LEBED FLIES TO CHECHNYA FOR MORE TALKS.
A planned meeting between
Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal
forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, to discuss the
demilitarization agreement was postponed on 29 August pending the return to
Chechnya of Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Russian and Chechen troops continued to
pull out of Grozny and some residents who had fled the fighting began to
return, according to ITAR-TASS. Speaking in Moscow on 29 August, Lebed stressed
that if any Chechen political faction were to consolidate its power, the result
would be "more war," and called for the creation of "a new pyramid of power"
comprising representatives of all political factions. Lebed also called for the
resignation of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, according to AFP.
On 30 August, Lebed flew back to Chechnya for talks with Maskhadov and acting
Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev at an unspecified location, Western
agencies reported. According to AFP, Maskhadov has accepted an invitation from
the chairman of the PACE committee on Chechnya, Ernst Muellimann, to address
the autumn session of the EU Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg if Lebed
agrees to do likewise. -- Liz Fuller
YELTSIN PHONES LEBED ON CHECHNYA PEACE PLAN . . .
Yeltsin continued to maintain his distance from Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed by choosing to speak with him over the phone about Lebed's
proposal for a settlement to the conflict, Ekho Moskvy reported. Neither Lebed
nor Yeltsin revealed the content of their conversation. Lebed said that not
being able to meet with Yeltsin in person is making his work difficult.
Komsomolskaya pravda commented on 30 August that if Yeltsin approves the
Chechen peace plan he would have to explain why he approved the war almost two
years ago, why tens of thousands Russians have died, why he is negotiating with
"bandits," and why money from the strapped federal budget is being spent on
restoring buildings destroyed in the fighting, particularly if Chechnya might
become independent. -- Robert Orttung
. . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN CRITICIZES IT.
Yeltsin's reaction to the peace
plan was apparently negative judging from Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's
remark that the proposals need "serious work." He made that comment after
meeting with Lebed, the power ministers, and the chairmen of both houses of the
Federal Assembly at Yeltsin's request. Chernomyrdin expressed particular
concern that Chechen separatist field commanders were setting up executive
institutions parallel to Moscow-backed Doku Zavgaev's government. Lebed
commented that the parallel institutions had always existed in Chechnya and
that they had simply become more visible now, Radio Rossii reported.
Chernomyrdin had earlier expressed cautious support for the plan but may now be
shifting his position under pressure from Yeltsin. Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais supports Lebed's peace plans, according to Duma member Sergei
Yushenkov, who along with Chubais is a member of the leadership of Russia's
Democratic Choice, the BBC reported. -- Robert Orttung
LEBED REJECTS DEMOCRATS' CALL TO PARTICIPATE IN ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION.
Several reform parties, including Russia's Democratic Choice, Yabloko, and
Democratic Russia are planning to hold a demonstration in Pushkin Square on 31
August to support Lebed's initiatives. However, Lebed rejected the idea of the
rally, saying he hopes to succeed without the help of those parties, NTV
reported 30 August, citing a Security Council Press Service statement. Galina
Starovoitova, one of the rally organizers, said she doubts that Lebed had
personally prepared this statement due to its emotional and angry tone, Radio
Rossii reported. Later, Lebed called on the parliament and all of Russia's
political parties to come to a common agreement on how to resolve the conflict.
-- Robert Orttung
YELTSIN'S PRESS SECRETARY ON PLANS.
Presidential press secretary Sergei
Yastrzhembskii told Moskovskii komsomolets on 29 August that he would
like to organize regular briefings on President Yeltsin's health, attended by
medical professionals who have treated the president. He did not say when
journalists could expect the first such briefing. In the last two months,
despite intense speculation in the media on the president's health, doctors
have not spoken publicly about Yeltsin's condition. Yastzhembskii said another
one of his priorities will be to develop an "information strategy" for shaping
public opinion. As Russian ambassador to Slovakia, he said, he had observed how
Moscow's information policy with respect to the war in Chechnya had "utterly
failed." -- Laura Belin
YABLOKO ATTACKS YELTSIN'S AUSTERITY DECREES.
State Duma deputies from
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party released two statements on 29 August
attacking decrees signed earlier this month on enforcing an "austerity regime
to fulfill the federal budget" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996).
Charging that President Yeltsin "will save money on law and order" and "is
rejecting the promises of candidate Yeltsin," they said the spending cuts would
hurt precisely the groups whom Yeltsin promised to help before the election,
including farmers, teachers, and doctors, Kommersant-Daily and
Pravda-5 reported on 30 August. In particular, they complained that by
removing privileges from judges and procurators and suspending planned
increases in law enforcement personnel, Yeltsin's decree will weaken the
judicial branch and impede the war on crime. -- Laura Belin
PRIMORSKII KRAI TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON GOVERNOR.
The Primorskii Krai
legislative assembly has voted to hold a regional referendum on 22 September to
decide on whether Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko should remain in office,
ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The krai's residents will also
be asked whether they support the governor's attempts to check the rise in
electricity and railway transportation rates and the governor's policy of
blocking the federal transfer of some of the krai's land to China. The
assembly's decision comes after President Yeltsin formally placed the blame for
the krai's energy and financial crises on Nazdratenko in early August.
Nazdratenko was elected governor in December 1995 with about 90% of the vote.
The president has the authority to remove governors from office. -- Anna
TWO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS.
Security service officers have arrested a
man who attempted to throw a grenade at Vologda Oblast Governor Vyacheslav
Pozgalev, Izvestiya reported on 30 August. The 30-year-old unemployed
man is reportedly associated with an opposition organization in the oblast,
according to a regional security official. Pozgalev, appointed governor in May
this year, is said to have the best chance of winning the oblast's 6 October
election. In other news, an unidentified assailant seriously wounded the top
union official of the Volga car plant, Aleksandr Ivanov, in the city of
Tolyatti on 29 August, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. Ivanov, who
received four bullet wounds in his stomach and one leg, has been hospitalized.
His assailant managed to escape. This is the second attempt on Ivanov's life
this year and other union members have been similarly attacked, according to
Izvestiya. -- Anna Paretskaya
ANOTHER PLANE CRASH.
At least 141 people were killed when a Vnukovo
Airlines chartered plane crashed into a mountain on the remote Norwegian island
of Spitsbergen, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 August. Most of the
passengers were Russian and Ukrainian coal miners and their families traveling
to work in Spitsbergen, which is 400 miles north of the Norwegian mainland. The
cause of the crash was not known; air traffic controllers received no distress
signal and although the Tupolev Tu-154 has a reputation for being
accident-prone, the plane that crashed in Spitsbergen was an improved model and
was only eight years old, according to the Los Angeles Times. ITAR-TASS
suggested that low cloud cover could have been a factor. The accident was the
sixth crash involving a Russian airplane this year, NTV reported. -- Laura
PKK CAMP NEAR YAROSLAVL.
Militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK) have established a cultural center, and possibly a military
training camp, near the Gavrilov Yam settlement in Yaroslavl, Komsomolskaya
pravda reported on 29 August. The site, allegedly purchased by a group
calling itself the International Union of Kurdish Public Associations, was
previously home to the "Solnechnii" children's summer camp. The students at the
new "military-political academy" are reportedly ethnic Kurds from CIS member
states and "refugees," some of whom are wanted by the Turkish and Iranian
authorities. The paper noted the camp, already "swarming with wounded Kurdish
guerrillas," may turn into a rehabilitation center for Kurdish militants. --
ARMS EXPORTER UNDER FIRE.
In the 29 August issue of Segodnya
Pavel Felgengauer published a number of leaked documents relating to the
activities of the state-owned company Rosvooruzhenie, which has an effective
monopoly of the arms export business worth $3 billion a year. A 7 June letter
from Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov asked President Yeltsin to investigate
the activities of the company, which Skuratov said is operating in the absence
of legal regulation and does not clearly account for the funds at its disposal.
Skuratov said it owes defense plants $200 million for weapons already
delivered. Felgengauer says the company takes 7-10% commission, while other
state trading companies take only 1%. Some senior managers, many of them army
officers "on reserve," were reportedly paid up to $70,000 a year. After the
Skuratov letter, 15 leading defense plant directors wrote to Yeltsin asking him
not to shake up the company, which has managed to find some new customers
overseas. However, changes are expected since arms exports were overseen by
Presidential Security Service Head Aleksandr Korzhakov, who was dismissed in
June. They may soon fall under the remit of Security Council Secretary Lebed.
-- Peter Rutland
ENERGY PRICES TO RISE.
The government on 29 August discussed measures to
avert an energy crisis this winter, which will include a doubling of
electricity prices from 1 October, ORT and NTV reported. The issue is
relatively urgent because the cities of the Far North must be supplied with
stocks of coal and oil before winter sets in. Aleksandr Yevtushenko, the first
deputy minister of fuel and energy, said that the non-payments crisis in the
electricity sector "has the country by the throat," and demanded assistance
from the Finance Ministry. First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov said
"non-traditional" and off-budget sources of additional funding would have to be
found--given the government's pledge to the IMF to reduce the budget deficit.
Meanwhile, in Primorskii Krai residents are facing power cuts of two hours per
day, and Dalenergo has instructed all industrial customers to cut power usage
by 40%. -- Peter Rutland
BANKS FREEZE COMPANIES' PAYMENTS.
Commercial banks froze some 11.5
trillion rubles ($2.2 billion at the current exchange rate) of companies' money
earmarked for payments to other organizations as of mid-August, Segodnya
reported on 29 August, citing the Federal Tax Agency. Of this amount, 5.9
trillion rubles (a 63% increase over April 1996) are payments that should have
gone to the consolidated budget and non-budgetary funds. The largest proportion
of frozen payments were recorded in Moscow (2.5 trillion rubles) and Moscow
Oblast (1.9 trillion rubles). The tax agency has announced that it will send
special commissions to these banks, whose aim will be to recover the frozen
money and transfer it to the budget and non-budgetary funds. -- Natalia
RUSSIA TO CLOSE 35 TRADE REPRESENTATIVE OFFICES ABROAD.
government has announced that it will close Russia's trade representative
offices in 35 countries including Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, and South
Africa, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 August. Budget constraints and the current
state of trade relations with these countries are the major reasons cited for
the move. Meanwhile, the State Epidemiological Service has announced that 9%
(1,840 metric tons) of food stuffs imported into Russia in the first half of
1996 were either of low quality or had passed the expiration date for
freshness. -- Natalia Gurushina
CONFUSION OVER GERMAN STANCE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
The German Embassy in
Yerevan on 28 August condemned what it described as the misinterpretation of
statements made by Germany's OSCE Minsk Group representative, Ambassador Frank
Lambach, during an early August meeting with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev
in Baku, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 August. On 23 August, the Information
Department of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (RNK) accused
Lambach of exhibiting pro-Azerbaijani bias in statements he had made about the
possible future status of the RNK. The German Embassy said that Lambach's words
had been misquoted and "had evoked fair criticism" from Armenia, according to
Noyan Tapan. Meanwhile, Gerard Liparitian, special adviser to Armenian
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, met this week in Germany with his Azerbaijani
counterpart, Vafa Gulu-zade, to discuss the Karabakh issue before flying to
Ankara for a two-day working visit. -- Liz Fuller
KARIMOV ON HUMAN RIGHTS, OPPOSITION.
Speaking to parliament on 29
August, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said his government is committed to
boosting cooperation with international human rights organizations, Reuters
reported the same day. In the speech that marked the country's fifth year of
independence, Karimov praised the republic's political stability and added that
there is a need for political "alternatives" as long as they are
"constructive." -- Lowell Bezanis
BORDER GUARD OFFICERS CONFER.
Senior border guard officers from
Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia agreed in Moscow on
29 August to take "additional measures" to defend the Tajik-Afghan border,
ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Russia appears to be strengthening the hand of
its border troops in Tajikistan in order to face down some 1,000 armed Tajik
rebels who are reportedly ready enter Tajikistan from Afghanistan. The
presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan have both voiced their concern over the
increase in tension along the border and have called on the Tajik government
and opposition to resolve the conflict. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINIANS GO ON TRIAL IN BELARUS.
The trial of seven Ukrainians accused
of causing public disorder and insulting police during the 26 April Chornobyl
anniversary demonstrations in Belarus began in Minsk on 29 August, RFE/RL
reported. The defendants have been in jail since the rally. They face prison
sentences of up to three years if found guilty. Six of the defendants have
pleaded innocent, while one has admitted to disturbing the peace and
obstructing traffic. ITAR-TASS reported that the defendants have denied
belonging to the ultranationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian
Self-Defense Organization. The trial will be open to the press, and one
Ukrainian deputy will be attending. -- Ustina Markus
RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY AGREEMENT GOES INTO FORCE.
The Agreement on
the Formation of a Community, signed by Russia and Belarus on 2 April,
officially went into force on 29 August, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV
reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov exchanged the
instruments of ratification with Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Viktar
Danilenka. The agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by both parliaments but
also gave rise to mass protest demonstrations in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS UPDATE.
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar arrived in
Ukraine on 28 August to meet with parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz and
head of the National Security Council Volodymyr Horbulin, Ukrainian Radio
reported. Talks focused on economic cooperation and international security.
ITAR-TASS the next day reported that NATO commander of European Forces Gen.
George Joulwan met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko, Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko, and Defense Minister Oleksandr
Kuzmuk. Discussion touched on Ukraine's participation in the Balkan
peacekeeping effort. Finally, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharshvili
arrived in Ukraine on 30 August for talks on increasing Ukrainian-Georgian
cooperation and expanding economic ties. -- Ustina Markus
INCONCLUSIVE BORDER TALKS DELAY LATVIAN RATIFICATION OF OIL AGREEMENT.
Following Latvia and Lithuania's failure to reach agreement over their sea
border, Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele has asked the Saeima to postpone
ratifying an oil prospecting agreement with the Amoco and OPAB oil companies,
BNS reported on 29 August. Skele said he was confident progress would be made
over the border issue, while head of the Saeima's Foreign Affairs Committee
Indulis Berzins said the agreement did not have to be ratified until the end of
October. Under the agreement, the two oil companies would be allowed to conduct
oil explorations in the disputed area of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and
Latvia. -- Ustina Markus
MORE PROBLEMS AT POLISH PUBLIC TV.
The Public TV Board on 29 August
failed by one vote to dismiss TVP1 Director Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish media
reported. TVP1 is the most popular TV channel in Poland. Siemoniak had replaced
Maciej Pawlicki in that post earlier this year, prompting the resignation of
TVP Director Wieslaw Walendziak. Siemoniak is considered to hold centrist
views, while both Pawlicki and Walendziak tend toward right of center. Two
members of the five-strong TV board who have links to the ruling Democratic
Left Alliance reproached Siemoniak for his unwillingness to fire several young
journalists who were hired under the Pawlicki-Walendziak management and are
considered to be right of center. Those journalists have been dubbed "pampers"
to stress their youth. The TVP board has canceled a new program produced by
them and will also take off the air another "pampers" program called "Pulse of
the Day," Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 30 August. -- Jakub Karpinski
FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT ON ELECTORAL UNITY.
Lech Walesa, speaking at the
conference on "Solidarity: Sources, the Present, and the Future" in Szczecin on
29 August, declared his support for Solidarity Electoral Action, which aims to
draw up a joint list of candidates for the 1997 parliamentary elections in
order to beat out the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the Polish
Peasant Party. Walesa warned Solidarity not to take over government, saying it
should not abandon its trade union vocation. He praised the leadership of the
Freedom Union, which includes former Premier Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who also spoke
at Szczecin. Walesa rejected any cooperation with the Movement for Poland's
Reconstruction, led by another former prime minister, Jan Olszewski. -- Jakub
BODYGUARD ACCUSED OF STEALING FROM CZECH PRESIDENT.
Czech police on 29
August arrested one of Vaclav Havel's bodyguards and charged him with stealing
money and "various objects" from the president's house in Prague, Czech and
international media reported. In a press statement, the president said he was
"disappointed." and that he has had "the best possible experience with the
members of his security detail." Police did not reveal how much money and which
objects were stolen. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK NATIONAL UPRISING COMMEMORATED . . .
Several hundred citizens
gathered in Bratislava on 29 August to lay wreaths honoring the 52nd
anniversary of the anti-fascist Slovak National Uprising (SNP), Slovak media
reported. President Michal Kovac noted the historical importance of the event,
stressing that "if we do not want to betray the message of the SNP, we must
fulfill it not only verbally but also in every-day life." He added that "we
must purposefully and persistently cultivate in our lives the political culture
of a mature democracy but also the culture of decent interpersonal relations,
true understanding, tolerance, and moderation." Small ceremonies were also held
in Banska Bystrica, Kosice, and other towns. Kovac was joined in Bratislava by
parliamentary deputy chairman Marian Andel, Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova,
and representatives of the Anti-Fascist Fighters Union, political parties, and
the Israeli and Russian embassies. -- Sharon Fisher
. . . BUT SOME EXPRESS DISAPPOINTMENT, ANXIETY.
leftist opposition expressed disappointment that while lavish festivities took
place to inaugurate the new regions, major SNP celebrations were not held this
year, CTK reported. It also criticized the fact that official history textbooks
containing passages on the SNP were withdrawn under pressure from the
nationalist cultural organization Matica slovenska. Kovac expressed
anxiety that during discussions on Slovakia's wartime history, "responsibility
for acts against humanity, against civil and human rights [and] for acts
motivated by political or racial intolerance is denied or minimized." He said
of those events should be left to qualified and objective
historians to avoid their use as instruments for permanently dividing society.
The ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on 27 August issued a statement
praising the SNP. But its junior coalition partner--the Slovak National
Party--has, together with other nationalist forces in Slovakia, attempted to
glorify the war-time state and its president, Jozef Tiso. -- Sharon Fisher
CONTROVERSY MOUNTS OVER BOSNIAN VOTE.
The two largest Muslim parties are
still threatening to boycott the 14 September elections, despite the OSCE's
agreeing to their demand that the municipal vote be postponed. The governing
Party of Democratic Action and the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina remain
concerned about massive voter registration fraud by the Serbs, AFP reported on
30 August. The anti-nationalist Republican Party, led by prominent Croatian
politician Stjepan Kljuic, called for the abolition of the practice of allowing
people to register in any area except where they used to live,
Oslobodjenje reported. Pale's Serbian Democratic Party, however, seems
to have decided to ignore the OSCE ruling and will go ahead with its own
municipal ballot on schedule, Tanjug noted on 29 August. The leading party
among the Croats, the Croatian Democratic Community, has also condemned the
OSCE's decision, Onasa reported. -- Patrick Moore.
NATO HOLDS 65 SERBIAN POLICEMEN AFTER SHOOTINGS.
IFOR troops on 29
August arrested and disarmed a contingent of Bosnian Serb police in the village
of Mahala, near Zvornik. The Serbs had fired on two dozen elderly and
middle-aged Muslims who had returned to rebuild their homes after four years in
exile, the BBC and AFP reported the next day. Ten Muslims were injured, and
some of their fellows pelted the arrested Serbs with stones. In Zvornik itself,
an angry and increasingly drunken crowd surrounded a UN police office and
trapped six people inside while attacking and destroying several UN vehicles.
NATO ground forces commander Gen. Sir Michael Walker then released the 65 Serbs
and the mob in Zvornik dispersed. Walker took the weapons to Bosnian Serb
acting President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka. -- Patrick Moore
VOTERS IN SERBIA STAY AWAY FROM POLLING STATIONS.
Refugees registered to
vote in the 14 September Bosnian elections have stayed away from polling
stations in Serbia for a second consecutive day, AFP reported on 29 August.
According to official statistics, approximately 85,000 refugees have registered
to vote in Serbia. But only one of the four polling stations in Belgrade
reported activity by midday--and that was the arrival of one voter. It seems
that voter apathy, however, is not the reason. Beta reported that voters were
encountering a number of "technical difficulties." In Leskovac, for example, a
number of voters complained they had not received ballot papers. -- Stan
KORNBLUM MEETS WITH SERBIAN PRESIDENT.
U.S. envoy John Kornblum met for
three hours with Slobodan Milosevic on 29 August to discuss the 14 September
Bosnian elections. Kornblum said after the meeting that "we discussed the
decision to postpone the municipal elections, and I made clear it was primarily
the manipulation of voter registration by the Republika Srpska which led to
this development," Reuters reported. The U.S. envoy gave no indication of
whether Milosevic would support efforts to remedy abuses in the electoral
process. -- Stan Markotich
SECRET TALKS BETWEEN KOSOVO ALBANIANS, SERBIAN GOVERNMENT.
of the Democratic League of Kosovo Fehmi Agani and head of the Albanian
Education Trade Union Agim Hyseni have held secret talks with the Serbian
government on the readmission of ethnic Albanian students to secondary school,
Nasa Borba reported on 30 August. The dialog, which is reported to have
begun under international mediation, may lead to resuming Albanian-language
education for some 300,000 students who have been taught at private shadow
state schools since the abolition of autonomy in Kosovo in 1989. It is unclear,
however, whether any results have yet been achieved. -- Fabian Schmidt
LIGHTNING KILLS NINE OUTSIDE MACEDONIAN CHURCH.
Nine people were killed
and 41 seriously injured on 29 August when lightning struck outside an Orthodox
church in the east Macedonian town of Berovo, Nova Makedonija reported.
Around 10-15,000 people were celebrating Assumption Day outside the Church of
the Holy Virgin when a thunderstorm struck Berovo. Witnesses said that first
aid units found it difficult to access the site because panic broke out and
people blocked the streets. An ambulance driver said it took him 35 minutes to
drive 3 kilometers from the hospital to the Church. Eyewitnesses also noted
that the police failed to properly organize the rescue of the injured. --
BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MACEDONIA.
Hasan Muratovic arrived in Skopje
on 29 August for a two-day visit, Nova Makedonija and AFP reported. He
met with his Macedonian counterpart, Branko Crvenkovski, to discuss political,
economic, and trade relations and regional developments. Both sides expressed
their willingness to upgrade relations to ambassadorial level. Earlier that
day, the 900 Bosnian refugees in Macedonia who are registered for the upcoming
Bosnian elections started casting their ballots. In other news, the
Turkish-Macedonian Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation held its first
session on 28-29 August in the Turkish city of Izmir. The commission decided to
give priority to setting up a joint Turkish-Macedonian bank. -- Stefan Krause
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POLITICAL LEADERS TO DISCUSS TREATY WITH
President Ion Iliescu on 29 August met with leaders of all
parliamentary parties to discuss the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty, Romanian
and Western media reported. The treaty is due to be signed next month. Most
politicians expressed support for the treaty, but nationalist and neo-communist
leaders reiterated their criticism of the document, which they perceive as a
threat to Romania's territorial integrity. Gheorghe Funar, leader of the
chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, repeated his remark that the
treaty is "an act of national treason." Adrian Paunescu, first deputy chairman
of the Socialist Labor Party, described it as a "capitulation" to Hungarian and
Western pressure. Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation
of Romania, noted that the treaty was offering less than Romania's ethnic
Hungarians had expected. -- Dan Ionescu
MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC IN ROMANIA.
Romania is facing the biggest epidemic
of meningitis and meningo-encephalitis since 1986, Romanian and Western media
reported. There are currently 179 registered cases, of which 136 are in
Bucharest. Ten people have died since early August. The Health Ministry advised
the population to avoid unfamiliar sources of water and food. In a separate
development, Daniela Bartos, the new health minister, announced that the
budgetary allocation for the health care system has been increased by 249
billion lei (some $78 million). According to Bartos, this will allow "moderate
investment" in the country's ailing medical sector. -- Dan Ionescu
GROWING TENSION IN EASTERN MOLDOVA.
The Security Ministry of the
self-declared Dniester Moldovan republic has said it is prepared to "oppose an
attack by the enemy," BASA-press reported on 29 August . The statement comes
after weeks of tension over the status of the town of Bendery (Tighina),
located on the Western bank of the Dniester river. The town has both a Moldovan
and a Dniester police force. Tom Zenovich, head of the town's administration,
was quoted as saying he did not exclude the resumption of the armed conflict in
the region. He added that the deteriorating situation was related to the
forthcoming presidential elections in both the Republic of Moldova and the
Dniester region. -- Dan Ionescu
Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov on 29 August said he
cannot promise that there will be no electricity rationing during the winter,
Demokratsiya reported. He noted that if tests at Reactor No. 1 at the
Kozloduy nuclear power facility are not finished soon, the reactor will be
unable to go back on line for the winter season. Ovcharov said electricity
prices will probably not be raised by more than 5-10% before the end of the
year. In Sofia, street-lighting will be turned off until the city pays its 30
million leva ($149,000) debts to the state electricity company. In other news,
the Supreme Court will rule on 2 September against the Central Electoral
Commission's refusal to register the Socialist presidential and vice
presidential candidates--Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Culture Minister
Ivan Marazov, Duma reported. According to Standart, the
Socialists are already looking for new candidates. -- Stefan Krause
BREAK-THROUGH IN ALBANIAN POLITICAL DEADLOCK?
The ruling Democrats and
the opposition on 29 August agreed that the election laws need reviewing and
that dialogue is essential, Reuters reported. The talks, organized by the U.S.
International Republican Institute, focused on 31 recommendations made by the
institute following Albania's disputed parliamentary elections in May. Topics
covered included the role of the media, election administration, and
election-day procedures. There was, however, no compromise in sight on the
composition of the election commissions, a key issue for upcoming local
elections. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISTS RANSACK ORTHODOX CHURCH.
fundamentalists are suspected of having destroyed large parts of Voskopoja's
18th-century Saint Nicholas Church, Zeri i Popullit reported on 28
August. In what is the first religious-motivated case of vandalism since the
end of communism, the culprits--reportedly Muslim pupils encouraged by Arab
teachers--destroyed 23 frescoes. Police found inscriptions such as "Allah Is
Great" on the walls. The head of Albania's Muslim community, Hafiz Sabri Koci,
denounced the destruction as an attack against religious tolerance in Albania.
Meanwhile, the Albanian Helsinki Human Rights Committee has sharply criticized
the activities of Arab foundations in Albania, saying they are offering money
to poor families and then manipulating their children in religious courses,
international agencies reported. -- Fabian Schmidt
Theodoros Pangalos arrives in Albania today,
Reuters reported. He is scheduled to attend the inauguration of a Greek
consulate in Gjirokastra and to meet with his Albanian counterpart, Tritan
Shehu, and President Sali Berisha in Vlora. The Albanian government on 26
August agreed to increase the number of Greek-language classes in secondary
schools. Greek-language elementary schools also opened for this new school
year in three towns. In other news, the Albanian government on 28 August asked
Greece to explain an increasing number of deportations of Albanian immigrants,
Reuters reported. Greece deported about 5,000 Albanians within five days.
Elsewhere, the Albanian Orthodox church has sent a letter to Constantinople
protesting the appointment of ethnic Greek Bishops to Albania as interference
in the Albanian Church's internal affairs, Albania reported on 28
August. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave