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The King shook hands with Associate Professor Plamen Panayotov, secretary of National Movement Simeon II' coalition, in front of BTA office building. Both came especially for the promotion of the Coalition's Council and its programs in the field of economy, legislation and foreign policy. PHOTO Nelly Nikolova
A Macedonian farmer in a field looks at the ethnic Albanian guerrilla stronghold village of Vakcince as it is by Macedonian army forces, May 21, 2001. Heavy fighting raged between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels on Monday, while Albanian guerrillas in nearby Serbia signed a pact to disarm and disband. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A Macedonian army MI-8 helicopter flies over the ethnic Albanian guerrilla stronghold village of Vakcince, some 40 km (24.8 miles) north-east of the capital Skopje on May 21, 2001. According to news reports, Macedonian government forces shelled and rocketed rebel positions in ethnic Albanian villages on Monday. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A house burns in the ethnic Albanian guerrillas stronghold village of Vakcince, some 40 km (24.8 miles) northeast of the capital Skopje May 21, 2001 during shelling by Macedonian army forces. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
Smoke rises from the ethnic Albanian guerrilla stronghold village of Vakcince during shelling by Macedonian army forces, May 21, 2001. Heavy fighting raged between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels on Monday, while Albanian guerrillas in nearby Serbia signed a pact to disarm and disband. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
NATO secretary general's envoy Pieter Feith (L) shakes hands with Shefket Musliu, the commander of ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the Presevo Valley area of southern Serbia, in the Serbian town of Konculj May 21, 2001, after he signed an agreement pledging his group (UCPMB) would disband by the end of the month. The NATO-brokered deal was a key step in reducing the risk of bloodshed when Yugoslav forces return to an area of a buffer zone around Kosovo currently held by the rebels. (Hazir Reka/Reuters)
MINISTER SCHEIBNER: SUPPORT FOR RESOLVING OF CRISIS.
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski met Monday his Austrian counterpart Herbert Scheibner, who pays a visit to Macedonia.
According to minister Scheibner in the talks he supported the new Macedonian Government as well as the political decisions for resolving the crisis.
The both ministers concluded that the terrorist activities must be prevented.
"We have to do everything against the terrorist activities, and to prevent the violence on the civilians. In that aim we should find a political solution. I had an opportunity to talk to EU High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General George Robertson and we have committed to support the Macedonian Government whenever it is necessary," Austrian Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner stated after the meeting with his host Minister Buckovski.
PRIME MINISTER GEORGIEVSKI RECEIVES AUSTRIAN MINISTER SCHEIBNER.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski met Monday Austrian Defense Minister Herbert Scheiber. They noted that the relation between Macedonia and Austria have dynamic development especially in this period of crisis regarding the cooperation in the field of security and defense.
Premier Georgievski clearly defined the terrorist attacks as attempts for occupation of the Macedonian territory and therefore the terrorism should be resolved as joint problem with the international community.
Regarding the political dialogue, the Macedonian Prime Minister stressed that it will continue with the legitimate representatives of the Albanian parties in Macedonia.
They both stated that Albanian extremists came from the same centers in South Serbia as well as in Macedonia, in order to establish Greater Kosovo.
Minister Scheiber emphasized that he would intensify the talks with KFOR for better protection of the border as well as with the international community for surpassing the crisis in the region.
"It is necessary to find political solution and to show to the extremists that they could not win. It is also necessary to show that the Macedonians and Albanians have future in peace, safety and economic welfare," Austrian Minister stated.
According to him the Macedonian stability is very important for the situation in the region, "as we can see the consequences from the radical forces in Bosnia and Kosovo."
"Fortunately, Macedonia has Government able to act and appropriate structures, which should be supported in order to create a ground for preventing the radical forces," Austrian Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner stated.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI RECEIVES AUSTRIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SCHEIBNER.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski received Monday the Austrian Defense Minister, Herbert Scheibner, who is paying a one-day official visit to Macedonia.
Mr. Scheibner reiterated his country's support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia, condemning the terrorist action that present a threat to the country's security.
He also supported Macedonia's determination to deal with the terrorists, adding that Austria is ready to offer assistance to Macedonia. In addition, Austria was pledging its European partners to make greater efforts and help in finding lasting solution of the problems, imposed by the terrorist actions in Macedonia.
Trajkovski briefed his guest about Macedonia's commitment to solve all open issues by a political dialogue, which would thwart the terrorist intention to divide the civilians and make them suffer.
During his visit to Macedonia, Austrian Minister of Defense Herbert Scheibner met with Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ilinka Mitreva on Monday.
At the meeting, Mitreva reported on the current political and security situation in the country, and the measures and activities undertaken by the Macedonian Government for surpassing of the problems. Both Mitreva and Scheibner estimated the attitude of the terrorists toward the civilians as completely inhuman.
Pointing out the support from Austria to Macedonia, Scheiber said that the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia should claim their demands through the institutions of the system.
Both parties positively estimated the cooperation between Macedonia and Austria.
Britain: Serwer says NLA should be declared a terrorist organization.
London, - A former US diplomat and now a member of the US Institute of Peace in Washington, Daniel Serwer, says the will call on the US Congress to declare the National Liberation Army (NLA) a terrorist organization, Londons daily The Guardian say.
Serwer will call on the Congress to ban groups from raising funds in the US for the National Liberation Army (NLA), adding that financing poses as much a risk to US soldiers in Kosovo as the Albanian gunmen crossing over the border into Macedonia. Based on general estimations of Swiss authorities, the ethnic Albanian Diaspora raises some $2 million per year. These high figures caused high concern among the analysts of Balkans events, including Mr. Serwer.
Serwer is due to addressing a congressional hearing next week in which he will call on Congress to ban funds-raising in the US for the National Liberation Army (NLA). The Guardian daily quotes Serwer as saying the only way to do this is to declare this group a terrorist organization.
Albanian exiles threaten to escalate war.
Nicholas Wood in Geneva
Monday May 21, 2001
Ethnic Albanian rebel leaders have threatened to broaden their conflict with Macedonia's security forces unless they are involved in negotiations over the country's future.
The demands made by political leaders close to the National Liberation Army (NLA) come as an investigation by the Guardian showed that the rebels' main political and financial backers are Albanians living in Switzerland.
The threats were made by Fazli Veliu, one of the NLA's founders and key political leaders outside Macedonia and Kosovo. Since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, he and fellow members of Switzerland's Albanian diaspora have been the catalyst for the creation of the NLA.
Dressed in a grey flannel suit and speaking softly in the bar of a Geneva hotel, Mr Veliu does not look like a revolutionary. His gentle manner gives him the air of an academic. Yet this is the man who bears as much responsibility for Macedonia's faltering civil war as any Albanian gunmen fighting the Macedonian army.
Soon after Nato troops entered Kosovo in June 1999, he, along with members of the Kosovo Liberation Army and political exiles in the United States, Germany and Switzerland, was planning the creation of the NLA.
Mr Veliu already had the pedigree of a guerrilla leader. As president of the People's Movement of Kosovo (LPK) abroad, he had been one of the founders of the KLA. His record as an Albanian patriot dates back to 1969 when he was imprisoned in Yugoslavia for six weeks for flying the Albanian flag.
By his own admission, some of the NLA's commanders are former pupils taught by him in the 1970s when he was a secondary school teacher in Kicevo, Macedonia.
Since 1999 he has made repeated visits to Kosovo, most recently in November 2000, preparing the ground for the rebels' emergence in February this year. He says it was "a policy of promises" and no real change to the position of Albanians living in Macedonia that prompted them to create the guerrilla army. "We had more rights before Macedonia's independence than we do now."
Those sentiments could be echoed by many Albanians in Macedonia, but Mr Veliu and the diaspora he claims to represent are far more radical in their pursuit of change. Hundreds of miles away from the fighting, in a room overlooking Lake Geneva, he warns that Macedonia will be broken apart unless the government agrees to talks with the rebel army and changes its constitution.
"If they negotiate with the NLA it will be good for everybody. If they don't it could destroy Macedonia first and then others."
For the past year-and-a-half, Mr Veliu's party has been raising funds to help deliver its demands. Each week thousands of pounds are raised for a fund called Liria Kombetare , or National Freedom. Adverts for fundraising parties can be found in the Swiss-based Albanian newspaper, Bota Sot.
Vaxhid Sedjiu, the LPK's director of fundraising in Switzerland, said that around a dozen events are held each weekend. The money is taken to Kosovo and Macedonia by personal couriers.
The LPK says the money is for buying "food and medicines" for families affected by the fighting, but the fundraising pre-dates this year's conflict and Albanians who give donations say they have no reservations about where the money goes.
Workers gathering to watch the Albanian news at the Université Populaire Albanaise, an adult learning and social centre in Geneva, say they all give contributions.
Estimates of how much is being raised on the NLA's behalf are hard to come by. At the height of the war in Kosovo, Swiss federal authorities estimated that £1.2m was being raised a year by the diaspora for the KLA. The LPK says its finances are nowhere near that level.
But the fund has raised concern among Balkans analysts. Daniel Serwer, a former US diplomat and now a member of the US Institute of Peace in Washington, says the financing "poses as much a risk to US soldiers in Kosovo as the Albanian gunmen crossing over the border into Macedonia".
Mr Serwer is to address a congressional hearing next week in which he will call on Congress to ban groups from raising funds in the US for the NLA.
"In America you do that by declaring the group a terrorist organisation. I am not sure if the NLA fits that label, but the means is less important than the will. It's obvious that some money will still flow, the main point is to get it across to the diaspora that we find this unacceptable," he said.
Albania: Albania does not play double game.
Tirana, - Albania does not play a double game, the Prime Minister of Albania, Ilir Meta, said in an interview with Albanian-language program of Deutsche Welle radio, after completing his visit to Germany.
Our option is quite clear, Meta said, adding that the Albanians in Macedonia have legitimate grievances that are put forward on a very clear way. These grievances will be focused through a comprehensive reform agenda to be undertaken and pursued by the newly established government in Macedonia. All international factors have already voiced a strong support to the broad government coalition in Macedonia, designed to stabilize the country on long-term basis. Tirana shares the worldwide support to the new government coalition. The political dialogue should not be postponed; the dialogue is the only way to solve the problems, which might occur through upcoming reforms.
According to Sten Ask, the progress of Bulgaria towards European Union is bigger than expected.
As Swedish ambassador Sten Ask said for News.bg Agency, the progress of Bulgaria towards joining the European Union is bigger than expected. Bulgaria has opened 16 out of the 31 chapters in the negotiations for joining the European Union by now, and has closed already 9 of the chapters, although, as ambassador Ask said, negotiations on the most difficult chapters as agriculture, environment and free movement are forthcoming. According to him, a realistic date for Bulgaria to join the European Union would be 2007, which means that Bulgaria has to complete negotiations with the European Union until the end of 2004. He also expressed his contentment by the lack of skepticism in Bulgaria as for joining the European Union in contrast to countries like Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech republic, and Slovakia. He quoted an opinion poll carried out in Europe, according to which 35 percent of the European Union population approves the adoption of Bulgaria, with the strongest support for the European Union expansion in Sweden, Greece and Denmark and the weakest in France, Austria and Belgium.
Simeon Offers 'Black' Capitalism.
Ivan Kostov, Premier and leader of UDF
Recorded by Elena Staridolska
I find lots of differences between the program of UDF and that of the King. To us, its absolutely inadmissible to literarily transfer the theses out of the Employers' Union program into the program of a political party. This means adopting anti-workers legislation. This is 'black' capitalism, lacking social security for the employed and a limitless working day. There are not such practices in Europe. Our social and labor platforms differ totally. The King's program is entirely liberal - of the type, offered in the Pacific countries and also in the USA once upon a time. When negotiation with the EU are held there is no way to stimulate the free determination of the working day's duration. This is not an European tradition. If such a program is to be applied, this would mean a new expansion of the problems. We can embark on a coalition only on principle grounds with these who are in position not only to ask weighty EU and NATO membership of Bulgaria but are also able to support the road, the policy which leads to the membership. UDF will look for partners among those only who are able to up the credit to this country. We don't need partners who will reduce the credit and increase the risks for the investments in Bulgaria. I allude to no one.
King's Crew And Three Programs Announced.
The coalition NMS II has declared its priorities in economy, law and foreign affairs
The King is the leader of the coalition National Movement Simeon II. He is the head of the newly formed Council of the coalition that will execute the political management in the formation.
Among the other members of the Council are also the chief of the Party of Bulgarian Women Vessela Draganova, the leader of the Oborishte Movement for National Revival Tosho Peykov, Plamen Panayotov, Stella Bankova and Elka Atanassova.
Simeon II himself attended yesterday the annunciation event of the members of the Council of the coalition and the programs in the field of the economy, legislation and foreign affairs. The platforms were presented by the heads of the three working groups, respectively by Nikolay Vassilev - of the economic staff, Prof. Ognian Gerdjikov - of the law crew, and Solomon Passi, who headed the working group in the foreign affairs and national security. The threesome, assisted by their experts will be in the service of the Council of the Coalition.
Simeon II: It's Logical that We Rule Together with UtdDF.
His Majesty held out hand to UtdDF, the Commander rejected it.
It's quite logical that the 'National Movement Simeon II'(NMSII) coalition rules together with the UDF. That was what the King announced at the presentation of the NMSII programmes. This is in accordance with the spirit of our pursuit of as wide coalition as possible., Simeon II answered. He said once again that his aim is to make more people in the country work in constructive and positive direction. Until recently the democratic leaders said that they have no differences with Simeon II and that he is their natural partner. On Friday after a meeting with his Hungarian colleague Viktor Orban, PM Ivan Kostov did not deny the possibility of joint rule with NMSII after the elections. Immediately after that he changed his opinion. On Sunday Kostov called the King 'immoral', and his teams - 'incompetent'. Yesterday PM described the economic programme of NMSII as 'black' capitalism and rejected any cooperation with the King's coalition.
By Bob Woodruff
More than 30,000 Albanian girls and young women are kidnapped and auctioned off into a world of prostitution in Europe. Photo: ABCNEWS.com
Albanian Girls Kidnapped, Devoured Into a World of Prostitution.
T I R A N A, Albania, May 21 — In the tiny and very poor village of Fushara in northern Albania, the girls are disappearing.
Frane Bicaku's teenage daughter, Valentina, vanished from their home more than a year ago. She hasn't been heard from since.
VIDEO files, SPEED 28/56 Modem, SPEED 100kb ISDN, T1, SPEED 300kb DSL, Cable. Use RealPlayer.
Gjin Lleshi lost two daughters: one was 15 and the other 17. He says they were taken by men who promised to marry them. Instead, the girls wound up as teenage prostitutes on the streets of Italy, smuggled there by the Albanian mafia.
It happens almost every day, in just about every village and town in Albania.
"They are kidnapped mostly," says Lydia Bici of the International Catholic Migration Commission. "The minors are mostly kidnapped from discos or bars or the streets [and] even from the schools."
In some villages, families have stopped sending their teenage girls to school, fearing they could be kidnapped and taken to a world they can hardly imagine.
"A majority, it seems like, of the women who are trafficked are under 18 years old," says Sophie Mosko of Save the Children. "They're demanded younger and younger in the sex trade because there's less fear of AIDS."
There are now about 30,000 Albanian prostitutes walking the streets of Europe. In a country of only about 3 million people, that is almost 1 percent of the Albanian population. It is believed that most of these prostitutes were trafficked into Europe as children.
Forced Into Prostitution.
Two years ago, 15-year-old Mariana Lleshi was lured away from her home by a local shop owner who said he wanted to take her to Italy and marry her. For three weeks her parents heard nothing from her.
Then they received a horrifying letter, in which Mariana told her parents she had first been driven to the northern Albanian city of Skhoder, where the man who had promised to marry her said there would be no marriage. His true plan, he said, was to sell her as a prostitute. When she resisted, he took out a knife and forced her to go with him.
For Mariana, there was no escape, as she was driven south through Albania's heartland. Those who have been lucky enough to get away from their captors say the traffickers are ruthless and often violent.
Like most of the future prostitutes smuggled out of Albania, Mariana was taken to the southern port city of Vlore, the epicenter of the country's smuggling industry. From there, it is only approximately 70 miles across the Adriatic Sea to the Italian coast. With their high-speed boats, traffickers can cover that distance in less than two hours.
According to Albanian police, the boats can carry more than 40 people at a time. And when they reach Italy, the girls and young women are sold to a pimp. Their value is then determined by their age, beauty and experience.
"I mean a young virgin-like girl, by the time she gets to Italy could be worth as much as $10,000," says Degan Ali of the International Organization for Migration. "She's a real investment."
Many prostitutes work for nothing. One former prostitute who was kidnapped at the age of 17 told ABCNEWS that even though she made about $500 a night, her pimp took it all. One night when he found money tucked in her underwear, he drugged her and beat her until she was unconscious.
"The next time I saw myself, I was stark naked on the bed," she recalls. "A friend of mine helped me to get up. I was covered in blood."
With Mariana trapped in Italy, back in Albania tragedy was striking the Lleshi family once again. Mariana's 17-year-old sister was also kidnapped, and this time a third sister, Marta, told police who did it. Shortly after that, her father says, Marta was brutally killed. Her dismembered body was found in a bag by the river. The killers have not been caught.
Auctioned Off Like Slaves.
A private shelter in the Albanian capital houses a group of girls and young women who have managed to escape their captors. One young woman, Elizaveta, says as she was sold from one criminal syndicate to another, she was auctioned off like an animal for prospective buyers:
"The clients would come to the house and the owner would tell us to undress, to put on some makeup and to just let the clients see us to see that we didn't have any tattoos or marks. We were in our underwear or completely naked. Then after a few days they would come back to either buy girls or not."
Ali defines it as slavery. "[When] it's forced, and you're not earning any income from your labor, and you're being sold from one trafficker to another, yes, I would classify it as slavery. I think it has all the elements to classify it as slavery."
Corruption Runs Deep.
How Albania became a source for prostitution has a lot to do with its history. For 46 years, Albania was a strict communist state, almost completely cut off from the outside world. Its leader, Enver Hoxhe, was so paranoid of subversive forces both inside and outside the country he broke off almost all relations with the outside world including China and the Soviet Union.
When the communist era came crashing down in 1991, the people of Albania were left with almost nothing. Organized crime quickly rushed in to fill the vacuum and the Albanian mafia quickly developed a reputation as a ruthless smuggler of weapons, drugs and women.
"I think the Italian mafia did an excellent job of teacher training for the Albanian mafia, and they became very powerful very quickly," says Mosko. "Trafficking for prostitution is the easiest trafficking to do because there's no investment involved.
"It's just cheap," she adds. "You don't have to buy drugs, you don't have to buy guns. You just kidnap girls."
And you pay off the judges, the politicians and the police. In the first three months of this year more than 50 Albanian police officers were thrown off the force for taking bribes from the mafia. Some are even directly involved in trafficking.
The corruption runs deep, as the police are even known to sell the girls who fall into their hands.
"I have to sadly admit there have also been policemen who are corrupted and who have been involved in this kind of trafficking," says Ilir Gjoni, the Albanian Minister of Public Order. "They are part of the criminal society."
Today, the Albanian and Italian police patrol the Adriatic Sea together. Occasionally, they arrest some of the traffickers but that is of no solace to the families of the Albanian countryside who mourn the loss of their daughters and pray they will see them again.