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"Rotary" President Sang for 'Standart' Richard King, president of the organization sang part of his favorite song about San Fransisco while giving an interview for the newspaper. He arrived in Bulgaria with his wife and tonight he will charter another 14 Bulgarian clubs as well as 12 youth ones which will join Rotary International. Photo Kiril Konstantinov
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld gestures as he answers question at a news conference during the NATO Defense Ministers' Meetings Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2001 in Brussels, Belgium. At the news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Rumsfeld said Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida and Taliban senior leaders remain on the loose, although more prisoners were taken Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER LJUBCO GEORGIEVSKI.
"It is very important for the Law on Local Self-government to be functional, because all political problems have been eliminated and we have agreed that the local Government ought to be decentralized. However, it is obvious that there are some technical problems that need to be surpassed," Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said on Tuesday.
Asked if he expected the Law on Local Self-government to be adopted by the end of this year, Georgievski said that most important was a solution that would please all sides to be found. "It will not be a tragedy if the Law is not adopted by the end of the year," he said.
"There is no need from a Law for Amnesty, because the police is operational and all detained or imprisoned former "NLA" members have been released," Georgievski said. He stressed that the Public Prosecutor's Office would not issue charges for new detentions of former "NLA" members, adding that the international community was pleased from this situation. "If the situation escalates, we will sit down and reconsider our future moves," the Prime Minister said.
Macedonia has fulfilled its obligations, Georgievski said adding that he saw no reason why the security forces' posts should be removed from the crisis regions.
In regard to the security situation, Georgievski stressed that it was still critical. "There is a process of minor improvement, but the situation has not changed much from the day when the changes to the Constitution were adopted," Prime Minister Georgievski said.
Today, Georgievski and Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski officially opened the securities' trading through the central depository.
During the opening ceremony the shareholders' book of the Macedonian Government was delivered to Prime Minister Georgievski.
Minister Gruevski said that the official start of the Central Securities Depository, where all the shareholders' books of all shareholding companies in Macedonia would be included, represented "big step forward in protecting the shareholders' rights."
"The project was developed along with the Norwegian experts and we have completed it very successfully," Gruevski said.
Georgievski said that more than 90% of the volume of bank's operations are conducted according to the regulations of the new payment system.
Expressing special satisfaction, that the Government can declare that the implementation of the reform has been completed successfully by the end of this year he stressed that from now on there would be no Payment Operation System, but European system of many depositories.
"It means that very precise information and very precise communication will be established between the economic entities and the citizens. Starting from next year, we will have more efficient economic system, to the great satisfaction of the citizens and the companies," Georgievski said.
According to the Prime Minister the reforms set by the Government are encircled, adding that Macedonia was the first country from former SFRY that carried out this reform.
"This is the final phase of the reform in the payment system, which was announced in Macedonia and former Yugoslavia in the past 20 years," he stressed.
Asked about the demands of the Syndicate, Georgievski stressed that the Government wants to meet some of the demands, but the Syndicate should not expect that all demands should be met.
Premier Georgievski also visited the Center of national payment card, expected to be operational in March or April 2002 as well as the Clearing House that was opened in July 2001.
Will The KLA, UCK Check Points Replace The Police Points?
Irina Gelevska, special Reality correspondent.
Skopje-The experts of the Macedonian Police have already start consultations about the necessary of existence of some Police Check Points in the crisis regions around Tetovo, Kumanovo and Skopje.
The plan is the police to move away from Check Points away off the roads and establish only regular patrols in some regions where the situation is not so critical. So far, two Check Points in the surrounding of the Kumanovo's villages Opae and Slupchane have been moved away.
Today the OSCE spokesman Florine Pasniky told the press in Skopje that one of the reason why the villagers from the Tetovo's village Dobroshte don't want the Police Patrols to enter their village is the Police Check Points near Tetovo on the road Tetovo-Dobroshte. They also mentioned to OSCE and NATO officials are the other reasons for the delay of the General Plan for returning of the police in the crisis regions are the delay of the releases of the amnestied ex-members of NLA and the adaptation of the Law for Local Self-government and others which are covered with the Framework Agreement.
"We will not do any police work"-said today the OSCE spokesman Florine Pasniky. On the other side, the ethnic Macedonians villagers said that if the police leaves their positions they will leave their villages as well.
The villagers from the KUmanovo's village Lopate said last week that they will block the road and the railway if the police decide to leave the Check Points. The Macedonians from v.Lopate say that if the Police enters the villages around their own village, only than the police can leave the Check Points.
It is almost certain that the Police will dislocate away from the roads, where most of the robberies and armed attacks on civilian cars and even on the press are been committed. Nobody knows who will serve and protect the population if the Police doesn't do its job, maybe the local sheriffs who are about to be appointed by the local majors according the new Law of Local Self-government? Than North-West Macedonia will really become Wild West!
Bin Laden's Balkan Connections.
esprit de corps
By Scott Taylor
Bin Laden's Balkan connections: Al-Qaeda fighters have been quietly infiltrating the ranks of ethnic Albanian guerrilla forces in Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo for years. (Scott Taylor)
As the U.S. manhunt for Osama bin Laden and his followers intensifies in the wake of the Taliban's fall, the Americans will turn their attention to other countries suspected of harbouring terrorists -- Sudan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and areas under Palestinian control.
Foremost among these trouble spots will be the Balkans, where al-Qaeda fighters have been quietly infiltrating the ranks of ethnic Albanian forces in Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo for years.
Macedonian intelligence officials say mujahedeen, or Islamic freedom fighters, especially Mr. bin Laden's followers, form the veteran core of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla army known as the National Liberation Army, or UCK, which has mounted a successful military offensive against Macedonian security forces from their base in Kosovo since last March: By the time a shaky peace was brokered in September, the UCK controlled nearly 30 per cent of Macedonian territory. Macedonian security forces attribute the success of the UCK, which was initially inexperienced and ill-equipped, to the support of as many as 120 mujahedeen among them.
On Nov. 20, when extremists from around the world were volunteering to join the ranks of the Taliban, Pakistani police apprehended five Muslim "fighters" carrying Macedonian passports at the Afghan border -- further proof, Macedonian authorities say, of Mr. bin Laden's Balkan connection.
Nikola, a senior director with Macedonian intelligence services, confirmed that, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his agency "supplied a substantive dossier to the CIA," outlining the activities of Mr. bin Laden's followers in the Balkans. The information included accounts by Macedonian civilians who had been held hostage by mujahedeen, along with photos and videos captured from Albanian guerrillas.
Ljubo Boskovski (left), the Macedonian minister of interior, is anxious for his police forces to return to areas controlled by the Albanian guerrillas to uncover more evidence of mujahedeen involvement. Since Nov. 13, Macedonian security forces have been exhuming a mass grave outside the ethnic Albanian village of Trebos. To date, the police have unearthed the bodies of six Macedonians (in all, 21 civilians in the area disappeared following UCK attacks). Intelligence officer Nikola believes mujahedeen perpetrated the Trebos massacre "because of the manner in which the bodies were cut up and scattered."
He also suspects Islamic extremists were behind a brutal ambush of security forces last April, in which eight policemen were shot outside the village of Vejce, and their bodies dismembered to provide the victors with grisly trophies.
The Macedonian authorities are not the only ones who suspect the mujahedeen in the Vejce atrocities. During the summer offensive around Tetovo, Albanian guerrillas admitted they had gained combat experience in previous conflicts. Twenty-three-year-old Commander "Jimmy" (below) claimed he was a veteran of Chechnya and Kosovo, while "Snake" Arifaq bragged of service in Bosnia and displayed a scar he had received during the fighting in Croatia. The two Albanians acknowledged "volunteers" from Afghanistan and other Arab countries had helped train members of the UCK. As for the Vejce incident, Commander Jimmy said such an atrocity could "only have been committed by the foreigners because Albanians do not cut up bodies."
When the Albanian insurrection began, the Macedonian government hastily acquired a fleet of six Ukrainian helicopter gunships. "Shortly after that, our pilots reported being tracked by sophisticated (U.S.-made) Stinger missiles" said Nikola, adding that, according to Macedonian Intelligence, "the UCK received these Stingers from their mujahedeen connections in Afghanistan."
Since Sept. 11 the Macedonians have noted a shift in U.S. foreign policy. "The CIA have been much more receptive to our reports about the al-Qaeda," said Nikola. "Particularly after they discovered that one of the suicide hijackers had been active in both Kosovo and Macedonia."
Macedonian police have been working closely with their Yugoslavian counterparts to neutralize the Albanian terrorists. More importantly, as part of the U.S.-led global initiative to combat terror, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been reinstated in Interpol -- after a 10-year banishment. Intelligence officers from the Yugoslavian Army have supplied a wealth of information outlining mujahedeen activity in both Bosnia and Kosovo. Yugoslav intelligence officers believe at least 50 of the 150 mujahedeen who fought in Kosovo remain active members of the UCK.
Even before they got the information from Yugoslavia, Interpol had been tracking al-Qaeda's activities in the Balkans. On Oct. 23 this year, the agency released a report outlining Mr. bin Laden's personal links to the Albanian Mafia. Interpol alleges that a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant had been the commander of an elite UCK unit in Kosovo during the fighting in 1999, when NATO intervened to support the ethnic Albanians, largely at the urging of the U.S.
The CIA was aware of Mr. bin Laden's Albanian connections well before NATO's commitment in Kosovo, numerous media reports clearly show.
On Jan. 17, 1999, an alleged massacre of 45 Albanian Kosovars in the village of Racak made headlines around the world. Pointing to this incident (later proved by UN pathologists to have been an Albanian hoax), former U.S. president Bill Clinton proclaimed the West could no longer overlook "Serbian atrocities," setting the wheels in motion for NATO's confrontation with Yugoslavia.
That same day, Greek media outlets revealed that Taliban members were pouring into Albania, at the invitation of ex-president Sali Berisa and former head of intelligence Bashkim Gazidede. According to The Tribune, an Athens daily paper, Albanian security official Fatos Klozi confirmed that "bin Laden was one of those who had organized and sent groups to fight in Kosovo. There were Egyptians, Saudis, Algerians, Tunisians, Sudanese and Kuwaitis from different organizations among the (UCK) mercenaries."
Left: Twenty-three-year-old Commander 'Jimmy,' one of an estimated 120 mujahadeen, or Islamic freedom fighters, that form the veteran core of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla army known as the National Liberation Army, claims he's a veteran of Chechnya and Kosovo. (Scott Taylor, Ottawa Citizen)
Ten days later, on Jan. 27, 1999, the Arab-language news service Al Hayat reported that an Albanian commander in Kosovo, code-named Monia, was directly connected to Osama bin Laden. The piece also reported that "at least 100 Muslim mujahedeen" were serving with Monia's force in Kosovo.
In August 1998, the Washington Post reported that the CIA was not only aware of Mr. bin Laden's association with the Albanian regime, but that U.S. operatives had been "prominent" in the arrest of four al-Qaeda agents in Tirana. At the time, U.S. State Department officials even speculated that the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania might have been Mr. bin Laden's revenge for the Tirana arrests.
The al-Qaeda suspects detained by the CIA in Albania had been operating the Islamic Revival Foundation, "a charitable organization that official sources say provided a useful cover for the (suspects') efforts on behalf of bin Laden," the Washington Post reported.
In February 1998, the U.S. State Department had removed the UCK from their list of terrorist organizations. However later that same year, the CIA and their Albanian SHIK intelligence counterparts successfully shut down an Islamic terrorist cell operating with the help of Albanians in Kosovo.
Some of the most revealing links between Albanian fighters and Mr. bin Laden surfaced in December 1998, when al-Qaeda agent Claude Sheik Abdel-Kader was arrested in Tirana for the murder of his Albanian translator. During his trial, Mr. Abdel-Kader confessed to being a senior commander in Mr. bin Laden's network, and claimed he had recruited a force of some 300 mujahedeen to fight in Kosovo.
European media covering the trial reported his revelation that Osama bin Laden -- although a wanted terrorist -- had travelled freely to Tirana in 1994 and 1998 to meet with senior Albanian officials. Mr. Abdel-Kader also confessed that when the Albanian regime of Sali Berisa collapsed into anarchy in 1997, state armouries and government offices were looted. According to Mr. Abdel-Kader, many of the 10,000 heavy weapons and 100,000 passports that went missing fell into the hands of al-Qaeda members.
Osama bin Laden -- stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 -- is alleged to have retained the Bosnian passport he was issued in Vienna in 1993. According to a Sept. 1999 report in Dani, a Bosnian Muslim weekly paper, Alija Izetbegovic, then president of Bosnia, granted Mr. bin Laden a passport in recognition of his followers' contributions to Mr. Izetbegovic's quest to create a "fundamentalist Islamic republic" in the Balkans.
Dani also reported that al-Qaeda terrorist Mehrez Aodouni had been arrested in Istanbul while carrying a Bosnian passport. Like Mr. bin Laden, his citizenship had been granted "because he was a member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina army."
Canadian soldiers serving with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) were among the first to report the presence of mujahedeen among the Bosnian Muslims as early as 1992.
The Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that, in 1993, Mr. bin Laden had appointed Sheik Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda's second-in-command, to direct his operations in the Balkans.
While no exact numbers exist, it is estimated that between 1,500 and 3,500 Arab volunteers participated in the Bosnian civil war. Their main area of operation was the region of Zenica, with most serving in a brigade under Gen. Sakib Mahmuljin, nicknamed "the Guerrillas." Identified by red and green "Rambo" bandannas emblazoned with a crest that read, "our road is Jihad," this unit quickly gained a reputation for brutality.
On June 27, 1993, the Sunday Times reported that even Bosnian Muslim officers had reservations about the mujahedeen volunteers. Col. Stjepan Siber, then deputy commander of the Bosnia-Herzegovina army, admitted to the Times that "It was a mistake to let (the mujahedeen) in here. They commit most of the atrocities and work against the interests of the Muslim people. They have been killing, looting and stealing."
According to reports, it was the mujahedeen who committed some of the worst atrocities of the war, under Gen. Nasir Oric in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Beheadings of Serbian civilians were commonplace, and in some villages the mujahedeen would dynamite homes with the inhabitants trapped inside.
No attempt was made to hide such atrocities. In fact, Gen. Oric would often address the media at the site of the massacres. On one such occasion, while standing in front of mujahedeen displaying decapitated human heads as trophies, Gen. Oric pointed to a smouldering building in ruins and proudly announced to reporters, "We blew those Serbs to the moon."
Alija Izetbegovic was also proud to display the fighting prowess of his mujahedeen volunteers. Following a successful attack against Serbian positions around Vozuce on Sept. 10, 1995, the Bosnian president held a televised medal presentation. Mujahedeen warriors had served as the vanguard of the assault force, and were awarded 11 decorations for valour, including the Golden Crescent, Bosnia's highest honour.
Yugoslav intelligence estimates that citizenship was granted to more than 1,500 mujahedeen, including al-Qaeda members, following the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995. Most of those soldiers are believed to have settled in the Zenica region.
According to Miroslav Lazanski, author of the new book, Osama bin Laden Against America, al-Qaeda members still maintain two bases in Bosnia, one of them reserved for top fighters.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, FBI and CIA agents uncovered evidence that two of the suicide hijackers had originated from this Bosnian camp. The commander of the camp, an Algerian named Abu Mali, was subsequently arrested while travelling in Istanbul on a Bosnian passport.
The U.S. military has taken a keen interest in mujahedeen activities in the Balkans since Sept. 11. Late last month, U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers visited NATO troops in Bosnia to warn them against a possible al-Qaeda retaliation attack. And on Dec. 4, the White House added two Albanian terrorist groups operating in Macedonia and Kosovo to its list of outlawed organizations.
And so, Mr. Clinton's dubious decisions in the Balkan conflagration two years ago have come back to haunt the U.S.
Budget '2002 - Attempt at Bulgaria's Survival.
The biggest spending item is that of social expenditures. The reason for the low deficit rates is the slowing down of foreign trade.
The dramatic plight of this country is a common knowledge. Each Bulgarian national witnesses it, while shopping on the money of his wages. The EU showed in no uncertain terms that the economic development of the state is insufficient Bulgaria to be admitted into the European community. On such a background, Budget '2002 is an attempt at Bulgaria's survival. The revenues and the expenditures are subject to the necessity the fisc to help only the social groups and sectors whose survival is questioned. The social expenditures are the ones that are raised most of all in Budget '2002 - by 15.2 percent. One of the major criticisms leveled at the budget, is the great GDP rates to be re-allotted by the government. Next year, the rates will be the same - the funds will be taken from the population and the firms once again. The government's options for maneuvering are limited also by the relatively low rates of deficit (0.8 percent), agreed upon with the IMF for 2002. The reason is the foreign trade changing for the worse. Next year, the foreign trade deficit is expected to stand at $1.6 billion. Finance Minister Milen Velchev called Budget '2002 "a start to overcome poverty". But quite more important for overcoming poverty is the opportunity the business to create more jobs, rather than the programs on unemployment. Will it be possible in 2002? Well, so far the administration did nothing to reduce red tape.
EU Received Signals from Bulgaria in Bewilderment.
Ex-Foreign Minister, UDF PG Leader for Free Europe
I am surprised that what happened in Laeken was assessed more positively than anyone expected. No wonders have been worked in Europe and in the world for quite a time already. One gets what one deserves. Of course, Bulgaria started the negotiation on joining the EU later. But quite more embarrassing is the fact that the unconcerted signals concerning the European integration, received from the now Bulgarian government, evidently were not deciphered as positive by the EU. There are several things that arouse uneasiness. The first message that came from Bulgaria was that the economic membership was divided from the political one. This fact was met by great bewilderment in the EU. There is only one EU membership - the full one, granted after meeting the criteria. Another signal was also received that Bulgaria was able to meet the criteria in much more shorter terms than those we set at the time. It sounds patriotic, lest it is realistic. It is the most sad thing: to set unattainable targets and to live through the tragedy of not achieving them. To be realistic, the targets should be underlaid by particular work. The government should have come out with a clear-cut program on how to catch up with the lagging behind and to explain what plans were elaborated on launching earlier terms to the EU. I was in Brussels just a few days ago and such earlier terms were met there with - how should I put it, a smile. My heart bled for Bulgaria.
Incomes Increase by 4.40 Levs in 2001.
People spend 44 percent for food. Consumption of bread and yogurt is down, that of potatoes is up.
The average income of Bulgarians upped by mere 4.42 levs during the current year and in October it accounted for 126.06 levs, the National Statistics Institute said yesterday, which, according to the October exchange rates is $58. As compared to September, however, a light decrease of the average income is noticed (by 0.78 levs). In October the income per household amounted to 339.23 levs. In October, the wages provided for 43.1 percent of the incomes per household, or 146.07 levs. In terms of providing means for food, pensions ranked second. They accounted for 25.8 percent of the incomes per household or 87.39 levs. Household farms provide for 11 percent of the incomes or 37.17 levs per household. The role of entrepreneurship is becoming more and more insignificant in the recent year and in October it provided for mere 4.2 percent of the incomes or 14.29 per household.
Hurricane Closed Down Port Varna.
Storm has been raging from Sunday evening in Varna. Early in the morning yesterday the port was closed down and ships' processing stopped due to the strong wind. The rough sea registers within 2 and 4 wind force, but the trend is to increase, said employees in the Naval Rescue Center. Sometimes the wind has reached the speed of 24 m/sec, meteorologist on duty explain.
Patriarch Maxim: Ex-Government Did not Support the Church.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church did not receive the expected support from the power in the recent 4 years, Patriarch Maxim emphasized at the Fifth Council, held at the Sofia Seminary yesterday. "The president did not show the necessary understanding, the anticipated dialogue and well-intentioned relations with the ex-executive power failed," reads the report promulgated at the Council. The Holy Synod places their hope on the new cabinet to normalize the relations between the Church and the State.
You Are Incredible, We Have a Boom of Rotary-clubs.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Richard King
Our organizations help New York recover following the attacks. World peace conference will discuss the struggle against terrorism, says the president of 'Rotary International' Richard King.
- Mr King, in your capacity of president of 'Rotary International', would you tell us something more about the organization you head? What are you doing yourself?
- Rotary' is a club of business and professional people organized in 203 countries in all geographical regions of the world. We have over 30 thousand cubs, 1,2 ml rotarians all over the world and the objective of the Rotary club is to build the community in the city where the club is and also to help people in other countries develop their lives that they are better.
- What is your opinion of the Bulgarian 'Rotary' organization? Do you know it?
- It's tremendous. Tomorrow night ( editor's note - today ) we'll charter, we'll inaugurate 14 new Rotary clubs. It is a fantastic growth here. I have been, since July, in 48 different countries. This is the most new clubs I have chartered in one night in any country anywhere in the world, here in Bulgaria.
- How many are the organizations in Bulgaria?
- Tomorrow night we'll have another 14 new rotary-clubs. So, in Bulgaria they will go from 25 to 39.
- Can you help, I mean in the struggle against terrorism, following the tragic events of September 11?
- Yes. We are sending a great deal of money under the sponsorship of the Rotary clubs in Pakistan to the Afghan refugee children for this winter. We are buying blankets and clothing for them to try to help them survive this winter. Rotary is doing a big job there and of course rotarians do a big job in New York and Washington. To help the people there we sent a great deal of money and the rotarians sent a lot of manpower to help these people, you know, that lost so much... And we'll have a Rotary Global peace conference in Cairo and in Aman, Jordan and Istanbul the first week in March. And rotarians will come from all over the world to discuss the ways in which the Rotary clubs can combat terrorism.
The BSP is getting ready for participation in the power.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Roumen Petkov
We Have No Right to Make Mistakes with Untimely Elections. We shouldn't rule alone, the MFR is our strategic partner, says Roumen Petkov, a member of the BSP EB.
- Mr Petkov, will you be the second man within the BSP?
- The party has a membership of 240 000 and everyone of them has his or her grounds to be in it. I'm deeply convinced that to a big part of us whether they are second, third, first or fifth is not of prime significance.
- Will the BSP manage to single out a strong team to work well with the new chairman?
- Contrary to all claims concerning the BSP in the past 10 years, it has managed to single out strong teams. I'm sure it will do it now too. All the more so that the instinct of the party has always been of a markedly healthy nature.
- At the recent congress the BSP stressed that the preparation for the next one was of strategic importance. One of the major points is that of the coalition policy and the New Left project. Will you be in charge of these two most significant spheres?
- The BSP faces three questions which should be underlined. The first question synthesizes the attitude of the BSP to the power. The BSP should get ready for participation in the power. I point out, for participation, and not to take over by itself. The second question boils down to whom the party will do it with. I think that in the statements at the congress, stress was laid on the fact that the BSP should not rule alone. And the third question is when. The establishment of the New Left project, the assertion of the 'For Bulgaria' coalition, the establishment of the dialogue we managed to turn into a real policy jointly with the MFR which we again qualify as a strategic partner of ours, is a major achievement of that sitting of the congress.
- What could be the wrong step you talk about - demand for early elections?
- The wrong step would be in untimely elections. Whether they will be early doesn't depend only on us.
BULGARIA - ELECTRICITY - SERBIA.
Sofia, December 18 (BTA) - Bulgaria's National Electric Company (NEK) has concluded an agreement to export electricity to Serbia at 250 MW, the NEK PR department told BTA over the telephone Tuesday.
The term of the agreement is from October 18, 2001 to end-February 2002.
In its Tuesday issue "Glas Javnosti" newspaper of Serbia reports problems related to the operation of the Serbian electric company and the danger of having electricity rationed.
Bulgaria also exports electricity to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo, NEK said.
A consensus about appointing minorities representatives in secret services and in police exists, Ahmed Dogan said.
Speaking to News.bg Agency at the round table organized by the Institute for Studying Integration and the American Ethnic Relations Project, Georghy Parvanov said that minorities representatives should work in police, in the juridical system and in the secret services. He added that this was a part of a modern ethnic - national policy, and announced that he would create an Ethnic Issues Council to the Presidency that would include representatives of different political parties. He promised he would help in providing foreign investments for regions with mixed populations. According to him, the framework convention about minorities should be filled with real content. The Rights and Freedoms Movement leader Ahmed Dogan said that there was a consensus as for the presence of minorities representatives in police, in the juridical system and in the secret services, and emphasized that the living standard of minorities should be increased, because it could create tensions and risks in society. He said the future Council should control at least a part of the money from the European Union and the USA to provide investments in mixed regions. He said that Bulgarian ethnic model was developing towards a civil - political society. The National Movement Simeon II representative Plamen Panayotov said the model could be used also by other countries and could serve as a precondition for Bulgarian integration in NATO. The round table was also attended by the American Ambassador Richard Miles, by Members of Parliament from different parties, by Ambassadors of Balkan countries, and by representatives of European institutions. The President of the American Ethnic Relations Project Allen Kassov presided the session.
Solomon Pasi refused to comment the case in Tripoli to avoid negative influence.
The interdepartmental commission for the case against the Bulgarian medical personnel detained in Libya held its session today. Despite the expectations, after the session it was not clear whether Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi would travel to Tripoli for the case. He only said that any statements on his part in this moment could harm the chances of the accused. He only said the interdepartmental commission discussed different versions concerning the course of the case and measures that Bulgaria should take. He would meet relatives of the accused in the next few days. The Libyan Peoples Court is expected to pronounce on December 22.
Ognyan Gerjikov sent an encouraging letter to the Bulgarian medical personnel detained in Libya.
The Chairman of Bulgarian Parliament Ognyan Gerjikov sent an encouraging letter to the Bulgarian medical personnel that are facing a trial in Libya in a couple of days. In his letter, he expressed optimism that after the visit of the Bulgarian parliamentary delegation in September in Libya, the court would respect the Bulgarian demand for a just and transparent trial, especially if the Chairman of the Qaddafi foundation Seif al Islam would attend the trial as an observer and a guarantee, that the court would only respect the proofs and its ruling would be impartial.
Plan 2004 stipulates changes in army strength.
Corrections in Plan 2004 are introduced in the Cabinet, and in all probability would be discussed next Thursday, Minister of Defense Nikolay Svinarov announced in the Parliaments lobby today. The main changes would include Bulgarian Army strength and equipment. According to Minister Nikolay Svinarov, the purpose of Plan 2004 was not to secure the invitation for membership of NATO, but the improvement of the army fighting efficiency.
Southern Balkans Hit by Bad Weather.
By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A winter storm paralyzed much of northern Turkey and Greece Tuesday, forcing 116 people, many heading home for the holidays, to spend a cold night on a train stuck in 7 feet of snow.
Twelve people have died around the Balkans in a wave of bad weather over the past three days, three in the latest storm. Earlier, rain caused flooding that claimed nine lives, seven in Turkey and two in Greece.
The train was stranded Monday near the northern Greek village of Petrades, where it remained for the next 17 hours, much of it without heat after the power failed. During the night, temperatures plunged to 14 degrees.
Another train was sent but also got stuck in the snow, while efforts to reach the passengers by helicopter were hampered by poor visibility.
The passengers were finally rescued Tuesday by soldiers in armored personnel carriers.
More than 300 villages in central and northern Greece were snowed in, while all airports and schools in the north remained closed for a second day. Snow also hampered traffic on the country's main north-south highway.
In Turkey, a man froze to death in Istanbul while snowstorms severed access to thousands of villages. Authorities closed down schools in the northwest part of Turkey, near the borders with Bulgaria and Greece. Heavy rain caused a landslide in a village just outside Ankara, damaging six houses.
A train with 350 passengers on board also became stuck in snow at a station 25 miles from Istanbul, the official Anatolia news agency said. Authorities finally freed it after eight hours.
Heavy snow falling across the region since late Sunday also claimed two lives in Bulgaria, both men who froze to death.
Ten villages in Bulgaria had no water supply, and a further 37 remained without power after snowfall cut power lines. Deep drifts shut down three highways near the border with Greece.
The Black Sea port of Varna, 300 miles northeast of Sofia, was closed due to bad weather, and a state of emergency declared in three southern municipalities.
In Macedonia, 50 patients and doctors in a hilltop hospital near the central town of Veles were evacuated after being cut off by heavy snowfall for four days. Many roads around the country were unusable for a third day.
In Yugoslavia, temperatures plunged to 8 degrees, and authorities warned they would have to begin power cuts unless people reduce their use of electricity.
NATO Reduction Call Draws Concern.
By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) - A U.S. call to slash the number of NATO peacekeepers in the Balkans provoked unease Tuesday among regional leaders and ordinary citizens over the stability of the region.
While Afghanistan and the war on terror occupied the spotlight at the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, the Balkans were also on the agenda.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld proposed Tuesday that NATO cut its forces in Bosnia by up to a third because the depth of its Balkan involvement is placing a strain on armies needed to fight terrorism.
NATO has nearly 60,000 troops in separate military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. According to officials, defense ministers will look at ways to streamline operations, eventually reducing their size.
In Bosnia, personnel cuts may be as large as a third of the current 18,000.
In 1995, NATO-led peacekeepers arrived in Bosnia to a still smoldering conflict and their presence is considered a deterrent to renewed violence. In Kosovo, they play a more direct role, including protecting minority Serbs. But in Macedonia, home to the most recent conflict, they are a sign of Western interest in peace implementation.
Despite the different NATO missions, reaction from all three regions to the possibility of force reduction was overwhelmingly negative.
According to a spokesman for Wolfgang Petritsch, the top international official in Bosnia, NATO is needed to make sure the achievements of the last six years are not lost.
With top war-crimes suspects like Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his senior general, Ratko Mladic, still on the loose, NATO's job remained incomplete.
Any streamlining ``must be based on a realistic assessment of the tasks which have still to be accomplished,'' according to his spokesman, Kevin Sullivan.
On the street, Sarajevans also were opposed to any NATO cutback.
``Not one of them should leave,'' said Radmila Cvijetic, a 63 year-old retired nurse from Sarajevo. ``With them I feel safe and free.''
Waitress Senada Hasic declared: ``When they came, peace came. If they go, peace will go and then I'll go.''
Similar sentiments were expressed in another Balkan city - Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, where NATO bombing ended a bloody Serb crackdown on majority ethnic Albanians in mid-1999. The presence of more than 36,000 peacekeepers is a move to keep violence in check
``As soon as they start reducing the presence, it will make me feel really, really unsafe,'' said musician Agim Morina, 31.
Naim Jerliu, a senior official of the Democratic League of Kosovo, the province's main ethnic Albanian party, also said ethnic Albanians ``wouldn't want to see a reduction of NATO's peacekeeping mission.''
In Macedonia, where little more than 2,000 NATO troops are deployed, worries are focused less on numbers and more on the symbolic meaning of any cutback.
``We hope that will not mean a change of U.S. interest in the region, particularly in Macedonia,'' said Stevo Pendarovski, an adviser to President Boris Trajkovski.
Rumsfeld Urges NATO to Shift Focus.
By SALLY BUZBEE, Associated Press Writer
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld proposed on Tuesday that NATO cut its forces in Bosnia by up to a third because their police work there has begun to strain armies needed to fight terrorism.
At a meeting dominated by the Sept. 11 attacks, Rumsfeld and NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson also urged alliance countries to work now to increase military spending to fight terror - ``while these lessons are still fresh in the minds of people everywhere,'' as Rumsfeld put it.
His proposal to cut one-third of the NATO troops in Bosnia, about 6,000 of the 18,000, was designed as an extension of a British plan to restructure alliance forces there and in Kosovo and Macedonia under one command.
Americans comprise about 17 percent - or about 3,100 - of the NATO troops in Bosnia, and Rumsfeld's proposal would mean that about 1,000 of those would leave, said a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Americans hope the reduction can be accomplished by next fall.
The United States is not proposing a reduction in the NATO force in Kosovo, said the official, but that might logically be something to consider in the future. NATO has 39,000 troops in Kosovo and Macedonia, 5,700 of whom are American.
``Civil security ... is not an effective use of NATO's valuable military assets,'' Rumsfeld told defense ministers from the 19-nation alliance meeting here. It has put ``increasing strain on both our forces and our resources when they face growing demands from critical missions in the war on terrorism.''
Rumsfeld said NATO countries must improve their intelligence work, their precision weapons and especially their defenses against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as they brace for possible future surprise attacks by terrorists.
``As we look at the devastation they unleashed in the U.S., contemplate the destruction they could wreak in New York, or London, or Paris, or Berlin with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons,'' Rumsfeld told his fellow defense chiefs.
In Sarajevo, the office of Wolfgang Petritsch, the top international administrator of Bosnia, said Petritsch still counts on the NATO-led peacekeeping force. With Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his senior general, Ratko Mladic, still free, NATO's job is incomplete and any streamlining ``must be based on a realistic assessment of the tasks which have still to be accomplished,'' said spokesman Kevin Sullivan.
On the streets, Sarajevans also were opposed to any NATO cutback.
``When they came, peace came,'' said waitress Senada Hasic. ``If they go, peace will go and then I'll go.''
NATO has cited terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction as major threats since 1999. Nevertheless, the alliance is still heavily geared toward fighting wars to defend its members' land.
Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding treaty, declaring that the attacks on the United States were the equivalent of an attack on all 19 countries
It has sent AWACS radar planes to the United States to help fly guard patrols over cities. Otherwise, it has had no front-line role in the war in Afghanistan, and none is foreseen.
Individual countries that belong to NATO, however, have provided key support.
Rumsfeld made clear that the United States would not remove troops from Bosnia on its own, but only work in agreement with NATO, Robertson said.
The United States also wants to refocus some NATO troops across the Balkans to watch for terrorist threats, said the senior official. Robertson noted that NATO troops in Bosnia recently arrested some suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
Rumsfeld said the NATO-led military mission in Bosnia ``should have long since ended,'' but instead thousands of troops were still doing work that civilian police could handle just as well.
Several NATO defense ministers told U.S. officials in private meetings that they worry al-Qaida fighters pushed from Afghanistan might flee to neighboring countries, or even farther afield, said the senior U.S. defense official.
The defense ministers also discussed ways to increase cooperation with Russia. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia wants to coordinate on ``security policy.''
Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers began developing a new council where Russia could join with the allies in discussion, planning and even decision-making on specific subjects.
But Rumsfeld seemed to hint he would prefer a system where the 19 voting members reach an agreement before bringing in Russia for discussions.
``NATO membership must mean something,'' Rumsfeld said. ``No country should be treated as a de facto member.''
In pictures: Kosovo's devastated churches.
Nato-led peacekeeping forces in Kosovo have been involved in protecting Serbian churches, which have been the target of attacks by Albanian militants.
More than 100 churches have been destroyed since Nato troops arrived. One group of monks has compiled a web gallery showing churches before and after they were destroyed. Photographs by Father Sava.
The Church of the Holy Virgin was built in 1315.
...and destroyed in June 1999.
The Monastery of St Mark was built in 1417
...and destroyed in July 1999.
The Church of St Nicholas was built in the 16th century.
...and destroyed on 17 July 1999.
Yugoslavia sets up team to fight human trafficking.
By Julijana Mojsilovic
BELGRADE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Yugoslavia pledged on Tuesday to join the international community in the fight against the trafficking of women for prostitution by setting up a special task force to deal with the problem which blights the Balkans.
Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic, a member of the reformist alliance which ousted Slobodan Milosevic last year, told a news conference the new team would start working in January.
Zivkovic said Yugoslavia's southern and eastern borders were particularly porous, allowing illegal traffickers to smuggle impoverished east Europeans along transit routes into the southern province of Kosovo and into neighbouring Macedonia.
"The Yugoslav Team for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings will be made up of state organs, international organisations and non-governmental bodies," Zivkovic said, adding the problem must be dealt with as a regional issue.
He said Yugoslavia planned a general overhaul of its border regime which would help fight human trafficking. The project would cost more than 200 million euros ($180.3 million) and Yugoslavia could finance about 40 percent of that amount.
Yugoslav officials do not have reliable figures on the scale of the trafficking of women for prostitution in the country, due to a lack of cooperation with the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and with authorities in the republic of Montenegro, Zivkovic said.
Kosovo has been a de facto Western protectorate since NATO bombs drove out Milosevic's forces in 1999 while leaders in Montenegro, Serbia's partner in the Yugoslav federation, want independence and do not recognise federal authorities.
Zivkovic said he knew of some 300 people, mostly women, who had been victims of trafficking in Yugoslavia in 2001.
International organisations have no exact numbers of victims in the region either, but the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says it has repatriated some 2,000 people to their countries of origin in the past 18 months.
NEW FORM OF SLAVERY
Most victims come from Moldova, Romania, Russia and Bulgaria, experts say. Women are lured into leaving their impoverished home countries by the traffickers with promises of respectable jobs in the West but then sold into prostitution.
Post-war zones such as Bosnia and Kosovo and more recently Macedonia have seen big upsurges in trafficking as pimps aim to cash in on the thousands of Western peacekeeping soldiers, civil servants and aid workers there, according to investigators.
"The trafficking in women is a form of new slavery," said Sannino, head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission in Belgrade. The team's main tasks had been agreed with the international community, he said.
"Those tasks are: prevention and awareness raising and campaigning against trafficking, assistance to and protection of victims, amendment of legislation and strengthening of law enforcement and collection of data, research and evaluation."
He said Belgrade would also be the base for a "a clearing point" to help coordinate international, regional and national efforts to combat trafficking in the Balkans.