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Newsline - October 22, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin created a new Consultative Council that will include him, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, the presidential administration's Rossiiskie vesti reported on 22 October. Seleznev, who discussed the idea with Yeltsin on 21 October, said the council will meet at least twice a month and will resolve key issues of relations between the legislative and executive branches. While Yeltsin is sick, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais will take his place on the council. Seleznev is among those who have argued that Chubais is playing too large a role in running the country. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 22 October pointed out that Yeltsin had coopted former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin by bringing him into the Security Council in 1994, and that Seleznev may follow the same path. Kommersant-Daily described the new council as an attempt to build on the atmosphere of cooperation between the two branches fostered by the ouster of former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was unpopular with the majority of parliamentarians. -- Robert Orttung

In his first move as Security Council secretary, Rybkin issued an order to his staff not to destroy any documents, he told Komsomolskaya pravda on 22 October. He noted that the council staff was too large and planned to start cutting it immediately, RIA Novosti reported. Rossiiskie vesti welcomed Rybkin as the "master of compromise" who has replaced the "decisive politician" Lebed. During his meeting with Yeltsin, Seleznev proposed that Rybkin's office should be in Grozny, since short trips to the region did not give him a chance to understand what is happening there. Rybkin said that he will go to Chechnya as soon as is necessary. Nezavisimaya gazeta warned that the military is concerned that the civilian Rybkin will not devote as much attention to the armed forces' problems as did former Lt. Gen. Lebed, and said it was unlikely that Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin will cede control over security issues to Rybkin. -- Robert Orttung

In an interview given to NTV on 21 October and summarized by Western agencies, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev expressed regret that sacked Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed "was not given the chance to finish" the peace process he initiated in Chechnya, but affirmed his readiness to cooperate with Lebed's successor Rybkin. Yandarbiev stressed that Chechnya "is not a part of Russia" and called for the withdrawal "to the last soldier" of the Russian troops still there, which failed to pull out before the 20 October deadline. Presenting Rybkin to the Security Council in Moscow on 21 October, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin again warned that Chechnya would not be permitted to secede from the Russian Federation, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller

Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Yegorov, Chubais's predecessor as presidential chief of staff, called on Yeltsin to set new presidential elections in a Moskovskii komsomolets interview, AFP reported on 22 October. He said that "we need a president who is active" to get Russia out of its political crisis. He claimed that Yeltsin does not know what is going on and that the country is in a pre-revolutionary situation. Yegorov accused Chubais of amassing excessive powers by manipulating the president's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko. Yegorov was named to his current post on 15 July after being fired from the administration. He faces gubernatorial elections on 27 October but the administration has kept its distance from the race. -- Robert Orttung

The state-run network Russian TV (RTR) refused to broadcast an episode of the news magazine "Sovershenno sekretno" (Top Secret) devoted to former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, leading Korzhakov to threaten to release the videotape himself, Radio Mayak reported on 19 October. In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 October, the show's host, Artem Borovik, claimed that RTR Chairman Eduard Sagalaev was under pressure not to air the episode. But Borovik said the program, in which Korzhakov presumably attacks his enemies within the presidential administration, is balanced and also includes commentary by Korzhakov's critics. He added, "If Chubais were in [Korzhakov's] place, I would have done the same thing." The controversy places Sagalaev in a difficult position; Korzhakov supported his appointment as RTR chairman in February, but he could be sacked if he alienates those who currently have the upper hand in the president's camp. -- Laura Belin

In a front-page article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 22 October, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov laid out four conditions for the establishment of a stable post-cold war international order: preventing the emergence of new "dividing lines;" breaking the mentality of "leaders" and "led;" democratizing international economic relations; and coordinating cooperative action by the international community. Primakov argued that the OSCE should have the leading role in the emerging European security system, while conceding that NATO, the EU, and the UN should also play important parts. He reiterated Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, but said Russia was ready to negotiate a special pact with the alliance. -- Scott Parrish

Despite last week's cajoling by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told visiting U.S. Senator Sam Nunn that the Duma has no plans to force the pace of START II ratification, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. At a later meeting, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin suggested to Nunn that "negotiations to amend the treaty so that ratification can move forward" should begin. Some, including newly appointed Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, have suggested negotiating a new START III treaty to address Russian concerns before ratifying START II. -- Scott Parrish

President Yeltsin approved on 21 October a new statute for the presidential Commission on Human Rights, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported. It describes the commission as an advisory and consultative body, whose duties include examining human rights violations and drafting an annual report on the human rights situation. Its members have the right to visit state institutions and demand information related to human rights. An expert council is to be set up under the commission composed of representatives of scientific and nongovernmental organizations; its membership must be approved by the president. The commission, set up in November 1993, was initially headed by Sergei Kovalev. He and several other members resigned in January and February 1996 in the wake of the bloody events in Pervomaiskoe and a reshuffle in the presidential administration that reduced the independence of the commission. -- Penny Morvant

Federation Council Deputy Chairman Vasilii Likhachev, from Tatarstan, spoke to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on the problem of the "Islamic factor" on 21 October. Likhachev told Radio Mayak that many State Duma deputies attempt to label such republics as Yakutiya, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, and Tatarstan as "pro-Muslim" and "pro-Turkish." He asked Chernomyrdin to take steps to prevent unnamed Moscow politicians from playing "the Islamic card" in trying to divide Russians along Muslim/Christian lines. Likhachev proposed that the government convene a conference on the topic "The Fate of Islam in Russia." -- Nikolai Iakoubovski.

Workers at two of Russia's nine atomic power stations went on strike on 21 October, ITAR-TASS reported. About 2,500 workers from the Smolensk nuclear power plant and 250 employees of the Kalinin plant near Tver stopped all but essential operations for an hour to demand the payment of wage arrears. Workers at the Smolensk plant have not been paid since June, while their colleagues at the Kalinin station have not received pay since July. The Russian law on nuclear energy bars nuclear power plant workers from striking. This summer workers at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear plant near St. Petersburg staged various protest actions, including a hunger strike, to demand the payment of wage arrears. NTV said on 15 October that customers owe Russia's atomic power stations about 3.5 trillion rubles ($640 billion) as of 3 October. -- Penny Morvant

In the first 10 months of the year the health care sector received only 38% of the funds earmarked in the 1996 budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October, citing Health Minister Tatyana Dmitrieva. Hospitals and research laboratories received only 52% of expected funds, and medical educational institutions 71%. This money is barely enough to pay salaries, which are often delayed, and only covers some 30% of needed medicines or equipment. The head of the Duma's Committee for Health Care, Nikolai Gerasimenko, complained that many of Russia's medical institutions are unable to deliver even the minimum level of services to the population. -- Natalia Gurushina

Russia's foreign trade surplus stood at $24 billion in the first eight months of 1996, with imports of $31 billion and exports $55 billion, Delovoi mir reported on 18 October. Total trade turnover was 8.1% up on the same period in 1995. While trade with the "far abroad" rose only 3.2%, trade with the CIS rose 27.2%, testifying to a modest revival of economic ties between the former Soviet states. In August, for the first time, there was no trade deficit with the CIS countries. Energy continued to accounted for 45% of Russia's overall exports. Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov said on 21 October that the remaining 22 trading companies operating in his ministry will be privatized by the end of 1997, once the problem of their outstanding debts is solved, ITAR-TASS reported. In recent months the ministry has been restructured as part of an effort to concentrate responsibility for foreign trade, including trade in weapons. -- Peter Rutland

The Central Bank cut its annual refinancing rate from 80% to 60% effective on 21 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. This is the fourth reduction this year (the refinancing rate was cut from 160% in February). The bank wants to bring the refinancing rate closer to the interest rate on the market for interbank credits, which at present is 40-50% annually. The new refinancing rate is also closer to the current yields on state short-term bonds (treasury bills), which dropped from some 70% in August to 55-60% a year in mid-October. The government acknowledges that with annual inflation at around 20% the interest rate will have to come down to roughly 25% if investment is to revive. -- Natalia Gurushina

The Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM), an Armenian opposition party, has issued a statement calling for a boycott of the local elections due in November, Noyan Tapan reported on 21 October. According to GAKM, the elections cannot be considered democratic because of "the illegitimacy of the authorities and the constitution that have been adopted through falsifications." The statement concluded that all efforts to change the government through elections are now "fruitless" in Armenia. -- Emil Danielyan

An oil pipeline exploded near the Caspian coastal city of Aktau on 18 October, spilling tons of crude oil into the sea, RFE/RL reported. No casualty figures have been released nor has an exact assessment of damage been given. However, officials there say the problem is now under control. In the central Kazakstan area of Karaganda seven miners were killed in accidents last week on two separate days. The incidents occurred at the Shakhtinskaya and Dutovskaya mines. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

The much-anticipated celebration of the 660th anniversary of Amir Timur, or Tamerlane, began on 18 October, Narodnoe slovo reported, as monitored by the BBC on 21 October. Uzbek President Islam Karimov officially opened a museum in Tashkent devoted to the Central Asian figure, noting that "the civilized world has a proper appreciation of Tamerlane's undying service to mankind." The ceremony included readings from the Koran, blessings from honored elders, and a traditional plov (pilau) feast. For the next month, similar celebrations will take place throughout Uzbekistan. -- Roger Kangas

The presidents of six Turkic-speaking countries assembled in Tashkent on 21 October, AFP reported. It was the fourth meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. Discussion centered on trade relations: although the subject of Afghanistan was touched on, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the heads of state "would not be dragged into settling political matters." However, some time was devoted to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev again said that he was prepared to give maximum autonomy to the region but that "Nagorno-Karabakh will never be independent." The presidents signed a declaration condemning terrorism and separatism, and reiterating "their firm and unchanging commitment to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and a market economy," said Karimov. -- Bruce Pannier

Following a call by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the All Belarusian Congress for the parliament not to hold its referendum on an alternative constitution, legislators met on 21 October to discuss the issue. Russian Public TV reported that it was immediately apparent at the meeting that legislators had no intention of withdrawing their draft constitution, which would abolish the Presidency. Deputy parliamentary speaker Vasil Novikau said 84 deputies initiated the move to hold a referendum on the parliament's draft constitution and that 73 more deputies later signed up in support of the initiative. Novikau said the parliament was prepared to withdraw its draft constitution from a referendum only if the president would withdraw his. He added that Lukashenka's appeal was not a compromise but an ultimatum. -- Ustina Markus

A car intended to transport Genadz Karpenka was attacked on 21 October in downtown Minsk, ITAR-TASS reported. Unidentified gunmen shot at the car, which belonged to one of Karpenka's friends. Parliament will discuss the incident. Meanwhile, Karpenka, an outspoken critic of President Aleksandr Lukashenka, has asked for an investigation to be launched, since he does not exclude political motives for the shooting. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

The Ukrainian government has announced the establishment of Enerhoatom, a state-owned company to oversee all five of the country's nuclear power plants, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 21 October. The new company allows the government to strengthen its monopoly on nuclear power output, sales, and prices. Previously, the state-run stations were financially separate. The firm will also manage all foreign aid for shutting down Chornobyl. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Reactor Number 3 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station has been closed because of a fault in its cooling system, international media reported on 21 October. Nuclear safety officials said that an incident the previous day at the reactor has been classified at "zero level" on an international scale for nuclear accidents. Repairs will last until 26 October. Reactor Number 3 is one of only two still functioning at Chornobyl. It is due to be permanently closed in 1999. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Hennadii Udovenko arrived in Washington on 21 October for an official visit, Ukrainian Radio reported. He met with his U.S. counterpart, Warren Christopher, to discuss NATO expansion, issues related to the "NATO-Russia-Ukraine triangle," European security, and U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation in Bosnia. Udovenko also met with First Deputy State Secretary Strobe Talbott, Defense Secretary William Perry, and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. He noted that Ukraine wanted to maintain a permanent and ongoing dialogue with the U.S. -- Ustina Markus

A synod of hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church announced that Patriarch Dymytrii Yarema has resigned, Radio Ukraine reported on 21 October. No reason was given for his resignation, but the hierarchs published a statement quelling rumors that Dymytrii had issued an edict dissolving the Church. The bishops elected Metropolitan Vasylii of Ternopil and Volyn to run the Church until a sobor of Church hierarchy and laity, scheduled to convene on 12 December, elects a new patriarch. The hierarchs also voted to bar another hierarch, Bishop Ihor of Kharkiv and Poltava, from the Church. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Counting votes in the 20 October elections is proceeding slowly. With results in from 1,726 of the 2,037 voting districts, the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) (TS[LK]) has won 29.4% of the vote, the Christian Democratic Party (KDP) 10.3%, the Democratic Labor Party 9.8%, the Center Union (CS) 8.2%, and the Social Democratic Party 6.8%. Although it is likely that the TS(LK) and the KDP will be able to gain a majority in the second round of voting, TS(LK) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis has said that he will ask the CS to join if necessary, Radio Lithuania reported. Candidates from at least 10 other parties will also compete in the second round. -- Saulius Girnius

The chairman of the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS), Ziedonis Cevers, has resigned as deputy prime minister, charging that Prime Minister Andris Skele is trying to establish authoritarian rule, BNS reported on 21 October. Cevers also criticized the draft budget as disadvantaging "ordinary people." He said he plans to return to the Saeima as a deputy. Reportedly, he will not submit a report on drafting a national security concept that was due today. Skele accepted the resignation and noted he was planning to abolish the posts of the four other deputy prime ministers. -- Saulius Girnius

Joachim Gauck, director of the German office in charge of the former East German secret service (Stasi) files, met on 21 October in Poland
with Polish Solidarity trade union leaders and leaders of Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), Rzeczpospolita reported. The AWS is considering consulting Gauck's institute on its candidates for the 1997 parliamentary elections and intends to take into consideration lists of Stasi collaborators submitted to the Polish parliament in 1992 by Antoni Macierewicz, at the time internal affairs minister. The AWS candidates are to be asked to answer an "ethical questionnaire," which will include questions about their collaboration with the secret police. According to Stanislaw Alot, member of the AWS coordinating team, the answers to those questionnaires will be verified after the AWS enters the parliament. -- Jakub Karpinski

Kostis Stephanopoulos, on the first day of his three-day visit to Warsaw, held talks with his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish dailies reported on 22 October. Stephanopoulos expressed his country's support for Poland's membership in the EU and NATO, adding that its admission should not depend on resolving issues such as the restructuring of Polish agriculture. This is the first time that a Greek president has visited Poland. Stephanopoulos's visit is expected to improve relations between the two countries, which have been strained over the 80,000 Polish illegal immigrants in Greece. Earlier this year, the two countries signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, which still has to be ratified. -- Beata Pasek

Ivan Gasparovic, speaking on the eve of the new parliamentary session, defended the controversial Penal Code amendment on the protection of the republic, Slovak media reported on 22 October. He stressed that Slovakia is "a small and young state and needs to have certain defense systems that would prevent ... the implementation of certain measures against Slovak statehood." The legislation, first approved in March but put aside following international protests, provides for punishing individuals who "spread false information" that could damage Slovakia's interests or who organize public rallies "with the intention of subverting the country's constitutional system, territorial integrity, or defense capability." Gasparovic said the amendment has been included on the parliamentary agenda at the ruling coalition's request. Reuters quoted him as saying that although he abstained from the vote in March, "if I had known what would happen later during the [July] Budapest conference ..., I would have probably pushed the 'yes' button." Participants at that conference called for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. -- Sharon Fisher

Concern among Hungarian politicians about possible conflicts of interest seem to have increased markedly, Hungarian media reported on 22 October. Ivan Peto, president of the co-governing Free Democratic Party, has said that his party's deputies will make their 1994 and 1996 asset statements available to the public. The senior coalition Socialist Party earlier ordered all deputies to clarify their business interests but said they could decide for themselves whether to make that information public. Meanwhile, Gyorgy Schamschula was expelled from the opposition Smallholders' Party on 21 October, following a government report that questioned Schamschula's handling of a 1993 privatization tender when he was transport minister. Smallholders' President Jozsef Torgyan said the payment of any type of commission or mediation fee is irreconcilable with the Smallholders' ideology. -- Ben Slay

The Statistics Office on 21 October revised upward its estimate for GDP in the first quarter of 1996, Hungarian dailies reported. Previous estimates had suggested a decline for that period, but the revised report shows GDP at the same level as for January-March 1995, suggesting that the recession associated with the introduction last year of the stabilization program is over. Meanwhile, Magyar Hirlap reported that the government's 1997 budget, which has been submitted to the parliament, calls for increased spending for the central ministries in real terms. This would be the first such increase since 1989. The ministries' budgets would increase by an average of 26% over 1996, while inflation in 1997 is projected at 17-19%. -- Ben Slay

The local elections slated for 23-24 November will be postponed until spring, OMRI's correspondent reported. An announcement to that effect is expected from the OSCE on 22 October. The ballot was first put off from 14 September because of massive fraud, particularly by the Serbs, in registering voters in strategically important towns where they had never lived. The new rules require that persons register only for places where they lived in 1991 or since the end of 1995. The Serbs have threatened to boycott the vote in protest, claiming that the new rules will disenfranchise 380,000 Serbian refugees, Novosti noted. The November ballot was also endangered by numerous technical problems. The decision to postpone the vote was reached in Washington, Oslobodjenje wrote. The Clinton administration had wanted the vote to go ahead in November so that it could claim that "Dayton is on track," as a spokesman told the VOA. Meanwhile, U.S. envoy John Kornblum brought the three members of the Bosnian Presidency together for a meeting on 22 October, OMRI's correspondent said. -- Patrick Moore

The Bosnian Serb authorities have resettled 32 refugees who were living in Zvornik into a village near Jusici, where Muslims have begun returning to their homes, Oslobodjenje reported on 22 October. Some 350 additional Muslim families from that area want to go back, too, Onasa noted. In a related development, Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragan Kijac said that the UN police have not been abiding by the agreement on the orderly resettlement and policing of the border area, Nasa Borba reported. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the Centrotrans bus company said it may cancel its new Belgrade bus line unless the federal Yugoslav authorities stop charging for visas and insurance, Oslobodjenje wrote. -- Patrick Moore

One second of television advertising time for parties competing in the 3 November elections can cost up to $113, Nasa Borba reported on 22 October. BK Television, particularly during broadcasts of the popular "Left-Right" program, is one of the most expensive channels. Morning prime-time and late afternoon spots on TV Studio B sell for about $30, while evening rates double. The most affordable spots are on TV Palma during weekdays, which sell for $10 per second. Meanwhile, opposition parties also have to contend with government influence over electronic media. Nasa Borba on 22 October carries a letter from the opposition Democratic Party to Serbia's minister of information summing up his influence over political reporting. The letter is published under the headline "If it Weren't So Tragic, It Would Be Comic." -- Stan Markotich

The Macedonian Health Ministry on 21 October announced that following the polio outbreak in Albania, a mandatory vaccination program for children will be launched, Reuters reported. Ministry officials also said that all Macedonian citizens traveling to Albania must prove that they were immunized against polio at least 15 days before their visit. At the same time, they stressed that they do not fear an epidemic in the border region. No cases of polio have been reported in Macedonia since 1987. -- Stefan Krause

The United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the successor to Slovenia's communist party, has said a government run by it would most likely not back Slovenia's NATO membership. Reuters on 21 October quoted ZLSD leader Janez Kocijancic as saying that "NATO is not the only alternative. The other is neutrality like in Austria, Sweden and Ireland." But he added his party would support the aim of joining the EU, noting there was no alternative to membership in the union. "Slovenians do not want to go back to the Balkans," he said. The ZLSD currently holds 14 of the 90 legislative seats. It was a member of the three-party governing coalition until its split early this year. -- Stan Markotich

Vocea Romaniei, citing the Spanish news agency EFE on 22 October, claims the U.S. has expressed support for Romania's and Slovenia's integration into NATO structures during the "first wave" of new members. The daily notes, however, that while President Bill Clinton is due to give an "important speech" later today, he "is not expected" to name these states as candidates for NATO. The report appears yet another attempt by the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania to manipulate voter opinion ahead of the upcoming elections. -- Michael Shafir

Emil Pop, chairman of the Bucharest branch of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), has resigned from his post and party membership, Radio Bucharest reported on 21 October. Since the Party of Social Democracy in Romania broke its coalition alliance with the PUNR last month, several prominent members have resigned, including former transport and justice ministers Aurel Novac and Iosif Gavril Chiuzbaian as well as the party's general-secretary, Valer Suian. The resignations indicate a growing conflict between Chairman Gheorghe Funar and his deputy, Ioan Gavra, on the one hand, and many party leaders, on the other. Meanwhile, Senator Ion Coja, a well-known nationalist anti-Semite, has rejoined the party and is running for the Senate on its ticket. Opinion polls suggest that the PUNR will fare badly in the 3 November elections. -- Michael Shafir

Novinar on 22 October reported that the Bulgarian police knows the identity of the man who killed former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov earlier this month. Citing an unnamed police source, the daily reported that the killer is a 36-year-old man from Harmanli, in southern Bulgaria. and that the police knows his whereabouts but has so far been unable to issue an arrest warrant through Interpol. According to Novinar, the man left Sofia on a plane to Moscow at 10:10 a.m. local time (50 minutes after the killing) and then traveled to Western Europe. The paper claimed that the killing cost $120,000 and that the gunman has so far received $20,000. Meanwhile, Trud has published a police sketch of the suspect, which the police have distributed to local police stations and border crossings. -- Stefan Krause

Former Bulgarian Socialist Party Chairman Alexander Lilov told the Duma on 22 October that Bulgaria's president will be elected in the second round and that the opposition's belief that it will win in the first round indicates its inability to analyze the situation. At a widely advertised meeting between the BSP presidential and vice presidential candidates -- Culture Minister Ivan Marazov and Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova -- and foreign investors, there was a poor turnout, Demokratsiya reported. Meanwhile, the company that has counted votes in elections since 1991 has refused to sign a contract with the Central Electoral Committee for the presidential ballot because, it says, the counting procedures are extremely complicated. The state firm Information Services, which is close to bankruptcy and already included in the mass privatization list, will officially count the votes. -- Maria Koinova

The Socialist Party on 21 October claimed numerous cases of irregularities during local elections the previous day, AFP reported. The Socialists alleged that voters in Fier, Vlora, Durres, Delvina, and Fushe-Kruja were intimidated and that secret police manipulated the vote at some polling stations. The Socialists however, pledged to participate in the run-off ballot. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has issued preliminary results suggesting that it won 61% of city halls, including Tirana, and 58% of commune seats. Reuters reported that the Socialists won only 6% of city halls and commune seats, down from more than 50% in 1992. President Sali Berisha said the result underscored the Democratic Party's triumph at the disputed parliamentary elections in May. In other news, bombs went off in Fier, Kruja, and Fushe-Kruje, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 22 October. No one claimed responsibility. -- Fabian Schmidt and Dukagjin Gorani