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Saturday.

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Kostov races to Macedonia.

The Sofia Echo

Following an increase in tensions in Macedonia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov cut short his election campaign to pay the country an urgent visit last Friday.

Kostovs trip was provoked by an agreement that the leaders of the two major parliamentary parties of the ethnic Albanians signed last Thursday with the National Liberation Army (NLA), the ethnic Albanian extremists who are fighting the Macedonian army.

Imer Imeri of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDD) and Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) came to terms with Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the of the NLA, said Albena Ivailova, Kostovs spokesperson. The agreement for a common political platform and action to change the Macedonian constitution created a solid Albanian position in the country, which is a fundamental change in the situation there, she explained.

Xhaferi threatened he would leave the broad coalition unity government if western diplomats continued to insist that he and Imeri renounce the agreement with Ahmeti. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and NATO and EU diplomats had urged the DPA and PDP leaders to renounce the agreement, claiming it legitimised the NLA as a representative of the Albanian population. According to Trajkovski, by signing this agreement, the leaders of these parties officially stood on the side of the rebels, and in fact declared war on the Macedonian people.

During his visit, Kostov met with Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, as well as Imeri and Xhaferi.

After meeting Kostov, Imeri said that they had a constructive dialogue. They discussed ways out of the crisis, and keeping the peace amongst different ethnicities in the country, as well as keeping good neighbourly relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Defence Minister Boiko Noev said last Wednesday that the situation in Macedonia was very alarming but there was no direct military risk for Bulgaria for the time being.

On Tuesday, the two largest Macedonian and two largest ethnic Albanian political parties, with the mediation of the EUs Chief Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, reached an agreement in Skopje to resume political dialogue and keep the broad-based coalition government.

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KRSTEVSKI: INTERIM AGREEMENT WITH EU MEANS OBLIGATIONS.

MIA

Skopje, June 2 (MIA) - Zoran Krstevski, Vice-President of the Macedonian Government, in the program Radio Spektar of the Macedonian radio, spoke about the Interim Trade Agreement with EU as a document which opens wider scope for exchange of the products with no customs limitation.

All issues for the economic relations between the EU member-states and the Republic of Macedonia are comprised in the Agreement, which is asymmetrical agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and European Union. Macedonia starting from June "receives an open market to EU and all quantitative customs limitations that our products and services have, now fall off."

He explained that the asymmetrical agreement refers to annulment to all limitation that the Republic of Macedonia has in relation to products that come from EU. They are to be annulled gradually in a period of ten years i.e. they will decrease from one hundred, then ten to twenty percents depending on the products. Customs taxes that EU firms should pay in Macedonia will decrease.

The Interim Trade Agreement is of a great importance for the Macedonian economy, not only for the possibility to enter the European markets under favourable conditions but also due to the fact that it is an internal challenge for restructuring of the economy. "Most important matter is to obtain products which will be competitive on the European market by their quality," Krstevski said.

The agreement among other things will annul all quantitative limitation of the products from the EU for Macedonia. He said that this issue would stroke part of the industrial capacities and products. This refers to metallurgy which according to the Protocol 2 for steel from Interim Agreement, Macedonia is obliged to bring a reconstruction programme in a period of two years, and in five years to have right to give assistance to entire industry.

Vice-President Zoran Krstevski stressed that this is a very important task for the Macedonian Government and the preparation of such programme demands certain financial instruments. "It is possible Macedonia to take credit lines and maybe certain grants from EU will be also included." First evaluations of the steel industry firms for reconstruction of this field is amount of US$ 80 millions.

Vice-President Krstevski also informed that the quantitative annulment refer to oil derivatives, which means that there will be free import of oil derivatives fro, EU member-states. It will instigate the competitiveness on domestic market and to enable more quality derivatives, in certain way to decrease the tension that emerged from the sell of the OKTA refinery.

This document is also a mechanism for protection of the products, i.e. double control of their origin. The Agreement with the EU is not only an exclusive agreement that the Republic of Macedonia is obliged to trade relations with EU, but also to obey high quality standards of the products because through this mechanism of double control the EU member-states protect themselves.

He warned on very rigorous fines including three-year ban for entrance of certain products on European market, if the EU certificates are to be misused, i.e. if our country sells products from third countries to European market. In order this not to happen, Krstevski said that Customs Office and Macedonian Government have carried out all necessary preparations regarding this matter. Krstevski said that EU obligations are seriously comprehended by all structures in the country, including the companies.

Regarding the forthcoming session of Co-operation Council of the Republic of Macedonia with EU, on July 12 in Brussels, Krstevski said that although it is fourth session it is very important as being the first after signing of SAA.

The session will be very concrete and two-sided due to the obligations that the Republic of Macedonia demands from the EU member-states. Our representatives are due to submit a report about all obligations undertaken with the agreement, the Republic of Macedonia has accepted. The session will be of a specific character whereat the security situation in our country will be discussed which has direct influence upon many segments of our economy. Also, there will be discussions regarding all consequences from the crisis including the programme goals of Macedonia for continuation of the reforms according to IMF recommendations. Vice-President Zoran Krstevski informed that an assistance for the budget of the Republic of Macedonia and the credit for easier surpassing of the economic crisis will requested at the session in Brussels.

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BUCKOVSKI: SECURITY IN OUR COUNTRY, STILL A COMPLEX ISSUE.

MIA

Skopje, June 2 (MIA) - In an interview with the Macedonian Radio, "Radio Spectar" Program, Macedonian Minister of Defense Vlado Buckovski estimated that the security situation in our country is still a very complex issue, especially in the Kumanovo-Karadak area.

"The Macedonian security forces are trying to pull out the inhabitants, held hostage as a "living shield" by the Albanian terrorists, out of the village for weeks now. Within the last 2-3 weeks, they have successfully pulled out about 70 percent of these inhabitants, but not from the village of Lipkovo. Macedonian security forces have to undertake another successful action, avoiding unnecessary civic casualties, in order to retrieve the stability in Macedonia," said Buckovski.

According to him, the Albanian terrorists, allegedly fighting for human rights, actually tend to conquer greater territories and take over a part of the Macedonian territory, threatening the security and stability in our country.

"Luckily, their plan obviously has no success, for apart from some villages, held due to the "living shield", the situation on site is under control and the Macedonian security forces keep undertaking severe actions, corresponding to the commandants' assessments that no civilians are being thereby endangered. On the other hand several cases of murder and rape, committed by the Albanian terrorists were reported, arising disgust in all democratic people in our country and wider in the world," underlined Buckovski.

On the question about the casualties among the Macedonian units so far, Buckovski answered that over 20 members of the Macedonian security forces have been killed, defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, for peace and stability in Macedonia. Around 30 people have suffered light or severe injuries.

Hereby, Mnister Buckovski informed on the latest provocations by the terrorists, mostly coming from the area of Matejce village, where the terrorists are using the St. Bogorodica Monastery and the child's resort as their strongholds. According to him the terrorists opened fire on the local inhabitants, also ethnic Albanians.

The Kumanovo-Lipkovo area is threatened by insufficient water supply, as the two lakes formed by organic accumulation are overtaken by the terrorists. The Defense Minister confirmed that this might happen, saying that the Macedonian security forces are doing their best to prevent such a problem.

About the terrorists' latest supply with arms and munition from Kosovo, Buckovski said that it was now clear that the crisis in Macedonia origins from Kosovo. He also added, "Within the last couple of weeks, KFOR is doing its job better than it used to, but considering the fact that it has enough power and sophisticated equipment, we can conclude that they are not doing their best to prevent such shipments of arms and transfer of fresh terrorist forces from Kosovo into our country."

The members of the Macedonian security forces are carefully observing the movements of these terrorist groups and also the number of casualties on their side. "When outside the inhabited placed, they are an easy target of the Macedonian forces."

Buckovski stressed that apart from some villages, such as Matejce, Otlja, Orizari, Slupcane and Lipkovo, all the strategic spots are under control of our security forces.

"The biggest problem is Lipkovo village, as there are about 14.000 civilians at the moment. This fact keeps the Macedonian forces from direct attacks over the terrorists positioned in this village. The International Committee and the Red Cross are doing everything possible to pull these people out of Lipkovo.

Minister Buckovski wonders why the Albanian politicians are not even trying to use their political influence over the local inhabitants and intermediate in their pulling out.

"I think that the political parties of the Albanians failed to do their obligations in these most difficult moments in which we hoped they will be our strongest pillars. I believe that they couldn't handle the pressure and that was the main ground for signing of the Prizren Declaration," assessed Buckovski.

At these difficult moments, according to him, some combined methods are to be used: military actions against the terrorists on one side, and a political victory by the means of political unity on the other side.

"It is a strategic goal of Macedonia to become a member of the Euro-Atlantic structures. Macedonia is very close to the NATO membership," said the Defense Minister and added that they wouldn't be able to run the actions in Kumanovo-Karadak area and Tetovo region without the support and acknowledgements from the Alliance to Macedonian security forces and their steps, undertaken so far.

On the other hand, our perspectives are to obtain not only verbal support, but also a joint military action with NATO and KFOR, which has already been suggested.

"The letter of President Trajkovski to the NATO Secretary General is gradually becoming a number one topic in our country. Namely, with the support of the NATO and KFOR forces, the terrorists positioned in Kumanovo and Tetovo region could be totally disarmed, similarly to the disarmament action over the UCPMB terrorists in Southern Serbia, Presevo Valley. It is a very complex action, which is currently the main topic of the official and military corps and also a topic of discussion with the Admiral Alice, who was visiting Macedonia. I think that these discussions will have fruitful results," said Buckovski.

About the stance of the multinational forces, Buckovski commented that they could not be used in this conflict because of an reasonable assumption that there would be some objections, for instance of Albania and some other neighboring countries with certain interests toward Macedonia.

Macedonian Minister of Defense stressed that undoubtedly Macedonia ha support from USA, but still some solutions have to be found for prevention of the financial and military support to the Albanian terrorists in Albania and Kosovo, coming from USA and Western Europe.

Buckovski expressed his satisfaction with the communication established with the Defense Ministries of Bulgaria, FR Yugoslavia and Greece, although there has been no chance for such a cooperation with the Albanian Ministry of Defense.

About the "amnesty issue" for a part of the Albanian terrorists, Buckovski said that it would be valid only for those who took part in this terrorism under pressure or were deluded. On the contrary, it won't be put into effect for those persons, that are already known to the Macedonian forces as terrorists who have committed an atrocious act and are punishable in correspondence with the international human right, as well as in correspondence with our legislation.

He expressed his satisfaction of the correct cooperation within the Government, and before all with the Ministry of Interior. "On the other hand," Buckovski said, "the Security Council had to be reasonable, i.e. to develop the democracy through an open dialogue in the political institutions for all issues stated in the Agenda for the anticipated discussions at President Trajkovski's."

"This crisi had to be overcome, military and politically. A political victory is possible only if a dialogue among all political parties is initiated, reaching some compromises," said Buckovski.

About some alleged misunderstandings within the Government, Buckovski said that such misunderstandings will exist in the future too, but will not be threatening for the benefit of the Republic of Macedonia.

According to him, the economic stability of the country is also threatened by this war. Threfore, "as soon as this crisis is brought to an end, the more chances we will have to get economically stable again, i.e. to be able to continue the already started reforms," added Buckovski.

Macedonian Minister of Defense spoke about the refreshment within the lines of the Macedonian army with new professional soldiers, as a part of the program conducted by the Ministry of Defense, with tendency to improve the capabilities of the Macedonian Army with as many as possible professionals. A campaign for hiring contracted soldiers is still on, and will last even after June 10, considering the interest for this program among the population.

Minister of Defense Buckovski underlined that the Macedonian security forces have control over the Macedonian territory, announcing a new turnout of the crisis within the following days at the end of his interview with the Macedonian Radio.

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