YABLOKO, NEMTSOV NEGOTIATING ON CABINET POSTS.
Earlier this month,
members of Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement refused to join the cabinet,
saying that the government was not committed enough to revising economic
policy. However, the appointment of First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
last week revived speculation that some State Duma deputies from the Yabloko
faction may accept cabinet posts, and Yavlinskii and Nemtsov are still holding
negotiations, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 24 March. Yavlinskii, who worked
closely with Nemtsov in 1992 on economic reforms implemented in Nizhnii
Novgorod, has said he will support Nemtsov's efforts, even if Yabloko members
do not join the cabinet. Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on 22 March that the
Kremlin and the government are interested in securing the support of the
Yabloko Duma faction, and Nemtsov is interested in building his own "team"
within the cabinet. -- Laura Belin
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 24 March submitted
to parliament his list of nominations for the new government, which he will
head, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Chechen Deputy President Vakha Arsanov
claimed that the so-called "party of war" in Moscow had recruited Chechen
renegades to perpetrate terrorist acts in three Russian cities in order to
torpedo the ongoing peace talks, according to ITAR-TASS and Reuters. On 23
March NTV summarized an address by Maskhadov to the Chechen people calling for
the mobilization of all national forces to consolidate peace and build an
independent state. Maskhadov further claimed that unidentified foreign
intelligence services are spreading rumors that a coup will take place in
Chechnya on 1 April, and warned the population not to give in to
"provocations." He also denied rumors of a struggle for power between himself
and prominent field commanders. -- Liz Fuller
AGRICULTURE MINISTER PROTESTS GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION.
Minister Viktor Khlystun on 24 March criticized Yeltsin's decision to include
the State Fishing Committee in his ministry as part of an effort to streamline
the government. He charged that the decision would destroy the system for
managing the fishing industry, ITAR-TASS reported. Khlystun pointed out that
the government had tried a similar move in 1992, but had to separate the
fishing industry after only four months. Regional leaders in Primorskii Krai
and Kamchatka also protested the decision. -- Robert Orttung
AGRARIAN PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS.
Addressing the fifth congress of the
Agrarian Party of Russia (APR), party leader Mikhail Lapshin called for
directing more bank capital toward the agrarian sector and sharply reducing
food imports in order to revive agricultural production, ITAR-TASS and NTV
reported on 22 March. Delegates passed resolutions opposing the sale of
farmland and calling on agricultural workers to participate in the nationwide
protest planned for 27 March. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov was a
guest at the APR congress. Having fared poorly in the December 1995
parliamentary elections, the Agrarians depend on Duma deputies elected from
Communist ranks to maintain the 35 deputies needed for a registered Duma
faction. -- Laura Belin
REACTIONS TO HELSINKI SUMMIT.
U.S. President Bill Clinton has come under
fire from conservative critics who accuse him of having abandoned the Baltics
by not including them in the first round of NATO expansion, and of having made
too many concessions to Russia in restricting work on ABM technologies. In
Russia, most centrist commentators have reacted with cautious approval to
President Boris Yeltsin's diplomacy at Helsinki. Director of the USA-Canada
Institute Sergei Rogov, writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 25 March,
noted that Russia had no chance of stopping NATO expansion and praised Yeltsin
for avoiding a "senseless confrontation." However, Izvestiya on 25 March
warned that the summit left many crucial differences unresolved, hidden within
the "matrioshka" of the five agreements. -- Peter Rutland
VISITORS FROM INDIA ...
Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda arrived
in Moscow on 24 March for two days of talks, ITAR-TASS reported. He is expected
to sign a $2 billion deal for delivery of two VVER-1,000 light-water reactors
to India. The deal was initially planned in 1988, but delayed due to
disagreements over payment arrangements. Later this year Russia will begin
delivery to India of seven cryogenic kick (fourth) rocket stages which will be
used for satellite launches. The rocket stages will cost $150 million. After
U.S. complaints, Russia withdrew an earlier $800 million plan to sell India the
technology to make the cryogenic boosters. This month Russia also began
delivery of Su-30 MK fighter jets to India under a $1.8 billion contract signed
in November 1996. -- Peter Rutland
... AND CHINA.
Also on 24 March Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen
began a four day visit to Moscow, aimed at preparing for the Russo-Chinese
presidential summit scheduled for April. Due to a mix-up Qian was left waiting
by his hosts for 20 minutes at Sheremetevo airport, Reuters reported. Deputy
Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that at the summit Russia, China,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakstan intend to sign a treaty on the reduction
of military forces along their mutual borders, ITAR-TASS reported. According to
a poll by the Beijing Public Opinion Institute, 40% of Chinese think that
relations with Russia are more important than relations with Japan or the U.S.,
although 46% thought all three countries were of equal importance, ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 March. 19% approved of the changes in Russia since 1991, 35%
disapproved, and 25% thought the changes would not last. -- Peter Rutland
VOLGOGRAD CITY COUNCIL BANS LOLITA.
The Volgograd City Council, a
majority of whose members are communists, demanded that the oblast executive
ban a local theater production of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, ITAR-TASS reported
on 24 March. The council members believe that the story about an affair between
a 12-year-old girl and an old man is "amoral" and would corrupt the city's
youth. A local youth theater is sponsoring the production. -- Robert Orttung
TUBERCULOSIS RATES RISING.
The Russian Health Ministry said on 24 March
that about 65 people in every 100,000 are suffering from tuberculosis, a 10%
increase in comparison with last year, ITAR-TASS reported. The number of deaths
from tuberculosis has risen by almost 90% over the past five years. TB rates
are particularly high in Tyva and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug (three times the
national average) and in Buryatiya, Dagestan, North Ossetiya, the Jewish
Autonomous Oblast, and Kurgan Oblast (almost twice the national average). Those
most at risk from the disease include prisoners, migrants, "shuttle-traders,"
and the homeless. TB rates in prisons and penal colonies are more than 40 times
the national average. -- Penny Morvant
MOSCOW POLICE MUST GET OUT OF SECURITY BUSINESS.
Moscow's police chief,
Lt.-Gen. Nikolai Kulikov, has issued an order prohibiting the capital's
policemen from concluding private agreements to guard businesses or their
employees, Kuranty reported in its issue of 19-25 March. The decision
followed the discovery that a Moscow police unit had been guarding a leading
organized crime figure. After the murder on 23 January of Vladimir Naumov, a
businessmen and prominent member of the Koptevo criminal gang, investigators
found that he had been guarded by a Moscow spetsnaz
(special-designation) unit in their off-duty hours. Many former law enforcement
personnel are involved in private security, while others moonlight in the
sector to boost their income. -- Penny Morvant
STATISTICAL CHEATING EXPLAINS REPORTED GDP GROWTH.
The State Statistical
Committee (Goskomstat) reported GDP growth of 0.1% in January and 0.9% in
February. However, Reuters reported on 17 March that the apparent upturn may be
due to a change in Goskomstat methodology. Goskomstat increased its estimate of
shadow economy activity for 1997 from 20% to 25% of GDP - but did not adjust
upwards the 1996 figures. This allegation was confirmed in a Financial
Times article on 25 March, which noted that without the alteration reported
GDP would have fallen by 6% in January. The Financial Times said that
the new methodology would have produced a figure of 5% growth for February,
which was so unbelievable that the figure was adjusted downwards. Russian GDP
has been falling for the past seven years; the World Bank predicts the fall
will cease this year, but does not expect positive growth till 1998. -- Peter
MEASURING THE RUSSIAN BUREAUCRACY.
Many of Russia's government
ministries have surprisingly low budgets and staffing levels, according to
Profil no 10. The journal examines the spending on ministry
bureaucracies in the 1997 budget. The State Tax Service takes up a huge 4.8
trillion rubles out of the total budget for civilian ministries of 11.6
trillion rubles ($2 billion). The tax service will also get an additional 1.5
trillion rubles from a special fund. Second in line is the Finance Ministry,
with 2.6 trillion rubles, followed by the Presidential Administration with 824
billion. The foreign ministry will spend 113 billion rubles, the justice
ministry 52 billion. Many ministries have extremely low administrative budgets
- the health ministry budget is 13 billion rubles ($2.3 million), the State
Property Committee 9 billion, the communications ministry 7 billion. -- Peter
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS REGIONS' TAX PETITION.
Court has rejected the petition filed in February by representatives of the
Komi Republic, Irkutsk Oblast, Altai Krai, and Volgograd and Vladimir oblasts,
in which they argued that the tax law forbidding local authorities from
introducing their own taxes contradicts the Russian constitution, ITAR-TASS and
Kommersant-Daily reported on 21-22 March. The government has prepared a
new draft of the tax code which envisage a drastic cut in the number of taxes
(from some 200 to just over 30). The court confirmed the legitimacy of these
restrictions and ruled that regions only have the right to impose those taxes
that have been specifically allowed by the federal government. -- Natalia
CENTRAL BANK CHANGES RESERVE REQUIREMENTS.
The Central Bank (TsB) has
decided to lower obligatory ruble reserve requirements for commercial banks
effective 1 May, Kommersant-Daily reported on 22 March. Requirements on
deposits of up to 30 days, those of 31-90 days, and of over 91 days will go
down from 16% to 14%, from 13% to 11%, and from 10% to 8%, respectively. This
measure should help the government to place 10-15 trillion rubles of long-term
federal bonds (OFZs) with commercial banks in order to raise money for repaying
wage and pension arrears. At the same time, the TsB increased requirements on
foreign currency deposits (from 5% to 6%), attempting to reduce the
dollarization of the economy. This step, however, may weaken the position of
banks specializing in foreign trade operations. -- Natalia Gurushina
SHEVARDNADZE ULTIMATUM TO RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS.
Eduard Shevardnadze argued in his traditional Monday radio interview on 24
March that the upcoming CIS heads of state summit should either broaden the
mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed in Abkhazia to enable them to
protect the Georgian population more effectively, or comply with the Georgian
parliament resolution calling for their withdrawal, Reuters reported. Both the
Turkish Ambassador in Tbilisi, Tofik Okiazus, and Georgian presidential press
secretary Vakhtang Abashidze have rejected the claim by Russian State Duma
deputy Sergei Baburin that Turkey has moved troops closer to its border with
Georgia in anticipation of the deployment of a NATO peacekeeping force in
Abkhazia, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21 March. Meeting two weeks
ago with a delegation from the Turkish parliament, Shevardnadze had proposed
that Turkey take a more active role in resolving conflicts in the Caucasus, and
Abkhazia in particular. -- Liz Fuller
Aliyev IN KYIV.
On arrival in Kyiv on 24 March for a two-day official
visit, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev held talks with his Ukrainian
counterpart Leonid Kuchma on bilateral cooperation, the planned Transcaucasus
transport corridor, European security, and the future of the CIS, ITAR-TASS
reported. Aliyev subsequently told journalists that after the existing
Baku-Batumi oil pipeline is repaired and extended to the Georgian Black Sea
port of Supsa in 1998, Azerbaijan's Caspian oil will be shipped from Supsa to
Ukraine for export to the West. Azerbaijani and Ukrainian representatives
signed a series of bilateral inter-governmental agreements including several on
military cooperation, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko stressed
that the latter are not directed against any third country. -- Liz Fuller
ARMENIA'S NEW PRIME MINISTER INTRODUCED TO CABINET.
Ter-Petrossyan on 24 March introduced newly appointed Prime Minister Robert
Kocharyan to the government members, Armenian and Russian media reported.
Ter-Petrossyan said that Kocharyan's "popularity, efficiency and ability to get
things done" were the reasons for his choice. He said the appointment of the
Nagorno-Karabakh leader will not change Armenia's economic strategy, arguing
that his country remains committed to democracy and free-market reforms. Also,
according to Radio Rossii, Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanyan claimed that
Yerevan will not take a harder line at the negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict's settlement as a result of the change of prime ministers. Vazgen
Manukyan, the leader of the Armenian opposition, told NTV that Kocharyan's
appointment is "absurd" as it will create additional problems for Armenia
regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. -- Emil Danielyan
KAZAKSTANI OIL COMPANY SOLD.
On 24 March it was announced that Central
Asian Petroleum (CAP), a subsidiary of the Indonesian Setdco Group, has won a
60% stake in Kazakstan's largest oil company, Mangistaumunaigaz, Reuters
reported. Mangistaumunaigaz produced six million metric tons of oil, about one
third of the Kazak total, and 1.8 billion cubic meters of gas in 1995. CAP
offered $250 million, outbidding five other minor challengers. Analysts were
concerned that major Western oil companies stayed away from the sale,
suggesting that they do not trust the Kazakstan government to clearly define
the assets and liabilities of the firms up for sale. -- Peter Rutland
U.S. RESPONDS TO EXPULSION OF DIPLOMAT FROM BELARUS.
The U.S. State
Department has issued a statement condemning the expulsion of Serge
Aleksandrov, first secretary of the U.S. embassy in Minsk, following his
detention on 23 March after he observed clashes between demonstrators and
police, international agencies reported. Spokesman John Dinger said the U.S. is
considering retaliatory measures. U.S. ambassador to Belarus Kenneth Yalowitz
protested the incident to the "highest level" of Belarusian authorities."
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying that "S.
Aleksandrov's activities fall outside the 1961 Convention on Diplomatic
relations." Law enforcement agencies in Belarus say they possess materials
proving that Aleksandrov is a career CIA officer working under cover.
Meanwhile, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said it is important to increase
cooperation with the U.S. during a meeting with new Belarusian Ambassador to
the U.S. Valery Tsepkalo. He said that despite some difficulties in relations,
there is no anti-American campaign in Belarus and that the expulsion of a U.S.
diplomat was aimed against a specific person. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
CLAMPDOWN ON RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS IN BELARUS.
Ivan Pashkevich, deputy
head of the president's administration, issued an order on 23 March banning
NTV, ORT, and Russian television (RTR) from broadcasting footage from Belarus,
NTV and ORT reported. The following day, security guards prevented Russian
journalists from entering the television building in Minsk. The same day,
Belarusian authorities stripped NTV correspondent Aleksandr Stupnikov of his
accreditation. The reason given for this move was Stupnikov's "deliberate
distortion of information" when reporting on the situation in Belarus.
Belarusian authorities have been complaining about Russian journalists'
coverage of Belarus since last year, and NTV has been singled out on several
occasions for criticism. -- Ustina Markus
NEW OVERSIGHT COUNCIL TO TACKLE UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC CRISIS.
government has set up an oversight council to tackle the country's economic
crisis, international agencies reported on 24 March. The council is headed by
leading reformist Deputy Premier Viktor Pynzenyk and will deal with tax reform,
wage and pension arrears, and government bureaucracy. The move follows
President Leonid Kuchma's sharp criticism of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's
government in his annual address to the nation and parliament on the weekend.
Kuchma has appointed liberal economist Volodymyr Lanovyi to head the State
Property Fund, Ukrainian TV reported. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN JAPAN.
Lennart Meri on 24 March attended the
opening of the Estonian embassy in Tokyo, the country's first-ever diplomatic
mission in Asia, BNS reported. He also held talks with several ministers and
bankers on boosting economic cooperation. Two days earlier, he met with
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. After that meeting, he said an
agreement on avoiding double taxation would help improve economic ties. Meri is
scheduled to be received by Emperor Akihito today. -- Saulius Girnius
LOCALS ELECTIONS IN LITHUANIA.
Preliminary results show that only six
out of 24 parties running in the 23 March local elections failed to gain seats,
Radio Lithuania reported the next day. Turnout was 39.9%, down 4% on the 1995
elections. The ruling Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) won 34% of
the vote, up 6% on 1995, but its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic
Party, received 13%, down 3%. The opposition Democratic Labor Party won 15% of
seats, down 5 points on its 1995 showing. In by-elections for four
parliamentary seats, the Election Action of Lithuania's Poles won one seat
outright and has two candidates in the second round of voting. Turnout of less
than 40% invalidated the vote in the Naujoji Vilnija district of Vilnius. --
NEW PLAN TO SAVE GDANSK SHIPYARD.
Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
and Andrzej Wiercinski, responsible for liquidating the Gdansk shipyard, have
agreed on a possible way to prevent the company's demise, Polish media reported
on 25 March. A tender for the shipyard has been issued and its sale already
announced in Rzeczpospolita and Lloyd's List. If no buyer is
found, the shipyard will build five ships for a new joint venture set up by
Pomorski Bank Kredytowy, the Szczecin shipyard, and Polish Steamship Co. Some
2,000 of the 3,800 employees would be given jobs. Each of the five ships would
require state subsidies worth $4 million. According to preliminary estimates,
the shipyard had losses totaling 90 million zloty ($29 million) last year. --
POLES MARCH TO PROTEST VIOLENT MURDER.
Some 50,000 people took part in
an hour-long march in Krakow on 24 March to protest the murder of 24-year old
Jagiellonian University student Michal Lysek, Polish media reported on 25
March. Lysek was beaten to death by two teenagers earlier this month. Student
organizations in Krakow organized the march.
Andrzej Koj, rector of the
Jagiellonian University, said "we want to show our unrelenting protest against
the increasing brutality of criminals, ineffectual prosecution, and flagrant
violation of the law without any consequences." He remembered two students who
were also murdered recently. The new penal code, adopted by the Sejm last
broadens the right to self-defense. -- Beata Pasek
CZECH RULING COALITION CHALKS UP MAJORITY.
Mlada fronta Dnes
today quotes parliament deputy Jozef Wagner as saying that the government is no
longer a minority one. Wagner was recently expelled from the opposition Social
Democratic Party (CSSD) after voting for the government's 1997 budget proposal.
The right-of-center three-party coalition emerged from the June 1996 elections
just two seats short of an absolute majority. Tomas Teplik, another CSSD deputy
expelled from the party, announced recently he would support the ruling
coalition. The coalition now has 101 votes in the 200-member lower chamber as
well as a comfortable majority in the Senate. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK ACTORS HEED PRESIDENT'S CALLS TO END STRIKE.
At a meeting with
President Michal Kovac on 24 March, Slovak theater representatives decided to
end their nearly month-long strike, Sme reported. Kovac said he
supported the theaters but expressed regret that performances had been
canceled. He challenged theater employees to change their form of protest and
renew performances. Theater workers will return to work on 26 March, although a
strike warning will continue and audiences will be informed of the actors'
demands during performances. Actor Stefan Bucko explained that "our gesture is
an expression of good will to finally reach a dialogue and resolve our
problems." The next round of tripartite talks between the cabinet, employers,
and theater unions is scheduled for later this week. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAKIA PRESENTS ITS CASE ON DISPUTED DAM .
Slovakia on 24 March began
presenting its case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the
dispute with Hungary over the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dams, Reuters reported.
Slovakia believes the Gabcikovo dispute was caused by Budapest's failure to
meet its legally binding commitments laid out in the 1977 treaty. It accuses
Hungary of invoking environmental concerns to obscure legal issues. The Slovaks
want Hungary to pay damages, arguing that Budapest's decision to halt
construction of the Nagymaros dam caused environmental problems because of the
reduced water flow. The 1977 treaty was negotiated by the Czechoslovak and
Hungarian governments, but Hungary suspended work on its companion dam in
Nagymaros in 1989. -- Anna Siskova
YET ANOTHER SCANDAL HITS HUNGARY.
Two staff members of the Intelligence
Office were dismissed on 24 March following reports that the office collected
information on Socialist deputies without informing either Minister for Secret
Services Istvan Nikolits or the parliament's National Security Committee,
Hungarian dailies reported. According to Vilaggazdasag, the office was
investigating alleged links between organized crime groups and Ferenc Baja,
environment minister and a Socialist Party leader. Those under investigation
also included Laszlo Pal, former industry and trade minister and now president
of the Hungarian Oil Company, parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal, and deputy
Tibor Bajor. Nikolits had ordered the investigation last week on suspicion of
breach of state secrets. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
EU FAILS TO AGREE ON MILITARY PROTECTION FOR AID CONVOYS TO ALBANIA.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on 24 March, failed to agree on a
joint force to provide security to aid workers in Albania, international media
reported. Italy, Greece, and France said they would provide troops for such a
force, but the other EU member states made clear they would not. Turkey has
also offered to send troops. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said the EU
was ready to provide aid and that security would be provided by individual
states on a voluntary basis. He added that the OSCE should coordinate the
operation. But his French counterpart, Herve de Charette, insisted that the EU
take a leading role and proposed that the UN Security Council issue a mandate
for intervention. The EU foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss the issue
with Albanian Premier Bashkim Fino in Rome today. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIA, ITALY AGREE TO CLOSE STRAITS OF OTRANTO.
Fino and Italian
counterpart, Romano Prodi, have agreed to coordinate efforts to stem the flow
of emigrants across the Adriatic Sea, international media reported on 24 March.
The number of refugees now exceeds 12,000. The Italian navy began returning all
unauthorized ships by towing two trawlers with refugees back to Albania. But
later the same day, another Albanian boat with several hundred refugees docked
in Brindisi, while an Italian air force transport plane brought six tons of
emergency medical aid for the northern part of the country. Meanwhile, the
world-famous ruins at Butrint have been looted and vandalized, Reuters reported
on 24 March. Doors to the museum and archaeological storerooms have been
smashed and some statues stolen. -- Fabian Schmidt
IZETBEGOVIC IN WASHINGTON.
Alija Izetbegovic, chairman of the Bosnian
presidency, has urged U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen to accelerate a
U.S.-sponsored program to arm and train Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, AFP
reported on 24 March. Izetbegovic said only 20% of the program has been
implemented so far. The Bosnian president also asked Cohen to put more pressure
on the Serbs to reduce weapon stocks in keeping with an arms control agreement.
He underscored the need to send war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic
to The Hague, saying that, otherwise, there will be "no real peace in Bosnia."
Meanwhile, Haris Silajdzic, Muslim co-chairman of the Bosnian government,
warned in Egypt of the risk to stability in Bosnia and the whole region if U.S.
troops pull out. Cohen has said that U.S. troops will leave Bosnia in mid 1998
even if war breaks out again. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SERBS AGREE TO UN POLICE FORCE IN BRCKO.
The Bosnian Serbs on 23 March
agreed to allow the deployment of 200 unarmed UN policemen in the disputed town
of Brcko, in northern Bosnia-Herzegovina, AFP reported. Bosnian Serb Interior
Minister Dragan Kijac said the UN police will work with local Serb police to
"strengthen security in the region." But Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic
has rejected the idea of a joint Serb-Muslim force in the town, saying it was
"out of question." Brcko is claimed by both Bosnian entities and was the only
issue unsolved in the Dayton peace accord. A final decision on who will rule
the town has been postponed until March 1998. Meanwhile, Brcko will remain
under the Serbian administration but also under international control. -- Daria
SERBIA'S BK TELEVISION RETURNS TO AIRWAVES.
Following a ruling by the
Economic Court in Belgrade in favor of independent BK Television and against
the Serbian Post, Telephone, and Telegraph (PTT) , the station resumed
broadcasting to southern Serbia for the first time since 20 March, Nasa
Borba reported on 25 March. The PTT had denied BK use of the
Avala-Jastrebac relay line on the alleged grounds of unpaid bills and licensing
irregularities. As a result, BK's range was limited to the Belgrade and Novi
Sad areas (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 March 1997). BK Television returned
to the airwaves with a vengeance by hosting a round table on media freedom on
24 March. Zajedno coalition leader Vuk Draskovic said that
demonstrations would resume unless there were media freedom, and all opposition
leaders backed Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj's call for complete
privatization of the media. The regime has recently spoken about the need for
change, but its proposed media law aims at more restrictions rather than at
liberalization. -- Patrick Moore
CROATIA, ITALY DISAGREE OVER REPAYMENT OF WAR-TIME DEBT.
Italian experts met on 24 March in the Croatian port of Split to discuss
Croatia's $35 million debt to Italy, Vecernji List reported. Croatian
Deputy Foreign Minister Hido Biscevic offered to pay one half in cash and the
other half in stocks from the portfolio Croatia's Privatization Fund, which
consists of state-owned hotels and other tourist facilities. But Italy rejected
the proposal saying the whole debt should be paid in real estate. The debt
originates in the post-war period, when Yugoslav partisans recaptured areas in
the northern Adriatic Istrian peninsula from the Italian fascist state and
expelled the ethnic Italian minority from Istria. A treaty between former
Yugoslavia and Italy on settling territorial and material disputes was never
fully implemented. -- Daria Sito Sucic
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MACEDONIA.
Javier Solana, at the beginning of
his two-day visit to Macedonia, met with President Kiro Gligorov, Premier
Branko Crvenkovski, Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski, and Defense Minister
Blagoj Handziski to discuss the situation in the Balkans and NATO enlargement,
Nova Makedonija reported on 25 March. Solana noted Macedonia's "very
positive" contribution to NATO's Partnership for Peace program but did not
comment on Skopje's desire to join NATO. Solana said he and Gligorov did not
discuss the possibility of replacing UNPREDEP forces currently stationed in
Macedonia with NATO troops. Solana's visit is the first by a NATO
secretary-general to Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause
ROMANIAN FOREIGN NEWS.
Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea met with his
Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Anzar, in Madrid on 24 March, Radio Bucharest
reported. They discussed Romania's application for integration into NATO and
the EU, which Spain supports. Later that day, he addressed a meeting of
European Christian Democratic and Popular parties in Lisbon, talking on NATO's
expansion to the East. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin was in
Brussels to attend the third session of the Romania-EU Association Council and
an EU meeting on the organization's enlargement. He urged the union to open
talks with all applicants at the same time, Reuters reported. Finally, Radio
Bucharest reported on 25 March that former King Mihai arrived in London to
begin his role as "ambassador of Romanian interests," promoting that country's
admission to NATO. He met with Prince Charles and is scheduled to have lunch
with Queen Elizabeth today. -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS ACQUITTED OF OFFENDING FORMER PRESIDENT.
Bucharest court on 24 March overturned a lower court ruling whereby two
journalists were found guilty of "offense to authority," RFE/RL and Romanian TV
reported. Sorin Rosca Stanescu and Tana Ardeleanu had claimed that former
President Ion Iliescu was recruited by the KGB while studying in Moscow in the
1950s. Stanescu, chief editor of the daily Ziua, writes today that the
latest ruling is correct, but he says he is not satisfied because the Penal
Code article under which he and Ardeleanu were sentenced remains valid.
Stanescu challenges Iliescu to sue for libel as an individual rather than
hiding behind the Prosecutor-General's Office. The prosecution has 10 days to
appeal the sentence. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS, SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HOLD CONGRESSES IN CHISINAU.
Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists, addressed the
party's third congress in Chisinau on 22 March, BASA-press and Infotag
reported. He said the Communists should start preparing for the next elections
and do their best to shorten the life of the present government. Meanwhile, the
two rival wings of the Moldovan Social Democratic Party held parallel
congresses in Chisinau on 22 March, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The wing
led by Anatol Taran, special advisor to President Petru Lucinschi, adopted a
resolution establishing a United Social Democratic Party of Moldova. The rival
congress of the wing led by Oazu Nantoi appealed to center-left formations to
form a coalition for the next parliamentary elections. The congress elected
Andrei Turcanu chairman of the party and Nantoi chairman of its political
council. -- Michael Shafir
ETHNIC TURKISH FORCES TO SPLIT BEFORE BULGARIAN ELECTIONS?
northern chapters of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom
(DPS) met in Razgrad on 24 March to support the local DPS branch's proposal to
form a DPS within the United Democratic Forces (ODS), Standart reported.
The DPS leadership recently decided not to join the ODS, opting instead to form
a Union for National Salvation (SNS) with the monarchists and other forces.
Participants of the Razgrad meeting called DPS leader Ahmed Dogan's decision
"disastrous" for the DPS. Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic
Forces, the biggest group within the ODS, said the ODS's door remained open to
Dogan, 24 chasa noted. Meanwhile, former Tsar Simeon II decided to
openly support the SNS. Just two weeks earlier, Simeon indirectly called on his
followers to vote for the ODS. -- Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave