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Newsline - February 22, 1996

On 21 February the managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus, arrived in Moscow for talks on a new three year $9 billion Extended Fund Facility loan to Russia. He told Izvestiya of 21 February that "we are close to the final point," in signing the deal. The IMF is still trying to persuade Russia to lift export duties on oil, currently 20 ECU ($25.60) a ton, although the government is unlikely to budge on this issue. Western financial markets assume that the loan is a done deal and have already discounted the loan's formal announcement. -- Peter Rutland

The frontrunner in the presidential campaign, Gennadii Zyuganov, told a group of supporters that his Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) does not stand for abolishing the institution of the presidency, but only for "redistributing" the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The KPRF platform for parliamentary elections, adopted at an August 1995 party conference, called for eventually amending the constitution to abolish the presidency but using the post during the "transitional period" to alter the course of reforms. -- Laura Belin

The State Duma passed in the first reading a draft law on public control over elections and referendums, which outlines the rights of election observers and would allow for ordinary citizens, not just representatives of political parties and organizations, to monitor polling stations and ballot counts, NTV reported on 21 February. Yabloko deputy Viktor Sheinis, one of the bill's authors, told ITAR-TASS that it would increase public confidence in election results. A similar measure was rejected 11 times by the last Duma. Also on 21 February, the Duma adopted a resolution "on the unsatisfactory financing of education and sciences" by a vote of 320 to one, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution faults the government for not fulfilling the budget, the law on education, and a presidential decree on developing education in Russia. -- Laura Belin

At a meeting with mass media heads, President Boris Yeltsin denied rumors of a possible postponement of the upcoming presidential election. Russian media reported on 21 February that Yeltsin is confident of winning, possibly in the first round, noting that about 7 million signatures have been collected in support of his candidacy. Despite Yeltsin's intention to hold meetings with pro-reform parties leaders to unite the democratic forces before the election and the involvement of former first Vice-Premier Anatolii Chubais in Yeltsin's election campaign, Yeltsin announced that he would run as a non-partisan candidate since for him "all voters are equal." Addressing the journalists, Yeltsin stressed the importance of objectively covering the election campaign while at the same time affirming his belief in the constitutional right of freedom of speech. -- Anna Paretskaya

The NTV weekly current events program "Itogi" (Results), one of Russia's most influential news shows, will have new competition on Sunday nights from Russian Public TV (ORT), ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The television journalist and Duma deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov will be the main consultant for the new program, which will replace ORT's relatively unsuccessful "Voskresenie" (Sunday) on 3 March. Nevzorov's controversial ORT news magazine "Dikoe Pole" (Wild Field) will be taken off the air for "at least several months" while he works on this new project. In October, the Presidential Chamber on Information Disputes recommended that "Dikoe Pole" be canceled after a show filmed in a women's prison was found to have violated the prisoners' privacy rights (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 October 1995). Laura Belin

On 21 February, the State Duma passed a bill, 304-18, endorsing membership in the Council of Europe, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure now goes to the Federation Council, where its rapid approval is expected. In a speech urging deputies to approve the bill, First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said joining the council is in Russia's national interest, adding that membership would allow Russia to better defend the interests of ethnic Russians living abroad, especially in the Baltic states. Duma International Affairs Committee Chair Vladimir Lukin assured his colleagues that the benefits of council membership would more than justify the up to $25 million annual dues which Russia will be obligated to contribute to the organization. Russia is scheduled to become the 39th member of the council at a 27-28 February ceremony in Strasbourg. -- Scott Parrish

President Yeltsin appointed Vice-Admiral Viktor Kravchenko as commander of the Black Sea Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 February. Kravchenko replaces Admiral Eduard Baltin, who was sacked earlier this month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 February 1996). Kravchenko, 52, a submariner, has years of experience in the Black Sea Fleet. He served in a series of posts there following his graduation in 1968 from the Frunze Naval College, eventually rising to become the fleet's Deputy Chief of Staff. After attending the General Staff Academy, Kravchenko became First Deputy Commander of the Baltic Fleet in 1990, a post he held until his current appointment. -- Scott Parrish

In an attempt to improve his standing with voters ahead of the June elections, President Yeltsin issued decrees on 21 February ordering the dismissal of several federal and regional officials for misusing federal budget allocations and causing delays in the payment of wages and pensions, Russian and Western agencies reported. The regional bosses sacked are Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Pavel Balakshin, Saratov Oblast Governor Yurii Belykh, and the presidential envoy in Saratov Vladimir Golovachev. Presidential economics advisor Aleksandr Livshits said Yeltsin also ordered the dismissal of senior treasury official Aleksandr Smirnov and federal postal chief Vyacheslav Polyakov, noting that about half of Russia's post offices have misused money from the Pension Fund. Yeltsin also reprimanded Gazprom head Rem Vyakherev and Integrated Energy System chief Anatolii Dyakov for poor control over wage payments and proposed that they sack some regional representatives. Wage arrears, now totalling over 20 trillion rubles, have provoked strikes and angered voters. Yeltsin also signed a decree retiring Yevgenii Bychkov, the head of the Russian Federation Committee for Precious Metals and Stones (Roskomdragmet), who is under criminal investigation for embezzlement, ITAR-TASS reported. Bychkov has been linked to deals that siphoned off uncut gems worth millions of dollars, but he has denied any wrongdoing. -- Penny Morvant

On 21 February,
the Duma overrode a Yeltsin veto of a law tying food prices to farm input prices and introducing guaranteed prices for farmers, ITAR-TASS reported. The Federation Council had already approved the law, originally passed by the Duma in October. Also yesterday, the Duma passed another law on VAT, formerly vetoed by Yeltsin. The new version removes a VAT waiver for imports of foreign machinery. -- Peter Rutland

Addressing the first Russian congress of small businesses in Moscow on 19 February, President Boris Yeltsin said "Market relations have taken root in Russian soil and are developing dynamically," and that "Small businesses mean the creation of a powerful middle class, without which there can be no stability," the BBC reported the next day. There were 900,000 small businesses in Russia in 1995 (200,000 of them in Moscow), a 5% increase over 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February. They employed 14 million people (2 million in Moscow) and accounted for 9% of the country's GDP. However, delegates complained of high taxes and bureaucratic barriers. A $300 million credit line was opened last year by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. However, only 15% of small businesses were able to get credits from banks or state funds in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina

An agreement on economic, scientific-technical and cultural cooperation between the Kalmyk Republic and Azerbaijan was signed, Turan reported on 21 February. The agreement is identical to one reached last week between Azerbaijan and Astrakhan oblast, another subject of the Russian Federation, the report noted. Meanwhile, on 19 February Radio Baku reported that railway traffic between Russia and Azerbaijan has been partially restored. Last December, Azerbaijan requested that Russia lift the restrictions it imposed on the movement of people and goods the previous year which, according to Azerbaijani officials, has resulted in the republic losing some $250 million dollars in trade. -- Lowell Bezanis

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has offered his assistance in settling the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February citing Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's press service. The day before, Shevardnadze praised Demirel for his support of Georgia's territorial integrity in his weekly radio address. Meanwhile, Iberia news agency reported that Turkey has agreed to finance the construction of an oil pipeline to transport "early-oil" from Baku to the Georgian port of Supsa. A final decision on the need for the estimated 926 km long pipeline, and its financing, is to be taken by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) next week, according to the Turkish press. -- Lowell Bezanis

In spite of efforts by both the Russian and Uzbek governments to address the issue of ethnic Russians living in Uzbekistan, that population still continues to leave the country. According to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 22 February, the Russian Embassy in Tashkent issues an average of 130-150 citizenship certificates a day, totaling more than 170,000 over the past several years. This figure represents a minority of the estimated 500,000 who have left Uzbekistan for Russia. The article noted that in addition to Russians, Koreans, Jews, Germans, Bashkirs, and Tatars are also emigrating. In contrast, about 20 people leave Russia for Uzbekistan each month to become citizens there. -- Roger Kangas

Uzbek citizens planning to travel to Mecca for this year's hajj are to receive government assistance, Uzbek television reported on 19 February, as cited by the BBC. According to a government decree, the Uzbek Muslim Board, in conjunction with the government's Committee for Religious Affairs, will organize a pilgrimage from Tashkent to the Muslim holy city. In addition, government ministries will assist in foreign currency acquisition, health care certification, and the processing of all necessary paperwork. Uzbekistan Hawo Yollari (Uzbekistan Airlines) will provide transportation. In recent years, thousands of Uzbeks have taken part in the pilgrimage, in stark contrast to the several dozen a year permitted during the Soviet era. -- Roger Kangas

Concluding his one day visit to Almaty, the Russian foreign minister Yevgenii Primakov assured Kazakhstan that Russia wants a voluntary CIS integration and not a return to the USSR, Russian media reported on 21 February. Primakov denied the existence of any major bilateral disagreements between the countries, though admitted that differences remain over the status of Caspian and sharing of its resources. Primakov told Russian Public TV (ORT) that Kazakhstan is most likely to backtrack on its earlier decision to withdraw its contingent from the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan--Russia wants to extend the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces. Both countries agreed to hold joint talks with China on the border issue in April. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that President Yeltsin will visit Kazakhstan either before or after these talks. --Bhavna Dave

The visiting Hungarian president Arpad Goencz, and a Hungarian trade delegation headed by the industry and trade minister Imre Dunai held talks with the Kazakhstani deputy prime minister Akmetzhan Yesimov on 20 February, according to an MTI report monitored by the BBC. It added that Kazakhstan is seeking Hungary's involvement in projects to develop the country's railways, health care, and housing and energy sector. Yesimov and Dunai signed a protocol on intergovernmental trade agreements. They also discussed the possibility of Kazakhstan supplying gas to Hungary in exchange for Hungarian involvement in building the Yambrg gas pipeline and the Tengiz oil refinery. --Bhavna Dave

Leonid Kuchma and U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 21 February signed an agreement allowing Ukraine to enter the commercial satellite launch market, international agencies reported. Ukraine will be obliged to charge as much as U.S. companies for its launches. The agreement expires in 2001. Kuchma also addressed allegations that Ukraine was leasing Antonov cargo planes to Columbian drug traffickers. He said Ukraine had no control over the leasing of Ukrainian-made aircraft, noting that it was Columbia's responsibility. He added that the Ukrainian security service has proposed that it meet with its U.S. counterpart to discuss the issue. Talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton centered on economic issues, including compensation for tactical nuclear weapons removed from Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

Workers in eight Ukrainian oblasts halted work for one hour on 21 February to protest unpaid wages and declining living standards, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Leaders of the Federation of Trade Unions claimed 12 million employees of primarily state-owned coal mines and factories either took part in or supported the strike. Some 2,000 people held a rally in Dnipropetrovsk. Kiev did not respond to the protest actions. A two-week strike by coal miners that was suspended on 16 February cost Ukrainian industry more than 40 trillion karbovantsi ($215 million). -- Chrystyna Lapychak

A Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly delegation were in Estonia from 19-21 February to gather information for a report about the human rights situation in the country, according to BNS. Rudolf Bindig, chairman of the CEPA legal affairs and human rights subcommittee, said Estonia should ratify the European human rights convention before May, when it will preside over the CE Council of Ministers. He also noted that the situation in Estonian prisons was improving but was still unsatisfactory. He proposed that the language tests for naturalization be simplified and that Estonia draw up a refugees policy more quickly. -- Saulius Girnius

LITPLA-4, a unit of 34 Lithuanian soldiers, has been stationed about 150 kilometers northwest of Tuzla as part of a Danish battalion, BNS reported on 21 February. Their assignment includes the reconstruction of a bridge over the Bosna River and monitoring traffic crossing it. Similar Estonian and Latvian platoons are scheduled to be sent to Bosnia as peacemaking forces later this year. -- Saulius Girnius

Dariusz Rosati on 21 February told the Senate Foreign Affairs Commission that regardless of the outcome of the Russian presidential elections, Russia will oppose NATO expansion but eventually will have to accept it, since it will need financial support from western countries. Rosati also noted that allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, who is suspected of collaborating with Soviet and Russian secret services, damaged Poland's credibility as a prospective Western partner. He said it was "unfortunate" that Oleksy had been elected leader of Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland in January, which forms the core of the governing coalition. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said he did not agree with Rosati remarks on Oleksy, Polish dailies reported on 22 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

The Czech Foreign Ministry on 21 February rejected renewed criticism from the U.S. Congress that the Czech Republic's citizenship law is discriminatory, Czech media reported. Leaders of the congressional committee that monitors the 1975 Helsinki accords said the previous day that the law denies citizenship to thousands of residents who were Czechoslovak citizens before the split of the country at the end of 1992. They said a recent amendment to the law approved by the Czech government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 February 1996) did not go far enough and urged Czech authorities to grant citizenship to all long-term residents. A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied U.S. accusations that the law had overnight created thousands of stateless people. The head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee also rejected the criticism. -- Steve Kettle

A court in Breclav sentenced a 21-year-old skinhead to six years in jail on 21 February for an attack on a local Rom in which the victim lost an eye. Three other teenage skinheads received suspended sentences for attacking Josef Polak and his wife on a street last October with rubber truncheons. The Romani woman was slightly injured. Polak's father and other Roma protested inside and outside the courtroom that the sentences were unjustly light, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. -- Steve Kettle

The Slovak Foreign Ministry's reaction to the Vienna court's decision on President Michal Kovac's son may have been the result of a mistranslation by TASR, CTK reported on 21 February. The ministry did not wait for official notification of the ruling but instead sent a diplomatic note to the Austrian charge d'affaires in Bratislava based on a "news agency report." The ministry protested the court's accusations about the involvement of state organs in the kidnapping and demanded that the Austrian Foreign Ministry take action. But some media representatives present at the hearing said the court spoke of an "abduction by [Slovak] nationals." Kovac Jr., who says he is innocent in the Technopol fraud, told Sme on 22 February that he plans to go to Munich to face charges. -- Sharon Fisher

Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) deputy chairman Pavol Kanis on 21 February announced that his party must decide soon whether it will enter the coalition government, possibly before the SDL congress in April. According to Kanis, the SDL has not received an official invitation from the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). But he claimed that some members of the SDL, HZDS, and Association of Workers of Slovakia (ZRS) are in favor of cooperation among the three parties, Narodna obroda reported. In other news, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar decided to sue Vladimir Palko of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement for his behavior during a Slovak TV discussion program on 18 February. -- Sharon Fisher

A train carrying used nuclear fuel rods from the closed nuclear power plant in Greifswald, eastern Germany, arrived at Hungary's Paks nuclear plant on 21 February, Hungarian dailies reported the next day. The plant was closed down for safety reasons after German reunification. Environmentalists criticize the Hungarian authorities' decision to "buy" the rods from Germany and argue that Paks is not as safe as is claimed by the plant's management. Paks officials say the fuel rods can be safely used for one year. The shipment of the "nuclear trash" saves nearly 3 billion forints ($21.5 million) for Hungary. While the nuclear train was en route from Germany, German authorities mobilized 800 police and border guards to monitor protests organized by Greenpeace. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has been taken to hospital because of unspecified heart trouble. A group of doctors are treating him, and a statement said that he must be "spared all strain." The 70-year-old leader of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action is a professional lawyer and lifelong activist for Islamic causes, for which he was jailed by the communists. Izetbegovic became president in November 1990 in Bosnia's first postcommunist elections. -- Patrick Moore

The Bosnian Serb leadership on 21 February announced it is "reestablishing full cooperation with representatives of the international community, in accordance with the Dayton agreement and the results of the Rome summit," SRNA reported. But it continued to protest the "unprincipled conduct" of the Bosnian government in what it called the "kidnapping of senior Serbian officers." The Bosnian Serb leaders demanded the immediate release of the officers. Meanwhile, Carl Bildt, the international community's chief envoy to Bosnia, met the same day with Bosnian Serb premier Rajko Kasagic, TANJUG reported. Bildt said he was pleased that dialogue with the Serbs has been restored, while Kasagic said the work of the joint commissions will be resumed. -- Michael Mihalka

IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith on 21 February officially certified that the "parties to the General Framework Agreement for Peace to be in general compliance with the military aspects of the (Dayton) peace agreement," international media reported. According to UN Resolution 1022, sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs can be lifted the day after the IFOR commander informs the UN Security Council that the Serbs have withdrawn from the zones of separation laid down in the peace accords. -- Michael Mihalka

Despite bad weather and calls by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the anti-nationalist Serbian Civic Council for them to stay put, residents of five Serb-held suburbs slated to pass to government control continue to leave. The BBC on 22 February quoted UN sources as putting the number at 20,000. Two fires are burning out of control in Vogosca, but the fire department has apparently already left, Reuters said. "Nervous and upset" people blamed the mayor for not providing them with adequate transportation and confronted him in an ugly scene. Throughout the suburbs, banks and schools have closed or are shutting down. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Nasa Borba blamed the Bosnian Serb leadership for forcing the exodus of ordinary Serbs. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has urged the residents to stay. -- Patrick Moore

Some 10,000 Croats and Muslims are expected to return to Vogosca after it reverts to federal control, Onasa reported on 21 February. A group of 50 federal experts will be sent there to clear mines. Oslobodjenje wrote on 22 February that many of the Sarajevo Croats who fled to Mostar and elsewhere during the war have begun to return. But a meeting of Croatian and Bosnian government officials slated for 26 February has been postponed. Onasa said that the problems are Bosnian access to the port of Ploce and the abolition of Croatian visas for Bosnian citizens. The news agency added that Bosnia's first postwar strike ended when miners accepted assurances that their January salaries of about DM 80 would finally be paid. -- Patrick Moore

The Orthodox bishop for northwestern Bosnia, Hrizostom, urged Serbs to return to their homes outside the Republika Srbska and reject attempts to settle them in dwellings of expelled Muslims and Croats. "This is the moment when we decide whether we will be the beggars of this world, or whether we will return to our homes as international accords and conventions foresee. [The Pale leaders] are cheating you when they tell you that they have solved our problems by giving us burnt and looted homes which belong to others, who are also refugees just as we are.... The Serb politicans...have used our trust against the interests of their people." Onasa carried the report on 21 February, citing Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti. -- Patrick Moore

The rump Yugoslavia is officially seeking membership in the IMF, Belgrade TV reported on 21 February. In a letter to IMF chief Michel Camdessus, rump Yugoslav National bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic said "conditions for the normalization of relations between the IMF and [rump] Yugoslavia have been met.... We believe that we could benefit from the assistance, experience, and advice of international organizations, above all, from the IMF." Avramovic also wrote that the rump Yugoslav economy was undergoing reforms that would result in a broad privatization program and liberal, free market practices. -- Stan Markotich

Croatia and Britain on 21 February signed agreements on cooperation in air traffic, culture, science, and education, Novi List reported. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said the agreements signaled "progress in bilateral relations," while British Foreign Ministry official Nicholas Bonsor said agreements would pave the way for the cooperation in tourism and the improvement of air traffic between the two countries. The situation in the region was also discussed, especially regarding the Rome agreements on Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Members of The Hague International War Crimes Tribunal are in Timisoara to interview people from Serbia who were detained in Moslem camps during the war in the former Yugoslavia, Radio Bucharest reported on 21 February. The interviewees volunteered to testify. Timisoara was chosen "at the request of the Serbian citizens," who consider the Romanian town near the Serbian border to be "a safe place, where nothing can happen to them." The findings will be made public once the interviews are over. -- Michael Shafir

Death sentences passed on 19 people in Moldova have been commuted to life imprisonment to meet commitments made when that country joined the Council of Europe in July 1995, Moldovan and international agencies reported on 21 February. President Mircea Snegur signed a decree commuting the sentences. The Moldovan parliament abolished capital punishment in December 1995. Those to whom the decree applies were sentenced before then. -- Michael Shafir

Mikhail Chyhir on 21 February concluded a two-day official visit to Bulgaria, Bulgarian and international media reported. Chyhir and his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhan Videnov, signed eight bilateral agreements on trade and industrial cooperation, including the mutual protection and promotion of investments. They said the agreements lay the foundation for broad cooperation in a number of areas and that they expect bilateral trade to increase. Belarus will export more butter, grain, and car tires to Bulgaria, while Bulgaria will increase its exports of vegetable oil and pharmaceuticals to Belarus. In 1995, bilateral trade turnover was $40 million. -- Stefan Krause

Dimitar Shtirkov and Valentin Hadzhiev, correspondents in Smoylan for Trud and 24 chasa, on 21 February were released from detention, 24 chasa reported. Legal proceedings against them will continue, however. The two journalists were arrested for libel on 20 February. Regional Prosecutor Slavcho Karzhev, who ordered the arrests, said he considers his action to conform with Bulgarian law and added that he will initiate proceedings against the local correspondents for Duma and Novinar who wrote similar reports. The Union of Bulgarian Journalists and Svobodno Slovo (Free Speech) have protested the arrests. Since the fall of the communist regime, several journalists have been charged with libel. This was the first time that journalists were arrested. -- Stefan Krause

Mate Granic arrived for a two-day visit to Tirana on 21 February, international agencies reported. Meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, both sides agreed on the territorial integrity of all Balkan countries and the inviolability of present borders. Granic said that Croatia supported the rights of all ethnic minorities in the Balkans, while Serreqi stressed that the problem of Kosovo could not be reduced to a question of basic human rights and freedoms. He added that "Kosovo is [not] only an internal problem of Serbia [but a] a fundamental element of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia." The two sides agreed on increased economic and cultural cooperation. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, in Tirana on 21 February, told President Sali Berisha that Britain will raise its diplomatic representation in Albania from charge d'affaires to ambassador, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

Albanian Justice Minister Hektor Frasheri and his Greek counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, meeting in Athens on 21 February, agreed on the return of some 730 Albanians serving prison sentences in Greece, Reuters reported. Greece will now speed up the implementation of an agreement whereby prisoners will serve sentences in Albanian prisons. The first 70 inmates will be moved to Albania in the next two weeks. Some 130 of the inmates are juveniles, and another 400 are still awaiting trial. It is unclear whether the latter will be tried in Greece. There are no imprisoned Greeks in Albania. Greek prisons are overcrowded. and tensions between Greek and Albanian prisoners recently resulted in riots. -- Fabian Schmidt

Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on 21 February began a tour of EU capitals in a bid to rally support for his country in the dispute with Turkey over the islet of Imia/Kardak, AFP reported the same day. Simitis met with EU Commission President Jacques Santer and Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene in Brussels. He told a news conference that Turkey's position makes it "difficult for us to cooperate so that the customs union [between the EU and Turkey] functions freely." Meanwhile, Reuters cited EU sources as saying Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has threatened to block a vote approving 375 million ECU ($487 million) in EU aid to Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal said Turkey has fulfilled its commitments vis-a-vis the customs union, and he called on the EU not to give in to "Greek blackmail." -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Roger Kangas and Jan Cleave