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Macedonian muslims carry a coffin during the funeral procession for Macedonian soldier Fejzo Djeladinovski, 20, in the village of Elovo, some 40 km south of Skopje July 4, 2001. Djeladinovski was killed on Tuesday near the village of Tanusevci on the border with Kosovo, affter an attack by ethnic Albanian gunmen. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
Macedonian muslim women cry during the funeral of Macedonian army soldier Fejzo Djeladinovski, 20, in the village of Elovo, some 40 km south from capital Skopje July 4, 2001. Djeladinovski was killed on Tuesday near the village of Tanusevci on the border with Kosovo, affter an attack by ethnic Albanian gunmen. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
Four Macedonian muslim women comfort each other as they cry during the funeral of Macedonian army soldier Fejzo Djeladinovski, 20, during a funeral procession in the village of Elovo, some 40 km south of Skopje July 4, 2001. Djeladinovski was killed on Tuesday near the village of Tanusevci, on the border with Kosovo, after an attack by ethnic Albanian gunmen. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
The United States special advisor for Macedonia James Pardew (L) and his European Union counterpart Francois Leotard chat as they wait for Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to make a statement at the Parliament building in Skopje July 4, 2001. REUTERS/Peter Andrews
TRAJKOVSKI: THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION BUT TO ESTABLISH PEACE FOR ALL CITIZENS.
"The deep crisis we have been facing for the past months, that took many precious young lives and caused great material damage is of great concern to all citizens of Republic of Macedonia. This crisis lasts long and generates polarization among the citizens with different ethnic origin. The terror focused on the tolerance and the inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia. In order not to cross the line from which there is no turning back, I initiated the program and the plan for resolving the crisis, adopted by the Macedonian Government and strongly supported by the international community," Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stated Wednesday in the presence of EU permanent representative to Macedonia Francois Leotard and US special envoy James Pardew.
According to the Macedonian President, one segment of the process is the intensified political dialogue through which "we try to stabilize the inter-ethnic relations as one of the fundamental pillars of the stability in Macedonia." "That is part of our obligations regarding our integration to the European Union through implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement," President Trajkovski said.
Understanding the public impatience regarding the contents and the results of these talks, he said "I want to assure the public that all solutions from this process would be in compliance with several basic principles, such as the long-term stability in our country and the dignity of all Macedonian citizens."
President Trajkovski informed that this process in the last few days has been especially intensified and as a result the international community has decided to send EU and US special envoys Francois Leotard and James Pardew to facilitate the talks.
Regarding the ideas for holding international conference for the Macedonian crisis, President Trajkovski stressed that he had several talks in the past few days with the relevant representatives of the international community, and they jointly noted that the solution of the crisis should be seek and found in Macedonia, through the talks among the democratically elected political leaders. Speaking of the Tuesday meeting with leaders of VMRO - DPMNE Ljubcho Georgievski, SDSM Branko Crvenkovski, DPA Arben Xhaferi, PDP Imer Imeri in the presence of the special envoys Francois Leotard and James Pardew, Trajkovski stressed that "important agreement has been reached, which should give visible and fast progress to this process."
"Our talks have been focused on the fifth point from the agenda adopted by all leaders of the parliamentary political parties, which is about promoting the civil character of the country. In that respect as a ground we used the ideas and recommendations by the world expert Robert Badinter. Badinter's views supported by the international community, will be the base for holding meetings among several domestic and foreign experts who will suggest positions for all relevant issues," President Trajkovski said.
He also added that representatives from his Cabinet, from the parties as well as other foreign experts would also participate in the expertise, and will develop preliminary document, which should be presented to the President and EU and US special envoys for further review.
President Trajkovski emphasized that they are completely dedicated toward achieving speed progress what according to him should result in creating all basic preconditions for undertaking the most significant stage from the Plan for resolving the crisis and that is the disarmament and destroying the terrorist groups.
"We appreciate the participation of Leotard and Pardew and their useful advises and we hope that the assistance of the international community for resolving the crisis will also continue in providing the necessary means and conditions for speeding up our development and integration in the Euro Atlantic and European structures. In that respect the international community already reviews the option for organizing donors conference for Macedonia," the Macedonian President stressed.
He also pointed out that he does not doubt that we would face further armed provocations by those that are against the peace. "But I assure you that we along with the international community are firmly determined to persist on this way, which trust me has no other alternative but to establish peace and tranquility to all citizens of Republic of Macedonia," Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stressed.
Viewpoint: Macedonian identity.
James Pettifer, author of The New Macedonian Question, looks at the many disparate groups which make up today's Macedonia.
The Macedonian nationality has always been the most contentious in the Balkans.
The protesters who stormed the Skopje parliament on 26 June are only the latest in a long line of contenders to be the authentic inheritors of the proud traditions and unsurpassed military achievements of the ancient Macedonian monarch Alexander the Great.
But modern Macedonia dates from the decisions of Tito and Stalin, who decided to set up a Macedonian republic within communist Yugoslavia after 1945, in the interests of Yugoslav communism.
Some of Macedonia's neighbours felt betrayed by this decision. Bulgaria has always believed Macedonia was Bulgarian, and Greeks that it was Greek.
Greece has never recognised the new republic by its preferred name of Republic of Macedonia. Before 1939, the only territory known as Macedonia was in Greece.
Macedonians believe their little country is involved in a fight for survival, and that the "four wolves" of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia - which surround it as its traditional enemies - are now poised yet again to strike.
In this situation, many people crave for strong leadership, and a government that can pull the country back from the abyss. They have little interest in modern European and US standards of fairness in ethnic and cultural relations.
The most nationalist party in Skopje is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (VMRO), led by Ljubco Georgievski, who in alliance with an ethnic Albanian party managed to displace the pro-Serb ex-communists as the majority party in government after 1998, and is now prime minister.
Many of this party's banners were to be seen during the riot outside the Skopje parliament, with Mr Georgievski locked in a power struggle with more moderate (but still ex-VMRO) President Boris Trajkovski.
Protesters stormed Skopje parliament in June.
These Macedonians, mostly from Skopje and the eastern part of the country, believe that their version of Macedonian identity is the correct one, and that Bulgaria and other neighbouring nations have never understood Macedonian history correctly.
Many of them feel that the 30% Albanian minority in the state is unwilling to give up its traditional culture to fully integrate with the Macedonian majority.
But there are other groups within Macedonia, such as the 10% Roma population, many Muslims came to Skopje from the Sandjak region which straddles Montenegro and Serbia to help reconstruct the city after the great earthquake 30 years ago, and parts of the population who more closely identify themselves as Serbs or Bulgarians.
Over 130,000 Serbs came as colonists to the northern Macedonian territory when it was part of South Serbia under Royalist Yugoslavia. Many called themselves Macedonians after World War II to keep their privileged positions.
The dilemma for the international community in Macedonia is how to base a policy on such a potentially unstable and contentious foundation.
Many of the most politically influental of the Macedonia nationalists in Skopje politics do not accept the modern concept of a multicultural and pluralistic state, and adhere to communist-period concepts of monolithic Macedonian nationalism.
This makes it difficult for leaders, whether Boris Trajkovski or Ljubco Georgievski, to compromise with the reformist demands of the 30% Albanian minority, even if they would like to do so.
Many Macedonians feel the Albanian minority is unwilling to fully integrate.
Macedonia Army Greets Rebel Advance with Shelling.
By Paul Casciato
MALA RECICA, Macedonia (Reuters) - Macedonia responded to an Albanian guerrilla advance with heavy shelling on Wednesday, overshadowing a political agreement on future peace talks.
The rebels, whose revolt in the name of Albanian minority rights has brought Macedonia to the brink of civil war in less than five months, have expanded the territory in their grasp in hills above the main ethnic Albanian city of Tetovo this week.
Although the Albanian guerrilla National Liberation Army (NLA) denies it aims to take the city that was the conflict's first major flashpoint in March, the army's daily bombardment of their positions has now moved to just outside Tetovo.
Reuters reporters saw shells landing on the edge of Mala Recica, just a 15 minute walk west from downtown Tetovo.
Local media said two Macedonian construction workers on the city's western fringes were wounded by guerrilla mortar fire.
``The terrorists opened fire from Sipkovica, Gajre, Lisec and other locations around town,'' an army spokesman told state news agency MIA. ``The army responded to the provocation with fire.''
Two journalists, a photographer and a driver working for the main Albanian daily newspaper Fakti were detained by police coming from the rebel-held village of Radusa, northwest of Skopje. There was sporadic fighting there on Wednesday and helicopter gunship attacks over the past few nights.
In Skopje, 30 minutes drive away, President Boris Trajkovski said politicians had agreed to base their search for a peace deal on proposals by a French constitutional expert.
ONLY A STARTING POINT
After two days of crisis meetings with Western envoys, politicians resumed stalled peace talks on Tuesday evening but haggling continues over the main obstacle, Albanian demands for veto rights on key government decisions.
The French blueprint, fleshed out by Trajkovski, excludes the most radical Albanian demands, but diplomats detect little change in the negotiating position of the minority's leaders.
The veto issue, a key plank of rebel peace terms, looks to have been a bargaining ploy dropped under heavy Western pressure. But the substance of their demands is unchanged.
``There's been very little movement,'' one envoy said.
Albanian parties denied they had caved in and said they would push for more guarantees to protect their minority than former French justice minister Robert Badinter's plan contained.
``His approach is based on treating Albanians as a minority in Macedonia, not as a equal community,'' said Aziz Pollozhani, vice president of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity.
Leaders of the Macedonian majority agree there is much still to be thrashed out beyond the framework Badinter has laid out.
``The ideas are generally only a starting point,'' a government source said. ``We will go issue by issue.''
At stake is the official status of Albanians in Macedonia, who argue they are discriminated against and want to be defined as one of the tiny Balkan state's founding ethnic groups.
But Macedonians worry this could be used as a springboard for separatism and oppose formal foreign participation in peace talks, fearing it could play into Albanian hands.
Some European nations are nonetheless touting an international conference as a possible last-ditch forum for solving the crisis. But diplomats play down the idea this may just invite the rebels to hold out for a place at the summit.
``We can only think about a conference if we make serious progress here first,'' said one senior Western envoy in Skopje.
Trajkovski said Wednesday's agreement, facilitated by U.S. special envoy James Pardew and his European counterpart Francois Leotard, should accelerate progress toward a deal, including a lasting truce which would allow NATO to help disarm the rebels.
Britain said it would provide about a third of the 3,000 troops NATO plans to send if Macedonia's politicians can reach agreement, but warned its commitment was not indefinite.