U.S. BLASTS HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD IN CHECHNYA.
In its annual human rights
report, the U.S. State Department said Russia's record remained uneven, "with
reversals and worsening in some areas, most notably in the conduct of the war
in Chechnya," according to Reuters. The report noted numerous killings and
other serious human rights violations in Chechnya but said those committed by
federal forces "occurred on a much greater scale than those of the Chechen
separatists." It added that security forces elsewhere in Russia were
increasingly targeting citizens from the Caucasus for "arbitrary searches and
detention on the pretext of maintaining public safety." The report found that
the media generally functioned unhindered but noted a few exceptions. It also
criticized the dismissal of former Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev,
cited reports of prison inmates dying due to torture by security forces, and
noted the continuation of "hazing" in the military. -- Penny Morvant
YELTSIN: MEDIA SHOULD BE "SOOTHING" DURING CAMPAIGN.
said the mass media should be "soothing" during the upcoming "turbulent period"
of the presidential campaign, since "society faces hard times," ITAR-TASS
reported on 6 March. In February, Yeltsin sacked Russian TV Chairman Oleg
Poptsov, prompting fears that he will tighten control over the media during the
campaign. The Central Electoral Commission has not yet adopted regulations on
campaign coverage, but it is reportedly considering rules to prohibit
journalists on state-owned media from commenting on candidates or asking
questions during debates. -- Laura Belin
YELTSIN VOWS TO SAVE RUSSIA FROM TERROR.
Speaking to a conference on
legal reform in the Kremlin, President Yeltsin said he intends to win the June
presidential elections to protect Russia from "the terror of arbitrary rule,
lawlessness, and mass repressions," which he said would return if the
Communists gained power, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 6 March. Yeltsin's
main rival, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, criticized the president
for belatedly realizing the need to introduce legal order in Russia, NTV
reported. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets told ITAR-TASS
that Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov will go on leave from the cabinet in
order to run Yeltsin's campaign headquarters. Soskovets said he may also go on
leave for a month or so later this spring. He added that Yeltsin will announce
his election program at a 22-23 March conference, and the program will be
"significantly different" from his recent "state of the nation" address to
parliament (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 February 1996). -- Laura Belin
MORE COMPETITION ON THE WEEKLY NEWS MAGAZINE MARKET.
Gusinskii's Most Group, which already finances the Segodnya newspaper
and NTV, has teamed up with the U.S. magazine Newsweek to launch a
weekly news magazine in Russia, to be called Itogi, (Results or Summing
Up), ITAR-TASS reported on 6 March. The first issue will appear in May and will
be distributed in Moscow and other large cities. About 15% of the material in
the magazine will be translated from Newsweek, and the rest will be
produced by Russian staff. In January, the weekly magazine Ponedelnik
(Monday) was launched with money from U.S. and Dutch investors. Ogonek,
Russia's most popular weekly magazine, is 100% financed by Russian investors.
Kommersant-weekly, which is also influential despite its smaller
circulation, is said to have both Russian and foreign investment. -- Laura
DUMA CONDEMNS DESECRATION OF SOVIET FLAG. . .
The Duma passed a
resolution on 6 March condemning any desecration of the flag of the former
Soviet Union, Russian and Western agencies reported. The resolution was in
response to a TV report on 3 March showing a member of an anti-fascist youth
committee wiping his feet on the flag. It and a flag of Nazi Germany were
placed at the entrance to a Moscow hall where a national youth conference was
in progress (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 March 1996). A sign read,
"Democrats wipe their feet here." The resolution, supported by 289 deputies,
called on the Procurator-General's Office to "institute criminal proceedings
against hooliganism as regards historical symbols of our country." -- Penny
. . .WHILE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS WANT SOVIET-ERA NAME OF METRO STATION
Workers rebuilding the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow have
asked Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to rename a metro station near the
construction site, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 March. The station is currently
called Kropotkinskaya after Petr Kropotkin, an anarchist who supported the
October Revolution. The station was first called the Palace of the Soviets, as
it was supposed to serve a giant public building of the same name to be built
on the site of the original cathedral, which was torn down by the authorities
in the 1930s. When the project fell through and a swimming pool was built
instead, the station was renamed so as not to remind people of the failure. --
REGIONAL PARTY ORGANIZATIONS UNITE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
association of left-wing patriotic forces and an alliance of pro-reform
organizations have been created in Krasnodar Krai, Nezavisimaya gazeta
reported on 6 March. The "Fatherland" movement, which unites the krai-level
organizations of the Communist Party (KPRF) and the hardline Communist Workers
Party and United Workers Front, backs the nomination of KPRF leader Gennadii
Zyuganov for the presidency. The krai organizations of Yabloko, Svyatoslav
Fedorov's Party of Workers Self-Government, and Yegor Gaidar's Russia's
Democratic Choice united in support of the candidacy of Grigorii Yavlinskii.
The same day, Segodnya reported that a movement called "For the revival
of the Urals" has been formed by branches of various left-wing parties in
Chelyabinsk to support Zyuganov. -- Anna Paretskaya
KOMI DEFENDS RIGHTS OF NORTHERN MIGRANTS.
Komi Republic head
administrator Yurii Spiridonov has formally requested that the Constitutional
Court defend the constitutional rights of migrants from the north, mostly
pensioners heading south for their retirement, Russian TV reported on 6 March.
The request was sparked by the fact that some regional administrations in
Russia have been charging immigrants from the north up to 30 million rubles
($6,500) for permanent residency papers. The 1996 federal budget has allotted
the Komi Republic 300 billion rubles ($62 million) under a program to aid
resettlement. By 2005, 148,000 people are slated to be moved out of the area.
-- Anna Paretskaya
PLANS FOR A NEW CONFEDERATION.
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets said on 6 March that President Boris Yeltsin will announce "plans for
movement toward a confederation of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan" on the eve
of the fifth anniversary of the  referendum on the preservation of a
unified state," ITAR-TASS reported. This will probably take place at a
pre-election meeting in Moscow which Yeltsin will address on 22 March. CIS
integration will be the central theme in the campaign of both leading
presidential candidates. -- Peter Rutland
CIS TO HAVE COMMON AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
The members of the CIS Interstate
Economic Committee on 6 March signed an agreement on the "establishment and
development" of a common air defense system, ITAR-TASS reported. All 12 CIS
member states are involved in the system. including Ukraine, which is
cooperating but has not formally joined its ranks. Money will be allocated for
extending the system to Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Tajikistan, and a
transnational company ("Granit") will be formed to manufacture equipment. --
LIGHTS OUT IN THE FAR EAST.
A 12 hour power shutdown in Primorskii Krai
triggered street protests on 6 March, blocking the center of Vladivostok for
several hours, ITAR-TASS reported. The government forbids the national
electricity producer, EES, from cutting off certain categories of
consumers--about 25% of the total - even if they do not pay their
electricity bills. As a result, by the beginning of January EES was owed some
42 trillion rubles ($8 billion) by customers, with debts rising by 5 trillion a
month, Rabochaya tribuna claimed on 5 March. This in turn meant that the
regional energy company Dalenergo could not pay its coal suppliers, who halted
deliveries, causing the power shutdown. -- Peter Rutland
EUROPEAN LOANS FOR RUSSIA.
German and French banks announced on 6 March
that they will provide Russia with more than $3 billion in new loans, Reuters
reported. A consortium of German banks led by Deutsche Bank will lend DM 4
billion ($2.7 billion), mainly in the form of export credits, while France will
provide two billion francs ($400 million). The money will start to be released
in the next few months, supplementing the first payments of the $10.2 billion
IMF loan announced last month. EBRD President Jacques de Larosiere said that he
was "very optimistic about Russia," AFP reported the same day. European support
for Yeltsin may be connected to the question of NATO expansion. On 5 March, in
a speech to the German parliament, President Roman Herzog had appealed to his
"Russian friends" not to see NATO expansion as a threat. -- Peter Rutland
AEROFLOT LEASES MORE AIRBUSES.
Aeroflot Russian International Airlines
announced on 6 March that it would be leasing four more widebodied A310s from
the French producer Airbus Industrie, ITAR-TASS reported. The planes are
equipped with engines from the U.S. firm Pratt and Whitney. Russia acquired
five airbuses, its first foreign planes, in 1992. Uzbek Air and Sakha Air each
has two A310s. Meanwhile, in Irkutsk customs officials seized a Boeing 757
leased to Air Baikal (a Russian-U.K. joint venture), demanding a $25 million
import duty, the Wall Street Journal reported on 6 March. This despite
the fact that the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission had agreed at its 30 January
meeting to exempt leased U.S. aircraft from import tariffs. -- Peter Rutland
DUBININ WARNS FOREIGN BANKS.
Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said
that restrictions may be reimposed on foreign banks operating in Russia, Radio
Mayak reported on 6 March. He said that the spread of foreign banks threatens
the interests of Russian banks. He also complained that Russian banks are
treated as "mafia" outlets and are denied access to banking in foreign
countries. President Yeltsin had banned new foreign bank branches from taking
on Russian clients in November 1993, but he relaxed these restrictions in June
1994 after pressure from the EU. Russia now has 10 fully-owned and 50
partly-owned foreign banks, whose capital accounts for only 5% of total bank
assets. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland
FIVE ARRESTED AT UNAUTHORIZED RALLY IN GEORGIA.
officials arrested five supporters of former Georgian President Zviad
Gamsakhurdia at a 5 March rally in Tbilisi, Iprinda news agency reported. About
80 supporters of the former president and members of other non-parliamentary
opposition parties participated in the rally outside the Georgian parliament
building to protest the adoption of a law on the privatization of arable land.
Police made the arrests when the protesters refused to disperse. -- Irakli
AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION FAILS TO FORCE VOTE OF NO
National Independence Party of Azerbaijan (NIPA) Deputy
Chairman Nazim Imanov's 6 March proposal that the Azerbaijani Milli Mejlis
(People's Assembly) debate a vote of no confidence in the government failed to
win the necessary majority, Turan reported. Previously considered a "loyal
opposition party," the NIPA has hardened its opposition to President Heidar
Aliyev since the November 1995 parliamentary elections. -- Liz Fuller
MORE CABINET MINISTERS SACKED IN UZBEKISTAN.
President Islam Karimov
dismissed two more ministers on 6 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 March.
Adbulkhosim Mutalov was relieved of his duties as deputy prime minister and
head of the state grain company Uzdonmakhsulot. Last December, Mutalov was
demoted from prime minister to deputy prime minister (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 22 December 1995). Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Paigin was also
dismissed from his post as chairman of the state-owned agricultural machinery
company Uzselkhozmash. In a cabinet meeting last month, Karimov criticized the
government for failing to make Uzbekistan self-sufficient in grain production.
Water Conservation Minister Rim Giniyatulin was promoted to deputy prime
minister on 5 March, Reuters reported. -- Roger Kangas
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN DENMARK.
Hennadii Udovenko ended an
official visit to Denmark on 5 March by signing several agreements with his
Danish counterpart Neils Petersen, Radio Ukraine reported. Among those signed
were a protocol on cooperation between the countries' foreign ministries and a
treaty on preventing double taxation. Udovenko said Ukraine discussed expanding
cooperation and seeking advice from Denmark in the spheres of energy, oil and
gas exploration, agriculture and food processing, as well as European security.
-- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINIAN COAL MINERS REJECT GOVERNMENT OFFER.
In a meeting with Deputy
Prime Minister Vasyl Yevtukhov, leaders of Ukraine's coal miners' unions
rejected the government's offer of shares in the state-owned mines to cover the
back wages still owed them, Ukrainian TV reported on 6 March. The miners
requested instead that they be paid in household appliances, such as
refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners, produced by largely still
state-owned factories. Yevtukhov said payment in appliances instead of stock
was "more complicated," but he would explore the option. The miners suspended
a two-week-long strike on 16 February to negotiate payment of the wage arrears.
-- Chrystyna Lapychak
LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PROGRAM.
Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius
presented his government's program to the Seimas on 6 March, Radio Lithuania
reported. He said that the main goals were maintaining the stability of the
litas and reducing inflation. The program calls for reducing state expenditures
and debts, introducing tax concessions for local and foreign businessmen, and
increasing energy prices. The ruling Democratic Labor Party expressed its
support for the program while the major opposition parties in the Seimas noted
that it differed little from that of the previous government and that they
would vote against it. The Seimas is required to approve or reject the program
within 30 days. -- Saulius Girnius
BELARUS PLANS TO BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.
Energy Minister Valyantsin
Herasimau said on 5 March that Belarus had revived plans to have a nuclear
power plant in operation by 2005, Reuters reported the next day. Before the
1986 Chornobyl disaster, the republic was planning to build two nuclear plants,
but one site was converted to a gas-fired station and plans for the other were
abandoned. Gerasimov noted that Belarus imports 85% of its fuel from Russia and
25% of its electricity from Russia and Lithuania. Belarus is also planning to
increase energy conservation, find new home-produced energy sources, use a
broader range of Russian oil companies, and possibly import gas from
Turkmenistan. -- Saulius Girnius
BELARUS TO HELP BELGRADE.
During the visit of rump Yugoslav President
Zoran Lilic to Minsk on 6 March, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
pledged to assist in the country's economic recovery, ITAR-TASS reported. He
said that Belarus would provide "not only peaceful products, but also the means
necessary to ensure the inviolability and integrity of Yugoslavia." Lukashenka
said the presidents saw "eye to eye" on all issues: a series of bilateral
agreements were signed. -- Peter Rutland
NEW PRO-WALESA MOVEMENT IN POLAND.
A movement called "Solid in
Elections" was established on 6 March by former President Lech Walesa's
election activists in various Polish provinces, Polish media reported the next
day. The founders declared that "the Republic's good currently requires
consolidation of all pro-Walesa political forces" because convergence of power
in the hands of one post-communist formation poses a threat to socio-political
reforms in the country and "leads to the elimination of Catholic, national, and
patriotic values from public life." -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
NATO HOPEFULS TO MEET IN PRAGUE.
The foreign ministers of 12 Central and
East European countries will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher in Prague on 19 March to discuss European security, Czech and
international media reported. The meeting was announced by Czech Foreign
Minister Josef Zieleniec after he returned from Moscow, where he and his
Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, discussed Russian objections to the
enlargement of NATO. Following the Prague meeting, Christopher is due to travel
to Moscow. Along with Christopher and himself, Zieleniec said the foreign
ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia,
Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania have been invited to the Prague
talks. -- Steve Kettle
U.S. STRESSES ROMANI DISCRIMINATION IN CZECH REPUBLIC AND HUNGARY...
U.S. Department of State, in its 1995 human rights reports issued on March 6,
singled out prejudice against Roma as the main area of concern. In the Czech
Republic, the report recognized that courts proceeded "with more vigor" than
before as the government publicly condemned racially motivated attacks. It
said, however, that Roma are still vulnerable to serious racial prejudice and
attacks which the authorities have not been able to suppress, and that the law
on citizenship has left 10--24,000 people, mostly Roma, without citizenship.
The report also said that, while Hungary has been pursuing parliamentary
democracy, discrimination against Roma still exists. Some in Eastern Europe
argue that the West should also look to its own treatment of minorities, which
undermines the efficacy of the issued reports. -- Alaina Lemon
...ALSO CRITICIZES SLOVAK HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD.
The State Department
report on Slovakia said the government's actions in 1995 gave rise for
concern, Reuters reported. While recognizing Slovakia's overall respect for
human rights in 1995, the report noted that "disturbing trends away from
democratic principles emerged," including "politically motivated dismissals of
public officials, intimidation of opponents of government policy, police misuse
of authority, and interference with the electronic media." It pointed to
suspected involvement of the Slovak Information Service in the kidnapping of
the president's son, the use of police to spy on leading opposition
politicians, and the harassment by police of a senior clergyman. The report
also expressed concern about the lack of protection for Roma against
discrimination, the situation of the Hungarian minority, and some isolated
cases of anti-Semitism. -- Sharon Fisher
Police on 6 March questioned the president's son for the
first time in connection with his alleged involvement in the $2.3 million fraud
involving the Slovak firm Technopol, Slovak media reported. Michal Kovac Jr.'s
lawyer, Jan Havlat, expressed satisfaction that his client was finally able to
defend himself, and he noted that the possibility of taking Kovac into custody
was not discussed. In other news, the European Human Rights Commission on 6
March rejected a complaint against Slovakia by two Slovak emigrants who claimed
their human rights were violated by a decision to make permanent residence in
Slovakia a condition for the restitution of property taken by the state under
the Communist regime. Party of the Democratic Left deputy Robert Fico, who
defended Slovakia in the case, said the country had won its first dispute in
Strasbourg, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher
BOSNIAN ELECTIONS MAY BE DELAYED.
Robert Frowick, head of the OSCE
mission and in charge of organizing free elections in Bosnia, said they may not
be able to go ahead as planned by the Dayton peace accord owing to a lack of
good faith, Nasa Borba reported on 7 March. Frowick admitted an absence
of pluralistic parties in Bosnia and the danger that indicted war criminals,
such as Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko
Mladic, would hamper the process. He told NATO-country ambassadors that he was
working on a detailed document outlining all the hurdles needed to be overcome
before elections may be held. These include access to free media for all
candidates, along with free movement across the country. As the two biggest
problems, Frowick named resettling refugees and the media. Meanwhile, a total
of 32 political parties are reported as registered in Sarajevo, Onasa reported
on 6 March. -- Daria Sito Sucic
IFOR CHIEF WARNS ABOUT CROAT-MUSLIM FEDERATION.
president and Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak appeared on 6 March to
distance himself from his earlier harsh words on the future of the federation
that Slobodna Dalmacija had reported, Onasa stated. The NATO commander
in Bosnia, U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, however, remains openly pessimistic
about the future of Croat-Muslim cooperation, the VOA said on 7 March. AFP
quoted the admiral as saying that Mostar is evidence of the deep-set problems
of the partnership, which has yet to take root at either the political,
military, or people-to-people levels. He predicted things will go from bad to
worse in the spring. Former Bosnian Prime Minister and now opposition
politician Haris Silajdzic issued similar warnings, saying that the politicians
responsible for the Croat-Muslim war of 1993 must go if trust is to be rebuilt.
Vecernje novine ran the report on 7 March. -- Patrick Moore
PEACEKEEPERS TO PROTECT SITES OF WAR CRIMES IF ASKED.
IFOR is currently
carrying out about 300 civilian construction projects in Bosnia, including
repairing bridge links between that republic and Croatia at Brcko and
elsewhere, news agencies reported on 6 March. A NATO spokesman in Brussels said
that the peacekeepers will now consider on an individual basis requests to
guard suspected sites of war crimes to prevent tampering with evidence,
especially if the request comes from the international tribunal in The Hague.
The 60,000-strong force will still give priority to its military duties as set
down in the Dayton agreement. NATO has drafted some new guidelines for IFOR,
but it is not clear if they will enable the peacekeepers to become more active
in catching or detaining war criminals. Reuters noted that Washington has
agreed to the guidelines. A diplomat said the new measures are not a case of
"mission creep" but of mission evolution. -- Patrick Moore
BOSNIAN-IRANIAN IMBROGLIO CONTINUES.
Serbian propaganda has long
stressed alleged links between the Bosnian Muslim leadership and international
Islamic fundamentalism represented by Iran. Washington, moreover, has been
concerned about any continued presence of Iranian fighters or other agents in
the embattled republic. The matter has resurfaced in the wake of Prime Minister
Hasan Muratovic's visit to Tehran and of U.S. media reports that Bosnian troops
are being trained in Iran. Onasa wrote on 6 March that the Bosnian army press
office has officially denied those stories, but the VOA on 7 March quoted the
Washington Post as outlining extensive military links between the two
countries. Onasa wrote that Bosnia had succeeded in keeping both Iran and the
U.S. as allies, but Vecernje novine objected to "friendly persuasion" by
the Americans and Europe -- including Croatia -- against Sarajevo's links to
Tehran. Iran has pledged to help Bosnia rebuild, as have its rivals Turkey and
Saudi Arabia. -- Patrick Moore
CROATIA AND THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
The president of the committee for
democracy, human rights, and humanitarian issues of the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe has proposed that talks on Croatia's membership in the
CE be postponed for another year, Nasa Borba reported on 7 March. The
reasons given were "the Croatian president's latest anti-democratic actions."
The report said that "since Krajina was retaken, Franjo Tudjman has been
increasingly far away from the European democracies' social values,"including a
disregard for the opposition and critical media, his own family's accumulation
of wealth in the privatization process, manipulating election rights,
protecting war criminals, and silence over attacks on the EU administrator in
Mostar. The report concluded by expressing fears that the Croatian president is
ready to turn the country into a dictatorship for his own purposes. -- Daria
BELGRADE'S STUDIO B WINS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS.
Nasa Borba on
7 March reports that the EU has sharply criticized the Serbian government for
its recent take-over of Belgrade's only politically independent television
broadcaster, Studio B. According to the report, actions such as the Serbian
regime's against the independent media may contribute to a strain on "the
development of future relations between the EU and the countries of the
region." In a related story, the same daily reports on how the citizens and
residents of Belgrade continue to suffer from an information blackout and
exposure to regime-controlled and manipulated programming. "Of the 11
television stations which can be viewed in [and around] the territory of
Belgrade, five broadcast nothing but films and music shows," Nasa Borba
observes. -- Stan Markotich
SLOVENIAN-ITALIAN RELATIONS UPDATE.
Ljubljana dailies on 6 March
reported that a controversy between Italy and Slovenia centering on the issue
of property ownership may be resolved in the very near future owing to a
compromise suggested by Spanish mediation. Reports suggest Rome is satisfied
with the Spanish proposals, and that Ljubljana appears inclined to accept them.
Beta reports that the Italian side has insisted that foreigners who lived in
Slovenia before 1991 be allowed to purchase and own real estate, a move that
would enable Italians who left immediately following World War II to once again
own property in Slovenia. -- Stan Markotich
STRIKERS BLOCK SUBWAY TUNNEL IN BUCHAREST.
Some 1,000 metro workers on 6
March blocked a downtown station and the subway tunnel in Bucharest to protest
their union leaders' decision to suspend a strike started on 4 March, Romanian
media reported. The strikers ignored a Supreme Court ruling of the same day
ordering them to call off the action because it was seriously harming the
national economy. The strike has affected up to one million commuters in
Bucharest, forcing them onto packed buses and trams. The strikers are
demanding a 28% pay rise and better working conditions. The government agreed
to continue negotiations with the unions over those demands. -- Dan Ionescu
NEW COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER APPOINTED IN ROMANIA.
President Ion Iliescu
installed Ioan Ovidiu Muntean as Romania's new communications minister on 6
March, Romanian and international media reported. The 48-year-old Muntean
formally joined the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on the
eve of his appointment and is replacing Adrian Turicu of the same party, who
was dismissed in January. Muntean's appointment ends a political dispute
between the PUNR and the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, both members of
the government coalition. -- Matyas Szabo
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS CALL FOR CABINET RESHUFFLE.
24 chasa on 7
March cited an unnamed member of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP)
executive as saying that a cabinet reshuffle will "with certainty [take place]
by the end of March." A plenary meeting of the BSP Supreme Council, its
coalition partners, and the parliamentary faction scheduled for 10 March will
officially authorize BSP Chairman and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to make the
changes "he considers necessary." BSP Deputy Chairman Georgi Parvanov told
Standart that the plenary meeting will propose "concrete changes."
Videnov's other deputy, Yanaki Stoilov, told the BSP daily Duma that
"changes in the interior ministry, the financial, and the economic team are
necessary." -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN CURRENCY PLUNGES.
The lev on 6 March lost heavily against the
U.S. dollar, Duma and Pari reported. With a Bulgarian National
Bank (BNB) fixing of 77.783 leva to the dollar, trading began at around 78-79
leva, but soon passed the 80 leva barrier. At an exchange rate of 82 leva in
the early afternoon, the banks stopped trading, but exchange offices were
selling the U.S. currency for 85--86 leva later the same day. The BNB did not
intervene. According to a dealer cited by Kontinent, "fear and
pessimistic projections make people buy" U.S. dollars. Other dealers, however,
said there is no objective reason for the fall of the lev or that it is due to
speculation. Also on 6 March, the new prime interest rate of 49% became
effective. Many exchange offices on 7 March temporarily refused to conduct any
trade because of the uncertainty, international media reported. -- Stefan
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER.
The Macedonian Parliament on 6
March elected Tito Petkovski as its new chairman, MIC reported. Petkovski
replaced Stojan Andov, who announced his resignation on 23 February to protest
a new government coalition that no longer includes his Liberal Party. Petkovski
is a member of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, the biggest party in
the parliament and the government. Some 79 deputies supported his candidacy,
five voted against him, while the 29 deputies of the Liberal Party abstained.
-- Stefan Krause
BOMB EXPLODES IN ALBANIAN PORT CITY.
A five-kilo TNT bomb hidden in a
dustbin exploded in Durres at midnight on 5 March, AFP reported. The incident
caused no casualties. Police arrested several people in connection with the
blast, which blew out windows on both sides of one of the city's main streets.
One of the arrested persons reportedly had a Scorpion automatic weapon and a
gun, but police released no further details. On 26 February, a bomb killed four
people in Tirana and dailies reported about more minor explosions in subsequent
days, including one in a dustbin in Shkoder. The government accused former
communist agents of planting the Tirana bomb. -- Fabian Schmidt
TURKEY'S 53RD GOVERNMENT.
President Suleyman Demirel on 6 March
approved a minority conservative government to be headed by former Premier
Mesut Yilmaz, Western and Turkish media reported the same day. Yilmaz, chairman
of the Motherland Party (ANAP) told the press the 53rd government will be one
of "reform and change" and said a transparent and honest state would be "one of
the highest priorities" of the new government. He also noted that formulating
the cabinet list of 33 members was achieved with great difficulty. Turkey's
foreign minister to-be is Emre Gonensay, a former special adviser to outgoing
Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. The government must now win a parliamentary vote
of confidence, tenatively scheduled for 12 March. -- Lowell Bezanis
--Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle