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Macedonian Government spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov, center, talks to journalists after the government session which approved amnesty for ethnic Albanian rebels, in Skopje, Macedonia, Tuesday Oct. 9, 2001. The amnesty pertains to all ethnic Albanian rebels except those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. (AP Photo Boris Grdanoski)
INTERVIEW OF MACEDONIAN ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF METODI STAMBOLISKI FOR MIA.
INTERVIEW: Metodi Stamboliski
"The Macedonian Army along with the members of the Interior Ministry, NATO forces within "Amber Fox" mission and OSCE monitors should establish conditions for safe return of the displaced citizens to their homes, to guarantee their security and the security of their property, to secure the freedom of movement and to establish conditions for realizing all human and citizens' rights," Chief of Staff of the Macedonian Army Lieutenant General Metodi Stamboliski said in the interview for the Macedonian Information Agency (MIA).
"But if the situation worsens and if the activities from the Peace Agenda are obstructed, the Macedonian Army will respond appropriately what means use of force that will eliminate the risk, endangering the security of the territory, population and the security forces," Stamboliski said.
One of the most important parts of the Agenda for resolving the crisis after "Essential Harvest" operation is just about to be realized. What are the activities of the Macedonian Army in reestablishing control on entire Macedonian territory?
The agenda including the activities of the Macedonian security forces and Army for reestablishing control on the entire Macedonian territory was initiated with the signing of Framework Agreement, August 13 as a basis for resolving the security crisis in the country. President Trajkovski's Agenda including the confidence building measures and the letter submitted to NATO and OSCE requesting additional assistance for restoring peace were also considered during the defining of the activities and the contents of the Agenda. Therefore the Agenda aims to remove all obstacles that represent risk to the sovereignty and territorial integrity and to establish conditions for regular work of the state institutions and the local self - government by introducing appropriate security measures in the regions of crisis. To be more specific, the Macedonian Army along with the Police, NATO forces within "Amber Fox" mission and OSCE monitors should create conditions for safe return of all displaced citizens to their homes, to guarantee their personal security and the security of their property, to secure the freedom of movement and to establish conditions for realizing all human and citizens' rights.
Our country is under "quiet" embargo regarding procurement of weapons and military equipment. How is the equipping of the Macedonian Army proceeding, regarding the plans for achieving of the NATO standards?
Let me first eliminate one dilemma. It is being said that the Macedonian Army is piling weapons in order to deal with the terrorist groups. In that context, we were put under a "quiet" embargo regarding the procurement of weapons. Let me make this clear the Macedonian Army has enough means and capability to successfully deal with the terrorist groups in the regions of crisis. The Macedonian Army is equipping according to the plans for its development. In that context, we provide sophisticated equipment, which is in accordance to the National Program for NATO Membership. At this moment, it is good that the Macedonian Army has strengthened its artillery and air defense potentials.
During the crisis, there have been numerous speculations about misunderstandings between the Minister of Defense and the Army Staff. How do you estimate your cooperation with the Supreme Commander, President Boris Trajkovski and Minister of Defense Vlado Buckovski?
The hierarchy, command and leadership in the Army is based on the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and the Law for Defense. There is no room for misunderstandings in this context. The President, as Supreme Commander, issues the orders through the Minister of Defense to the Army Staff.
Currently it is peaceful in the country, yet the reserve army composition is still being engaged. Which is the reason for this and how is the engaging of the reserve composition proceeding?
The engagement of the reserve composition is proceeding according to a strictly determined agenda. In the past period, the members of the reserve composition made significant contribution, and they will be engaged until all regions of crisis are stabilized.
The mobilization of new troops does not mean that we are increasing the number of reservists, but we are simply refreshing our troops.
Albania and Kosovo represent sources of terrorism in the region and there are frequent attempts for illegal trespassing and trafficking in people, weapons and drugs at the borders with Albania and Kosovo section of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border. What is needed for better securing of the northern and western Macedonian border?
The border is secured from both sides. This does not necessarily needs to be done in classic manner, if there is good cooperation between the neighboring countries. We are completely satisfied by the cooperation between our border-guards and their colleagues from Greece, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia without the Kosovo section, however we are not satisfied by the situation at the border with Kosovo and Albania. Practically, we are securing the western and northern borders by ourselves.
I do not want to get involved in the authorities of KFOR when it comes to the securing of the Kosovo side of the border, but it is a fact that there are problems. The last incident that occurred near the Goshince watchtower proves that there are obstacles for achieving more successful cooperation. It took us long time to prove that this incident occurred on our territory and we hope that this would not repeat in the future.
Recently you and Minister Buckovski paid a visit to Tirana, where you set the question about existence of terrorist training camps in Albania. It was followed by numerous denials from the Albanian side. What kind of proves you have that there are terrorist camps in Albania?
We have strong proves that on certain positions in Albania the terrorists have their training camps. By saying this I do not claim that the Albanian Government is involved, but it is a fact that their existence is hazardous for our cooperation. Still we agreed an inspection to be carried out soon, where our officers would also participate.
Last week you paid a visit to Turkey, which is our proven partner. Which are your impressions from the meeting with your Turkish counterpart?
Our cooperation with Turkey is excellent. My visit to Turkey came as result of our bilateral cooperation. The talks I realized with my counterpart were completely sincere and open.
On several occasions Turkey helped our Army when that was mostly needed.
We are in front of a great holiday. What is your note to the Macedonian citizens and to the members of the Army?
The Republic of Macedonia is in a very difficult situation caused by the Albanian terrorist gangs. Ever since the beginning the ARM was defending the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the country. We are and we will remain Army of all citizens.
On this occasion I congratulate the October 11th to all members of the Army and I urge them to maintain their professionality in their tasks.
TURKEY DELIVERS MILITARY - TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO MACEDONIAN ARMY.
Upon the agreement on technical assistance between Macedonia and Turkey, military equipment and motor vehicles were delivered to the Macedonian Army.
The equipment in amount of $ 172 thousand consists of motor vehicle "Renault Megan," equipment for testing car batteries, for car washing, package for cleaning the ammunitions, fixed pry, package for protection etc.
Chief of Staff of the Macedonian Army Metodija Stamboliski, representatives of the Turkish Embassy to Macedonia and deputy Defense Ministry Boris Zmejkovski attended the formal delivery. Zmejkovski thanking for the assistance reminded that Turkey was the first country that recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name and sent the first military attach to the country. He pointed that this military - technical equipment was only part of the assistance that Turkey will grant to Macedonia by the end of the year in amount of $ 1,7 million. Assistance in amount at $ 1,5 million will be granted next year.
On behalf of Turkish Ambassador to Macedonia Mustafa Fazle Keshmir, First Secretary in the Embassy Mustafa Sarnc stressed that the cooperation and the relations between the two countries have been enhanced in the last ten years in the field of policy, economy and culture and particularly emphasizing the military cooperation.
"Turkey firmly supports Macedonian efforts for NATO membership, and if the granted assistance contribute towards its integration in the Alliance it would be great pleasure for us," Mustafa Sarnc said.
MOC SYNOD, PM GEORGIEVSKI AND MINISTER GRUEVSKI VISIT MILLENNIUM CROSS.
Members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski and Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski visited Tuesday afternoon the construction site of Millennium Cross on Vodno.
Prime Minister Georgievski said that the Government would grant around DM 2 million in order to end the construction sooner. "I believe that this Cross will be the future landmark of Skopje and of Republic of Macedonia and will represent its cultural and Christian image," Georgievski stressed.
Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia H.H. Stefan said that although it was announced that the Millennium Cross would be finished by September 27, due to the economic and political situation the construction process has been prolonged.
"I believe that the assistance granted from the Macedonian Government will contribute the Cross to be built sooner," H.H. Stefan said.
According to one of the designers, architect Jovan Stefanovski - Zan depending on the weather conditions the Millennium Cross should be finished by Easter. The Cross will be 76 m high, with three concrete platforms on 12 pillars symbolizing the 12 apostles.
The steel construction will lie on four concrete pillars 9m high, symbolizing the four evangelists. In the middle of the Cross there will be elevator for the visitors. This unique construction will enter the Guinness book of records.
GEORGIEVSKI: ABANDONING OF THE GOVERNMENTAL SESSION BY PDP MINISTERS IS UNPRINCIPLED ACT.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that abandoning of the governmental session on Tuesday by the ministers from the PDP party was an "unprincipled act." At the session, the Government supported President Trajkovski's proposal for amnestying of the so-called NLA members.
"The international community representatives agreed during their last visit that there should not be a law for amnesty, but only a statement from the President, supported by the Government," Georgievski said.
Prime Minister Georgievski stressed that the ministers from the DPA also had certain remarks regarding the amnesty, but still they remained at the session and agreed the amnesty to be carried out according to a statement from the President.
Georgievski considers that the support from the DPA is a "good move", adding that now the entry of the Macedonian security forces in the regions of crisis could continue.
Referring to yesterday's meeting of the VMRO-DPMNE leadership, focused on the constitutional changes and procedure for their implementation, Georgievski said that the discussion was very difficult, but at the end they reached a compromise: if the Preamble and the status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church are not changed, the VMRO-DPMNE is ready to complete the entire procedure on the other amendments as soon as possible.
"The VMRO-DPMNE deputies will not step back from these two demands, and I believe that the other parties will have an understanding for our demands," Georgievski said.
Regarding the negotiations between the Republic of Macedonia and IMF, Prime Minister Georgievski said that now Macedonia is paying the price from the eight-month military crisis, which resulted with deficit of DM 700 million in the Budget.
Prime Minister Georgievski said that VMRO-DPMNE are ready to follow the tempo dictated by President Trajkovski.
The Macedonian Government supported the statement from Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on offering amnesty to members of the so-called "NLA," spokesman of the Government Gjorgji Trendafilov said.
According to Trendafilov, the Government supported the statement on amnesty upon the request of President Trajkovski, the conclusions and proposals of the governmental Coordinate Crisis Management Body and the international organizations that were involved in the process for resolving the crisis in the country.
"Those that committed the crimes in Vejce, Ljuboten, Celopek, Karpalak and Matejce will not be amnestied," Trendafilov said.
The written statement of President Trajkovski reads that amnesty cannot be applied for those who committed criminal acts or acts against humanity, torture and murder of civilians, ethnic cleansing, demolition of religious buildings and other acts for which the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia is responsible.
The intention of amnesty refers to the members of the so-called NLA who voluntarily surrendered their weapons during the NATO operation "Essential Harvest," by September 26th of this year.
"The intention is closely correlated with the ongoing process in Republic of Macedonia and with the certain obligations closely connected with the activities of the international organizations on Macedonian territory as well as with the beginning of NATO mission in the country," Trendafilov stressed.
The amnesty will enable a process for returning of the Macedonian security forces in the regions that were temporarily not under their control.
"The Ministry of Interior started the process for realizing certain activities that anticipate the return of the security forces in the regions of crisis and I believe that it will continue in cooperation with the President's Cabinet and the governmental Coordinate Body," Trendafilov said, adding that IM made the first step for returning not only the security forces, but also the displaced persons to their homes.
According to Trendafilov, that was the reason why the Government made the decision for starting comprehensive media campaign in order to inform the displaced persons on the situation in the crisis regions and on the progress of the return of security forces.
In the compliance with the amnesty President Trajkovski expects from the Government and the other authorized institutions to carry out the amnesty, which will initiate a process for reintegration of those who did not commit crime.
On behalf of the Government, spokesman Trendafilov expressed the regret that PDP ministers according to the political position of their party, "did not have enough political courage to stand behind and to support the statement of the Macedonian President."
"During the debate on this issue, when certain requests were not considered, but PDP ministers believed that they should be adopted, they left the session," Trendafilov explained.
He informed that the Government supported the activities undertaken by USA and the Alliance for handling the international terrorism, which is also confirmed with the activities of the certain ministries within the Macedonian Government.
PDP ministers in the Government left the Tuesday's session as according to Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti, PDP ministers offered Law on Amnesty and they believed that "the problem could be solved only within the Macedonian legal system by passing a law."
"The statement is not sufficient legal act for solving so important problem for Republic of Macedonia," Memeti said. "We decided to leave the governmental session, as we do not want to take the responsibility on this issue," he said.
According to Memeti, three segments are crucial regarding the implementation of Framework Agreement i.e. the resolution of crisis. "These include the Framework agreement and the constitutional amendments, surrendering the weapons by the members of 'NLA' and their reintegration in the society. These segments should be fulfilled cumulatively," he believes.
Vice President of the Macedonian Government Kemal Musliu, also from PDP, stated that DPA also supported their proposal for Law on amnesty "claiming that after the political statement, law on amnesty should be adopted."
Xhevdet Nasufi, the vice president of the Government, after the statements from PDP ministers stressed that DPA agreed with the statement of President Trajkovski. He pointed out that the statement expressed the political will in the country for amnestying 'NLA' members, so all other competent institutions should take their responsibilities and implement it. According to him, "this is a step that will contribute toward calming the overall situation in the country, as the amnesty is one of the important issues in the political process in the country." Nasufi did not rule out the option this statement to become Law on amnesty.
"DPA is firmly behind the position that it must be part of the resolution of the crisis," Nasufi stated, adding "the amnesty should take an effect starting from today." "The amnesty is delayed and procedure in the Parliament for adopting the amendments cannot go on with this dynamics so it would be politically dangerous to wait for the law. The problems in the country do not allow us to behave comfortably. We made that decision, hoping that it would be legalized very soon through the institutions in the system," Nasufi said.
Minister of Labor and Social policy Bedredin Ibraimi assessed the adoption of President's statement on amnesty as "decision of compromise."
He believes that the statement is not a legal act, "but expresses only the political will and until it becomes law, certain institutions should not undertake some activities." According to Ibraimi the peace agenda of president Tarjkovski moves along and would be realized.
Asked whether DPA deputies will return to the Assembly, Minister Ibraimi stated that he did not want to interfere in their work. "They have their requests and conditions and that is the President to submit all amendments of the Macedonian Constitution," Ibraimi said.