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An elderly woman kisses the hand of Bulgaria's former King Simeon II, in the centre of Sofia, June 18, 2001. Bulgaria's ex-King Simeon II, began his search for a coalition ally on Monday after an impressive election victory that left him just one vote short of an absolute parliamentary majority. REUTERS/Dimitar Dilkoff
Bulgaria's former King Simeon II (R) hugs ambassador Charles Magee (L), the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission for Bulgaria's general election, before a meeting with the OSCE team in Sofia June 18, 2001. Bulgaria's ex-King Simeon II, whose fledgling movement won Sunday's parliamentary elections by wide margin, is a novice in politics who will have a hard job keeping the country and his own grouping stable. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
Bulgaria's former King Simeon II (C) speaks to the members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission for Bulgaria's general election in Sofia June 18, 2001. Bulgaria's ex-King Simeon II, whose fledgling movement won Sunday's parliamentary elections by a wide margin, is a novice in politics who will have a hard job keeping the country and his own grouping stable. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
NMSII wins election in landslide.
The National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) won a convincing victory at the Bulgarian parliamentary elections on Sunday, gathering 43 per cent of the votes according to unofficial results. The movement, created two months ago by former Bulgarian monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg, managed to get more votes than the combined support for rivals United Democratic Forces (UtDF), which led the country over the past four years, and the Bulgarian Socialist Party-led Coalition For Bulgaria.
During an election night press conference, Saxe-Coburg said his movement would seek to form a coalition with any political formation that shared the basic points of the movements program namely, fast economic growth, EU and NATO accession, ending corruption, increased responsibility for those in power, and EU-harmonized legislation.
Saxe-Coburg warned that the road ahead would not be easy, but said the movement was prepared to fulfill the tasks he outlined in his first address to the Bulgarian nation on April 6.
Given the majority that we have won, we hope that the next Parliament will serve out its whole term, Saxe-Coburg said. He again did not answer whether he would become a prime minister or would run for president.
Ognian Gerdzhikov, a member of the movements legal team, said that so far there was no legal procedure for withdrawing MPs that had not lived up to the high morals Saxe-Coburg has promised. Such MPs will bear their moral responsibility, which is no less than the legal one, he added.
The first steps that the new parliamentary group will take would be directed towards eradicating corruption through a great reduction of licensing procedures, giving personal example of total transparency, and, in the long term, changing peoples attitudes, Emil Koshlukov said.
Immediately after the elections, the NMSII would be re-registered on the basis of a coalition agreement, Panayotov said.
Substantial changes in the law on the access to the files of the former state security were also planned to finally end the abuse of this issue for political purposes, he said.
According to the parallel counting of the ballots that the movement had carried out, NMSII had won about 43 per cent of the votes, and the leftist Coalition For Bulgaria was leading to the rightist UtDF. Also, the two parties with names and ballot papers similar to the NMSII had gotten about 4 per cent support total. This means that 48 per cent of Bulgaria supports the name Simeon II, Miroslav Sevlievski said.
The voter turnout was huge, Koshlukov said, even though it was hampered by complicated registration procedures, by the early closing of polling stations, and by incomplete MP candidate lists. Still, according to him, these irregularities were negligible and would not affect the final results.
According to Saxe-Coburg, the potential instability of an NMSII government opposed by the United Democratic Forces and the Coalition For Bulgaria could be overcome by specifying mandates. Give us some time and things will start happening, the former monarch said.
Vessela Draganova and Todor Peikov, leaders of the parties that formed the coalition NMSII were present at the news conference but not on the stage. Saxe-Coburgs wife Margarita, daughter Kalina and sons Kiril, Kubrat, and Kardam, and their wives, also attended the news conference.
GEOANA: EU, NATO, AND OSCE WANT STABLE AND PROSPEROUS MACEDONIA.
OSCE supports the plan of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski for resolving of the crisis, as well as the undergoing political dialogue" Romanian Foreign Minister and Chairman of OSCE Mircea Geoana said Monday in Skopje.
At the press conference after his meetings with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, leaders of SDSM, DPA, and PDP, Branko Crvenkovski, Arben Xhaferi, and Imer Imeri, and with the Speaker of the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov, Geoana expressed his satisfaction of the talks, and said that they were very productive.
"This is a week of decision for Macedonia, and this is why we urge all political parties to contribute to the realisation of President Trajkovski's plan, and reach consensus on all issues" Geoana said, adding that he expects for the political dialogue to yield results in the next few weeks.
He said "that it has been expected for all political to give different suggestions in the political dialogue", but that it would be most important for both sides to reach compromise.
"The EU, NATO, and OSCE have no intention to either mediate the dialogue or offer suggestions how can the compromise be reached" Geoana said, and added that there is no ideal solution that would completely satisfy all demands, but that all involved sides must reach a compromise that would lead to building Macedonia as an independent, stable, prosperous state oriented toward Europe.
Geoana pointed out that OSCE closely cooperates with the EU and NATO in order to help finding a solution to the crisis. He said that OSCE offers concrete expert's assistance in several spheres, such as the economic development, reforms of the electoral system, interethnic relations and building of trust, fight against organised crime and corruption, human rights, media, training of police forces, and returning of the displaced people home.
Mircea Geoana pointed out that OSCE already has concrete activities in Macedonia, such as delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the conflict areas, and assisting in the process of restoring the water supply to Kumanovo.
Commenting the relieving of duty of Robert Frowick, OSCE representative to Macedonia, Geoana said that "some of his suggestions were not co-ordinated well" and "did not take into consideration all of the specifics in this context".
The Romanian Foreign Minister announced that there is chance for discussing the possibilities of financing the projects that may result from the political dialogue at the October Stability Pact donors' conference in Bucharest.
Geoana informed that from Skopje he would leave for Prishtina, where he would discuss the situation in Kosovo, and the forthcoming elections in this province with the OSCE representatives there.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI MEETS WITH MIRCEA GEOANA.
President of the Republic of Macedonia Boris Trajkovski met today with Mircea Geoana, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and holder of the OSCE Presidency.
The meeting was focused on the current situation in the Republic of Macedonia. In that context, President Trajkovski reported on the intensified political dialogue between the leaders of the political parties in the country.
Mr. Geoana and President Trajkovski also talked about the role of the OSCE in President Trajkovski's plan for disarming of the terrorists.
PRIME MINISTER LJUBCHO GEORGIEVSKI RECEIVES OSCE CHAIRMAN MIRCEA GEOANA.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski received Monday OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana.
At the meeting they have shared their opinions about the crisis in Macedonia, and they jointly noted that the situation in Kosovo caused the instability in the region.
On the behalf of OSCE Geoana reaffirmed the satisfaction from the cooperation with the Macedonian Government and stressed that OSCE is ready to continue the cooperation in order to resolve the crisis.
Prime Minister Georgievski underlined the good cooperation with OSCE representative to Macedonia Ambassador Carlo Hungaro and confirmed the openness of the Macedonian Government for further cooperation.
PENDAROVSKI: MOBILISATION OF POLICE RESERVES IS LEGALLY JUSTIFIED.
"The Macedonian Government's Coordination Body for dealing with crisis at its Sunday session agreed that all inconsistencies in the activities of the Macedonian Interior Ministry in relation to the mobilisation and deployment of the police reserves must be corrected" Stevo Pendarovski, spokesperson of this Body informed Monday.
The main discussion at the session was on the Information for mobilisation of the police reserves, and it was agreed that there are legal grounds for mobilising the reserves.
According to Pendarovski, the Book of regulations, more precisely the part that deals with the conditions for mobilisation in situation when the Macedonian Parliament have not declared a state of war or emergency, have been changed in an urgent procedure.
He informed that 30 reservist have been demobilised due to confirmed inconsistencies in their mobilisation, or because "some of them did not act according to the standard procedure and regulations". The Coordination Body should submit the Information to the Macedonian Government, which should discuss it and brought decisions. The Body also adopted a decision to form a joint commission of the Defense and Interior Ministry, which will deal with the issues related to the mobilisation of the police and army reserves.
"According to the Minister's estimates, the mobilisation may continue where it will be necessary. The reservists have the same rights and obligations as the active employees of the Interior Ministry. The response of the reservists is around 80%" Pendarovski informed.
Macedonian Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti submitted to Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski a list of 50 persons who "have been apprehended contrary to the regulations for apprehending and questioning of persons". "According to the allegations, those persons were either kept more than 24 hours or excessive physical force was used against them" Pendarovski informed.
He explained that within the frames of the Coordination Body there are operative groups that will prepare plans for use of the joint security forces. Pendarovski pointed out that Nikola Dimitrov, Macedonia President's national security counselor, is in charge of the work group that will prepare the plan of use of the joint forces, and that "most probably Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski will sign the decree for appointment of the commander of the joint security forces on Monday".
Asked whether there have been shooting around Matka Sunday evening, Pendarovski said that "around midnight, a soldier of the Macedonian Army thought that there is suspicious movement near his guard post and opened fire". In this context, he added that no terrorist groups were noticed in the area of Rasce.
On behalf of the Coordination Body, Pendarovski called the armed extremists in the village of Aracinovo to lay down their weapons and stop their activities.
In the last three, four days, according to Pendarovski, the Macedonian security forces have not used its heavy arms. "According to Gen. Pande Petrovski, Chief of the Macedonian Army General Staff, the army responds only to bigger provocations, and this commitment should be respected by everybody, including the persons in Aracinovo" Pendarovski said. He added that it is very important to have peace while serious political dialogue is being led, and expressed his hopes that the dialogue will produce a good basis for further building of the trust.
Macedonia: Serious Clashes Threaten Cease-fire.
Skopje, 18 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Colonel Blagoja Markovski, a spokesman for Macedonia's armed forces, says government troops and ethnic Albanian militants exchanged artillery fire today near the northern villages of Slupcane and Nikustak. Reports say the clashes were the most serious since the government announced one week ago to halt operations against the militants.
The fighting came as politicians from all of Macedonia's elected parties in parliament were due to continue with talks launched last week to craft a political solution to the crisis. The talks reportedly are deadlocked over Albanian demands for the constitution to be amended. A major obstacle is the constitution's preamble -- which labels Albanians as one of several minorities in a country of "the Macedonian people." Albanian leaders want the preamble to say that ethnic Albanians are among Macedonia's founding peoples.
In other developments, Macedonia and China have formally resumed diplomatic relations, according to China's official Xinhua news agency. The news agency said a joint communique was signed today in Beijing by Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. Xinhua says Macedonia has acknowledged Beijing's "One China" principle and has promised not to make official contact with Taiwan.
The "One China" principle states that the communist government in Beijing governs the whole of China, including the island of Taiwan, which has ruled itself separately from the mainland since the end of China's civil war in 1949. Earlier today, Taiwan broke off ties with Macedonia and ended all economic aid to Skopje. Macedonia had recognized Taiwan in 1999, sparking a negative reaction from the Chinese leadership.
Former King set to rule Bulgaria after poll victory.
FROM JOHN PHILLIPS IN SOFIA
A MOVEMENT headed by former King Simeon II of Bulgaria won the countrys parliamentary election last night, according to projections based on partial results, and offered to form a coalition government.
The projections predicted that the former Kings movement would take 107 seats in the 240-seat parliament with 42.1 per cent of the vote, compared with 54 seats, a 20.9 per cent share, for the ruling centre-right United Democratic Forces (UDF) party of Ivan Kostov, the Prime Minister.
The Socialists would take 47 seats with 17 per cent, according to the projections, and the party for Rights and Freedom, a minority ethnic Turk party and a potential ally for the former King to give him a parliamentry majority, would take 21 seats. Turnout had been 74 per cent, the projections estimated.
Mr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as the former monarch is also known, said: First I will go to thank God and then there will be much work to do.
Conceding defeat, Mr Kostov said that the reforms of the past four years had been too costly for ordinary people. We made lots of mistakes, he said. We asked a price higher than that which the Bulgarians were ready to pay.
The reforms, praised by the West as necessary to prepare Bulgaria for entry to Nato and the European Union, had been right, Mr Kostov said. We built a good basis from which everyone can achieve ambitious goals.
Aides to Mr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha invited Mr Kostovs camp to join a government. Our position about forming a coalition government remains unchanged even if we win a clear majority, Plamen Panayotov, the No 2 in the movement, said. The UDF said that it would begin talks with the former King.
As his countrymen voted, Mr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had said that he was a lousy politician who created his party only to try to relieve poverty. Being King is something that history has placed on my shoulders and you cant erase it all of a sudden and say I am only candidate Simeon, the 64-year-old businessman told The Times at his palace at Vrane, 15 miles north of Sofia.
The 1946 referendum (abolishing the monarchy) was rigged and there is no need to go into any more details after so many years. But this does not imply any restoration intentions. I feel that it would only be a fairly academic or useless debate.
He broke the mould of Bulgarian politics in April by launching his Movement for Simeon II with a platform of economic incentives for small and medium-sized firms and a crackdown on corruption.
It was only while campaigning that he began to understand the extent of the task of eradicating poverty, he said. The trips we have gone on lately have been so moving and at the same time frightening because people place such hopes in one, with such trust, that I feel overwhelmed. I am very conscious of ethics and not to lie or promise things to people. I told them I only have two hands and a very tired head. There must be a very wide national effort.
The King, who left Bulgaria aged nine to go into exile in Spain, rejected charges by the UDF that it was wild populism for him to have pledged to improve living standards within 800 days.
The 800 days is simply a normal economic parameter: one year to see what has to be done, the second year to implement it and the third year hopefully the shareholders see some dividends.
Mr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha complained about mudslinging during the campaign, which culminated last week when Mr Kostov accused him of lying when he said that he did not want a formal restoration. There have been so many insults. We try not to answer. I remember the old maxim that: You are the master of your silence and the slave of your words.
Nevertheless, a coalition with the UDF had always been an option, he said.
The idea of joining the political fray had come to him a year ago at a lunch with a group of MEPs. We were talking about one of the former Soviet empire countries that had elections with an enormous abstention rate. One of the MEPs said people there dont understand anything, they are nostalgic for the past.
I thought: My God, we have got elections in 2001 and it could happen to us. Thats what really inspired me.
Putin makes surprise stop in Kosovo, vows teamwork.
First Russian Presidential visit since 1991
He delivers medals to his country's soldiers there, more criticism to NATO.
By FISNIK ABRASHI
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- A day after expressing concern about NATO expansion, Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unscheduled stop Sunday in Kosovo, where NATO commanders call the shots for some 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops.
The first Russian president to visit Yugoslavia since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Putin was balancing a desire to reassert Russia's interests in the Balkans with his professed willingness to work with the Western alliance.
"We came here to see what kind of cooperation exists, what kinds of problems exist here and how to address and resolve those problems," he said in brief comments before departing for Moscow.
Putin arrived in Yugoslavia late Saturday direct from his summit in neighboring Slovenia with President Bush. Although he and Bush discussed the region's problems broadly, Putin said "we did not touch in detail on any specific issues."
That was not the case in Belgrade, where Putin and Yugoslavia's new pro-democracy leader, President Vojislav Kostunica, criticized NATO and the U.N. administrators who have run Kosovo since NATO's 1999 bombing campaign drove Yugoslav authorities out.
"Wrong moves" by the international community have "destabilized the entire region," Kostunica said.
Instead of then flying back to Moscow as announced, Putin went to Kosovo, where he handed out medals to Russian peacekeepers and met with Danish Lt. Gen. Thorstein Skiaker, the commander of the NATO-led force, and U.N. officials.
Putin's flight was announced at the last minute because of security concerns in the province, where ethnic Albanians view Russia as pro-Serb because of historic ties between the two Slav nations.
A source who was at the meeting described Putin as "very critical" of the 45,000-strong peacekeeping force's performance.
Russia has been pushing for NATO to do more to disarm ethnic Albanian extremists who have been attacking the remaining Serbs in Kosovo and contributing to clashes with government troops in neighboring Macedonia.
Since taking office, Putin has sought to strengthen Russia's role, especially in areas of former influence like the Balkans, where the West holds increasing sway through its NATO troops.
But Russia's assertiveness sometimes bumps against a desire not to be left out.
While voicing deep apprehension at his summit with Bush over NATO expanding toward Russia's borders, Putin also recently revived Russian participation in its Partnership for Peace program.
Although Russia has cultural, religious and historic ties to Yugoslavia's Serbian and Montenegrin population, it also was critical of former President Slobodan Milosevic's "ethnic cleansing" campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Russia strongly opposed the 1999 NATO bombing campaign yet played a diplomatic role in convincing Milosevic to accept the terms of the U.N. resolution ending it.
Once the bombs stopped in June 1999, the Russians then flew into Kosovo before any NATO troops and quickly took control of the airport near Pristina, to the dismay of NATO commanders.
After that, diplomats forged a deal that let the Russians keep control of the airport.