YELTSIN, CLINTON DISCUSS SUMMIT AGENDA.
During a 27 February telephone
conversation, President Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, agreed
on an agenda for their scheduled 20-21 March summit in Helsinki, Russian and
Western agencies reported. The meeting will focus on three broad
topics--European security and NATO expansion, arms control, and bilateral
economic ties. Other issues, such as the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy's
evasion of U.S. export controls on supercomputers, could also come up. The
Journal of Commerce reported on 27 February that the U.S. may ask Moscow to
return the IBM RS/6000 SP computer it recently bought through an unspecified
European middleman (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 February 1997). The
computer can perform 10,000 million theoretical operations per second (MTOPS),
while U.S. regulations require individual approval of any sales to Russia of
computers capable of more than 2,000 MTOPS. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN DISPARAGES THE BUDGET.
In a short, four minute radio address on
28 February, President Yeltsin said he was "reluctant" to sign the budget on 25
February because he doubted the government could fulfill its conditions,
ITAR-TASS. Yeltsin blamed the Duma for altering the draft budget under the
influence of "populism and lobbying interests." The government is already being
forced to resort to issuing state bonds and even more nebulous "state
guarantees" in lieu of cash payments. For example, gold miners are complaining
that the Finance Ministry is paying off its 1.8 trillion ruble ($320 million)
debt for gold deliveries with state bonds, Izvestiya reported on 28
February. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told the Financial Times
on 25 February that the government will try to limit state guarantees for
commercial bank loans to 4 trillion rubles this year. -- Peter Rutland
YELTSIN MEETS FAR EAST MILITARY DISTRICT COMMANDER.
met on 27 February with Col.-Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, commander of the Far East
Military District, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechevatov, widely
rumored to be a possible successor to Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, denied
afterwards that he and Yeltsin had discussed personnel issues. Unlike Rodionov,
who has repeatedly warned that the Russian military is on the verge of
disintegration, Chechevatov termed the current situation "serious" but added
that "the troops are controllable and capable of functioning." In his 28
February radio address, Yeltsin did not mention Rodionov, who the previous day
canceled a scheduled 3-5 March visit to Armenia. The president reaffirmed his
commitment to introducing a professional military. While admitting that the
1997 budget provides inadequate funding for military reform, he called on the
armed forces to exploit unspecified "reserves" to finance it. -- Scott
UNIONS TO GO AHEAD WITH NATIONAL PROTEST DESPITE GOVERNMENT PLEA.
General Council of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) resolved
on 27 February to go ahead with a national day of protest on 27 March despite a
government request that the action be called off, RTR reported. An early NTV
report said Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan met with FNPR Chairman Mikhail
Shmakov in an attempt to halt the protest, but it later quoted Melikyan as
saying their meeting was not directly linked to the day of action. After
confirming that the protest would go ahead, the FNPR council appealed to
President Yeltsin to sack the government because of its failure to prevent the
growth in wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. Arrears total about 49 trillion
rubles ($8.6 billion), of which 9.5 billion are owed by the state. Communist
leader Gennadii Zyuganov told the council that the KPRF will take an active
part in the protest. -- Penny Morvant
MORE CRITICISM OF ORT COVERAGE.
Russian Public TV (ORT) has frequently
drawn criticism from various opposition politicians; during the last week, the
State Duma revoked the accreditation of an ORT correspondent and
representatives of the Agrarian Union complained about ORT coverage of their
recent conference, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. But increasingly,
supporters of Yeltsin are also speaking out against the network. Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov recently accused ORT of carrying out a campaign to discredit him
(inspired by Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Security Council
Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii), and ORT General Director Sergei Blagovolin
criticized his own network's coverage of Luzhkov, Izvestiya reported on
28 February. Izvestiya commented that Berezovskii remains the most
influential figure at ORT, despite having officially left the network's board
of directors in December. Blagovolin will likely be replaced soon, perhaps with
ORT News Director Kseniya Ponomareva, the paper added. -- Laura Belin
YELTSIN TO RESHUFFLE PUBLIC RELATIONS TEAM.
President Yeltsin has
decided to reshuffle his public relations team in apparent dissatisfaction with
its work during his illness, Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote on 28 February.
The paper also expects the presidential press service to be reorganized in the
near future; presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the press
service "will diminish its activity, because President Yeltsin wants to
increase the number of his own meetings with journalists." The paper argued
that the reshuffle in Yeltsin's public relations team may be linked to Anatolii
Chubais's possible move from presidential chief of staff to first deputy prime
minister (see OMRI Daily Digest 27 February 1997). Both Yastrzhembskii
and Mikhail Lesin, who resigned as chief of public relations for the
presidential administration this week, are close to Chubais. -- Nikolai
CHECHNYA ADOPTS DEATH PENALTY FOR KIDNAPPING.
Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov on 27 February decreed that kidnapping will be punishable by death in
Chechnya. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev told
Kommersant-Daily that 349 people were reported to have been kidnapped in
the republic between December 1994 and January 1997, although the actual number
may be much higher. Two Russian TV (RTR) journalists were recently released and
one Italian reporter remains in captivity. The kidnappings could be result of
conflicts between Chechen field commanders, or part of an effort to show
Maskhadov's inability to control the republic. The kidnappers may simply be
criminals intent on extorting money. The Chechen decree came on the anniversary
of Russia's admission to the Council of Europe. The council has protested
Russia's failure to carry out its promise to eliminate the death penalty. Over
the past year, Russia has executed more than 50 convicts, although none since
August. -- Robert Orttung
PRIMAKOV IN LONDON.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with
British Prime Minister John Major in London on 27 February to discuss European
security and bilateral ties, ITAR-TASS reported. A member of the Russian
delegation told the agency that Primakov was "satisfied" with the talks, adding
that Major had expressed support for concluding a NATO-Russia charter prior to
the alliance's planned July summit, at which prospective East European members
will be invited to begin accession talks. Primakov, however, said that the
content of the charter, which Moscow insists take the form of a legally binding
agreement, is more important than its timing. Noting recent critical commentary
on NATO's expansion plans in the British press, ITAR-TASS noted that Primakov's
visit, which includes a 28 February address to the Royal Institute of
International Affairs, is aimed at influencing British public opinion on the
issue. -- Scott Parrish
KUZNETSOV ON AVRASYA TRIAL, WEAPONS SALES.
Russian Ambassador to Turkey
Vadim Kuznetsov has expressed Moscow's concerns over the trial of nine people
who were allegedly involved in the highjacking of the Avrasya ferryboat
in January 1996, Cumhuriyet reported on 27 February. Kuznetsov said he
is disturbed at the Istanbul State Security Court's decision to try the ongoing
case as "interference in the vessel's direction" rather than a terrorist act.
He also said Russia is prepared to sell Turkey a wide variety of arms,
including assault helicopters, missile systems, tanks, and light arms.
Kuznetzov delivered his twin messages to Turkish reporters the day after
Turkish Defense Minister said Ankara would look "elsewhere" for its military
hardware needs if the U.S. does not annul a congressional suspension imposed on
a delivery of weapons originally headed for Turkey. -- Julide Mollaoglu
ANGRY MINERS STORM GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN KEMEROVO OBLAST.
A group of
miners from the town of Salair in Kemerovo Oblast broke into the local city
administration building on 27 February to protest wage arrears, ITAR-TASS
reported. The staff of the loss-making Salair lead and zinc mining enterprise
have not been paid for nine months but have been able to purchase bread in
exchange for tokens, according to Kommersant-Daily on 28 February. On 25
February, when bread deliveries did not arrive in the town's shops, the workers
decided to march on the building; another group stormed the enterprise's
accounting office and demanded a meeting with the oblast administration.
Kemerovo Oblast deputy head Dmitrii Chirakadze said the authorities have sent
money to Salair to cover the wages of budget workers and social benefits in an
attempt to help the miners' families, but the workers have not yet been paid.
-- Penny Morvant
OIL PRIVATIZATION PLANS.
The State Privatization Committee (GKI) has
approved a plan for the privatization of Rosneft, Ekho Moskvy reported on 27
February. The state will retain 51% of the shares, 25% will be offered to
Rosneft workers, and 24% will be sold in public auction, which is expected to
raise 500 billion rubles ($88 million). Rosneft is about the ninth largest oil
company in Russia: in 1996 produced 13.1 million metric tons of oil and refined
4.8 million tons. Rosneft plans to issue Eurobonds worth $200 million in March,
Segodnya reported on 25 February. Izvestiya on 27 February wrote
that the Ministry of Fuel and Energy plans to create a new oil conglomerate
comprising Rosneft, Slavneft, Vostochnya Oil, and Sibur, which would control
15-20% of the oil sector. Unlike the natural gas industry, the oil industry was
broken up into 16 independent companies after 1991. -- Peter Rutland
NEW CASUALTIES IN ABKHAZIA.
Three Abkhaz soldiers were shot dead in
Abkhazia's troubled Gali district by unidentified gunmen, according to a 25
February Sakinform report monitored by the BBC. The commander of the Russian
peacekeeping forces, Maj.-Gen. Dolya Babenkov, warned that his troops will
"adequately react to any terrorist acts," ITAR-TASS reported. Abkhaz Foreign
Minister Konstantin Ozgan accused Georgia of starting a "terrorist war" against
its breakaway republic. Igor Akhba, the Abkhaz representative to Russia, said
that the recent outbreak of violence is a sign of an impending "forcible
resolution" of the Abkhaz conflict by Georgia. Meanwhile, according to 26
February BGI (news agency) report monitored by BBC, Abkhaz President Vladislav
Ardzinba said that the republic's parliament is currently preparing a
declaration of independence from Georgia. -- Emil Danielyan
ARMENIA TO SEEK A NEW KIND OF U.S. AID.
During a meeting with a group of
U.S. Congressmen in Washington, Armenian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanyan
called for a "new kind" of U.S. aid to Armenia, RFE/RL reported on 26 February.
Arzumanyan argued that Armenia, the second largest per capita recipient of U.S.
aid among the former Soviet states, has reached the point where it needs more
development and technical assistance, rather than humanitarian aid, in order to
attract foreign investment. A spokesman for the Armenian Embassy in Washington,
Mikael Bagratuni, told RFE/RL that the Armenian delegation requested a meeting
with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright but was told that she is
"recuperating from her around-the-world trip." -- Emil Danielyan
TURKMEN PRESIDENT IN ALMATY.
Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev
and his visiting Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurad Niyazov, discussed a wide
range of regional issues, particularly the Caspian Sea, and signed a clutch of
intergovernmental agreements in Almaty on 27 February, Russian and Western
media reported the same day. Nazarbayev was quoted as saying that the two-day
official visit represents a "breakthrough in all respects" and said the two
countries have "immense" common interests, specifically pointing to their
desire to export hydrocarbon reserves. Both presidents declared their belief
that the Caspian should be temporarily divided into national sectors to avoid
conflict while the sea's legal status is defined. The two sides also signed
several agreements on cooperation, including investment protection, double
taxation, and cooperation in the spheres of science, technology, health care,
and tourism. -- Lowell Bezanis
The Tajik Presidential Guard and the United Tajik
Opposition forces have been launching attacks against forces loyal to the
outlaw Sadirov brothers since 25 February, Russian and Western media reported
on 27 February. The Tajik government claims to have killed 21 members of the
gang and driven the pro-Sadirov group out of the Obi-Garm area, while the UTO
forces claim to have killed another 25. The region's difficult terrain makes it
unlikely that the Sadirov band will be quickly defeated. Meanwhile, the latest
round of inter-Tajik talks, begun on 26 February, continued in Moscow on 27
February and are expected to go on for another week, ITAR-TASS reported the
same day. In other news, 13 metric tons of emergency medical supplies, for
combating an outbreak of typhoid fever in Tajikistan reached Dushanbe from
Moscow on 27 February, Russian media reported the same day. The Tajik
authorities have thanked Russia for aid estimated at 4 billion rubles
($700,000). -- Lowell Bezanis
The OMRI Daily Digest of 26 February incorrectly
reported that Topchubek Turgunaliev, the chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan
party, will reside in Bishkek and report monthly to the authorities. In fact,
he is being sent to Penal Colony no. 34, 30 km from Bishkek, to serve his
four-year sentence, RFE/RL reported on 26 February.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY ROUNDUP.
The parliamentary Human Rights
Commission has said that banning the death penalty in Ukraine now would be
"untimely," ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. It proposes a gradual
introduction of life imprisonment, saying that it is taking into consideration
public opinion and the lack of facilities for maintaining life prisoners. The
Council of Europe sharply criticized Ukraine last month for failing to honor
its commitment to stop executions. Meanwhile, the parliament has passed an
amendment granting Ukrainian citizenship to all citizens of the former USSR who
have been permanent residents in Ukraine since the country gained independence
in 1991. Another amendment stipulates that Ukraine will not extradite Ukrainian
citizens, except in special cases stipulated by international law and approved
by the Ukrainian parliament. In other news, the radical right Ukrainian
National Assembly has expelled several of its extremist members in an effort to
become a parliamentary-style party, NTV reported on 27 February. -- Oleg
ANOTHER ANTI-KUCHMA PLOT REVEALED IN UKRAINIAN PRESS.
newspaper Nezavisimost has published an article alleging that several
Ukrainian deputies have been collaborating with Russia to remove President
Leonid Kuchma from power, Izvestiya and NTV reported on 27 February.
According to several unconfirmed documents, a team was to start a
disinformation campaign linking the November killing of deputy Yevhen Shcherban
to Kuchma and Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. An official from a "foreign
power" (meaning Russia) is reported to have felt that Kuchma should be removed
by the end of the year because of his pro-Western orientation and that those
who participated in his ouster could replace him. In mid-January, a similar
article appeared in Vseukrainskiye vedomosti alleging Russian officials
were plotting a disinformation campaign that would lead to Kuchma's
impeachment. There has been no official reaction from Kyiv to the article, and
the editor-in-chief of Nezavisimost was unavailable to respond to NTV's
questions. -- Ustina Markus
RUSSIAN MILITARY DELEGATION IN UKRAINE.
A Russian military delegation
headed by Col.-Gen. Viktor Smirnov, commander of the Missile and Space Defense
Forces, has arrived in Kyiv for talks about Russia's continued use of an
early-warning radar station on Ukrainian territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 27
February. The Ukrainian side will be represented in the talks by the commander
of the Air Defense Forces Oleksandr Stetsenko. Ukraine and Russia want an
agreement on an early warning system in case of a missile attack and a system
to monitor the cosmic air space. The same day, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Vladimir Andreev said Russia will not participate in August naval
exercises on the Black Sea with other NATO and Partnership for Peace countries
because it would "complicate the situation in the region." -- Ustina Markus
HUMAN RIGHTS IN BELARUS.
According to the Chairwoman of the Belarusian
Helsinki Committee, Tatsyana Pratsko, Belarus is "on a par with Iran or Iraq"
as regards human rights, Belapan reported on 26 February. Pratsko said the
least respect is being shown for civil rights, such as personal freedom and
security, equality before the law, presumption of innocence, freedom from
interference in private life, and freedom of movement. Pratsko considers the
requirement of residence registration to be "the crudest violation of the right
to free choice of abode." Other rights most frequently abused are freedom of
speech, the right to receive and spread information, and the freedom to hold
peaceful demonstrations, she noted. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
NEW ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER NOMINATED.
President Lennart Meri on 27
February named Deputy Chairman of the Coalition Party Mart Siimann as candidate
for prime minister, ETA reported. Siimann, a 50-year-old psychologist, was the
director-general of state-run Eesti TV and the private station RTV. He is
required to submit his government's program to the parliament within 14 days.
If it is approved by a majority of deputies, he has seven days to present his
cabinet to the president for final approval. Siimann is likely to get the
support of about two-thirds of the parliament, but it is still unclear if any
other parties will join the minority coalition. Siimann has said that he will
retain most ministers from the previous government. -- Saulius Girnius
LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER APPROVED.
The Saeima on 27 February approved
the appointment of Roberts Zile, head of the parliamentary budget and finance
committee, as finance minister, Reuters reported. The portfolio has been at the
center of controversy since October 1996, when Aivars Kreituss had to resign
after being expelled by the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS). Premier Andris
Skele filled the post temporarily but later resigned as premier in the wake of
the controversy caused by the appointment of DPS candidate Vasilijs Melniks as
new finance minister (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 January 1997). Unable to
find a candidate acceptable to Skele, the DPS has had to accept Zile, who is a
deputy of For the Fatherland and Freedom. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH SOLIDARITY PROVES INTRANSIGENT OVER CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES.
Solidarity has sent a note to Sejm speaker Jozef Zych outlining its position on
constitutional issues, Polish media reported on 27 February. It argues that "it
is imperative to guarantee the protection of the right to life from conception
to natural death." The constitution preamble should invoke God's name and
stress the heritage of Christian faith and culture, according to Solidarity. It
should also stress the achievements of the pre-war Second Republic and pay
tribute to patriotic resistance "against foreign domination from 1944 to 1989."
Solidarity insists that two drafts of the constitution be put to a referendum.
Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the secretary of the Catholic Episcopate, has come out
in support of the Solidarity statement "as a first step toward negotiations."
The main parliamentary parties, including the co-ruling Democratic Left
Alliance, were very critical of the statement. Labor Union leader Ryszard Bugaj
called it "unacceptable." -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH DEPUTIES STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY.
The lower house on 27
February voted to strip three deputies from the extremist Republican Party of
their parliamentary immunity, Czech media reported. Republican leader Miroslav
Sladek is suspected of spreading national and racial hatred when he told a
January demonstration against the Czech-German declaration about his regret
that more Germans were not killed during World War II. The two other deputies,
Josef Krejsa and Rudolf Smucr, are wanted by the police for kicking wreaths
during a memorial ceremony in Terezin, the site of a Nazi ghetto for Jews
during World War II. Another two Republican deputies suspected of assault and
national and racial hatred, respectively, were not stripped of their immunity.
Most governing coalition deputies voted in favor of stripping the immunity of
all five, while most Social Democratic deputies voted against. -- Victor
CZECH GOVERNING COALITION AGREES ON RENT DEREGULATION.
The leaders of
the Czech governing coalition on 27 February agreed at a special deregulation
conference that rent controls are to be almost completely lifted by 2000, Czech
media reported. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said that from that year on, rent
controls will apply only to housing for certain segments of society, such as
those who are disabled. The coalition also agreed that rent controls be
gradually lifted and at different speeds in communities of different sizes.
According to a Finance Ministry proposal, rents are to increase in Prague by
100% this year, while they will go up by 62% in cities with more than 100,000
residents. The state will also offer social assistance to low income earners as
compensation for the deregulation. -- Victor Gomez
SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE.
Constitutional Court has ruled that government directives on issuing and
trading National Property Fund (FNM) bonds are unconstitutional, Slovak media
reported on 27 February. Forty-six deputies had appealed to the court to
examine the directives, which, they argued, contravene the laws on mass
privatization and securities. The court ruled that, under Slovak law, only the
Securities Bourse, the RM-System Slovakia, and legal entities authorized by the
Ministry of Finance, can organize securities markets.
As the Slovak
government granted the FNM the power to do so, the government went beyond its
powers, according to the court. The government now has six months to amend the
directives to comply with the law. -- Anna Siskova
SLOVAK RULING PARTY "AFRAID" OF AUTHORITIAN REGIME.
The Movement for
Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is not entirely opposed to direct presidential
elections, HZDS deputy Jan Cuper said. He added that a constitutional guarantee
should be introduced to prevent the abuse of power in that office, otherwise
the presidency could be used to create an authoritarian regime. Cuper noted
that Premier Vladimir Meciar is drawing up an amendment to the Constitution
that, he noted, should "solve" the problem of the Constitutional Court's power,
Slovak media reported. According to Meciar, the Constitutional Court should not
be empowered to interpret the constitution but rather should focus on deciding
whether laws are in accordance with the constitution. In other news
parliamentary spokesman Ivan Gasparovic (HZDS) has discussed with U.S.
Ambassador Ralph Johnson the Slovak referendum on NATO membership. -- Anna
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONCESSIONS TO FARMERS' DEMANDS.
cabinet on 27 February approved proposals to meet most demands by farmers who
have been protesting since the beginning of this week, Hungarian media
reported. Tax procedures are to be simplified and farmers' tax and social
insurance burdens eased. Small-scale protests are continuing throughout the
country, and farmers' representatives will decide whether to accept the
government's offer later today at a mass rally in Kiskoros, south Hungary.
Istvan Jakab, president of the National Federation of Farmers, said the
cabinet's concessions meet only some of the federation's demands. He added that
his organization intends to proceed with plans to stage a nationwide
road-blocking protest on 10 March. Meanwhile, Sandor Orosz, chairman of the
parliament's agriculture committee, acknowledged the legitimacy of the farmers'
demands but criticized the cabinet for "giving in" to the protests. -- Zsolt
ALBANIAN HUNGER STRIKES CONTINUE.
Forty-six students in the southern
town of Gjirokaster have launched a hunger strike to show solidarity with
hunger strikers in the city of Vlora, where students are demanding the
resignation of the government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1997),
local media reported. Meanwhile in Tirana, Premier Alexander Meksi told the
parliament that the country is on the verge of total economic collapse.
International media reported that police blockaded main roads in the capital
city, cordoning off much of the university area. Students staged a second day
of protests and boycotted classes. -- Stan Markotich
MILOSEVIC TO FACE SOCIALIST-DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE?
Bogoljub Karic, one of
the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Serbia, is rumored to be considering forming a
Social Democratic Party to directly challenge President Slobodan Milosevic's
Socialist Party of Serbia in republican elections slated for this year,
Belgrade independent media reported on 27 February. Dnevni Telegraf said
that Karic's party would include such high-profile members and possible
parliamentary candidates as former Serbian Premier Milan Panic. While Karic
himself did not confirm the reports, his television station BK Television
reported he will run for president in elections also slated for this year. But
Vecernje novosti runs an article today downplaying announcements of
Karic's interest in politics, noting he has not yet announced his candidacy. In
other news, deans of several faculties voted to sack the controversial and
staunchly pro-Milosevic rector of Belgrade University on 27 February. The
deans, however, have no authority to enforce that decision. -- Stan Markotich
IS CRACKDOWN ON MOSTAR NATIONALISTS ONLY A BLUFF?
Following the UN
report on the violent clashes in Mostar earlier this month, both Croatia and
Bosnian Croats have begun a crackdown on Mostar's Croatian warlords (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1997). Croatia has arrested the leader of
Mostar's paramilitary mafia, Mladen Naletilic Tuta, while Bosnian Croats have
arrested five Croatian men and issued warrants for the arrest of another three,
according to Reuters. But UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said the arrest of
criminals and the UN police report were two separate issues. He noted that if
this were a crackdown on organized crime, it was "extremely welcome." But at
the same time, he said the UN cannot confirm any of the arrests. Some analysts
suspect the Croatian government of bluffing, since it has come under pressured
from the international community to exert influence on Bosnian Croat
hard-liners in Mostar. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith
has met with Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic to underscore Zagreb's
obligation to help the Bosnian peace process, Hina reported on 27 February. --
Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN COUNCIL OF MINISTERS AGREE ON FOREIGN DEBT BILL.
Council of Ministers on 27 February reached agreement on a bill regulating the
country's foreign debt, Oslobodjenje reported. The draft law was
proposed by the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Boro
Bosic, the council's Serbian co-chairman, said it has been forwarded to the
parliament for urgent consideration. The adoption of such a law is one of the
conditions for a stand-by loan from the IMF and for an international donors'
conference on postwar aid to Bosnia, Hina reported. In other news, economic
experts from Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and
Croatia met on 26 February in Banja Luka, Bosnia's Serbian entity, to discuss
privatization and employment in the Bosnian Federation and the Republika
Srpska, Onasa reported. Eric de Mill, chief of the UN Development Program
mission to Bosnia, presided over the meeting. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIA, INDONESIA SIGN TWO AGREEMENTS.
Croatia and Indonesia on 27
February signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation and on air
traffic, Hina reported. The two countries are expected to sign soon agreements
on avoiding double taxation and protecting investments. Also, the Croatian and
Indonesian oil companies--INA and Kondur Petroleum-- have signed a letter of
intent on technical assistance in the exploitation of oil and gas. Croatian
Premier Zlatko Matesa is visiting Indonesia at the invitation of Indonesian
President Suharto. His visit is aimed at promoting economic cooperation between
the two countries. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES GOVERNMENT.
The Slovenian legislature on
27 February voted in favor of Premier Janez Drnovsek's cabinet, Radio Slovenija
reported. The new government was formed after three months of wrangling since
the November 1996 elections. It is dominated by Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic
Party and includes members of Marjan Podobnik's conservative Slovenian People's
Party and the Pensioners' Democratic party. The new government is expected to
be able to count on the support of 49 of the legislature's 90 members. -- Stan
ROMANIAN POLICE CHIEF REPLACED.
At the request of Interior Minister
Gavril Dejeu, the cabinet on 27 February dismissed Gen. Costica Voicu, head of
the Romanian police force, Libertatea reported. Col. Pavel Abraham,
until now chief of the Criminal Investigations Department, has been named
Costica's successor. Government spokesman Eugen Serbanescu said Costica was
replaced in order to improve the way the ministry functions. Responding to the
move, former Interior Minister Senator Doru Ioan Taracila accused the
government of politically interfering in the ministry's work. -- Zsolt Mato
OSCE OFFICIAL IN MOLDOVA ON DNIESTER MEMORANDUM.
Donald Johnson, head of
the OSCE mission in Moldova, has urged the OSCE Permanent Council not to
endorse the memorandum between Moldova and the breakaway Dniester Republic,
Infotag reported on 27 February. The memorandum on resolving relations between
Chisinau and Tiraspol was initialed last June but has not yet been signed.
Johnson said the document does not correspond to the "basic OSCE principles of
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova." He added that the
signature of the document could set an "extremely unfortunate precedent,"
warning that each side has different interpretations of parts of the document.
While Moldova called for revisions, the Dniester authorities insisted on
signing the memorandum without any amendments. -- Zsolt Mato
ECONOMIC COLLAPSE CATASTROPHIC FOR MOST BULGARIANS.
government on 27 February announced it will increase the price of heating,
electricity, and coal by 257%, the Bulgarian press reported. Services offered
by the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company are to be raised eight-fold. The
new prices will go into effect in March. In the meantime, the government will
try to find ways to compensate the country's poorest citizens. Some 20 million
ECU provided by the EU will be distributed among 150,000 families beginning on
23 March. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Institute has revealed that 89% of
Bulgarians say that they are poorer than they were last year. The number of
those who are living off their savings has doubled since 1995. Almost every
fourth Bulgarian has run up debts. In other news, German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel, speaking in Bonn,
commented that "Bulgaria is on the brink of
economic catastrophe," international agencies reported. He appealed to Sofia
not to delay economic reforms any longer. -- Maria Koinova
HUMANITARIAN AID TO BULGARIA.
A UN mission arrived in Sofia on 27
February to assess the need for humanitarian aid, international agencies
reported. "Bulgaria needs humanitarian aid and any support is welcome," Vice
President Todor Kavaldzhiev told Bulgarian Radio the same day. Hungarian-born
American philanthropist George Soros has donated $1.8 million through the Sofia
branch of his Open Society Foundation, mainly to secure medicines for the
Institute for Emergency Aid in Sofia and other hospitals outside the capital,
RFE/RL reported on 25 February. Part of the assistance will go to set up soup
kitchens around the country and to support the disabled and needy university
and school students. -- Maria Koinova
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave