RUSSIANS DENY INVOLVEMENT IN ATTACK ON MASKHADOV.
Movladi Udugov on 30 July accused Russian intelligence of instigating the
failed assassination attempt on chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 29 July, but
Sergei Slipchenko, spokesman of the Russian government commission on resolving
the Chechen conflict, ruled out Russian involvement and said the attack had
been staged by supporters of rival Chechen field commander Salman Raduev,
ITAR-TASS reported. Maskhadov canceled a planned 31 July meeting with the
commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin,
pending investigation of the assassination attempt. At its session on 30 July
the Russian State Commission for resolving the Chechen conflict issued an
official statement calling on acting Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to
clarify his stance on Raduev and the latter's repeated threats to perpetrate
further terrorist acts in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller
ROKHLIN ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION.
A 30 July article in Izvestiya
contended that Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who has accused a
number of high-ranking Defense Ministry generals of corruption, has himself
been involved in dubious financial transactions, centered in Volgograd oblast.
Izvestiya detailed the activities of a volunteer society of Reserve
Soldiers and Officers that Rokhlin allegedly headed and four commercial
companies associated with it, suggesting that Rokhlin and his family benefited
financially from their dealings. It also accuses Rokhlin of disregarding
Defense Ministry orders. Rokhlin has denied any wrongdoing and puts the
allegations down to the fact that he is not on good terms with the Volgograd
mayor and the heads of the region's law enforcement bodies. -- Penny Morvant
CHUBAIS GETS OFFICE NEXT TO YELTSIN'S.
Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais' new office is near President Boris Yeltsin's on the third
floor of the former Senate in the Kremlin, NTV reported on 30 July. Yeltsin's
powerful First Aide Viktor Ilyushin previously occupied this office. Chubais'
location will give him crucial access to the president and, perhaps, an edge
over Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed, his competitors for power within the president's inner circle.
Ilyushin took leave to work on Yeltsin's presidential campaign and is expected
to be named first deputy prime minister. His departure, combined with the purge
of the hard-liners, will make Chubais a much stronger chief of staff than his
immediate predecessors, Nikolai Yegorov and Sergei Filatov. -- Robert Orttung
DEMOCRATS DECRY DUMA'S INEFFICIENCY...
Russia's Democratic Choice Duma
Member Sergei Yushenkov described the Duma as less efficient than a steam
engine and said that it was possible Yeltsin would disband it and call new
elections, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 30 July. Although Yushenkov suggested
that opposition leaders in the current Duma were slowly adopting more
constructive positions, his colleague Viktor Pokhmelkin warned that the
communist majority was seeking to strengthen its position while torpedoing the
president's program. The deputies claimed that only one third of the
legislation adopted by the Duma has been signed into law by the president,
ITAR-TASS reported. They called for a shake-up of the Duma leadership,
including the removal of Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, whose
recent accusation that the CIA was preparing subversive actions against Belarus
"caused enormous damage to Russian interests." -- Robert Orttung
...SEE CONSOLIDATION OF REFORM PARTIES.
Both deputies believe that
pro-reform parties would win if early elections were called. Although the
reformers split into more than 10 parties in the 1995 elections, they are now
forming three large blocs, defined by liberal (including Russia's Democratic
Choice, Forward, Russia!, and Common Cause), centrist (Our Home is Russia and
the Party of Russian Unity and Accord), and social-democratic (Yabloko)
leanings. The communists and their nationalist allies are seeking to establish
a unified popular-patriotic bloc, whose first congress is planned for 7 August.
-- Robert Orttung
YELENA BONNER HOSPITALIZED.
Human rights activist Yelena Bonner, 73, was
hospitalized after suffering a heart attack on 30 July, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, has had a history of
heart problems. Earlier this month, human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev was
hospitalized following a heart attack (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 July
1996). Bonner and Kovalev have been among the most vocal critics of the war in
Chechnya; in recent months, they urged Russia's democrats not to support
President Yeltsin's re-election. -- Laura Belin
RYZHKOV: POPULAR-PATRIOTIC UNION NOT DOMINATED BY COMMUNISTS.
Party (KPRF) activists will not dominate the new Popular-Patriotic Union of
Russia (NPSR), the movement formed from the coalition that backed Gennadii
Zyuganov for president, according to NPSR organizing committee chairman Nikolai
Ryzhkov. In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 30 July,
Ryzhkov said Zyuganov lost the presidential election because Yeltsin's team
successfully used the anti-communist card, and that Zyuganov's political future
will depend on his ability to represent a broader organization. Ryzhkov added
that KPRF officials will not lead more than one half of the NPSR's regional
branches, and that in upcoming regional elections the NPSR may support the
re-election of some non-communist incumbent governors. -- Laura Belin
RUSSIAN DELEGATION AT PARIS ANTI-TERRORISM MEETING.
Yevgenii Primakov and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev
represented Russia at a 30 July conference of officials from the G-7 plus
Russia to discuss joint action to combat international terrorism, Russian and
Western agencies reported. The session approved a list of 25 measures,
including improvements in intelligence-sharing, police cooperation, monitoring
of banks and computer networks, and extradition procedures. Primakov used the
session to argue that the Chechen conflict is an example of international
terrorism, repeating allegations that separatist fighters receive arms from
abroad. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST NATO EXPANSION CONTINUES.
statements by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 25 July 1996), other Russian officials continue to vocally
criticize plans to expand NATO. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov, visiting
Oslo on 30 July, said that expanding NATO would not improve European security.
He pointedly questioned how expansion would affect the security of those
European countries "not wanting to join NATO or not wanted inside" the
alliance. The same day, meeting with his British counterpart Malcolm Rifkind in
Paris, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Moscow wants to deepen
cooperation with NATO, but not if it expands. In the 28 July issue of
Moskovskie novosti, First Deputy Defense Minster Andrei Kokoshin
contended that expanding NATO would provoke "a confrontation that nobody
needs," and urged that alternative means of building a new European security
system be found. -- Scott Parrish
PERSONNEL RESHUFFLE AT FOREIGN MINISTRY.
Grigorii Karasin, head of the
Russian Foreign Ministry's Information and Press department and its chief
spokesman since July 1993, has been appointed Deputy Foreign Minister, Russian
media reported on 30 July. According to Izvestiya, Karasin will
supervise the several Asian departments of the ministry, largely taking over
the responsibilities of Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov, who will soon
take up the post of ambassador to Japan. Gennadii Tarasov, currently ambassador
to Saudi Arabia, will reportedly replace Karasin as chief spokesman. The paper
also criticized Karasin for restricting journalists' access to diplomats during
his tenure, a policy which it said had tightened further since the January
appointment of Yevgenii Primakov as foreign minister. -- Scott Parrish
PRAVDA-5 PUBLISHES DAILY.
The left-wing tabloid Pravda-5,
formerly a weekly, has begun to publish daily as the standoff between the
Pravda editorial board and the paper's Greek financiers continues.
Pravda suspended publication on 24 July, and Theodoros and Christos
Giannikos, who own the joint-stock company that publishes both papers, have
asked Pravda editor Aleksandr Ilin to resign. Ilin told Komsomolskaya
pravda on 31 July that since the Pravda editorial collective is the
paper's founder, Pravda staff--not the Greek owners or
Pravda-5--have the right to publish daily, collect money from
subscriptions and elect Pravda's editor. -- Laura Belin
ELECTIONS SAID TO REFLECT "SOVIETIZATION" OF PRESS.
head of the watchdog group Glasnost Defense Foundation, said at a 29 July round
table in Moscow that the recent presidential elections reflected "the clear
Sovietization of the press," Ekspress-khronika reported the next day. He
admitted that opinion poll projections were more accurate than in previous
elections but said "the bright democratic future is as distant as it was before
the first elections [in Russia]." Covering the same round table, the official
ITAR-TASS news agency misleadingly quoted Simonov as saying that cooperation
among politicians, journalists and sociologists during the campaign was
"fruitful," and that journalists presented information about the campaign to
the public "more precisely and competently" than they did before last year's
parliamentary elections. Simonov told OMRI on 30 July that Ekspress-khronika
quoted him accurately and that he never described journalists' cooperation with
politicians as "fruitful." -- Laura Belin
GOVERNMENT SENDS MONEY TO PAY PRIMORSKII MINERS.
adviser Aleksandr Livshits announced on 30 July that the government will
transfer 45 billion rubles ($8.7 million) from the federal budget to miners in
Primore, Russian and Western agencies reported. Unofficial strikes, involving
more than 10,000 people, have taken place at a number of pits in the area over
the past 20 days. The miners are owed an estimated 130 billion rubles in wage
arrears, and they and their families are said to be on the verge of starvation.
Union leaders in the Far East threatened to call an official strike from 31
July and miners said they would block the Trans-Siberian railway. -- Penny
KOREAN FIRM LAUNCHES AUTO PLANT IN KALININGRAD.
South Korea's car
manufacturer KIA Motors has signed an agreement to build a plant in Kaliningrad
Oblast to assemble 55,000 jeeps and minibuses a year, AFP reported on 30 July.
The Korean company intends to invest over $1 billion in the project ($180
million has already been spent), which also envisages upgrading existing
plants, including a former navy shipyard. KIA expects to create 50,000 new jobs
over the next five years and manufacture at least 65% of car parts locally.
Meanwhile, French technical experts, inspecting the VAZ car plant in Togliatti,
determined that the new model VAZ-2110 does not meet the technical parameters
required for sale in the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. This ban will not
affect the sales of older VAZ models. -- Natalia Gurushina
CONFUSION SURROUNDS ABKHAZ TALKS.
The virtual news blackout imposed on
the UN/Russian-mediated talks in Moscow between Georgian and Abkhaz
representatives on renewing the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force in
Abkhazia continues to give rise to unverifiable rumors. ITAR-TASS on 29 July
again reported that a compromise had been reached on the peacekeeper issue.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze similarly stated on 29 July during his
weekly radio broadcast that some progress had been made. BGI on 30 July quoted
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili as confirming that
Shevardnadze had met on several occasions with his Abkhaz counterpart Vladislav
Ardzinba but failed to reach an agreement; Shevardnadze's press secretary
Vakhtang Abashidze had told RTR on 19 July that no meeting between the two
presidents had taken place. On 30 July Noyan Tapan cited Caucasus Press as
reporting that the Moscow talks have been suspended indefinitely at the
initiative of the Russian mediator, Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov. --
ARMENIAN BANKS IN CRISIS.
The deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Armen
Darbinyan, told a conference in Yerevan on 30 July that up to one-third of
Armenia's 36 banks may close over the next year, Noyan Tapan reported. The
banks are owed a total of 20 billion drams ($48 million) and have authorized
capital of only 5.5 billion drams ($13 million). Speaking on 27 July, the
president of the Armenian Banks Association, Tigran Sarkissyan, had urged the
government not to go ahead with its plan to remove privileges for foreign
investors, since this would choke off the inflow of private investment. --
BAKU DEMONSTRATORS DISPERSED.
A group of demonstrators in front of the
Russian embassy in Baku on 26 July was broken up by baton-wielding police,
Noyan Tapan reported as monitored by the BBC. The demonstration, organized by
10 youth groups, was protesting the police actions in Moscow which in the name
of fighting crime and terrorism are often targeting "persons of Caucasian
nationality." (See OMRI Daily Digest 29 July.) -- Peter Rutland
FOOD RIOT REPORTED IN TAJIK CITY.
Five people were killed and 11 injured
when a riot broke out over food prices on 30 July in the eastern Tajik city of
Khorog, according to the opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan as
monitored by the BBC. The trouble apparently began when a shipment of meat,
which has been a scarce commodity in the city recently, arrived and a dispute
developed over pricing and distributing it. Three of those killed were
policemen. -- Bruce Pannier
DEMONSTRATION OVER LIVING CONDITIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Some 2,000 people
gathered in the southern city of Zhanatas on 28 July to protest living
conditions, Kazakh Television First Channel reported as monitored by the BBC.
The demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the head of the city
administration and the formation of a special commission to correct the
"ruinous social and economic situation in the city." Those at the illegal rally
said they would meet again on 11 August if their demands were been met. --
TOP BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS RESIGN...
Deputy Prime Ministers Leanid
Sinitsyn, Vasil Dolhalyau, and Syarhei Ling as well as Economics Minister
Hryhorii Badzei have handed in their resignations, international agencies
reported on 30 July. The move came after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka,
speaking at National Security Council meeting,
the state of the country's economy. Lukashenka accepted the resignations of
Sinitsyn and Badzei, but it is unclear whether the others were also accepted.
Sinitsyn, who led the president's election campaign, had been a member of
Lukashenka's team from the outset. He was appointed head of the president's
administration after Lukashenka's election but was demoted to deputy prime
minister last year, indicating that he was falling out of the president's
favor. Parliamentary deputy speaker Henadz Karpenka said the resignations had
nothing to do with the parliament. He added that the economic crisis was
reaching chronic proportions and that the ministers wanted to distance
themselves from the regime's policies. -- Ustina Markus
...WHILE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS APPLY FOR ASYLUM IN U.S.
of the Belarusian Popular Front Zyanon Paznyak and BPF spokesman Syarhei
Naumchyk have applied for asylum in the U.S., international agencies reported
on 30 July. Paznyak and Naumchyk left Belarus in March after President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a warrant for their arrest on charges of
organizing demonstrations against both his regime and integration with Russia.
The two men said they fear for their lives if they have to return to Belarus
because Lukashenka has ordered their "neutralization." They also asked the U.S.
not to grant Belarus the $13 million economic aid package for 1997. -- Ustina
RENTS, UTILITIES GO UP IN UKRAINE, BUT SO DO WAGES, PENSIONS.
Ukrainian government has increased rents and utilities and consumer energy
prices but at the same time raised public sector wages and pensions, Ukrainian
and Western agencies reported. The increases go into effect on 1 August and are
part of the government's effort to reduce subsidies and force consumers to pay
80% of the real costs of services. Rents are to be raised by 20-80%, depending
on the size of the flat, while water and heating will go up by some 140-150%.
Energy prices will jump by 130%. At the same time, public sector wages will
increase by nearly 11% and pensions by 10%. Alex Sundakov, the IMF's Kyiv-based
representative, said the planned increases will allow Ukraine to meet its
budget deficit target this year. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Statistics Ministry
reported that GDP fell by 8.7% during the first half of the year, compared with
a 3.1% decrease over the same period last year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS CRITICIZE NEW CONSTITUTION.
The Union of Communists
of Ukraine has issued a statement condemning the country's new constitution,
UNIAN reported on 29 July. The union noted that the new basic law "legalizes
social injustice and the robbery of the working people" by bourgeois mafiosi.
It also claimed that the Socialist Party and Communist Party deputies who voted
in favor of the constitution's adoption betrayed the working people's
interests. Meanwhile, Volodymyr Stretovych, chairman of the parliamentary
Committee on Legal Policy and Judicial Reform, said that more than 90 lawmakers
refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the new constitution during a
ceremony on 12 July. However, he said the names of the legislators would remain
secret, adding that their refusal to take the oath carried no penalty because
they had been elected before the basic law was adopted. Under the new
constitution, newly elected deputies are required to take the oath; if they
refuse do so, they can lose their seats. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE SAYS ITS POSITION ON BLACK SEA FLEET TO BE BASED ON CONSTITUTION.
Head of Ukraine's Foreign Ministry information department Yurii Serheyev
said Ukraine's position during negotiations over the Black Sea Fleet will be
based on the country's new constitution, Ukrainian radio reported on 30 July.
He emphasized that Sevastopol cannot be the base of the Russian part of the
Black Sea Fleet, adding that only some bays can be allocated for the use of the
Russian part of the fleet. -- Ustina Markus
LITHUANIA, RUSSIA CONTINUE BORDER TALKS.
Russian-Lithuanian border talks
resumed in Vilnius on 30 July following a three-month pause due to the Russian
presidential elections, BNS reported. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary
Rimantas Sidlauskas said he would like the border to be settled before the end
of the year. He added that he hoped the Russian delegation head, former
ambassador to Vienna Valerii Popov, would make new proposals to eliminate "the
hitches" in determining about a tenth of the Lithuanian border. Outstanding
issues include Lithuania's proposal to share fishing rights in Lake Vistytis
and the exact border along the Nemunas River. Determining the
Lithuanian-Russian sea border is likely to prove a more complicated task. --
POLES APPEAL FOR PEACE IN CHECHNYA.
Prominent public figures in Poland
have signed an appeal addressed to the Council of Europe and world public
opinion for the Chechen people to have the right to self-determination,
Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 31 July. Among the signatories are former
foreign affairs ministers Wladyslaw Bartoszewski and Andrzej Olechowski, former
Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, Mayor of Warsaw Marcin Swiecicki, and Mayor of
Cracow Jozef Lassota. The appeal holds the Russian government responsible for
brutal assaults on civilians and for the escalation of the war in Chechnya. --
BALTIC CABLE TO LINK POLAND, SWEDEN?
Construction of an underwater cable
linking the Polish and Swedish electricity systems is to begin in the spring,
Zycie Warszawy reported on 31 July. The cable, which is to stretch 200
kilometers along the Baltic sea bed to link the Swedish town Karlsham with
Koszalin in Poland, is due to become operational in 1997. The cable's
owners--Poland's PSE electricity distribution company and two Swedish
utilities--will be able to send 600-800 megawatts of electricity in either
direction. Polish officials say this arrangement will reduce electricity prices
in the energy-poor northwestern regions of Poland, while simultaneously helping
to reduce the acid rain linked to emissions from Poland's coal-fired power
plants. But Swedish environmental groups are opposed to the cable, which, they
say, will increase pollution and electromagnetic disturbances in the Baltic
Sea. -- Ben Slay
CONTINUED CULTURAL CONTROVERSY IN SLOVAKIA.
Culture Ministry official
Marian Kovacik announced on 30 July that two theaters in Banska Bystrica and
one in neighboring Zvolen will be merged to form a single Central Slovak
Theater, which will open on 1 September, Slovenska Republika reported.
This follows a similar move in eastern Slovakia and recent personnel changes at
the Slovak National Theater, which are rumored to be connected with aims to
merge it with Bratislava's Nova scena theater. Culture Minister Ivan Hudec told
TASR on 30 July that the current situation of theaters in Slovakia, where
almost 25 are financed from the state budget, is unparalleled in developed
democracies. Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky told
Sme that Hudec "had not forgotten anything from the 'normalization'
policies of the 1970s and had not learned anything about tolerance." -- Sharon
SLOVAK CITIZEN KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA.
Stefan Hajdin, a construction site
manager, was abducted in Grozny on 29 July by a group of unidentified people
dressed in police uniforms, international media reported. An employee of the
Czech firm Stavoinform, Hajdin was working on the reconstruction of damaged
buildings. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but
the Slovak and Czech embassies in Moscow are working on the case. A number of
specialists on reconstruction projects in Grozny have been kidnapped by Chechen
separatists, but Hajdin is the first non-Russian victim. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN ECONOMY STAGNATES IN FIRST HALF OF 1996.
released by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) show that zero -- or even
negative --GDP growth was attained in the first half of 1996, Hungarian dailies
reported on 31 July. This follows a 1% year-on-year decline in GDP in the first
quarter. Commenting on this year's trends, economist Laszlo Csaba told
Vilaggazdasag that "the moment of truth has arrived: the government has
been unable to realize its hopes of attaining an improvement in the current
account deficit and a GDP growth at the same time." The KSH's January-May
report also shows a continued fall in domestic demand owing to the austerity
measures introduced in May 1995. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
NEW MEDIA COUNCIL SET UP IN HUNGARY.
The eight-member National
Communications and Information Council (NHIT) has begun operating, Hungarian
media reported on 31 July. The NHIT replaces the National Frequency Council and
is the last of the new organizations set up in accordance with the media law,
passed last December. The body is charged with advising the government on a
wide range of mass media issues, including preparations for bringing the
country's mass media in line with EU norms. It will also help organize
international tenders and liberalize media regulations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
REFUGEE CAMP FOR BOSNIAN MUSLIMS TO BE CLOSED IN CROATIA.
government has set 31 July as the deadline for 2,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees to
leave the Kuplensko camp, Onasa reported. They have been given the choice to
move to other refugee camps in Croatia, to go to a third country, or to return
to Bosnia. The refugees are the last of the 20,000 followers of the Muslim
kingpin Fikret Abdic who fled to Croatia last year when Bosnian army forces
pushed them out of Velika Kladusa, their stronghold in northwestern Bosnia.
Most of the refugees have already returned to their homes in Bosnia, but those
who remain in Croatia fear political persecution if they return. UN spokesman
Alexander Ivanko supported this fear, saying that the bridge blast on 29 July
near Velika Kladusa may have been "an attempt to prevent refugees from the camp
returning [to Bosnia]," AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES RULING PARTY OF UNFAIR PLAY.
opposition parties have accused the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action
(SDA) of replacing the managers of state-run companies in Tuzla with party
candidates, AFP reported on 29 July. In the first prewar elections, Tuzla was
the only town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where national parties did not win a
mandate. It remains the only town where the SDA is not the dominant party.
Opposition spokesman Jasmin Imamovic said the state has the right to administer
the companies but only in accordance with federal law. -- Daria Sito
UPDATE ON FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IN BOSNIA.
A Serbian mob armed with iron
bars, sticks, and stones have attacked a UN bus carrying passengers from the
Bosnian Federation, AFP reported on 30 July. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said
the attack, which took place in the Serbian stronghold of Banja Luka, was
"clearly orchestrated" by the Bosnian Serb authorities. He added that the UN
was holding Serbian Premier Gojko Klickovic "personally responsible" for the
safety of passengers and drivers in the Republika Srpska. In other news, the
first train since the beginning of war in April 1992 set out on 30 July from
Sarajevo via Mostar to the port of Ploce, on the Adriatic coast,
Oslobodjenje reported. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said the
renewed rail link to the sea marked "the second lifting of the Sarajevo siege,"
identifying a tunnel dug three years ago under the city's airport as the first
one. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR ELECTIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
on 30 July said he will send a letter to Jacques Klein, head of the UN
Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), demanding that local
elections be held in the last Serb-held enclave of eastern Slavonia, Croatian
radio reported on 30 July. The elections are the last condition to be met
before Zagreb can take over jurisdiction and the UN depart from the enclave.
Reuters quoted Matesa as saying there is "not a single important reason not to
hold the elections in December." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mate Granic,
during his visit to Rome on 29-30 July, met with his Italian counterpart,
Lamberto Dini to discuss taxation policies, tourism, and minority rights. Dini
said the meeting was constructive and that Italy will support Croatian efforts
to become a member of the Council of Europe. -- Stan Markotich
CENTRIST UNION FOUNDED IN ROMANIA.
The Democratic Agrarian Party, the
Ecological Movement, and the Humanist Party on 30 July signed a protocol
founding a National Centrist Union (UNC), Radio Bucharest reported. The
document stresses that the parties' complementary platforms facilitate the
setting up of the new alliance, whose goals and structure will be determined
following further negotiations. The union plans to nominate a joint candidate
for this autumn's presidential elections and will welcome the membership of
groups with similar political leanings. -- Dan Ionescu
TOP ROMANIAN DIPLOMATS SUMMONED TO BUCHAREST.
Heads of Romania's
diplomatic missions, consular offices, and cultural centers attended a
conference in Bucharest on 29-30 July to discuss the country's policy for
joining European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Radio Bucharest reported.
Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, who presided over the meeting, described
integration with the West as Romania's "strategic" foreign policy goal, noting
that the present period was "crucial" for achieving that goal. President Ion
Iliescu also addressed the participants, saying that Romania's image abroad has
improved over the last year but should be further "consolidated" by stressing
both the country's internal stability and its contribution to regional
stability. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIA ANNOUNCES ANTI-CRIME MEASURES. T
he Interior Ministry on 30 July
announced a package of measures to fight crime and terrorism, Reuters and
Bulgarian newspapers reported. Security is to be stepped up at airports, ports,
railroad and bus stations, border crossings, important public buildings, and
key strategic installations. The ministry will also tighten control over the
production, transport, storage, and sales of arms, ammunition, explosives, and
poisonous substances. It noted that there were 173 bombings in Bulgaria last
year and 92 in the first half of 1996, adding that foreign criminal
organizations might use Bulgaria as a transit route for illegal arms trade.
Opposition deputies said they support the package, adding that they conform
with existing legislation. -- Stefan Krause
BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY IN BULGARIA.
Michael Portillo, arriving in
Sofia on 30 July for a two-day visit, met with his Bulgarian counterpart,
Dimitar Pavlov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, and Foreign Minister Georgi
Pirinski, Bulgarian and Western media reported. After those talks, Portillo
commented that Bulgaria's "special relationship" with Russia could contribute
to European security and build a bridge between the West and Moscow. He told
Trud that it is entirely in Bulgaria's hands whether it wants to join
NATO. Bulgarian politicians are divided over this issue. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LAYS DOWN CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATING IN LOCAL
Nine opposition parties on 30 July said they will participate in
the October local elections only if the ballot is free and fair, international
media reported. In a joint statement, the groups called for an improved local
election law, international monitoring, equal TV air time, and a review of the
genocide law, which bans many opposition from political office until 2002. The
groups also demanded that the ruling Democratic Party immediately start a
dialogue with the opposition to discuss early parliamentary elections. Other
demands included an independent judiciary, free electronic media, civilian
control over the police and secret service, a neutral presidency, and
independent local government. Finally, the opposition groups proposed that a
constituent assembly be elected to draft a new constitution. A basic law
drafted by the Democrats was rejected in a 1994 referendum. -- Stefan Krause
FOUR ALBANIANS ON TRIAL FOR REVIVING COMMUNIST PARTY.
have gone on trial on charges of founding a communist party and conspiring to
overthrow the government, Reuters reported on 30 July. Three of the accused
said they had attempted to create a communist party but denied they had
supported violence or anti-constitutional measures. The fourth refused to
comment. All four face up to five years in prison if convicted. The prosecution
claims that they tried to establish contact with communist parties and
associations abroad, including the Cuban government, while the secret police
says it possesses incriminating faxes sent by the four to the Cuban embassy in
Rome. The Albanian parliament declared all communist organizations illegal in
July 1992. -- Stefan Krause