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Bulgarian former King Simeon II looks on during his meeting with President Petar Stoyanov in Sofia, July 12, 2001. Simeon II, the first ex-monarch to regain political power in post-communist eastern Europe, was nominated as the country's next prime minister after his movement won a June 17 general election. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
Bulgarian former King Simeon II (L) and President Petar Stoyanov give a joint statement after their meeting in Sofia July 12, 2001. Simeon II, the first ex-monarch to regain political power in post-communist eastern Europe, was nominated as the country's next prime minister after his movement won a June 17 general election. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
Bulgarian former King Simeon II speaks to journalists in front of the Presidency building in Sofia, July 12, 2001. Simeon II, the first ex-monarch to regain political power in post-communist eastern Europe, was nominated as the country's next prime minister after his movement won a June 17 general election. REUTERS/Nadezhda Chipeva
Macedonia Forces Clash With Rebels.
By Misha Savic
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2001; 10:39 a.m. EDT
SKOPJE, Macedonia Clouding hopes of a quick peace agreement to avert civil war, government forces clashed overnight with ethnic Albanian rebels crossing into Macedonia from neighboring Kosovo, the army said Thursday. One soldier was critically wounded.
Defense Ministry spokesman Marjan Gjurovski said the clash happened late Wednesday. He declined to specify how many troops or militants were involved in the exchange, but said there had been several other, smaller incidents that have violated a week-old cease-fire.
U.S. officials at Camp Bondsteel, their main base in Kosovo, said American soldiers saved the wounded Macedonian soldier by giving him first aid at an observation post and then flying him by helicopter to Skopje, the Macedonian capital.
"Our soldiers, medics and pilots were at the right place at the right time to help save this soldier's life," said Maj. Randy Martin, a spokesman for the U.S.-administered sector in Kosovo.
The flare-ups came exactly a week after the NATO-mediated truce took effect last Thursday in an effort to create an atmosphere of calm for peace talks under way in Skopje.
The talks between representatives of Macedonian majority, who dominate the government, and ethnic Albanian politicians who represent the country's large and restive minority, began Monday under the auspices of the United States and the European Union.
"Intense talks are continuing. All participants are on board and working constructively" to reach an agreement, said Aggie Kuperman, spokeswoman for the U.S. peace envoy, James Pardew.
Ethnic Albanians account for as much as a third of Macedonia's population of 2 million and have demanded broader rights, better political representation at all levels of society and government and the official use of the Albanian language.
The Macedonian majority so far has rejected those demands, viewing them as a strategy to carve out an ethnic Albanian mini-state and unite it with Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated province in neighboring Serbia.
Pardew and the EU envoy, Francois Leotard, have brought a draft proposal to amend Macedonia's constitution and laws to meet the ethnic Albanian demands without jeopardizing integrity of the country. They and nearly a dozen legal experts from Western democracies are assisting the rival sides in working out a feasible deal.
"Some serious issues are being dealt with," a source close to the negotiators said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that the legal experts were working "very hard" on a document that both sides could eventually approve.
If a peace settlement is reached, 3,000 NATO forces will be deployed to oversee the disarmament of the rebels. NATO, however, has emphasized it will get involved only if a deal is reached and the insurgents are willing to give up their guns.
On Wednesday, a senior ethnic Albanian official sounded pessimistic about the talks.
"The talks are very difficult," said Abdylhadi Vejseli, deputy chairman of the Party for Democratic Prosperity. He said the Macedonians were resisting ethnic Albanian demands that a new constitution mention the sizable minority as a "constituent people," which would give them formal equality with majority Macedonians.
Vejseli also called for ethnic Albanian rebels to be included in the talks something the government, which considers the insurgents to be terrorists, rejects as totally unacceptable.
Our Hands Are Tied By the World.
By Marko Georgiev
As the world already knows, the cease-fire was declared on Thursday, July 5th at 24.00h. The same day, the Albanian terrorists tried to gain positions deep further into Macedonian land. They bombed Tetovo, and caused fear among the people. However, the Macedonian Security Forces successfully managed to stop and again defeat the Albanian Terrorists. Despite MSF being strong in the towns and cities, they were week to deal in the villages inhabited mostly with Albanian people, who are supporting the terrorists and their campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Six more Macedonian villages were attacked, people were chased out of their homes and their homes and property were destroyed. Now they are refugees in their own country! The people do not register in the local Humanitarian Organizations since they strongly feel that the same organizations will help only Albanians and not Macedonians. In many cases this proved to be right!
Gun nest at the edge of Tetovo: Respecting the ceasefire imposed by NATO, Macedonian Security forces can only watch the Albanian terrorists committing crimes against humanity.
The people from the village of Leshok, 7km away from Tetovo, decided not to leave their homes to the Albanian terrorists, but to stand up and defend their homes [armed with only a few hunting rifles]. The MSF did not have enough capacity to deal with the guerrilla tactics on lot of places at the same time, so the Macedonian people from the village of Leshok are on their own!
In the same village, there is a historically important monastery and the hill above it is a kind of a last line of defense against the Albanian Terrorists! The terrorists, offended by the cross situated at the monastery site pulled it down by force.
The villagers of Leshok did not accept the NATO brokered capitulation of Macedonian forces and lead a desperate struggle against the Albanian terrorists who want to take over their homes.
The ancient Leshok monastery has recently been restored.
The monastery cross was destroyed by the terrorists.
On the road from Tetovo to the border pass Jazhince (some 20km long) now, the Albanian Terrorists set up their own barricades, and the traffic for the Macedonian people is impossible. For three days now, some 400 people (mostly Macedonians) from the local villages did not show up for work in Tetovo.
Macedonian government and the Security Forces, are unable to deal and to do anything, because they have to respect with the ceasefire, declared on Thursday last week. But the Albanian Terrorists are not sitting still. They are using this cease-fire for tactical maneuvers. Since in the places where they are there is absolutely no control, and the international observers are not allowed in, terrorists can do what ever they feel like.
In Kumanovo region, the terrorists are controlling 11 villages, and yesterday they captured two Macedonian soldiers, members of the reserve units, holding them as hostages. The Macedonian government, and International Organizations are making efforts to get them back, but up to this moment, unsuccessfully.
Different international officials, claiming to be experts, arrived in Macedonia to try to solve the war situation that we have for five months now, but no-one seams to be managing how to deal with it. The EU and the rest of the world are closely watching the moves of Macedonia, as if we are the ones that started the war! The people of this country are slowly accepting the WAR as part of their everyday activities and feel that the hands of Macedonia are tied. We all now know that North-West part of Macedonia is going to be given to the Albanians in Kosovo, and we all see that the Internationals are making big effort in favor of this plan.
We feel betrayed! We slowly see that the world will make it possible for the Albanians to force the Macedonian population out of these area and make it ethnically clean. The land that these people had for generations back is not theirs any more. This will happen and there is nothing that Macedonia can do about it!
Roadblocks set by the Albanian terrorists.
Macedonians Fear Breakup of Nation.
By Misha Savic
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2001; 3:14 a.m. EDT
TETOVO, Macedonia For some people, Macedonia's breakup, which Western negotiators have tried to avoid by all means possible, has already begun. They include Mirko Blazevski and his family.
The 44-year-old farmer, sweating in the blazing sun, mumbled a curse as he peered through binoculars at his home on the slopes of Mount Sara. Ethnic Albanian rebels evicted him last week.
Living now as a refugee with relatives in nearby Tetovo in violence-plagued western Macedonia, Blazevski said his only fault was that he, as a member of the Macedonian majority, happened to live in a predominantly ethnic Albanian area.
"We thought we just needed to keep quiet, mind our own business and avoid trouble," he said.
But last Friday the first day of a NATO-mediated cease-fire between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels about 10 armed guerrillas surrounded Blazevski's rural home and said that he, his wife Suzana, his two small daughters and his elderly parents had to leave Varvara village for good.
"They wouldn't let us take any belongings," Blazevski said, adding he would soon have to "go through the humiliation" of asking for clothes at the nearest Red Cross.
There have been no major clashes in Macedonia in the last few days, facilitating ongoing peace talks between ethnic Albanians and the government, which were brokered by the United States and the EU.
However, while the cease-fire is generally holding in most of the country, the Blazevskis are increasingly worried that they may have lost virtually all their belongings.
"The terrorists ransacked our house, took money and jewelry and told us that we can never again live on 'Albanian soil,'" Blazevski complained, purple-faced with rage.
On Friday alone, rebels forced the Blazevskis and about 800 other Macedonians from Varvara and five other villages.
The angry villagers went to the capital, Skopje, demanding that President Boris Trajkovski send government forces to help them get back their homes.
But that may not be a priority for the authorities involved in the peace talks with the rebels.
Ethnic Albanians demand broader rights, including better political representation at all levels of society and government, the official use of Albanian and a rewritten constitution that accepts them as "a constituent people" in the country.
The Macedonian majority so far has rejected demands they view as part of a strategy to carve out an ethnic Albanian mini-state and unite it with adjacent Kosovo, the mostly ethnic Albanian province of neighboring Serbia.
Culturally, the Macedonians, who are Slavs, and ethnic Albanians are separated by religion, language and history.
While most Macedonians follow the Orthodox faith, most Albanians are Muslim. Albanians also speak a unique language that has its roots in ancient Illyria the region bordering the Adriatic Sea and is not spoken by anyone outside the Balkans except a few linguists and diplomats.
NATO peacekeepers deployed here and in Kosovo have worked hard to cut off arms supplies that come to the rebels from their ethnic kin in Kosovo.
Furthermore, NATO officials feel responsible to maintain the shaky truce they helped mediate.
Defense Ministry official Marjan Gjurovski told The Associated Press that NATO representatives have used their contacts with ethnic Albanians to demand that the rebels pull out of the villages and allow refugees to return.
A NATO spokesman in Skopje, Barry Johnson, declined to go into details, but confirmed that the alliance had sought to "ensure that the cease-fire is respected by both sides."
Meanwhile, the Blazevskis can only watch their home from a distance, wondering "what peace, if any, we will see."
"I don't even dare to hope that I'll get back to my home again," Mirko Blazevski said.
Albania could help resolve crisis in Macedonia, says NATO chief.
TIRANA, July 12 (AFP) -
NATO Secretary General George Robertson said Thursday that Albania could help resolve the crisis in Macedonia by preventing cross-border incursions by militants.
Albanian authorities must "ensure that those who are exporting violence are stoppped from doing so," Robertson said at the end of a brief visit to Tirana accompanied by ambassadors from all 19 NATO member states.
He said Tirana must make clear that "a sustainable political solution is the only answer."
Macedonian authorities have repeatedly charged that militants have crossed into the west of the country from Albania to recruit members for the so-called National Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group fighting Macedonian government forces since February.
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Mehta, who accompanied Robertson to the airport, said his country shares "the position that both sides have to be reasonable."
The NATO delegation was scheduled to travel to Sarajevo later Thursday on a two-day visit to the region.
The trip comes as NATO awaits the results of an inter-ethnic political dialogue in Skopje before deploying a brigade in Macedonia to disarm ethnic Albanian rebels.
Referring to the possible NATO disarmament operation, Robertson said: "I know that Albania is more than willing to give help for logistics."
Bulgarian Ex-King Simeon to Wear PM's Crown.
By Galina Sabeva
SOFIA, Bulgaria (Reuters) - Bulgaria's former King Simeon II, the first ex-monarch to regain political power in post-Communist eastern Europe, agreed on Thursday to be the country's next prime minister.
``I accept this offer with huge excitement, taking into consideration my sense of responsibility and the confidence received on June 17,'' the ex-king said in a reference to the parliamentary poll won by National Movement for Simeon II (NDS).
``It is no secret that this is an extremely hard and complicated task...I am thinking only about the wellbeing of our people and I hope that we will achieve what we have offered to the voters. Let God be with us and show us the right way.''
Parliament was expected to approve the nomination when it considers it on July 24.
The prime minister is the most powerful post in Bulgaria, a Balkan state of some eight million people bordering troubled Macedonia as well as Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania and Turkey.
People out in central Sofia on Thursday said they were pleased with his decision.
``Really? He confirmed it? Great, great. It's wonderful. I am so happy,'' said Boyanka Kirilova, an economist.
``I think that all his life he has been preparing to be a statesman and he comes ready to rule. This man knows the European rules which previous rulers had to learn, to study.''
A spokesman for NATO, which Bulgaria efforts to join, told Reuters in Brussels: ``This is certainly not a run-of-the-mill situation when a former monarch takes power in this way, but we expect our excellent cooperation to continue.''
The ex-king's NDS won 120 parliamentary seats in the June 17 election, one short of an outright majority. It plans to form a coalition government and one ally is all but certain, the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which has 21 seats.
The Union of Democratic Forces, which had held power, was to meet the NDS later on Thursday for coalition talks, although its leaders indicated recently they would rather stay in opposition.
Yunal Lyutfi, a senior MRF official, said the nomination of the former king, 64, would ``catalyse the coalition talks.''
Simeon, who has limited political experience at the age of 64, had identified no potential government ministers, a matter of great interest for foreign investors.
Market analysts said Simeon's agreement ended post-election uncertainty and boosted the country's economic outlook.
``The fact that Simeon would be sworn in as prime minister would give political stability to the country, showing he will be directly responsible for his government,'' said Hilfe analyst Carlin Doyle.
Proclaimed NDS goals, apart from a drive toward NATO and the European Union (news - web sites), are to improve the lives of the impoverished population within 800 days and to uproot corruption and crime.
The movement's economic team has promised a balanced budget, lower tax burden and transparent privatization. Also on its list are attracting foreign investment and developing infrastructure, telecommunications, energy, tourism and agriculture.
Simeon is to formulate his position on Macedonia, where an ethnic Albanian rebellion has threatened to plunge into war a country with which Bulgaria has close historical links.
Simeon was banished from Bulgaria in 1946, at the age of nine, after a rigged referendum abolished the monarchy.
He spent most of his life as a businessman in Madrid before forming his political movement in April.
His emergence on the political scene ruined the bi-polar model of a decade of alternating governments of the UDF and the Socialist Party of ex-communists, the only other party represented in parliament.