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Newsline - January 28, 1997


MASKHADOV LEADING IN CHECHEN POLLS.
Preliminary reports give former Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov a commanding lead in the 27 January Chechen presidential election, Russian and Western agencies reported. His staff claimed victory on 28 January, saying he received 58% of the vote. Chechen election officials told AFP that Maskhadov garnered over 55% in the 35 of 63 districts where results had been tabulated. Shamil Basaev was in second place, with about 30%. Officials estimated a very high turnout, reaching 80%, with heavy participation by refugees in Ingushetiya and Dagestan. Polling hours were extended until 10:00 p.m. local time in order to accommodate all those wishing to vote. Tim Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, said he had not seen any significant irregularities, but the 72 OSCE election observers will meet on 28 January before releasing an official appraisal of the polls. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN LEADERS INSIST CHECHNYA REMAINS PART OF RUSSIA.
While Chechen voters chose between presidential candidates who all support independence for the republic, Russian leaders on 27 January continued to dismiss talk of Chechnya becoming independent, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that "one should not take seriously" campaign rhetoric about independence. "Let the elections happen and when everything has calmed down we can sit down at the table and begin working together," he added. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev also argued that, despite campaign rhetoric, "relations can be built with Chechnya as a constituent part of Russia." These statements reflect the prevailing view in Moscow that economic necessity will force Chechen leaders to pull back from their goal of full independence. The Consultative Council, consisting of Chernomyrdin, Seleznev, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, will meet on 28 January to discuss Chechnya. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN POSTPONES VISIT TO NETHERLANDS.
Aggravating concern about his health, President Boris Yeltsin on 27 January postponed his scheduled 4 February visit to The Hague, Russian and Western media reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that the meeting was postponed because Yeltsin has not fully recovered from his recent pneumonia, and that doctors had advised the president to "avoid flying for the time being." The Hague meeting with top European Union officials will be rescheduled and moved to Moscow, Yastrzhembskii added, saying that Yeltsin still plans to meet with French President Jacques Chirac outside Moscow on 2 February. The announcement prompted Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov to renew calls for Yeltsin to step down because of his health. All three major Russian television networks gave the announcement only cursory coverage, and did not speculate on the president's condition. -- Scott Parrish

RUMORS OF IMPENDING CHUBAIS DISMISSAL.
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais paid 515 million rubles ($92,000) in taxes owed on his 1996 income, but Yeltsin may be looking to replace him in any case, according to the 25 January Komsomolskaya pravda. The paper said Yeltsin was furious upon learning Chubais had earned $278,000 for "lectures and consultations" while working on the president's re-election campaign. It said Yeltsin may replace Chubais with Yurii Petrov, who headed the presidential staff from August 1991 to January 1992, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, whom he has known since his days in Sverdlovsk, or perhaps Deputy Chief of Staff Yurii Yarov. On 17 January, Moskovskii komsomolets speculated that Yeltsin may soon replace Chubais with Reforms--New Course leader Vladimir Shumeiko, who served as Federation Council speaker from 1994-1995. -- Laura Belin

BATURIN ON MILITARY REFORM.
On a tour of military installations in the Far East, Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin admitted that he has differences of opinion with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov about the direction of military reform, but emphasized that "we can sit down and find a common solution," NTV reported on 27 January. He added, however, that Russia cannot afford to maintain the military at its current size, and said it was "erroneous" to postpone reform until additional funds have been budgeted for the military, an implicit criticism of Rodionov's views. He concluded that military reform should not only downsize the army and eliminate wasteful duplication, but also focus on research and development of the next generation of high-technology weaponry. -- Scott Parrish

SHARANSKII RETURNS TO MOSCOW.
Ten years after being freed from a Soviet prison and sent to the West in a cold war prisoner swap, former dissident Natan Sharanskii returned to Moscow on 27 January, Russian and Western media reported. Sharasnkii, now Israeli minister of trade and industry, is accompanied by a large delegation of Israeli businessmen, and his four-day official visit primarily aims to boost Russian-Israeli trade. However, he also plans to visit Lefortovo prison and the grave of fellow dissident Andrei Sakharov. -- Scott Parrish

MOST GROUP CREATES MEDIA HOLDING COMPANY.
Vladimir Gusinskii is resigning as Most Bank president and Most group general director in order to become general director of a new holding company, Media-Most, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 27 January. Media-Most will acquire all the shares Most group holds in various media outlets, including NTV and the satellite network NTV-Plus, the radio station Ekho Moskvy, the publishing house Sem Dnei, the newspaper Segodnya, and the weekly magazine Itogi. Gusinskii said he hoped the move would improve the media's financial performance and avoid "a possible conflict of interest" between the media and companies in the Most group. Gusinskii has been close to the presidential administration since last spring. NTV President Igor Malashenko worked openly for Yeltsin's re-election campaign, and in recent months the network's coverage has continued to favor the president over his political opponents. -- Laura Belin

COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT MEETS.
Speaking at the seventh meeting of the consultative council for foreign investment (which includes governmental officials and representatives of Russian and foreign business circles), Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that foreign investments in Russia topped $6 billion in 1996, while the cumulative volume of foreign investment reached $12 billion by the end of the year, Izvestiya and ITAR-TASS reported on 27-28 January. Chernomyrdin argued that Russia's political and economic development has become more predictable and the political risk of foreign investment has declined. Tax reform, the impending adoption of international accounting practices by Russian companies, and other changes in economic legislation could increase the volume of foreign investment in Russia to $20 billion by 2000, he said. -- Natalia Gurushina

HAZARDS OF TAX COLLECTION.
The Russian Tax Service said on 27 January that 26 of its inspectors were killed, 74 injured, six kidnapped, and 164 threatened with physical violence in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. Eighteen taxation offices experienced bomb blasts and shooting incidents. The service, which has been under heavy government pressure to improve tax collection, has also suffered financial difficulties. Tax offices in Yaroslavl Oblast are on strike to protest delayed wages, and inspectors in Tver are threatening to take industrial action, Radio Mayak reported on 26 January. The IMF suspended payment of the November and December tranches ($680 million) of a $10.1 billion extended facility fund to Russia because of inadequate tax collection. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 27 January, however, that the funds should be released in the next few days. -- Natalia Gurushina and Penny Morvant

HIV CASES UP, OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES DOWN.
First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said on 27 January that 1,397 new cases of HIV infection were registered in Russia in the second half of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. There was a particularly sharp increase in the number of intravenous drug users infected with the virus. The total number of HIV cases recorded in Russia to date is 2,439 but the true number of carriers is thought to be several times higher. Onishchenko also said that the overall incidence of infectious diseases declined by 5.3% in 1996, noting in particular that vaccination programs had led to a reduction in diphtheria and measles. Vaccine producers are currently owed about 100 billion rubles ($17.8 million) for state orders dating back to 1995, according to the Health Ministry. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has promised that this debt will soon be paid. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN SHIPS UNDER SCRUTINY.
A state commission investigating the 2 January sinking of the Russian oil tanker Nakhodka in the Sea of Japan concluded that it collided with a floating object, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. Investigators said the tanker, which released about 4,000 metric tons of oil into the sea, may have collided with a wrecked fishing boat or a floating target used for military exercises. Meanwhile, the British marine safety agency has placed the Russian merchant fleet in its "risk" category. The agency says Russian ships are poorly maintained, prone to accidents, and present a danger to the environment. Of 185 Russian merchant ships examined by British inspectors in 1996, one in 10 had serious technical problems and 19 were detained. -- Natalia Gurushina and Penny Morvant

RUSSIA BEHIND SCHEDULE IN SPACE STATION'S CONSTRUCTION.
The U.S. space agency NASA has expressed concern over Russia's one-year delay in assembling the service module of the international orbital space station Alfa, AFP and Reuters reported on 27 January. The delay, which was caused by the lack of financing, may result in postponing the first manned mission to the station -- originally slated for May 1998 -- to early 1999. Russian officials say the 1997 budget, which has just been approved by the Duma, earmarks necessary funds for the project. A spokesman for the Moscow-based Khrunichev space center, which assembles the module, said the company had already secured a $35 million loan from Moskovskii mezhdunarodnyi bank. U.S. officials, however, are threatening to limit Russia's participation in the project if delays persist. -- Natalia Gurushina


TENSIONS MOUNT IN ABKHAZIA.
Abkhaz police are conducting identity checks to detect "Georgian saboteur groups" in ethnic Georgian villages in the Gali district, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. The raids follow armed clashes in the district, which the Abkhaz blame on Georgian special services. Georgian officials described the clashes as "power struggles between Abkhaz clans and criminal groups." Earlier, Abkhaz officials claimed that they captured four Georgian gunmen, one of whom "confessed" to involvement in the attacks. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted Georgian TV as reporting that some 2,000 mainly ethnic Georgian residents of the Gali district, fearing "looting and violence by the Abkhaz forces," fled to the neighboring Zugdidi district. Meanwhile, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba called on the leaders of the CIS-member countries to prolong the mandate of the Russian-led CIS peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia. -- Emil Danielyan

PARTIAL RESULTS OF KAZAKSTANI FREQUENCY TENDER.
Kazakstani authorities on 24 January announced the results of the first round of a tender for broadcasting rights, Internews and Kazak Television reported, as monitored by the BBC. According to the television, channels were given to Kazak Commercial Television (KTK) and the Independent Television Channel (NTK), which were described as "independent companies." KTK is owned by Karavan, which publishes an independent newspaper, but Internews linked NTK with the daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Radio frequencies were given to "Europa," "Siti," and "Rika." A second tender will be held later. Meanwhile, Russian Television reported on 27 January that its broadcasts have been pulled off the air in Kazakstan and replaced with programming from Kazakstan's state television agency "Habar." Russian-speaking citizens of Kazakstan, particularly in the north, have protested the change to Russian Minister of CIS Affairs Aman Tuleyev. -- Bruce Pannier

UYGHUR CONGRESS HELD IN KYRGYZSTAN.
A congress of the Uyghur Association of Kyrgyzstan was held in Bishkek on 26 January, RFE/RL reported. The session replaced the association's president, Nurmuhamed Kenjiev, with Nigmat-Agi Baizakov. It also elected a 47-member council and five-member inspection committee. The congress approved plans for creating a special fund which would provide Uyghur students studying in Kyrgyzstan with a 3,000 som ($180) monthly stipend. Also, the association plans to open book stores in Bishkek, which will specialize in Uyghur literature. There are now about 50,000 Uyghurs living in Kyrgyzstan. The Uyghur Association was founded in 1990, the first ethnic minority organization registered in the country. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

TURKMENISTAN AND AZERBAIJAN TANGLE OVER OIL FIELD.
Ashgabat and Baku appear to be on the verge of an open dispute over ownership of the Chirag offshore Caspian oil field, Russian and Azerbaijani sources reported on 26 January. While the two have been at odds over the Caspian's status, with Ashgabat's position mirroring that of Russia and Iran in opposition to that of Azerbaijan, no dispute over particular fields has yet gone public. The present friction stems from a 23 January article in theFinancial Times in which Ashgabat claimed that the Chirag field, part of the so-called "deal of the century," is located in Turkmenistan's territorial waters. Baku has both demanded clarification of Ashgabat's position and rejected any such claims. -- Lowell Bezanis


BELARUS PUSHES FOR TALKS ON CURRENCY UNION.
Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prakapovich last week announced that the Belarusian government has invited the Central Bank of Russia to start talks on synchronizing the two countries' exchange rates, Belarusian Radio reported on 26 January. This is considered an initial step toward unification of the two currencies. But Sergei Aleksashenko, first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, has denied receiving such an invitation from the Belarusian government. He stressed that although currency union is crucial, it should not be the starting point for unification in general. His point of view is shared by National Bank of Belarus officials, who argue that monetary union should not begin until substantial differences in the two government's monetary policies have been addressed. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN MINERS PLAN MARCH ON KYIV.
The Central Committee of the Ukrainian miners' union has urged the Coal Industry Ministry to insist that this year's budget include subsidies totalling $2.3 billion for coal-mining enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. The parliament is scheduled to debate the 1997 budget on 4 February. A trade union spokesman said that miners are planning to march on Kyiv to picket the buildings of the presidential administration and the parliament on 4-5 February. Some 2,000 miners are expected to take part in the march. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
Tiit Vahi told the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 27 January that Estonia's future lies in a fully integrated Europe, ETA reported. He added that he hoped the council will decide later this month to stop monitoring Estonia. If it does, Estonia will become the second country in Eastern Europe, after Hungary, where CE monitoring has been scrapped. Vahi said one of his government's priorities is to help all permanent residents, especially the Russian-speaking community, to integrate fully into Estonian society. He also pledged to submit today the Geneva Convention on Refugees for ratification. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP HINDERED BY BORDER PROBLEMS.
Anita Gradin, EU commissioner for immigration, justice, and internal affairs, has said that although Lithuania is ready to join the EU, it still needs to resolve border security issues, BNS reported. Gradin is currently on a three-day visit to Lithuania. She and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius signed border aid agreements similar to those recently concluded with Latvia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1997). Gradin noted that most illegal refugees in Lithuania are economic migrants who are not entitled to political refugee status. She did not say whether the EU will urge Russia and Belarus to sign readmission agreements with their neighbors. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH NEWS.
Grazyna Opinska, spokeswoman for the Polish Committee for European Integration, has said Poland's relations with the EU have been strained by favorable conditions granted to the Korean automobile company Daewoo, Polish media reported on 28 January. Daewoo assembles cars from imported parts at automobile factories in Lublin and Zeran that it now owns. The EU claims that this arrangement constitutes the duty-free import of Daewoo cars. In 1996, Daewoo sold 38,000 cars in Poland, ten times more than in the previous year. In other news, the opposition Freedom Union is reported to be facing parliamentary extinction. In a recent Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) poll, Freedom Union (UW) received only 4% of the vote--one percentage point short of the 5% support needed for parliamentary representation (although it performed better in other polls). Rzeczpospolita reported on 28 January that the UW is losing its electorate to Solidarity Electoral Action. -- Beata Pasek and Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN GERMANY TO DISCUSS JOINT DECLARATION.
Milos Zeman was in Berlin on 27 January to discuss the possibility of adopting a preamble to the Czech-German declaration, international media reported. The declaration, signed by the two countries' premiers last week, still has to be ratified by the Czech and German parliaments. Zeman told journalists before his departure that he would discuss several variants of the preamble with his German partners. After meeting with German President Roman Herzog, he said that Herzog had responded positively to his proposals for the preamble. Zeman is scheduled today to meet with parliamentary chairwoman Rita Suessmuth, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, and representatives of all factions in the Bundestag. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK UPDATE.
President Michal Kovac has asked Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) deputy Dusan Macuska to prove in court that recent allegations about the president's "economic crimes" are true, TASR reported on 27 January. Macuska made the allegations during a Slovak TV talk show broadcast on 26 January. Meanwhile, the private television station VTV--which has close ties to the HZDS--has broadcast a third "documentary" attacking Kovac's son (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December 1996). The program featured more "secret witnesses" who backed government claims that Kovac Jr. himself staged his August 1995 abduction. Kovac Jr. plans to sue the station. Novy Cas reported on 28 January that the name of former VTV Director Jan Izak, who moderated and directed the program, appeared on the list of employees of the former communist secret police. In other news, Kovac Jr. received an anonymous death threat on 27 January. -- Anna Siskova and Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN JEWS DISAPPOINTED ABOUT SWISS LIST OF DORMANT ACCOUNT HOLDERS.
Hungarian Jewish leaders have said that a Swiss list of 33 wartime bank account holders is only a fraction of what they believe could be the total number of accounts that belonged to Hungarian holocaust victims, Reuters reported. Switzerland on 27 January handed over to Hungary the list of accounts that were declared ownerless after World War II. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs commented that it is not easy to identify the legitimate owners of the accounts because the list gives only names, many of which are followed by a question mark. Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Communities estimates that there could be several thousand dormant account holders. He added that they will search for the inheritors of the accounts and that the rest of the money will go into a foundation soon to be established to administer compensation to Jews. -- Zsofia Szilagyi


ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS, OPPOSITION BLAME EACH OTHER FOR PYRAMID CRISIS ...
The ruling Democratic Party has issued a resolution calling the recent riots "terrorism organized by the leaders of the Socialist Party and other extreme left-wing parties against democratic institutions in Albania," local media reported. Tens of thousands of Albanians have recently taken to the streets to protest the collapse of pyramid schemes. The opposition, meanwhile, accused the government of involvement in the pyramid schemes and called for a caretaker government and new elections. It also criticized the parliament's decision to deploy the army, claiming that the country is de facto under martial law. President Sali Berisha, however, has rejected suggestions that martial law be imposed, and Defense Minister Safet Zhulali has said the army will "never be used against the people." Both the Democrats and the opposition have called for demonstrations in Tirana today. -- Fabian Schmidt

... WHILE PROTESTS SPREAD NORTH.
Some 1,000 people took to the streets in Shkoder on 27 January to demand a solution to the current crisis over the collapse of the pyramid schemes, international media reported. No clashes were reported. In Peshkopija, a mob set fire to the city hall and ambushed the local police station, injuring an unspecified number of policemen. Protesters also beat up a state TV cameraman and smashed his camera. In Tirana, soldiers guarded the central bank, television headquarters, and government buildings. Elsewhere, they cleared roads of barricades. Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Ndre Legisi suffered a fractured skull after he was attacked by three or four unidentified men near the office of Zeri i Popullit. His condition is reported to be critical. -- Fabian Schmidt

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON SOCIALISTS, OPPOSITION TO REACH COMPROMISE . . .
Petar Stoyanov, in his first nationwide address as president, appealed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the opposition to find a solution to the current political crisis, RFE/RL reported on 27 January. Stoyanov said he will give the BSP a mandate to form a new government, as required by the constitution. But he urged the Socialists not to accept it and to agree instead to opposition demands for early parliamentary elections in May. Stoyanov also called on the opposition to end their boycott of the parliament and asked both sides to respond to his appeal today. He said he wants to name an interim government and call an extraordinary 10-day session of the parliament to pass crucial economic legislation. -- Stefan Krause

... AND GETS MIXED RESPONSE.
BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov criticized Stoyanov's proposal, saying that 10 days is not enough to adopt the necessary economic legislation, international media reported. He added that he wants the next government to be headed by Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev. But the opposition is unlikely to agree to that proposal since it holds Dobrev responsible for the violent clashes between demonstrators and police on 10-11 January. Meanwhile, Dobrev hinted that he may withdraw his candidacy if no solution to the crisis can be found, Trud reported. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said "I did not exactly expect that from [Stoyanov], but we will support his efforts to overcome the crisis." Meanwhile, around 18,000 people in Sofia demonstrated against the formation of a new BSP government and called for early elections. Demonstrations also took place in other towns. The Confederation of Labor Podkrepa staged strikes throughout the country, but it is not known how many workers were involved. -- Stefan Krause

BELGRADE COURT OVERTURNS ELECTORAL COMMISSION RULING.
Belgrade's First District Court has overturned a ruling by the city's electoral commission recognizing opposition wins in the November local election run-offs, Nasa Borba reported on 28 January. Commission Chairman Radomir Lazarevic expressed his regret over the court's decision, saying it was "contrary to the law." The Belgrade electoral commission has several times recognized Zajedno victories in the capital. Most recently, it announced that the opposition coalition had won 64 of the Municipal Assembly's 110 seats. Meanwhile, Zajedno took office in the city of Nis--one of four municipalities where the ruling Socialists seem to have accepted defeat. But it is unclear how much authority Zajedno will have. The local police force, for example, continues to report directly to the federal Interior Ministry, which is firmly under Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's control. -- Stan Markotich

U.S. CRITICIZES SERBIAN POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 27 January said Washington has delivered a note to Belgrade protesting the "systematic use of the police to intimidate," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, men serving in the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are being forced to join police cordons in downtown Belgrade, Onasa reported on 27 January, citing a Zajedno press statement. The report also noted that some victims of police intimidation are refusing to seek medical help for "fear that, by revealing their identity, they will continue to suffer police torture." -- Stan Markotich

U.S. TO SET UP SPECIAL FORCE TO CATCH BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS?
White House press spokesman Mike McCurry on 27 January said that the administration is considering options for catching indicted war criminals and bringing them to the Hague-based tribunal, U.S. media reported. "We've said for some time we're looking at ways of making that tribunal more effective. One possible option is to set up some type of special police force. We haven't made a decision on whether that's the best way to help the tribunal, but it does suggest itself as an option." NATO peacekeepers and UN police take the position that it is not in their mandate to go after war criminals, although they may detain ones with whom they come into contact. There is, however, ample evidence to suggest that the peacekeepers have frequently looked the other way and let such individuals slip past rather than risk casualties. Any new force would presumably be created with the clear understanding that it could expect to suffer casualties in carrying out its mandate. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM ON HOLD.
The UNHCR-sponsored plan to return Muslim families to their home village of Gajevi, just inside Serbian territory, has been suspended for 48 hours. The Muslims had gone through lengthy procedures agreed to by all sides, but in recent days were subjected to well-organized mob violence by Serb civilian crowds with the apparent complicity of the Republika Srpska police. SFOR troops in the area did nothing to help. The international community's Carl Bildt began talks with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 27 January, AFP wrote. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Bosnian Serb authorities "clearly reneged" on commitments made in the Dayton agreement "to facilitate the return of refuges and to avoid the destruction of property." -- Patrick Moore

DUTCH EU PRESIDENCY WANTS BOSNIA TO HAVE PRIORITY.
Dutch Foreign Aid Minister Jan Pronk, during his current visit to Bosnia, said on 27 January that the Netherlands will insist that Bosnia be a priority for the European Union, AFP reported. The Netherlands took over the six-month rotating EU presidency on 1 January. He noted that the Dutch government will strongly urge the EU donor conference for Bosnia take place in March, as scheduled, because a delay would have negative consequences for the country's reconstruction. Pronk is due to meet with refugees from Srebrenica, the former Muslim enclave that was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch peacekeeping troops. Those troops later came under widespread international criticism. The Netherlands last year allocated $100 million for Bosnian reconstruction programs. Meanwhile, Haris Silajdzic, co-premier in the Bosnian government, called on the EU to grant Bosnia associate member status. -- Daria Sito Sucic

STEP CLOSER TO ESTABLISHING CROATIAN COMMUNITY OF HERCEG-BOSNA?
Bozo Rajic, head of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, proposed on 27 January that representatives of all Bosnian Croat associations meet to set up a Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna, AFP reported. The new community would replace the banned para-state of the same name. Rajic said that the topics discussed at such a meeting would include the convening of a constitutive assembly to elect a president and executive council of the new community. Under the Dayton peace accords, the Bosnian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna should have been dissolved long ago. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ALLEGED HEAD OF KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY ARRESTED.
Serbian police have arrested the alleged head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), Reuters reported. Police said the 31-year-old Avni Klinaku was taken into custody on 26 January, along with several other members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo. It remains unclear whether the UCK is part of that movement, but police claim they found "arms and ammunition of various calibers, drawings and plans for attacks on facilities, and other means for carrying out terrorist actions." -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANNOUNCES NEW FOREIGN-POLICY PRIORITIES.
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin told Reuters on 28 January that, in order to boost its chances of early admission into NATO, Romania has put improved ties with Ukraine at the top of its foreign-policy agenda and is also seeking a new partnership with Hungary and Poland. Severin, who is due to meet today with visiting British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, said a "strategic partnership" with Poland and Hungary must be implemented very quickly, noting that it signaled "a different tune in our foreign policy." He added that Romania has a "strategic interest in the consolidation of Ukraine's independence and statehood." Romania and Ukraine resumed talks over a basic treaty earlier this month, but differences remain over Bucharest's insistence that the treaty mention the unjustness of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. As a result of that agreement, Romania lost territory now incorporated into Ukraine and Moldova. -- Zsolt Mato

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT "NOT SATISFIED" WITH NEW CABINET LINEUP.
A presidential adviser who asked to remain anonymous told Infotag on 27 January that Petru Lucinschi is "not quite satisfied" with Ion Ciubuc's new cabinet. He said Lucinschi had not been able to keep his electoral promise of including "young, promising professionals" in the executive because of the composition of the parliament and because of the "divisions [within] and ambitions of" the Agrarian Democratic and Socialist Unity caucuses. The presidential adviser added that most of the new ministers had supported Lucinschi's rival--former premier Andrei Sangheli--in the first round of the presidential elections and had switched their allegiance to Lucinschi in the run-off. The president had fought "to the very end" to change the composition of the cabinet but was unable to do so owing to the "stubborn parliamentary majority," he added. The adviser also claimed that as a result Lucinschi had suffered a nervous breakdown and had received medical help. -- Dan Ionescu

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave




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