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Newsline - March 21, 1997


YELTSIN, CLINTON OPEN SUMMIT ...
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his American counterpart Bill Clinton opened their summit meeting in Helsinki on 20 March with a formal dinner, international agencies reported. Upon arriving, Yeltsin declared, "let us not lose the partnership we have established and developed." In contrast to statements by both Russian and American officials downplaying the possibility of any agreement on the disputed issue of NATO enlargement, Yeltsin expressed hope that he and Clinton would "seek agreement," and "part as friends, as we always have." At the opening dinner, Clinton, confined to a wheelchair owing to a knee injury, said he was pleased to see Yeltsin looking "so fit and well," adding "I hope we'll work something out." The two leaders will hold a series of talks on 21 March at Maentyniemi, the Finnish presidential residence located in a Helsinki suburb. -- Scott Parrish

... WITH MORE PROGRESS LIKELY ON ARMS CONTROL THAN NATO.
Sources in Yeltsin's delegation told ITAR-TASS on 21 March that Yeltsin and Clinton would issue three joint declarations after the summit: on economic cooperation, arms control, and European security issues. U.S. officials told AFP that Clinton will show Yeltsin new nuclear arms control proposals , aimed at encouraging the Russian Federal Assembly to ratify START II. Under the treaty's current terms, missiles and their silos which are slated for elimination must be destroyed by 2003. Some Russian critics of the treaty have complained that Russia cannot afford such a quick timetable. Clinton will reportedly indicate that Washington is willing to extend the timetable for destroying the missile silos as long as the warheads are dismantled by 2003. However, cost is only one of several issues that Russian legislators have linked with START II ratification. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN'S SPIN DOCTORS TOP CLINTON'S AT HELSINKI.
Yeltsin's press spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, had a slick media operation up and running in Helsinki long before Clinton's delegation even arrived, Reuters reported on 20 March. The agency said that from a specially-built Russian press center, Yastrzhembskii and his assistants were smoothly feeding international journalists a series of tirades against the American stance on issues ranging from visa policies to NATO expansion. For example, Russian Foreign Ministry official Mikhail Timoshkin gave a briefing in which he blasted the restrictive visa policies of several Western countries, accusing them of creating a new "iron curtain," by "trying everything they can to complicate procedures for receiving Russian citizens." He complained that one in four Russians who applies for an American entry visa is turned down, which he said is not an "acceptable norm for countries with partnerly relations." -- Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY PANS "PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN" IN PRAGUE OVER AMBASSADOR'S COMMENTS.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev criticized on 20 March what he termed a "propaganda campaign" carried out by Czech politicians in response to comments by Nikolai Ryabov, Moscow's ambassador to Prague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 and 19 March 1997), Russian media reported. Andreev described the reaction in Prague to Ryabov's 16 March interview with NTV as designed to "fan anti-Russian sentiment and raise additional pseudo-arguments in favor of the Czech Republic's admission to NATO." In contrast, Izvestiya on 21 March harshly criticized Ryabov, and blamed the incident on the practice of awarding ambassadorships to unqualified political allies of the president. Ryabov, the former chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, was appointed ambassador to Prague after President Yeltsin won re-election last July. -- Scott Parrish

NEW GOVERNMENT MEETS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired the first meeting of the new government on 20 March, NTV and Kommersant-Daily reported. He described the new ministers as "a team ready for real action" and said he expected "colossal changes." He said the absorption of the industry and defense industry ministries into the economics ministry means "an end to the old sectoral, Gosplan approach." He gave First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov two weeks to prepare a new pension budget for 1997, since the Pension Fund's draft has a 16 trillion ruble ($3 billion) deficit. Journalists noted that Chubais entered the room before Nemtsov and sat on Chernomyrdin's right, suggesting that he is the "first" first deputy. More ministerial changes are expected early next week. Yegor Gaidar suggested on 19 March that the new government should be given a grace period of 100 days, since by then "it should be clear whether or not it is able to formulate and implement a sensible policy," NTV reported. -- Peter Rutland

REGIONAL LEADERS GENERALLY APPLAUD GOVERNMENT CHANGES.
Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn wrote in the 21 March Izvestiya that "Russia needs Chubais and Nemtsov," warning that Russians feared them because they are young, smart, and strong. Voronezh Governor Ivan Shabanov said he supported the rise of regional stars like Nemtsov since government policy would now take better account of regional interests. He nevertheless decried the lack of a high-level minister to cover agricultural questions, ITAR-TASS reported. Kareliya Prime Minister Viktor Stepanov warned that if there was no change in the government's tax, financial, and credit policies, there would be a new influx of ministers, "maybe within the coming months," Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT WARNS DUMA NOT TO INSULT MINISTERS.
A statement issued by the government on 20 March warned that if State Duma deputies do not change the "unacceptable" tone of their comments about cabinet ministers, government members will reconsider their participation in sessions of the lower house of parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. Various Duma deputies have condemned First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais in insulting terms. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met with leaders of the seven registered Duma factions on 20 March. -- Laura Belin

CHUBAIS IN KEMEROVO.
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told workers from Kuzbass mining towns on 21 March that the government will pay off pension arrears by 30 June and its wage debt to public sector workers by the end of December, ITAR-TASS reported. In an attempt to demonstrate the government's commitment to solving the problems of Kuzbass--one of the areas worst affected by payments arrears and labor unrest--Chubais said the Finance Ministry has transferred 170 billion rubles to pay off debts to public sector employees there. At the beginning of the year regional budget workers were owed 500 billion rubles in overdue wages. Chubais flew to Kemerovo to attend the 21 March opening of the All-Russian Coal Industry Workers' Congress. The main aim of his visit, Kommersant-Daily speculated on 21 March, is to test the mood of miners ahead of the national trade union protest scheduled for 27 March. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN COMMISSION ON MISSING PERSONS MEETS.
A joint Russian-Chechen commission to determine the fate of those missing or forcibly held met for the first time in Grozny on 20 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides exchanged lists of individuals whose fate is unknown: 1,346 from the Russian side and about 1,500 from the Chechens. The Russians believes that 440 of the people on its list may be dead. The Chechen authorities have already set aside a building for the purpose of identifying dead bodies and the commission hopes to set up a database listing those missing. -- Robert Orttung

CHAMBER ON INFORMATION DISPUTES COMPLAINS ABOUT OPPOSITION NEWSPAPERS.
The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes has asked Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov and State Press Committee Chairman Ivan Laptev to examine whether the editors of the opposition newspapers Zavtra and Sovetskaya Rossiya could be held legally responsible for misusing press freedom and violating the law on the mass media, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. The chamber described various articles published this month, some of them signed by Sovetskaya Rossiya Editor Valentin Chikin and Zavtra Editor Aleksandr Prokhanov, as "large-scale political provocations aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country." One article signed by both editors reportedly encouraged Russian citizens to "study Albanian," which the chamber characterized as a call to emulate the massive armed unrest that has swept Albania in recent weeks. -- Laura Belin

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS UNHAPPY WITH PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION.
A group of prominent human rights activists told a news conference in Moscow on 20 March that they will no longer cooperate with the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, ITAR-TASS reported. "We want to cooperate with the authorities, but we cannot work with this commission and therefore are demanding its dissolution," Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva said. She and other human rights activists, including Lev Ponomarev, Valerii Abramkin, and Boris Altshuler, signed a statement calling for the disbanding of the commission and the establishment of a new body in consultation with Russia's major human rights groups. The Presidential Human Rights Commission, headed by Vladimir Kartashkin, is accused of being too close to the authorities (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 November 1996). -- Penny Morvant

MAFIA NOT A MAJOR THREAT FOR FOREIGN FIRMS IN RUSSIA.
At an international conference on business security in Moscow, American experts said that organized crime was not the major problem foreign investors have to deal with in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. According to a survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, only 20 of 350 surveyed foreign firms in Russia reported being approached by the mafia, and only one company was forced to pay them money. Inefficient tax and customs legislation (particularly the existence of tax privileges) and corruption are considered more serious obstacles to foreign businesses. This finding somewhat contradicts a recent study by Louise Shelley from the American University in Washington, which suggested that the mafia controls more than 40% of the Russian economy, damaging its tax base and contributing to capital flight, Reuters reported on 19 March. -- Natalia Gurushina


KOCHARYAN NAMED ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER ...
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 20 March appointed Robert Kocharyan, the leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, as Armenia's new prime minister, international media reported. Kocharyan said he is confident that despite the appointment his supporters will implement his "program to strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh's statehood and defense capability." Kocharyan, an engineer by training, was one of the leaders of the 1988 movement for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and is respected by many opposition groups, including the banned Dashnak party. It appears that his appointment is aimed at easing the tense internal political situation in Armenia caused largely by the controversial 22 September presidential election. The deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, Ara Sahakyan, one of the closest figures to Ter-Petrossyan, said Kocharyan will "play a consolidating role in Armenian society." -- Emil Danielyan

... AMID AZERBAIJAN'S CONDEMNATION.
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said that Kocharyan's appointment may sour already strained relationship between Baku and Yerevan and slammed the move as a "provocation," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 20 March. Azimov added that Kocharyan should abandon "Azerbaijani citizenship and resign from the post of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian community leader." According to Western agencies, the U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns expressed the hope that the appointment of the Karabakh leader as prime minister of Armenia is not an attempt by Yerevan to "annex" the region. -- Emil Danielyan

NAZARBAYEV TEMPERS STATEMENT ON PRIME MINISTER.
Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 20 March withdrew his threat to sack Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin if he didn't show progress in addressing the wage and pension arrears problem by 10 April, Reuters reported. Nazarbayev said "as long as reforms continue, the premier will retain his post." Foreign investors were alarmed by the earlier statement concerning the reformist prime minister's possible ouster. Kazhegeldin is largely seen as the guarantor of market reforms in Kazakstan. Concerning the matter of arrears, Finance Minister Aleksander Pavlov said on 20 March that the state pension fund is bankrupt. The government plans to establish a private pension fund but the chairman of the National Securities Commission, Grigory Marchenko, said the fund could atake up to 30 years before it becomes effective. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK DISSIDENT WRITER IN FINLAND.
Uzbek writer Albert Musim, who was detained and eventually released by authorities in Moscow in February in connection with an extradition request from the Uzbek government, arrived in Finland on 18 March seeking political asylum, RFE/RL reported. Musim was wanted in Uzbekistan for criticizing the government. According to a 19 March broadcast by Radio Finland as cited by the BBC, Musim is the first writer to be granted asylum in Finland. -- Bruce Pannier

NEWSPAPER QUESTIONS RUSSIAN ROLE IN TAJIKISTAN.
The Russian daily Segodnya on 20 March shed some light on the myths and realities of politics in Tajikistan. The article claimed the Tajik government is not in control of events, and questioned the wisdom of continuing to prop it up. On the Islamic threat in Tajikistan, the paper said "only people holding the most primitive notions" of Tajikistan make this statement, noting that the leader of the Ismaili Muslims in Gorno-Badakhshan, the Aga Khan, advocates a secular state. As to the "Dushanbe regime" being pro-Russian, the article questioned the allegiance of a country which owes millions dollars to Russia yet the leading trade partners for Tajikistan are now Switzerland, Holland, and Turkey. The paper argues that Tajikistan is disintegrating economically and politically, and the country is a "black hole" into which the Russian taxpayers are throwing their money. -- Bruce Pannier


TRIALS, SENTENCING IN BELARUS.
A Belarusian court fined former parliamentary speaker Mechyslau Hryb 20 million Belarusian rubles ($830) for helping organize a rally on 15 March to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the 1994 constitution, international agencies reported on 20 March. The fine was the maximum possible for such an offense, and Hryb accused the courts of conducting a political trial. He argued he should be immune from prosecution, as his term as deputy had not expired when the 1996 parliament was dissolved and a new bicameral legislature established. Prosecutor General Aleh Bazhyelka had met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the day before and agreed to lift Hryb's immunity. A case is pending against the first deputy speaker of the 1996 parliament, Vasil Novikau, for the same offense. -- Ustina Markus

POLITICAL INTIMIDATION IN BELARUS.
Police visited the homes of leading opposition figures, demanding they admit they violated a presidential edict that restricts demonstrations, Belapan reported on 17 March. Former parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetski refused to sign the admission, as did Henadz Karpenka, Valeryi Shzhukin, and Stanislau Bahdankevich. All were deputies in the 1996 parliament who refused to join the new legislature; they maintain the 1996 parliament is the only legitimate legislature. Former Interior Minister Yuryi Zakharenka was fined 2.6 million Belarusian rubles ($86) by the court for participating in the Constitution Day rally, and police laid siege to former Defense Minister Pavel Kazlauski's home, leaving only after Russian reporters arrived. NTV reported on 20 March that Belarusian television has been reporting that the wives of NTV correspondent Aleksandr Stupnikov and RFE/RL correspondent Yurii Drakokhrust had received grants from the Soros Foundation two years ago. NTV noted that Belarusian media have increasingly portrayed journalists as Western collaborators. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN STUDENTS PROTEST.
Some 50 students in Minsk on 20 March protested against the decision of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to restore a Soviet-era scheme of appointing university graduates to jobs, international agencies reported. The unsanctioned rally was promptly broken up by riot police, who reportedly arrested some 30 people, including former parliamentary deputy Pavel Znavets. The president and the Education Ministry were hoping to curb unemployment by forcing recent graduates to work in radiation-polluted areas, which are significantly understaffed. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO.
The first round of negotiations on formalizing Ukraine's relationship with NATO began in Brussels on 20 March, Ukrainian radio reported. Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said Ukrainian membership in the European Community is a strategic goal and membership in NATO a future possibility. He said Ukraine will conclude an agreement with NATO regardless of Russia's actions. Udovenko added Ukraine's agreement with NATO should be completed before NATO Secretary General Javier Solana visits Kyiv on 7 May. The agreement should incorporate security guarantees for Ukraine; affirm that NATO is open to membership from other countries in the future, including Ukraine; address the possibility that Europe may be redivided into spheres of influence; and create a special consultative committee between NATO and Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINE TO DISSOLVE CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT?
Presidential administration head Yevhen Kushnaryov accused the Crimean parliament of excessive politicking and described its decision to strip seven deputies of their mandates as "unconstitutional and undemocratic," UNIAN reported on 19 March. Kushnaryov said the Crimean parliament can be dissolved by a decision of the Ukrainian parliament, but he added Kyiv did not intend to do this at present. The Ukrainian government says the Crimean presidium should suspend its decision on the deputies until the Constitutional Court has made a ruling on it. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS AMENDMENTS TO CITIZENSHIP LAW.
The Saeima on 20 March voted 40 to 9 with 6 abstentions to reject proposals submitted by the Socialist Party/Equality of Rights caucus to grant citizenship to children of permanent residents and spouses of Latvian citizens after five years of marriage, BNS reported. The parliament also rejected the proposal to reduce the number of deputies in the 100-member Saeima needed to submit claims to the Constitutional Court from the current 67 to 10. -- Saulius Girnius

ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS STILL STUCK ON RUSSIAN MINORITY.
During a visit to Moscow by an Estonian parliament delegation on 20 March, Mikhail Valukenko, the deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma's committee for CIS affairs, said the status of the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia remained the main stumbling block to improving relations, BNS reported. He did not consider Estonia's dropping its demand that the border agreement mention the 1920 Tartu Treaty as a concession. Nikolai Monakhov, a member of Russia's presidential human rights committee, said Estonia must either give Russians equal rights or grant them a separate state in areas, such as Narva, that have large Russian populations. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRIME MINISTER CONDEMNS GDANSK SHIPYARD WORKERS.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz denounced the recent occupation of the ministries by workers from the bankrupt Gdansk shipyard (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 March), saying: "That was not a legal protest but a crime committed by organized squads," local media reported on 21 March. He appealed to Solidarity not to make Poland "another Albania" and said bad management from 1989 to 1993 was responsible for the shipyard's bankruptcy. Janusz Wojciechowski, chairman of the Supreme Auditing Chamber, said the shipyard's financial condition is due to the Mieczyslaw Rakowski government's 1988 decision to liquidate the company. Cimoszewicz said a government plan of cooperation with the Szczecin shipyard will save the jobs of 2,000 of the 5,000 Gdansk workers, but according to Rzeczpospolita, there is no such detailed plan. -- Beata Pasek

MORE SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATIONS.
About 2,000 people took part in a march organized by Solidarity in Warsaw in response to the police action against workers protesting the Gdansk shipyard's closure, local media reported. Demonstrators stood outside the Sejm chanting "Communists are fascists" and "Cimoszewicz-Cyrankiewicz" (comparing Poland's current prime minister with its longest-serving Communist prime minister). They also threw stones, bottles filled with gas, and red paint at the headquarters of the governing Social Democracy of the Polish Republic building. Solidarity decided not to call for a general strike but to urge people to vote for non-communists in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Solidarity announced more protests to be held today in Warsaw and other major cities. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Josef Zieleniec told Reuters on 20 March that the eastward expansion of NATO would go ahead despite Russian opposition. "I am confident of that. There is no turning back, actually, and this will also be an important step as regards the stabilization of the security situation in Europe," said Zieleniec. He said he hoped the Russian-U.S. summit in Helsinki would help build trust between Russia and the West but cautioned both sides against playing power games in post-communist Central Europe. "It is important to make it clear that the Central European space is not a space in which Russia and the West should contest for power and influence. Such an idea is quite unacceptable for us," noted Zieleniec. (See "Foreign Ministry Pans 'Propaganda Campaign' in Prague Over Ambassador's Comments," in Russian section).
-- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK OPPOSITION FAILS TO OUST CULTURE MINISTER.
Ivan Hudec on 20 March easily survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote organized by the opposition, Slovak media reported. Hudec has been under increasing fire from the opposition since his refusal to meet with striking actors during a 10 March sit-in at the Culture Ministry and the police's subsequent forcible removal of protesters from the ministry building. The opposition's reasons for the no-confidence vote included Hudec's violations of the civil and labor codes, "insensitive ... intervention into various cultural spheres," incompetent management causing "lasting damage to the development of Slovak culture," and "arrogant behavior." Hudec defended his actions, and ruling coalition representatives continue to strongly support him. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER CONCLUDES FRENCH VISIT.
During a 20 March meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Meciar asked Chirac to support Slovakia's integration into the EU and NATO. Meciar also met his French counterpart, Alain Juppe to discuss "strengthening the partnership." Juppe said only that Slovakia has made "no small progress." In an interview with French TV station LCI, Meciar rejected doubts about the state of democracy in Slovakia and said there is a difference between having authority and being authoritarian. -- Anna Siskova

HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTRY ACCUSED OF MISMANAGING FUNDS.
According to the State Audit Office, the Finance Ministry's management of its settlement accounts--accounts that regulate debt payment to Hungary by foreign governments--is inadequate and the credibility of the ministry's data is questionable, Vilaggazdasag reported on 21 March. The Audit Office also found flaws in the registration of incoming and outgoing payments from 1993 to 1995. According to the report, records for several billion forints lent by the ministry were missing. Also, the office found that the ministry's use of credits from international bodies for sector development was confusing. For example, $25 million from the World Bank, originally intended to overhaul power plants in Borsod County, was in fact spent on development in Budapest. -- Zsofia Szilagyi


ITALY: NO MILITARY INTERVENTION IN ALBANIA.
Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta on 20 March ruled out unilateral military intervention in Albania, AFP reported. The same day, Italian Marines returned some 400 Albanians, including 45 children, to a beach near Durres. They had rescued them from a ship adrift in rough seas. Italy also expelled 50 Albanian suspected criminals. In Brindisi, police arrested Despoti Clirimi, who was photographed pointing a rifle at crowds of frightened people in Durres. Meanwhile, more than 2,200 U.S. Marines were stationed off the Albanian coast to evacuate foreigners. -- Fabian Schmidt

DEMOCRATS MAINTAIN STIFF CONTROL OVER MEDIA.
The Democrat-controlled Albanian legislature refused to transfer its authority over state radio and television to the government. It also refused to allow newspapers to resume uncensored publishing. Reports indicate that criminal gangs have taken control of various southern cities. At least 121 people have been killed since 28 February. Political leaders, now part of the all-party government charged with organizing elections by June, have come out against using force to remove Berisha, saying the democratic process will decide. "We do not support any military move to overthrow Berisha. We think he can and should be removed by legal, peaceful means," Social Democratic Vice Chairman Paskal Milo said. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN REBELS TARGET PRESIDENT.
In the south, an unidentified rebel leader proposed sending armed men to Tirana to put President Sali Berisha under house arrest, Reuters reported on 21 March. AFP reported that Gjoleke Malaj, head of the "citizens' committee" in Tepelena, said that a 50-man unit had been sent to Tirana to kill Berisha if he refuses to resign. Insurgent commander Gen. Xhevat Kociu was less threatening, saying: "All we want is to force Berisha to resign. That's why we took weapons in our hands--not to kill but to force his removal." He warned, however, that the insurgents' support for the caretaker government may be short-lived if Prime Minister Bashkim Fino fails to help their cause. -- Fabian Schmidt

MOSTAR CROATIAN POLICE OFFICERS GIVEN SUSPENDED SENTENCES.
Croatian authorities in the divided city of Mostar on 20 March gave suspended sentences to three policemen named by the UN police as participants in the 10 February shooting at a Muslim crowd. An initial report by a UN official was critical of the trial, saying that some witnesses lied and the room was packed with armed police officers, AFP reported. In other news, Bosnian Presidency Chairman Alija Izetbegovic on 20 March left for a five-day visit to the U.S., where he will be given an award for democracy development from the U.S. Center for Democracy in Washington, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

EASTERN SLAVONIAN SERB PARTY MERGES WITH CROATIAN SERB PARTY.
Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS), led by eastern Slavonian Serb leader Vojislav Stanimirovic, merged with the Independent Serbian Party (SSS), led by Milorad Pupovac, ahead of next month's elections, AFP on 20 March reported, quoting Novi List. The SDSS represents Serbs who will remain in the region when it reverts to Croatian control, and the SSS represents Serbs in the rest of Croatia. The combined party would bear the name SDSS and would be led by Stanimirovic, according to Novi List. -- Daria Sito Sucic

FEDERAL YUGOSLAVIA GETS NEW GOVERNMENT.
Parliament on 20 March approved a cabinet headed once again by Prime Minister Radoje Kontic in a reshuffle stemming from the 3 November legislative elections. The government now has 20 members, up from the previous total of 14, AFP and Nasa Borba noted. Among the old faces are Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic and Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic. Key additions include Interior Minister Zoran Sokolovic, who is the outgoing Serbian interior minister and a close aide to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and Deputy Prime Minister Vladan Kutlesic, who was Milosevic's adviser. The appointments reinforce the widely held belief that Milosevic is building up the federal government as a prelude to his own assumption of the federal presidency later this year. -- Patrick Moore

YUGOSLAV ROUNDUP.
Some 20,000 Belgrade students held boisterous celebrations on 20 March to celebrate the removal of Dragutin Velickovic as rector of the university, AFP and Nasa Borba reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 March). Their chants included: "Slobo, you are next," which echoes opposition demands for the ouster of Milosevic. Also in the capital, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) blasted the government for ignoring demands for a round table with the opposition and suggested that mass demonstrations could start again. Finally, the head of the Montenegrin trade delegation in the U.S. blamed the Yugoslav embassy for being behind an embarrassing letter allegedly written by Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to two members of Congress (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 March). -- Patrick Moore

CONSTANTINESCU RECEIVES OPPOSITION LEADERS.
President Emil Constantinescu on 20 March received the leaders of the opposition parliamentary groups boycotting debates in the legislature and discussed ways to overcome the crisis, Radio Bucharest reported. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said Constantinescu agreed to mediate in the conflict over the lifting of Tudor's parliamentary immunity, adding that if that decision is not reversed he will no longer participate in Senate debates. The leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, former President Ion Iliescu, said his party will return to parliament and support the budget law "with some modifications." The Party of Romanian National Unity said it will participate in the debates but continue its protest. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIA GETS G-24 AID.
Minister of European Integration Alexandru Herlea announced after a meeting in Brussels of the joint Romania-European Parliament commission that representatives of the G-24 countries have agreed to grant Romania some $145
million to cover its trade deficit, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. Several industrialized countries also promised substantial additional help: Japan and Switzerland will grant $50 million each, Sweden $4 million. The EU has agreed to release the second installment of an $80.5 million loan granted in 1996 and frozen because of the previous government's economic policies. The IMF and the World bank will also extend help. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIA'S FIRST PROTEST AGAINST CIORBEA GOVERNMENT.
Energy workers on 20 March demonstrated against the economic measures of the Victor Ciorbea government in Bucharest and other Romanian cities, RFE/RL and international agencies reported. In Bucharest, the workers called for the resignation of the government and demanded new contracts and higher salaries. The workers also protested against the planned privatization and restructuring of the energy sector, predicting massive layoffs. -- Michael Shafir

NEW MOLDOVAN CHIEF OF STAFF.
President Petru Lucinschi on 20 March appointed Col. Vladimir Dontul chief of the General Staff and first deputy defense minister, BASA-press reported. Col. Anatol Guboglo was appointed deputy defense minister. Dontul was commander of an artillery brigade and Guboglo was commander of a motorized infantry brigade. -- Michael Shafir

EUROPEAN COURT SENTENCED BULGARIA ON BEHALF OF LATE PRIME MINISTER.
The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg sentenced Bulgaria to pay the family of Andrey Lukanov a fine plus legal costs amounting to $12,000, Kontinent and Pari reported on 21 March. Lukanov, the Socialist prime minister in 1990, was detained for six months in 1992 after being deprived of his parliamentary immunity following allegations that he was involved in giving money from the state budget to communist parties in Third World countries. He was murdered in October 1996. According to Novinar, justice would be better served if those guilty of detaining Lukanov paid the fine, rather than the current Bulgarian government, which is facing an economic crisis. -- Maria Koinova

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Susan Caskie




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