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Bulgarian Churches in Turkey Overhauled. The religious leader of Muslems in Turkey and head of the Directorate for Religious Regulations Mehmed Nuri Yilmiz arrived in Bulgaria for the first time ever. On the photo: The guest presented Patriarch Maxim with a hand-decorated vase yesterday. The two agreed that His Holiness visit Istanbul next year and inspect the Bulgarian churches there before the overhaul. Mehmed Nuri Yildiz promised assistance in resolving all problems of the Bulgarian Orthodox community in Turkey. Photo Nikolai Donchev (SB)




Washington, December 4 (MIA) The United States has designated the so-called Albanian National Army (ANA) and the National Committee for the Liberation and Defense of Albanian Lands (KKCMTSH) under Executive Order 13219 of U.S. President George Bush issued June 27, 2001 for sanctioning of the terrorist organizations in the Western Balkans, reads the statement by Philip Reeker, the deputy spokesman of U.S. Department of State.

"The designation of these groups, whose violent tactics aim to undermine democracy and threaten ongoing efforts to secure peace and stability in Macedonia, Kosovo, southern Serbia and the region will allow the U.S. Treasury to block the assets of these groups in U.S. and to prohibit financial transactions with them by U.S. persons," reads the press release.

In addition to the financial restrictions imposed by Executive Order 13219, a Presidential Proclamation issued June 27, 2001 suspended entry into the United States of persons responsible for actions that threaten international stabilization efforts in the Western Balkans region.

"This U.S. action supports the efforts of the leadership and citizens of Macedonia to implement the Framework Agreement of August 13, 2001 and to strengthen inclusive, multiethnic, democratic structures. The United States reaffirms its condemnation of any groups engaged in extremist violence, inciting ethnic conflict or other obstructionist acts to promote irredentist or criminal agendas that threaten peace, stability and security of Macedonia and the region," reads the statement by Reeker.


U.S. Department of State seal.

U.S. bars ethnic Albanian radicals, freezes assets.


SKOPJE, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The United States has barred members of two ethnic Albanian extremist groups that reject August's peace deal for Macedonia and has frozen any U.S.-based assets they may have, the State Department said on Tuesday.

It said financial and travel curbs had been imposed on the Albanian National Liberation Army (ANA), a fringe group that spurned Macedonia's Western-sponsored accord with the main NLA rebel movement and vows to open a new conflict.

Also banned under a seven-month-old executive order of President George W. Bush was the National Committee for the Liberation and Defence of Albanian Lands (KKCMTSH).

"The U.S. reaffirms its condemnation of any groups engaged in extremist violence, inciting ethnic conflict, or other obstructionist acts to promote irredentist or criminal agendas that threaten the peace and stability of Macedonia and the region," Philip Reeker, State Department deputy spokesman, said in a statement released through the American Embassy in Skopje.

The order also allowed the U.S. Treasury to prohibit financial transactions with such groups by U.S. citizens.

In June, Bush also banned commanders and U.S.-based assets of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), which was then waging an insurgency but later approved the peace accord and officially disbanded.

Tuesday's statement said ANA and KKCMTSH aimed "to undermine democracy and threaten ongoing efforts to secure peace and stability in Macedonia, Kosovo, southern Serbia and the region."

Analysts believe ANA is a small cell of ex-NLA militants apparently dedicated to fighting for a "Greater Albania" homeland in the Balkans.

But no one knows whether ANA, which has claimed responsibility for deadly ambushes on Macedonian security forces, represents just a few diehard rebels with a website or the birth of a new guerrilla movement to be reckoned with.

Former NLA commanders deny any knowledge of ANA.



Skopje, December 4 (MIA) - A group of about ten Albanian terrorists opened fire from infantry weapons upon the positions of the Macedonian Army (MA), north from Ljuboten village, Skopje area, on Monday at about 4:10p.m.

As confirmed by the MA Spokesman Blagoja Markovski, the MA members responded to this provocation, using all the available weaponry. After the short-lasting firing, the group was broken up and the terrorists managed to escape towards the Bel Kamen county, Skopska Crna Gora Mountain.

No members of the Macedonian Army were injured or killed during this incident.

Child Killed In Explosion In Brvenica.


Tetovo, December 4 (MIA) One child was killed and four other were wounded when an explosive device went off in the village of Brvenica near Tetovo, MIA's correspondent from Tetovo reported.

Two of the injured children were transferred to the Skopje Medical Center and the other two have been detained for medical treatment at the Tetovo Hospital.

The Tetovo Police Department has still not released announcement regarding this event.

Macedonia teen dies, five hurt in grenade accident.


TETOVO, Macedonia, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A Macedonian teenager was killed and five of his friends were badly hurt on Tuesday when a grenade they were playing with exploded, local officials said.

The survivors were taken to hospital where three were in a critical condition after the incident in the northwestern village of Brvenica, an area containing unexploded ordnance left over from a guerrilla conflict earlier this year.

"Some kids found a hand grenade and it accidentally exploded. One of them, a 17-year-old, was killed and five were very seriously injured," Mayor Nasuf Sinani said by telephone from Brvenica, near the city of Tetovo.

Tetovo municipality police confirmed the report and were investigating.



The pardoning commission of the President's Cabinet continued to review the list for pardoning of 88 members of the so-called NLA, who have been detained or are imprisoned.

The Commission reviewed 43 cases from the abolition list submitted by the Ministry of Justice.

The six-member commission reviews every case separately and is going to submit its opinion to the President.

The Commission is expected to complete its task by Wednesday and President Trajkovski's first decisions for amnesty are expected to happen during this week.

Main conditions for pardoning of so-called NLA members are these persons to have voluntarily laid down their weapons and not to have committed crimes that are under the authority of the Hague Tribunal.



Vice-Premier Dosta Dimovska is appointed for a new Head of the Crisis Management Body, while Aleksandar Doncev from the Interior Ministry, for a new Chief of the Crisis management Center, spokesman of the Macedonian Government Gjorgi Trendafilov told reporters Tuesday.

"From now on, all activities of the governmental institutions, involved in resolving of the crisis will be focused on decisions, made by the Crisis Management Body, " Trendafilov said.

Referring to the Plan for returning of security forces in the crisis region, Trendafilov said it would be carried out by the Interior Ministry, in cooperation with the Macedonian Army Staff, Defense Ministry, NATO and OSCE.

Yesterday, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski sent a letter of intention regarding an extension of the NATO mission to Macedonia, Trendafilov said.

However, there was no detailed information on extending of NATO and OSCE missions to Macedonia.

"We are waiting for a report by Minister of Foreign Affairs Slobodan Casule, who attended the OSCE ministerial meeting in Bucharest. Than, we may discuss more specifically on the number and engagement of the international missions in the country," Trendafilov added.

He also informed that ministerial group was established to overview parts of a draft-law on local self-government, which would enable normal functioning of certain services.

"I believe that tomorrow, the group will submit all possible amendments to the Parliament," Trendafilov said.

At Tuesday's session, chaired by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Macedonian Government was informed by Minister of Interior Ljube Boskovski about the current security situation in the Republic of Macedonia.

Minister Boskovski stressed that a group of unidentified armed persons shoot at unidentified targets in Tetovo and its surrounding, as well as in Kumanovo region, but also towards the positions of the Macedonian security forces.

According to the knowledge of the Ministry of Interior, the violations of public peace and order in the country are linked to the long-time announced amnesty of members of the para-military groups and the lack of information that these groups have on the ones that will be amnestied, and who won't. As informed by Minister Boskovski, amnesty will be applied to persons on the terrain, but who are not suspected of perpetrating crimes in authority of the Hague Tribunal, and not only the ones that are already on the list, which was submitted by Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti to President Boris Trajkovski.

In connection to Monday's false information about the events in village Ljuboten, Minister of Interior said that it was an attack on an army patrol by 10 armed persons. Members of the security forces responded to the attack, after which the armed persons retrieved to the village.

At today's session, the Government accepted the Information on the kidnapped persons during the military actions in the country by the terrorist groups. The terrorists also attacked civilians, resulting in 16 civilian victims, while around 100 were kidnapped. Persons were held as hostages for days, or even months. a large number of the kidnapped persons have been released with the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross and OSCE Mission in Macedonia, who were physically and psychologically molested. Despite the efforts of the authorised state institutions and international organisations for releasing all kidnapped persons, another 12 Macedonian civilians are still being held hostage. However, according to the information from the terrorists, around 20 Albanian persons are being held hostage, an information that has not been yet confirmed.

The Government passed the Decision for changing of the Decision for establishment of the Coordination Body for Crisis Management. Vice-Premier Dosta Dimovska will be the Chairman, while Minister of labor and Social Policy Bedredin Ibrahimi will be the Vice-Chairman. Ministers of Interior, Justice and Transport and Communication will be its members.

At today's session, the Government put police General Aleksandar Doncev as Chairman of the Center for Crisis Management, while the councilor in the President's Cabinet Stevo Pendarovski will be his Deputy.




The donors conference for Macedonia will be held prior to Christmas i.e. December 25, if the Macedonian part agrees the Staff monitoring program with the International Monetary Fund and if the Parliament adopts the Law on local self-government, EU special envoy to Macedonia Alain Le Roy stated after the meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

The meeting was held in the presence of Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski, Governor of the Macedonian National Bank Ljube Trpeski, the representatives from IMF, World Bank, European Commission as well as the Dutch, Italian, British, Austrian, French, German, Greek, Irish, U.S., Swiss, Norwegian, Canadian and Japanese ambassadors.

Le Roy hoped that these two conditions would be met and that the actual date of the donors conference would be announced on Friday. According to representative of the World Bank to Macedonia Marie - Helene Bricknell they would start to organize the conference and would send invitations to the donors countries.

The meeting with President Trajkovski aimed to speed up the preparations and to stimulate the international community for holding the donors conference, Minister Gruevski said.

"There has been fast progress and the activities for holding the conference are in the final stage," Minister Gruevski said, adding that the negotiations with IMF on Staff Monitoring Program should be completed Wednesday night.

According to Gruevski it is still hard to estimate the means that Macedonia would get, explaining that most of the representatives from the international community present at Wednesdays meeting did not state their position regarding that issue.

The means approved to Macedonia on the donors conference, as Gruevski said, would not be granted immediately i.e. part of them would be granted after the conference and the other part after the conditions from the first phase of Staff monitoring program are met. The implementation of this program will start on January 1.

According to President's Cabinet the meeting was focused on the forthcoming donor's conference. The positions about the financial needs of Macedonia were coordinated.

Stressing that Macedonia did everything to relief the consequences from the crisis, President Tarjkovski emphasized his expectation that the international community should meet part of the promised issues on the donor's conference.

IMF representative Bishvajit Banerjee expressed his satisfaction from the agreement developed with the Macedonian government and informed the ambassadors that it was necessary to cover the financial gap of $ 173 million.

As President Trajkovski insisted they also discussed the financing of the implementation of Law on local self-government i.e. implementation of Framework Agreement in the next few years.

It was concluded that the financial assistance should cover the Budget's deficit and the damages from the terrorist activities as well as to provide finances for implementation of the Framework Agreement.

The ambassadors of the potential donor's countries announced that they would notify their governments on the financial needs of Macedonia, and some of them even promised specific amounts for Macedonia's support.

Bulgarian Churches in Istanbul Overhauled.


Silvia Nikolova

The two Bulgarian Orthodox temples in Istanbul and the one in Edirne to be overhauled, Patriarch Maxim and spiritual leader of Turkey's Muslims Mehmed Nuri Yildiz agreed upon at their meeting in the Synodal Palace yesterday. His Holiness will bless the restoration in person, after he accepted the invitation to pay a visit to Turkey in early 2002. The Muslims in Bulgaria are provided every possibility to freely practice their religion and study the Koran, Mehmed Nuri Yildiz said in a statement after the meeting. He, in his turn, promised his full cooperation to Bulgarian Orthodox community in Turkey. Patriarch Maxim was sorry for not succeeding in treating his guest to coffee, for during the Ramadan the Muslims are not allowed to eat and drink till sunset.




Sofia, December 4 (BTA) - The Turkish authorities have granted permission for the start of shoring up work at the Bulgarian church of St Stephen in Istanbul, Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, Head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), told journalists on Tuesday. Yilmaz, who is spiritual leader of Muslims in Turkey, is paying an official visit to Bulgaria.

The permission came as a result of the bilateral religious cooperation which began in 1998, Yilmaz specified. "Thanks to this cooperation, we expect assistance for the start of repair work at the mosques in Shoumen, Razgrad [Southeastern Bulgaria] and Plovdiv [South Central Bulgaria], which we will support," the guest added.

Yilmaz and Bulgaria's Religious Affairs Director Lyubomir Mladenov Tuesday discussed the framework of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the religious sphere, which will be proposed for signing to the governments of Bulgaria and Turkey. The agreement is expected to be signed in mid-January 2002, Mladenov said after the meeting.

The agreement covers a settlement of the status of Bulgarian priests in Turkey and of the teachers of Islam at Bulgaria's religious schools, and facilitated supply of textbooks both for the Sunday school of the Bulgarian Exarchate in Istanbul and for the Islamic schools in Bulgaria. Permission is still expected to start the repair of the Bulgarian church of St George in Edirne, Mladenov also said.

The transformation of the Higher Islamic Institute in Sofia into a faculty of a university was discussed at a meeting later on between Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz and Education and Science Minister Vladimir Atanassov.

On Yilmaz's request Atanassov undertook to study the possibilities for such a transformation which has to be approved by Parliament. The Institute is with the Bulgarian Chief Mufti's Office and is maintaining active contacts with New Bulgarian University, Atanassov explained.

The meeting also discussed Islamic classes at Bulgarian schools. The Ministry of Education has drafted a programme for introducing optional classes in Islam at some schools..

Yilmaz described his meeting with the Minister of Education as one of his most important meetings during his visit to Bulgaria. He said that education is the main means of preventing the spread of fundamentalism.


Simeon Had Buttermilk with the Chief Mufties of Turkey and Bulgaria.



Evgeni Genov

Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dined, at one and the same table, with the chief mufties of Turkey and Bulgaria at 'Boyana' residence last night. The premier respected the invitation of the leader of the Bulgarian Muslems Selim Mehmed to take part in 'iftar' (a religious evening), given in honor of Turkey's mufty Mehmed Yalmaz. The ceremony is connected with the Muslem holiday Ramazan, but it can also be attended by representatives of other faiths. Simeon and his interlocutors had potato soup, salads, meatless stuffed vine leaves and calf fillet. Buttermilk and mineral water were the only drinks on the table. The event was also attended by ministers Mehmed Dikme and Nedjet Mollov and almost all MPs from the MFR, but without Ahmed Dogan. Patriarch Maxim didn't respond to the invitation either. The patriarch excused himself by urgent commitments at the same time. Attending the event at 'Boyana' were all ambassadors from the diplomatic corps of the Islamic countries in Bulgaria. Mehmed Yalmaz was accompanied by 11 Turkish MPs and the new ambassador of Ankara to this country Haidar Berk.


Railmen to Rebel.


Trains are to stop because of wage arrears for September, October and November.

Railmen are ready to go on nationwide strike from December 10 on, CITUB president Zheliazko Hristov said yesterday. The reason is wage arrears for September, October and November, as well as due advance payments and food expenses. The CITUB, BDZ (State Railway Company) management and Transport Minister Plamen Petrov negotiated for more than 8 hours. Minutes after 7.00 p.m. Deputy Transport Minister Lyubomil Ivanov said that the stands have not been drawn closer. Minister Petrov proposed to the railroaders to give up their demand to immediately be paid their salaries. "The Transport Ministry guarantees that the arrears will be paid in January and February next year," Petrov told the employees. They, however, said in no uncertain terms that they were not to give up their demand to be paid as early as end-December. To Valentin Nikiforov, who chairs the strike committee, the company owes the railroaders over 40 million levs.

Pavlina Zhivkova


PM to Visit Moscow.


Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will pay a visit to Moscow next year, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy informed after the meeting with his Russian counterpart - Igor Ivanov, in Bucharest. They held talks in the frameworks of the OSCE Forum. 'Striking reaction from Russia is not expected, if Bulgaria is to receive an invitation for a NATO membership,' Passy added.


Parvanov and Simeon To Have Breakfast at 'Hilton'


Bogdana Lazarova

At 8.30 a.m. today Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will have breakfast with Georgi Parvanov at the 'Hilton' hotel. Their meeting is on the initiative of the president-elect. The two will consider the interaction between both institutions. It will be their first meeting since the elections. If I don't agree with the decisions adopted by my taking over, I'll be forced to revise them, Georgi Parvanov pointed out yesterday. In my capacity of head of state I can't afford working with people who do not belong to my team, he explained.


Vezhdi Rashidov Released.


The sculptor's bail was 500 levs.

Bogdana Lazarova

World-famous sculptor Vezhdi Rashidov and Emil Dodov, who are municipal councillors, were released on bail yesterday. The two of them should deposit 500 levs each, the Sofia regional prosecution decided. The term of the arrest ended at 6 p.m. yesterday. The municipal councillors left the arrest of the Specialized Investigation Service ten minutes before 12 o'clock at noon. They were released because the prosecution decided not to submit to court a suggestion for their remand in custody, lawyer of Vezhdi Rashidov Ivan Ivanov explained before 'Standart'. The prosecution decided to release them on bail and fixed the sum, he added. Rashidov and Dodov were arrested on Thursday. The prosecution initiated against them proceedings for ruffianism and infliction of slight bodily injury to policeman Ventzislav Pavlov. The reason for the scandal was the refusal of Rashidov to remove his car, which he parked in front of the Sofia municipality. Yesterday the sculptor couldn't be found to give his commentary on the case.


Zlatograd Raised a Riot for Bread.


Miners, teachers and doctors stood in front of the municipality, carrying slogans 'We Want Work'

In severely cold weather the residents of Zlatograd rioted against unemployment, poverty and the robbing of 'Gorubso'. Miners, teachers and doctors went to the square in front of the municipality carrying slogans 'We Want Work and Bread' and 'We Don't Want to Make Our Living Abroad'. In the region of Zlatograd and Nedelino the registered jobless people till November 30 are 3297 or 25.83% of the local residents. The demonstrators demanded trial and just sentence for the robbers of 'Gorubso-Zlatograd'. On behalf of the protesting people chairman of the Initiative Committee Mitko Karaasenov turned to Mariela Pavlova, liquidator of the firm with the following words: 'Go, but pay before that'. The liquidator had sent her representative. He tried to explain her actions in the firm, but was hissed and expelled from the rostrum.

Nevelina Karaasenova


2 Years Greece Delays Opening Checkpoint Near G. Delchev
Drivers stay in long-winded queues at Koulata.


Vladimir Simeonov

The boarder in the vicinities of Gotse Delchev won't be opened for another 3-year period at least. The Greeks are to be blamed for the delay. The dead-line fixed by them expires at end-2004, while due to preliminary plans it was to be completed in 2002. The project on building 'Exohi' checkpoint and the so called ' bear's love tunnel' - to provide the natural population of the brown bears among both frontiers, is not yet drawn. This transpired after the joint Bulgarian - Greek meeting held in the town of Kato Nevrokopi in Greece. Ilko Shivachev, general consul of Bulgaria to Thessalonica, Alexander Alexandrov - European Commission representative for Bulgaria, as well as the governors of Kardzhali, Smolyan and Blagoevgrad took part in the meeting. Brian Young - supervisor of the construction sites from Bulgarian side, and the regional authorities in Northern Greece have insisted that the Greek government should quicken up the building of both important sites. We believed that opening of the border near Gotse Delchev will help the economy in the region to its feet. Presently, the commodities from Nevrokopsko district are transported via the mountain in Koulata and the drivers waste lots of time because of the long-winded queues,' Mayor of Gotse Delchev Vladimir Moskov elaborated.


Protests Are Snowballing.


Violeta Petkova

The trade unions again played the card of strikes and protests. Why now? And for what reasons? In a number of sectors social tension has reached its critical point and the hand lent by the trade unionists for dialogue is clenching into a fist. On December 3 it will become clear whether railwaymen at BDZ (the state railways) will go on strike. They have already started collecting signatures to this end. We can't send our children to school, we can't pay our electricity bills, we go to work hungry and this poses risks, railwaymen from southern Bulgaria told at a meeting with CITUB chief Zhelyazko Hristov. The BDZ employees have to be paid 27 million levs wage arrears and food allowances. From January 1, 2002 on, the railways have to be divided into two separate ventures, after the enforcement of the Act on the Railways. Which aggravates things even more. For new ventures headed by new directors are in store, but the old problems remain. And new downsizing is ahead as well - from 3,200 to 6,000 employees may be fired. The BDZ is not prepared for the pending, from January 1, enforcement of the Act on the Railways, trade unionists think and insist on postponing the enforcement of the new law: the CITUB asks for 6 months and Promyana trade union - for a year. There are some talks of bankruptcy. On December 3, employees of Trema - Tryavna will go on strike. The wage arrears in the venture account for some 900,000 levs. Salaries have not been paid from 1999 on. In the Tryavna-based branch of the War Industrial Complex only 599 employees are working now, though according to the privatization contract almost 1,200 workers should have been hired. The employees from the Varna shipyard are holding rallies one after another. It is not quite clear whether the cabinet is ready to take immediate actions, or if it has developed options to solve the problems. The same is the situation in Chimko - Vratsa, where the production came to a halt for an indefinite period of time, the Eliseina copper smelter is not operating as well. Tensions are smouldering in Plama - Pleven, Agrobiochim - Stara Zagora, Vidachim... Till end-year the cost of living will reach 300 levs, both the CITUB and Podkrepa trade unions maintain. At the same time, nothing of the pledged new incomes policy is to be witnessed. No Christmas salaries are expected, the pensioners are to be paid only 20 extra levs each. New electricity and heating prices were fixed without being concerted with the social partners. People have already lost their faith. It is the trade unions that come into vogue in such times. To pull the chestnuts out of the fire...


M-Tel to Award Prizes to Bulgarian Inventors.


Victoria Seraphimova

Largest Bulgarian GSM-operator M-Tel will award prizes to the top Bulgarian inventors today. The talented Bulgarians have presented themselves at the international exhibitions IENA 2001 in Nuremberg, Germany and BRUSSELS EUREKA 2001 in Belgium. M-Tel and BATIC (Bulgarian and American Trade and Industrial Chamber) sponsored their participation. BATIC dedicated the successes to the memory of Vladimir Grashnov. Roumyana Kyuchukova, General Director of M-Tel, and Georgi Stephanov, CEO in BATIC, delivered the prizes in person.


Georghy Parvanov met Chinese, Syrian and Greek Ambassadors.

The meetings of newly elected President Georghy Parvanov with Ambassadors continued today with the Ambassadors of China, Syria and Greece, the Georghy Parvanovs press-center reported. He received congratulatory letters from the Presidents of Syria Bashar al Asad and of Greece Constantinos Stefanopoulos, who reassured Georghy Parvanov that Bulgaria could rely on the Greek support for its adoption in the European Union and in the NATO, which would contribute to further strengthening the peace and stability in the region. The Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi also sent congratulatory letter to Georghy Parvanov, in which he expressed wishes for further development of the good relations between Japan and Bulgaria.

Bulgaria PM, president-elect vow EU, NATO push.


SOFIA, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Georgi Parvanov, Bulgaria's president-elect, and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg vowed on Tuesday to work together to secure their country's entry into the European Union and NATO.

"It is very important to show the world we have common priorities," Saxe-Coburg, the former king, told reporters after his first meeting with Parvanov since the 44-year-old reformist leader of the Socialist Party (BSP) defeated centre-right incumbent Petar Stoyanov in last month's election.

Parvanov, a former communist who will take office on January 22, said: "We will both lobby among our European partners for accelerated European Union membership as well as work for a membership in NATO."

Bulgaria opened EU membership talks early last year and is seen as an EU laggard along with neighbouring Romania. Sofia was left out of the first round of NATO's enlargement in 1999.

The new government of Saxe-Coburg, which took office in July, has set joining EU and NATO as top foreign policy priorities. It hopes Bulgaria will enter the EU in 2006 and win an invitation to join NATO at the pact's 2002 summit in Prague.

"Our joint work on EU integration will require lots of efforts. We need to overcome the scepticism by some of our European partners and achieve a decision which will allow us to advance to the EU together with the first team," Parvanov said.

Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and the president has limited powers at home but is seen as the country's face abroad.

A soft-spoken former historian, Parvanov has headed the BSP since 1996. He had managed to strike a balance between reforming the ex-communist party into a modern social democratic formation and keeping its core electorate of elderly communists satisfied.

Parvanov initiated decisions opposed by most of the BSP's ex-communist electorate, such as backing Bulgaria's NATO bid. He has stopped his BSP membership after winning the polls and is due to step down from party chairman's post in mid-December.

In November's election, Saxe-Coburg's National Movement for Simeon II had backed incumbent Stoyanov, who ran as independent and has been a strong advocate of EU and NATO membership.

Saxe-Coburg, better known as Simeon, is the former king who had been ousted by the communists in 1946. He became the first ex-monarch in post-communist eastern Europe to return to power after his two-old movement won a general election in June.

Kosovo Serb and Albanian leaders in historic meet.


PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Kosovo Serb and Albanian deputies met face-to-face formally for the first time in 12 years on Tuesday to prepare for a new assembly the West hopes will heal a bitter ethnic divide.

Minority Serb politicians were driven in bullet-proof cars to clink glasses with colleagues-to-be from the ethnic Albanian majority, before a training seminar ahead of next week's inaugural session of the Kosovo legislative assembly.

There has been no inter-ethnic assembly since 1989, when then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic scrapped Kosovo's autonomy and began a Serb crackdown that culminated in NATO strikes and a U.N. protectorate a decade later.

The 120-seat body is designed to give substantial autonomy to the province, still legally part of Yugoslavia, and foster reconciliation by encouraging the ethnic groups to work together after years of conflict and hatred.

Kosovo's beleaguered Serb minority has been targeted in numerous attacks by Albanians angry at years of repression directed from Belgrade.

Serb deputies boycotted the first planned training day on Monday, complaining the United Nations had provided no security for reporters accompanying them from Belgrade. Serb reporters were given separate escorts on Tuesday.

The seminar, run by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, aims to prepare deputies elected in last month's historic ballot for the first session on December 10.

Serbs will have 22 seats in the assembly, which will be dominated by pro-independence Albanian parties and has powers ranging from the economy to health and transport.

Kosovo Serb politician Rada Trajkovic, who will head the Serb group in the assembly, reiterated she was ready to work constructively with the Albanians.

"Until now we haven't talked with anyone about a coalition (but) we will enter a coalition with all people of good will, who are ready to prevent discrimination against the Serb community," Trajkovic told reporters before entering the conference room.

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