Moldova Tries to Keep Lights On

Associated Press

Just days before Chinese President Jiang Zemin is to visit this debt-ridden country, officials said they are struggling to ensure that the capital's main street is lighted for the important guest.

"We hope to find funds so that the Stefan the Great Boulevard can be lighted from 19th to 20th July when the Chinese president is in the capital," Deputy Mayor Anatol Turcanu said Monday.

Moldova, nestled between Ukraine and Romania, is among the poorer former Soviet republics. Last week, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the country's foreign debts amounted to $2 billion.

Until the beginning of June, Chisinau's main thoroughfare was about the only street in the city of 1 million residents with guaranteed street lighting. Now even it has plunged into darkness because of $389,000 in unpaid bills to Spanish electricity supplier Union Fenosa.

Few details have been released about what is planned for Jiang during his two-day visit. The Chinese president is to meet Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, and the two are to visit the underground wine cellars of Cricova. Last year, Voronin visited China as head of Moldova's Communist Party.

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