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Newsline - March 27, 1997

After meeting with President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov announced the final government appointments at a joint 26 March press conference, Russian media reported. Former Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin is now minister without portfolio and will cover economic strategy questions. Aleksei Kudrin, formerly head of the main control department of the presidential administration, was appointed first deputy finance minister. Aleksandr Krupnov was appointed head of the State Committee on Information. Minister for CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev, Fuela and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov, and Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan all retained their posts. Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Oleg Davydov was removed: his ministry will temporarily be headed by former first deputy minister Mikhail Fradkov. -- Laura Belin

The "streamlined" government will consist of 68 positions: two first deputy prime ministers, six deputy prime ministers, 23 ministries (three of them headed by deputy premiers), 16 state committees, and 20 other federal agencies. According to ITAR-TASS, the responsibilities of the deputy prime ministers will be as follows: Anatolii Chubais -- economic reform, financial policy, relations with the media; Boris Nemtsov -- social and housing reform, anti-monopoly policy; Oleg Sysuev -- social policy, pensions, labor; Vladimir Bulgak -- science, technology, and transport; Alfred Kokh -- tax and customs policy, alcohol, foreign trade, privatization; Yakov Urinson -- economic policy, industry, agriculture; Anatolii Kulikov -- law and order, economic security; and Valerii Serov -- nationalities, regional policy, relations with CIS. Kulikov will continue to monitor the daily operations of the State Tax Service and State Customs Committee, although Kokh will supervise the policy of the those agencies. Two ministries (industry and defense industry) and two state committees (forestry and fishing) were abolished. The heads of the ministry of foreign trade and three anti-monopoly agencies remain to be appointed. None of the appointments seem to have been made at the suggestion of Boris Nemtsov. -- Peter Rutland

The federal authorities on 26 March sought to demonstrate that they were taking action to pay off wage and pension arrears on the eve of a national strike to protest the 50 trillion rubles ($9 billion) that strike organizers claim are owed to the population. Chernomyrdin claimed that the government will pay 11.8 trillion rubles ($2 billion) in back wages and pensions in March. He also announced that during the first three months of the year the government had more than halved the amount of the money owed to the country's soldiers, Kommersant-Daily reported. He rejected "emotion and provocation," arguing that demonstrations will not solve the problems, Reuters reported. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said he expects about 7 million protesters nationwide, much lower than the 20 million figure cited by strike organizers, Ekho Moskvy reported. Interior Ministry troops are ready for operations in 650 Russian cities, according to Kulikov. -- Robert Orttung

The nationwide strike organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions under the banner "For work, justice, and social guarantees" began on 27 March in the Far East with as many as 150,000 protesters in Primorskii Krai and 90,000 in Khabarovsk, ITAR-TASS reported. Traffic in downtown Vladivostok came to a standstill by 10 a.m. Most miners in the region reported for work to prevent a further worsening in the krai's energy situation. Members of the Sakha (Yakutiya) government talked to pickets in front of the republican administration building. Yeltsin is spending the day in his suburban Gorki-9 residence. -- Robert Orttung

Authorities expect about 160,000 demonstrators in Moscow and 100,000 in St. Petersburg, Ekho Moskvy reported. 8,000 policemen and trade union volunteers will maintain order in the capital, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow police spokesman Vladimir Vershkov said that armored personnel carriers were not going to be used during the protests. He was responding to questions about reports of such vehicles being sighted on the edge of the city. -- Robert Orttung

On the eve of the protest actions, Yeltsin issued an appeal to the Russian armed forces, promising that military reform would begin soon and pledging to improve living conditions for soldiers and officers, ITAR-TASS reported. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 25 March published an analysis of a recent incident involving a paratroop unit in Stavropol Krai which refused to go on maneuvers unless back wages were paid. Although the troops later agreed to follow orders, the paper said the incident showed that "Russia could witness a repetition of the Albanian revolt." -- Scott Parrish

In a 26 March radio address, Yeltsin rejected criticism that he had been "insufficiently tough" at his recent meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Helsinki, international agencies reported. Yeltsin argued that taking a harsher stance on the issue of NATO expansion would have isolated Russia and decreased its security. He cited progress on a "strictly binding" NATO-Russia charter and NATO pledges not to station nuclear weapons or additional troops in new member states as evidence that his stance had minimized the effects of NATO enlargement. Yeltsin said Russia should seek economic cooperation with the West, not confrontation, adding that the summit's results meant that Russia will become a full member of the G-7 this June, and soon join the Paris Club. He emphasized, however, that Russia would continue building ties with other parts of the world, including China, India, and the CIS. -- Scott Parrish

One day after the Supreme Court ruled that the State Duma unlawfully revoked the accreditation of journalists for Russian Public TV (ORT), officials in the lower house of parliament resisted admitting the network's correspondents, ORT reported on 26 March. The Duma's press service said it had not yet received a written copy of the court decision, and that the ban on ORT journalists would remain in force while Duma representatives decided whether to appeal to the Supreme Court's presidium. However, court judges indicated that the implementation of their decision could not be delayed pending an appeal, according to the 27 March Kommersant-Daily. The journalists were finally admitted on orders from Duma Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin (Our Home Is Russia), who is filling in while Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev is away from Moscow. -- Laura Belin

Russia may reopen a cosmodrome at Kapustin Yar in the Volgograd Oblast which has not been used for launches since 1988, Reuters reported on 25 March, citing a Russian rocket-manufacturing firm official. He said that the first launch, which will carry a German astronomical satellite, is slated for February 1999. At the same time, a spokesperson for the Military Space Forces said that the cosmodrome cannot be used for commercial launches since it is located near densely populated areas. Russia recently ran into trouble when it began using the new Svobodnyi cosmodrome in the Far East. The government of Yakutia and local ecologists argue that discarded parts of booster rockets are damaging the environment. -- Natalia Gurushina

On the eve of the nationwide day of protests, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which prohibits foreign car purchases by state organizations, Kommersant-Daily reported on 27 March, a policy change suggested by new First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The decree ordered state organizations to sell the foreign cars they already own and use the proceeds to buy Russian ones. -- Natalia Gurushina

The volume of state short-term securities (GKOs) reached 248.4 trillion rubles ($43 billion) by the end of January 1997, Delovoi ekspress reported in number 11. In 1996, the state domestic debt increased to 10.4% of GDP, compared to 1.7% in 1995, and experts predict a further 6% increase by the end of 1997. Average annual GKO yields have now dropped to 30%. The government intends to bring them down further to 16-19% by the end of 1997. According to Delovoi mir on 13 February, foreign investment in GKOs now tops $6.5 billion. Of that, some $1.1 billion were invested in January 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina

One of the carrots offered to Yeltsin in Helsinki was membership in the Paris Club of government creditors. Russia owes other countries about $130 billion (of which $110 billion are the USSR's debts, which Russia assumed). In turn Russia itself is owed about $132 billion by Soviet-era borrowers, such as Vietnam, Ethiopia, Yemen, Cuba, and Iraq, who are only able to repay a total of $1-2 billion a year. Last April Russia reached agreement over rescheduling the $38 billion it owes to Paris Club members: the coast is now clear for Russia to join as a creditor. However, Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Reuters on 25 March that Russia will have to carefully consider whether to join the club, since it would then have to offer the same terms to debtors as do other club members. Russia may think it can strike a better deal with some of those countries - such as Iraq, whose $7 billion debt to Russia could be repaid from future oil exports. -- Peter Rutland

The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 25 March issued a statement saying Yerevan will unilaterally free all Azerbaijani prisoners of war held on its territory in order to create a favorable atmosphere for the upcoming meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Moscow, international agencies reported. The statement said the move is a gesture of goodwill and a manifestation of Yerevan's "constructive position" at the OSCE-sponsored negotiations on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the statement, Armenian authorities are in touch with Red Cross representatives to organize the return of the unspecified number of prisoners. In related news, Yurii Yukalov, the Russian representative to the Minsk group, told Turan on 25 March that the OSCE-sponsored talks on Nagorno-Karabakh will resume on 1 April in Moscow. -- Emil Danielyan

The coordinating council of opposition movements and trade unions in Kazakstan, Respublica, has called on all the country's citizens to join with those of neighboring Russia and participate in mass protests on 27 March, RFE/RL reported the previous day. The demonstration would be the second in less than a week; miners from the Kentau area marched on the Kazakstani capital on 23 March but were stopped about 15 kilometers from Almaty. General Procurator Stepan Shutkin, in a statement carried by mass media, warned that such protests are illegal and those participating them should be treated as criminals. Payments to some citizens are more than half a year in arrears. In related news, AFP on 26 March carried a story originally run in the weekly Kazak Express K concerning a former worker who retired because of health reasons more than one year ago. He had not been receiving pension payments but was sent a coffin as compensation. -- Bruce Pannier

Uzbek President Islam Karimov issued a decree on 26 March on long-term credit for individual housing, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. The credit will be issued against housing bonds which will be made available by the government in the near future. The state will repay 50% of construction costs and the credit will be repayable over a 10-year period at 20% interest annually. -- Bruce Pannier

At a joint session of the Kyrgyz parliament President Askar Akayev noted improvements in the national economy during 1996, RFE/RL reported on 26 March. Akayev said GNP had increased by 5.6%, industrial output by 10.8%, and agricultural output by 13.1%. Akayev said the country's goals for 1997 would be to reduce the trade deficit: in 1996 Kyrgyzstan imported 1.7 times more than it exported. Another goal is to bring inflation down to 17% and cut unemployment, which according to government figures is running at 20%. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

Tajik government troops along with fighters from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) are rounding up the remnants of the Sadirov brothers' gang still led by Rezvon Sadirov, Reuters reported on 25 March. Gafur Mirzoyev, the commander of the presidential guards, said so far eight outlaws had been killed in the fighting and five more had been captured in the battle, about 80 kilometers east of Dushanbe. The government and UTO forces have each lost three. The Sadirov brothers and their followers were responsible for two hostage-taking incidents, one in December, the other in February and involving UN employees. Mirzoyev said he expects the operation will be concluded within 48 hours. -- Bruce Pannier

Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin said President Leonid Kuchma will fire Viktor Chebrov and Bohdan Babii, the heads of the top nuclear and energy bodies, because of electricity supply non-payments, shortage of nuclear fuel, and monopolization of the energy sector, Reuters reported on 26 March. The Ukrainian Trade Union Federation has appealed to Kuchma to dismiss Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, ITAR-TASS reported. In his 21 March address to the nation, Kuchma accused Lazarenko and his cabinet of incompetence. Last month, Kuchma fired several ministers responsible for the economy. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Ukrainian parliament speaker Oleksander Moroz said in Budapest that the countries that plan to join NATO soon will not play key roles in the organization, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. The possibility of Ukraine joining NATO or having a special partnership "is not a problem of practical politics now," he said. Meanwhile, leader of the conservative Rukh (People's Movement) Vyacheslav Chornovil called on the government to apply for NATO membership immediately, Ukrainian television reported. Chornovil said NATO membership would solve the problems of Crimea and Sevastopol and other territorial claims to Ukraine. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Vladimir Gramyka, first secretary and consul of the Belarusian diplomatic mission to Washington, was expelled from the U.S. on 26 March, international agencies reported. The measure was a response to the recent expulsion of a U.S. diplomat, Serge Aleksandrov, from Belarus after he was detained at an anti-president demonstration in Minsk. State Department spokesman John Dinger expressed concerns about the deterioration in U.S.-Belarusian relations but did not rule out further action by the U.S. Meanwhile, the newly appointed Belarusian ambassador to the U.S., Valery Tsepkalo, who was on his way to Washington, was recalled for consultation during a stop-over in Frankfurt. That move followed a similar recall of the U.S. ambassador to Belarus, Kenneth Yalowitz. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

Belarusian government announced on 26 March it would issue stricter regulations for foreign media, AFP reported. The decision came as the diplomatic row with the U.S. intensified. Government spokesman Ivan Pashkevich said the new rules would apply to all current accreditations and renewals would not be forthcoming. The move will primarily affect Russian journalists; all three Russian television networks have been banned from transmitting footage from Minsk. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

A delegation of three Republicans and two Democrats, headed by Gerald Solomon, began a three-day visit to Estonia on 26 March, BNS reported. Solomon, one of the most ardent supporters of the Baltic states in the House of Representatives, in January submitted a bill to the Foreign Affairs Committee recommending Baltic integration into NATO as soon as they meet alliance standards. The delegation has scheduled meetings with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, Foreign Ministry and parliament officials to discuss NATO expansion, regional security, and bilateral relations. The representatives will travel to Latvia on 28 March. -- Saulius Girnius

The Seimas Law and Order Committee on 26 March decided to nominate Kazys Pednycia as prosecutor general, Radio Lithuania reported. The 46-year-old lawyer, who has served as a deputy municipal prosecutor, head of customs, and deputy director of state security, had been proposed by Justice Minister Vytautas Pakalniskis. The Seimas is expected to confirm the nomination. President Algirdas Brazauskas, from whom the Seimas took away the right to nominate the prosecutor general earlier in the month, said he will approve Pednycia's candidacy. -- Saulius Girnius

The Constitutional Commission of the Polish parliament accepted on 26 March most of President Aleksander Kwasniewski's 41 amendments to the constitution that was adopted by the National Assembly on 22 March. The National Assembly will vote on the amendments on 2 April. The commission accepted limitations of parliamentarians' immunity, as well as the president's prerogative to nominate the chief of the General Staff and the commanders in chief of the army, air force, and navy. In a public opinion poll conducted 8-11 March, 72% of respondents said they will vote in the referendum on the constitution tentatively scheduled for 25 May. Some 34% supported the draft prepared by the National Assembly, while 28% supported that prepared by Solidarity Electoral Action (although only the National Assembly's draft will be put on referendum). -- Jakub Karpinski

Solidarity Electoral Action (SAW), uniting some two dozen right-of-center parties, elected on 26 March as its vice presidents Solidarity deputy chairman Janusz Tomaszewski, Christian-National Union president Marian Pilka, Confederation for Independent Poland president Adam Slomka, and president of the Federation of Catholic Families' Associations Kazimierz Kapera. Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski is SAW president. The Center Alliance (PC) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski withdrew his candidacy for the SAW vice presidency although the PC is one of the strongest parties in the SAW. In a 22-23 March poll, 29% of respondents supported the SAW, 25% the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance, 12% the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party, 12% the opposition Freedom Union, and 10% the opposition Movement for Poland's Reconstruction. -- Jakub Karpinski

Joseph Biden, a ranking Democratic member of the U.S. Senate, said in Prague that any decision to expand NATO eastward will face a tough test in the U.S. Congress, RFE/RL reported on 26 March. Biden said he assumes the NATO summit in July will invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia to start entry negotiations. But he warned that senators will want assurances that prospective members maintain democratic institutions, respect civil and minority rights, and keep their military forces under civilian control. Candidates will have to show ability to absorb the costs of joining the alliance and operate on equal terms with the current members. Biden said some senators and representatives are hesitant to support expansion. But he noted that the alliance has already made the decision to do so. -- Jiri Pehe

Culture Minister Ivan Hudec on 26 March pledged to renew talks with cultural trade unions by mid-April, CTK reported. The announcement followed talks between representatives of the government, unions, and employers--the first tripartite talks held in more than a month. Also on 26 March, Jozef Migas denied allegations that his campaign for the chairmanship of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) was financed by his friend, Lubomir Kanis, a member of the Russian-Slovak Devin banka's board of directors. The allegations, published by Sme on 26 March, came from a source within the SDL. Migas was a virtually unknown figure when he was elected SDL chairman in April 1996. Finally, Prosecutor General Michal Valo on 26 March sent a letter to opposition Democratic Union deputy Viliam Vaskovic saying that the National Property Fund (FNM) "is not required to act in the public interest." He also said his office cannot monitor or control the FNM. -- Sharon Fisher

A protest by Hungarian farmers who had planned to block road traffic at border crossings failed when only a few hundred farmers showed up, Hungarian media reported on 27 March. Although rallies were held in the southern and southeastern regions, most farmers ignored the call by the farmers union Metesz to block nationwide border routes with tractors and agricultural implements. Following loud protests earlier this month, the Hungarian parliament on 25 March adopted a law designed to lower income taxes and farmers' social security contributions. Since then, Metesz has presented the government with a new series of demands, including advantageous bank loans for farmers and measures to protect Hungarian agriculture from European competition. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

A 35-year-old man was killed on the spot and a six-year-old child died later in hospital when a gunman opened fire on a public bus on 26 March near the village of Sauk, just south of Tirana, AFP reported. Six others were wounded. The motive for the attack was unknown. The Interior Ministry said violence throughout the country that day left 11 people dead, most killed by stray bullets or in vendetta attacks; a five-year-old child was killed while playing with a grenade that exploded. The death toll for the unrest has now reached over 160. In Vlora, the national bank was ransacked and blown up; the building was empty after the bank was closed down last month. Meanwhile, Italy deported around 200 Albanian "undesirables," bringing the total number of deported suspected criminals to 900. -- Fabian Schmidt

Six EU nations, who have sent military experts to Albania to spearhead work for a possible security force to protect aid, suffered a setback after they failed to secure an international green light for their plan. The OSCE failed to approve a mandate for a military mission at talks in Vienna on 26 March. Reuters quoted one diplomat as saying "the meeting ended in disarray." France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and Greece may now get bogged down in seeking authority from the UN or take the riskier step of going in alone. Turkey and Romania have also expressed willingness to take part. Prime Minister Bashkim Fino insisted that any foreign forces would be "very small" and would help keep open the ports of Vlora and Durres and protect Rinas airport. -- Fabian Schmidt

The current chair of Bosnia's joint presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, said after meeting in Washington with U.S. President Bill Clinton: "We received clear assurances that the war criminals will be brought to justice." He said his impression is that "special forces" will be used, international media reported on 26 March. Izetbegovic once again raised his concerns about poor implementation of the Dayton agreement, including the failure to arrest war criminals. SFOR and the international police have avoided arresting war criminals lest the NATO forces suffer casualties. -- Patrick Moore

Austria's Manfred Nowak, the head of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, resigned on 26 March to protest a lack of cooperation with his office, international media reported. He said that, while most of the missing in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina are presumed dead, it is necessary to clarify their fates for the sake of their families and of long-term peace. Nowak found, however, that the international community has failed to come up with sufficient money for his group to continue its work, and that Belgrade, Pale, and SFOR are less than cooperative. The Austrian jurist added that there are still 20,000 missing in Bosnia, most of whom are Muslim men and boys. In Croatia, 5,000 persons are unaccounted for from the 1991 war, plus 1,000 federal Yugoslav soldiers from that same time as well as 2,000 Serbs from the time of the 1995 Croatian offensives. -- Patrick Moore

The UN's main refugee agency criticized Bavaria for sending 44 people back to Bosnia with little or no concern for their well-being, Reuters reported on 26 March. A UNHCR statement said that "some of these people were woken up in the middle of the night and forced onto the flight back to Sarajevo," where nine of them had to sleep at a transit center since they have no relatives there. Bosnian officials said that Germany was treating refugees like criminals and showing no concern for what awaited them back in Bosnia. The Bavarian government and the Berlin authorities have been particularly zealous in seeking to deport the refugees because of domestic political considerations. During the war, Germany took in more refugees from the former Yugoslavia than did any other EU country. -- Patrick Moore

An ethnic Serbian family was expelled over the weekend from their home in Croatia's Knin area. VOA reported on 26 March that an angry crowd and a local official forced the recently returned refugees out despite pledges by President Franjo Tudjman to protect Serbs. Elsewhere in Croatia, the exhumation of mass graves has begun again with the return of spring weather. In Belgrade, taxi drivers and truckers blocked roads for seven hours to protest high income taxes and vehicle import duties, Nasa Borba wrote. -- Patrick Moore

The debt-reduction and -rescheduling agreement between Macedonia and the London Club of commercial creditors--reached on 24 October 1996--was signed in London on 26 March, Nova Makedonija reported. According to Finance Minister Taki Fiti, the deal reduces Macedonia's obligations from $644 million to $228.7 million. The reduction is larger than the $364 million envisioned in October because of the strengthening of the dollar since then and because some of the debt has been repurchased by federal Yugoslavia's national bank. Macedonia accepted 5.4% of the principal on former Yugoslavia's debt to the club (3.7% of the interest); in earlier agreements, Slovenia had accepted 18% and Croatia 29.5%. The agreement reschedules the debt over 15 years with a four-year grace period. -- Michael Wyzan

In London on 25 March, former King Mihai said Romania meets all NATO membership criteria and warned that excluding it from the alliance's first expansion could provoke problems throughout Eastern Europe, Reuters reported. The former monarch said that admitting Hungary while leaving out Romania could lead to the deterioration of ties between the two countries and jeopardize Bucharest's efforts to conclude with Ukraine a similar treaty as that concluded with Budapest. On a related matter, Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, paying a two-day visit to Portugal, discussed Romania's quest for admission to NATO in the first wave with his Portuguese counterpart, Jaime Gama. Portugal is the seventh NATO country to express support for Romania's admission, Romanian television reported. -- Michael Shafir

Justin Tambozie, a senator representing the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), asked Prosecutor General Nicolae Cochinescu to begin procedures for the rehabilitation of Romanian wartime fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was executed in 1946, Romania libera reported on 26 March. A similar demand was repeatedly made by PUNR deputy Petre Turlea. Tambozie also demanded that the government erect a commemorative statue of Antonescu. Three such statutes have already been erected by private sponsors. -- Michael Shafir

Police in the Transdniester breakaway region banned representatives of the OSCE mission from entering the town of Tighina-Bendery to attend the sitting of the Joint Control Commission (JCC), which includes Moldovan, Transdniester, Russian, and OSCE representatives. The Transdniestrian representatives said the OSCE representatives do not have a mandate, as the agreement on cooperation between the JCC and the OSCE expired on 7 February, BASA-press and Infotag reported on 25 March. However, the agreement provides for automatic extension if the sides do not suggest modifications or completion. The meeting was canceled. -- Michael Shafir

The Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction in the Moldovan parliament announced on 26 March that it was moving into "constructive opposition," Infotag reported. The faction was the second largest represented in parliament after the 1994 elections but it shrank after several deputies joined other parties. The announcement did not specify what will happen with the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo representatives in the executive. Reflecting the discontent of the party's many ethnic Russians, it said that the government's "once-promised principle of professionalism has been replaced by an ethnocratic approach." It also criticized President Petru Lucinschi for refusing to sign the memorandum for the settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict. -- Michael Shafir

The board of the Privatization Agency on 26 March dismissed the agency's executive director, Veselin Blagoev, Kontinent reported. Chairman of the board Yosif Iliev said Blagoev, who was appointed by the previous Socialist government, "lacked sufficient initiative and flexibility." Blagoev's deputy, Iliya Dimov, will fill in until a successor is named next week, Iliev said. In other news, Demokratsiya reported that President Petar Stoyanov said the interim government has "not yet fulfilled its task of purging corrupt officials." He said he will bring up the matter at his next meeting with Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov had complained to Stoyanov about "illegal dismissals" of officials in the state administration and the state-owned industry. -- Stefan Krause

Bulgaria's interim government has agreed to create by the end of June a system for social protection with expenditures subsidized by the budget, IMF, World Bank, and EU, Demokratsiya reported. A donors conference in Brussels on 8-9 April will come up with a figure for such assistance. Bulgaria has agreed that all subsidies will go to households, not enterprises or budgetary organizations, and it has agreed to ensure sufficient budget revenue to increase wages, pensions, and social payments. The average monthly wage is to reach $72 in April and $112 in December, the average pension $22.5 in April and $34 in December. The only international assistance provided so far for Bulgaria's social-protection system as its government introduces radical reforms has been ECU 22 million ($25.5 million) from the EU. -- Michael Wyzan

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave