Accessibility links

Newsline - January 29, 1997


MASKHADOV APPARENT WINNER IN CHECHNYA.
Although the Chechen Electoral Commission had not released official preliminary results early on 29 January, a spokesman for Aslan Maskhadov said that results from 53 of the republic's 63 electoral districts gave the former chief of staff almost 65% of the vote, while former field commander Shamil Basaev was second with 24%, followed by acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev with 10%, Russian and Western agencies reported. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann confirmed on 28 January that international observers viewed the election as "legitimate and democratic." Maskhadov said at a press conference on 28 January that his top priorities as president will be securing recognition of Chechen independence from Moscow and cracking down on crime. He called for immediate talks with Moscow on independence, and insisted that "the same courage that won us the war" could secure international recognition of Chechen sovereignty. -- Scott Parrish

CHECHEN REACTION TO MASKHADOV VICTORY.
Former field commander Basaev told AFP on 29 January that he would neither oppose nor support Maskhadov. Basaev said he could not work with Maskhadov's aides, who he has previously described as "crooks." But he dismissed predictions that there would be a violent falling out between his supporters and those of Maskhadov, since "we have a common goal--Chechen independence." On 28 January, acting President Yandarbiev said the elections showed the "unity" of the Chechen people, adding that he would remain politically active despite his defeat. But he said his future support for Maskhadov would be contingent on the policies the new president adopts, adding independence should be the top priority. Amid rumors that he will be offered a senior post in the new government, another major candidate, Movladi Udugov, pledged his support for Maskhadov. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW WELCOMES ELECTION RESULTS.
Despite Maskhadov's repeated public insistence that he seeks full independence for Chechnya, Russian leaders reacted positively to his victory, which they argued would facilitate negotiations over Chechnya's future status, Russian and Western media reported on 28 January. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said President Boris Yeltsin was "satisfied" with the election. He added that Yeltsin believed Maskhadov's election "provides a serious chance" for successful talks resulting in "mutually acceptable decisions on Chechnya's status within the Russian Federation." Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov also described Maskhadov as a "moderate politician," saying "he understands that without Russia, Chechnya would not be viable." Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, however, broke with the conventional wisdom that economic necessity will force Maskhadov to compromise his goal of independence, arguing that Moscow and Grozny "will not find a common language." Although opinion polls show that most Russians do not care if Chechnya becomes independent, Russian leaders adamantly reject this option. -- Scott Parrish

LEBED WELCOMES MASKHADOV WIN, SEEKS RETURN OF JOURNALISTS.
Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 28 January welcomed the victory of Maskhadov, whom he called an honest and responsible man and "a model officer," ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported. Lebed and Maskhadov negotiated and signed the Khasavyurt accords last August, and Lebed expressed confidence that the new Chechen president would respect the terms of those agreements. On the same day, Lebed announced that his associates have been involved in negotiations to secure the release of two Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondents who have been missing in Chechnya since 19 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 and 24 January 1997). Lebed said the two journalists were being held somewhere in the mountains and would be returned within two or three days, once weather conditions improve, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN RETURNS TO KREMLIN, BRIEF FOOTAGE RELEASED.
The presidential press service said President Yeltsin visited the Kremlin for about three hours on 28 January, meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for one hour, Russian and Western media reported. Yeltsin also met with CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya. Very brief footage from both meetings, broadcast without sound on major Russian television networks, showed Yeltsin looking tired and thinner than he had on 6 January, when the last pictures of him were released. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii insisted that Yeltsin will meet with French President Jacques Chirac in Moscow on 2 February, and pictures from that meeting will be televised. Korotchenya said the summit of CIS leaders, recently postponed due to Yeltsin's pneumonia, has been rescheduled for 15 March. -- Laura Belin

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET.
Despite the postponement of the CIS summit scheduled for later this month, the CIS Council of Defense Ministers met in closed session in Moscow on 28 January, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the next day. Ministers from all CIS members except Moldova and Turkmenistan attended the meeting. They decided to recommend to the CIS heads of state that Russian Army General Viktor Samsonov be reinstated as head of the CIS Military Cooperation Staff. Russian President Yeltsin had removed Samsonov last October, when he was appointed chief of the Russian General Staff, but the other CIS members subsequently refused to accept Yeltsin's suggested replacement, Russian Army General Mikhail Kolesnikov. The council also recommended extending to the mandates of CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan and Abkhazia to 30 June and 31 July, respectively. -- Scott Parrish

SCANDAL IN RUSSIAN COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION.
Public discord among the members of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly means that the post of assembly vice-chairman assigned to Russia will remain vacant until April, Izvestiya reported on 29 January. Russia is allotted one of 18 vice-chairmanships--a position held until now by Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko). At a recent meeting of the Russian delegation in Strasbourg, where the parliamentary assembly is holding its January session, Lukin, challenged by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, failed to gain the support of a majority of his colleagues for another term. Zhirinovsky also failed to win the post, but managed to torpedo attempts to select a compromise candidate, leaving Russia temporarily without a representative in the assembly's leadership. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, MEXICO SIGN AGREEMENTS.
Mexican Foreign Minster Jose Angel Gurria wrapped up a four-day official visit to Moscow by signing a bilateral declaration of principles and an agreement on visa-free travel with his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov, Russian media reported. Primakov hailed the growth of Russian-Mexican trade, which he said doubled in 1996, although according to Segodnya on 29 January it still totaled only $220 million. Gurria earlier held talks with the speakers of both houses of the Federal Assembly and co-chaired a session of the bilateral economic cooperation commission with Minister of Industry Yurii Bespalov. -- Scott Parrish

NEW CITIZENSHIP FIGURES RELEASED.
More than 1.5 million people have been granted Russian citizenship since 1992, when the law on citizenship of the Russian Federation went into effect, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 January, citing Goskomstat. Of these, 900,000 live outside Russia, including 100,000 living outside the former Soviet Union. About 40,000 people have renounced Russian citizenship during the same period. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON LEGAL REPRESENTATION.
The Constitutional Court on 28 January ruled constitutional an article in the Criminal Procedures Code requiring that suspects be represented in preliminary criminal proceedings by counsel belonging to lawyers' collegia, Russian media reported. The court was examining a complaint from three people who were refused the lawyers of their choice. They argued that Article 47 of the Criminal Procedures Code, which limits the choice of counsel, contradicted their constitutionally guaranteed right to choose their own legal representation. The court ruled that a defendant's right to choose a lawyer should not infringe the right to qualified legal aid. Thus until new legislation is passed regulating legal qualifications, only members of lawyers' collegia are entitled to represent a suspect during preliminary investigations. Other legal specialists, including those licensed by the Justice Ministry to offer legal services, may work only as consultants at this stage. -- Penny Morvant

YASIN SLAMS THE BUDGET.
Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin slammed the 1997 federal budget recently approved by the Duma, calling it unrealistic and saying it contains too many new obligations, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 28 January. He argued the budget will only worsen the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Yasin termed 1996 the worst year of economic reform and blamed the current budget crisis primarily on the "chain of electoral campaigns" in Russia. Other contributing factors included the increasing cost of servicing the internal debt (5.8% of GDP in 1996), mounting non-payments, and the large underground economy (an estimated 25% of GDP). Yasin acknowledged, however, that many companies were pushed into the shadow economy by the harshness of the Russian tax system. -- Natalia Gurushina


CONFLICTING REPORTS FROM ABKHAZIA.
Referring to ongoing operations by Abkhaz security forces in the troubled Gali district, Abkhaz Security Service spokesman Astamur Tarba told ITAR-TASS on 28 January that the "liquidation of bandit formations" is continuing. Tarba alleged that 20 Georgian gunmen arrested over the past three days (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 January 1997) belonged to the so-called White Legion, an organization he claimed has several hundred well-armed members and poses a threat to civilians and CIS peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the Georgian news agency Iberia reported on 27 January that Abkhaz police, using Russian peacekeepers' armored personnel carriers, had attacked local ethnic Georgians. The report, monitored by BBC, also claimed that the Abkhaz killed five Georgian civilians and took four others hostage. -- Emil Danielyan

SHEVARDNADZE: YELTSIN'S HEALTH HAMPERS RUSSIA'S RELATIONS WITH GEORGIA.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 28 January that Russian President Yeltsin's poor health hampers the development of "normal" Russian-Georgian relations, AFP reported. Shevardnadze said that if Yeltsin is no longer fit to govern, he should "step down, hand over power to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and organize fresh elections." Shevardnadze also complained that Moscow has no "clear" Georgian policy, arguing that there are "as many approaches to it as there are political parties in Russia." -- Emil Danielyan

TURKEY, GEORGIA TO BUILD RAIL LINK.
Turkey and Georgia have agreed to build a railroad to link the two countries, Reuters reported on 28 January. Neither the cost of the railroad running from Kars to Tbilisi, nor its projected completion date, has been announced. The decision to go ahead with the project was probably made last week during what Turkish media described as the "first-ever" political consultations between Ankara and Tbilisi in the Turkish capital. -- Lowell Bezanis

AZERBAIJANI POLICE OFFICIALS SENTENCED FOR TREASON.
The Azerbaijan Supreme Court sentenced three top law enforcement officers to lengthy prison terms, international media reported on 29 January. Baku's former Interpol Chief Ilgar Safikhanov, Ganja's Chief of Police Eldar Hasanov, and Nizami's (region of Ganja) Chief of Police Alik Mamedov, were found guilty of high treason for involvement in the October 1994 attempted coup led by former Prime Minister Suret Huseinov. Safikhanov and Hasanov were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, while Mamedov received 11 years; the court also confiscated their property. In other news, former Prime Minister Panakh Huseinov was released from custody, Turan reported on 28 January. Huseinov, who served under ousted President Abulfaz Elchibey, was accused of using the army to disperse protests in Ganja in 1993. -- Lowell Bezanis

NAZARBAYEV DEMANDS PAYMENT OF WAGES, ACCELERATION OF REFORMS.
Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev had tough words for members of the government and regional leaders at a 27 January special meeting, Reuters reported. "The issue of unpaid wages and salaries is becoming a political issue... the tempo of reforms is becoming slower and the socio-political situation is deteriorating," Nazarbayev said. He told those at the meeting they had until 1 April to solve these problems, adding there would be another meeting at that time and if the situation had not been rectified "some members of the government could be given the sack right in this hall." Government estimates of wage and pension arrears stand at 60 billion tenge ($792 million). Finance Minister Alexander Pavlov said companies did not have the money to pay wages and that 40% of Kazakstan's companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. -- Bruce Pannier

NEW HEAD OF UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN.
Jordanian Gen. Hasan Abaza will be replaced as head of the UN military observer force in Tajikistan by Polish Brig.-Gen. Boleslaw Izydorczyk, RFE/RL and AFP reported on 28 January. UN Security Council President Hishashi Owada confirmed the appointment in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The UN has 44 observers in Tajikistan monitoring the ceasefire which was signed in 1994 but often ignored by the warring factions. -- Bruce Pannier


UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SUSPENDS RESOLUTION ON CRIMEAN GOVERNMENT'S DISMISSAL . . .
Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree suspending the Crimean parliamentary resolution on the dismissal of the peninsula's government, Ukrainian TV reported on 28 January. He said the resolution contravened the Ukrainian Constitution, and he asked the Constitutional Court to resolve the issue. Crimean parliamentary speaker Vasyl Kyselyov, meeting with Kuchma the same day, said the decision to dismiss Arkadii Demidenko's government was "hasty" and could worsen the situation in Crimea. Crimean Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Klychnykov, who had proposed that the government be dismissed, said Anatolii Franchuk is the most acceptable new prime minister. Franchuk, currently a member of the Ukrainian parliament, headed the Crimean government in 1994-1995. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

... AND DENIES WANTING TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS.
Kuchma's spokesman, Dmytro Markov, has dismissed reports about extending the term in office of both the president and the parliament as "political rumors," Ukrainian TV reported on 28 January. Markov noted that the president believes that postponing the presidential and parliamentary elections would damage the country's democratic development and worsen confrontation between political forces. Rukh spokesman Vitalii Shevchenko said calls to extend the powers of the parliament and president until 2000 or 2001 are unconstitutional and a "political intrigue." Centrists from the Yednist faction have recently made such calls. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN TRADE UNIONS TO FORM POLITICAL PARTY?
Oleksander Stoyan, chairman of the Ukrainian Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), has announced that the unions may create their own party, UNIAN reported on 28 January. He added that the unions will be more active in future elections and want to win enough seats in the parliament to set up their own faction.
Stoyan noted that the FTU is undecided about supporting any of the existing parties. Parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz has urged the trade unions to increase their political power by establishing contact with parties that "act in tandem with the trade unions," UNIAN reported on 27 January. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

FORMAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST FORMER HEAD OF BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK.
Tamara Vinnikava, who headed the Belarusian National Bank from spring 1996 until her arrest earlier this month, has been formally charged with exceeding her authority, Belapan reported on 27 January. Under Article 167 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, she could be sentenced to three years in prison for granting a $2 million loan to an insolvent company while serving as head of Belarusbank in 1995. Vinnikava has denied the charges. Her lawyers believe that the case has political implications and was fabricated in a hurry. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

IMF OFFICIAL PRAISES LITHUANIAN MONETARY POLICY.
Donald Donovan, deputy director of the IMF's Second European Department, said in Vilnius on 28 January that he approves of the monetary policy program drawn up by Bank of Lithuania President Reinoldijus Sarkinas, Radio Lithuania reported. The program calls for maintaining a stable litas exchange rate while gradually eliminating the currency board. Donovan is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagonius today. Meanwhile, an IMF mission has been in Lithuania for more than a week discussing the implementation of the economic memorandum Lithuania signed with the IMF in 1994. Lithuania is trying to modify its pledge to reduce import duties on agricultural products. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS PLAN FOR EU INTEGRATION.
The cabinet has accepted a document outlining the principles for achieving Poland's integration into the EU, Polish media reported on 29 January. The "National Integration Strategy" provides for the gradual elimination of trade barriers and protectionism. Poland expects negotiations on its admission to the EU to start in early 1998. Deputy Prime Minister Miroslaw Pietrewicz of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) was the only cabinet member to vote against the document. Other PSL ministers had been expected to demand more protection for Polish agricultural products, but they refrained from doing so. The document must now be approved by the Sejm. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, commenting on the favorable conditions granted to the Korean automobile company Daewoo (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 January 1997), said that all car makers in Poland have been granted the same conditions, including those from the EU. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER WRAPS UP TALKS ON DECLARATION WITH GERMANY.
Milos Zeman met with leaders of Bundestag caucuses in Bonn on 28 January to discuss a preamble to the Czech-German declaration, international media reported. Zeman's opposition Social Democrats argue that the declaration does not close property issues related to the countries' recent past. They have proposed an introduction to the declaration including a statement to that effect. A representative of Germany's Social Democrats told CTK on 28 January that German opposition parties support the Czech proposal but that the government coalition parties are opposed. Zeman told journalists on 28 January that his party would support the declaration if all issues relating to the past were resolved once and for all. -- Jiri Pehe

U.S. OFFERS CZECHS FREE USE OF FIGHTER PLANES.
Representatives of the U.S. Navy, acting on behalf of the U.S. government, have offered to lease the Czech Republic seven McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 "Hornet" fighter planes under a no-cost, five-year agreement, Reuters reported on 28 January. The offer includes the supply of spare parts, pilot and ground personnel training programs, and support equipment--for which the Czech Republic would have to pay. With an eye on eventual membership in NATO, the Czech government has been debating whether to buy new aircraft. Proposed cuts in defense spending have clouded the debate over upgrading the fleet. -- Jiri Pehe

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT DEVELOPMENTS IN SLOVAKIA.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission has sent a letter to Slovak parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic expressing deep concern about "escalating threats to the process of democratization in Slovakia," TASR reported on 28 January. The letter, signed by four U.S. congressmen, points out that Frantisek Gaulieder--who was stripped of his parliamentary mandate in December after he quit the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--denies that he wrote a resignation letter (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 December 1996). The removal of his mandate therefore contravenes the OSCE's Copenhagen Document, which Czechoslovakia signed in 1990, the commission argues. It urged Gasparovic to ensure that Gaulieder is reinstated in the parliament. -- Anna Siskova

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES CALL FOR SECRET SERVICE CHIEF'S DISMISSAL.
Opposition representatives on 28 January said they will not start talks with the ruling parties until certain steps are taken to instill mutual trust, Slovak media reported. They were responding to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's recent calls for multi-party talks on the timing of the next parliamentary elections and on constitutional changes. According to an unidentified Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) representative, the opposition's conditions for holding such talks include the dismissal of Slovak Information Service chief Ivan Lexa. A close ally of Meciar, Lexa is suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son in August 1995, in addition to other activities. -- Sharon Fisher

RUSSIA, HUNGARY TO SEEK SOLUTION TO TROPHY ART ISSUE?
Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 28 January proposed that Hungary and Russia establish a joint working group to settle the future of art treasures looted by the Soviet Army during World War II, Hungarian dailies reported. In a letter to Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, Yeltsin said the return of the so-called trophy art could be resolved, despite a parliamentary resolution last year imposing a moratorium on the settlement of the issue. Yeltsin also described the broadening of Russian-Hungarian relations as essential. -- Zsofia Szilagyi


ALBANIAN RULING DEMOCRATS PROMISE TO COMPENSATE CHEATED INVESTORS ...
President Sali Berisha told a rally of some 10,000 supporters in Tirana on 28 January that the government will seek to repay "quickly and fairly" the money that has been "stolen" from them, AFP reported. Hundreds of thousands of Albanians have lost their savings through the recent collapse of pyramid schemes. The opposition Socialist Party called off a planned demonstration and appealed to its supporters to exercise restraint. Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu rejected the Socialists' demand for a multi-party caretaker government and new elections, saying "that would be making a hostage of democracy." In a symbolic gesture, Shehu and Berisha repaired some of the street paving that was destroyed in recent riots. The total damage wreaked during the weekend riots is estimated at $50 million. -- Fabian Schmidt

... AT RISK OF HYPERINFLATION.
At least five leading pyramid schemes have collapsed since last fall. Others are still operating and paying out interest but are not returning capital. Zef Preci, director of the Albania Center for Economic Research, estimates that the $300 million seized from two schemes would cover only one-third of total investments. He told Reuters that "the only way the government can compensate people in full is by printing money and that will set inflation alight." World Bank representative Carlos Elbirt said that any further surge in prices could be ruinous for Albania's economy. The budget deficit in the first 11 months of 1996 reached $260 million, or 11% of GDP, while the central bank has foreign exchange reserves totalling just $270 million. Moreover, much of the assets seized from the two schemes are held in the form of Albanian treasury bills. The IMF has pledged to help the government. -- Fabian Schmidt

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS RECEIVE MANDATE TO FORM GOVERNMENT.
President Petar Stoyanov on 28 January gave Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, the premier-designate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the mandate to form a new government, Pari reported. Previously, the BSP had rejected Stoyanov's proposal to refuse the mandate and pave the way for early parliamentary elections. Dobrev has seven days to form a new government. Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan Kostov said the SDS will end its boycott of the parliament and agree to elections in May, as Stoyanov has asked them to do. Kostov said he and his supporters are "going to fight now" against a new Socialist government. Meanwhile, the three main trade unions are staging a nationwide strike today to protest Dobrev's decision to form a new government, RFE/RL and Western media reported. The strike began with work stoppages and road blocks. -- Stefan Krause

PROTESTERS IN SERBIA "RE-CLAIM" BELGRADE STREETS.
An estimated 60,000 people marched through downtown Belgrade on 28 January after riot police had apparently halted efforts to enforce a ban on mass protests, international media reported. But in the nearby town of Smederevska Palanka, riot police indiscriminately clubbed women and children who were taking part in a protest rally. Beta also reported that a deputy of the Zajedno opposition coalition was beaten in the same town. The police brutality seems to have been triggered by Zajedno municipal leaders' decision to swear in a parallel local council. Zajedno won the November runoff municipal elections in Smedereveska Palanka, but the Socialists refuse to recognize either this or other opposition wins. -- Stan Markotich

IS SERBIAN PRESIDENT SECURING GOLDEN PARACHUTE?
Slobodan Milosevic is buying up properties in Greece, AFP and the Greek daily Eleftherotypia reported on 28 January. The report states that Milosevic already owns a luxury yacht and at least several other properties in the neighboring Balkan state. He is now said to be planning to invest in a villa on the island of Corfu. Onasa suggests that Milosevic may be preparing an escape route, should events force an end to his political career at home. Greece is one of the few states that supported Belgrade during the recent Yugoslav wars. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 29 January reports that Milosevic has brokered a political deal whereby he will take over the federal presidency from Zoran Lilic and Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic will become federal Yugoslav prime minister. -- Stan Markotich

ALBRIGHT LOOKS BEYOND MILOSEVIC, TUDJMAN.
Following meetings with European leaders in Washington on 28 January, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that the international community will insist on "cooperation and compliance" with the Dayton agreement, adding that "there is no one individual upon which all this is dependent." This remark seems to bear out recent speculation in the U.S. and international press that Washington is looking beyond embattled Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and ailing Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to a new generation of leaders. In a gentle poke at some European allies, as well as at Milosevic and Tudjman, she pointed out: "we want to have institutions built in Bosnia that will sustain a democratic, multi-ethnic state." Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman reaffirmed NATO's position that catching war criminals is "civilian" police work and that SFOR peace keepers will not do it, international news agencies reported. -- Patrick Moore

UN, BOSNIAN SERBS TO SET UP JOINT POLICE PATROLS.
The international community's High Commissioner Carl Bildt met with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 28 January to discuss violent incidents two days previously in which Serb mobs attacked and injured Muslims helping rebuild the village of Gajevi (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 28 January 1997). Following the session, Bildt's office announced that UN and Republika Srpska police will set up joint patrols in the tense area "immediately," international news agencies reported. Bildt's office also said that "the Republika Srpska condemns any form of violence and disrespect for the ... [agreed] procedure" by which refugees may return to their homes now under the control of another ethnic group. Bildt will continue his talks with Plavsic in Banja Luka today. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR JULY.
Robert Frowick, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, on 28 January said all the political parties represented on the Provisional Election Commission have finally agreed to the municipal election regulations, international media reported. Elections for mayors and local councils in Bosnia will take place on 12-13 July. The OSCE, which supervised Bosnia's general elections in September, postponed the local elections after Bosnian Serbs were caught manipulating the registration of refugees. Frowick said the OSCE will be more careful in supervising the ballot this time. Under the new rules, Bosnians can opt to vote where they are now living if they submit proof that they settled there before 31 July 1996, Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN MOB ATTACKS CROATIAN OFFICIALS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
UN spokesman Philip Arnold on 28 January said that some 50 Serbs in Borovo Selo stoned Croatian pension officials, bank representatives, and police, AFP reported. No one was injured, but the bus transporting the Croatian officials was damaged and windows of a nearby document-issuing center were smashed. Arnold said the attack had prevented local Serb citizens from receiving pensions that the Croatian government has recently started to pay out. Meanwhile, Veljko Dzakula, head of the Serbian Democratic Forum, the organization that represents the interests of Croatian Serbs, said on 28 January that the situation of Serbs in Croatia has deteriorated, AFP reported. Blaming the Croatian government for this state of affairs, Dzakula said Serbs face grave violations of their rights every day , including provocations, threats, looting and government-imposed bans on visiting their former homes. He said the situation was worst in the Knin area, southern Croatia, which was formerly a UN protected zone. -- Daria Sito Sucic

PARTY MERGER IN MACEDONIA.
Petar Gosev and Stojan Andov, leaders of the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, have decided to merge their formations into "a strong [party] in the center," Nova Makedonija reported on 29 January. They agreed that Gosev will head the new formation, which will be called Liberal-Democratic Party or Democratic-Liberal Party. Gosev said the new cooperation will not adversely affect the coalitions at the local level between the Democrats and the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity. In other news, Greece and Great Britain on 27 January blocked a proposal for the EU to provide macroeconomic support to Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause and Michael Wyzan

BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA.
Following a meeting with top officials in Bucharest on 28 January, Malcolm Rifkind said he was "extremely impressed by the changes [in Romania] in the last months," Reuters reported. Rifkind also said that the new government's commitment to reform and improved relations with neighboring Hungary and Ukraine have boosted its chances of admission to NATO. But he stopped short of backing Romania's entry in the first wave. Rifkind stressed the need for Romania to ensure good relations with neighbors that are not seeking NATO membership, primarily Russia and Ukraine. -- Zsolt Mato

ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTIES DEMAND DISMISSAL OF SECRET SERVICE HEAD.
Leaders of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM), in separate meetings with President Emil Constantinescu on 28 January, have demanded that Intelligence Service director Virgil Magureanu be dismissed, Romanian media reported. Last week, Ion Diaconescu, chairman of the Democratic Convention of Romania, had announced that Magureanu will not be fired. PUNR leader and Cluj major Gheorghe Funar also demanded the dismissal of National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu and stressed once again his opposition to opening a Hungarian consulate in Cluj. PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor called Magureanu "the most diabolical personality and biggest gangster in Romanian history." -- Dan Ionescu

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave




XS
SM
MD
LG