Enter content here
President George W. Bush (C) talks with EU Commission President Romano Prodi (R) and Swedish Prime Minister/EU President Goran Persson after the official summit photograph in Gothenburg, Sweden, June 14, 2001. At the EU-U.S. summit, Bush faced calls at home and abroad for more decisive action to stop a slide to another Balkan war, pitting ethnic Albanians on Kosovo's southern border with Macedonia's majority Slavs. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
Media and aid workers run as an Macedonian army armored personnel carrier (APC) accelerates and swerves to the side of the road June 14, 2001 in an attempt to stop media from filming and photographing them passing in front of an humanitarian aid convoy. Macedonia has asked NATO to help it disarm ethnic Albanian rebels and agreed to extend a shaky ceasefire while political leaders discuss an internationally-backed peace plan. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
Bush Demanded NATO to Admit New Members.
NATO to admit new members at the Prague summit next year, President George W. Bush called on yesterday. He took part in the shirt-sleeve summit of the Treaty in Brussels. The world leaders discussed the enlargement and the crisis in Macedonia. On the photo - George W. Bush (to the left), George Robertson - NATO Secretary General, and Vaclav Havel - President of the Czech Republic, yesterday in Brussels. PHOTO AP
Allies warm to bolder action in Macedonia.
NATO peacekeepers cannot move in without firm peace plan: U.S. diplomat
Reuters, with files from The Associated Press
BRUSSELS - The possibility of a NATO peacekeeping force in Macedonia got a major boost yesterday when the United States, France, Britain and other European allies advocated bolder action by the alliance to halt a slide toward civil war in the Balkan country.
While no leader outwardly advocated a NATO force at the talks, there was a sense among several of the 19 allies that more must be done to stop the conflict between ethnic Albanians and Macedonia's majority Slavs.
"NATO must play a more visible and active role in helping the Macedonian government counter the insurgency there," George W. Bush, the U.S. President, told the allied leaders.
Jacques Chirac, the French President, said, "We must state clearly that we will not accept a new outbreak of violence and intolerance, as this would jeopardize the stability of the entire region. We must not preclude any form of action needed to thwart such developments."
Britain also warned it was better to act quickly before the insurgency in the former Yugoslav republic widened.
"Our history of engagement in that part of the world has taught us that it is better to make preparations and to stabilize the situation rather than to wait and let the situation deteriorate," said Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister.
The calls came at an informal NATO summit to welcome Mr. Bush on his inaugural trip to Europe. NATO sources said Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic were also among "countries saying we have to act."
In Greece, Macedonia's southern neighbour, George Papandreou, the Greek Foreign Minister, told a local radio interviewer "a peacekeeping force, sooner or later ... will be necessary."
George Robertson, NATO's Secretary-General, plans to fly to Macedonia today for his third crisis mission there in three months.
Violence erupted in the Balkan country in February when ethnic Albanian militants took up arms in a fight for broader rights. Macedonian authorities have led several offensives to dislodge the rebels from their strongholds, contending they are separatists bent on carving up the country.
After both the government and the rebels declared ceasefires on Monday, Boris Trajkovski, the country's President, re-offered a peace plan to end the insurgency by upgrading the status of the ethnic Albanians, who account for nearly a third of Macedonia's two million people.
But that fragile truce was dealt an immediate blow when gunmen killed a leading ethnic Albanian activist. Naser Hani, 40, was shot late Tuesday from a passing van in the centre of the southwestern town of Struga, near a lake resort where peace talks will be held tomorrow.
Up until now, NATO has balked at the idea of any peacekeeping operation in Macedonia. The United States has most vocally opposed a mission, with the Bush administration favouring less U.S. military involvement in the Balkans.
A senior diplomat said the United States maintains that with no firm peace plan in place, the idea of sending peacekeepers "looks like putting the cart before the horse."
"No one today talked about sending troops," said a NATO official, adding Macedonia would dominate lunchtime discussions.
At a news conference midway through the summit, Mr. Robertson declined to be drawn on the possibility of a NATO peace mission.
He said the Macedonian unity government's proposal for a ceasefire followed by disarmament of the rebels and political reforms in favour of the Albanian minority were the way forward.
"That way and that way alone spells peace and stability for that country and for the wider region," he said.
The allies provide advice and training to Macedonia, but their main contribution to crushing the insurgency has been to seal the border with Kosovo to prevent further infiltration of fighters and weapons.
There would be no NATO peacekeeping mission as such in Macedonia without a U.S. presence, diplomats predicted.
"What I can see possibly taking shape is a coalition of the willing. I can't see a NATO mission as such," an alliance source said. For one thing, it would take time to get a consensus of the 19 members, he said.
"But bilaterally, countries could decide to do something."
About 4,000 foreign troops serve in Macedonia as part of backup and logistics for the NATO-led KFOR force in neighbouring Kosovo, but they are not equipped for peacekeeping.
Macedonia's government suggests the KFOR mandate could be modified to give it a wider mission in Macedonia. Kosovo is NATO's biggest military operation in the alliance's 52-year history with 36,000 peacekeepers on duty. There are also close to 22,000 peacekeepers in Bosnia.
"We are not thinking about MFOR [in Macedonia]," a NATO source said emphatically last week.
Yesterday, however, he said the mood at NATO was changing to "a more forward-leaning" position.
"There is a growing sense that we should be bold," he said.
TRAJKOVSKI: WE ARE TAKING ALL NECESSARY MEASURES TO ELIMINATE TERRORISTS.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, after the press conference of NATO Secretary General George Robertson and EU High representative for common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, informed about their joint meeting. Trajkovski said that the words of Solana and Robertson assured him that the NATO, EU and USA close cooperation in the battle against terrorists, and for overcoming the crisis in Macedonia would continue.
President Trajkovski expressed his gratitude for the constructive support they clearly showed by unanimously condemning terrorism and extremism of the people who present themselves as fighters for freedom and rights, but in fact attack democracy and the multiethnic concept of living in Macedonia. "They jeopardise the stability, security and democracy not only of Macedonia, but also of the wider region. On one hand we have a battle for protection of democracy and a multiethnic society, and on the other an attack against the democratic principles and values of a legitimate state" Trajkovski said.
"We stood up in defence of democracy. Therefore, taking into consideration the need for a peaceful, true and lasting solution to the crisis, I suggested my Plan" Trajkovski added.
He pointed out that while the talks for peaceful resolving of the crises are being led, the Albanian terrorists, unfortunately, still continue with the armed provocation, in spite of the fact that these days Macedonian security forces do not take any actions so as to work out restoring of water supply to Kumanovo and provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population in Lipkovo.
"I would like to send a message to those who would like to create a humanitarian catastrophe by not allowing 100,000 citizens of Kumanovo to drink water, and threaten to launch attacks against vital objects in the state, that they will not succeed. We are taking all necessary measures to isolate, neutralise and eliminate the terrorists. This is in fact the second phase of the Plan for overcoming the crisis, by taking measures for breaking the terrorists' will for further activities, disrupting their cohesion, and cutting their supply lines" Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said.
He announced that the political dialogue would restart Thursday afternoon, and added that there is readiness to discuss all issues. "I have called upon the representatives of the Albanian parties to put on the table every issue that they think we should discuss. I expect from them to do it this afternoon. There is no need for fears, we should sit down and discuss all issues, even the most complicated ones," Trajkovski said.
In relation to the Plan for disarmament of the terrorists, Trajkovski pointed out that on Wednesday this plan got more than obvious strong support from the NATO member countries. "I requested from the NATO Secretary General the involvement of NATO in the final realisation of this plan, because we are not entirely convinced that all of the terrorists would be prepared to lay down their weapons, despite the positive results that we expect from the political process to yield. On the basis of their previous activities, we should not exclude the possibility that they would try to destroy this process. Thus, we are deeply convinced that the fact that NATO declared readiness to participate in the realisation of this plan will have great influence on the terrorists to lay down their weapons" President Trajkovski said.
At the end of his statement, Trajkovski welcomed the support that the international community expressed for the final defeat of the enemies of democracy - the terrorists.
ROBERTSON AND SOLANA HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson and EU High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana said their mission in Skopje is aimed towards finding long-term solution for the crisis in Macedonia.
"We have brought the support of 19 NATO member countries, given yesterday to the President Trajkovski's plan for putting an end to the crisis," Robertson said Thursday at a press conference.
"NATO helps in working out of the plan details and now reaching of a political progress is important," Robertson said.
He considered that talks between the leaders of Macedonia's political parties and President Trajkovski "must turn the promise for progress into reality."
"The Macedonian Government has agreed to restrain from military operations during the political dialogue, NATO and EU call on extremists to respond in the same manner. We particularly warn the extremists to take no action during this weekend of political dialogue," Robertson said.
He called armed extremists to withdraw from Aracinovo and other occupied villages and lay down their weapons.
According to Robertson, a political solution is possible "while violence must not be allowed to disrupt the political process."
Referring to NATO assistance, Robertson said three NATO expert teams were helping with the Trajkovski's plan, while KFOR deployed 18 units at the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, on the Kosovo part.
According to Solana, a progress in solving of the crisis may be achieved through three basic elements - the first one - the security plan, supported by the Government and the international community; the second - the Government's commitment to start serious dialogue this afternoon; and the third -the Government's position that during this political dialogue it will restrain from military operation.
Solana expressed hope that the Macedonian Prime Minister would bring positive results from the dialogue at a meeting in Luxembourg on June 25.
Solana said that members of the so-called National Liberation Army should know very clearly that no political goals could be reached through violence.
To a journalist question whether the assistance in the peace plan implementation could alter the NATO mandate in Macedonia, Robertson said President Trajkovski officially raised the issue.
"We have discussed about this in details and I shall brief NATO HQ," Robertson said.
Asked to comment today's suggestion by self-declared political leader of the so-called NLA Ali Ahmeti for deployment of NATO forces in Macedonia to guarantee stability, Robertson said he had received such a fax but had no time to read it.
""But, if this message means that the so-called NLA thinks about disarming then we will certainly review the suggestion," Robertson said.
ROBERTSON AND SOLANA MEET MACEDONIAN TOP OFFICIALS.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson and EU High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana met Thursday in Skopje with Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Foreign and Interior Ministers Ilinka Mitreva and Ljube Boskovski.
At the meeting, Trajkovski presented Macedonia's determination to successfully implement his plan for disarmament and continuation of the political dialogue on all open issues in the country.
Trajkovski reiterated that Macedonia was not for military intervention, pointing out the necessity for NATO assistance, particularly in the third and forth phase of his plan.
Robertson said that all NATO members strongly support Macedonia and the plan for disarmament.
"NATO is fully aware of the danger Macedonia has been facing for the last week," Robertson said.
Solana expressed hope that the Macedonian top officials would report on good results from the undertaken measures at a meeting in Luxembourg on June 25. He said that EU was ready to deploy its mission for monitoring of the process of disarming that would be carried out in compliance with the Macedonian President's plan.
The officials also raised the issues for the European countries to stop issuing visas to publicly declared terrorists, and for cutting of financial support to the so-called National Liberation Army.
Last night, Solana, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and Euro-Commissioner Chris Patten met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and sent a message to Albanian terrorists to lay down their arms. They expressed great concern about the situation in Aracinovo, welcoming the declaration of cease-fire by the Macedonian security forces, aimed to enable delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in the critical region.
Britain may train Macedonian commando unit.
By Christian Jennings in Skopje and Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent.
BRITAIN will "look favourably" on a Macedonian request for military teams to train and direct a new commando unit to spearhead the country's five-month fight against ethnic Albanian rebels, officials said yesterday.
Macedonia's plea for help came as rebels launched their first strike against the suburbs of the capital, Skopje. Guerrillas from the self-styled National Liberation Army, which has taken control of villages near the city, fired on police positions on its outskirts.
The formal request for British assistance from the coalition government of President Boris Trajkovski could be approved as early as today, officials said. A British military training team would then leave for Macedonia. The teams are largely staffed by members of the SAS and have operated in a number of countries throughout the world helping the armed forces of friendly governments to overcome resistance movements.
Training is a key part of their brief but SAS teams often go into action with their charges to ensure that the job is done properly. Nato officers in the Balkans have long questioned the fighting abilities of Macedonia's armed forces.
Described by British intelligence officials and military experts as "badly led, badly trained and badly equipped", the country's mix-and-match army has proved to be incapable of defeating a few hundred rebel fighters despite using T-55 tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships against villages filled with thousands of civilians.
For the past two years Macedonian forces have been advised and trained by a private American company, Military Professional Resources Inc, of Alexandria, Virginia. It also helped to train the Croatian army and the now-defunct Kosovo Liberation Army.
A battlegroup of British troops from the 2nd Royal Tank Regt is in position on the Kosovo side of the border across the Sar Planina mountains from the northern Macedonian town of Tetovo, part of an increased drive by Nato's forces in Kosovo to restrict movement of rebel arms and equipment into northern Macedonia.
Thousands of refugees are continuing to pour over the border into Kosovo, bringing to nearly 20,000 the number who have crossed since Friday, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
Balkans come under threat again as time runs out for a fragile state.
By Misha Glenny.
TIME is running out for Macedonia. After months of low-level clashes between the poorly equipped Macedonian army and the highly effective Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army, the last two weeks has seen the situation slip rapidly out of control.
One senior European Union diplomat said: "We are probably no longer talking about a matter of weeks but a matter of days before this blows up, A collapse of this fragile state would endanger more or less everything we have been trying to achieve in the region during the past decade. It would be almost impossible to put Macedonia's pieces back together again."
Macedonia was the only former Yugoslav republic to avoid serious armed conflict during the 1990s. It did, however, have a serious structural problem: the presence of a large Albanian minority, over a quarter of the population, and a Macedonian majority that resented Albanian demands for greater rights.
After the Nato bombing campaign of 1999 pushed the Serbs out of Kosovo, members of the victorious Kosovo Liberation Army, unemployed and frustrated at the lack of progress towards full independence, turned their attention to neighbouring Macedonia.
At first the NLA was dismissed as a tinpot army incapable of threatening stability in Macedonia. But the Macedonian army has nothing like the experience and resources of the Serbs, and in February this year the NLA emerged as an organised force capable of taking and securing villages close to the Kosovo border.
Since then Javier Solana, the European Union security chief, has jetted in and out of the capital, Skopje, trying to keep together the unfortunately named national unity government. But co-operation has continually foundered over the issue of whether the NLA should be included in a political settlement.
Four weeks ago, a key event persuaded the NLA that it could snatch more from the chaos than just a seat at a negotiating table. Robert Frowick, an American diplomat working for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, arranged for the mainstream Albanian party leaders to sign a document of co-operation with the NLA.
This led to the end of effective collaboration between the Albanians and Macedonians, with the latter accusing the former of wanting to destroy the state. In an ominous response, Macedonians in the southern town of Bitola went on the rampage, burning and looting Albanian businesses.
Mr Frowick's intervention was heavily criticised by the Europeans, while the NLA interpreted it to mean there were serious policy divisions between Washington and the European capitals. They concluded that there was little likelihood of a Nato intervention because the Americans would refuse to back it.
Since then the attacks have spread so that they now threaten Skopje, as well as the country's main oil refinery and the airport. But the NLA may have miscalculated. Earlier this week Jim Swiggert, a senior US State Department official, gave warning that its activity was threatening the logistical operation of Kfor in Kosovo, so the Americans may yet be persuaded of the need to intervene.
But if Mr Bush's lukewarm response to the idea at the Brussels summit is seen by the NLA as a green light to spread its activities, everyone in the southern Balkans will be running for cover.
Misha Glenny is the author of The Balkans: 1804-1999 published by Granta.
Bush is upstaged by Balkan crisis.
United front: Tony Blair and President Bush at Nato headquarters in Brussels.
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor, in Brussels
TONY BLAIR and President Chirac of France led calls yesterday for Nato to take tougher action to halt Macedonia's descent into civil war as Albanian rebels carried the fighting to the outskirts of the capital, Skopje.
The Balkan crisis overshadowed President Bush's first summit with his fellow Nato leaders. US officials had wanted to keep it off the agenda so that Mr Bush could concentrate on promoting his vision of missile defence. The American President later said that he felt a "new receptivity" among Nato allies for a missile defence system. He also pledged to work with Europe and Russia before deciding whether to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
But the day was dominated by events in the Balkans. Addressing the summit in Brussels, M Chirac all but demanded that the alliance prepare for the possibility of a third military intervention in the Balkans. Telling Nato leaders that they should not tolerate a new cycle of violence and regional instability, he said: "We must not preclude any form of action needed to thwart such developments."
Mr Blair agreed. He said: "We are very concerned about the situation in Macedonia. Our history of engagement in that part of the world has taught us that it is better to make preparations soon and stabilise the situation, rather than to wait and let the situation deteriorate."
But in a sign of the tensions and confusion over how to tackle the crisis, British and French officials immediately played down any suggestion that military action was being considered. M Chirac later took a less interventionist stance, saying there was no military solution to the crisis and outsiders should only send troops as a last resort.
The change of tack is believed to have stemmed, at least in part, from opposition from America to any further involvement. On what was the first major engagement of his European tour, Mr Bush told leaders that "Nato must play a more visible and active role" to counter the Albanian insurgency.
But after the four-hour summit he said he favoured only diplomatic intervention. He said: "Most people think there is still a political solution available before military action is considered." Mr Bush pledged that he would not pull out American troops from the Balkans, but made clear that he wanted to reduce the US deployment rather than increase it.
Lord Robertson, the Nato secretary-general, is due to travel to Macedonia today after taking part in an emergency meeting last night with the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the European Union's foreign policy supremo, Javier Solana, to discuss Macedonia.
The best Macedonia can expect in the short term is military training assistance. Britain was said to be anticipating a request from Macedonia that it will train a military team to fight the Albanian rebels, and to advise the special forces units that have borne the brunt of the five-month-old conflict.
British intelligence officials and military experts have described the Macedonian forces as "badly led, badly trained and badly equipped".
Ethnic Albanians have advantage.
Poorly equipped and trained FYROM troops fail to halt the insurgency, but procurements approved
Ethnic Albanian refugees rest in the UNHCR tent at the Blace border crossing yesterday after they fled FYROM for Kosovo.
By Miron Varouhakis
Kathimerini English Edition
Three months after starting their armed campaign, saying that all they demand is equal rights, ethnic Albanian rebels have taken over a strategically-located town in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) near the capital, Skopje. Government troops, who had proclaimed victory shortly after the insurgency began, have appeared powerless to overcome two major problems: The guerrillas are well-trained and well-armed and enjoy the support of the local population in the areas of operation; the security forces are dogged by poor training, rely on outdated weapons mostly handed down by neighbors and allies, and are fighting a force that appears to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Furthermore, efforts by the international community to assist Skopje have focused mostly on issuing condemnations of the rebels and making vain promises to keep weapons and insurgents from crossing the border from Kosovo to FYROM. The European Union's security chief, Javier Solana, while briefing EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, said that the Albanian guerrillas appear to be receiving support from members of the Albanian diaspora. Greece then proposed that a blacklist of such people involved in arms smuggling and money laundering be drawn up, barring them from entering EU territory.
The military campaign is also bleeding FYROM dry economically. On a visit to Greece, former President Kiro Gligorov called on the international community to provide economic assistance. "The war has cost Macedonia more than 300 million marks in three months," he said.
Reports by Western defense analysts describe FYROM's army as "poorly equipped, badly trained and led," as a Jane's Defense Weekly writer put it in early April.
The ethnic Albanian rebel group calling itself the National Liberation Army, on the other hand, is considered to be well-trained in guerrilla warfare - being formed by former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) - and well-equipped for launching such an assault. Recent seizures of KLA weaponry by NATO-led peacekeeping forces in southern Kosovo in late May have included anti-tank rockets, rifles, machine guns, air defense guns, anti-tank launchers and mortar launchers. The rebels can also count on the support of most of the country's ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 30 percent of the country's population.
Over the weekend, after NLA rebels seized control of the town of Aracinovo 10 kilometers (six miles) east of Skopje, a rebel leader known as Commander Hoxha told reporters that his battalion had brought to the town several 120mm artillery pieces and threatened to shell the capital's airport and a nearby refinery (which is operated by Hellenic Petroleum, which, with $180 million, has made the largest single Greek investment in the country).
Yesterday, President Boris Trajkovski told reporters in Skopje that an elite unit of army and police troops is being set up and is nearly complete. It will work under the direct orders of a special government body that includes the ministers of defense, interior and foreign affairs and the army chief of staff. Trajkovski also appointed Lt. Gen. Pande Petrovski as the new army chief of staff, replacing Gen. Jovan Andrevski, who stepped down "upon his own request" and will serve in future as a presidential adviser, a statement said, according to The Associated Press.
The two developments indicated the recognition that government forces have been ineffective in their fight against the insurgents.
Rebuffing statements by the West that describe the rebel insurgency as a small-scale assault and an internal problem, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported yesterday from Geneva that as many as 18,000 people have fled the fighting in FYROM to the NATO-occupied province of Kosovo since Friday. As many as 5,000 arrived Monday.
Since rebels first crossed FYROM's northern border in March, fighting has occurred in Tetovo and Slupcane and Slav-Macedonian mobs attacked ethnic Albanians' property in the southern town of Bitola. But the capture of Aracinovo over the weekend has been the single biggest advance by the insurgents. Western intelligence sources have also said that the guerrillas might move to open a new front at the city of Gostivar, west of Skopje, which would bring under their control the two crucial road arteries leading from Skopje to Kumanovo and Ohrid, cutting off the Albanian parts of the country from the rest and uniting them, in effect, with Kosovo and Albania.
More than a dozen FYROM soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Eight of them were gunned down in a late April ambush, five in a June 5 ambush on a military supply convoy, and the last one over the weekend in an assault in the village of Slupcane. Several dozen more have been injured, while at least seven civilians have lost their lives after being caught in the crossfire. Rebels have sustained minimal losses, according to their commanders, but no number has been confirmed.
On a second front near the northern border town of Tetovo, reports say that FYROM security forces have deployed less than 500 army troops accompanied by five T-55 main battle tanks to fight the insurgency, supported at times by helicopter gunships.
Efforts to push rebels beyond the border have failed, though, as the troops are ill-equipped to fight a guerrilla force and have failed to block NLA rebels from springing up on the edges of the nation's capital.
Army troops, which include a substantial portion of reservists, are equipped with donated and outdated military gear such as 57mm unguided rockets, four Mi-8MTV transport helicopters and two Mi-24D gunships that were delivered to its air force in late March. The helicopters, originating from Ukraine and boosting an air wing with just three Mi-17s - a fourth was lost in a landing accident on March 17 - were the first purchase by FYROM's army in many years.
As defense analysts note, FYROM's army depends heavily on foreign military aid with most of its equipment, including its tanks and artillery, coming as aid from neighboring countries and allies. In 1999 Bulgaria donated 150 T-55s - with only 140 of those being operational - and 142 pieces of Soviet-built field artillery in calibers up to 152mm. A number of armored personnel carriers were donated to the country's army by Germany (60 ex-East German BTR-70s), Italy (63 M-113 APCs), and Greece (10 Leonidas APCs).
The heaviest weapons in service are 108 obsolescent M1938 (M-30) 122mm howitzers that were donated to FYROM's army by Bulgaria back in 1999.
The United States announced on March 29 that it would provide FYROM with $13.6 million in military assistance for the year. Washington has already provided FYROM's army with portable global positioning systems, and flak jackets, while NATO has helped set up a center to relay military intelligence for FYROM's Defense Ministry.
Following the initial insurgency by NLA rebel fighters in March, FYROM's army embarked on an urgent program of procurements of arms and ammunition.
FYROM's Defense Ministry has compiled a shopping list that includes 45 light tanks, some additional armored personnel carriers and batteries of heavy artillery. Also, tank and artillery ammunition which is in short supply has topped the list, despite a reported donation worth $6 million by Bulgaria in late March.
Moreover, Jane's Defense Weekly reports that a leased Ukrainian I1-76 transport aircraft has been making nightly arms deliveries from Pula airport in southern Croatia to Skopje, and local media have reported up to 15 flights. Croatian sources reported that shipment may include 12 D-30 HR 122mm howitzers built in Croatia, AK-47 rifles and mortars. FYROM also plans to purchase 10 Pilatus PC-9 aircraft, it was decided on March 11.
Rebels humiliate Macedonian army, Kosovo veterans close to capital.
San Fransisco Cronicle
Juliette Terzieff, Chronicle Foreign Service.
Aracinovo, Macedonia -- The ethnic Albanian rebel fighters drove around with impunity. Up and down the roads of this village they sped, vehicles laden with weapons, setting up a command center in the site of their latest conquest.
"They won't touch us," said one local commander of the self-proclaimed National Liberation Army (NLA) when asked about nearby Macedonian forces. "They know by now that we are powerful enough to make them sorry."
The rebels stunned the country last Friday by seizing Aracinovo, a mere five miles from Skopje, the capital, without firing a shot.
The fall of Aracinovo was just the latest in a series of humiliations for Macedonia's security forces. In four months of conflict, the NLA has not only eluded capture but is managing to fight on two fronts near Tetovo and Kumanovo,
the second and third largest cities -- engulfing the entire north of Macedonia.
"We are in position to fire on Skopje," NLA commander Hoxha declared over the weekend. "It is up to the Macedonians if they want to risk firing on us."
Hoxha's ultimatum to make peace or face a war in the cities has evolved into a shaky cease-fire that was still holding yesterday, despite a disruption Monday night near Tetovo when nine police officers were injured when their truck was fired on by rebels. The NLA contends that the attack was a mistake.
FEW GOVERNMENT SUCCESSES
Government forces have been able to claim few successes in the conflict. When they drove the NLA out of the village of Vaksince two weeks ago, it took less than three days for the rebels to regain a foothold.
"In the beginning, the Macedonians thought the NLA could be wiped out in two days, but it's become obvious . . . that this is simply not the case," said one Skopje-based diplomat.
Many of the rebel fighters are veterans of the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, well trained in the hit-and-run style of guerrilla warfare.
As a fighting force they are highly mobile, using primarily handheld weaponry such as Kalashnikov rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and rocket- propelled grenade launchers.
"We have rockets, mortars and mines at our disposal," boasted Hoxha, who threatened to unleash 120-millimeter shells on targets in Skopje if Macedonian forces failed to suspend their five-week bombardment of rebel-held villages near Kumanovo.
NLA commanders claim that the size of their forces now numbers more than 6, 000. Government officials and foreign observers believe the number to be around half that, but the NLA's size has clearly grown since the insurgency began in February.
"It is hard to pinpoint," said the diplomat. "Nobody knows precisely how many are currently in uniform, nor how many more are prepared to join as the conflict spreads."
The rebels -- who say they are fighting to end discrimination against Macedonia's one-third ethnic Albanian population in the areas of employment, education and language -- appear to be far more than the armed forces can handle.
TROOPS, WEAPONS LACKING
The army, largely untested since Macedonia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, numbers only about 10,500 active-duty personnel. The Defense Ministry also has at its disposal about 440,000 males aged 15 to 49 deemed fit for service, although half are believed to be ethnic Albanians, who may refuse conscription.
The army's weaponry is mostly of older Soviet vintage, including 150 T-55 tanks, 100 BTR-70 and M-113 armored personnel carriers as well as 76mm, 105mm, and 152mm firearms.
Since the conflict began, the army has picked up four helicopters from Ukraine. The army had just four to begin with, and one of them crashed near Tetovo two months ago, killing the pilot.
"Their arsenal is largely unimpressive," said the diplomat. "But that is not their only problem."
The rebels' mobility and more modern weaponry give them an edge in the mountainous terrain in which most of the fighting has occurred. Poor roads hamper the army's ability to deploy its tanks and armored carriers, and the infantry is so inexperienced that commanders are loath to throw it into battle.
Most of the army's attacks have been limited to long-range shelling that does minimal damage to the rebels.
A secondary but important problem is that the police and army are under the control of separate ministries led by officials from rival Macedonian Slav political parties.
On at least one occasion, a commander of special police forces refused an order to enter Vaksince because the army was failing to provide sufficient backup. He was subsequently suspended by superiors.
Monday afternoon, after heavy shelling in the morning, Macedonian officials called for a suspension of military activity to alleviate looming humanitarian crises and restructure the armed forces. The government formally approved the cease-fire yesterday.
Presidential spokesman Nikola Dimitrov said the restructuring process would be completed within days and optimistically vowed that the security forces would henceforth operate as one unit to "neutralize the terrorist group."
FOOD AND WATER SUPPLIES
During the lull, officials are pushing to restart water delivery to Kumanovo's 100,000 residents. The city has been without water for a week, and the NLA stands accused of cutting the supply from reservoirs in its territory.
An estimated 15,000 civilians are trapped inside the battle zone behind rebel lines and have been without proper food or water supplies for five weeks,
with armed forces blocking access to the area.
Yesterday, a convoy of local humanitarian organizations with medical supplies and 300 tons of food waited five hours in sweltering heat for the second day in a row trying to gain access to villages near Kumanovo. They were ultimately turned back by police.
More than 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, have fled the country for neighboring Kosovo. Thousands more Macedonians and Serbs have evacuated farther into Macedonia itself to escape the spreading violence.
Both sides seemed content yesterday to extend the conflict's first mutual cease-fire for another day, but observers warn that it is not likely to last long.
"Everyone is preparing for an escalation now," said the diplomat. "One can only hope the politicians will produce some rapid progress."
Reports of deadly fever in Macedonia.
12:05 SKOPJE, Thursday Macedonian intelligence services have information that the deadly haemorrhagic fever has been transported from Kosovo to the Skopje village of Aracinovo.
Skopje daily Dnevnik reports today that intelligence services have photos of Albanian rebels in the village who they claim have been infected by the virus.
Skopje Medical Centre confirmed that the virus could have spread due to amount of people who had left for Kosovo and then returned.
The virus is transmitted by tick bites or through direct contact of bodily fluids. Reports of the outbreak in Kosovo surfaced last week. (Srna)
Skopje's atmosphere of fear.
The military has a high profile on the streets of Skopje.
A Macedonian soldier guards a convoy of 20 trucks being donated by the German government to the fledgling Macedonian army in Skopje, Macedonia, Wednesday, june 13, 2001. The trucks are being donated to the army to help in their effort to battle ethnic Albanian rebels. Germany also donated 50 pairs of night vision goggles and tons of medical equipment to the Macedonian army. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
By Paul Anderson in Skopje
In a cafe in Skopje's Albanian district of Cerava, they probe the depths of history to find an explanation for the current inter-ethnic strife in Macedonia.
Over thick black coffee the date they settle on is relatively recent by Balkans standards - 1912.
That is the date they trace the first Slavic victimisation of Albanians in Macedonia, right after the war against the Turks. And to a greater or lesser degree, they say, it has continued ever since.
"At that point we used to be 70% of Macedonia - now we are 30%," says Adem Hyseni, a primary school mathematics teacher.
Like many of Skopje's Albanian community, he is terrified at the prospect of anti-Albanian communal violence if events turn for the worse in Macedonia. Thousands of people have sent their families to the safety of Kosovo.
But Adem is staying, because, he says, Albanians are used to it by now and they want to see it through. "Nobody wants a war," he says when the talk turns to the rebel fighting force, the National Liberation Army.
"But everyone has a right to fight, to be the victim of our own cause. We can't wait all our lives. We want to stay in this territory and we want the right to live here equally."
He denies categorically that the conflict is about a land and power grab led by Kosovo Albanians, who, as the Macedonians say, have imported their violent struggle to an otherwise peaceful, democratic country and brought it to the brink of civil war.
Skopje has the look of calm. People eat and drink in the dozens of street cafes and restaurants. There is not much of a security presence.
But most say they are terrified and fear the worst. Macedonians too are leaving the capital in increasing numbers and it is not difficult to see why.
They point north west, in the direction of the village the rebels now occupy just 10km away.
The battle - once confined to mountain areas north and north-west - has come perilously close. The rebels have warned they will attack unless the government meets their demands. Among those demands is a place at the negotiating table.
Among Macedonians there is a recognition that something has to be done to address at least some of the grievances of moderate Albanians.
Macedonians are proud of the fact that until now they have remained untouched by the inter-ethnic enmities which led to the Balkans wars of the 1990s.
They are proud that Macedonia hosted - for a while - several hundred thousand Albanians fleeing death and persecution in Kosovo in 1999.
And they fervently believe that there would not be trouble were it not for the presence of a small band of professional rebels from Kosovo, who bamboozle and press-gang illiterate Albanian villagers into joining their ranks.
Gordana Popsimonova, a Macedonian and a senior agricultural scientist at Skopje University, says she is scared and angry, with the rebels lying in wait so close to the city, particularly if they hit the power and water supplies.
Money driving conflict
But her anger turns first on the Macedonian Government for failing to protect her and the rest of its citizens.
Then it turns on the people who she believes started the conflict - not the self-styled fighters for Albanian rights, but the war profiteers. These are the people who ply a huge trade in smuggling cigarettes, arms and drugs in the border areas between Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia.
"Their trade succeeds best in times of instability and insecurity," she said.
Money is driving this conflict, she says, and only money will end it.
Macedonia: Fakti daily quotes Ali Ahmeti as saying NLA could accept the agreement struck by Trajkosvki and political leaders.
Skopje, - National Liberation Army (NLA) did not resort to weapons in order to garner electorate and to participate in the future government of a democratic state created afterwards, or, lets put in other words, our democratic Macedonian-Albanian or Albanian-Macedonian State, the political leader of the so-called NLA, ALi Ahmeti, said in an interview with Skopjes Albanian language daily Fakti.
Makfax news agency quotes Ahmeti as saying that NLA could accept the eventual agreement reached by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and the leaders of major political parties of Macedonians and Albanians.
It is obvious that NLA will not accept the agreement unless all NLAs demands are met. If the agreement complies with NLAs demands, and if the international community, the United States, the European Union and NATO guarantee the implementation of such agreement, NLA will accept it, Ahmeti told Fakti daily. In case of disarming the NLA and the eventual transformation, there is a project worked out by the NLA, Ahmeti adds.
Each was has an end, and, as far as we know, the round-table dialogue is the only way to end a war. There must be an agreement signed by the government and NLA. Such agreement should be thrashed out before NLAs demilitarization and transformation. The international factor should guarantee the implementation of such agreement. NLAs demilitarization must be preceded by serious agreement marked with concrete agenda on meeting the demands of Albanians.
Ahmeti is deeply concerned with indications that certain Macedonian organizations have been providing the ethnic Macedonians with weapons. Ahmeti gives a message to armed Macedonians to point their weapons to NLA fighters instead of pointing their weapons to unarmed Albanian population.
I presume the government could avert such activities because it controls the mechanisms. On the other hand, NLA has never perpetrated a single incident on ethnic Albanian or ethnic Macedonian civilians. NLA has never carried out an attack on Macedonian national values because we respect the national values of the other side, and we call the other side to do the same.
Ahmeti sends a message to civilians not to flee their homes because as long as NLA fighters are on the terrain, they will not allow any terror on Albanian population.
We are fully capable of protecting our citizens, not only the Albanian but also the Macedonian citizens, we will safeguard their security in the same way as we did it before, Ahmeti told Fakti daily.
Macedonians should take example from Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and to accept the reality that they have to love together with Albanians.
If the Macedonian see NLAs struggle as aggression against Macedonian and Christian culture, civilization, language and spiritual traditions, I must say that it is nothing but a delusion and deliberate distortion of truth. Such delusion is created through media and political manipulation, orchestrated by certain individuals, Ahmeti says in an interview with Skopjes Albania language daily Fakti.
Fakti daily says it will continue to run the story in Fridays edition.
Biden calls for Macedonia intervention.
The Washington Times
By David R. Sands
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wasted little time yesterday in putting pressure on the Bush administration in one of the world´s crisis spots.
Chairing his first hearing since his party took control of the Senate this month, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, called for the United States and NATO to take a more active role in containing ethnic violence in Macedonia.
"It is clear to me that the United States must increase its involvement," Mr. Biden said yesterday.
"Like it or not, the reality is that only the U.S. has the necessary military and political credibility to successfully manage and resolve crises in the Balkans," he said.
This month´s shift in power in the Senate was perhaps most starkly illustrated in the changing of the guard in the Foreign Relations Committee, where the liberal Mr. Biden succeeds Sen. Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who set a consistently conservative agenda as committee chairman.
Mr. Biden´s ascension poses new problems for President Bush, complicating the confirmation strategy for several diplomatic nominees and giving one of the Democrats´ most articulate speakers a new soapbox to press his views on issues in which he disagrees with the administration, from the Balkans to North Korea to missile defense.
The Senate hearing on the developing crisis in the Balkans yesterday came as Mr. Bush and other NATO leaders meeting in Brussels announced they were not ready to commit to a military role in Macedonia, where the government is battling an increasingly powerful insurgency by ethnic Albanian rebels.
Mr. Biden, who made a failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and has been rumored to be considering another run in 2004, has managed to forge a cordial working relationship with Mr. Helms.
Despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the two were able to work together on a compromise U.N. reform package, the expansion of NATO and increased funding for the State Department during the Clinton administration. They have spoken repeatedly during committee hearings of their close personal relations as the Senate´s "odd couple."
"While I enjoyed the previous arrangement, the gavel is in capable and responsible hands," Mr. Helms said at the beginning of yesterday´s hearing.
But Mr. Biden has also shown he is not afraid to challenge the new Bush administration on some of its most cherished foreign policy initiatives, notably Mr. Bush´s plans for a defense system against ballistic missile attacks.
In an address last month to the World Affairs Council at the National Press Club, Mr. Biden questioned a number of aspects of the plan, from its price tag and technological feasibility to the response of China, Russia and other nuclear powers. Before the administration announced the resumption of talks with North Korea last week, Mr. Biden publicly criticized Mr. Bush´s skeptical stance on South Korean President Kim Dae-jung´s rapprochement with Pyongyang.
While Mr. Biden has supported research and development for a potential missile defense system, he is clearly far more skeptical than was Mr. Helms of the usefulness of the system and of Mr. Bush´s diplomatic efforts to sell it abroad.
"Are we better off spending this much on national missile defense?" Mr. Biden asked. "Or should we spend at least some of it on modernizing our armed forces to meet more likely challenges, including terrorism?"
Committee watchers have speculated that Mr. Biden may have less trouble with the Republicans than with his fellow Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee. They include some of the chamber´s most liberal members, including Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.
FRY/Kosovo: UNMIK cuts heroin trafficking chain.
Gnjilane, - The UN Police in Gnjilane cut a chain of drugs trafficking and arrested 54 persons involved in illegal trade, Kosovo Life news agency reported, adding that the heroine shipment came from Albania.
The UNMIK Police managed to identify a large group of young people who had carried out as many as 100 robberies. A total of 15 suspects have been detained.
Croatia: Russian President to present new plan over the Balkans.
Zagreb, - Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has a new plan on fixing the crisis in the Balkans. Putin is very likely to present his plan to the US President George Bush at the meeting in Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, Zagrebs media reported, referring to sources in Kremlin.
Moscow plan foresees Balkans Conference, during which, all countries of the Region would sign a joint declaration on mutual recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. At the same time, the Balkan States would commit themselves not to meddle in domestic affairs of other countries. This binding declaration would avert and ban any supply with arms or training of separatists by the neighboring countries.
Russian diplomats have already consulted their European counterparts regarding the Putins proposal. However, only Yugoslavia and Macedonia had endorsed the plan. Moscow presumes that the US President George Bush will present the US plan over the Balkans.
Moscows media say the two plans the Russian and the US plan - would result in further crumbling of the Balkan States based on ethnic principles. Zagrebs daily Vjesnik says Moscow voiced no hopes that any crucial decisions over the Balkans will be taken in Ljubljana.
Bulgarians Abroad:Let Us Trust in NMS II.
We have the unique chance for a historical change, declare over 70 Bulgarian fellow-countrymen abroad.
We hail the appearance of young professionals of international education and experience in Bulgarian politics. The participation of Nikolai Vassilev, Milen Velchev and Lyubka Kachakova in the economic team of 'National Movement Simeon II' is a unique opportunity for carrying through the long-cherished renovation of the executive power, more than 70 Bulgarian fellow-countrymen abroad stress in an open letter circulated yesterday. Let us trust in them, appeal the Bulgarians who are employed at influential investment banks and consultancy companies in Europe and in the USA. They specify they haven't mentioned their firms because they can't commit them to the voiced opinion. The letter is signed by Bulgarians in London, New York, Boston, Toronto, Brussels, Stockholm, Madrid, the Hague.
Old king promises new Bulgaria.
By Janet Barrie in Bulgaria
Bulgarians vote in a general election this weekend - a chance for them to pass their verdict on a pro-western, reformist government that has won praise for its reforms that are starting to turn around one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Just a few months ago, it looked certain of victory. But it now faces a serious challenge from an unlikely political player - Simeon II, the Bulgarian king sent into exile 50 years ago when Bulgaria became a Communist state.
He is the first eastern European monarch to enter politics - and the polls show his party has a very real chance of success.
Although Simeon II, is greeted in public by ecstatic crowds, he is still just getting to know the people he did not see for 50 years.
But he does not just want their recognition - he wants their votes. He says he can give Bulgarians what they are missing.
"I think trust - trust and confidence are two very important things. And it's been like this ever since I came back in 1996. But this time one can have a bit more of an active role," he says.
This is not a novelty political party - the National Movement for Simeon II has a serious chance of success this weekend.
It is a rallying point for nostalgic monarchists and a protest for those fed up with years of painful economic reforms.
His candidates for parliament are a diverse bunch - a former beauty queen, a magician and an Olympic athlete - but also international businessmen.
"The king is seen as a symbol of the new ethics and he's the only serious politician here not marred by the mistakes of the last 10 years," says Milen Velchev, who put his career as an economist in the City of London on hold to stand as a candidate for the king's party.
Bulgaria is going downhill rapidly, says Kosto Ivanov, driving his battered yellow Lada through the streets of the Bulgarian capital. His years of training and experience as an engineer are wasted now - the best he can do is eke out a meagre living as a taxi driver.
There is, he says, a tiny percentage of incredibly wealthy and a vast underclass of desperately poor. He says the king has the solutions to Bulgaria's problems and has his vote.
"He's a modest man and he's a businessman. He's coming here to save the country. That's a brave thing to do - all those risks involved - all that crime. He's going to drag this country out of a deep swamp," he says.
Simeon II has touched a nerve here - until recently most Bulgarians had probably forgottten they even had a king, and just a few months ago his party did not even exist.
Some opinion polls have suggested since then that 40% of people would vote for him.
But there are still some concerns. Bulgaria has been a little oasis of calm and tolerance in the volatile Balkans, but some observers fear there is a threat to that if his party finds its way into government.
"You cannot afford to have a fragile, motley crew in charge of a country," says the political commentator Evgeny Dainov.
"All around us there are countries running into problems - there are civil wars, violence - we have to keep this part of the Balkans stable. And if he takes over, I'm not sure Bulgaria will continue to be stable."
In the years since the end of Communism there has been new interest here in old traditions like the church and the monarchy.
This weekend will show if that means Bulgarians turn to old royalty to solve new problems.
A project for modernizing Burgas Port was initiated today.
A project for the modernization and expansion of Burgas Port, the biggest Black Sea port, was initiated today. The money for the project (USD 160 mn) was allocated as a loan from the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation. Burgas Port would also invest in its modernization, after which much bigger ships (by 100,000 tons) could accost at the port. Chief executive agents of the project would be the Japanese Companies Mitsubishi and Penta Ocean. Vice-Premier Petar Zhotev, Ministry of Transport and Communications representatives and Japanese ambassador Akira Matsui attended the inauguration.
Four relatives of Bulgarian medical personnel detained in Libya would travel.
Four more relatives of Bulgarian medical personnel detained in Libya received Libyan visas and would travel to Tripoli to attend the hearing of the case scheduled for June 16. Only one journalist of "Trud" daily received accreditation to attend the hearing and would travel to Libya.
The candidate countries.
All the countries queuing up to join the European Union have strict tests to pass before they get in. Click on the graph to find out how each of them is doing.
Progress is measured by how much EU law they have succeeded in adopting.
The body of law in question - the acquis communautaire - has 30 chapters, and some countries have closed many more than others.
But it's not just a question of changing national legislation but also developing the administrative structures to implement the changes.
In its annual progress reports, the EU also keeps a close eye on how the market economy of each country is developing and the respect for human rights - both vital criteria for membership.
With only Romania further behind in its adoption of EU law, Bulgaria has a long way to go in getting ready to join.
The country has been criticised for its weak judiciary and inability to deal with corruption.
The latest EU progress report says it is heading towards a functioning market economy but is still far from being able to deal with the forces of the EU's internal market.
There are also concerns over the integration of the Roma minority.
Even where Bulgaria has managed to adopt some of the legislation, its institutions are in no position to implement them.