YELTSIN UNVEILS CHECHEN PEACE PLAN.
President Boris Yeltsin outlined his
plan for resolving the Chechen conflict during a speech broadcast on Russian
Public TV (ORT) on 31 March. Under the plan, Russian federal forces would
immediately cease hostilities and then gradually withdraw from Chechnya at the
same time as the Chechen leadership extends "zones of security and peace." The
second stage comprises the convocation of a political forum of representatives
from throughout Chechnya to prepare for new parliamentary elections. In the
third stage, Russian and Chechen representatives will hold negotiations on
Chechnya's future political status. Yeltsin indicated that Chechnya could
receive a greater degree of autonomy than any other subject of the federation,
and said he would be prepared to conduct negotiations with representatives of
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev through an intermediary. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin will head a State Committee to coordinate the peace
program's implementation. The Suddeutsche Zeitung quoted Nezavisimaya
gazeta on 1 April as reporting that talks between Dudaev's emissaries and a
Russian delegation, mediated by the OSCE and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev,
would begin in the next few days. -- Liz Fuller
RUSSIAN REACTION TO YELTSIN CHECHEN PLAN.
Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov announced that his party supported Yeltsin's peace efforts in
Chechnya but added that they should have been adopted much earlier, ITAR-TASS
reported 31 March. Duma member Galina Starovoitova warned that "the party of
war"--certain government members and Yeltsin's advisers--would continue the
fighting until it felt that the task was complete, regardless of the
president's statements. Former Supreme Soviet Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov argued
that "this is not a peace plan; it's an attempt to calm people and not solve
the problem." Duma member Aleksandr Lebed described the proposal to have the
Duma adopt an amnesty for Chechen fighters as an attempt "to turn the deputies
into fools, while the president keeps his hands clean," NTV reported. Lebed
warned that it is impossible to stop the war after a year and a half of massive
aerial bombardment. -- Robert Orttung
FOUR CIS PRESIDENTS SIGN INTEGRATION ACCORDS IN MOSCOW.
of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan signed a series of agreements in
Moscow on 29 March that will further integrate their states, Russian media
reported. Officially titled the "Treaty on Deepening Integration in Economic
and Humanitarian Spheres," the 28-article document covers issues ranging from
common goods markets to coordinating information systems. More importantly, the
four countries will also establish an Inter-Governmental Council of presidents,
prime ministers, and foreign ministers; an Integration Committee; and an
Inter-Parliamentary Committee. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will
be the first to chair the council, while the Integration Committee, made up of
first deputy prime ministers, will be chaired by a member of the Kazakhstani
delegation. In a 27 March address to the Belarusian parliament on state radio
monitored by the BBC, Lukashenka stressed that the agreement will not imperil
the CIS or the specific Russian-Belarusian accords to be signed on 2 April. The
signatory states noted other CIS states are welcome to join the agreements. --
NTV: ZYUGANOV REJECTS SOCIAL DEMOCRACY.
Communist Party leader Zyuganov
claimed that "social-democracy of the west European type has no chance in
Russia," NTV reported on 31 March. The network argued that this statement shows
that Zyuganov is seeking the vote of hardliners. Zyuganov asserted, however,
that he had never made such a statement and that NTV broadcasted this "false
information" because its director, Igor Malashenko, is now part of Yeltsin's
re-election team, ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov's explanation is not convincing
though, because he said that there are many types of social democracy in Europe
and that when speaking of its general principles, one must take into account
the country's "specific features." -- Robert Orttung
LEBED REJECTS ELECTED DUMA.
Denouncing attempts to "ape the West,"
presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed argued that Russia does not need an
elected parliament, NTV reported on 30 March. Instead he called for a "small,
highly professional Duma that would be named by the president." Lebed also
suggested that the president should submit to a yearly popular referendum and
resign if he fails to gain the voters' support. Lebed spoke at the congress of
the Democratic Party of Russia which nominated him for president. -- Robert
STRENGTHENING OF RUSSIAN-INDIAN RELATIONS.
Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov met with top Indian officials, including Prime Minister P.V.
Narasimha Rao and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, during his 30-31 March
trip to the subcontinent, Russian and Western media reported. The two sides
signed agreements on re-establishing a "hot line" link between Moscow and New
Delhi, scientific and technological cooperation, and other cultural exchanges,
and discussed the Afghan conflict. Primakov noted that while Russia has spent
considerable energy on its relations with the West, it should begin to
"diversify" its foreign policy, ITAR-TASS reported. This year, trade between
the two countries is expected to reach $3 billion. According to RFE/RL, India
continues to purchase Russian military equipment, with an estimated $3.5
billion worth of weapons contracts currently pending. -- Roger Kangas
RUSSIA PROTESTS WHITE HOUSE LEAKS.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Thomas
Pickering, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on 29 March to receive a formal
complaint about the "repeated" leakage of confidential materials pertaining to
U.S.-Russian relations, ITAR-TASS reported. The complaint is presumed to be in
response to a 27 March Washington Times report on a Clinton-Yeltsin
conversation in Cairo on 13 March. The White House had already on 28 March
instructed the Justice Department to investigate the leak. -- Peter Rutland
CHARGES AGAINST AVRASYA FERRY HIGHJACKERS.
The Istanbul state security
prosecutor filed new charges against the nine men involved in the seizure of
the Avrasya Ferry in January, Reuters reported on 29 March. The suspects were
previously facing up to 21 years in prison on charges of seizing a vessel,
holding hostages, and carrying explosives; the new charges include establishing
a terrorist network. The six Turks, two Chechens, and one ethnic Abkhaz from
Georgia now face between 22 and 42 years of imprisonment. The Russian media has
speculated that the Turkish authorities would be lenient with the suspects; the
new charges come just as Turkey is attempting to improve Russian-Turkish
relations. -- Lowell Bezanis
RUSSIA'S LARGEST CROSS LIFTED ONTO NEW CATHEDRAL.
Russia's largest gilt cross onto the main cupola of the newly rebuilt Cathedral
of Christ the Savior in Moscow on 29 March, Western agencies reported. The
cross weighs more than 3 metric tons and measures nine meters high and six
meters across. The reconstruction of the cathedral, which was destroyed in
1931, began in January 1995. Now its cupolas are decorated with five crosses
covered with 1.5 kg of gold. The construction works are due to be finished by
the time Moscow celebrates its 850th anniversary in 1997. The project will cost
an estimated $250 million, of which $95 million has already been spent. --
Natalia Gurushina and Robert Orttung
FINANCE MINISTRY DEFENDS DIAMOND AGREEMENT.
The Finance Ministry has
issued a statement that defends a diamond agreement with South Africa's giant
De Beers, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. Under the framework agreement signed
on 23 February, De Beers will sell 95% of Russia's first $550 million worth of
rough diamond exports and 80% of stones above that figure. A break up with De
Beers would have led to a price war that Russia would lose due to its lack of
marketing and sales networks. The ministry noted that the deal will not harm
Russia's cutting industry, because it does not cover supplies of rough diamonds
to domestic cutters, nor exports and imports of cut diamonds. The inclusion of
stones shipped abroad for cutting in Russia's exports should put an end to
uncontrolled shipments of uncut diamonds and the resulting loss of budgetary
revenue. -- Natalia Gurushina
ACTING CHAIRMAN OF ROSKOMDRAGMET APPOINTED.
First Deputy Chairman of
Russia's Committee on Precious Metals and Precious Stones (Roskomdragmet),
Yurii Kotlyar, has been appointed the acting chairman of the committee,
ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. The position has been vacant since 21 February,
when President Yeltsin relieved Yevgenii Bychkov from his duties. Bychkov now
faces criminal charges on grounds of abusing his position and violating
currency regulations. In 1993 and 1994, Bychkov authorized the transfer of
rough diamonds worth $150 million to the U.S. company Golden ADA for cutting.
The company went bankrupt, however, and neither money nor stones were not
returned. -- Natalia Gurushina
SOSKOVETS CALLS FOR SECTOR-SPECIFIC INDUSTRIAL POLICY.
international news agencies on 31 March, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets said the government should pursue a sector-specific industrial policy
due to a lack of financial resources, ITAR-TASS reported. The state should
support industries oriented to the domestic market, such as car manufacturing,
textiles, food, and light industries. Companies in sectors that produce
potentially internationally competitive goods--the aerospace industry and
nuclear technologies--should get state support to enter foreign markets.
Producers of raw materials and fuel should be self-financed. Soskovets also
drew attention to the inefficient use of World Bank loans. By the beginning of
1996, Russia had signed 18 credit agreements with the bank worth $4.2 billion.
However, only 8.2% of this sum ($244 million) was spent on investment projects.
-- Natalia Gurushina
SKEPTICISM ABOUT IMF LOAN.
Economist Andrei Illarionov, a former adviser
to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, criticized the IMF's decision to grant a
$10.1 billion loan to Russia. Speaking to a conference in Cambridge, U.K., on
30 March, Illarionov said, "This money will be quickly and efficiently wasted.
In the best case, it will go on agricultural subsidies, in the worst case on
military operations in Chechnya." He did not share the IMF's view that the
Russian economy will start growing this year, saying that "1996 may not be the
last year of economic decline." -- Peter Rutland in Cambridge
CENTRAL ASIAN REACTION TO MOSCOW TREATY.
The Central Asian states that
did not participate in the 29 March signing of the Moscow integration treaty
stressed the need to preserve their independence, Russian and Western media
reported. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov called any Turkmen involvement
in an enhanced union "premature" and "unacceptable," and stressed that his
country's independent foreign policy is based on bilateral accords. Uzbek
President Islam Karimov also remains skeptical of moving too quickly. Prior to
the signing, he cited his recent book, "Our People's Path is the Path of
Independence, Freedom, and Thorough-Going Reform," which warns against efforts
to revive the USSR, Narodnoye slovo reported on 28 March. Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov expressed his country's readiness to join the
customs union and willingness to participate in a "single economic space,"
ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. -- Roger Kangas
TURKEY OFFERS TO HELP ARMENIA.
In a bid to encourage a resolution of the
conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara has
signaled its readiness to relieve Armenia's economic and energy problems, AFP
reported on 30 March. Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said the
Alican border gate with Armenia would be opened as soon as Azerbaijan and
Armenia "announce an agreement in principle," the Turkish Daily News
reported. Yilmaz also pledged to supply electricity to Armenia if Yerevan
agrees to shut down the Medzamor nuclear power plant. Yilmaz is scheduled to
visit Baku on 16 April at the invitation of President Heidar Aliev, Turan
reported on 30 March. -- Lowell Bezanis
20% PENSION HIKE IN KAZAKHSTAN.
A 20% increase for pensioners of all
categories in Kazakhstan comes into effect on 1 April, First Deputy Minister of
Social Security Vladimir Romanov told ITAR-TASS. More than 2.8 million
pensioners, who form 17% of the total population of the country, will receive
the hike. Monthly pensions in Kazakhstan ranging 1,200 to 3,000 tenge ($18 to
$28) are paid irregularly due to severe deficits in the pension fund. The
pension fund is currently running a 5 billion tenge ($7.6 million) deficit, and
the most "incorrigible defaulters" are industrial enterprises, ITAR-TASS
reported. Some 517 have been totally shut down, 1,222 have partially seized
production and about 396 plants are working on a part-time basis. Last week,
the government increased the minimum wage by 20% (see OMRI Daily Digest,
27 March 1996). -- Bhavna Dave
TENS OF THOUSANDS MARCH IN MINSK TO SUPPORT UNION WITH RUSSIA.
Communists and trade unionists organized a march in Minsk on 31 March in
support of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's plans to sign a union agreement
with Russia on 2 April, Western agencies reported. According to unofficial
estimates, the number of people involved in the rally exceeded those who
protested against the agreement one week ago. Several hundred students, waving
flags and singing the national anthem, demonstrated against the union before
the police dispersed them. Two days earlier the parliament voted by 157 to five
to approve the president's plan to sign the agreement. But it included a point
stating that integration was voluntary "based on the principle of state
sovereignty, maintenance of territorial integrity, equal rights,
and...non-interference in internal affairs." -- Saulius Girnius
UKRAINE TO SELL 25 STRATEGIC BOMBERS TO RUSSIA.
Russian Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev on 29 March said his government will buy 25 strategic bombers
from Ukraine, Russian agencies reported. Grachev said he concluded the
agreement in talks with Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov on 29 March
in Tysovets, Ukraine. Kyiv will provide Moscow with 10 Tu-160 and 15 Tu-95 MS
bombers, along with some 300 air-to-ground guided missiles. In return, Russia
will transfer a number of AN-24 and AN-27 military transport planes, Mi-8
transport helicopters, eight training MiG-29s, and four Su-27 aircraft.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia are continuing talks on basing their parts of the
Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, RFE/RL reported. The countries' deputy prime
ministers met in Moscow on 29 March to discuss financial differences over the
fleet's division. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS ROUNDUP.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen
Marchuk and his Romanian counterpart, Nicolae Vacaroiu, signed several trade
and commercial agreements in Izmail, Ukraine, on 29 March. But they failed to
make progress on resolving their ongoing territorial disputes, Western and
Ukrainian media reported. Romania has insisted that Ukraine denounce secret
protocols in the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact giving the former Soviet Ukraine
some Romanian territory. Kyiv has refused out of fear that Bucharest will
re-claim its borderlands. In other news, international agencies reported on 29
March that the U.S. and Ukraine have agreed to create a research center on the
site of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Ukrainian Environment Minister Yurii
Kostenko and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Terry Lash signed an agreement
establishing the $3 million International Chornobyl Center on Nuclear Security.
-- Chrystyna Lapychak
POLISH PRESIDENT IN BELARUS.
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 30 March met with
his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Polish dailies reported.
Lukashenka assured Kwasniewski that a new treaty between Belarus and Russia
does not mean that Belarus will lose its independence. Kwasniewski also met
with Belarusian opposition leaders, but Lukashenka reportedly insisted that
some of his supporters also be present at the meeting. -- Jakub
FORMER LATVIAN COMMUNIST HEAD DOES NOT WANT AMNESTY.
Alfreds Rubiks, in
an open letter to the Russian-language newspaper Panorama Latvii on 29
March, said he would turn down an amnesty, BNS reported. Rubiks, who was first
secretary of the Latvian Communist Party from 1990-1991, was sentenced in July
1995 to eight years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government in
1991. Some Saeima and Council of Europe deputies earlier this year petitioned
President Guntis Ulmanis to amnesty him, and the Russian State Duma recently
sent an appeal to the Saeima asking for his immediate release. Rubiks wrote
that he is convinced that the unlawful character of his conviction will be
recognized. He predicted that the Russian presidential elections will change
the political situation in Latvia, adding that he hoped it would be for the
better. -- Saulius Girnius
RESIGNATION OF POLISH PUBLIC TV PRESIDENT ACCEPTED.
Council of Polish Public TV has accepted the resignation of TVP President
Wieslaw Walendziak. The council also dismissed the four other members of TVP's
board of managers, Polish dailies reported on 30 March. Walendziak was
appointed two years ago and was the first president of TVP following its
transformation into a shareholders' company. Walendziak largely succeeded in
making the TVP immune to political pressures. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH CENTER-RIGHT PLANS ALLIANCE.
Leaders of center-right parties--the
Conservative Party, the Christian Popular Party and the right-wing faction of
the Freedom Union--met in Warsaw on 30 March to discuss forming an election
alliance, Polish dailies reported. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for
next year. More than 500 delegates to the meeting signed a statement calling
for "a broad center-right alliance." In another development, the Sejm on 29
March elected Adam Zielinski as civil rights ombudsman. Zielinski is a judge at
the Human Rights Chamber in Bosnia-Herzegovina and former president of the
Supreme Administrative Court. His election must be approved by the Senate. --
CZECH PREMIER, COALITION PARTNERS IN PRE-ELECTION DISPUTE.
on 31 March rejected criticism from the two junior coalition parties, the Civic
Democratic Alliance (ODA) and Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's
Party (KDU-CSL), over those parts of the government program that will not be
implemented before the upcoming elections, Czech media reported. Klaus told a
conference of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which has an outright majority
in the cabinet, that all coalition partners were responsible for the government
program. He also listed a series of alleged shortcomings in policy areas where
ODA politicians are in charge. Rebuffing Klaus's criticism, ODA Deputy Chairman
Libor Kudlacek said all parties should recognize their errors, while KDU-CSL
Chairman Josef Lux said it was legitimate to point out publicly who was
responsible for failures. -- Steve Kettle
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC LAW.
told Slovak Radio on 29 March that the law on the protection of the republic is
necessary because of "intensifying attacks aimed at morally and politically
destroying state organs." He also condemned "a certain group of politicians"
calling for a referendum on self-determination for minorities in southern
Slovakia. He criticized the opposition's "high level of intolerance"
demonstrated during the parliamentary discussion of the new legislation. "What
right do they have to call coalition deputies fascists?" Meciar asked. He went
on to stress that the law will prevent such forces from gaining power. --
The parliament on 29 March re-approved an income tax law
vetoed by President Michal Kovac the previous month. The law states that if a
firm is bought from the National Property Fund at a reduced price and under the
condition that the money saved is used for investment, the new owner will not
have to pay taxes on such income. Speaking before the parliament, Kovac
criticized the fact that the law applies only to some investors and stressed
the need to preserve equality for all citizens. In other news, Bela Bugar on 30
March was reelected chairman of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement. At
a Slovak National Party (SNS) congress, the party approved declarations
condemning the opposition and the president. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARY JOINS OECD.
Hungary on 29 March became the 27th country to join
the OECD, international media reported. Documents were signed by Hungarian
Trade and Industry Minister Imre Dunai and OECD Secretary-General Jean-Claude
Paye during a ceremony at the OECD Paris headquarters. Hungary will be now be
able to attend all OECD meetings--including those of its council--as an
observer. Once the parliament has ratified the final documents, Hungary will
become a full member. The Czech Republic became the first former communist
country to join the OECD last December. Poland is expected to join later this
year, while OECD officials say Slovakia has no real chance to join before 1997.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS ELECT NEW PRESIDIUM.
The ruling Socialist Party, at
a congress over the weekend, elected new leaders and reaffirmed support for the
government's economic stabilization program, Hungarian dailies reported on 1
April. Standing as the only candidate, Prime Minister Gyula Horn was re-elected
party chairman by an overwhelming majority. The congress voted to reduce the
size of the Presidium and replaced most of its members. It also defined the
Socialists' top priorities as implementing public finance reform and drafting a
new constitution. Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman said after the congress
that he would quit the Socialist Party because he was not elected to the
Presidium. He added he would remain in the cabinet as an independent. -- Zsofia
YET ANOTHER AGREEMENT ON CROATIAN-MUSLIM FEDERATION.
mediators met with top Bosnian Croat and Muslim leaders on 30 March to conclude
a 20-point program aimed at strengthening the shaky federation,
Oslobodjenje reported. One mediator said that three things are new about
the text: neither side will be allowed to set conditions; municipalities and
cantons that do not implement the pact will not get international aid;
officials who balk can lose their jobs, Onasa news agency reported on 31 March.
The text sets target dates for establishing a joint bank and budget. It also
includes provisions for other common institutions, including customs offices.
Skeptics charged that it is just one more attempt at cajoling the two sides
into doing what they have already agreed to do many times before. But U.S.
Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith told the BBC that the pact is "very
significant" and that it involves "converting a piece of paper into the real
thing." -- Patrick Moore
IFOR TO ACT AGAINST CHECKPOINTS.
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry
announced in Bosnia on 29 March that IFOR will take "vigorous action" to ensure
freedom of movement, the Onasa news agency reported. He added that checkpoints
must be eliminated. Meanwhile, indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic made his
first public appearance in some time, apparently without any interference from
IFOR. He spoke at a factory near Pale and handed out medals to Bosnian Serb
fighters, Reuters said on 31 March. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic appealed
to IFOR to arrest Karadzic, saying that the "NATO military is capable of
removing [him and Gen. Ratko Mladic]. We are begging [IFOR] to do it. There
will be no free elections with Karadzic still in power." Meanwhile in Zagreb,
the Croatian Helsinki Committee condemned the "plundering and mining" of homes
belonging to Serbs in the former Krajina region. The report added that Interior
Ministry officials were involved in violations of Serbs' human rights,
Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 1 April. -- Patrick Moore
BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith
has said his troops will assist in war crimes investigations for the first
time. They will provide security and other assistance to an international team
in the Srebrenica area, news agencies reported on 31 March. The investigators
from The Hague have arrived in Bosnia to inspect 12 reputed sites of war crimes
in what the BBC called the court's "politically most sensitive mission to
date." Meanwhile in Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnian Serbs have so far exhumed 28 bodies
from a mass grave in the presence of international observers. The investigation
is continuing, and bodies of civilians and soldiers alike appear to be involved
in deaths that date back to the battle for the area last fall, AFP noted on 1
April. In Banja Luka, a Bosnian Serb military court sentenced a Croat, Ivan
Stjepanovic, to death for war crimes involving the death of 80 Serbs in the
contested Posavina region. -- Patrick Moore
SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS SENT TO THE HAGUE.
Belgrade authorities have
turned over the suspected war criminals Drazen Erdemovic and Radoslav
Kremenovic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,
RFE/RL reported on 30 March. The two men were arrested in the Vojvodina city of
Novi Sad on 2 March. They are believed to have been key witnesses to the
massacre of Muslim civilians last summer, when the "safe haven" of Srebrenica
fell to Bosnian Serb forces. A representative of the tribunal said both were
being treated as witnesses but that they may also be prosecuted. Erdemovic is
suspected of having participated in the mass killings, and his testimony may
link Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic to the
atrocity. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN OPPOSITION ORGANIZES ANOTHER RALLY.
Three Serbian opposition
parties--the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party, and the Serbian
Civic League--organized a mass meeting in Nis over the weekend, Nasa Borba
reported. The parties called for the opposition to unite, and party leaders
proposed an election coalition under the banner "A Unified List Against the
Communists." Estimates of the number of people who attended vary from several
thousand to tens of thousands. Meanwhile, members of the ruling Socialist Party
of Serbia downplayed the event. TV Serbia on 30 March reported that Mile Ilic,
head of the Nis SPS, said the opposition party leaders were "uninvited guests."
He said that their efforts would only encourage the local population to
"support the SPS and Slobodan Milosevic." -- Stan Markotich
STOCK EXCHANGE OPENS IN SKOPJE.
The first Macedonian Stock Exchange
opened in Skopje on 28 March. Dnevnik reported that nine brokerage
companies carried out 25 transactions involving 395 shares worth a total of
$15,000. Some 60 brokers have been trained in Macedonia as part of the Know-How
Funds Project and have received international trading licenses. Banks,
insurance companies, and savings institutions will trade on the exchange until
the government passes a new law on setting up brokerage companies. -- Branko
Geroski in Skopje
U.S. TO HELP MOLDOVA SOLVE DNIESTER CONFLICT.
A high-ranking U.S.
diplomat on 31 March said that the U.S. is ready to help Moldova settle its
dispute with Dniester separatists, Reuters reported. Ambassador Joseph Presel,
coordinator for regional affairs in charge of the newly independent states, was
quoted as saying that the Dniester issue could be raised at the U.S.-Russian
summit in Moscow next month. But he added that it was unlikely that "any
serious progress" could take place before the Russian presidential elections.
Presel is currently on a three-day visit to Moldova, where he met with Moldovan
President Mircea Snegur and other senior officials. He is expected to visit the
Dniester region on 1 April. -- Dan Ionescu
YELTSIN REMARK PROVOKES SHARP RESPONSE IN BULGARIA.
Zhelyu Zhelev and the Bulgarian opposition have responded sharply to a remark
by Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the signing last week of the regional
integration agreement (see Part 1 of today's OMRI Daily Digest), RFE/RL
reported. Yeltsin had commented that "the community is open to other
states...perhaps, for example, Bulgaria." Zhelev on 30 March said it was
"scandalous to include Bulgaria in a community we have never discussed." He
demanded that the government announce whether it has conducted secret talks
with Moscow, otherwise he would be forced to believe that it is "committing
treason." Opposition leaders denounced the government and said they would
organize demonstrations against what they labeled "Soviet Union II." Government
spokesman Nikola Baltov the next day denied that the government has held any
talks that could be interpreted as "backstage dealings." He said Zhelev's
remarks were "perplexing." -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN OPPOSITION SIGNS AGREEMENT ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the People's Union, and the mainly ethnic
Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) on 29 March signed an agreement
providing for a joint candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, Trud
reported. Peter Stoyanov of the SDS and incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev,
who is supported by the People's Union, will take part in primary elections on
1 June. DPS leader Ahmed Dogan said his party will let its members vote
according to their conscience. SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov called on the
government to assist by providing urns and by opening polling stations.
Stoyanov kicked off his election campaign on 31 March by organizing a concert
in Sofia. -- Stefan Krause
DEFENSE MINISTERS MEETING IN TIRANA.
The defense ministers of Bulgaria,
Macedonia, Turkey, Italy, and the U.S. arrived in the Albanian capital on 31
March for a two-day conference on Balkan security, Reuters reported. The
"unofficial" meeting was initiated by the Albanian government and also attended
by an OSCE representative. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry praised the
conference as a "chance for more security in the region." Albanian President
Sali Berisha said the aim of the conference was to "boost security cooperation
in the region and to discuss military cooperation." Other issues discussed were
humanitarian aid in disaster situations and civil military relations. Greece
declined to participate in protest at the exclusion of Serbia and Romania. --
ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT DISSOLVES ITSELF.
Albania's parliament on 29 March
dissolved itself ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for late May or
early June, Reuters reported. Before doing so, it unanimously adopted a new
civil code, which is the last step in the creation of a post-communist legal
system. A new criminal code was adopted last summer. President Sali Berisha
praised the legislature's contribution to establishing a state based on the
rule of law and market economy. He noted that it has given "political stability
to the country." -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave