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Newsline - August 15, 1996

An uneasy calm settled over central Grozny on the afternoon of 14 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen fighters control most of the town, except for isolated Russian strongpoints. The commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, denied that a formal ceasefire had been negotiated, saying he had merely ordered his troops to open fire only if attacked. Pulikovskii and separatist Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov met at 5:45 p.m. to discuss joint monitoring of the ceasefire and a prisoner exchange. But while nine wounded federal servicemen were later exchanged for nine Chechen fighters, Pulikovskii later told Russian TV (RTR) that a formal ceasefire could not begin until the separatists gave up their demand for Chechen independence, and he accused separatist forces of launching several attacks. -- Scott Parrish

Russian aircraft on 14 August attacked a column of refugees near the village of Guliakov, just south of Grozny, Russian and Western agencies reported. The attack killed 10 refugees, according to separatist Chechen Information Minister Movladi Udugov. On the same day, the pro-Moscow Chechen government complained that Russian air raids in Gudermes and Grozny had killed at least 35 Chechen civilians on 13 August. Meanwhile, Chechen officials estimate that up to 40,000 refugees remain trapped in the village of Staraya Sunzha outside Grozny. Federal troops will only allow women and children to pass through checkpoints there on foot. About 200 seriously wounded refugees were evacuated by bus from the village late on 13 August. -- Scott Parrish

President Yeltsin on 14 August signed a decree granting Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed primary responsibility for finding a settlement to the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree gives Lebed "additional powers to coordinate the activities of federal executive agencies," and also dissolves Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, which Lebed had harshly criticized. The decree, which was short on details, specifies that any settlement of the conflict must be in accord with "the existing constitution," which precludes full independence for Chechnya. Shortly after the decree was issued, Lebed left Moscow for Grozny on 15 August for additional talks with Chechen leaders, who are insisting on full independence. -- Scott Parrish

Chernomyrdin on 15 August claimed that he had not forsaken responsibility for Chechnya and that it is not an issue that befits a power struggle, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Chernomyrdin, Lebed's Security Council will have three new committees to handle the problem. One will bring together representatives of the power ministries to resolve strategic issues, the second will address logistical problems, and the third will be a working group made up of representatives from federal agencies. -- Robert Orttung

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin announced that former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, 56, former Presidential Senior Aide Viktor Ilyushin, 59, and Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin, 35, will serve as first deputy prime ministers in the new cabinet, ITAR-TASS reported. Potanin will apparently take charge of the economy, Ilyushin will be responsible for social policy, and Bolshakov will handle industry and stand in for Chernomyrdin when he is away.
Potanin's bank, one of Russia's largest commercial financial institutions, was a key player in last year's shares-for-loans scheme in which banks gave loans to the government in exchange for shares in state-owned firms. He is considered to be close to Chubais, Reuters reported. Bolshakov has worked on building a high-speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg and in the last cabinet handled Russia's relations with the CIS. Ilyushin has worked as a Yeltsin aide since his days in Sverdlovsk. -- Robert Orttung

In addition to the three first deputy prime ministers, the new cabinet has seven deputy prime ministers--two of whom are also ministers--and 15 ministers. The new government is broadly similar to its immediate predecessor. The deputy prime ministers are: Vladimir Babichev (also government chief of staff), Oleg Davydov (foreign economic relations), Aleksandr Livshits (finance), Aleksandr Zaveryukha (agriculture), Vitalii Ignatenko (information), Oleg Lobov (demoted from first deputy prime minister), and Valerii Serov. Livshits replaces Vladimir Panskov, whom Chernomyrdin criticized last month for failing to implement Yeltsin's decrees (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 July 1996). Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev will remain in place. Vladimir Kadannikov, who replaced Chubais as first deputy prime minister for monetary and finance policy in January, was not included in the new government. Overall, Chernomyrdin cut the number of federal departments from 89 to 66. -- Robert Orttung

Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais now has the authority to decide whether or not presidential decrees are ready for signing, according to a presidential directive published in Rossiiskie vesti on 15 August. Only decrees that include direct instructions from the president may circumvent this new procedure. It is the first attempt to impose a one-man system of administration within the president's staff, Segodnya argued on 14 August. In the past, the president's decrees were the product of stiff competition among his subordinates. The paper views Chubais as a competent administrator although biased in favor of a "political-economic group whose interests are generally considered to be objectively progressive." -- Robert Orttung

Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has refused to carry out Security Council Secretary Lebed's proposal that a purge of officers be carried out in his ministry, Argumenty i Fakty reported on 13 August. Lebed lobbied for Rodionov to take over the ministry and the two are said to be very close. -- Doug Clarke

A group of hardline communist parties, including the Russian Communist Party-KPSS, the Officers' Union, and the United Front of Working People, have set up an organizing committee to form a communist bloc opposed to Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 August. The bloc accused Zyuganov of compromising with the current authorities and only pretending to fight against them. Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov was barred from the organizing committee on the grounds that he was too close to Zyuganov during the recent election. The so far unnamed organization is planning a founding congress for 12-13 October. -- Robert Orttung

President Yeltsin formally placed the blame for last month's energy crisis in the Far East on the Primorskii Krai administration, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. Yeltsin ordered krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, whom he described as "not completely qualified," to fire his deputy, pay miners their overdue wages, and stabilize the situation in the region's energy system by 15 September. Yeltsin's orders come after the presidential Main Oversight Administration commission reported that Nazdratenko was not to blame for the crisis in the region (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

After an 18-month trial, the Khamovniki Raion Court of Moscow on 14 August ruled to retain Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov in his office, ITAR-TASS reported. Corruptions charges against Cherepkov were dropped for lack of evidence earlier this year. President Yeltsin dismissed Cherepkov, who was popularly elected in July 1993, in a December 1994 decree citing corruption charges. Cherepkov will resume his work on 24 August if the ruling is not appealed within 10 days. -- Anna Paretskaya

The president of Adygeya, Aslan Dzharimov, has protested against the federal Interior Ministry's intention to send one of the republic's police units to Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. Earlier this week, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev sent a similar protest to the ministry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii refuted on 15 August media reports that President Yeltsin had told his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, that Russia would acquiesce in the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO, if the alliance promised not to include the Baltic states, ITAR-TASS reported. Kommersant-Daily, citing BNS, reported the day before that Yeltsin had sent a confidential letter to Clinton proposing such a deal. Yastrzhembskii denounced the reports as "pseudo-information," and said that Moscow's opposition to NATO expansion remains unchanged. Meanwhile, the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, meeting in Moscow on 14 August, issued a communique expressing their negative opinion on the eastward expansion of NATO, Russian and Western sources reported. The Ukrainian minister did not sign the communique, saying that it is "a matter for the president." -- Scott Parrish and Roger Kangas

Russian and Ukrainian delegations agreed in Moscow on 14 August to form a working group that will begin the process of delineating their common border, which has not been officially codified since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian media reported. The two delegations, led by Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Patyukov and Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko, said that while the border should be legally defined, and customs and contraband controls tightened, they plan to maintain its "openness" and simplify crossing procedures for citizens of both countries. Ukraine has long pushed Russia to begin talks on formalizing the border. -- Scott Parrish

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's remark in a 13August speech about the possible introduction of custom duties on imports of foreign currency caused a stir in the Russian financial community, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 August. Russian banks reportedly import as much as $30 billion a year in cash. A tax on imports of large sums of cash imports would be a somewhat desperate measure to raise revenue and limit the dollarization of the domestic economy, which may have reached some 25% of current operations. Bankers argue that such a tax would shift cash imports to the shadow economy, increase the commission for currency buyers, and lead to a rise in currency speculation (as the gap between the cash and non-cash exchange rates will widen). The step may also cause a conflict with international financial organizations, since the new duty may be classified as tariff protection or as a violation of IMF provisions on current account convertibility, which the Russian government accepted in June. -- Natalia Gurushina

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said that Georgia and Abkhazia have agreed to extend and somewhat amend the mandate of the Russian-dominated CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. The extension is expected to be approved at a meeting of CIS heads of state in two weeks time. The 8 August vote of the Russian Federation Council to extend the mandate was not legally sufficient without the consent of the two parties and the CIS presidents, contrary to earlier media reports. The fourth anniversary of the onset of hostilities between the breakaway region of Abkhazia and Georgia passed on 14 August. ITAR-TASS, citing a recently released Georgian Defense Ministry report, noted that 3,365 Georgian soldiers died in the fighting, plus an estimated 5,000 Abkhaz fighters. Eleven journalists (six Georgian, three Abkhaz, and two Russians) were killed during the conflict. -- Lowell Bezanis

A court in Tskhinvali has sentenced the former deputy chairman of the South Ossetian parliament, Alan Chochiev, to five years imprisonment, according to a 13 August ITAR-TASS report monitored by the BBC. He was found guilty of abuse of office and the embezzlement of state funds. From 1989-1994, Chochiev was the chairman of Adamon Nykhas (Voice of the People), the leading public and political organization in South Ossetia, and he held senior posts in the regional administrative apparatus from 1990-1994. -- Lowell Bezanis

SOCCAR President Natik Aliyev said on 14 August that his company considers the Russian port of Novorossiisk as the best point for transporting early oil, ITAR-TASS reported. The comment comes just two days after Aliyev was quoted as saying that Azerbaijan would try to accelerate the construction of a pipeline running from Baku to the Georgian port of Supsa if the war in Chechnya continues to escalate. He now predicts that preparations for moving the oil to Russia will be completed soon and that the oil will begin to flow "on the first day of next year." The Turkish press has interpreted Aliev's original remarks as a demonstration of his willingness to "change" horses in mid-stream. Aliyev is the son of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. -- Lowell Bezanis

International sources are to contribute nearly $200 million to upgrade the airports in Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Urgench, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. According to the head of Uzbekistan's national airline company, Arslan Ruzmetov, the reconstruction will make it possible for the airports to handle up to 500 flights a day. The Tashkent Airport is currently being renovated at a cost of $49 million, while Japan has pledged $146 million to upgrade the other three. -- Roger Kangas

Romanian and Hungarian Deputy Foreign Ministers Marcel Dinu and Ferenc Somogyi told journalists in Bucharest that the two countries have "practically finalized" the text of the bilateral basic treaty, Radio Bucharest reported on 14 August. Experts are to meet in Budapest next week to work on the "technical finalization." Radio Bucharest reported that the breakthrough came after a change in the position of Budapest, which is now agreed on a joint interpretation of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201. But Somogyi told the press conference that a compromise had been reached whereby neither side was forced to abandon its position. According to Bucharest's interpretation, the recommendation does not grant national minorities "collective rights" or territorial autonomy based on ethnicity. Previously, Bucharest had been opposed to having the recommendation mentioned in the text of the treaty. The two sides also agreed on the texts of an "accord of reconciliation and partnership" and a joint "political declaration." -- Michael Shafir

The Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), the junior government coalition partner, said in a press release that it opposes any reference to Recommendation 1201 in the basic treaty, Radio Bucharest reported on 14 August. The PUNR said the treaty should be put to a referendum on 3 November, when presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled. Gyorgy Frunda, presidential candidate of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), expressed fears that if collective rights and autonomy based on ethnic criteria are not included in the treaty, some of the UDMR's structures could be outlawed--including its Council of Representatives, which is about to be elected on the principle of "personal autonomy." Meanwhile, the Democratic Party-National Salvation Front, which claims it has always opposed collective rights and autonomy based on ethnic criteria, commented that the signing of the treaty would facilitate the entry of both countries into NATO "on a non-discriminatory basis." -- Michael Shafir

In one of the most vehement responses, Agnes Maczo G. Nagy, vice president of the Smallholders' Party, charged that "racial discrimination against Hungarians" and the "holocaust" of Hungarians in some parts of the Carpathian Basin will not be prevented by the basic treaty. Istvan Csurka, president of the right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party, called on opposition parties to take joint action to prevent the treaty from being signed. Former Foreign Minister and opposition deputy Geza Jeszenszky struck a more moderate note, calling upon the Romanian government to guarantee the language, educational, and local government rights of ethnic Hungarians and to stop promoting anti-Hungarian sentiments. Tamas Isepy, head of the Christian Democratic party's caucus, argued that Hungary should take a lesson from its basic treaty with Slovakia, which, he said, did not stop the Slovak government from introducing a series of measures against ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia. -- Ben Slay

Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets has announced that the government has allotted a total of 593 billion karbovantsi ($2.8 million) to upgrade safety standards at the country's crumbling coal mines, Ukrainian Radio reported on 14 August. He said the move was spurred by deteriorating conditions at coal mines, where mining accidents have caused 227 deaths so far this year. Last year, 345 miners were killed and another 6,700 disabled in nearly 41,000 recorded accidents. Durdynets ordered coal and health ministry officials to closely monitor the use of the funds, part of which will be used to better equip medical facilities and to avoid the kind of abuses uncovered recently by his commission on restructuring the coal industry. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

A delegation from the Transdniester region in Moldova is in Kyiv for two days of consultations with Ukrainian officials and the Moldovan ambassador to Kyiv, Ukrainian agencies reported on 14 August. The delegation, headed by Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, hopes to convince Ukrainian leaders to participate in a peacekeeping force under UN or OSCE auspices in the breakaway region. The talks are also set to focus on such issues as trade, cooperation in agriculture, industry, energy, and culture, as well as the concerns of the large Ukrainian community in Transdniester. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Parliamentary Deputy Chairman Arnold Ruutel, former army commander Gen. Aleksander Einseln, and former political prisoner Enn Tarto issued a joint statement on 14 August calling for a Baltic Security Pact that would ensure the security of the Baltic states before their admission into NATO, BNS reported. The statement said that the three states should form a political and security union to prevent them from becoming a "gray zone" between the EU and Russia. The U.S. and the other six states bordering the Baltic Sea would be invited to join the union. The pact would offer internationally recognized security guarantees and set deadlines for the admission of the Baltic states into the EU and NATO. -- Saulius Girnius

Andris Skele on 14 August presented the Cooperation Council for Governing Coalitions with his draft agreement on the rights, duties, and responsibilities of the premier and the coalition caucuses, BNS reported. The agreement is reported to stipulate that caucuses vote for government resolutions in the Saeima and support Skele's recent 12-month action plan. A caucus will not be allowed to propose budget-related bills without the consent of the others. In exceptional cases, caucuses will have the right to demand the passage of resolutions by a two-thirds majority in the Cooperation Council instead of a unanimous vote. -- Saulius Girnius

According to a decree issued on 9 August by Ryszard Miazek, president of Polish TV (TVP), political programs produced by independent studios will no longer be aired on TVP, Polish dailies reported 13-14 August. While Miazek explained that the decree is intended to prevent "professional [TVP] journalists from being pushed off the air" by independent studios, the Polish media is full of charges that the decree is a form of censorship directed at independent and frequently critical political programs. There have been frequent rumors that the decree was the result of political pressure applied to Miazek by his colleagues in the Polish Peasants' Party, one of the members of Poland's coalition government and a target of frequent criticism by the independent media. -- Ben Slay

The cabinet on 14 August rejected a proposal by the extreme-right opposition Assembly for the Republic-Czechoslovak Republican Party that deputies' salaries be cut, Pravo reported. The proposal called for deputies' pay to be cut from the current monthly wage of 31,200 crowns ($1,155) to just 17,800 crowns. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said the proposal was "irrational." -- Sharon Fisher

A poll conducted by the Factum agency in late July showed that Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) would receive 29.1% of the vote if new elections were held now, Reuters reported on 14 August. The Social Democrats came second with 24.9%, followed by the Christian Democrats (6.7%), the Communists (6.2%), the Civic Democratic Alliance (5%), and the Republican Party (3.8%). It is difficult to predict the results of the November Senate elections on the basis of these poll results, since a majority election system will be in force rather than the proportional one used in the May-June parliamentary elections. In other news, ODS ministers told CTK on 14 August that they do not envisage integration with the Civic Democratic Alliance in the near future. They were responding to Klaus's statement the previous day saying that such a merger could put the ODS's popular support at 40%. -- Sharon Fisher

The Social Democratic Party (SDSS) has proposed that before the September parliamentary session, a round-table discussion take place aimed at drawing up a declaration on entry into the EU and NATO, CTK reported on 14 August. SDSS Chairman Jaroslav Volf said the second goal of the meeting will be to present to the public a document explaining the advantages and disadvantages of joining Euro-Atlantic structures. So far, only opposition parties have agreed to attend. Jan Carnogursky, chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement, told Sme that he is "rather skeptical about the significance and outcome of the round-table." Meanwhile, Carnogursky said that a draft declaration drawn up by the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee chairman was "nonfunctional." That document stresses Slovakia's continued interest in EU and NATO membership. "We do not need a memorandum, [rather] our domestic politics must change," he stressed. -- Sharon Fisher

At the first joint session of the new Mostar City Council on 14 August, Croats and Muslims elected Ivica Prskalo, a Croat, as mayor of Mostar, international media reported. Safet Orucevic, former mayor of the Muslim-held part of Mostar, was elected his deputy. The Croats had tried to postpone the session until 19 August, but Sir Martin Garrod, the EU's special envoy for Mostar, rejected that proposal. The agenda of the first session provided only for the election of a new mayor and his deputy, but the Croats also wanted to re-elect the city council president. Hamdija Jahic, a Muslim who had been elected to that post at an earlier city council session boycotted by the Croats, said electing a new president was "out of the question," Oslobodjenje reported. As a compromise, Vjekoslav Kordic, a Croat, was elected council deputy president. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NATO peacekeepers avoided a possible meeting with Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic rather than be forced to arrest the indicted war criminal, the Berlin daily taz reported on 15 August. IFOR admitted the previous day that its inspectors had left the Bosnian Serb military headquarters at Han Pijesak on 10 August not because the Serbs denied them access, as IFOR originally said, but because the inspectors wanted to avoid "a close encounter" with Mladic, Nasa Borba noted on 15 August (see OMRI Special Report, 13 August 1996). The Serbs had told the NATO visitors that they could see what they wanted to only with Mladic as their guide, but IFOR said it would not accept any conditions. The peacekeepers are obliged to arrest indicted war criminals if they come across them, but IFOR has turned a blind eye to Mladic and his civilian counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, on numerous occasions in the past. An IFOR spokesman said that their group of seven officers armed with pistols thought it would "not have been prudent" to risk a confrontation with Mladic's 300 heavily armed body guards. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher met in Geneva on 14 August with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and his Serbian and Croatian counterparts, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman. As was the case at similar past gatherings, all parties agreed to implement their previous promises and agreements, many of which have gone unkept. Christopher gave a pep-talk on the importance of the 14 September elections, and the three presidents agreed that they must be "successful," Nasa Borba and Oslobodjenje reported. Tudjman promised that the Herzegovinian Croat para-state of Herceg-Bosna will be dissolved by 31 August, in response to U.S. and Muslim demands. That entity should have already been consigned to history under previous agreements, and it may well continue to survive in some form or other. Tudjman also said that Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic will go to Belgrade on 23 August to sign an agreement normalizing relations, the BBC added. -- Patrick Moore

The Bosnian Serb Ministry of Transport and Communications on 12 August banned the Free Election Radio Network (FERN) from broadcasting its election radio program via the Lisina transmitter, Onasa reported on 14 August. FERN is sponsored by the OSCE. Explaining its decision, the ministry said an "inspection revealed the transmitter was being used without the permission of the respective Republika Srpska ministry." A Bosnian Serb official told FERN and the OSCE that they cannot file a complaint but that they can file a lawsuit with the Republika Srpska Supreme Court. The ban came amid negotiations between FERN and IFOR on the former's using its transmitters to improve reception of the program in the eastern part of the Republika Srpska. In addition to journalists from abroad, FERN employs local journalists from both Bosnia-Herzegovina entities. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Federal President Zoran Lilic has announced that elections to the 138-seat lower house will be held on 3 November, Nasa Borba reported on 15 August. Montenegrin republican elections will take place the same day. Elections to the upper house, composed of 20 Montenegrin and 20 Serbian deputies, must be held within 30 days of the ballot for the lower house. Serbian parliamentary elections have not yet been scheduled. Lilic said that "the main reason why we are scheduling elections now is to allow ample space and time for all parties and offer our citizens the best they have in their programs," Reuters reported. Opposition parties are expected to form coalitions for the ballot. -- Fabian Schmidt

Kiro Gligorov has been nominated for the 1996 Nobel peace prize, Western agencies reported on 14 August, citing the Skopje daily Dnevnik. Gligorov was nominated by the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Public and International Affairs Professor William N. Dunn of the University of Pittsburgh. Gligorov was elected president of newly independent Macedonia in 1991 by the parliament and was re-elected by popular vote in October 1994. He is widely credited for leading his country to independence while avoiding the conflict and bloodshed witnessed in other former Yugoslav republics. -- Stefan Krause

Bulgaria and rump Yugoslavia (SRJ) on 14 August launched an optic telecommunications link expected to boost trans-European communications, Reuters reported. The line linking Sofia and the Serbian town of Nis was opened by the prime ministers of Bulgaria and rump Yugoslavia, Zhan Videnov and Radoje Kontic, in Kalotina, on the border between Bulgaria and the SRJ. The construction of the link took six months. Officials said it is the shortest such link between Western Europe and Asia and the first between the two Balkan countries. The line can handle some 7,600 calls simultaneously and is expected to meet demands for the next 10 years. The overlay system was produced by Germany's Siemens and the cable by Greece's Telecable. -- Stefan Krause

Electricity cutoffs may be introduced in September, Standart reported on 15 August, citing sources within the National Electricity Company (NEK). The reason is lack of money to buy nuclear fuel and coal and for the reconstruction of power plants. Cutoffs can be averted only if the NEK, the government, and the Bulgarian National Bank agree on a loan for the company. In other news, former Tsar Simeon's first interview since he visited Bulgaria two months ago was published in the Italian magazine Espresso on 15 August. Simeon confirmed his intention to seek an important political role in Bulgaria but did not say whether he will actively work for the restoration of the monarchy. He said his role will be "to create a climate of consensus that would allow everyone to work together." -- Stefan Krause

Socialist deputy leader Servet Pellumbi has threatened to boycott the election commission and the 20 October local elections, arguing that the composition of the new election commission is similar to the one that oversaw Albania's disputed parliamentary elections in May. Pellumbi said "we cannot take part in a commission where the balance of power is not seven to seven but 10 to seven in favor of the ruling party," AFP reported. If the opposition fails to name its candidates for the commission by 6 October, the seats will be given to the ethnic Greek Party for Human Rights and Freedoms, the National Front, the Party for National Unity or the Legality Movement--all of whom have already been asked to name possible candidates, the publication Albania reported on 14 August. The opposition has called for new round-table talks with the Democrats. -- Fabian Schmidt

The International Republican Institute has invited the ruling and opposition parties as well as international experts to a working conference on the Albanian elections, ATSH reported on 14 August. The meeting will be held in Tirana from 27-29 August and attended by Council of Europe and OSCE representatives. Its aim is to discuss how free and fair elections can be ensured. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave