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Newsline - January 9, 1997


YELTSIN HOSPITALIZED AGAIN.
President Boris Yeltsin was taken to the Central Clinical Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia in the evening of 8 January, Russian media reported. Yeltsin's surgeon Renat Akchurin said the current illness has no connection to the president's 5 November heart surgery. The Kremlin continued to downplay Yeltsin's condition by quoting American doctor Michael DeBakey to the effect that Yeltsin will be better in a week. Yeltsin returned to the Kremlin for the first time following his surgery on 23 December. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin decided to begin a one-week vacation despite the president's illness. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits was also hospitalized right after the 8 January government session with flu symptoms. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

REACTION TO YELTSIN ILLNESS.
While presidential aides tried to minimize the seriousness of Yeltsin's illness, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed saw the latest events as more proof that the president should step down for the good of the country. Lebed told Ekho Moskvy on 8 January, "Our country is headed by a very sick and elderly man. He needs to retire, since he can neither govern due to the state of his health nor lead a normal life." Lebed and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who would be among the leading contenders should an early presidential election become necessary, have frequently expressed doubt that Yeltsin is well enough to run Russia and have called for him to resign (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). -- Laura Belin

BOMB BLAST IN KABARDINO-BALKARIYA PARLIAMENT BUILDING.
A bomb exploded in the basement of the Kabardino-Balkariya Republic parliament building, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 8 January. No one was injured though the blast caused considerable damage, blowing out the windows of the parliament building and of some other buildings in the vicinity. Republican officials claim the blast was aimed at a nearby commercial bank and had no political motive. On 12 January, the republic will hold its presidential election. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

PREPARATIONS ADVANCE FOR CHECHEN ELECTIONS.
OSCE mission chief Tim Guldimann said that the U.S. and EU have raised some $350,000 to finance the 27 January Chechen elections, NTV reported on 8 January, while Russian TV (RTR) noted that they have turned down offers of organizational and financial help from the Russian Central Electoral Commission. Momadi Saidaev, the head of the Chechen Electoral Commission, said they expect 70 OSCE observers. Guldimann said "there is a good chance that these elections will be free, fair, and democratic," despite the limited opportunities for refugees to vote, Ekho Moskvy reported. Ruslan Kutaev, Chechen minister for CIS affairs, said that it is now likely that Chechens living outside the republic will have to travel back to vote, and voting facilities will not be arranged in Dagestan and Ingushetiya. -- Peter Rutland

NEW CHECHEN PROCURATOR.
The Chechen administration has appointed Khavazha Sergbiev Procurator General of the republic without consulting Moscow, NTV noted on 8 January. Russian Procurator General Yurii Skuratov commented that while they want to cooperate with the Chechen authorities, the appointment violates Russian law since procurators must be nominated by Moscow. On 7 January RIA Novosti quoted Sergbiev as saying that the 1995 raid on Budennovsk, led by presidential candidate Shamil Basaev, was not a terrorist act but was intended to bring about peace. -- Peter Rutland

PRIMAKOV REVIEWS FOREIGN POLICY IN 1996 ...
In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 8 January marking his first year as foreign minister, Yevgenii Primakov emphasized that domestic factors drive current Russian foreign policy, saying its principal goal remains the creation of international conditions which facilitate internal democratization and economic reform. Moscow aims for "equal partnership" with its partners around the globe, he added, emphasizing that he wanted to steer a middle course between the extremes of Soviet-style anti-Westernism and what he termed the romantic pro-Western approach of his predecessor, Andrei Kozyrev. Using a favorite theme, he said the emerging multipolar world order gave Russian diplomacy room for maneuver, and he lauded Russian successes during 1996 in building ties with China and pushing forward with CIS integration. But he also admitted that Russia's economic and military problems often undermine its international position. -- Scott Parrish

... AND LINKS CFE REVISION TO RUSSIA-NATO CHARTER.
Primakov cited the December 1996 NATO statement that the alliance has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in new East European members as evidence that firm Russian opposition to NATO expansion was delivering results. He described the pledge as "insufficient," however, adding that Russia would use NATO's approach to planned talks on revising the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty to evaluate whether the alliance was serious about negotiating a substantive Russia-NATO charter. Hinting that Moscow wants the revised CFE treaty to strictly limit NATO deployments, Primakov said it could serve as the basis for "mutual security," and address Russian concerns about the eastward expansion of NATO military infrastructure. He also insisted that any charter provide for joint decision-making on important issues, presumably including NATO enlargement. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SLAM WESTERN OBJECTIONS TO CYPRUS MISSILE DEAL.
A wide range of Russian officials and parliamentarians condemned Western criticism of the recently announced Russian sale of air defense missiles to Greek-controlled Cyprus on 8 January, Russian and Western media reported. Expressing the most common viewpoint, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin said the criticism stems from Western efforts to "oust Russia from the world arms market." Denying that the sale would jeopardize peace on Cyprus, foreign policy analyst and presidential council member Sergei Karaganov said the Western reaction to the sale reflected the "dishonest" competitive tactics used by Western governments in the struggle for weapons contracts. Gennadii Khormov, a Ministry of Defense Industry official, told ITAR-TASS the vocal American objections aimed to deflect attention from Washington's intention to violate the 1972 ABM treaty. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW RADIO STATIONS SILENCED IN CHUVASHIYA.
The radio and television center of the Republic of Chuvashiya cut off local transmissions of the national radio stations Radio Mayak and Radio-1, RTR reported on 8 January. The center lacks money to pay energy and communications workers; in particular, it is owed millions of rubles in debts accrued by the two radio stations last February and March. The radio stations were restructured in June of last year and have announced that they will not be responsible for debts accumulated before then. Similar protests by communications workers have recently silenced transmissions of Moscow-based radio and television networks in Murmansk Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Krai. -- Laura Belin

ST. PETERSBURG READIES FOR OLYMPIC BID.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 8 January held a meeting of the organizing committee to prepare St. Petersburg's bid to host the 2004 summer Olympics. Eleven cities are participating in the first round of bidding on 7 March which will reduce the list to five, with the final selection to be announced in September. The cost for the city to hold the games is estimated at $2.2 billion, with proceeds in the $2-3 billion range, RIA Novosti reported. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that the federal government promised to provide full organizational and financial support. The 1994 Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg were marred by an algae-infested swimming pool and low attendance. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN SIGNS CRIMINAL-CORRECTIONAL CODE.
President Yeltsin signed on 8 January the new Criminal-Correctional Code, ITAR-TASS reported. The code, which consists of 190 articles governing the conditions in which convicts serve their sentences, was passed by the Duma on 18 December 1996 and approved by the Federation Council on 25 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 January 1997). It will go into effect on 1 July, six months after the new Criminal Code entered into force. According to Lev Glaukhman, head of the criminal law department at the Interior Ministry's Moscow Institute, about 150,000 criminal cases will have to be reviewed in light of the new Criminal Code, ITAR-TASS reported. Those imprisoned on charges that no longer carry criminal responsibility will be released. -- Penny Morvant

CITY BAILS OUT MOSKVICH PLANT.
The Moscow Court of Arbitration has rejected an appeal by the Federal Bankruptcy Commission to declare bankrupt the AZLK "Moskvich" auto plant in Moscow, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 January. The 7,500 workers at the AZLK Moskvich plant have been idle for an entire year: production is now restarting with financial support promised by the Moscow City government. They plan to introduce a new model, the "Arbat," in the fall and are also negotiating to assemble Renault cars. AZLK owes roughly 1 trillion rubles in taxes. -- Peter Rutland



U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE CHARGES GEORGIAN DIPLOMAT.
The U.S. State Department has formally requested Georgia to waive immunity for diplomat Georgi Makharadze, who was involved in a car accident in which an American girl died (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997), ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 9 January. The move follows a letter to the State Department from the U.S. attorney's office that says there is "enough evidence" of Makharadze's guilt to press charges against him. The last time diplomatic immunity was waived in such a serious case was that of a Belgian diplomat in 1989. -- Emil Danielyan

Aliyev ON GEORGIA.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Ukleba held talks in Baku with Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliyev on 8 January, RFE/RL reported the same day. Aliev, who termed Georgia a strategic ally, declared Baku's full support for Tbilisi's position on Abkhazia, noting that Azerbaijan opposes separatism, aggression, ethnic cleansing, and instability. It appears Georgia is seeking Azerbaijani backing to push for a toughened stance on Abkhazia among CIS states in advance of the 17 January CIS summit in Moscow. -- Lowell Bezanis

DASHNAK LEADERS MEET WITH ARMENIAN JUSTICE MINISTER.
During a meeting with leaders of the banned Dashnak party (HHD), Armenian Justice Minister Marat Aleksanyan said that documents submitted by the HHD are "not sufficient" for the party to be legalized, Noyan Tapan reported on 8 January. Ruben Hakobyan, a HHD leader, complained that the authorities have not specified the steps that his party should take in order to resume its activities. The meeting comes amid speculation that the party might soon be legalized following a 10 December court verdict that found no connection between the HHD and the alleged terrorist group Dro. The HHD's activities in Armenia were suspended in January 1995 by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violated Armenian law on political parties by having foreign members. In a bid to overcome the legal deadlock, the HHD in November 1995 made significant changes in its structure, granting its Armenia organization a substantial degree of autonomy. -- Emil Danielyan

FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN TURSUN ZADE.
Despite a presidential order to withdraw his forces from the Tursun Zade area, elements of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev's First Brigade attacked outlaw forces in the city on 8 January, international media reported. Khudaberdiyev had moved his force close to the city claiming that Tursun Zade's criminal band, loyal to former Popular Front commander Kadyr Abdullayev, raided the First Brigade's headquarters on 29 December to steal weapons, in the process killing one officer. Khudaberdiyev said the attack was sparked by the government's refusal to do anything about the situation. He is demanding Abdullayev return the weapons and vacate the city. Efforts by the Tajik government, Russian forces in Tajikistan, and the UN observer mission to mediate the isolated conflict have not met with any success. Both government and opposition representatives say the fighting in Tursun Zade will not have an impact on peace talks being held in Tehran. -- Bruce Pannier

TURGUNALIYEV FOUND GUILTY.
A Bishkek municipal court on 8 January found Topchubek Turgunaliyev, the chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, guilty of embezzlement and sentenced him to 10 years in prison and confiscation of all his property, RFE/RL reported. Co-defendant Timur Stamkulov received a six-year sentence but his property will not be confiscated. The charges stem from a 1994 incident when Turgunaliyev was the rector of Bishkek's Humanitarian University and approved a request by Stamkulov, then the deputy director of the university, to withdraw $10,000 from university funds. Stamkulov claims he was robbed and lost all the money, but he still returned $2,300 and later attempted to return an additional $3,000, which the university refused to accept. Lawyers for Turgunaliyev and Stamkulov have claimed from the beginning of the trial that it was politically motivated. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

UZBEK GAS-CHEMICALS COMPLEX.
A foreign consortium will help develop a chemical complex, with an estimated value of $1 billion, in Uzbekistan's Kashgadarya province, according to a 6 January report in Rossiiskaya Gazeta monitored by the BBC. The paper, citing sources in Uzbekneftgaz, noted the complex will be built by a consortium comprising three subsidiaries of the Swiss-Swedish ABB group, Japan's Mitsui, and Nissho Iwai. The complex at the Shurtan gas-condensate field is to produce 125,000 metric tons of polyethelene, 137,000 metric tons of liquefied gas, and 37,000 metric tons of unstable condensate. It is estimated $600 million will be spent on the technological side of the project and $400 million on construction to be carried out by Uzbek contractors. -- Lowell Bezanis


WORLD BANK PROTESTS CORRUPTION IN UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT.
World Bank President James Wolfenson sent a letter to President Leonid Kuchma at the beginning of the year criticizing corruption within the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian Radio reported on 8 January. The same day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk admitted that the problem of government corruption exists, noting that international criticism has begun because of increased foreign investment in the country. He said budgetary laws currently under review would limit the opportunities for corruption in the government. He also called for the implementation of tax reform. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN SHADOW CABINET CONVENES.
Belarus's shadow cabinet convened for the first time on 8 January, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Meeting at the headquarters of the United Civic Party, it announced the formation of a coalition of democratic parties. Unlike the shadow cabinet set up by the Belarusian Popular Front in 1992, the new shadow government embraces parties from the entire political spectrum, including democrats and communists. Its main goal is to offer an alternative to the incumbent regime. Henadz Karpenka, head of the shadow cabinet, said one of the primary tasks of the coalition is to draw up an economic program to pull the country out of its economic crisis. The shadow cabinet also plans to establish contacts outside Belarus, in particular with Ukraine's parliament and some deputies in the Russian State Duma. -- Ustina Markus

NEW STATE-RUN TV CHANNEL IN BELARUS.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has announced that a second state TV channel will go on the air in 1997, ORT reported on 8 January. The new channel is to broadcast on the frequency used currently by ORT, which transmits to 93% of the country and has the largest TV audience in Belarus. The government has
justified taking over the frequency by saying that ORT has failed to pay broadcasting fees. One of the most likely candidates to head the new Belarusian channel is Ivan Pashkevich, who advocates phasing out ORT over the next 18 months and then retaining only the most popular shows. Lukashenka has said he is unhappy about Russian media criticism of him and his policies. He has also complained that Russian TV is popular in Belarus and not under his control. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SET FOR MARCH.
The Central Electoral Commission has announced that elections to 77 town councils and 489 rural district councils will be held on 9 March, the BBC reported on 9 January. Lists of candidates for the elections must be submitted from 18-28 January. The voting procedure will be the same as in the parliamentary elections, with voters choosing one list of candidates from the lists that have been registered. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY.
Algirdas Saudargas and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, met in Berlin on 8 January to discuss Lithuania's desire to join the European Union, Radio Lithuania reported. The ministers confirmed that a final draft of a double-taxation accord will be completed soon. Saudargas also discussed with Berlin officials how Lithuania can reclaim the site of its former embassy building, which is currently rented to an automobile company. -- Saulius Girnius

TWO MORE POLISH DEPUTIES QUIT OPPOSITION PARTY.
Piotr Buczkowski and Andrzej Machowski have followed the example of the four deputies who quit the Freedom Union (UW) on 7 January, Polish media reported. Machowski was UW secretary when former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki headed the party, while Buczkowski chairs the Sejm's commission on local government. The six deputies are expected to join a new conservative-liberal party to be set up on 12 January. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that the new party is expected to be pro-market, pro-NATO, and pro-European integration. It is also expected to participate in Solidarity Electoral Action, a coalition of a two dozen or so center-right political groups. Former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, who belongs to the UW's right wing, has said she will remain in the party as long as it moves in a center-right direction. -- Jakub Karpinski

COMPROMISE REACHED OVER POLISH DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
The ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the opposition UW, and the Labor Union (UP) have reached a compromise over the issue of social rights in the new constitution, Polish media reported on 9 January. The constitution is to guarantee free education at public schools and basic health services for all citizens. However, no agreement has been forged over the introduction of a third administrative level--the powiat--within local government, which is supported only by the UW. The SLD withdrew its support for the powiat in exchange for the other parties' backing for a proposal that a two-thirds majority be necessary to override a presidential veto. The PSL and the UP want a lower threshold. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE TRADE DEFICIT.
The Czech government on 8 January reconfirmed that it will not devalue the crown in order to deal with the rapidly growing trade deficit. Rather, it will seek to implement measures to boost exports, including tax breaks for exporters. The country's annual trade deficit in 1996 exceeded 150 billion crowns ($5.5 billion). According to unofficial estimates, the annual inflation rate for 1996 reached 8.6%, some 0.3% less than projected by the Statistical Office, Czech media reported. -- Jiri Pehe

PETITION FOR REFERENDUM LAUNCHED IN SLOVAKIA.
The opposition begins today collecting signatures for a referendum on direct presidential elections, Slovak media reports. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) deputy Brigita Schmoegnerova has warned that political power may be abused if it is concentrated in one person. She added that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has already suggested changing to a presidential or German model. The SDL also argues that the constitution cannot be changed by a referendum but only by a three-fifths majority of deputies. The party is considering asking the Constitutional Court to explain how the basic law stands over this issue. The Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH) is supporting the referendum on direct presidential elections. Novy Cas noted that this is the first time the opposition "is taking matters into its own hands" in an effort to prevent the ruling coalition from getting its way. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL ON INTERNATIONAL TRIAL OVER GABCIKOVO DAM.
Gyorgy Szenasi, head of the international law department at the Foreign Ministry, has said that Hungary will have an advantage over Slovakia at the upcoming trial at the International Court of Justice because Slovakia will never concede it has violated international law, Vilaggazdasag reported on 9 January. The Hague-based court is due to convene in early March to rule on whether it was legal for the then Czechoslovakia to divert the Danube in 1992, whether the 1977 Hungarian-Czechoslovak accord was legally terminated when Hungary declared it so, and whether it was legal for Hungary to suspend and subsequently stop all construction work on the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydropower plant. Szenasi said a verdict is expected in late summer. He noted that confidential negotiations between the personal envoys of the Hungarian and Slovak premiers aimed at reaching an out-of-court settlement had yielded no results. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY, TURKEY SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT.
Industry and Trade Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Turkish state minister Ayfer Yilmaz signed a free trade agreement in Budapest on 8 January, Hungarian media reported. The accord abolishes import duties on 90% of Hungarian industrial products shipped to Turkey. It also stipulates that import duties on Turkish products entering Hungary are to be gradually phased out by 2001. The agreement does not apply to agricultural goods, for which preferential duties have been set. Yilmaz noted that Hungary is the first East European state with which Turkey has concluded a free trade agreement. -- Zsofia Szilagyi


SERBIAN GOVERNMENT CONCEDES LOSS OF NIS.
Official Serbian media on 8 January ran a statement from the Ministry of Justice admitting that the opposition Zajedno coalition won control of the city council in the 17 November local elections. Nis is Serbia's second largest city, and the statement is a major concession from the authorities. But Zajedno says it will keep up its protests until the authorities restore all its election victories. The current wave of demonstrations began in Nis, where a local government-run radio station had self-confidently carried live coverage of the election returns. Listeners were able to hear from regime journalists themselves how the opposition was winning in precinct after precinct. Also in Nis, army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic visited the 63rd Parachute Brigade, Nasa Borba reported on 9 January. The elite unit has allied itself with the protests, but the army said there was no political purpose to the "routine" visit. -- Patrick Moore

CHAOTIC PROTESTS IN BELGRADE.
The opposition launched a campaign on 8 January to paralyze the government by blocking its telephones, RFE/RL reported. Meanwhile, slow-moving or supposedly broken-down cars blocked traffic, while some 50,000 demonstrators converged on central Belgrade to surround riot police. Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic moved about in a van with a loudspeaker to address the police, whom he is trying to win over. He told them: "It is only a matter of a few days now, our brother policemen. The ruling powers will go," AFP quoted him as saying. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN POLICE IN MOSTAR REFUSE TO COOPERATE WITH IPTF.
UN spokesman Alexandar Ivanko on 8 January said police from the Croat-held part of Mostar are refusing either to provide the International Police Task Force with daily reports or to answer its questions, Onasa reported. Ivanko said Muslim-Croat police patrols in Mostar exist only on paper. The UN condemned the on-going expulsions of Muslims from the Croat-held part of the town. According to Ivanko, three abandoned Muslim houses near Capljina, in Herzegovina, were destroyed on 6 January in six explosions. No casualties were reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ARBITRATORS MEET TO DISCUSS DISPUTED TOWN OF BRCKO.
International mediators met in Rome on 8 January to discuss the future of Brcko, situated in northern Bosnia, international media reported. It was the first time that all Bosnian parties involved have gathered to discuss the issue. Control over the town is regarded crucial by Bosnian Serbs, on the one hand, and Muslims and Croats, on the other. The fate of Brcko was not resolved during the Dayton peace negotiations, and the issue was left to be decided by international arbitration at the end of last year. But U.S. arbitrator Roberts Owen postponed discussions for two months, after the Serbian party withdrew from the arbitration process. Serbs have sent 10 observers to Rome. Previously, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said the Serbs would rather resume the war than give up control of the town. In related news, Bosnian Serbs have announced they will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the declaration of the Republika Srpska in Brcko today. -- Daria Sito Sucic

FRESH SPECULATION OVER TUDJMAN'S HEALTH.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has disappeared from public view, which has revived speculation that he may not have long to live, RFE/RL reported on 8 January. He spent a week at Washington's prestigious Walter Reed Army Hospital in November, when U.S. sources told the media that Tudjman has inoperable stomach cancer and at most a year to live. Croatian spokesmen downplayed the reports, saying that he was treated for an ulcer, but the government's secretiveness only served to heighten suspicions that Tudjman is seriously ill. The normally publicity-minded president was last seen on government television at New Year's, looking "pale and gaunt," Reuters wrote. His office says only that "the president is in the country and performing his duties." Tudjman's next scheduled public appearance is in mid-January, when he is scheduled to receive the diplomatic corps. The speculation over Tudjman's health coincides with reports that he plans to turn over some of his duties to parliament, where his party has a majority. -- Patrick Moore

DRNOVSEK TO RETAIN SLOVENIAN PREMIERSHIP?
Janez Drnovsek's chances of staying on as Slovenian prime minister increased considerably after a deputy from the center-right Christian Democrats defected on 8 January, Vecernji list and Reuters reported. Ciril Pucko said he will support Drnovsek's candidacy because "we have economic and social problems that have to be solved not today, but yesterday." He said he will remain an independent deputy. Pucko's move could break the deadlock that followed last November's parliamentary elections. Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats won 25 seats in the 90-strong parliament and secured the support of several smaller left-wing parties that had a total of 20 mandates. But the right-of-center Slovenian Spring coalition--comprising the Social Democrats, the People's Party, and the Christian Democrats--also have total of 45 seats. Voting on a new premier was originally scheduled for 8 January but was postponed by one day. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS TRADE UNION LEADERS.
Victor Ciorbea on 8 January met with leaders of major trade unions in an attempt to defuse growing popular dissatisfaction over recent price hikes, Radio Bucharest reported. Representatives of the Fratia (Brotherhood) confederation, the National Trade Union Block, the Alfa Cartel, and the Confederation of Democratic Unions in Romania took part in the meeting. Ciorbea, a former unionist leader, spoke of the need for "true social partnership" with the unions. He criticized the previous government's practice of indexing wages, which, he said, had led to inflation. Instead, he proposed tax cuts on salaries and profits to compensate for the recent wave of price increases. The talks are to be followed up by negotiations between the state, the employers' organizations, and the unions. Social tension has been growing in Romania since the doubling of gasoline prices on 1 January prompted a series of other price hikes. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CITIZENS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION.
Emil Constantinescu, speaking on national television on 8 January, vowed to wage an uncompromising battle against corruption. He said that corruption and crime are "endangering national security" and that corruption must be halted if international confidence in the country is to be secured. While foreign companies in Romania often complain about corruption at all levels, the country is in dire need of direct foreign investment. To date, foreigners have invested only $2.2 billion. The president's appeal comes in the wake of the creation of a National Council of Action to fight corruption and organized crime. Jurnalul National reports that the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania supports the campaign but regards it as an attempt at "image-creating." Constantinescu has accused the party of widespread corruption. -- Zsolt Mato

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CONFIRMED AS SOCIALISTS' CHOICE FOR PRIME MINISTER.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its two coalition partners -- the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and the Political Club Ekoglasnost -- on 8 January nominated Nikolay Dobrev as their candidate for prime minister, RFE/RL and Trud reported. At a joint session of the three parties' leaderships and parliamentary deputies, Dobrev was approved by a vote of 206 to 0 with 3 abstentions. Parliamentary Speaker Blagovest Sendov was proposed by a Socialist deputy but refused to stand. The cabinet line-up and its program will be discussed at another plenary meeting on 12 January. Under the constitution, outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev has until 13 January to ask Dobrev to form a new government. However, he is expected to do so on 11 January. Dobrev then has one week to form a government. -- Stefan Krause

OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN BULGARIA.
Around 30,000 Sofia citizens on 8 January protested the formation of a second BSP government, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. As was the case on 3 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 January 1997), demonstrators gathered outside the BSP headquarters, which they pelted with snow balls and eggs under the watchful gaze of riot police and the opposition "special security" forces. Protests also took place the same day in eight other towns. Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, told a rally in Kardzhali that the opposition is ready to boycott the parliament and to organize a national strike. President Zhelyu Zhelev expressed his fear that unrest and violence that could discredit the protests. He urged the protesters to exercise discipline. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia.

NATIONAL WORK COUNCIL FORMED IN ALBANIA.
The Albanian government, the employers' association, and the government-backed Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH) headed by Valer Xheka have founded a National Work Council. The dissident BSPSH, which is headed by controversial student leader and Democratic Party (PD) deputy Azem Hajdari, has sharply criticized the move, denying the legitimacy of Xheka's union, Koha Jone reported on 9 January. Hajdari organized a student protest action on 6 January. The same day, 400 workers at the Maliq sugar factory went on strike to demand payment of wage arrears as well as wage increases, Dita Informacion reported. They are continuing the strike and refusing to send their children to school, arguing that they have no money to feed them. Meanwhile, the PD leadership has proposed the expulsion of Hajdari from the party's caucus, Rilindja Demokratike reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave




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