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A U.S. Air Force Hunter UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) spy plane takes off at the Petrovac airport near Skopje, September 11, 2001. The United States on Monday responded cautiously to reports European Union foreign ministers have agreed on the need to keep a NATO-led security force in Macedonia once the alliance ends a mission to collect ethnic Albanian rebels' weapons. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
Christina Allen (L) and Jessica Rudolfo, U.S. soldiers from the 15th Aviation Battalion, part of NATO's Task Force Harvest (TFH), prepare a Hunter UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) spy plane for take-off at the Petrovac airport near Skopje, September 11, 2001. The United States on Monday responded cautiously to reports that European Union foreign ministers have agreed on the need to keep a NATO-led security force in Macedonia once the alliance ends a mission to collect ethnic Albanian rebels' weapons. REUTERS/Oleg Popov REUTERS
NATO Planes Land in Graf Ignatievo. Military planes from different countries land at Graf Ignatievo airport. From today until September 21, the biggest NATO aviation drill "Cooperative Key '2001" is to take place there under the "Partnership for Peace" program. Nearly 73 foreign and Bulgarian fighters and transport planes take part in the manoeuvres. Photo BTA
Canadian Defense Minister Arthur Eggleton (L) reviews a Bulgarian army guard of honor during an official welcoming ceremony in the center of Sofia, September 11, 2001. Eggleton arrived for a two-day official visit to Bulgaria. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
THERE ARE NO PARAMILITARY STRUCTURES IN INTERIOR AND FOREIGN MINISTRIES.
Macedonian Government obliged the Foreign Ministry to realize the governmental decision on increasing the number of OSCE monitors in Republic of Macedonia, Government's spokesman Antonio Milososki briefed after Tuesday's session.
Regarding the eventual prolonging of NATO mandate in the country after the completion of "Essential Harvest" operation, Milososki said, "there were no reasons for continuing the conflicts, so there is no need for NATO forces to stay in Republic of Macedonia."
Milososki also informed that one policeman was injured in the convoy heading toward Ratae village, when sniper from Semsevo hit him. According to Milososki, representatives from NATO and media were also in the convoy.
The accusations from certain media, diplomats and officials from the international organizations on alleged existence of some paramilitary structures in the Interior and Foreign Ministry allegedly organized by the state were also discussed on Tuesday's session of the Government.
"Such possibility was most strongly denied and was confirmed that all members of the Macedonian security forces are under control of the competent ministries and President of Republic of Macedonia Boris Trajkovski and there are no members of the Macedonian police or Army without police and military identity cards. The unit for special interventions, that exists 40 years within the Interior Ministry, during the crisis was equipped and enhanced with new persons, members of the special units and distinguished members of the police as well as new members or reservists in the last six months," Milososki said.
The spokesman of the Government said it was a unit for special tasks, with primary role to reduce the risk of urban terrorism and to protect the citizens and their safety.
Milososki informed that the Chief of Prilep police was discharged because of some confirmed omissions in performing his duties.
At the session, vice president of the Government Xhevdet Nasufi requested information from Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski on Sunday's operation in Velesta village, where 15 prostitutes, foreign citizens and six pimps, residents of the village were taken into custody.
Milososki explained that the operation was undertaken in coordination with the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) dealing with fight against organized human trafficking. Investigation Judge from Albanian nationality and deputy of Public Prosecutor also participated in the operation.
Regarding the concession for second mobile telephony operator, where "Link Telecom," "Mint," "OTE" companies are in competition, Milososki informed that the deadline for bank guarantee was prolonged until Friday afternoon as the company requested that from Minister for Transport and Communications Ljupco Balkoski.
According to Milososki, it was noted at Tuesday's session that the commercial agreements would not begin until "Link Telecom" has submitted bank guarantee in amount of 10% from the means that the company would pay for the concession.
The Government reviewed and adopted the Action Plan developed by the Coordination Body for engagement of funds that will be provided from the European Union for covering of the damages caused in the military actions in the country, the Information on the ongoing activities for payroll in the transition period and transformation of the Payroll Bureau as well as the Information on cooperation between "Canadian Posts" and the public enterprise "Macedonian Posts."
"The information was adopted and the Ministry of Transport and Communications was obliged to realize the signed Memorandum with Canadian Posts i.e. to work on the privatization of Macedonian Posts," Milososki said.
In Macedonia's mountains, rebels await Skopje's next move.
RADUSA, Macedonia, Sept 11 (AFP) -
The Russian-built T-55 tank sputtered to life, finally, to a huge whoop from the crowd gathered on the dusty, sun-baked village square. NATO had come to their rescue again.
But the euphoria lasted for barely 10 seconds, as the huge grey-green monster, jump-started by a NATO armoured personnel carrier (APC) with a tow rope, kept going for about 20 metres (yards) before petering out again into silence.
"We are planning to surrender it to NATO," local National Liberation Army (NLA) Commander Msusi told AFP. "But we have had trouble starting it, and we asked them to help us find out what the problem is."
Sipping Turkish coffee on the vine-shaded terrace of a nearby delapidated villa, the 45-year-old bearded military chief explained how his men were committed to peace, even while being ready for war again if necessary.
"Giving up arms is linked with the political process," he says, referring to the debate resuming this week in Skopje's parliament on a Western-backed peace plan to end a seven-month insurgency.
"But if there is no political solution there will be more war," he warned starkly. "There are so many weapons in the world that some of them will fall into the hands of the Albanian fighters."
Radusa, a small mountain village near the Kosovo border northwest of Skopje, was the venue for a day of arms collecting last Friday when Msusi says his men gave in about 200 weapons to NATO's Operation Essential Harvest.
The British-led operation is collecting some 3,300 arms in a 30-day process running in parallel with the parliamentary debate, which is supposed to amend the fragile country's constitution to strengthen ethnic Albanians' rights.
But in a decision typical of the fragile basis of the August 13 peace deal, Commander Msusi decided only to surrender "about half" his arms last week, keeping the rest until after the next session in Skopje's national assembly.
"We are waiting for the government to do its part before we hand in the rest of the arms," he said in an interview.
"But if the Macedonian government doesn't back this, there will be chaos."
The tank on Radusa's main square is one of two seized by the NLA from the Macedonian army during its half a year of fighting, and which the rebels agreed to surrender, along with two APCs and the 3,300 arms.
In fact the other T-55, and one of the APCs, were handed over to NATO last Friday. The tank, which NATO decided it could not safely move, was blown up in a controlled explosion on a nearby hillside.
Disposing of the second tank is proving a little more complicated. "They are going to turn it in, but there were some concerns about its location," said NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson, explaining why Alliance troops were helping rebels to jump-start the tank.
The vehicle is likely to be handed in in the last phase of NATO arms collection, following the next parliamentary session, he said.
Meanwhile the villagers of Radusa, set in a steep valley between scrub-covered mountainsides, are clearly looking forward to the end of the misery of the conflict which erupted in February.
Macedonian police checkpoints at the bottom of the valley stop all comers, including foreign journalists, warning them that Radusa is a dangerous place.
"When we try to go through the checkpoints anything can happen. They can shoot, it is terrible," said Mustapha Semon, 47, who has three sons and a daughter. "We feel trapped in this valley," he said.
"For months now we have had no water, no electricity," added Dehar Agushi, 37, adding that the local school has been destroyed by bombardments. "My children should have started school today. I hope this ends soon."
Back on the main square, NATO is still working on the T-55, pouring huge jerrycans of oil into its bowels, while an NLA fighter peaks out of a hatch on top, emblazoned with the rebels' red double-headed eagle flag.
As the work continues in the Balkan heat, Commander Msusi meanwhile voices the rebels' desire to see NATO troops remain in Macedonia way beyond the end of the month.
"If NATO does not stay here for at least five years, their mission will be a failure," he said.
A NATO Checks Macedonia Arms.
the Washington Post
By Brian Murphy
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001; 3:28 p.m. EDT
SKOPJE, Macedonia About a third of the rifles and other field weapons so far surrendered by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia do not work and may not have been used in recent fighting, military sources said Tuesday.
Such a tally would raise questions about the rebels' commitment to disarm and bolster objections from Macedonians who claim the peace accord will fail to cripple the insurgents' ability to battle.
NATO spokesman Barry Johnson confirmed some of the rebel weapons were "non-operational." But he set the figure lower: about 5 percent beyond ordinary repair and between 15 percent and 20 percent needing some work to return to service.
The military sources from a NATO nation involved in the weapons collection said as many as 35 percent to 40 percent of the semi-automatic rifles, machines guns and smaller arms were "out of operation."
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that many of the out-of-service weapons were missing parts and had other serious problems. It appeared many were not used since February, when ethnic Albanian rebels began their uprising for greater rights, according to the sources.
The Western-brokered peace plan calls for rebel disarmament in exchange for greater political and language rights for ethnic Albanians, who comprise about a third of the nation's 2 million people.
The extent of the rebels' arsenal and its firepower is unclear.
Under the peace pact, NATO agreed to collect 3,300 weapons by late September. Macedonian officials, however, have claimed the rebels could have up to 60,000 weapons, including guns, mortars and other rockets.
The Balkans always a crossroads for arms became flooded with weapons in 1997 when Albanian military bases and police stations were looted in nationwide chaos after the collapse of phony investment schemes.
NATO is near the midway point in its weapons collection mission, which is scheduled to resume Wednesday. Most of the arms surrendered so far have been assault rifles, such as AK-47s, and light machine guns, NATO said.
But NATO officials have warned that Macedonian paramilitary gangs could increase worries by ethnic Albanian rebels and hamper the success of the weapons collection.
In Macedonia's parliament, meanwhile, another possible threat to the peace process involved debate over the fate of Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti, an ethnic Albanian.
His removal has been demanded by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, who has accused Memeti of failing to arrange the extradition from Germany of an ethnic Albanian suspect in a January attack on a police station that killed one officer.
Memeti's party has threatened to leave the government and parliament if he is removed, which could disrupt the peace process.
NATO urges Skopje to clamp down on paramilitaries.
SKOPJE, Sept 11 (AFP) -
NATO has asked the Macedonian government to help to restrain paramilitaries it says are disrupting the collection of arms from ethnic Albanian rebels, a spokesman said Tuesday.
In response, Skopje's interior ministry denied that paramilitaries were operating in the area specified by NATO, and blasted what it said was a "distorted presentation" of its reserve units as paramilitaries.
The Macedonian authorities have repeatedly denied any links to paramilitaries, who have attacked ethnic Albanians during a seven-month insurgency in the fragile Balkan state.
In a letter, NATO head George Robertson's personal representative Peter Feith said Skopje should help "ensure that no irregular forces or armed groups operate" around Ratae, near the flashpoint northwestern town of Tetovo.
NATO spokesman Mark Laity expressed concern that "some paramilitary formations in the Ratae area have been inhibiting the effectiveness of weapons collection."
The letter, which was sent to deputy premier Ilija Filipovski, has been copied to the interior and defence ministries, but Feith has not yet received a formal reply, he said.
Describing it as a "private communication," Laity said it was "unfortunate that it was leaked because it gives the impression of problems," adding that: "There is clearly an issue here, but it can resolved in a cooperative manner."
But the Macedonian interior ministry denied any problem in the Ratae area or in nearby villages. "We most energetically reject this distorted presentation of our reserve units as a para-police or a paramilitary force," it said.
"There is no presence of paramilitary groups either in the village of Ratae, or in the wider region the villages of Zelino, Zilce, Jegunovce," it said in a statement.
"The only body securing the peace in that region, which is protecting a mixed Macedonian and Albanian population, are the special-purpose reserve units from the ministry of internal affairs," it added.
The forces in question "have excellent relations with the population of the region, as well as with the British contingent of the NATO forces."
NATO forces have so far collected over 1,800 arms from rebels, out of a target figure of 3,300, in a 30-day operation which is running in parallel with the political process of changing the constitution to strengthen Albanian rights.
No Sympathy for the Devil.
Most Macedonians express their support for the U.S. in the wake of the terror attacks.
BY ANDREW STROEHLEIN/Skopje
Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2001
Early on the morning of 11 September, I thought that my next day's travel to Skopje, Macedonia was somewhat risky. After all, there had been a smouldering civil war there for months and the current ceasefire was shaky at best. But, of course, 11 September is the day the entire world became a war zone, so flying to this tiny battlefield in the Balkans seems no different than staying in London as far as personal security is concerned.
I rather wonder why I'm going, to be honest. I mean, who cares about Macedonia now? I say that not because I am insensitive to the very real suffering of victims and their families in Macedonia and not because the scale of the killing in the U.S. eclipses many times over everything that has happened in Macedonia during the past years. I grew up in New Jersey and looked at the twin towers every day of my life for nearly two decades and say this because the world will never be the same again. With civillians considered military targets, it's only a matter of time before free societies become more militarized.
Skopje is bustling with people rushing to and from work and markets and homes. Apart from the occasional olive-drab KFOR or NATO vehicle, there's nothing here to suggest there's a war on a few miles up the road. A candlelight vigil at the U.S. embassy reminds us that the world's focus is completely elsewhere at the moment.
A couple hundred people wait in the queue to sign the condolence book in front of the metal detector within the embassy guardhouse. The embassy behind the 3.5-m-high steel wall covered in spikes, barbed wire and security cameras is dark. The flag is at half mast. Candles line the cement barrier in front of the embassy, the wax dripping in thin, black lines down the barriers to the street. The candles are numerous, and here and there a flame has jumped to a bunch of flowers, quickly burning them to ash. "This started as an Albanian gig," a colleague here tells me, "but then some people showed up from the pro-Macedonian and generally nationalistic rally earlier in the city center."
The potential for conflict at the scene was certainly there: many ethnic Albanians unrealistically see NATO and the U.S. in particular as their saviour; many ethnic Macedonians equally unrealistically see NATO and the U.S. as the pro-Albanian devil. But when a rally leader starts shouting "God bless America," much of the potential for hostility disapates.
A lone woman holding a Bible above her head later starts shouting "Hallelujah, Jesus Christ, America finally got what was coming to it! Macedonia for the Macedonians!" A few people cheer in agreement, but others go up to her to argue and calm her down. She soon goes quiet. There were certainly mixed feelings among the ethnic Macedonians. When I ask one boy why he is here, he tells me, "We are with the Amrericans, because they have terrorists, and we have terrorists here in Macedonia. We are together today." Somewhat simplistic perhaps, as what's happening here is more of a traditional, if guerilla, war: each side at least knows who and where the enemy is.
At an OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) meeting on the media, one journalist in attendance reveals a common sentiment here: "Now, they have terrorists, too. But maybe others are calling them 'rebels' or 'freedom fighters' just like some call our terrorists here." There follows a discussion of the media's use of the word "rebel" as opposed to the word "terrorist" both here for the past few months and in the U.S. now. Freimut Duve, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, says that the word "rebel" is a very antiquated word. "But there's a problem with the word 'terrorist,' too," he says, "because every state now calls its enemies 'terrorists.'"
I visit Saso Ordanoski, the Editor-in-Chief of the Macedonian magazine Forum. Like everyone in this country and around the world, he is glued to CNN. His take on recent events is well-considered: "Sure, you'll find people here who will say, 'This will teach the Americans they have too many deals with the devil and that they can be touched just like everyone else.' But I think the general attitude here is just shock. People see this not as an American tragedy but as a human tragedy. The scale and scope are just so overwhelming."
Solomon Pasi and Robertson would tell each other eventual defects concerning NATO.
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said after his meeting with the General Secretary of NATO George Robertson that they agreed upon telling each other eventual defects that Bulgaria would reveal in her way towards NATO in order to avoid eventual disappointment of Sofia at the Prague meeting next year, when the expansion of NATO and the candidature of Bulgaria would be discussed. Solomon Pasi also held a number of unofficial meetings in the NATO headquarters that revealed the great interest there in the forthcoming visit of Premier Simeon Koburg-Gotha due in Wednesday and Thursday. Bulgarian Premier is expected to acquaint his NATO partners with his programs. During his meetings, Solomon Pasi has explained his visions about the needs for bigger investments on the Balkans.
Petar Stoyanov sent a telegram to George Bush.
Immediately after the tragedy in New York and Washington, Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov sent a telegram to his counterpart the American President George Bush. Here follows the text: "Your Excellency, I am shocked by todays terrorist attacks on key administrative and civil object in the USA. That what happened was a disgusting and cynical act threatening the foundations of human civilization. I condemn most decisively this extremely arrogant aggression against the lives of thousands innocent people and against the social order, in face of which no country could remain indifferent. Terrorism could not provide solution of any one of the world problems of our time. In this dramatic moment, all the governments and nations must stand up against the terrorist threat, irrespective of where it comes from. Dear Mr. President, pleace accept the most sincere concolences on behalf of Bulgarian nation for the immense tragedy that plagued American nation. I bow my head down to the memory of the thousands innocent victims and associate myself with the grief of their near and dear."