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Corporal Richard Clydesdale from the Royal Engineers, 49th Field Squadron, searches for mines during a joint exercise with a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter, at the NATO base near Petrovac airport, some 10 km south of the capital Skopje, September 2, 2001. Macedonia's peace process was at a standstill on Sunday after the speaker of parliament refused to restart a debate on planned political reforms seen by the West as vital to averting all-out war. REUTERS/Oleg Popov


British soldiers from the Royal Engineers, 49th Field Squadron abseil from a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter during a joint exercise at the NATO base near Petrovac airport, some 10 kms south of the capital Skopje, September 2, 2001. Macedonia's peace process was at a standstill on Sunday after the speaker of parliament refused to restart a debate on planned political reforms seen by the West as vital to averting all-out war. REUTERS/Oleg Popov


Albanian Deputy Commander of the first battalion of the 112 brigade, Commander Matoshi, speaks during an interview at the village of Dobroshe outside of the town of Tetovo, September 2, 2001. Macedonia's peace process was at a standstill on Sunday after the speaker of parliament refused to restart a debate on planned political reforms seen by the West as vital to averting all-out war. REUTERS/Peter Andrews


Corporal Richard Clydesdale(front) and sapper Dave Welland from the Royal Engineers search for mines during a joint exercise with a U.S. 'Blackhawk' helicopter at a NATO base near Petrovac airport, September 2, 2001. Macedonia's peace process was at a standstill on Sunday after the speaker of parliament refused to restart a debate on planned political reforms seen by the West as vital to averting all-out war. (Oleg Popov/Reuters)


An Albanian UCK guerrilla stands guard at the village of Dobroshe outside of the town of Tetovo September 2, 2001. Macedonia's peace process was at a standstill after the speaker of parliament refused to restart a debate on planned political reforms seen by the West as vital to averting all-out war. (Peter Andrews/Reuters

Balkan pipeline under way soon.


SOFIA (AFP) - The construction of an oil pipeline across the Balkans from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Vlore on Albania's Adriatic coast should begin by the end of the year, the US-led consortium in charge of the operation said yesterday.

The 890-kilometer (550-mile) pipeline, which will cross the troubled republic of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), will take four years to build, cost 1.13 billion dollars (1.24 billion euros) and have a daily capacity of 750,000 barrels of crude oil, said Ted Ferguson of the Balkan pipeline consortium (AMBO). "I believe the decision will be made by the end of the year and real work to develop the project will begin at the end of the year," he said.

Speaking before a meeting with Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Kostadin Pascalev, Ferguson said the pipeline was needed as an alternative to the Bosphorus sea route through Turkey to bring oil from Central Asia to western markets via the Black Sea.

The Bosphorus shipping route would be insufficient to transport growing oil supplies of oil coming from the Caspian Sea region, he said, pointing out that a pipeline linking Kazakhstan to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossisk was due to begin pumping in September.

Bulgaria has said it will also back plans for a pipeline linking Burgas to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea. The 700-million-dollar pipeline would stretch 320 kilometers and transport 40 million tons of oil annually.

But Ferguson said AMBO's route was a better choice. "We believe that the port of Vlore is more attractive than the ports in the Aegean Sea for exports because it's deeper water (and) closer to the areas and ports where the oil will be sold," he said. Oil arriving in Vlore would be transported via Rotterdam to the United States, he said.

Macedonia rearms in the Nato peace.


Jon Swain Tetovo and Tom Walker
September 2 2001

THE Macedonian army is taking advantage of Nato's 30-day mission to disarm Albanian rebels by gearing up for all-out war in the autumn, western intelligence sources have warned.

Nato observation teams watched four cargo plane-loads of military hardware and spares arriving in secret flights at Petrovac airport near the capital, Skopje, last week. The sources said the four flights were all from eastern Europe. The shipments followed the arrival several days earlier of a giant Antonov transport plane from Ukraine, carrying what the sources believed were sophisticated Russian-made SA-13 anti-aircraft missile systems. It coincided with signs that the Macedonian interior ministry was preparing special police units and paramilitaries for a new offensive against territory the Albanians believed they had "liberated" from Slav authority.

In a further setback to the tortuous peace process, the Macedonian parliament yesterday voted to delay a debate on ratifying a Nato-backed peace plan until Albanian guerrillas stopped "terrorising" civilians. Analysts said there was little the British-led Nato force could do to stop the military deliveries. The Macedonian army's only obligation during Operation Essential Harvest is to stay out of agreed buffer zones separating it from the Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army. Nato officers nevertheless confirmed that overflights by Sukhoi SU-25 "Frogfoot" bombers by the Macedonians in the north of the country had contravened the government's agreement with the alliance.

Intelligence experts fear the Macedonians are trying to purchase a new "retrofit" version of the Frogfoot, complete with Israeli avionics fitted in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This could permit pin-point accuracy in raids. "The Macedonians are training hard, and the flights cost thousands of dollars an hour," said Tim Ripley, an analyst with Jane's Defence publications, who is observing events.
He believes another round of fighting once Nato departs will lead only to "bloody stalemate" - with the Macedonians overestimating their own military capabilities and the rebels far better armed than Nato is prepared to admit publicly.

The man behind the hardline stance is Ljube Boskovski, the interior minister, who believes that only a full-blown onslaught will tame the rebels. Despite his assurance to Lord Robertson, the Nato secretary-general, that no illegal paramilitary groups will be allowed to operate in Macedonia, there was worrying evidence this weekend that such groups are proliferating. Kidnappings in the north-western town of Tetovo, which has an Albanian majority, suggest that sinister elements are also at work.

Two men wearing ski-masks and brandishing assault rifles burst into a supermarket in the town on Wednesday, grabbing Hasan Emini, 42, an Albanian storekeeper. He is still missing, to the anguish of his wife Sanushe and their three children. Security sources believe he is the prisoner of a ruthless paramilitary snatch squad, led by a former forestry policeman from the nearby village of Neproshtina. When the rebels attacked the village last month, they found a diary belonging to the policeman with instructions from the interior ministry that the village should be "cleansed" of Albanians.

Sanushe has been called twice by her husband's captors since the kidnapping. First she was told she would not see him alive again unless the Albanian rebels around Tetovo released a Macedonian Slav missing since July. The second time, Emini came on the line, begging his wife for something to be done. Yet the Eminis have no connections with the rebels, and are losing hope. "I cannot conceive that life will be worth living without him," said Sanushe. Rebel commanders said last week they had released all prisoners, while the authorities insist many more Slavs are missing. Western diplomats fear the issue could prove the spark for renewed conflict.

"We're praying the Macedonians will implement the agreement, but it's regrettable what they're saying about this so-called cleansing," said one of the rebels' political representatives. "We are demilitarising while the Macedonians are legalising their paramilitaries." Ripley warned that a British training programme for the Macedonian army's special anti-terrorist forces could backfire. "The theory is that they're going to be taught good practice, when in fact they just want to know how to kill Albanians better," he said. "How are Jack Straw's spin doctors going to cope?"

Bulgarian Air Force starts upgrading MiGs.


Four to six MiG-29s of the Bulgarian Air Force will be upgraded - presently only three of the 21 MiGs Bulgaria has are operative. The upgrade was part of the implementation of Plan 2004 for reforming the Bulgarian Army with a view to the country's future entry into NATO.

Macedonians Hunt for Identity.


By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - The protesters gathered to denounce NATO. But the commotion suddenly paused as a newly popular song poured from the loudspeakers. Many people joined in the chorus.

``You are Macedonia!'' they sang along. ``We will not allow the evil hand to grab you.''

But the moment of patriotic harmony dissipated as the speakers began to crackle and whine with feedback. It's this way across Macedonia: fumbling for expressions of unity in response to the profound solidarity of ethnic Albanians demanding greater rights.

The ethnic Albanian uprising and NATO-supervised peace effort has forced Macedonians to grope for a national identity in a country whose language, heroes and even ethnic roots are the subjects of deep disputes with neighbors.

What has surfaced is a raw and angry brand of nationalism infused with the elements that have fed many Balkan conflicts: a feeling of being righteous victims under threat from all sides.

``We must break out of this way of thinking,'' said Stevo Pendarovski, an adviser to President Boris Trajkovski. ``Otherwise we go backward, not forward.''

For the moment, such voices of moderation appear overwhelmed.

Many Macedonians shudder at the peace deal to end the six-month ethnic Albanian rebellion. They perceive dark implications for the proposed constitutional changes giving greater language and political rights to ethnic Albanians, who comprise about a third of the nation's 2 million people. They fear it's a death sentence for a spiritual and political homeland for Macedonians.

``I am a Macedonian with deep roots, with long traditions and customs and identity,'' proclaimed parliament member Gjorgji Kotezski during the opening of debate Friday on whether to move ahead with the peace plan. ``I will never give that up. Macedonians are now entering into an era when their country could disappear.''

That debate was suspended Saturday, reflecting hardline opposition to what nationalists say are concessions to ethnic Albanians gained at the point of a gun. The political impasse finally broke Sunday with an announcement that debate would resume Monday.

But the rally cries for the country are undercut by a lingering insecurity about what it means to be Macedonian.

Over the past century, the territory around Skopje has been snared in nearly every major Balkan power-play. Macedonian eventually became a backwater republic of Yugoslavia and kept under the shadow of the dominant Serbs. A decade of independence - which will be marked Sept. 8 - has left Macedonia on the defensive against more powerful neighbors.

To the east, Bulgaria considers the Macedonian language a Bulgarian dialect and stakes claim to heroes revered in Macedonia, including the guerrilla leader Gotse Delchev who was killed fighting the Muslim Ottomans in 1903. Some irredentists still refer to Macedonia as ``western Bulgaria.''

Greece, to the south, imposed a crippling economic embargo until 1995 in opposition to the name Macedonia, which Greeks claim is part of their Hellenic heritage as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. Relations have sharply improved, but the name issue remains unresolved.

Some Balkan scholars have even argued there is no distinct Macedonian ethnicity at all.

``Garbage,'' cried Igor Svetanovska, waving a flag bearing Alexander the Great's star symbol. ``We are the descendants of Alexander. We are a great people.''

State television often displays the image of Alexander. Radio programs pump out a stream of patriot songs.

The term ``Slav'' - once widely used to differentiate from ethnic Albanian countrymen - is now considered an insult suggesting ethnic links to Serbs and others.

``I don't want to be named Slav Macedonian,'' parliament deputy Filip Petrovski told the chamber. ``I am Macedonian. The deepest humiliation is when Westerners and Albanians call me Slav.''

Others have turned to the Christian Orthodox church as a common bond against the Muslim ethnic Albanians.

``Pray for our Christian nation. The church is our strength,'' shouted a woman waving a bible outside parliament. She gave only her first name, Svetlaka, and her intolerant dream: rid Macedonia of all mosques.

``There a tendency to define ourselves by whom we oppose,'' said Mirjana Nagcevska, a researcher at the Institute of Social and Political Research in Skopje. ``This is not national identity. It's just a dangerous illusion.''

But still the anger pours out. NATO is widely perceived by Macedonians as allies of the ethnic Albanians - first in Kosovo and now in Macedonia. The rebels are resented for the apparent success of their uprising. Paramilitary groups - with names such as Tigers and Lions - are openly recruiting and are lauded in graffiti

``Lions roar. Save the country,'' said a message on a Skopje apartment building.

``I am not a psychologist,'' said Hansjorg Eiff, the NATO ambassador to Macedonia. ``But this war in Kosovo has created a trauma here and this, I must say, pathological state of affairs.''

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