Warsaw Pact and Comecon To Dissolve This Week

DEFENSE and foreign ministers of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact met in Hungary yesterday to disband the six-nation military alliance. The dissolution of the pact, which kept Europe divided during the cold war, was a foregone conclusion after the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and Eastern Europe's pro-democracy revolutions more than a year ago. But Moscow's concern about future security arrangements have kept the alliance alive, at least on paper, and its political structure may remain intact after the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers from Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, leaders of the Soviet-led trading bloc Comecon will gather in Budapest this week to end its existence as well. ``There is general consensus that the 40-year-old Comecon could not contribute to modernization, nor help improve the welfare, nor expand the agricultural position of member states,'' said Bela Kadar, Hungary's minister of international economic relations. Polish premier pleads for Western aid Facing growing unrest in Poland, Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki vowed to continue the government's stringent economic measures and made a dramatic appeal to the West for reduction of his nation's debt. ``I am of the opinion that Poland cannot come out from the crisis on its own,'' he said in a Sunday address to 500 delegates at the Solidarity trade union's third congress. ``A deep reduction of the debt is needed.'' The same day, however, Finance Ministry Director-General Stefan Kawalec said that Poland had reached a tentative agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $2 billion package that could open the way for a flood of Western aid. President Bush told Polish President Lech Walesa in a recent letter that IMF approval of Poland's economic program, contained in Sunday's agreement, was a precondition to a debt reduction deal. Authorities arrest dozens in Albania Albanian authorities arrested dozens of people, including members of the opposition Democratic Party, after three days of anti-Communist rioting, opposition sources said Sunday. The capital, Tirana, was quiet, but the sources told Reuters by telephone in Vienna they feared a military dictatorship after a tough speech by Communist leader Ramiz Alia. In a Saturday speech, Mr. Alia blamed enemies of Albania at home and abroad for rioting in which four people died. He vowed to defend the legacy of his hard-line predecessor Enver Hoxha. A massive statue of Hoxha, which dominated Tirana's main Skanderbeg Square, was toppled in the violence. Albania has been swept by political unrest since student demonstrations in December. Alia has responded by promising some reforms. On Friday, he replaced the government of Prime Minister Adil Carcani with a Cabinet of technocrats. Alia has scheduled multiparty elections for March 31. Bulgaria's former leader goes on trial Bulgaria Monday began the trial of ousted Communist leader Todor Zhivkov. Mr. Zhivkov has been accused of embezzling $4 million from public funds to buy luxury apartments and Western cars for family and favored friends. Zhivkov denies the criminal activities, and two lawyers defending him have stated that the evidence presented so far is insufficient to bring in a verdict of guilty. After six months in jail, Zhivkov was released but kept under house arrest in his granddaughter's fashionable villa, located near his own longtime residence outside the capital.

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