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Newsline - July 9, 1996

Retired Lt.- Gen. Lev Rokhlin told reporters on 8 July that the purpose of his revelations of high level corruption in the military was to prevent the appointment of a dishonest defense minister, arguing that that would be "mortally dangerous for the army," ITAR-TASS reported. One of the generals named by Rokhlin was Konstantin Kobets, tipped as a possible successor to Pavel Grachev. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said that all Rokhlin's charges will be investigated and called for a federal anti-crime program to be coordinated by Security Council Chairman Aleksandr Lebed. Chief Military Procurator Valentin Panichev, meanwhile, said that in the past two years law enforcement agencies have launched 267 criminal cases over military corruption; 36 officers were convicted of bribery in 1995 and 30 more are still under investigation. More than 3,000 officials faced some sort of administrative punishment and "several dozen" officers were forced to step down. -- Penny Morvant

Participants in a meeting at the Procurator-General's Office on 8 July said that corruption has become endemic in Russia and poses a real threat to reform, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. The most corruption-prone sectors reportedly include the State Property Committee; the Central Bank; the Health, Agriculture, Defense, and Interior Ministries; the Tax Police; the State Customs Committee; and local power structures. First Deputy Procurator General Yurii Chaika said that 14,000 corruption cases have been filed over the past two years, one in three involving state officials, and that more than 1,000 violations concerning privatization have been reported recently. Chaika added that First Deputy Chairman of the State Property Committee Petr Mostovoi is currently under investigation. While government representative at the gold-mining company Lenzoloto, Mostovoi allegedly helped Australian firm Star Technologies acquire shares in the firm at a discount. This is the second time Mostovoi has featured in an investigation into privatization abuses. -- Penny Morvant

In an article entitled "favorites" in Novaya yezhednevnaya gazeta, journalist Aleksandr Minkin has accused former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov, former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov, and State Committee on Physical Culture and Tourism Chairman Shamil Tarpishchev of corruption and other offenses, Ekho Moskvy and NTV reported. The article includes an alleged transcript of a conversation between former National Sports Fund head Boris Fedorov, who recently survived an assassination attempt, and three others about Tarpishchev's alleged embezzlement of state funds and contacts with organized crime. Korzhakov and Barsukov are said to have protected Tarpishchev. The article also cites a note from Fedorov, who used to work closely with Tarpishchev, claiming that he has been forced to go public to prevent Korzhakov and Barsukov from killing him. -- Penny Morvant

Russia's best-known human rights activist, Sergei Kovalev, has been hospitalized after suffering a major heart attack, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 July. Kovalev, 66, spent 10 years in Soviet prisons and exile. He was Yeltsin's senior adviser on human rights before breaking with the president over the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant

President Boris Yeltsin approved in principle a new statute for the Security Council drawn up by Aleksandr Lebed on 8 July at their regular Monday meeting, and ordered him to prepare the final document, ITAR-TASS reported. No details of the plan were provided, but Lebed has sought wide powers over military, police, and economic issues and even the re-establishment of the vice presidency. Yeltsin has authorized him to prepare a plan to fight organized crime that would concentrate on improving the cooperation of Russia's law enforcement agencies. The president created the Council on 3 June 1992 by decree and it is mentioned in the partially obsolete 1992 law On Security. The 1993 Constitution states that there should be a law governing the Security Council, but it has yet to be adopted. -- Robert Orttung

Lebed also met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for the first time since he was appointed Security Council Secretary and National Security Advisor. The two men discussed the social, economic, and political situation in the country following the elections, as well as Lebed's participation in Chernomyrdin's commission for resolving the war in Chechnya. The two are rivals for power within Yeltsin's inner circle with Lebed seeking to approve key ministers in Chernomyrdin's cabinet. Chernomyrdin has denounced Lebed's proposal to recreate the office of vice president. -- Robert Orttung

Supporters of Working Leningrad, the regional branch of Viktor Anpilov's hardline Working Russia, rallied in the center of St. Petersburg following the defeat of Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential election runoff, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 July. The participants carried red flags and banners with slogans calling those who voted for President Yeltsin spiritless slaves of the dollar and saying that they have betrayed the motherland in line with the evil plans of the world's bankers. Meanwhile, the leader of the Tatar Party of National Independence, "Ittifak," Fauziya Bairamova, announced that she will establish a new "popular patriotic movement" in Tatarstan which will continue opposing Yeltsin and the regime of Tatar President Shaimiev, Ekspress-khronika reported on 9 July. Bairamova said she expects the Communists to join the new movement. -- Anna Paretskaya

The Duma Geopolitics Committee concluded on 8 July that Tajikistan has become a target of Islamic extremism and the exit of Russian troops would result in new tensions, including the emergence of a bloc of Islamic states on the Russian border, ITAR-TASS reported. There are some 25,000 Russian troops in Tajikistan. The committee recommended that the troops remain in place to "ensure security in the region and facilitate the resolution of the Tajik conflict by peaceful means." Deputy Director of the Federal Border Service Aleksandr Manilov said that the border guards also play a role in preventing the import of narcotics and weapons. The full Duma will discuss the issue next week. -- Robert Orttung

In a telephone conversation with President Yeltsin, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed interest in activating negotiations at the level of foreign ministers to hammer out a peace treaty with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The leaders discussed the possibility of Hashimoto coming to Moscow, though Hashimoto stressed that there would have to be some practical purpose to it. No Japanese prime minister has made an official visit to Moscow for almost 25 years. The Japanese were annoyed when Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov recently said that the Kuril Islands dispute should be left to future generations. -- Robert Orttung

Contradicting media reports that he had been relieved from his duties, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov told reporters in Grozny on 8 July that he remained in command of the joint group of federal forces in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Tikhomirov had just returned from Moscow where he gave what he described as a five-hour report on the state of affairs in Chechnya. On 9 July presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev "categorically denied" that Tikhomirov had been removed, AFP reported. -- Doug Clarke

Tikhomirov on 8 July accused the Chechen side of continuing to violate the 27 May and 10 June peace agreements, and issued an ultimatum to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and his men to release all hostages, and to provide an explanation for all alleged breaches of the peace agreements, ORT reported. The hostages include the pro-Moscow administrative head of Grozny's Lenin raion, Lyudmilla Rodimushkina, who was abducted in Grozny on 7 July. Tikhomirov threatened to take "adequate measures to eliminate ... the bandits and terrorists" if Yandarbiev failed to comply by 6 p.m. local time on 9 July. Meanwhile, Russian troops began shelling villages in the south of Chechnya, Reuters reported on 9 July quoting Ekho Moskvy. A night-time curfew will be imposed throughout Chechnya beginning on 10 July, AFP reported on 9 July. -- Liz Fuller

A new draft law "On military reform" has been submitted to President Boris Yeltsin for consideration, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 9 July. The bill was prepared by the Duma Defense Committee, chaired by Gen. Lev Rokhlin, with the involvement of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, a former member of the committee. The draft calls for a series of measures to introduce smaller, better funded armed forces by 2005. The army would remain conscript-based until the completion of the reorganization. Defense spending would be set at least 5% of GDP and 25% of the federal budget, plus another 2% (10%) for law enforcement agencies. The draft specifies the standardization of pay and conditions for all armed units, currently spread across 20 different ministries and agencies. It also calls for an end to the use of troops for construction, harvesting and other non-military duties. -- Peter Rutland

Two Turkish journalists arrested for entering Russia illegally were sentenced to three years imprisonment on 8 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Talip Ozshelik and Meshmet Ali Tekin
were sentenced by a court in Magaremkent, the town on the Dagestan-Azerbaijan border where they were arrested trying to slip over the border last November. The two journalists said they had been planning to cover the war in Chechnya but had been unable to obtain visas. According to ITAR-TASS, in May 1995 the two journalists had received visas to visit Rostov-na-donu but had traveled without authorization to Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant

One of Russia's largest commercial banks, Tveruniversalbank, stopped operations and has been placed under the Central Bank's temporary management, ORT reported on 8 July. Personal accounts will be transferred to the state-owned Sberbank (Savings Bank). The bank was estimated as the 17th or 23rd largest in Russia by ORT and Reuters respectively. Experts differ on whether the bank's collapse is due to managerial incompetence or is a sign of an impending banking crisis. Speaking to OMRI, the head of the Institute for Economic Analysis, Andrei Illarionov, suggested that the bank's crash may be related to its involvement in operations with bills of exchange (vekselya). Tveruniversalbank was a leading trader in these financial instruments and attempted to play the role of the alternative Central Bank or Finance Ministry by issuing its own vekselya which, however, were not secured by real and liquid assets. -- Natalia Gurushina in Moscow

After four days of talks between customs and immigration experts in Islamabad, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Pakistan signed a protocol on unified customs procedures for the transit of goods between the four countries on 6 July, according to BBC monitoring of Radio Pakistan. The agreement may facilitate the Central Asian countries' access to Pakistan's ports. -- Bhavna Dave

The Kyrgyz government released a program outlining the economic development of the country up to 2005, ITAR-TASS reported. The main aims are doubling GNP and lowering the inflation rate to 8% from the current level of 50%, said Kyrgyz Economy Minister Talaibek Koichumanov. The parliament needs to approve about 100 draft laws to support the government's economic program, Koichumanov said. -- Bhavna Dave

The Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan has approved amendments to Article 5 of the Constitution, thus granting Russian the status of an official language, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 July. The article had defined Kyrgyz as the state language, granting "equal rights" for the free development and functioning of Russian and other languages, without conferring special recognition upon Russian. Earlier this year, the Kyrgyz parliament approved a proposal by President Askar Akayev that Russian be granted the status of an official language to facilitate ties with the CIS countries and prevent the emigration of Russian speakers. -- Bhavna Dave

Following his June trips to Italy and the United States, Uzbek President Islam Karimov stressed that the next task of his government is to institute reform measures in the areas of human rights and individual freedoms, Narodnoe slovo reported on 6 July. In a press conference on 5 July, Karimov noted that active opposition parties, a Western-style press, and the observance of citizens' rights are essential to the continued development of Uzbekistan, noting that they would "ensure democracy" in the country. Karimov also reiterated his position that Uzbekistan supports CIS agreements, but not that organization's "deeper integration." If implemented, the democratic reforms discussed by Karimov would be a significant departure from current practices, as noted in the May 1996 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report. -- Roger Kangas

The continuation of the fifth round of inter-Tajik peace talks began on 8 July in Ashgabat, Russian and Western sources reported. UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem attended, in addition to government and opposition representatives. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was in Ashgabat on the same day for an official visit with the Turkmen government, but it is not known if he will participate in the peace talks, Opposition representative Ali Akbar Turajonzoda remarked that Russia must be an active participant in the peace process, RTR reported. -- Roger Kangas

President Leonid Kuchma released Valerii Shmarov from the post of defense minister after Shmarov resigned, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 8 July. Shmarov, a civilian, was appointed a year ago. He also served as deputy prime minister in charge of the military-industrial complex. Many military personnel did not have confidence in him, and the poor condition of Ukraine's armed forces contributed to his unpopularity. There is speculation that Kuchma accepted his resignation to appease right-wingers, who disapproved of Shmarov's support for Ukraine's non-nuclear status. In exchange, the right might support Pavlo Lazarenko for prime minister. Left-wing politicians were also unhappy with Shmarov because of his moves toward NATO. -- Ustina Markus

Tens of thousands of coal miners in Donbas and western Ukraine are on strike, demanding payment of back wages owed by the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 7 July. Some 10,000 miners in Chervonohrad joined the strike, which began on 2 July in the Donetsk region, blocking roads and railroad tracks. Up to 140,000 miners at 63 coal pits in eastern Ukraine reportedly have taken part in the picketing. The government said it plans to reduce its total wage debt, which amounts to 106 trillion karbovantsi ($580 million), to one-and-a-half months' worth of back wages by the end of July. Meanwhile, 129 maintenance workers at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant are holding a two-week strike to protest the government's wage arrears. The employees reportedly have not been paid since February. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

The Ukrainian and Indonesian defense ministries signed an agreement on military cooperation in Kyiv on 8 July, Ukrainian radio reported. The agreement calls for training Indonesian military personnel in Ukraine, and cooperation in repairing military equipment. Indonesian Defense Minister Edi Sudradjat said he hoped the cooperation would be mutually beneficial. Sudradjat lamented the low level of trade, which has not surpassed $55 million in the last two years. Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said the most productive areas of cooperation between the two countries is in space technology and oil and energy projects. -- Ustina Markus

The re-registration of newspapers and periodicals is nearly complete, the head of the State Publishing Committee, Uladzimir Belsky, told Belarusian television on 7 July. There had been 897 registered papers and journals, but more than 200 of those did not re-register because of financial difficulties. He said several papers, including Kultura, Nasha slova, Holas radzimy, and Spadchyna would merge so the state would not have to support duplicate publications. The paper Litaratura i mastatstva will continue to receive subsidies, and there are plans to market it abroad. A new paper, Belaruskaya presa, will be published in Russian, Belarusian, and English, and sold abroad to end an "informational blockade" about Belarus. Belsky said the measures should save the state 70 billion Belarusian rubles ($4.5 million) a year. -- Ustina Markus

German Bundestag Deputy Wolfgang von Stetten on 8 July called for the introduction of visa-free travel between Germany and the Baltic states, BNS reported. Von Stetten, who heads the German-Baltic parliamentary group, said there are no legal reasons against such a policy and the Baltic states are ready to sign agreements on the readmission of illegal immigrants and would accept German help to improve border control. He said it is not fair that Poles can travel to Germany without visas, but Balts cannot. At a 4 July meeting, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas that in principle he agreed with the visa abolition, but noted that some preparatory work first must be completed. A German delegation will travel to Lithuania in September for that purpose. -- Saulius Girnius

Estonian President Lennart Meri met the U.S. first lady on her arrival in Tallinn on 8 July, Reuters reported. She held talks with Meri and Foreign Minister Siim Kallas and met with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and parliament chairman Toomas Savi. She is scheduled to visit on 9 July a hospital in Tallinn and an open-air museum of traditional Estonian culture as well as address the people of Estonia, Latvia. and Lithuania before flying to Finland. -- Saulius Girnius

Protesting the failure of the Popular Concord Party (TSP) congress on 6 July to support a merger with the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS), some party members applied to join the DPS, BNS reported. The DPS leadership accepted 74 of those applications, including those of Saeima deputies Andris Ameriks and Ludmila Kuprijanova. The departure of those two ended the TSP faction because only four members remained (a minimum of five deputies is required for a faction.) The Fatherland and Freedom faction, which had requested that one of its members join the Saeima presidium, noted that Ameriks should leave his post of deputy chairman of the Saeima because the DPS would have three of the five presidium seats. -- Saulius Girnius

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski met with U.S. President Bill Clinton on 8 July. Clinton assured his host that NATO will expand into Eastern Europe despite Moscow's opposition. Clinton did not give any details on the timing. He said that NATO's expansion, under the Partnership for Peace plan, "has been a disciplined, open process since 1994." Kwasniewski said he is convinced that Clinton will be president who makes the decision on NATO enlargement. After the meeting, Kwasniewski spoke at the Atlantic Council of the United States. Commenting on Russian perceptions of NATO he said, "the more that Russian society breathes the air of democracy, the more it will know about the alliance and its objectives, and fear it less." -- Jakub Karpinski

Slovak and Romanian government officials on 8 July expressed anger about the outcome of an ethnic Hungarian minority summit in Budapest, Hungarian media reported. Representatives of the Hungarian government, all parliamentary parties, and 11 ethnic Hungarian organizations from neighboring countries called for establishing local governments and autonomy in line with Western European practices. Romanian President Ion Iliescu said Bucharest would not accept ethnic-based autonomy because that would be tantamount to separatism, APA reported on 8 July. Slovak State Secretary Josef Sestak said mentioning the word "autonomy" in the conference's final document could be a violation of the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty. The deputy speaker of the Slovak parliament said Hungary breached its international obligations and its pledge not to support irredentism. Meanwhile,Magyar Hirlap reported that Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn proposed an informal meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The OSCE head of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Robert Frowick, said he will use his authority as supervisor of the September elections to bar the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) from the vote if Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic remains its chairman, Onasa reported on 8 July. There is a growing consensus among international officials in Bosnia that the Dayton treaty's ban on indicted war criminals holding public office also extends to holding any role in public life. The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt is the odd-man-out because he accepts Karadzic's withdrawal from the presidential race as sufficient. Bildt said Frowick would have to overturn a 28 June decision by the OSCE on the elections if he intends to ban the SDS from the race, AFP reported. Frowick said he is willing to risk the collapse of the elections to exclude the SDS. -- Patrick Moore

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia are concluding hearings designed to keep pressure on the two most-important indicted war criminals, Karadzic and his military counterpart Gen. Ratko Mladic. Prosecutor Mark Harmon criticized the international community for failing to arrest the two and demanded international arrest warrants, the BBC reported on 8 July. The current warrants apply only to a handful of countries, including Serbia, where authorities have turned a blind eye to Karadzic's and Mladic's presence. Harmon said rump Yugoslavia should be reported to the UN Security Council for its failure to arrest the men, Reuters reported. Nasa Borba quoted Harmon stressing that the tribunal was not condemning "the Serbian people." -- Patrick Moore

International experts from the Hague-based tribunal exhumed the first body from a mass grave at Cerska near Srebrenica on 8 July, the BBC reported. The 20-strong team hopes to determine whether those buried there and elsewhere were victims of a massacre after the town fell on 11 July 1995. U.S. spy satellite and U-2 photos showed a massacre of Muslim males by Serbs--those pictures were available to NATO allies on 13 July, AFP quoted the French daily La Croix . The first photos showed "men standing, surrounded by other men with weapons. The following image showed them lying dead on the ground." The U.S. and its allies claim that the little they know about the deaths came from testimony and photos taken later. -- Patrick Moore

Jose Maria Aznar met on 8 July with the EU administrator Ricardo Perez Casado and the Muslim and Croat mayors Safet Orucevic and Mijo Brajkovic, Onasa reported. He discussed the recent elections with the Croats and Muslims and praised Perez Casado for his role in the elections. Aznar, who was accompanied by Defense Minister Eduardo Serra and Chief of Staff Jose Rodrigo Rodrigo, also visited the 1,600-man Spanish IFOR contingent in Medjugorje and Trebinje. Meanwhile, Zdravko Misic, son of a commander in the Bosnian Croat army HVO, has expelled a Muslim family from their home in west Mostar, threatening to kill them, Onasa reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

Dusko Vuckovic was sentenced on 8 July in a Sabac court to seven years in prison on several war crimes charges, including 16 counts of murder and one count of rape, Tanjug reported. Vuckovic, a member of a paramilitary outfit led by his brother Vojin, was involved in a series of raids against Bosnian Muslim civilians throughout eastern Bosnia in spring 1992. He was arrested by Serbian police in November 1993 for crimes committed in Celopek. Vuckovic's trial and conviction in rump Yugoslavia instead of The Hague also underscores Belgrade's unwillingness to compel accused war criminals to face charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

Croatia and rump Yugoslavia have agreed to exchange information on those missing, detained, or killed during the 1991 war. Pavle Todorovic, head of the Yugoslav commission for humanitarian issues and missing persons, said this is "a significant step forward. We are speeding up the solution to these burning issues now that peace has been restored," Reuters reported on 8 July. Todorovic said Croatia has accepted Belgrade's claim that there are no prisoners of war in rump Yugoslavia, adding "the only people we have in our custody are those who are accused of spying and conspiring against the state." Croatia has agreed to release all its prisoners of war, perhaps by as early as 20 August. -- Stan Markotich

The price of a loaf of bread in Serbia is likely to jump, as grain stocks are running low. Nasa Borba on 9 July called the situation "alarming"--shopkeepers are verging on panic with grain supplies nearly out. There is neither wheat nor flour on sale in the markets, the report said. The looming crisis, at least on the surface, parallels conditions in Bulgaria. In mid-May, Bulgarian bakeries were forced to either close or severely limit supplies to cope with depleting wheat and flour stocks. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 15 May 1995.) -- Stan Markotich

The creation of the National Liberal Alliance on 7 July is "a significant realignment of the Romanian political scene" ahead of this fall's presidential and parliamentary elections, local media reported. The birth certificate of the new alliance was signed by the Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) and the Liberal Party `93 (PL `93); several other parties reportedly expressed interest. PL `93 leader Dinu Zamfirescu said on 8 July that the parties in the alliance intend to nominate a common candidate for president, to run common lists in parliamentary elections, and to present a joint ruling program. They will, however, preserve their distinct identities and structures. Romania has a plethora of liberal parties or those claiming to be. -- Dan Ionescu

The united opposition on 9 July is expected to nominate a running mate for its presidential candidate Petar Stoyanov, Demokratsiya reported. Todor Kavaldzhiev, who was nominated by the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union, is likely to be officially approved by the other opposition parties. Kavaldzhiev told Novinar that there should be no conflicts with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom over his candidacy because he defended Turks' rights during the communist regime. Demokratsiya also reported that the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party is considering nominating a general as the running mate of Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, who has not served in the army. Meanwhile, the Union of Democratic Forces said it will ask the Defense Ministry if Pirinski failed to serve in the Bulgarian army for health reasons or because he also held U.S. citizenship at the time, Standart reported. -- Stefan Krause

There are no military installations on Bulgarian territory run by Russian personnel, said the Defense Ministry, General Staff, and several high-ranking officers on 8 July. They denied such allegations made by former Yugoslav Army General Todor Atanasovski in Nova Makedonija, Duma reported. The Russian military attache to Bulgaria, Gen. Anatolii Kiselev, called Atanasovski's claims "delirious and utterly stupid." Bulgarian Chief of General Staff Tsvetan Totomirov told Trud that Macedonia made the story up to justify its allowance of U.S. and NATO installations and troops on its territory. -- Stefan Krause

Fatos Nano sent a memorandum to the Socialist Party calling for reforms, Zeri I Popullit reported on 6 July. Nano wants changes in the party's statute and program, including the elimination of all references to Marxism. Nano sent his demands from prison, where he is serving a four-year
term for misappropriation of funds. The party will consider his proposals at a congress on 27 July. The newspaper suggested
removing communist-era officials from the party leadership. Acting party leader Servet Pellumbi said he supported Nano, but indicated he might step down before the changes took place, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Tirana's chief prosecutor denied media reports he was reviewing Nano's case. -- Fabian Schmidt

Gramoz Ruci on 8 July resigned in reaction to Nano's initiative, Reuters reported. Ruci was one of the party's most controversial leaders, because he was the last communist-era Interior Minister from February to June 1991 and head of the secret police Sigurimi for a short period after that. Ruci said he hoped his resignation would ease party reforms. His resignation is regarded as a victory by the party's reformers. -- Fabian Schmidt

In the first six months of 1996, the Tirana court sentenced nine people to death, Albania reported on 7 July. The court's chief judge said six are murderers and three are former communist officials convicted of crimes against humanity. The sentences have not been carried out. Albanian law stipulates that every death sentence is automatically appealed to the president. The Albanian Helsinki Committee is calling for the death penalty's abolition. Parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori committed the country to abolishing the death penalty after Albania's admission to the Council of Europe in summer 1995. The parliament has so far failed to issue such legislation. Twenty people have been executed in Albania since 1990 and 12 have been pardoned. -- Fabian Schmidt

Melescanu on 8 July arrived in Greece for a two-day official visit, Greek and Romanian media reported. Meeting with his Greek counterpart, Theodoros Pangalos, Melescanu stressed Greece's role in the region as the only Balkan country in the EU. Pangalos said Greece will support Romania's bid for EU and NATO membership. Both sides agreed to further consolidate relations. Pangalos and Melescanu also discussed ways to boost bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Melescanu will meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis, and other officials before returning to Bucharest. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Maura Griffin Solovar