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Newsline - August 25, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 166, 25 August 1995
Although the major groups of the patriotic opposition support the common goal of restoring Russia as a great power, they do not want to form a united bloc, Izvestiya reported on 25 August. The main cleavage is between the national-patriots and the Communist-patriots, with numerous divisions within each of the camps. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats take the most extreme position, declaring "we have no allies." Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi's Derzhava also rejects any ties to the Communist Party and to the Congress of Russian Communities because of the presence of Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed in its leadership. Several of the smaller parties at this end of the political spectrum have formed alliances, but they are unlikely to win many votes. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Mikhail Shmakov's trade union electoral bloc and Vladimir Shcherbakov's Russian United Industrialist Party held negotiations with Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin about a possible electoral alliance, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin tried to recruit the three parties for his Yeltsin-sponsored left-center bloc, but they all spurned cooperation with him. Shcherbakov said that a bloc with the Agrarians would be a "real left-wing centrist association" and that final decisions will be made by 5 September, when the parties are holding congresses to select their list of candidates. Lapshin expressed some willingness to coordinate with the parties, Interfax reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly has asked President Yeltsin to approve its plan to hold elections for oblast governor on 17 December in conjunction with the parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. There is still no federal legislation on electing governors, but the Perm legislature last month approved a local law on electing its governor. At the moment, Yeltsin has reserved the right to appoint oblast governors. He granted Sverdlovsk special permission to hold the election for governor which took place earlier this week, and which resulted in the surprise defeat of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's favored candidate. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Bryansk Oblast Duma voted to remove its chairman Valerii Rogachev for discrediting the local legislature, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. Working with former Bryansk Governor Vladimir Karpov, the Duma charges, Rogachev gave generous tax benefits to several commercial enterprises in the region. Rogachev was on vacation when the vote was taken, although he had been invited to the session. Yeltsin removed former Governor Karpov on 16 August, and his replacement, Vladimir Barabanov, participated in the Duma session. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Confederation of Journalists' Unions announced the winners of its annual prizes "for courage and professionalism," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. St. Petersburg journalist Lev Korsunskii of the St. Petersburg newspaper Chas Pik won the prize for crime reporting named after Dmitrii Kholodov, the journalist killed in October 1994 while investigating corruption in the military. Among the other recipients were 15 journalists who in June volunteered to accompany Chechen fighters and hostages traveling from Budennovsk to Chechnya. The prizes were established in August 1991 to honor journalists who demonstrated courage and professionalism during the attempted coup. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Following a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Lysenko, chairman of the Duma Committee on the Development of Federalism, said that Oleg Lobov, secretary of the Security Council, had been appointed to be the special presidential representative to Chechnya, Interfax reported on 24 August. NTV later reported that the presidential press service refused to confirm or deny Lobov's appointment. Lysenko quoted Yeltsin as praising Lobov's "high professional qualities" and saying that with his appointment, "the situation in Chechnya will embark on a normal, working path." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

In Grozny, a spokesman for the federal forces told Interfax on 24 August that the disarmament of Chechen fighters had begun in the Vedensk, Achkhoi-Martan, Nozhai-Yurt, and Sunzhen regions of Chechnya. He added that a protocol outlining practical details of the disarmament process had been signed on 24 August by General Anatolii Romanov, commander of federal forces, and Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov. However, another federal military spokesman expressed concern with the slow pace of disarmament, telling Interfax that Chechen fighters have only turned in 221 weapons to date, while the military estimates that over 60,000 weapons are in the hands of the fighters. Sporadic fighting continued overnight in Chechnya, with federal positions coming under fire 10 times, wounding eight federal servicemen, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Experts from the St. Petersburg Institute of Hygiene and Disease Prevention said they could find no evidence that chemical weapons had been used in the Chechen village of Avtury, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. This was the third investigation into the possible use of such agents by federal forces. The other two also returned the same opinion. Yurii Musiichuk, the institute's director, said 110 of the 226 Avtury residents his team examined had scabies--a disease medical professionals estimate could affect one quarter of Chechnya's population. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The fighting in Chechnya has cost the military 1.9 trillion rubles ($430 million), more than its entire budget for the current fiscal year, the Defense Ministry chief of the military budget and finances told ITAR-TASS on 24 August. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Osadchi said the war alone is not the sole cause of the military's financial crisis. He explained that the Finance Ministry has not been allocating the armed forces all the money called for in the budget. "The outstanding debt to the Defense Ministry for the last year was 12 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion) and the debt has been growing this year," he said. Osadchi added that the Defense Ministry is 3.6 trillion rubles ($820 million) in debt and does not have the money to pay wages to either uniformed or civilian personnel. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

At a meeting of the Russian government on 24 August, several members of the cabinet expressed concern with illegal Chinese immigration in the Russian Far East, Western and Russian agencies reported. Interfax reported quoted Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as saying "Chinese citizens are peacefully conquering Russia's Far East," and adding that military sources had reported that Chinese settlers in the region have organized martial arts training centers. The head of the Federal Migration Service, Tatyana Regent, admitted that Chinese are using "illegal immigration channels" to settle in the Russian Far East. She suggested that to counter this trend, some of the 5 million ethnic Russians who are expected to migrate to Russia from other areas of the former Soviet Union be resettled there. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets supported those views, adding that the government should develop a program to deport illegal Chinese immigrants from the region and assist local authorities, who have repeatedly expressed concern with the issue. The cabinet discussion followed the 23 August signing in Beijing of a Russian-Chinese border policing agreement. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

The Baltic Fleet and other military installations in Kaliningrad Oblast have been experiencing power cuts because the military owes local power companies more than 24 billion rubles ($5.4 million), Segodnya reported on 24 August. The Baltic Fleet command has urged the local energy company and the government to show common sense and come up with a solution. This is not the first time that payments problems have resulted in power being shut off to military installations in Russia. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

The wages of teachers, researchers, and medical workers will be raised on 1 September, Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov announced on 24 August, Russian Public TV reported. The increase will be implemented in two stages: wages will be raised by about 50% on 1 September and then by another 50% on 1 November. According to the report, the lowest salary for a school teacher at the start of the academic year will be about 350,000 rubles (about $79) a month and for a teacher at a higher educational establishment, 450,000 rubles ($102). Education and health care, professions in which women predominate, have traditionally been two of the lowest paid sectors. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

In a move to continue holding to tight monetary and budget targets, Russia's government and Central Bank pledged on 24 August to extend the ruble exchange rate corridor zone against the U.S. dollar from 1 October until the end of the year, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The corridor zone, established on 5 July, allows the ruble to fluctuate between 4,300 and 4,900 to $1. President Yeltsin's chief economic adviser, Aleksandr Livshits, said the extension of the corridor signals that the government and Central Bank are sure they are strong enough to prevent any destabilization of the financial market. The ruble traded at an unchanged rate of 4,428 rubles to $1 in 24 August MICEX trading -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

The announcement that the ruble corridor had been extended caused turmoil on the Russian money market and a halt to interbank ruble-dollar trade, Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 August. Overnight money market interest rates soared from 300% per anum to 1,000% on 23 August. Dealers said many institutions were desperate for cash, but banks were reluctant to lend, fearing they would not get their money back. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said that although the ruble corridor will benefit the economy because it will channel money away from currency speculation and into real investments, it may "profoundly shake" the banking industry. There are more than 2,500 banks, many of which relied on profits from currency speculation. The acting head of the Central Bank of Russia, Tatyana Paramonova, denied that there is a banking crisis and said the bank will back the liquidity of the country's banking system, Interfax reported on 24 August. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 166, 25 August 1995
After months of acrimonious debate, on 24 August the Georgian parliament finally approved by a vote of 159-8 a new draft constitution providing for an executive presidency and a unicameral parliament, Russian and Western agencies reported. The president is to be elected by popular vote for a period of five years and will nominate and head the cabinet. The new constitution does not address the issue of relations between Tbilisi and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetiya. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Following the lifting of bread price controls on 20 August, Tajik authorities have decided to allocate 345 million Tajik rubles to the budget to cover the payment of wage and pension arrears, Tajik and Russian media reported on 23 August. It is not clear if the funds involved have been re-allocated or if additional Tajik rubles will be printed to pay salaries and pensions that have not been paid since May. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

An opinion poll conducted by the independent Almaty-based Giller Institute found that most people in Kazakhstan know little or nothing about the draft constitution to be voted on in a 30 August referendum, the institute's director Leonid Gurevich told Reuters on 24 August. However, those who plan to vote largely support the constitution, he said. The poll of 1,500 respondents in eight cities in Kazakhstan, conducted earlier this month, found that just 8% of voters said they had read the constitution closely; 32% had "heard something" about the draft and 31% said they knew nothing about it. The poll results show that some 52% have reported an intention to vote--just above the 50% required for a valid referendum. Among those who intend to vote, 71% support the draft constitution and 29% are opposed to it. The survey did not cover rural areas. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 166, 25 August 1995
Slovakia's Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting on 24 August granted a license extension for one year, instead of six, to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), alleging that the U.S.-sponsored station is anti-Slovak, Western and Slovak media reported. Another international broadcaster, the BBC, received a six-year extension. Peter Juras, chairman of the board for radio and television, told journalists in Bratislava that "the reason for this decision was our conclusion that the station violated its own code of ethics," adding that some RFE/RL comments lacked balance. Another member of the board said that the board had the impression the station was "anti-Slovak." RFE/RL officials have welcomed the extension of the license, vowing to continue providing the "high quality programs our Slovak listeners expect of us." Both RFE/RL and the BBC broadcast in the Slovak language via medium wave transmitters leased in Slovakia; their current licenses expire at the end of 1995. RFE/RL has been a recent target of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his allies. Some RFE/RL correspondents were physically attacked by Meciar supporters during a rally in Bratislava last year and, in March 1994, the Meciar government temporarily pulled the plug on RFE/RL's Czech and Slovak programs in Slovakia, claiming a bias against Meciar. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

A spokesman for Slovak President Michal Kovac told journalists on 24 August that the president "does not intend to step down and will not accept the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar," should Meciar decide to resign. Jan Carnogursky, chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, said on 24 August that his party "had information that Meciar wants to resign in September unless the president steps down." According to Carnogursky, the president should not accept the resignation of Meciar and his government and "should stay in his post." Kovac said on 24 August that he is not interested in "intensifying conflict with the government" and will not react to government attacks. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

In remarks to radio reporters on 24 August, President Lech Walesa charged that Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy "cheats however he can and lies whenever he can," Gazeta Wyborcza reported. Asked why he had used an open letter to demand that the government increase military spending rather than raise the matter directly with the prime minister, Walesa said he intended to communicate with Oleksy only in writing or in the presence of witnesses, as otherwise the prime minister could falsify the record of the discussion. Walesa also said that if he is re-elected president he will dismiss National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Walesa charged that Gronkiewicz-Waltz's candidacy was supported by postcommunist banking circles. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

Poland became the 35th country to ratify the convention banning the production, possession, or use of chemical weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. The convention was opened for signature in January 1993 and so far 159 nations have signed it. However, 65 must ratify it before it comes into force. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Hungary on 24 August strengthened its defenses with eastern Slavonia, a territory in Croatia held by rebel Serbs, Western agencies reported. A border guard spokesman said the move was in response to tension on the border between Serbia and Croatia, which, he claimed, "was visibly mounting." According to the spokesman, five border guard units have been brought in from other areas of Hungary to patrol the 66-kilometer section of the border. He said patrols would be stepped up but called the measures "purely precautionary." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

President Leonid Kuchma presided over national celebrations marking four years since the Ukrainian Parliament declared the former Soviet republic an independent state, Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine reported on 24 August. Kuchma told a rally in Kiev that Ukraine had laid the foundations for a prosperous economy but still needed to overcome many of the mistakes made in the first years of independence. He said the country needed its own economic model rather than copying Western ones. He said a so-called constitutional accord between himself and a majority of lawmakers, signed in June, set political reforms in motion and laid the groundwork for the formation of a presidential/parliamentary system of government. He said the pact also dismantled the "impotent" Soviet system of administration. The Ukrainian leader also announced that the government was prepared to serve as a mediator in talks over the unification of rival Orthodox churches in Ukraine in an effort to end religious tensions that have occasionally erupted into violence over church property. He said that despite accusations of "persecution" by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate after riot police clashed with mourners at the recent funeral of its patriarch, his government would not favor one confession over another in disputes over property and other matters. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Following a visit to Washington by Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich and Chairman of the National Bank of Belarus Stanislau Bahdankevich, the acting managing director of the IMF, Stanley Fischer, said that Belarus had made considerable progress in reforming and stabilizing its economy and that he was confident the IMF board would consider the country's request for a $290 million tranche of a stand-by loan next month, Reuters and AFP reported on 24 August. Fischer praised Minsk for its efforts to meet IMF conditions, especially in making its international credit payments. He said almost all key issues regarding the release of the credit have been resolved, although discussions on the technicalities of some aspects continue. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Minsk Municipal Court has ruled that a strike staged by metro workers on 17 August was illegal, Belarusian Radio reported on 23 August. The following day Interfax reported that deputy Syarhei Antonchyk told a press conference that police had detained around 30 strikers for their actions. Three trade-union leaders--Henadz Bykau, Mykola Kanakh and Uladzimir Makarchuk--were sentenced to 10-15 days of administrative detention. Antonchyk himself had been detained for around three days despite his parliamentary immunity, but no charges were filed against him and he was ultimately released. There are conflicting stories about the legality of his arrest. One report stated that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued an order suspending parliament deputies' immunity, but presidential spokesman Uladzimir Zamyatalin denied the existence of such a decree. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

An article in the 24 August Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung rebukes German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe for his remarks in the Baltic States on their possible NATO membership. It cites Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel as saying that the security architecture in the Baltics could not be built at the expense of the Baltic States. Germany and the European Union, he said, understand their wish to become NATO members and would not accept the creation of gray areas of security. The honorary chairman of the Free Democratic Party, Otto von Lambsdorff, said that Germany should make every effort to avoid creating zones of different security in Russia's neighborhood. In his opinion, Ruehe's remarks could evoke the "highest concern" for the Baltic states over Bonn's foreign policy course. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The law on radio and television, adopted by the Saeima on 24 August, provides that state television and radio be financed from the state budget while privately-owned channels ensure their own existence, BNS reported. The idea of having subscription fees for radio and television owners was rejected. The Saeima will appoint a nine-member National Radio and Television Council to a four-year term. Foreign television stations, Latvian radio, cable and satellite broadcasters are exempted from the law's requirement that the broadcasting time in a foreign language not exceed 30% of total airtime per month. Starting 1 January, commercials for alcoholic beverages--except wine and beer--and tobacco products will be banned. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 166, 25 August 1995
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic has again blasted the "false information" that claims that Croatian forces have systematically burned or destroyed abandoned Serbian property in Krajina, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 25 August. Granic said that there were isolated cases of excesses that would be firmly punished, but that they were not the work of regular Croatian forces. To date 524 Serbian corpses have been counted, of which 24 civilians have been identified. The minister rejected Bosnian Serb offers of a territorial exchange in southern Croatia. Granic is visiting Austria, whose Prime Minister Franz Vranitzky has criticized Croatia over Krajina. The former Slovenian defense minister, Janez Jansa, in turn attacked the Austrian Socialist leader, saying that "Mr. Vranitzky does not hear the [Serbian] shells [falling] on Karlovac." Austrian conservative politicians have welcomed Granic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Nearly 700 Serbs who fled Croatia's lightning victory earlier this month are still waiting to leave UN headquarters in Knin for Serb-held territory, international media reported on 25 August. Plans for them to depart have been held up by a dispute between Croatia and the UN over suspected war criminals in the group. Zagreb has identified 61 persons whom it will not allow to leave and wants to examine. The UN, however, will not release them without a detailed account of the charges and assurances that the UN can monitor the interrogations. Novi list quoted the leader of Croatia's Serbian People's Party, Milan Dukic, as accusing the Croatian military of deliberately destroying Serbian property in Krajina in order to discourage Serbs from returning. Croatian authorities in turn suspect the Serbs of making such charges in an effort to distract attention from Serbian war crimes. Slobodna Dalmacija cited a Roman Catholic official as saying that the Serbs had destroyed all Catholic church buildings in Krajina, but that the Croats would now "build even more beautiful churches." Sky Channel News on 24 August showed footage of Croatian troops guarding Serbian churches in Krajina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said that new U.S. peace efforts are flawed because they include no plans for sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs if they reject the project. The VOA on 25 August also quoted him as likening Bosnia to a crippled man who had been hit by a drunk driver. Sacirbey added that lifting the arms embargo against his government would provide an impetus to the peace process by encouraging the Serbs to negotiate seriously. The Belgrade weekly NIN, however, quoted Bosnian Serb "parliament speaker" Momcilo Krajisnik as saying that EU mediator Carl Bildt had recently given the Serbs "guarantees [in Geneva] that there will be two separate states with compact territories within the former Bosnia-Herzegovina." Krajisnik called that "great progress," AFP noted. Bildt has been declared persona non grata in Croatia, and the Bosnian authorities refuse to meet with him. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

News agencies reported on 25 August that suspected rogue members of the Bosnian army attacked British UN peacekeepers in Gorazde the previous night. A 15-minute fire-fight left two Bosnians dead but no British casualties, and the motive for the attack was unclear. The UN has protested the incident, but the British government called it "minor incursion." The U.K. troops are in the process of leaving the UN-declared "safe area," which is now supposed to be only protected by NATO air power. Former UN human rights monitor Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who quit in disgust over the international community's failure to protect Srebrenica and Zepa, said in Kuala Lumpur that his resignation was final. Elsewhere, Bosnian Radio reported that videos discovered in the rooms of Bihac-pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic revealed dissension in his followers' ranks. The tapes also suggested a link between Abdic's men and the death of Bosnia's foreign minister earlier this year. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Russian envoy Alexander Zotov met in Belgrade with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 24 August to discuss peace prospects in the former Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba reported the following day. Zotov, Moscow's representative to the five-nation Contact Group, met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 21 August and with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic the following day. In other news, Tanjug reported on 23 August that rump Yugoslavia's new foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic, wrote UNESCO, urging the international body to protect the Serbian cultural legacy in Krajina. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) issued a statement on 23 August condemning the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs, Serbian TV
in Belgrade reported the same day. According to the report, the SPO has concluded that the recent Bosnian Serb attacks on Sarajevo are simply "one more incomprehensible, uncivilized, anti-Serbian action undertaken by the war adventurers in Pale." The statement went on to add that "it is now crystal clear that Radovan Karadzic and all his supporters want to stop the peace process and carry on the war at any cost." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The Serbian army fired mortar shells on Albanian neighborhoods in Urosevac on 22 August, according to the Kosova Daily Report on 23 August. The attack damaged houses but no casualties were reported. Albanian political parties in the region and human rights groups denounced the incident as an attempt to provoke a conflict in Kosovo. Meanwhile, according to Serbian officials, about 5,000 Serbian refugees have arrived in Kosovo and another 7,000 are still expected. Refugees who are willing to settle in Kosovo are offered more farmland than refugees who want to settle in other regions, Politika says, but many refugees who arrive still end up wanting to leave the region soon after their arrival. Fifty Serb refugees left Prizren on 23 August for Serbia proper, the Kosova Daily Report said on 24 August. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Citing the Hungarian news agency MTI, Radio Bucharest on 25 August reported that Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn will initiate a "governmental level" meeting in an attempt to dissuade Romanian President Ion Iliescu from implementing a recently-passed, controversial education law. Horn also said he wanted to talk with Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar on Slovakia's new language law and said he had already initiated talks with Belgrade on the resettling of Serb refugees in Vojvodina. Horn considers the measure as "modifying the province's ethnic balance." The Hungarian premier also said Budapest will not introduce visa requirements for citizens from neighboring countries but will take other measures to prevent criminal elements from entering Hungarian territory. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Triggered by the conflict between President Mircea Snegur and the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova, a roundtable on the political situation in Moldova was held on 24 August with the participation of most parties represented in the legislature, Radio Bucharest announced the same day. Two opposition parties, the Popular Front Christian Democratic and the United Democratic Congress did not, however, participate in the debate, which was organized at the initiative of the parliament. Participants expressed deep concern in view of the escalation of the conflict between the presidency, the government and the parliament. They called on the state structures "to assume full responsibility for normal functioning and the safeguarding of the image of a country striving to advance on the road to stability and democracy." They also agreed to hold similar consultative meetings at intervals of two months at the most. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The office of Sofia's Military Prosecutor has released revealing information relating to a case involving the deaths of 14 military personnel, Bulgarian Radio reported on 23 August. A military truck crashed and burned in Sofia on 11 August, resulting in the deaths (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1995). The prosecutor's office says a row of bullet holes, allegedly coming from the make and model of a firearm used by professional assassins, has been detected in one of the vehicle's doors. Investigation into the incident continues. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The Macedonian Ministry of Education and Physical Culture organized a seminar in Ohrid for teachers from Albania who will teach the Macedonian language in that country, the independent Macedonian news agency MIC reported on 23 August. The seminar focuses on Macedonian language, literature, and culture. Meanwhile, a new round of talks began in Tetovo between the Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian political parties under the mediation of EU diplomat Gerd Ahrens. The aim is to solve the conflict about a law on higher education in the Albanian language for the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, BETA reports on 24 August. The leader of the Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians, Arben Xhaferi, repeated demands that a university in the Albanian language be opened and the use of the language be allowed in parliament and public offices. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

A two-day meeting of the Albanian-Greek Commission on Transport opened in Ioannina on 22 August, Radio Tirana reported on 23 August. The first session of the meeting focused on agreements on road transport, including goods transport, and addressed rail links between the two countries. A bilateral transport protocol is expected to be signed. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Pete Baumgartner