We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers. - Martin Luther King Jr
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 229, Part I, 26 November 1996


CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

VOTERS SUPPORT LUKASHENKA'S CONSTITUTION. The parliament's draft
constitution received only 7.9% of votes cast in the 24 November
referendum, international agencies reported the next day. Earlier, it was
reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's draft constitution won
70.5% of the vote. 88.5% of respondents voted in favor of changing the
national holiday from 17 July, when the republic declared independence, to
3 July, when the Red Army liberated Minsk from the Germans. Lukashenka's
other two questions--on banning the free sale and purchase of land and on
retaining the death penalty--also passed by a wide margin. Neither of the
parliament's two questions passed. Only 29.9% voted for electing local
administrations by direct popular vote and only 32.1% were in favor of
funding all state agencies directly from the budget. Voting among the KGB
and military was particularly high, with 99.6% casting ballots. Former head
of the Central Electoral Commission Viktar Hanchar said the results were
forged, and independent observers claimed irregularities in voting
procedures. -- Ustina Markus

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES TO BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM. A number of western
countries and organizations have voiced concern over the results of the
referendum, AFP reported on 25 November. The EU and the OSCE insisted that
the Constitutional Court's decision on the consultative, non-binding nature
of the referendum must be respected. A U.S. State Department spokesman
emphasized the lack of open debate before the referendum, which, he said,
deprived it of legitimacy. He added that the plebiscite was "neither free,
nor fair". Russia, however, said the result of the referendum was "normal"
and concluded that its bid to diffuse the political crisis in Belarus had
been successful. Meanwhile, Belarus has turned its last 18 nuclear warheads
over to Russia. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DENIES PRESSING FOR EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Leonid Kuchma has denied accusations by lawmakers that he is leading a
campaign to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections, Ukrainian
agencies reported on 22 November. Legislators have drawn that conclusion
from his recent appeal to the Constitutional Court to review two
parliamentary decisions that he believes violate the country's basic law.
The next parliamentary elections are not due until spring 1998. Kuchma said
an early vote would be too costly and could destabilize the country.
Deputies have postponed until April a second reading of a new election bill
that would transform Ukraine's electoral system. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE OFFICIALS SURVIVED HIJACK CRASH. Three members of a
Ukrainian Defense Ministry mission survived the hijack crash of the
Boeing-767 on 23 November in the Comoro Islands, international agencies
reported on 25 November. They are Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Air
Force Lt. Gen. Viktor Strelnikov and two other high Ukrainian military
officials who were in Addis Abeba to negotiate modernizing MiG-21s
belonging to the Ethiopian Air Force. The fate of the fourth member of the
mission is still unknown. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS AGREEMENTS WITH ISRAEL. Leonid Kuchma on 25
November signed several economic agreements with Israel, AFP and Ukrainian
radio reported. Those accords are on sea trade, protection of resources,
and cooperation on customs issues. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said he received assurances from Kuchma that Ukraine is not
signing any arms deals with Iran and that it has decided not to sell tanks
to Baghdad. He stressed that Ukraine was not seeking any compensation from
Israel for this, nor was Israel offering any to Kyiv. Netanyahu also said
Israel hoped Ukraine's government would work to reduce the risks for
foreign investors in Ukraine. He added he had accepted an invitation to
visit Ukraine, and would come along with a delegation of businessmen. --
Ustina Markus

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ESTONIA. Davorin Kracun, during his visit to
Tallinn on 25 November, discussed EU expansion with President Lennart Meri,
ETA reported. He repeated Slovenian President Milan Kucan's invitation that
Meri make a state visit to Slovenia. Kracun also held talks with Prime
Minister Tiit Vahi on developing economic and trade relations and on
achieving integration into European economic and defense structures. Kracun
and acting Foreign Minister Riivo Sinijarv are scheduled to sign a free
trade agreement today. Together with agreements on the protection of
investments, the prevention of double taxation, and visa free travel that
are still being prepared, that accord is expected to significantly boost
trade. -- Saulius Girnius

FIRST SESSION OF NEW LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT. The 137 deputies elected to the
Seimas have been formally sworn in by Constitutional Court Chairman Juozas
Zilys, Radio Lithuania reported on 25 November. President Algirdas
Brazauskas urged the deputies not to make sharp changes in foreign policy
and to continue the main goals of membership in the EU and NATO. Homeland
Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis was the
only candidate nominated for the post of Seimas chairman. He was elected in
a secret ballot by a vote of 107 to 28. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH SHIPYARD WORKERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDING. Some 1,500 workers at
the Gdansk shipyard--birthplace of the Solidarity movement in
1980--demonstrated in front of the local governor's building, Polish and
international media reported on 26 November. Two hundred or so stayed on to
occupy the building. The workers are demanding that the government issue
restructuring plans and financial guarantees for building ships for
Germany. Last week, Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko refused to extend
credit guarantees for the bankrupt shipyard, but Treasury Minister Miroslaw
Pietrewicz said today that the government may consider offering guarantees
if the management proposes viable restructuring plans. The shipyard has
debts totaling 415 million zlotys ($148 million) and currently employs
about 5,000 people. -- Beata Pasek

VAST MAJORITY OF POLES CLAIM MASS PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS. More than 25
million Poles--or 95% of those eligible--have claimed a total of 25,675,090
privatization vouchers over the past 12 months, Polish and international
media reported on 26 November. A year ago, only one in ten Poles said they
would claim vouchers, and the government expected to distribute about 10
million. Wieslaw Kaczmarek, head of the privatization agency at the
Treasury Ministry, said that his ministry, encouraged by the success of the
first stage of mass privatization, will draft a new version of the program
including other state-owned companies. Vouchers sold by state banks for 20
zlotys ($7) are currently selling for some 150 zlotys on the stock
exchange. Next year, the vouchers will be exchanged for shares in 15
investment funds managing some 500 enterprises. -- Beata Pasek

SLOVAKIA, RUSSIA STRENGTHEN TIES. Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin on 25 November received a delegation led by Slovak
parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic to discuss economic and political
ties, Slovak media and ITAR-TASS reported. Gasparovic stressed that
although Slovakia wants to decide for itself on EU and NATO membership, "we
do not want to take these steps violently and without consideration, and
they will certainly be decided in a referendum." Gasparovic's four-day trip
to Russia coincides with a visit by Culture Minister Ivan Hudec to launch a
Slovak cultural festival in Moscow. On 23 November, Slovak Deputy Premier
and Finance Minister Sergej Kozlik announced in Bratislava following an
intergovernment meeting that a free trade agreement with Russia is expected
by late June. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK MEDIA ROUNDUP. The Slovak PEN Club on 26 November protested the
recent ruling by a Banska Bystrica court ordering the opposition daily Sme
to apologize to and pay cabinet ministers 7.5 million crowns ($242,000) in
compensation for publishing a "damaging" article (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7
November 1996), Praca reported. The PEN Club stressed that the court made
the ruling without questioning the ministers or examining the extent of
their "psychological trauma." The group also noted that the European Court
of Human Rights has approved verdicts making it clear that individuals have
broad rights to criticize politicians, public servants, the government, and
state institutions. Sme is appealing the ruling. In other news, the private
TV Markiza share of hours viewed daily grew to 37.3% (36% in prime time) in
October, while Slovak TV's share fell to 23.9% (27.4%), according to TASR
on 25 November. With regard to news programs, Slovak TV remains the most
popular with 25%, while Markiza news has 20-22% viewership. -- Sharon
Fisher

HUNGARY WILL SOON INVITE BIDS FOR COMMERCIAL BROADCASTS. The National Radio
and Television Commission will publish tenders for commercial television
and radio stations in early December, Hungarian and international media
reported on 26 November. Two commercial TV channels and two commercial
radio stations will start broadcasting on 1 September 1997. The primary
owner can have up to 49% ownership and the secondary owner 25%, with a
minimum of 26% remaining in Hungarian hands. Under the media law, at least
51% of the programs must originate in Hungary and another 30% from other
parts of Europe. U.S.-led consortia headed by Ronald Lauder and Mark
Palmer, Germany's West Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and Bertelsman Group, as
well as and France's TF1 are all expected to bid. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

CORRECTION: The item "Ukrainian Parliament Suspends Privatization of
'Strategic' Enterprises" in the 25 November 1996 issue of the OMRI Daily
Digest incorrectly listed the number of state-owned enterprises originally
barred by Kyiv from privatization. The item should have read that Ukrainian
lawmakers have increased the number of those enterprises from 5,500 to
7,111.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BELGRADE PROTESTS GAIN MOMENTUM. Up to 200,000 people marched in downtown
Belgrade on 25 November to protest the authorities' decision to nullify
opposition wins in the 17 November local elections, Radio B92 reported. It
was the sixth consecutive day of mass demonstrations in the capital, which
are reported to have been larger than the 1991 anti-government
demonstrations. Landmarks such as the Serbian legislature, the Politika
publishing house, and TV Serbia were pelted by thousands of eggs. March
organizers urged participants to remain calm and to "peacefully" target
only designated landmarks. Mass demonstrations are planned to continue
daily both in and outside Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

OTHER NEWS FROM SERBIA. The opposition coalition Zajedno has appealed to
the Serbian Supreme Court to overturn the authorities' decision to nullify
its local election wins, Nasa Borba reported on 26 November. Meanwhile,
Ilija Djukic, chair of the Democratic Party's foreign affairs committee,
said he received a favorable hearing from Western officials whom he had
briefed on the current situation in Serbia. He added that he would not like
to be in Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's place when Milutinovic
explains to leaders from other countries currently meeting in Brussels
about ongoing developments in Serbia. -- Stan Markotich in Belgrade

BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL WINDS TO A CLOSE. U.S. Deputy Prosecutor Brenda
Hollis said in The Hague on 25 November that accused Bosnian Serb war
criminal Dusan Tadic is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. She argued that
witnesses' testimony clearly identified him as being present with "a
special status" at the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje concentration camps
in 1992, AFP reported. Tadic's lawyers maintain that many of the witnesses
are unreliable and that, at best, charges against their client are based on
mistaken identity. Meanwhile in Croatia, the authorities have placed 39
ethnic Serbs on trial for war crimes allegedly committed during the
conflict in 1991 and 1992, Hina noted. Twelve are present in the court in
Split, while the rest are being tried in absentia. And in Zagreb, a
top-level international commission on missing persons in the wars of the
Yugoslav succession met with President Franjo Tudjman. The group is headed
by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. -- Patrick Moore

ISLAMIC COUNTRIES DISCUSS AID TO BOSNIA. The group for aid mobilization to
Bosnia-Herzegovina of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
convened for a two-day meeting in Sarajevo on 22 November , Oslobodjenje
reported. Representatives of 12 countries and the Islamic Bank discussed
economic, social, humanitarian, and military issues. Bosnian Prime Minister
Hasan Muratovic said the Islamic world has provided 15% of the total amount
of reconstruction aid to date. Muratovic criticized High Representative
Carl Bildt for trying to postpone some reconstruction projects until the
three-man presidency agrees to appoint the Council of Ministers. Muratovic
also complained that Bildt was attempting to postpone a forthcoming donors'
conference in Brussels. "If Bildt does not change his attitude very
soon..., we'll be forced to ask for diplomatic help from our friends," he
added. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

PROBLEMS FACE TRANS-BORDER BOSNIAN TV. Representatives of four local
Bosnian TV stations participating in the internationally sponsored project
TV International/Open Broadcast Network (TVIN/OBN) have announced they will
complain to sponsors about their status in the project, Oslobodjenje
reported on 24 November. TVIN/OBN was designed as an independent television
network aimed to overcome internal borders in Bosnia. But local TV stations
participating in the $10 million project complain they have been excluded
from the financial planning and the decision-making on programs. Local
stations were granted equipment worth $1 million to improve their programs
and broadcasting facilities. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

ROMANIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE SEES ECONOMIC REFORM AS PRIORITY. Victor Ciorbea
has said he plans to focus on economic reforms in order to woo
international financial institutes back into the country, Radio Bucharest
and AFP reported on 25 November. He said he will meet with an IMF
delegation on 30 November and try to mend fences with that organization.
The IMF suspended part of a $250 million loan to Romania earlier this year,
accusing the outgoing government of failing to meet a pledge to reduce the
budget deficit and restructure state institutions. Ciorbea said this year's
budget deficit will reach 4.5% of GDP, more than double the 2% pledge made
to the IMF. He added that his government will speed up privatization by
eliminating bureaucratic and legal obstacles. Meanwhile, Cronica romana
reports on 26 November that the decision to change the title of premier to
chairman of the Council of Ministers has been revoked because it would have
required a constitutional amendment. -- Michael Shafir

UKRAINE OPPOSES RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE IN MOLDOVA. Radio Bucharest
reported on 25 November that Ukraine has expressed opposition to a recent
Russian State Duma resolution calling for a permanent status for the
Russian contingent in Moldova. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Ukraine
is opposed because it respects Moldova's territorial integrity, which
extends to the breakaway Dniester region. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS CURRENCY BOARD TO BE INTRODUCED IN EARLY 1997. Zhan
Videnov on 25 November said that a currency board would be introduced in
the first weeks of 1997, Bulgarian media reported. He added that the
parliament would have the final word on the matter. According to Videnov,
there are three outstanding issues: whether the 1997 budget will be
balanced, whether the banking system will maintain strict discipline, and
what level of funding will be provided by international financial
institutions to support the currency board's fixed exchange rate. Other
issues currently being debated are whether to tie the lev to the dollar or
the German mark and whether to set the current exchange rate or a further
devalued one. Videnov also said that no foreigners or representatives of
Bulgarian political parties or banks would sit on the board. -- Michael
Wyzan

BULGARIA TO REOPEN UMBRELLA MURDER CASE? President-elect Petar Stoyanov
told The Times on 25 November that the murder case of Georgi Markov will be
reopened, AFP reported. Stoyanov said that clearing up Markov's murder will
be one of his priorities after assuming office in January 1997. He noted
that "for Bulgarian society, this question has acquired symbolic
importance." Markov was a prominent writer who fled Bulgaria after falling
out with the communist authorities. In 1969, he settled in London, where he
worked for the Bulgarian section of the BBC World Service. Later, he joined
RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service in Munich. He was murdered in September 1978 in
the British capital, most likely stabbed by a specially prepared poisonous
umbrella. A tiny pellet containing the highly poisonous ricin was found in
his leg after his death. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN TRADE UNION LEADERS FILE CHARGES AGAINST EACH OTHER. Azem Hajdari
and Valer Xheka, presidents of their respective factions of the Unions of
Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH), have filed charges against each other,
ATSH reported on 25 November. Hajdari wants the court to recognize him as
the legitimate leader of the BSPSH and to order the assets of the BSPSH
frozen until a court ruling. Xheka says the Durres congress at which
Hajdari was elected as president of the breakaway BSPSH violated the trade
union's statutes. He wants Hajdari to be banned from using its name. He
also charged Fatmir Musaku, an ally of Hajdari, with embezzling $4,168
during a visit to China in May. Meanwhile, Hajdari was re-elected president
of his faction at a congress on 23 November, Dita Informacion reported. --
Fabian Schmidt

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

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