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FEBRUARY.

01, Feb-2001, Thursday.

BORIS TRAJKOVSKI IN WASHINGTON.

President Boris Trajkovski told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington that a continued U.S. presence in the Balkans is "necessary and moral."

02, Feb-2001, Friday.

03, Feb-2001, Saturday.

04, Feb-2001, Sunday.

MACEDONIA-BULGARIA-VISAS

Macedonia wants to preserve the current visa-free regime with Bulgaria. The most important thing for Bulgarian-Macedonian relations at the moment is that Bulgaria does not introduce visa requirements for Macedonian citizens, Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim says in an interview for the Skopje-based "Dnevnik" daily. Kerim is of the opinion that Skopje and Sofia use the same vocabulary in respect to NATO and EU integration.

05, Feb-2001, Monday.

CROATIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS KOSOVARS' RIGHT TO STATEHOOD

President Stipe Mesic told "Der Spiegel" of 5 February that "Belgrade must...recognize that the Yugoslav republics and provinces, which received the right to secede in the constitution of 1974, still have this right -- even if Serbia meanwhile has a new constitution." Mesic added that "Kosovo must get its own government as soon as possible and then decide about its own fate." He dismissed the notion that an independent Kosovo could destabilize the region: "Why do we always [fear] the specter of a greater Albania? Why should there not be two Albanian states? Germany and Austria can exist next to each other -- why not Kosovo and Albania?"

06, Feb-2001, Tuesday.

JANE'S: MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN GUERRILLA FORCE DOES NOT EXIST

"Jane's Intelligence Review" reported on 6 February that the alleged Albanian National Army (AKSh) in Macedonia is the creation of Belgrade's disinformation experts. The article suggested that the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia are too well established in the republic's political life to resort to armed revolt. Recent violence in ethnic Albanian areas of Macedonia is more likely to be the work of criminal gangs that are taking advantage of NATO's preoccupation with Presevo to develop their trade in weapons, drugs, and humans, the article concluded.

07, Feb-2001, Wednesday.

MINISTER DIMOVSKA: CRVENKOVSKI's ACCUSATIONS - VERBAL TERRORISM

Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska denied Wednesday all of accusations on hers and on the account of some employees at the Ministry, presented by leader of the SDSM party at a press conference yesterday.

"We most vigorously deny all of the accusations as inaccurate, irresponsible and groundless. A party leader should not put himself above the legal system and act as a prosecutor, judge and executor. His manners are nothing else but intellectual, verbal terrorism, and part of the unscrupulous fight for power," Dimovska says in an announcement to media.

According to her, Crvenkovski's policy in the last two years is an attempt for disturbing of stability and interethnic relations in Macedonia. But his and all other similar attempts have failed, Dimovska says, adding that Crvenkovski is acting in cooperation with the former intelligence officials, who has been Milosevic's servants for the last ten years.

"Crvenkovski as a promoter of the verbal terrorism in Macedonia, violates the Constitution and Law, by presenting information on names of intelligence officials in public. Together with the former employees at the intelligence services, he is revealing official secrets, i.e. the country's security system, and conscientiously or not, is trying to obstruct its work, "Dimovska says.

She publicly asks Crvenkovski who is a recipient of his information.

"Is he aware that such irresponsible statements and acts are causing long-term damage, not only to the country, but also to him as politician and party leader," Dimovska says.

The Interior Ministry will continue to work on the wiretapping affair and in that respect will cooperate with all legal institutions in charge of this case. Resolving of the affair is in the interest of stability and security of Macedonia and its citizens, Dimovska says.

08, Feb-2001, Thursday.

MACEDONIA AND GREECE TRYING TO SETTLE NAME PROBLEM

The UN ambassadors from Greece and Macedonia met on 8 February to seek a resolution to Greek objections to the name Macedonia, AP reported. A statement released by Greek ambassador Elias Gounaris and his Macedonian counterpart Ivan Tosevsky reported no progress but an "exchange of views." Greece only recognizes Macedonia as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," and will only have dealings with Skopje when it uses that name. Athens says use of only the name Macedonia masks "expansionist aims" on the part of that country towards the Greek province of Macedonia. The ambassadors said they are determined to find a solution through UN mediation.

09, Feb-2001, Friday.

SKOPJE-SOUTHEAST EUROPE-SUMMIT

Leaders of all countries in the region confirmed their participation at the Southeast European Cooperation Process Summit, which is to take place February 23 in Skopje, Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Srgjan Kerim said.
As highlights of the summit, Kerim pointed to the reception of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as fully-fledged members in the Cooperation Process. He announced that during the Summit a General document would be signed, which would include the main political issues concerning the region as well as the Plan for Economic Action, which should represent a ground for intensifying the economic cooperation in the region.

Kerim explained that the Agreement for determining and marking of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border is to be initialed. He announced that the mixed committee for determining the border would hold the next meeting on February 12-14 in Skopje.

Prior to the summit, on February 22, the Ministers of foreign affairs of the Cooperation Process member - countries will gather on an informal meeting, while the economy Ministers and businessmen from the region will attend the Economic Forum, which is to take place the same day.

Minister Kerim, announced that the work of the Committee for Euro-Atlantic integration of Macedonia, presided by Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski, would be intensified within the next period.

The last meeting of the Committee held February 6 was focused on the legal framework of the relationship between NATO and Macedonia, regarding the transit and jurisdiction of the Alliance forces within the Peace forces. The preparation process about Macedonia's integration in the Alliance as well as the program about increasing the positive public opinion about the Alliance, were also discussed. Minister Kerim reported that the Action Plan for implementation of the Agreement for stability and for EU association was also adopted. Kerim also announced the realization of the so-called "twining system" project, aimed to enable a coordinate functioning of the Macedonian and EU institutions.

About the negotiations with Greece on the name differences, Kerim estimated the information presented by the media as pure speculation. According to him, the negotiations on the state name issue cannot be anyhow related to the negotiations on the name and status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. At the moment in Greece, the "approach for finding a solution, acceptable for both sides" is being discussed and there are no possible solutions suggested on the name of our country, said Kerim.

He briefed on his upcoming activities, including the visits to France and Bosnia and Hercegovina, as well as to Great Britain, Luxembourg, Sweden and Austria.

During his stay in Vienna, he will present the Macedonian stands and its objectives on currently most important topics, while in Luxembourg he is to meet the European Investment Bank leadership, asking for additional financial help for construction of the Demir Kapija-Gevgelija highway.

Organized by the Macedonian Foreign Ministry and the "Ekonomist" magazine, a conference on the Macedonian economic activities will be held, underlining that the inflation rate in Macedonia is at the same level as in the EU countries, while the economic growth is twice bigger.

Minister Kerim reminded that the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Macedonia and EU will be signed on April 10, while on April 27, accompanied by Defense Ljuben Paunovski, he will participate at the regular NATO Council Session.

Not so long ago, Republic of Macedonia has established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Seychelles and Mauritius, which have recognized our country under its constitutional name. Macedonia has established diplomatic ties with 123 countries so far, 79 of which have recognized it under its constitutional name. Following to that, Kerim said that from now on Macedonia would establish diplomatic ties only with countries willing to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name.

Kerim announced that the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has implemented a new policy, rating the Macedonian consular or diplomatic representative offices at three levels, depending on the importance of the origin country for Macedonia, as well as on the activities undertaken by that office.

About the competence of the Macedonian newly appointed Consul General in New York, Filip Petrovski, Kerim said that his working abilities could only be assessed at the end of his mandate.

During the forum Macedonia and Yugoslavia will sign an accord to determine the border between them, the Macedonian Foreign Minister said.

10, Feb-2001, Saturday.

11, Feb-2001, Sunday.

BUILDING OF *SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN* UNIVERSITY IN TETOVO TO START

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By uncovering the panel where the campus of the Southeast European University was presented, Max van der Stoel, president of the international board and OSCE Commissioner on national minorities, Sunday marked the start of the realisation of the project of the University in Southeast Europe.

Stoel thanked for the assistance and encouragement of the Macedonian government and the diplomatic corps, and he said that the realisation of the project would continue with same intensity as hitherto.

"At this point, there are no signs for starting of the construction of the campus, but I believe that it will start and will be finished in a very short time. The new institution will be unique in many things. The new university is open for the world. European studies will be the main part of the curriculum, because Macedonia has European location. The new university is finding ways for co-operation with other universities, especially the University in Skopje," Max van der Stoel said.

Ljubcho Georgievski, Macedonian Prime Minister, Bedredin Ibraimi, Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Srgjan Kerim, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nenad Novkovski, Minister of Education, Ilijaz Halimi, Vice-President of the Parliament, officials from the Democratic Party of Albanians, representatives of the diplomatic corps, eminent persons and citizens participated at the ceremony.

Ljubcho Georgievski, Macedonian Prime Minister, said "the new university will solve the problem of the higher education of Albanians in Macedonia and it is a new test of the trust between the Macedonian and Albanians in the country."

"We cannot but to face the fact how artificial was the dilemma which was discussed for years whether the higher education should be public or private. The pragmatism has won and it is important to have higher education for the Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia, and this project enables this. In the dilemma private or public university, I am certain that the new law on higher education will stimulate the existing public faculties to be privatised," Georgievski said.

Prime Minister called as he said "bearers of the civic initiative of the former higher education in Tetovo to finance this initiative and all together to eliminate all dilemmas before the citizens." "In that context I think this will help the professors and firstly the students." Georgievski stated.

"I want to promote that in the governmental plan for this year, from the resources of the sell of the Telecom, two new high schools on Albanian language and ten elementary schools are planned to be constructed. And I think that it will fill the gap that existed between the elementary and faculty education." He expressed satisfaction "that the Republic of Macedonia shows that it can fulfil the goal by a fight in the institutions."

Zamir Dika, president of the national board of the university of Southeast Europe said that this university is not something new and challenge for us but also for the whole region. "We are convinced that the university will start to work on October this year," Dika said.

Alajdin Abazi, director of the project and future rector of the university presented the campus comprised of five faculties, which will have 33 training facilities, a library, a big amphitheatre, three dormitories, five buildings for professors and administration, and a computing centre with 500 computers. "Studies will be lectured on English language. If we are lack of professors it may happen several subjects to be lectured on Macedonian language, except two subjects that are projected with the law on higher education," Abazi stated.

The construction of the university will start on March 1, 2001 and will be finished for two to three months. The expectations of the creator of the project are that the university will start to work on October 1, 2001.

MACEDONIA, YUGOSLAVIA TO SETTLE BORDER QUESTIONS WITHOUT KOSOVARS

Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim said in Skopje on 11 February that his government and the new Yugoslav authorities have nearly completed work on defining their common border, dpa reported. He added that he expects the final document to be ready for signing at the 22 February Balkan summit in Skopje. Speaking to reporters, he refused to comment on reports that Kosovar leaders wanted to be included in the talks. Kerim added: "I do not know what relevant political factors from Kosovo could take part in talks on the border, because that issue is settled between Macedonia and Yugoslavia, according to international norms."

12, Feb-2001, Monday.

SDSM CONTINUES TO DESTROY EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY

Ljubcho Georgievski, Macedonian Prime Minister, regarding the latest documents and accusations for direct involvement in the wiretapping affair of the Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska by the leader of SDSM, Branko Crvenkovski, stated "this is a continuation of SDSM tendency for destroying of everything in this country." "Having no sources they descend on the security system of the state," Prime Minister said.
He pointed out the fact "the papers where conversations are registered," really exist, "however until otherwise is proved, SDSM remains the main organiser of the wiretapping, that has its own structures in the state administration."

"We are very sorry that the state administration, if the sources come from there, participates in such organised chase," Georgievski stated.

Prime Minister said that the possibility for entrance in the system of telecommunications is not excluded. "We insist on solving of this case whereat as a government we are to use all juridical instances to reach the goal," he said.

Regarding the issue whether our government holds talks with the Republic of Greece for the change of the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, Georgievski said "negotiations are held for six years and even the mediator is the same." He pointed out "thanks to the former government, in all possible international institutions the name of the Republic of Macedonia has already been changed into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." "I greet all efforts and ideas to come close to our constitutional name and to correct the shame that the previous government has left us, whole world to know us under the name FYROM, and I consider that they are welcomed. Every rational solution in that direction would be acceptable even to discuss it, if such solution exists," Prime Minister Georgievski stated.

Referring to the negotiations about the name of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), Prime Minister said, "the government did not discuss about the church". "On the contrary it is a problem of the church. Every solution which would be unanimously accepted by the Holy Synod, I as the Prime Minister would recognise. I am upset when atheists that feel much more concerned for the destiny of the church than the bishops and the leaders of MOC," he stated.

Regarding the speculations that the ruling DPA is connected with the transfer of armament from Albania through Macedonia to Kosovo, Prime Minister stated "the amount of discovered armament this year is not bigger than those that was discovered last year. The operations of the police in co-operation with the Army are conducting constantly and that control functions," Prime Minster Ljubcho Georgievski stated.

GREEK MILITARY DELEGATION VISITS MACEDONIA

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A Greek military delegation, led by the Chief of Staff, General Manusos Parajudakis, arrived Monday for a two-day visit to Macedonia.

Today, General Parajudakis met with his Macedonian counterpart Lieutenant General Jovan Andrevski and Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski.

The meetings were focused on reforms of the two Armies, education of Macedonian officers in Greece and cooperation between the Skopje and Athens military hospitals.

SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS OF MACEDONIAN-GREEK RELATIONS

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Paunovski and Parajudakis shared opinions on security in the region and on establishment of a European defense force. At the meeting, Paunovski reiterated Macedonia's commitment to join the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

The officials also expressed satisfaction with the significant progress of the Macedonian-Greek relations.

Parajudakis informed on near arrival of telecommunication devices to Macedonia, which would be built in the troop carriers "Leonidas" - Greek military aid to Macedonia.

Tomorrow, Parajudakis is scheduled to visit the Military Hospital in Skopje and to attend a maneuver of the special ARM unit.

BORDER BRIGADES AND SPECIAL UNITS ACCORDING TO NATO STANDARDS

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Greek military delegation, led by Chief of the Greek Army General Staff Manusos Parayudakis paid Tuesday a visit to the "Ilinden" military barracks in Skopje.

At the briefing, Brigade General Dragan Andrevski reported on the characteristics of the state border of the Republic of Macedonia, organizational and formation structure of the First border brigade, training of the border brigades and their cooperation with the other subjects.

Commander of the special unit "Wolves", Under-colonel Stojce Zengovski explained the goals and tasks of his military unit.

"I am impressed by the information and presentation I have seen today, because the border brigade and the special units here are being trained in accordance to the NATO standards," Parayudakis said.

WOLF

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Faceless soldiers in Macedonia: The chairman of Greece's joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Manoussos Parayioudakis, shakes hands with the commander of the Republic of Macedonia army's 'Wolf' unit, in Skopje. Parayioudakis is on a two-day official visit.

13, Feb-2001, Tuesday.

MACEDONIA SEEKING TAIWAN'S MILITARY HELP

Despite several indications that Macedonia will switch its recognition from Taipei back to Beijing, it continues to recognize Taiwan and is now seeking military assistance from it. For their part, the Taiwanese authorities are seeking to recruit retired airmen to repair and fly the "small number" of used F-5E warplanes that Taiwan has recently acquired in Europe, dpa reported from Taipei on 13 February. The assistance is part of an existing defense cooperation agreement.

14, Feb-2001, Wednesday.

ONLY ALTERNATIVE FOR THE COUNTRY'S NAME IS REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

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Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that it is in our best interest the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to be used in the diplomatic communication with Greece and added that the only alternative for this name is Republic of Macedonia.

He pointed out that Macedonia has made compromises long time ago and added that the only goal of the negotiations is to erase the shame that was brought upon Macedonia in the last decade. At this moment, he said, there is no acceptable solution for the problem, and the compromise with usage of two names originates from the time of Kiro Gligorov.

About the suggestion for changing the name of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), Georgievski said that every unanimous decision of the MOC Synod would be accepted and welcomed.

He said that at this moment he did not see any reasons to ask resignation from the Minister of Internal Affairs Dosta Dimovska. "It becomes more and more obvious that the 'wiretapping' affair is nothing but a construction," he said.

About the statements given by officials from Kosovo, that Macedonia can negotiate only on the border with Yugoslavia but not on the border with the Province, Georgievski said that those are only local statements. "It is good that the Yugoslav party accepted to negotiate on the borderline, because they have been running away from the negotiations for 10 years. The negotiations are also supported by the international factor, so if any remark comes from them, or from United Nations Mission In Kosovo, we are ready to take it into consideration, but till now there were no remarks," the Prime Minister said.

About the information that the former Minister of internal affairs Pavle Trajanov was involved in the oil smuggling business during the embargo towards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Georgievski said: "it is a fact that after the Kosovo crisis, Trajanov had complete monopoly over the oil trade. One can easily check in the 'OKTA' refinery that after the Kosovo crisis, meaning in the period when Trajanov was Minister, only one company had exclusive right to export oil to Kosovo," he said.

Prime Minister Georgievski said that in the next two months a tender for second mobile-telephony operator would be opened in Macedonia.

15, Feb-2001, Thursday.

MACEDONIA-YUGOSLAVIA-BORDER

Macedonia, Yugoslavia Reach Accord on Common Border

A Macedonian-Yugoslav intergovernmental expert commission, whose meeting ended Thursday evening in Skopje, drew up a draft agreement on the two countries' common border. The commission was set up in June 1996.

According to the Macedonian co-chairman, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Dimovski, the document concerns the entire 330-km-long Macedonian-Yugoslav border. While considering controversial issues related to the border line the experts referred to existing descriptions of the border, cadastral plans and topographic maps, Dimovski said.

The sides agreed to establish a bipartite demarkation commission to delineate the state border in the following few days. The document is pending approval by the two governments, to be signed later by the two presidents at a meeting of leaders of the countries participating in the Southeast European Cooperation Process in Skopje February 23.

Skopje and Belgrade agreed that the sensitive issue of monuments related to the history and culture of either country and located on the territory of the other should be addressed in a future document. This document will stipulate that each country will make efforts to restore and preserve the cultural and historical monuments of the other country on its territory.

Such monuments include the St Prohor Pcinski Monastery in Serbia which has a place in Macedonian history, and the graves of Serbian soldiers who died on Macedonian territory during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

The issue of disputed markings on the border line was settled by taking into account the natural features of the area, Dimovski said.

Taking a question about objections voiced by political leaders in Pristina, according to whom the agreement should not encompass the Kosovo section of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, Dimovski said that the commission based its recommendations on Resolution 1244 of the United Nations security Council which defines the province as part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Radoje Bogojevic said, "We want the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia to become a European border ensuring the free flow of people, ideas, information, merchandise and culture."

BASELESS KLA THREATS

"Slavic States could no longer discuss over Kosovos territory, I suggest to Macedonian government to negotiate the Macedonia-southern Serbia border only. It is inappropriate for Macedonian government to negotiate over Kosovo border. Such negotiations could trigger new issues regarding the borders inside Macedonia, we are well aware how much complicated these issues are," the former KLA Spokesman, who is now the General Secretary of Hashim Thaqis party, Krasniqi said.

GERMANY GRANTS MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO ARM

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German Ambassador to Macedonia Werner Burchard officially submitted Thursday military assistance meant for the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM).
The military assistance is consisted of 115 "Hermelin" vehicles, 150 "Woltzwagen Ilitis" jeeps, spare parts and 20 sanitary vehicles.

The manifestation was attended by Macedonian Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski, Chief of the Army General Staff Jovan Andrevski, Commander of the First border brigade which will use the vehicles Dragan Andreevski, representatives of the German Army - Bundeswehr, and representatives of the German KFOR troops deployed to Macedonia.

Minister Paunovski expressed satisfaction from the bilateral cooperation between the Macedonian and German ministries of defense. "The political and military assistance that Macedonia receives from Germany is of great importance," Paunovski said.

Ambassador Burchard said that the overall military assistance that Germany gave to Macedonia starting from 1998 amounts to DM five million. "Germany will continue supporting Macedonia not only in the reforms of the army but also in regard to its approach to the EU," he said.

16, Feb-2001, Friday.

MACEDONIA-INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS

Macedonia's Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska resigned on Friday, saying it was her moral responsibility to step down in connection with the accusations for wire-tapping levelled by the opposition. In her letter to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Dimovska writes that she holds herself morally responsible about what is happening in the Interior Ministry and says that she never issued a decision to wire-tap for political and ideological reasons the persons opposition leader Branco Crvenkovski claims were wire-tapped. Dimovska said that in the month after the scandal against her as a minister broke, a witch-hunt campaign is being waged by part of the opposition, former security service functionaries and former top Yugoslav politicians. She said they want to eliminate her politically which serves the intelligence aims of foreign countries.

In her letter the Macedonian Interior Minister also says that the campaign against her inflicted serious political damage. Dimovska points out that performance of the most responsible functions in the state should be guided by the ethical principles of honour and moral responsibility.
Dimovska is deputy chairperson of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party and the closest ally of its leader Georgievski since the time the VMRO-DPMNE was set up more than ten years ago.

17, Feb-2001, Saturday.

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SHOOTOUT ON MACEDONIAN-KOSOVO BORDER

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Macedonian Defense Ministry official told AP in Skopje on 17 February that six uniformed ethnic Albanian gunmen exchanged fire with Macedonian border troops in Tanusevci on the frontier with Kosovo. The source said that at least one of the Albanians appears to have been wounded in the exchange. The intruders subsequently returned to Kosovo.

LJUBEN PAUNOSKI ON TANUSEVCI.

Minister of Defence Ljuben Paunoski gave Saturday an exclusive interview for A1 TV station regarding the Friday incident near the village of Tanusevci at the Macedonian-Yugoslav border when a terrorist group encountered a journalist team. "The Defence Ministry has a complete control over the Macedonian territory. That is confirmed by the fact that the Macedonian Army is the most stable factor in this unstable region," Paunoski stated. "It is a very complex question and we can not give an immediate answer, but in the last ten years we are faced with similar pressures on the border," Paunoski answered the question whether the group was armed and whether it came from Kosovo.

According to the analysis and the incident indicators, we can conclude that the Macedonian - Yugoslav border demarcation is a big issue for every party in the Balkans. The public is aware that the Macedonian Government has a 100% success regarding this issue and the Agreement for border demarcation will be signed in a few days. I can announce that this is the success of the century. But it is obvious that certain structures are not satisfied with the Agreement, and these incidents are serious provocation for Macedonia, as answering to these provocations will mean opening a battlefield, which would rise a serious international issue," Paunoski explained.

18, Feb-2001, Sunday.

19, Feb-2001, Monday.

ONE PERSON SHOT DEAD IN TANUSEVCI GUNFIRE

Skopje, February 19 (MIA) - In a gunfire that occurred Friday afternoon near the Tanusevci village between the Macedonian Army border patrol and an unknown armed group, a member of the group was killed, the Albanian language daily "Fakti" reads. Calling upon unofficial Sources, "Fakti" reads that Musa Xhaferi (20) from Tanusevci was killed in the gunfire and buried in the village the same day.

MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTER BACKS SERBIA IN PRESEVO

Ljubco Georgievski said in Belgrade on 19 February that he supports Serbia's new plan to stabilize Presevo, AP reported. He added that he opposes unnamed "extremist forces without political support who want to jeopardize peace in the whole region." Georgievski said that the violence must stop if essential foreign investment is to flow into the region.

MACEDONIAN MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION

Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska offered her resignation on 16 February to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski in order to take moral responsibility for the ongoing scandal over alleged ministry wiretaps of top political, media, and business figures, AP reported. It is not clear if Georgievski will accept the resignation of his close political ally, who denied any wrongdoing. Dimovska argued that "old structures" linked to the previous Social Democratic and Communist governments are trying to politically eliminate me in the interest of foreign countries."

20, Feb-2001, Tuesday.

GEORGIEVSKI: ENHANCED MACEDONIAN-YUGOSLAV RELATIONS

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski ended Tuesday his two-day official visit to Belgrade. "With the demarcation of the border, the last open issue between Macedonia and Yugoslavia is solved," Georgievski summarised.
Georgievski stressed that relations with Serbia have been enhanced due to the border dispute resolving, following already established relations with Montenegro. "The issue on the succession of former Yugoslavia's property is still open, but it is an issue regarding all former Yugoslav republics. The dispute between Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches still remains, but we can hardly believe that this issue will disturb Macedonian - Yugoslav relations," Georgievski stated.

During his first official visit to Belgrade, Georgievski had meetings with his Serbian counterpart Zoran Gjingjic, Yugoslavian Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, as well as with the Patriarch Pavle.

In the framework of the future bilateral cooperation between Macedonia and Yugoslavia, meetings between the Transport and Communications Ministers, Economy Ministers, as well as Internal Affairs Ministers have been scheduled.

"The Serbian Government has a special interest in cooperation between the Ministries of Internal Affairs as the former regime is suspected to have carried out money laundry in Macedonia. Yugoslavian cash money were laundered and financial means from different companies were transferred from Macedonia to third countries," Georgievski explained.

"Many Macedonian businessmen, who were accepted as friends of Yugoslavia, were in fact Yugoslavia's greatest enemies as they enabled the money laundry in Macedonia," he added.

"In order to clear the matter that disturbed the Macedonian - Yugoslav relations in the past ten years, Belgrade will seek for an international support. Macedonia expressed readiness to cooperate and to find additional sources to prevent smuggling in the future. The stability in the region concerns both Macedonia and Yugoslavia as it would normalize the political and economic relations," Georgievski stated.

The Prime Minister assessed the meeting with the Patriarch Pavle as most reserved. "There is a will for solving the Macedonian Orthodox Church issue, but the Serbian point of view is not in compliance with ours. Although we have the will and motive to resolve the problem, persons in charge should do that," Georgievski explained.

"Macedonia does not hide its concern about South Serbia crisis, because it obstructs the security and economic relations as well as the communications. Settlement of the South Serbian crisis will contribute to the Macedonian stability as well as to the stability in the region. We support the Belgrade plan, which has been already supported by the international community for peaceful agreement. Macedonia uses this peaceful approach in the investigations about the recent terrorist attacks. This is dominant policy in Yugoslavia as well," Georgievski stated.

21, Feb-2001, Wednesday.

22, Feb-2001, Thursday.

23, Feb-2001, Friday.

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BALKAN SUMMIT HEADED FOR CLASH?

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski opened the Balkan summit's first full day of work on 23 February, dpa reported. Heads of state or government from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia are taking part, as well as an "observer" from Croatia. The EU's Chris Patten, Javier Solana, and Bodo Hombach are representing the international community. It is not clear whether Washington or Moscow are represented. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani canceled his plans to attend "at the last minute" but did not give a reason, Deutsche Welle reported. Prime Minister Ilir Meta is representing Albania. The state-run Serbian news agency Tanjug reported that Albania may not sign the final declaration, which condemns the activities of Albanian terrorists in southern Serbia. Balkan summits usually put on a show of unanimity before the general public, issuing declarations that include only the lowest common denominator of agreement.

ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT BORIS TRAJKOVSKI AT SEECP SUMMIT

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"I am pleased to point out that the achievements of the South East European Cooperation Process are very encouraging so far. The most valuable one is that during the last decade when we faced numerous problems, the countries within the Process have proved able to exchange views through an open dialogue in endeavouring to find solutions to issue important for the whole region. I am convinced that the Process in the future will continue to affirm its unique value," President Trajkovski said, opening the fourth SEECP Summit.

He reminded that in the course of the past year we initiated many useful and intense activities. Many meetings were held at all levels where several joint documents were adopted.

"Shortly after the democratic changes in the FRY with the informal Summit and the adoption of the Skopje Declaration, we gave a unanimous and clear support to the new democratic leadership of this country and we have taken the political decision for its return in the Process," Trajkovski said.

"I consider that today with the formal return of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and with full membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina, new prospects are opened for further strengthening of cooperation within the Process. This gives to the Process even greater importance in the future development of the region. We are all aware of the need to develop regional cooperation. But we are also aware that it could not substitute or be an alternative to our commitment and need for EU membership. These processes are complementary. We all agree that the regional integration will follow only if the region is offered a clear European prospective," Macedonian President stressed.

He said that the Republic of Macedonia dedicates significant attention to the development of good neighbourly relations and to the fostering of regional cooperation. "Within this framework special importance is given to the Co-operation Process - as an authentic regional framework that was created by states of the region. We are fully committed to the achievement of the objectives contained in the Charter on Good Neighbourly Relations, Stability and Cooperation in South Eastern Europe and we are convinced that their further implementation will give a significant contribution to peace, as a precondition for prosperity in this part of Europe. Regional problems need regional solutions. It is in this context that I see the functional integration as a true opportunity for us," he added.

According to him, our strategy for regional cooperation should start by defining our common and regional issues. "Most of our countries share the same problems, which requires state level approach. Therefore, I think that the co-operation in all areas will be significantly improved and will have a considerable impact by organising sectorial ministerial meetings, as permanent cooperative bodies. The regional integration before all, is cooperation among functioning states, as a basic precondition for success," Trajkovski said.

"We are pleased that the indispensable reforms are constantly progressing despite the hardships. This path will be shorter and easier if we are together. Therefore we understand that it is time for our Process to develop new types of co-operation. Besides the political ones it is necessary to develop intense economic cooperation. In that regard, the Action Plan and Economic Forum will definitely contribute to the promotion of economic co-operation in South Eastern Europe. The infrastructure and energetic interconnection in the region will give an impulse to further economic development. The best way to establish our interdependence is through common markets of energy and communication," Trajkovski emphasised.

"The Stabilisation and Association Process, established by the EU opened a clear perspective for the future of the South East European countries. The Republic of Macedonia by initialling the Stabilisation and Association Agreement has accepted the responsibility to fulfill the obligations resulting from its rapprochement to the EU. In that regard, we reaffirm our strong commitment for further strengthening of democracy, reforms and cooperation, which will allow a more rapid rapprochement of each country included in the Stabilisation and Association process towards the EU," Trajkovski said.

He said that the rapid integration in the European and Euro Atlantic structures would result in overall political, economic and social development of our countries. In this way the EU will give its utmost contribution to the stability and prosperity of the region and the whole of Europe.

"The Stability Pact remains one of the most concrete instruments. We fully support the Pact since its objectives fully correspond to our efforts to enter the European and Euro Atlantic structures and further develop regional cooperation," Trajkovski said.

Speaking about the position of the Republic of Macedonia regarding some issues important for the security, stability and cooperation in our region, he reminded that at the informal Summit in October last year we were pleased to state that, thanks to the clearly expressed will of the people, changes occurred in the FRY which had a positive influence upon the situation in the region. "Today we can welcome the measures that it is undertaking in carrying out the structural reforms in their society, towards rapid development of democratic processes and towards reconciliation of social and national groups. We also welcome the commitment of the Yugoslav authorities to respect the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244," Trajkovski said.

"For several months now, the situation in Southern Serbia has been deteriorating. There have been several serious attempts to establish a dialogue in order to find a peaceful solution but they have failed. Instead, the violence and the illegal actions of extreme armed groups have continued and the conflict is escalating. We severely condemn the most recent terrorist attacks. We encourage the international community to continue with its efforts in establishing democratic institutions in Kosovo, introducing order and rule of law," Trajkovski stressed.

According to him, every attempt to make a serious analysis and give a concept for the stabilisation of the region must start from two basic postulates. "First, we must put an end to all types of ethnically motivated violence. Militant extremism directly strikes the roots of all attempts for a peaceful resolution of disputes, through a political dialogue. In a very short period of time violence can transform tolerance, built patiently for so many years, into a destructive hatred. Therefore, I am convinced that all factors in the region, including the international community, must show a high level of awareness and determination in stopping militant extremism", Trajkovski said.

"I base the second postulate on the century-long historical experience and the memory of the people of the region. Our region is a true mosaic of various value systems, cultures, religions, languages and ethnic groups. Ethnic boundaries cannot be part of the solution. We must build states of individuals not states of ethnic groups. The lasting solution in the region must lean on the principles against forceful changing of the borders, the support of the integrity and integrating processes within states, rapid integration of the states in European and Euro Atlantic structures and the economic reconstruction of the region," Trajkovski stressed.

Addressing the present guests, President Trajkovski mentioned an issue that has a multiple and lasting importance for us. "Because of the difficulties during the transition period and because of the last Balkan war, the region is again becoming a transit corridor for illegal traffic of drugs, weapons and people. In addition crime is organised regardless of the borders, supported by corruption. These phenomena threaten our security, the development civil society and democracy. Therefore, it is necessary on the national level to undertake systematic measures in the fight against these evils. But, being aware of the cross border dimension of these issues, it is necessary to establish co-operation on regional and even global level. In that regard, I would like to express the strong commitment of my country to fight against these illegal activities by intensifying and fostering joint cooperation, with the active participation of the international community," President Trajkovski said.

At the end of his address, President Trajkovski said, "As leaders we have a great responsibility above all before our nations. Second we are also responsible before our neighbours. And ultimately before Europe, as a community of democracies where all our wishes and obligations converge. We must fulfil this huge responsibility that we have towards the ideal of our citizens, towards our countries, towards our common ideal of united Europe through new forms of co-operation," Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said.

TRAJKOVSKI AND KOSTUNICA SIGN AGREEMENT ON BORDER DEMARCATION

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Within the SEECP Summit, Macedonian and Yugoslav Presidents, Boris Trajkovski and Voislav Kostunica, signed the Agreement on Macedonian - Yugoslav border demarcation.

"I am very glad to sign the Agreement in front of the Macedonian and International public, as it is an expression of the positive will of the residents from the both countries. The border issue disturbed our relations and cooperation therefore we are satisfied that the agreement was reached within 2 months. This signature is an expression of the positive political will, good intentions and commitment to solve the current problems," Trajkovski stated.

"With this Agreement we do not want our citizens to be divided by the border. On the contrary, it would open new perspectives for communication. We showed that we are prepared to contribute to the stability and better cooperation in the region. We confirmed our determination for European future," Trajkovski explained.

"The signing of the Agreement emphasized the good political and economic relations between Macedonia and Yugoslavia as well as the continuation of traditionally good relations between the two nations," Kostunica stated.

"The Agreement would mean enhancement of the peace, stability and cooperation on the Balkans, as an integral part of Europe. It also suggests that the borders should be firm and unchangeable, but open in the same time," Kostunica explained.

SKOPJE-FORUM

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Nadezhda Mihailova: All Countries in SEE Have Embraced
Europe's Democratic Values

For the first time, all countries of Southeastern Europe have embraced the European democratic values and criteria, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told her counterparts of Southeast Europe at an informal meeting here on Thursday evening. The foreign ministerial precedes a meeting of the heads of state and government of the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) to be held here on Friday.

Mihailova said in her address that SEECP needs further institutionalization. She believes that cooperation should become more effective by expanding dialogue to the level of parliaments, ministries and other state and government institutions. According to her, attention should now be focused on specific projects, including those for combatting organized crime and illegal trade in drugs, arms and people. She stressed the importance of the situation in southern Serbia. All foreign ministers agreed that this matter should be given due attention at the Friday summit. "It is Bulgaria's understanding that the problem should be resolved by peaceful means," Mihailova said
stressing that all SEECP countries are involved in the efforts to find a solution. She suggested that "the Troyka" format is used in future cooperation and in the efforts to solve regional problems within SEECP. She supported the idea that the SEECP presidency is passed over from Macedonia to Yugoslavia and then to Albania. Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Papandreou congratulated Mihailova for her country's successful campaign to be stricken off the EU visa blacklist. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Gorav Svilanovic stressed how quickly Belgrade managed to normalize its position at SEECP. He described as a success story the agreement between Belgrade and Sofia to solve the bilateral visa problem by signing a readmission accord. On Friday Mihailova will join President Peter Stoyanov and the other members of the Bulgarian delegation to the SEECP summit.

PRESIDENT-SKOPJE-BILATERAL MEETINGS

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Macedonian President Trajkovski to Visit Bulgaria in May, Two Bilateral Documents under Preparation

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski will visit Bulgaria in May, it emerged after a meeting between Trajkovski and Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov. Two bilateral documents are under preparation for the visit: a Declaration of Friendship and a Readmission Agreement, Stoyanov's Press Secretary Neri Terzieva said. Stoyanov and Trajkovski talked in Skopje on Friday before the official opening of the fourth summit of the countries participating in the South East European Cooperation Process. Stoyanov talked with Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The two state leaders expressed concern over the delayed implementation of projects involved in the construction of Transport Corridor VIII, Terzieva said. Stoyanov and Trajkovski will propose a Bulgaria-Macedonia-Albania meeting on the matter. Stoyanov will voice his concern over the delayed construction of Corridor VIII at a meeting with Bodo Hombach, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, later on Friday.

Stoyanov and Solana discussed the situation in Southern Serbia with concern. If conflicts like this one persist, the idea of European Balkans will grow more distant, according to Solana. The lifting of the visa restriction on Bulgarians travelling in the Schengen area was also on the agenda. Solana assured the Bulgarian President he would do his best to have visas scrapped as early as possible. Stoyanov expressed Sofia's gratitude for Solana's active role in its removal from the visa blacklist.

BULGARIA-SKOPJE SUMMIT-BULGARIAN PRESIDENT-SPEECH

President Stoyanov: Armed Groups' Actions in Southern Serbia Undermine Effect of Kosovo Local Elections

The actions of ethnic Albanian armed groups in Southern Serbia undermine the effect of the local elections in Kosovo and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Kosovo Albanian leaders, Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov said on Friday, addressing the fourth summit of the countries participating in the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP). He addressed the first plenary session of the forum devoted to the prospects for further strengthening of goodneighbourly relations, stability, security and cooperation in Southeastern Europe. Stoyanov laid emphasis on the situation in Southern Serbia. He called the events in that region "the most alarming component of the situation in the last few months". "We denounce the violent unlawful actions of the ethnic Albanian armed groups, which jeopardize the efforts of the international community to solve the Kosovo problem," Stoyanov said.

The armed groups in Southern Serbia undermine the efforts of the international community, including those of the countries of the region, to stabilize the situation in Kosovo and to provide assistance in creating a multiethnic society, the Bulgarian President said. Stoyanov called on the participants in the summit to support again the UN Security Council's appeal for immediate cessation of violence in Southern Serbia. The countries involved must show maximum restraint and iron out their differences at the negotiating table, he said.

"We must state our clear resolve that ethnic divisions will no longer be allowed to prevail in the Balkans and that armed conflicts will be headed off," Stoyanov said. Stoyanov hailed the contact established between the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the state leadership of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He said this was the way to end conflicts and launch constructive dialogue for the settlement of this ethnic, constitutional and political issue.

The Bulgarian President stressed the need for NATO's continued presence in Kosovo, despite the political changes in Yugoslavia. KFOR will remain a major factor of stability in the Western Balkans for a long time, Stoyanov said. The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will now officially join SEECP as a full-blood participant, gives grounds for optimism, according to Stoyanov. Yugoslavia's forthcoming accession to the SEECP Charter will send a new positive signal about stability, security and goodneighbourly relations in the region.

At the end of his address, Stoyanov expressed optimism about the European future of the Balkans, which is being built now despite the numerous challenges. "Never before in history has this part of the world had better prospects of building its future on the basis of the common goals, aspirations and values upheld by the countries of the region," Stoyanov said. He noted that there is no Balkan country not sharing the European values now.

BALKANS-POLICE COOPERATION

Police Officers Exchange Expertise at Regional Seminar

At a seminar in Sofia Friday top police officers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania discussed ways to improve police cooperation in the region. The seminar is part of a project for regional training and assistance to Central and Southern Europe supported by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The project is being implemented by the Canadian government within the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. So far, eight seminars have been held; the current one is the last one of a series dedicated to regional cooperation. The discussions were attended by police directors and chiefs of operative and administrative police services from the seven countries of the region. Lecturers from Canada acquainted the attendees with their professional experience. The discussion focused on improving the contacts between the police structures in the fight against tranborder
organized crime.

24, Feb-2001, Saturday.

25, Feb-2001, Sunday.

26, Feb-2001, Monday.

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WARNS TROUBLE-MAKERS

Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 26 February that "there is a tendency toward a worsening of the situation in southern Serbia, which can have a negative effect on the stability of Macedonia. No one should doubt our firm commitment to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia," Reuters reported. An unnamed "senior Western diplomat based in Skopje" told the news agency that both sides are hardening their positions "to see the reaction of the international community." Ethnic Albanians account for some 23 percent of Macedonia's total population. Unlike in President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, they are well integrated
into national political life and some hold cabinet positions.

CIVILIANS FLEE MACEDONIAN BORDER AREA

An OSCE spokesman said in Skopje on 26 February that most women, children, and elderly have left the Tanusevci area for Kosovo, Reuters reported. A UNHCR spokeswoman in Prishtina told AP that the refugees number about 300.

27, Feb-2001, Tuesday.

GUNFIRE EXCHANGE ON MACEDONIAN-YUGOSLAV BORDER

Spokesmen for Macedonia's Defense and Interior Ministries said in Skopje on 27 February that the border with Kosovo is quiet following an exchange of machine gun fire lasting about three hours the previous day. Macedonian officials said that Albanian terrorists coming mostly from Kosovo and some Macedonian citizens fired from the Kosovo side of the border at a Macedonian army and police patrol near Tanusevci. The Macedonians returned fire, Reuters reported. Some 100 KFOR troops soon arrived in Debelde on the Kosovo side and imposed a night curfew. A Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesmen said that the Albanians might be from "a new organization called the National Liberation Army. We understand it was formed in Switzerland in 2000, and it could be active in Macedonia in the near future." Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called the incident "a serious provocation" and criticized the performance of KFOR. He warned that although he wants to end the border tensions "through peaceful and diplomatic means, radical measures are not excluded." He did not elaborate, AP reported.

ALBANIANS FLEE TANUSEVCI

The Macedonia mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said it would continue monitoring the border. Spokesman Harold Schenker said most villages near the border had been deserted by civilians. "Most of the women, children and the elderly have been persuaded to leave the villages. Most of them have gone to villages in Kosovo," he said.

RUSSIA CALLS FOR BALKAN BORDER GUARANTEES

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 27 February that the international community should guarantee borders in the region to discourage extremists. The statement noted that "the actions of the gunmen are aimed at provoking a crisis situation and destabilizing the internal political situation in [Macedonia]... The continuation of such a situation threatens the security and stability of the whole region. Russia believes an effective hurdle to extremists actions would be confirmation by the international community of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all the states of the region in question," Reuters reported.

The statement also said that the clashes are aimed at realizing unspecified Albanian nationalist plans. Observers note, however, that no mainstream ethnic Albanian party anywhere in the Balkans calls for setting up a greater Albania as a realistic goal. The Russian call for border guarantees may be an attempt to preclude eventual independence for Kosovo.

SUSPECT REFUGEES.

Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Georgi Trendafilov tells RFE/RL he finds the whole matter of refugees from Tanusevci suspect.

"It's absurd, We could classify it as a scenario for a provocation to create a situation that's quite unreal -- to give the impression that in the Republic of Macedonia some citizens are fleeing as a result of not being treated equally by other citizens -- that's out of the question."

Trendafilov says the Macedonian army and police are trying to ensure that border security is strictly respected. He insists that Macedonian troops have not occupied a single village anywhere in Macedonia's border zone, including Tanusevci. In fact, news reports say the police have not entered Tanusevci for at least six weeks.

Tanusevci is perched high up in a very sparsely populated area of the Skopje Black Mountains (Skopska Crna Gora), which has peaks of over 1,600 meters and stretches along Macedonia's border with Kosovo and into southern Serbia. The village is 24 kilometers from Skopje and four kilometers from the border with Kosovo.

A senior Macedonian Interior Ministry official told RFE/RL that Tanusevci was calm today. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the trouble started in Tanusevci last September when insurgents fired rockets at Macedonian army vehicles. Then about two months ago armed men in uniforms of the "defunct" Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK, turned up in Tanusevci within sight of the Macedonian army and police patrols.

The Macedonian Interior Ministry official says that a new faction of the former UCK is involved, a group that calls itself the National Liberation Movement. He says this new faction consists partly of "dozens of people" from Tanusevci and partly of Kosovar Albanian residents of Debelde, a village across the border in Kosovo. He also says the shooting around Tanusevci is closely connected with gun-running to ethnic Albanian insurgents in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia, less than 20 kilometers to the east.

Tanusevci is the native village of a former UCK commander, Xhavit Hasani. Last year, the Macedonian news media reported that Hasani had cleared Tanusevci of many of its residents during the fighting in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 so that the village could serve as a logistical base and refuge for UCK insurgents.

The Macedonian army subsequently discovered some 1,200 refugees from Kosovo had found refuge in Tanusevci during the NATO air strikes. KFOR detained Hasani last March on a Macedonian warrant and extradited him to Skopje where he was wanted on murder and weapons-smuggling charges. But Hasani paid $100,000 bail and was released and returned to Kosovo the following month, resettling in Viti, some 10 kilometers northwest of Tanusevci.

There has been no independent confirmation that Hasani is directly connected with the latest clashes around the village.

The senior Interior Ministry official says there have not been enough Macedonian soldiers and police in the area. In his words, "we need a lot of people to prevent the penetration of wildness into Macedonia and one of the best penetrating points is the village of Tanusevci."

But the official adds he is not sure that sufficient support exists at the political level in the Macedonian government to deploy more security forces. He says: "We will prepare to do that but nothing [no deployment] without prior political authorization."

Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Trendafilov says KFOR must do more to secure the border.

"It's a matter of some 10 days since the first shooting which occurred on 16 February and, according to the Ministry of Defense and the Security Council of the Republic of Macedonia, necessary measures were taken to secure the border. And at present we are insisting that KFOR impose a normal, efficient border regime."

Yesterday's exchange of fire came only hours after insurgents seized a Macedonian television reporter and her two-man camera team who had gone to investigate reports of rebel infiltration from Kosovo. The insurgents briefly held the team at gunpoint, and confiscated their TV camera and mobile telephones before telling them to leave and never come back.

Last Wednesday (21 February), the Macedonian Defense Ministry said that some 200 armed men had crossed from Kosovo into Macedonia near Tanusevci. A KFOR spokesman in Pristina responded that peacekeepers had not seen any armed group crossing into Macedonia.

The following day, the KFOR commander, Italian General Carlo Cabigiosu, visited Skopje for talks with Macedonian leaders. He pledged to step up patrols along the border and to improve contacts with the Macedonian army.

British KFOR spokesman Richard Hatter confirms cooperation with the Macedonian army will be improved.

"We'll look for coordinated operations as authorized in our current mandate."

At a summit of Southeast European leaders in Skopje last week, the presidents of Macedonia and Yugoslavia signed an agreement defining their common border, including the border between Macedonia and Kosovo. Ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo responded that they do not recognize elements of the treaty concerning Kosovo's border because, they say, Kosovo's future status remains open.

28, Feb-2001, Wednesday.

MACEDONIA CONDEMNS KOSOVO ALBANIAN TERRORISTS.

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SKOPJE, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Macedonia said on Wednesday it hoped international diplomatic efforts would stop violence on its border it said was being provoked by ethnic Albanian fighters.
But it said it would retaliate if forced to do so.

"If the international community does not join Macedonia in overcoming violence, a division of the Balkans on religious grounds will be provoked due to Macedonia's geo-strategic position, which will seriously affect Europe," Defence Minister Ljuben Paunovski told Reuters in an interview.

He was echoing international concerns of a looming new Balkan crisis, given that ethnic Albanians comprise a third of Macedonia's two million population and have had sometimes tense relations with the majority Slavs.

A two-hour gunbattle between Macedonian security forces and terrorists at the Macedonian village of Tanusevci on the border with Kosovo two days ago prompted President Boris Trajkovski to seek support from the United Nations and NATO for a crackdown.

"The armed group is using the village as a base and our security forces can take them out very quickly. But first we have to use all political and diplomatic means to solve the situation," Paunovski said as reports of new shootings came in.

A NATO delegation arrived in Macedonia on Wednesday and went straight into crisis talks with Macedonian officials.

NO PLAN TO ENTER KOSOVO

Paunovski said Macedonia's plan of action did not include crossing the border into Kosovo.

"If there is action, we will go only to the border, we must stop there. But any action will be coordinated with KFOR (NATO-led peace force in Kosovo)," Paunovski said.

He said Macedonian forces had shown extreme restraint an effort to prevent an outbreak of a local inter-ethnic conflict.

"If they have occupied a village in Macedonia, it's obvious that their political goals are to take that territory. We can not exclude the possibility that they might find support in some circles in Macedonia," he said

Paunovski said the armed group of ethnic-Albanians had support from the other side of the border and were connected with other armed groups in Kosovo, some of which he said were involved in contraband and crime.

Skopje signed a long-delayed border demarcation agreement with Belgrade last week, which officials said would curb a flourishing smuggling businesses in the area in the long term.

Paunovski welcomed statements from ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia and Kosovo expressing support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

He strongly rejected reports of harassment of villagers by Macedonian forces and accused the ethnic Albanian fighters of driving the villagers away to escalate violence.

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said earlier he had received unconfirmed reports that Albanian guerrillas were holding residents of Tanusevci as hostages to prevent the Macedonian forces from taking control of the village.

Paunovski said the reports were hard to corroborate since the army and police had not set foot in the village for a week.

"We cannot go there to check, because any attempt to check the village for civilians will mean armed conflict with the terrorists. That is the biggest dilemma," he said.