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Macedonia's two main ruling parties appealed for calm May 2, 2001 and warned that a wave of violence against ethnic Albanians could further destabilize the troubled Balkan country. A Macedonian man passes a shop torched in the southern Macedonian city of Bitola on May 2 after hundreds of Macedonian Slavs torched and destroyed ethnic Albanian businesses. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)
Bush Urges End to Violence in Macedonia.
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) greets Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in the Oval office of the White House.
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2001 -- (Reuters) President George W. Bush on Wednesday called for an end to the cycle of violence in Macedonia, and offered support to President Boris Trajkovski's efforts to find a political solution to ethnic strife in the former Yugoslav republic.
During a 30-minute meeting in the Oval Office, Bush told Trajkovski he was impressed with the Macedonian leader's efforts to bring about change through dialogue, a senior administration official said.
"The president stressed the importance of breaking the cycle of violence, the potential cycle of violence, and the importance of leadership in uniting the people," the official said.
"These guys out there with guns, they want to promote violence, they want to stop this political dialogue from happening," he said.
"And the challenge for the government is to make sure that the political dialogue continues and that the guys with guns aren't able to stop them."
He said Trajkovski, who was accompanied in the Oval Office by the ethnic Albanian deputy prime minister Bedredin Ibraim, assured Bush he was committed to stopping the violence in order to move forward with inter-ethnic talks.
RECENT FLARE UP OF VIOLENCE SPARKS WORRIES
Bush's meeting with Trajkovski took place as a new wave of violence erupted between ethnic Slavs and Albanians. The outburst has drawn widespread condemnation amid fears it could jeopardize further talks between mainstream parties on how to alleviate concerns raised by the ethnic Albanian minority.
In the last two days ethnic Slavs, angry about recent killings of Macedonian servicemen, wounded four people and destroyed property owned by ethnic Albanians near the Greek border. The violence erupted after eight security force members were killed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas over the weekend.
As he left the White House, Trajkovski said he was worried the recent violence could undermine the political process.
Bush issued a statement in March, at the height of an initial revolt by Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority, condemning the violence and saying the best way to end the conflict was through dialogue.
Macedonian security forces drove ethnic Albanian fighters from their strongholds in northern Macedonian hills, near the border with the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, in late March.
After that uprising, the Macedonian government, pressured by the European Union, promised to work toward concrete political reforms by June to defuse ethnic tension. Ethnic Albanians make up to one third of the Balkan state's population and complain of chronic discrimination by the Slav majority.
Talks have started between Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties, one of which is a partner in the government coalition, but Trajkovski has rejected a proposal from ethnic guerrillas of the National Liberation Army to join in talks.
U.S. TO INCREASE AID TO MACEDONIA
The White House said the United States would increase bilateral economic assistance in fiscal 2002 to $45 million from $38.4 million in fiscal 2001.
The United States is also providing $17.2 million in military assistance this year and Washington has committed an additional $5.5 million this year for police training for ethnic Albanians and for community self-help.
An additional $10 million was offered on Wednesday over four years to add to an international funding effort for a multi-lingual university in Tetovo.
The official also said Washington would increase military support to Skopje, specifically in intelligence sharing, to help deal with the rebel insurgency.
BORIS TRAJKOVSKI, GEORGE BUSH MEETING.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski met Wednesday US President George Bush in the White House in Washington. Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim and Macedonian Vice President Bedredin Ibraimi were also present at the meeting, which focused on the current situation in Macedonia as well as in the region.
"I thanked to President Bush on his invitation to visit Washington and I especially thanked for the firm support that USA offers to Macedonia. We discussed on the current situation in Macedonia, with a stress to the recent developments, as well as on the intensified political dialogue among the political parties," Macedonian President Trajkovski said.
According to President Trajkovski, the US President was satisfied with the undertaken activities, such as the postponing of the census and supported the future activities in the field of education, media, returning of refugees, and restoring their homes as well as the changes of the legislative in the local self - Government.
"This was a great opportunity to present my vision of Macedonia, which should be society of equal citizens and individuals, rather that ethnic groups and minorities," Trajkovski added.
Macedonian President Trajkovski and US President Bush also discussed on Macedonian political, economy and security issues.
"In the field of security we need cooperation and support because of the terrorists threats and I repeated our demand to become part of NATOs family. We also need political support due to the current situation in the region and I demanded firmer and more extensive policy for the region," Trajkovski said.
Regarding the current situation in Macedonia, Trajkovski expressed his concerns after the terrorist act, when eight representatives of the Macedonian security forces were killed.
"This brutal act caused troubles in the political process. I am worried about the situation in Bitola, but the Macedonian authorities undertake all necessary measures to resolve the situation," the Macedonian President stressed.
At the end, President Trajkovski demanded from President Bush to review the opportunity to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name. Trajkovski also demanded the extremist groups to be labeled terrorist and to be politically and military isolated.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI MEETS US DEFENSE SECRETARY RUMSFELD.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who is paying an official visit to the United States, met Wednesday with US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who gave credit to Trajkovski and the Macedonian Government for their attempts to overcome the crisis in the country by using of diplomatic and political means.
Washington also expressed its understanding for military response of the Macedonian security forces in accordance with the situation in the field and in cooperation with NATO.
I compliance with US President George Bush's position on elimination of all possible attempts for destabilization of Macedonia, the US engaged sent additional forces within KFOR to enhance the control of the Macedonian northern border, on Kosovo part.
The Macedonian President was also informed on the ongoing realization of the US military support to the Macedonian Army in communication equipment, worth about $3,5 million.
In addition, the US would grant non-military aid to the Macedonian Army of $ 17,2 million.
We shared opinions on the situation in Macedonia and the relations between the both countries, Rumsfeld said after the meeting.
Trajkovski expressed satisfaction with the cooperation with KFOR and the US assistance to Macedonia.
Trajkovski briefed his host on the ongoing political dialogue in Macedonia.
"We are strongly committed to continue to cooperate within the Partnership for Peace Program in order to enhance the stability and peace in the region, and to build Macedonia as democratic and economically prosperous country, in accordance with the NATO standards," Trajkovski said.
The officials also discussed the measures that should be undertaken considering the current situation in Macedonia.
Later today, Trajkovski is scheduled to meet US President George Bush.
FM KERIM'S ADDRESS AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB IN OTTAWA.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim addressed Wednesday at the National Press Club in Ottawa, starting his official visit to Canada, MIA's special correspondent reported.
Referring to challenges Macedonia had been facing in the last ten years since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, Kerim said that despite everything Macedonia worked on development of democracy and interethnic relations.
"The latest developments are attempts to push Macedonia into the Balkan horror scenario, by steering conflict between the Macedonians and Albanians," Kerim said, expressing his conviction that those attempts would be unsuccessful.
"The terrorist attacks at Macedonia's northern border and in Tetovo area started three months ago, endangering not only the interethnic relations in the country, but also the security of the region, Kerim said.
In that respect, he underlined the strong international support of Macedonia during the crisis.
Pointing out US President Bush's support of Macedonia's policy in March this year, Kerim said that the European union had never been so unanimous in supporting of a country.
"Javier Solana and Chris Patten are working together with the Macedonian authorities on improving of the interethnic relations, as well as on other political, economic and security issues. All international institutions, such as the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and others have supported the Macedonian multiethnic model and condemned the attacks," Kerim said, adding that Macedonia crowned the process by signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU on April 9.
"A red line must be drawn between the terrorist attempts to destabilize the country and the region, and the legitimate interests of Albanians in Macedonia. There is no need for new leaders of Albanians in Macedonia as they are already represented by their political parties - the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which is a member of the Macedonian coalition Government, and the Party for democratic prosperity (PDP)," Kerim said.
He also pointed out the ongoing political dialogue in Macedonia, chaired by President Boris Trajkovski.
"All political parties are included in this dialogue, aimed at creating of a civil society, based on individuals and not on groups, Kerim said.
Finally, he underlined the cooperation with the neighboring countries, particularly with Greece.
" Most of the investments in Macedonia are coming from Greece. This country strongly supported Macedonia's policy during the crisis. Greece is the gate to Macedonia's integration into Europe," Kerim said.
He also extended gratitude to Slovenia and its support to Macedonia, demonstrated through the international institutions.
FM KERIM MEETS HIS CANADIAN COUNTERPART MANLEY
Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim had a meeting Wednesday with his Canadian counterpart John Manly, focused on excellent relations between the two countries, MIA's special correspondent reported from Ottawa.
The officials discussed on the Canadian economic assistance to Macedonia, through investment of the "Canadian Post" into the "Macedonian Post, and by donation for the South-East University in Tetovo. In that respect, Minister Kerim underlined the role of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
On behalf of the Macedonian Government, Kerim asked for Canadian assistance in restructuring of the Macedonian security forces, particularly in formation of border police.
The officials also agreed on the necessity for the SEE countries to be included in the next round of NATO enlargement, which is significant for stabilization and economic development of the region.
Referring to security situation in Macedonia after the last terrorist act, Kerim underlined the necessity for the terrorist acts by extremist groups not only to be condemned, but also to be qualified and treated as such.
Kerim informed his host that these acts had nothing in common with the legitimate requests of Albanians in Macedonia, adding that those requests may be met only through the state institutions and the political parties - legitimate representatives of the Albanians in Macedonia.
Kerim also invited his Canadian counterpart Manley to visit Macedonia, which was accepted with pleasure.
Macedonia leaders appeal for calm.
Shop windows were smashed and the shops looted.
The main Slav and ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia's ruling coalition have warned that recent violence risks destabilising the country and destroying ethnic tolerance.
The warning followed fresh rioting in the southern city of Bitola after the funerals of eight members of the Macedonian security forces killed by ethnic Albanians.
Shops were looted after people smashed the windows with stones.
The rioting first began on Tuesday, immediately after the funerals, when hundreds of Macedonians went on the rampage in the ethnically-mixed city.
On Saturday ethnic Albanians killed the eight security personnel and wounded six others in the most serious attack since Macedonian forces pushed back a rebel Albanian insurgency in northern Macedonia.
In separate incidents, one person was killed and two were injured in a shooting in a cafe in the capital Skopje on Tuesday and shots were fired at the Albanian embassy from a passing car, according to Macedonian state radio.
Tirana responded to the embassy shooting by submitting a formal protest to the Macedonian ambassador.
The senior partners in the governing coalition - the Slav VMRO-DPMNE party - said that the attacks were playing into the hands of extremists.
"Such activities directly contribute to further destabilisation of the country..." a party statement said. "Taking matters into your own hands can only bring unwanted consequences, which is the goal of the terrorists."
The leader of their junior partner - Arben Xhaferri of the Democratic Party of Albanians - compared the attacks to Nazi pogroms against the Jews:
"It was a Kristallnacht, like in 1938 when they attacked Jewish shops. It's the same game."
President Trajkovski won Colin Powell's firm support.
People were starting to believe that they could no longer live together, he said.
Ongoing talks between the majority Macedonian and minority Albanian communities have so far failed to produce any concrete results and there have been frequent warnings that the conflict could easily re-ignite.
The Albanians are demanding greater recognition in the constitution, as well as better representation in the administration and increased use of the Albanian language.
On a visit to Washington on Tuesday, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski called on the United States to list the rebel ethnic Albanian organisation the National Liberation Army as a terrorist group to prevent it raising funds in the US.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Mr Trajkovski's handling of what he called "dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organisations who are trying to subvert the democratic process".
Mr Powell visited Skopje last month to demonstrate his support for the peace process.
The BBC's Raphael Jesurum "With each attack the idea of peaceful co-existence and a shared idea of Macedonia fade further away"
Bulgarian Customs Make Heroin Seizure at Serbian Border.
Agence France Presse
SOFIA, May 2, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Bulgarian customs seized over 15 kilograms (more than 30 pounds) of heroin Wednesday on the country's border with Serbia from a car with Dutch registration plates, officials said.
The drugs, with an estimated street value of 705,000 euros (628,000 dollars), were found in the vehicle at the Kalotina checkpoint.
The car's occupants, one with double Turkish/Belgian nationality and the other Turkish/Dutch, were both arrested.
So far this year Bulgarian customs have seized a total 523 kilograms of heroin, seven kilograms of cocaine, over 130 kilograms of marijuana and 7,457 capsules of pychotropic drugs.
Bulgaria Worried Over Fairness of Libyan HIV Trial.
SOFIA, May 2, 2001 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria said on Wednesday it was not convinced a Libyan court would give a fair trial to six Bulgarian medics charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov said Sofia's concerns were triggered by the Libyan court's refusal to allow medical expertise and witnesses for the defense in the case.
"There are certain criteria that have to be met if there is to be an objective, fair and transparent trial," Vlaikov told a press conference.
"These criteria are a medical expertise, witnesses' testimonies given before the court and expert opinion so that the court could take into consideration the arguments of the defense," Vlaikov said. "Only if those criteria are met, we could talk about a fair and objective trial."
The trial of the five nurses and one doctor formally opened in February 2000 in Tripoli and on Saturday was postponed for an eleventh time. The six could face the death penalty if convicted. The trial is scheduled to resume on May 13.
The six are charged with intentionally infecting 393 children in a Benghazi hospital where they worked with blood products contaminated with the HIV virus. The indictment says they sought to destabilize the Libyan state.
Eight Libyans and a Palestinian face similar charges.
The court rejected a defense request that evidence from two prominent international virologists be heard.
Sofia still hopes the court will agree to the defense request, Vlaikov said.
Media reports of a recent speech in which Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said the children were infected as part of an experiment allegedly ordered by the U.S. or Israeli secret services have also raised Sofia's concern over the trial.
Bulgaria's foreign ministry has requested from Libya's embassy in Sofia the text of Gaddafi's speech delivered at an African AIDS summit in Nigeria five days ago.
"If Gaddafi's statement is true, it may raise doubts about the court's independence, because it rules out the presumption of innocence," Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raikov told reporters this week.
The case has stirred deep passions in Bulgaria and could figure prominently in a June general election.
Bulgaria Wants Revision of Stability Pact.
SOFIA, May 2, 2001 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria called on Wednesday for review of a stability pact set up to aid Balkan reconstruction, saying it needed to be redefined to reflect changes in the region.
The pact was launched in 1999 by major Western powers after the Kosovo crisis ended. It was intended to focus on rebuilding and restoring infrastructure in the region, the most economically backward and politically unstable part of Europe.
"The Stability Pact is based on documents from two years ago when there was a totally different situation in the Balkans," Vladimir Filipov, Bulgaria's coordinator for the pact, told privately owned Darik radio.
"We suggest that problems should be reviewed and redefined...The sooner this happens, the better. Such discussion should take place by mid-year," he said. "This is the optimal term, before optimism gives way to disappointment."
When the pact was set up, former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, now jailed, was still in power. Yugoslavia joined the pact in October.
None of the projects planned under the pact have got off the ground, mostly due to bureaucratic obstacles and sporadic ethnic violence in the region.