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European Union negotiator Francois Leotard (L) and U.S. special envoy James Pardew (R) speak together before a session of crisis talks on Western peace proposals in Ohrid, July 31, 2001. Talks to end a five-month-old revolt among Macedonia's Albanian minority went into a fourth day on Tuesday, clouded by criticism from the rebels' political leader of a draft peace plan. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
An elderly Macedonian woman reacts as the first humanitarian convoy arrives in the village of Vratnica in the Tetovo area on July 31, 2001. The village is surrounded by Albanian guerrillas from the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA) and this is the first aid for two weeks. Talks to end a five-month-old revolt among Macedonia's Albanian minority went into a fourth day on Tuesday, clouded by criticism from the rebels' political leader of a draft peace plan. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A convoy of Macedonian refugees enters the first Macedonian government forces check-point in the suburbs of the town of Tetovo, as they leave the combat area July 31, 2001. Talks to end a five-month-old revolt among Macedonia's Albanian minority went into a fourth day on Tuesday, clouded by criticism from the rebels' political leader of a draft peace plan. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
An elderly Macedonian woman cries as the first humanitarian convoy arrives in the village of Vratnica in the Tetovo area, July 31, 2001. The village is surrounded by the Albanian guerrillas from the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA) and this is the first aid to arrive in the last two weeks. Talks to end a five-month-old revolt among Macedonia's Albanian minority went into a fourth day on Tuesday, clouded by criticism from the rebels' political leader of a draft peace plan. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
Macedonian Villages Say Cut off From World by Albanian Rebels.
SKOPJE, Jul 31, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Seven villages in northwestern Macedonia pleaded for food and medicines from international aid organizations on Monday, saying they had been cut off from the rest of the world by ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
"The situation is more than alarming. We lack food and medicine in the seven small villages which make up the municipality," the mayor of Vratnica village, Toni Kocevski, told AFP by telephone.
"We are cut off from the rest of the country and the world," he said, saying he had issued a plea to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help.
Northern Macedonia has been the scene of recent heavy fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army and Macedonian government forces over minority rights in the Balkan country.
The seven villages lie at the northwestern tip of the country, in the valley linking the flashpoint town of Tetovo and the border with the UN-administrated Serbian province of Kosovo. They are Vratnica, Beloviste, Staro Selo, Rogacevo, Gorno Orasje, Dolno Orasje and Jazince.
The key road should in theory have been made safe, under last week's NATO-brokered withdrawal from key positions by the rebels which opened the way for Macedonian peace talks.
A spokeswoman for the ICRC, Amanda Williamson, said that medicines had been delivered to the area last week. "We are monitoring the situation, and other deliveries are planned," she said.
Macedonian village locked inside rebel land.
By Anatoly Verbin
VRATNICA, Macedonia, July 31 (Reuters) - No shot has been fired in this Macedonian village but, as an island surrounded by ethnic Albanian guerrillas, it has gradually turned into a prison for inhabitants who dare not even tend their fields.
"Today we are alive, tomorrow, we do not know," said an elderly woman who came close to tears when she saw the first humanitarian aid convoy on Tuesday after two weeks of isolation.
Vratnica is one of four Macedonian-populated villages surrounded by territory held by ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA) in the north-western Tetovo area, the focal point of the five-month Albanian rebellion.
"We move freely, inside our village and until 4 p.m. (1400 GMT). After that, we sit at home," said another woman, Ceca.
"We have guards at night, men, women," she said. Asked if the guards were armed, the answer came quickly: "I don't know."
The government-organised convoy brought flour, sugar and other essentials, but one of the biggest burdens for the villagers is that they cannot work their fields -- which are just on the other side of the main road.
"Police have told us not to go further than 50 metres (yards) away," said Ceca.
A police checkpoint near Vratnica is overshadowed by the huge Sar mountain controlled by the rebels.
The NLA withdrew from the main road that goes northeast from Tetovo under a NATO-brokered deal last week, but a ride along it shows the withdrawal is more nominal than real.
Just 500 metres from a police checkpoint on the eastern edge of Tetovo, Macedonia's unofficial ethnic Albanian capital, unarmed men in NLA uniforms sat drinking coffee at a garage.
Further along the road, NLA sandbag barricades stand empty but ready for use if peace talks between mainstream Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties fail to find a compromise on disputed issues, such as the wider use of the Albanian language.
Ceca said she knew about the talks.
"Talks are fine but they (Macedonian leaders) should not cross the red line. The red line is the language," she said echoing Macedonians' fears that concessions on language would lead to partition of the country where one in three is an ethnic Albanian.
In Tearce, another village where the NLA first emerged in February and which it abandoned last week, Stojko Srbovski, an ethnic Macedonian, has his own views on the politicians.
"They are all lying," he said in broken English.
"Look," he said, showing a burnt out three-floor building which used to house a restaurant. He built it with money earned during 11 years working in Britain as cook and waiter.
The rebels burnt several houses before they left.
Now, it is time for the Macedonians to go home to these villages from the capital Skopje to which they fled. But they show little sign of daring to stay.
Seven buses, organised by the government's special crisis body and followed by international monitors, brought back some 350 Macedonians who had fled the ethnically mixed area.
It was the third such convoy in the last few days and a NATO source said it was an important confidence-building exercise.
Macedonians disembarked from the buses, watched by Albanian neighbours, but nearly all those who came left again just hours later, taking a few belongings and garden produce with them.
Many fetched their cars, some which had been sprayed with rebel graffiti, and their convoy heading back out of the volatile area stretched two kilometres (miles) long.
"This is no life," said a middle aged Macedonian man carrying a big plastic bag of clothes onto a bus.
Macedonia: Hopes Dimming For Breakthrough On Peace Deal.
Radio Free Europe
By Ron Synovitz
New hurdles are emerging in Macedonia that could scuttle or delay approval of an accord aimed at ending five months of violence between ethnic Albanian militants and government forces.
Prague, 31 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Despite some reports of progress in Macedonian peace talks, negotiators at the closed-door sessions near the lakeside resort of Ohrid tell RFE/RL that talks remain stalled over a few key issues.
The major sticking points are details about how Albanian could be used as an official language in Macedonia, and whether language rights for ethnic Albanians should be enshrined in the constitution.
Gjorgji Spasov, an ethnic Macedonian in the Social Democratic Alliance, said yesterday that agreement is close on a proposal that would make Albanian an official language in localities where more than 20 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian.
But Naser Zyberi, a parliamentary deputy and secretary of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity, one of the parties to the talks, tells RFE/RL there has not been much progress on the language issue.
"The [main] contested issue [continues to be] the use of language. I mean [the Albanian demands] are contested by the Macedonian side, which doesn't want the Albanian language used in the parliament, in government or across the country as a whole. We are asking that Albanian have an equal status with the Macedonian language on all levels."
Zyberi also refutes a claim by Spasov that there has been progress in recent days over the question of how to restructure the ethnic composition of police forces.
Macedonian leaders so far have refused demands that mayors in mostly ethnic Albanian towns be granted authority to appoint their own local police chiefs.
The Ohrid talks -- part of negotiations that started in May among all of the elected parties in parliament -- are in their fourth day.
Macedonian state television reports that political leaders spent today reviewing the latest revisions to a draft peace plan presented earlier this month by European Union envoy Francois Leotard and U.S. envoy James Pardew.
But even as today's meetings got underway, a new dispute appeared to be surfacing over whether ethnic Albanian militant leaders should be granted amnesty under a future peace pact.
This latest hurdle emerged after Macedonian prosecutors yesterday asked local courts to issue arrest warrants for 11 militant leaders.
None of the militants is involved in the Ohrid talks. But the backing of the militant leaders is seen as important to the success of any peace plan.
One of those reportedly on the prosecutors' list is Ali Ahmeti, the self-declared political leader of the guerrilla National Liberation Army. Ahmeti told Reuters today that compromises at Ohrid have marginalized many of the demands of ethnic Albanians. He said he will not support what he called "half measures."
For their part, ethnic Macedonian officials like Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski say violations of the cease-fire agreement by ethnic Albanian fighters are undermining the talks.
Boskovski escaped without injury after his motorcade was apparently ambushed over the weekend as he traveled on the main highway between Skopje and the western city of Tetovo. He blamed the attack on ethnic Albanians and responded with a call for the police and army to reassert control over all Macedonian territory now in the hands of ethnic Albanian rebels.
The interior minister's statement has led to fresh signs of tension with other ethnic Macedonian leaders.
The Defense Ministry accused Boskovski of trying to split the security forces. It said in a statement that the army will continue to respect the cease-fire.
In Washington yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Charles Hunter also accused ethnic Albanian fighters of trying to undermine the peace talks.
"We strongly condemn a pattern of deliberate cease-fire violations by ethnic-Albanian armed groups in Macedonia. In blatant violation of the agreement they have signed, the extremists have maintained their presence in some of the villages in the Tetovo area."
In a further sign of diminished hope, correspondents report that ethnic Albanian fighters and government forces are being redeployed around contested villages near Tetovo and the northern city of Kumanovo.
Macedonian Official Launches War Crimes Probe Against Rebels.
OHRID, Jul 31, 2001 -- (dpa) As peace talks crept along with little progress, the Macedonian chief prosecutor on Monday launched an investigation into ethnic Albanian rebel leader Ali Ahmeti and ten other top figures linked to his National Liberation Army (UCK) and ordered their arrest over alleged war crimes.
It was not clear what effect the probe would have on the talks, which ended Monday with an agreement to resume Tuesday at the lake resort of Ohrid.
Optimism following earlier signals from both sides taking part in talks in Ohrid faded as no breakthrough came in the contentious issue of introducing Albanian as an official language, sources close to the negotiations told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
On the war crimes probe, apart from the UCK political leader Ahmeti, the list includes the UCK representative for Western Europe, Fazli Veliu, and military commander Gezim Ostreni.
The guerrilla leaders face indictments over endangering "territorial integrity of Macedonia, terrorism and diversions".
Ahmeti, Veliu and Ostreni also face "genocide, war crimes against civilians and war crimes against prisoners of war" charges.
Along with dozens of other ethnic Albanian functionaries in the existing and formally disbanded organizations in Kosovo, southern Serbia nd Macedonia, Ahmeti is since this month also on the U.S. and EU "blacklists" of undesirables.
The Albanian rebels are blamed for exploiting ethnic conflict in Macedonia to destabilize the political situation and push for an autonomous area for ethnic Albanians, who make up about 30 percent of the population.
During the talks, the Albanian leaders, Imer Imeri (Party for Democratic Prosperity) and Arben Xhaferi (Democratic Party of Albanians), retained their hard position regarding the language issue, a Macedonian source said.
The source also claimed that James Pardew, the U.S. envoy mediating the talks with his European Union partner, Francois Leotard, took a "protective stance" toward Albanian demands.
Macedonians, led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski (VMRO- DPMNE) and Branko Crvenkovski (Social Democratic Union), have brusquely dismissed a solution offered by the mediators earlier this month and accused the envoys for bias in favor of the Albanians.
Pardew and Leotard will continue pressing the talks along Wednesday in Ohrid, an ancient resort on the lake of the same name that is shared by Macedonia and Albania.
Sources described the talks as "hard, very hard" and said "it is difficult to come up with any solution when the two sides are so far apart".
According to them, "the hardest problem is use of Albanian language in the parliament".
According to sources, a proposal is currently on the table that would introduce Albanian as an official language in areas where ethnic Albanians make up 20 or more percent of the population.
The same would apply on any other minority language, but Macedonian would remain the "basic" official language everywhere, as well as in international affairs.
The last time the talks stalled, following the Macedonian rejection of a proposal hammered out by envoys and the Albanians, the heaviest fighting in the six-months old crisis erupted in the northwestern town of Tetovo.
The entire area has not really settled since, despite a reconstructed ceasefire mediated by NATO last week.
NATO holds men over extortion for Macedonia rebels.
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, July 31 (Reuters) - NATO-led peacekeepers have arrested three men suspected of extorting money in Kosovo to finance ethnic Albanian guerrillas in neighbouring Macedonia, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Peacekeepers found 3,000 German marks ($1,343) and ID cards of the guerrilla National Liberation Army (NLA) in a black BMW car stopped in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren on Monday, said spokesman Squadron Leader Roy Brown. After questioning the three men in it, peacekeepers searched their houses, where they found materials implicating the men in the extortion of funds, he told Reuters. "This was extortion to raise funds for the (NLA)..." Brown said. "This is not conducive to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo." The men were taken to a detention facility in Kosovo for further questioning, he said.
It was not the first time peacekeepers and international police had come across suspected financial crime in the ethnic Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo aimed at funding guerrillas in the region. Earlier this year, U.N. police in the town of Gnjilane said businessmen had complained that they were being forced to give money to finance ethnic Albanian guerrillas operating at the time in neighbouring southern Serbia.
Peacekeepers have in recent weeks made numerous seizures of weapons thought to be bound for the guerrillas in Macedonia, detaining several suspected members of the rebel group. The National Liberation Army says it is fighting to improve the rights of Macedonia's large Albanian minority.
The Macedonian government has condemned the guerrillas as separatist infiltrators from Kosovo, which is still legally part of Yugoslavia but now run as a de facto international protectorate.
Rebel Criticism Clouds Macedonian Talks.
By Philippa Fletcher
OHRID, Macedonia (Reuters) - Talks to end a five-month-old revolt among Macedonia's Albanian minority stretched through a fourth day on Tuesday, clouded by criticism from the rebels' political leader of a draft peace plan.
The Western-mediated negotiations, chaired by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in the lakeside resort of Ohrid, aim to hammer out an agreement on greater rights for the Albanians who make up one third of Macedonia's two million people.
The guerrillas are not involved in the talks, being conducted by the two Macedonian and two Albanian political parties who form an emergency all-party government. But their backing is clearly required if they are to lay down their weapons.
Sources at the talks said a draft peace plan had been revised again overnight and that the negotiators were discussing the use of the Albanian language in the government and parliament.
The rebels' political representative, Ali Ahmeti, is believed to follow the talks closely and diplomats ruled out the idea of a split in the Albanian camp.
Ahmeti, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, told Reuters the Albanian language should be used equally at all levels of the state apparatus throughout Macedonia.
``If it is accepted as an official language, why should it be limited? We do not want Macedonian to be marginalized in the Tetovo area where there is a Macedonian minority.''
He also wanted local police to report to the elected heads of the regions, not to the central government.
Both issues are extremely sensitive among Macedonians, who see any concession on these questions as the first step onto a slippery slope leading to a break-up of the country.
A highly placed Macedonian government source accused Ahmeti of seeking ethnic separation.
``If there is no reason for Albanians to learn Macedonian then you create separate groups,'' he said.
``It looks as if there is a deliberate methodology of asking for more than the Macedonian side can give in order not to be satisfied and invoke the war option.''
Ahmeti had accused hard-liners on the Macedonian side of exactly the same tactic. The Macedonian source said he did not detect a split in the Macedonian camp which he said wanted an agreement but not one that would result in a soft partition.
There is no official deadline, but diplomats fear the longer the talks drag on, the greater the likelihood that tensions on the ground will spin out of control and into a civil war -- the fifth conflict in former Yugoslavia over the past decade.
U.S. envoy James Pardew, who is mediating with European Union envoy Francois Leotard, was asked on Tuesday morning, before going into the talks, whether they could finish that day.
``I don't think so,'' he told Reuters. ``We'll see. It's moving a millimeter at a time.''
On Monday, the State Department accused the rebels of breaking a cease-fire agreed on July 5.
``We've had reports of violence and intimidation...by the extremists against ethnic Macedonian civilians, including the burning of their homes,'' spokesman Charles Hunter said.
Diplomats in Macedonia are divided over who is to blame for the latest clashes between guerrillas and security forces, in which four Macedonian soldiers were injured on Sunday evening, two of them seriously.
Washington has previously shied away from blaming either side for truce violations.
(Additional reporting by Benet Koleka in Tirana)
Ethnic Albanians making "impossible" demands: Macedonian official.
OHRID, Macedonia, July 31 (AFP) -
The ethnic Albanian representatives in Macedonia's peace talks are deliberately making impossible demands so that fighting and the rebel grab for territory can continue, a Macedonian official in the negotiations charged Tuesday.
"It's more than obvious that the talks are controlled by (Ali) Ahmeti," the political leader of the ethnic Albanian rebels, Macedonian National Security Advisor Nikola Dimitrov told AFP during a break in the talks.
The comment came after Ahmeti, who is not a participant in the talks, told AFP in a separate telephone interview that the talks, now in their fourth day, "are going too slowly and we are not at all optimistic."
The leaders of the ethnic Albanian parties negotiating with their counterparts from the Macedonian parties in the talks were taking their cue from Ahmeti, Dimitrov said.
He said the ethnic Albanian side was "asking for solutions that are basically impossible for the Macedonian side to accept" so that the five-month conflict -- currently calmed by a NATO-brokered ceasefire so the peace talks can take place -- can resume.
The talks, being hosted by President Boris Trajkovski in his summer residence in this southern town, have made slow progress on an ethnic Albanian demand that Albanian be made an official language alongside Macedonian, including in parliament and government.
Discussions on the other key issue, of an independent ethnic Albanian police force, have been put aside until the first point was resolved -- something that seemed unlikely late Tuesday.
"The police issue will not be easier than the language issue," Dimitrov warned.
All the rebels want, he said, was to pursue a campaign of creating a "clean ethnic territory" exclusively populated by ethnic Albanians.
The West, in the guise of NATO, the United States and the European Union, had also contributing to the problem by empowering the ethnic Albanian population in neighbouring Kosovo, from where he said many of the "bandits fighting for power" had come.
"I don't see many differences between Mr Ahmeti and Mr Milosevic," Dimitrov said.
Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia's former president, is facing war crimes charges in The Hague for what NATO officials had said was the "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
While Macedonian authorities would continue to observe the ceasefire and seek a settlement in the peace talks, Dimitrov expressed pessimism, saying the leaders of the parties "are hostages of the situation on the ground".
"We cannot make a solution that will bring two years of peace maybe, and then, in the third year, separation of the country," he said.
And even if a mutually acceptable settlement was found, Dimitrov said he was not certain the rebels would abide by it.
If, on the other hand, no deal was struck, he saw the return of violence, and with it the likelihood of another Balkans war, as inevitable.
"We will have to defend our territory and our future," he said.
Macedonian rebels "not optimistic" over slow peace talks.
OHRID, Macedonia, July 31 (AFP) -
Efforts to head off a new Balkan war in Macedonia acquired new urgency on Tuesday, as an ethnic Albanian guerrilla leader said talks were moving too slowly and Washington accused rebels of "blatant" violations of a July 5 ceasefire.
Ali Ahmeti, the elusive political leader of the National Liberation Army told AFP by telephone from his hiding place the four-day old talks "are going too slowly and we are not at all optimistic."
The comments bode ill for the prospects of a compromise as Macedonian and Albanian political parties sat down for a fourth day of internationally-brokered talks.
Talks to bring an end to the five-month insurgency against government forces have stalled over the key Albanian demand that their language be made official in the country.
Late Monday the United States issued the strongest sign of international concern yet that a fragile ceasefire in the country which had been reinstated last week was in trouble.
"These are blatant violations of the ceasefire agreement, and they are unacceptable," US State Department spokesman Charles Hunter said.
"They are endangering the lives of civilians and preventing residents from returning to their homes. And such violations undermine the efforts of elected representatives to achieve a political solution which all sides have said they support."
Ahmeti rejected the US accusations.
"The United States is badly informed about the reality of the situation on the ground," he said.
The United States had pointed to a weekend attack on a convoy transporting Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski near Skopje and the wounding of four Macedonian soldiers near Tetovo, along with reported acts of violence and intimidation against refugees returning home.
A Macedonian defence ministry spokesman, Marjan Gjurovski, said the rebels "in some cases are using violence on the ground to influence the political dialogue."
He added: "There is coordination between the ethnic Albanian political leaders and the ethnic Albanian terrorists, who are using their weapons when they are not satisfied with the direction of the talks."
While reiterating his government's commitment to the ceasefire and the search for a political solution, he warned that "if the talks fail, the violence will escalate."
The peace talks have been virtually deadlocked over an ethnic Albanian demand that Albanian be made an official language alongside Macedonian, including in the parliament and government. Around one third of the population in the country is Albanian.
In his telephone interview, Ahmeti, who is believed to be in neighbouring Kosovo hiding from a Macedonian government attempt to bring him to trial on war crimes charges, rejected the US accusations.
"The United States is badly informed about the reality of the situation on the ground," Ahmeti said.
Ahmeti said guerrillas could not accept a proposal for restricted use of Albanian.
The two sides are also far apart on another ethnic Albanian demand that an independent ethnic Albanian police force be set up in certain areas.
EU envoy Francois Leotard, who is mediating the talks with US envoy James Pardew, admitted Monday time was against them.
"We need time to negotiate, but by the same token, time is short because we're at the mercy of the problems on the ground," he said.
Refugees Ask For Urgent Help.
The first press conference of the Coordinative Body of the Macedonian Population Banished From the Crisis Regions took place today in Skopje. This Coordinative Body is assembled by the chosen representatives of the refugees, two from each town or village where Albanian terrorists committed ethnic cleansing.
Pleas to the Government
The main spokesperson, Dragan Gerasimovski from the Tetovo village of Dobroshte, explained that he receives threats on his and his relatives' life from the Albanian terrorists, that the pressure is unbearable, and there are daily shootings, but someone has to speak up nevertheless. The refugees submitted an official list of needs to the Coordinative Body for Crisis Management of the Government of Republic of Macedonia, and the ministers, with the following main points:
1. Creating a publication ("Informator") for the banished, which would include information on the disappeared persons, medical and social assistance, how to contact the responsible Government officials or humanitarian organizations.
2. Providing locations for logistical support and gathering of humanitarian aid.
3. Providing free public transport for the banished people.
4. Providing two or three mobile phones.
5. To supply each refugee camp or equivalent location with a TV and organize registration of the needs of the refugees.
6. To address the following needs: financial social help, free health care, opportunity to issue personal documents, humanitarian aid (personal hygiene items), solid housing, taking care of schooling, assess of the damages, providing new homes for those who are too scared to return and live with Albanians, employment status, taking care of the animals who are dying in the stables (to be slaughtered for food of the Army), humanitarian aid for those that remained, communication equipment ect.
7. [To the Red Cross] providing of list of banished persons.
8. Organizing 24-hour coverage of the crisis, through media animation of the public, gathering humanitarian aid, cultural programs...
The banished Macedonians described the situation in crisis regions as disastrous. They told how different ministries in the Government haven't established basic mutual communication. The Army retreated from Tetovo villages long ago, and soldiers reside only in the city barracks and in the border post near Rogachevo. The people were left to defend their villages themselves, with no ammunition supplies.
Wireless Concentration Camps
Gerasimovski criticized the plan for disarmament of NLA as utopist. Although it sounds fine on paper, its impossible to implement it in reality. The terrorists are supposed to move 500 meters from the places inhabited by Macedonians, but under those conditions its impossible to move the local Albanians, who are either members of the armed groups, or provide logistic support to the NLA.
The Macedonians who remained in the villages are living in a conditions of a "wireless" concentration camp. They have to ask the local Albanian terrorist commander to move out of their houses. If they need to go buy something from a store, they need a permit which is issued for going to the specific store and back, only. For any other movement they need to ask for additional permit. What makes matters even worse, the shops in Macedonian part of the villages do not work, so they have to go to the Albanian neighborhood, which have uninterrupted supply of food.
Macedonians in Tetovo also lack food and basic products, because the transport firms are scared to supply them because of the constant terrorist threat on the road. They also lack bread, since the Albanian terrorists burned the bakery in Tearce, which was the main supplier of those neighborhoods. The besieged villages in Vratnica municipality need food and medical help, especially the elderly and the children.
Blame On Humanitarians
The people who had to flee from their homes lack basic necessities, such as food, clothing, baby food, diapers, and they ask the people to help them: "We need support. Nobody came to help us."
They have received no help from the international humanitarian organizations, and they blamed some of them for providing support the terrorists: "We all know what the El Hilal humanitarian convoys carry - flour on top, weapons at the bottom." - said Daravelski.
When asked about the role of OSCE, they said that the [local] employees of this organization are basically all Albanians, who work for the terrorists. OSCE representatives haven't come to the refugee camps to ask the people how they are doing, but they just drive around the location in circles in order to intimidate.
When asked by the reporters weather anyone (educators, psychologists, social workers) addressed the needs of the banished children, refugees explained that there were some psychologists who came to make studies for their own personal profit. "They come and ask the kids to draw a circle, and put inside everything they've left in the village!" Instead of healing their wounds, these people upset the children even more.
Todor Petrov, the leader of World Macedonian Congress, reported that the children from the crisis region display an epidemic of stuttering, and are very traumatized. One symptom is that they are very easily startled, and get very scared at the slightest unexpected sound.
The professionals who are supposed to help the traumatized children worsen their condition...
Serbs Suffer Too
Stavre Bojkovich from Ropajce, explained that (with an exception of A1 TV) the media does not report about the exodus of Serbs from Kumanovo villages, but classify all Orthodox population as Macedonians: "Refugees from Matejche are all Serbs, while both Macedonians and Serbs lived together in Opae and Lopate."
In Lipkovo municipality, Macedonians and Serbs made up 560 out of 30,000 inhabitants, and all had to leave their homes in the villages of Matejche, Ropaljce, Opae and Dumanovce. From what they could see through binoculars, their houses were burned. Their relatives in the nearby villages of Umin Dol, Ljubodrag, and others are threatened by the terrorists too.
Representatives from the Kumanovo region reported that they still have no idea about the fate of three persons who were captured by the Albanian terrorists 3 months ago. Their names are Romeo Zhivich, Mome Petrushevski, and Nestor Petrushevski, the 75 year old keeper of the Monastery of Matejche.
Todor Petrov reported that Albanian terrorists use the discord between the two biggest Macedonian parties to further divide the people. They concentrate on arson and destroying of property in the places where people voted for VMRO-DPMNE, since its leaders advocate enforcing the law and constitutional order by use of the Macedonian Security Forces. The Macedonian houses in the areas where SDSM got more votes are not burned as much, because this party prefers not to confront the terrorists by force, but through negotiations.
All speakers appealed for help and unity of all citizens. They said that if their demands are not met, they will take the matters in their own hands: organize demonstrations and blockades of the main roads to draw the attention of the Government and NATO to their misery.
Skopje accepts British offer to train anti-terrorist units.
SKOPJE, July 31 (AFP) -
Skopje has accepted a British offer to train Macedonian soldiers in anti-terrorist combat, Defence Ministry spokesman Marjan Gjurovski, told AFP Tuesday.
"Britain has proposed to send a team to train our soldiers for anti-terrorist combat. The Defence Ministry has positively responded to the offer," he said.
Gjurovski refused to give details, notably when the British team should arrive to Skopje.
Tetovo: Rebel war songs blare out in cafes of occupied city.
By Justin Huggler
31 July 2001
In a café whose windows have been blown out by shell blasts, and whose walls are scarred with bullet holes, Albanian rebels who have brought Macedonia to the brink of civil war sit quietly cradling their Kalashnikovs. Everyone is silent because the local commander, known as Leka, in heavy beard and bandana, is on his mobile phone doing a live television interview about the deadlocked Western-brokered peace talks, which dragged into a third day yesterday.
This is rebel-held territory, but it is not some remote mountain village. The area under rebel control includes part of Tetovo, the main Albanian city in Macedonia. You cross an invisible line among the neat suburban villas near the stadium. There is no way of telling you have just crossed the front line, except for a glimpse of a black-uniformed rebel sentry hiding behind a wall.
A mile or so down the road, you are flagged down by rebel police. There is no nervous gun-waving, just a polite document inspection. The rebels are in control here. Albanian civilians sit calmly in cafés by the roadside. In one, the rebels' pop song is blaring out of the radio, a jaunty Turkish tune with a chanted chorus of "UCK! UCK!", the initials of the rebel National Liberation Army in Albanian. You can hear similar war songs from the other side in the capital, Skopje songs of the ethnic Macedonians, set to Western pop beats.
The West is trying to make both sides sit down and talk peace, but war songs are topping the charts. This is the territory the rebels were supposed to have left, under a new ceasefire hastily agreed under Western pressure last week. But even as the peace talks continue in a desperate bid to avert full-blown civil war, the rebels are ignoring the deal and occupying part of Tetovo.
Western monitors told reporters they had seen the rebels pulling back. But clearly they have not. Commander Leka says: "We stayed here because we fear Macedonian paramilitaries might attack our civilians." He is based just beyond Tetovo, in Poroj, a satellite village. He shows grisly pictures of civilian casualties killed in the fighting last week. The Macedonian army fired indiscriminately on civilian areas in Poroj, as it has done elsewhere.
Jehona Saliu, a 12-year-old girl, was killed when shrapnel tore across the her front door. Her mother, Latife, and her 16-year-old sister, Agrone, died on the spot. Jehona was rushed across the front line to Tetovo hospital, where she died.
A young rebel, his head swathed in bandages, says with a smile: "Two week ago I was still a civilian." He was working in Austria and sending his earnings home. His Vienna-registered car is parked in the street. "I came back to visit," he says. "When I saw how bad things were, I had to join up."
Leka is the commander of the area where the car of the hardline Macedonian Interior Minister, Ljube Boskovski, was attacked on Sunday night, in what the Macedonians are calling a serious ceasefire violation. Leka claims the minister's bodyguards opened fire first.
The rebel commander says his men will respect a peace deal if one comes, but that it would have to be guaranteed by Nato. A deal is going to be difficult. Macedonian refugees returned to their homes up the road, in the village of Tearce, in what Western diplomats said was a vital confidence-building measure. The refugees found their homes burnt, and the rebels still here, so they fled back to Skopje. In effect the area has been ethnically cleansed, just as the southern city of Bitola was cleansed of Albanians, chased out in riots last month.
And if the peace talks break down? "We won't attack Tetovo again. We've already won here," Leka says. "If we attack anywhere it will be Skopje."