...WHILE UZBEK PRESIDENT CONFIRMS ARRESTS. Islam Karimov confirmed at a 15 March news conference, following a meeting with visiting Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, that suspects in the Tashkent bombings have been detained in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. He gave no further details about those arrests but did name two people he called "organizers" of the terrorist act: Takhir Yuldash and Mohammed Solih (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 March 1999). Yuldash, according to Karimov, is now in Pakistan and has held meetings with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Solih, who is chairman of Uzbekistan's banned Erk Party, has been living in exile for several years. Karimov said he has evidence that Solih has been in Afghanistan, in Russian and Ukrainian cities, and in Istanbul. He commented that "Solih has sunk to the point of dealing with fanatics with whose support he intends to become president." Karimov has asked Interpol to help apprehend Solih and Yuldash. BP

KUCHMA CRITICIZED FOR DECREE ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM. Ivan Chyzh, head of the parliamentary Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information, has criticized President Leonid Kuchma's decree reducing the number of ministries and state committees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 1999). "It is a cause of concern that the Information Ministry no longer exists, while such illegitimately created state committees as [those for radio and television and for publishing and printing] remain," UNIAN quoted Chyzh as saying. Chyzh added that Kuchma's decree intends to create a monopoly within the information sector "to allow easy manipulation" in the upcoming presidential election campaign. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko commented that following Kuchma's decree, the government has now met all IMF requirements for the resumption of the fund's $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine. The IMF Board will meet on 24 March to discuss resuming that loan. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CUTS OFF ELECTRICITY TO DEBTORS. Kyiv has cut off electricity supplies to 60 large enterprises that have not paid their debts for earlier deliveries, "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 16 March. Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov told the cabinet the previous day that those enterprises include several steel plants. Electricity supplies may be resumed only after the head of the newly created commission on monitoring electricity bill payments issues a written agreement to restart deliveries. JM

ALLEGED MURDER PLOT AGAINST CRIMEA'S HRACH UNDER INVESTIGATION. President Leonid Kuchma has ordered that allegations of a murder plot against Crimean Supreme Council speaker Leonid Hrach be investigated, InfoBank reported on 15 March. That move was triggered by a letter from former Crimean parliamentary speaker Yevhen Suprunyuk published in "Krymskaya pravda." Suprunyuk said that during a conversation in 1995 or 1996, a "high-ranking [Ukrainian] official" offered "to physically eliminate" Hrach, at the time first secretary of the Crimean Communist Party. Suprunyuk has been in hiding since November 1998, when an arrest warrant was issued for him on charges of involvement in two murders, assault, and financial wrongdoing. JM