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Newsline - November 18, 1996

A powerful explosion killed at least 42 people and wrecked a nine-storey military apartment block with 82 units in the Dagestani city Kaspiisk on 16 November, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 16-18 November. At least 14 people are still missing. The explosive device, thought to equal 50 kg of TNT, blew up in a building inhabited by officers of the Russian Border Guards and their families. Observers believe that a specially trained terrorist group detonated the bomb. Possible suspects include opponents of the Chechen peace process, black marketeers in caviar, or local drug dealers. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visited the site of the explosion, while the Chechen government condemned the terrorist attack and sent condolences to the families of victims. -- Natalia Gurushina

Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov on 15 November ordered an investigation into a Moskovskii komsomolets article that contained a transcript of an alleged conversation among Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, and presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko, Russian and Western media reported. In the transcript, Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko discussed their involvement in the events of 19-20 June, when two Yeltsin campaign aides were detained carrying more than $500,000 out of a government building (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 November 1996). Chubais and Ilyushin also discussed ways to prevent Skuratov from bringing criminal charges against the two campaign aides and how to retrieve documents connected to the case from Skuratov. Skuratov did not comment on whether a telephone conversation between him and Ilyushin ever took place on 22 June; the transcript contained Ilyushin's side of the conversation. -- Laura Belin

Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Ilyushin, and presidential aide Krasavchenko all categorically denied that they met on 22 June and charged that the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets was fabricated, Russian media reported on 15 November. Chubais characterized the publication as an attempt to discredit the institution of the presidency following President Yeltsin's successful heart operation. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Krasavchenko suggested that the Communists manufactured the tape, which he said could have been spliced together from different conversations. Chubais and Ilyushin indicated that they will not sue Moskovskii komsomolets ; Chubais said additional publicity would merely help the newspaper's circulation. Ilyushin said one cannot sue the special services, which he argued were behind the publication, Segodnya reported on 16 November. -- Laura Belin

The State Duma on 15 November passed several resolutions in connection with the Moskovskii komsomolets publication, Russian media reported. The Duma asked President Yeltsin to instruct Procurator-General Skuratov to speed up his investigation of the 19-20 June events and whether Yeltsin's campaign was financed illegally, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma also asked the Audit Chamber to investigate the use of budget funds in Yeltsin's re-election campaign, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Another resolution, proposed by the Yabloko faction, asked Yeltsin to "immediately and unambiguously" state his own position on the taping of conversations among state officials, corruption among top state officials, and "the criminalization of the state as a whole." Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a strong opponent of Chubais, said he doubted the transcript was faked and told Ekho Moskvy that "the entire clique" should be sacked if "even one-hundredth" of the transcript is proven true. -- Laura Belin

President Yeltsin did not release any official comment on the Moskovskii komsomolets publication, although presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii described the transcript as another salvo in "the war of pseudo-compromising materials," ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. Yeltsin is expected to give his first public address following his heart operation on radio or television on 19 November. According to Kommersant-Daily on 16 November, Yeltsin had prepared a radio address to be broadcast on 15 November, but in the wake of the Moskovskii komsomolets article, the radio address did not go on the air. -- Laura Belin

Many commentators and Chubais himself have argued that Aleksandr Korzhakov, former chief of the Presidential Security Service, was the source of the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November. However, on 16 November Korzhakov denied any involvement in the taping of the alleged conversation between Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko, or in the publication of the transcript, Russian media reported. Korzhakov noted that he was sacked on 20 June, two days before the alleged conversation took place. Meanwhile, on 15 November Korzhakov was registered as a candidate for a Duma seat in Tula Oblast. As a registered candidate, Korzhakov is now protected by immunity from criminal prosecution. A special decision would have to be made by the procurator general to strip him of immunity. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

Chechen presidential security adviser Ahmed Zakaev met in Moscow with Russian government officials, including Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, on 15-16 November to discuss the final text of the agreement on the economic reconstruction of Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. The draft agreement is to be signed at an upcoming meeting between Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov. Also on 16 November, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev issued a decree on the resignation of Nikolai Koshman's government. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin described the resignation as a step toward reaching national reconciliation, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

At a 16 November congress in Urus Martan, delegates of the Chechen Islamic Path Party called for the nomination of a single candidate for the Chechen presidential election. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that he would stand as a presidential candidate only if there is at least one other candidate. -- Liz Fuller

Only nine governors have managed to hang on to their seats with 20 races complete following voting on 17 November (counting Amur Oblast where the opposition's victory has yet to be validated). Communist Duma member Aleksandr Chernogorov defeated incumbent Petr Marchenko in Stavropol Krai by 55% to 40%, ITAR-TASS reported. The former chairwoman of the okrug ispolkom, Valentina Bronievich, won 46% of the vote to defeat incumbent Sergei Leushkin in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. She becomes Russia's first woman governor. State Farm Director Valerii Maleev defeated the incumbent Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksei Batagaev 39%-23%. The incumbent governor of the Komi-Permyatsk Autonomous Okrug Nikolai Polyanov won a second term with 70% of the votes and 57% turnout. -- Robert Orttung

In Murmansk, there will be a runoff between the incumbent Yevgenii Komarov and the former chairman of the oblast soviet, Yurii Yevdokimov, backed by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Honor and Motherland, who respectively took 32% and 20% of the vote in a field of eight with 40% turnout. In Altai Krai, the Communist-backed chairman of the Krai legislature, Aleksandr Surikov, is leading incumbent Lev Korshunov, 47% to 43%, with 48% turnout. A runoff is set for 1 December. Additionally, Altai voters rejected the free buying and selling of agricultural land by a margin of 81% to 16% in a non-binding referendum. In Kamchatka, even though Governor Vladimir Biryukov leads his closest opponent, Boris Oleinikov, 48% to 11%, he also faces a runoff. -- Robert Orttung

Maj.-Gen. Georgii Oleinik, head of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate of Budget and Finance, told Radio Rossii on 15 November that the ministry has now paid all wage arrears for August. He also promised to liquidate arrears for September by the end of the month, and for October and November by 1 January 1997, although he added that repayment of overdue social benefits to servicemen remains in the "planning phase." -- Scott Parrish

In a sign of warming bilateral ties, Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda told his visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, that Tokyo will free $500 million in credits frozen since 1991, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 November. The credits, originally intended as humanitarian aid, will now be used by the Japanese Import-Export bank to invest in Russian industrial and commercial projects. Russian commentators optimistically said the decision indicated Japan is becoming more flexible and not focusing exclusively on the intractable territorial dispute over the southern Kurile Islands. However, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto warned Primakov that a related dispute over fishing rights in the waters around the islands could have a negative effect on bilateral ties if not resolved soon. -- Scott Parrish

A methane gas explosion killed nine miners and injured six others on 17 November in a Chelyabinsk Oblast coal mine. The mining company opened an investigation, since its methane gas detectors had not detected any dangerous concentration of the gas before the blast, according to NTV. In other news, six people died on 15 November in an explosion at a mine in Magadan Oblast, Radio Rossii reported. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

Russia's attempt to send a space mission to Mars has ended in failure, dealing another blow to the Russian space program, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 17-18 November. The $64 million probe, carrying scientific equipment from the U.S. and 20 European countries, was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan on 16 November and was expected to reach the planet in September 1997. However, due to problems with the booster (the Russian rocket Proton) it was unable to leave its orbit of the Earth and crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast. -- Natalia Gurushina

The Federation Council has approved 10 new bills on social policy, including the introduction of a 10% increase in the minimum pension as of 1 November. It also insisted that by 1 December the government undertake measures (which may include no-interest credits from the Central Bank) in order to repay wage arrears to budgetary organizations, as well as pension and social benefits arrears, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestiya, and Radio Mayak reported on 15-16 November. The Central Bank and the Finance Ministry both criticized the idea of printing money, however, arguing that it will not solve the problem, as the additional money is likely to go to the currency and state securities markets. The idea was also rejected by First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. -- Natalia Gurushina

Some 500 people gathered near the Academy of Sciences in Almaty to protest government policies on 17 November, Kazakstani TV reported. The rally, organized by the Azamat People's Movement, a confederation of independent trade unions, and pro-communist groups, did not receive official authorization as the government argued that organizers would not be able to "guarantee public order." Instead of holding an official rally, the organizers put on a "silent protest" and symbolically bound their mouths. Former Almaty Mayor Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a parliament deputy who has accused the government of corruption, also attended the rally. Police closely watched the rally; no violence was reported. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

Following the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court's 12 November decision invalidating Mukar Cholponbayev's election as parliament speaker, the Legislative Assembly of Kyrgyzstan convened on 15 November to select Usup Mukambayev to be the new speaker, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Cholponbayev had resigned on 13 November when the court found that he had not received the required majority of votes when elected in March 1995. At that time, only 29 of the 35 deputies were present, 17 of whom voted for Cholponbayev. In this latest vote, only 28 deputies were present, but 18 voted in favor of the 55-year-old Mukambayev. Cholponbayev was nominated again but refused the nomination. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

Tajik opposition forces took over the strategic city of Komsomolabad, 150 km east of the capital, Dushanbe, by 15 November without a fight, Russian media reported. Russia's NTV reported that the city is calm and the opposition has already replaced local officials. The opposition also controls a long stretch of highway leading west toward Dushanbe. Only 60 km separate government checkpoints on the outskirts of Dushanbe from opposition checkpoints on the same road, according to NTV. Opposition fighters are in positions only 12 km away from Dushanbe leaving the capital and the Khatlon region to the south as the only territory in Tajikistan under full government control. -- Bruce Pannier

Only about one-third of voters participated in the first round of the first-ever Czech Senate elections on 15-16 November, Czech media reported. The second round will take place next weekend, with the two candidates from each district who fared best in the first round running against each other. Candidates of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) qualified for the second round in 76 of the 81 electoral districts. Three other ODS candidates, including Prague Mayor Jan Koukal, won more than 50% of the vote in their districts and will not have to take part in a run-off. The opposition Social Democrats have qualified for the second round in 48 districts. Some analysts attribute the low turnout to the fact that the two-round majority system used in the Senate elections is new. Others point to the growing apathy among Czech voters following a series of major political scandals. -- Jiri Pehe

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people took part in a "March of Silence" in Minsk on 17 November to protest President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposals to increase his powers, Reuters reported. Ten people were arrested and some 20 were slightly injured. The demonstrators, carrying red and white Belarusian flags, marched on the parliament building where deputies were scheduled to hold an emergency session on the political situation in the republic. Lukashenka dismissed Central Electoral Commission chairman Viktar Ganchar on 14 November, thereby violating the constitution by interfering in the powers of the parliament. Meanwhile, First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Vasil Novikau said the Supreme Soviet has begun impeachment procedures against the president. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

Leaders of all caucuses have signed a statement condemning a draft law on the withdrawal of Ukrainian military from Sevastopol, UNIAN reported on 15 November. The bill was proposed by Ivan Symonenko of the Soyuz caucus,
who demanded that the Ukrainian "occupational forces" pull out from Sevastopol by 1 July 1997. Symonenko described Crimea as a Ukrainian colony and Sevastopol as a temporarily occupied city. The Rukh caucus has demanded that Symonenko be stripped of his parliamentary immunity and prosecuted. It also called for the dismissal of parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz and his first deputy, Oleksander Tkachenko, for "turning a blind eye to the anti-state activities of some deputies." -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, during a visit to Kyiv 14-16 November aimed at boosting bilateral ties, said that Hungary does not want to have nuclear weapons on its territory if it is accepted into NATO, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 15 November. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma confirmed that the two countries have no differences over the issue of NATO enlargement and European security. An agreement was signed on taking care of military graves and the maintenance of memorials. The two leaders attended the opening of a reconstructed bridge across the border River Tisza on 16 November. Goncz also visited the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, which is home to some 170,000 ethnic Hungarians. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, who is also Coalition Party chairman, last week signed a cooperation agreement with Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, ETA reported. No mention is made in that agreement about the Center Party joining the ruling coalition or other agreements made by the two groups with third parties being revoked. But together with the Russian Party in Estonia and United People's Party, Vahi and Savisaar's parties ousted former Prime Minister Mart Laar as Tallinn city council chairman and elected Savisaar as his replacement. Reform Party Mayor Priit Vilba resigned in protest. He has been replaced by Robert Lepikson of the Coalition Party. -- Saulius Girnius

Russian Border Guards chief Andrei Nikolaev and his Latvian counterpart, Gundars Dabolins, signed two cooperation protocols in Riga on 15 November, BNS reported. Those documents provide for cooperation in border protection and greater joint efforts to combat organized crime, illegal migration, and the smuggling of drugs, radioactive substances, weapons, and ammunition. Nikolaev also held talks with Prime Minister Andris Skele and Interior Minister Dainis Turlais. His scheduled meeting with President Guntis Ulmanis the next day was canceled following a bomb attack on an apartment building in Dagestan where border guard officials and their families were living. Nikolaev flew to Dagestan to be present at the scene of the attack. -- Saulius Girnius

Forty-four illegal aliens from Sri Lanka have been detained in provisional quarters at police headquarters in Kielce, central Poland, Polish media reported on 18 November. The police said there were no vacancies at any Polish detention center. Poland has 24 such centers, which together can accommodate up to 400 illegal aliens awaiting deportation. According to the Polish Border Guards, the number of illegal aliens in Poland has been growing. So far this year, 12,000 people have been detained. The Border Guards estimate that about 20% of those trying to illegally cross Poland's borders are successful. -- Beata Pasek

The Polish Economic Alliance (PPG), an organization of businessmen associated with the opposition Movement for Poland's Reconstruction (ROP), convened for its first congress on 17 November. Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, who is the leader of the ROP, told the congress that in the last seven years, "Mafia-style" capitalism has been created in Poland. He said that the appropriation of state assets by nomenklatura members has resulted in a mixture of "state and family capitalism." Dariusz Grabowski, head of the ROP's economic team, was elected president of the PPG. He told the congress that the planned reform of local administration--which is to introduce three levels of administration instead of the current two--will be "a noose around businessmen necks." He added that businessmen will be financing the new functionaries, who, in turn, will be serving the present authorities. -- Jakub Karpinski

Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Radio and TV Markiza on 17 November, called on his unsuccessful opponents to leave politics and warned against "disinformation" in the media. He pointed out that politicians who have already been defeated several times cannot be "in favor" and are only "traumatizing" society by pursuing political struggles. He also commented that he values the past seven years of democratization and the significance of the "velvet revolution." Slovakia is doing very well in the transformation process, Meciar said. But he noted that "big social differences" are emerging and that these are disappointing to the people. -- Anna Siskova

NOFRA, the publisher of Narodna obroda, voted on 14 November to dismiss Tatiana Repkova from her posts as the daily's editor-in-chief and NOFRA director, Narodna obroda reported two days later. NOFRA's new director is Nina Rasiova, who worked for the pro-government regional daily Luc. Repkova's deputy, Ivo Nittmann, replaces her as editor-in-chief. In June, the east Slovak ironworks VSZ, which has close ties to the government, gained 100% of NOFRA's shares. In other news, the Slovak Constitutional Court on 14 November ruled in favor of President Michal Kovac in his dispute with Prosecutor-General Michal Valo over presidential pardons. Valo filed the case after Kovac pardoned former secret service agent Oskar Fegyveres, who admitted to participating in the kidnapping of Kovac's son. The court ruled that Valo's refusal to enact a presidential pardon was unconstitutional. Valo declined to comment but said he "fully respected" the ruling. -- Sharon Fisher

Several Hungarian Socialist Party members have proposed a cabinet reshuffle in December or January, Magyar Hirlap reported on 18 November. They argue this would be the party's last chance to make changes that might considerably improve its performance in the 1998 elections. Meanwhile, a heated debate took place at a 16 November meeting of the national council of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) over whether the party should remain in coalition with the Socialists. The SZDSZ has been divided over the issue since forming that coalition in 1994, but a recent privatization scandal that embarrassed both parties has intensified the debate. Some SZDSZ members, including party president Ivan Peto and Culture Minister Balint Magyar, were in favor of remaining in government, but several others pushed the leadership to quit the coalition. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

Tens of thousands of supporters of the Democratic Convention of Romania celebrated early today Emil Constantinescu's victory in the presidential elections, Romanian media reported. Official results of the 17 November second round of voting are due later this week, but exit polls show Constantinescu comfortably ahead of incumbent President Ion Iliescu. IRSOP estimates that Constantinescu is leading by 53.8% to 46.2%, while IMAS puts the figures at 53.5% to 46.5%. Iliescu has conceded defeat and said he will respect the wishes of the electorate. Constantinescu noted that the country's new leaders do not intend to exact vengeance. "The time for hate is over," he said. "There will be no persecution [or] punishment. We are going to build, not destroy." -- Michael Shafir

Incumbent President Mircea Snegur will face parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi in the second round of the Moldovan presidential elections, scheduled for 1 December. The two beat out seven other candidates taking part in the first round on 17 November. Official results are due later this week. Meanwhile, preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission and reported by BASA press indicate Snegur won 38.24% of the vote and Lucinschi 24.90%. Vladimir Voronin, chairman of the Moldovan Communists' Party, took third with 11.59% and was followed by Premier Andrei Sangheli with 11.02%. Voter turnout was 67%, considerably lower than the 80% registered in the parliamentary elections two years ago. -- Michael Shafir

Franjo Tudjman was secretly admitted to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington for cancer surgery at the end of last week, CNN reported on 15 November. Unnamed U.S. medical officials and a Croatian diplomat told CNN and news agencies that his condition is quite poor and that he may not recover. Other Croatian officials initially spoke of routine tests, but his personal physician and an embassy spokeswoman claimed the president's condition is "excellent" and that he will soon be back at his desk and on the tennis courts, news agencies and Slobodna Dalmacija noted on 18 November. Word of possible cancer surgery came as a surprise to most observers because Tudjman (74) is an athletic non-smoker. Neither the opposition nor his own party has any readily identifiable strong candidate for the presidential vote slated for 1997, Novi List added. -- Patrick Moore

Cashiered Gen. Ratko Mladic and 80 officers sacked with him still refuse to accept their dismissal and are demanding negotiations with President Biljana Plavsic. She has so far refused to see his emissaries or acknowledge that there is anything to negotiate. Mladic's spokesmen continue to warn that the standoff could degenerate into civil war between his loyalists, on the one hand, and the civilian authorities, the police, and the pro-Plavsic military, on the other. Last week, the civilians shut down Mladic's radio station. It has since emerged that Mladic's backers took over the Zep television relay station on 12 November, thereby crippling the Republika Srpska TV network, Nasa Borba reported on 18 November. Plavsic ordered the sackings on 9 November in the hope of ending the long-lasting power struggle between the civilian and military authorities of the Republika Srpska. Plavsic has acquired the support of the international community, who had long pressed her to fire the indicted war criminal. -- Patrick Moore

The second round of voting in local elections in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia took place on 17 November. According to Beta, early returns suggest that opposition candidates have scored major victories in Belgrade as well as in a number of cities, including Nis and Kragujevac, both bastions of support for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party. Should Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party and candidate of the opposition coalition Zajedno (Together), succeed in his bid to become mayor of Belgrade, he would be the city's first non-communist mayor since 1945. Official results are not expected before 19 November. Only 27% of the 7,670 local seats were filled in the 3 November ballot. -- Stan Markotich

Croatian Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak met with his federal Yugoslav counterpart, Vukasin Jokanovic, in Belgrade on 15 November to discuss the powers and organization of their ministries, Tanjug reported. They also tackled the subject of cooperation in crime prevention and combatting "international terrorism." A bilateral agreement may be reached following a visit by Jokanovic to Zagreb, Tanjug noted. The talks were held within "the framework of the implementation of the agreement on the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Croatia." -- Stan Markotich

President Kiro Gligorov's Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia is expected to have won most of the seats in Macedonia's first local elections since 1991, AFP reported. Albanian parties in western Macedonia may win up to 40 town councils, Reuters said. In Tetovo and Skopje brawls broke out between supporters of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians (PPDSH), Nova Makedonija reported. The PPD reportedly lost against the PPDSH in most mainly ethnic Albanian constituencies. Neither preliminary results nor exit polls have been published yet. The ballot was monitored by 73 foreign observers who were due to visit some 600 out of 2,631 polling stations. -- Fabian Schmidt

Opposition parties said that many voters, including at least two opposition candidates, could not vote because their names were not on election lists, AFP reported. They also claimed that the number of registered voters in some constituencies was greater than the number of inhabitants. Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization spokesman Dragi Ivanovski is quoted by Reuters as saying that the Social Democrats have been seeking "a very small turnout so that the system of fraud can start functioning." He added that many people's names had been removed from electoral lists and that in one Skopje district, three streets had "disappeared." The OSCE monitoring mission said it is still too early to comment on complaints. Social Democrat spokesman Nake Stojanovski rejected the allegations. -- Fabian Schmidt

Zhelyu Zhelev went on national television and radio on 15 November to appeal to the parliamentary parties to form a new government capable of resolving the country's economic crisis, RFE/RL and international media reported. Zhelev said the Bulgarian Socialist Party should make "instant changes" to its government or else cede power. He added that if neither the BSP nor the opposition can form a new government, an expert government "with guaranteed parliamentary support" should be set up. The same day, Zhelev called on the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, and Russia to support "the last desperate efforts to save the reforms in Bulgaria." He asked for "expert, financial, moral, and political support" for the possible introduction of a currency board, proposed by IMF officials as a "key element" to stabilize the economy. -- Stefan Krause

The U.S.-based General Chemical Group will purchase 60% of the state-owned Sodi Devnya works, a plant providing about 10% of the world's calcinated soda, RFE/RL reported on 15 November, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Rumen Gechev. The deal, said to be worth $160 million, follows the government's recent move to satisfy IMF requirements for speeding up privatization. In other news, bank depositors over the last 10 months have lost 43.38 leva out of each 100 leva deposited, Demokratsiya and Standart reported on 18 November. Standart also wrote that real inflation in 1996 is 538%, while the official rate is 200%. -- Maria Koinova

A dispute between dental students and Muslims training to be priests over a large building at Tirana University has been resolved, international agencies reported. Minister of Higher Education Besnik Gjongecaj announced that two floors will be used by the dental students and two by the novice Muslim priests. A court ruled last week that the building should be returned to its former owner, the Muslim community. That decision prompted protests by the dental students and brawls with the police. The building was a Muslim school until such institutions were banned in Albania in 1967. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave