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15, June-2001.

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Bulgarian Prime Minister and a leader of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) shouts during a pre-election rally in Sofia on June 15, 2001. Bulgaria holds a general election on Sunday, a three-horse race led by ex-king Simeon II, the first former monarch in eastern Europe likely to come to power in a republic. REUTERS/Oleg Popov

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A Romany woman (R) points at former Bulgarian King Simeon II during his visit to the gypsy part of Sofia on June 15, 2001. Bulgaria holds general elections on Sunday, a three-horse race led by ex-king Simeon II, the first former monarch in eastern Europe likely to come to power in a republic. REUTERS/Oleg Popov

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Former Bulgarian King Simeon II (L) hugs a Romany bride during his visit to the gypsy part of Sofia on June 15, 2001. Bulgaria holds general elections on Sunday, a three-horse race led by ex-king Simeon II, the first former monarch in eastern Europe likely to come to power in a republic. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff

Gotse Delchev District Welcomes the King with Bread and Salt.

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Simeon II was welcomed with bread and salt in the village of Mesta, Gotse Delchev district. In the town of Gotse Delchev yesterday the King hardly managed to make his way through the thousand of welcomers to the improvised stand. In 1996 I said we got on well with the people despite the 50 years of exile. Now we understand each other even better, declared the leader of NMS II. The locals gave him copper bells as a souvenir. People in the village of Katountsi carried him by their hands. According to unconfirmed information Simeon II will spend the election night at the 'Hilton' hotel.

France: Council of Europe is deeply concerned at deteriorating situation in Macedonia.

Strasbourg, - The Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, Ernst Walch, expressed serious concern at the deteriorating situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a member-state of the Council of Europe. He welcomed the plan which was agreed on June 12th 2001 at the level of the government of national unity, under the leadership of President Trajkovski, and called for its implementation in good faith.

The Chairman appeals for reason and a responsible attitude by all those concerned. He also reiterates the Committees strong condemnation of the actions of armed Albanian extremist groups, which clearly run counter to the interests of the population as a whole.

The Chairman reaffirms the Committees support for the territorial integrity of the country and in line with the Presidents efforts and opposing and radicalization of positions expresses his concern at recent outbreaks of ethnically motivated violence and calls upon political leaders, representatives of the ethnic communities and upon the population at large to abstain from any acts of reprisal and revenge in an already sufficiently tense situation. Given the particular concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the Chairman stresses the need for unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and urges the authorities to continue to ensure full respect for the rule of law and to safeguard human rights.

The Chairman expresses his hope that a political agreement, resulting from an inclusive, continuing political dialogue, will pave the way for the much-needed stabilization of the country and for the security and stability of the entire region. He welcomes the efforts deployed by partner organizations and by countries in the region with which the Council of Europe stands ready to join forces in promoting a peaceful solution.

Macedonia seeks breakthrough.

BBC

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Politicians aim to implement the president's peace plan.

Macedonian and Albanian political leaders are locked in urgent negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the insurgency by rebel ethnic Albanians.

Leaders from the two Macedonian and two ethnic Albanian parties which make up Macedonia's government of national unity are holding talks with President Boris Trajkovski at a secret location in the capital, Skopje.

They hope to find a political settlement which will allow a peace agreement to disarm the rebels, drafted by President Trajkovski, to be implemented with Nato backing.

The rebels extended their unilateral ceasefire for an additional 12 days from Thursday midnight, keeping up the uneasy truce which is currently holding between the guerrillas and the Macedonian army.

Constitution

Diplomatic sources say the politicians are under intense pressure to make a breakthrough in the current talks if the government is to retain the backing of the European Union and Nato.

The West demands that the Macedonians make significant concessions to ethnic Albanian demands for increased rights and recognition.

President Trajkovski said the discussion would include, "even the most difficult and sensitive issues".

This meant, according to his aides, that the thorny question of changes to the country's constitution would be on the table for the first time.

Ethnic Albanians want the constitution to accord their population equal status with the Macedonians. Currently they are considered an ethnic minority alongside others.

But some Macedonians fear this would only incite further nationalism and lead to the break up of the country.

Disarmament

President Trajkovski's plan calls for a ceasefire, partial amnesty for rebels who disarm voluntarily and more inclusion of the Albanians into state bodies and institutions.

Nato has expressed a willingness to oversee the disarmament, but has stopped short of offering a peacekeeping force like those deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia.

The rebels have demanded that Nato forces guarantee the proposed ceasefire and police any political settlement.

They also want to be included in the negotiations - a demand the government refuses.

Refugees

On the ground, brief incidents of shooting and shelling overnight disturbed the ceasefire which is otherwise holding.

But refugees continued to flood across Macedonia's borders to the north.

The UN refugee agency said 28,000 people had left Macedonia this week, most of them to Kosovo though some to southern Serbia.

Armed ethnic Albanians began their insurgency in February and, despite heavy military deployment by the Macedonian army, have succeeded in taking control of one village near Skopje and a string of villages in the north of the country.

Albanian rebels call for NATO.

The Scotsman

Alex Todorovic In Skopje

ALBANIAN rebels stepped up the ante in their four-month Macedonian insurgency, reiterating their demands and calling for "intervention of NATO forces in the whole territory of Macedonia, as a guarantee for ... reaching a lasting peace".

The Albanian National Liberation demands were delivered on the day the NATO secretary general, Lord Robertson, and the European Union foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana, visited the Macedonian capital in a desperate attempt to pull the country back from the brink of civil war.

The Macedonian president, Boris Trajkovski, used the visit of high-ranking dignitaries to appeal to NATO to help disarm the Albanian rebels.

"President Trajkovski has asked us officially if we will help with that process," Lord Robertson said at a news conference in Skopje. "I will be taking that request back to NATO headquarters to see what we can do."

The fresh call for NATO intervention came just days after Western political leaders called on NATO to take bold action. However, leaders have stopped short of calling for another military intervention in the Balkans.

Albanian political leaders want constitutional recognition for Macedonias two million Albanian inhabitants, and want Albanian be recognised as an official language alongside Macedonian. They also want wider political representation in state institutions.

The recent international attention on Macedonia highlights western fears that an all-out war could destabilise the peacekeeping mission in adjacent Kosovo.

Peacekeepers in Kosovo have stepped up patrols along the border, arresting 19 rebels and a cache of weapons earlier this week, but hundreds more are crossing the Sar mountains into Macedonia, according to Georgi Trendofilov, a defence ministry spokesman.

Albanian rebels have taken control of villages in the north, near Kumanovo, in the west near Tetevo, and in Aracinovo, a village just five miles from the capital, Skopje.

Rebels have threatened to shell Skopje, but military analysts do not believe they have the firepower.

Still, the telltale signs of another Balkan bloodbath are evident. Tens of thousands of refugees have streamed into Kosovo over the past week, a run on hard currency has driven up the price of the deutschemark, British Airways and other airlines have rerouted or cancelled flights to Skopje and families are making evacuation plans.

"Last night I could hear the shooting in Aracinovo near my home. It was the first time I realised that there could be war. I couldnt sleep after that," said a young man who gave his name as Mile.

Although a ceasefire was in its fourth day, sporadic attacks were reported in numerous locations.

Lord Robertson and Mr Solana expressed strong support for Mr Trajkovskis five-point peace plan, which is billed as a last-ditch effort to avert war, and for political dialogue between Albanian and Slav parties that began yesterday afternoon.

"The possibility of a civil war is real. These negotiations are a last chance to achieve a lasting peace," said Stevo Pendarovski, a spokesman for the interior ministry.

The divided coalition government made up of two Slavic and two Albanian parties has pledged to engage in dialogue until peace is reached, but one incident could ignite the Macedonian powder keg.

Police have handed out weapons to police reservists, and thousands of Macedonian paramilitaries, who lack the discipline of regular armed forces, are ready to fight.

Diplomats are encouraging Macedonian Slav leaders to compromise on Albanian political demands, but Slavs fear the constitutional changes will pave the way for a referendum that could spell the end of Macedonia.

Mr Trajkovskis peace plan bears a strong resemblance to one that achieved rebel disarmament in southern Serbia. Macedonian security forces will operate in a joint-command structure that will increase accountability. Instead of engaging rebels, they are to surround rebel-held territory in a defensive posture. Rebels are to be granted amnesty once they disarm, and property destroyed in fighting is to be rebuilt.

SAS is preparing Macedonia for Nato to intervene.

Telegraph

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Close proximity: Albanian rebels cross the road just 500 metres from a Macedonian army checkpoint.

By Julius Strauss in Skopje and Michael Smith Defence Correspondent

GERMANY is assembling a Nato force of 10,000 troops, including British units, to prevent the Macedonian conflict erupting into another full-blown Balkan war.

SAS troops are in southern Kosovo preparing the ground by cutting off supply lines and reinforcements to the Albanian separatist National Liberation Army, defence sources said yesterday. The Ministry of Defence said it had no knowledge of any Nato force being readied for Macedonia but The Telegraph understands that British troops have already been committed.

Representatives of the so-called Quint, the top five military countries in Nato - America, Britain, France, Germany and Italy - met in Brussels to discuss plans to put troops into Macedonia.

The big question mark remained over what contribution if any, the Americans would make. President Bush apparently ruled out military intervention on Wednesday at the Nato summit. But yesterday he was more vague.

He said: "Our government is committed to working with Nato and the EU to bring peace and democracy and stability to that part of the world." Lord Robertson, Nato Secretary-General, said yesterday that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski had made an official request for Nato help in disarming the ethnic Albanian rebels.

Lord Robertson said in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, whose eastern suburbs are now front-line territory, that he would be taking the request back to Nato "to see what we can do". But with the NLA making Nato involvement a pre-requisite for their agreement to disarm, there seemed little doubt the force would go in.

Mr Trajkovski's blueprint for a solution to the conflict calls for an immediate ceasefire, a partial amnesty for the guerrillas and the inclusion of more Albanians in state institutions.

It also envisages the deployment of Nato soldiers in ethnic Albanian areas to oversee the demilitarisation of the NLA. Western diplomats say such an operation may be an acceptable compromise between full-scale Nato intervention and the policy of watch-and-wait adopted so far.

Nato troops would enter the country from Kosovo, fan out across northern Macedonia to set up arms collection points, perhaps without seeking a new mandate. Around 3,000 of the Kfor troops already in Macedonia are based at Skopje airport, which is now thought to be within range of guerrilla mortars.

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, which first broke out in February, have been given added impetus in recent weeks as the conflict has worsened. Albanian guerrillas have seized ever more territory and, as a reaction, there has been a rash of anti-Albanian riots in large cities in the south of the country.

Western officials are anxious not to repeat the mistakes made in Bosnia and Kosovo when lengthy procrastination and a series of half-measures allowed early clashes to spiral out of control. The Ministry of Defence yesterday reiterated an offer to the Macedonian government to train a small, elite unit that could be used in combat against the guerrillas.

A spokesman said the operation could be modelled on Britain's involvement in Sierra Leone where it is training a new government army.

Javier Solana, the EU security chief who accompanied Lord Robertson to Skopje yesterday, was reported to have told Macedonian officials that the EU may step in if Nato balks at providing peacekeepers to support the Trajkovski plan.

Following the meetings in Skopje, leading Macedonian and Albanian parties were set to begin a two-day summit near Lake Ohrid in the south of the country to hammer out the details of the Trajkovski plan. The NLA, which has not been invited to the talks, responded by releasing its own plan for peace.

On the ground, a shaky ceasefire entered its third day yesterday. Analysts say the Macedonian army has all but given up on attempts to shell the NLA into submission. The guerrillas for their part appear content to consolidate their grip over newly-conquered territories.

Petar Stoyanov decorated Antonio Vigilante with the Stara Planina order.

News.bg

President Petar Stoyanov issued an edict for awarding the UNDP Permanent Representative to Bulgaria Antonio Vigilante with the Stara Planina order, 1st rank, for his extremely big contribution to expanding and deepening cooperation between UNDP and Bulgaria and appropos his final leaving Bulgaria.

Ivan Kostov discussed the situation in Macedonia with James Swaggert.

News.bg

The theme of the conversation between Premier Ivan Kostov and the visiting USA Deputy Secretary of State for South Eastern Europe James Swaggert was the situation in Macedonia and the practical implementation of the plan of Macedonian President Boris Traykovsky for a peaceful solution of the crisis, James Swaggert said after his long meeting with Premier Ivan Kostov today. Premier Ivan Kostov and James Swaggert have arrived to a common conclusion that crisis in Macedonia could be solved only by political means. Commenting his yesterdays visit to Skopje, he said the situation was not good but also not hopeless.

Bulgaria sent mineral water to Kumanovo again.

News.bg

The Chairman of the Permanent Commission for Protecting the Population from Disasters Minister Alexander Pramatarsky met American ambassador Richard Miles and discussed with him the possibility for a refugee wave from Macedonia to Bulgaria, as well as the cooperation between State Civil Defense Agency and the USA Federal Agency for Controlling Crises. The Chairman of State Civil Defense Agency Nikola Nikolov announced that Bulgaria is sending a second shipment with 20 tons of mineral water to the Macedonian town Kumanovo.

There is an increase in foreign tourist influx to Bulgaria.

News.bg

Twenty two percent more foreign tourists have visited Bulgaria in May 2001 in comparison with the same month last year, Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy Petar Zhotev announced in Burgas.

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