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22, May-2001.


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Kumanovo, May 22 (MIA) - "I am excited and glad I am alive and together with my family, and for this I would like to thank to OSCE, vice-minister of health Muharem Nedzipi and to President Boris Trajkovski, who called me by phone," professional soldier in the Macedonian Army Goran Mitrevski said at today's press conference. Mitrevski was held in captivity by the Albanian terrorists in the past 19 days.

He said that the terrorists treated him well, he was not molested, "except for two-three strikes" as he said, and he was given food and water. He was kept in basements in Vaksince village, and he was constantly being transferred from one house to another. He was also allowed to make telephone calls.

Spokesman of the Army Staff colonel Blagoja Markovski said that Mitrevski was delivered at 17.50h, on halfway from Slupcane village to Opae.



The Macedonian Security Council at its Tuesday session chaired by President Boris Trajkovski discussed the current security situation in the country.

The Council agrees that security forces fully control the situation in the field, preventing further escalation of the crisis that threatens Macedonian territorial integrity and public law and order in the country.

The Council agrees also that political initiatives of the Macedonian authorities and the international community did not yield positive results with extremist-terrorist and other illegitimately armed forces in Macedonia.

The terrorists remained on their totally unacceptable position, committing crimes against the local population and creating immediate danger of a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe both in the villages in the region and in Kumanovo.

The Council agreed that the normal conditions for leading the political dialogue between the legitimate political entities in Macedonia had been jeopardized. Under these conditions it is not possible for the dialogue to give the expected results.

The Council also agreed that certain initiatives of separate representatives of the international community, who are trying to promote the leaders of the terrorist-extremist groups as legitimate representatives of the Albanians in Macedonia, raised the concern of all Macedonian citizens. In this context, the Security Council states that none of the Macedonian official bodies ever considered accepting such initiatives and that Macedonia would never accept to negotiate with terrorists.

The Security Council also debated the information broadcast by A1 television that slanders the Head of the Macedonian Army General Staff by accusing him of an alleged involvement in giving away security information to foreign citizens, and by claiming that the source of these information is an anonymous member of the Security Council. The Security Council agreed that such fabrications damage the Macedonian Army General Staff and the Council itself, and energetically denied all such speculations, qualifying them as very dangerous under the present circumstances of complex security situation in Macedonia. In this context, the Council expressed its full trust in the Head of the Macedonian Army General Staff and hopes that the General Staff would continue to efficiently carry out its responsibilities.



Skopje, May 22 (MIA) - Minister of Labor and Social Policy Bedredin Ibrahimi qualified today's article published in "Nova Makedonija" regarding the alleged collection of funds for the terrorists by the former ministers of labor and social policy as "pure fabrication."

"These accusations are lies and nonsense," Ibrahimi said.

Regarding the current security situation in the Kumanovo area, Minister Ibrahimi said: " I am an optimist and I think that all conditions for starting political dialogue have been fulfilled, especially now, after the large governmental coalition is formed."

Fighting rages in Macedonia.

The Irish Times

BALKANS: Heavy fighting raged between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels yesterday, while Albanian guerrillas in nearby Serbia signed a pact to disarm and disband.

Tanks, artillery and combat helicopters were in action against insurgents in a cluster of villages in north-eastern Macedonia held by rebels for nearly three weeks.

Battles were concentrated on Vakcince and Slupcane and return fire from the village of Vakcince was the heaviest reporters had witnessed in 18 days of fighting.

The minaret of the mosque was demolished and shells were exploding around it. A photographer could see tracer rounds coming from guerrilla return fire.

A guerrilla officer said there had been heavy shelling and helicopter attacks on Slupcane and Vakcince.

In southern Serbia, by contrast, the commander of ethnic Albanian guerrillas signed a commitment to demilitarise, demobilise and disband his group by the end of the month.

The agreement was signed by Mr Shefket Musliu, commander of the general headquarters of the UCPMB guerrilla group based in the Presevo Valley area next to the Kosovo border, and by the head of NATO's office in Yugoslavia as a witness.

"The UCPMB will be demilitarised, demobilised, and disbanded by no later than May 31st, 2001, with the help of the international community," said the Declaration on Demilitarisation.

Ethnic Albanian rebel commanders in Macedonia denied there was a plan for insurgents in southern Serbia to move into northern Macedonia and link up with guerrillas there.

"There is no truth in these reports," one of the commanders yesterday. A second commander called Hoxha said: "We have enough soldiers already."

Speculation is mounting that some guerrillas may head south to join the fighting in Macedonia as Serbian forces, following a decision by NATO, prepare to take control of a 35 km strip of land in the Presevo Valley on the Kosovo boundary.

The operation was due to start on Thursday, raising the possibility that Macedonian forces might launch an assault at the same time to sap the guerrillas' morale.

Commander Sokoli's selfstyled National Liberation Army (UCK in Albanian) denies links with the UCPMB guerrillas in Serbia's Presevo Valley. But the two ethnic Albanian armed groups are only 20 km apart and are assumed to co-operate.

"They [the UCPMB] have signed a demilitarisation agreement and are sticking to it," Commander Sokoli said.

Region-wide war looms.


Ethnic Albanian rebellion could cause all-out multi-power conflict.

By Toby Westerman

All-out war increasingly stalks the volatile Balkan region -- the land route from Europe to the Near East -- as sporadic fighting intensifies, hopes for compromise fade and fears arise of a militant Islamic state near the heart of Europe.

Reports indicate that financing for Islamic ethnic Albanians fighting against the Macedonian government comes from outside the country -- including the U.S. -- and is coordinated through an organization in Switzerland.

Militant ethnic Albanian forces are again in the north of Macedonia as they occupy villages and blockade roads near the city of Tetovo, the site of earlier fighting in late April and early May. As the fighting escalates, ethnic Albanian politicians are demanding major concessions from the central government, according to official sources in the region.

The Party of Democratic Prosperity of Albanians, the largest ethnic Albanian political party in Macedonia, has "formulated its demand" for changes to the Macedonian constitution, as well as "a halt to the action of the army" against the rebels and "total amnesty" for the fighters, according to Radio Yugoslavia, the official broadcasting service for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

On March 27, the leader of the PDPA, Imer Imeri, stated that he was "convinced that the constitution of Macedonia would be altered soon." Ethnic Albanian politicians support the establishment of a confederation in Macedonia based upon ethnic composition.

The Macedonian government, however, is resisting any major change. On the same day Imeri's statement was reported, Radio Bulgaria quoted Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski as declaring, "Macedonia is facing two possibilities -- a united state or a new blood bath."

Many in the region fear that the predominately Albanian north part of Macedonia will merge with a future independent Kosovo, and form a powerful Islamic state.

The U.S. and the European Union pressured all major political parties involved in the Macedonian crisis into forming a coalition government, and urged the Macedonian government to avoid major armed clashes with the rebels.

If Macedonia's government of "national unity" falls, an area-wide conflagration could erupt.

The Albanian-dominated northern region of Macedonia borders on Yugoslavia, U.N.-controlled Kosovo and Bulgaria. In the event of a large-scale conflict, ethnic Albanian fighters would operate throughout the border region, crossing national frontiers at will, bringing men and supplies where needed.

A recent report from the British Broadcasting Corporation states that British officials learned that 1,000 fighters could be shifted from the disputed Presevo Valley in southern Serbia to northern Macedonia. A separate report from Radio Yugoslavia states that the fighters would come from the Kosovo region.

Disregard for national borders would bring in Yugoslavia -- Serbia being the largest member of the Yugoslav Federation -- and involve NATO troops in Kosovo, some of whom are American.

Greece, a NATO member, also has a defense agreement with Yugoslavia, and Russia has strengthened its ties with Belgrade since the fall of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Neighboring Bulgaria could find itself in the conflict if thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees flee across Macedonia's eastern border into Bulgaria.

Turkey -- also a NATO ally -- could be forced into aiding fellow Muslims under pressure from strong fundamentalist Islamic factions within that nation.

Although they are not formally supported by any government -- including Albania -- ethnic Albanian fighters have enthusiastic backing from fellow Albanians.

Reports indicate that Albanians living in Europe and the U.S. are sending money to the Macedonian fighters through an organization in Switzerland. A founder of the purportedly disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, Fazliu Veli, is said to have warned of a wider war if the Macedonian government does not negotiate with ethnic Albanian rebels.

Guardian Unlimited, the Internet version of the Guardian of London, states, "Albanian exiles in Switzerland have organized and supported the creation of the NLA." The report also cites a statement by former U.S. diplomat Daniel Serwer to the effect that the financing of the ethnic Albanian separatists, "poses as much of a risk to American soldiers in Kosovo as the Albanian gunmen crossing the border into Macedonia."

Serwer, according to the Guardian, will speak at U.S. congressional hearings next week, seeking to ban contributions from the U.S. to ethnic Albanian separatists fighting in Macedonia.

The rebels in Macedonia appear to have firm support. While Macedonia, Yugoslavia and Russia, all claim that ethnic Albanian fighters are using local villagers as shields, a BBC report places the assertion in doubt.

According to an account of a BBC reporter visiting a rebel-controlled area, villagers freely refer to the fighters as "our army," and as the "Albanian army."

A general war in the region would benefit Russia, which has long advocated strong measures against ethnic Albanian fighters and associates them with militant Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Central Asia.

While the EU and U.S. have urged a policy of negotiation and restraint in regard to the rebels, Moscow recommends a state of war be declared. If fighting begins to rage, Russia likely will trumpet the superiority of its original position.

Moscow, since it has close relations with all governments involved, would also be in a position to assist in peace negotiations between those governments and rebels, should any of the fighters survive.

Ethnic Albanian rebel's fate unclear.


Confusion surrounds the fate of a key ethnic Albanian rebel leader in southern Serbia, who has refused to recognise a Nato-brokered accord aimed at ending the regional conflict.
Despite the uncertainty, officials from Nato and in Belgrade are confident that the deal, signed on Monday, will end southern Serbia's ethnic Albanian rebellion.

According to some reports, Muhamed Xhemajli - known by Serb forces as "Commander Rebel" - has been arrested by Serbian security units.

Other reports said Mr Xhemajli - who has refused to disarm and disband his force, despite the demilitarisation pact signed on Monday - had been detained by Nato K-For troops.

However a K-For spokesman that he was not in their custody, and that Nato had no knowledge of him being arrested by anybody else.

Belgrade has described Mr Xhemajli as one of the most militant guerrillas, while a senior Nato official has labelled him as a "rogue criminal element".

Reports of his arrest surfaced when Riza Halimi, an ethnic Albanian community leader, told a news conference that Mr Xhemajli had given himself up along with 40 guerrillas.

However, US military spokesman Major Randy Martin told the Reuters news agency: "He hasn't been detained...that is definite."

'Strong signal'

Monday's agreement was signed ahead of the scheduled deployment of Yugoslav forces into the final part of the buffer zone between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia on Thursday.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said the deal "creates full conditions for the entry of our forces into the buffer zone".

Nato envoy Pieter Fieth said the deal sent a "strong signal to the region as a whole" and in particular to Macedonia, where a separate arm of the guerrilla movement is still fighting government forces.

Macedonia calm

Macedonia was reported to be calm on Tuesday following one of the heaviest exchanges of fire since the upsurge of violence in the region.

On Monday, Macedonian forces launched an artillery attack on the villages of Slupcane and Vaksince in response to an hour of rebel sniper and machine gun fire.

The Macedonian army has declared some progress in its offensive: advances in the village of Opae, right on the front-line, and targets - including a weapons dump - hit in other places.

However, the authorities remain concerned that Albanian rebels who have been fighting in Yugoslavia will cross Kosovo to join their comrades in Macedonia.

Macedonia's isolated rebels in no mood for surrender.


SKOPJE, May 22 (AFP) -
Ethnic Albanian rebels continued to needle Macedonian government forces along the republic's northern border Tuesday, as a political settlement to the crisis looked as far away as ever.

State radio reported that guerrillas launched a mortar attack on police and army positions at a ski resort in the Sar Mountains, 40 miles (60 kilometres) from where the forces clashed outside rebel-held villages on Monday.

Several houses were damaged in the attack on the resort of Popova Sapka, about 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) above the mainly Albanian northwestern town of Tetovo, the radio said.

Government forces fired back at the guerrillas, who were operating from the village of Brodec, but no incidents were reported Tuesday in the other flashpoint area around villages 16 miles (25 kilometres) north of Skopje.

The Popova Sapka attack brought a worrying reminder that the rebels remain capable of launching strikes well beyond their core territory in the Black Mountains of Skopje, where a dozen villages are under their control.

The ongoing fighting in Macedonia contrasted sharply with the mood of optimism in southern Serbia, where the government, NATO and moderate Albanian leaders persuaded guerrillas to lay down their arms after offering an amnesty.

Macedonia's government has refused direct negotiations with the fighters on its side of the border, and on Monday mounted its most powerful assault in more than a week, pounding rebel positions with tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships.

NATO's envoy to southern Serbia had described Monday's negotiated ceasefire deal there as a "powerful message to the region" which "should be heard in Macedonia", but the appeal seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

While in Serbia the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (LAPMB) demobilised, their fellow Albanians in the so-called national Liberation Army (NLA) south of the border in Macedonia vowed to fight on.

"As far as I'm aware, there are no negotiations underway with the NLA," said Carlos Ungaro, the Skopje mission chief of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Another western observer noted ironically: "The rebels are completely isolated, but that doesn't seem to bother them. The situation is completely deadlocked."

Neither the army's near daily shelling of their positions, the pleas of moderate leaders from their own community nor fears for the safety of some 10,000 civilians trapped by the fighting seem able to discourage the NLA.

"Our party has tried on many occasions to persuade them to withdraw, but without success. They insist they should play a direct role in negotiations," said Muhamed Halili, secretray general of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), one of two ethnic Albanian parties in the country's government of national unity.

One of the NLA's commanders in the field, Commander Hoxha, told AFP by telephone: "We are not like the LAPMB, we've got nothing to do with them and we're not concerned in what goes on over there.

"We need first of all a response to our demands. For the moment we're continuing, we'll take it all the way," he said.

Macedonia's Slav parties are not convinced that allowing rebel leaders into discussions on improving minority rights would be enough to convince them to drop their war, which many in Skopje believe has been launched to rip the young republic apart.

Radmila Sekerinska, vice-president of the former-Communist Social Democratic Party, said: "Why would they accept? War is their profession."

And Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's position is inflexible: Yes to talks on reform with elected ethnic Albanian leaders; no to negotiations with "a cruel enemy that must be crushed".

The LAPMB's demobilisation has been speeded by the announcement of an amnesty for surrendering fighters, but the idea has found little support in Skopje, where among Slavs the guerrillas are known only as "the terrorists".

Neverthless, a western observer in Skopje told AFP that the NLA "won't go anywhere without guarantees".

General in Kosovo fight with Pentagon.

The Times


THE US commander of Nato Forces in the Kosovo air campaign is publishing scathing criticism of the Pentagon, claiming that defence chiefs blocked measures that could have made force unnecessary.
In a book, General Wesley Clark writes that in March 1998 the Pentagon rebuffed his call for Nato intervention to be threatened if Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, moved to crush Kosovos Albanian population. After the bombing began in March 1999 the Pentagon rejected some of his proposed targets, he writes. It also rejected his request that US Forces should open artillery and helicopter rocket attacks from Albania on Serbian forces in Kosovo.

There was giant resistance from the Pentagon to deepening the commitment to the Balkans, the retired general told yesterdays New York Times.

The Balkans had no place in the Pentagon view of its national military strategy, which is to prepare to fight in the Persian Gulf and in Korea, and that short of that, the maximum amount should be spent on the procurement account.

Waging Modern War, out this week, says that when he advised General Dennis Reimer, the US Army Chief of Staff, late in 1998 to prepare for a possible conflict with Yugoslavia the reply was: But we dont want to fight there.

The Pentagon has refused to comment. After the Kosovo campaign William Cohen, who was Defence Secretary, cut short General Clarks posting to Belgium as Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Nor did General Clark have good relations with General Sir Michael Jackson, British commander of the Nato-led Kosovo force. In a stand-off the latter refused the US generals order to seize Pristina airport before Russian troops reached it. General Jackson noted that he did not wish to trigger the Third World War. General Clark is writing an expanded account of that episode for the books UK edition.

After he sent Mr Cohen a message recommending that the US threaten Nato intervention if Mr Milosevic took tough action, he was woken by a call from General Joseph Ralston, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr Cohen was upset by the message because the Pentagon had its hands full elsewhere and did not want Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State, to get hold of it.

General Clark claims that in the campaign the Pentagon refused to permit the targeting of petrol tanks and power plants; it wanted to bomb them later if the Serbs attacked US peacekeepers in Kosovo. The allies, concerned about civilian casualties, wanted to plan for a ground war. The Pentagon resisted, preferring to step up the air campaign.

Yesterday in southern Serbia the commander of ethnic Albanian guerrillas based near the administrative border with Kosovo agreed to disband his group. The deal was signed by Shefket Musliu, of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, witnessed by a Nato official. The group had claimed to be fighting Serb repression of ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley.

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