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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) makes a point as he talks to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma after a solemn ceremony in Kiev, dedicated to the tenth anniversary of Ukraine's independence, August 23, 2001. Ukraine marks the tenth anniversary of its independence on August 24. REUTERS/Pool


A British paratrooper carries a machinegun at the Macedonian Airport of Petrovec August 23, 2001. NATO troops in Macedonia were putting the finishing touches on plans to collect weapons handed in voluntarily by ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA). (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)


British soldiers walk to a bus after arriving at the Macedonian airport of Petrovec, August 23, 2001. NATO troops set off for Macedonia to defuse an ethnic conflict by collecting rebel weapons -- but a senior alliance official warned that its third mission of peace in the Balkans was fraught with risk. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)


British soldiers arrive at the Macedonian Airport of Petrovec August 23, 2001. Troops launching NATO's third Balkans mission in six years poured into Macedonia, preparing to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian guerrillas as part of a precarious peace plan. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)


German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (R) and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (L) look up as they attend a cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, August 23, 2001. The German cabinet was expected on Thursday to approve the deployment of 500 troops to Macedonia as part of NATO's third Balkan peace mission, although parliamentary backing for the mission is still not assured. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


Members of the 2nd Paratroop regiment board a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tri-Star at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to fly to Macedonia to be part of Operation Essential Harvest, August 23, 2001. Over two hundred British troops are heading for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to collect weapons handed over by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army. REUTERS/Darren Staples


Members of the 2nd Paratroop regiment board a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tri-Star at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to fly to Macedonia to be part of Operation Essential Harvest, August 23, 2001. Over two hundred British troops are heading for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to collect weapons handed over by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army. REUTERS/Darren Staples


Members of the second Paratroop regiment leave the departures lounge at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to fly to Macedonia to be part of Operation Essential Harvest, August 23, 2001. Over two hundred British troops are heading for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to collect weapons handed over by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army. REUTERS/Darren Staples


French soldiers set up sand bags at their base at the Macedonian Airport of Petrovec, August 23, 2001. NATO governments approved a plan on Wednesday to send thousands of troops to collect rebel arms in Macedonia. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski


British soldiers unload luggage from a military aircraft at the Macedonian Airport of Petrovec August 23, 2001. The United States welcomed NATO's decision to send a force to collect weapons from rebels in Macedonia, but stressed its role would be limited to troops engaged in logistic support. (Petr Josek/Reuters)


A British soldier waves from a bus at the Macedonian Airport of Petrovec, August 23, 2001. NATO governments approved a plan on Wednesday to send thousands of troops to collect rebel arms in Macedonia. REUTERS/Petr Josek


We have been UEFA's champions. I wish you to become champions as well, said Turkey's Vice-Premier Mesut Yilmaz (on the right) yesterday, before Levski v Galatasaray match. He arrived especially for the game on board a private plane.
Photo Kiril Konstantinov

Russia warns against NATO operation in Macedonia.


MOSCOW: Russia issued a thinly veiled warning on Wednesday that a NATO operation to collect arms from ethnic Albanian rebels in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia could act as an incitement to armed actions by Albanian extremists.

The alliance has "undoubtedly assumed a great responsibility for what is happening in Macedonia and for the perspectives of ending the crisis" there, the foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to recent incidents involving Albanian rebels.

Citing the destruction Monday of a 14th-century Orthodox church at Lesok, the ministry said that international actions such as the Essential Harvest arms collection operation "must not appear as an encouragement of extremism and a de facto legitimisation of separatism."

Peace and stability "can only be achieved by means of strengthening a multi-ethnic democratic society in a united and sovereign Macedonia," the statement said.

Russia has expressed serious reservations about the NATO operation, describing it as a palliative move unlikely to resolve the crisis in the region.

Russian troops would not take part in the NATO operation, as it had not been approved by the UN Security Council, defense ministry officials said as quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

"NATO and the US leaders will bear full responsibility for the negative consequences NATO's military intervention in Macedonia may have," the officials said.

Children in awe of Macedonia's Albanian guerrillas.


By Daniel Simpson

SIPKOVICA, Macedonia, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Bullet necklaces are the height of fashion for children in this remote mountain stronghold of guerrillas waging an ethnic conflict in Macedonia.

Perched on the slopes above Tetovo, the unofficial capital of the former Yugoslav republic's large Albanian minority, the village of Sipkovica buzzes with scores of National Liberation Army (NLA) fighters, who are heroes to their ethnic kin.

The NLA's six-month insurgency in the name of Albanian civil rights has forced Macedonia, under Western pressure, to sign up to sweeping reforms in return for a rebel promise to surrender weapons to NATO troops, who began arriving on Wednesday night.

"The NLA gave us freedom and they gave me this bullet," said an eight-year-old boy named Egzon, fingering a submachine gun cartridge dangling from a length of leather around his neck.

"I feel proud to wear it," he declared with a beaming grin.

Several of his friends, gathered outside a mosque watching a jeepload of British paratroopers on an advance liaison mission screech to a halt, sport similar accessories.

Others go even further. In a narrow alleyway leading to the headquarters of the NLA's 112th brigade and a command centre for the entire rebel force, two small boys in camouflaged clothing stand guard with wooden toy rifles alongside real gunmen.

The 12-year-old serving fruit juice to visitors to the house where NLA chief Ali Ahmeti sleeps is kitted out with a standard issue black T-shirt emblazoned with the guerrillas' red "UCK" insignia and a pistol holster strapped across his slight chest.

"I'm a fighter, part of the NLA," he proclaims, although he admits he has no gun and that his duties are entirely domestic.


Similar scenes are commonplace across the arc of northern territory seized by the guerrillas along the Kosovo border.

On a dirt road leading to Radusa, an NLA-held village deserted by civilians after a government assault with tanks and attack helicopters, a small girl stops traffic at a makeshift roadblock with "Stop! UCK" scrawled on a piece of cardboard.

The gunmen demonised by Macedonians as separatist terrorists bent on the annexation of territory are revered by the Albanian inhabitants of the villages they occupy, despite the hail of incoming fire that has rained down on "liberated" regions.

"Who will defend us if the NLA disbands unless NATO takes its place?" asked Adem, a 55-year-old Sipkovica resident.

Civilians crammed into a small square off the village's winding main street on Wednesday to pay their respects to a gunman barely out of his teens, who was departing on leave.

"He's one of the best fighters we have," said Dren Korabi, a senior aide to Ahmeti although only 22 himself.

Children waved as gunmen toting assault rifles and rocket launchers leaned out of the windows of battered cars racing out of the village with engines roaring and stereos blaring.

Scenes such as these, which few Macedonians have witnessed first-hand but which foreign media relay onto their TV screens, only reinforce the majority's belief that the NLA has the means and the support to resurface after handing in a token arsenal.

The officer in charge of NATO's mission to collect guerrilla guns has warned that the rebels could rearm from Kosovo at any time and trains of mules being led through Sipkovica by bearded fighters are the NLA's principal means of smuggling weapons.

Although Korabi insisted the guerrillas were committed to disarmament, he conceded it would be tough to abandon the lifestyle that appears so glamorous to young Albanians.

"It's going to be hard to take off my uniform and put on normal clothes," he said. "I'm used to this way of life now."




Macedonian and Greek Foreign Ministers Ilinka Mitreva and George Papandreou stated at the press conference that they raised the issue on the name dispute during their talks held Thursday, MIA's special correspondent reports.

"The positive climate in our relations contributes for resolving the name dispute and as you now the entire process continues in the United Nations," Papndreou stated.

Mitreva pointed out that spectacular statements about the name dispute should not be expected "as the talks will continue under the auspices of the United Nations." Mitreva also stressed that the constitutional changes would not include new article regarding the name.

Papandreou emphasized that Greece supports Macedonia to resolve the crisis and condemned the violence and especially the "terrorist acts."

He welcomed the signing of Framework agreement, which is fully supported by Greece.

"We strongly condemn the destruction of the monastery in Lesok , that undermines the efforts for peaceful resolution of crisis," Minister Papndreou said.

The Greek Foreign Minister informed that Greece would send 400 soldiers in NATO operation for disarmament of the Albanian terrorists.

He announced that on the ministerial meeting in Brussels they would talk on holding donor conference for Macedonia as well as on granting financial assistance.

"The Greek businessmen will continue their investments in Macedonia," he said, adding that Greece will grant humanitarian assistance to Macedonia and that it supports its European perspective.

Minister Mitreva assessed that the relations between the two countries are moving forward. She said that the participation of the 400 Greek soldiers in disarmament mission of Albanian terrorists is exceptionally significant, and the Greek Government should formally make decision about this on Thursday.

"We expect NATO and the international community to conduct vigorous operation for disarming and calling of the Albanian terrorist and paramilitary groups," Mitreva stressed.

She stated that Greece has supported Republic of Macedonia in asking for urgent financial assistance.

"It is very important for Macedonia to obtain urgent economic support and in that respect we reviewed the options for bilateral cooperation on economic field as well as in the filed of investments," Mitreva said.

The meeting also focused on the security and military - technical cooperation.

After the press conference Mitreva had brief meeting with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, and leader of Coalition of the Left party and progress "Sinaspiosmos," Nikos Constantopoulos.

She will also have talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

Doubts about German military preparedness cast shadow over Macedonia vote.


BERLIN, Aug 23 (AFP) -

Debate over German participation in the NATO operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia has added a new edge to criticism that the country's armed forces are under-equipped to handle such international missions.

"I fear that in the areas of materiel and equipment, the Bundeswehr does not have the means to fulfil future missions," said Guenther Nolting, a defense specialist in the liberal Free Democratic Party who has been reluctant to lend his support to German participation in the NATO operation.

Nolting said that a lack of funding could undermine soldiers' security and morale.

Germany's top military officer, General Inspector Harald Kujat, expressed the same view in an interview in March, saying "the Bundeswehr is not 100 percent ready for interventions (abroad)" and was "stretched to breaking point" due to its peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.

In spite of these warnings and pressure from within the NATO alliance, the German government intends to continue with an austerity course imposed on its armed forces.

With a budget of 23.6 billion euros (21.8 billion dollars) for 2002, the defense ministry is being forced to swallow a 1.4 percent drop in funding compared to 2001.

In 2003, it will have to accept even less, although Colonel Bernhard Gertz, president of the Bundeswehr Association representing soldiers' interests, says an additional 1.53 billion euros is needed this year.

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping was widely quoted in the press until recently as condemning the long-term 10-billion-euro drop in military spending, introduced as part of a government-wide effort to reduce spending.

But forced to concede defeat, Scharping has turned to plans to privatize certain Bundeswehr services, reduce the number of barracks and sell armed forces property to make both ends meet.

According to an internal ministry document, Scharping hopes to save nearly 511 million euros in 2001 with such measures. But for the generals, this a pittance.

According to the German press, the estimates of military needs made by the top brass and the federal government have never been so far apart.

The opposition Christian Democrats (CDU), who are against the sending of troops to Macedonia without a significant boost of the military budget, are calling for additional spending of 33.2 billion euros over the next 10 years.

Increased investment is all the more necessary, Gertz argues, considering Scharping's ambitious plans for military reform which envisage increasing the number of troops prepared for foreign missions from 70,000 today to 150,000 in the next decade.

Gertz added that the Bundeswehr severely lacks the training and equipment necessary for these types of missions, particularly in the air force and the navy.

It has only been since the mid-1990s that Germany has joined international peacekeeping forces and other missions abroad, hampered as it was for years by the burden of its historical past as an aggressor.

Gertz reckons that an engagement in Macedonia would be too much for the armed forces in their present situation, given that Germany already has 5,000 soldiers in Kosovo and 2,000 in Bosnia, unless the government makes more of an effort.

Aware of the criticism and eager to obtain a majority when parliament votes on the Macedonia mission, the government has made a conciliatory gesture.

The operation, which entails sending up 500 German troops at an estimated cost of 61.36 million euros plus monthly costs of 7.7 million, will not come out of the defense budget but be paid for from other federal funds, said Bundeswehr spokesman for foreign missions, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Uhde.

This move is also intended to send a message to the United States, which has expressed increasing frustration in recent years with Germany's refusal to commit more to defense.

The nominated US ambassador to Germany, Senator Dan Coats, did not even wait to take up his post to declare that "there has to be a recognition on the part of the Federal Republic of Germany that if they are to maintain a central partnership and position in NATO it has to be accompanied by more than rhetoric, it has to be accompanied by resources".

NATO-Led Peacekeepers May Pass Through Yugoslavia.


August 23, 2001 02:48 PM ET

BELGRADE (Reuters) - In a decision unthinkable when Slobodan Milosevic was still in power, the Yugoslav government said Thursday it would allow the transit of NATO-led peacekeepers through its territory on their way to Kosovo.

The Beta news agency, citing a government statement, said the decision referred to forces and equipment of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force which has been deployed in U.N.-governed Kosovo for the last two years.

The official Tanjug news agency said the government took the decision following a request by countries forming part of KFOR, but did not give details.

But the government made clear it would decide on each transit request separately, adding that they would be bound by strict conditions, with Belgrade choosing the point of entry and exit and the route of the KFOR troops.

Kosovo remains legally part of Yugoslavia but is run as a de facto international protectorate following NATO's 1999 bombing campaign to halt Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's Albanian majority.

The KFOR force, now around 43,000 strong, entered Kosovo in June 1999 following the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from the province.

Turkish Bus Lifted before the Match.


The Mercedes bus that brought to Sofia journalists and VIP guests disappeared from the parking lot in front of the "Hrankov" hotel, the Jeep of a reporter was broken into

Unidentified criminals stole the Mercedes-604 bus with Turkish registration from a parking lot in front of the "Hrankov" hotel between 4 - 6 a.m. yesterday. The bus brought 29 Turkish journalists and VIP guests for the return game between Levski and Galatasaray. The driver claims that at 4 p.m. the bus was in the parking lot. Two hours later, however, one of the VIP guests noticed that the vehicle is missing. The security guarding the parking lot say that at about 6 a.m. two young guys, who were talking Turkish loudly, opened the bus unperturbed and drove off in an unknown direction. At 7.00 a.m. hotel employees alarmed the police. Two patrol cars arrived. Customs authorities were warned and asked for co-operation. At the moment the police is looking for a blue Mercedes bus with license plate 34 TE 2372. This was the headline news in Turkish mass media yesterday. On Tuesday evening someone broke into the car of a Turkish journalist from the "Dogan" news agency. His Nissan jeep was parked in front of the "Princess" hotel. Fortunately, the thieves failed to lift the jeep.

Milena Orozova
Elena Staridolska


Policy towards Russia Was Detrimental.

Standartnews: Interview

The former rulers didn't want to understand that strained relations with Russia would lead to negative election results, says Alexander Semernev, trades representative of the Russian Federation in Bulgaria, in an exclusive interview for "Standart"

- Mr. Semernev, how would you assess the Bulgarian-Russian relations?

- Last year Russian export to Bulgaria grew considerably. However, to our regret, import from Bulgaria has slumped. As a whole, if we have to estimate our trade balance and the structure of trade turnover it may be described as unfavorable, to put it mildly. The passive balance for Bulgaria amounts to over 1 billion USD for the last year only. This trend has been persistent for many years already. No doubt, Russia cannot be happy about it. As for the future, we shall stick to our old priorities, that is space exploration, nuclear energy, including the construction of new power plants. Hopefully, Bulgaria will step up the decision-making in energy sector. Because for your country there is no alternative to the construction of new a nuclear power plant.

- Russia has already gained sad experience taking part in the tenders for Bulgarian energy sector ventures. What could you say about your business encounters with Mr. Shilyashki (chief of the Energy and Energy Resources Agency)?

- I wouldn't like to comment on my personal relationships with Mr. Shilyashki. There are some political nuances which hinder the decision-making. For years on end we witness a trend towards intentionally created alienation between our countries, first and foremost in trade and economy. This policy is destructive. I really hope that the new government will amend it. Moreover, it appears that its members do not have personal commitment or obligations to anyone. I suppose that one of the remarkable moves of the new government that will be able to radically change the economic situation in Bulgaria is exactly normalization of relations with Russia. I do know that this is the vision of the Prime Minister and the prevailing mood in the Council of Ministers.

- What can you say about the project of "Bulgartabak" holding to build four tobacco factories in Russia? Is there any development?

- This is a very promising project. What is bewildering, however, is the fact that the management of "Bulgartabak" hasn't shaped any strategy whatsoever for the performance of these enterprises on the Russian market. There is no common price policy, no common efforts towards protection of the Bulgarian and Russian market niches. We witness the policy of intrigues, that in recent years has become popular with the management of "Bulgartabak". We are now looking forward to change in the management which is due on September 11. I think that new people will come, who will promote fresh ideas and set new objectives. Then, I hope, we'll be able to straighten out our relationships.

- Have you already informed the new Bulgarian government about the existing problems?

- Yes, I have informed minister of agriculture Mehmed Dikme and minister of state administration Dimitar Kaltchev.

Slavka Buzukova
Svetozar Bakhchevanov

Military Works Sold Anew.


At least 10 of the MEA in the industry are edging bankruptcy, urgent finance injection is needed.

The industrial ventures, being privatized by managers' teams, will be the first to be privatized once again, figure out the reports on the situation with the denationalized state assets. The reason is that most of the companies in this field are in a dramatic finance condition and are also edging bankruptcy. Hundreds of their employees are being jobless and with any alternative to make their living. PA (Privatization Agency) experts are drawing detailed report about the ventures being in the deepest water. Among them are 'Trema', 'Bulgarska Roza', 'Dinamit'- Razgrad and 'Pektin' - Pernik. So far the list numbers at least some 10 ventures, but it will soon rise, forecast wee-informed. Which are further threatened by insolvency? The 'Communications Equipment' plant in Blagoevgrad is in a deep crisis. It's employees and the trade unions several times protested before the PA against the draining of the works by it's owner - "Communications Equipment' Managers and Employees Association (MEA). The shoe factory in Dobrich, having been bought by 'Dobrich98' MEA, is in a sorry plight, left now without owner. Before being drained the factory gave the daily bread to 1,800 employees. Only ten are working there now. Recently the deal with the MEA was canceled for the incapability of the buyer to pay-off the price. The Plovdiv-based giant - 'Balkankar Rekord' was also privatized by a MEA, close to the outgone power. Presently, the plant doesn't work.
Team of 'Standart'


Ministry of Foreign Affairs hailed the start of the NATO operation in Macedonia.

Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the decision of the NATO Council to start the operation for disarmament of ethnic Albanian extremists in Macedonia. The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs speaker that was sent to Agency also reads: "We are confident that this is a key element of the efforts for achieving the aims of the framework agreement of August 13, 2001. We appreciate highly the commitment that the NATO member countries have taken upon themselves, which also includes possible risks connected with the operation. In order for the peace process to succeed and for the framework agreement to be implemented, the strict observation of all the commitments that the parties in the conflict had taken upon themselves would be of a crucial importance. As we have emphasized many times, violence could not fully solve the problem, which position coincides with the position expressed by the Secretary-General of NATO. Bulgaria would continue actively to support the actions of the international community and the NATO and the legitimate political factors in Macedonia for a permanent restoration of peace and stability in the country".

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