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Thursday.

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Macedonia resumes rebel offensive.

CNN

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Macedonian forces are continuing their offensive against ethnic-Albanian rebels in mountains north-east of the capital, Skopje.

A special session of Macedonia's parliament is due to be convened on Friday to discuss the country's worsening crisis, amid fears of fresh bloodshed.

Reuters said smoke was seen billowing from the village of Vakcince after several mortars were fired on Friday morning.

A convoy carrying between 150 to 200 special police troops entered the neighbouring town of Kumanovo, accompanied by an armoured personnel carrier.

On Thursday, Macedonian helicopter gunships and artillery unleashed fire in an area where ethnic-Albanian rebels had ambushed an army patrol, killing two soldiers.

Vowing to "eliminate the Albanian terrorists" near the northern city of Kumanovo, the authorities ordered residents in 11 nearby villages to leave their homes.

Macedonian officials accuse the rebels of holding more than 2,000 people as "human shields" against government forces.

Stveo Pendarovski, of the Macedonian Interior Ministry, told CNN: "At least 2,000 women and children are in the front line. Because of that we are careful in approaching the villages, and have hit only legitimate targets."

At one stage on Thursday, two heavily-armed, Soviet-built Mi-24 helicopters circled over the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital, firing rockets at houses and a nearby forest in mid-afternoon.

There were no reports of casualties and Macedonia's two main ruling parties, representing its majority Slav and minority ethnic Albanian communities, have appealed for calm and restraint by all sides.

The offensive began hours after two soldiers were killed and a third reportedly kidnapped in a rebel ambush. Last weekend, eight soldiers died in another ambush.

Macedonian television said the army was using "all available means" against the insurgents.

"They are shelling indiscriminately in the villages and some houses are already on fire," a leader of the rebel National Liberation Army (NLA) who goes by the name Commander Hoxha told The Associated Press.

Ali Ahmeti, the political head of the NLA, told the Voice of America radio station, that there was fierce fighting in the villages around Kumanovo, and that villagers who had not left were taking cover in basements and underground shelters.

The rebels issued a statement calling for a cease-fire and urging President Boris Trajkovski to start talks to prevent the bloodshed and "maybe civil war."

Trajkovski told CNN: "These people don't care about killing innocent civilians. They are not rebels, they are terrorists.

"But we have exercised the utmost restraint in tackling them."

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said: "I am appalled by the killings and the cowardly attacks against security forces and am concerned over the rising tension.

"These incidents risk undermining the peace in a country that is a successful example of a well-functioning democracy in the Balkans."

In a sign of growing international concern, European Union sources said that EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana would visit Macedonia on Sunday after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Sweden.

"The European Union strongly condemns the renewed acts of violence by ethnic Albanian extremists ... including the killing of two soldiers, the occupation of several villages and the taking of hostages," the EU said in a statement.

"The European Union calls upon the extremists to stop the violence, to release the hostages and withdraw immediately."

Trajkovski, who was in the U.S. this week where he met Secretary of State Colin Powell, has called for "clear signals, messages and actions" by the international community to eliminate the "roots" of the extremist problem.

He urged a more robust effort on the part of NATO troops in Kosovo to round up the armed rebels in the province before they reach Macedonia and to stamp out cross-border organised crime, which in large part funds the insurgency.

In Washington, the State Department said on Thursday it "strongly condemns" the "unprovoked" killing of two Macedonian soldiers and the kidnapping of a third by ethnic Albanian extremists near the border with Serbia.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also condemned the holding of hostages in the area by the "so-called National Liberation Army, which has threatened civilians and deliberately puts civilians into jeopardy."

"We support the measured response of the Macedonian armed forces to such terrorist violence," Boucher said, adding the United States continues to urge the Macedonian government to avoid civilian casualties as they take "necessary steps to uphold the rule of law."

Trajkovski urged Powell to officially designate the NLA as a terrorist organisation.

Although it is not designated as an "official" terrorist organisation in the State Department's recent Patterns of Global Terrorism report, the NLA was condemned for its violence against Macedonian forces and was warned that it could be upgraded to an official terrorist group if it continued attacks.

"We call them terrorists, and what they are doing fits the definition of a terrorist," one senior State Department official said.

"We are making a conscious effort to show what we think and what the international community thinks of them."

Sound File.

Trajkovski: a demonic act by terrorists.

Albanian homes destroyed as Slav civilians join backlash against rebels.

The Independent

By Justin Huggler, Eastern Europe Correspondent
03 May 2001

Albanian homes were set ablaze in a second successive night of riots in Macedonia yesterday, renewing fears that the country could slide into civil war.

Angry crowds smashed shop windows with stones and torched cars in the southern city of Bitola in protest at the weekend slaying of eight Macedonian soldiers and police by Albanian rebels.

In the capital, Skopje, one Albanian man was shot dead by masked gunmen and several others were attacked in a series of incidents around the city. It is by far the most serious backlash against ordinary Albanians in Macedonia yet and a dangerous sign that the trouble is developing from a confrontation between Macedonian security forces and the Albanian guerrillas into civil strife between the Slav majority and the Albanian minority. There were fears that Macedonia was close to civil war earlier this year, when the Albanian rebel National Liberation Army (NLA) occupied the hills overlooking the country's second city, Tetovo.

Albanians make up at least a quarter of Macedonia's population and are demanding more rights, saying they are treated as second-class citizens.

Earlier this week, the Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, on a visit to Washington, won support from leading American officials, who pledged economic support to the Macedonian government. The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, called the ethnic Albanian insurgents "terrorists" trying to subvert Macedonia's democratic process with "dastardly and cowardly acts".

Until the weekend, a tentative peace had prevailed since the NLA was forced to retreat by an army offensive in March. Rioting first broke out in Bitola on Tuesday, as about 800 people took to the streets. More than 40 homes and shops were wrecked, and one man was injured when he was shot by police. About 120 took to the streets in the early hours of yesterday morning. Macedonian police sources said that the mob was bent on wrecking any building it believed belonged to an Albanian.

The riots started straight after the funerals of the eight soldiers and police killed and mutilated on Saturday when their patrol was ambushed by NLA rebels near the Kosovo border.

An unholy row in Greece.

BBC

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The nuns of Pelagia convent talked to Crossing Continents about their view of Greek identity.

By Rosie Goldsmith
No trip to Athens is complete without visiting the Acropolis, the glory of Ancient Greece perched on top of the craggy limestone rocks overlooking the "new" city.

The Acropolis was built in Athens' first Golden Age in the 5th century BC - an era of monumental public works and grand ideals. Today, with a touch of grandiosity, the Greeks say they are planning another Golden Age - bringing the ancient Greece of the Acropolis together with the modern, teeming Greece below. But there's tension between the two.

On the one side you've got reform-minded, efficient Greece, the member of NATO and the EU and host of the Olympics, and its new roads, metro and airport; and on the other side you've got poor, parochial Greece, a Balkan backwater plagued by old disputes but rich in ritual and tradition and proud of its Ancient Heritage. And there's a row going on here which sums up this identity crisis: the row between the Orthodox Church and the Greek government.

When I tell you the row is over a couple of words on a flimsy piece of card, it may all sound rather petty. But thousands of people have taken to the streets over it and the topic is plastered all over the papers.

Those two little words are "Greek Orthodox" and they have until recently always been written on the identity cards which the Greeks are obliged to carry. But in a bid to protect the privacy and freedom of its citizens, the new Greek government has banned the inclusion of religious affiliation on any new cards, saying it doesn't fit in with its new multicultural stand.

Why all the fuss?

In Greece being Orthodox is a way of life. If you question the supremacy of Orthodoxy here you are questioning the centrality of the Church to Greek identity, culture and history. And with nearly one hundred per cent of native-born Greeks registered Orthodox you can understand the scale of the argument.

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Father Matjeo Halaris has campaigned against the change.

The Church is furious with the government. It has organized a petition against the government decision to remove religious affiliation from identity cards and to force a referendum on the issue. The Church says it has already collected 3 million signatures. One priest I met in Athens, Father Matjeos Halaris, had collected 6,000 signatures from his diocese of 10,000. His congregation said they were "protecting the truth".

The campaign is being led by the charismatic, assertive Archbishop of Greece, Christodolous. He calls this his "crusade".

The Archbishop's spokesman, Haris Conidaris, told me that during the 400 year old occupation of Greece by the Turks - up until independence in 1821 - it was the Church which "kept up the language, the faith and the passion for liberty" among the people. He says the reason Archbishop Christodolous is so determined to fight his corner is "the effort of some government members to de-Christianize the country". This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the Greek people.

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Archbishop Christodolous is spearheading the Church's fight back.

The man who has been speaking out on behalf of the government is the Justice Minister, Michaelis Stathopolous. I asked him whether the government could really ignore 3 million Greeks - maybe more; maybe, as some church leaders are claiming, half the Greek population.

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Justice Minister Michaelis Stathopolous wants reform of the ID cards.

"We don't know exactly how many signatures there are," he answered, "but let's say there are 2 - 3 million signatures. Well there are 8 - 9 million people registered Orthodox so that means the greater number have not voted. It is the Church that has managed to divide the Greek Orthodox people, not the government."

Strong passions - and deeply-rooted beliefs

Wherever I went people had strong views on the issue. Even if they supported the government they were often angry that it had made its decision without consulting them. And very few people denounce the church outright. But Public Sceptic Number One in Greece, the writer and journalist, Nikos Dimou, was less restrained.

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Commentator Nikos Dimou: too much 'wishful thinking' about the Church in Greece?

"We Greeks, " he told me, "build false truths around ourselves in order to be able to project our wishful thinking on society". He continued, "The reality of the Church being the guardian of the Greek people during the Turkish Occupation is simply a myth. The Church was the extension of the Ottoman Empire. This is the first time the government is really opposing the church because up to now it has always backed down."

For the new Euro-friendly Greek government, this is essentially an issue of personal and private choice. International human rights groups have been complaining for years over Greece's lack of tolerance of minorities and of other religions.

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Nikiforos Diamandouros: it's a matter of citizens' rights.

Nikiforos Diamandouros, Greece's first Citizens' Rights Ombudsman, explained why they were taking such a firm stand: Greece has a large immigrant population who are not Orthodox and they must not feel discriminated against. "Until the late 1980s Greece had been one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe. That has been reversed. Since the end of the Soviet Union, borders have opened and large numbers of people are coming in. Now ten per cent of the population are not Greek natives ... (and) the law demands equal treatment of all citizens, irrespective of their religion."

Sound File.

Listen to this programme in full.

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TWO MACEDONIAN SOLDIERS KILLED NEAR VAKSINCE VILLAGE.

MIA

Two Macedonian soldiers were killed and one kidnapped Thursday morning in an ambush attack on the Macedonian Army patrol near the village of Vaksince.

Spokesman of the Macedonian Defense Ministry Gjorgji Trendafilov informed that around 05.40 in the morning, the Macedonian Army patrol, which was securing the military point Sorta, was attacked.

The patrol with BTR transporter was heading toward the military point, when it came across some barricades at the entrance of Vaksince village. Gunfire was opened and the Macedonian soldiers responded.

"Two soldiers were shot dead in the gunfire. One of the soldiers fell of the transporter and was captured by the terrorists. We reached him by a mobile phone," Trendafilov said.

The rest of the team continued toward Vaksince and met the back up, comprised of two tanks and one armour transporter, which was heading toward the place of incident.

Spokesman in the Macedonian Interior Ministry Stevo Pendarovski informed that two civilians from Matejce village were highjack. One of the civilians is Macedonian and the other one is Serbian.

Pendarovski stated that according some information the Albanian terrorists declared the territory in the villages around Lipkovo Lake as a free zone.

The Macedonian Defense and Interior Ministries appeal to Macedonian citizens from Slupcane and Vaksince villages near Kumanovo to leave their homes urgently.

The evacuation should start immediately and the citizens should leave their homes by 15.00. The citizens should head towards Kumanovo, Tabanovce and Lipkovo, where the police would accept them.

Macedonian Interior and Defense Ministries appeal to terrorist groups not to hinder the withdrawal of the local citizens and not to use them as a shield.

It is appealed to the terrorists to lay the weapon and to surrender to the Macedonian authorities, and the Macedonian jurisdictional institutions will take into consideration that fact.

Macedonian Interior and Defense Ministries appeal to citizens to follow these instructions and to enable the operation of the Macedonian security forces.

Macedonia villagers caught in crossfire.

BBC

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Vakcince came under fire after a rebel ambush.

The United States has urged the Macedonian Government to avoid civilian casualties in its latest offensive against ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US condemned the "unprovoked killings" of two Macedonian soldiers in an ambush early on Thursday, and said it supported a "measured response" to Albanian attacks.

In response to the rebel ambush, Macedonian helicopter gunships and artillery fired on and around the village of Vackcince on Thursday afternoon.

The Macedonian forces had ordered people in 11 villages near the north-eastern city of Kumanovo to evacuate, but both the army and the rebels said some villagers had remained.

The authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area, but correspondents say government forces are ready to resume their offensive on Friday morning.

'All available means'

The BBC's Nick Wood in Skopje says in spite of the fact that few civilians have actually left the area, the army seems determined to push ahead with its operation to flush out the rebels.

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The rebel NLA appears equally determined, and have responded to the latest Macedonian attacks with mortar fire.

While Macedonian television reported that the army was using "all available means" against the insurgents, rebel leaders accused the military of indiscriminately shelling the villages of Slupcane and Vakcince - an accusation denied by army spokesman, Gjordi Trendafilov, who said they were acting selectively in an effort to protect civilian lives.

It was in Vakcince where two Macedonian soldiers died at Vakcince early on Thursday morning as they were returning from a night border patrol, while a third was captured.

Fading hopes

Our correspondent says the emergence of the gunmen in Vakcince and Slupcane has caused considerable concern in the government, which claimed in March it had flushed rebels of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army out of the country.

An ambush on police and soldiers near the north-western town of Tetovo on Saturday, in which eight members of the security forces were killed, made clear they were back.

As the situation deteriorates, analysts say there seems to be little hope of a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Talks between the majority Macedonian and minority Albanian communities were under way when the rebels resumed their strikes last weekends.

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.

Macedonia army begins offensive.

BBC

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Macedonian troops are searching for the attackers.

The Macedonian army has launched an offensive on rebel ethnic Albanian positions around a village where two of its soldiers were killed in an overnight ambush.
Civilians were ordered to evacuate the village of Vakcince by 3pm (1300 GMT) but the BBC correspondent in Macedonia Nick Wood says helicopter gunships were seen firing rockets at the village before that deadline had passed.

Journalists from the Reuters news agency also reported mortar explosions inside the village.

The government is now giving people in the surrounding area until 6pm to evacuate in order to give the army more room for manoeuvre in its operations.

'Liberated' territory

The interior and defence ministries had told residents to leave Vakcince and register for temporary shelter in nearby towns.

However reports say few people have responded to the government appeal, which was broadcast on television at 10 minute intervals.

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There have been peaceful protests in Bitola too.

Two Macedonian soldiers died at Vakcince early on Thursday morning as they were returning from a night border patrol, while a third was captured.

State radio said two guerrillas were killed in the clash and that the rebels had declared the nearby village of Slupcane "liberated territory".

Our correspondent says the emergence of the gunmen in Vakcince and Slupcane has caused considerable concern in the government, which claimed in March it had flushed rebels of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army out of the country.

An ambush on police and soldiers near the north-western town of Tetovo on Saturday, in which eight members of the security forces were killed, made clear they were back.

Riots and attacks on Albanian-owned property broke out in the southern city of Bitola following the men's funerals on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, US President George W Bush promised to increase American efforts to help the Macedonian authorities in their fight against the separatists.

US offer

A White House official said Mr Bush had offered to share US intelligence with Macedonian forces, during a meeting in Washington with President Boris Trajkovski.

Earlier, the main Slav and ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia's ruling coalition warned that the recent violence risks destabilising the country and destroying ethnic tolerance.

The leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians, Arben Xhaferi, compared the rioters' attacks on Albanians to Nazi pogroms against the Jews:

People were starting to believe that they could no longer live together, he said.

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.

Two Macedonian soldiers killed near Kumanovo: army.

AFP

SKOPJE, May 3 (AFP) -
Two Macedonian soldiers were killed overnight in a village near the northern town of Kumanovo, army spokesman Blagoja Markovski told AFP on Thursday.

"Albanian terrorists killed two soldiers and kidnapped another one in the village of Vaksince, near Kumanovo," Markovski said, referring to the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the self-styled National Liberation Army (NLA).

Eight security officers were killed by Albanian guerrillas Saturday, prompting a violent backlash by Macedonia's Slav majority against the ethnic Albanian minority in the country's second city Bitola over the weekend.

Former Bulgaria King Gets Final OK for Election.

Reuters

SOFIA, May 3, 2001 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria's popular former King Simeon II on Wednesday received the final go-ahead to take part in a June 17 general election after a complex legal procedure which forced him to run on the ticket of two small parties.

The central electoral commission said it had voted by 17 to four votes to register a coalition of the two parties under the name of National Movement for Simeon II.

The decision was taken on the last day of registration.

Simeon, the first former monarch in post-communist eastern Europe to enter politics in his homeland, became the biggest talking-point of the election after deciding to run only last month.

Under the legal procedures, Simeon will not be the formal leader of the coalition, set up only on Saturday by the Party of Bulgarian Women and Movement for National Revival Oborishte with the single goal of enabling him to run.

His attempt to register his own movement, under the same name and under his personal leadership, had been overruled by a court last week which said documents were not in order.

His aides said the legal difficulties would not have a serious effect on the vote because of Simeon's personal popularity.

Earlier, the Constitutional Court barred him from running for president in a poll later this year because he had not lived in Bulgaria for the last five years as demanded by the law.

Simeon, who turns 64 on June 16, one day before the poll, has yet to produce a detailed program but his emergence on the political scene appeared to give voters a welcome alternative.

An opinion poll issued last week found that if elections were held now 35 percent would vote for Simeon's movement, 18 percent for the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and 17 percent for the ex-communist opposition Socialist Party.

The survey by the MBMD polling agency said Simeon had the highest personal rating of 63 percent, followed by President Petar Stoyanov with 54 percent. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov ranked eighth with 22 percent.

The UDF ousted the Socialists from power in 1997 amid mass protests over a major economic crisis. But public support for the UDF has been eroded by corruption scandals, unemployment and declining living standards.

In an address launching his movement Simeon pledged to fight corruption and improve people's lives within 800 days.

He also called for changes to Bulgaria's political system, fueling speculation he might seek to reinstate the monarchy. Bulgaria's status as a republic is guaranteed by the constitution and Simeon says monarchy is not on his agenda.

Banished from Bulgaria as a child after a rigged referendum abolished the monarchy in 1946, Simeon has until now lived in Madrid as a business consultant.

Bulgaria Fears Libya Will Politicize Trial of Six for HIV Contamination.

Agence France Presse

SOFIA, May 3, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Bulgaria warned Libya Thursday against exploiting for political purposes a trial of six Bulgarians accused of infecting 393 Libyan children with the HIV virus.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raikov asked Libyan Ambassador Farag Gibril for reassurances that the trial will be "transparent, objective, depoliticized and fair."

Five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor who worked in a pediatrics hospital in Benghazi in northern Libya are charged with injecting 393 children in their care with HIV-infected blood products.

Twenty-three children died as a result, according to the plaintiff.

The trial opened on February 7 last year and has ajourned 11 times with the next hearing scheduled for May 13.

The meeting with the ambassador came after Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was quoted in the Bulgarian press as saying at an AIDS conference in Abuja that the doctors and nurses were performing experiments in Benghazi on the effects of the HIV virus on children.

Kadhafi said the nurses and doctors should be brought before an international tribunal, similar to the trial of the two Libyans accused for the 1998 Lockerbie bombing.

Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhalova told journalist she was prepared to travel to Tripoli.

The six Bulgarians are accused of "premeditated murder in order to undermine Libyan security", and could face the death penalty if the court finds them guilty.

A Palestinian doctor is also on trial on the same charges, while eight Libyans have been charged with "negligence".

Albania Protests to Macedonia Over Embassy Attack.

Reuters

TIRANA, May 3, 2001 -- (Reuters) Albania summoned the Macedonian ambassador to Tirana on Wednesday to protest at an overnight shooting at its embassy in the Macedonian capital Skopje, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Sokol Gjoka said one bullet penetrated inside the Albanian embassy after unidentified attackers fired at the facade with light weapons. There were no injuries to staff at the three-story villa.

The attack is thought to be an outburst of Macedonian anger at the killing of eight members of its security forces by ethnic Albanian rebels from the National Liberation Army (NLA) at the weekend. They were buried on Monday.

In the early hours of Tuesday, Macedonians torched Albanian property in the southern town of Bitola.

"We think the Macedonian government should take measures to prevent such actions," Gjoka told Reuters, adding that security at the embassy in Skopje was stepped up on Wednesday.

"The activity of Albanian diplomats in Macedonia should be protected and secured so they can go on with their normal activity and the integrity of the building should be guaranteed," Gjoka added.

The killing of the security personnel was the worst incident since the outbreak of fighting in February. The NLA demands greater rights for minority Albanians in Macedonia.

Albanian Prime Minister Condemns "Extremism" in Macedonia.

Agence France Presse

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta on Wednesday condemned "extremism" in the Balkans in general, and specifically in Macedonia, where the government is facing an ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement.

He said that Tirana would "continue to condemn any kind of violence and extremism that is used to present and to resolve certain problems in Macedonia or even somewhere else" in the region.

Meta made the remarks following a meeting here with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

He added that his country supports "the sovereignty and integrity of Macedonia."

The Macedonia government is facing a challenge from an ethnic-Albanian guerrilla movement which it maintains originates across the country's northern border, in the UN-run Serbian province of Kosovo.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski was also in Washington Wednesday, where he was scheduled to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, following a meeting with Powell Tuesday.

The White House said Bush would assure Trajkovski of U.S. support for his efforts to "defend Macedonian territorial integrity and to work with the Albanian minority in his country on better incorporating their concerns."

In Macedonia there was a violent backlash against the country's ethnic Albanian minority this week, with shops attacked by mobs in Bitola and an ethnic Albanian man killed in the capital, following the weekend killing by guerrillas of eight members of the security forces.

Yugoslav Minister Welcomes U.S. Description of Albanian Rebels as Terrorists.

May 3, 2001 -- (BBC Monitoring) Text of report by Serbian TV satellite service on 2 May.

[Announcer] Albanian terrorists in southern Serbia and Macedonia have found themselves in a [U.S.] State Department annual report on terrorism in the world, but not formally yet on the list of terrorist organizations that Washington puts together in accordance with U.S. laws, if it determines that they represent a threat to its citizens or the U.S. national interests.

At a briefing, U.S. State Department representative Edmund Hull was asked why the Albanian armed groups were not on the list of terrorist organizations. Hull explained that this was a report for last year, and stressed that all these Albanian groups could find themselves on the next list. He again reiterated the State Department's concern over the activities of the so-called Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac [UCPMB] and the armed Albanian groups in Macedonia.

[Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic] It is important that finally this Albanian terrorist group has been put where it belongs, that is, among terrorists. What these groups have been doing in Kosovo, the three southern Serbian municipalities and Macedonia cannot be called anything but terrorism.

I expect the fact that the U.S. have said this so openly to affect the continued change of policy towards the crisis in southern Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia. I also expect these initial rational attitudes by the international community, and the U.S. primarily, to be finally defined, so that these armed groups are not only called terrorist but also treated accordingly. I expect the continuation of our own and the international policy to solve this problem fully.

Source: RTS TV, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1730 GMT 2 May 01

Macedonia's Albanian relations - Report 1998.

BBC

Traditionally seen as the crucial piece in the Balkan jigsaw puzzle, the Republic of Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, is as controversial now as it ever has been. Historically, it's been the hottest territory in the area, endlessly fought over and endlessly debated. Even today, its stability is seen as essential for peace in the region as a whole.

Travelling between Debar in Macedonia and Peshkopi in Albania, Joanna finds out just how porous the border is, and how much is shared by comunities on both sides of the line.

At the annual folk festival in Peshkopi, it's clear how far people of Albanian descent from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania still feel a strong sense of unity. Wherever they are - in the Balkans, in Italy, or even in the large Albanian community in the United States - Albanians continue to adore the same heroes and commemorate the same history.

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Yellow indicates areas of Macedonia and Montenegro with majority-Albanian populations.

It's a history with as many villains as heroes, however, and today the situation is tense. Albanian communities in Macedonia are deeply disturbed by events in Kosovo and there are suspicions that many of the young men in the region are lending support - sometimes actively - to KLA fighters there. And there are accusations that arms and money are being smuggled through Macedonian territory into Kosovo.

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The Albanian national hero Skanderbeg looks out across Tirana.

Like their counterparts in Kosovo, many Albanians in Macedonia claim that they suffer discrimination and oppression as an ethnic minority. Even the number of ethnic Albanians is a controversial subject: estimates of their presence in Macedonia vary between 29% and 40% of the population as a whole, and the precise figure is hotly debated.

In the recent parliamentary elections, Macedonian natinalists became the senior partner in the governing coalition. But the ethnic Albanian parties, and the votes they represent, are now exercising greater influence.

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Ethnic Albanians across the Balkans have been politicised by events in Kosovo.

Still, other non-Albanian Macedonians are unnerved by this new militancy, and some fear that Albanian nationalism could tear their carefully-balanced nation apart. Moreover, they're concerned about rocky external relations with Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece, and struggling with dreadful economic conditions; unemployment in the country as a whole is running close to 40%.

Finally, Joanna talks to Skopje-based Albanian writer Teuta Arifi about the enduring culture of honour and blood feud. Laid down in the fifteenth century in an attempt to limit bloodshed, the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini prescribes elaborate rules of engagement and revenge - and it's still very much alive.

Sound File.

Songs at the Peshkopi folk festival extol pride in Albanian identity...

Writer Teuta Arifi on the laws of feuding: "the honour of the host means you can't kill a guest..."

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