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A Macedonian army MI-24 combat helicopter fires anti-missile flares after a strike at the village of Vakcince, northeast from the capital Skopje May 8, 2001. The Macedonian army resumed its shelling of ethnic Albanian rebels while political leaders prepared to fine-tune a deal on a government of national unity -- seen by the West as a key move to avert civil war. (Oleg Popov/Reuters)
A Macedonian army T-55 tank fires at the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital Skopje on May 8, 2001. The Macedonian army resumed its shelling of ethnic Albanian rebels while political leaders prepared to fine-tune a deal on a government of national unity -- seen by the West as a key move to avert civil war. (Oleg Popov/Reuters)
TERRORIST GROUP IS DESTROYED IN ATTEMPT TO PLANT MINES ON ROAD BREZOVICA-VEJCE.
Macedonian security forces broke up a terrorist group Tuesday afternoon in attempt to plant antitank mines on the road between the villages Brezovica and Vejce on Shara Mountain.
The terrorist groups opened fire on the positions of Macedonian army and police, spokesmen of the Defense Ministry and of Army General HQ, Georgi Trendafilov and Blagoja Markovski stated for MIA.
In a fight of about 30 minutes, Macedonian forces, responding to provocations with artillery weapons, broke up the terrorist group and destroyed the planted mines.
Referring to the situation in Kumanovo area, Markovski said that terrorist groups opened fire between 17.30 to 19.00 hours at the positions of Macedonian forces near the entrance of the village of Slupcane. The action took place before issuing of today's appeal by the Defense and Interior Ministries for an evacuation of the civilians from several villages in the Kumanovo area.
The Macedonian forces responded with artillery weapons and tanks. There are no injured soldiers.
Tonight, the two ministries reiterated the appeal to villagers of Lojane, Matejce, Slupcane, Otlja, Orizare and Vaskince to immediately leave their homes. The evacuation will start on Wednesday and after its completion the Macedonian security forces will resume their military actions.
MINISTER DODOVSKI OPENS "DEFENSE 2001" FAIR .
Macedonian Environment and Urban Planning Minister Marjan Dodovski declared the second "International Defense, Security and Protection Fair - DEFENSE 2001" open on Monday. The fair will last from May 8-11.
"Organising the Fair under these circumstances will confirm the strength of Macedonia, and its ability to function in all segments of the society," Minister Dodovski said.
He pointed out that this Fair is being organised in order to meet the demands for efficient protection and security of the personal and State property.
The Skopje Fair organises this manifestation in cooperation with Ministries of Defense, Internal Affairs, Environment and Urban Planning, and Agriculture, as well as with companies "Makedonski Sumi", "Vodostopanstvo" and the Macedonian Hydro Meteorological Bureau.
Thirty four exhibitors from Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, England, Japan, Israel and USA will have their stands at the Fair.
The latest achievements of military, security and self-defence equipment will be displayed on more than 5,000 square meters of exhibit area.
Various types of weapons and ammunition, military protection equipment, optical visors, identification gadgets, alarm systems, radios, vessels motors, light signal systems, camouflage uniforms, and weapons maintenance tools and instruments are displayed in the Fair halls.
GEORGIEVSKI: BIGGER PART OF GRAND COALITION AGREEMENT HAS BEEN REACHED.
"We held long talks about formation of grand coalition and I can say that bigger part of the agreement is already reached. Only tiny details remain to be agreed," Ljubcho Georgievski, leader of VMRO-DPMNE and Prime Minister, said prior to the session of the party's steering committee held late Monday, adding that the agreement for formation of grand governmental coalition will be announced Tuesday.
Prime Minister said he is optimistic and that the details will be adjusted and "grand coalition will finally be formed." VMRO-DPMNE, DPA and LDP are to enter the new coalition as well as PDP and SDSM, which according to Georgievski, is authorized in behalf of the new grand coalition to negotiate with parties considered as biggest allies.
Regarding the misunderstandings for the Interior Ministry, Prime Minister said "this problem is solved," but he did not want to have bias, because "he is to hold another meeting with the leader of SDSM Branko Crvenkovski." Regarding the issue who will obtain the Interior Ministry, Georgievski said that it would be declared when the agreement for grand governmental coalition and the timing for early parliamentary elections would be announced.
Referring to the security situation in the country, Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski evaluated that yesterday's day has been very successful for the Macedonian security forces that destroyed huge number of terrorists' nests.
"My message to all citizens in that part where Macedonian security forces operate is that we are sorry for their properties being destroyed, but we do not have other choice but to be severe and to eliminate the terrorists. Macedonian citizens from Albanian nationality must not allow terrorists to take their place and because of them to be the target of the Macedonian security forces," Prime Minister Georgievski said.
He said that a state of war will not be declared at this point, however it depends on the development of the events in the following days. "Still, there are attempts for attacks and we do not know what might happen. If the attacks continue or become intensified then a state of war will be declared," Georgievski said.
Prime Minister denied the speculations for general mobilisation, underlying that it is about regular mobilisation, which is carried out since the start of the crisis in Tanushevci. "It is a fact that there are big number of mobilised Macedonian citizens and approximately 5.000 persons, however it is not general mobilisation but regular mobilisation according to the needs of the security forces," Prime Minister added.
Regarding the issue whether he is to remain Prime Minister in the so-called grand coalition, Georgievski said that this has not been discussed on Monday talks. He stated that the main challenge of all political parties in the country is to calm down the situation, to conquer the terrorists and to continue the dialogue on multi-ethnic plan.
Macedonia unity talks deadlocked.
Rebel-occupied villages have been shelled.
Plans to form a government of national unity in Macedonia are being held up by political differences between Albanian parties and continued fighting in the hills.
The country's political parties are continuing talks on a national unity government aimed at settling the conflict with ethnic Albanian militants.
Negotiations appear to be deadlocked, with the mainstream opposition ethnic Albanian party - the Albanian Democratic Prosperity Party - saying it will not join the proposed coalition unless the government agrees to a ceasefire.
A spokesman for the governing party said there was no possibility of that happening at the moment.
Heavy shelling of rebel-occupied villages in the north-east of the country continued until nightfall on Tuesday.
The Macedonian army, supported by assault helicopters, concentrated its fire on the village of Vaksince, 25km north-east of Skopje. The village of Slupcane was also hit.
There are unconfirmed reports that a temporary truce will come into force later on Wednesday. That would allow humanitarian organisations access to people who have been trapped by the fighting.
BBC Skopje correspondent Nick Thorpe says the Macedonian army is facing a dilemma in trying to deal with the rebels - whether to launch a ground attack and risk heavy casualties, or continue the stand-off.
About 7,000 villagers - mostly ethnic Albanian women, children and old men - have fled the area in the past few days and correspondents say hundreds of families are spending their nights in cellars.
The rebels have been stung but not defeated by the army assault of the past days.
For the coalition deal to work, when it is finalised, the wider community - Macedonians and Albanians - must be persuaded that a new government will be effective.
Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson had suggested on Monday that the formation of a coalition might help defeat the rebels.
The Macedonian Government has been considering declaring a state of war, which would give it broad powers and loosen restraints on the army.
But it said on Tuesday that the plans were off the agenda for now.
Albanian party seeks truce as price of Macedonia coalition.
SKOPJE, May 8 (AFP) -
Macedonia's main ethnic Albanian opposition party said Tuesday it would only join a national unity coalition if the army halted its bombardment of villages held by ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
"We have agreed in principle to participate in a coalition, but we demand as a precondition that government forces declare an unconditional ceasefire," said Muhamed Halili, secretary general of the Party for Democratic Prosperity.
"The ceasefire must come into force today and must be unilateral, even if we do want to see the (rebel) National Liberation Army match it with their own ceasefire," he said.
Halili said talks were underway to tackle the issue.
Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said late Monday he was close to forming a government of national unity to present a united front against the NLA guerrillas and said the finishing touches were to be added during talks Tuesday.
The government has shelved plans to declare a state of war amid protests from the European Union and the main ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, which is part of the current centre-right coalition.
The new government would draw in the PDP, which has taken a harder line on the army's anti-guerrilla offensives that the Albanians in government, as well as the main Slav Macedonian opposition group, the Social Democrat Movement of Macedonia.
Defense ministry spokesman Georgi Trendafilov said Tuesday that the army had resumed its bombardment of Vaksince, a northern village held by the guerrillas since they gunned down two soldiers there on Thursday.
The army has been pounding the area since then.
Idea of a 'greater Albania' is wrong.
Author: Stavros Tzimas
Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha argues that the rebels have a just cause, but violence is not the solution Opposition leader and former Albanian President Sali Berisha criticizes the armed Albanians fighting in FYROM for using illegal and unacceptable methods. But he told Kathimerini that he thought their demands were just. He supports the integrity of FYROM and says there is no question of a "greater Albania" or "greater Kosovo."
Fighting between Albanian rebels and government forces has broken out again in FYROM. What exactly is your position on this? Do you support the armed uprising of your fellow Albanians in that country? We categorically do not support any act of violence or any act aimed at breaking up the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I have always been convinced that the existence and stability of that republic is very important for the southern Balkans and for the whole region. I see a dangerous situation.
Armed groups There is a lot of talk about these armed Albanians. Some say they are invaders from Kosovo, led by former KLA officers, while others say they are local Albanians, described abroad as terrorists. What is your information?
Let's judge together. If we turn on the television we will see Albanian villages being bombed. Unfortunately this is one way of increasing the ranks of the National Liberation Army, you can't imagine to what extent. I respect the democratically elected FYROM government. I believe that President Trajkovski wants to find a democratic solution. But when you use fire to douse fire in your own house, I am afraid that the house burns more quickly. With this in mind I call on both sides to sit down at the table at once for negotiations that include the representatives of these armed groups.
As for the armed groups, I cannot prove that they had secessionist tendencies at the outset, but the West itself realizes that their demands are just. I agree that we are dealing with armed groups who are using illegal and unacceptable methods to achieve just demands. But violence is not the way to solve problems. I can understand the Trajkovski government asking why it should retreat in the face of violence, and it is not right for a government to give in to violence. But the most important thing is to solve the problem.
So what should the FYROM government do when it sustains an armed attack and its territory is under threat? Do you think it right that it should sit with folded arms? Agreed, but it is fire from within your house, not from outside. Trajkovski and the government are not responsible for the situation which has developed, because it did not create this legacy. But they are responsible for solving the problem. Courageous dialogue is needed, because what will happen if the bombardment continues? Every day the ranks of the fighters increase. What will the consequences of the bombardment be for the Albanians?
Tragic situation In any case there is agitation among Albanians outside Albania, in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and FYROM, with strong irredentist features. Some observers wonder whether the time has come for a general settlement of the Albanian question. Is there such an issue, in your opinion? Will settling it mean a greater Albania or a greater Kosovo?
The situation of the Albanians is the most tragic in the Balkans. Albania was the last state to become free, and the Kosovars have just been liberated. Indeed I have heard people talking about a greater Albania or a greater Kosovo. Perhaps at some stage they will talk about a greater Presevo. But who was being oppressed? Weren't they Albanians? The problem facing us is as follows: Are the others willing to recognize the rights which the Albanians must enjoy as free people? It is very important for the current view of the Albanian situation to change. If that happens, a new positive balance will be created in the Balkans.
The idea of a greater Albania is very wrong. I can tell you that, as far as I know, Albania and Kosovo are two different Albanian entities. Some small parties representing 1-2 percent have expressed the idea of uniting Albania and Kosovo. So the issue of a greater Albania or a greater Kosovo does not arise. What is important is for these entities that exist today to be free, for these people to move toward independence and not be afraid.
Domino effect Is this case, why shouldn't the Greeks in Albania or the Hungarians in Romania legitimately claim their own path? Doesn't this start a vicious circle, setting off the so-called domino effect in the Balkans? The story of the minorities is a different issue. The Balkans must establish the most progressive standards for the minorities. I am not talking about ethnically pure states. What we have here is a federation which is disintegrating, not a change of borders. Only the internal borders of the federation have changed, not the borders of Albania, Greece, or Bulgaria, because they did not belong to the federation that dissolved. So there cannot be a domino effect.