CHECHEN MILITANTS RETREAT FROM GROZNY.
After five days of bitter
fighting throughout Grozny, Russian media reported on 11 March that Chechen
forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev had split into small groups and
retreated to the outskirts of the city where fighting was continuing, but that
the city center was "quiet." Casualties on both sides run into the hundreds.
Oil storage tanks at the Lenin oil refinery are reportedly ablaze and
electricity and water supplies have been disrupted. Meanwhile, on 8 March
Russian federal troops succeeded in retaking the border village of Sernovodsk,
and the local population is beginning to return to their homes. -- Liz Fuller
SOSKOVETS OUTLINES YELTSIN CAMPAIGN THEMES.
Imbuing economic reform with
greater social support, strengthening Russian statehood, and fighting crime
will be the main themes of President Boris Yeltsin's re-election platform,
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, the head of the coordinating
council for the campaign, said 9 March. To counter the "opposition's baseless
criticism of everything the government does," the president will try to explain
to Russians how the government's actions promote stability, he said. The
government is taking measures to promote domestic production and resolve the
enormous wage arrears problem while still trying to secure financial
stabilization, Soskovets told ITAR-TASS. -- Robert Orttung
POLITICIANS WOO FEMALE VOTERS.
President Boris Yeltsin courted Russia's
female voters on 8 March, extolling women as the source of goodness, love, and
peace in a televised speech to mark International Women's Day. His rival for
the presidency, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, bestowed flowers and
champagne on women reporters and spoke about his home life at a news conference
on 7 March. Hard-line communists decried the effect of reform on women at a
small rally in Moscow on 8 March, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov contended that only Soviet power can
return respect and equality to women, who he claimed have been turned into
"slaves" by the current regime. He went on to urge voters in the capital to
back Olga Sergeeva of the Russian Communist Workers' Party in the city's
mayoral elections on 16 June. -- Penny Morvant
NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR CONFIDENT OF COMMUNIST VICTORY.
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov said that he believes a Communist candidate
will win the June presidential elections due to the pro-reform parties' failure
to rally around a single candidate, NTV and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on
10 March. Nemtsov added that he does not think a Communist victory would be a
catastrophe, saying the country's independent media and political opposition
and the influence of Western countries will be stabilizing factors. Last week,
Nemtsov said he would not run for the presidency and proposed that limits be
imposed on presidential powers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). --
ABSENCE OF REGIONAL POLITICS DESTABILIZES RUSSIA.
The absence of a state
regional policy in Russia is one of the most destabilizing factors in the
country, according to experts from the Center of Research on Federalism.
Historically, regional policy consisted of agreements between the central and
regional elites. The center's specialists say that all of the Russian
Federation's subjects should be treated equally regardless of their size or
status in order to preserve Russian unity, Russian TV reported on 10 March. --
NORWAY DOUBTS RUSSIA CONDUCTED NUCLEAR TEST.
Refuting recent allegations
in the U.S. media, Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjoern Tore Godal said on 9 March
that his government has uncovered no evidence that Russia conducted a secret
underground nuclear test at its Novaya Zemlya test site in January, ITAR-TASS
reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). Godal declared that it
was "impossible" for a test to occur at Novaya Zemlya without Norway detecting
it. Scientists from the Norwegian Radiation Safety Institute and Norwegian
Seismological Service confirmed that they were unaware of any evidence that
such a test--even of very low yield--had taken place. The Novaya Zemlya test
site is located on a remote island off the north coast Russia, about 1,000 km
away from Norway. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN TO CO-SPONSOR ANTI-TERRORISM SUMMIT.
President Yeltsin will
address the opening session of the scheduled 13 March anti-terrorism summit in
the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said Yeltsin, along with U.S President
Bill Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, would co-chair the meeting.
The 31-state gathering aims to boost the stalled Middle East peace process, of
which Russia is a co-sponsor. Iran, Iraq, and Libya have condemned the meeting;
Syria also may not attend. Medvedev noted that Russia is eager to help combat
the "evil" of international terrorism. Russia was embarrassed on the eve of the
meeting, however, by the 8 March hijacking of a jetliner in Cyprus by a Turkish
national, who said he wanted to attract attention to the ongoing Chechen
conflict. -- Scott Parrish
HEALTH MINISTRY ON CONTINUING EFFECTS OF CHORNOBYL CATASTROPHE.
Ministry experts said on 9 March that about 800,000 Russian children were
affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster and are under medical
surveillance, Russian and Western agencies reported. About 3,000 children have
been hospitalized and another 70,000 are said to have received medical
treatment. The ministry noted an increase in diseases of the endocrine gland
and in tumors among women and children living in affected areas. About 7,000
Russian towns were contaminated by radioactivity as a result of the Chornobyl
accident. -- Penny Morvant
Aliyev IN TBILISI.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev arrived in Tbilisi
on 8 March for an official three-day visit that had been postponed several
times before, Russian and Western media reported. Aliyev and his Georgian
counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a 15 agreements on friendship and
cooperation plus a declaration on peace, stability, and cooperation throughout
the Caucasus. Of particular importance was an agreement signed by
representatives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Azerbaijani International
Operating Company (AIOC)--the steering company representing a consortium of 10
Western oil companies involved in exploiting three Caspian oil fields--to
export part of the oil via Georgia. The AIOC vice-president told AFP, however,
that agreement has not been reached on financing the Western pipeline, which is
unlikely to be fully operational before September 1997; the first early oil is
due to be exported in late 1996. -- Liz Fuller
DELEGATION FROM NAHICHEVAN IN ANKARA.
A high-level delegation from
Nahichevan, an autonomous region of Azerbaijan, is in Ankara for talks focused
on economic and trade issues, Zaman reported on 11 March. To date, Nahichevan,
which shares an approximately10 km-long border with Turkey, has used $19.6
million of a $20 million line of credit extended to the region by Turkey's
Eximbank. The delegation, led by Nahichevan's Ali Majlis (parliament) Chairman
Vasit Talibov, includes other officials responsible for the region and
republic's foreign economic relations. -- Lowell Bezanis
KYRGYZSTAN TO RECEIVE MORE FUNDING FROM U.S.
U.S. presidential adviser
James Collins said U.S. aid to Kyrgyzstan this year will reach at least the
1995 level of $50 million, according to a Radio Rossii report from 9 March.
Collins said the continued aid is a demonstration of U.S. satisfaction with
Kyrgyzstan's progress in democratic reforms, adding that the Central Asian
republic is a leader among CIS countries in this regard. -- Bruce Pannier
U.S.-UZBEK RELATIONS IMPROVING.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov received
official notification from U.S. President Bill Clinton on 8 March that the
U.S.-Uzbek Bilateral Investment Treaty has been submitted to the U.S. Senate
for ratification, ITAR-TASS reported. Signed on 16 December 1994, the treaty
states that both sides agree to international law standards on property
expropriation and compensation, free transfer of funds for investment, and
"fair, equitable, and most-favored-nation treatment." Until now, some U.S.
investors were concerned about the absence of a legal framework for recourse in
Uzbekistan. In addition, Clinton stressed the importance of the military
conversion commission that was in Tashkent last week (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 8 March 1996). In contrast to past criticisms of Uzbekistan,
Clinton said that "our two countries can work together" and that "Uzbekistan
can play a key role" in Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES KAZAKHSTAN.
Amnesty International has
criticized Kazakhstan for executing 101 people last year, ranking the state of
17 million among countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria which have
the highest numbers of death penalties, Reuters reported on 9 March. No
executions have taken place this year due to bureaucratic obstacles, according
to the Amnesty report. Human rights groups criticized the Kazakhstani
government last year for allegedly screening videotapes of executions on the
state TV channel in order to deter criminals; the screenings later turned out
to be a hoax. An Interior Ministry spokesperson told Reuters that the death
penalty is justified by the level of violence and the high crime rate in
Kazakhstan. Local human rights organizations have called for a moratorium on
executions while a review of the country's criminal code is carried out. --
NAZARBAYEV APPOINTS TWO NEW REGIONAL HEADS.
Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Serik Umbetov and Umirzak Uzbekov as the new
heads of the Almaty and Taldy Kurgan oblasts respectively, Kazakhstani TV
reported on 6 March. Uzbekov replaces the previous head, Serik Akhimbekov, who
became the new agriculture minister last week. In an address carried by Uzbek
TV and monitored by the BBC on 7 March, Nazarbayev called on the new head of
the Almaty Oblast to promote economic recovery and combat the growing crime
wave in the region. The state treasury provides 50% of the Almaty Oblast's
budget. -- Bhavna Dave
POLITICAL GROUPS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS SIGN AGREEMENT IN TAJIKISTAN.
Thirty-four officially registered organizations in Tajikistan signed a social
accord in Dushanbe on 9 March, NTV reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
said the agreement will achieve "peace as well as public and ethnic concord in
society, ensure human rights and freedoms, and secure the supremacy of the
constitution and accepted norms of international law." In a likely reference to
splinter groups of the United Tajik Opposition, Rakhmonov also added that
Tajikistan's judiciary will soon allow formerly banned parties that revise
their charters to be registered in the country. Meanwhile, the head of the
Tajik Party for Political and Economic Revival, Mukhtor Babayev, was gunned
down in his car by unknown assailants on 8 March in the north of the country.
Police are investigating the murder. -- Bruce Pannier
CRIMEA GIVES UKRAINE ULTIMATUM ON CONSTITUTION.
Crimea has given the
Ukrainian parliament a 31 March deadline to ratify its constitution,
international agencies reported on 11 March. The new Crimean basic law
preserves Crimean autonomy. During an emergency session, Crimean deputies
threatened to call a region-wide referendum on Crimea's status or bring back
the separatist 1992 constitution, banned by Ukraine in March 1995, if Ukrainian
lawmakers fail to approve the new constitution. The draft was approved by the
Crimean assembly in November, but Ukraine has postponed a vote on the document.
Meanwhile, it has completed a draft of a new Ukrainian constitution further
limiting the region's autonomy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE REVEALS DETAILS OF SERIOUS RADIATION LEAK AT CHORNOBYL.
Ukrainian Environment Ministry has revealed details of a serious radiation leak
that occurred on 17 November 1995 inside the Chornobyl nuclear power plant,
international and Ukrainian agencies reported. The incident, which registered
three on the international scale of one to six, took place when a nuclear fuel
rod split open while Reactor No. 1 was being refueled. The reactor hall was
reportedly contaminated. Details of just how serious the incident was emerged
only last week after the ministry received a new report from nuclear
specialists, Ukrainian officials said. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
WORLD BANK OFFERS ASSISTANCE FOR LATVIAN EDUCATION REFORM.
World Bank Baltic regional mission head, has offered Latvia assistance from the
bank's experts in preparing educational reforms, BNS reported on 9 March. The
bank will also help attract foreign investors after the government approves an
education reform program. The program is to include setting up professional
education establishments meeting the requirements of the labor market, raising
the qualifications of teachers, and improving the network of educational
establishments. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN CONSERVATIVES CONVENE IN VILNIUS.
The 2nd Congress of the
Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) took place on the weekend, Radio
Lithuania reported. The 600 delegates approved a campaign program for the fall
parliament elections. Speakers predicted that the ruling Democratic Labor Party
will be defeated and that the Conservatives will form a new government,
probably together with the Christian Democrats. The congress reelected Vytautas
Landbergis as chairman and Gediminas Vagnorius as board chairman. -- Saulius
WARSAW COURT SENTENCES STALIN-ERA TORTURERS.
The Warsaw Municipal Court
on 8 March sentenced former secret security officers to prison sentences for
mistreating members of the political opposition from 1944-1953, Polish media
reported. The trial began more than two years ago. Col. Adam Humer, aged 79,
was found guilty of torturing prisoners and was sentenced to nine years in
prison. Eleven other officers received prison sentences of between two to eight
years. The verdict is subject to appeal. Prosecutor Robert Szustakiewicz said
that, despite the time lag, punishment must not be lenient because the accused
had been sending people to their death on a daily basis. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
POLAND TO HAVE A GERMAN CEMETERY.
Poland is to build a cemetery for
30,000 German soldiers who died during World War II, Polish and international
media reported on 9 March. The cemetery is to be built by the German-Polish
foundation Reconciliation and a German association dedicated to burying war
dead, Meanwhile, Auschwitz survivors and Jewish leaders are angry about plans
to build a supermarket and restaurant opposite the Nazi death camp, Gazeta
Wyborcza reported on 11 March. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
POLES UNEASY ABOUT PROPOSED RUSSIAN CORRIDOR LINK WITH BELARUS.
President Boris Yeltsin's plan to build a highway and railroad linking the
enclave of Kaliningrad with Belarus via Poland (see OMRI Daily Digest,
28 February 1996) is causing considerable unease among Poles. The Polish
government says neither Moscow nor Minsk has so far consulted Warsaw about the
project. Gazeta Wyborcza on 11 March quotes the Kaliningrad mayor as
denying that no one from the oblast has held talks with the Polish authorities.
He said that the Kaliningrad population is against such "extra-territorial"
transport links. After Lithuania drastically raised its transit charges last
year, Russia has been seeking alternative routes for trains and goods vehicles
bound for Belarus. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
RUSSIAN INVESTMENT FUND CRASHES IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
Alim Karmov, owner of
the Russian investment fund Futurum, which operates in the Czech Republic, has
announced that the company cannot make payments to its 2,000 clients, ITAR-TASS
reported on 9 March. The fund, set up in 1993, has attracted more than 200
million crowns ($7.4 million) in deposits. Futurum, claiming its activities
were backed by one of Russia's largest financial groups, promised its clients a
25% annual return on their investment. In an interview with Lidove
noviny on 11 March, Karmov said the investors' money will be returned in
six months. -- Natalia Gurushina
CZECH, SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET.
Josef Zieleniec and Juraj Schenk,
meeting in Bratislava on 8 March, said that ties remain strong between the
former Czechoslovak federation partners, Slovak and international media
reported. Discussions focused on bilateral relations and integration into
Western organizations, including objections voiced by Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov during his recent visit to Slovakia and Zieleniec's visit to
Moscow last week. "Both countries have similar, if not identical, priorities in
their foreign policy, mainly when it comes to EU and NATO membership," Schenk
stressed. Zieleniec noted that since 1993, the two countries have signed 60
intergovernment treaties and 70 other accords at various levels, adding that
bilateral relations could still be further intensified. This was Zieleniec's
first official visit to Bratislava. -- Sharon Fisher
The Slovak cabinet on 7 March approved a draft law on
the protection of the republic, Sme reported two days later. Organizers
of public rallies "aimed at subverting the constitutional system, territorial
integrity, or defense capability of the republic or [at] destroying its
independence" can be sentenced to between six months and three years in prison.
Those who "damage the interests of the republic" by spreading "false"
information can be jailed for up to two years. Hungarian Christian Democratic
Movement deputy Gyula Bardos told Reuters that the bill's approval is evidence
that "the radicals are holding the upper hand in the government." In other
news, former Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik on 9 March was re-elected chairman
of the opposition Democratic Union. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN JEWS PROTEST ACQUITTAL OF NEO-NAZIS.
Almost 2,000 Jews on 10
March protested a municipal court's acquittal of two Hungarian neo-Nazi leaders
six days earlier, AFP reported. Albert Szabo and Istvan Gyorkos admitted to
organizing lectures for skinheads in which they denied that 6 million Jews were
killed during World War II. They also praised Hungarian pro-Nazi leaders and
anti-Semitic figures. The judge ruled that "such views can be expressed as part
of the freedom of speech." Prime Minister Gyula Horn on 6 March said he was
shocked by their acquittal but added that the court ruling must be respected.
He also said that he hoped the parliament will soon pass legislation to allow
courts to take more powerful action against extremists. Some 600,000 Hungarian
Jews were killed in or on the way to Nazi concentration camps during World War
II. Only 80,000 live in Hungary today. -- Sharon Fisher
BOSNIAN SERBS SET FIRE TO SARAJEVO SUBURB.
A BBC reporter has said that
Ilidza--the Sarajevo suburb slated to revert to government control on 12
March--is "burning." The Bosnian Serbs have instituted a "scorched earth
policy" after cutting off essential services, including fire-fighting.
Intimidation to force people to leave is widespread, although some mainly
elderly people have barricaded themselves in their flats in the hope of
staying. The arsonists have torched not only schools and public buildings but
also apartment blocks, including those with people still in them. IFOR on the
weekend finally stepped up patrols and rescued some people trapped in burning
flats, but the peacekeepers said it is not their job to fight fires. They
reported to have stood back while buildings burned down. The international
police force said it has no power to arrest the arsonists, and the Serbian
police said they are "too scared" to go out onto the streets amid scenes of
violence and chaos. -- Patrick Moore
SERBIAN SOLDIERS CONFIRM MASSACRE, THEN DISAPPEAR.
An ethnic Croat
serving with Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica last summer has said he
witnessed the murder of at least 1,200 Muslim prisoners after the town fell.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 9 March quoted Drazen Erdemovic as
telling Le Figaro that he took part in the killings, as did a friend of
his who confirmed that the massacres had taken place. Both men were then
arrested by the Serbian police in Vojvodina on 3 March, and nothing has been
heard of them since. The U.S. has demanded that Serbia free them so that they
can testify before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Meanwhile, that court
on 8 March issued an international arrest warrant for Krajina Serb leader Milan
Martic for ordering a deadly rocket attack on Zagreb last year. Martic is
living in Banja Luka on Bosnian Serb territory. -- Patrick Moore
BRITISH DAILY IDENTIFIES MAN BEHIND VISEGRAD KILLINGS.
A Bosnian Serb
named Milan Lukic was responsible for the murders of hundreds of Muslims from
Visegrad after the historical town on the Drina fell to the Serbs in 1992,
The Guardian reported on 11 March. Victims were killed, mutilated, and
thrown off the Ottoman bridge, which was the centerpiece of Ivo Andric's Nobel
Prize-winning novel Bridge on the Drina. Lukic is not wanted by The
Hague and is reportedly working in a cafe in Obrenovac, Serbia. AFP said that
the article also revealed that a concentration camp existed at nearby Uzamnica
and that torture was frequent there. -- Patrick Moore
Some 7,000 Muslim civilians in the Bosnian federation
have still not been allowed to return to their homes in Croat-held Kulen Vakuf.
AFP on 11 March quoted Bosnian radio as saying that the deadline agreed to in
Rome passed the previous night. The same news agency reported on 10 March that
Bosnian TV has shown the first footage in weeks of President Alija Izetbegovic,
who is in the hospital with heart problems. He has written to the international
community's High Representative Carl Bildt and IFOR commander Admiral Leighton
Smith to protest attempts at settling Sarajevo Serbs in the strategic Brcko
area, the fate of which will be determined later by international arbitration,
Nasa Borba noted. -- Patrick Moore
RALLIES IN BELGRADE . . .
Some 50,000 people took part in rally in
Belgrade on 9 March to commemorate the fifth anniversary of demonstrations in
which some 100,000 had demanded the resignation of Serbian President Slobodan
Milosevic, Nasa Borba reported on 10 and 11 March. Vuk Draskovic, head
of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic
Party', and Vesna Pesic of the Serbian Civic League were the key organizers of
the event. They called for an end to Milosevic's rule and pledged to cooperate
in upcoming elections. Scuffles with some demonstrators were reported, but
police kept a lower profile than in 1991, when at least two persons died. --
. . . WHILE STATE-RUN MEDIA TURN DEAF EAR.
Most state-run media either
played down or ignored the 9 March demonstration, BETA reported. Radio and
Television Serbia reported only that the noon rally was delayed by half an hour
because the organizers were "waiting for more people to show up." BETA also
reported that the most comprehensive coverage was provided by the independent
Radio B92, which ran a special program on the background to the rally and
reported the full texts of the opposition leaders' speeches. -- Stan
BUCHAREST SUBWAY STRIKE ESCALATES.
Striking subway workers in Bucharest
on 9 March threatened to resign en masse and file requests for emigration with
Western embassies, Romanian and Western media reported. The threat came after
management of the state-run railroad company released a communique saying
employees refusing to go back to work or obstructing the subway's day-to-day
running would be fired. Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu the previous day had made a
similar statement. The subway workers have been striking since 4 March for more
pay and better working conditions. -- Dan Ionescu
TWO DETAINED FOR NUCLEAR SMUGGLING IN ROMANIA.
Romanian police on 8
March said they were holding two people on suspicion of smuggling radioactive
material, including uranium, Reuters reported. A spokesman said police had
arrested two men who were in possession of 82 kg of unspecified radioactive
material, including low-grade uranium. It was alleged that they also had secret
documents from the Oravita mine, where they work. The spokesman added that,
according to preliminary investigations, the two planned to sell the
radioactive material and copies of important documents to an unidentified
foreigner for some 10 million lei ($3,450). Since 1989, Romania has witnessed a
surge in uranium trafficking, mostly from Ukraine. In most cases amounts have
been small and materials have not been of bomb-making grade. -- Dan Ionescu
ROMANIA SENDS MILITARY ENGINEERS TO BOSNIA.
Romania on 8 March
dispatched a sapper battalion to Bosnia, Reuters and Radio Bucharest reported.
The 200-strong unit joined the NATO-led multi-national peacekeeping force in
Bosnia. Romanian Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca said the unit will take part
in road building and disarming mines. In 1994, Romania became the first East
European country to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Dan
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS MEET IN SOFIA.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP)
and its coalition partners--the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar
Stamboliyski" and the Political Club "Ekoglasnost"--held a plenary meeting on
10 March to assess the first year of BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov's government,
Standart reported. The Socialists gave a positive overall rating but
asked the government to take measures against crime, examine its privatization
policy, and complete land reform. Speakers criticized several ministers, but
the party leaders refused to discuss personnel questions. Former Prime Minister
Andrey Lukanov said he has proof that the party--and hence the state--has
merged with the structures of the Interior Ministry. He added that this signals
the "return of Stalinism" in Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause
TRIAL OPENS AGAINST FORMER BULGARIAN DICTATOR'S SON-IN-LAW.
against Ivan Slavkov, chairman of both the Bulgarian Olympic Committee and
Soccer Association and son-in-law of former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov,
opened on 11 March. Slavkov is accused of misappropriating state funds and of
illegal possession of firearms. The investigation against Slavkov began in
1990, but Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev launched court proceeding against
him after he was elected head of the Soccer Association. According to 24
chasa, Slavkov repaid the sum of 14,410 leva (then around $14,000) before
he was charged with misappropriation. The daily also maintained that the
illegal firearms are a collection of sports guns. -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK CLOSES TWO PRIVATE BANKS.
The Bulgarian National
Bank on 8 March closed two private banks, Pari reported. As of 31
January, the Private Agricultural and Investment Bank had amassed losses of 795
million leva ($10.3 million). It had not submitted its accounts for 1993 or
1994, nor had it made the required provisions against bad loans. Kristalbank,
which registered losses of 437 million leva, had also been unable to make
adequate provisions against debtors. Depositors in the two banks will benefit
from the BNB's decision earlier this month to raise the maximum individual
saving deposit that is 100% guaranteed from 50,000 leva to 250,000, 24
chasa reported. Deposits of more than 250,000 leva will be compensated
after all other creditors are paid off. -- Michael Wyzan
TWO NEW POLITICAL PARTIES IN ALBANIA.
The Albanian Ministry of Justice
on 9 March registered two new parties--the pro-monarchist Triumph of Legality
and Ideals of December, international agencies reported. This brings the number
of parties founded since 1990 to 38. The ministry had earlier refused to
register the Islamic Democratic Union and the right-wing Party of National
Restoration. The Supreme Court, however, overruled the ban on the Nationalists
but concluded that Albanian law "forbids the creation of political parties on
the basis of religion." The creation of a communist party has been banned since
1992 as anti-constitutional. -- Fabian Schmidt
EU GRANTS WHEAT AID TO ALBANIA.
The EU is to send wheat worth 1.2
million ECU ($1.5 million) to Albania, international agencies reported. Since
January, there has been a shortage of cheap wheat in Albania, which has been
relying on foreign aid to subsidize bread prices. The country has signed
contracts with Romania, the U.S. and France for wheat imports, most of which
will be sold on the general market. The EU wheat aid, however, is to go to
orphanages, hospitals, schools, and needy individuals. -- Fabian Schmidt
U.S. CRITICIZES ALBANIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD.
The annual State
Department human rights report on Albania said there was evidence of police
beatings, pressure on the judiciary, and press restrictions, Reuters reported
on 8 March. The report acknowledged that the government of President Sali
Berisha generally respected human rights but concluded that serious problems
remained, such as prolonged pre-trial detention, poor prison conditions, and
occasional restrictions on press and speech freedom. It added that the
judiciary is subject to political pressure. The report also criticized the
imprisonment of Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, saying his case was "handled
by inexperienced, poorly trained and underfunded investigators, prosecutors and
judges in a highly charged political atmosphere." "Many observers believe that
Nano was incarcerated because he was President Berisha's principal political
opponent," the report noted. -- Fabian Schmidt
GREEK POLITICIANS DISCUSS MACEDONIA.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos
on 8 March said Greece is close to reaching a decision on its position over the
name of Macedonia and that "decisions have to be taken in Skopje and Athens,"
Western agencies reported. He said relations with Macedonia "are going from
good to excellent," adding that the Greek government will take a decision after
talks with all political parties. Prime Minister Kostas Simitis reportedly has
asked to meet with Miltiadis Evert, leader of the main opposition party New
Democracy, and with Antonis Samaras, chairman of the nationalistic Political
Spring party. Evert has not clarified his party's position, while Samaras is
opposed to any compromise on the name issue. Meanwhile, informed Greek sources
say Athens might accept New Macedonia as a compromise name. -- Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave