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Newsline - December 16, 1996

DUMA APPROVES 1997 BUDGET.
The Duma voted by 263 to 111 on 15 December to approve on first reading the draft budget for 1997, Russian media reported. The Communists and their allies voted in favor, Yabloko and sundry democrats and nationalists against. The second and third readings will be on 25 December. Earlier this month, the Duma twice rejected the budget, prompting the government to increase planned spending by 34.8 trillion rubles ($6 billion) and introduce a parallel "development budget" of tax breaks to stimulate investment. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin accepted most of the Communists' 11 demands, pertaining to timely payment of wages and pensions and spending increases, but rejected their demand to dismiss Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. The budget projects 11.8% inflation, 2% GDP growth, spending of 530 trillion rubles, and revenue of 434 trillion. The government claims that the deficit of 96 trillion is equal to 3.5% of GDP and thus within the IMF limit. -- Peter Rutland

COMMUNIST BALANCING ACT ON BUDGET VOTE.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) held a closed plenum of its Central Committee on 14 December to discuss party strategy, in particular how to vote for the 1997 budget while saving face as a credible opposition. In his 15 December parliamentary address, KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov emphasized that if the government did not meet his party's 11 conditions, Communists "reserve the right to vote against the budget in later readings and raise a vote of no-confidence in the government," and might organize "acts of civil disobedience and protest" across Russia, NTV reported. Meanwhile, in endorsing the budget, Economics Committee Chairman and KPRF member Yurii Maslyukov said it was time for Communists to "change our style" and avoid confrontation, Reuters reported. -- Laura Belin

YAVLINSKII REMAINS FIRM.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called for the rejection of the government's budget on 15 December. He argued that the 1997 draft, "continues the same policy, does not change anything, and deepens the crises" related to internal and external debt. In an article published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 15 December, Yavlinskii called for rejecting a "budget of crisis and debt" in favor of a "budget of reform and development," which he argued would promote growth. Other deputies who had earlier opposed the budget, gave it their reluctant support. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov, for example, said that the Duma should "pass this disgusting budget with one aim in mind - to maintain stability in society." -- Laura Belin

NIKITIN RELEASED.
Retired naval captain Aleksandr Nikitin was released from custody on 14 December, although the case against him is continuing. Nikitin was arrested on 6 February on suspicion of treason and espionage for his part in a report by the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona on radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released on his own recognizance at the request of the Procurator's General's Office for procedural reasons, according to ITAR-TASS. His lawyer described the decision as a historic victory for human rights, arguing: "This is the first case in the history of Soviet-Russian state security that social pressure has succeeded in forcing the Federal Security Service to observe the laws and stop its trampling of human rights," Reuters reported. Nikitin was repeatedly denied bail and not charged until the fall. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, the first in Russia since the collapse of the USSR. -- Penny Morvant

ANOTHER RADUEV HOSTAGE-TAKING.
A detachment
of Chechen militants under field commander Salman Raduev attacked a Russian control post on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan on 14 December and abducted 22 Russian Interior Ministry troops in protest at having been refused permission to enter Dagestan, Russian and Western agencies reported. Raduev subsequently demanded an official apology from the Dagestani authorities, who dispatched Dagestan Security Council secretary Magomet Tolboev to negotiate the hostages' release. NTV quoted Raduev as saying the hostage-taking was to protest the proposed Chechen presidential elections on 27 January, which he claims are illegal as Dzhokhar Dudaev, believed killed by a Russian missile in April, is still alive. Interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov and his deputy Movladi Udugov condemned the attack as a provocation. Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, commander of Russia's Internal Troops in Chechnya, warned it could delay the planned withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops in Chechnya. Negotiations continue for the release of the hostages. -- Liz Fuller

DUMA ACTS AGAINST REGIONAL SEPARATISM.
The Duma approved on 11 December in the second reading a bill designed to stop Russia's autonomous okrugs from seceding from the krais or oblasts to which they are subordinate, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 December. The bill declares that all resources in the okrugs belong to the krai or oblast and that the okrugs must hold elections for the oblast or krai governor. The wealthy Khanty-Mansi, Yamal-Nenets, Nenets, and Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) autonomous okrugs want greater independence in order to gain more control over the income generated from the resources on their territory. The Duma is moving quickly in order to try to preserve the integrity of Tyumen Oblast, where gubernatorial elections are set for 22 December. Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets are working to prevent the elections from being valid on their territory. -- Robert Orttung

NENETS INCUMBENT LOSES REELECTION.
The incumbent governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Khabarov, was defeated in the 13 December gubernatorial run-off. Khabarov, who was supported by the presidential administration and the opposition, received about 39% of the vote, 10% less than his rival Vladimir Butov, a businessman and member of the okrug's legislature. In the first round on 1 December, Butov finished second with 18% fewer votes than the incumbent governor but managed to double his support between the rounds. Kommersant-Daily described Butov as a "capitalist shark" who promised the voters high salaries and pensions. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

DUMA PROTESTS ASTRAKHAN VOTE.
Several Duma members who acted as observers during the 8 December gubernatorial elections in Astrakhan claimed that the incumbent governor, Anatolii Guzhvin, violated constitutional provisions for fair elections, Kommersant-Daily reported on 16 December. Following their testimony, the Duma asked Yeltsin to suspend Guzhvin while the charges are investigated. Guzhvin won 52% of the vote, while his opponent from the pro-Communist Popular Power Duma faction received 40%. The Communists have also protested the gubernatorial results in Rostov, where the incumbent won by a landslide, while the administration managed to overturn the results in Amur after the Communist challenger apparently defeated the incumbent by a margin of 189 votes. -- Robert Orttung

MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS TO CREATE COORDINATING COUNCIL.
Duma deputy Ramazan Abdulatipov on 15 December announced plans to set up a Coordinating Council
of Russia's Muslim organizations. He said that the council will coordinate the activities of about two dozen Russian Muslim organisations and seek to defend the rights of Russia's Muslims in cooperation with the authorities, Kommersant-Daily reported on 16 December. Abdulatipov, a former deputy chairman of the upper house of the parliament, will head the new council. He opposed a plan by the Union of Muslims to organize a Muslim group in the Duma (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 December 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

RUSSIA HAILS NEW UN SECRETARY-GENERAL.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov welcomed the UN Security Council's 13 December nomination of Kofi Annan as the next secretary-general of the organization, terming him a "flexible and skilled leader," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December. The Security Council unanimously approved Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat currently serving as UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, after France withdrew its objections to his candidacy. He now faces a confirmation vote in the General Assembly on 17 December. Tarasov expressed hope that Annan would "make an active contribution to the rebuilding of the UN" and help it adapt "to the needs of the emerging multipolar world." -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW PIQUED OVER CHECHEN OFFICE IN WARSAW.
Although Polish officials have assured Moscow that the Chechen Information Center in Warsaw has no official status, the Russian Foreign Ministry is still unhappy with Warsaw's actions, Izvestiya reported on 15 December. An anonmyous Russian diplomat described the ceremonial opening of the center on 13 December, which reportedly included the raising of the Chechen flag and was attended by Polish parliamentarians, as "unacceptable," calling it interference in Russian internal affairs. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov told NTV that any attempt to transform the office into a "pseudo-embassy" would have "the most negative consequences" for Russian-Polish relations. Chechen Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev told Izvestiya , however, that Chechnya's only offical foreign mission is in Moscow, adding that Chechnya cannot recieve international recognition until it resolves its relationship with Russia. -- Scott Parrish

MARS PROBE UPDATE.
Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said on 13 December that the failed Russian Mars-96 probe, reported to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile on 17 November, actually fell in Bolivia near the Chilean border, Reuters reported. Despite assurances by Russian officials, Chilean and Bolivian officials have expressed worry about possible radioactive contamination resulting from the 200 grams of plutonium the probe carried as part of its power supplies, and Santiago accused Moscow of being "tremendously unwilling" to share technical information about the probe. A spokesman for the Lavochkin design bureau, which worked on the probe, refuted the Chilean report on 14 December, telling ITAR-TASS that it had indeed fallen in the ocean without causing any damage. -- Scott Parrish

WAGE ARREARS MOUNT.
The total wage debt in Russia equaled 46.6 trillion rubles on 25 November, up 3.5 trillion from 28 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December citing the State Statistics Committee. Organizations and enterprises funded directly by the state accounted for 8.58 trillion of the total. Mounting wage arrears are continuing to trigger strikes and other forms of protest. AFP on 16 December quoted Vitalii Budko, chairman of the Coal Industry Workers' Union, as saying that the government was failing to keep to the timetable agreed for the payment of subsidies to the industry and that another strike may be called. Miners in Rostov, who refused to abide by a union decision to end a 10-day national miners' strike on 12 December, held protest rallies in Shakhty and Novoshakhtinsk on 15 December. -- Penny Morvant

IMF RESUMES LOANS.
The IMF executive board approved on 13 December the disbursement of the eighth (October) $336 million tranche of the $10.1 billion Extended Fund Facility loan it granted Russia in March, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 14 December. The decision was made on the basis of improvements in tax collection, which totaled 20.1 trillion rubles ($3.8 billion) in November (up from 14.6 trillion in October), of which 87% was actual cash, rather than tax credits. However, Kommersant-Daily on 15 December reported that the IMF executive board criticized the Russian government for their inability to pay pensions on time and for their failure to liberalize energy prices, which are still distorted. -- Natalia Gurushina



AZERBAIJAN SIGNS ANOTHER OIL CONTRACT.
Representatives of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR signed on 14 December a $2 billion 25-year contract with a consortium of U.S., Japanese, and Saudi Arabian companies to develop the Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi Caspian shelf deposits, Russian and Western agencies reported. The deposits are estimated to contain 150 million metric tons of oil and up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas. SOCAR will have a 20% stake in the project, Amoco 30%, Unocal 25.5%, Itochu 20%, and Saudi Arabia's Delta 4.5%. Russia's LUKoil is not a direct participant in the consortium but could acquire an interest, since SOCAR plans to link the development of Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi with that of the nearby Karabakh deposit, according to AFP of 14 December quoting Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

GEORGIAN NAVAL COMMANDER REJECTS RATIONALE FOR SACKING.
Rear Admiral Aleksandr Djavakhishvili, former commander of the Georgian navy, has rejected criticism from Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze that he failed to eradicate financial irregularites and raise the combat efficiency of the service, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Djavakhishvili was dismised from his post last week by Nadibaidze. The two men have very different views on the optimum size of the navy, whether Georgia should persist with its claim to part of the Black Sea Fleet, and military cooperation with Ukraine, according to Segodnya of 5 December. A member of the opposition National Democrats faction within the Georgian parliament, Beso Djugeli, has demanded Nadibaidze's impeachment on the grounds that he has allegedly ruined the country's entire military-industrial complex, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 15 December. -- Liz Fuller

CEASE-FIRE TAKING HOLD IN TAJIKISTAN.
The cease-fire agreement signed at the conclusion of a 10-11 December meeting between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri appears to be reducing fighting in central Tajikistan, according to international sources. This latest agreement seemed doomed when less than 24 hours after its signing two bombs went off in the Tajik capital and fighting was reported in Garm. Four government soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the town on 13 December. However, by 15 December only sporadic gunfire was reported near Garm, although a special unit of government troops remains surrounded. AFP reported that a special meeting was held on 13 December in Dushanbe attended by representatives of the government, opposition, and UN special envoy Gerd Merrem to prevent the cease-fire agreement from falling apart. -- Bruce Pannier



RUSSIA RELEASES UKRAINIAN CREW.
The Ukrainian ship "Almaz," which was detained by Russian border guards in Georgia on 4 December, was released along with its crew on 13 December, Ukrainian radio and international agencies reported on 16 December. The captain of the vessel remains in custody under suspicion of smuggling. The Russian Security Service said the captain had been accused of smuggling foodstuffs and drinks in August and is expected to be charged with similar activities in the next few days. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov admitted that Russian border guards had violated certain rules by not informing the Georgian authorities of the detention, adding that he wants the case to be closed. In a briefing, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said the case is closed but that talks would continue over the captain's detention. Statements by both Russian and Ukrainian officials indicate that they do not want the incident to lead to a deterioration in Russian-Ukrainian relations. -- Ustina Markus

DEBATES ON DEFINING MINIMUM WAGE CONTINUE IN UKRAINE.
The Ukrainian Parliament on 13 November voted on a resolution that would set the minimum wage and the minimum pension at 70.9 hryvnyas ($37.70), but there was confusion over whether or not the resolution was passed. UNIAN reported that it was not passed, while ITAR-TASS reported that it was. The parliamentary Commission for Social Policy and Labor had proposed the low-income threshold, but Labor Minister Mykola Biloblotsky said the proposed level would throw 4.9 million people out of work. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

BELARUSIAN CRACKDOWN.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 12 December instructed all border crossing points in the country not to allow deputies from the old parliament who have not joined the new one to cross the border on diplomatic passports, Belapan reported. Two days later, border guards refused to allow the speaker of the old parliament, Syamyon Sharetsky, to cross the border into Poland at Hrodna and confiscated his passport, saying that it is no longer valid, international agencies reported. The same day, Reuters reported that the leader of the Social Democratic Hramada, Mykola Statkevich, has been sentenced to 15 days in prison for his part in organizing an unauthorized rally in Minsk on 8 December. A dozen other rally participants also received fines or sentences. Statkevich announced that he will stage a hunger strike in protest. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RUSSIANS; EU ISSUES WARNING.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 13 December held a closed-door meeting with representatives of Russian political and business circles, including hard-liners Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Mikhail Monastyrskii, to discuss Russian-Belarusian economic integration, ITAR-TASS reported. The meeting was reportedly held in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Meanwhile, the EU on 14 December adopted a statement expressing serious concerns over developments in Belarus, Reuters reported. The EU urged Lukashenka to restore respect for democratic and constitutional principles in his country and accept the EU's proposal to send a fact-finding mission to Belarus. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS.
President Algirdas Brazauskas on 13 December signed the mass media law amendments that change the composition of the National Radio and TV Board, Radio Lithuania reported. The Seimas passed the amendments on 5 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 December 1996). Brazauskas, who initially opposed the changes, had to comply when the Seimas confirmed the amendments a second time. The old board met on 13 December as scheduled, even though it was to be dissolved the next day, and elected a new director general in a sign of protest. -- Saulius Girnius

MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY IN POLAND.
Solidarity trade union and rightist opposition parties staged rallies across the country on 13 December to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the imposition of martial law, Polish media reported on 14 December. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in a speech broadcast on public TV that he "bows his head before the martial law victims." Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Communist Party's first secretary at that time, declared again that he "is ready to stand before any court or tribunal" to assess his decision to impose martial law. Meanwhile, according to a Public Opinion Research Center poll, 54% of Poles say the decision to impose martial law was justifiable, compared with 30% who say it was not. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH BUDGET APPROVED, SOCIAL DEMOCRATS EXPEL REBELS.
The Czech Parliament
on 13 December approved the country's budget for 1997, Czech media
reported. The passage of the balanced budget, proposed by the minority
government but opposed by the opposition parties, was made possible because
two deputies from the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Jozef Wagner and
Tomas Teplik, decided to vote in favor of the budget. The CSSD leadership
voted on 14 December to expel the two deputies. CSSD Deputy Chairman Karel
Machovec, who himself voted in favor of the budget in the first reading but
supported the party line in the final vote, said that "expulsions are bad,
inadmissible." -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES PENAL CODE AMENDMENT.
The parliament on 13 December opened debate on "the protection of the republic" penal code amendment, Sme reported. Opposition deputies boycotted the session and some ruling coalition representatives were also absent. Since only 68 deputies remained in the 150-member parliament, voting was delayed until 17 December. Although the Slovak National Party (SNS) continues to support the legislation, some representatives of its coalition partners--the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Association of Workers (ZRS)--are reportedly opposed. Opposition deputies issued a statement calling the amendment a "gross attack on basic human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Slovak constitution." In other news, a November opinion poll by the Focus agency showed the HZDS's support falling to 24.4%, followed by four opposition parties with a combined total of 40.9% and the SNS with 7.1%, TASR reported on 15 December. The ZRS polled only 3.7%. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON EU INTEGRATION.
Speaking after the EU summit in Dublin, Vladimir Meciar on 14 December said Slovakia is a democratic country that fulfills the conditions for EU membership, CTK reported. Slovakia has achieved better economic results than any other EU-associated country, he stressed, adding that it faces no social problems and its legal system is in harmony with the EU's. The only remaining step is "to improve trust in our democratic system," Meciar emphasized. He said he is not aware of any EU reservations about Slovakia. In reaction to the European Parliament's recent resolution criticizing the Slovak parliament's decision to strip dissident Deputy Frantisek Gaulieder of his mandate, ruling coalition representatives said the affair is "an internal matter," Sme reported on 14 December. Meanwhile, in a letter dated 10 December, EU-Slovak joint parliamentary committee co-chairman Herbert Boesch issued yet another warning to Slovakia regarding the Gaulieder affair, Praca reported six days later. -- Sharon Fisher

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS HUNGARIAN EDITION OF MEIN KAMPF.
The publisher of a new translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has decided to appeal the Budapest prosecutor general's 22 November suspension of retail sales of the book, Nepszabadsag reported. The publisher says that Mein Kampf, which was not legally available to anyone but researchers during the communist era, has historical value and should be available to readers. The new Hungarian translation is by Aron Monus, a Hungarian emigre who returned from France after 1989. Monus's own anti-Semitic books were banned in 1991, but he later won an appeal against the ban on freedom of speech grounds. After Monus sold 2,000 copies of the new Hungarian translation of Mein Kampf in October and November, the head of Hungary's Jewish Community, Peter Feldmayer, appealed to the district attorney to have the book banned. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




BIGGEST BELGRADE PROTEST YET.
An estimated 250,000 people participated in a demonstration in Belgrade on 15 December in the largest gathering of the ongoing peaceful protest to date, Radio B92 reported. On the same day, a court in Nis ruled that the opposition coalition Zajedno had won the 17 November runoff municipal elections, and urged the local electoral commission to recognize those returns. Serbia-wide mass demonstrations, now backed by students and trade unionists, developed first as a call for the regime to recognize opposition wins at the municipal level but have evolved into calls for the resignation of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Finally, on 15 December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum met with Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic for more than two hours in Geneva. Kornblum emerged from the meeting expressing his support for the "democratic process" in Serbia, Reuters reported. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN PRESIDENT REACTS TO ZAJEDNO.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher released on 13 December, Slobodan Milosevic finally broke his silence on the issue of the opposition Zajedno coalition and the ongoing mass public demonstrations. Milosevic denied all allegations that he had engaged in or engineered electoral fraud to undermine the 17 November opposition victories, international media reported. He also stressed that he would not use force against "peaceful" demonstrators but described the protesters as "vandals" and "political terrorists." Meanwhile, the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia condemned Zajedno, dubbing it a force bent on "destabilizing" Serbia. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN ELECTIONS ON HOLD?
The Croatian member of the three-man presidency,
Kresimir Zubak, said that the postponed local vote will not be held in the spring as many had suggested. Zubak stated that the ballot will take place instead in the summer or even later, AFP reported on 14 December. The local elections were postponed from 14 September into the new year following a dispute over what was called the P-2 option. That provision allowed persons to register in any locality where they say they will eventually live. P-2 led to massive fraud, especially by the Bosnian Serb authorities, who forced voters into registering in strategic towns. The Muslims then complained and forced the OSCE to postpone the vote. The Serbs, for their part, refuse to honor any new ballot without the P-2 option. The deadlock continues despite some hopes expressed over the weekend that it might soon be broken. -- Patrick Moore

CROATS, MUSLIMS AGREE ON NEW GOVERNMENT.
. .
Officials of the mainly Croatian and Muslim Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed on 14 December that the legislature will elect a new government on 18 December. At a subsequent session, the legislature will select a president and vice president, international and local media reported. Kresimir Zubak is the current federal president but must step down because he holds a post on the joint presidency that includes a Muslim and a Serb as well. The two sides agreed on setting up joint police forces for Sarajevo, Mostar, and central Bosnia, as well as on setting up the ministries of commerce, transport, energy, and industry in Mostar. -- Patrick Moore

. . . BUT NOT ON EVICTION ISSUE.
Kresimir Zubak on 13 December blocked a session of the Muslim-Croat Federation planning to discuss the evictions of Muslims from the Croat-held part of Mostar, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. Zubak claimed the agenda had been set without prior consultation with Croat members. The federation's vice president, Ejup Ganic, said after the meeting that the future of the Dayton peace accords is at stake in Mostar. But Zubak tried to play down the evictions, saying that events in Mostar "have been purposely exaggerated ... to cover up other problems in the rest of the federation and what is happening to Croats," AFP reported. Meanwhile, U.S. diplomat Robert Beecroft said the U.S. is prepared to apply the heaviest of pressure to make the federation work. NATO also warned Bosnian Croat forces, who allegedly participated in the evictions of Muslims, that "swift military action" would be taken against them if their involvement was confirmed. -- Daria Sito Sucic

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT URGES CROATIA TO RESPECT PRESS FREEDOM.
The European Parliament on 12 December passed a resolution expressing deep concern at the government's treatment of the independent Zagreb radio station Radio 101, Hina reported the next day. The resolution called on Croatia to "renew Radio 101's permit to broadcast before it runs out on 15 January 1997." Last month, the government gave Radio 101's broadcasting concession to the rival station but later backtracked on the move after 100,000 people demonstrated against it in Zagreb. Meanwhile, Croatian police on 13 December detained a senior official of the Croatian Open Society foundation, and released her two hours later, Reuters reported. Police also released two of her colleagues who were detained for not reporting how much money they had when entering the country (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 December 1996). According to the law, travelers entering Croatia are not required to report foreign currency in their possession. -- Daria Sito Sucic

DEMACI JOINS KOSOVO'S PARLIAMENTARY PARTY.
The head of the Kosovo Human Rights Council, Adem Demaci, has joined the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, Deutsche Welle's Albanian language service told OMRI on 16 December. Observers see the move as a challenge to shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, who is pursuing a passive policy aimed at securing the region's independence from Serbia. Demaci has criticized Rugova's policy as ineffective and has called for open protests and demonstrations against the Serbian regime. However, Demaci has also advocated talks with Belgrade, implying that a solution may be found through a new federal Yugoslav constitution that would separate Kosovo from Serbia. Rugova, who met with Secretary of State Warren Christopher in the U.S. on 13 December, has failed to use the mass protests in Belgrade to give momentum to Kosovo's struggle against the Serbian government. -- Fabian Schmidt

HUNGARIAN PREFECTS IN ROMANIA.
The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) will have three prefects, according to an agreement reached by the political parties making up the new governmental coalition. The daily Jurnalul national reported on 16 December that the UDMR will have prefects in the counties of Harghita, Salaj, and Satu Mare, and deputy prefects in Covasna, Hunedoara, Mures, and Bucharest. Harghita and Covasna are inhabited by strong ethnic Hungarian majorities and, with the exception of Bucharest, the other four counties have relatively large ethnic Hungarian populations. According to the agreement, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic will have 19 prefects, the Social Democratic Union 12, the National Liberal Party seven, and the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention one prefect. -- Michael Shafir

CIORBEA VISITS SITE OF NATURAL CALAMITY.
Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 15 December visited the village of Parcovaci near Harlau, Iasi county, which was hit by a landslide. The slide has affected about 250 acres of land and has caused the river bed to raise about 30 cm, threatening to flood large areas of land. About 100 homes are affected, but there are no reports on loss of life. Ciorbea, who was accompanied by several other members of the government, promised emergency aid, Radio Bucharest reported on 16 December. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN LEADER ON PROSPECTS OF SETTLING TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT.
Vladimir Solonari, the leader of the Moldovan Civic Unity Movement, said the victory of Petru Lucinschi in the presidential run-off on 1 December opens the way for a settlement of the conflict with the breakaway Transdniester region, Infotag reported on 13 December. Solonari, who was one of Lucinschi's most ardent supporters, added that any settlement must respect Moldova's borders. He said the inhabitants of the breakaway region were "tired of uncertainty" and "longing to live in a unified country." According to Solonari, Russia can play a positive role in finding a solution to the conflict and Lucinschi can utilize his "good connections in Moscow" to influence the Tiraspol authorities to agree to "a reasonable compromise." -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS PREPARE FOR PARTY CONGRESS.
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) members attended some 80 local conferences on 14-15 December to elect their delegates to the extraordinary BSP congress scheduled for 21-22 December, the BSP daily Duma reported on 16 December. Many of the local conferences called for a new government. BSP parliamentary faction leader Krasimir Premyanov said that strong criticism and a possible government reshuffle as a result of the congress are legitimate, but that the party's unity must be preserved. Former BSP Deputy Chairman Yanaki Stoilov accused Prime Minister and BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov's government of incompetence and of lying to the people about the future. Most ministers and prominent BSP leaders were elected as delegates, but several prominent reformist BSP members--including Andrey Raychev, Velislava Dareva, and Dimitar Yonchev of the Alliance for Social Democracy--failed to get elected. Local conferences will also be held this week. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN STUDENTS HOLD STREET PROTESTS.
About 1,000 students, led by dissident Azem Hajdari, demonstrated against Albanian TV chief Qemal Sakajeva in Tirana on 13 December, Deutsche Welle's Albanian service reported. Hajdari accused Sakajeva of biased reporting and criticized the government as corrupt and authoritarian. The demonstrators were also protesting low wages, pensions, and stipends. Hajdari called on the trade unions and students to unite in a fight for better living conditions. Since November, Hajdari has also been heading a breakaway faction of the Union of Independent Trade Unions. Hajdari did not attend the recent official celebrations of the sixth anniversary of the students' movement and the founding of Albania's Democratic Party. -- Fabian Schmidt



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