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A house in Slupcane village is hit by a shell from Macedonian forces June 10, 2001 as artillery and tanks continue pounding rebel ethnic Albanian positions in northern Macedonia. The international community has put Macedonia into diplomatic intensive care, desperate to end an insurgency which threatens to tear apart a state whose integrity they see as vital for the stability of the whole region. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

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A Macedonian policeman turns back two locals trying to reach Aracinovo village June 10, 2001 as the police block the access on the main road to the village. Ethnic Albanian rebels strengthened their control of the village, bringing war to the doorstep to Macedonia's capital Skopje, just 10 km (6 miles) away. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

SERBIA IS READY TO ASSIST IN SOLVING OF CRISIS IN MACEDONIA.

MIA

Belgrade, June 10 (MIA) - Serbia is ready to assist in finding peaceful solution of the crisis in Macedonia, Vice-Premier of the Serbian Government Nebojsa Covic said Sunday.

He added that Serbia would assist in any possible way, except in procurement of weaponry as the crisis should be solved in a peaceful manner.

However, this issue should be discussed by the authorities of both countries, Covic said.

Covic considers that similar model which has brought peace in the Presevo Valley may be also used in Macedonia, giving no further details.

"In a way, Macedonia is a test for the world's policy towards Southeastern Europe," Covic said, adding that the international community should decide whether it supports multiethnic or ethnically clean states in the region.

INTERVIEW-Serbia willing to help in Macedonia peace moves.

Reuters

By Julijana Mojsilovic

BELGRADE, June 10 (Reuters) - Serbia, which achieved a largely peaceful end last month to a rebel insurgency in the south, is willing to help neighbouring Macedonia find a solution to its crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said.

Covic, who won Western praise for his role in halting a 16-month ethnic Albanian guerrilla rebellion in southern Serbia's Presevo Valley, said Yugoslavia and its dominant republic Serbia wanted Macedonia to remain undivided.

"We would help with experience, advice, logistics, with everything but selling arms because we want that crisis to end peacefully," he told Reuters in an interview late on Saturday.

"Personally I'm willing to help. But it has to be discussed at all levels in both countries," said Covic, a leader in the DOS reformist coalition which last October ousted Yugoslavia's autocratic president, Slobodan Milosevic.

Belgrade media said NATO and European Union officials had suggested Covic might have a role in Macedonia following his work in south Serbia, where the insurgency ended largely peacefully last month when the guerrillas laid down their arms.

Covic, 42, did not comment on the reports but said any final decision would be up to him. "I'm my own man," he said.

Macedonia has been engulfed in an inter-ethnic conflict since February. A rebel group calling itself the National Liberation Army (NLA) says it is fighting to end discrimination by the country's Slav majority of the ethnic Albanian minority.

Macedonia's authorities say the NLA wants to break up the country and have refused to talk with the guerrillas.

On Saturday, amid clashes not far from the Macedonian capital Skopje, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana rallied the country's fractious political leaders from both ethnic groups behind a peace plan to end the conflict.

He said all the leaders had accepted President Boris Trajkovski's plan, which stresses incentives for rebels to disarm, overhauls the armed forces and accelerates political reforms to address ethnic Albanian grievances.

SIMILAR MODEL TO SERBIA

Covic said a model similar to the one that brought peace to Serbia's Presevo Valley could be used in Macedonia, without going into details.

As the government's chief negotiator, Covic repeatedly stressed the need to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Presevo Valley and to address grievances of its large ethnic Albanian population.

In contrast to the heavy-handed approach when Milosevic was in power, Yugoslavia's new authorities have pledged to end discrimination against local Albanians and to set up a multi-ethnic police force in the rural and backward region.

Covic cautioned that much remained to be done. "Life has to get back to normal, refugees to return and everything else...to prevent the same problems from happening ever again.

"The same basic principles could be used in Macedonia, bearing in mind the country's specifics," Covic said.

But unlike Serbia, in Macedonia "we are not talking about three to five percent of the territory but about almost the whole country and 30 percent of the population," he said.

"Macedonia is in a way a test for the world's policy in southeastern Europe. It has to decide whether it wants multi-ethnic states or ethnically pure ones in the region," Covic said. "The latter leads to conflicts and destruction."

Asked whether Macedonia should talk with the rebels, as Covic did in south Serbia, he said the first step should be dialogue between Macedonian Slav and local Albanian politicians.

"Ethnic Albanian political subjects actively participate in the country's parliamentary life and the crucial test for them is to prove whether they have influence over the NLA," he said.

It also had to be made crystal clear if some ethnic Albanian politicians only "act as democrats while on the other hand they support their armed people," he said.

Rebels kill Macedonian soldier, wound three.

Reuters

SKOPJE, June 10 (Reuters) - Ethnic Albanian rebels killed a Macedonian soldier and wounded three others on Sunday during an army attack on a rebel-held village in the north of the Balkan state.

The Defence Ministry said the soldier died near Slupcane, a rebel-held village about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of the capital Skopje during an army assault. Three others were wounded, it said.

Government forces, using helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery, have been pounding Slupcane and nearby villages since Friday in a bid to recapture them from the National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas.

It was the first death reported by the government since five soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush on Tuesday near Tetovo in the northwest of Macedonia, the most violent incident since April when eight soldiers died.

Since the conflict began in February, the government has reported about two dozen deaths of Macedonian soldiers and police. The number of casualties on the rebel side is unknown.

The NLA says that it is fighting for greater rights for the ethnic Albanians, who make up about 30 percent of Macedonia's two million population.

It accuses the majority Slavs of discriminating against Albanians in everything from jobs to education and wants official recognition of Albanian as an official language.

Macedonia on brink of war.

The Sunday Times

Tom Walker, Diplomatic Correspondent

WESTERN intelligence officers say ethnic Albanian rebels are massing for an imminent civil war in Macedonia.

Military intelligence reports describe forces of about 1,000 men in the north of the fractious republic, commanded by a former French legionnaire who uses the nom de guerre of Hoxha. In the west another 300 freshly trained recruits came across the border from neighbouring Kosovo last week, boosting numbers there to 800 armed and uniformed fighters.

Nato officials keeping an anxious eye on the on-off fighting said the rebels of the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA) were better equipped and more disciplined than their forebears in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought Slobodan Milosevic's forces in the southern Serbian province.

The rebels have obtained modern American-made Stinger shoulder-launched missiles, along with more rudimentary Russian-made Sam-7 missiles. Embarrassingly for the alliance, they are making use of maps issued by Nato for the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) which it supervises across the border.

Hundreds of KPC reservists were called up by their Albanian commander, Agim Ceku, in March. They subsequently disappeared to former KLA training camps in Albania and are now re-emerging in Macedonia.

"There's plenty of money around and they've got good weapons," a Nato planner said. "But we're hoping they've got the sense not to start shooting down Macedonian helicopters. If they do there'll be terrible retribution."

Macedonia's coalition government came close to declaring war after five Macedonian soldiers died in an ambush last Tuesday, but President Boris Trajkovski has heeded European Union calls for calm.

Although the rebels have officially called a ceasefire, the Macedonians have continued to pound their positions, hoping to keep the fighting away from the valley floors around Skopje, the capital. Nato is investigating reports that the Macedonian government has used Su-25 fighter-bombers hired from the Yugoslav army in its bombardment of Albanian positions.

Intelligence agents have pinpointed 16 illegal border crossings from Kosovo used by the NLA, whose rebels have infiltrated as far as Aracinovo, just six miles from Skopje. A Macedonian police checkpoint yesterday prevented all but local traffic entering the ethnic Albanian part of the town, where a group of at least 10 heavily armed guerrillas was in control.

Last week the NLA murdered an Albanian accused of working with Macedonian police, a tactic used to intimidate "collaborators" in the Kosovo war.

Kosovo-Macedonia border once again clogged with Albanian refugees.

AFP

BLACE, Kosovo-Macedonia border, June 10 (AFP) -
In boiling hot tents on the border with Kosovo, hundreds of ethnic Albanians register with aid agencies after pouring into the Yugoslav province from Macedonia.

Many -- elderly and in tears -- arrived by taxi or were dropped off by relatives at the border and left to walk across the frontier to make contact with refugee and aid groups.

Only two years ago, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians had fled Kosovo in the opposite direction, to escape a crackdown by Serb forces.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Saturday that 7,000 people had crossed into the UN-run province in just two days, fearing an escalation in fighting in Macedonia where Albanian rebels have moved into a town on the edge of the capital Skopje.

The flow showed no sign of easing Sunday, with the number of people registering with the UNHCR jumping from 565 at midday to 720 in just half an hour.

"Today is open doors. Say you're a refugee and you don't need to show any papers," said one UN policeman on the Kosovo side.

The refugees were retracing the steps of those who fled the Serbian crackdown under former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, which provoked a NATO intervention to end the Kosovo war on June 11, 1999.

The scene at Blace was a mirror image of those days, although on a much smaller scale so far.

The irony of the journey was not lost on Sadri Nebija, 43, who had fled earlier in the day from Aracinovo, a Skopje suburb occupied by ethnic Albanian rebels on Friday.

He said he was going to stay with friends he had housed when they fled the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

"It's the same story as two years ago, they came to us, now we are going to them. We are very afraid," said Nebija, who was resting with his family of nine in a sweltering plastic tent on the Kosovo side of the border before heading on.

Another man dropping off relatives from Skopje said there was "panic" among Albanians as the fighting spread.

An official from the Kosovo Albanian Mother Teresa aid group said that most of Sunday's arrivals were from the Aracinovo area, although some had come from villages south of Skopje.

The agency was taking many of the sick and elderly to a hospital in Urosevac, southern Kosovo, he said, adding that dozens of Macedonia Muslims had also crossed, fearing reprisals from the Macedonian Slav majority for the Albanian insurrection.

Macedonia's coalition government, made up of Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian parties, has been strained to breaking point by the army's campaign against the insurgents.

Artillery has been pounding rebel-held villages in the Black mountains just north of Skopje since early May, with more than 10,000 villagers still in the area despite government ceasefires and appeals for them to leave.

Many villagers do not want to leave their homes, or are scared of the Macedonian police. Skopje says the rebels are using them as human shields from which to launch attacks on its forces.

Nebija said some Macedonian police had demanded bribes to allow people to leave Aracinovo.

He said he and his family had left their home village of Brest on the Kosovo border three months ago after the rebels moved in and the army pounded the village, destroying his home. They had moved in with relatives in Aracinovo till the rebels moved in there.

Asked what he thought of the rebel insurrection, he said: "I don't think anything. I left my home and they can stay there. They are fighting for our rights."

UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers said during a visit to Skopje on Saturday that the army's tactics of pounding villages in rebel hands was "unproductive".

But he recognised the difficulty of the military challenge facing Skopje, whose army is poorly equipped and inexperienced.

He said the fact that refugees were making the same journey in reverse was "part of the tragedy" of the Macedonian crisis, which has displaced around 40,000 people since it erupted in February.

"We should praise Macedonia for their hospitality in those years. Therefore there is an obligation of the Albanian people, and those from Kosovo in particular, not to threaten the territorial integrity here," he said.

Macedonia maintains that revolt is led by former Kosovo rebels who fought Belgrade from 1998-99. But the rebels insist they are fighting to secure greater rights for Macedonia's ethnic Albanians.

Stop bombing or we attack Skopje: Albanian rebels.

AFP

SKOPJE, June 10 (AFP) -
An ethnic Albanian rebel leader on the edge of Skopje threatened Sunday to attack the capital if government troops did not stop bombing rebel-held villages in the north by Monday.

Commander Hoxha, heading a guerrilla force in the Skopje suburb of Aracinovo, told AFP by telephone he had issued an ultimatum through the media to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski.

"I have launched an ultimatum to Georgievski. He has until tomorrow morning to stop the bombardments. They are razing the houses in the villages.

"I will start attacking police stations and the airport, the government and parliament, everything I can with our 120 mm mortars. We don't have many but they are effective. We will attack from the mountains.

"We are not very good shots but we can easily hit the airport," he said.

he rebel-held villages in the Black Mountains just north of Skopje have been pounded by army artillery for more than month in a bid to dislodge the self-styled National Liberation Army.

Several U.S. policies for Macedonia make up one de-stabilisation policy. A prelude to military intervention?

TFF

PressInfo # 122

June 10, 2001
By Jan Oberg, TFF director

These days I am reminded of my conversation in the early 1990s with the first representative of the United States to independent Macedonia. Two things came out clearly: no matter the question I asked him he said that the policies of the United States aimed at stability; second, if he had any knowledge about the Balkans in general and Macedonia in particular he kept it to himself. Today, we should not be surprised if stability, the post-Cold War buzz-word, in reality means instability or de-stabilisation.

Various U.S. policies: we both support and condemn the Albanians!

On June 4, in Washington Post, retired Ambassador William G. Walker, condemned the Macedonian government for treating the Albanians as second-class citizens and, when it comes to its military response to fighting the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), compares it with Milosevic. He advocates a stronger high-level U.S. involvement by hosting a Dayton-like conference (not a word about the EU) and insists that NLA shall participate as it is a legitimate actor with popular support.

Further, he believes that a recent agreement brokered by American Ambassador Robert Frowick, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, between the two main Albanian parties and the NLA should be welcomed. (Incidentally it was signed outside Macedonia, close to Prizren in Kosovo, and behind the back of the Macedonian political leadership and, thus, Frowick was considered persona non grata). The EU's reaction to it indicates a deep rift with the U.S.

So, who is William Walker? A former persona non grata in Yugoslavia where he headed OSCE's Kosovo Verifiers' Mission, KVM, negotiated in October 1998 between U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and President Milosevic. It is public knowledge that his mission had a substantial CIA component and that his verdict on the spot in Racak that Milosevic was behind that massacre lacked every evidence at the time. Today he is an honorary board member of National Albanian American Council's "Hands of Hope Campaign." To give you the flavour of the group: one of its honorary co-chairs is Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel who, over the years, have delivered more factually incorrect and propagandistic statements on Kosovo than most. You will find his views on Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia at http://www.house.gov/engel/albanian.htm.

But there are other American policy-makers. Listen to State Department's Mr. Boucher on June 6. He calls NLA in Macedonia "extremists" and "insurgents" - - much like Lord Robertson of NATO always calls these NATO/KFOR- and US-supported insurgents "thugs"! Boucher talks in terms of "ethnic Albanian violence" and states that "we have never seen a role for them [NLA/terrorists] in the political negotiations." He adds that NLA proves "every day that they are not interested in addressing real concerns and needs of the Albanian community."

In contrast to Mr. Frowick's private diplomacy with NLA and to Walker's embrace of them as legitimate, Mr. Boucher sides with the Macedonian government. It has, he says, taken the right path "the path of inter-ethnic dialogue, to address the concerns of all citizens of Macedonia together with a continuation of their measured response to extremist provocations." He sees no contradiction between dialogue and military response.

Then he is asked what he thinks about William Walker's article in Washington Post and answers: "Yes, that doesn't make sense at all. Anyway he is a former colleague."

To complete the picture, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld visits the region and lauds the American presence and the NATO/KFOR forces in Kosovo, conveniently forgetting that they and his country's bombing are the main causes of the de-stabilisation of Macedonia. He expresses his support for the Macedonian state and its National Unity Government and condemns the violence of the (U.S.-armed and -trained) UCK/NLA!

Broader perspectives

As mentioned in earlier TFF PressInfos, it is common knowledge that CIA and the American firm Military Professional Resources Inc, MPRI, are among those who have made UCK/KLA possible. After officially having been disarmed and dissolved in September 1999, KLA/UCK must have been permitted to pass through the American NATO/KFOR sector in Kosovo to conduct military activities in Southern Serbia (under the name UCPMB) and now in Macedonia (NLA/UCK/ONA).

In other words, without the active help of at least one branch of the American foreign policy establishment, the present fighting in Macedonia would hardly have been possible. No matter how much people like Walker emphasise internal ethnic problems in Macedonia, it remains an indisputable fact that the militarisation of local tension, which was made possible by NATO's disgraceful terror bombing of Yugoslavia and the subsequent occupation of Kosovo, is the work of foreign actors. The rhetoric about human rights is just a facade.

The U.S. Bondsteel Base in Kosovo, the largest built by the United States since Vietnam, signals a considerable strategic interest in the triangle made up of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, the oil fields of the latter becoming increasingly important. Huge oil pipelines will go through the Balkans, as do Transport Corridors 8 and 10, and all of it is, of course, part of a game way beyond human rights, humanitarian concerns, democratisation, tolerance and civil society empowerment.

It is also quite easy to see Kosovo and Macedonia in the light of NATO expansionism, present and future. It relates to three world order goals: containment of Russia; US/NATO marginalisation of the UN and OSCE as peacekeeping organisations, and a long-term development of a Second Cold War. The main building block of the latter is the systematic antagonisation of the Chinese, the Russians and others who do not obey a U.S.-centred world order.

We will understand nothing of what goes on in Macedonia if we focus on that in isolation. Regrettably, most media still do and engage in war reporting instead of conflict analysis.

Confusion as a strategy

Is the United States of America really that confused? Given George W. Bush's foreign policy record so far, such a hypothesis can not be entirely excluded. But it is dangerous when the right and the left hand of the most powerful actor on earth are not co-ordinated.

Well, perhaps that's exactly what they are if we employ a little political imagination. Perhaps the apparent confusion is a strategy? Perhaps stability means de-stabilisation - - like peace often means war. Over time, Western policies have been uniquely unfriendly and disrespectful of the sovereignty and survival needs of Macedonia. Just remember a decade of economic sanctions without compensation, the shameful diplomacy to get the successful United Nations missions out of the place, misuse of the country as one huge military base for NATO's bombings and forcing Macedonia to become a refugee camp. Now clear interference in its domestic affairs by American diplomats in international missions, such as Frowick in OSCE.

Macedonia is a fragile state, nothing like, say, Croatia or Yugoslavia. Its structure and position in the Balkans, its identity as a state, is less solid. The country has no strong leadership but a lot of corruption; a series of weak governments leaving problems unsolved throughout the 1990s have now reached a state of paralysis. A war here could, in the worst of cases, spell the end of what is today called Macedonia.

By instigating long-term, low-level warfare inside Macedonia, her instability can be further increased. William Walker may well be retired but his opinions in Washington Post may not be his alone. He argues that should the Macedonian government try to win militarily it would commit a "similar miscalculation" as Milosevic since that would only drive more recruits into the ranks of the NLA! One must ask whether he actually implies that Macedonia could be bombed, like Milosevic, if it tried?

NATO, the EU and State Department seem to agree that the Macedonian government should not declare a state of war. The message of the Swedish EU chair Ms. Lindh, of Mr. Solana and all others has been: be tolerant, remain 'measured,' don't overdo it. Because of their role as politico-military midwifes of the Albanian national armies and aspirations, they profess to be "worried" that less militant Albanians who are still members of the Macedonian government would leave, which would mean further erosion of its multi-ethnicity and increased polarisation.

Well, perhaps they should have thought of that before, for instance at the time when they handled the Kosovo crisis and began bombing? It's a bit late to find out now that everything is related to everything else in the Balkans. The classical, but completely ignored, expert warning was that whatever was done with Kosovo would have effects elsewhere.

TFF and the present author never advocate violent solutions. There are no violent ways to real stability and peace in Macedonia. This does not prevent us from asking whether there is one single Western state that would not fight back or would accept that type of advice from abroad to keep it "measured" when step-by-step parts of its territory is seized by military means? When an increasing number of its citizens are killed by what is at least to some extent foreign actors based across an international border?

By sending many and different signals you keep people busy guessing what you are up to you and you attract a lot of attention. The EU and little Macedonia know that the U.S. is still the main player in the region and that it doesn't exactly mind this Godfather-like role. There may be certain offers floated behind the scenes these days and in the future that are not meant to be refused.

What is the interest in de-stabilising Macedonia?

1. Divide et impera

Why could a de-stabilised Macedonia be in the interest of the United States? One reason is the classical 'divide et impera,' -- divide and rule. When Macedonia's leadership becomes sufficiently bewildered and fearful or lose control, the West can offer its assistance: peacekeeping (bases), loans and political control. It can install a government of its liking (and it would probably like one different from the present).

2. Leverage and obedience

There is a promise of Macedonia in NATO and of future EU membership if it obeys orders from the West and does not seek alternative ways (or importing non-Western arms). Until Macedonia has been 'developed,' the case remains however the opposite: NATO in Macedonia and very little economic assistance from the EU.

3. Military punishment and intervention

Should Macedonia disobey and try instead to assert itself, should it declare war and attempt to drive out the NLA, it could well set the scene in flames. Somebody - - and do not expect it to be the United Nations - - will then feel obliged to shoulder the white man's civilising burden and intervene. Is it far-fetched to see a kind of repetition of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia? Hardly more so than the bombing would seem in, say, 1997.

One only has to imagine that the NLA (is helped to) step up its activities. With the Albanians leaving the government, with intensified polarisation throughout society, local para-military clashes and killings, and an increasingly hard-line Macedonianness coming to the surface, the United States and others might see it fit to bomb Macedonia and/or station troops. Nothing like Yugoslavia which was a much tougher opponent, but enough to subdue and take over.

4. The widening dispute between the EU and the U.S.

By calibrating a permanent instability, the United States can also continue its conflict with the EU. The EU can not yet do anything militarily but is working hard to get a Rapid Deployment Force established. Of course the United States enjoy to demonstrate just how much it can still dictate developments in the EU's own backyard: see, it will take some time before you become a super power!

5. The honeymoon with the Albanians is over

Given Western policies since 1998, the Albanians in Kosovo have all reason to expect that the West will deliver them an independent Kosova. However, that has become much less attractive (as has an independent Montenegro) for the West after the toppling of Milosevic who always served as the main navigation point for the West. The international "community" had no complex understanding of the Balkans or a strategy for a post-Milosevic era. However, to keep the Albanian hard-liners from turning against NATO and the West in Kosovo, something new must be offered instead.

If you think all this is to carry it a bit far, read "The Fork in the Road," by Christopher Dell, chief of mission, U.S. Office Pristina, originally published in

the academic quarterly "Kosova & Balkan Observer" in March 2001 (Year 1, Volume 1) at http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/eur/macedonia/dell.htm.

Dell tells how the United States has become disappointed with the Albanians for whom it has done so much and how they are no different from Milosevic when it comes to ethnic cleansing. Kosovo has long been in deep crisis; KFOR has done its utmost to prevent UCK/KLA and NLA but these "illegitimate" forces continue their short-term policies for personal gains. He condemns their violence and the way in which they are "using the crisis in Macedonia" as well as NLA's "hijacking of the Albanian parties there. Of course there is not a word about how this turning point came about after the old US-UCK honeymoon, not a word about the conspicuous complicity in all this of the United States itself.

6. Greater Kosova?

One way to make Kosovo-Albanians accept non-independence for the foreseeable future is to open the prospect of a larger Kosova (not Greater Albania). It is easier to use Macedonia than Serbia/Yugoslavia for that. After ten years of blaming Yugoslavia and the Serbs for virtually everything, it is now dawning upon many, at least unofficially, that this basic interpretative framework of the 1990s was the construction of intellectual dwarfs and has landed the West itself in prison in Pristina.

7. Attempting rapprochement with Yugoslavia

Because of the changes toward democracy in Yugoslavia, the West is probably now recognising that it can not just take away Kosovo and declare it independent for good.

Western advocacy of the independence of Kosova was only "fun" when Milosevic was around. Many in the West somewhat belatedly realise that Serbia is the main player. It is the most multi-ethnic country, its level of culture and education and its market of some 10 million is by far the most attractive in the region. With the new principled and moderate leadership of Vojeslav Kostunica and with the people's own liberation from Milosevic' authoritarian rule, Serbia suddenly looks like a better investment object and a most attractive ally for the future. And thus the tacit backing of the Albanian UCPMB forces in Southern Serbia stopped and a viable settlement could be reached.

Is there a grand design or is it just confusion?

Finally, a word of caution and of self-reflection. Some may see all this as an "anti-American" interpretation, as a "conspiracy" theory. Some may argue that analyses like this grossly overestimate the capacity of American foreign policy makers. The answer depends on how one interprets American foreign policy of the past and on how one believes its present decision-makers perceive the future. What looks as contradictory and as a confusing mixture of policies and signals may well turn out to be just that.

The point is that U.S. foreign policy should be discussed, evaluated and criticised much more than is presently the case. Experts, diplomats, leaders of smaller states and the media should not just repeat what is stated by officials in front of cameras and microphones. The role of this lone super power is too important for such "parrot" attitudes.

When it comes to a small country like Macedonia, it may make little difference whether what is done to it is actually the result of a grand strategy or of utter confusion. Given the way the world works, neither is likely to do it any good.

Macedonia at a turning point

One may assume that the Macedonian leadership is perfectly aware that there are Walkers out there who will cast it in the role of Milosevic if it steps up its military response to the Western-backed insurgents. So, damn you if you defend your country, and damn you if you don't.

What must worry any observer now is that it is unlikely that the Western definition of a measured response will remain identical with the Macedonian government's definition. The West can always seek to increase the pressure directly or through the UCK/NLA, even to the level where its propaganda machine brand the Macedonian government as a replica of Milosevic that aims to expel all Albanians from Macedonia.

It goes without saying that Macedonia's people and some kind of leadership that can be trusted by all citizens must now come together. By people I mean the 98 per cent good-hearted, peaceful Albanians, Macedonians, Serbs, Turks, Roma, Muslims etc. who, though they may not love each other, also do NOT hate each other, who do NOT want war and who do NOT want Macedonia to be destroyed.

For sure, they have some problems with each other and with welfare, employment, basic needs, education etc., but I strongly believe they are together in seeing Macedonia as their common country and that they are better off in that than in any other foreign design after a war. If given many more opportunities to come together and work together, Macedonians and Albanians may get along quite well, and whatever stereotypes that remain about the "other" ethnic collectivity will diminish. With violent struggle on Macedonia's territory, such windows of opportunity close a little day by day.

It is time for Macedonia to pull together against Western manipulation, and it is the moderate majority that can do it. In fact, it's the only one that can.

It is never too late to struggle for peace and decency. Pressinfo 123 will present some modest proposals in that constructive direction.

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