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NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, right, meets Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, in Skopje, Macedonia on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2001. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, center, and chief of EU foreign and security affairs Javier Solana, left, talk with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, right, at presidential office in Skopje, Macedonia on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2001. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, center, talks to journalists accompanied by chief of EU foreign and security affairs, Javier Solana, right, and NATO Supreme Commander for Europe, US Gen. Joseph Ralston, left, shortly after landing at the military airport near Skopje, Macedonia on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2001. Robertson said they would warn Macedonina leadership to hurry up and deliver on promises made under a Western-engineered peace accord that halted six months of clashes. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
EUROPEAN TROIKA IN A MISSION TO UNBLOCK ASSEMBLY PROCEDURE.
The visit of European Troika Solana, Geoana and Robertson to Macedonia was aimed to unblock the work of the Assembly and to speed up the Assembly procedure on adopting the draft amendments of the Constitution.
In order to find a way out from the dead-end of the political process, the European troika after the numerous meetings with Macedonian state officials and the leaders of the political parties signers of Framework Agreement from Ohrid, succeeded to schedule a meeting of the Constitutional Commission on Monday and Assembly session on Wednesday. In that respect President Boris Trajkovski obliged to develop and submit the other amendments as soon as possible.
Although Solana and Robertson insisted on respecting the Preamble without wording "Macedonian nation" agreed in Ohrid, Trajkovski was decisive that he would withdraw if pressure is imposed on him and if the impossible is requested. In that respect it was agreed the European representatives to hold talks with the representatives of the Albanian political block in order to find acceptable solution.
EU High Representative Javier Solana openly requested from President Boris Trajkovski to start the blocked political process, to restore the negotiations in the Assembly and to change some parts of the Statement on amnesty, which according to him is not in compliance with the one agreed in Ohrid i.e. amnesty for all Albanian terrorists. According to Solana and the European representatives the amnesty should be applied to all "NLA" members and the International Court of war crimes should conduct a procedure against all those under its jurisdiction. The official Statement of President Trajkovski, supported by the Government reads "the amnesty will not be applied to all members of the so-called NLA that committed war crimes and crimes against the humankind, torture, murder of civilians and ethnic cleansing as well as demolition of cultural monuments and other acts included in the Statute of the international criminal tribune for former Yugoslavia, including the crimes in Vejce, Karpalak, Ljuboten, Matejce and Celopek." Trajkovski is decisive that 140 members of "NLA" responsible for crimes against the humanity should appear in front of the Macedonian courts of law.
Trajkovski asked for a revision of "Essential Harvest" operation, as there is a body of evidence indicating that some armed groups were still active.
Assembly speaker Andov conditioned the holding of Assembly session with obtaining guarantees from the European troika that the kidnapped persons will be released.
During the meetings with EU High Representative, NATO Secretary General and OSCE Chairman in Office, the Macedonian block accepted the draft-amendments on constitutional changes to be reviewed in a package, under the condition the wording "Macedonian nation" to be put back in the Preamble.
One of the topics within the talks with Solana, Robertson, Geoana and General Ralston was the return of the Macedonian security forces in the regions of crisis. The Macedonian part expressed the dissatisfaction from the draft plan suggested by OSCE and NATO, according to which six policemen (including three from Albanian nationality) should be sent in the villages, their presence to be limited from 9 14h until the Framework agreement is fully implemented. They should be only armed with gun, handcuffs, talky walky and policemens stick.
SOLANA, ROBERTSON, GEOANA PRESS CONFERENCE.
"The Macedonian political leaders agreed to continue with the discussion on the changes to the Constitution on Monday, and all amendments will be submitted to the Parliament by Friday," EU High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said at the press conference held on Thursday in Skopje.
Solana said that the Albanian political parties would participate in the discussion, adding that they did not set any special conditions regarding their participation.
He said he believed that the parliamentary debate on the constitutional amendments would be completed by the end of this month.
"We have opened a new window of opportunities for Macedonia and we move ahead this only-existing parliamentary process," NATO Secretary General George Robertson said at the press conference. He added that so far at least US$20 million were spent for the peace process in Macedonia.
Robertson said that the meeting with the Macedonian political leaders was also focused on implementation of the amnesty for the terrorists, included in the Framework Agreement.
"There will be no amnesty for those who committed crime, and who will be prosecuted by the Hague Tribunal. There should not be an amnesty for those who committed crimes against the humanity. The amnesty will be applied for those who laid down their arms, who disbanded and rejected the violence as mean for realization of political goals," Robertson stressed.
OSCE Chairman, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mircea Geoana, said that one of the goals of his visit to Macedonia was to prepare the terrain for deployment of the OSCE civic monitors. He said that the deployment of the OSCE monitors to the regions of low security risk, together with the Macedonian security forces, would start on Monday.
He reported that today he paid a visit to Kumanovo, Opae and Lipkovo, where he met with the local authorities.
"We are here in order to make sure that the displaced persons would return to their homes safely," Geoana said.
He added that the OSCE would continue the training of the multi-ethnic police forces, started by U.S. experts.
At the joint press conference, Commander of the NATO troops in Europe General Joseph Ralston expressed satisfaction from the "Amber Fox" operation.
Regarding the provocations from the Albanian terrorists in the regions of crisis, which still continue although the so-called NLA was allegedly disbanded, General Ralston said that although 4,700 pieces of weaponry were collected during the "Essential Harvest" operation, it did not mean that all weapons from the Balkans were collected.
"In 1997, during the crisis in Albania, hundreds of thousands pieces of weapons were spread through the entire Balkans. We must admit that fact," he said.
SOLANA, ROBERTSON AND GEOANA MEET WITH MACEDONIAN TOP OFFICIALS.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski met on Thursday with Javier Solana, EU High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy, George Robertson, NATO Secretary - General and Mircea Geoana, OSCE Chairman.
At the meeting, the European Troika expressed satisfaction from the normalization of the security situation in Macedonia and expressed hope that the peace process would end successfully.
The Cabinet of the Macedonian Prime Minister announced that at the meeting, NATO Secretary General Robertson stressed how significant realization of the Statement for amnesty was for the overall implementation of the Framework Agreement.
Mr. Solana underlined that the sooner this procedure was completed, the sooner a Donors conference for Macedonia could be organized.
Expressing gratitude for the support from the international community to Macedonia, Prime Minister Georgievski expressed hope that the parliamentary procedure would be soon completed and the Framework Agreement would be supported.
He reported that there was a consensus among the political parties in regard to the Preamble, adding that the Albanian parties should follow the procedure. Georgievski said that Presidents Statement for the amnesty was fully respected.
Returning of the displaced persons to their homes was also discussed at the meeting. It was agreed that full cooperation between the Macedonian security forces and the international community was needed for this to be realized.
Prime Minister Georgievski also rose a question about the missing persons and the need of investigation in that direction.
ANDOV MEETS ROBERTSON, SOLANA AND GEOANA.
Macedonian Assembly speaker Stojan Andov had a meeting Thursday with NATO Secretary General George Robertson, EU High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and the current Chairman in Office of OSCE Mircea Geoana.
The meeting focused on the Assembly procedure on adopting draft-amendments of the Macedonian Constitution and on PDP and DPA parliamentary groups that boycott the work of the Commission on Constitutional Matters and the Assembly sessions.
Stojan Andov explained the third phase from the procedure on constitutional changes and stressed that the Macedonian Assembly should not work unless deputies from all nationalities participate. Therefore he expressed his hope that the boycott will be canceled and the Assembly procedure on adopting the draft - amendments submitted by President Boris Trajkovski will continue.
Andov also pointed out that the most important thing is the functioning of state institutions, where all misunderstandings and disputes should be resolved.
MINISTER BUCKOVSKI VISITS FR YUGOSLAVIA.
Macedonian Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski Thursday met with the Yugoslav Defence Minister Slobodan Krapovic and discussed on the current political - security situation in the two countries and the region.
Two ministers evaluated that there are great possibilities for further cooperation, which will be directed towards the stabilisation and peace in the region with mutual efforts.
Minister Buckovski stated that the topic of the talks has been also the initiative of the Macedonian side to talk about the succession issue of property and equipment of the former Yugoslav Army prior to its formal ending.
"We meet with full understanding at our hosts," he said informing that it has been agreed that the experts will prepare a draft-decision for its solution.
Evaluating the talks as fruitful and useful, Minister Krapovic stressed that in relation to the terrorism as global evil, which is a great danger for the civilisation at all there is a high level of concordance that "it is necessary forces to join and with mutual combat to unable the development of the terrorist activities in the world especially in our region as the problem that we are facing with for a longer period."
At today's meeting as a continuation of the signed Agreement for military cooperation between the two ministries in Skopje, it has been discussed on its intensifying on military - technical and economic sphere. In this context, Krapovic mentioned the obligations that emerge from the succession of the property between the former members of SFRY "in order prior to ending of this process, further steps aimed at compensation of the armed forces of the Republic of Macedonia to be made."
The meeting between Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic focused on securing the border by the Macedonian and Yugoslav police, the joint requests to the international community for financing this project and the future plans after the stabilization of the situation in the region.
It was stated that the Macedonian - Yugoslav border should be clearly marked and it was agreed regional operation to be conducted in order to collect the illegal weapons possessed by the civilians in the entire region, financed by the Stability Pact.
Minister Zivkovic considers that KFOR does not sufficiently secure the Kosovo part of the border and that it is necessary to increase the alertness. In that respect he added that the Yugoslav police and Army could return on Kosovo.
The both ministers stressed their position that the Albanian terrorism is a risk for the entire region, agreeing that the division of Kosovo is a big problem for Republic of Macedonia and committed once again for inviolability of borders. Their joint position is that UN Resolution 1244 should be consistently respected and implemented.
"The Albanians in the region does not represent problem, but the Albanian terrorists and extremists," is the position of both ministers.
Minister Zivkovic believes that it is necessary to enhance the cooperation with the Macedonian Ministry of Interior.
The Macedonian Delegation led by Minister Buckovski accompanied by Macedonian Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Metodi Stamboliski also met with Yugoslav deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zoran Jovanovic.
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski ended his two-day visit to Yugoslavia with the reception at Yugoslav President Voislav Kostunica.
The meeting with Kostunica focused on the political and security situation in the region as well as in Macedonia. During the meeting Kostunica expressed his readiness to visit Macedonia soon, indicating that the security in the region and the enhancement of the global fight against terrorism will be discussed.
According to Minister Buckovski, the Yugoslav part was particularly interested in the idea for organizing regional conference aiming to confirm and review the principle of inviolability of borders.
Speaking of his visit, Minister Buckovski assessed it as "well used opportunity," stressing that inevitable topic within all meetings and talks was the situation in Macedonia. In respect of the military - technical cooperation, it was agreed to intensify the cooperation in the military industry. Also the support for the Macedonian territorial integrity and sovereignty and inviolability of the borders was constantly stressed.
The Yugoslav part was concerned about the ongoing process that is blocked within the Macedonian Assembly, hoping that the stabilization of the situation in Macedonia would stimulate them to resolve their biggest problem - Kosovo's status.
The Macedonian delegation was also informed on the latest situation on Kosovo, prior to the elections scheduled for November 17.
"I believe that if everyone on the Balkan discuss all mutual issues openly, we will create positive climate of good neighborly relations and understanding," Macedonian Defense Minister Buckovski stressed at the end of his visit to Yugoslavia.
Nato warning to Macedonia.
Nato has given its strongest warning yet to the Macedonian authorities about their delay in ratifying the deal to end the conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels.
The alliance's secretary general, George Robertson, said on arrival in Macedonia on Thursday that the delays could lead to renewed violence, and were preventing the return of thousands of refugees.
Lord Robertson is in Macedonia with the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to push forward the faltering peace process.
The visit comes after the Macedonian parliament yet again postponed the debate on the final part of the western-backed deal - constitutional amendments giving the Albanian minority greater recognition.
A BBC correspondent in the country says the delays have led to increased tension, with a growing number of shooting incidents in former rebel-held areas.
NATO, EU Chiefs Tell Macedonians Time to Deliver.
By Kole Casule
SKOPJE (Reuters) - Top NATO and European Union officials visited Macedonia on an arm-twisting mission on Thursday, putting the onus on parliament to revive a delicate peace process which has hit deadlock.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who have nursed the plan through repeated setbacks, said legislators had to ratify reforms to reciprocate an arms handover by minority Albanian guerrillas.
``I think we have complied with our obligations. The Albanians have complied and I think it's time to end this process,'' Solana told reporters at Skopje airport.
A meeting of Macedonian and Albanian party leaders, hosted by Macedonia's president, failed to secure a breakthrough on Wednesday evening and plans to resume debate on a package of minority rights reforms on Thursday have been shelved.
``It's up to the Macedonian government and the parliament to deliver their side of the bargain,'' Robertson stressed, adding that political leaders had to bite the bullet if their aspirations to join NATO and the EU were to be taken seriously.
``It's not a matter of international pressure, it's about delivering promises that were solemnly made. There could easily be in this country a return to violence unless everything that was agreed is implemented. That's the priority,'' Robertson said.
Western patience is wearing thin after foot-dragging by Macedonian parties, which has led to three postponements of the crucial debate, and the announcement of narrow terms of amnesty for rebels who surrendered weapons to NATO troops this summer.
STUCK IN A RUT
The success of Thursday's mission will however hinge on both sides giving ground before Macedonian parties seek to force a referendum on the plans, which would probably be rejected.
Albanian leaders, who negotiated a political deal to end seven months of sporadic warfare in which rebels seized swathes of territory, are refusing to attend a debate unless plans to discuss amendments to the constitution one-by-one are scrapped.
``We will not take part in any parliamentary session if the constitutional changes are not presented in a package,'' said a senior official of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP).
In a bid to break the deadlock, President Boris Trajkovski has submitted an alternative proposal, which tweaks a key line of the constitution's preamble in a bid to ease Macedonians' frustration at making concessions to Albanians ``at gunpoint.''
But the offer, which could make Macedonian politicians more amenable to approving reforms without further delay, appeared to have made little impression on Macedonia's two Albanian parties.
``We strongly stand by the fact that the agreement is non-negotiable,'' the PDP official said.
Threats by Trajkovski to stop sending reform bills to parliament unless the debate resumes, viewed by Western envoys as a major blow to the peace process, have also had no impact.
A separate bid to keep the process moving -- an initiative to allow police to return to former guerrilla-held territory under international supervision -- has been put back to next week after peace monitors raised questions about the amnesty.
A previous attempt to re-enter some villages, dubbed ''D-Day'' by hardline Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, was thwarted due to lack of coordination with international monitors, who aim to ensure such delicate operations do not spark fresh fighting.
Constitution - Too Big a Bite for Rulers.
Complex and time-consuming amendment procedure stalemates the ruling majority.
Svetozar Bakhchevanov, Standartnews.
The appeals from the Council of Ministers for adopting urgent amendments to the Constitution have recently become increasingly more frequent. They demand the revision of the text that prohibits handing over Bulgarian citizens to foreign authorities and lifting the ban on selling Bulgarian land to foreigners. For a long time the mayors insist that the municipalities be given the right to fix the local taxes and duties independently and not to transfer all their incomes directly to the state budget. No doubt the arguments, like fighting terrorism, EU integration and salvation of bankrupt municipalities, are more than weighty. But if we look in retrospect, it becomes clear that so far at least ten futile attempts have been made to change the Supreme Law. The major reason for the failure of all these attempts are the extremely complex procedures stipulated in the Constitution itself. The shortest term, within which the National Assembly can revise the texts, is one month following the introduction of a proposal. Having in mind the current configuration of the parliament, the most realistic variant for the ruling majority in the 39th National Assembly is to bargain with the other parliamentary groups. In this case, however, the question arises what will the other parties demand in return for their support. As for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, it is clear that they will not take it too far. The BSP is quite another case. The socialists have already entered into the part of a "stern but just comrade", who waives his finger at the others giving instructions. The UDF, no matter how often it swears in its Euro-priorities, will not stand by the majority. Simply because its major priority is to come back to power with flying colors. If possible headed by Kostov. Besides, whatever the UDF and BSP declare, they will for sure try to push through, along with the other amendments, something that will be to the advantage of their own party. Both organizations have developed a habit to settle their parties' accounts through amendments to legislation. No matter how noble may be the ultimate goal of the constitutional repair, it hides many risks for the ruling majority. And stalemates it. Because it has already proven that law-making is not its strongest point. In three months the deputies managed to adopt just one law and amended it three times. What is going to happen if they confront with the Constitution?
Team of "Standart"
We Have Money to Repair 4 MIG-29 Only.
'We can repair up to four MIG-29 fighters. These are the means planned in the army budget for the next year,' said Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov. Till end-month we are to prepare the tender papers and then we will hold the bidding,' he elaborated. Bulgaria's army has 21 fighters MIG-29. Of them, only one is trouble-free and another one is put aside for resource. During the visit of the Defence Minister in Germany, the hosts have proposed to Bulgaria to join the international consortium repairing such kind of war aircraft. The former government has declined the same offer. 'I have only one offer for the repair, but the terms are unfavourable,' Nikolay Svinarov said exclusively for 'Standart'.
Berlin - Sofia
Illegal clinic involved in baby organs trade discovered.
TIRANA, Oct 18 (AFP) - An illegal clinic allegedly involved in a traffic of baby organs was discovered in the Albanian capital Tirana, the independent [Albanian] daily Koha Jone reported Sunday quoting sources from the state prosecutor's office.
Discovery of the clinic was part of an investigation on alleged baby- trafficking from Albania to Italy that had begun earlier this year, centred on a suspected ring of smugglers of babies, whose mothers were told they were stillborn.
Fresh allegations of "baby organs trafficking" came the day after the Albanian press reported the end of the state prosecutor's investigation of the illegal traffic of babies to Italy.
It remained unclear whether the babies operated on in the illegal clinic survived. Their number was not immediately known.
The clinic was administrated by Albanian doctors and surgeons who "operated on babies and sent their organs to Italy," reportedly upon the orders of Italian Mafia bosses, the daily said.
"Skilful surgeons have carried out many operations on babies and sold their organs in Italy, earning large amounts of money," a senior prosecution official was quoted as saying.
Sources said that most of the babies were sent to Italy for illegal adoption rather than organ-trafficking. It is believed that many women, prompted by their poverty, have sold their babies to the doctors.
The "babies scandal," as media named it, became known in April when grave diggers in a public cemetery near Tirana discovered that some coffins, of allegedly buried stillborns, were empty.