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Newsline - March 4, 1996

While touring military installations in Rostov Oblast, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 2 March declared himself willing to meet with Chechen separatist President Dzhokhar Dudaev, NTV reported. Grachev, scheduled to arrive in Grozny on 4 March, said that "if Dudaev wants to meet with me, I will do so." He reiterated that any peace settlement must be predicated on Chechnya remaining within the Russian Federation--a condition Dudaev has consistently rejected. NTV described Grachev's remarks as "sensational," since Russian officials, including Grachev himself, have repeatedly refused to meet with Dudaev. Russian analysts speculated that Grachev's remarks reflect President Yeltsin's desire to find a resolution to the Chechen conflict before the June presidential election. -- Scott Parrish

Federal forces and separatist fighters clashed repeatedly in Chechnya on 13 March, as federal forces continued to shell Bamut, near the border with Ingushetiya, Russian media reported. Military spokesmen say 500 fighters are holed up there in the underground bunkers of a former Soviet missile base. On 1 March, fighters attacked federal positions in central Grozny, while on 2 March they staged a raid against federal forces headquarters in Khankala, outside Grozny. Also on 2 March, the Baku-Stavropol natural gas pipeline was blown up near the village of Sholkovskaya. A similar explosion, blamed on separatist fighters, cut the pipeline on 22 February. On 3 March, intense fighting broke out in Sernovodsk, 45 km west of Grozny, when Chechen fighters ambushed federal troops who had entered the town to search for arms caches. RFE/RL reported continued fighting there on 4 March. -- Scott Parrish
President Boris Yeltsin's campaign machine moved into high gear on 2 March when 900 delegates from 37 political parties and movements attended a conference in Moscow to support the president, Russian media reported. Conference speakers including former presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov portrayed Yeltsin as the only alternative to the bad old days under the Communists. Sergei Belyaev, head of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, said attempts to create a "third force" that is neither pro-government nor pro-communist (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 February 1996) were misguided and based on "illusions." He said society is divided into two camps--that is, for and against a return to communism, Russian TV reported. -- Laura Belin

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced that he will run for president this year because Russians deserve a "real alternative" to both Yeltsin and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Russian and Western media reported on 1 March. He called on all "democratically-minded leaders" to choose a common presidential candidate, adding that if such a coalition nominated somebody else, he would bow out of the race, according to ITAR-TASS. In recent opinion polls only 1-2% of respondents said they would consider voting for Gorbachev. Nevertheless, Gorbachev's campaign has already collected 700,000 signatures supporting his candidacy, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

Thirty-eight initiative groups nominating presidential candidates submitted their documents to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) on 2 March, the last day before the deadline expired, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported, citing TsIK secretary Aleksandr Veshnyakov. The commission has already registered 59 groups nominating a total of 49 candidates (10 of the groups support Yeltsin, two support Aleksandr Lebed). However, no more than a dozen presidential hopefuls are likely to win a spot on the ballot, since most candidates will fail to collect the necessary 1 million signatures by 16 April. -- Laura Belin

President Yeltsin on 2 March issued a decree allowing regional legislative bodies to set the date for regional elections on their own, ITAR-TASS reported. The electoral terms for all of Russia's regional legislatures expire in 1996. In a September decree, Yeltsin fixed December 1996 as the date for all regional elections. -- Anna Paretskaya

A year after the murder of TV journalist Vladislav Listev, President Yeltsin met with Procurator-General Yurii Skura-tov to discuss the case, Segodnya and Rossiiskie vesti reported on 2 March. Although Listev's killing remains unsolved, Skuratov denied that the investigation, which has been widely criticized, has reached a dead-end. -- Penny Morvant

Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar told an anti-fascist youth conference that the country's Communist Party has evolved into a national-socialist rather than a social-democratic party, and that if it wins the elections it could pose a danger to world peace, NTV and Russian TV reported. The conference, held in Moscow on 3 March, was attended by about 60 representatives of the movement Youth Action against Fascism (AMD) from 17 regions. AMD Chairman Petr Kaznacheev said Russia's democratic youth are seeking to establish a "white" anti-communist and anti-fascist belt throughout Russia to counterbalance Russia's "red belt." -- Penny Morvant

The number of civil servants in federal and regional bodies rose by 6% in 1995 in comparison with the previous year, Radio Rossii reported on 3 March citing the State Statistics Committee. There are now more than 1 million civil servants, excluding administrative personnel in the Defense Ministry, law enforcement organs, and Customs Service. The sharpest increase last year was in the number of apparatchiks in legislative bodies--up 23%. Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan said last September that the government intended to reduce the number of civil servants. -- Penny Morvant

Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjoern Tor Godal held talks in Moscow on 2 March with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Prima-kov, Russian and Western agencies reported. During their discussion, Primakov reiterated Russian objections to any eastward expansion of NATO. Primakov also described the recent NATO exercises in northern Norway as "nothing unusual," despite earlier Russian protests (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 February 1995). Primakov announced that President Yeltsin will visit Norway later this month. A visit to Norway scheduled for July 1995 was postponed when Yeltsin was hospitalized with heart problems. -- Scott Parrish

The armed forces were allocated 500 billion rubles ($104 million) for food for January but so far have received only 100 billion rubles, Novaya gazeta reported on 28 February. The current budget allocates only 8,735 Rubles ($1.80) per day to feed each soldier. According to a military spokesman, the army has not received 9 million uniforms it ordered and soldiers stationed in Chechnya have been forced to wear sneakers and winter hats donated by Menatep bank. -- Constantine Dmitriev

President Yeltsin has approved the creation of Russia's third space launch site near Svobodnyi in the Far East, Western agencies reported on 1 March. Russia has been leasing the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for $115 million a year for manned flights, but cannot reach agreement with the Kazakhstani government over the upkeep of the facility. Russia's two other cosmodromes--at Plesetsk in northwestern Russia and Kapustin Yar near Volgograd--are used only for launching satellites. The first lift-off from Svobodnyi is expected by the end of 1996. However, experts warn that by stretching its financial resources, Russia may be unable to fulfill some of its international obligations under the "Mir" program. -- Natalia Gurushina

Vladimir Yegorov, director of the Russian Center for the Study of Drug Addiction, said on 1 March that at least half a million Russians are dependent on illegal drugs and that the number of drug users could be as high as 1.5 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Owing in part to Russia's porous borders, a wide range of drugs are now available, but Yegorov said that only the well-off can afford to buy imported drugs such as heroin and cocaine. He said he hoped treatment for drug addiction will improve after the construction of five rehabilitation centers envisaged in a federal program passed last year. -- Penny Morvant

Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 29 February that import tariffs will be raised by 20%, increasing the average tariff to 17-18%, Segodnya reported. The step, mainly intended to raise revenue, drew criticism from an EU spokesman, who pointed out that Russia did not consult the EU before announcing the move, Reuters reported on 2 March. Such consultation is required under the terms of the EU interim trade agreement with Russia, which came into effect on 1 February. The EU claims that the average tariff they charge on Russian imports is 1%. On 27 February, an EU delegation arrived in Moscow to discuss Russia's threat to introduce quotas to correct the two-to-one imbalance in the textile trade with the EU, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian customs service announced on 1 March that limits for duty-free import of personal purchases will be lowered from $2,000 to $1,000, above which they will be taxed at 5 ECU per kg. -- Peter Rutland

Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha said that tariffs will not be enough to protect Russian farmers from foreign imports, and that quotas are needed, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Zaveryukha claimed that farm subsidies in the U.S. amount to $341 per hectare, in Germany $800, and in Russia only $35, so Russia cannot hope to compete in terms of price. He stated that Russian farms have only 40% of the fuel and 70% of the machinery they need for the spring sowing, according to Delovoi mir on 2 March, and made the customary call for state-subsidized credits for farm suppliers. -- Peter Rutland

Consumer price inflation in February was a mere 2.8%, the lowest level since 1991, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 1 March. Inflation was 4.1% in January and 3.2% in December. However, the same day, Russia's two largest oil companies, LUKoil and Yukos, said they would increase their domestic prices by up to 25%. Even assuming the February inflation figure is reliable, it is unlikely that monthly inflation will fall below 2% later this year, as government spokesmen insist. -- Peter Rutland

Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, in his capacity as OSCE chairman, arrived in Baku on 2 March to discuss the prospects for a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Russian and Western sources reported. After the meeting, Cotti stressed that the "principle of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan" is critical to any negotiation, adding that "autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh" can be established within such a design, Turan reported on 3 March. During his stay in the region, Cotti also hopes to persuade Karabakh officials to release 64 Azer-baijani prisoners of war, who should have been released under the two-year-old ceasefire, RFE/RL reported. -- Roger Kangas

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati arrived in Baku on 2 March to attend the opening of an Iranian trade fair and to meet with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan and international media reported. Velayati said Iran's economic relations with Azerbaijan are improving. He attended the inauguration of the Mashhad-Serakhs-Tedzhen railway, and called for the construction of another railway via the border town of Astara. On 3 March, Velayati arrived in Tbilisi to meet his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, and President Eduard Shevardnadze, to the discuss the latter's peace initiative for the Caucasus, Russian media reported. -- Irakli Tsereteli

The body of Ruhangiz Muhtarova, a senior adviser on the parliamentary Ecology and Natural Resources Commission, was found in her flat on 28 February with several stab wounds, Turan reported on 1 March. Sources in the Interior Ministry said the murderers have been found but gave no further details. -- Irakli Tsereteli

The government accused opposition forces of breaking the ceasefire in Tavil Dara on 2 March and presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said the government would take "preventive measures," Russian and Western media reported. In an interview with RFE/RL, opposition leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda denied the reports, saying the government is trying to find an excuse to launch an attack. On 4 March, the Russian Federal Border Service director, General Andrei Nikolaev, arrived in Dushanbe to discuss strengthening border control cooperation, a topic of last week's border services meeting in Brest, Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 March 1996). -- Roger Kangas

The Ukrainian government has increased wages and benefits for Chornobyl employees and all individuals who work in the 30-km zone around the nuclear power plant, Ukrainian TV reported on 1 March. Meanwhile, on a visit to the station, Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said the cleanup from the April 1986 accident at Chornobyl has cost the government $3 billion over the past four years. He invited all the leaders of the G-7 powers to visit the plant, following the G-7 summit in Moscow in April, for the 10th anniversary of the deadly explosion. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

A Ukrainian delegation headed by parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz ended an official visit to Belgrade on 2 March, Ukrainian television reported. Moroz said he was pleased with the outcome of the visit and hoped it would be mutually beneficial to Ukraine and rump Yugoslavia. Moroz met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Prime Minister Ratoje Kontic. Moroz urged that economic agreements between Ukraine and rump Yugoslavia be signed and ratified. He also said he would support rump Yugoslavia's reentry into European organizations and the lifting of UN sanctions against it. -- Ustina Markus

The U.S. Export-Import Bank has approved $171.3 million in credit guarantees to Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. The guarantees are to be used to buy agricultural equipment. Under U.S. law, Congress has 30 days in which it can vote against the credit. If it should do so, then the directors of the bank would have to amend the credit proposals to suit Congress. -- Ustina Markus

Tiit Vahi and Andres Skele in Parnu on 1 March discussed the maritime border question and fishing issues, BNS reported. Latvia refuses to accept Estonia's unilateral decision to declare the fish-rich areas around the island of Ruhnu as part of its economic zone and its trawlers have fished in the area before being expelled by Estonian warships. The premiers and border talks delegations summed up the results of previous talks and defined the points where progress could be achieved. The two sides agreed that relations between their countries were good, but made little progress in settling the dispute. The Estonian parliament's foreign affairs committee is scheduled to travel to Latvia in April to discuss the border problem with its Latvian counterpart. -- Saulius Girnius

The council of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) on 2 March elected Seimas chairman Ceslovas Jursenas as the party's acting chairman, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported the next day. The council also elected Justinas Karosas as first deputy chairman, replacing Gediminas Kirkilas, who was criticized for vacationing in Germany while the Seimas voted on the dismissal of LDDP chairman Adolfas Slezevicius as prime minister. -- Saulius Girnius

Labor Union (UP) deputy Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka on 1 March presented a draft abortion law to the Sejm, supported by the UP and the ruling Democratic Left Alliance deputies. The bill would allow women to have an abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy if they cannot afford to have a baby or have other personal problems. If parliament passes the bill, it is likely to be signed into law by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. An earlier bill easing the abortion law was vetoed by former president Lech Walesa. The current law allows for abortions only if the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman's life or health, if it results from rape or incest or if the fetus is irreparably damaged. Doctors who perform abortions in other cases face a prison term of up to two years. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Poles want the abortion law relaxed. -- Jakub Karpinski

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Vaclav Klaus met on 3 March in Karpacz in southern Poland, Polish and international media reported. They agreed that Poland is to supply goods and investment services related to ecology on the borderland to settle its trade deficit with the Czech Republic. Fostering of cooperation will go in line with agreements within the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). The Polish prime minister said CEFTA should expand to include Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Romania. As for the return of property of Polish minority organizations, nationalized after World War II, Klaus said that governmental decisions in favor of the Poles are being prepared, but restitution concerns individuals only. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 1 March held talks with his Slovak counterpart, Michal Kovac, in the High Tatra mountains, Slovak and international media reported. In contrast to his statements last month, alleging that Slovakia will gain EU membership after the other Visegrad countries because of its domestic political situation, Kwasniewski emphasized that the two countries' strategic goals are "identical" and said Poland would be glad if all four Visegrad countries could enter the EU and NATO together. Responding to statements by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov during his visit to Slovakia the previous day, Kwasniewski stressed that efforts to join NATO should not be understood as "an unfriendly act towards Russia;" NATO is "the main pillar of the new security system in Europe" and not "a bloc against Russia." Kwasniewski rejected Slovakia's proposal that a permanent CEFTA secretariat be created in Bratislava. -- Sharon Fisher

Sandor Lezsak was elected president of the Democratic Forum (MDF) during a heated national convention on 2 March, Hungarian media reported. He defeated executive president Ivan Szabo, who won about one-third of the votes. Szabo resigned as parliamentary caucus leader and nearly 200 of the 600 delegates to the convention signed a declaration dissociating themselves from the new leadership. The MDF, the senior coalition party in the former government, has been divided since the general elections in 1994 and it is unlikely that the new presidium--or any other--will be able to restore the party's popularity, which currently stands at 5%. MDF's former president Lajos Fur announced on 14 February that he would not run for reelection. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Gyula Horn said on 2 March that the recent energy price increase was the last government measure this year which will hit living standards, Hungarian dailies reported on 4 March. He also said that both the population and the government have lived through a tough 12 months and that most Hungarians are expected to feel the benefits of the present austerity measures from 1997 on. This statement is in contrast with new Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy's pledge to continue with his predecessor Lajos Bokros's rigorous stabilization program. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Nasa Borba on 4 March reports on developments during the 2 March third congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Predictably, events demonstrated that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic remains firmly in control of his party. He was reelected party president with only 4 of 1,799 delegates failing to confer support. Furthermore, the party signaled that ultranationalists within its ranks were, for now, being forsaken. A 185-member central committee, purged of ultranationalists, was elected. Following his reelection, Milosevic spoke on the issue of regional peace, saying that the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs owed Serbia a debt of gratitude for supporting them throughout the period of conflict. AFP quoted Milosevic as saying: "Everyone who has benefited from this solidarity should remember it as an example of generosity and as a debt that future generations may perhaps be called upon to repay." -- Stan Markotich

Bosnian Serb police and civilians have been preventing Muslim and even Serbian refugees from visiting relatives or reclaiming their homes and property in this strategically important region of northern Bosnia, AFP reported on 4 March. Doboj is the key to controlling the supply corridor linking Serbia with Banja Luka, but the Dayton accord strictly specifies that there is to be freedom of movement and that refugees have the right to go home. Late last month the Serbs increased the number of checkpoints and began blocking visitors in what seems to be a series of moves designed to test the limits of IFOR's patience. So far the peacekeepers have been reluctant to challenge any local forces beyond purely military matters. They say freedom of movement is the business of the UN's police force, which has hardly begun to appear on the scene. -- Patrick Moore

One example of how IFOR has been reluctant to challenge the Serbs involves Pale's president and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. He has reportedly gone through IFOR checkpoints or come close to IFOR troops on numerous occasions, but no one seems to have been able to identify him or felt they were in a position to arrest him. The international community's High Representative in Bosnia, Carl Bildt, said on 3 March that he is concerned about Karadzic's increased public profile, but added that Karadzic may not be in charge in Pale. He did not elaborate, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serb leader appealed to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to provide help for Serbian refugees who have fled Sarajevo at Pale's orders in recent weeks. -- Patrick Moore

A Croatian government commission on the missing says that Serbia is hiding information on about 1,700 persons believed killed during the Serbian war against Croatia in 1991 and in its aftermath the following year. The commission is dealing with some 2,800 cases of missing civilians and soldiers. A joint Croatian-Serbian group will soon begin trying to clear up these and other cases in keeping with an agreement signed during the Dayton conference last year. Vecernji list carried the report on 4 March. -- Patrick Moore

The Bosnian government has sent troops to Iran for training in a bid to upgrade its military, AFP quoted The New York Times as reporting on 4 March. NATO officials think the Bosnian troops will gain marginal military experience there, while the emphasis will be on their ideological indoctrination, Nasa Borba quoted the article as saying. While the presence of Bosnian soldiers in Iran does not violate the Balkan peace accord, it could provoke tensions between the Bosnian government and the U.S., and between Muslims and Croats within the Bosnian Federation. Meanwhile, Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Mura-tovic, during his visit to Teheran, underlined the importance of Iran's contribution to the reconstruction of Bosnia, international agencies reported. Iran has suggested the establishment of a joint Bosnian-Iranian bank to help create more confidence in joint investments and private sector activities in the two countries, Reuters reported on 4 March. -- Daria Sito Sucic
Peter Galbraith told Vjesnik on 3 March that he is worried about the slow steps the Croatian administration has been taking in approving requests by Krajina Serbs to return to Croatia. "It should have been solved in a couple of minutes, not in seven months," he said. The government's refugees office said that more than 5,600 of 14,000 applications by Croatian Serbs to return had been processed, but UNHCR officials noted that only 2,500 had been approved, AFP reported on 3 March. Meanwhile, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told visiting American congressmen that Croatian Serbs who did not commit war crimes, and are ready to accept Croatia as their homeland, will be allowed to return, Nasa Borba reported on 4 March. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Beta on 2 March reported that while the SPS congress was in session (see Top Story), some 20,000 individuals gathered in the Serbian industrial city of Kragujevac to register their protest of what was dubbed the authoritarianism of Milosevic's government. The rally was organized by Serbian opposition parties, which reportedly regarded the Kragujevac rally as "a dress rehearsal" for the planned upcoming fifth anniversary of the 9 March Belgrade demonstrations. Five years ago, an estimated 100, 000 people rallied in the capital, demanding Milosevic's resignation. Their action triggered the largest police deployment ever in the city, and two persons were killed. -- Stan Markotich

Senator Ion Coja was elected on 3 March as the candidate of the Romanian Democratic Agrarian Party (PDAR) in the presidential elections scheduled for fall 1996. Coja, who is a PDAR vice-chairman, is also vice-chairman of Vatra Romaneasca (Romanian Cradle), an anti-Hungarian cultural mass-movement. He is also known for denying that the Iron Guard, Romania's interwar fascist movement, was guilty of committing any atrocities against the Jews. Coja joins two other extreme nationalists in the run for the presidency, Greater Romania Party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Socialist Labor Party first vice-chairman, Adrian Paunescu, both of whom are former Ceausescu "court poets." The PDAR conference held in Bucharest on 2-3 March also reelected Victor Surdu chairman of the party, Romanian media report. -- Michael Shafir

The military tribunal of the Russian-based forces in the Trans-dniester on 1 March started proceedings against Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, BASA-press reported on the same day. The tribunal decided to start the proceedings under the Russian Penal Code, for "failure to carry out a judicial ruling." Grachev is accused of failing to implement the court's earlier ruling to reinstate Colonel Mikhail Bergman as Tiraspol garrison commander. Berg-man, one of the staunchest supporters of former 14th Army commander General Alexander Lebed, was dismissed as Tiraspol garrison commander in October 1995. -- Michael Shafir

Health Minister Mimi Vitkova confirmed that seven persons infected with HIV-contaminated blood protein have died, 24 chasa reported on 4 March. The chief prosecutor on 27 February ordered an investigation into the case which involves at least 41 persons who were infected in state-run hospitals. Meanwhile, Bulgarian doctors on 1 March demonstrated against insufficient funds for the country's health system, restrictions on private medical practice, and low pay, Reuters reported. They demanded Vitkova's resignation. The protest in Sofia was organized by medical trade unions and supported by the opposition. -- Stefan Krause

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana on 2 March concluded a two-day visit to Athens, AFP reported. He said he will "continue to work constructively" to resolve the differences between Greece and Turkey, but gave no details of his talks with Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis and other leading politicians. The same day, Greece vetoed a 750 million ECU ($940 million) loan to Turkey by the European Investment Bank. On 1 March, a Greek and a Turkish military vessel collided near the disputed islet of Imia/Kardak. Both sides claimed that the incident took place in their territorial waters. Also on 1 March, the Greek government asked that the Italian and Dutch military attaches be recalled after they were arrested in January on the island of Lesbos with notes possibly relating to military installations there. Italy and the Netherlands recalled the diplomats but denied the charges. -- Stefan Krause

The True Path Party (DYP) and the Motherland Party (ANAP) on 3 March agreed to form a minority government, Western agencies reported. The cabinet will be headed by ANAP Chairman Mesut Yilmaz until the end of 1996, and by DYP leader and outgoing Prime Minister Tansu Ciller for the following two years. Then Yilmaz takes over for one more year, followed by an as-yet unnamed DYP politician. DYP and ANAP together hold 261 of the 550 seats in parliament, but the Democratic Left Party of former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said it will support the government in a vote of confidence. The coalition agreement names as main targets the reduction of inflation and unemployment. President Suleyman Demirel denied that the military interfered to keep the Islamist Welfare Party out of the government. -- Stefan Krause

Police on 1 March arrested two young men who allegedly resemble the man who parked the car carrying the bomb which went off in central Tirana on 26 February, international agencies reported. Meanwhile, Albanian Police General Director Agim Shehu denied reports that the bomb attack might be linked to the Italian Mafia. Shehu claimed the attack "has been carried out by left-wing extremists and the former (communist) Albanian secret police," Reuters reported. He declined, however, to disclose what evidence investigators had found. -- Fabian Schmidt

An Albanian court on 2 March ordered for the second time the continued detention of Populli Po journalist Ylli Polovina, who was arrested and accused of inciting political violence in an article that predicted political terrorism in Albania. Polovina's relatives and journalists were not allowed to attend the court hearing. Meanwhile, Reuters and Voice of America journalists have been interrogated by police following their reporting. Vefa Holding, whose supermarket burned down in the blast, has denied Reuters reports saying the firm was involved in arms sales. -- Fabian Schmid

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle