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A Day to Remember.
Amidst the continuing vivisection of Macedonia, terror in Kosovo and political struggles in Yugoslavia, it was hard this week to remember an important anniversary. Yet it was exactly six years ago, on August 30, 1995, that NATO first entered the Balkans' wars as a combatant, opening the path to all subsequent interventions, occupations and "disarmament" missions in the region.
Following an explosion at the Sarajevo marketplace on August 28, blamed immediately on Bosnian Serb artillery, NATO unleashed Operation Deliberate Force a coordinated attack on Bosnian Serbs by US aircraft and Anglo-French ground troops stationed near Sarajevo. The bombing lasted three weeks, and was accompanied by a massive offensive of Bosnian Muslim and Croatian armies, driving hundreds of thousands of Serbs from their homes in Western Bosnia. Richard Holbrooke, head US envoy in the Balkans, described it as "bombs for peace." One look at today's Bosnia ought to be enough to see that what Holbrooke called peace others rightfully call Hell.
With Deliberate Force ended the UN role of impartial peacekeepers, however flawed it may have been. Blue Helmets were replaced by NATO and other "regional organizations," responsible only to the self-appointed rulers of the world. The road went on to Kosovo 1999 (Operation Allied Force not "Merciful Angel," as some mistakenly believe) and Macedonia 2001 (Operation Essential Harvest), each cementing the position of NATO and the US as the masters of the Balkans, always at the expense of people who actually live there.
A SHOW OF FARCE
Nowhere is this more evident than in today's Macedonia. Barely two weeks ago, Imperial legates forced the Macedonian government to agree to rewrite their Constitution, and institute a second official language and ethnic quotas, submitting thus to the worst kind of identity politics so beloved in the Empire itself. This past week, the expeditionary force of 4,500 Imperial auxiliaries (since the Legions were too busy elsewhere) arrived in Macedonia, tasked with collecting a "credible" number of weapons from the separatist UCK.
Since NATO is to be but a glorified chambermaid, picking up weapons voluntarily surrendered by the UCK (which has no obligation under the Treaty of Ohrid to do so), it would look extremely stupid if Operation Essential Harvest produced a paltry yield. So its commanders negotiated with the UCK a credible number of weapons to be turned in, somewhere around 4,000. Macedonian government protestations that the figure is absurdly low were met with scorn and ridicule by NATO commanders and Western press alike.
As NATO strives to preserve its own credibility at the expense of reality, UCK leader Ali Ahmeti gains stature by the day. Yesterday's terrorist, Ahmeti is today's peacemaker. Already the media point out that his credibility is crucial to NATO's success as if the endless repetition of the world "credibility" is calculated to create a credible illusion of trust in both NATO and Ahmeti's (newfound) good will. But it is just that an illusion.
It is a testament to the twisted character of Imperial intervention in Macedonia that the truth, usually the first casualty of war, has now become the first casualty of peace.
CASUALTIES OF PEACE
This week, Macedonian pilgrims and refugees streamed back into the torched, looted and ethnically cleansed village of Leshok, to celebrate a major Orthodox Christian holiday. This is the same village where the rampaging UCK demolished a 13th Century Orthodox monastery just ten days ago. Yet NATO was displeased by the visit of ethnically cleansed Macedonians, fearing a "confrontation" with Albanians and wary of a "nationalist" presence among the pilgrims.
On the eve of NATO deployment, the UCK blew up a motel near Tetovo. They tied two security guards to the explosives, causing the blast to scatter their body parts among the ruins. This gruesome act of terror made no sense, until it emerged that the motel was located in the hometown of Macedonia's patriotic Interior Minister, Ljuben Boskovski, who has strongly opposed any concessions to the UCK. Having failed to kill Boskovski once, the UCK felt a need to send him another message. Not surprisingly, the Western press brushed everything off as irrelevant to the greater mission NATO's exercise in credibility....
Faced with NATO's cordial acceptance of terrorists, it is no wonder that Macedonians feel betrayed. Yet Reuters, for example, feigns ignorance. It claims the Macedonians see NATO as having sided with the UCK in Kosovo, and believe it failed to stop the influx of weapons from that occupied province, as if neither were factual truth. Who exactly is living under delusions here?
Even if there were any truth to claims of one British paper of a "relentless government and media campaign" against NATO, Macedonians did not need any more reasons to stone a British jeep and kill sapper Ian Collins in the process. He and the other 4,499 Imperial troops camping with the UCK represent the Empire's rape of Macedonia brought to its most ironic extreme even more ironic than the media using the young soldier's death for an anti-Macedonian campaign.
NATO's merry adventure in Macedonia predictably drew back to the surface a refrain of numerous warmongering pundits that peace in Macedonia would be accomplished through the independence of Kosovo. Following no discernible logic, proponents this argument among them, recently, Albanian president Rexhep Meidani and a Blairite pundit in Britain claim that an independent, Albanian Kosovo would discourage Albanian separatism in Macedonia, Serbia's Presevo valley and Montenegro. And since water boils at 100 Celsius, at 200 it will surely freeze, right?
NATO-occupied Kosovo is indeed a paragon of virtue in the Balkans. Ten days ago, an Albanian family was machine-gunned to death as it drove through the UCK heartland. Kosovo's occupation authorities, military and civilian, immediately condemned "acts of violence [that] threaten the progress toward self-government and a democratic future," while the Reuters report tried to fit the attack in the context of Albanian "revenge attacks" against Serbs for "repression" under Milosevic.
Just a few days later, it turned out that the father of the massacred family was a police officer in pre-1999 Kosovo, loyal to his country and not the UCK. Immediately, it was the victim's own fault that his family was massacred; it was due to his involvement in allegedly "terrible crimes" supposedly committed by Serbs, local Albanians told the London Sunday Times. Thousands routinely showed up to funerals of UCK members killed in battles with Serbian police and the Yugoslav Army. Few came to the funeral of the 50-year old Hamza Hajra and his family, who, in the words of a local Albanian, "deserved to die."
IN THE BEGINNING
It seems almost surreal, but what has happened both in Kosovo and Macedonia can be directly traced to August 30, six years ago. Though there is ample evidence of covert US operations in Bosnia and Croatia as early as 1992, it was on this very day in 1995 when the line was clearly crossed and NATO entered the Bosnian War.
Despite serious warnings of long-term consequences and numerous voices of dissent, the Empire decided to set its boot on the Balkans and enter the same morass that has ruined the Romans, the Ottomans, the Austrians, the Germans, and perhaps even the Soviets to some extent. The die was cast. With every new intervention, every new "humanitarian" war or "peace," the clearer it becomes that Empire has become a reality. Garet Garrett's description seems eerily fitting.
With belief in their own inexhaustible righteousness, the Empire is slowly crushing the Balkans under the boots of its troops, which now count on memories of their Nazi predecessors to maintain morale.
However tempting, it would also be disingenuous to pin the blame for the bloodshed in former Yugoslavia on the Empire alone. The existing ethnic politics, religious fanaticism, old-fashioned greed and power-lust were more than enough to ignite conflicts. But without Imperial intervention, these conflicts would not have taken such a high toll in lives and property.
It was Imperial intervention that tied a complex, post-Communist region into a Gordian knot. The road from EEC (today's EU) interference in the secession of Slovenia and Croatia to US meddling in Bosnia, Kosovo and now Macedonia was long and curvy. But, predictably, as local leaders scrambled to enlist diplomatic and military support from outside powers, diplomatic interference quickly grew into military involvement, then outright occupation.
Before the Imperial intervention, formalized six years ago, liberty, progress and peace in the Balkans were already hard to attain. Until the Empire leaves one way or another they will remain impossible.
BRITAIN SUPPORTS MACEDONIA'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY.
The Great Britain supports the territorial integrity, sovereignty, stability and prosperity of Macedonia, British State Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday in Skopje.
During his visit to Skopje, Straw met with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov, as well as with the leaders of major political parties. He also visited British soldiers, who participate in the NATO operation "Essential Harvest".
"Macedonian politicians I have met today are convinced that the parliamentarians will vote for the Framework Agreement," Straw said.
On behalf of the international community, Straw gave credit to the Macedonian Government and people for their role in the Kosovo crisis.
All Macedonian politicians extended their condolences on the death British soldier Ian Collins, while Trajkovski promised that thorough investigation would be carried out, Straw said.
He informed on the British assistance to the Macedonian Army, "which is establishing an anti-terrorist unit and rapid task force."
"These special units will be established by an assistance of two experts from the British Army, " Straw said.
Referring to NATO operation in Macedonia, Straw said it would last as planned.
"Essential Harvest will be completed in 30 days, which was mentioned by NATO Secretary General George Robertson, who was in Skopje yesterday. This mission is with a limited mandate and we hope that after 30 days, in cooperation with the OSCE and EU, implementing of the Framework Agreement will take place," Straw said, adding that at today's talks only one party leader asked for an extension of the NATO mission.
"It is very important from Prime and Foreign Ministers of other countries, particularly of NATO members, to be in touch with the Macedonian authorities," Straw said.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski received Straw today.
Current situation in Macedonia and the activities of the NATO mission for disarmament of terrorists was on the agenda. President Trajkovski expressed his gratitude for the leading role of the British contingent in the NATO mission.
The two interlocutors stressed the significance of the period after the end of the NATO mission, when Macedonian security forces, with the presence of civil observers from the EU and OSCE, should regain control over the whole territory of the Republic of Macedonia.
The British State Secreatry was also received by Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski.
Expressing his deepest condolences for the death of the British soldier who lost his life in the incident at the Skopje-Veles highway on September 25th, Georgievski pointed to the necessary cooperation with the Macedonian institutions in resolving of the case.
Mr. Straw expressed belief that the situation in Macedonia would be normalized and the crisis would be surpassed. After the crisis is over, he said, a donors' conference will be organized in order economic support to be provided for Macedonia.
The Macedonian Prime Minister agreed that economic development is very significant for surpassing of the crisis. He also said that for dealing with the crisis it must be eliminated from the root, which, as he said, was in Kosovo.
Macedonian Assembly Chairman Stojan Andov met Thursday with the British Foreign Minister and expressed his deepest sympathies for the tragic death of the British soldier.
Andov briefed Mr. Straw on the forthcoming activities of the Macedonian Assembly.
Minister Straw expressed hope that through the peace process the Republic of Macedonia will choose the right, peaceful path for resolving of the crisis and for determining its future.
Mr. Straw also met with the leaders of the four parties who signed the Framework Agreement Ljubco Georgievski, Branko Crvenkovski, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri, who assured him that the parliamentary groups from their parties would support the beginning of the procedure for making changes in the Macedonian constitution.
Border Crossing Tabanovce On Macedonian - Yugoslav Border Blocked.
Kumanovo, August 30 (MIA) - The border crossing on Macedonian - Yugoslav border since Wednesday night is blocked for car traffic for NATO aimed for stoppage of transportation to and from Kosovo.
Around fifty displaced persons from Kumanovo - Lipkovo region mainly from the villages of Matejce and Opae, have set blockades detaining the military transportation vehicles, as well as KFOR and OSCE vehicles and trucks with documents for border crossing Blace. The blockade does not refer to civil vehicles, which can pass through the blockade.
The border crossing Tabanovce has been blocked on call of the World Macedonian Congress which wants to work out liberation of the captured Macedonians by the Albanian terrorists and creating of conditions for return of the displaced persons in their homes. bb/sk/14:50
Worried Macedonians Weigh Public Vote on Peace Accord.
the Washington Post
Officials Fear Legislative Rejection of Pact, Seek Alternative.
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 30, 2001; Page A26
SKOPJE, Macedonia, Aug. 29 -- Phase one of NATO's effort to disarm ethnic Albanian rebels ended today at an army base in a small Macedonian town. But in the capital, opponents of the country's peace plan signaled they will try to vote it down when it is put before parliament in coming days.
Western and moderate Macedonian officials, fearful this effort might succeed, are examining the possibility of stalling the vote in the legislature and taking the agreement directly to the people in a referendum.
That could force NATO to prolong its operation, which is supposed to be limited to the collection of arms over a strict 30-day period. A referendum could take at least 60 days to organize after a parliamentary vote authorizing one, or the collection of 150,000 signatures from among the population.
A referendum is "an option we're looking at," said a source close to President Boris Trajkovski, whose aides have indicated that approval of the peace accord is on a razor's edge in the 120-member parliament. Western officials have discussed the possibility of a referendum with Trajkovski and say public opinion is swinging toward support of the peace agreement.
Political leaders of the Slavic majority and the ethnic Albanian minority signed the accord two weeks ago. It calls for Albanian guerrillas, who have launched sporadic attacks on Slav-dominated government forces since February, to turn in their arms to NATO in return for enactment of a package of measures meant to increase rights for ethnic Albanian citizens.
A telephone opinion poll of 1,055 adults conducted last weekend by the Skopje-based Institute for Democracy, Solidarity and Civil Society showed that a bare majority of respondents, 50.3 percent, support the agreement. But it represented a significant jump from a poll conducted by a different organization immediately after the accord was signed.
A U.S.-funded media campaign to build support among Macedonians for the agreement began this week with television, radio and print advertisements. A Western-sponsored voter survey showed there is very little understanding in both ethnic groups of what the agreement actually says or means, and a major goal of the campaign is to increase public knowledge about the terms.
Among Macedonian Slavs, support for the agreement stands at 43.7 percent, according to the weekend poll; opponents generally contend the deal gives too much to the Albanians and that a full military assault against the guerrillas is the best alternative. Seventy-eight percent of ethnic Albanians favor the deal, the poll found.
Members of parliament, meanwhile, are coming under intense pressure to support the agreement or risk full-scale civil war and the country being globally isolated. Western diplomats are visiting with legislators and municipal leaders to build support for a yes vote.
"The pressure is overwhelming," one lawmaker said today.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson visited an army base in the town of Krivolak in southern Macedonia, where some of the 750 weapons surrendered so far by guerrillas of the National Liberation Army were displayed, and pronounced the program on track. "It is not just the number of weapons that matters," Robertson told reporters today, referring to claims that the guerrillas are giving up only a tiny portion of their cache, "it is the fact that the so-called NLA is handing over these weapons and disbanding as an organization."
"The members of parliament hold the future of this country in their hands," Robertson said, following lengthy talks with political leaders. "I can't tell whether this historic project is going to succeed, but the alternative will be horrifying."
The rebels are meant to disarm completely in three phases under the agreement, while parliament simultaneously initiates a three-step legislative process to adopt constitutional amendments, prepare drafts of the amendments, then vote on each amendment. The first step begins Friday and its successful conclusion requires a yes vote by 80 members of the 120-member assembly. The vote is to follow a debate that could extend into next week.
Attempts to scuttle the accord in parliament focus on a rump group in the party of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, according to Western officials, local leaders and a key legislator.
"I would not like it to be my destiny that a Macedonian killed me because I betrayed the nation," Danilo Gligorski, a member of Georgievski's governing party, said in an interview today. He described himself as leaning strongly toward voting against the agreement. "If I choose to be killed, I would rather be killed by a terrorist in the mountains."
According to Gligorski, the overwhelming majority of his colleagues in parliament oppose the accord, and its defeat is likely.
He estimated that the agreement will get only 50 to 55 favorable votes.
Western officials and other analysts dismissed those figures as exaggeration and said a group of about 10 young hard-line members of Georgievski's party could defy the leadership and vote no. But that would still allow the agreement to squeak through, analysts said.
"This is a small country not known for defiance," said Edward P. Joseph of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels research organization. "At the end of the day, they always roll."
And Ivica Bocevski, executive director of the democracy and solidarity institute, said parties here are disciplined and hierarchical, and that Georgievski can secure enough votes for passage while allowing a small group to dissent for symbolic purposes.
The prime minister, a reluctant signatory to the agreement, plans to meet with his parliamentary group Thursday night to urge them to at least allow the process to go forward from Friday even if they reserve the right to vote no at the end, legislators said. That would provide some breathing space for further lobbying and allow the return of displaced refugees to their homes, a critical issue for the dissenters.
Rebels in Macedonia call on EU, NATO to guarantee peace accord.
SIPKOVICA, Macedonia, Aug 30 (AFP) -
Ethnic Albanian rebel leader Ali Ahmeti called on the European Union and NATO on Thursday to ensure the Macedonian parliament approves the peace accord.
In an interview with AFP and French radio, Ahmeti said: "An accord was signed and we are confident -- the guarantee for this accord is the European Union and NATO."
"We have confidence in the Europeans and the Americans -- if there is a problem we will take it up with them," Ahmeti said.
The Macedonian parliament meets on Friday to begin debate on implementing the peace agreement which grants an amnesty to the rebels and official status in some areas for the Albanian language.
While Ahmeti's National Liberation Army (NLA), did not take part in negotiating the agreement, the rebels have agreed to surrender 3,300 of their weapons to NATO for it to be ratified.
Why Jack Straw is really in Macedonia.
Guardian exclusive: we print a secret Foreign Office memo advising Jack Straw how best to exploit photo opportunities - er, sorry, rally our brave troops - during his Macedonian visit.
Thursday August 30, 2001
The following document has unaccountably fallen into the hands of the Guardian. It showed up on the screen of our correspondent, Derek Brown, while he was sneaking a few minutes off work to browse the jokes 'n' novelties section of his favourite humorous website, JackStrawManOThePeople.co.uk. Here we reproduce it in full.
From: Assistant Secretary, Information Directorate, Visual Section (Ministerial Photo Opportunities), Foreign and Commonwealth Office
To: General Officer Commanding, British forces somewhere in Macedonia Thursday August 30, 2001
In the light of today's visit by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, you are to take immediate action to ensure the following.
1. You will provide a tank for Mr Straw to climb on, and ensure that photographers are present to record this event.
2. It need not be a very big tank, but it MUST be bigger than any tank Lord Robertson climbed on during his visit this week.
3. If requested, you will provide Mr Straw with a flak jacket. It MUST NOT be a normal-issue military one, but rather the nice blue kind which Jeremy Bowen wears so frequently on the BBC.
4. Should the Secretary of State point out that a brightly coloured flak jacket might make him conspicuous and vulnerable to snipers, you will tell him that blue is the best colour for television.
5. You will brief the Secretary of State that at all times in the presence of the media, he must assume a suitably grave and concerned expression (SGACE), and nod frequently to indicate that he knows what is going on, and that he agrees with it.
5a. The SGACE may be relaxed when the Secretary of State is photographed with Other Ranks, at which times he is permitted to grin and even laugh, in a matey sort of way.
5b. The SGACE will be resumed when the Secretary of State is with senior officers, Macedonian politicians, and insurrectionists.
6. If the Secretary of State is shown any of the weapons you have collected, he is to be watched very closely. Any attempt by him to pick one up is to be discouraged.
7. Interpreters fluent in Macedonian and Albanian are to be provided.
8. On no account must they tell the Secretary of State what is actually being said. Instead, they must emphasise the everlasting debt of gratitude owed by all the people of the Balkans to the sagacious and generous help being provided by the United Kingdom, by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and even more particularly by the Foreign Secretary.
9. Should the Secretary of State complain of discomfort during his visit, he may be politely told that opportunities of this kind are not to be sniffed at.
10. He may also be discreetly reminded that the present Leader of the House never passed up the chance to climb on tanks.
Seven injured in Greek-Albanian fight on Rhodes.
ATHENS, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Seven people were injured and five were charged with assault on Thursday after clashes beteen Greek and Albanian youths on the tourist island of Rhodes, the semi-official Athens News Agency (ANA) reported.
It was not clear why dozens of youths began fighting late on Wednesday in the Ialissos area of Rhodes, the agency said. One 26-year-old Albanian was in serious condition.
A public prosecutor on the island charged five Greeks with causing bodily harm. A young Albanian was released but several more people who are in hospital will be facing charges upon their discharge, ANA reported.
"Rhodes police authorities have taken increased security measures in the Ialissos area to prevent new incidents," it said.
Hundreds of thousands of Albanians have come to Greece seeking work since communism collapsed in their impoverished country in the early 1990s.
Macedonians stage second roadblock protest.
SKOPJE, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Macedonians opposed to a peace deal with ethnic Albanian guerrillas have set up a second border blockade to stop NATO forces from entering the country, state news agency MIA reported on Thursday.
MIA said around 50 Macedonians displaced by the conflict in the former Yugoslav republic had gathered just south of the Tabanovce border crossing with Serbia on Wednesday evening at the urging of the World Macedonian Congress group.
The Congress, which fiercely opposes a NATO-backed peace deal meant to end the conflict, has been staging a blockade at the main border crossing into Kosovo for almost two weeks to prevent peacekeepers based there from entering Macedonia.
Last week the Yugoslav government agreed that soldiers from the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo could travel through its territory.
The latest blockade, about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Skopje, appeared to be a move by the protesters to stop NATO using this new route.
Most of the troops in NATO's Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia, tasked with gathering weapons surrendered by ethnic Albanian guerrillas, have come in by air or by land from Greece.
But the alliance has stressed it wants to see an end to the blockade at the Kosovo border, which makes the supply and rotation of its peacekeepers in the province more difficult.
MIA said the new blockade did not apply to normal civilian traffic, but vehicles belonging to NATO and other international organisations would be turned away.
The rebels have agreed to hand in weapons to NATO in return for greater rights for Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority.
But groups such as the World Macedonian Congress do not trust the guerrilla group and have called for the immediate release of all captives held by the rebels.
The guerrillas have released 15 prisoners to the Red Cross this week.
There are three hard ways to handle Albanian separatists.
the Philadelphia Inquirer
By Srdja Trifkovic
On the eve of the War in Kosovo, I wrote in the Times of London that NATO support of ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo would unleash a chain reaction whose first victim would be Macedonia, because "once KLA veterans acting as policemen start to patrol Kosovo, the rising expectations of Macedonia's Albanians will be impossible to contain."
"Nonsense," a U.S. State Department official snapped at a conference in Washington a few days later. "The problem in Kosovo is Milosevic. In Macedonia the Albanians don't need to make trouble because their rights are respected." The issue was that of "human rights," he said, not nationalism: the notion of Greater Albania was a Serb paranoid invention.
Two and a half years, one bombing, and $100 billion later we know the score. The same pattern of NATO blunders is continuing. To correct it, we need to recognize that no institutional arrangements short of ethnic partition will assuage Albanian separatism.
There is nothing remarkable, or inherently reprehensible, about such behavior: Premodern nations and tribes have been at it since time immemorial. The Albanians differ only in that they have perfected the art of using foreigners - sultans, kaisers, duces, fhrers, and most recently the Clinton administration - to get the job done for them. Indeed, the mess in the Balkans is likely to be Clinton's most enduring legacy.
The Bush administration now faces three alternatives. All of them are unpleasant, although not equally so.
Becoming a truly honest broker and acting robustly to disarm the KLA (or whatever label it chooses to use in Macedonia today, or Montenegro or Greece tomorrow) is a nonstarter. Truly disarming the KLA, not merely collecting an arbitrarily determined and suspiciously low number of easily replaceable weapons, would mean American casualties, leading to a hasty withdrawal of the U.S. contingent - with or without prior agreement with our European allies - and the loss of credibility that this administration would never allow. It knows that the only reason that ethnic Albanians still tolerate NATO's presence in Kosovo, now that it is no longer needed to defeat the Serbs, is that it has not seriously attempted to declaw the KLA.
The present course - pretending to restrain the KLA while effectively appeasing it - is the worst of all options. The deployment of 3,500 NATO troops, supposedly for 30 days so the KLA may hand in its weapons to them, is a stopgap measure divorced from any meaningful strategy. It will also bring an all-around loss of American credibility (with the Macedonians this has already happened) and no gain. Ethnic Albanians will continue to use Kosovo as their safe haven for hit-and-run attacks against Macedonians, with NATO either reduced to passive observers or forced into an open-ended mission creep, and with American diplomacy permanently stuck in a deadend not of this administration's making.
The third option, least odious by far, is to disengage. During last year's campaign, candidate Bush and his aides - notably Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and others - claimed that it was time to turn over the task of policing the Balkans to the Europeans. Since the United States has intervened needlessly and harmfully in the Balkans for the last decade, the task of sorting out the mess should be left to our NATO allies, if they are keen to stay. Bush should call Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder and give them the glad tidings: The hour of Europe has come. If your Eurocorps is to have any meaning, gentlemen, it is now - in the hills around Tetovo, on the road from Skopje to Kumanovo, and inside Kosovo - that its worth may be proven.
Perhaps the Europeans will have the sense to decline this gift. Ultimately the Albanians may even have to face their long-abused neighbors without foreign cover. That will present them with an unexpected problem, but its resolution is unworthy of the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier or Texas Ranger.
Estimation On How The Parliament Will Vote.
By Irina Gelevska, A1 TV
(Skopje, August 30) Macedonia is facing a crucial time on 31-th of August, when the Macedonian Parliament should vote on the political agreement for Constitutional changes. These Constitutional changes are approved by the leaders of the 4 main parliamentary parties from the government coalition, and include the official use of the Albanian language, the official recognition and accreditation of the University in Albanian language in Tetovo, more Macedonian Albanians in the police and army, etc. One of the phases of this political agreement is Task Force Harvest operation. NATO forces in Macedonia are having 3 days break to see the outcome of the voting in the Macedonian Parliament.
The biggest party in the Parliament VMRO-DPMNE has 46 MPs, and according the coordinator of this parliamentary group Chedomir Kralevski, the MPs will vote according their opinion. It is expected that half of the MPs of VMRO-DPMNE will vote "Yes" and half "Against" the political agreement.
The second large party in the Parliament, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has 25 MPs. Nikola Popovski, the coordinator of SDSM in the Parliament have said that this party will decide how they will vote today. But according one of their MPs and former minister of defense Blagoj Handzinski, this party is not pleased by the number or quality of the collected weapons so far, but they will vote for the political agreement. SDSM has 25 MPs minus 2 MPs who have recently become ministers in the government.
The two Albanian parties in the Parliament, the Party for democratic prosperity (PDP) and the Democratic party of the Albanians in Macedonia (DPA) which have 25 MPs minus 2 MPs who joined NLA, will vote "Yes".
The smaller parliamentary parties such as VMRO-VMRO, LDP, LP, DA, ND etc, will vote "Against" the political agreement. Their number of MPs is about 20. Three of the 4 independent MPs will also vote against the political agreement.
All together, the coalition parties will have nearly 80 votes, which is necessary for ratification of the political agreement. The vote will be tight, but it is expected that the political agreement will pass the Parliament.
The Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski showed much concerned about the outcome of the voting, so he invited the French expert in Constitutional Law Robert Badinther, the author of the political agreement to speak with the MPs before the voting in the Parliament. According to Slobodan Danevski, MP from the Liberal Party, Badinther have told him that Macedonia is facing economical sanctions if the Parliament doesn't vote for the political agreement.
Macedonian MPs ready to vote for peace: British FM.
SKOPJE, Aug 30 (AFP) -
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday that Macedonia's parliamentary leaders were ready to approve a peace accord aimed at ending an ethnic Albanian uprising.
On the eve of a key parliamentary session called to ratify the August 13 agreement, Straw met with Macedonian party leaders who said they were lobbying for a vote in favor of the accord.
"All the political party representatives, leaders who I've met today, emphasised their commitment to ensuring that their parties vote in favour of the framework agreement," he told reporters at parliament here.
Straw's visit to the troubled Balkans state came as NATO announced that it had met an interim target of collecting one third of 3,300 weapons held by the National Liberation Army (NLA) rebels -- a commitment the alliance made to ensure that parliament began ratifying the accord.
The agreement signed between Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian political leaders grants official status to the Albanian language in certain areas and creates more jobs for the Albanian minority in the police force and in the administration.
But many Macedonian politicians are sceptical about the accord and the number of weapons the NLA is holding. Figures made public here on the number of arms have ranged from 6,000 to 85,000. The reputable military review Jane's Defence Weekly put the figure at 8,700.
"As far as weapons collections is concerned, I think it is fair to say that this has gone smoothly and at the higher end of expectations," Straw said.
"Already the interim target of a third of weapons to be handed over has been met and that is an important milestone on the route to putting in full place the framework agreement to secure peace in this country."
President Boris Trajkovski said NATO had met the conditions for parliament to begin implementing the peace agreement after meeting with security officials to review information given to them by the head of the NATO arms collection operation in Macedonia, General Gunnar Lange.
Lange said he advised parliament that NATO had gathered one-third of the NLA's weapons and that he hoped the results would help sway parliament to approve the deal.
Ethnic Albanian rebel leader Ali Ahmeti was optimistic that it would.
In an interview with AFP and French radio, Ahmeti said: "An accord was signed and we are confident -- the guarantee for this accord is the European Union and NATO."
"We have confidence in the Europeans and the Americans -- if there is a problem we will take it up with them," Ahmeti said in his stronghold in Sipkovica in northwest Macedonia.
Ahmeti also tried to allay Macedonian fears that the rebels would take up arms again once NATO finished its mission on September 26.
"We will respect all our engagements, all that was agreed," he affirmed.
"A rejection of the text by parliament would not be good news, it would not contribute to peace," the NLA political leader said.
The constitutional amendments needed to implement the accord require the approval of two-thirds of parliament's 120 members.
Hardliners in the Macedonian government and some members of parliament are suspicious the NLA is giving up only a fraction of its arsenal and planning to keep control of a swathe of territory it holds along the borders with Albania and Kosovo.
In a tight afternoon schedule, Straw met Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and the leaders of the four main parties in parliament, before holding talks with parliament speaker Stojan Andov.
Andov is a key to ensuring that the peace agreement is ratified.
Straw said he met only one politician who raised doubts over the timetable of Operation Essential Harvest, but he refused to name the person concerned.
While affirming that any extension of the mission beyond 30 days would be unlikely, Straw would not rule out a new international mission.
He said that once parliament had met its obligations, civilian monitors could be put in place including representatives of the European Union and Europe's security organisation, the OSCE.
Macedonia troops may be there at Christmas.
By Julius Straussin Skopje
DIPLOMATS are working on a plan that could keep British soldiers in Macedonia until at least the end of the year, it emerged yesterday.
The moves began after it became clear to envoys in the capital, Skopje, that the nation's peace agreement - which Nato's British-led task force is helping to enforce - faces stiff opposition from hardline Macedonian MPs.
If it is rejected in a parliamentary vote in Skopje, expected this weekend, the former Yugoslavian republic's government may need to hold a referendum to implement the deal.
It gives improved rights to the ethnic Albanian minority and includes an amnesty to most rebels who demobilise, official status for the Albanian language and more minority jobs.
Western sources refused to be quoted on the contingency planning yesterday, but it is accepted that the 4,500-strong Nato force could be required to remain in the Balkan state until Christmas.
The official Nato position is that if the peace agreement stalls, the mission will simply pull out. But envoys in Macedonia admit that a premature evacuation would prove politically damaging and even dangerous.
Ahead of the crucial parliamentary vote, few were willing to predict whether the government could muster the two thirds majority it needs to keep the agreement on track.
A survey taken a month ago showed that only 25 per cent of Macedonia's Slav majority support the plan, with a little over 50 per cent of ethnic Albanians in favour.
Last weekend, a telephone poll conducted by parliament's second-biggest party, the SDSM, suggested that the figure had risen above 50 per cent in both communities.
But hardliners in the main governing party, VMRO, are furious, saying they have come under enormous pressure from Nato and their own political leaders to endorse a deal they do not believe in.
In a mission planned to take 30 days, Nato peacekeepers are disarming the Albanian rebels, who have fought a six-month insurgency. but there is growing anger over the 3,300 weapons the guerrillas are being asked to give up.
Hawks in the government say this is an unrealistically low estimate of the number at the rebels' disposal.
Parliament meets tomorrow to discuss putting forward a motion to bring the required constitutional changes into force.The meeting is timed to coincide with Nato's completion of a third of its arms-collection target, which one alliance spokesman said last night had now been achieved.
Danilo Gligorovski, a VMRO MP, said all his 45-strong parliamentary group might oppose the deal in the subsequent vote. Other MPs may also vote against it, and it needs to win at least 80 votes among the 120 parliamentarians if it is to pass.
Mr Gligorovski said: "I have no problem giving Albanians any number of rights. What I am against is the never-ending story until a Greater Albania comes."
Lord Robertson, Nato's Secretary-General, visited political leaders in Macedonia yesterday in a last-minute attempt at arm-twisting. He said the alternative to the successful implementation of the peace agreement would be "horrifying".
Lord Robertson quoted President Boris Trajkovski as saying he had "agreed to disagree" on the target figure for weapons collection, but added that the key point for Nato was that the rebel army had promised to disband.
Even if the weekend vote passes, a bigger challenge will come at the end of Nato's planned 30-day mission when MPs vote again on more constitutional amendments. These include raising the status of Islam and guaranteeing Albanians greater representation in the police.
Toby Helm in Berlin writes: After weeks of debate, Germany's parliament approved sending 500 troops to Macedonia yesterday in a 497-130 vote.
UNHCR warns of security vacuum.
ISN, Thu 30 Aug 2001
The UN's refugee agency called on Tuesday for more international monitors to be deployed in Macedonia where it said refugees were returning to a dangerous "security vacuum". Spokesman Ron Redmond told Reuters that monitors - civilian or military -- were needed on the ground to help improve security in some lawless Macedonian villages before it would advise people displaced by the six-month conflict that it was safe to go home. The EU and OSCE currently have 49 monitors in the former Yugoslav republic where the government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas agreed a peace plan two weeks ago. Some 5'600 refugees have returned from Kosovo to Macedonia since the accord was signed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But some 51,880 refugees are still in Kosovo, while an estimated 70'728 people remain internally displaced within Macedonia. "There is nobody keeping law and order in some villages. We would like to see monitors, civilian or military, before people go home," he said. "There is a vacuum." About 900 refugees, the largest return in recent days, went back from Kosovo to Macedonia on Monday, according to the UNHCR. But UNHCR spokeswoman Millicent Mutuli said: "We are worried that NATO's temporary presence may be giving a false sense of security." This was because NATO had a very specific mission - to collect arms from the Albanian rebels within a 30-day period. The UNHCR has also stepped up its presence in Macedonia, deploying aid workers this week around the country, including to the northern flashpoint town of Tetovo, to identify ways of improving safety. (Reuters)
Bulgaria's Roads Are Death Traps.
105 people were killed on the roads in August. 47 died during the war in Macedonia.
Bulgarian roads are like death traps. 105 persons were killed from the beginning of August till yesterday. 745 were injured. The war in Macedonia got 47 victims for this month, and the injured number 9.
1,012 people were killed and 8,030 were disfigured in traffic collisions during the previous year in this country. This data was announced by the management of the National Police and Traffic Police.
One can not travel along a Bulgarian road and be sure of reaching his destination safe and sound. The motor roads are all in holes and full of crawling 15-20 year old trunk cars. Crazy signs stand in places where they do not belong. The Traffic Police officers obey to the senseless orders of their superiors, instead of helping the drivers. According to "Standart", it will not take long until 200 persons will brutally die on the roads each month.
Dogan Leaves for Skopje.
I'm heading for Skopje soon. The situation there gives reasons for anxiety and any optimism would be contradictory to reality, Ahmed Dogan said. Before starting he and Georgi Parvanov, who visited Skopje last week, will exchange information. The MRF could propose a definite formula for the solution of the problem there, Dogan said.
The first opponent of Petar Stoyanov for the presidency is already clear.
The first opponent of Petar Stoyanov for the presidency would be the Supreme Cassation Prosecutors Office prosecutor Borislav Yotov. Assotiated Professor Borislav Yotov made an appeal to the media and to his supporters, in which he explained his motives to run for President and some accents of his program. The main points of his program are restoration of national self-esteem and dignity, and holding referendums about all decisions that are crucial for Bulgaria, like joining the European Union and the NATO. About the later, he said for News.bg Agency he was for economic integration of Bulgaria with developed countries, but not at the price of extreme restrictions. Concerning NATO, he explicitly said that this structure was a remnant from the cold war and would be dissolved like the Warsaw Pact, and expressed his firm support for restoring death penalty. Borislav Yotov is the author of the book The President, in which he denounces President Petar Stoyanov and points out his alleged negative sides. Borislav Yotov is born on February 29, 1944 in Vrana, and has been working as prosecutor from 1971, as follows: Deputy Regional Prosecutor of Sofia, Prosecutor in Chief Prosecutor Office, and Prosecutor in Supreme Cassation Prosecutors Office. He is the author of more than 40 journalist and juridical publications.
Milosevic speaks out.
CHANNEL 4 NEWS
Broadcast: August 30, 2001
Reporter: Samira Ahmed
Calling the court illegal and the charges false - Slobodan Milosevic has delivered a defiant tirade - again - against the International war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
In his second appearance before the court, the former Yugoslav President made repeated complaints about his treatment. Judges were finally provoked to turn off his microphone. But as the hearing ended United Nations prosecutors said they would also be indicting Mr Milosevic for genocide in Bosnia and Croatia. Samira Ahmed reports:
"A false tribunal for false indictments":
That's how Slobodan Milosevic described the International War Crimes Tribunal where he made his latest appearance today.
He still hadn't read the indictment against him, or appointed a lawyer, claiming he would speak for himself, with advice from a large legal team.
The British presiding Judge found straight away that the defendant was in combative mood:
Judge Richard May, Principal Judge, UN War Crimes Tribunal:
"You know the rules, no speeches at this stage, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself in due course. But if there are issues you want to raise about the case or about your conditions, then this is your chance to do so."
"Well, I would like to know first of all can I speak, or are you going to turn off my microphone, like first time?"
Judge Richard May:
"Mr Milosevic, if you follow the rules you will be able to speak. If you deal with relevant matters, of course you will be able to speak."
"Well, that is my next question. I would like to make presentation on the illegality of this Tribunal."
And that set the tone for the rest of the hearing. While the chief prosecutor looked on, the former Yugoslav leader had plenty to complain about: restrictions on his contact with the press:
Slobodan Milosevic, Former President of Yugoslavia:Why I am isolated from the press? Especially in the circumstances in which every single day there is something printed or broadcast against me as a pure lie.
And more general alleged violations of his human rights:
"Why the visits of my family are monitored? Why you need monitoring of my talks with my grandson who is two and a half years old?"
Judge May had strong words for the Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, asking her to finalise indictments for the trial; pointing out it had been more than two years since the indictment process began. In court she asked for the indictment to be read out to Mr Milosevic and afterwards outside, she confirmed that she would have a fresh indictment ready by October the 1st, containing charges of genocide in Bosnia and Croatia.
Carla Del Ponte, UN Chief Prosecutor:
"Today even we can start if the trial chamber want, but my wish is that we join all indictments and that the trial chamber can examine all responsibility for Milosevic for what happened."
The hearing ended with Mr Milosevic still refusing to co-operate with the War Crimes Tribunal. But his lawyers are keeping busy. They're in the Hague District Court tomorrow where a Dutch District judge is due to rule on their application to have him freed; claiming the Dutch authorities are guilty of kidnapping. The challenge is based on habeas corpus legislation, existent in many countries; but is expected to be thrown out.
Dr Dain Brouwer, Criminal lawyer speaking from the Hague:
"All effort has gone into ensuring that these prisoners, neither Mr Milosevic nor the Libyans responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, have ever come into Dutch jurisdiction. Dutch law has made extensive arrangements to exclude the venues and the means of transportation and all things surrounding international courts in the Netherlands, to exclude those venues from Dutch jurisdiction."
Assuming that legal challenge fails, Mr Milosevic will be back in the tribunal court in October. His trial for three charges of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, including mass murder and deportation, is due to start early next year.
Combative Milosevic Silenced by U.N. Judge.
August 30, 2001 5:02 am EST
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Slobodan Milosevic took a combative stance on Thursday at his second appearance before the U.N. war crimes court, prompting judges to cut off a tirade against what the former Yugoslav leader assailed as an "illegal" court.
Milosevic told judges at the pre-trial hearing he was "in front of a false tribunal for false indictments," complaining about the conditions of his detention and challenging the court's right to try him.
Judge Richard May cut off Milosevic's microphone and adjourned the hearing after around half an hour.
"We are not going to listen to these political arguments," the judge told Milosevic, who faces three charges of crimes against humanity, including mass murder and deportation, and one of violations of the laws or customs of war during Serb "ethnic cleansing" against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.
Defiant Milosevic blasts U.N. court, which will indict him for genocide.
By Anthony Deutsch, Associated Press, 8/30/2001 12:12
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) U.N. prosecutors said Thursday that they will indict Slobodan Milosevic for genocide in the Balkan wars. The defiant former Yugoslav president bitterly complained during a tribunal session that he was being isolated in prison, unable to defend himself in the media.
The war crimes tribunal also ordered the appointment of a lawyer to assist Milosevic, who has refused to name his own defense counsel.
Milosevic repeated his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the The Hague-based court, and said he saw no need to defend himself against what he called illegal indictments. He faces four counts of war crimes for the alleged suppression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999.
For the second time in a month, the former dictator squared off against the tough British presiding judge, Richard May, protesting that his meetings with his family and legal advisers were constantly watched by prison guards.
''I am discriminated against all the time, from the first day I got in,'' Milosevic said in English. ''Why you need monitoring of my talks with my grandson, who is 2 years old?''
Milosevic's grandson Marko visited Aug. 20 for his 60th birthday.
At another point, Milosevic belligerently asked, ''Why I am isolated from the press ... when every single day there is something printed or broadcast against me as a pure lie? So, you are keeping me in isolation.
He added: ''If there is on one side all that machinery you represent, all that secret services, military machinery, media machinery and everything else, and on my side is only the truth, then it is clear it is completely discriminatory. You cannot even mention evenhandedness.''
May cut the defendant short. ''Very well, Mr. Milosevic, there must be an end to this.'' The prison has rules barring media interviews ''and they must be followed. They don't discriminate against you.''
Several times May interrupted Milosevic as he launched a political harangue. ''We are not going to listen to these political arguments,'' the judge said with clear impatience. Finally, he adjourned the hearing while Milosevic was still trying to speak.
Outside the courtroom, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said her office will indict Milosevic on Oct. 1 for genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia in the early 1990s. Those indictments would be combined with charges for crimes against humanity in Kosovo in 1999, and would likely go to trial in the autumn of 2002.
Milosevic was combative yet more respectful than at his first appearance, in July, when he had told the judge, ''that's your problem'' when asked if he wanted the indictment read in court.
During his two months in detention, Milosevic has been visited by several lawyers, including former U.S. attorney Ramsey Clark, and twice by his wife Mirjana Markovic.
In recent weeks, Milosevic was allowed to mingle with other war crimes suspects at the U.N. detention unit after more than a month of isolation. He is said to play cards with fellow inmates and spend much of his time reading.
Milosevic, who was transferred to The Hague June 28 by Serbian authorities, advised the court in writing last Friday he would not appoint an attorney to represent him before the ''so-called tribunal.''
The court said the appointed lawyer would not represent Milosevic, but would ''assist the court'' by ensuring that the defendant's interests were protected and that he gets a fair trial.
May said the tasks of the appointed lawyer would be to help prepare pretrial motions, to cross-examine witnesses during the trial and to make objections on his behalf.
May set a rough timetable for the Kosovo trial, saying a final trial date should be set within the first two months of next year. Another hearing on the status of the trial preparations will be held Oct. 29, and trial briefs must be filed by Nov. 26, he said. A final pretrial hearing was scheduled for Jan. 9, 2002.
Del Ponte told the court she intended to file new indictments for Bosnia and Croatia in the early 1990s, and would submit amendments in November to finalize indictment on Kosovo.
Del Ponte told reporters that the mass graves found in Serbia in recent weeks would not be enough evidence to convict the Milosevic of genocide in Kosovo. ''Bodies are not enough,'' the Swiss prosecutor said, ''There needs to be more.''
In the former Yugoslavia this week, forensic investigators continued to exhume bodies from mass graves, gruesome evidence they say will help convict Milosevic of crimes against humanity.
Investigators revealed at least four common burial sites across Serbia graves that contain the tangled remains of at least 800 victims of a brutal 1998-99 crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Nikolay Svinarov and Miho Mihov inaugurated a new runway at Graf Ignatievo airport.
The new runway at Graf Ignatievo airport that was constructed according to NATO standards was inaugurated by Minister of Defense Nikolay Svinarov and the Bulgarian Army General Staff Superior Miho Mihov exactly at 12:28 AM today, and the first airplane took off from it two minutes later. The new runway was built completely according to the NATO requirements, Minister of Defense announced. The experts assessed the runway positively. The airport is ready for the Cooperative Key 2001 international exercise that starts on September 10. The works on the airport were planned and implemented by a company from Stara Zagora for less than 100 days and for USD 10,000 by using new technology.
US closes Sofia, Bucharest embassies to public.
WASHINGTON, Aug 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassies in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the Romanian capital Bucharest closed to the public on Thursday after the United States received information about a possible threat related to the Middle East, a U.S. official said.
"We had information about a possible threat and it's being evaluated," said the official, who asked not to be named.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the embassies would review their "security postures" before reopening to the public "at the appropriate time."
He linked the closures to a "worldwide caution" for Americans abroad, which the State Department issued on June 22.
That caution mentioned the possibility of attacks on Americans by groups connected with Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, who has been charged with planning the bombings at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
But Boucher said one should not automatically draw the conclusion that bin Laden's group was behind the reported threat to the embassies in eastern Europe.
The unnamed official said it was related to the Middle East, but not necessarily to the last 11 months of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Boucher said the embassies were working with the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities and getting excellent support.