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Newsline - August 8, 1996

Fighting continued in central Grozny on 7-8 August as Chechen militants tried without success to take the central government building, Russian and Western media reported. Two Russian helicopters opened fire on civilians fleeing south from Grozny, killing 22 people and wounding 30 more, according to AFP. Both sides dispatched reinforcements to Grozny on 8 August, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Russian Independent Television (NTV) reported that Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had informed pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev that he is personally coordinating the actions of the Russian federal troops deployed in Grozny. The deputy head of the Russian team engaged in negotiations with the Chechens, Vladimir Zorin, told ITAR-TASS that the attack on Grozny indicated serious disagreements and a power struggle within the Chechen camp, and called for the resumption of peace talks. -- Liz Fuller

On 7 August, Ruslan Martagov, press spokesman for pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, blamed the OSCE for the recent attack on Grozny by separatist forces, Radio Mayak reported. He said the international body had failed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Over the past 10 weeks, Zavgaev has repeatedly criticized OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann and demanded that he leave Chechnya. Also on 7 August, the Chechen Procurator-General's Office initiated criminal proceedings against acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, and Information Minister Movladi Udugov in connection with the attack on Grozny. -- Liz Fuller

President Boris Yeltsin has decided to hold his inauguration ceremony in the State Kremlin Palace (the former Palace of Congresses), ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Izvestiya reported assertions "especially in the Western" press that the decision was taken in order to reduce the strain that the ceremony would place on the ailing president. In line with these reports, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov charged that Yeltsin "is not in a condition to work effectively," Reuters reported. However, administration sources claimed that cost cutting was the main reason behind the move. The ceremony is expected to last a maximum of 30 minutes. -- Robert Orttung

President Yeltsin has announced that Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the current Russian ambassador to Slovakia, will be deputy chief of staff in charge of media relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev will remain in his position as a subordinate to Yastrzhembskii. The position of the current head of the press service, Igor Ignatev, remains in doubt. Yeltsin named former First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Krasavchenko to the newly created position of adviser. The president already has a number of aides. Krasavchenko had served in his former position since June 1993 when he was a member of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies and supported Yeltsin's intention to disband parliament. -- Robert Orttung

The Federation Council overrode a Yeltsin veto of a law defining budgetary classifications with 121 votes on 7 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The result was two more than the 119 needed for the override. Yeltsin had vetoed this bill on 31 December and 11 July, but Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov convinced the members of the upper house that the second version of the bill had taken into account all of Yeltsin's objections in spite of his veto. The law should increase oversight over how budget funds are spent, members of the upper house asserted. Vetoes have been extremely rare since it is difficult to get a two-thirds majority in both houses. -- Robert Orttung

The founding congress of the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) unanimously elected as its chairman Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov but also distanced itself from communist rhetoric and ideals, Russian media reported on 7 August. Zyuganov was officially nominated by Duma Culture Committee Chairman Stanislav Govorukhin, who has frequently criticized past and present communists. Addressing the delegates, Zyuganov promised that the KPRF would be "equal among equals" in the union and would not force its views on other member organizations. Meanwhile, Nikolai Ryzhkov, who heads the NPSR's organizing committee, said patriotism would be the union's fundamental ideology and social justice would be its primary goal. A statement adopted by the congress and published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 8 August does not mention socialism, Soviet power, or communism. It pledges to respect political and religious differences and struggle for power through elections. -- Laura Belin

Steps must be taken to counter unconstitutional and unlawful activities of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), according to a commentary by Constitutional Court Judge Ernest Ametistov, published in Izvestiya on 8 August. He also targeted bureaucrats sympathetic to the communists. Ametistov wrote that the KPRF is not a "civilized opposition," because it routinely "grossly violates" a 1992 court decision banning any revival of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on a national level or at workplaces. Ametistov, who is highly loyal to President Yeltsin, said the Justice Ministry should use powers granted to it under a May presidential decree (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996) to conduct an inquiry on why this ruling has not been enforced. He also called for a cadre policy to replace corrupt local bureaucrats and "red directors," whom he blamed for the problem of wage arrears, and for removing "totalitarian symbols" from city streets and enterprises. -- Laura Belin

In Primorskii krai and Rostov oblast about half the striking miners had returned to work by 7 August, Russian and Western media reported. However, it appears that some miners are not satisfied with the government's pledge to pay off the wage debt by installments. For now, the Rostov miners are only being given their wages for March. A team headed by Mikhail Klimov, the deputy head of the Presidential Oversight Commission, arrived in Vladivostok on 7 August to investigate the fate of the 60 billion rubles which Moscow sent to Primore to pay miners' wages at the beginning of the year, RTR reported. The Vorkuta miners called off their strike scheduled for 8 August after they were assured 30 billion rubles had been dispatched to the region, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has declared that he will not interfere with the gubernatorial race in neighboring Leningrad Oblast, RFE/RL reported on 7 August. He declined to endorse any of the candidates, including the incumbent Aleksandr Belyakov. Belyakov, appointed oblast head by President Yeltsin in 1991, supported Yakovlev in the June St. Petersburg gubernatorial runoff. Observers say that Yakovlev's reluctance to support Belyakov could mean that the Yeltsin administration, which announced it will support one candidate in each region, is undecided over whom to back in the Leningrad election. Other potential candidates include the left-leaning former speaker of the Leningrad Soviet, Vadim Gustov, and the liberal Nikolai Smirnov. -- Anna Paretskaya

Police investigators have concluded that the 6 August explosion near the Rublevskoe shosse in Moscow--which took place moments before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's motorcade drove by--was an act of random "hooliganism" and was not directed against the prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. The explosion was caused by a homemade bomb containing some 200 grams of explosives which detonated about 15 meters from the highway. -- Scott Parrish

According to a report in the 8 August edition of Izvestiya, the State Duma recently decided to give each of its current and previous members $60,000 from the federal budget to purchase a Moscow apartment. Adopted in "strict secrecy," the decision was taken under the 1994 law on deputies' status. Many deputies of the previous Duma who did not win re-election in 1995 had refused to vacate their state-provided apartments when their terms expired. Now deputies will receive a "one-time compensation payment" to enable them to purchase housing in Moscow, which will then become their personal private property. The paper indicated that the Presidential Administration, which manages official flats in Moscow, had approved the action, and suggested its approval was intended to encourage the Duma to approve Viktor Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister. -- Scott Parrish

A court has seized the assets of the Zvezda plant near Vladivostok that repairs Pacific Fleet nuclear submarines, and will sell some of them to pay the company's debts, Reuters reported on 7 August, citing Interfax. The shipyard owed its suppliers more than 36 billion rubles ($6.8 million), including 6 billion rubles to the water company which initiated the court action. But Zvezda director Valerii Maslyukov said his firm is owed more than 80 billion rubles, with 17 billion just by the government. Meanwhile, tax police in Khabarovsk Krai seized the assets of the Far Eastern Railway, the largest debtor in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. The railway owes some 458 billion rubles to regional and federal authorities. These measures are part of the government's strategy to boost tax collection through more active involvement of law-enforcement agencies. -- Doug Clarke and Natalia Gurushina

Panos Katsambas, the head of an IMF mission that has spent the past two weeks in Armenia, on 7 August expressed satisfaction with the progress of macroeconomic stabilization and reform in the country, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Katsambas expressed concern, however, over enterprise debts to the budget, estimated at 12.5 billion drams ($30 million). In October, Armenia is scheduled to receive the second ($25 million) tranche of a $150 million ESAF credit. -- Liz Fuller

A U.S. delegation led by the deputy ambassador to Georgia, Larry Kerr, arrived in Sukhumi on 6 August on a fact-finding mission, ITAR-TASS and Abkhaz Radio reported on 7 August. The delegation met with newly-appointed Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan, who claimed that Abkhazia has never been an integral part of Georgia, and with parliament speaker Sokrat Djinjolia, and expressed U.S. readiness to help find a compromise solution to the question of Abkhazia's future relations with Tbilisi. -- Liz Fuller

The Georgian prosecutor-general on 7 August issued a statement branding former security chief Igor Giorgadze a terrorist and criticizing Moscow's refusal to extradite him to Tbilisi as incompatible with its pledge to combat terrorism, Russian media reported. Giorgadze is suspected of involvement in last year's bomb attack on parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze. The statement further claimed that failure to extradite Giorgadze would pose a threat to Shevardnadze's security on his upcoming trips to Russia. -- Liz Fuller

Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov met with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad on 5 August to discuss the construction of a $6 billion oil and gas pipeline linking the two countries and investment in infrastructure, according to a Radio Pakistan report monitored by the BBC. Shikhmuradov, accompanied by executives of the U.S. oil firms UNOCAL and Delta, is exploring the possibility of exporting Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon riches south through areas of Afghanistan controlled by the allegedly Pakistani-backed rebel Taliban movement. U.S. sanctions against Iran are reported to have scuttled an alternative plan to move Iranian gas to Pakistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

President Islam Karimov on 7 August granted amnesties and prison-term reductions to some of Uzbekistan's prisoners, ITAR-TASS reported. The exact number of prisoners that will benefit from this decree is unclear, although the wording suggests that this is part of a "large-scale amnesty." This is the second time in the past two months that Karimov has issued such a decree. On 15 June, he pardoned 80 prisoners, including two opposition figures (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 June 1996). -- Roger Kangas

UN military observers in Tajikistan have come closer to fulfilling one of the conditions of the 20 July Ashgabat ceasefire agreement signed by representatives of the Tajik government and opposition, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said UN observers have now set up an office in Khovaling, a town just outside of the Tavil-Dara region that is used as a base by Tajik government forces. According to the agreement, UN observers were to "position groups of observers on both sides of the conflict line" in the Tavil-Dara region by 23 July. However, continued fighting between government and opposition forces in the area prevented any independent observers from entering the region. -- Bruce Pannier

Leaders of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine protested what they are calling a government campaign to discredit and disband their organization, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 6-7 August. Union activists said the 1 August arrest of a prominent strike leader, Mykhailo Krylov, the earlier arrests of two strike organizers in Luhansk and a police search on 6 August of a union office in Krasnoarmeysk revealed a crackdown by Kyiv. They said that the police ransacked the union's offices and confiscated documents related to the July coal miners' strikes in an attempt to intimidate them and collect evidence against the union's leadership. UNIAN reported on 6 August that leaders of the Social Democratic Party issued a statement in Kyiv demanding the immediate release of strike organizers, calling it a violation of human rights. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

President Leonid Kuchma has re-appointed the chairmen of two government commissions and set up a new body aimed at coordinating measures to implement the new Ukrainian Constitution, Ukrainian TV and radio reported on 7 August. Kuchma appointed Volodymyr Yevtukh as chairman of the new State Commission on Nationalities and Migration, formed on the basis of the former Ministry of Nationalities and Migration, headed by Yevtukh. He also reappointed Pavlo Mysnyk to head the State Committee on State Secrets and the Technical Protection of Information. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka rejected the proposal to hold a round-table discussion to resolve differences between him and the parliament, Belarusian radio reported on 7 August. He said he was ready to discuss his proposed referendum and economic program with experts, but not with political parties. Lukashenka added that he was pleased that the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front and the communists have finally found common cause and united, but said there was no need for him to sit at a round-table with them. He also set 7 November as the referendum date, and said there would be three to five questions on changing the constitution. -- Ustina Markus

Syamyon Sharetsky said he was outraged by the situation in Belarus, Belapan reported on 6 August. He said that television spent entire evenings broadcasting struggles against "imaginary, non-existent enemies." These included certain deputies, the Constitutional Court, parliament, and "now all of Belarus is supposedly surrounded by CIA agents." (A reference to Russian deputy Viktor Ilyukhin's allegations that the CIA was plotting to destabilize Belarus.) Sharetsky said this was creating an abnormal situation in the republic, and urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to participate in the round-table along with the prime minister, head of the Constitutional Court, and other leading politicians. -- Ustina Markus

Reform Party Chairwoman Valve Kirsipuu announced on 6 August that the required 21 parliament deputies' signatures supporting Lennart Meri's candidacy as president had been collected, BNS reported. The deputies were from the Reform Party, Coalition Party, and Moderates Party. Pro Patria faction deputies that had also been expected to sign said that they would do so only after Meri formally agreed to be a candidate. The elections will be held on 26 and 27 August with a candidate needing to get a two-thirds majority of votes (67) in the parliament to win. -- Saulius Girnius

The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on 7 August that it had not received any information from Russia concerning the ongoing exercises of Russia's Baltic Fleet. The fleet's press center in Kaliningrad told BNS that they were not military exercises, but a "cruise by a group of ships." The "cruise" will last for about 20 days and includes a submarine, 14 auxiliary ships, and the fleet's aircraft. It will also have artillery and rocket-firing practices, anti-submarine search-and-destroy exercises, and other war games. Paratrooper exercises were carried out that day by 11th army guard units, stationed in the Kaliningrad Oblast. -- Saulius Girnius

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), dominant party in the ruling coalition, rejected on 7 August calls from their Polish Peasant Party (PSL) partners for a total cabinet reshuffle during the upcoming restructuring of major ministries. The chief of the government's office, the SLD's Leszek Miller, said there are no reasons for Prime Minister Wlodziemierz Cimoszewicz to resign. The PSL fears the reorganization of some ministries could leave more authority with the SLD prime minister and erode the PSL's cabinet influence. Sejm Speaker Jozef Zych (PSL) said on 6 August that the coalition could fall apart due to tension over sharing cabinet jobs as a result of the reform. Zych said that this would force parliamentary elections before their scheduled date in fall 1997. -- Jakub Karpinski

Household survey data recently released by Poland's Central Planning Office indicate that 13% of Polish society lives in poverty, Zycie Warszawy reported on 7 August. This figure is relatively low compared to other post-communist countries. These data also indicate that Poland's income distribution is becoming less equal. Most of the indicators cited in the study showed declining poverty rates and rising real incomes during 1994-1995. But the share of workers earning below-average wages increased from 60% to 65% during 1990-1995, and the share of workers making only half of the average wage increased from 3.8% to 11% during this time. The relative living standard of pensioners improved during this time, however: the average pension rose from 48% of the average wage in 1989 to 63-65% in 1995. -- Ben Slay

A Bratislava prosecutor on 5 August suspended Michal Kovac's complaint against Vladimir Meciar, stating that there was no suspicion of criminal activity, Pravda reported three days later. Kovac had filed charges against Meciar on 28 May for misuse of power, slander and defamation of the head of state for comments he made during a radio interview on 24 May, when Meciar accused the president of involvement in the $2.3 million fraud surrounding the Slovak firm Technopol, of knowing about preparations for his son's kidnapping but failing to intervene, and of influencing the investigation of the Technopol case. -- Sharon Fisher

The 55 miners at the east Slovak Bankov mine on 7 August ended their sit-in strike after staying 300 meters underground for three days, Narodna obroda reported. Upon resurfacing, they were treated to a beer party sponsored by Gemer brewery owner Vladimir Poliak, who is interested in buying their firm. The beer contains the vitamins that the miners had lost during the strike, Poliak claimed. The strike was ended following discussions at the Vseobecna uverova banka (VUB)--the mining company's biggest creditor--on the firm's sale, which is expected to be determined soon. -- Sharon Fisher

Hungarian Radio, Hungarian Television and Hungaria Television public foundations have protested against a recent government resolution to supervise the financial management of state media institutions, Hungarian media reported on 7 August. Opposition parties and the junior coalition party Alliance of Free Democrats joined the protest. Opponents of the plan warn that by amending the budget law, the government will violate the media law passed in December. The newly appointed chairman of Hungarian Television, Istvan Petak, said it would be a "tragedy" if it was approved by parliament. The Prime Minister's Office commented that the cabinet had no intention of drawing public service radio and television under its authority. However, its spokesman added that the respective media institutions have accumulated a sizable debt, and their long-term financing needs to be definitively solved. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman met near Athens on 7 August and agreed that bilateral relations would be established. Nasa Borba on 8 August reported that they will open relations "after just one more round of talks between foreign ministers Milan Milutinovic [of rump Yugoslavia] and Mate Granic [of Croatia] in Belgrade at the end of the month." Reuters reported that a joint statement outlining territorial disputes, humanitarian issues, and possible economic cooperation was released after the meeting. According to Tudjman, the statement means "we agreed on the normalization of relations in all fields, such as restoring (sic) diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers will meet on 23 August and sign final agreements." Meanwhile, Milosevic called the meeting " a huge step for the interests of [rump] Yugoslavia and Croatia...[and] also for the entire region," Tanjug reported. -- Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich

While both presidents hailed the talks and the landmark agreement as breakthroughs, outstanding questions may put a brake on the normalization of relations. Reuters reported an unnamed Croatian official said Zagreb would insist that Belgrade recognize Croatia in its internationally-accepted borders prior to normalization. Belgrade, however, has not renounced claims to the strategic and Croatian-held Prevlaka peninsula, but both sides "reaffirmed their readiness to resolve [the issue] through negotiations." Another possible friction point is eastern Slavonia, which remains in Croatian Serb hands. Belgrade's recognition of it under Zagreb's jurisdiction would send a signal to local Serbs they are part of Croatia. Furthermore, questions relating to the division of former Yugoslavia's assets and to rump Yugoslavia's demand to be recognized as the sole successor will likely have to involve the other former Yugoslav republics -- Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has suggested that the UN Security Council consider a one-year extension of the mandate for the UN Transitional Administration in eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), Hina reported on 7 August. UNTAES' mandate expires on 15 January 1997. Ghali said it was unrealistic to expect that UNTAES' duties will be completed by then. He said the earliest possible date for elections in eastern Slavonia was late February or March, while the Croatian government wants elections to take place in December. Ghali also underscored the importance of the financing of local administrations, where monthly costs total more than $2 million. The Security Council has asked Croatia to fulfill its obligations regarding the financing of local administrations. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The Pale authorities have issued a statement banning further uncovering of mass graves on their territory, AFP reported on 7 August, quoting SRNA. They charge that the Croat-Muslim side has not allowed the exhumation of what the Serbs say are mass graves of Serbs at Glamoc and Ozren on federal territory, and that Pale demands reciprocity. The Serbs also want a meeting with the Croats, Muslims, the international community's Carl Bildt, and the Red Cross to discuss a host of issues, including missing persons and prisoners of war as well as mass graves. The Serbs are apparently embarrassed by evidence found in previous exhumations on their territory indicating that thousands of Muslim males were massacred after the fall of Srebrenica just over a year ago. -- Patrick Moore

IFOR commander Gen. Michael Walker warned the Bosnian Serbs to "take the [14 September] elections seriously" and prevent any "angry, unruly crowd trying to stop people from voting." He was apparently referring to the possibility of actions against Muslims and Croats coming home to vote on what is now Serb-held territory. Gen. Walker also noted that local Serb authorities are interested in seeing "the voting go smoothly, [but] I am worried that this attitude isn't shared at the top," Onasa reported on 7 August. The commander added that IFOR is present to stop the war from being resumed but will not police the elections. -- Patrick Moore

The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 7 August rejected two motions made by the attorneys defending indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, Nasa Borba reported the next day. Karadzic's American lawyers asked to submit objections that would contest the validity of the court's statute and the Rules of Procedure. The court ruled that the issue could be discussed, but only when Karadzic comes to trial. The tribunal also rejected a motion by a lawyer for Dusko Tadic, the Bosnian Serb charged with killing 13 Muslims at prison camps and 18 additional ones during ethnic-cleansing campaigns. The motion was for hearsay testimony to be disallowed during Tadic's trial. The court ruled it was up to the judges to decide the admissibility of the testimony. -- Daria Sito Sucic

UN special human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn, speaking in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica on 7 August, remarked that she was especially concerned with "what's happening in Krajina," Nasa Borba reported on 8 August. The envoy reportedly expressed dismay over the treatment of the 7,000 ethnic Serbs living in the Krajina region of Croatia, saying "I have not been very happy with what has been happening to those Serbs who were left behind, old people, paralyzed people in very bad conditions." She said she was concerned that "a new method [of violence against the Croatian Serbs] has started again with explosives," AFP reported. She also expressed concern over the status of Montenegro's Muslims and Albanians, the BBC said. -- Stan Markotich

The Slovenian government resolved on 7 August that preparations would be made to hold a referendum on electoral reform 90 days following the convening of the next parliament, with a vote taking place 30 days later, Reuters reported the same day. Slovenia is currently divided into eight electoral districts, and referendum voters will be able to choose from four different reform models. Elections to determine the composition of the next parliament are slated for December 1996. -- Stan Markotich

A spokesman for the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told a press conference on 7 August that his country took note "with interest" of the U.S. State Department position on Hungarian minorities abroad, Radio Bucharest reported. Reacting to the 29 July American statement that the U.S. supports the rights of national minorities to the preservation of their own cultural and spiritual identity but rejects any drive to territorial autonomy based on ethnic criteria, Sorin Ducaru said this position was fully in line with Bucharest's own views on national minority rights. -- Michael Shafir

Radu Campeanu, the leader of the minuscule extraparliamentary National Liberal Party-Campeanu wing was named on 7 August as a candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for early November, Radio Bucharest reported. Campeanu will run as the candidate of the National Liberal Ecological Alliance, which, apart from his own formation, includes a splinter group from the Ecologist Movement, headed by Eduard Victor Gugui. -- Michael Shafir

BASA-Press reported on 7 August that a "civic movement" supporting incumbent president Mircea Snegur's candidacy in the November elections had been set up on the same day. The movement includes 17 parties, organizations and associations, among which are Snegur's own Party of Revival and Conciliation, the Alliance of Democratic Forces, the Popular Front Christian Democratic, the Gagauz People's Party and the Peasant Christian Democratic Party. -- Michael Shafir

Andrei Sangheli told a press conference on 7 August that a "constructive dialogue" with the leadership of the breakaway region of Dniestr would not resume until Moldovan elections are over, BASA-Press reported the same day. He said no summits conducted until then will bring results and added that the longer it takes to solve the conflict, the higher the price paid for it. This was an obvious allusion to his rival in the presidential elections, President Mircea Snegur, who has practically frozen discussions on signing a memorandum with the Tiraspol leadership. Sangheli said that if he wins the elections, he would not favor Moldova's integration into CIS political structures, since this contradicted the country's constitution. -- Michael Shafir

Zhelyu Zhelev on 7 August vetoed a recent amendment to the land law, saying it favors collective farms at the expense of private owners and poses obstacles to land restitution, Western and Bulgarian media reported. Under the amendment, owners have no guarantee that they will regain their original piece of land. Zhelev particularly objected to the phrase "activities prohibiting the restoration of ownership," saying it paves the way for arbitrary decisions. The previous day, Zhelev rejected Bulgaria's new coat of arms saying it divides society. The ruling Socialists and the opposition are divided as to whether the lion on the coat of arms should be crowned or not (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 July 1996). Zhelev said that "the coat of arms is not a party badge and should unite society" and called on the deputies to find a compromise. -- Stefan Krause

Following a resolution last week by the Albanian parliament denouncing the imprisonment of five activists of the underground Albanian-language university in the Macedonian town of Tetovo, the two countries have been exchanging accusations. On 6 August the Macedonian Ambassador to Tirana handed a protest note to the Albanian government calling the resolution an "interference in [Macedonia's] internal affairs." The Albanian foreign ministry reacted to the charges by claiming that its policy was characterized by good will but pointed out that "it is our inevitable obligation to be concerned about the rights of the Albanians wherever they live." It also called on the Macedonian government to offer ethnic Albanians in Macedonia active participation in all fields of public life, adding that the level of rights of ethnic Albanians directly determines the relations between both countries, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 8 August. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

and Pete Baumgartner