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Macedonian Minister of Internal Affairs Ljube Boskovski said Tuesday that he is no longer member of the coordination body for crises management. He suggested Refet Elmazi to come on his position.

"Starting from today, I am no longer member of the coordination body for crises management, because the Democratic Party of the Albanians, the Party for Democratic Prosperity and the Social Democratic Union stand for peaceful resolving of the conflict and for peaceful inter-mediation by certain persons who could have some influence by sending messages," he said.

Boskovski pointed out that so far 11 ultimatums have been sent to the terrorists for their withdrawal.

"As first man of the Ministry of interior, I cannot accept this capitulation policy, which is forced by the coordination body. I stand for energetic resolving of the problem. I stand for peace, but for peace that will be brought by the Macedonian security forces. No international community should interfere until we resolve this issue," Boskovski said, adding that NATO Secretary General George Robertson openly said that Macedonia should be given space and time to resolve the problem and to decide for its fate.

Although he expressed dissatisfaction from the manner of resolving of the crises, Boskovski said he would remain on the position of Minister of Internal Affairs.



Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, after the Tuesday session of the Macedonian Government said that the Government still did not have an official confirmation of the announcements that additional 5,000 NATO soldiers would be deployed in Macedonia.

"The Government still has no official position on this issue, because we still do not have an official information. According to the information that the Government has, this will be confirmed tomorrow. Then the Coordination Body fro dealing with the crisis, which is involved in the implementation of the plan of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, should give its opinion. One of the articles in the plan foresees cooperation with international organizations in the disarmament of the terrorists" Buckovski said.

Minister Buckovski confirmed the information that at the Tuesday session, Miroslav Stojanovski was appointed a commander of the joint security forces.

Buckovski answered negatively to the question whether there is a decision for ceasefire.

"Macedonian defense Ministry and the Army work according to the plan, and in the past few days the Army troops were deployed in the area of Skopje, taking positions near all vital strategic objects. In the past few days enhanced mobilization was conveyed in Skopje and in the other regions. At the moment we may say that the Defense Ministry and the security forces do their best to prevent the expansion of the crisis" Buckovski said.

Buckovski denied the speculations that the Macedonian Government discussed the possibility of hiring foreign military instructors at its Tuesday session.

Powell assures Albanian-Americans of US engagement in Macedonia.



Representatives of the Albanian-American community said Tuesday that Secretary of State Colin Powell had assured them the United States would remain deeply engaged in efforts to equitably resolve the current unrest in Macedonia.

Powell "said that the United States would remain engaged and would continue to press the Macedonian government to deal with the problems" of the ethnic Albanian community there, according to Representative Eliot Engel.

Engel, co-chair of the House of Representatives Albanian Issues Caucus, called on the secretary to step up Washington's insistance that Skopje deal with them.

"The fact is that there has been nothing but talk on the part of the Macedonian government in ten years and very little action," Engel told reporters after meeting with Powell at the State Department.

Disparate government treatment of ethnic Albanians compared to that of Macedonia's majority-Slav population has fueled Albanian resentment and sparked a now four-month-old insurgency by the National Liberation Army (NLA).

Negotiations have been underway since last week between the leaders of the country's four main parties -- two Macedonian and two Albanian -- to find a political solution to the insurgency, but no result has been reported so far.

The rebels are demanding wide-ranging concessions, including a constitutional change to name them as an equal community with the Slav majority.

Washington is backing Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski's peace plan which calls for political reform to ease the concerns of ethnic Albanians.

Engel said there was no way to end the insurgency unless those concerns were addressed.

"If the government of Macedonia dealt with the Albanian concerns, the insurgency would dry up," Engel said, adding that a way should be found to bring the NLA into the political dialogue.

Trajkovski, backed by the United States and the European Union, has refused outright to include the rebels in the process but Engel said such a position was "unrealistic."

"If you're going to get the rebels to put down their arms then ... you have to involve them in the political process," he said.

Ilirjan Rusi, the president of National Albanian-American Council, agreed and said his group would like to see Washington demand sweeping political reforms from Skopje.

"In our view, Macedonia is one nation of two people and it ought to reflect that reality," Rusi said.

Rusi, Engel and others in their delegation also expressed to Powell their concern about a Russian role in resolving the disputes which has been discussed by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

They noted Moscow's past support for Slavs in the Balkans, notably in Yugoslavia where it supported former president Slobodan Milosevic during his campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

"Whenever we hear the words 'Russia' and 'the Balkans' in the same sentence it makes us very nervous," Rusi said.

Behind Rebel Lines.

TIME: Europe

As NATO vacillates over military intervention in Macedonia, ethnic Albanians advance on the capital.


The lights of Skopje's international airport twinkled invitingly on the valley floor, plainly visible to a small band of ethnic Albanian rebels as they wound their way up a rutted mountain track one night last week. In tow were six scraggly horses carrying 1,500 crisp new uniforms, food, and a sack full of mobile phones destined for new positions 10 km from the Macedonian capital. "Boom!" whispered a teenage recruit pointing excitedly at the runway below. "Boom, boom!" Later an irascible local commander in a camouflage T shirt and red beret, with the unsettling habit of firing his automatic weapon into the air when roused, elaborated for TIME: "We control the Skopje zone all the way to Kosovo," he said. "If we wanted to hit the airport or parliament we could."

The ethnic Albanian rebels who have brought Macedonia to the brink of war in the past four months may not have much to recommend them. Their methods are an odd mixture of ancient and new, their organization is slipshod and their motives inscrutable. But last week they succeeded in again grabbing the world's attention by advancing to within mortar distance of Skopje's airport, a critical rear supply base for NATO-led troops in Kosovo. Advancing, actually, may be too grand a term. They appeared in the hillside town of Aracinovo, like hyped-up genies, brandishing guns from a dented pickup truck after encountering only token resistance from Macedonia's notoriously thin-on-the-ground security forces.

But the threat to the capital and airport helped concentrate the minds of Macedonia's fragile governing coalition and of NATO, whose members for the first time raised the possibility of sending troops, though when and in what capacity is uncertain. Skopje is requesting military help to "decommission" the rebels, while the National Liberation Army, as the rebels call themselves, wants peacekeepers deployed "in the whole territory of Macedonia," possibly with a view to solidifying territorial gains. In the near term, NATO leaders are praying for a political solution: "The idea of committing troops is one that most nations are troubled over," said George W. Bush in Brussels. "We want to try a political settlement first."

Who doesn't? In Skopje, President Boris Trajkovski presented a Western-backed peace plan that would extend the current cease-fire, provide a partial amnesty for rebels who disarm and speed up efforts to grant ethnic Albanians equal rights. The plan has not been rejected by Albanian political parties, but it falls short of addressing rebel demands for direct involvement in talks and a place for their soldiers in a reconstituted national security force. "Totally unacceptable," snorted a government official.

If the impasse is edging Macedonia toward civil war, at one rebel stronghold last week recruits appeared blissfully unaware of the anxiety they had provoked. Lounging on picnic tables outside a 14th century monastery high on a bluff overlooking eastern Macedonia, several explained how, in their view, there was little to lose. "I am 25 and haven't worked a day in my life," said one, dragging on a cigarette. "What would I do if war ended tomorrow?" A dark-haired young woman, lugging a sniper rifle two-thirds her size, said her entire family had joined the fight except her mother, and she, explained the daughter, "is proud of us." In the hot summer sun they cleaned their weapons, listened to Albanian music on a car radio and burnished the NLA myth. One spraypainted the band's initials across the monastery's fading 600-year-old frescoes. "Greater Albania" marked an outer door. "If we had tanks we could go all the way to Bulgaria and Athens," bragged the 25-year-old, before being chided by a fellow soldier: "We are fighting only for our rights in Macedonia," said his companion, carefully.

Whatever its intentions, the NLA has found an easy target in Macedonia's "national unity" government, which in five weeks has shown itself incapable of running a military campaign and introducing legislative changes at the same time. The E.U. says the government must come up with an initial package of reforms by June 25 or risk losing aid. But E.U. pressure is short on substance: cutting off Skopje now would only deepen the crisis. All of which is making NATO nervous. Former U.N. ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and Jeane Kirkpatrick issued a joint statement urging bolder action. "NATO needs to make it clear ... that it will not allow Macedonia to be destroyed," they wrote. No argument there. The question is: how?

Simeon's Party Strong on Economics.


.c The Associated Press

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - Former King Simeon II's party coasted to an overwhelming victory by evoking memories of Bulgaria's glorious royal past. The king's men and women, however, have been spending their time in the palaces of international finance.

Drawn from among the 700,000 well-educated Bulgarians that left the Balkan country in the last decade, Simeon's proteges are young, well-traveled businesspeople who are eager to bring home the economic lessons they've learned abroad.

They swept to power on Sunday, when the National Movement for Simeon II won half the seats in parliament, giving Simeon a chance to become prime minister, if he wants the job.

Along with a mix of celebrities and academics, the powers behind his throne offer a sharp contrast to the previous government's bureaucrats, who were seen as more interested in the trappings of power than their actual jobs.

On Tuesday, Simeon's chief economic adviser, 31-year-old Nikolai Vasilev, apologized for munching on a sandwich as he went from interview to interview.

He was headed home to London later Tuesday to attend an international economic conference - and also to quit his job as an Eastern Europe business analyst for what likely will be a Cabinet post in the new government.

``I never have time for lunch or breakfast or anything,'' he said in his polished English, which he speaks fluently along with Bulgarian, Russian and Hungarian. He also speaks some Japanese, German and French.

Vasilev left Bulgaria in 1990 and has lived around the world, earning three university degrees along the way, including two in the United States. He's among the hundreds of thousands of professionals who left the country of 8 million to escape a moribund economy.

``I'm part of the generation that hasn't been happy with what's going on,'' he said, rattling off a list of tax cuts he hopes will spur the sputtering economy and encourage foreign investment. ``We feel slightly betrayed by the political class for the last 10 years.''

Another star of Simeon's party, 31-year-old Lubka Katchakova, was also heading home to Brussels, Belgium, to pack for the move back to Bulgaria. According to preliminary election results, Katchakova beat Prime Minister Ivan Kostov in the capital, Sofia.

She bristles at criticism from political opponents that the ex-king's court is filled with expatriates who don't understand Bulgarian politics. Instead she praises ``his majesty'' for being the first to reach out to younger people who left and bring their Western-gained knowledge home.

``They say we don't have experience. We don't have experience working with corrupt people, but I don't think that's an advantage,'' she said.

Also fluent in English and French, Katchakova was an accountant for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Brussels.

``We know what efficiency is, we know what a deadline is,'' she said of those swept into office under the royal glow. ``We are really doers and not speakers.''

The ex-king's young guns are pledging to accelerate the country's lagging privatization, selling the state telecommunication, electricity, gas and tobacco monopolies.

They are also promising to stay out of traditional political infighting.

``Most of us are not politicians and we have never been politicians,'' said 32-year-old Milena Milotinova, a television anchorwoman who also won easily on the National Movement ticket.

Simeon's supporters have welcomed the prospect of Simeon himself taking the prime minister's post.

They say the ex-king, a businessman during his exile in Spain, is progressive and modern, not an anachronism hearkening to an earlier age of monarchy.

``He gave the whole nation a new hope,'' said Vasilev.

``It's really an opportunity for our country,'' said Katchakova. ``If we refuse to take advantage of this opportunity, then there's no excuse.''

Biggest losers in Bulgarian poll to mull future.


By Anatoly Verbin

SOFIA, June 19 (Reuters) - Leaders of Bulgaria's centre-right UDF party, trounced by a movement led by former King Simeon II in a general election, were to meet on Tuesday amid speculation Prime Minister Ivan Kostov might quit as party chief.

"Kostov to resign?," said a banner headline in the mass circulation 24 Chasa newspaper.

Kostov himself has indicated he could step down after the devastating defeat in Sunday's election.

Most analysts agree that Kostov's departure would increase the chances of a coalition with the National Movement for Simeon II, which fell just one seat short of an absolute parliamentary majority.

Simeon, 64, became the first ex-monarch to regain political power in a former East European communist state although he did not run for parliament himself.

Nikolai Vasilev, head of Simeon's economic team, said on Monday that a decision on a coalition was a priority and added: "The basic question for him (Simeon) is to decide whether he will become prime minister or not."

Latest results, still unofficial, showed Simeon's movement winning 120 seats in the 240-member chamber.

The UDF, which had an absolute majority in the outgoing legislature, was likely to win 51 seats, three more than the Socialist Party of ex-communists.

The Bulgarian ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), finished fourth with 21 seats. Only four parties cleared the four percent barrier needed to enter parliament, which is due to convene within a month of the poll.


Simeon said on Sunday he favoured a broad coalition government with those who shared his priorities -- speedy economic growth, a drive to join the European Union and NATO, and a resolute fight against graft.

The MRF responded immediately that it was ready to join forces with the once-exiled monarch. Such a coalition would have a firm parliamentary majority but Simeon's camp says it wants to consider an alliance with the UDF as well.

Georgi Petkanov, an official of Simeon's movement, said on Tuesday talks with the MRF and the outgoing UDF-led coalition would start after Wednesday, when official results are due.

Kostov has indicated he was opposed to a coalition with Simeon, whom he accused of "wild populism."

But some of his top lieutenants, like popular Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofianski, said a broad coalition of democratic forces was the best option for the impoverished Balkan state of some eight million people.

Allegations of top-level corruption and plunging living standards despite good macro-economic results undermined the popularity of the UDF-led government, which has won an invitation to start membership talks with the EU.

The meeting of top UDF officials was to be held behind closed doors. A news conference was scheduled for 1000 GMT.

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