He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 44, Part II, 04 March 1997

This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest.
Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central
Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues
of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are
available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

**********************************************************************
OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement:

Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research
Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the
issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of
the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at:
http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html

On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news
report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the
OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major
departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials,
RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents,
bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via
fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time
being under the same terms.

OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more
information on Transition please access
http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a
request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz

*********************************************************************

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

UKRAINE DENIES SELLING NERVE GAS TO CHINA. Hong Kong and Taiwanese
newspapers accused Ukraine of selling 500 tons of sarin nerve gas to
China, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. An unnamed Ukrainian official at
the Ukrainian embassy in Beijing denied the reports, calling them
"groundless conjectures." Other papers and observers also regarded the
charges with skepticism, noting that China itself had been a victim of
chemical warfare and has always come out against chemical weapons. --
Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN AFFAIRS. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk
denied allegations by Russian Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin that the
upcoming NATO naval exercises in Ukraine are to include training for
fighting against separatists, Ukrainian radio reported on 3 March.
Baburin's claims implied that the maneuvers were directed against
separatism in Crimea. Kuzmuk said the objective of the training was to
offer humanitarian aid to a fictitious "Orange republic" which had just
suffered an earthquake. The minister also denied that allowing U.S.
naval ships to participate in the exercises was not meant to put
pressure on Russian ships in Sevastopol. -- Ustina Markus

ARRESTS REPORTED AFTER DEMONSTRATION IN BELARUS. Police arrested 16
people following the 2 March demonstration (see the OMRI Daily Digest, 3
March 1997), AFP and Belapan reported on 3 March. Some 5,000 people
rallied in Minsk to celebrate the 930th anniversary of Belarus's
capital, but the gathering soon turned into a protest against President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka's pro-Russian policies. The detainees are being
held on public-disorder charges and face up to two weeks imprisonment.
-- Ustina Markus

EU PRESENTS ITS REPORT TO BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT. Henry Costo, head of the
EU mission to Belarus, held a closed-door meeting with Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 3 March to discuss the EU foreign
ministers resolutions concerning the joint EU, OSCE, and Council of
Europe report on the political situation in Belarus, international
agencies reported. Costo said that Lukashenka asked him to refrain from
publishing the report, which allegedly contains negative evaluations of
the human rights and press freedom situations and the extent of
democratization in Belarus. Costo, however, suggested that the report
will be published in Belarus in the near future. Meanwhile, the U.S.
State Department has reconfirmed its commitment to reduce official
political and economic contacts with Belarus to a minimum, Belapan
reported. The U.S. will suspend all of its aid programs except those
that support free media and democratic institutions. -- Sergei
Solodovnikov

MORE PARTIES INVITED TO JOIN ESTONIAN COALITION. The ruling KMU
coalition made up of the Coalition Party and three smaller pensioners'
and farmers' parties on 3 March invited both of its former partners --
the right-leaning Reform Party (ER) and the left-leaning Center Party
(EK) -- to form a new coalition, ETA reported. The KMU, whose member,
Mart Siimann, is prime minister designate, has 41 parliament deputies,
the ER 19, and the EK nine. ER Chairman Siim Kallas said that his party
will consider the offer the next day and have an answer by 5 March. It
seems unlikely that the ER would agree to be in a coalition that
included the EK since they broke with the KMU after it began cooperating
with the EK. -- Saulius Girnius

BRITISH HIGH-RANKING DIPLOMAT VISITS LATVIA. Nicholas Bonsor, Minister
of State at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told Latvian
Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs on 3 March in Riga that the first wave
of NATO expansion will not be the last, BNS reported. They also
discussed EU enlargement and improving bilateral relations, trade,
finance, transport, shipping, and legal protection. Bonsor also met with
Prime Minister Andris Skele and is scheduled to meet with President
Guntis Ulmanis and Saeima Chairman Alfreds Cepanis. -- Saulius Girnius

DANISH PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen arrived in Poland
on 4 March on a three-day visit. After talks with his Polish counterpart
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Rasmussen said Denmark supports Poland's prompt
admittance to NATO and the EU. He mentioned a blueprint of an energy
resources network linking the states around the Baltic Sea. It is a
development of a plan of a "power-supply ring" around the Baltic Sea
that was formulated in the Baltic States Council, Cimoszewicz explained.
Now, the first issue on the agenda is to establish a natural gas
network, he said. Poland could receive natural gas from Denmark and
Norway. Rasmussen is the first Danish prime minister to visit Poland in
21 years, which is not surprising; according to old Warsaw Pact plans,
Polish soldiers had the task of invading Denmark. The prime ministers
signed an agreement on Danish economic and technological assistance to
Poland. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLES ON NATO, POLITICAL PARTIES, AND POLITICIANS. Poles see the co-
ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) as a party dominated by NATO-
membership supporters, according to a 22-23 February Sopot Social
Research Bureau poll published in Rzeczpospolita. The respondents ranked
the main Polish political parties that support Poland's membership in
NATO as follows: 67% said that "all or the majority" of politicians
within SLD want NATO membership, 65% thought the same was true for the
Freedom Union, 61% for the Solidarity Electoral Action, 55% for the
Labor Union, 52% for the Polish Peasant Party, and 47% for the Movement
for Poland's Reconstruction. President Aleksander Kwasniewski topped the
list of pro-NATO politicians in the opinion of his fellow citizens (88%)
and Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was second with 80%. A
January Public Opinion Research Center poll found that 90% of Poles
thought that Poland should be admitted to NATO. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH DEFENSE OFFICIALS COMMENT ON ALLEGED LOSS OF NATO DOCUMENTS. The
army cannot find 100 of the 700 documents that NATO started giving to
Partnership for Peace countries in 1994, Czech media have reported in
the past few days. Several defense officials argued that the scandal
surrounding the alleged loss of the documents at the Czech Defense
Ministry is unnecessary and groundless. "It's all speculation. We
haven't yet managed to prove that the documents really have been lost,"
Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told Slovo. Some high-ranking
civil servants at the ministry believe the information may have been
leaked to the media by their fired colleagues. "We're not surprised that
someone is giving out such information like that. We are annoyed,
however, that it is done now, a couple of months before the NATO summit.
It's quite clear what they're up to," a ministry official told CTK. --
Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK REFERENDUM UPDATE. Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Ivan
Simko on 3 March announced that the opposition has collected 521,580
signatures in support of a referendum on direct presidential elections,
Slovak media reported. All signatures have been strictly checked, and
those that looked suspicious were reportedly removed from the lists. The
Slovak constitution requires the president to call a referendum under
two conditions: if 350,000 signatures are collected or based on a
parliamentary resolution. Simko said the petition committee will hand
the lists to President Michal Kovac this week. A January poll released
by the Slovak Statistical Office on 3 March showed that one in two
Slovaks would participate in the referendum, of whom 88% would vote in
favor and 7% would vote against, CTK reported. The poll showed that 28%
would not participate while 20% were undecided. The referendum will be
invalid unless at least 50% of the population takes part. -- Sharon
Fisher

SLOVAK ECONOMIC ROUNDUP. The parliamentary Committee for Economics,
Privatization, and Business on 3 March asked the cabinet to take
measures aimed at improving Slovakia's trade position, Narodna obroda
reported. In January alone, Slovakia's trade deficit reached 7 billion
crowns ($226 million), three times more than in January 1996, Pravda
reported. One option being considered is the renewal of the import
surcharge that was abolished on 1 January. Presidential spokesman
Vladimir Stefko told TASR on 3 March that President Michal Kovac on 25
February signed a bill establishing an import-export bank. Finally, TASR
reports that Kovac has returned the law that blocks the privatization of
Slovak financial institutions until 2003. The government demanded last
month that Kovac return the bill to the parliament for further
discussion, and the legislation is expected to be placed on the
parliament's agenda when the current session reconvenes on 12 March. --
Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY ARGUES AGAINST SLOVAKIA IN THE HAGUE. On the opening day of a
lawsuit between Hungary and Slovakia in the International Court of
Justice in the Hague, Hungary's legal representative, Gyorgy Szenasi,
said that Slovakia's unilateral diversion of the Danube for a
hydroelectric power project was an illegal act, international media
reported on 4 March. The project was initially agreed on in 1977, when
Hungary and Czechoslovakia decided to build a hydroelectric plant on
their shared border. Budapest, however, halted construction in 1989,
citing environmental concerns. The Slovaks pursued the plan and
unilaterally diverted the Danube in 1992. The Hungarian delegation used
a videotape to illustrate the environmental damage caused by the
diversion. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN FARMERS THREATEN TO CONTINUE PROTESTS. Farmers in eastern
Hungary, who staged three days of protests against new tax and social
insurance laws last week, will request police permits to stage more
demonstrations. The announcement came after Finance Minister Peter
Medgyessy turned down their invitation to hold more talks, Hungarian
media reported. Medgyessy said that he sees no chance for further
consultations, as the cabinet has already met the farmers' demands. --
Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND PRIVATIZATION BILLS.
Arpad Goncz on 3 March signed into law a conflict of interest bill and
amendment to the privatization law, Hungarian dailies reported. Goncz
used his veto power for the first time in seven years when he refused to
sign the two bills in January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 and 6 January
1997). Parliament last week partly amended the privatization bill to
satisfy one of Goncz's concerns but passed the conflict of interest bill
unchanged. Since both bills were passed by a two thirds majority, Goncz
is now compelled to sign. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

CHAOS REIGNS THROUGHOUT ALBANIA. Army tanks entered the southern
Albanian city of Gjirokaster on 4 March, according to Western agencies,
citing ATA. Civilians armed with automatic weapons burned down
Gjirokaster's police station on 3 March. In Vlora, earlier decimated by
rioting, an Italian helicopter rescued 35 foreigners, flying them to
Brindisi. Gunshots were heard overnight in Tirana, where a dusk-to-dawn
curfew is in effect and police have instructions to shoot armed
civilians without warning. The general prosecutor in Tirana warned that
those convicted of fomenting armed insurrection will face capital
punishment or life in jail, while looters and those erecting barricades
will receive sentences of 15-25 years. Albania's ambassador to the U.K.,
Pavli Mihal Qesku, admitted that Vlora, Sarande, and a stretch along the
coast were now in rebel hands but added "in the rest of the country the
government is in control of everything," Reuters reported. -- Michael
Wyzan

BERISHA RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT, FIRES ARMY CHIEF. Albanian President Sali
Berisha on 3 March was re-elected by parliament, which is dominated by
his Democratic Party (PD), Western media reported. Berisha fired army
chief of staff Sheme Kosova the next day, blaming him for failing to
defend military bases from rioters. Kosova was replaced by General Adem
Copani, Berisha's defense advisor. Meanwhile, under new rules requiring
newspapers to submit stories to the government for approval and allowing
them only to run the government version of the disturbances, only one
newspaper, the PD's Rilindja Demokratike, appeared on 4 March. U.S.
State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns issued a statement "strongly
regretting" the 2 March declaration of a state of emergency and
introduction of press censorship. He also criticized Berisha's re-
election as "likely to increase polarization," according to AFP. Dutch
Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo offered the EU's assistance in re-
establishing order and arbitrating the conflict. -- Michael Wyzan

SERB MOB ATTACKS MUSLIM HOMES, RUSSIAN TROOPS WATCH. Some 150 Serbs
armed with sticks and clubs on 2 March burned down nine of 11
prefabricated houses built for Muslim returnees to the village of
Gajevi, while the Russian soldiers stationed there watched the attack
but did not intervene, international agencies reported. Gajevi is on the
Serb-controlled side of a demilitarized separation zone in northeastern
Bosnia that is patrolled by the Russian SFOR troops. Next day the SFOR
troops set up roadblocks around the village. SFOR says that policing is
the job of local police, and says the incident represents a failure of
the Bosnian Serb police to maintain order in the separation zone. But
Sead Jamakosmanovic, a Bosnian Federation government official, said
Russian peacekeepers were to blame for failing to prevent the incident.
-- Daria Sito Sucic

NEW RIFT BETWEEN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO OVER MEDIA. Montenegrin media
accused the pro-government daily Borba and the state news agency Tanjug
of being politically biased in favor of Serbia, although the two federal
units within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have equal
treatment in media founded by the federation, Nasa Borba reported. Borba
and Tanjug were singled out for their recent attacks on Montenegrin
Premier Milo Djukanovic following his criticism of Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic. Meanwhile, the Serbian Renewal Movement, led by Vuk
Draskovic, accused the state media of becoming increasingly aggressive
in spreading false information on the state of affairs in the country.
On the other side, the state-run daily Politika on 4 March accused the
"opposition media"of being tendetious, one-sided and aggressive. --
Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN BANJA LUKA. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate
Granic on 3 March met with Banja Luka Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica
and announced that Croatia will soon open a consulate in that Bosnian
Serb stronghold, Hina reported. Komarica said the remaining Banja Luka
Croats were looking forward to the opening of the consulate, and that it
would help improve their current situation. Komarica mentioned the
unsolved issue of the two Banja Luka parish priests who had disappeared
and whose fate was still unknown. In other news, Catholic authorities in
Bosnia-Herzegovina said on 28 February that churches and monasteries
were being targeted for attack in the weeks leading up to the visit of
Pope John Paul II to Sarajevo, scheduled for 12-13 April, AFP reported.
A day earlier, an anonymous caller threatened to kill the Pope during
the Sarajevo visit. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CONSTANTINESCU ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE. At a meeting with potential
foreign investors on 3 March, President Emil Constantinescu said Romania
has "assumed a great risk" by deciding to give up any territorial claim
on Ukraine in the pending basic treaty between the two countries, the
daily Ziua reported. In a related development, several dailies report
that leaflets denouncing the government's position on the treaty were
found in Bucharest, Suceava and Turnu Severin. The leaflets also
attacked the government's decision to allow foreign investors to buy
land in Romania and called for military rule of the country. A spokesman
for the Bucharest police said the views expressed in the leaflets "are
reminiscent of the position of some political parties," the daily
Cotidianul reports. The extremist Greater Romania Party has often called
for military rule in the past, and opposes any concessions to Ukraine.
The latter position is shared by the Party of Romanian National Unity
and several semi-political organizations. -- Michael Shafir

TURMOIL IN ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTY. The leadership of the Party of
Romanian National Unity (PUNR) will discuss the expulsion of former
party Chairman Gheorghe Funar from the party, several dailies report.
Although the move was allegedly prompted by Funar's private use of faxes
and phones of the Cluj mayoralty he heads, the real reason is to be
sought in the turmoil now affecting the PUNR. The Cluj branch of PUNR on
28 February decided to expel Ioan Gavra, the PUNR secretary general. The
branch is dominated by Funar, who refuses to recognize the legality of
his own dismissal as PUNR chairman on 22 February. Observers viewed this
as an attempt by Funar to tackle his critics. Romanian media speculate
that the party may be on the verge of splitting up. -- Michael Shafir

OPPOSITION OFFENSIVE IN ROMANIA. Former President Ion Iliescu told well-
wishers congratulating him on his 67th birthday that the Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (PDSR) will start monitoring the implementation of
"Contract with Romania," the electoral program of the ruling Democratic
Convention of Romania. He accused the government of failing to implement
its electoral promises and of leading the country into an economic dead-
end, Radio Bucharest and Romanian television reported on 3 March. In a
related development, the PDSR announced it will launch a motion in the
Chamber of Deputies demanding a debate on the government's agricultural
policies. The Senate on 3 March was the scene of loud protests of the
leader of the Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who accused
the government of intending to restore the monarchy. Tudor and several
PDSR senators walked out in protest after a reply by a representative of
the ruling coalition. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIA'S BREAD CRISIS. Former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov caused the
bread crisis with his deliberate inaction and irresponsibility, claims
today's Trud. The paper went on saying that there were at least three
very lucrative grain deals that were not concluded due to a lack of
response by the premier. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid
Kerestezhiants, cited by Standart, said that Videnov had asked Russia
for 150,000 metric tons of grain but did not even bother to do so in
writing. According to Pari, Russia should soon deliver the mentioned
quantity of wheat to Bulgaria. The deal should be finalized during the 9
March visit of Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov to Sofia. --
Maria Koinova

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Sava Tatic

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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