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Newsline - March 13, 2001




RUSSIA TO SELL IRAN MORE ARMS

President Vladimir Putin told visiting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on 12 March that Moscow will continue for both economic and political reasons to sell Tehran the defensive arms, including tanks, planes and helicopters, that it seeks, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The two signed an accord on mutual cooperation, but Russian officials stressed that their agreement is not directed at any third countries. Putin said that Russia will also complete the construction of a nuclear power station at Bushehr and will work to overcome Iranian complaints about problems there. PG

RUSSIAN, IRANIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN STATEMENT ON CASPIAN

During their talks on 12 March, presidents Putin and Khatami signed a declaration affirming that no borders on the Caspian Sea can be recognized until the five littoral states have reached an agreement on defining the Caspian's legal status, meaning whether it should be considered as a lake or an inland sea, Reuters and Interfax reported. Agreement on the legal status of the sea determines in turn whether and how it may be divided into national sectors. The statement said any agreement on the legal status of the Caspian must be unanimously passed by all five littoral states, and that any "interference by third countries" in that process is "inadmissible." The statement also reaffirmed the shared opposition by both Moscow and Tehran to any "ecologically unsound" undersea pipelines for the transportation of hydrocarbons, meaning the proposed Trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Baku, and the extension from Baku to Aktau of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. LF

UNEXPECTED BUDGET DEFICITS HURT GOVERNMENT

The Finance Ministry's report on 11 March that the Russian government had a federal budget deficit in February 2001 of 20.1 billion rubles ($700 million), or 3.4 percent of GDP, as compared to a budget deficit in January of 14.5 billion rubles ($500 million), or 1.2 percent of GDP, led to articles in both "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 March suggesting that this "unexpectedly serious budget deficit" could have a negative impact on the cabinet of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Officials explained the deficits in terms of Russian payments to the Paris Club of creditors. PG

NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE'S MEANING, CHANCES ASSESSED

All major Moscow newspapers on 12 March discussed the meaning and prospects of the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Kasyanov on 14 March. Most saw the proposal as reflecting squabbles rather than real politics, and all predicted it will fail more or less ignobly, with Unity not supporting the Communist-backed measure in the end. Politicians appeared unanimous in their assessments that the measure would fall short: Even Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov appeared to retreat when he said only that "we won't have to suffer through next winter with this government," Interfax reported. Other leaders suggested that the vote will fall well short, with Unity leaders announcing that they had formed a commission to discuss how to proceed. Meanwhile, one Unity leader did take the measure seriously. Aleksandr Fedulov, who is deputy chief of the Duma's legislation committee, announced that he plans to voluntarily resign from Unity because Unity's leaders last week behaved in what he said was "an illogical and contradictory fashion" in coming out in favor of the no-confidence measure, Interfax reported on 12 March. At the end of the day, ITAR-TASS released a blitz poll of Duma deputies that the agency said showed that there is not even a theoretical possibility that the no-confidence motion will pass. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL'S 'FEDERATION GROUP' MEETS

On 12 March, more than 80 members of the Federation Council are expected to attend the first meeting of "Federation," a group formed in the upper house to support President Putin's policies, Interfax reported. The group, which cannot call itself a party because of Federation Council rules, has already held two informal sessions, organizers said. PG

IVASHOV SAYS MOSCOW WON'T EXIT ABM ACCORD IMMEDIATELY EVEN IF U.S. DOES

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, said Moscow has no plans to pull out of the ABM treaty immediately even if it sees evidence that the United States is doing so, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. But Ivashov did say that a U.S. decision to go ahead with NMD could return the world to "a Cold War state." He also indicated that Russia's "eastern neighbors" are interested in the kind of missile defense system Moscow has proposed for Europe. Meanwhile, however, President Putin has reportedly ordered the suspension of the dismantling of nuclear warheads as called for under the Start II treaty, MSNBC.com but no other agency reported on 11 March. PG

IVASHOV SEES INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS EMERGING

Speaking on RTR on 11 March, Colonel- General Ivashov said international terrorists are coordinating their actions ever more frequently in order to achieve larger political goals, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. PG

PUTIN'S POLITICAL CALCULUS MAY BE WRONG...

According to an article in "Vedomosti" on 12 March, President Putin has given the oligarchs free rein in economics as long as they stay out of politics, but "he chooses not to notice" that their economic activities give them both political power and greater freedom of action than they had in the past. One consequence of this is that Putin is far more dependent on popular support. "[Former President Boris] Yeltsin," the paper noted, "could ignore the opinion of the population precisely because he had the support of the oligarchy that he himself had estimated. Putin, however, relies on the shaky substance of the people's expectations and on state officials who are permitted everything in return for loyalty." That has made Putin "a hostage of his own popularity," something that carries a risk when "'politics for the sake of rating' inevitably deteriorates into popularity and the rating eventually crashes." PG

...BUT HIS POPULARITY CONTINUES...

"Novoye vremya," no. 9, reported that polls show 62 percent of respondents approve of President Putin's performance, with his support being "highest among managers and pensioners." His support remains high even though 55 percent of all Russians say reforms over the last decade have worked "to the detriment of the people," with only 17 percent saying the reforms have done "the people good." PG

...AS REPORT SUGGESTS HE WAS AN INDIFFERENT STUDENT...

"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 12 March reported that it had found one of Putin's school grade books in the attic of a house where he lived as a child. The paper said he received the Russian equivalent of what in the U.S. educational system would be C's in arithmetic and natural science, and a D in drawing. But he received an A in history and another A in behavior despite some reported mischief. PG

...AND HE VISITS A RECOVERING YELTSIN

One day after he left the hospital, former President Yeltsin received a visit on 12 March from his successor Putin, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin's press secretary said on 12 March that Putin plans to take a brief vacation in Khakassia this week, Interfax reported. The news agency said he will work on his message to the Federation Council, which he is scheduled to deliver at the end of March. PG

YAVLINSKY OPPOSES NATO EXPANSION

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky said that NATO expansion should not be pursued while so many international problems remain unsettled, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 March. Yavlinsky's comments appeared in a memorandum circulated at a Trilateral Commission conference in London. The Yabloko leader also said he supports European Union expansion because Moscow is ready for "efficient partnership" with that organization. Meanwhile, Duma Defense Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev said that NATO is pushing east both to expand its influence and to expand its arms markets, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

NAZDRATENKO, GREF CLASH ON FISHING QUOTAS

Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the chairman of the State Fishing Committee and former governor of Primorskii Krai, said in Vladivostok that state auctions of fishing quotas are "a threat to the food supply," "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 12 March. Nazdratenko said "all revenues from sales of the quotas remain in Moscow while the regions lose a great deal of tax revenue as a result." But Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told Interfax in Moscow on 12 March that the auctions guarantee transparency and openness in the process. PG

NEMTSOV'S CAREER SEEN THREATENED AGAIN

Even though Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov has survived many scandals in the past and "invariably stays afloat," government investigations into his involvement in the Bank of New York scandal may end his "decade of success," "Vek," No. 10, reported. PG

RUSSIA TO HELP UKRAINIAN REGIONS HIT BY FLOODS

The Emergencies Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 12 March that the Russian government has decided to dispatch 150 tons of foodstuffs and other supplies to flood-ravaged regions of Western Ukraine. PG

POLES STILL WATCHING BALTIC FLEET

"As soon as the Dutch, Germans, Americans and Italians saw that the Baltic Fleet did not threaten them, they cut down on the number of their inspections" in Kaliningrad, "Strazh Baltiki" reported on 13 February. "The Poles are the only exception. They come regularly." The inspections are being carried out under the terms of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, but the paper said that Polish officials routinely want to inspect things they are not entitled to see under the terms of that agreement. PG

BORODIN CASE SEEN CASTING SHADOW ON U.S. TIES

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 March said that the Russian government has shifted away from its past view that the case of detained Russia-Belarus Union Secretary of State Pavel Borodin is a legal matter, and now "for the first time" views it as a political one that may have negative consequences for Russian-U.S. relations. ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is taking a personal interest in the case. PG

GUSINSKY AGAIN JAILED IN SPAIN

A Spanish judge put Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky back behind bars on 12 March and moved forward the start of his extradition hearing to 15 March, Reuters reported on 12 March. Gusinsky has been jailed to ensure his appearance, court officials said. Moscow is seeking his extradition to face fraud charges. PG

CASH-STRAPPED MILITARY LOOKS FOR FOREIGN SALES, UPGRADES

"Vremya MN" reported on 7 March that arms exports have become the main source of income for Russia's military-industrial complex and consequently that sector is pushing hard for more sales abroad. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported a day earlier that Russian military equipment designers are putting off plans for new classes of weapons in favor of cheaper upgrades. PG

MILITARY FAILING TO BLOCK DRAFT DODGING...

Military prosecutors say the number of registered draft dodgers fell from 7,400 in 1999 to 7,300 in 2000, "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 9, reported. But in fact, that decline does not cover the much larger number of people who dodge the draft through various strategems and are not counted as registered draft dodgers as a result, the paper said. It added that more than 15,200 soldiers charged with draft dodging have not even bothered to respond to summonses to appear for hearings. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies have introduced legislation concerning alternative service, Interfax reported on 12 March. PG

...OR TO RETAIN OFFICERS

According to official reports cited by "Versiya," No. 8, 114,937 career officers have resigned from the Russian army over the past three years, leaving an average shortage in junior officer ranks in most areas of 50-60 percent. Military academies are no longer able to provide enough new officers, both because the number of such schools has been cut by half in the last decade and because many graduates leave the service upon graduation. The journal said its sources have learned that the Defense Ministry is seeking to reverse this situation by forcing academy graduates to sign a contract in advance to serve at least 10 years after receiving their degrees. PG

OFFICIAL 'KURSK' INVESTIGATION STALLED

Russian Regions Duma deputy Valerii Dorogin, who serves on the state commission investigating the causes of the August 2000 "Kursk" submarine sinking, told "Novosti Razvedki I Kontrrazvedki," No. 3-4, that he doubts the real cause of the tragedy will ever be established. He said some evidence exists in favor of each of the scenarios proposed up to this point, but that no conclusive evidence singles one scenario out. PG

INCOMES, INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT RISE

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry said the real income of Russians after adjusting for inflation will be 7.2 percent higher in the first quarter of 2001 than over the same period in 2000, "Profil," No. 8, reported. It also said industrial output rose 5.3 percent from January 2000 to January 2001 and that wage backlogs in the state sector have fallen from 4.9 billion rubles ($170 million) at the start of 2000 to 4.5 billion rubles at the beginning of this year. PG

MOSCOW LAUNCHES PATRIOTIC TRAINING CAMPAIGN

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 12 March published the government's "Decree on the State Program 'Patriotic Education of the Citizens of the Russian Federation for 2001-2005." The decree noted that Russian society today is marked by "indifference, egoism, individualism, cynicism, unmotivated aggression, and a lack of respect for the state and social institutions." To address these problems, the government has created a committee that will spend 170 million rubles ($5.9 million) over the next five years. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin defended this effort, saying it is not a mistake to revive a Communist-style program, "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 9, reported. But Russian political analyst Andrei Piontkovskii told Reuters the effort is "not a tragedy. It's a farce," adding that the program means "a great many people are going to receive a lot of money and make patriotism their profession." PG

RUSSIAN YOUTH SEEN TURNING LEFT

In an article entitled "Red Is in Fashion," Maksim Glikin argued in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 10, that ever more young people with good jobs and higher educations are joining radical communist and socialist groups to protest income inequalities in Russia and their own diminished chances, given ongoing economic dislocations there. He noted that the Union of Communist Youth, with 38,000 members, is larger than many political parties. Glikin said those who think that young people will inevitably turn to Yabloko and the SPS are wrong; many of them, he suggested, will back hard-left groups. Meanwhile, participants in a roundtable in Moscow called for the government to create a special youth policy to deal with the problems of young Russians, Interfax reported. PG

GERMANY SUSPENDS PAYMENTS TO NAZI VICTIMS

"Trud" reported on 12 March that Germany has suspended its payments to World War II-era forced laborers from Russia and other countries for an indefinite period because of a court hearing in New York. But the paper said that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is planning to try to raise funds via business channels to resume the payments as soon as possible. PG

ECOLOGY GROUPS URGE PUTIN TO OPPOSE NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS

More than 650 Russian ecological groups sent a letter to President Putin on 12 March calling on him to oppose plans to import nuclear wastes from other countries for permanent storage in Russia, Interfax reported. PG

80 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN ROADS BELOW EUROPEAN STANDARDS

Interfax reported on 12 March that 80 percent of Russia's 906,000 kilometers of highways (753,000 of which are paved) fall below European standards and thus contribute to an accident rate two to three times higher than in Europe. The agency reported that the Russian government built 6,530 kilometers of new highways in 2000, 19.5 percent more than in 1999. PG

FIRST WINNER OF RUSSIAN 'WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?'

Igor Sazeev, a St. Petersburg chemist, on 12 March became the first competitor in the Russian version of the American quiz show to correctly answer all 15 questions needed to win the top prize, Interfax reported. PG

PRESIDENT PUTIN NAMES NEW MEMBERS TO STATE COUNCIL

President Putin has assigned new members to the presidium of the State Council, following the expiry of the six-month term of the first presidium's members, Russian agencies reported on 12 March. The new members are Jewish Autonomous Oblast head Nikolai Volkov, Karelia Republic head Sergei Katanandov, Kabardino-Balkaria President Valerii Kokov, Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn, Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, and Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Filipenko. The State Council's first presidium met for six sessions, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 February. JAC

ENVOY ALLEGEDLY WANTS TO INTRODUCE SYSTEM OF REGIONAL PRIME MINISTERS

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 12 March, without reference to sourcing, that presidential envoy to the Volga region Sergei Kirienko has proposed a plan that would create a system of regional prime ministers who would have direct responsibility for regional economies. If implemented, the plan would seriously reduce the power of governors, since regional legislatures, not governors, would appoint the prime ministers. According to the daily, the plan will be "tested" by Kirienko in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, and if successful, it will be replicated throughout Russian regions. The daily noted that presidential envoy to the Central district, Grigorii Poltavchenko, would face the toughest task in persuading the legislatures of Moscow city or Moscow Oblast to appoint a prime minister independent of the governors. Therefore, to assist him, a joint group of security agencies has been set up to investigate "the allegedly illegal earlier privatization of Moscow's Stupino Metallurgical plant. JAC

SPRING FLOODING MAY START EARLY THIS YEAR

Heavy flooding may begin in the near future in Buryatia, according to the republic's weather center, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 12 March. The region experienced unusually heavy snowfall in January and February of this year, and now as temperatures near 5 degrees Celsius the river Selenga is close to overflowing its banks. Meanwhile, the Federal Service for Meteorology and Monitoring of the Environment reported to the government that this spring could bring heavy flooding to a series of regions, particularly in the "Asian parts" of Russia and the Volga basin, the agency reported on 11 March. Already, the level of snow and ice covering the country's river basins is higher than normal. JAC

ENVOY'S DEPUTY TO SEEK GOVERNOR'S SEAT IN PRIMORSKII KRAI

Gennadii Apanasenko, first deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, officially informed Primorskii Krai's election commission on 12 March that he will run in the 27 May gubernatorial elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The previous day, ITAR-TASS reported that former Governor Nazdratenko had declared his support for Apanasenko at a press conference that day; however, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Nazdratenko had refused to say which candidate he supports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). Nazdratenko did say that he thinks the Kremlin is supporting Apanasenko. But he thinks Apanasenko's chances are not great because "here he is a stranger whom no one knows." According to Interfax-Eurasia, Apanasenko is the 13th candidate to enter the race so far. His competitors include State Duma deputies Viktor Cherepkov (People's Deputy) and Vladimir Grishukov (Communist), along with the general director of Primorskii Steam Ship Line, Aleksandr Kirilichev. JAC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST RUSSIAN PAPER

Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 12 March filed for libel at a Moscow district court against the newspaper "Novaya gazeta," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 March. Kadyrov demanded that the paper retract an article published on 19 February that accused him of engaging in hostage-taking for ransom and alleged that the clan to which he belongs has a monopoly on the export of illicitly refined oil products. Kadyrov is demanding 1.573 million rubles ($524,000) in damages. LF




AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REJECTS FORMER OFFICIALS' KARABAKH STRATEGY...

President Heidar Aliyev told journalists in Baku on 12 March that the approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict unveiled last week by his former aide Eldar Namazov and former Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov contains "nothing new" and cannot contribute to resolving the conflict, according to Azerbaijan State Television on 12 March, as cited by Groong. Aliyev expressed regret that there has not been any response to his appeal during last month's parliament debate on Karabakh for suggestions on how to reach an acceptable peace. Aliyev again commended last month's offer by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to mediate talks between Baku and Yerevan aimed at reaching a solution to the Karabakh conflict, but added that he thinks it is unlikely that Armenia would agree to such talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 February 2001). Aliyev said "we should always be ready for a war." But he warned that "waging a war is more difficult than to hold talks," adding that "whoever is now talking about war is pursuing private goals," Reuters reported. LF

...BEGINS TURKEY VISIT...

President Aliyev flew to Ankara on 12 March on a five-day state visit that is expected to give further impetus to bilateral political, economic, and military cooperation. He met the same day with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who noted an ongoing rapprochement between the two countries' foreign policy objectives. "Developments...revealed that the policies we follow should be complementary and support each other," Turkey's Anatolia news agency quoted Sezer as saying, according to Groong. Sezer said his talks with Aliyev will cover the Karabakh conflict, Nakhichevan, and the implementation of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project. Nine bilateral agreements were signed, including protocols on cooperation between the two countries' finance, justice, and culture ministries, and their tax services. LF

...SIGNS GAS SALES AGREEMENT

Sezer and Aliyev also signed a 15-year agreement whereby Turkey will purchase natural gas from Azerbaijan's Caspian Shah Deniz field beginning in 2004. That year, Turkey will take delivery of 2 billion cubic meters of gas, rising to 6.6 billion cubic meters in 2006 and as much as 20 billion cubic meters thereafter. Azerbaijan had hoped for a commitment from Ankara to purchase a minimum of 5 billion cubic meters annually. The price that Ankara will pay is likewise not clear: Aliyev told journalists prior to his departure from Baku that Turkey had agreed to pay world market prices, but ITAR-TASS quoted Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer as saying that the price is the lowest of any agreed upon by Turkey for gas purchases. The "Financial Times" on 13 March estimated the cost of upgrading and extending the existing pipeline network to bring that gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia at $700 to $800 million. LF

NO DATE SET FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENT...

No date has yet been set for President Eduard Shevardnadze's annual address to the Georgian parliament, the daily "Dilis gazeti" noted on 13 March. The address is traditionally scheduled for the first week of the spring parliament session, but in mid-February Shevardnadze postponed it until March on the grounds that a bad cold was affecting his voice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 2001). LF

...AS OPPOSITION DISAGREES OVER WHETHER HE SHOULD RESIGN

"Alia" on 12 March published the findings of a poll conducted among Georgian politicians. Asked whether they think Shevardnadze should step down as president, the leaders of the opposition Communist, Socialist, and Labor Parties and supporters of deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia answered in the affirmative. Leaders of moderate and right-wing political groups answered "no," on the grounds that Shevardnadze's departure could unleash civil unrest and even civil war. Georgian Popular Front Chairman Nodar Natadaze said the question cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," while National Democratic Party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia declined to respond. LF

GEORGIAN TAX POLICE DENY AZERBAIJANI WOMAN WAS KILLED

Temur Khevsuriani, the head of the Georgian Tax Ministry's special police, told "Caucasus Press" on 12 March that claims by members of Georgia's Azerbaijani minority that an Azerbaijani woman died after being trampled by tax police during a raid on a Tbilisi market are untrue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). Also on 12 March, Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania met with a visiting Azerbaijani parliament delegation to discuss the 5 March incident in which an Azerbaijani was shot dead by a Georgian frontier guard while trying to avoid border controls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). LF

PRESIDENT SAYS KYRGYZSTAN VULNERABLE TO 'TERRORISM,' BUT NOT INTERNAL TENSIONS

In a 4,600 word article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 March, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev rejects as "the fruit of a sick imagination" recent Russian press coverage that concludes that his country is "a powder keg" that could ignite as a result of tensions between Kyrgyz and other ethnic groups. Akaev claimed that measures intended to improve the position of Kyrgyzstan's Russian minority have resulted in a fall in emigration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2001). He denied the existence of tensions between the north and the largely Uzbek-populated south, and claimed that measures to counter poverty will preclude widespread social unrest. Akaev further called for massive international support and financial aid to combat the threat of a new incursion by Islamic militants who, he said, are supported by Afghanistan and whose ultimate aim he said is not merely to overthrow the existing regimes in Central Asia but to extend their influence to Russia and the entire planet. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS COURT RULING ON ITS LEADER

The opposition Ar-Namys Party issued a statement on 12 March condemning as politically motivated the Bishkek Military Court's 9 March decision upholding the sentence handed down by the Bishkek City Court in January on the party's chairman, former Vice President and National Security Minister Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 12 March 2001). The Ar-Namys statement said the Kyrgyz judiciary remains dependant on the government, and that all statements by Kyrgyz authorities affirming their commitment to democracy and human rights are "no more than cynicism." LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY DELEGATION VISITS TAJIKISTAN

A Russian Defense Ministry delegation met in Dushanbe on 13 March with Tajik Defense Minister Colonel-General Sherali Khairulloev to discuss the prospects for long-term military-technical cooperation, "Asia Plus-Blitz" reported. The delegation is to assess the condition of Russian-made arms and materiel supplied to the Tajik armed forces and determine how much needs to be repaired or replaced. LF

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN CRITICIZES RUSSIAN PRESS COVERAGE OF AFGHAN DEVELOPMENTS

The Tajik Foreign Ministry has issued a statement criticizing as a deliberate distortion based on out-of-date information Russian TV reports on 11-12 March claiming that the situation on the section of the Tajik-Afghan border controlled by Russia's Moskovskii Frontier Detachment has deteriorated. The ministry claimed those reports were based on an assessment of the situation made by a group of Russian journalists who visited Tajikistan in mid-February, and that the situation on the border has been stabilized and has remained quiet since then. Tajikistan issued a similar criticism last month of Russian media coverage of the fighting in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). LF




BELARUSIANS VOTE EARLY IN REPEAT LEGISLATIVE BALLOT

Belarusians began taking part in early voting on 13 March for repeat legislative elections scheduled for 18 March, Belapan reported. The repeat ballot will take place in 13 constituencies, where voter turnout on 15 October 2000 was below the 50 percent required by election law for the poll to be valid. The Central Electoral Commission said the 13 vacancies in Belarus's lower house, the 110-member Chamber of Representatives, are being contested by 66 candidates. JM

PRO-LUKASHENKA PARTIES SLAM OSCE FOR PREPARING ELECTION MONITORS

The Nationwide Coordinating Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2001), which unites some 30 parties and organizations supporting the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has criticized an initiative by the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk to hold seminars to train monitors for this year's presidential elections, Belarusian Television reported on 12 March. Presidential aide Syarhey Posakhau told Belarusian Television: "[The OSCE initiative] has provoked indignation [among the council], because the elections have not yet been announced, presidential candidates have not been registered...We assess this to be interference in the domestic affairs of our state, as an attempt to carry out anticonstitutional and unlawful activities." JM

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER CRITICIZES IMF FOR BLOCKING LOANS...

Yuriy Yekhanurov on 12 March rebuked the IMF for blocking its loan program to Ukraine with irrelevant obstacles, Reuters reported. Yekhanurov, who was scheduled to meet with IMF officials the same day, said Kyiv has made progress on eight issues that the fund saw as problematic. Those issues included the abolishment of barter deals, improved collection of payments in the energy sector, and banking reforms. "We need the IMF's acknowledgment [of that progress] as a moral endorsement of the reforms that our government is pursuing. We want the world to know that our government is implementing reforms properly," Yekhanurov told Reuters. JM

...SAYS U.S.

TIES AID TO KYIV TO THE RESOLUTION OF UNREST. Yekhanurov also told Reuters that he urged the new U.S. administration to continue providing aid to Ukraine, which he said had been of great importance in helping Ukraine evolve as a free market democracy. However, Yekhanurov added that Daniel Fried, the U.S. State Department's top expert on Europe, suggested that Kyiv must first resolve its current political turmoil before applying for aid. Asked if Fried promised that Ukraine would receive continued assistance, Yekhanurov replied: "No, he didn't... That decision will not be taken immediately." Washington gave Kiev $187 million in aid last year. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS DIFFER ON PLANNED ACCORD WITH GOVERNMENT

Premier Viktor Yushchenko is currently discussing a draft accord between the government and the parliamentary majority on mutual responsibilities and obligations, Interfax reported. The need for such a document has been questioned by both pro-government and opposition parliamentary groups. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said the accord is unnecessary, adding that the constitution is sufficient for regulating relations between the government and the legislature. Oleksandr Zinchenko, head of the Social Democratic Party (United) caucus, criticized the draft as "extremely raw" and "including a lot of contradictions." Yushchenko's intention to sign an accord with the parliamentary majority is seen by some Ukrainian commentators as a move to prevent his ouster next month (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 March 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN OMBUDSWOMAN WARNS AGAINST 'CIVIL WAR,' CALLS FOR TALKS

Nina Karpachova has called on politicians to come to the negotiating table in order to "constructively resolve" the current political unrest in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 12 March. Karpachova made her appeal while visiting hospitalized policemen who suffered injuries in 9 March clashes with demonstrators in Kyiv protesting against President Leonid Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). "All should be aware of the threat of civil war [in Ukraine]," Karpachova said. JM

NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE AGAINST ESTONIAN MINISTER FAILS

A no-confidence motion against Transport and Communications Minister Toivo Jurgenson in the parliament on 12 March failed when it gathered only 40 votes in favor against 48 votes opposed, ETA reported. The main charges against Jurgenson, just as in a similar unsuccessful no-confidence vote (42 to 53) on 16 January were the unsuccessful privatizations of two railroad firms -- the state-owned Eesti Raudtee, and the passenger transport firm Edelaraudtee. Toomas Varek, the head of the opposition Center Party faction, was not discouraged by the failure and declared that no-confidence motions would be proposed against other ministers, with Prime Minister Mart Laar likely being the next choice. The motions, however, will probably be defeated if the ruling coalition comprised of the Pro Patria, Reform Party, and Moderates remains firm. The Center Party has also unsuccessfully tried to oust Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois three times. SG

LATVIAN INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT GROWS 9 PERCENT IN JANUARY

The Central Statistics Office announced on 12 March that industrial output in January was 145.2 million lats ($234.95 million), or 9 percent more in constant prices than over the same period in 2000, BNS reported. The production of nonmineral goods (such as ceramic, cement, and concrete items) grew by 49.3 percent; textiles by 30.7 percent; paper by 24.5 percent; and rubber and plastic items by 21.9 percent. The growth in fish processing, 41.5 percent, greatly exceeded the general 10 percent growth in the food industry. On the other hand, the production of automobiles, trailers, and semitrailers declined by 35.6 percent; of chemicals by 23.5 percent; and of radio, television and communications equipment by 20.4 percent. SG

GREATER BUDGET REVENUES SIGNAL RECOVERY OF LITHUANIAN ECONOMY

Finance Ministry adviser Paulius Tamulionis declared that the national budget collected 1.401 billion litas ($350.25 million) in January and February, which is 192.9 million litas, or 16 percent, more than over the same period last year, ELTA reported on 12 March. Municipal budget revenues grew by 9.5 million litas, or 3.8 percent, to 428.9 million litas. While the revenue from real estate taxes increased by 21.6 percent, personal income tax collections increased by only 2.4 percent. The tax revenues were greater than the ministry had forecast, and it is now expected that the higher revenues, which indicate a recovering economy, will continue in March. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT TO MEET KUCHMA DESPITE PROTESTS

President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said he will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma on 15 March in Kazimierz Dolny, southern Poland, despite pressure from parliamentarians in both countries to cancel the visit, Reuters reported on 13 March. "I am meeting President Kuchma because we have a strategic partnership with Ukraine and this is something that is very binding," Kwasniewski said. Lawmaker Stefan Niesiolowski from Solidarity Electoral Action asked Kwasniewski not to meet Kuchma, who he said is looking for support abroad at a time of increasing domestic crisis. "The situation in Ukraine is not clear and there are suspicions that Kuchma is involved in an ugly murder case," Niesiolowski said. A group of Ukrainian lawmakers arrived in Warsaw on March 13 to drum up support for protests against the Ukrainian president's visit. JM

POLES REMAIN SATISFIED WITH NATO MEMBERSHIP

The CBOS polling center found in early March that 63 percent of Poles support the country's NATO membership, while 10 percent oppose it, PAP reported on 12 March. Support for NATO membership has remained stable over the past two years: it stood at 60 percent in February 1999, and at 63 percent in February 2000. During a 12 March ceremony to mark the second anniversary of Poland's admission to NATO, President Kwasniewski, Premier Jerzy Buzek, and Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski expressed satisfaction over the adoption of a six-year program to modernize and restructure the armed forces in line with NATO standards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March and 31 January 2001). JM

CZECHS CELEBRATE TWO YEARS IN NATO...

In a television interview on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Czech Republic's admission into NATO, Czech President Vaclav Havel said the enlargement of the alliance in 1999 is still underappreciated. According to CTK, Havel said that, for the first time in history, the Czech Republic is firmly anchored in Europe. Also speaking on the occasion, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Edgar Buckley said NATO's admittance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland has increased regional security, despite some shortcomings. DW

...THOUGH PROBLEMS REMAIN

Addressing NATO's concerns regarding the new members, Buckley told CTK, "...but is the secretary-general [Lord George Robertson] satisfied with the rate of force goal implementation in these three countries? The answer is no, he's not." Havel blamed himself and other politicians "for us having something like this and not fulfilling it step-by-step. I would not blame the army, but rather us all -- the political representation, public space, society." Opposition politicians expressed similar views; Freedom Union Deputy Chairman Petr Mares said: "We perceive the second anniversary of our entry into NATO...as a commemoration of unfulfilled obligations and wasted chances." DW

EXTENDED 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' DRAWS FIRE FROM INSIDE, OUTSIDE ODS, CSSD

Criticism of the extension of the "opposition agreement" agreed upon by the ruling Social Democrats' (CSSD) and Civic Democrats' (ODS) leadership 9 March was voiced from within the parties as well as by opposition parties. Petra Buzkova, popular head of the Prague branch of the CSSD, told CTK she thinks the CSSD leadership extended the agreement simply to stay in office and that the pact only helped the ODS. "It is a tragedy. It is clear that the voice of ordinary members is not taken into account," said Radek Vovsik, head of a regional ODS branch. Cyril Svoboda, leader of the Four Party Coalition, said the agreement means that CSSD will not even try to solve fundamental problems before next summer's parliamentary elections, and that it is just a continuation of the two parties' "theater" for the voters. DW

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER CALLED TO TASK OVER CUBA RESOLUTION

Christian Democrat Deputy Pavel Tollner, a member of the Chamber of Deputies Foreign Affairs Committee, told CTK on 12 March that Foreign Minister Jan Kavan should consider giving up his post if his ministry's draft of a UN resolution on the human rights situation in Cuba has caused "an imprudent rift between Prague and the U.S." Freedom Union Chairman Karel Kuehnl called on the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek, to invite Kavan to the committee's meeting on 14 March. Kuehnl added that the ministry's proposed resolution benefited neither the Czech Republic nor the observance of human rights in Cuba. DW

SLOVAK COALITION CONTINUES ARGUMENT OVER NUMBER OF REGIONS

Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos on 12 March warned that a model of public administration reform being proposed, which includes eight self-governing regions, could result in an economic imbalance, CTK reported. "The money would not get to the poorest areas," government commissioner for the reform, Viktor Niznansky, who advocates 12 regions, told journalists the same day. Miklos and Niznansky were commenting on last week's statements by the coalition Democratic Left Party and the Civic Understanding Party, which backed down from their support for 12 regions and opted for an eight-region model of the country's administrative division. Miklos said the eight-region model will make it impossible for the government to lower unemployment in eastern Slovakia, which now stands at 25 percent. JM

HUNGARIAN PREMIER NOMINATES NEW MINISTER

Viktor Orban on 12 March nominated Szabolcs county chief veterinarian Andras Vonza to become Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Former Minister Jozsef Torgyan, chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) received the news with satisfaction, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The recently formed "civic section" of the FKGP parliamentary group, however, would have preferred that interim Agriculture Minister Imre Boros be nominated. The 49-year-old Vonza, an FKGP party member since 1989, will be heard next week by the parliament's agriculture and rural development committees, and could be sworn in on 26 March, the daily reports. MSZ

HUNGARY, FRANCE COMMENT ON ROMA REFUGEE ISSUE

Respected Hungarian public figures, including writers Peter Esterhazy and Gyorgy Konrad, have sent a letter to French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin thanking the persons and organizations supporting the political asylum of a group of Roma from the Hungarian village of Zamoly, Hungarian media reported on 13 March. Laszlo Hegedus, spokesman of the Strasbourg-based French-Hungarian Society, said however, that France has grossly interfered in Hungary's domestic affairs by granting refugee status to some of the Romany families. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said earlier the decision was not one of a political nature, and said that his ministry would not comment on the decision taken by the French Refugee Office. MSZ




NATO, PRESEVO FIGHTERS SIGN CEASE-FIRE

Representatives of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) signed a cease-fire agreement with NATO officials near the border crossing at Merdare on 12 March, Reuters reported. Sejdullah Kadriu, who is an official of the UCPMB's political wing, said the agreement is for one week and in preparation for full-scale peace talks. The Serbian authorities previously agreed to the cease-fire, which they appear to regard as open-ended. PM

NATO'S CABIGIOSU WELCOMES 'LEGITIMATE AUTHORITIES'

The agreement was concluded on the same day as a separate one between Belgrade and NATO to permit some Serbian forces to return to a section of the demilitarized safety zone separating Serbia from Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). KFOR commander, General Carlo Cabigiosu, said near Merdare on 12 March that Serbian forces will move into the 25 square-kilometer area "within a few days," Reuters reported. He stressed that "the aim is to allow the legitimate authorities to exercise their authority in the area." But in Sofia on 13 March, Yugoslav Defense Minister Slobodan Krapovic said he is not sure when Serbian forces will enter the zone. "We have not received full assurances over the safety of our soldiers and police forces," he noted. Krapovic added that the agreement nonetheless opens up prospects for a political solution to the problems of the region, AP reported. PM

SERBIA'S COVIC SAYS 'THINGS HAVE CHANGED'

UN civilian, ethnic Albanian, and NATO officials in Prishtina nonetheless expressed fears that the deployment will lead to instability in Kosova, the "Daily Telegraph" reported on 13 March. The previous day, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told Reuters near Merdare: "I understand the concern over the issue of the army and the police, but Serbia has new authorities now. The authorities want broad international cooperation, as do the army and the police. We are convinced this can be achieved." What he did not say is that the army General Staff is commanded by General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who led regional army units during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosova. The national paramilitary police are now headed by General Sreten Lukic, who commanded the police in Kosova during the crackdown. PM

NATO SETS LIMITS ON SERBIAN FORCES

General Cabigiosu told Milan's "Corriere della Sera" that Serbian forces will be allowed to use mortars and, under certain conditions, artillery, Reuters reported on 12 March. They will not be permitted to use armor, rocket launchers, antitank weapons, helicopters, or mines. Cabigiosu added that "we have demanded that they do not occupy houses [or] enter villages." PM

MACEDONIAN FORCES RETAKE TANUSEVCI

Macedonian army and special police units have captured the border village of Tanusevci and linked up with KFOR troops on the other side of the frontier, London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 13 March. In Skopje, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Macedonian forces "quickly and efficiently overcame" resistance by ethnic Albanian gunmen in the region, from which journalists are banned. The guerrillas vowed to fight on, however, saying that "if the international community wants one more war in the Balkans, we are ready." A guerrilla spokesman told the BBC that there are some 400 fighters in the field who can count on a civilian support network of 4,000 people. The BBC said that it is not possible to confirm these figures. PM

MACEDONIAN MINISTER REJECTS FEDERATION

Speaking in Stockholm on 12 March, Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim rejected demands by ethnic Albanian nationalists that Macedonia be reorganized as a two-part federation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). This is a long-standing policy of the Macedonian government. But even some mainstream Albanian leaders -- such as Arben Xhaferi, whose Democratic Party of the Albanians belongs to the current government -- say that the current system enables Macedonians to easily outvote Albanians in parliament when issues are decided along purely ethnic lines, Ljubljana's "Delo" reported on 13 March. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: SIMIC SURRENDER NOT ENOUGH

The New York-based NGO said in a statement on 12 March that the surrender of a former Bosnian Serb mayor, Blagoje Simic, to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague should not be considered real Yugoslav government cooperation with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). "Too many people indicted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are still at large in Serbia," said Holly Cartner of Human Rights Watch. "The Yugoslav authorities are eager to portray Simic's surrender as 'voluntary' to avoid creating any precedent that might bind them. But that doesn't change the fact that Belgrade has a clear legal obligation to surrender indictees to The Hague tribunal." The statement added that real cooperation with the tribunal must include the arrest and transfer of indictees such as former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and four others indicted for crimes against humanity in Kosova -- including current Serbian President Milan Milutinovic -- as well as former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. PM

DEL PONTE EXPECTS COOPERATION FROM YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES

Referring to Simic's decision to turn himself in to the tribunal, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said in The Hague on 12 March that "this development today is significant because it shows again, that the impartiality of [tribunal] is truly acknowledged, even by its indictee," RFE/RL reported. She added that "the fact that this surrender was carried out with the knowledge and approval of the authorities of the Republic of Serbia is a first encouraging signal. But I still expect positive action to be taken by the federal authorities of Yugoslavia on the number of issues I discussed with them in January, in particular, the proactive arrest and transfer of indictees" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 February 2001). PM

CITIZENSHIP RESTORED TO SERBIAN ROYAL FAMILY

In a 12 March ceremony in the London hotel where he was born, Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic received documents from Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic restoring his citizenship, Aleksandar's office said in a statement. Citizenship was also extended to his wife, Katarina, as well as to princes Aleksandar, Petar, and Filip. Yugoslavia's communist regime stripped the Karadjordjevic family of its citizenship, property, and titles in 1947 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). PM

YUGOSLAV DIPLOMATS INVOLVED IN DRUG TRADE?

Marko Nicovic, a former head of the Belgrade criminal police and now vice president of the board of directors of the International Police Association, said that large quantities of drugs found in the vaults of the Komercijalna banka were most likely intended for the West European and U.S. markets, "Vesti" reported on 13 March. He noted that the vast quantities of drugs kept by the State Security were too large for the Serbian market alone. Nicovic added that upon recently receiving information about the discovery in the bank vaults "all major foreign intelligence services" began investigating how Belgrade might have shipped large quantities of heroin to Kosova and to the West. Yugoslav diplomatic and foreign trade missions are under scrutiny in this respect, he added. Observers recall that during the 1998-1999 crackdown in Kosova, Belgrade's propaganda often portrayed ethnic Albanians as bosses of the drug trade. Nicovic also said that foreign police have little trust in their Serbian counterparts because "98 percent" of the Milosevic regime's officials are still in place. PM

BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVED

Despite a boycott by most Croat deputies, the legislature approved the new, non-nationalist government in Sarajevo on 12 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2001). PM

BOSNIAN SERBS SLAM CROATIAN PROPOSALS

Leading officials of Republika Srpska criticized plans by the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to form a Croatian "self-administration" system, the BBC's Serbian Service reported from Banja Luka on 13 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001). The officials also blasted a suggestion by Zagreb politician Drazen Budisa to set up a canton-based political system in Bosnia, calling the idea unwarranted interference in Bosnia's internal affairs. Republika Srpska leaders stressed that Croatia is obliged to help enforce the Dayton peace settlement and not to scuttle it. Observers note that Bosnian Serb leaders regard Dayton's provision recognizing the existence of Republika Srpska as a major achievement. PM

ROMANIAN PARTIES TO CONTEST LAW ON STATE SECRETS

Leaders of the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party on 12 March announced they will contest the recently approved law on state secrets in the Constitutional Court, Mediafax reported. The law, adopted by parliament on 7 March has been vehemently contested by the press as it is seen as limiting public access to information (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the Romanian Defense Ministry will ask NATO experts to examine the law and report on its provisions. ZsM

CONFLICT BETWEEN SECURITATE ARCHIVES COLLEGE AND INTELLIGENCE SERVICE...

National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) member Horia-Roman Patapievici accused the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) of interference in the college's activities by indirectly imposing priorities, Romanian media reported. The CNSAS asked the SRI to deliver 50 Securitate files on religious leaders and journalists, which SRI Director Radu Timofte has refused. Timofte proposed to hand over the entire Securitate archive, a proposal rejected by Patapievici, as the CNSAS does not have the necessary space to hold all of the files. ZsM

...WHILE PREMIER CRITICIZES CNSAS'S WORK AND ROLE

Prime Minister Nastase on 12 March said he "never believed and still doesn't believe in the CNSAS and its role," Mediafax reported. He added that while examining the Securitate files, the CNSAS offered "partial or untrue" data and that the opening of the files created only animosity in the country. Nastase said the CNSAS is "fighting with the past," a fight he considers useless. He added that the law on the Securitate files should be modified. Replying to Nastase's declaration, CNSAS member Mircea Dinescu said the new administration would like to close down the college, as the CNSAS will soon have to examine Party of Social Democracy in Romania Deputy Ristea Priboi, the head of the parliamentary commission supervising the Foreign Intelligence Service. Priboi is suspected of having served as a foreign intelligence officer in the former communist secret police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 2001). ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER ON FOREIGN FINANCING

Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) Chairman Vladimir Voronin on 12 March said Moldova will strictly respect all international commitments assumed by the former governments, Flux reported. Meeting with World Bank permanent representative in Moldova, Carlos Elbirt, Voronin said the PCM is interested in maintaining and extending relations with international financial bodies, as long as these relations favor economic revival. He added that the PCM's future activities will focus on economic issues. Elbirt replied that the World Bank will support "all reasonable projects" put forward by Moldova. ZsM

GAS DELIVERIES TO CHISINAU STOPPED

Moldovagaz on 12 March halted supplying gas to Termocom, Chisinau's main thermal energy provider, Moldovan media reported. Moldovagaz is demanding payment of a $2.2 million debt it is owed by Termocom. Electrical power supplier Union Fenosa announced that it will also stop deliveries to Termocom, in an attempt to cash in on a $5 million debt. Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean said an additional decision by Spanish company Union Fenosa to stop deliveries to local enterprises is politically motivated. He added that if local enterprises are actually disconnected from the electricity net, it will mean "the beginning of the end" for the capital. ZsM

MOLDOVA'S ADMITTANCE TO WTO DELAYED

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) General Council on 12 March rejected a request filed by the Moldovan government to examine Moldova's admittance in a special meeting of the board, Flux reported. The WTO will analyze Moldova's request only at its regularly scheduled meeting in May. Negotiations for Moldova's admittance were concluded last month. ZsM

BULGARIA'S STATE CARRIER DECLARED BANKRUPT

The Sofia City Court declared Balkan Airlines bankrupt on 12 March, BTA reported. Judge Kamelia Efremova said the airliner has been insolvent since late 1998, several months before Israel's Zeevi Holding Group purchased a majority stake in the company from the Bulgarian government. The judge also banned the company from transferring any of the firm's funds or assets and asked all creditors to present their claims at a hearing on 3 April. Zeevi is suing the Bulgarian government for some $230 million, citing problems with the privatization contract. The head of Bulgaria's Privatization Agency, Levon Hampartsumyan, said Zeevi could expect "a fierce legal battle" and a countersuit. Balkan Airlines grounded all flights on 14 February and was placed under a receivership. PB

MINE CLOSURES REFLECTED IN BULGARIAN INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT

Sharp decreases in production by the mining sector led to a 20.7 percent decrease in Bulgaria's industrial output in January compared to the previous month, AFP reported. Several unprofitable mines were closed, leading to a 9.5 percent decrease compared to January 2000 in coal production, and a 29.7 percent decrease in the production of minerals. Food production also showed a serious decrease, dropping by 39.2 percent in one year. On the plus side, electricity, gas, and water production increased by 14.6 percent over January 2000. Truck output (14.6) and paper production (13.6) also grew. PB




There is no End Note today.





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