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A Macedonian policeman guards the entrance to a lakeside villa where President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Macedonia's foremost Albanian politician Arben Xhaferi and other party leaders are holding crisis talks on Western peace proposals July 29, 2001. U.S. envoy James Pardew and European Union negotiator Francois Leotard locked themselves away with Macedonia's polarized politicians in the lakeside resort of Ohrid on July 28, 2001 for a last-ditch effort to secure agreement on a plan to avoid a slide towards civil war. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Two Macedonians killed in landmine explosion: police.
TETOVO, Macedonia, July 29 (AFP) -
A Macedonian woman and her son were killed Sunday when a mine exploded under their vehicle in the northwest of the country, the scene of recent ethnic fighting, police sources said.
The incident occurred at around 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) in the village of Ratae, on the Tetovo-Jazince road leading to the Serbian province of Kosovo, the sources said, adding that an investigation was underway.
The area has been the scene of recent fighting between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian government forces.
Police sources in Skopje had earlier said the victims were an ethnic Albanian couple.
Albanian guerrillas withdrew on Thursday from positions they occupied in northwest Macedonia, in particular the villages on the Tetovo-Jazince road.
'Tricky' language issue deadlocks Macedonian peace talks.
OHRID, Macedonia, July 29 (AFP) -
Ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian become an official second language in Macedonia appear to have deadlocked peace talks being held over the weekend in this southern lakeside resort town.
Sources close to the Macedonian Slav parties negotiating with the two ethnic Albanian parties in the ruling coalition said little progress was being made on the issue and the talks, being hosted by President Boris Trajkovski in his summer residence, would likely drag on into Monday and maybe beyond.
"The talks are slow and tough and the major obstacle is the language demand," said one source in Trajkovski's delegation.
An accord is seen as the only way to stave off a civil war that has been threatening the Balkans republic since an armed ethnic Albanian rebellion began in February.
The rebel National Liberation Army (NLA) and the Macedonian security forces are currently observing a ceasefire rescued by NATO this week after pitched fighting around the northern town of Tetovo threatened to widen to engulf the whole country.
The talks opened Saturday with Trajkovski, the party leaders and EU and US envoys Francois Leotard and James Pardew all meeting around the same table.
But in a sign of the differences still to be narrowed, Sunday's talks were conducted with the Slav and the ethnic Albanian parties holding separate discussions with the Western envoys, who shuttled between both sides.
A source in Leotard and Pardew's entourage said the language demand was proving to be "a tricky issue".
The source added: "The talks are difficult, but we are making progress."
The ethnic Albanian party leaders are demanding that Albanian be made an official language alongside Macedonian.
The Slav parties fear conceding to this would create a de facto Albanian state in the northwest of the small republic, along the borders with Kosovo and Albania. Many of the ethnic Albanians who make up around 30 percent of Macedonia's population live in this area.
Leotard and Pardew presented a proposition that would limit Albanian to areas that had a population of at least 20 percent ethnic Albanians, but the ethnic Albanian parties are said to have rejected it.
Zahir Bekteshi, the spokesman of one of the parties, the PDP, confirmed this, saying "nothing is settled."
He added that the talks would probably go on into Monday, especially as the negotiators have not even started real discussions on the other outstanding demand: that an independent ethnic Albanian police force be created in certain areas.
While the talks went on, there was relative calm in and around Tetovo, although the area remained tense.
"The number of armed incidents has diminished, as is the regrouping of the terrorists," army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski said, referring to the rebels.
Four rocket-propelled grenades were, however, fired at army barracks in the town early Sunday, but caused neither casualties nor significant damage, Markovski said.
A rebel commander known as Hoxha, who is based just north of the capital Skopje, told AFP late Saturday: "We are respecting the ceasefire, but we are not relaxing our guard. We're preparing for the worst if there's no political agreement."
He said that if an accord was reached, "we are ready to drop our arms immediately, but if they (the Macedonian authorities) want a war, they'll get it."
UKRAINIAN TELEVISION ACCUSES WEST OF NEARSIGHTED POLICY IN BALKANS.
The sale of weapons to Macedonia is in Ukraine's national interest and the West has no right to request it to stop, according to a report on Ukrainian television's Third Program. The report goes on to accuse the West of conducting a mistaken policy in the Balkans and of planning to carve out an Albanian autonomy in Macedonia. The following are excerpts from the report at 1700 gmt:
[Presenter Maksym Ravreba] The story about the sale of Ukrainian arms to Macedonia has proved the fact that the national interests of Ukraine and USA do not always coincide. [US National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice openly told Ukrainian officials that the USA was against such shipments. She told journalists that she had convinced Ukrainian officials that the argument of the White House was fair. Some representatives of the press rushed to report that the export of arms to Yugoslavia is to stop. They should not have done so because either the journalists failed to understand Rice or Rice failed to understand Ukrainian partners.
But it turned out that there has been no decision to stop arms supplies. First of all, one should fulfil its obligations, and the most friendly relations with Washington are not a good enough reason to break a signed contract. On the other hand, contracts with Macedonia are simply profitable for Ukraine and it is not wise to refuse income received in a completely legal way. In other words, friendship is friendship but national interests are national interests. Not to mention that some people are beginning to suspect whether the West itself knows how to stop the Balkan crises before it provides advice to others. Oleksiy Koval with more details.
[Correspondent] Ukraine has not made a decision to stop arms supplies to Macedonia and it is not known today whether Kiev is going to make this step. The West, in fact, is late with calling for such things. At the moment, almost all agreements in the military and technical sphere between Kiev and Skopje have been fulfilled. Su-25 fighters and helicopters for fire support are already in Macedonia. The repair of tanks for the Macedonian army is being finished at Ukrainian plants. The only obligation that Kiev has not yet fulfilled is the creation of a repair base in Skopje to service all types of arms sold.
[Vlado Blazhevski, captioned as the Macedonian ambassador to Ukraine] I am sure that Ukraine will continue it obligation based on agreements signed not today, not yesterday, but several months ago.
[Correspondent] Not only Condoleezza Rice asked Ukraine to stop the shipment of arms to Macedonia. Twenty four hours prior to her visit to Kiev, Ukrainian diplomats were asked to stop shipments of arms [to Macedonia] at NATO headquarters in Brussels. This is quite an odd request because NATO Secretary-General George Robertson was saying with confidence early in July that shipments of Ukrainian arms to Macedonia do not contradict peaceful regulation of the conflict. Maybe EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who is to arrive in Kiev tomorrow, will make it clear why the Europeans have changed their minds three weeks later. By the way, the USA, France, Germany and Bulgaria have exported arms to Skopje too, but they were not asked to stop it. So there is only one possible conclusion - a competitor who is more prompt than others is not wanted on the Macedonian arms market. Especially given that the West does not have any legal grounds to demand from Kiev to break its promise.
[Volodymyr Horbulin, captioned as the chairman of the state commission for the military-industrial complex] We assist the legal Macedonian government and in our view this our normal and right.
[Correspondent] On the other hand it is obvious that contradictions with Kiev are a repercussion of the fact that relations between the West and Skopje have cooled down.
[Passage omitted: recent developments in Macedonia and reaction of the West]
In response, the West has applied more pressure on the Macedonian authorities demanding that the Macedonian government continue negotiations with Albanians and at the same time NATO traditionally postpones measures to tame extremists.
[Passage omitted: George Robertson promises to disarm extremists as soon as we introduce our peacekeepers]
NATO said something like that before bringing its peacekeepers to Kosovo. But not only were the extremists not disarmed, they continued accumulating more weapons and providing arms to the self-nominated protectors of the Macedonian Albanians. But the West does not want to recognize its mistakes and the Macedonian authorities are being forced to take measures to avoid a Kosovo crises. Two years ago everything was explained by the noble purpose of saving Kosovo inhabitants from the Milosevic dictatorship. It is simply impossible to set forward similar accusations against official Skopje.
[Passage omitted: Macedonia has signed a treaty with the European Union and is one of the candidates to join NATO. The Macedonian president is making efforts to settle the conflict]
The Europeans continue to accuse the Macedonian government of non-compliance, as if not noticing that the requirement of equality for Albanian extremists is just a tactical move, a first stage of far more extended plans. They will later insist on federalization of Macedonia based on ethnic distinctions, on the creation of an Albanian autonomy, turning it into an independent state and finally this autonomy joining a greater Albania. The surprising nearsightness of Brussels means that the Europeans are not able anymore to understand the difference between Albanians who have been since time immemorial living peacefully in Macedonia and those who brought fire to this land which set Kosovo afire two years ago.
[passage omitted: Macedonians leaving their homes in Albanian regions]
Forced Macedonian refugees rally in Skopje calling on the government to act more decisively and to reject foreign advice. The Macedonian authorities, it seems, have nothing else to do but take the initiative in their hands, and Ukrainian military assistance will be very appropriate in that case. However an attempt to start a new general attack against separatists near Tetovo was blocked last week by high ranking officials from Brussels. EU representatives say that peaceful regulation of the conflict is only possible with the participation of the EU. But at the same time they are provoking a real civil war in Macedonia. The West's policy of double standards has already turned against itself the greater part of the Macedonian establishment.
[Passage omitted: Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski criticized by both sides]
It is doubtful that the West is interested in war in the Balkans after Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Macedonia has always been proud of being the only former Yugoslavia country which was free of conflicts. But as is known, good intentions pave the road to hell.
Source: Ukrainian Television Third Programme, Kiev, in Russian 1700 gmt 29 Jul 01.
Vratnica Village Left To The Mercy Of The Terrorists.
Armed Albanian bandits besiege four villages at the far north in the Tetovo region populated by Macedonians.
The municipal center Vratnica and the three villages Belovishte, Ragachevo and Stareselo, inhabited by around 2,500 Macedonians, for one week now have been cut off without food, medicine, a doctor and any help.
Tetovo - " The situation in the municipal center Vratnica and the three villages Belovishte, Ragachevo and Stareselo, inhabited exclusively by Macedonians is very difficult. In these four villages everyone, around 2,500 Macedonians, is still here: from children to the elderly. These villages have been surrounded for eight days now by the Albanian terrorists, and a couple of days ago, the terrorists, who are in the village of Odri, gave us an ultimatum to move out. We will not leave our homes at any price. We too are left to the mercy of the so called NLA and live in a some kind of a ghetto. We send a pledge to the President of the state Boris Trajkovski and the Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski and primarily the Ministry of Defense, to send us help. In case of a direct attack on our villages we will defend ourselves together with the Macedonian Security Forces. We do not have food, neither medicine and for ten days we do not have a doctor. A couple of days ago some representatives from the International Red Cross came and promised some humanitarian help made up of medicine and food for tomorrow. From time to time we are visited by OSCE, but that does not do any good to us because the Albanian terrorists are keeping us under siege" - reports Toni Kocevski, the mayor of Vratnica municipality, which is on the farthest north of the Tetovo region and borders with Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Villagers from Rogachevo told us that there are no shootings in the immediate area, but one could see the movements of larger Albanian terrorist groups under the peak Ljuboten not far from their village. After the recent kidnapping of around forty youths from Vratnica and their release, no one dares to go to work, neither to harvest the ripe wheat from the fields.
Macedonia faces ruin as threat of civil war empties resorts.
By Justin Huggler
29 July 2001
Macedonia's feuding leaders gathered yesterday in the lakeside resort of Ohrid, to stop the republic's seemingly inexorable slide towards civil war.
But the hauntingly beautiful city, which Macedonians say embodies the image of their country, has been dealt a shattering blow already by the conflict, as tourists shun the resort, which Macedonia relies on for much of its foreign currency earnings. Tiny fishing boats still crowd the old harbour on the lake. Perched on a clifftop above, the 13th-century church of St Jovan Bogoslov Kaneo seems to hang over the deep blue water.
With its half-timbered houses and collections of medieval Orthodox frescoes, Ohrid was the only bright star in Macedonia's tourism industry.
In fact, it is the one place in Macedonia that foreigners were likely to have heard of before this crisis began.
The lake on which it stands is the deepest in Europe, and is famous for its trout, considered the finest fish in the Balkans.
But the military crisis has brought Ohrid's tourism industry to a standstill. After anti-Western riots shook the capital, Skopje, last week, the Foreign Office has compounded the local tourist industry's ills by warning Britons not to travel to Macedonia.
Now the ranks of Soviet-style hotels, built in the era of Yugoslavia's former Communist leader, Tito, are empty. The lakeside beaches lie deserted. Hotel prices have plummeted so far that Macedonians ruefully say it is the first time that Ohrid has been easily affordable for locals.
Ohrid is one of several towns in former Yugoslavia once favoured by Western visitors that have fallen on hard times. The economy of Dubrovnik, the so-called Pearl of the Adriatic, was shattered when the Yugoslav army shelled the city in 1991 after Croatia declared independence. A decade on, Dubrovnik has only just started to attract foreign visitors again.
For Macedonia, a country with far fewer resources or industry than Croatia, the empty hotels of Ohrid are grim news. Tourism is one of the country's most important sources of foreign exchange.
To Macedonians, it is far more than a resort. Many call it the Balkan Jerusalem, the symbol of a nation whose very existence has been challenged by its Serb, Bulgarian and Greek neighbours. Macedonians see the current rebellion by the republic's ethnic-Albanian minority as another attack on their existence as a nation.
The city was the headquarters of a 10th-century tsar whom Macedonians see as one of the founders of their nation and the centre of nationalist agitation against Turkish rule in the 19th century.
Despite the apparent air of calm, which is why the peace talks have been moved there, Ohrid is now only minutes from the front line. It is just a quarter-hour's drive along the lake shore to Struga, where Albanians make up a large proportion of the population.
So far, the fighting concentrated around the north-west town of Tetovo has not spread this far south. But if it does, there is no guarantee that the medieval city will be spared. A feature of the Balkan wars of the 1990s was the wanton destruction of priceless art and architecture, such as the demolition of the Ottoman-era bridge in Mostar, in south-west Bosnia. The Macedonian army has already agonised over whether to shell a medieval monastery in the north which they said was being used as a base by Albanian rebels. Ohrid's turn may come.
Anti-Nato Protest In Macedonia.
About 3,000 people have demonstrated in the Macedonian capital of Skopje against Western-brokered efforts to stave off a civil war in the Balkan state.
The crowd, protesting under the motto 'Defending the rights of the displaced', carried placards proclaiming 'Nato Out' and 'Nato wants to completely Albanianise the country' outside the parliament.
Macedonian and ethnic Albanian politicians are currently re-starting negotiations to try to bring a new peace deal to the country - but a stumbling block appears to be what status will be given to the Albanian language.
Previous talks in the country have been interrupted by sporadic violence in the Slav-dominated state. Ethnic Albanian rebels are fighting against what they claim is discrimination against their people, who make up a third of the two million population.
The first day of the new talks ended without a breakthrough. EU envoy Francois Leotard said: "It's very difficult. We don't have a solution."
The motto under which the latest demonstrations took place in Skopje referred to the Macedonians who have been forced to flee their homes near the town of Tetovo, the country's unofficial ethnic Albanian capital.
The government claims the rebels are guilty of ethnic cleansing, an allegation which they deny.