REACTION TO CHECHEN CONGRESS.
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed
said that nothing was accomplished at the 10 September congress of Chechen
parties in Grozny, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12 September. The
congress merely approved the idea of forming a coalition government without
deciding who would rule the republic or control the money set aside for
reconstruction. Lebed will not return to Chechnya until the government is
named. Lebed said the main problem is deciding who will handle the federal
funds allotted for reconstruction work in the republic since Chechen acting
President Zelimkhan Yandar-biev's government does not recognize pro-Moscow
leader Doku Zavgaev while Moscow does not recognize Yandarbiev. Lebed said he
hopes to find someone else, but there is no obvious candidate. -- Robert
CHECHENS CONTINUE TO CONCENTRATE THEIR FORCES.
forces are continuing to concentrate their forces near Grozny, NTV reported on
11 September, citing federal forces. The sources cited two groups of Chechens
gathering near the city, one of 800 men and another of 500. Mines remain one of
the most dangerous problems in the city; one federal soldier was injured by a
mine overnight, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung
ZAVGAEV, KULIKOV DENOUNCE ATROCITIES IN CHECHNYA.
After meeting with
Security Council Secretary Lebed on 11 September, Chechen head of state Zavgaev
described the situation in Chechnya in bloody terms, NTV reported. He claimed
that separatist Chechen forces are interning anyone who fought against them in
two concentration camps, public executions are taking place, and few apartments
have not been robbed. At the same time, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov
warned of civil war in Chechnya, pointing out that 10 Chechens were executed on
5 September by other Chechens "on suspicion of marauding and banditry,
Moskovskie novosti reported in its issue of 8-15 September. He also
denounced the separatists' imposition of Islamic law on the areas they control.
Kulikov warned that if Russian troops are completely withdrawn, a campaign of
terror will be unleashed against all Chechens who cooperated with Moscow and
that armed Chechens will start making incursions into neighboring territories.
-- Robert Orttung
DUMA MEMBERS REFUSE TO ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA.
a joint letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin
said a Russian delegation will not attend the scheduled 23 September hearings
on Chechnya in Strasbourg because of the council's decision to invite Chechen
Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov but not the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 September. Lukin described the
invitation of Maskhadov as "flagrant, brazen, and unprecedented interference by
the Council of Europe in Russian internal affairs," Ekho Moskvy reported. The
radio noted the "strange coalition" of politicians who have recently spoken out
in defense of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Zavgaev, including Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Communist Party member Seleznev, and Lukin, a
leading figure in Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party. -- Laura Belin
LEBED DENIES CALLING FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION.
Secretary Lebed denied that he told the German journal Stern that
President Yeltsin should resign, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 11 September.
Lebed's press secretary, Aleksandr Barkhatov, blamed the problem on a bad
translation of the retired general's comments. According to AFP, Stern's
journalists say they asked Lebed about statements he had made claiming it was
time for Yeltsin to step down, and Lebed replied "Am I not right?" In another
part of the interview, Lebed used a joke from the Brezhnev era to describe the
current Kremlin administration: "Today, following a long illness and without
regaining consciousness, the secretary general resumed his functions." Lebed
also said he would run in the next presidential election. He said that Russia
needs democracy but admitted that he is "not cut out to be a democrat...We
must, first of all, restore order, and for that you cannot always act with kid
gloves." -- Robert Orttung
INCUMBENT LEADS IN LENIN-GRAD OBLAST.
According to a recent opinion
poll, pro-Yeltsin Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov has the support
of 47% of oblast residents, while his closest rival, Vadim Gustov--the chairman
of the oblast soviet President Yeltsin disbanded in 1993--is polling only 15%
before the 29 September election, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12
September. Although Gustov is not a Communist, the local branch of the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation decided to support him since it does
not have its own candidate. Gustov has formed an alliance with four other
candidates to oppose Belyakov, Radio Rossii reported on 10 September, citing
Nikolai Smirnov, a member of the coalition, who is running at about 10% in the
polls. The group hopes to name a single candidate by next week. -- Robert
RUSSIA OFFERS AID TO IRAQI VICTIMS OF U.S. STRIKES.
A spokesman for the
Ministry for Emergency Situations said Russia will offer humanitarian aid to
victims of the recent U.S. missile strikes against Iraq this month, AFP
reported on 11 September. The official said the aid should be delivered by the
Geneva-based International Civil Defense Organization, to which Russian
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu has just been elected president,
ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk again
criticized the U.S.'s unilateral action against Iraq, calling it a violation of
international law. However, he added that Russia's disagreement with the U.S.
over Iraq "has not undermined our cooperation as co-sponsors of the Middle East
Peace process," AFP reported, citing an interview with Posuvalyuk published in
the latest edition of Argumenty i fakty. -- Laura Belin
RUSSIA WELCOMES UN PASSAGE OF NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY.
Ministry released a statement welcoming UN approval of a treaty to impose a
worldwide ban on nuclear tests, AFP and Reuters reported on 11 September.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said he hoped all UN member states
would sign the treaty, which was adopted by a vote of 158-3 (Bhutan, India, and
Libya voted against), with five abstentions. Russia and the world's other four
declared nuclear powers--the U.S., Great Britain, France, and China--have
already agreed to unilaterally end nuclear tests. -- Laura Belin
NATO COUNCIL APPROVES LIAISON OFFICE EXCHANGE WITH RUSSIA.
Brussels, the NATO Council approved in principle a Russian suggestion that
mutual liaison bureaus be opened in Belgium, the U.S., and Russia, ITAR-TASS
and AFP reported on 11 September. A 26 September meeting of NATO defense
ministers, to be attended by Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov as well,
will consider a specific proposal on the matter, which would allow Russia to
open liaison offices at the U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, at the
Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe in Mons, Belgium, and possibly
also at NATO headquarters in Brussels. At the same time, NATO would open a
liaison office in Moscow. -- Laura Belin
NAZDRATENKO ON RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW.
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii
Nazdratenko contended in an 11 September interview with NTV that he has
fulfilled President Yeltsin's August orders giving him until 15 September to
take steps to deal with the krai's energy crisis (see OMRI Daily Digest,
14 and 15 August 1996). Nazdratenko said that, as requested, he has fired his
deputy and transferred funds to the krai's miners. He admitted that there are
problems with wage arrears but contended that the situation in the energy
sector has been misrepresented by the mass media. He also stressed that the
federal government still owes money to the local defense industry. In a
reference to local press reports on the possible establishment of an autonomous
far eastern republic, he ruled out any talk of separatism while he is governor.
Commenting on speculation that Yeltsin will fire Nazdratenko,
Kommersant-Daily on 12 September quoted Constitutional Court judge
Vladimir Strekozov as saying he believes Yeltsin does not have the power to
dismiss a popularly elected governor. -- Penny Morvant
MILITARY INDUSTRIAL WORKERS REJECT REFERENDUM IN PRI-MORE; ENERGY SECTOR
Workers at the nuclear submarine repair plant Zvezda
have demanded that the regional referendum on confidence in Governor
Nazdratenko be called off, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. They oppose the
referendum, set by the krai Duma for 22 September, on financial grounds,
arguing that the 6 billion rubles needed to pay for it should be used to repay
debts. The workers have also threatened to take protest actions on 16
September. Meanwhile, about 200 workers are still on hunger strike at the
Primorskii and Artem power plants, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a union official
at the Primorskii plant. A Dalenergo official warned that stocks of coal and
fuel oil at power stations are again so low that operations could "stop at any
moment." -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Penny Morvant
CONFLICT OVER AEROFLOT'S INTENTIONS TO BUY BOEINGS.
Tatar Prime Minister
Farid Mukhmedshin has expressed concern over Aeroflot's intention to replace 13
TU-134 passenger airplanes with 10 U.S. Boeing 737-400s, RTR reported on 10
August. Mukhamedshin accused Aero-flot, Russia's largest airline, and its
general director, Yevgenii Sha-poshnikov, of betraying Russia's national
interests and said the company's decision is likely to push the domestic
aircraft manufacturing industry into a crisis. Shaposhnikov, however, responded
by saying that as a commercial enterprise, Aeroflot cannot afford to spend
money on refurbishing and modernizing newly purchased aircraft. In 1995 alone,
Aeroflot had to replace 31 engines on five Aerobus IL-96s. Furthermore,
Aeroflot has to meet international standards, especially environmental
regulations, which is often impossible with Russian-manufactured airplanes. --
GULIEV RESIGNS FOR "HEALTH REASONS."
Azerbaijani parliament chairman
Rasul Guliev resigned from office on 11 September, Russian and Western media
reported the same day. His resignation had been expected to be the locus of a
stormy extraordinary session of the parliament, the Milli Mejlis, but the
matter was wrapped up in 15 minutes when Guliev asked to resign due to ill
health, ITAR-TASS reported. Parliament accepted his resignation in a vote of
98-8, with four abstentions. During his speech, Guliev pledged his full support
to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who was in attendance. It has been
rumored that Guliev is to serve as Azerbaijan's ambassador to Norway. A
Norwegian company, Statoil, is part of the international consortium involved in
exploiting three oil fields off Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea. -- Lowell
Almaty's city authorities on 9 September refused to
allow the Center of Russian Culture of Almaty to stage a demonstration in front
of the U.S. Embassy, RFE/RL reported. The demonstrators intended to protest the
recent U.S. airstrikes on Iraq. In other news, Rakhmankul Berdibay has been
elected president of the recently founded Baba Turkti Shashti Aziz Foundation,
RFE/RL reported on 12 September. Baba Turkti Shashti, whose mausoleum is in
Chimkent along with a foundation of the same name, is revered as the common
ancestor of the Karakalpak, Nogay, Tatar, Kazak, Kyrgyz, and Bashkort peoples.
Meanwhile, a training school for sergeants, manned by instructors from the U.S.
and Turkey, is to open in Kazakstan, the Turkish Daily News reported on
12 September. The 100-student school is to form the backbone of the Kazakstani
army's non-commissioned officer corps. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat
HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE IN TASHKENT.
A three-day OSCE-sponsored
conference on human rights--bringing together non-governmental organizations
operating in Central Asia, government officials, and government-selected media
representatives--opened in Tashkent on 11 September, Western agencies reported.
Human rights are far from respected in Central Asia with print and broadcast
media carefully censored or directly controlled by the government and minimal
tolerance shown for political opposition. Among a litany of other human rights
violations, AFP noted that 40 journalists have been killed in Tajikistan since
1992, some 30 prisoners of conscience are presently in Uzbek jails, and 600
prisoners died in Kazakstani jails of tuberculosis last year and another 101
were executed. The venue of the conference is considered a further signal of
Uzbekistan's desire to soften the regime's image abroad. -- Lowell Bezanis
UNESCO PLEDGES HELP FOR TURKMENISTAN.
Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov and UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor signed a memorandum of
cooperation in Paris on 11 September, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.
According to the agency, UNESCO is to help Turkmenistan reform its education
system, train journalists, create a management information network, support
national radio programming, establish various cultural programs aimed at the
protection of historical sites, and analyze the environmental problems of the
Caspian Sea. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINE ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF SMALL-SCALE PRIVA-TIZATION PROGRAM.
State Property Fund Chairman Yurii Yekhanurov told parliament on 11 September
that Ukraine had completed its small-scale privatization program, except in
Crimea, Ukrainian TV reported. Yekhanurov said 80% of small enterprises were
taken over via employee buyout lease options. He said 80% of privatization
revenues went to local budgets. In regard to large-scale privatization, he said
over 40 million residents had already picked up their vouchers. He complained,
however, that investment declined because many potentially profitable companies
were barred from privatization. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
NEW CAUCUSES FORMED IN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT.
Two new caucuses were
formed within the legislature, Ukrainian TV reported on 8 September. A new
center-left group, called Social-Market Choice, is made up of prominent figures
such as former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk, former President Leonid Kravchuk,
and ex-Donetsk governor Volodymyr Shcherban. The caucus has declared its
opposition to the current government of Pavlo Laza-renko. The second caucus is
a pro-government group comprising members of the Popular-Democratic Party and
former members of the Statehood, Center, Unity, and Agrarians caucuses.
Communist Party of Ukraine leader Petro Symonenko told Ukrainian agencies that
his party will no longer argue against the legitimacy of the newly-adopted
Ukrainian constitution, but will begin a campaign this autumn for early
presidential and parliamentary elections. He said the group was also planning
to organize mass labor strikes then. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
BELARUS PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN WARNS OF FASCISM.
Syamyon Sharetsky in an
article in Narodnaya Volya on 11 September said that the new
Constitution proposed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "prepares the ground
for a totalitarian fascist state," Reuters reported. In a strident attack
Sharetsky noted: "There will be unlimited power for a single person. Such a
draft can only be proposed by a person with a maniacal drive for power." The
same day parliament deputies accused the presidential security service of
searching their offices overnight under the pretext of searching for a bomb.
Opposition leader Alyaksandr Dobro-volsky said that the police seemed to have
been looking in vain for lists of deputies who signed a document on impeaching
the president. He accused Lukashenka of using again the tactic of intimidation
he had applied in April 1995, when opposition deputies on a hunger strike were
thrown out of the parliament building and beaten up by masked guards. --
LITHUANIA TO DOUBLE DEFENSE EXPENDITURES.
The Defense Council, made up
of the president, parliament chairman, prime minister, foreign and defense
ministers, decided on 10 September that Lithuania's defense expenditures in
1997 should increase to about one percent of gross domestic product (GDP),
Radio Lithuania reported. This year the budget provided expenditures of 0.56%
of GDP or about 200 million litai ($50 million). Defense Minister Linas
Linkevicius said that the increased military spending was linked to Lithuania's
effort to seek NATO membership. He noted that attention was already given this
year to the purchase of needed military hardware as shown by the government
guaranteeing the credit for the purchase of anti-tank armaments. -- Saulius
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ON CZECH-GERMAN RELATIONS.
Helmut Kohl told the German
parliament on 11 September that the Czech-German declaration should be signed
by the end of this year, Czech and German media reported. The declaration, to
be adopted by the parliaments of both countries, will address some unresolved
historical issues and hopefully help improve bilateral relations. Kohl has
rarely commented on the declaration in the past. He admitted that the
negotiations on the declaration have been more difficult than anticipated and
that "the common past still stirs too many emotions." He noted that it was
"Germans who attacked Czechoslovakia and Hitler's policies that caused
injustice." Kohl suggested that Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec address
the German parliament. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS "DEMOCRATIZATION" PROPOSALS.
opposition failed in its efforts to add most of its "democratization" proposals
to the agenda of the parliament session that began on 11 September, Slovak
media reported. In an unusual sign of unity, the opposition agreed to the moves
during round-table discussions two days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest,
10 September). However, only one of these proposals made it to the parliament's
agenda: the no-confidence vote in Culture Minister Ivan Hudec, who has been
under attack for his controversial policies on theaters and museums. The
deputies also approved a separate proposal by Christian Democratic Movement
Chairman Jan Carnogursky demanding that Interior Minister Gustav Krajci explain
the spread of child pornography in Slovakia and the police's failure to stop
it. -- Sharon Fisher
PROCEDURAL CONTROVERSIES IN THE SEJM.
The Sejm rejected on 11 September
a motion demanding that the 30 August vote on the abortion law be repeated. The
law broadened the conditions under which abortion is legal (See OMRI Daily
Digest, 3 September 1996). Three deputies declared that their votes had
been wrongly recorded by the Sejm's computerized system. Sejm Speaker Jozef
Zych, however, noted that experts determined that the counting device was not
broken during the August vote. The motion to repeat the August vote was
supported by 158 deputies, mostly from the opposition, but also by 60 from the
co-ruling Polish Peasant Party; 234 deputies, coming mostly from the co-ruling
Democratic Left Alliance and the leftist Labor Union, were against and 31
deputies abstained. -- Jakub Karpinski
CHIRAC, LANDSBERGIS IN WARSAW.
French President Jacques Chirac told the
Polish parliament on 12 September that France hopes Poland will join the EU by
the year 2000. Chirac also supported Poland's desire to enter NATO quickly,
saying this process should begin next year. "The year 1997 should engage the
process, in an irreversible way," he said. Chirac arrived in Warsaw the
previous day accompanied by four ministers for a three-day visit. Chirac also
met his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski and said Poland will be "one
of the first or the first to enter the EU." Leader of the Lithuanian
Conservatives and former parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis held talks
with Kwasniewski and parliament speaker Jozef Zych. Kwasniew-ski said Warsaw
will make efforts that Lithuania would not be left outside the European
security structure. -- Jakub Karpinski
SPANISH ROYAL COUPLE IN HUNGARY.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia
arrived in Hungary on 10 September for a three-day official visit at the
invitation of Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, international media reported.
The highlight of the king's second trip to Hungary was his address to the
parliament the next day, during which he expressed support for Hungary's
European integration. "Hungary is destined to play an important role in
building the new European security structure," Juan Carlos said. He also
expressed appreciation for Hungary's stand on relations towards the neighboring
countries, but warned that eventual NATO membership should not lead to further
splits. -- Sharon Fisher and Petronella Gaal
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ON RESTITUTION OF JEWISH PROPERTY.
parties on 11 September agreed on a proposal to handle the restitution of
Jewish property, Hungarian media reported. The proposal states that restitution
will take place in accordance with paragraph 27 of the Paris Peace Treaty,
which stipulates that the Hungarian government must compensate all victims of
racial, religious, or fascist discrimination and transfer the compensation to
the organizations that represent the victims. The Constitutional Court ruled
that parliament had to settle the issue by 31 December 1993; however, few
efforts were made before 1994, when the government of Gyula Horn established a
committee to negotiate with Jewish organizations. In recent discussions, the
parties agreed to create a foundation whose board of trustees will handle the
property transfers. Foreign Affairs State Secretary Istvan Szent-Ivanyi said
the restitution will be partial and gradual. -- Petronella Gaal
BOSNIAN SERB LEADER CONFRONTS SERB UNITY...
Republika Srpska's (RS)
acting President and the Serbian Democratic Party's (SDS) candidate for RS
president Biljana Plavsic has again spoken out on the question of a Greater
Serbia. Plavsic, in remarks reported by Nasa Borba on 12 September,
observed that there is "no peace without the unity of all Serb lands." Plavsic
also went on record as saying that the RS "has only that sovereignty which is
afforded it by the Dayton peace, and for now we are happy with that."
Nevertheless, she said "there won't always be this kind of anti-Serb climate in
the world," implying that her commitment to partitioning Bosnia remains solid.
-- Stan Markotich
...BUT IS THE SERBIAN PRESIDENT FINESSING THE ISSUE?
But there is open
speculation that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is influencing parties
under his control in the Republika Srpska to address, or specifically to evade,
the issue of the Bosnian Serb entity's status. On 12 September Nasa
Borba reported that Milosevic recently held a closed-door meeting with
officials from the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), including
its chairman, Zivko Radisic, who subsequently dropped his candidacy for the RS
presidency. Radisic maintains he was not forced to withdraw his candidacy, but
only that Milosevic asked him to mute any rhetoric dealing with "the issue of
unity with Serbia because they [Milosevic's governing Socialist Party of
Serbia] are under great international pressure to recognize Bosnia and
Herzegovina." The limelight and the politicking of dealing with the RS's
status, noted Nasa Borba, was the "hot chestnut [Milosevic] tossed into
Plavsic's hands." -- Stan Markotich
OPINION POLLS AHEAD OF BOSNIA'S ELECTIONS.
A survey in September of 517
voters in the Bosnian federation conducted by the Sarajevo magazine Dani
and the U.S. Information Agency indicated that 54.8% would vote for the ruling
Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), 17.2% or the opposition parties'
coalition Joint List, 12.3% for former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic's Party
for Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1.3% for the Liberal Party, and 0.1% for the Women's
Party, Onasa reported. It also revealed that in the Bosnian presidential
elections 63.2% would vote for incumbent President Alija Izetbegovic, 23.1% for
Silajdzic, and 5.8% for Social-Democratic Party candidate Sead Avdic. A poll of
1,000 Bosnian Serbs in the Republika Srpska conducted by the Bijeljina Extra
Magazine indicated that 37.4% would vote for the ruling Serbian Democratic
Party (SDS), 16.8% for the opposition coalition Alliance for Peace and Progress
(SMP), and 16.4% for the opposition Democratic Patriotic Bloc (DPB). In the
presidential race, 30.1% would vote for DPB's president Predrag Radic, and
29.4% for Biljana Plavsic from the SDS, Nasa Borba reported. -- Daria
INTER-ENTITY VOTER ROUTES AGREED.
Interior ministers of the Bosnian
Federation and the Republika Srpska on 10 September agreed on 19 routes across
the entity line that voters could take to cast ballots in Bosnia's general
elections on 14 September, Onasa reported. Bosnian Serb Interior Minister
Dragan Kijac predicted that about 350,000 people would cross inter-entity
borders that day. People will be able to cross the borders only in approved
vehicles. The three officials in a joint statement assumed joint responsibility
for ensuring maximum police presence along the agreed routes "to provide for
the safety of all citizens." According to the agreement, voters have to return
to their entities immediately after casting their ballots, and rallies and
demonstrations are forbidden on election day. The mass movement of people will
be closely watched by IFOR forces. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN REFUGEE VOTER TURNOUT 75 PERCENT SO FAR.
The OSCE said that
of the nearly half million Bosnian refugees registered to
vote abroad have already cast their ballots for Bosnia's elections, AFP
reported on 10 September. The figure of 75% is provisional, because voting
slips are still arriving, and the final tally would be known only the day after
the vote in Bosnia itself. Of 58 countries that accepted Bosnian refugees,
Austria has the highest voter turnout with 86%, followed by Germany with 83%,
and Serbia-Montenegro with 73%. Some 140,000 other Bosnians living abroad have
registered to vote in person on 14 September in Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic
KOSOVAR SHADOW STATE PREMIER ON SCHOOL AGREEMENT WITH SERBS.
Bukoshi voiced careful optimism about the latest agreement between Kosovar
shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic
allowing Albanian children to return to school (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3
September 1996), Illyria reported on 10 September. He said it would be a
"significant moment in our political movement" if Albanian children returned to
school. But Bukoshi also warned against "uncontrolled euphoria," noting that
Belgrade had signed and then broken agreements before. He predicted Belgrade
will put forward "substantial problems and obstruction" when it comes to
implementing the agreement and noted that the agreement contained many
"ambiguities leaving room for different interpretations." Bukoshi charged that
Kosovo's Albanians gained nothing from the agreement while Milosevic
manipulated all the parties involved to score points both at home and abroad.
-- Stefan Krause
MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC STIRS CONTROVERSY IN BUCHAREST.
Victor Ciorbea on 11 September announced that the start of the new school year
would be delayed from 16 September until 1 October because of a meningitis
epidemic that has swept through Romania since early August, Radio Bucharest
reported. But Romanian Education Minister Liviu Maior said on the same day that
mayors do not have the competence to interfere in the functioning of the
educational system. The controversy appears to be of political nature, since
Ciorbea is a member of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania.
Meanwhile, the epidemic of meningitis and meningo-encephalitis continues to
spread. According to the latest data released by the Health Ministry, 414 cases
have been registered until 11 September, of which 50 are children. The epidemic
has resulted in 21 deaths so far. -- Dan Ionescu
CONFERENCE ON MINORITIES ENDS IN BUCHAREST.
The third international
meeting of government offices for ethnic minorities questions ended in
Bucharest on 11 September, Radio Bucharest reported. The two-day conference,
sponsored by the Council of Europe (CE) and the Executive Commission of the
European Union, was attended by delegations from 17 former communist countries
from CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. This year's seminar, presided over by CE
Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht and Viorel Hrebenciuc, Coordinator of
the Romanian government's Council for National Minorities, focused on the
implementation of the CE Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,
as well as on cooperation among governmental offices dealing with minorities.
-- Dan Ionescu
DNIESTER LEADER REPLIES TO SNEGUR'S MESSAGE.
In a letter addressed to
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, the president of the self-declared Dniester
Moldovan Republic, Igor Smirnov, suggested that they resume talks only after
the signing of a memorandum on the normalization of relations between the two
sides, Infotag reported on 11 September. Smirnov repeated earlier accusations
that the present deadlock in negotiations was caused by Moldova's reluctance to
sign the memorandum. His letter came in reply to a 3 September message from
Snegur, urging the Dniester leadership to resume talks on the region's future
legal status within the Republic of Moldova, as well as regular summit
meetings. Infotag also reported that Moldovan and Dniester experts will meet in
Tiraspol on 16 September to continue drafting the status, after a break of more
than two months. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIA DENIES HOSTING SOVIET NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
The Defense Ministry on
11 September dismissed as "pure insinuation" a report in Moscow's
Komsomolskaya Pravda that Soviet nuclear missiles were stationed in
Bulgaria in the 1980s, Bulgarian and international media reported. The Russian
daily cited a former Soviet Army captain's assertion that he served in a
"super-secret base" near the resort of Borovets, 60 kilometers from Sofia,
which he claims contained 70 nu-clear warheads. President Zhelyu Zhelev and
Chief of General Staff Tsvetan Totomirov in a joint statement denied the report
and suggested someone might want to cause friction between Bulgaria and its
neighbors Greece and Turkey, which are named as possible targets in the Russian
publication. Former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov also dismissed the report,
while then-Defense Minister Dobri Dzhu-rov did not comment. Komso-molskaya
Pravda said former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov confirmed the
existence of the base. -- Maria Koinova and Stefan Krause
UPDATE ON BULGARIAN GRAIN CRISIS.
Agriculture Minister Krastyo
Trendafilov and Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov on 11 September informed the
BSP Executive Bureau about efforts to ensure sufficient grain supplies, Pari
reported. Trendafilov said that currently 130,000 tons of grain are being
imported and a further 680,000 tons were purchased domestically. He assumed
responsibility for ensuring the bread supply of Sofia and some mountainous
regions. He said that other regions should take care of their problems by
themselves, claiming that there are large amounts of grain in private bakeries
and households. He said Bulgaria wants to import more grain, but needs credits
because the government does not want to strain further the balance of payments.
Paparizov called the grain problem short-term and financial. The grain and
bread shortage that started at the beginning of 1996 has so far caused the
resignations of two agriculture ministers. -- Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Saulius Girnius