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PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI'S ADDRESS AT THE US PEACE INSTITUTE IN WASHINGTON.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski addressed Tuesday at the US Institute for Peace, expressing his deep conviction that in the fight between history and future, the winner would be democracy, rule of law, human rights and stability, against ethnic hatred, aspirations for ethnically pure states, organized crime and stability, MIA special correspondent reported.
"Unfortunately, our region - the Balkans was and still is unstable region. The aspirations and illusions for ethnically pure states in extremely complex situation of an ethnic, religious and cultural mosaic constantly produce violence and ethnic hatred, "Trajkovski said, adding that Macedonia has been an exception to this anti civilizing tendency for ten years, mainly thanks to the atypical model that the Macedonian authorities have been building.
"This is a model based on interethnic tolerance deeply rooted in the collective memory of our people. A model, based on high standards for protection of minority rights and on active participation of the Macedonian Albanians in the Government and in all structures of power. Therefore, Macedonia is a factor of stability in the region and as such, a partner to the international community," Trajkovski said.
According to him, terrorism motivated with ethnic hatred has attacked precisely this model of multicultural democracy. This is a fight between the concept of democracy and the concept of violence, which emerged as a result of anti civilizing ambitions for ethnically pure states supported by criminal motives and funded by money from the traffic of drugs, weapons and people.
"Nevertheless, the terrorists have underestimated the strength of multicultural democracy. Abusing the human rights vocabulary, they thought that the Macedonian Albanians would join them, forgetting the heritage of century long tolerance and achievements of our multicultural democracy, "Trajkovski said, adding that great majority of the Macedonian Albanians rejected the violence and won the greatest victory, proving that democracy and tolerance are stronger than violence and hatred.
"The second error of the terrorists was to underestimate the international community. All representatives of the international community are with Macedonia because the country shares and is committed to universal values of today: democracy, human rights, non-discrimination, tolerance and rule of law," Trajkovski said.
He added that crowning achievement of the Macedonian policy was the recent signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, as a first step toward the realization of the Macedonia's strategic goal - integration in European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
"There is no true reason in Macedonia for such outbreak of violence, as well as no practice of such discrimination and repression. We might have certain problems, but we resolve them and continue to do so within the institutions of the system. Therefore, today we have a moral right when we say that the crisis in Macedonia is imported, and the attempts to destabilize it come from outside. We have the right to require from the international community to fulfill its obligations, as we fulfill our moral obligations to contribute to the stabilization of the region for joint living and progress of the Balkan states," Trajkovski said.
"It is clear that these attempts to transfer the Kosovo crisis into Macedonia. Lack of democratic institutions that carry out the rule of law in Kosovo, the lack of normal economic activity and the lack of some international factors resulted in the export of racism, crime, terrorism and violence," he added.
He pointed out that Macedonia has proven its ability to face such a challenge and defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty through an exceptionally professional and proportional military operation, which disbanded the terrorist groups. This combination of power and restraint was welcomed and approved by all relevant international factors, including NATO the US and the EU.
Trajkovski also underlined the Macedonian Government's efforts to intensify the political dialogue, saying that all open issues should be resolved within the institutions of the system.
"Our objective is a democratic state of individuals, not a tribal state of ethnic groups. Nevertheless, it must be clear that the dialogue will only solve the consequences, but not the root of the problem. It should be eliminated by the international community in Kosovo through an enhanced activity of KFOR, the building and respecting of the rule of law, and collection of weapons. However, the roots can be eliminated mostly through clear signals, messages and actions that the ambitions for ethnically pure and grater states will not be supported by the international community," Trajkovski stressed.
Now, while the political dialogue was giving the first concrete results, Macedonia has faced the most brutal terrorist attack so far, Trajkovski said.
Referring to the results from the ongoing political dialogue, Trajkovski pointed out the returning of refugees to their homes, rebuilding of damaged homes and preparations for launching of the Channel 3 on Macedonian television, which as an official state channel will broadcast program in Albanian and the languages of other minority groups 24 hours a day. In this respect, Trajkovski mentioned the ongoing construction of the SEE University in Tetovo, which is to be opened this fall.
"Just as these talks were beginning to produce results, in the latest horrible act eight young soldiers and policemen were killed and their bodies then mutilated. Committing this particularly heinous act, makes it clear now to everyone, even to the most naive, that whatever term we use, terrorism is nothing else but terrorism. Was this brutal act aimed at increasing of the Macedonian Albanians' participation in the state institutions? Was it a presentation of somebody's dissatisfaction with the preamble of the Constitution? It never was and will not be related to the rights of the Macedonian Albanians or anyone else in Macedonia. These terrorists are not fighting for the rights or institutions of anyone. They are fighting for their own criminal aims and for territory. This is terrorism of Albanian militant extremism. I assure you that we will mobilize all our power and resources and we will defeat this enemy on every inch of the country," Trajkovski said.
In ethnically mixed regions stability could be founded on the tribal and ethnic approach, Trajkovski said, adding that long-term stability can be provided only through democracy, rule of law and civil approach.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI MEETS US STATE SECRETARY POWELL.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski had a meeting Tuesday in Washington with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, also attended by Macedonian foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim and Vice-Premier Bedredin Ibraimi, MIA's special correspondent reported.
"In our meeting today, I once again had the opportunity to express solidarity with Macedonia, the United States' total commitment to territorial integrity of Macedonia, our commitment to this democracy which is facing dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organizations that are trying to subvert the democratic process in Macedonia," Powell said after the meeting.
Trajkovski and Powell also discussed the steps the Macedonian President has been taking with the leaders of his coalition government to deal with some concerns expressed by the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia with respect of the use of their language and higher education.
"I made the point to the President that we must allow terrorists to derail political reconciliation. As long as we keep moving in this direction, we will dry up the support that terrorists might think they enjoy. And I also discussed with the President other things that the US can do to support Macedonia, not only in security issues but as well as economic support that the country needs during the difficult time," Powell said, expressing his and the condolence of the American people to the families of the eight Macedonian soldiers who lost their lives as a result of the last terrorist act.
Extending his gratitude to the US Secretary of State for his condolence and solidarity, Trajkovski said that the meeting was focused on the current situation in Macedonia and the region.
"I believe that today's meeting with Mr. Powell and the forthcoming meetings with US President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld demonstrate the commitment on the part of the US in the Republic of Macedonia and the region, showing that the US would like to remain in this part of the region, to defeat the terrorists. And also to uphold democracy and the rule of law, and also to support Macedonia in everything what we are doing," Trajkovski said.
Trajkovski said he briefed Powell about the political dialogue that had never stopped in Macedonia.
"I informed the Secretary about my work that I invite on the table all political parties and that my vision is to create a society which will be based on the individuals, not on the ethnic groups, a society where all citizens will have equal rights and responsibilities, " Trajkovski said.
Referring to Macedonia's economic needs, Trajkovski said the US would contribute to the creating of positive environment in the country.
"I appreciate very much that the Secretary statement that we have to isolate the terrorists because their intention is not to encourage the political dialogue, but to destabilize the country. And we have a joint commitment to fight against them with the political means," Trajkovski said.
MINISTER KERIM MEETS HIGH US OFFICIALS IN WASHINGTON
Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim had separate meetings Tuesday with James Dobbins, Assistant of the US State Secretary for European Affairs, Gregory Schulte, Director for South-East Europe at the US Security Council and Erick Edelman, Foreign Policy Adviser of US Vice-President Dick Cheny.
The officials strongly condemned the extremist attempts against Macedonia's stability, integrity and sovereignty. Strong condemnation was expressed for the terrorist attack on Macedonian security forces on April 28.
In that respect, Kerim was informed about the US State Department Report on Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000, released on April 30, which includes actions of the so-called National Liberation Army (ONA).
As the US is committed to expand its political, economic and military assistance to Macedonia, the meetings were also focused on concrete activities in that respect. The US officials also supported Macedonia's objective to become part of the Euro-Atlantic structures. In that respect, they pointed out the necessity for Macedonia to join NATO in the next round of the Alliance's enlargement.
The officials agreed on the necessity for the US to find solution within an overall policy for the region, and to remain engaged there as political, military and economic factor.
The officials also underlined the ongoing political dialogue in Macedonia, aimed at improving of the interethnic relations.
US Ambassador to Macedonia Mike Einik also attended the meetings.
Macedonia leader rejects talks with rebels.
WASHINGTON, May 1 (Reuters) - Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on Tuesday rejected talks with ethnic Albanian rebels who killed eight of his security troops over the weekend.
Instead he said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to formally list the group calling itself the National Liberation Army as "terrorist" -- a move that would make fund-raising for the NLA illegal in the United States and could stop their representatives getting U.S. visas.
"They have to be formally designated," he told the audience in response to a question at a gathering at the U.S. Institute for Peace think tank in Washington.
Trajkovski was asked to respond to a letter signed by NLA political leader Ali Ahmeti released to news organizations in neighboring Albania earlier, in which Ahmeti said his group did not intend to destroy Macedonia.
Ahmeti said in the letter, dated before the deadly attack on the soldiers, that the NLA wanted talks mediated by Western leaders with the Macedonian government, a small republic riven by tensions between majority Slavs and minority Albanians since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
"We have never have been in a position to discuss or to have any kinds of talks with terrorists, and we're not planning to in the future," Trajkovski said.
He accused the guerrillas of mutilating the bodies of the soldiers, who the NLA said it killed in self-defense. Ahmeti said their attackers wanted to present themselves as victims.
But Trajkovski said the rebels' goals had nothing to do with winning rights for the ethnic Albanian minority. "These terrorists are not fighting for the rights or institutions of anyone. They are fighting for their own criminal aims and they are fighting for territory," he said in prepared remarks.
He added, "By committing this particularly heinous act, they have undermined the process of dialogue."
A senior Macedonian official who asked not to be named said Trajkovski at his earlier meeting with Powell had pointed out that the attack had complicated the process of political dialogue which the United States strongly supports in its goal of building inter-ethnic political consensus in Macedonia.
"It's now extremely difficult for any Macedonian politician to have dialogue when the nation is in shock," the official said.
Rioters Smash Albanian Shops.
The Associated Press
By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDES
.c The Associated Press
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonian Slavs hurled stones and set fire to ethnic Albanian cake shops and restaurants on Tuesday in rioting triggered by the funerals of soldiers killed in a rebel ambush.
The four-hour melee in Bitola, the country's third largest city, came as President Boris Trajkovski flew to Washington for meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to seek U.S. support for his fight to contain ethnic Albanian rebels.
The unrest is likely to strengthen his case that the militants pose a threat to stability in the Balkans and must be quashed. Albanians comprise at least one-fourth of Macedonia's 2 million people. They claim they are treated as second-class citizens by the majority Slavs.
The riots in Bitola, about 105 miles southwest of the capital, Skopje, broke out hours after the funerals of soldiers slain Saturday by ethnic Albanian extremists near the border with Kosovo.
The militants killed eight soldiers and wounded another six security force members in the attack, making it the deadliest incident since clashes between government forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents began in February.
Several hundred young men outraged by the deaths turned on some 40 Albanian-owned stores and businesses in Bitola's business district, throwing rocks, smashing goods and setting fire to the rubble. Bitola is about 15 percent ethnic Albanian.
A cafe owner shot one rioter in the abdomen, and three other rioters suffered cuts from flying glass. Police detained the shooter and two other people who were inside the cafe. The wounded rioter was reported recovering after surgery Tuesday.
Police claimed that a ``timely police action prevented the incident from turning more serious.'' They said an investigation was under way and that legal action would be taken against the perpetrators.
In a separate incident Tuesday, a small group of Albanian insurgents opened fire on a Macedonian police patrol near the village of Lipkovo, in northern Macedonia near the border with Yugoslavia, Macedonian state television reported. Police returned fire and Albanians retreated. No injuries reported.
Police also evacuated the country's main airport in Skopje for an hour and a half Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported. No explosives were found and the facility reopened later in the day.
Authorities warned of similar outbreaks of violence elsewhere in Macedonia. So far, ethnic violence mostly has been contained in the northern part of the country.
The government claims to have pushed back the militants after a monthlong offensive, but Saturday's attack made clear that resistance remains.
Ethnic Albanians are demanding that the Macedonian constitution be rewritten to upgrade their minority position to equal status with the majority Slavs. The government refuses, arguing that it would lead to a de-facto division of the former Yugoslav republic.
Macedonia riots after police funerals.
The Macedonian government has appealed for calm after communal rioting in the town of Bitola left four people injured.
Reports say the violence began late on Monday when large groups of Macedonian youths started throwing stones and setting fire to shops thought to be owned by ethnic Albanians.
Some forty premises are believed to have been targeted.
At least one shop owner opened fire at the attackers, wounding one of them seriously.
The latest reports say the situation in Bitola has since returned to calm.
The violence broke out after the funerals of four policemen killed in clashes with ethnic-Albanian guerrillas over the weekend.
Macedonians torch ethnic Albanian cafes, shops.
SKOPJE, May 1 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Macedonian Slavs torched a number of ethnic Albanian businesses in Macedonia's second largest city Bitola early on Tuesday, witnesses said.
The rampage occurred several hours after four Macedonian interior ministry policemen killed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas over the weekend were been buried in and near Bitola, in the south of the former Yugoslav republic.
A radio journalist from Bitola told Reuters crowds of mostly young men set on fire and destroyed cafes and shops owned by ethnic Albanians or Moslem Macedonians.
Four people were admitted to hospital, one of them a rioter with a bullet wound who was shot by a shopowner defending his property. The shopowner and several other people were detained by police, the journalist said.
The city was quiet by daybreak.
The Macedonian policemen buried on Monday were among the eight security force members killed on Saturday by ethnic Albanian rebels calling themselves the National Liberation Army.
Macedonia's interior ministry said the security troops died when gunmen armed with grenade launchers, hand grenades and automatic rifles attacked a patrol between the villages of Selce and Vejce in northwestern Macedonia.
The NLA rejected Skopje's version of events, saying its fighters had acted in self-defence because government troops had moved in on one of their remote hill positions.
It was the deadliest incident since an outbreak of fighting in February and March between security forces and the NLA, which demands greater rights for minority Albanians in Macedonia.
A Macedonian army offensive in late March scattered the guerrillas but they say they are ready to fight again if talks between Albanian representatives and the Slav-led Macedonian government do not yield an agreement.
Rebels urge West to mediate in Macedonia crisis.
By Benet Koleka
TIRANA, May 1 (Reuters) - Ethnic Albanian guerrillas said on Tuesday they wanted to hold talks with the Macedonian government and asked Western leaders to mediate.
A letter signed by National Liberation Army political leader Ali Ahmeti also the NLA did not intend to destroy Macedonia, a small republic riven by tensions between majority Slavs and minority Albanians since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
The letter, released to news organisations in neighbouring Albania, was dated April 24 -- before NLA fighters killed eight Macedonian security troops on Saturday in a clash in the mountainous northwest of the Balkan state.
"Past experiences have shown us we might hold talks, as I am sure we will, with the political representatives of the ethnic Macedonians that dominate the state and government," Ahmeti said in the letter, written in English.
The Macedonian government, under pressure from the European Union, has promised to address the grievances of ethnic Albanians by June through talks with legitimate Albanian parties, but not the NLA which it calls a "terrorist" group. The letter was addressed to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, NATO Secretary General George Robertson, European Commission president Romano Prodi and the chairman-in-office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Mircea Geoanna, but not to the Macedonian government.
Fearful for fragile Balkan stability, the West wants to ensure that fighting between Macedonian security forces and NLA fighters, which flared in February and March before a government offensive dispersed the rebels, does not resume.
But it has so far reacted coolly to suggestions of mediation in political talks between Macedonian factions.
DISPUTE OVER INTERNATIONAL ROLE
The dominant Slav parties in the government oppose outside mediation but have welcomed international support for a united Macedonia. President Boris Trajkovski is due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Wednesday.
"We are convinced that if talks are held without international mediation, without having a third party to act as a trusted and just intermediary, the results will be the same as in the past," Ahmeti said.
He reiterated the NLA wants the constitution be changed to guarantee ethnic Albanians, about one third of the two million population, the same rights as Macedonian Slavs. Albanian should become the second official language, he said.
"Thus Macedonia cannot remain the ethnic property of a single ethnic group; it must be the state of two peoples."
The government has so far said it is ready to change laws and practices in education and culture but has ruled out changing the basic law.
Ahmeti cited what he called Macedonian data showing Albanians underrepresented in major institutions -- 9.4 percent of state employees, 3.1 percent of the security corps, up to two percent of students in state-funded universities and 167 of 2,467 employees in the judiciary.
Ahmeti's letter said the NLA was committed to Macedonia's integrity and sovereignty, rejecting the Skopje government's accusation that the guerrillas want to dismember the country.
"Furthermore, I want to assure you, in the strongest terms possible, that it is not our intention to break up Macedonia. "We strongly believe that once our predicament has been addressed in the proper manner, and the problems that have transformed Macedonia into a powderkeg are solved, we will continue to live together in a democratic and peaceful society."
Powell Backs Macedonia Government.
The Associated Press
By BARRY SCHWEID
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Colin Powell offered the Bush administration's ``solidarity'' Tuesday to the Macedonian government in its anti-terrorism campaign against Albanian radicals.
Powell said the insurgents were trying to subvert the democratic process in the former Yugoslav republic and that the Skopje government could count on U.S. economic support.
The pledge emerged from a meeting Powell held with President Boris Trajkovski, who is due to meet Wednesday at the White House with President Bush.
Powell called the insurgents terrorists who are trying to subvert Macedonia's democratic process with ``dastardly and cowardly acts.''
``We must not allow terrorists to derail political reconciliation,'' Powell said.
American aid this year amounts to about $55 million and the Bush administration is planning a boost. Also, with U.S. allies, the administration is considering ways to strengthen Macedonia's armed forces, Philip Reeker, a State Department spokesman, said.
Even with the ringing endorsement and warm reception, Powell, in response to a reporter's question, cautioned against Macedonian violence against ethnic Albanians.
Enraged by the death of eight soldiers in a weekend clash with Albanian guerrillas, Macedonians on Tuesday smashed and burned shops owned by ethnic Albanians.
``There is a great deal of frustration in the region,'' Powell said. ``Violence produces nothing but broken homes and casualties.''
Macedonia's president said before his visit to Washington that he would demand strong support from the U.S. government for his fight with insurgents. He said Macedonia would show no mercy in efforts to root out those responsible for killing the soldiers.
Standing alongside Powell in bright sunshine in a State Department doorway, Trajkovski expressed his gratitude for the meeting with Bush and one with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
He said there is a joint commitment with the Bush administration to move against the insurgents and that his aim is a democratic state not built on ethnic groups.
Powell, who had criticized the government for assigning second-class status to ethnic Albanians, said Tuesday there had been moves to correct the situation and that the constitution, itself, may be changed to provide for equal treatment.
Meanwhile, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said the recent eruption of fighting in Macedonia and in Serbia's Presevo Valley reflects a bankrupt U.S. policy in the Balkans.
Since NATO forces intervened in Kosovo there has been a ``massive reverse ethnic cleansing'' as Albanian nationalists have driven nearly 90 percent of the province's non-Albanian people from their homes, Ted Galen Carpenter, a Cato vice president, said in a study and statement.
The Albanian nationalist agenda, Carpenter said, is to create an expanded, ethnically pure Albanian state.
Detaching Kosovo from Serbian control was the first stage, he said, and detaching the Presevo Valley in Serbia and destabilizing Macedonia to make fragmentation of the country likely is the next stage, he said.
But Reeker, the State Department spokesman, said: ``We are no more interested in a Greater Albania than we were in a Greater Serbia.''
He said the U.S. goal in the Balkans is to improve stability.
At the same time, Reeker said a role for the Albanian insurgents' National Liberation Army in Macedonia's multiethnic talks is ``absolutely unacceptable.''
Accusing the insurgents of wanton violence, Reeker said, ``There is no place for groups like that.''
Powell pledges U.S. support for Macedonian talks.
By Elaine Monaghan
WASHINGTON, May 1 (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged U.S. support on Tuesday for the political efforts of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to end inter-ethnic tensions in the former Yugoslav republic.
After a meeting at the State Department, Powell said he expressed solidarity with Trajkovski's fight against "dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organizations who are trying to subvert the democratic process."
Both Trajkovski and a U.S. spokesman later rejected a proposal from ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army that they join talks with the Macedonian government under Western mediation.
Trajkovski said at the U.S. Institute for Peace think tank that he had asked Powell to formally list the NLA as "terrorist" -- a move that would make fund-raising for the group illegal and could stop NLA representatives from getting U.S. visas.
With Trajkovski by his side, Powell earlier said he had repeated a message he delivered in Skopje last month and by phone during past weeks of fighting between Macedonian forces and the NLA, which Saturday killed eight soldiers.
Powell said Trajkovski was "moving aggressively" to address concerns raised by the ethnic Albanian minority in Slav-dominated Macedonia, which wants recognition of its language and better education.
But he made clear he would not push Trajkovski to change the constitution, as demanded by the ethnic Albanians.
Arben Xhaferi, leader of Macedonia's biggest ethnic Albanian party, declined an invitation to visit Washington due to tensions at home, U.S. officials said.
But Trajkovski was accompanied by the deputy prime minister, Bedreden Ibraim, an ethnic Albanian who will join Trajkovski for talks with President George W. Bush on Wednesday, they added.
Powell said the issues of concern to ethnic Albanians he discussed with Trajkovski included "political reconciliation in all its forms including possible constitutional amendments at some point in the future."
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said later the United States was strongly opposed to the NLA joining the talks.
"To have those people sit at a table is unacceptable. We have legitimate political forces that are working together in Macedonia, representing a broad spectrum of the country, and that's the process that President Trajkovski intends to pursue and that we fully support," Reeker said.
Trajkovski told the think tank, "We have never been in a position to discuss or to have any kinds of talks with terrorists, and we're not planning to in the future."
He accused the guerrillas of mutilating soldiers, who the NLA said it killed in self-defense, and said their goals had nothing to do with winning equal rights.
"They are fighting for their own criminal aims and they are fighting for territory," he said in prepared remarks.
MORE THAN $55 MILLION NEXT YEAR
Powell offered unspecified economic and security support to Macedonia while it pursued political dialogue and expressed his condolences to the families of the security troops killed.
Reeker said the United States intended to increase its economic assistance for Macedonia next year, from $55 million this year, and to make the Macedonian military more capable of responding to "extremist challenges."
Powell emphasized U.S. commitment to keeping peacekeepers in the Balkans as long as Europe does, despite talk by Bush's staff before his election suggesting he might pull out sooner.
Trajkovski said, "This is a real demonstration of the commitment on the part of the United States in the republic of Macedonia, in the region, and it shows that the United States would like to remain."
He also expressed a firm commitment to talks, saying, "The political dialogue will never stop in Macedonia."
Under pressure from Western countries, the Macedonian government promised to address the grievances of ethnic Albanians by June through talks with Albanian parties.
Powell was asked about attacks by Macedonian Slavs on ethnic Albanians earlier on Tuesday, apparently in retaliation for the killings of the security forces over the weekend.
"I know the president is concerned about this and will do everything he can to ensure that this does not get out of control," he said.