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Ido Pater, a Dutch army NATO soldier checks an AK-47 machine-gun amid weapons collected from Albanian guerrilla fighters, at the Krivolak military base, September 3, 2001. James Pardew, the U.S. envoy to Macedonia, said on Monday that NATO troops collecting guerrilla weapons may need to stay on to protect Western civilians monitoring implementation of a fragile peace accord. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A Greek NATO soldier stands guard over weapons collected from ethnic-Albanian guerrillas at the Krivolak military base, September 3, 2001. James Pardew, the U.S. envoy to Macedonia, said on Monday that NATO troops collecting guerrilla weapons may need to stay on to protect Western civilians monitoring implementation of a fragile peace accord. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A Greek NATO soldier stands guard over weapons collected from ethnic-Alabanian guerrilla fighters at the Krivolak military base, September 3, 2001. James Pardew, the U.S. envoy to Macedonia, said on Monday that NATO troops collecting guerrilla weapons may need to stay on to protect Western civilians monitoring implementation of a fragile peace accord. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
British Defense secretary Geoff Hoon aims through the scope of a 338 sniper's rifle at the British army base of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment stationed outside of Skopje, September 3, 2001. A NATO spokesman denied the alliance was facing the prospect of a tougher security mandate in Macedonia, but he said ways to protect hundreds of Western civilians expected to monitor compliance with the precarious peace accord were under study. REUTERS/Peter Andrews
A Dutch army NATO soldier checks an AK-47 machine-gun, amid a selection of weapons collected from Albanian guerrilla fighters, at the Krivolak military base September 3, 2001. James Pardew, the U.S. envoy to Macedonia, said on September 3, 2001 that NATO troops collecting guerrilla weapons may need to stay on to protect Western civilians monitoring implementation of a fragile peace accord. (Oleg Popov/Reuters)
Speaker of the Parliament Stojan Andov holds his forehead as he waits for Macedonian MP's to arrive for a Parliament session in Skopje September 3, 2001. Macedonia's parliament resumed debating a peace plan Western powers see as vital to averting civil war in the former Yugoslav republic. (Peter Andrews/Reuters)
NATO SOLDIERS DEMAND REMOVAL OF POLICE POST IN TETOVO.
Skopje, September 3 (MIA) Two NATO helicopters from the British contingent landed near the City Stadium in Tetovo and part of the crew headed toward the post of the Macedonian security forces. They demanded from the present policemen to leave and to remove the post, to stop maltreating and detaining the Albanians, telling lies and fabrications, Monday edition of "Utrinski Vesnik" reads.
The daily states that the Macedonian defenders vigorously opposed them. The British soldiers continued to threaten, requesting the names of the policemen. According to the paper, such reaction of NATO representatives surprised not only the policemen but also some of the citizens who were passing by.
Constitutional Changes Under Pressure of Military Aggression.
by Ljubco Georgievski,
Prime Minister of Macedonia
Excerpts from the Statement to Parliament
September 3, 2001
Changes to the Constitution
I have never thought the Macedonian Constitution is the reason for the six-month crisis in the country. Therefore, I do not think that adding 35 amendments to the Constitution will bring peace in Macedonia.
Firstly, we have violated one of the most significant standards of the international community, and given a great reward to all of the terrorists in the world, that we as Macedonia and the international community are considering making terrorism into a profitable business. The lessons we have learned over the past decades, that terrorism may not be rewarded by meeting the terrorists' political goals, are not being applied to Macedonia. Unfortunately, we must confess that we accept giving terrorists such a reward.
Secondly, we are meeting to change the Constitution when part of Macedonia's territory is occupied. That is a fact that must be considered when we discuss the successful overcoming of this crisis.
The third issue is that we must admit that from this moment on we shall talk about the Prizren document. The only difference between the Framework Agreement and the Prizren document is the reference to military service, i.e. the Prizren document says that soldiers may serve their term at home in their native cities.
Kosovo Immigration Scandal
SDSM is accusing VMRO-DPMNE of having made a mistake or even of having commited treason by passing the laws on amnesty and higher education, giving in to some individual demands, even for the Kosovo crisis, while VMRO-DPMNE blames SDSM for granting 150,000 certificates of citizenship to Albanians in 1994-1995, including to Mr. Basilj Bajrami, who was not entitled to Macedonian citizenship, since he was wanted for murder by the Beglian government. VMRO-DPMNE blames SDSM for granting Macedonian passports to politicians from Kosovo.... I will mention only one case, that of Mr. Veton Suroi, who received a Macedonian passport in 1994-1995, and who is the main link today among the Macedonian politicians, Albanian terrorists and international monitors and is the major eminence gris of everything that has been happening in Macedonia.
I will not talk about all battles. I will just mention the first one in Tanusevci, which was a direct attack from Kosovo, and the last one in Radusa, also a border region, which was shelled from Kosovo. So, we must say loud and clear that Macedonia has been imposed upon by military aggression for the last six months, despite the fact that many local Albanians joined the groups of aggressors. But some Albanians from Macedonia also went to Kosovo first, becoming official members of the Kosovo Protection Corps, and then returning to Macedonia after three months. So, now we are forced to change the Constitution under the pressure of military aggression.
Besides the list of terrorists who are prohibited to enter into the United States, no other measure against terrorism has been taken. On the other hand, the pressure upon Macedonia is more than evident.
I do not think that those who will vote against the constitutional changes should be considered guilty for the Macedonian Constitution. However, I call on the parliamentarians to vote for the changes for a very simple reason.
...It is said that the choir of international and domestic experts will sing the same song, forgetting Ali Ahmeti and his bloodthirsty people, and seeking the guilty party among the Macedonian people.
You have witnessed NATO's credibility when it entered into Macedonia, despite the differences on whether it is necessary to spend DM one billion for this operation that will collect weaponry, worth DM two million, and whether it requires 5,000 soldiers to collect 3,300 pieces of weaponry. It is obvious that we should not "gamble" with NATO's authority and if the alliance takes part in this game, we should accept it and express our trust
Those in parliament who refuse to vote for the changes will be declared guilty of causing the war. I will rephrase the question: what if all amendments are adopted and terrorism does not stop in Macedonia, as well as violent acts against our civilians? What if the displaced persons cannot return to their homes even after a year? Along with everything, that would mean a continuation of the war for territory the war began that way and, unfortunately, will most probably end like that.
Unfortunately, voting for this initiative we have to be aware that Macedonia is "collateral damage" of [the NATO intervention in Kosovo] and we cannot expect those who made that mistake in 1999, to admit it today. Unfortunately, these are the conditions under which we must commence with this initiative.
Rebels stockpile up to 30 times the weapons collected by Nato.
THE Albanian rebel army which last week handed over more than 3000 weapons to British and French soldiers in Macedonia still has 30 times that amount of firepower stashed in hidden caches, and could resume hostilities within days if the fragile ceasefire breaks down.
A secret Nato intelligence report claims that the self-styled National Liberation Army still has up to 8000 modern assault rifles, 25,000 second world war-vintage firearms, 55,000 pistols, more than 200 heavy machine-guns, 200 sniper rifles, about 50 anti-aircraft missiles, and 300 anti-tank missiles.
It also has 200 mortars and a stock of 5000 landmines. Most are concealed in mountain caves or buried in cellars or under manure piles in remote villages.
The report tallies almost exactly with the Macedonian government's own intelligence estimate of the NLA's 90,000 available arms, and supports the accusation that the collection of hardware is a token gesture at best.
The NLA claims that it could field six "brigades" numbering about 16,000 fighters. Nato sources say the total is closer to 2500, although in an emergency, substantial reinforcements from the former Kosovo Liberation Army would infiltrate from the neighbouring province.
Nato troops on the mountainous border detained almost 200 suspected guerrillas crossing into Kosovo from Macedonia last week as Operation Essential Harvest got under way.
There are also at least 2000-3000 "second echelon" members of the NLA, non-combatants who carry out reconnaissance, supply, and communications jobs, and do not wear uniform. A source said: "These volunteers are not front-line guerrillas, but most of them possess weapons.
"There was a gun culture in the Balkans before the Americans enshrined the right to bear arms in their constitution in 1776. Every Albanian male and most Slavs own rifles.
"When Albania's government collapsed in 1997, upwards of 500,000 military-grade rifles and machine-guns were looted from army barracks.
"These are now scattered all over the region. Many were used to oppose Serb forces in Kosovo in 1999.
"On the other side, when the ethnic Albanian uprising started six months ago, a panicked Macedonian government handed out hundreds of assault rifles to Slav civilians, ostensibly to allow them to defend themselves.
"In practice, it allowed certain groups of hardliners to form paramilitary units whose only purpose is to terrorise their ethnic Albanian fellow-countrymen if the opportunity arises."
The NLA is not, however, alone in retaining its capacity for further conflict. Macedonia has sent helicopter crews to Ukraine to be trained to fly and fight Hind-D helicopter gunships.
The five Hinds bought from Ukraine this year have been manned by Ukrainian "volunteers" during the periodic government offensives against rebel enclaves north of Tetovo, the country's second city.
This ageing but still highly effective aircraft was nicknamed "The Devil's Cross", because of its shape, by Afghan mujahideen during their guerrilla campaign against Russian occupation in the 1980s.
The mujahideen learned to fear the Hind more than any other weapon because of its ferocious array of rockets, cannon, machine-guns, and grenade launchers. Helicopter gunships are specifically designed for counter-insurgency.
Meanwhile, Macedonia's parliament will today resume a key debate necessary to move along the peace effort with the Albanian rebels, putting the process back on track after a day in limbo when speaker Stojan Andov suspended discussion.
Andov had insisted on a presidential guarantee that everyone who fled fighting could return home safely. Up to 120,000 people remain displaced by the fighting.
- Sept 3rd
Macedonia's parliament resumes debate with lawmakers seeking answers to peace pact.
By Brian Murphy, Associated Press, 9/3/2001 14:02
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) Back in session Monday after a tense political limbo, Macedonian lawmakers sharply questioned a peace pact with ethnic Albanians, asking: Is it honorable and where are those who forged it?
Key partners of the accord, including the prime minister and ethnic Albanian leaders, were among the many absent when debate resumed after being muzzled for two days by the parliament speaker over demands for refugee returns.
The many empty seats at times nearly two-thirds of the 120-member parliament set a tone at odds with the historic issue at hand: a constitutional overhaul to grant greater political and language rights to ethnic Albanians, who comprise about a third of Macedonia's 2 million people.
''Why don't they come here to explain what they signed? Why are they running away?'' said Nenad Ristevski, a member of the small True Macedonian Reformist Option party.
The absences also raised questions about the political will to adopt the reforms when the final vote is required this fall. At stake now is whether to advance the step-by-step peace initiative to the next stage parliament debate on the specific amendments and more weapons surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels who launched an uprising in February.
The parliament speaker, Stojan Andov, said the debate would continue Tuesday. He promised to keep the session going until it reaches a vote.
Defeat is unlikely, given the immense international pressure. But opposition has even spread to members of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's VMRO party, which had promised support from all its 47 deputies.
''I don't like the look of this at all, and I don't like the changes in the constitution,'' said VMRO deputy Aleksandar Pandov.
All attention will be riveted on the expected parliamentary address by Georgievski, a hawk who signed the peace deal but has since suggested it is flawed.
''I want Ljubco to come and tell us why he signed,'' said Petar Gosev, a member of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party. ''He seems to be telling everyone else that he doesn't like it.''
Also missing was Arben Xhaferi, another signatory to the accord and head of the 24-member ethnic Albanian bloc in parliament.
''We have the right to hear someone here explain to us the deal they signed,'' complained VMRO deputy Aleksandar Florovski.
Riot police kept watch on the parliament building, but there was no sign of the demonstrators who heckled and harassed politicians before the opening session Friday.
The speaker, Andov, then froze debate and insisted on guarantees that everyone who fled fighting could return home safely. Up to 120,000 people remain displaced, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Macedonians on Monday set up several road blockades, including overturned cars, rocks and garbage bins, around the second-largest city of Tetovo. They said they were protesting their inability to return to their homes because of harassment and alleged kidnappings by ethnic Albanians.
Andov relented after being muscled by Western envoys and cajoled by President Boris Trajkovski, who has predicted civil war if the accord unravels.
Andov's move was also seen as part of intricate political posturing before scheduled January elections. Andov and other VMRO members must face a conservative voter base that perceives the pact as a capitulation to ''terrorists.''
NATO spokesman Mark Laity said the alliance does not expect to resume weapons collections until after the parliament vote. NATO is seeking to gather 3,300 weapons voluntarily surrendered by the rebel National Liberation Army, or NLA, by late September. More than a third of those arms have already been taken.
NATO began destroying the first batch of weapons Monday at a Greek-run base in Krivolak, about 45 miles southeast of Skopje. Experts exploded a cache of grenades and mortars and planned to start dismantling automatic rifles and other arms.
A statement from NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, published in Macedonian media, noted that NATO cannot collect every illegal weapon in the country.
''Sadly, your country had huge numbers of illegal weapons before the so-called NLA existed and is likely to have significant numbers after they disband,'' it said.
Longer Balkans Mission 'Essential'
The US has admitted that Nato may be in Macedonia beyond the 30-day limit set by the alliance.
And James Pardew, US envoy to Macedonia, said not only would the mission probably get longer, but the force would get bigger, and the task would be expanded.
"I think an international presence to stabilise the situation in larger numbers than we have there now is probably essential in the near future," he said.
Analysts have been sceptical of the 30 days Nato said it would take to disarm Macedonia's rebel NLA, and said once in the country, it would be dificult to withdraw and risk the country tipping back towards war.
Around 1,900 British troops are leading Operation Essential Harvest, whose job is to collect and destroy the NLA's weapons as part of a peace deal between the rebels and the government.
But Pardew said there may be a need for a continued military presence in Macedonia to help keep the peace and provide security for international monitors in the region.
British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said Nato ministers were discussing how the international community could help stabilise Macedonia after the planned end of the 30-day mission.
Asked what form the help might take, he replied: "It is something that will obviously have to be looked at in the light of the success of the operation to collect weapons."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated last week that soldiers might remain in Macedonia, saying: "My best bet is the decision will stand and at 30 days this operation will come to... an end, but I can't be certain."
Macedonian PM calls for parliament to ratify accord.
SKOPJE, Sept 3 (AFP) -
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called on deputies late on Monday to ratify a peace agreement to end the seven-month ethnic Albanian uprising, but denounced pressure coming from the West.
Addressing parliament before the end of debate, Georgievski said: "We have to support this initiative. The pressure on Macedonia is more than obvious."
In a speech highly critical of the West, he said Macedonia was under an informal military embargo and economic blockade and would suffer seriously if it did not implement the August 13 agreement.
"We can't play with NATO's authority," said Georgievski, adding that pressure should be put on the ethnic Albanians because "we are sending a message to all terrorists in the world that terrorism is profitable."
The prime minister's VMRO-DPMNE party has 43 deputies in the 120-seat assembly and the agreement will hang on their choice as a two thirds majority is needed when the MPs vote on whether the constitution should be changed.
Continuing his attack on the alliance, Georgievski said: "Unfortunately Macedonia is collateral damage from NATO's intervention in former Yugoslavia and we cannot expect from those who made that error in 1999 to admit it."
NATO has began a 30-day mission to collect weapons from National Liberation Army (NLA) rebels a week ago. By the end of the first collection phase, one third of the 3,300 arms it planned to collect had been handed over.
"It may not be clear why 5,000 soldiers came to collect 3,300 weapons but it is obvious we should not gamble with NATO's authority," Georgievski said.
The deputies are expected to cast their votes by late Tuesday, and Western diplomatic sources are optimistic they will eventually ratify the accord because it was signed by four of the assembly's main parties.
The agreement grants an amnesty to some rebels, makes Albanian an official language in some areas, provides more jobs in the police force and gives wider powers to local government.
Debate was suspended on Saturday by the powerful parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov.
But Andov ordered a resumption following Western pressure over the weekend and after receiving assurances from the president that Macedonians displaced by the conflict would be allowed to return home.
Skopje debate to resume.
By Julius Strauss in Skopje
MACEDONIAN hardliners agreed last night to reconvene a crucial parliamentary session after they came under intense diplomatic pressure not to abandon the peace plan.
The session is to debate and vote on a motion to grant the ethnic Albanian minority greater rights. Albanian rebels, who launched an insurgency in February, had threatened to stop handing over their weapons to Nato peacekeepers unless the meeting reconvened.
Stojan Andov, parliament's nationalist speaker, suspended the debate in its second day on Saturday, insisting that Macedonian refugees must first be allowed to return to their homes.
Yesterday, sources in Mr Andov's office said he was ready to reconvene parliament today. There was no official statement.
He was reported to have relented after the Albanians decided, in the wake of parliament's shutdown, to dismantle a road barricade that had trapped displaced Macedonians revisiting their homes.
Envoys who brokered the peace plan had reacted furiously to the delay. Planners expressed fears that Nato's 30-day Macedonian mission could be in jeopardy.
UK to keep a permanent force in Macedonia.
BRITAIN has already decided to keep a permanent force in Macedonia long after the current weapons-collection mission is wound up, but has yet to make the decision public, sources in London have told The Scotsman.
Comments by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, during a visit to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, last week, that the NATO mission "could change" are seen as preparing the ground for Britains third Balkan deployment.
Next month, the paratroopers in the country will pull out as planned, but a new, smaller force is to replace them. The mission of this new force will be to "ride shotgun" for a force of monitors to be deployed in the country.
British troops will have similar rules of engagement to those deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo, but this third Balkans mission will have a key difference - it will be led not by NATO but by OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Unarmed OSCE teams will set up observation posts in the hills of north-west Macedonia, with jeeps roaming the area to report on ceasefire violations.
That will be the sharp end of a mission aimed at diffusing tensions in the country where six months of stop-start war have left feelings running high.
The decision to use OSCE reflects the desire on both sides of the Atlantic for Europe to take a more prominent role in this latest Balkans war.
It also reflects anxiety among some NATO nations, notably the United States and Germany, about being sucked into yet a third Balkans conflict. Both are nervous about involvement in weapons collection, and might still back away altogether from a permanent long-term mission.
In fact Britain and France are backing the existing weapons collection mission not because they believe it will work, but as "Trojan horse" to slip forces from NATO into the country. "Lets get serious, nobody expects this weapons collection mission to work. The rebels wont be handing in their good kit," said one source close to the Ministry of Defence. "This mission was a way of getting in. Once youre on the ground its much easier to justify staying."
It is believed the government gave the green light for a permanent presence several weeks ago, at the urging of defence chiefs. This is not because the Ministry of Defence thinks a new NATO garrison in Eastern Europe can stop a war. In fact, defence planners expect a new wave of violence to break out in Macedonia in coming weeks as the implications of a peace deal that has divided the country sink in.
But the generals have convinced the Blair government it is better to deploy early than late, fearing a repeat of the bloodshed and carnage of the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. "All the lessons learned from the Balkans are that if you are going to do something do it early," the source said. "If you let it drift it will become a problem."
British forces first entered Bosnia in 1992, seven months after fighting broke out, but with a limited mandate. Only four years later, after huge bloodshed, did NATO finally step in with a massive force.
But as with Kosovo three years later, the force arrived too late to repair the damage, and Balkan peacekeepers are effectively trapped because, should they pull out, a new round of war is likely to erupt.
The British move has the support of several European countries and follows discussions in spring in Paris at which it was suggested NATO should intervene to stop the Macedonian war by force.
But the problem, as with previous peacekeeping missions, is the outcry that would greet the death of servicemen. The loss last week of Ian Collins, a British Royal Engineer, showed the problems of explaining to the public why our troops should die for a conflict that carries no threat to our national security.
The prospect of new fighting in Macedonia is thus likely to provoke nervousness in the government, which is expected to announce the creation of a permanent force this month.
The spark would be the refusal of the rebel National Liberation Army to cede control of areas it commands. Almost unnoticed amid the fighting, groups of military police have taken control of the Albanian villages, in the main supported by the local population.
Although NATO-escorted Macedonian police patrols the are expected to be allowed to pass through these areas, they are effectively lost to the Macedonians. The reaction of hard-line nationalists as this situation becomes clear is expected to be violent, and that violence is likely to be directed at the much larger area of Macedonia inhabited by ethnic Albanians but yet to see fighting.
Leonid Kuchma: To Us Bulgaria is a Strategic Partner.
We are grateful to Sofia for the negotiations on the visa issue, says Ukraine's President in an exclusive interview for 'Standart'. He arrives on a state visit to this country tomorrow.
- Mr President, it will be your second visit to our country. What is your assessment of bilateral relations?
- I'm glad to visit Bulgaria again. My visit starts immediately after the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the restoration of Ukraine's independent statement. Furthermore, on next December 13 our two countries will mark 10 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them. Bulgaria occupies a particular place in Ukraine's foreign policy. Without any exaggeration, it is a reliable and durable partner of ours.
- What do you anticipate of your visit to this country? Which spheres of bilateral relations satisfy you, and which are dissatisfactory?
- In recent years we have managed to jointly achieve a great number of positive things. This asset should help strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation. Particular significance will be attached to the ways to step up economic cooperation. Ukraine is also concerned with the further stepping up of cooperation in power engineering, construction, science and technology, the environment technologies, in the military-engineering sphere. A number of bilateral documents are envisaged to be signed during the visit. Among them are the intergovernmental agreements for the admission and expatriation of persons who reside illicitly on the two countries' territories, and on cooperation in combatting crime. These documents are important, most of all from a political point of view because they will help minimize the negative consequences of Bulgaria's future introduction of a visa regime with Ukraine. We are grateful to the Bulgarian side which initiated this process of negotiations on the future visa regime.
Senator Lugar: Russian Missiles to be Promptly Taken away.
US politician didn't promise explicitly NATO membership to Bulgaria.
'Bulgaria must hurry to destroy its Russian R-300 missiles,' reminded US senator Richard Lugar during his meetings with Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov and Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. On Saturday the politician paid one-day visit to Bulgaria.
The guest showed also interest in the modernization of Bulgaria's defence industry. The implementation of Plan '2004 should be pressed ahead despite of the high political price, the senator said further in his lecture delivered before the Atlantic Club.
Though the senator didn't commit himself with a prognosis if the USA will back Bulgaria's candidature for NATO.
'For the purpose, two thirds of the votes in the Senate are needed, while presently there are differences between Republicans and Democrats,' Lugar elaborated.