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Speaker of the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov, rear, listens as Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, front, addresses the assembly, in Skopje, Macedonia Friday, Nov. 23, 2001. Macedonia's prime minister failed to persuade seven government officials to remain in the government to avoid threatening the Balkan country's peace process. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Outgoing Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, right, looks at Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, as he listens to a last-minute appeal by Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski who addressed the assembly and urged seven government officials to reconsider their resignations in the interest of the country's stability, in Skopje, Macedonia Friday, Nov. 23, 2001. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Macedonian Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski (L) and Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva (R) hold a parliament session to officially hand in their resignation in Skopje November 23, 2001. The resignations followed a decision on Tuesday by a key Macedonian party - the Social Democrats - to leave the government, saying the threat of ethnic war no longer exists. The party's three top officials - the foreign minister, the defense minister and Macedonia's deputy prime minister - all left Thursday to protest what they called Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's hard-line policies toward ethnic Albanians. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Russian ambassador Vladimir Titov went to N 20 'Pozitano' St. yesterday to hand over to the president elect Georgi Parvanov a message of greetings from his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin is most likely to visit Bulgaria at the beginning of next year. PHOTO Kiril Konstantinov (SB)
EXCAVATION ON LOCATION NEAR DZEPCISTE AND TREBOS VILLAGES.
The excavation of the mass grave in the region between Dzepciste and Trebos villages continued Friday. It is believed that bodies of six Macedonians kidnapped by the Albanian terrorists are buried in the grave.
Investigation judge from Tetovo Elementary Court Aleksandra Zafirovska who conducts the investigation stated Friday afternoon that she had no new details.
At Thursday's press conference, Zafirovska did not answer whether remains from human bodies were found in the mass grave. According to her, it cannot be confirmed until the results from the Institute for Forensic Medicine are obtained.
According to the Interior Ministry the information on the existence of mass grave on the road between Dzepciste and Trebos is confirmed. Remains from human bodies were found at about 2m depth, what points out that it is a gravesite with the massacred bodies of the kidnapped Macedonians.
Besides the teams from the Institute for Forensic Medicine, also Chief Public Prosecutor from Tetovo Boris Milosavlevski, representatives from Hague Tribunal, OSCE monitoring mission and NATO's operation "Amber Fox" participate in the investigation.
Macedonia: War Crimes Inquiries Begin.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Tribunal adopts "even-handed" approach to war crimes investigations in Macedonia.
By Vladimir Jovanovski in Skopje (BCR No. 299, 23-Nov-01)
The chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia this week announced investigations into atrocities by both Albanians and Macedonians in the recent armed conflict.
While Carla del Ponte's decision - made during a visit to Skopje - reflected her determination to appear even-handed, Macedonian nationalists used the visit to promote reports of the existence of mass graves containing bodies of murdered Macedonian civilians.
Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski, head of the ruling nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, VMRO-DPMNE, has played a key role in fomenting this agitation, which has continued unabated since parliament on November 15 adopted important constitutional changes designed to reduce ethnic friction in the divided state. Del Ponte confirmed two investigations were in the offing. "One is related to crimes allegedly committed by Macedonian forces... the other investigation is related to the number of crimes allegedly committed by NLA," she said, referring to the now-disbanded National Liberation Army, which spearheaded an Albanian insurrection in western Macedonia this summer.
The premier's office confirmed the details after Del Ponte left Skopje, stating one investigation would centre on crimes by Macedonian security forces in the village of Ljuboten, while the other would examine those by Albanian gunmen in the village of Vejce.
The Vejce case started on May 1 when the dismembered bodies of eight Macedonian soldiers and policemen were discovered. There are claims that the men were tortured before they were killed; that their bodies were cut into pieces and that some were burnt alive.
The bloodshed in Ljuboten occurred on August 12, following clashes in the neighbouring village of Ljubanci in which Albanian militants killed eight policemen.
In a revenge attack, according to witness statements given to international organisations including Human Rights Watch and Helsinki Committee, police in Ljuboten executed about 10 villagers. The Ljuboten incident came one day before Macedonian and Albanian parties signed the internationally-brokered Ohrid accord on ending the conflict.
While these two investigations are broadly accepted by all parties as inevitable, the proposed excavation of alleged mass graves containing Macedonians killed by Albanian gunmen is causing more controversy.
A day after Del Ponte's visit, a team from The Hague tribunal, in cooperation with the Macedonian police and courts, opened an investigation into one such alleged mass grave in the village of Neprosteno.
The media claims at least six civilians are buried in a field there, close to the main road that runs from Tetovo to Skopje in western Macedonia. Local police and NATO troops have secured the location, while OSCE observers have also inspected the area.
The terrain is a risky area for a dig, as it is largely under the control of armed Albanian militants. Ten days ago on November 11, gunmen killed three policemen in an ambush nearby and wounded three more, after government forces tried to patrol the site without an international escort.
Digging continued last week under the inspection of a group of four Albanians, watching the Macedonian police through binoculars only yards away. "You Macedonian journalists are the culprits for everything," one of them said, virtually ordering the reporters to leave the site.
Whether the mass graves are more than a convenient fiction for Georgievski's nationalists is open to question. On the day that reporters visited the alleged grave, an anonymous source in the ministry of interior, which is run by Georgievski's close ally, Ljube Boskovski, claimed parts of three corpses had been unearthed. The investigative judge, Aleksandra Zafirovska, denied this and insisted no bodies had been discovered.
The nationalists' constant manipulation of the mass graves issue has alienated Macedonia's more moderate centrist parties. The Social Democratic Union on November 21 announced they were leaving the national unity government, which was set up in June under international pressure to stop the country disintegrating on ethnic lines.
"We cannot continue being a baby-sitter covering up the mess that Georgievski and Boskovski make," said Branko Crvenkovski, the Social Democrat leader, as he announced the resignation of his ministerial colleagues.
The defection of the Social Democrats raises the possibility of early elections, which the internationally brokered peace deal envisaged taking place in January.
The government now depends on the support of the ethnic Albanian deputies for its majority. They have not yet pulled out, as they do not want to rock the boat until all the provisions of the peace deal have passed into law. "The Ohrid agreement provisions must be fully realised," said Mersal Biljali, of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity.
Biljali said the Albanian deputies want to see the adoption of a promised new law increasing the powers of local government - and moves to organise a census - before reconsidering their position. "Only then we could move towards early elections," he said.
Vladimir Jovanovski is a journalist at the Skopje magazine Forum.
J. DAVID GALLAND: A MACEDONIAN RETROSPECTIVE.
While the International War Crimes Tribunal gloats over its latest quarry, former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic, who it has charged with just about every crime except playing hooky from school, the endemic pattern of ethnic violence in the Balkans has entrenched itself for another cold winter of discontent.
Which of the former provinces of what was once Yugoslavia remains is in the forefront? It is still Macedonia. You remember Macedonia, don't you? Let me jog your memory a bit from 1999: peace, cease-fire, disarmament and mutual respect for differing ethnic groups, just to mention a few key points.
I am sure the reader can reflect on the signing of the agreement, only three months ago. As well, one can recall many of the critical provisions of the Ohrid peace agreement, signed just three months ago, that aimed to save Macedonia from abysmal lawlessness. Perhaps you remember that under its provisions, hostilities would come to a rapid stop and a cease-fire would ensue, NATO troops would come in for 30 days, and 30 days only with the Albanian rebels then turning in their weapons. Next, Albanian citizens of Macedonia, largely in the Presevo Valley, would then be treated equally and be given more rights by the Macedonian-dominated parliament.
What has Macedonia, as a country, or as I predicted last July, a NATO protectorate, accomplished? Not much. Since the marionette strings were pulled taunt on the hapless President Boris Trajkovski, whom NATO and the West bought out for a song, things haven't changed much. That is, if any of the current reports, news stories and tales of terror that emerge into the world media, are correct.
Only days ago, heavily armed rebels, believed to be the well rested remnants of the UCK, took as many as 70 people hostage in the Macedonian village of Semsovo, which is a few kilometers northeast of Tetovo. A few hours before this latest challenge to rural tranquility, a group of about a dozen people, were abducted on a main road in the area. One of the unfortunate ones was Zlate Todorovski, the director of the Macedonian language television station in Tetovo. Local police officials, speaking on terms of anonymity, insisted that the perpetrators were not former UCK members. Even the former UCK commander in the area assured Western sources that this was not the work of the now, disbanded rebel group.
These abductions brought an immediate response from the NATO-backed police forces. Scores of police in armored personnel carriers streamed into the area around Tetovo, which is viewed, locally, as additional provocation.
Resistance to the advancing constabulary was swift on the part of the, "not former" UCK rebels. Between Semsovo and Trebos, northwest of Tetovo, a police convoy was ambushed and three policemen were killed, leaving numerous others wounded. The following day, a running gun battle ensued between Macedonian Police and suspected ethnic Albanian rebels near the village of Preljubiste.
This past Sunday a powerful explosion rocked another city in northwestern Macedonia. A spokesman for the new Albanian National Army was quick to take credit for causing the explosion and promised more similar actions during the next week. Clearly, these incidents and the escalation or violence can be viewed as a response to the political foot-dragging by Macedonian leaders in Skopje on the promised issues of Albanian autonomy and equality within Macedonia.
Last week, the ever confident and self-serving NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, while visiting Slovenia, stated that he believed the situation to be stabilized and he urged all involved to show restraint. Robertson's declaration followed an apparently illuminating conversation with Boris Trakjovski, the Macedonian president and German Brigadier General Heinz-Georg Keerl, the NATO Commander in Macedonia.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the world has largely turned its collective focus to issues other than Macedonia, particularly the ongoing war in Afghanistan. At the same time, Macedonia still simmers with violence waiting to explode. The Balkans continues its ever-familiar downward spiral of violence and hatred, still quite capable of ensnaring the United States and its allies in yet another bloodbath.
J. David Galland
PRIME MINISTER GEORGIEVSKI'S STATEMENT.
VMRO-DPMNE is taken by surprise from the SDSM's decision to step out from the governmental coalition, Macedonian Prime Minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Ljubco Georgievski said after Friday meeting of the party Executive Committee.
"We cannot think of any logical reason for such a move. The VMRO-DPMNE membership has supported by suggestion to appeal once again to SDSM to return to the Government," Georgievski said.
"This is necessary not for the economic, but for the security situation, which is far from good. Another reason is the returning of the displaced persons to their homes and re-entry of the security forces in the regions of crisis," he added.
Georgievski said that VMRO-DPMNE "is not running away" from early elections, "but if SDSM demands specific timing for those elections, then we believe they need to return in the Government."
"Scheduling of early elections will depend on reintegration of Macedonia's territory and country's security," Georgievski said. Commenting Branko Crvenkovski's statement that SDSM would not return in the Government, Georgievski stated he could not guarantee early elections to SDSM until completing of the process of security forces' returning to the crisis regions which would last for 55 days.
"Party interest would hurt Macedonia and all arguments go in that direction", Prime Minister stressed.
Asked if the Prime Minister would support SDSM amendment, with which Assembly would bring the decision for self-dissolving at the session on Monday, and the factual self-dissolving to actually happen on February 28, 2002, Georgievski said, "SDSM will seriously think about this appeal, since, according to his information, community boards of SDSM were in favor of continuing within the coalition and fulfilling the obligation".
"I think that there are serious forces in SDSM, which consider that the responsibility towards security and fulfillment of the Framework Agreement must be met and realised", Georgievski said.
Asked if VMRO-DPMNE would meet with SDSM, Prime Minister Georgievski said that a meeting would not present a problem for them and "this is a kind of an open idea in order to see how to overcome certain situations in Macedonia". "I think that there should be compromises because of Macedonia's interest", Georgievski stressed. He pointed the donors' conference as an example. Asked about the structure of the new Government, the Prime Minister said that several parties expressed their interest for participation in the new Government.
"We do not lack deputies that want to support this Government, and I want this to be a whole process and principle, which would be based not only on great economic reforms or revolutions in other spheres, but on achieving one goal, which is security, safety and reintegration of our own territory", Prime Minister Georgievski emphasised.
FOUR MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THREE DEPUTY MINISTERS DISCHARGED.
At the 92 session, based on suggestion from Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, the Macedonian Parliament discharged four members of the Government and three deputy ministers.
The parliament discharged Vlado Buckovski from the position of Defense Minister with 78 votes in favor, four against and 11 abstained, Ilinka Mitreva from the position of Minister of foreign affairs with 79 votes in favor, 14 abstained and seven against, Petar Milosevski from the position Minister of health with 75 votes in favor, ten abstained and five against, and Ilija Filipovski from the position Minister without portfolio with 75 votes in favor, ten abstained and five against.
The parliament also discharged Zoran Vitanov deputy Minister of economy, Eleonora Petrova-Mitrevska deputy Minister of culture and Tome Trombev deputy Minister of transport and communications.
At the beginning of the session, Prime Minister Georgievski said he found out about SDSM's and LDP's decision to exit from the Government from their joint press conference.
"As Prime Minister, I was forced to suggest discharging of these ministers and yesterday I received their formal resignations," Georgievski said.
"The entry of these political parties in the Government was realized with ultimatum from the SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski. He said that if the Prime Minister does not accept broad coalition, he would organize mass protests and if necessary, he would put down the Government by force. The next day, I said I accept an ultimatum for the first time in my life, because it would have been too much if we had to fight both against the terrorists and against the Macedonian opposition," Georgievski stated.
He underlined that 'this Government was not composed out of love, but due to Macedonia's interests."
Prime Minister Georgievski estimated that this act was a good marketing move, because "no wonders on economic or political field are possible in the next two to three months."
"So, their intention was to sit and watch from opposition all the troubles that those who remain in the Government face with," he said.
Prime Minister Georgievski suggested to SDSM to reconsider once again about their decision and together with the VMRO-DPMNE to decide on a reasonable timing for early parliamentary elections, which could take place after all displaced persons return to their homes and after sustainable peace is established on entire Macedonian territory.
Georgievski stressed that in the past five months, he had given full freedom to these ministers to realize their programs and ideas.
At the beginning of the session, the Parliament appointed Renata Kerpicovska at the position of recently deceased deputy Gjorgji Kotevski.
Based on request from VMRO-DPMNE parliamentary group, the Parliament chairman postponed the debate for scheduling of early parliamentary elections on January 27 for Monday.
SOLANA'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI.
Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy sent two letters to Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on Friday.
In the first one, Solana welcomes the adoption of the constitutional amendments by the Parliament and expresses his gratitude to President Trajkovski on his positive reply to the letter on amnesty of October 23.
"These two decisions mark a great step forward in the implementation of the Framework Agreement signed in Ohrid on August 13, and I welcome your personal commitment and courage on both issues," Solana says in his letter.
A solid foundation has now been laid for the implementation of all other aspects of the Agreement, notably the hosting of a Donors' Conference once the agreed preconditions have been met, - and - the full re-entry of the security forces in close cooperation with the international community, to be implemented in accordance with a plan agreed by all concerned parties in advance and the procedures already established for this purpose.
"I would like to ensure you of the EU's continued support in the efforts required over the coming months, and assure you of my personal and Special Representative Alain Le Roy's best efforts to help you in bringing the implementation process forward as rapidly and successfully as possible," Solana says.
In his second letter Solana expresses his concern on the subject of kidnapped and other missing persons, giving full support of the investigation on possible war crimes.
"I would like to thank you for accepting the EU offer to establish a Commission of the Kidnapped and Other Missing Persons, under the chairmanship of Swedish Ambassador Lars Norberg," Solana says. According to him, the Commission should be constituted and start its as soon as possible, not least in order to establish contacts with the families of the missing persons.
Concerning the investigations into possible war crimes, Solana expresses the EU's full support for the investigations currently undertaken by Macedonian police and judicial services, notably into an alleged mass grave, north of Tetovo.
"I am convinced that, with yours and the Government's support, the Commission will be able to shed all possible light on the fate of kidnapped and missing persons, and bring comfort to their families, " Solana says.
He also agrees with Trajkovski's position that all war crimes should be exempted from the amnesty and brought to the attention of the International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague.
"I very much support your decision to ask for ICTY involvement in this process, and welcome their positive reply, as a strong signal of the international community's concern and support for efforts in this field," Solana says.
With monitoring by ICTY and OSCE experts, as well as by EUMM and OSCE monitors, exhumation should start as soon as security conditions allow and technical preparations by ICTY and Macedonia forensic experts have been completed, Solana says at the end of his letter.
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER SENDS LETTER TO PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI.
Skopje, November 23 (MIA) - Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien sent letter to Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski congratulating for "the important constitutional amendments adopted on November 16 by the Macedonian Parliament."
"This achievement is very much accomplished because of Your great dedication, of justice and determinacy in one extremely hard period from the history of your country," Chretien stressed in the letter.
"With pleasure I can state that NATO's operation 'Essential Harvest' for disarming NLA, where Canadian forces participated, was successful," the letter reads.
Canada supports the efforts of NATO mission "Amber Fox" and OSCE monitoring mission, which is led by a Canadian citizen, Chretien informed.
"I hope that these missions will be helpful in the transition period from conflict toward peace," Chretien stressed, adding that with the stabilization of the situation "the efforts could be redirected toward support of the economic reforms and the development of Macedonia as multi ethnic country."
At the end of the letter Chretien stressed that Canada continuously provided assistance for the refugees and internally displaced persons in Macedonia.
Stoyanov Won't Return to UDF.
The incumbent president didn't rule out the possibility of taking a post of ambassador.
Peter Stoyanov won't go back to the UDF. He gave up active participation in politics for at least a year and perhaps for much longer. I won't run for posts in any existing or newly-formed party, nor will I found a new formation, the president announced at a special press conference yesterday. Stoyanov wants people to remember as the president of all Bulgarians. The party garment will already be too tight for me, the incumbent head of state pointed out. He neither confirmed nor rejected the possibility of occupying an ambassadorial post or any other representative position after the expiry of his mandate. I'll have sympathies, a political love of my own, but having lost the elections I don't have the moral right to participate in the country's domestic party life, Stoyanov explained. He declared that his gesture was not a depart from responsibility but an act of a man who sets great store by his reputation and morality.
Parvaniov and Premier to Discuss Special Services.
Georgi Parvanov asked for an appointment with PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. We have to clarify the situation and discuss the possible joint steps and decisions, explained the new president in the parliament yesterday. He promised to discuss the future of the special services and their chiefs with the Premier. Parvanov qualified as "speculations" rumors that Brigo Asparukhov will head the military intelligence. I don't have the slightest intention to persuade people like Philip Dimitrov to retain their ambassadorial posts, if they don't want to work with the new president and premier, commented Parvanov further.
Putin Comes to Sofia in 2002.
The Russian ambassador told it at 20 'Pozitano' St. after a meeting with Parvanov.
Russia's president Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to Bulgaria at the beginning of next year. In all likelihood it will happen after the president elect Georgi Parvanov takes office on January 22, 2002. That became clear after Parvanov's meeting with the Russian ambassador to this country Vladimir Titov at N 20 'Pozitano' St. (BSP's HQ) yesterday. The chief of the mission handed over to Parvanov a message of greetings by his Russian colleague. 'The moment is extremely favorable for reinvigorating Bulgarian-Russian relations. Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the new president Georgi Parvanov voiced their good will fir this', Titov stressed after the conversation. He pointed out that the visit of foreign minister Solomon Passy to Moscow this December was already being prepared. The Bulgarian-Russian intergovernmental commission which hasn't met for 3 years will sit in Sofia at the beginning of February.
Berlusconi to Visit Bulgaria.
Italia's Premier Silvio Berlusconi is to pay a visit to his counterpart Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Sofia, it transpired after the two met in Trieste. The date, however, is not fixed as yet. The prime-ministers talked in Italian. Berlusconi supported Bulgaria in its aspiration to join the EU and NATO. Berlusconi and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha agreed upon stepping up the bilateral cooperation.
USA Asked BG for Transit Corridor to Afghanistan.
Requests came from the USA for granting rights for transit corridor in compliance with the agreement signed earlier, informed yesterday Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov. He hasn't specified, though, whether it will be air or land corridors. According to the framework agreement, the Council of Ministers will have to take the decision in each concrete case. The Minister of Defense is expecting similar agreement to be signed with Great Britain, too.
We Grant Corridors to German Planes.
Minister Solomon Passy discussed our joining NATO and EU with his colleague Joschka Fischer.
Berlin, Antoaneta Markova,
correspondent of 'Standart'
German transport planes will soon fly over Bulgaria, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said yesterday after talks with his German colleague Joschka Fischer in Berlin. Passy is on a two-day visit in the German capital. The Foreign Minister informed Fischer of the military agreement with the USA, concluded in connection with the war in Afghanistan. He notified him of his proposal for Bulgaria to conclude similar agreements with other NATO and EU members, which will take part in the operation. 'At this stage such an agreement with Germany isn't necessary', Passy said. Fischer and Passy discussed the EU and NATO enlargement and Bulgaria's progress in connection with this process, the situation on the Balkans and the world policy after September 11, as well as the future of Afghanistan and the role of Bulgaria as a member of the UN Security Council.
Bulgaria Starts with 3 Victories at the World Wrestling Championship.
Serafim Barzakov beat by touchdown a Macedonian, sensational loss of an Olympic champion from Sydney.
The Bulgarian wrestlers began their participation in the 35th world wrestling championship with 3 victories two out of which by a touchdown. The championship began in the Palace of Sport in Sofia yesterday along with the 14th world championship of women's wrestling. The Olympic vice-champion from Sydney 2000 Serafim Barzakov (63 kg) began his offensive for a second world title with a touchdown blitz victory. He defeated Macedonian Koze Nikolov by 10:0 for 3,37 minutes and the referee on the carpet ended the match and declared him winner by a technical touchdown. Miroslav Gochev (76kg) also ended the match with a technical touchdown after defeating the unpretentious Englishman Neight Ackerman by 11:0 for 4,51 minutes. In the same category Olympic champion Alexander Leypold (Germany) sensationally gave in to Georgian Rezo Mindirashvili by 2:1 points. Ivan Dzhorev (54 kg) won a 3:1 victory versus Slovak Roman Kolar. The debutante in our team Petya Penkova (56kg) started with a 3:0 loss from Turk Akin.
Record Large Number of Germans Visit Bulgaria in 2001.
The number of German tourists reached an all-time high of 370,802 in the first ten months of 2001, beating the previous peak of 345,775 in 1988, the Economy Ministry said. Germany ranked first in the number of tourists in January-October, with a 42.9 per cent increase from a year earlier. In October alone, they were 80.44 per cent more than a year earlier. The number of foreign tourists increased by 20.01 per cent in the first ten months of the year, which proves that 2001 was a strong year for tourism. Foreign tourists numbered 2,449,915 from January to October. The impact of the terrorist attacks on the US was less tangible than expected. The number of EU tourists increased from September 2000, US tourists were down by a mere 14.9 per cent, and Canadian tourists increased by 2.49 per cent. A breakdown of EU tourists in the first ten months of the year shows the number of Britons increased by 30.84 per cent, Greeks 11.25 per cent, French tourists 29.67 per cent, Spanish tourists 19.89 per cent, and Italians 7.16 per cent. The number of tourists from the Central and East European countries also increased as follows: Russia 25.99 per cent, Ukraine 22.68 per cent, Poland 68.48 per cent, the Czech Republic 28.07 per cent, Slovakia 67.18 per cent, Hungary 31.68 per cent, Yugoslavia 61.64 per cent, and Georgia 7.13 per cent. The number of Turkish and Albanian tourists dropped by 49.10 per cent and 42.97 per cent, respectively, the Economy Ministry said.
Bulgari Became Famous Thanks to Fire.
Real fire-dancers go crazy, before stepping on the live coals.
If somebody thinks that fresh air is a treasure, Bulgari is a rich village. But as a matter of fact it's a poor one. It lives thanks to pensions and small social aids of the unemployed people. There are 40-50 residents of Bourgas and Sofia, who have houses in the village. They are all people receiving salaries or businessmen. Having all they want, the new-comers could envy the local people for the fresh air. The legend tells that among the surrounding Greek villages that was the sole one, where only Bulgarians lived. That's how names are created. And for gaining fame time and something distinguishing you from the others are necessary. Around Bulgari the hills are similar to the ones in Strandzha. The way is also the same - narrow and cracked. The only thing that's different is the feast. It's always on one and the same dates - October 3 and 4. Bulgari is the village of the fire-dancers. According to the elder people the last two real fire-dancers have died long ago, but people still remember them. Both of them were called Zlata (gold). Witnesses say that when the time of the feast was close, the two women got crazy. They were overwhelmed by some kind of powerful energy. A week before the fixed day they looked ill. To an extent that they couldn't do any work at home. In the evening a fire is built. The two of them take the icons and start to produce strange sounds: Vaf, vaaf. Even the ones who observe them get crazy. The fire burns. When one gets closer to it, the fire burns him. But the women - they are on the live coals. Not stopping to leap. Witnesses said that one of the two Zlatas was a maid in the school and while she lighted the fire in the stove, she tried to keep herself away in order not to burn herself. But in the huge fire she seemed a comletely different person. Once the two fire-dancers stood on the embers for 32 minutes. But the most strange thing was that when one touched her after the dance she was as cold as corpse, elder people from Bulgari explained. When asked she explained that when she advanced on the embers the fire died out before her eyes. To make the fire die was one of the deeds of Saint Constantine. People say that one of the two women wasn't a fire dancer. She got ill and the other Zlata brought her on the live coals. Both of them lived more than 80 years. And they danced till they could walk. Now there are fire dancers, too. But nothing is the same. Fire is much smaller. Policemen usually surround it to prevent people from entering on the live coals. Once fire kept people away, witnesses said. The mayor of the village of Bulgari is sure that everything might die away, but this feast will remain. On the fixed day people from all over the country come to the village. This year even the king came, stood on the balcony of Grandmother Elana's house and didn't go away until the fire dancers quitted the fire. A king is a king, but there are things that happen and only God knows how. Dancing on fire is one of them
U.S. aircraft to use Bulgaria's Bourgas airbase.
SOFIA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Bulgaria said U.S. forces will start using an airbase near the southeastern town of Bourgas on the Black Sea on Friday, as part of Washington's military campaign against Afghanistan.
"The government agreed that U.S. transport planes would be stationed at the international airport of Bourgas and around 150 personnel servicing the planes will be accommodated in the nearby base of Sarafovo," a Foreign Ministry statement said on Friday.
The U.S. aircraft were transport cisterns which will refuel in the air other U.S. planes taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. They will buy fuel from the nearby oil refinery, Lukoil Neftochim Bourgas, it said.
The military operation was launched by Washington on October 7 in retaliation for the attacks against U.S. cities on September 11 which killed some 4,500 people.
The first two U.S. aircraft, coming from Britain and neighbouring Greece, are expected to land at Bourgas airport around Friday at 1 p.m. (1100 GMT).
NATO-aspirant Bulgaria, which is hoping for an invitation to join the alliance next year, decided earlier in November to grant a U.S. request to use its airspace and airbases.
Bulgaria to Host Six U.S. Aircraft.
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - The first of six U.S. Air Force aircraft that U.S. officials say will be used to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan landed Friday at the airport in Burgas.
The six KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft will be based in this Bulgarian Black Sea port, some 250 miles east of Sofia. At least 150 U.S. military personnel would be based there to maintain the operation, a statement from the U.S. Embassy said.
The aircraft arrived from Mildenhall, Britain. It was unclear how long the planes would remain in Bulgaria.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hess, Commander of the U.S. Third Air Force in Mildenhall, said in the statement that ``repositioning of aircraft often becomes necessary to ensure the safety and efficiency of the operation'' in Afghanistan.
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said the government on Thursday granted a United States request to use the airport as a base for humanitarian operations.
Busy Bulgarian borders.
Bulgarian borders were crossed by 13,102,00 people since January, announced Interior Ministry chief secretary Boiko Borissov at a press conference on Tuesday. The border police caught 3,884 offenders of whom 2,744 were foreigners, according to border police statistics for the first nine months of the year.
The illegal traffic of foreign citizens across the Bulgarian-Turkish border has become busier since September 11, said border police director Valeri Grigorov. The number of Bulgarian offenders shrunk in half after the removal of the visa requirements for Bulgarians travelling to the Schengen area.
Kosovo Serb woman shot dead, husband hurt.
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed a 60-year-old Kosovo Serb woman and seriously injured her husband in a drive-by shooting, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday.
Spokesman Andrea Angeli for the U.N. mission in Kosovo said they were shot near the town of Obilic west of the provincial capital Pristina on Thursday evening after getting off a train.
He said Milica Mirosavljevic and her 70-year-old husband Stojadin were attacked with gunfire from a passing vehicle. He said an explosion was also heard.
It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was ethnically motivated.
Minority Serbs in Kosovo have been targeted in numerous attacks by majority Albanians, angry at years of repression from Belgrade, after NATO's 1999 bombing campaign drove out Yugoslav forces from the southern province.
But international officials have said the number of violent incidents has declined this year. Thursday's attack was the first such killing since Saturday's landmark election, designed to establish self-rule in the U.N.-run Yugoslav province.