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The permanent representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations, Srgjan Kerim, addresses the 56th session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001. (AP Photo/Stuart Ramson)
U.S. peacekeeper, Pfc Hernandez Benjamin from Hawthorne, California patrols near the Kosovo-Macedonian border in the village of Debelde, September 25, 2001. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington U.S. soldiers are continuing to carry out increased patrolling along the Kosovo-Macedonian border to prevent illegal crossings and weapons smuggling. REUTERS/Hazir Reka
NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson passes by Turkish troops upon arriving at the German run Task Force Harvest base in in Erebino , 32 kilometers (20 miles) west of Skopje, Macedonia, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001. Robertson announced the completion of NATO's weapons collection mission and announced a new force will be formed that Germany offered to lead to protect the civilian monitors remaining in Macedonia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A German soldier holds his weapon while guarding NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson during a press conference at the German run Task Force Harvest base in in Erebino, 32 kilometers west of Skopje Tuesday Sept. 25, 2001. Robertson announced the completion of NATO's weapons collection mission and annonunced a new force will be formed that Germany offered to lead to protect the civilian monitors remaining in Macedonia . (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Canadian troops sit on a combat vehicle while waiting for the arrival of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at the German run Task Force Harvest base in in Erebino, 32 kilometers west of Skopje on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001. Lord Robertson announced the completion of NATO's weapons collection mission and annonunced a new force will be formed that Germany offered to lead to protect the civilian monitors remaining in Macedonia .(AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)
NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, left, shakes hands with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, right, during their meeting in Skopje, Macedonia, on Tuesday Sept. 25, 2001. With NATO troops nearing the end of their mission to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels, the alliance's chief on Tuesday urged government and parliament to play its part in implementing a peace plan for the troubled Balkan country. Lord Robertson is on a one-day visit to Macedonia in order to urge the Macedonian Parliament to implement the peace deal by changing the Constitution. Person at center is unidentified. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
UN Council set to support NATO in Macedonia.
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council members on Tuesday reached broad agreement on backing a small new NATO security force in Macedonia following a request from Germany, which is expected to lead the contingent.
A resolution, scheduled to be adopted on Wednesday, endorses the efforts of international organizations helping to implement a fragile Macedonian peace accord "and strongly supports in that regard the establishment of a multinational security presence."
The text falls short of a direct authorization or a United Nations mandate for the force that Germany had sought. Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic, expressed sensitivities about an outright U.N. endorsement, diplomats said.
Macedonia's precarious equilibrium among ethnic groups unraveled when a guerrilla army, including many veterans of the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, rose up in February on behalf of the disgruntled Albanian minority.
The Macedonian parliament on Monday reluctantly approved in principle 15 constitutional amendments underpinning a peace agreement with ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
Legislators now plan 10 days of deliberation on the fine print before a ratification vote, with nationalists reluctant to give Albanians a meaningful share of power and other civil rights.
The council resolution calls for the "full and timely" implementation of a peace deal and restates the 15-member body's commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia and other states in the Balkan region.
NATO last month fielded a 4,500-strong force to disarm Albanian rebels in the National Liberian Army. But NATO's "Essential Harvest" 30-day mandate expires on Wednesday when the alliance is expected to authorize a reduced force of several hundred troops to protect international peace monitors from intimidation.
Germany has volunteered to command the new force of about 1,000 troops that is to include soldiers from France and Italy and possibly some helicopters from the United States. But the German government has said the mission, code-named "Amber Fox," needed to be clearly defined and covered by a U.N. resolution.
Britain, which has the largest contingent in the current NATO force, has signaled it wants to reduce its troops in Macedonia, presumably for possible participation in a U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson, visiting Macedonia on Tuesday, said the soldiers in the "Essential Harvest" force had more than fulfilled their goal of collecting 3,300 weapons from the rebel force during their 30-day mission.
Germany heads new Nato force in Balkans.
Schrder agrees security role in Macedonia after British leave.
Special report: Macedonia
Ian Black in Brussels
Tuesday September 25, 2001
Germany is to lead a small Nato security force to guard international monitors in Macedonia: its first leading role in a military mission abroad, alliance ambassadors agreed yesterday.
Tomorrow Nato defence ministers will endorse the creation of a force of 600 to 1,000 men to replace the 4,500 British-led troops which have been taking the voluntary surrender of weapons by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, the NLA.
Operation Essential Harvest, which was designed to keep the former Yugoslav republic from sliding into civil war, is due to end tomorrow, and concern about what may happen next has been looming for weeks.
The new force is to serve for up to nine months, depending on when the Macedonian security forces, which are supposed to be reformed and retrained to reflect the country's ethnic makeup, are able to take full charge.
The new force is needed to enable about 120 monitors from the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to escort refugees back to their homes, in the hope of preventing the country being partitioned on ethnic lines.
Monitors doing a similar job in Kosovo in 1999 were not protected, and were able to do little to stop abuses by the Serbian security forces.
Britain will pull out most of its 2,000 troops assigned to Operation Essential Harvest, which began on August 26, but some specialists may remain for a transition period, diplomats said.
Lord Roberston, Nato's secretary general, is flying to the Macedonian capital Skopje today to finalise the arrangements for the force with President Boris Trajkovski and press the majority population to keep its side of last month's peace deal.
Under the agreement signed by the country's four biggest political parties, the Macedonian parliament is required to amend the constitution and pass legislation giving the ethnic Albanian minority greater rights.
Germany, France and Italy have all said they are ready to assign troops to the new force, but exact numbers and an operational plan have yet to be finalised, senior Nato sources said last night.
Britain's armed forces are overstretched and London was seeking to reduce its Macedonian burden even before Washington began building a war coalition against terrorism after the attacks on New York and Washington.
Nato and EU governments, working closely together on what both hope will be the final stage of the decade of Balkan crises, feared that the ending of Operation Essential Harvest would leave a security vacuum.
Both are anxious to avoid mission creep - getting bogged down in a third peace enforcement mission after Bosnia and Kosovo.
The NLA has turned in well over two-thirds of its declared 3,300 weapons to the Nato collectors. But few of its heavier arms have been surrendered.
News agencies reported from Brodec in northern Macedonia yesterday that the rebels were bringing in weapons by the carload throughout the day
Meanwhile the Macedonian parliament has given its tentative approval to 15 draft constitutional amendments intended to give the ethnic Albanian minority greater rights.
Diplomats fear that the Macedonian government, or at least the paramilitaries linked to the interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, may crack down on the rebels and prevent the 70,000 people displaced by the fighting returning to their homes once the disarmament mission is over.
Skopje took weeks to approve the new Nato force, insisting that it was a breach of its sovereignty. That brought a swift but barely concealed threat that EU and other western aid would be withdrawn.
The decision is an important first for Chancellor Gerhard Schrder.
Since it reinterpreted its post-Nazi constitution to allow its troops to serve abroad in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, Germany has been seeking to play a bigger role in diplomacy and peacekeeping duties in keeping with its economic weight in Europe.
"ESSENTIAL HARVEST" MISSION SURPASSED ITS GOAL.
At Tuesday's press conference held in Erebino NATO Secretary General George Robertson assessed this day as very important as the letter submitted to Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski read that Task Forces Harvest accomplished its mission and surpassed the goal.
"So far, 3,381 pieces of weapons have been collected, and the weapons collection continues although there was certain suspicion, critics and doubt regarding 'Essential Harvest' mission," Robertson stated.
Thanking to the soldiers that participated in the operation, he said, "they contributed in disarming the Albanian terrorists and brought peace to Macedonia, which was at the brink of a civil war."
Robertson also mentioned the killed British soldier Ian Collins, who "gave his life for the peace."
According to Robertson, most of the job has been done with the completion of "Essential Harvest" mission, but the Macedonian Assembly should end the political process as "that is the only way to bring Macedonia toward peace and full integration within the North Atlantic Alliance."
"The failure of the Assembly's task could undermine the success of 'Essential Harvest' and of negotiations that started in Ohrid," Robertson said, adding that NATO's Council is to set new mission upon the request from President Trajkovski, aiming to protect OSCE and EU monitors and to cooperate with the Macedonian security forces.
As he informed, the issue what would the Alliance offer is still discussed. Robertson did not have specific information on the new mission, stating that German's offer to lead the mission was certain.
Robertson underlined that all ethnic communities are responsible for the peace in the country, and delivered the message to those who want to choose the road of violence that "after the terrible events in USA, the international community will not tolerate terrorism in any country."
Robertson denied that he had meeting with the leader of so-called NLA Ali Ahmeti, and according to him NATO was not in charge with the disbanding of this paramilitary organization, but the members of "NLA" have obliged to do that.
Asked about the amnesty of the Albanian terrorists that did not commit military crimes, Robertson said that amnesty has to be granted as even President Trajkovski promised that.
Upon the arrival in Erebino, Robertson had meeting with the units of the French, Turkish and German contingent situated in the camp.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski received Tuesday NATO Secretary General George Robertson.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski also attended the meeting. Within the talks they expressed the satisfaction regarding the completion of "Harvest" mission, which according to Robertson was part of the Balkans history and stressed that Macedonia has to fulfill its part of the agreement.
The meeting with Robertson focused on defining of NATO status, the duration of its stay in the country and the tasks.
Prime Minister Georgievski expressed its readiness, the letter from the Macedonian part to be arranged as soon as possible and pointed out that the number of NATO soldiers that would secure the personal safety of the international monitors would not be large. New mission "Amber Fox" will not stay in the country very long and the normalization of the situation is expected soon.
Within the talks Robertson actualized the issue on amnesty and reducing the number of reserve composition of the security forces, and he was assured that the reserve police, which is legitimate part of the security forces will be reduced according to the needs and the standards of the security forces.
Stressing the role of the Alliance in Macedonia and the support and assistance granted to the Macedonian authorities in its efforts for surpassing the crisis the both parties stressed the joint assurance that the situation in the country would be normalized and that terrorism would end. In that respect is the Macedonian Resolution where the Government proposed specific forms that will join Macedonia in the combat against terrorism.
Macedonian Assembly Chairman Stojan Andov met Tuesday NATO Secretary General George Robertson. They shared their opinions on the ongoing peace process and parliamentary procedure.
Andov informed his guest on the progress and the successful completion of the second phase for changing the Macedonian Constitution, hoping that the parliamentary procedure will continue according to the regulations of the Constitution and working agenda of the Macedonian Assembly.
Robertson confirmed that "Essential Harvest" mission accomplished its task successfully by collecting the last third of the weapons and that commander of Task Forces Harvest General Gunnar Lange notified Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski about that.
Robertson highly assessed the efforts made by Andov for continuing the parliamentary procedure, stressing that the international community carefully follows the steps for realization of peace process. After the completion of the peace process Republic of Macedonia will serve as a model to the other countries throughout the world.
DEFENSE MINISTER BUCKOVSKI MEETS CHIEF OF BRITISH ARMY GENERAL HEADQUARTERS.
Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Chief of the Macedonian Army General Headquarters Metodi Stamboliski had a meeting Tuesday with Michael Boyes, Chief of the British Army HQ, focused on current political and security situation in Macedonia.
"Successful operation for disarming of Albanian terrorists have denied NATO opponents, who claimed that the allied troops would come to Macedonia to divide the country," Buckovski said.
The Defense Ministry welcomes the future presence of NATO in Macedonia, with reduced number of soldier and determined mandate, i.e. to assist to the Macedonian security forces to restore control in the entire country, as well as in safe returning of the displaced persons to their homes.
This would be the most difficult stage of the plan for surpassing of the crisis, Buckovski added.
He and Stamboliski extended gratitude to their guest for the good cooperation with the British contingent of Task Force Harvest, and to the Britain's assistance to Macedonia in its efforts to solve the crisis.
Boyes expressed hope that NATO soldiers, who are to remain in Macedonia, would not deal with any incidents, successfully meeting their main task - to provide security to the EU and OSCE monitoring missions.
For Buckovski and Stamboloski, the most important issues for resolving of the crisis in Macedonia are related to fast returning of expelled population to their homes and building of confidence among all citizens in the country.
In a joint message, the officials say that after successful completion of the operation Essential Harvest, KFOR troops should not loosen up the control of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, on Kosovo part, as elements that may destabilize the region are still present in this Yugoslav province.
In that respect, Buckovski said that resolving of the Kosovo status would be significant for the future of Macedonia.
MINISTER GJORCEV OPENS "AGROEXPO 2001"
Macedonian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Supply Marjan Gjorcev opened Tuesday "Agroexspo" 2001, fair manifestation that will last until September 29.
During the formal opening Minister Gjorcev said that the fair gave an opportunity for all agricultural producers in Republic of Macedonia to present their products and achievements.
"'Agroexpo 2001' gives an opportunity to find out the potential in our agriculture, to restore the past and to establish new contacts as well as to create new future for the Macedonian agriculture," Minister Gjorcev said.
Stressing that this branch did not have favorable conditions for its progress, Gjorcev said that 10% of the Gross Domestic Product belongs to the agriculture, while its participation in the export is 15%.
"This indicates that the agriculture has an important role in the overall living in Macedonia," Minister Gjorcev stressed.
Agroexpo 2001 includes the International Tobacco and Machinery Fair, International Agro Industry Fair, International Exhibition of Wine and Spirits and Cattle Exhibition. At the formal opening Minister Gjorcev presented the awards for the dgustation of tobacco products and fermented tobacco, as well as of wine and spirits.
Around 150 exhibitors from 20 countries including Macedonia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Albania, Turkey, Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Great Britain and Croatia will participate at the fair.
Sofia, September 25 (BTA) - The past few months saw a considerable rise in the number of Macedonian nationals applying for Bulgarian citizenship, Fani Videnova, chief of Bulgarian Citizenship and Adoption directorate with the Bulgarian Justice Ministry, told BTA.
Since the beginning of the year 765 Macedonian nationals have filed applications for Bulgarian citizenship, of which 75 were approved, up from last year's 113 and 111, respectively, said Videnova.
The Macedonian nationals state their Bulgarian origin as the main reason why they want Bulgarian citizenship.
The applicants are from all parts of the Republic of Macedonia and are above 18 years of age. Some of them study in Bulgarian universities, said Videnova.
No applications have been filed by ethnic Albanians. According to Videnova, they have no reason to apply because they are not of Bulgarian origin.
MACEDONIA-BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION.
Skopje, September 25 (BTA) - A two-day visit of a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation to Skopje ended Tuesday with a meeting with Macedonian Deputy Defence Minister Boris Zmejkovski .
The Bulgarian delegation included representatives of all parliamentary represented parties and was led by foreign policy, defence and security parliamentary committee chairman Stanimir Ilchev.
Earlier in the day the delegation met with members of the foreign policy committee with the Macedonian parliament and discussed ways to promote parliamentary cooperation.
The Bulgarian guests were received by Macedonian Parliament Chairman Stoyan Andov, as well.
The delegation had talks with Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva Monday evening.
During the meetings the two sides voiced their support for finding a political solution to the crisis in Macedonia, including for the measures envisaged in President Boris Trajkovski's plan. They stressed the Macedonian parliament's role in ratifying the framework political agreement and the amendments to the Constitution which it includes.
The Bulgarian politicians exchanged with their hosts views on the situation in the Balkans and stressed this country's consistent support for Macedonia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The politicians of the two countries condemned terrorism. The hosts made it clear they accept the Bulgarian parliamentarians' stand that Macedonia's idea to set up a regional anti-terrorist pact should become part of the common European and global anti-terrorism effort.
During the meetings the two sides discussed bilateral cooperation stressing the priority importance of contacts in the economy and infrastructure, particularly Corridor VIII projercts and cooperation along the Bulgarian-Macedonian border.
Sofia, September 24 (BTA) - A total of 800 Macedonians have applied for Bulgarian nationality so far this year, the Bulgarian Justice Ministry Press Centre said Monday. Seventy-five applications have been granted, and the rest are subject to further procedures.
In its Monday issue the Macedonian daily "Dnevnik" writes about a growing interest of Macedonians in purchasing real estate in Bulgaria. "Dnevnik" quotes unnamed Bulgarian sources as saying that a "very large number" of Macedonians have been applying for Bulgarian nationality, and that the related procedure takes about three months.
Only sporadic cases have been reported of Macedonians interested in purchasing flats in Bulgaria; occasional purchases have been made on the seacoast and in Rousse (on the Danube), Strahil Ivanov of Bulgaria's National Real Estate Association told BTA over the telephone.
Macedonian nationals often buy real estate in Bulgaria in order to rent it out, Ivanov said. The political and economic stability in this country ensures sustainable incomes for such entrepreneurs, he added.
Bulgaria opens air space to U.S. warplanes.
SOFIA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Bulgaria said on Tuesday it would open its air space to American planes as the United States geared up for a military response to September 11 attacks in which thousands were feared to have died.
Foreign Minister Solomon Passi told reporters after a meeting of the Balkan state's Security Council of top officials that a request from Washington -- which mentioned only transport planes and helicopters but did not ask for landing rights -- would be formally granted on Wednesday.
The United States is preparing to punish those it deems responsible for flying hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Nearly 7,000 poeple have been reported dead or missing from the attacks.
The United States and its allies have fingered Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, currently thought to be living in Afghanistan, as the suspected mastermind of the attacks.
Bulgaria, which borders the Black Sea, Romania, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, NATO's most eastern member, is hoping to receive an invitation to join NATO at the alliance's summit planned for November 2002 in Prague.
Cyprus In Billion Dollar Satellite Consortium.
Tuesday September 25, 2001
Cyprus signed a memorandum of agreement last week with Greece and Bulgaria to launch a one-billion-dollar communications satellite in time for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The first satellite will be built by Boeing Satellite Systems and will be launched from French Guiana in late 2002. It will cover 28 countries in Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. The Hellas Sat Consortium comprises Cypriot Avacom Net (43.40 percent), Greece's OTE Telecom (25 percent), Cyprus Development Bank, Hellenic Aerospace Industry and Telesat Canada BCE Inc. the remainder.
"We're certain this venture will launch our country into the modern age of high-tech communications from which we can't afford to be left behind," Communications Minister Averof Neophytou said after signing the deal in Nicosia together with Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Zdravko Velichkov and his Greek counterpart Alekos Voulgaris.
"We will quickly set in motion procedures to attract satellite communications companies to exploit this tremendous opportunity," said Voulgaris, in a sign that that project managers are seeking to cover a least some of the cost by renting out the satellite's 37 frequencies to international broadcasters.
Velichkov for his part said the "memorandum opens the road to an important program that will strengthen ties between our respective countries." The Vatican is a potential partner in the satellite project, but is still hesitant and reported to be adopting a "wait and see" attitude until it appraises the deal's benefits.
"We need time to examine this, especially the commercial aspects," Vatican representative Pier Vincenzo Giudici, told Agence France-Presse, (AFP).
Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria will each receive 10 frequencies, while the remaining seven are being reserved for the Vatican. Each frequency will be able to carry four digital TV broadcasts, mobile telephone and Internet connections.
Neophytou said although the partners hope the Vatican will take part in the project, its seven frequencies will not be left idle if the Holy See finally opts out. Local and foreign private investors are supporting the venture, the second satellite deal in less than a month which Cyprus has signed.
On August 23, Cyprus and Greece signed an agreement to launch two satellites that will provide communications and broadcast services to a potential audience of 400 million people in 28 countries.
The first of the two satellites, which will be operated by the Cyprus-based Hellas Sat Consortium, is expected to be launched by August 2002.