comment comes shortly after a skinhead murdered a Romani man shortly before Christmas (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). In a letter addressed to the government on 27 December, Roma announced that they will create militias to protect their families from attacks. They said they are prepared to die rather than give up their civic and human rights. -- Sharon Fisher

CONTROVERSY OVER ANOTHER HUNGARIAN TV NOMINATION. Hungarian TV (MTV) President Istvan Petak has criticized Prime Minister Gyula Horn's nomination of Tibor Thurzo as MTV vice president, Hungarian media reported on 31 December. According to Magyar Hirlap the previous day, Horn, who is also leader of the Socialist Party, cleared Thurzo's nomination with Deputy Prime Minister Gabor Kuncze of the Free Democratic Party, the Socialists' coalition partner. But both Petak and Free Democrat media expert Peter Molnar object to the nomination, noting that Hungary's media law does not allow the government to interfere in the selection of MTV executives. Molnar called Thurzo's nomination a "bad joke" and said the Free Democrats had not been consulted about it. Laszlo Hovanyecz resigned as MTV vice president earlier this month after only three days on the job, saying his independence was under threat. -- Ben Slay



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From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI DAILY DIGEST I, No. 247, 31 Dec. 1996 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 247, Part I, 31 December 1996

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ARMY REJECTS POLITICAL ROLE. Chief-of-Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic, attending a New Year's reception on 30 December, repeated his earlier position that the army will ensure the "stability" of the country, but he gave no details. He also issued a statement saying that "the chief-of-staff and the army as a whole are unanimous about fulfilling to the letter their set tasks. Any other interpretation of the army's role does not reflect its official position," international media reported. The remarks are in response to a reported declaration by some officers or units in support of the anti-government demonstrators (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). Perisic did not, however, express backing for President Slobodan Milosevic, who relies on his 120,000-strong police force rather than on the army for support. It is unclear if Milosevic can count on the military to help enforce a state of emergency, which the opposition says he plans to declare. The army helped crush protests in 1991. -- Patrick Moore

DRASKOVIC CALLS ON MONTE-NEGRO TO TAKE ACTION. The Montenegrin parliament passed a resolution expressing concern over continuing tensions in Serbia, AFP reported on 30 December. The text is weaker than an original opposition proposal but nonetheless reflects Montenegro's interest in seeing the full return of federal Yugoslavia to international political and economic life. The small republic relies heavily on shipping and tourism. Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, however, called on Montenegro to go beyond words: "We don't care about your telegrams and letters. If you want to help us, withdraw your deputies from the Yugoslav parliament until the recognition of the results of the November 17 municipal elections, withdraw your representatives from the Yugoslav government, show that you are for a democratic Serbia." Meanwhile, riot police in Belgrade confined "several thousand" protesters in bitter cold weather to the central pedestrian zone, Nasa Borba reported on 31 December. -- Patrick Moore

EU ADMINISTRATION OF MOSTAR ENDS. The European Union's mandate in Mostar expires today, but the city is as divided now as it was 17 months ago, when the EU arrived there, AFP reports. Mostar remains split between Muslims in the eastern half and Croats in the western half. EU spokesman Dragan Gasic, striking an optimistic note, said that a lot has been done toward reconstruction and that peace has been politically restored in Mostar. Croats, however, have continued throughout 1996 to expel Muslims from their part of the city. Mostar Mayor Ivan Prskalo, a Croat, criticized Muslim "terrorist acts" following an incident on 29 December in which two Croats were robbed, stripped naked, and beaten up in the Muslim half of the city. The EU administration in Mostar will be replaced by the Office of the High Representative Carl Bildt. Former EU envoy Sir Martin Garrod will stay on in Mostar to head the mission. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIA'S NEW CENTRAL GOVERNMENT NAMED. Bosnia's three-man presidency on 30 December agreed that the first session of parliament will take place on 3 January, international media reported. This will be the first peace-time session of the Bosnian parliament, which has not convened earlier because of maneuvering and stalling by former, mainly Serbian rivals. The parliament is expected to confirm the presidency's nominations for the central government--which consists of the foreign affairs, foreign trade, and communication portfolios. One post each has been given to Bosnia's Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian communities. Meanwhile, joint Bosnian premiers Haris Silajdzic and Boro Bosic have sealed a power-sharing agreement and agreed on the lineup of the cabinet. Silajdzic and Bosic are to rotate the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers on a weekly basis, AFP reported on 30 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Kostovic on 30 December announced that local elections will be held on 16 March throughout the country, including Serb-held eastern Slavonia, Novi List reported. His statement followed a meeting between President Franjo Tudjman and UN administrator for eastern Slavonia Jacques Klein at which agreement was reached on election procedures and details. One major bone of contention was who would be eligible to vote in eastern Slavonia, the last Serb-held region. While tens of thousands of Croats fled the region when it was captured by Serbs in 1991, a similar number of Serbian refugees have moved in. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN PREMIER ON ECONOMIC SITUATION. Victor Ciorbea, in a televised address on 30 December, described Romania's economic situation as "a lot more serious than I would have thought" before taking office. He accused the former government of having concealed the truth and not taken the necessary measures to redress the situation. Ciorbea said inflation was about three times higher and the budget deficit five to six times higher than the figures agreed on with the IMF in 1996. He noted that elections had given Romania "international credibility," but economic credibility must also be forthcoming. The recent increase in fuel prices was aimed at achieving that goal, Ciorbea said. He also promised that the "tough measures" ahead would be accompanied by "adequate social protection" for the needy. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT-ELECT IN BUCHAREST. Petru Lucinschi, paying an unofficial visit to Bucharest on 30 December, was received by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu. The two leaders agreed to increase economic cooperation, but Lucinschi ruled out a formal merger of their countries. Radio Bucharest reported Lucinschi as saying that despite their "common history, language, and culture," there were other aspects that must be taken into account. He added that "integration" would take the form of the two states' joint effort to integrate into "a united Europe". Constantinescu said he and Lucinschi had agreed on measures that should entrench bilateral relations in a new "economic reality." Plans to establish free trade zones and build bridges over the River Prut were discussed. Reuters cited Lucinschi as saying no progress has been made on the pending basic treaty between the two countries. "We still have to work on it," he noted. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT STARTS CONSULTATIONS ON NEW GOVERNMENT. Zhelyu Zhelev on 30 December asked the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to form a new cabinet to succeed the government of Zhan Videnov, who resigned last week, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. The BSP is the strongest party in the current parliament. After meeting with Zhelev, BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov and BSP caucus leader Krasimir Premyanov said they hoped to present a new government by 10 January. Zhelev will also consult with other political parties. In an address broadcast by state TV and radio on 29 December, Zhelev again called for a presidential republic. He added that he would have dismissed Videnov long ago if he had had the power to do so. Meanwhile, the opposition announced it will hold a rally for early elections on 3 January. -- Stefan Krause

NEW BUGGING SCANDAL IN BULGARIA. Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan Kostov on 29 December handed Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev a tape of illegally recorded conversations held separately by Kostov, Dobrev, and former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Bulgarian media reported. Kostov refused to reveal how he came to be in possession of the tape. According to Kontinent, the conversations were recorded by "forces in the Interior Ministry" who had acted on their own initiative. Dobrev ordered that the tape be examined by three independent experts within 10 days. Observers close to the BSP say that an unnamed economic group organized the bugging in an attempt to prevent Dobrev from becoming prime minister, Trud noted on 31 December. Following the November presidential elections, Kostov had claimed the SDS headquarters were bugged. When the government resigned on 28 December, he announced that Videnov and Dobrev were among those politicians whose conversations had been listened to. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia.

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS DEMAND RELEASE OF NANO. The Socialist Party on 30 December said that President Sali Berisha's offer to reduce the jail sentence of Socialist leader Fatos Nano by six months was inadequate, Albanian media reported. The offer was made within the framework of Berisha's New Year amnesty of 102 prisoners. Reuters quotes Socialist leader Namik Dokle as saying that "if [Berisha] is not going to free him, then he may as well not cut his sentence." The 43-year-old Nano was jailed for 12 years in 1994 on charges of embezzlement during his short- lived premiership in 1991. The Socialists, however, argue that he is being held as a political prisoner. Following various amnesties, he has about 16 months left to serve. International human rights groups have raised doubts over the legality of Nano's trial. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN POET-PRIEST REBURIED IN SHKODER. The remains of Gjergj Fishta have been reburied in the Franciscan church of Shkoder in a commemorative mass, ATSH reported on 29 December. Fishta, who lived from 1871 to 1940, belonged to the Franciscan order in Shkoder. In Mirdita, he introduced Albanian as the language of instruction, rather than Italian. He is also considered one of the greatest poets of the Albanian "national renaissance." After Albanian independence in 1913, he became a publisher and later a parliamentary deputy. During the communist period, Fishta's works were outlawed. His remains went missing in 1967 when the Franciscan monastery in Shkoder was destroyed. They were found recently during reconstruction of the building. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

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Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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