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Senior-rank officers of the North Caucasus District Department of Russia's Federal Border Service arrived in Varna Wednesday on board the border patrol craft "Kuban" to exchange experience with their Bulgarian counteparts. PRESSPHOTO BTA Photo: Krassimir Krustev
Votes for Lazar Prichkapov Re-Counted. Chairwoman of the Regional Court Elena Avdeva ruled that all the 17 332 ballots should be counted manually. Lazar Prichkapov won a victory against his rival from the BSP Asiyski by a margin of 22 votes only and is to swear in today On the photo - a resident of Blagoevgrad passes by election posters of Prichkapov and Asiyski. Photo Rumen Zherev
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
The multiethnic police teams continue their scheduled activities in the 25 villages in Skopje, Tetovo and Kumanovo-Lipkovo regions, included in the General Plan on police redeployment.
The patrolling is carried out without any problems and according to the scheduled dynamics, Media Activity Center within the governmental Coordinate Crisis Management Body.
Terrain vehicle of the German contingent of NATO's mission "Amber Fox" drove over a mine around 14.00h on the local road Popova Sapka - Lesnica, and two soldiers were injured.
According to Tetovo police department, the injured soldiers were transferred with helicopters to the hospital in Bondsteel military camp on Kosovo.
Macedonian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident.
Expert team from police and judiciary representatives will investigate the site.
Team from Tetovo police department investigated the specialized store of "Makpetrol" gas station near "Ilinden" boulevard, wherein an explosion was heard at 04.00h Wednesday morning.
The investigation team determined that cashikara hand grenade caused the explosion, damaging the windows and the doors and causing material damage amounting to 5,000.
According to the initial findings the bomb was thrown from a vehicle. Just prior to the detonation gunfire was registered near the gas station.
Occasional shootings are registered in Tetovo crisis region from Odri and Dobroste villages.
Shootouts have been heard frequently in Tetovo region Tuesday night, MIA's correspondent reports.
Interior Department from Tetovo says shootouts have been heard from Mala Recica, apartment block 82, "Kiril and Metodij" elementary school at around 04:00 hours.
Frequent shootings have been registered from Tetovo Teke, "Jordan Zlatanovski" and "Lenin" streets, the Coloured Mosque, the reservoirs of the city water system and other parts of Tetovo.
A series of shootouts have been registered from Rasadiste locality, near Popova Sapka - Tetovo road, Odri, Dobroste, Semsevo, Drebos, Ozormiste, Palatica and Prsovce.
Sevalj Ljuma (1972) has been killed in a shootout between the persons of Albanian nationality that occurred late Tuesday around 11:45 hours in Gorna Carsija settlement. He died due to the bad injuries and his body has been transferred to the Forensics Medicine institute in Tetovo.
It is quiet Wednesday morning in Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, unlike the night, when several gunshots were registered coming from the villages of Ropaljce and Opae.
As reported by MIA's correspondent, the shots had no determined targets.
MEETING OF PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ANDOV AND US ADVISER FOR SEE HOLMES.
Adopting of laws that derive from the Framework Agreement is in the interest of the Macedonian state, institutions and politicians, Speaker of the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov said Wednesday after a meeting with US State Department Advisor for the Southeastern Europe James Holmes.
He said that the Government should review and adopt all laws of the Framework Agreement, including the election ones, until May 14.
The parliamentary elections would take place on September 15, Andov confirmed.
Holmes expressed satisfaction with the constructive meeting with Andov on implementing of the Framework Agreement.
"I believe in his leading role in regard with our common obligations and I am sure that we will succeed," Holmes said.
Pointing out that all political parties-signatories of the Framework Agreement are fully cooperative, he expressed hope that all laws would be adopted until the end of May.
Holmes is schedule to meet with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and the party leaders.
PRIME MINISTER GEORGIEVSKI MEETS CARLA DEL PONTE.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski met Wednesday with Chief Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal Carla del Ponte, the PM's Cabinet said in a press release.
Referring to the current situation in Macedonia, Georgievski said that the Government was meeting its obligations, pointing out that reintegration of the country's territory was not carried out in accordance with the foreseen dynamics.
Expressing conviction that the cooperation of the Hague Trubunal with the Macedonian institutions would continue, Ponte said that besides the two ongoing investigations, the Tribunal would open an investigation for three other cases, i.e. cutting of water supply in Kumanovo last year; torturing of the construction workers near the village of Grupcin; and chain of command of the so-called NLA.
To Georgievski's question why there was no investigation on the crimes in the villages of Vejce, Karpalak and Celopek, Ponte said that Macedonian Public Prosecutor Stavre Dzikov, during his recent visit to the Hague, asked only for three additional investigations, but not for Vejce and Karpalak. Georgievski presented arguments why it was necessary for the Hague Tribunal to also open investigations on those cases, including the horrible crime in the motel "Brioni" in Celopek.
The officials expressed readiness for intensifying of the cooperation between the Hague Tribunal and the Macedonian institutions. In this respect, Ponte said that the Macedonian judiciary should take measures for disclosing of some of the committed crimes.
ANDOV MET CROATIAN AMBASSADOR MILOSEVIC.
President of the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov Wednesday received Aleksandar Milosevic, the Croatian Ambassador to Macedonia.
Ideas regarding Andov's forthcoming visit to Croatia have been interchanged.
Stojan Andov will participate at the Conference of Speakers and Presidents of European Parliamentary Assemblies entitled "Democracies facing terrorism: national strategies" on May 8-12, in Zagreb.
Croatian Ambassador expressed hope that bilateral meeting between Stojan Andov and President of the Croatian Parliament Zlatko Tomic will contribute in further strengthening of good relations between the two friendly nations.
Andov stressed that the friendly relations between the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Croatia are stable and proved at the time of the most difficult moments for our country.
They interchanged ideas on the implementation of the Framework Agreement, the package of laws, which are to be passed by adoption of the constitutional amendments, as well as on the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Croatian Ambassador hoped that the elections scheduled for September will be held in best possible way and will mean step forward in development of the democracy.
At today's session, the Macedonian Government reviewed the information about the damages in burnt apartments in Skopje settlement Novo Lisice, and passed a decision for performance of reconstruction of the roof, stairway, entrances, plumbing and electricity. Each of the owners will also receive means in amount of around 1,500 Euro.
The Ministers also reviewed and passed the law for compensation of clients of savings banks "TAT" from Bitola, "Alfa S" from Skopje and "Lavci" from Ohrid.
The proposals for change and supplementation of the Law on Internal Affairs, Law on Identity Cards, Law on Birth Registry, Law on Road Traffic Safety, which are in accordance with the Framework Agreement, were also passed.
The Government also passed a decision for increase of the prices of oil derivatives, starting from midnight. Thus, 86-octane fuel will cost 54 denars, 98-octane fuel 55 denars, while 95-octane fuel 52 denars. The prices of diesel fuels will also be increased: D-1 will cost 39 denars, while D-2 38 denars. The price of the extra light oil will amount to 27,50 denars.
As stated in the announcement, the increase of the prices comes as a result of the increase of the average price of the crude oil at the world markets in the past two weeks, which has increased for 6,5 %, as well as the correlation of the Denar with the Dollar, which is lower for 1,37%.
The Government also passed a decision for the employees in the state institutions and the Health Insurance Fund to be paid 6,000 denars each holiday bonus. The payment will be carried out through a package of food products and hygiene products.
At its regular session Wednesday, the Government reviewed the law on compensation of clients of the savings banks "TAT", "Alfa S" and "Lavci", government spokesman Gjori Trendafilov said.
He underlined that The Government would met its obligations agreed by Prime Minister Georgievski and the clients of those three savings banks.
"A proposal is for the Parliament to adopt this law by an urgent procedure, so that it may be enforced in 45 days," Trendafilov said.
According to experts at the Finance Ministry, by the bankruptcy of those savings banks, the former government and citizens lost about 70 million Euro.
Today, the Government also adopted a draft-law on financial police. "Officers of this institution will have same authorities as policemen," Trendafilov said.
The Government also decided to grant 1,500 Euro to owners of apartments that were burnt during the Easter Holidays in one building in Skopje, as well as to cover the expenses for reconstruction of the electric installation etc.
Trendafilov did not agree with the accusations that the Government was hindering an adoption of the rest of laws from the Framework Agreement.
'Now, we must focus on laws that we have promised to enforce. The dynamics of this process does not depend on the Government only," Trendafilov said.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI ADDRESS AT UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski addressed Wednesday at United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children that is held in New York.
"The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children is a historic opportunity for us to make the needs and rights of children a priority in all development efforts, thus to ensure better, healthier and safer environment for every child. There is no nobler and more precious cause than creating a world fit for children," President Trajkovski said.
He pointed out that in the past twelve years when the world leaders called for a joint action in securing a better world, a world of equal opportunities for every single child, a significant progress has been made in promoting and protecting the rights of the child and in assuring the well being of children.
"Now is the time to renew and reaffirm the commitments made twelve years ago, as well as to review the progress and achievements made for children in the decade following the World Summit for Children and the World Declaration and the Plan for Action and for formulating the specific actions and programs for years to come," Trajkovski said.
He emphasized that Macedonia attaches the greatest importance to the international activities, particularly the activities within the UN system to promote the rights of children all over the world. "It is not time just to learn more about what is being done for the well-being of children, but for every individual, every family, every society and every political leadership, every state and organization, to do the utmost," he emphasized.
According to him, the success relies on our determination and sustained action towards pursuing the key goals: promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence, namely it depends on the ability to address the major challenges of our time: poverty, scourge of war and terrorism and HIV/AIDS pandemic and the risks it poses to children.
"The bitter experience of the region of South-East Europe in the past decade, including the most recent events in my own country Macedonia, are yet another proof of the imperative for the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. Macedonian Government is making efforts to review its legislation and adopt appropriate amendments to ensure full conformity with the Convention, i.e. to ensure that its provisions and principles are reflected, applied and enforced in state policy and administrative practices," President Trajkovski said.
He pointed out that Macedonia has signed the Optional Protocol for Involvement of Children in Armed conflicts and the Optional Protocol on Trafficking of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
He also stressed the good cooperation between the Macedonian Government and UNICEF in the field of child protection, especially in the field of primary health care and education.
"We are now in the process of signing of the third Master Plan of Operation, for the period 2002-2004. Program activities are expected to be of direct benefit to the entire child population, under the age of eighteen, which are approximately 650.000 children in Macedonia. A special emphasize is given to the activities related to the reduction of infant prenatal and maternal mortality rates, and to the better formal pre-school education, covering the social, intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical aspects of the child's development, especially for children from rural and ethnic communities," Trajkovski said.
In addressing this issue, he added that the Government services will closely collaborate with the local communities, national NGO network and international organizations and NGOs, which have largely contributed to the success of the projects in the past.
President Trajkovski said that the adoption of the Declaration and Plan of Action at the UN Special Session will be "a clear expression of the political will and partnership in carrying out the joint task of promoting children rights."
He also thanked to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for his landmark report, which highlights effectively the issues of concern to children, giving them a global perspective. President Trajkovski also commended the Executive Director, Carol Bellamy and the entire stuff of UNICEF for their outstanding dedication and commitment to protecting and helping children.
Today, Trajkovski mety with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Annan expressed satisfaction with Trajkovski's participation in this special session, saying that the presence of so many Heads of State and Government emphasized the significance of this meeting.
Referring to development in the region, Trajkovski extended his gratitude to the UN Secretary General for his efforts in stabilizing of the Balkans. In this respect, Trajkovski briefed Annan about the latest activities for implementing of the Framework Agreement and demarcation of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, giving credit to the role of UNMIK, KFOR, Serbian and Kosovo authorities in successful realization of this process.
The UN was very interested in the Balkan security, Annan said, giving support to all efforts for eliminating of crime, illegal trade etc. He welcomed Trajkovki's initiative for holding of the forum for dialogue among civilizations, saying it corresponds with his efforts to affirm this process.
Minor earthquake rattles southern Bulgaria.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - A small earthquake rattled southern Bulgaria on Wednesday causing no injuries or damage, the local seismological institute said.
The temblor had a preliminary magnitude of 2.7 and was registered at 2:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) 140 kilometers (87 miles) southeast of Sofia near the second biggest city of Plovdiv.
It was the latest in a series of more than 20 small earthquakes in that area in the past few months, which seismologists have attributed to gradual release of tectonic energy some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) underground.
Blast kills two at defunct air force shooting range.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - A bomb that had been dropped but did not explode during an air force practice went off Wednesday, killing two men and wounding three women searching for scrap metal at a defunct shooting range in northeastern Bulgaria, an official said.
The accident happened as the group, ignoring warning signs, was searching the ground with metal detectors and iron pikes at the site near the village of Karapelit, some 500 kilometers (311 miles) northeast of Sofia, Tanya Kazandzhieva, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said in a telephone interview.
Many destitute Bulgarians make ends meet by collecting scrap metal they then sell to firms that supply it to iron smelters.
Kazandzhieva said the only man of the group that remained unharmed told police what happened.
"The bomb that they came across is of a kind that runs deep into the ground before exploding. But this one failed to explode," she said. "One of them obviously hit its detonator with a pike."
Kazandzhieva said the airforce stopped using the Karapelit range in 2000 and cleared the upper layer of the soil from ordnance that had not exploded.
"Then the place was promptly marked with signs that dangerous ordnance might still be lying deeper in the ground and that walking, save digging, in the area is not safe," she said.
Greece, Bulgaria iron out differences on oil pipe project.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - Greece and Bulgaria have ironed out a key difference that had stalled a project to pipe Russian oil from the Black Sea coast to the Aegean, an official said Wednesday.
"Greece has accepted Bulgaria's demand for an equal 33-percent share for each of the three parties in the project," Bulgarian deputy minister of regional development Hasan Hasan said, referring to Bulgaria, Greece and Russia.
Bulgaria's government received the consent of Greek authorities in writing, Hasan said, speaking to reporters.
Greece initially balked at an equal sharing of the pipeline stock, pushing for more than a 33 percent share. Russia had already endorsed the project.
The 300-kilometer (185-mile) proposed pipeline would stretch from the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea to Alexandroupolis, Greece, on the Aegean Sea.
The project has been envisioned to bypass the Bosporus, the only way that Russian oil is currently tankered to the Mediterranean.
A date to sign a trilateral memorandum on the pipeline was still to be negotiated, Hasan said. At that time, each country is to name the companies which will carry out the project.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Spends the Night in a Monastic Cell.
PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will spend the night in a monastic cell in Mount Athos, it became clear yesterday. The MP sets out for Mount Athos tomorrow to attend Zographou monastery patronal holiday. During his four-day visit the Prime Minister will be accompanied by his Chef de Cabinet Radi Naidenov and Associate Professor Ivan Zhelev, who heads the Directorate of Religious Affairs with the Council of Ministers. On May 11 Simeon will take part in the morning service in the church and the public prayer with the miraculous icon of St. George. The PM will present the church trusteeship of Mount Athos and the Zographou monastery icons of Virgin Mary and Saint George. While away from Bulgaria, Simeon will be substituted by Vice-PM Kostadin Paskalev.
Simeon: I Wouldn't Be Here If It Weren't for Gorbachev.
The PM and Russian guest talked till midnight in "Vrana" residence.
If Mikhail Gorbachev hadn't initiated reforms in the USSR, I would have never been able to return to Bulgaria for good, admitted Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha during his dinner with the former Soviet president in Vrana residence on the St. George's Day. The confession was followed by a toast in honor of the Russian guest. Instead of 1 hour envisaged by protocol the meeting lasted over 3 hours and ended almost at midnight. Other guests at the dinner were PM's wife and sister, Margarita and Maire-Louise, leader of the Eurolefts, Alexander Tomov and Foreign Minister with his wife. "I have met with kings, presidents and nobility of all ranks, but it's the first time I meet a real tzar", Gorbachev said. Both he and Simeon are sure that transition period is really a trying time for the people, but this is the price we have to pay for the turn towards freedom and democracy. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is a contemporary man, whose heart and thoughts are given to Bulgaria, despite the fact that he has been living in exile for almost half a century, Gorbachev commented before journalists yesterday.
GORBACHEV - BUSINESSMEN - MEETING.
Bulgaria to Host Mikhail Gorbachev's World Politics Forum.
Sofia, May 8 (BTA) - Bulgaria will host the World Politics Forum which is co-chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton. At a working breakfast with representatives of the Employers Association of Bulgaria (EABG) Wednesday morning, Gorbachev accepted the Association's invitation that the Forum meet in Bulgaria, EABG Board of Directors Chairman Vassil Vassilev said after the meeting.
Gorbachev, who arrived in Bulgaria on May 5, undertook to convey to the members of the Russian business community the messages of their Bulgarian colleagues on a revival and promotion of business contacts.
The former Soviet President told journalists that there is interest in cooperation in information technologies and mechanical engineering. He regretted that the Russian interest in the privatization of Balkancar some years ago was not realized and the company is now in a critical financial position. A million and a half Bulgarian-made industrial trucks still operate in Russia, Gorbachev recalled.
Both countries have lost their markets, inter-company cooperation and manufacturing links have been disrupted, Gorbachev said.
He argued for the need of a clear political message that Bulgarians are welcome to invest in Russia and Russians are welcome to invest in Bulgaria.
He recommended that the high-level delegations which will shortly exchange official visits should include a large number of business people who could establish direct contacts with potential partners.
BULGARIA - U.S. - NATO.
Bulgarian Ambassador to US Presents Candidate Countries' Arguments in Favour of NATO Enlargement.
Washington, D.C., May 8 (BTA) - Bulgaria's Ambassador to the US Elena Poptodorova presented the candidate countries' arguments in favour of NATO's enlargement to the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, BTA learnt from the Foreign Ministry Press Office.
Poptodorva was chosen by her Vilnius Group colleagues to set forth their joint arguments before the US Congressmen.
The Bulgarian Ambassador stressed that integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures is of extraordinary importance for the future of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The reforms will continue even if these countries are not admitted to NATO, but their accession to the Alliance will come as an acknowledgment that they are on the right track, Poptodorova emphasized. She added that NATO's enlargement is not an end in itself but a sign of the candidate countries' willingness to assume their part of the responsibility for building a better world based on shared values and ideals.
The Bulgarian Ambassador in Washington assured the US legislators that if they are admitted to NATO, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will be not only new allies but also "part of a stronger, more efficient and new alliance, capable of responding to the whole spectrum of present-day threats."
Poptodorova also presented Bulgaria's position on NATO's enlargement. She stressed Bulgaria's solidarity with the US and NATO, demonstrated back in 1991 during the Gulf War and later on in the Kosovo campaign and in the war against terrorism after September 11. The Bulgarian Ambassador stressed Sofia's successful regional policy and especially her country's contribution to the resolution of the crisis in Macedonia last year. The achievements of Bulgaria's foreign policy, the military reform, the economic growth, the ethnic tolerance and the positive assessments contained in NATO's report on Bulgaria's progress in implementing its Membership Action Plan were also listed by Poptodorova as significant arguments in favour of the Bulgarian bid to join the North Atlantic Alliance.
Gen. Boyko Borisov said that many employees working at Ministry of the Interior should be dismissed.
Speaking in Panagyurishte, the Ministry of the Interior Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov said that many employees working at Ministry of the Interior should be dismissed because of incompetence, but unfortunately, their jobs are protected by law. He released information about forthcoming replacements of Regional Ministry of the Interior Departments Directors. His visit in Panagyurishte was on invitation by students of the Mining High School in the town.
UNICEF - BULGARIA.
Bulgaria to Be Covered by UN Child Welfare Programme.
New York, May 8 (BTA) - Bulgaria and two other East European countries seeking EU membership will be covered by a child welfare programme of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Labour and Social Policy Ministry's press office said Wednesday.
An agreement to this effect was reached by Labour Minister Lidia Shouleva and UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe Philip O'Brien in New York City on Tuesday. Shouleva is leading the Bulgarian delegation to the current UN Special Session on Children, which is scheduled to close on Friday.
Shirin Mestan, President of the State Agency for Child Protection, and Stefan Tafrov, Bulgaria's Permanent Representative to the UN, are also on the delegation. Two Bulgarian girls, winners in a special national competition, are attending the Children's Forum, which is an important side event of the Special Session.
On Thursday, Shouleva will confer with Herbert Haupt, Austrian Minister of Social, Family, Youth and Women's Affairs.
Shouleva is expected to address the sixth plenary meeting of the Special Session on Friday.
Clerks Misuse Health Care Funds.
With their health insurances the Bulgarians support sponging administration instead of medics and hospitals.
The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) administration used to cut off the resources for free medical examinations and medicines each month. How do they spend the money, however, no one says. Yet, it's only too simple. According to the Budget Act, the NHIF revenues account for 686.116 million levs in 2002. Of them 666.408 million levs are the health insurance payments. Almost one-third of the amount goes for the maintenance of the NHIF itself. 12.5 million levs are envisaged for official trips, rents, repairs, electricity and heating. The NHIF employees numbered 1,750 in 2001. Their salaries totalled 5.2 million levs. Now the figure is larger by 9 million levs. Apart from that, some half a million levs are provided for 'other remunerations of the personnel'. Furthermore, the figures are to soar from now on, since the NHIF pay-roll staff amounts to 4,000 persons. And certainly it will be replenished. Then the money for the wages of this huge personnel will increase 3 times. For example, 384 clerks were employed altogether in the socialist health care before 1989, including those in the Health Ministry. Though at that time there was no health reform. Now there is. But it is for the benefit of the management, rather than for the people.
Five Offers for 'Bulgartabak'
Candidates for the holding queued to submit their documents.
Five companies will vie in the 'Bulgartabak Holding' privatization tender. Their representatives submitted the offers to the Privatization Agency (PA) in the dying minute before the deadline was to expire at 6 p.m. sharp yesterday. Russian - Israeli 'Metatabak' consortium, Greek - Austrian 'Tobacco Holding' consortium, Moscow 'Odintsovo' commercial bank, Deutschebank and another unknown candidate will take part in the bidding. The 'Metatabak' representatives were the most friendly ones to the waiting reporters. We aspire to buy the total of 80 percent of the tobacco holding shares, Georgi Tassev - consortium's representative, specified. He refused to elaborate on the price offered for BG tobacco giant, but he was flat that they gave enough money. The 'Tobacco Holding' pledged information about their intentions at a special briefing on Thursday. Deutschebank representatives were the most secretive ones. They refused to introduce themselves and when it transpired that they were carrying the Deutschebank's offer, they immediately hid away from the media. The business offer of Moscow 'Odintsovo' bank was presented by proxy.
License on Brandy to be Suspended.
Branch organizations to exercise control over manufacturers, experts propose.
Licenses for spirits and alcoholic beverages manufacturing should be suspended, proposed the interdepartmental work group in charge of alleviation of the licensing regimes. The idea is to introduce a registration regime and make branch organizations exercise control over its application. The manufacturers will have to submit the same documents that are required now, but the state will not have the right for refusal, explained Mrs. Gergana Tsareva, chief of the "Registration, licensing and control" department to the Ministry of Economy. Alleviation of this regime creates the risk of slackening the control over small private distillers, which sell dangerous "doctored" brands, say the experts of the Economy Ministry. Minister Nikolay Vassilev also was against the alleviation before Bulgaria is admitted to EU. Tomorrow the work group will submit for discussion in the Council of Ministers the list of proposals on the alleviation or suspension of the major part of licenses. Licensing on the production of CD disks and matrices for them will be replaced by a registration regime. The validity of licenses for manufacturing tobacco products will be extended and the regime of international trade in weapons will be alleviated. Initially the license will be issued for 1 year, while every next one will remain valid for 3 years, the work group proposed.
More Expensive Brandy and Gas.
Income tax to be reduced by 2 percent.
From the next year the price of Bulgarian brandy will rise by about 15 percent. Gasoline will also become more expensive. New excise duties are the reason for the price leap, explained deputy minister of economy, Gati al-Jebury. Yesterday, he and his chief Milen Veltchev made a presentation on the tax policy of the government till 2005. For people with medium incomes the income tax will be reduced by 4 percent in the coming two years. Tax on the lowest wages will be decreased by 3 percent. New taxes introduced till 2004 will trigger off new price rise for gasoline (3-4%) and cigarettes (10-15 %). Only wine may become cheaper next year, because excise duties on it will be lifted. Bulgaria is negotiating with EU about licenses for running home distilleries and wineries without paying taxes, said Gati al-Jebury.
Spiderman Conquered the Rider of Madara.
Ivan Christoff (aka Spiderman) broke two records to have his name entered into the Guinnes Book of Records. The unique demonstrations - climbing up and down and the tightrope, which was fixed to a helicopter, took place yesterday at the site of the Rider of Madara, a giant basrelief of a rider carved into rock.
Bulgaria bans Polish beef imports.
SOFIA, Bulgaria - Bulgaria banned imports of Polish beef and related products on Wednesday, only days after the first case of mad cow disease was reported in Poland.
The ban is expected to affect 10 Bulgarian firms which have a license to import Polish beef, the agriculture ministry said.
Polish authorities announced Saturday that the country had its first of case of mad cow disease. Since then, imports of Polish beef have already been banned by Lithuania, Ukraine, Estonia, Russia and Romania.
Poland is 19th country on which Bulgaria has imposed a ban on beef imports, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy was first diagnosed in Britain in the 1980s. It is believed to lead to the fatal human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed more than 100 people in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
BULGARIA-FOREIGN MINISTRY-CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
Bulgaria Takes Active Part in Prevention of Proliferation of Mass Destruction Weapons, Including Chemical Ones, and Does Not Develop Such Weapons, Foreign Ministry States.
Sofia, May 8 (BTA) - The Foreign Ministry states that Bulgaria takes active part in the international community's efforts to prevent the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, including chemical ones, and as a party to all multilateral and international instruments on disarmament and global security does not develop, use or possess such weapons.
This is said in a press release of the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday prompted by a press report of May 7 alleging that Bulgaria has chemical weapons. "The facts are presented incorrectly, incompletely and tendentiously," the Foreign Ministry says.
The report concerns a phase of the dialogue between Bulgaria and the United States in the context of Bulgaria meeting its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention as a member of the Australian group for export control, the press release says.
In response to information about traces of 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ) received from US sources, the Bulgarian competent authorities carried out a careful study, duly informing the US Embassy in Sofia about the results. The substance specified in the report is not a chemical weapon in itself, the press release says.
The Foreign Ministry recalls that the Chemical Weapons Convention does not prohibit the use of the substance for purposes including the protection of the civilian population and the army against the influence of toxic chemical weapons and their precursors. It is stated that the minimal quantity of BZ, produced to support projects of the former Military Technological Institute, was much below the amount of 1 kg which, according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, is subject to notification to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The quantity was used for scientific research and the development of means of protection - activities that are allowed by the Convention and are completely in line with the statutory instruments on the prohibition of chemical weapons and control of toxic substances and their precursors, the press release says.
The Foreign Ministry says further on that any associations made in the report are ungrounded, including Bulgaria's participation alleged participation and hypothetic connection with the development of any military chemical potential.
BULGARIA - IMF.
New Tax Policy to Be Discussed with IMF Mission Starting Wednesday, Finance Minister Velchev Says.
Sofia, May 8 (BTA) - A mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is starting a review of compliance with the commitments in the two-year stand-by arrangement for Bulgaria this weel. The review is beginning at the technical level on Wednesday. Mission Leader Jerald Schiff is expected here on Friday, and his first formal meeting with Finance Minister Milen Velchev is scheduled for May 13.
Under the two-years stand-by arrangement, Bulgaria will receive 240 million Special Drawing Rights (approximately 299 million US dollars) from the IMF, divided into nine quarterly tranches. The first tranche was released in March, right after the arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board on February 27. The release of the second tranche is contingent on the results of the present mission.
The Government's new tax policy, which was presented to the public on Tuesday, will be discussed with the IMF mission, Velchev said in a BTA interview. He specified that the ideas proposed now are less radical than last year. "We have already talked about accelerated depreciation and there were no objections to that, and I don't expect this to be a problem," the Finance Minister said. "Most of the ideas have been discussed with [IMF Resident Representative] Piritta Sorsa in our routine communications," he added.
The idea to introduce a lower tax rate for designated areas with high unemployment emerged only recently, which is why it has not been discussed with the Fund, he said. "Even if they do not accept it at first, we'll try to convince them - success in this is not guaranteed, but I don't think this is the most important aspect of tax policy."
The really serious part of the talks will be on tax policy and on next year's budget, Velchev specified.
Under the stand-by arrangement, the Government undertook to honour several commitments before the end of March. They include adoption of a strategy for the privatization of the DSK Bank, initiation of a privatization procedure for DZI - State Insurance Institute, amendments to the Banking Act intended to strengthen banking supervision and to broaden the central bank's powers in establishing the identity of direct and indirect bank shareholders, passage of a Bank Bankruptcy Act, and passage of a Public Debt Act.
According to the Finance Minister, most of the commitments have been honoured. Among these, he listed the new Family Allowances Act, the adoption of a strategy for the privatization of the DSK Bank, and the initiation of a competitive bidding for the privatization of DZI.
A schedule for the increase of electricity and natural gas prices for household users has been prepared, and its formal adoption is forthcoming. The Public Debt Bill has been presented to the National Assembly. The Bank Bankruptcy Bill has also gone before Parliament, but this commitment is overdue since the law had to be passed by the end of March, Velchev said. Amendments to the Banking Act are being drafted.
Among the macroeconomic indicators, the Government will report to the IMF a 79.4 million leva budget deficict for the first quarter, down from 138 million leva set in the stand-by arrangement. The Government undertook to amass a 1,900 million leva fiscal reserve but actually achieved 2,400 million leva.
At the end of February, the current account deficit stood at 186.4 million US dollars or 1.2 per cent of GDP. Velchev describes this level as "high but unsurprising." He epxects the deficit to drop in the summer. "It won't be 1.2 per cent of GDP every month, it will be far lower in the summer," he added.
Asked whether the 5.2 per cent January-March inflation could give rise to discussions, considering that the arrangement provides for an annual level of 3.5 per cent, Velchev answered: "The inflation is not a Government commitment, it is set as an expectation and a projection. The Government does not possess instruments to influence inflation in a currency board environment." The Government influences the inflation upwards by raising the administered prices of electricity and telephone services. "But given that the increase of these prices is imposed on us by the IMF and the World Bank themselves, the higher inflation resulting from these factors will hardly be a problem for them," he added. In his opinion, the inflation factors matter more than the specific rate of inflation.
"This mission will be categorically easier than the previous one. It is of a different nature, being a review mission, while the previous one negotiated a new programme," Finance Minister Velchev said.
The Rich Should Pay In For Expensive Power.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Oscar de Bruyn Kops
Let your government protect the poor, advises Oscar de Bruyn Kops of the World Bank.
Oscar de Bruyn Kops is the standing representative of the World Bank in Bulgaria with a 20-year record of service in the Bank. He started his work their from the Young Professionals program. Mr. De Bruyn Kops has broad experience with the economies of Eastern Europe. Since he began his service in the World Bank he worked in several countries of the region, including Bulgaria, where he was in charge of the first survey of the reform in production sector, reform program for state-owned enterprises and development of the private sector.
- Mr. Kops, the Central Heating Agency Sofia was supposed to receive a 7-million-dollar loan from the World Bank for modernization of its facilities. However, the loan has not been put to use yet. Why so?
- Presently we are working in cooperation with the government an Sofia Municipality specifying the technical parameters of the project. Apart from that we are trying to make this venture financially viable, for at the moment it is not making profit.
- Bulgaria made commitments before the IMF and World Bank to complete the privatization of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, State Savings Bank and "Bulgartabak" before beginning of July. Most probably the country will fail to meet this commitment. How will this affect the policy of the World Bank towards Bulgaria?
- As far as we know, the government has made certain progress along these lines. Consequently, no major changes in our programs will be needed.
- The representatives of the World Bank and IMF had an ad hoc meeting with the experts of the Energy Ministry and State Committee for Energy Regulation. They discussed the development strategy in the energy sector of Bulgaria. After the meeting it transpired that most of the critical remarks were against the price-formation policy.
- The term, within which Bulgaria will be able to change energy prices to reach the point when they will cover the actual production costs, is disputable. It is very important that the price reform be carried out in line with some social programs, so that the poorest population strata could be helped. We are encouraged by measures the government has taken in this respect.
- Do you have any recommendations to the government?
- To Bulgaria it is very important to keep up the pace and the rate of growth, which means favorable business climate, fresh foreign investments, improvements in judicial system, as well as more efficient state administration. Stronger accent must be put on social aspects, including measures aimed at protection of socially handicapped. And the way to achieve it is to pursue the reforms.
Peacekeepers Detain Ex-Rebel Chief.
By GARENTINA KRAJA, Associated Press Writer.
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - NATO-led peacekeepers detained the commander of a disbanded ethnic Albanian rebel group that fought Serb forces in southern Serbia, an alliance official said Wednesday.
Shefket Musliu was detained on Tuesday afternoon in the eastern part of Kosovo province controlled by U.S. peacekeepers.
"He was detained through our authority" under the agreements that ended the war in the province, said Maj. Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the U.S.-controlled sector of the NATO-led mission in Kosovo.
Musliu was being held at a detention facility at Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S. base in the province, he said.
NATO's peace force in Kosovo has the authority to detain individuals it considers threats to a safe and secure environment. Ballesteros did not elaborate on why the former rebel was being detained.
Musliu headed the insurgency in the southern part of Serbia known as Presevo Valley, in a bid to win more rights for ethnic Albanians living in the area.
He moved to the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane, about 30 miles east of the provincial capital, Pristina, after fighting between rebels and Serb forces ended with a NATO-brokered peace deal in May 2001.
Musliu was among 23 individuals mostly former rebels from Kosovo, Macedonia and southern Serbia included last year in President Bush's executive order identifying people deemed threats to peace in the Balkans by supporting extremist violence.
Bush banned any financial transactions with the listed individuals.
The Presevo Valley borders Kosovo, which remains legally part of Yugoslavia but has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when the NATO bombing halted then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanians.
Milosevic questions credibility of prosecution witnesses at war crimes trial.
By MISHA SAVIC, Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Slobodan Milosevic accused a Kosovo Albanian farmer of changing his story and omitting an account of how Serbs saved his life, as he cross-examined the latest witness testifying to Serb atrocities for which the former Yugoslav president faces life imprisonment.
'You are giving completely different statements. You have to decide which version of your statement is truthful," Milosevic told Avni Nebihu, 46, who survived an assault by Milosevic's forces on the southern Kosovo village of Sojevo on April 6, 1999.
Milosevic is on trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on five counts of alleged crimes in Kosovo and 61 other counts, including genocide, in Croatia and Bosnia during the decade of Yugoslavia's disintegration.
With Nebihu, he continued his tactic of trying to challenge the credibility of the prosecution witnesses or link them to ethnic Albanian rebels, whom he branded as terrorists.
Nebihu told the court the Yugoslav army moved four tanks and three armored personnel carriers into Sojevo. "Then a large number of soldiers spread over the village, firing shots in the air and forcing people out of their homes," he said.
He and about 500 other villagers fled to the woods, where they were surrounded and robbed by the troops and eventually forced out of the country, to neighboring Macedonia. The troops burned down the village and shot 11 men who stayed behind, he said.
Milosevic confronted Nebihu with what he said were differing written statements he had given to U.N. investigators, starting from mid-1999 when he was in exile in Macedonia.
Back then, "you said it was your own decision (to leave), a precautionary measure to evacuate your family," as fighting raged between Serb troops and pro-independence guerrillas, Milosevic said.
Milosevic also alleged that in his earlier accounts to U.N. prosecutors, Nebihu had said a Serb paramilitary fighter saved his life by helping him escape which he left out from a statements.
Nebihu insisted that his later statements, given in 2000 and 2001 were accurate.
He also tried to corner Nebihu over inconsistencies concerning size of the village, number of troops allegedly involved and other details.
"The initial statements were given under very difficult circumstances," said U.N. prosecutor Geoffrey Nice, seeking to explain the discrepancies to the panel of three international judges.
In the initial investigation, "it was not always possible to precisely note every detail," Nice said, noting the problem of conducting interviews in the overcrowded camps in Macedonia.
Hundreds of ethnic Albanians died and thousands remain missing since the 1998-99 war that ended when a NATO bombing campaign forced Serb troops to leave the province, now an international protectorate.
Serbian Orthodox bishop, Kosovo premier condemn stoning of Serb clergy.
Studio B TV
[Presenter] Raska-Prizren Bishop Artemije and Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi have condemned, in statements to Studio B, the stoning of Serb monks from the Pec Patriarchy and monks from [the monastery of] Decani.
[Reporter] Unidentified [ethnic] Albanians attacked with stones a vehicle in which Serb nuns and monks were returning from the celebration [of the 830th anniversary] in Djurdjevi Stupovi [monastery]. The attack occurred while the nuns and monks were waiting for Italian Kfor [NATO-led Kosovo Force] vehicles which were supposed to escort them to their monasteries, the Raska-Prizren Eparchy said.
Raska-Prizren Bishop Artemije told Studio B that conditions of living in Kosovo were not improving, even after constituting the Kosovo government.
[Bishop Artemije, voice over phone] I simply see this as yet more proof that nothing has changed in Kosovo-Metohija in the past three years and that the Serbs continue to live in very difficult conditions, being deprived of all human rights. This attack on monasticism in Raska-Prizren Eparchy is also a proof, an attack against poor nuns who were being hosted in the Pec Patriarchy as the only Serb inhabitants in our holy Metohija.
[Reporter] The head of the Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija, [Serbian Deputy Prime Minister] Nebojsa Covic, cited that visits by certain Kosovo officials to the Pec Patriarchy was a political stunt, which points to the fact that the Albanians say one thing, while doing completely different things.
On the other hand, Kosovo Premier Bajram Rexhepi emphasized that he would condemn the act of stoning during a session of the Kosovo government, noting that this must not be repeated.
[Rexhepi, in Serbo-Croat over phone] This is to be condemned on all counts.
They will probably be punished, but this falls under the competences of both the court and the police and all that, but I repeat once again that we do not have any rights (?to act upon this). This is a right reserved for [head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK] Mr Steiner and UNMIK.
Armenians Save Their Tears For a New Museum.
By Nora Boustany
R oss Vartian, the oldest grandchild of a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915, still treasures the recollection of working the dough with his grandmother, Akabi Mooradian, as they made massive mounds of lahmajoun, a sort of pizza, in the kitchen of her home in Detroit. He loved making her laugh.
Vartian -- who is directing the planning of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial and is executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, a lobbying group in the District -- still visits Mooradian's grave every Christmas to deliver a progress report on what he and others have done to perpetuate the memory of 1915.
The planned museum, which would be the first of its kind outside Armenia, will be located on the site of the former National Bank of Washington building at 14th and G streets NW. A total of $12.5 million has been donated to acquire and develop the 115,000-square-foot site, which includes three adjacent lots; $75 million must still be raised.
Turkey has lobbied feverishly to refute the assertion that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred from 1915 to 1923 -- during and after World War I -- and objects to branding the killings and other casualties of the period as genocide.
Some historians and Turkish officials cite forced relocations and widespread fighting in the region and note that millions of Turks perished over the same period.
"I was raised to be conscious of my identity," Vartian said last week as he described the defining chapter in his family's history.
The horror began for them in 1915, when Mooradian's father, a school principal and grocer, was taken away by Ottoman armies to serve as a tailor.
Eleven-year-old Mooradian, her six siblings and her mother were forced to leave their home village, Armadan. The family hid from pillaging Kurds, sold their clothes to buy food and stole bloodied garments from corpses to shield themselves from the sun, Vartian related.
One by one, Mooradian's siblings died of hunger, thirst and weakness. Her baby sister Nanik, 3, and two young male cousins were hurled into the Euphrates River by their mothers, who despaired of not being able to feed them. Mooradian's mother gave her up to serve as a maid to a Turkish family, but they turned her away.
Mooradian eventually made it to an orphanage in Aleppo, Syria. With the help of a cousin she reached France, where she married an Armenian entrepreneur and had her first child -- a daughter, Vartian's mother -- before sailing to the United States. Mooradian's husband fell on hard times and took an auto industry job in Detroit.
Vartian's grandmother was not inclined to feel sorry for herself. "She survived it and went on with her life, reinventing herself and starting a new family of Armenians," her grandson recalled. Mooradian's father, who had deserted the Ottoman ranks, found his way to a farming area of Soviet Armenia and started a new family there. Father and daughter corresponded and, decades later, Mooradian went to Armenia to meet his second family. "She had life experience," Vartian said. "She understood the human condition at its worst and best, and she survived it."
In 1975, when he was fresh out of college and imbued with family history, Vartian agreed to help run an Armenian school. Later he joined the Armenian Assembly.
Mooradian never shared her dramatic experiences with her grandchildren.
Instead, in the early 1970s, she unburdened herself, like thousands of Armenians of her generation, to a total stranger commissioned by the Armenian National Institute, which along with other organizations was collecting oral histories for posterity. These are being translated, catalogued and organized for the museum.
Also on display there will be the diaries, photographs and letters of Armin T. Wegner, a German medical aide who chronicled his observations as he traveled to Aleppo and to Baghdad, Iraq, describing the state of "moving multitudes" and "swarms of the famished, ill and dying, who lay there close to madness, eating their own excrement for food."
Wegner wrote to the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, asking him to help the Armenians.
Two years ago, linking its objections to U.S. strategic interests, Turkey lobbied to defeat a House resolution acknowledging the killings as genocide.
Vartian said that defeat left him feeling "humiliated as an American. Our nation did not really grow until it began admitting its past sins." He cited Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's description of genocide and Holocaust denial as a "double killing: first you kill the people and then you kill the truth. History is supposed to be irreversible."
Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues, described Vartian as "an extraordinary lobbyist."
Robert A. Kaloosdian, chairman of the Armenian National Institute in the District, has worked with Vartian for 20 years. "At this moment," he said, Vartian "is the critical person in bringing the pieces [of the museum project] together in order for it to grow into the success we all envision. Most important is the significance of the museum not just for the history and displays. Hopefully it will prevent similar things from happening to other people in the future."