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Newsline - January 13, 1997


YELTSIN HEALTH UPDATE.
President Boris Yeltsin remains at the Central Clinical Hospital, being treated for pneumonia. The head of the Kremlin medical center Dr. Sergei Mironov said that a fairly large area of both lungs is affected, NTV reported on 12 January. Mironov believes Yeltsin will stay at the hospital for the next 4 to 5 days, while his recovery period will last at least through the end of January. On the same day, the presidential press service asserted that President Yeltsin's "activity level has increased markedly" and that he has begun working on documents. No visitors are being allowed to see Yeltsin, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 January. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

LEBED ON EARLY ELECTIONS, KORZHAKOV.
In an interview with the commercial network TV-6 on 12 January, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed again expressed his presidential ambitions and asserted that Yeltsin's poor health will force an early election. Lebed said the country had been "without a government" since Yeltsin fell ill last summer and warned of a possible "social explosion." Asked about his relations with former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, Lebed said he meets with Korzhakov occasionally, adding, "the enemies of my enemies are my friends." -- Laura Belin

STROEV CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE ...
Warning that the country cannot live on the basis of presidential decrees, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev called for increasing the constitutional powers of the parliament in determining economic and social policy, NTV reported on 10 January. Stroev also called for giving both houses of the parliament a say in the nomination of deputy prime ministers and power ministers, currently the prerogative of the president. Stroev has usually been careful to support the president and these statements may signal an increasingly aggressive upper house. The Federation Council is made up of the regional elite, almost all of whom were popularly elected following the gubernatorial elections in the second half of last year. -- Robert Orttung

... POLITICIANS, MEDIA REACT.
Presidential representative to the Constitutional Court Sergei Shakhrai spoke out sharply against changing the constitution, reminding Russian Public TV (ORT) viewers on 11 January of the constitutional battles that led to bloodshed in October 1993. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov also spoke against changing the constitution, according to Radio Mayak. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 January suggested that Stroev's statement reflected his efforts to block a possible attempt to remove him as speaker by showing that he is aggressively pursuing the parliament's cause against the executive. -- Robert Orttung

PRIEST KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA.
Father Yefim, the head of the Orthodox Church in Grozny, and fellow-priest Aleksei Vavilov were kidnapped on 9 January as they drove to the town of Urus-Martan, NTV reported the next day. On 11 January Russian Patriarch Aleksii II appealed for their release: the Chechen Mufti Haji Akhmad Kadyrov pledged his assistance. Yefim was reportedly driving in search of another priest who was kidnapped a year ago. An estimated 300 persons have been kidnapped in Chechnya, including the brother of former Supreme Soviet chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, a professor at Grozny university, for whom the kidnappers are reportedly demanding $1.5 million. -- Peter Rutland

POLL: MASKHADOV AHEAD IN RACE FOR PRESIDENT.
According to a poll of Chechen residents cited by ITAR-TASS on 12 January, former chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov leads the presidential race with 65% support, trailed by ex-press spokesman Movladi Udugov with 17%, while current President Zelimkan Yandarbiev and field commander Shamil Basaev have 8% each. The remaining 12 presidential candidates attracted 2% or less. Moscow is hoping for a Maskhadov victory, since he is regarded as the most reasonable of the Chechen leaders. On 10 January the National Patriotic Party of Ichkeria announced they were backing Udugov, Radio Mayak reported. -- Peter Rutland

CIS SUMMIT POSTPONED.
CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya announced on 10 January that the scheduled 17 January CIS summit will be postponed until the end of the month, Russian media reported. Korotchenya attributed the postponement to a scheduling conflict involving Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who plans to be in Slovakia on 16-17 January, although the real reason is presumably President Yeltsin's health. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA CONDEMNS TURKISH THREATS AGAINST CYPRUS.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 11 January denounced threats by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller that Ankara "will do what is necessary, even if that means strikes," to prevent the deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missile in Greek-controlled Cyprus, Russian and Western media reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said Ciller's remarks were "a direct threat to the security of sovereign Cyprus." He reiterated the Russian view that the S-300 missiles which Russia recently agreed to sell Cyprus are "purely defensive," and will not upset the regional military balance. Tarasov urged Turkey to consider Moscow's idea of full demilitarization of Cyprus. Western governments, while critical of the missile sale, have also called on Ankara to show restraint. -- Scott Parrish

INCUMBENTS REELECTED IN THREE REGIONS.
The governor of Tyumen Oblast and presidents of the republics of Adygeya and Kabardino-Balkariya were reelected on 12 January, according to preliminary results, Radio Rossii reported the next day. Leonid Roketskii, who received about 59% of the vote, outpolled businessman Sergei Atroshenko by over 25% in the Tyumen gubernatorial run-off. The turnout in the oblast was slightly over 25%. The incumbent president of Kabardino-Balkariya, Valerii Kokov, ran unopposed and was reelected with 97% turnout. Aslan Dzharimov, the president of Adygeya, received about 58% of the vote; his two Communist-backed rivals, Aslanbii Sovmiz and Kazbek Tsiku, won 20% and 16% respectively. The results of all three regional races may be challenged in court, as the elections were accompanied by irregularities and legal violations. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

TEACHERS GO ON STRIKE.
Thousands of teachers across Russia are taking part in protest actions on 13 January, ITAR-TASS reported. As in numerous similar protests in previous years, the teachers' main grievances are lengthy delays in the payment of wages and the low level of state funding for the education sector. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 January said that more than 400,000 workers from 10,000 educational establishments in 55 of the country's 89 regions intended to take part in strikes and demonstrations. According to the paper, wage arrears grew by almost 1.5 trillion rubles over the past month and currently exceed 6 trillion. A senior trade union official was quoted by the BBC as saying that the situation was particularly serious in parts of Chita, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk, Amur, and Bryansk oblasts, where teachers have not been paid for six to nine months. -- Penny Morvant

NAKHODKA FOLLOW-UP.
The Russian government is sending two ships to help tackle the oil spill that followed the sinking of a Russian tanker in the Sea of Japan on 2 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 January. An estimated 4,000 metric tons of oil leaked when the Nakhokda broke apart, polluting the Japanese coastline and fouling fishing grounds. On 11 January, Russia allocated 1.5 billion rubles ($270,000) to the clean-up operation. The tanker's captain is still missing: the rest of the crew have refused to talk to the press under pressure from Prisco Traffic, the company that owns the tanker. Nezavisimaya gazeta alleged on 11 January that the wreck might be part of an insurance scam: the Nakhodka was reportedly insured for $500 million with a London-based group. -- Penny Morvant

TOP U.S. OFFICIAL WARNS RUSSIA ON ECONOMIC POLICY.
Larry Summers, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary, has warned that market reform in Russia "has lost momentum [and] key structural measures [have] dropped off the reform agenda." Summers, the top U.S. official dealing with Russian economic issues, was speaking to a conference of U.S. and Russian businessmen at Harvard University on 9 January. The Russian delegation was led by controversial businessman Boris Berezovskii, currently Deputy Secretary of the Security Council. Summers said "1996 was a year consumed less by policy than by politics and cardiology," and urged Russia to tackle the problems of rampant crime and ineffective taxation. Summers' comments seemed to signal a departure from the previous U.S. administration line, that the market transition in Russia is basically on track. -- Peter Rutland

SOSKOVETS' AMEX CARD.
The three-part expose of criminal activities in Russia's aluminum industry run by NTV's Itogi concluded on 12 January and revealed the main piece of evidence - a copy of Oleg Soskovets' American Express statement. Earlier episodes had alluded to Soskovets's links with the aluminum industry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997). The latest program detailed the killings of three bankers in 1995 who were involved in an attempt to win control over the Krasnoyarsk aluminum works. The program then revealed that Soskovets, formerly First Deputy Prime Minister, and his son have held an American Express Corporate Account card, out of a Swiss bank, since 1994. The 20-year-old Aleksei allegedly spent $103,532 with his card in six months in 1994, including $25,000 in a Swiss jewelry shop and $724 for a dinner at Moscow's Metropole Hotel. Soskovets senior was more modest, buying $5,000 worth of groceries over the past two months. The program complained that no-one from the Interior Ministry's department of economic crime had contacted them after the two previous broadcasts. -- Peter Rutland



RUSSIA READY TO ACCEPT URANIUM FROM GEORGIA.
Ministry of Atomic Energy spokesman Grigorii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS on 11 January that "there is no problem as such" with Russia accepting approximately 10 kg (22 lbs) of highly-enriched uranium stored at an insecure Georgian research facility. Kaurov said "it will take time to go through several judicial formalities" to transfer the radioactive materials to Russia as a special agreement with Georgia needs to be signed; other Russian officials said the timing of the uranium's removal depends on resolving "technical" issues. Repeated American offers of financial and technical aid have failed to speed up the removal. The officials added that before the uranium is removed, Tbilisi must agree to accept the radioactive waste left after it is reprocessed. Georgian officials have balked, because Georgia does not have a suitable storage facility. Kaurov criticized the "unjustified furor" raised by media reports about the uranium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 January 1997), which he argued poses no proliferation threat. -- Scott Parrish and Emil Danielyan

U.S. TO PUSH FOR FRESH ELECTIONS IN ARMENIA?
The United States will press Armenian Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan, currently visiting Washington, to hold fresh parliamentary elections, an unidentified U.S. official told AFP on 10 January. The official said early elections would be "one way to give the opposition a constructive role and have a more representative and democratic structure." AFP also quoted U.S. officials as saying they hope that the elections could be held in March, and Sarkisyan could foster the country's "political reform" in the wake of the 22 September presidential vote that has caused doubts about the legitimacy of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Opposition leader Vazgen Manukyan has repeatedly said that fresh presidential and parliamentary elections are the only issues the opposition is ready to discuss with the authorities. -- Emil Danielyan

BISHKEK SUMMIT PRODUCES TREATY ON ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP.
The presidents of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 10 January, Western and Russian media reported. Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and summit host Askar Akayev signed a treaty declaring "eternal friendship" between their states. They also agreed to form a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion which will be based at Jibek-Jolu on the Kazak-Kyrgyz border. The three states promised to cooperate militarily, agreeing to a mutual defense arrangement. "If the territorial integrity and independence of one of our states is threatened...the leaders of the three states may take measures, including military ones, to defend our states," Nazarbayev said. Also discussed was a means to make the Uzbek currency, the sum, convertible into Kyrgyz som or Kazak tenge. A proposal to extend the term of peacekeepers now serving in Tajikistan from the current three countries was postponed until the forthcoming CIS summit. -- Bruce Pannier

TALKS BETWEEN TASHKENT, DUSHANBE.
Tajik Prime Minister Yahya Azimov held two days of talks in Tashkent with his Uzbek counterpart Utkir Sultanov, RFE/RL reported on 11 January. Discussion focused on Dushanbe's debt to Uzbekistan for natural gas and electricity, as well as gas supplies for 1997 and transport-related problems. The sides failed to reach agreement on these issues, but did sign an agreement on education. The magnitude of the problems (last year Tajikistan acknowledged it owed Uzbekistan $200 million) and Dushanbe's hopes to purchase gas at a subsidized rate are likely to have made it difficult for the sides to agree. Last week as a result of the conflict in Tursun Zade, Tajikistan, several shells fell on Uzbek territory, wounding four. On 10 January Tashkent officially protested the incident and called on Dushanbe to prevent its repetition. -- Lowell Bezanis


UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER IN BRUSSELS.
Volodymyr Horbulin visited Brussels for talks with NATO, Ukrainian Radio reported on 10-12 January. After the visit, Ukrainian Radio announced that a special partnership agreement between NATO and Ukraine may be signed this year. Horbulin said he views the special partnership between Ukraine and NATO as an important component of European security. -- Ustina Markus

GAS DISTRIBUTORS WIN CONTRACTS IN UKRAINE.
Ten Ukrainian and foreign gas distribution companies won the rights to supply Ukrainian consumers with more than 80 billion cubic meters of natural gas worth $5 billion, Ukrainian Radio reported on 10 January. Competition for the contracts had been going on for several months, and involved politicians as well as businessmen. Previously, the major distributor was the Ukrhazkonsortium, made up of six companies and two banks. The Dnipropetrovsk gas system gave representatives from that region a leading role in gas distribution. Under the new distribution scheme, several other companies have emerged on the distribution arena, including Interhaz, the Ukrainian Gas Company, and others. -- Ustina Markus

POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS, DISMISSALS IN BELARUS.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a decree dismissing Uladzimir Syanko from the post of foreign minister, and appointing Ivan Antonovich in his place, international agencies reported on 11 January. The same day, Lukashenka confirmed acting Defense Minister Alyaksandr Chumakau in his post. Chumakau replaced Leanid Maltseu last year after Maltseu was unceremoniously dismissed for appearing drunk at a banquet. Lukashenka also appointed four members to the new 64-seat upper house of parliament, the Council of the Republic. The four include former Supreme Soviet Chairman Mikalai Dzemyantsei, who was removed from office for failing to condone the putschists in August 1991; Uladzimir Karavai, former head of the Belarusian Supreme Court during the Soviet era; Tamara Dudko, head of the Belarusian Union of Women; and Mikalai Yaromeka, head of the Belarusian Confederation of Creative Associations and Cultural Funds. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET.
The National Assembly passed the draft state budget for 1997 on 11 January, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. The budget sets expenditures at 43.3 trillion Belarusian rubles (BR) and revenues at 35.8 trillion BR. The deficit is equivalent to 3.3% of GDP. The majority of the deficit will be covered by issues of government securities, privatization of state property, and foreign loans. The rest of the deficit will be covered with loans from the National Bank of Belarus. The budget was described by deputies as "socially-oriented," with 55% of expenditures going to the social and cultural spheres. Eight percent of the budget will be used to deal with the ongoing consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. The agricultural sector is to receive the lion's share of "social" expenditures, with over half of all funds earmarked for that purpose going to support agriculture. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA.
Andris Skele made an unofficial one-day trip to Lithuania on 10 January to establish personal contacts with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, Radio Lithuania reported. Their talks touched upon security issues, NATO and EU enlargement, the implementation of the Baltic free trade agreement on farm goods that came into effect at the beginning of 1997, and the planned Baltic customs union. The leaders, however, did not discuss the most important dispute between the two countries: the demarcation of the sea border. In 1995, Latvia signed oil exploration agreements with U.S. and Swedish companies in an area claimed by both countries, but no work can be carried out on the project until the border dispute is settled. -- Saulius Girnius

RUSSIA WANTS TO BUY FORMER NAVAL BASE IN LATVIA.
The president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Arkadii Volskii, said on 10 January that Russia is continuing talks with Latvia on the purchase of the former naval base at Liepaja, AFP reported the next day. Formerly the largest Russian naval base on the Baltic Sea, it was abandoned in 1994 when Russian troops withdrew from Latvia. -- Saulius Girnius

UNDP, FINLAND TO FINANCE ESTONIAN PASSPORT REGISTRATION.
The UN Development Program and Finland agreed on 10 January to give about 11 million krooni ($0.9 million) in aid to the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Department to pay for the establishment of a central passport registry, ETA reported. The program aims to supply all Estonian passports with a machine-readable code and a registry for checking passport data. The registry, which is expected to be ready by 1 May, is one of the main requirements Finland had set for establishing visa-free travel between the two countries. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW PARTY CREATED IN POLAND.
The Conservative-People's Party (SKL)--uniting the People's-Christian Party (SLCh) led by Artur Balazs and the Conservative Party (PK) led by Aleksander Hall--was created on 12 January in Warsaw. A group of politicians who recently left the Freedom Union (UW), led by former ministers Jan Maria Rokita and Bronislaw Komorowski, have joined the new political formation. Former Agriculture Minister Jacek Janiszewski, formerly from the SLCh, became the SKL president, while Rokita and Miroslaw Styczen, who was formerly from the PK, are his deputies, Komorowski is the SKL general secretary, while Hall heads the SKL Political Council. The SKL wants to join Solidarity Electoral Action (SAW), a large coalition led by the Solidarity trade union. SAW leader Marian Krzaklewski and politicians linked to former President Lech Walesa attended the unification congress as guests. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH REPUBLIC, POLAND TO COORDINATE POLICIES.
Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz ended a two-day official visit to Prague on 10 January, Czech media reported. He and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, discussed cooperation in a variety of fields and agreed to coordinate the two countries' purchases of foreign military planes and other equipment. Cimoszewicz said that within a few months--ahead of the EU's Madrid summit in July--the two countries are planning to come up with a joint initiative concerning their admission to NATO and the EU. -- Jiri Pehe

CHARTER 77 CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY.
Charter 77, the former Czechoslovak dissident movement, on 10 January commemorated the 20th anniversary of its founding with a series of events in Prague. Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the first three spokesmen of Charter 77, told a gathering of former signatories that "the [Czech] state no longer denies human rights to its citizens but human rights are still being occasionally violated." He called for vigilance. Nobel Prize laureates and other important personalities addressed a conference called "The Legacy of Charter 77" held the same day. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER: NO CRISIS IN 1998.
Vladimir Meciar rejected the possibility of a constitutional crisis following the expiration of President Michal Kovac's term in office in 1998, saying the cabinet would assume some presidential powers if no new president is elected, Slovak Radio reported on 10 January. He added if the current parliament is unable to agree on a new president, the task will fall to the next parliament, scheduled to be elected in 1998. Meciar said the next parliamentary election should be held in June 1998, three months after the end of Kovac's term. The Slovak Constitution states that a president must be elected with the support of at least 90 of parliament's 150 deputies. Meciar also rejected the current electoral system, saying he would prefer either a majority system or a combination of majority and proportional systems. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARIAN CABINET CALLS ON BELGRADE TO RESPECT LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS.
The Hungarian government on 12 January expressed concern at recent developments in Belgrade, Hungarian dailies reported. The government expects Serbian leaders to find a democratic and peaceful resolution to the crisis over the recognition of the opposition's local election victories. The cabinet also said that the Serbian government should fully and unconditionally implement the OSCE's recommendations. In other news, Sandor Lezsak, president of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, addressed an opposition rally in Belgrade on 11 January. Lezsak said the recent developments in Serbia and Bulgaria amount to a new anti-Communist revolution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi


PROTESTS IN BULGARIA MOUNT ...
Demonstrations against the governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) continued over the weekend in Sofia, Bulgarian and Western media reported. On 10 January, protesters blocked the parliament building. Some stormed the building, causing 700 million leva ($1.1 million) worth of damage and preventing more than 100 deputies -- mainly from the BSP -- from leaving. The parliamentary opposition had previously staged a walk-out after the wording of its "Declaration on Bulgaria's Salvation" was rejected by the Socialist majority. Riot police broke up the blockade. Around 100 protesters and police officers were injured. On 11 January, protests continued on a smaller scale, but the largest demonstration so far was held in Sofia on 12 January. AFP estimated the number of protesters at 50,000, while RFE/RL put it at 150,000-200,000. Protests are expected to continue. Meanwhile, the Confederation of Labor Podkrepa called a nationwide strike on 15 January. -- Stefan Krause

... AS POLITICIANS WRANGLE OVER POSSIBLE SOLUTION.
Outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev on 10 January said he will not give the BSP a mandate to form a new government, saying the current political situation makes that impossible, RFE/RL reported. The next day, he called for early parliamentary elections on state TV. President-elect Petar Stoyanov and the BSP prime minister-designate, Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, met on 11 January and agreed that the government and opposition should hold talks to resolve the crisis. Stoyanov called for early elections. Meanwhile, the BSP insisted that Dobrev be given a mandate to form a new government. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov on 12 January said talks with the opposition on early elections can start anytime, but he said he expects the BSP to stay in power for at least another year to "stabilize" Bulgaria. Also on 12 January, parliamentary speaker Blagovest Sendov -- elected on the BSP ticket -- said that early elections are necessary in his "personal opinion." -- Stefan Krause

GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE.
Theodoros Pangalos held meetings on 12 January with both the Serbian authorities and leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition but failed to make any progress on a solution to the crisis gripping the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Radio B-92 reported. He did, however, say that the Belgrade regime should recognize the opposition's 17 November victories in the local elections. Pangalos, who described Serbia as "a loyal and real friend," also expressed concern that the FRY may be heading for international isolation once again. Pangalos also met with the head of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle. Meanwhile, mass demonstrations against the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic continued on 12 January despite the continuing presence of heavily armed riot police. -- Stan Markotich

CONTACT GROUP WARNS SERBIA.
The five-member International Contact Group met in Brussels on 11 January, but this time its attention was centered more on Serbia than on Bosnia, international media reported. The session called for greater democratization in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including recognition of the 17 November local election results and promotion of independent media. The representatives of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Russia nonetheless agreed not to pursue fresh sanctions against Belgrade. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, however, said that Washington has a program to increase pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Nasa Borba reported on 13 January. Measures include freezing bilateral economic relations; maintaining international political pressure; and promoting democracy and a civil society within Serbia, including human rights in Kosovo. -- Patrick Moore

HIGH OFFICIAL SAYS SERBIAN ECONOMY TEETERING ON COLLAPSE.
Carl Bildt, the international High Representative to Bosnia, on 12 January said the Serbian economy remains in tatters and is showing signs of further disintegration. Bildt, speaking at an economic policy conference in Sarajevo, was joined by other officials in warning the Bosnian Serbs that they also face the prospect of near total economic ruin if they remain steadfast in their resolve to maintain and solidify economic links with Belgrade. For his part, David Lipton, assistant secretary of the U.S. treasury, told the gathering that "For those of you representing [the Republika Srpska] -- if you maintain a link to the economy of Serbia as your principle economic link-- you will inevitably follow Serbia downwards through the economic valley, the valley of despair and isolation," Reuters reported. -- Stan Markotich

BLUNT WORDS FOR BOSNIA.
Representatives of the international community on 12 January said in Sarajevo that the Bosnians must get their government functioning and start serious economic reforms or there will be no international donors' conference in March. Envoys said that donors want proof that the Bosnians have made real progress in, among other things, adopting laws on a single central bank, a single currency, a 1997 budget, and servicing the foreign debt, Reuters reported. The diplomats added that donors are interested in helping to sustain long-term recovery but not in financing short-term aid projects. Meanwhile, federal Agriculture Minister Ahmed Smajic told Oslobodjenje that the economy is functioning at only 10 to 15% of its prewar level. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN PRESIDENT REAPPEARS.
Franjo Tudjman was shown on state-run television on 10 January for the first time since New Year's, news agencies reported. He appeared thin but robust and looking fit. The failure of the usually publicity-conscious leader to appear in public for several days led to renewed speculation at home and abroad regarding his health, and some observers suggested that he has only months to live (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 January 1997). His own office had meanwhile added to the confusion by failing to issue an unambiguous message that the president is indeed healthy and instead put out statements that could be interpreted in different ways. But on 13 January the official media carried a new statement from his office, which said that: "President Tudjman is pleased to inform the public that his recovery is going well and that he is carrying out all his presidential duties. With the will of the people and God, he will be able to continue carrying them on for a long time." -- Patrick Moore

RE-ELECTED SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER ON POLITICAL FUTURE.
Janez Drnovsek, the leader of the center-left Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), said on 10 January that he would likely approach the conservative People's Party in his search for allies in a new coalition government, STA reported. Drnovsek, who has 15 days to unveil a new government lineup, was re-elected prime minister by a margin of 46-44 votes on 9 January. The 10 November parliamentary elections gave no single party a clear mandate. Meanwhile, police on 10 January opened an inquiry into allegations that the LDS had attempted to "buy" opposition votes for Drnovsek. Drnovsek on 10 January dubbed the allegations groundless. -- Stan Markotich

DID THE LIBERATION ARMY OF KOSOVO KILL THE FIRST ALBANIAN?
Maliq Sheholi, an ethnic Albanian member of the ruling Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), was shot by unidentified assailants in Podujevo, Reuters reported on 10 January. Sheholi was a member of the local city council. No organization has claimed responsibility for the killing, but the notorious Kosovo Liberation Army, which has been accused of killing nine Serbs in 1996, threatened last October to kill Albanian collaborators with the Serbian regime. -- Fabian Schmidt

CONTROVERSIAL MINERS' LEADER ARRESTED IN ROMANIA.
Miron Cozma, the leader of the miners' trade union in the Jiu Valley, was arrested on 10 January at the Prosecutor General's Office in Bucharest, Romanian and Western media reported. He was detained on a 30-day warrant on various charges, including "undermining state authority" and breaking firearms regulations. Cozma, who led thousands of miners in violent marches on Bucharest in 1990 and 1991, could face up to 15 years in jail. The last miners' rampage, in September 1991, forced Prime Minister Petre Roman to resign and left several people dead and dozens injured. Former President Ion Iliescu, who has been accused of summoning the miners to Bucharest, described Cozma's detention as politically motivated. Incumbent President Emil Constantinescu, however, on 12 January rejected a plea by miners' representatives to intervene on Cozma's behalf and said he would use his powers to prevent violence. -- Dan Ionescu

DNIESTER PRESIDENT SWORN IN FOR SECOND TERM.
Igor Smirnov, the president of the self-declared "Dniester Moldovan Republic," was inaugurated for a second term on 10 January, BASA-press reported. Smirnov, who was congratulated by Tiraspol officials and blessed by the local Orthodox bishop, stated at the ceremony that the creation of the secessionist republic has made it more difficult for "Romania to incorporate Moldova." He stressed that the future relationship between Chisinau and Tiraspol should be based on treaties and that Moldova should "view the Dniester region as a [separate] state." The special session of the Supreme Soviet was attended by deputies of the Russian State Duma. Smirnov was re-elected president with 71% of the votes on 22 December. -- Dan Ionescu

ALBANIA PROTESTS EXPULSIONS FROM GREECE.
Albania has protested against Greece's recent expulsions of Albanian emigrants. Hundreds of Albanians have been deported from Greece in a crackdown on illegal immigration following a series of burglaries in an Athens suburb that have been blamed on Albanian crime rings, Reuters reported on 10 January. Police at the Kakavie border checkpoint said the number of expelled Albanians has increased three-fold in recent days, reaching up to 300 a day, with most of the deportees coming from Athens. Greece has, however, pledged to issue working permits to most of the estimated 350,000 illegal Albanian immigrants living in the country. -- Fabian Schmidt



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