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A Serb policeman runs for cover in the village of Oraovica near southern Serbian town of Presevo, May 15, 2001. Serbian security forces drove ethnic Albanian guerrillas from a southern village while neighboring Macedonia gave Albanian insurgents 48 hours to vacate its northern hills or face an army onslaught. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Serb forces recapture village, kill 14 rebels: general.
ORAOVICA, Yugoslavia, May 15 (AFP) - Yugoslav forces drove ethnic Albanian guerrillas out of this southern Serb village on Tuesday and killed 14 rebels, the general in charge of the operation said.
One Yugoslav soldier was wounded in the the operation, General Ninoslav Krstic said, but government forces were now in full control of Oraovica which has been at the centre of fierce fighting since Saturday. "Unfortunately, on (the rebel) side there are victims -- 14 dead and eight wounded from what we have been able to see," Krstic said. Troops also arrested dozens of men for identity checks, according to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic. He said the men would be released Wednesday morning.
Yugoslav forces entered Oraovica after a large group of fighters from the self-styled Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (LAPMB) who had occupied the village on Saturday fled the area. Ethnic Albanian sources told AFP that a deal had been done to allow the rebels to escape after the Yugoslav forces totally surrounded the village on Tuesday. Earlier a two-hour ceasefire had been called to allow civilians to obey a government order that they leave the village. Krstic ordered the ceasefire after the main rebel stronghold in the village, a bunker, was destroyed, said Ljubomir Podunavac, a government spokesman.
During the lull two Red Cross vehicles carried a large number of civilians out of the village, but sporadic small arms fire erupted after the deadline ended. Two hours later, Krstic ordered reporters out of the village. Riza Halimi, the ethnic Albanian mayor of Presevo, a large town just a kilometre (half-a-mile) south of Oraovica, met with the guerrillas during the day and tried to convince them to leave.
Later, ethnic Albanian sources told AFP that the government forces had agreed to allow the guerrillas -- whose number was estimated at between 200 and 300 -- to leave Oraovica and head for high ground. At the weekend, Belgrade accused the Albanian guerrillas of launching attacks on its forces from Oraovica, which is situated just outside the demilitarised buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia proper.
On Monday NATO decided to allow Yugoslav forces to re-enter from May 24 the last sector of the buffer zone still off limits. The zone was set up after the Kosovo war in 1999 to keep Yugoslav troops and KFOR peacekeepers apart, but the void was quickly filled by ethnic Albanian guerrillas, who used the area as a safe haven from which to launch attacks on Serbian security forces. On March 14, NATO allowed the Yugoslav army to begin progressively moving into the area, but sector B, where most of the guerrillas are based, has remained off-limits.
Now a hard core of the rebels remains in the last sector, and on Tuesday one of their leaders vowed to fight on. "On May 24 it will be a war, we have no intention of letting them return, we are there to defend our territory," said Muhamed Xhemaili, a hardline LAPMB fighter who resigned as the movement's chief of staff when other leaders signed deals with Serb authorities. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that more than 1,000 ethnic Albanians had fled to Kosovo from southern Serbia in a 24-hour period amid renewed fighting.
Barely 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Oraovica another ethnic Albanian guerrilla group is fighting Macedonian security forces for control of hills running along the fragile republis's borders with Serbia. On Tuesday the government issued the rebels with an ultimatum, demanding that they abandon their fight before mid-day Thursday or face renewed military action.
Sofia with Modern Exhibitional Centre.
Stephan Sofianski officially opened the international exhibitional centre "Bulgarreklama" yesterday in Sofia. "The National Palace of Culture should resume its glory of a spiritual centre and the new exhibition premises should attract more trade expos," the Sofia Mayor wished
Photo Nikolay Donchev
Rebels hold in Macedonia, retreat in Serbia.
By Benet Koleka
SKOPJE, May 15 (Reuters) - Ethnic Albanian guerrillas fired on Macedonian troops on Wednesday in defiance of a government ultimatum, while in neighbouring Serbia over 100 Albanian rebels were reported to have thrown down their guns.
A Macedonian Army spokesman said insurgents fired machineguns at government positions in the morning, drawing artillery rounds in response.
A Reuters photographer near the scene said shelling resumed a few hours later and smoke was rising from impacts in the village.
The fighting at Slupcane, a rebel occupied village pounded repeatedly by government over the past two weeks, indicated the "National Liberation Army" had so far paid no heed to a deadline to leave the area by Thursday at noon.
In Serbia, the Yugoslav Army said 14 guerrillas of the UCPMB were killed when Serb forces recaptured the village of Oraovica, roughly 15 km (10 miles) north of the Macedonian battlefield. The rebels said they lost five men.
Serbian forces were braced for further clashes in the Presevo Valley in the next few days. Albanian rebels say they will fight to prevent Serbs regaining control of the Kosovo buffer zone they occupy on May 24, as agreed by NATO this week.
Yugoslav army commander General Ninoslav Krstic said 80 rebels who had changed out of their uniforms had been captured after a swift tank and infantry attack retook Oraovica.
In Kosovo, NATO peacekeepers said 45 Presevo Valley guerrillas had crossed the boundary line to give themselves up.
The Macedonian ultimatum raised the prospect of serious casualties should the army order an assault on guerrilla-held villages, where many ethnic Albanian civilians are still in their homes.
On Wednesday the insurgents vowed no retreat.
"Our stand has not changed," their political leader Ali Ahmeti told Reuters. "We shall stick to our positions regardless of the ultimatum."
Ahmeti said setting deadlines was not the answer, warning that it would only provoke fighting and hinting that it might spread violent revolt to new areas of Macedonia.
"If there are (army) attacks, unforseen situations could be created and people who have seen women and children terrified by shelling could react," he said.
Serb general Krstic said there had been no civilian casualties in Oraovica, seized by rebels on Saturday. But the fighting drove many ethnic Albanians away.
About 1,000 refugees crossed to Albanian-dominated Kosovo on Tuesday. Some 9,000 have fled Macedonia for Kosovo in the past two weeks, raising the total since March to 20,000.
Macedonia's new coalition of Slav and Albanian parties also warned there would probably more attacks before the insurgency was stamped out.
"We should not build illusions that this whole thing will be resolved overnight," Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski said after the government set its Thursday noon deadline.
"The new ministers do not have magic wands. But we are making good progress towards finding an end to this evil."
MILOSOSKI: THURSDAY MIDDAY DEADLINE FOR TERRORISTS TO LEAVE KUMANOVO AREA.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski appointed at Tuesday session of the Macedonian Government Xhevdet Nasufi, Zoran Krstevski, Kemal Musliu and Ilija Filipovski to be Vice Prime Ministers.
According to Antonio Milososki, spokesperson of the Macedonian Government, on Tuesday, the good cooperation resulted in the coordination of the first personnel choices. Branko Bojcevski is appointed to be the new State Secretary in the Macedonian Interior Ministry, Goran Mitrevski is the new director of Public Security Bureau, and Zoran Verusevski is the director of the Intelligence and Counter Intelligence Service.
At the Tuesday session of the Macedonian Government, Prime Minister Georgievski held a short greeting speech and pointed out to the most important goals of the government: stabilisation, continuation of the political dialogue, preparation of the legislation for the next early parliamentary elections, and carrying out of the reforms and fulfilling the commitments to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Milososki informed that on a proposal of Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski the government adopted a decision to submit to the Macedonian Parliament the Draft of the Defense Law, for which so far there was not a political consensus. On a suggestion of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, the Supreme Commander of the Macedonian Army, as well as of the Command Staff running the operation of the Macedonian security forces, the Government sent the final appeal to the civilian population in the villages near Kumanovo to leave their homes, and to the terrorists to surrender and leave their positions. The Macedonian Government organised reception centres for the civilian population.
Once the deadline expires, the Macedonian security forces will undertake all necessary measures for eliminating the terrorists. The deadline will be published and broadcast in the media, as well as distributed to the population in leaflets. The Macedonian security forces will not conduct military operations until the deadline expires, but will respond to all provocations. In relation to the engagement of additional Special Forces, Milososki said that a competition for employment of new Special Forces members was opened last year, and nowadays some of them that finished the training are already in position.
Milososki also informed about the latest attack against the police patrol near Lisec, and said "it clearly shows that the terrorists do not approve of the Macedonian Government's readiness to continue the political dialogue with legitimate Albanian political representatives". The competent Ministries are already working on increasing and modelling the security forces capacities according to the European standards.
At the Tuesday session the Ministry of Justice was instructed to restart certain legislative projects that were postponed or slowed down. In the course of this week the Government should appoint all of the commissions, including the Personnel Commission, which should appoint the managers of the public companies.
Two Parties Renounce Vote in Favor of Simeon II.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Federation 'Kingdom of Bulgaria' (FKB) won't participate in the elections, DA has called on its supporters to back up His Majesty
Yesterday the Democratic Alliance and Federation 'Kingdom of Bulgaria' renounced participation in the parliamentary elections in favor of Simeon II. The National Council of DA adopted the decision with full unanimity. The party voiced its complete support for Simeon II and called on its supporters to back up the king's coalition. The organization appealed to its activists to do their utmost and help the campaign of 'National Movement Simeon II'. Activists of the organization of Federation 'Kingdom of Bulgaria' in Blagoevgrad reportedly phoned the office of the coalition to declare their support for Simeon II. A little later CEC sources announced that FKB would also withdraw from participation in the elections. Many of the IMRO local structures are said to also notify the headquarters of National Movement Simeon II at N 30 'Shishman' St., to say they will also canvas for the king, the reason being their discontent with the coalition with 'Gergyovden'. On the other hand, yesterday, Bulgarians from Florida contacted press secretary Tsvetelina Uzounova to request more information on how to vote for His Majesty. They are sending a representative of theirs to Sofia next week.
President Peter Stoyanov Hit the Bull's Eye with 'Makarov'
Peter Stoyanov ate again soup with the soldiers, the residents of Pleven served him a 'Front Ranker' cake
President Stoyanov hit the bull's eye with a 'Makarov' pistol during his visit in the Military Motorized Infantry Center in Pleven. The head of the state is an excellent marksman, because he achieved this result after he had shaken hands with 3000 residents of Pleven, military experts commented. Peter Stoyanov visited the town in connection with May 15 - the Day of Pleven. He reviewed the guards of honour, talked with many townsmen and saw the Cement Plant. President Peter Stoyanov ate meat balls soup, a roll and a 'Front Ranker' cake in the 'Hristo Botev' Educational Center. He sat at the table with three rankers. I know very well that today the residents of Pleven do not face only successes, because their life is the same as the life of all Bulgarians. That was what the head of the state said in connection with the today's holiday. According to him the question is no more 'What way should we choose', but 'How should we tread along this way'.
Macedonia's unity government warns rebels: Give up or face major assault.
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) -- Macedonia's new unity government ordered a halt Tuesday to attacks on ethnic Albanian rebels, but warned they will face a full-scale assault in two days unless they clear out of northern village strongholds. The government gave the insurgents until noon Thursday to lay down their arms and leave the northern Kumanovo area villages or face a wide-scale operation to "eliminate the terrorists," government spokesman Antonio Milososki said. Until then, soldiers will respond only when attacked, Milososki said.
Aid workers used the lull in the bombardment Tuesday to evacuate 34 civilians from villages under siege. The International Committee of the Red Cross brought medical kits and hygienic supplies, but expressed concern about deteriorating health conditions. "People are somehow managing with food but there is a problem," said Amanda Williamson, a spokeswoman for the aid agency. "If this goes on, there will be a problem with starvation."
The temporary cease-fire marked a concession to ethnic Albanian parties in the new government, forged this weekend with legislators of the majority Slavs to offer a united front against the rebels and stability while trying to satisfy ethnic Albanian's demands for greater rights. Key leaders of the so-called National Liberation Army claim they are fighting for more rights for ethnic Albanians, who make up as much as one-third of Macedonia's population of 2 million. The rebels could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Macedonia's new defense minister, Vlado Buckovski, said rebel attacks would probably not stop immediately. "The new government has no magic wand," he said. "But we will work painstakingly to solve our country's problems." The government says the insurgents are being resupplied through neighboring Kosovo and Albania, with weapons often financed by expatriate ethnic Albanians in Western Europe.
Albanian police at the port of Durres seized a truck filled with weapons and ammunition, and detained the driver Tuesday. The truck, which had Swiss license plates, arrived in the Albanian port on a ship from Bari, Italy. The truck driver was identified as an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia. In Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh announced she will lead a European Union delegation to the region Wednesday. The three-member EU team will meet the new Macedonian government to "stress the importance of reforms that will divert (Macedonia) away from ethnic conflicts toward European integration," she said.
Guerrillas fire rocket at Macedonian patrol-police [TETOVO].
SKOPJE, May 15 (Reuters) - Ethnic Albanian guerrillas fired a hand-held rocket launcher at a Macedonian security force patrol on Tuesday but the missile missed its target and no one was seriously injured, police said. The ambush, in the village of Lisec just outside the mainly Albanian northwestern city of Tetovo, was the first major incident in weeks near the scene of fierce fighting between rebels and government troops in March.
None of the three police and army vehicles in the convoy was seriously damaged by the rocket attack, but one policeman's hand was slightly injured, a police source told Reuters. "If it had hit they would have been dead," the source said. A successful ambush last month, also in the Tetovo area, killed eight Macedonian soldiers, triggering riots and a renewed army offensive against the guerrillas after a second attack five days later in the northeast killed two more soldiers.
Macedonia has bombarded nearby rebel-held villages with heavy artillery and helicopter gunships for the past 12 days, although fighting has waned since its main Slav and Albanian parties united in an emergency government at the weekend. Sporadic explosions have also been reported in the mountains high above Tetovo, where the National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas retreated after a government offensive six weeks ago.
The NLA, which seems able to occupy Albanian-majority hill villages at will, has popped up repeatedly throughout the mountains bordering Kosovo since it surfaced in February. It has links to a similar force over the border in neighbouring Serbia, which like the NLA, says it is fighting the Slav majority to win equal rights for ethnic Albanians. But Western sources doubt the guerrillas are closely coordinated.
Balkan countries should not interfere in the conflict in Macedonia, Boyko Noev said.
As Defense Minister Boyko Noev said after meeting his counterparts at the European Union and NATO forum in Brussels entitled "Common Foreign and Security Policy", the countries of the NATO and of the European Union do not have clear vision for a massive-scale participation in the conflict in Macedonia yet. He commented that it is very important that international community make efforts to have bigger presence in Macedonia to help the new government there in such way. He also said that Balkan countries should not take direct participation in solving the conflict in Macedonia.
State debt of Bulgaria is USD 8.72 billion, Muravey Radev announced.
State debt of Bulgaria has dropped down to USD 8.72 billion by March 2001, Financial Minister Muravey Radev announced. Presenting the report of the government for the macroeconomic parameters of the 2000 budget to journalists, he also said that currency reserve of Bulgaria has reached BGN 7.2 billion with a 5-percent real increase of the gross domestic product by the end of the year. According to the report, productivity of labor in industry has increased by 25 percent.
Bulgarian computer specialists should receive USD 1,000 salary to stay in Bulgaria.
In order to be motivated to stay and work in Bulgaria, Bulgarian IT specialists should receive salaries between USD 800 and 1000 per month, Bulgarian Internet Society announced today. Bulgarian Internet Society representatives insisted on adopting hi tech law and on establishing a Ministry for Developing Higher Technologies by the end of the year.
Bulgarian consul in Libya checked whether he could be able to provide food for Bulgarian detainees.
Bulgarian consul in Libya Sergey Yankov has gone to the Libyan Popular Claim Bureau to check whether an official permit for supplying food to the six Bulgarian medical personnel detained with regard to the case about the HIV-infected Libyan children exists, the Darik Radio envoy to Tripoli reported.
Bulgaria Will Be First To Administer Own EU Aid.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
F.A.Z. BRUSSELS. In a historic first, Bulgaria will be the first non-European Union member state to administer development funds from Brussels on its own.
The government in the southeast European nation's capital, Sofia, will be given euro 53 million ($46.6 million) in funds for the current fiscal year to modernize its agricultural system. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, on Tuesday approved payment of a first installment to Sofia. One of 13 European Union candidate countries, Bulgaria qualified to administer its own funds because of its excellent track record on the Union's Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development. The aid program has an annual budget of euro 530 million.
Franz Fischler, the EU's agriculture commissioner, said that decentralizing the program's administration gives accession countries the chance to gather experiences in dealing with EU procedures and prepare for their later participation in the Union's common agricultural policy and regional aid programs. But so far, the remaining candidates have been unable to convince the commission that they are capable of administering the funds correctly on their own, with Estonia bringing up the rear in this regard.