July 23, 2001 - July 25, 2001

Embassies Attacked in Macedonia Posted July 25, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010725/ts/macedonia_318.html
Wednesday July 25 3:36 AM ET

Embassies Attacked in Macedonia
By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Mobs in Macedonia's capital attacked foreign embassies into Wednesday morning, accusing NATO (news - web sites) of siding with guerrillas who clashed again with government forces in the north of this Balkan nation.

The rampage started late Tuesday through Skopje, with Macedonians throwing stones at the U.S. Embassy, smashing entrances of the British and German embassies, and burning several cars belonging to the United Nations (news - web sites) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation (news - web sites) in Europe.

Hours earlier, government spokesman Antonio Milososki called NATO ``a big friend of our enemies,'' and accused Western mediators of coordinating their efforts with the rebels.

NATO officials denied providing any backing to the rebels. The United States and other countries in the Western alliance repeatedly have pledged their support to the Macedonian government and have supported its refusal to negotiate directly with the insurgents.

In Tetovo, Macedonia's second-largest city, lightly armed Macedonian police abandoned several checkpoints and were replaced by rebels, Macedonian media reported. Earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry said rebels were advancing, and that four Tetovo area villages were surrounded by ``terrorist forces.''

Army sources said fighting in and around Tetovo continued into the night.

The resumption in heavy fighting, which breaks a more than two-week-old cease-fire arranged by NATO, followed the collapse last week of high-level talks between majority Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders aimed at averting full-scale civil war.

The ethnic Albanian political leaders bolted from the negotiations after Macedonian representatives rejected a Western-backed plan for boosting ethnic Albanian rights, including giving official status to the Albanian language.

The militants launched their insurgency in February, saying they were fighting for greater rights for ethnic Albanians, who account for up to a third of Macedonia's 2 million people. The government alleges the rebels are linked to militants in neighboring Kosovo and accuses them of trying to carve out territory from Macedonia.

Milososki said the government was convinced that the rebels were in cahoots with Western mediators and with the Kosovo Liberation Army, the now-defunct group of militant ethnic Albanians who fought against Yugoslav forces in neighboring Kosovo.

``All our fears have proven true that the international representatives are in close coordination with the KLA,'' Milososki said. ``This is open, public cooperation between international mediators and the rebels.''

Milososki also accused the rebels in Macedonia of ``cleansing'' villages around Tetovo.

Before Milososki spoke, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson rejected similar Macedonian allegations lodged over the weekend, that NATO-led forces in Kosovo had been resupplying ethnic Albanian armed groups.

``NATO has not given, and would not give, material or moral support to these groups,'' Robertson said.

Amid the growing hostilities, Macedonian authorities closed the border with Kosovo and hundreds of residents fled Tetovo and surrounding villages.

In the capital, about 3,000 majority Macedonians protested in front of the parliament building, unfurling a banner that read, ``Who is protecting the terrorists ? - NATO.''

Late Tuesday, a car belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe went up in flames, and a group of several hundred people took aim at the German and British embassies, as well as smashing the doors of a McDonald's restaurant.

Later, protesters pelted the U.S. Embassy, smashing windows. A heavy force of riot police ringing the complex did not intervene.

U.S. envoy James Pardew and his European Union (news - web sites) counterpart, Francois Leotard, worked to revive the peace talks that collapsed late last week. In a joint statement, Leotard and Pardew said they were ``shocked'' by allegations that they support the rebels.

During a brief visit to Camp Bondsteel, the U.S. military base in neighboring Kosovo, President Bush (news - web sites) issued a statement Tuesday backing efforts by Western diplomats to broker a peace settlement, and called on rebels and the Macedonian government to respect the cease-fire.

``Those here in Kosovo who support the insurgency in Macedonia are hurting the interests of ethnic Albanians throughout the region,'' Bush said. ``The people of Kosovo should focus on Kosovo.''

Calm returns to Macedonia but civil war threat remains Posted July 25, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010725/1/19pkd.html
Wednesday July 25, 5:50 PM

Calm returns to Macedonia but civil war threat remains

SKOPJE, July 25 (AFP) -
Special US and EU envoys to Macedonia conducted an urgent assessment Wednesday the deteriorating situation in the country, the day after riots in the capital and intense fighting between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels renewed fears of civil war.

Sources for James Pardew and Francois Leotard said the envoys were taking stock of developments. "But the situation is so fluid that they have not been able to make any decisions yet," the sources added.

AFP correspondents said both the capital Skopje and the northern flashpoint town of Tetovo were calm, after the hottest day of violence in the ex-Yugoslav republic since a NATO-backed ceasefire was agreed on July 5.

Late Tuesday, in a sign of growing hostility to both ethnic Albanians and western peacebrokers, about 2,000 mainly Macedonian Slav demonstrators, many of them young, hooded and armed with sticks had set fire to vehicles and buildings, smashing the windows of the British and German embassies and a McDonald's restaurant.

The riots came after heavy fighting broke out again and continued late into Tuesday night in Tetovo, confirming fears that a ceasefire agreed on July 5 was in shreds.

An AFP correspondent in Tetovo said on Wednesday only occasional gunfire had been heard overnight in the town, which borders Yugoslavia's Kosovo province. Military sources in Skopje confirmed the impression.

Tetovo hospital director Rahim Thaci told AFP seven people had been injured, including one seriously, in the fighting on Tuesday, which had involved heavy artillery fire.

Thaci said three Macedonian police officers, all suffering from bullet wounds, were among the injured. The other victims were Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian civilians.

The streets of the hilly town were largely empty, after the fierce fighting prompted many Macedonian Slavs in the mainly ethnic-Albanian populated town to flee.

On Monday, two people were killed, one of them a 12-year-old girl, and 31 were injured in more than six hours of clashes in and around Tetovo.

Rebels from the self-styled ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army have been fighting government forces since February for what they say is better rights for the mainly Slavic country's ethnic Albanian minority.

The disintegration into violence has come amid souring ties between Skopje and western peacebrokers, overshadowing EU and US attempts to help find peace and prevent another Balkan war.

On Tuesday goverment spokesman Antonio Milososki accused the NATO military alliance of backing the ethnic Albanian rebels and trying to turn Macedonia into an international protectorate.

The ceasefire agreement had bought time for EU envoy Francois Leotard and US ambassador James Pardew to work on a political settlement to the dispute.

Riots, refugees leave Macedonia peace efforts in tatters Posted July 25, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010725/1/19pus.html
Wednesday July 25, 9:32 PM

Riots, refugees leave Macedonia peace efforts in tatters

SKOPJE, July 25 (AFP) -
Peace efforts lay in tatters in Macedonia Wednesday as refugees fled the flashpoint town of Tetovo, a day after riots swept Skopje and relations with western peacebrokers hit rock bottom.

US and European Union envoys "were assessing the situation", a spokesman said, after thousands of Macedonian Slavs took to the streets in anti-Albanian and anti-west protests, and the north saw its worst fighting since a July 5 NATO-backed ceasefire.

As the West, anxious to prevent another bloody Balkans war, pondered Macedonia's fate, the government threw cold water on peace hopes, intensifying hostility to western efforts by closing a key border point with Kosovo for a second day to NATO and civilian traffic.

A NATO source in Brussels said the move was hampering NATO troop movements.

Mirvat Elmazi, deputy police chief in the Macedonian border town of Blace, where the crossing point is located said the measure, introduced on Tuesday, concerned "NATO, KFOR (peacekeeping) troops and international organisations, including civilians who want to go to Macedonia".

The border closure was seen as an expression of exasperation by the beleaguered Macedonian government at what it sees as NATO collusion with ethnic Albanian rebels who are fighting government forces for minority rights.

The Slav-dominated government on Wednesday pointedly failed to condemn the violence and issue an appeal for restraint.

The government on Tuesday accused NATO of siding with the rebels and of seeking to turn Macedonia into an international protectorate under the control of the alliance.

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," goverment spokesman Antonio Milososki said Tuesday.

Late Tuesday, in a sign of growing hostility to both ethnic Albanians and western peacebrokers, about 2,000 mainly Macedonian Slav demonstrators, many of them young, hooded and armed with sticks had set fire to vehicles and buildings, smashing the windows of the British and German embassies and a McDonald's restaurant.

The violence prompted the president of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Mircea Geoana, to put off a planned two-day visit to Skopje to prop up the tattered Macedonian peace process on Wednesday.

Around a dozen cars belonging to the OSCE were set on fire by protestors in a car park in central Skopje during Tuesday's rioting.

The riots came after heavy fighting broke out again and continued late into Tuesday night in the northern flashpoint town of Tetovo, confirming fears that the ceasefire was in shreds.

Hundreds of Macedonian Slavs continued to flee the mainly ethnic-Albanian town on Wednesday, saying it was too dangerous to stay.

A queue of cars, carrying mainly women and children with their personal belongings, headed for the motorway leading to Skopje.

"We are going. It is too dangerous. Our lives are at stake, nobody wants to die," said Zorka, a 74-year-old Macedonian woman.

Sources for James Pardew and Francois Leotard said the envoys were taking stock of developments. "But the situation is so fluid that they have not been able to make any decisions yet," the sources added.

On Monday, two people were killed, one of them a 12-year-old girl, and 31 were injured in more than six hours of clashes in and around Tetovo.

Rebels from the self-styled ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army have been fighting government forces since February.

The ceasefire agreement had bought time for the envoys to work on a political settlement to the dispute, but last week the peace talks broke down.

Macedonia hands West ultimatum as civil war looms Posted July 25, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010725/3/19ptf.html
Wednesday July 25, 8:56 PM

Macedonia hands West ultimatum as civil war looms
By Daniel Simpson

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonia demanded on Wednesday that Western powers blame ethnic Albanian guerrillas for ripping up a ceasefire or be exposed as their backers, fanning fears of fresh rioting as the country slides towards civil war.

Germany, whose embassy was stoned in an anti-Western rampage in Skopje on Tuesday, quickly obliged. But Europe's top diplomat denied the West was abetting rebels, saying its sole aim was to restore stability to the divided former Yugoslav republic.

Nationalist mobs ran riot through Skopje after dark on Tuesday, stoning embassies and torching vehicles used by international peace monitors after the government accused Western mediators of helping rebels tear Macedonia apart.

A third straight day of fierce street firefights in the flashpoint town of Tetovo, 40 km (25 miles) to the west, ratcheted tensions a notch higher. Although fighting died down in the early morning hours, both sides were digging in.

National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas showed no signs of retreating from a road outside Tetovo, despite a government ultimatum to withdraw by noon and allow expelled Macedonian villagers to return or face an all-out military strike.

Western diplomats trying to broker an NLA withdrawal looked to have been unsuccessful as the government launched its second tirade against their peace mediation efforts in as many days.

"The government urgently appeals to representatives of NATO, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to give a short, clear answer to the only important question: Who is guilty of breaking the ceasefire?" official spokesman Antonio Milosovski told Reuters.

"If they do not respond, then it will be clear that they are protecting those who attacked democratic Macedonia."


WEST HITS BACK

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana denied the allegation.

"That is not true," he said during a Middle Eastern peace mission. "What we are trying as the European Union in Macedonia is to help the country to help the people of the country."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the government outbursts were fanning a "violent internal political climate.

"The German government condemns in the strongest terms the break in the ceasefire by armed extremists of Albanian origin," he said in a statement, which also denounced Tuesday's riots.

The streets of Tetovo, from which carloads of Macedonians have fled towards Skopje, were largely deserted as police marksmen searched out rooftop positions in the town centre.

Angry protests in Skopje, by refugees from villages in the mountains above Tetovo who said the area was being ethnically cleansed, descended into Tuesday's riots.

The government had promised them that the rebels had been given a noon deadline to pull back. But an informed source said NATO envoys had not secured a deal with the guerrillas by 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT), despite intensive negotiations with the NLA's political leadership.

On the ground, the NLA presence was conspicuous. Carloads of bearded guerrillas raced between a string of rebel checkpoints a few hundred metres (yards) from Macedonian lines on Tetovo's outskirts. Numerous NLA fighters were fortifying new positions.

Behind a sports stadium separating the two forces, four houses were burned out and a gaping hole in one building suggested a Macedonian tank shell had ripped it open.

Although the NLA has seized swathes of northern and western Macedonia, where most of the tiny Balkan state's large Albanian minority lives, it denies its five-month revolt in the name of Albanian civil rights has a territorial agenda.

"The war will go on until the Macedonians accept our demands," warned the burly, tattooed commander of NLA forces on Tetovo's eastern fringe, whose nom de guerre is Hamzi.


NATIONALIST AGENDA

Diplomats said the government appeared to be pursuing an outright nationalist agenda in preference to granting greater rights to Albanians, who comprise a third of the population, to end a rebellion that has widened Macedonia's ethnic divide.

NLA advances into Tetovo under cover of a ceasefire which held for 18 days have enraged the Macedonian majority. Losing territory in fierce fighting, which has forced hundreds from their homes, has strengthened the government's "war" camp. Milosovski's anti-Western outburst also targeted foreign journalists. He accused them of highlighting the plight of Albanians in neighbouring Kosovo in 1999, but ignoring the ethnic cleansing of Macedonians from NLA-held territory.

"It will be really odd if those free media, who noticed this happening in Kosovo, close their eyes to the facts," he said.

Police stood back and did little to stop Tuesday's rampage, which was fuelled by a deep-seated fear among Macedonians that their 10-year-old country is being ripped apart by the rebels.

Macedonians incensed by the failure of security forces to crush the NLA, which they blame on Western calls for restraint, were camped outside parliament demanding tougher action.

One man, who declined to give his name, repeated calls heard during Tuesday's riots for civilians to be armed.

"They should give us weapons. If they can't do it we'll take care of the terrorists. And not just in our village," he said.

Nationalist outbursts push Macedonia to the brink Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/3/19ojf.html
Wednesday July 25, 5:47 AM

Nationalist outbursts push Macedonia to the brink
By Sean Maguire

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Nationalist mobs went on an anti-Western rampage through the Macedonian capital on Tuesday after the government accused NATO and international peace envoys of helping ethnic Albanian rebels tear the country apart.

Rioters stoned the Germany embassy, broke the windows of a McDonald's and a British Airways office and torched vehicles of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The crowds cheered as flames consumed the cars that had been used to ferry around international monitors of a ceasefire that three days of fighting and aggressive government rhetoric appear to have consigned to history.

On Tuesday evening heavy fighting broke out across the flashpoint town of Tetovo, 40 km (25 miles) to the west of Skopje, where fierce combat on Monday killed two people, wounded around 30 and forced hundreds of Macedonians from their homes.

"There are bullets flying everywhere," said a Tetovo university student called Remzie, contacted by telephone. "I'm going down to the basement."

The government levelled charges of bias against Westerners trying to shore up the truce and push forward peace talks supposed to end a five-month rebellion by granting greater rights to the ethnic Albanian minority.

A government spokesman said American and European Union envoys had blamed Macedonia for wrecking the ceasefire.

"That is a big lie, the biggest we have heard. It removes all doubt that they are not objective," Antonio Milosovski told Reuters.

U.S. envoy James Pardew and EU negotiator Francois Leotard said they were "shocked" at the accusation.

"I think we're in a period of hypernationalism. They're lashing out at the entire international community," a Western diplomat said. "That's very damaging to negotiations and very dangerous for the people of this country."

A NEW LOW

The government broadside brought ties between the West and Skopje to a new low. They were badly damaged when the government assailed the envoys last week for making peace proposals it said were tantamount to the destruction of the young country.

Diplomats have been struggling to keep talks alive while voicing suspicion that hardline elements in the government would rather return to fighting than make the unpalatable compromises needed to secure peace with the one-third Albanian minority.

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, a nationalist, called on President Boris Trajkovski to launch an all-out attack on the rebels if they refuse to pull back from territory he says they took under cover of the 19-day truce.

"I'm calling on you as commander-in-chief to use your constitutional authority to give the necessary orders," he said.

NATO CONDEMNED

The government condemned NATO, which is to send 3,000 troops to supervise the disarmament of National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas once a peace deal is signed, accusing the Atlantic alliance of partisan support for the rebels.

"NATO is not our enemy but it is a great friend of our enemies who are attacking the future of our country," said Milosovski. He said NATO countries were directing the NLA with the goal of making Macedonia an international protectorate.

In a further ratcheting up of tension, Macedonia ordered the closure of its border crossings into the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo. It gave no explanation for the move.

Diplomats spent the day in behind-the-scenes contacts with the rival parties trying to stitch the truce back together, only to see hopes dashed when fighting broke out across Tetovo, including suburbs not previously affected by warfare.

Monday's fighting around the predominantly Albanian town allowed the NLA to take sections of a key road running from Tetovo to the Kosovo border and diplomats said they were focusing on securing an NLA pullback from the route.

"Provocations and encroachments are unacceptable and must stop," said NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

A source close to the NLA political leader Ali Ahmeti told Reuters the rebels had agreed to move off the road and desist from attacks for 24 hours.

"But if we have to defend people in Tetovo by moving into the city, we will," the regional NLA chief, Commander Leka, warned from his post in a village to the east of the town.

TROUBLE EXTENDS

The scope of the crisis has widened geographically, with the NLA acknowledging for the first time that it is active near the town of Gostivar, which is in the middle of the largely Albanian western strip of Macedonia bordering Albania proper.

It said NLA forces were involved in a Monday clash with a border patrol that left one Macedonian soldier dead.

In neighbouring Kosovo, U.S. President George W. Bush, visiting American peacekeepers, urged the rival communities in Macedonia to restore the ceasefire and work towards a peace deal.

Some progress had been made. Macedonians had agreed to devolve power, grant some local control of the police and extend other political rights, but it balked at extending the right to use the Albanian language in official business.

Many Macedonian leaders view the primacy of their native tongue as pivotal to the identity of the 10-year-old country and have stoked nationalist fervour against diminishing its role.

Protestors hit the streets as heavy fighting rocks Macedonia Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/1/19ok7.html
Wednesday July 25, 6:13 AM

Protestors hit the streets as heavy fighting rocks Macedonia

SKOPJE, July 24 (AFP) -

Hundreds of people rioted in the Macedonian capital late Tuesday, targeting Western embassies and offices in a show of frustration and rage after fresh fighting in Tetovo between ethnic Albanian rebels and security forces threatened to plunge the region into war.

About 2,000 demonstrators, many of them young, hooded and armed with sticks set fire to several vehicles and buildings, smashing the windows of the British and German embassies and a McDonald's restaurant.

Most of the crowd massed in front of the United States embassy at 2100 GMT, where they chanted "Macedonia, Macedonia" while launching a shower of rocks at the building.

The riots came after heavy fighting broke out again and continued late into Tuesday night in the northwestern town of Tetovo increasing fears that a ceasefire agreed on July 5 had all but broken down.

Earlier, Macedonia closed its border with neighbouring Kosovo, which it accuses of fuelling the insurrection. It also accused NATO of helping the rebels, who began their uprising for greater Albanian rights in February.

In Tetovo, heavy explosions and bursts of gunfire could be heard just 200 metres (yards) from the town centre. Much of the area was deserted, with many residents having fled the fighting.

An AFP journalist said a Macedonian army barracks, which was hit by mortar shells on Monday, came under fire again as did a nearby police checkpoint.

Artillery and mortar fire was reported late into Tuesday night.

On Monday, two people were killed, one of them a 12-year-old girl, and 31 were injured in more than six hours of clashes in and around Tetovo.

Some 250 Macedonian Slavs who had fled the fighting travelled by bus to Skopje where they demonstrated in front of the parliament.

The four coachloads of demonstrators, carrying bags with personal belongings brought from their homes, were calling for the liberation of their villages held by ethnic Albanian rebels, representatives said.

Only hours earlier, US President George W. Bush and NATO Secretary General George Robertson had called for the ceasefire to be respected.

Bush, on his first visit to Kosovo, called on government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in the self-styled National Liberation Army (NLA) of Macedonia to "maintain the ceasefire".

The ceasefire agreement had bought time for EU envoy Francois Leotard and US ambassador James Pardew to work on a political settlement to the dispute over greater Albanian rights with Macedonia's Slav and ethnic Albanian political leaders.

But as their talks lost momentum last week, when the Slavs rejected a list of Albanian demands for changes to the constitution, the uprising that began in February gained pace again and fuelled fears of a new Balkans war.

In Brussels, Robertson issued a statement urging both parties to respect the commitments they made when they signed the ceasefire.

"Provocations and encroachments are unacceptable and must stop. In particular, I call on the so-called NLA to revert to their positions at the time of their ceasefire undertakings," the statement said.

Robertson called on the rebels to show respect for civilians and bring an end to intimidation and kidnapping.

Bush also warned that Kosovo, a UN protectorate, "must not be a safe haven for people causing insurgency elsewhere" and urged both sides to work with international envoys to resolve the crisis.

However Macedonia accused NATO of supporting the rebels, in order to turn the country into an "international protectorate."

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," goverment spokesman Antonio Milososki told reporters.

Robertson denied reports that the NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR, was supplying armed ethnic Albanian groups. "NATO has not given, and would not give, material or moral support to these groups," he said.

Macedonian mobs attack U.S. and German embassies Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/3/19ond.html
Wednesday July 25, 7:57 AM

Macedonian mobs attack U.S. and German embassies

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Nationalist mobs attacked the United States embassy and other international offices in the Macedonian capital on Tuesday in anger at the West's handling of the rebellion by Albanian guerrillas.

A crowd of some 200 young Macedonians threw rocks at the U.S. mission, smashing windows, but were blocked by riot police from getting close enough to do serious damage.

Security forces had stood back earlier and allowed the mob to rampage through the city centre, smashing windows at the German embassy, a British Airways office and a McDonald's fast-food outlet.

Groups of men armed with staves and metal rods smashed their way into the foyer of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe building and set fire to vehicles in the mission carpark.

The nationalists came to the centre of Skopje to join protesting villagers who said they had been forced from their homes by ethnic Albanian rebels in recent fighting and staged an angry protest outside the parliament building.

The nationalists, many with tee shirts wrapped around their heads, roamed not far from the parliament building, shouting anti-Western slogans and patriotic chants.

Some 150 people had earlier arrived in buses from the flashpoint town of Tetovo, the focus of a fierce battle on Monday, to demand security forces recapture their villages.

Local residents joined their protest outside parliament after a government tirade against NATO and foreign peace mediators accused the West of helping separatist rebels carve up their 10-year-old country.

HIGHLIGHTED TENSION

The riots highlighted the tension in Macedonia, which has been pushed to the brink of civil war by a five-month rebellion by Albanian guerrillas.

The rebels deny their agenda is territorial and say they are fighting to improve their minority's civil rights.

The protesters, who included women and children, broke down fencing, threw stones at the parliament building, and surged up to its door before police forced them away.

"Why are you trying to restore order here when you should have come to our village and forced out the terrorists," Gjorgi, 54, from the village of Lesak, shouted at police.

A passing van carrying three ethnic Albanians was attacked and the crowds tried to drag the passengers out, but the vehicle managed to escape.

Many protesters said they came from villages to the east of Tetovo which National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas occupied during fierce fighting on Monday. The combat ripped to shreds an 19-day truce in the tiny former Yugoslav republic.

A string of villages along the road between Tetovo and the Kosovo border appear to have fallen into rebel hands after Macedonian security forces pulled back from positions they did not have the resources to defend.

Mother-of-three Snezana, 35, who was holding a sick baby, said she had fled her home in Lesak with only diapers.

"We are only looking for help. They (the police) have let the gangs attack us and chase us from our houses. I tried calling my home and the NLA answered the phone," she lamented.

Violent anti-Albanian protests break out in Skopje Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/1/19oki.html
Wednesday July 25, 6:37 AM

Violent anti-Albanian protests break out in Skopje

SKOPJE, July 24 (AFP) -

Several thousand people, some of them hooded, marched through the main streets of the Macedonian capital late Tuesday, setting several vehicles alight in an anti-Western and anti-Albanian protest.

The protestors, mostly young people, set fire to more than a dozen vehicles belonging to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and thick smoke could be seen rising above their parking lot.

Armed with sticks, and shouting "Macedonia, Macedonia," the protestors marched towards the parliament building, where they yelled "The Albanians are terrorising us" and "NATO, open your eyes!"

Around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT), some 2,000 protestors marched towards the US embassy premises, pelting it with stones and chanting anti-American slogans.

But most of them, except some 200 of the most persistent, turned back less than an hour later, faced with strong police and security presence blocking the access to the embassy.

Other groups took to the nearby streets, smashing windows of the British and German embassies, as well as of the McDonalds restaurant nearby.

The protestors were joined by groups of Macedonian Slavs who have fled their villages around the northwestern town of Tetovo following the latest outburst of violence that erupted on Monday.

An AFP armoured vehicle was damaged as two young protestors hit it with sticks.

The protestors, some of whom carried red and yellow Macedonian flags, shouted slogans hostile to ethnic Albanians, referred to pejoratively as "Shiptars."

"The Shiptars don't frighten us," they chanted.

The protestors also blew whistles, and motorists joined in by honking their horns in support.

The unrest coincided with a new upsurge in fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian government troops in the north of the country.

Government spokesman Antonio Milososki warned the Balkan ex-Yugoslav state was coming "slowly but surely to a civil war."

Strong detonations and bursts of gunfire could be heard only 200 metres (yards) from the center of Tetovo, where ethnic Albanian guerrillas have been taking on government forces.

"This is terrible, shooting is coming from everywhere," an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Milososki accused NATO of backing the rebels, and trying to turn the former Yugoslav republic into an international protectorate, like the neighbouring UN-administrated Serbian province of Kosovo.

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," government spokesman Milososki said.

The angry words from Skopje and renewed fighting in the mainly-ethnic Albanian town of Tetovo came as a new blow to international efforts to help broker a peace settlement in Macedonia, after talks faltered last week.

The July 5 ceasefire agreement had been intended to give breathing space for EU and US envoys to help broker a political settlement to the dispute over greater rights for Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority in talks with Macedonia's Slav and ethnic Albanian leaders.

Skopje accuses NATO of backing rebels, seeking to occupy Macedonia Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/1/19o89.html
Wednesday July 25, 12:14 AM

Skopje accuses NATO of backing rebels, seeking to occupy Macedonia

SKOPJE, July 24 (AFP) -
The government accused NATO Tuesday of backing ethnic Albanian rebels in order to "turn Macedonia into an international protectorate" under the control of the defense alliance.

"The aim of the war in Macedonia is to ruin its territorial integrity in order to turn Macedonia into an international protectorate controlled by NATO," government spokesman Antonio Milososki told reporters.

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," he said following a government meeting.

Macedonia Accuses West of Backing Albanian Rebels Posted July 24, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010724/wl/balkans_macedonia_dc_172.html
Tuesday July 24 2:56 PM ET

Macedonia Accuses West of Backing Albanian Rebels
By Sean Maguire

SKOPJE, Macedonia (Reuters) - The Macedonian government on Tuesday accused NATO (news - web sites) and international peace mediators of backing ethnic Albanian rebels in an anti-Western outburst that leaves chances of resurrecting peace talks slim.

A government spokesman said American and European Union (news - web sites) envoys had blamed Macedonia for wrecking a cease-fire and sparking vicious fighting between security forces and rebels in the flashpoint town of Tetovo that left two dead on Monday.

``That is a big lie, the biggest we have heard. It removes all doubt that they are not objective,'' Antonio Milosovski told Reuters.

Western diplomats denied U.S. envoy James Pardew and EU negotiator Francois Leotard had accused Macedonia of firing first. The pair were reportedly ``shocked'' at the accusation.

``I think we're in a period of hypernationalism. They're lashing out at the entire international community,'' a Western diplomat said. ``That's very damaging to negotiations and very dangerous for the people of this country.''

The verbal attack took relations between the West and Skopje to a new low. They were badly damaged when the government assailed the envoys last week for making peace proposals it said were tantamount to the destruction of the young country.

Diplomats have been struggling to keep talks alive while voicing suspicion that hard-line elements in the government would rather return to fighting than make the unpalatable compromises needed to secure peace with the one-third Albanian minority.

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, a nationalist, asked his cabinet to propose a Tuesday deadline to rebels to pull back from territory it says they took under cover of a 19-day truce or face all-out assault.

The cabinet of the all-party coalition government refused to back the ultimatum. Georgievski later sent a letter to President Boris Trajkovksi urging him to order a military strike.

``I'm calling on you as commander-in-chief to use your constitutional authority to give the necessary orders,'' he said.

As darkness began to fall fighting began again in Tetovo, 25 miles west of Skopje, after a day of relative calm.

NATO CONDEMNED

The government condemned NATO, which is to send 3,000 troops to supervise the disarmament of National Liberation Army guerrillas once a peace deal is signed, accusing the Atlantic alliance of partisan support for the rebels.

``NATO is not our enemy but it is a great friend of our enemies who are attacking the future of our country,'' said Milosovski. He said NATO countries were directing the NLA with the goal of making Macedonia an international protectorate.

In a further ratcheting up of tension, Macedonia ordered the closure of its border crossings into the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo. It gave no explanation for the move.

In downtown Skopje crowds of people who said the guerrillas had forced them from their village homes during Monday's fighting staged an angry protest outside the parliament, tearing down barricades and threatening passing ethnic Albanians.

Some 200 young men later went on the rampage, attacking vehicles belonging to international organizations and shouting slogans like ``NATO are Albanian-lovers,'' and ``OSCE (news - web sites) are spies.''

Diplomats spent the day in behind-the-scenes contacts with the rival parties trying to stitch the truce back together.

``We are a little bit more heartened but we're still dancing on the edge of the precipice,'' said one.

Hours of heavy combat on Monday consumed parts of Tetovo, 25 miles west of Skopje, killing at least two civilians and leaving 31 injured.

The fighting appeared to allow the NLA to take control of sections of a key road running from Tetovo to the Kosovo border, putting hundreds of Macedonian civilians to flight and feeding suspicion they were intent on creeping forward to the town.

Macedonia has complained bitterly that the NLA has been using the cease-fire to extend its grip on territory and Western diplomats said they were focusing on securing an NLA pullback from the road up to the frontier crossing.

``Provocations and encroachments are unacceptable and must stop,'' NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said in a statement.

A source close to the NLA political leader Ali Ahmeti told Reuters the rebels had agreed to move off the road and desist from attacks for 24 hours.

``But if we have to defend people in Tetovo by moving into the city we will,'' warned the regional NLA chief, Commander Leka, from his post in a village to the east of the town.

In a western Tetovo suburb, NLA troops had arrived to back civilian fighters. Clashes were heard in the area late in the day while mortar bombs fell and sniper fire rang out elsewhere.

TROUBLE EXTENDS

The scope of the crisis has widened geographically, with the NLA acknowledging for the first time that it is active near the town of Gostivar, which is in the middle of the largely Albanian western strip of Macedonia bordering Albania proper.

It said NLA forces were involved in a Monday clash with a border patrol that left one Macedonian soldier dead.

In neighboring Kosovo, United States President Bush (news - web sites), visiting American peacekeepers, urged rival communities to restore the cease-fire and work toward a peace deal.

Some progress had been made. Macedonians agreed to devolve power, grant some local control of the police and extend other political rights to local Albanians but balked at extending the right to use the Albanian language in official business.

Many Macedonian leaders view the primacy of their native tongue as pivotal to the identity of the 10-year-old country and have stoked nationalist fervor against diminishing its role.

Bush Targets Macedonia Arms-Smuggling Posted July 24, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010724/wl/bush_kosovo_12.html
Tuesday July 24 3:42 PM ET

Bush Targets Macedonia Arms-Smuggling
By RON FOURNIER, AP White House Correspondent

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Yugoslavia (AP) - Fifty miles from heavy fighting, President Bush (news - web sites) urged ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to stop sneaking weapons across the border to Macedonia where rebel attacks threaten to spark a new Balkan civil war.

The president, in his first trip to the troubled region, also renewed his commitment on Tuesday to the NATO (news - web sites)-led peacekeeping mission here in Kosovo. Even so, he told cheering U.S. troops he hoped to ``hasten the day'' they can return home.

`Your diversity and close cooperation ... in the cause of peace, is an example to the people of this region,'' he told 2,000 flag-waving soldiers, some of them from other countries in the NATO-led force. ``And it's a rebuke to the ethnic intolerance and narrow nationalism that brought us here in the first place,''

More than 5,000 U.S. troops participate in the effort to preserve peace in Kosovo, a province of Serbia in Yugoslavia.

Their mission was expanded in June to ferret out arms being smuggled across the 100-mile border shared with Macedonia, where 500 more U.S. troops are based.

A supporter of the Macedonia government, Bush said, ``We need you to keep patrolling the border and cutting off the arms flow'' to rebels.

The militants launched their insurgency against government forces in February, demanding greater rights and recognition for minority ethnic Albanians who make up about one-third of Macedonia's population of 2 million.

Hours after Bush's plea for an end to arms-smuggling, the army barracks in Tetovo, Macedonia, came under rebel attack. Macedonia closed the Kosovo-Macedonia border.

``Those here in Kosovo who support the insurgency in Macedonia are hurting the interest of ethnic Albanians throughout the region,'' Bush said in a statement. ``The people of Kosovo should focus on Kosovo'' and build a peaceful, democratic society, he said.

The admonition was delivered on paper, not in person, a contrast to President Clinton (news - web sites)'s visit to Kosovo in 1999. Clinton, addressing an audience of Kosovo citizens, urged them to seek peace.

On the question of U.S. involvement in the Balkans, Bush seemed to be seeking a balance between his allegiance to NATO and long-held skepticism about peacekeeping missions.

``NATO's commitment to the peace of this region is enduring, but the stationing of our force here should not be indefinite,'' he said in the statement.

Separately, he told the troops: ``Our goal is to hasten the day when peace is self-sustaining, when local democratically elected authorities can assume full responsibility and when NATO forces can go home.''

At the same time, he said ``there is still a lot of work to do'' before the region can be peaceful and democratic without the NATO-led force.

``We will not draw down our forces in Bosnia or Kosovo precipitously or unilaterally,'' he said. ``We came in together, and we will go out together.''

Bush and his foreign policy team first coined that phrase in the spring, after early consultations with allies revealed concern about the president's commitment to southern Europe.

Those concerns gave way to anxiety over other shifts in U.S. policy under Bush, particularly his views on global warming and missile defense, both of which reversed Clinton policy.

Bush's weeklong European trip, which ended with the Kosovo stop, showed those tensions.

He managed at an eight-nation summit in Genoa, Italy, to establish a framework for tough negotiation with Russia over missile defense. President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) agreed to link the talks to both nations' desire to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

But he offered no new environmental proposals to key allies angered by his refusal to back an international climate change treaty. In private talks, presidents and prime ministers of other leading industrialized nations told Bush they would ratify the pact without him.

Ending his second overseas trip, Bush made a plea for peace.

``We must not allow difference to be a license to kill, and vulnerability an excuse to dominate,'' Bush said in his speech. Before cheering troops, he also signed into law a defense spending bill passed by Congress that includes $1.9 billion to boost pay, benefits and health care for American troops.

Heavy fighting breaks out in Macedonia despite Bush appeal Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/1/19obe.html
Wednesday July 25, 2:19 AM

Heavy fighting breaks out in Macedonia despite Bush appeal

TETEVO, Macedonia, July 24 (AFP) -
Heavy fighting broke out between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian troops here late Tuesday, ending an uneasy calm that had reigned since two people were killed and dozens injured one day earlier.

The renewed violence, the heaviest since NATO brokered a ceasefire between the two parties on July 5, came hours after calls from US President George W. Bush and NATO Secretary General George Robertson for the truce to be respected.

Strong detonations and bursts of gunfire could be heard just 200 metres (yards) from the center of Tetovo. Much of the town was deserted, with many residents having fled the fighting.

On Monday, two people were killed, one of them a 12-year old girl, and 31 were injured in more than six hours of clashes in Tetovo and its surroundings.

Bush, on his first visit to the neighbouring Yugoslav province of Kosovo, called on government forces and Albanian rebels in the self-styled National Liberation Army (NLA) to "maintain the ceasefire".

The ceasefire agreement had bought time for EU envoy Francois Leotard and US ambassador James Pardew to work on a political settlement to the dispute over greater Albanian rights with Macedonia's Slav and ethnic Albanian political leaders.

But as their talks lost momentum last week, when the Slavs rejected a list of Albanian demands for changes to the constitution, the uprising that began in February gained pace again and refuelled fears of a new Balkans war.

In Brussels, Robertson issued a statement urging both parties to respect the commitments they made when they signed the ceasefire.

"Provocations and encroachments are unacceptable and must stop. In particular, I call on the so-called NLA to revert to their positions at the time of their ceasefire undertakings," the statement said.

Robertson called on the rebels to show respect for civilians and bring an end to intimidation and kidnapping.

Bush also warned that Kosovo, a UN protectorate, "must not be a safe haven for people causing insurgency elsewhere" and urged both sides to work with international envoys to resolve the crisis.

However Macedonia accused NATO of supporting the rebels, in order to turn the country into an "international protectorate."

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," goverment spokesman Antonio Milososki told reporters.

Robertson denied reports that the NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR, was supplying armed ethnic Albanian groups. "NATO has not given, and would not give, material or moral support to these groups," he said.

Meanwhile in Skopje, around 250 Macedonian Slavs who had fled the fighting near Tetovo demonstrated in front of the parliament.

The four coachloads of demonstrators, carrying bags with personal belongings brought from their homes, were calling for the liberation of their villages held by ethnic Albanian rebels, representatives said.

Two representatives met Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

Macedonia closes border with Kosovo Posted July 24, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010724/1/19o9a.html
Wednesday July 25, 12:57 AM

Macedonia closes border with Kosovo

Macedonia closed its border with UN-run Kosovo, which it accuses of fuelling an ethnic Albanian insurrection that has flared anew in the Balkans state, a UN official said.

Macedonia closed the border crossings at Blace, some 25 kilometres (18 miles) north of the capital Skopje and at Globocice near the northwestern town of Tetovo, where heavy fighting left two dead and dozens injured Monday.

The closure came into effect around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT), with Macedonian border officials allowing UN officials and NATO-led peacekeepers to cross into Kosovo but not return, spokesman Andrea Angeli said.

Macedonian citizens could still pass, he said.

The closure came as the Macedonian government accused NATO of backing ethnic Albanian rebels in order to "turn Macedonia into an international protectorate" under the control of the defense alliance.

"The aim of the war in Macedonia is to ruin its territorial integrity in order to turn Macedonia into an international protectorate controlled by NATO," government spokesman Antonio Milososki told reporters.

"NATO is not an enemy of Macedonia, but, at the same time, it is a big friend of our enemies," he said following a government meeting.

Earlier, on a visit to Kosovo where US troops are serving as peacekeepers, US President George W. Bush had called for a return to the ceasefire in neighboring Macedonia a day after fighting there left at least two dead.

In a statement released shortly after his arrival at this US military camp, Bush also urged Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian leaders to continue talks on an US-EU plan to end fighting in the former Yugoslav republic.

"I call on all parties to maintain the ceasefire," Bush said, referring to the July 5 accord between the Macedonian army and ethnic Albanian fighters.

"And I call on the elected leaders to work with EU envoy (Francois) Leotard and Ambassador (James) Pardew to overcome the remaining differences to achieving a settlement that will keep Macedonia at peace and on the road to Europe," he said.

Seven Are Killed in Macedonian Clashes Posted July 24, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/24/international/24MACE.html
July 24, 2001

Seven Are Killed in Macedonian Clashes
By CARLOTTA GALL

BELGRADE, Serbia, July 23 Heavy fighting broke out today in the town of Tetovo in western Macedonia between government forces and Macedonian Albanian rebels, killing at least seven villagers and wounding dozens.

International monitors were trying to negotiate a cease-fire to allow the wounded to be removed, said Harald Schenker, spokesman of the Skopje-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. By evening, the heavy fighting had ceased but the crackle of small firearms continued to be heard throughout the town.

The American special envoy, James W. Pardew, and Franois Lotard of the European Union met President Boris Trajkovski to find a way to restart stalled political negotiations. They also issued a joint statement condemning the renewed fighting.

"We are very disappointed by the outbreak of violence in the area of Tetovo and we strongly condemn those attacks and any use of violence," their statement said. "We urge those responsible for these actions to respect the cease-fire."

Throughout the afternoon, rebels and government forces traded mortar fire inside the town, causing some residents to flee and many others to take shelter in their cellars.

The streets erupted in gunfire as shooting sounded from every block and government forces fired artillery into the outlying districts and villages. Several houses in the Albanian-populated villages around Tetovo were burning and smoke drifted from settlements further north.

The fighting exploded after a week of high tension as political negotiations stalled and both rebel forces and army and police troops prepared for a new round of fighting.

The talks stalemated over a single issue that illustrates the deep divide in Macedonian society: ethnic Albanian leaders have demanded that Albanian be accepted as the second official language in the country, but Macedonian Slav leaders have so far rejected the idea.

It is not clear what sparked the fighting today, but it followed a firefight in the city on Sunday which revealed the level of aggression between the two sides. The government blamed Albanian rebels for attacking government positions, but the military was criticized by international observers for reacting disproportionately on Sunday when it buzzed the town with attack planes.

Today, both sides traded heavier fire and Russian-made Sukhoi jets roared low again over the town. Prospects for a peace deal look ever more remote.

The director of the hospital in Tetovo, Rahim Thaci, said he had received 19 people injured in the fighting, a majority of them civilians. A 12-year-old girl, brought in from the nearby Albanian village of Poroj, died from her injuries.

Poroj was just one of the villages hit by government tank fire. Seven people were killed, including two women and four children, an Interior Ministry official said, and 24 people were wounded. At least 21 people were wounded in the town of Tetovo itself, among them four soldiers and one policeman, the official said. One soldier was killed in fighting further south where the army clashed with rebels near the border with Albania, it was reported.

At least 12 other people had called in requesting ambulances for wounded people, the hospital director said, suggesting that other people who were not able to reach the hospital also had died.

The fighting worsened rapidly from some random automatic rifle shots, exploding into a furious exchange of mortar and tank fire and setting off random gunfire all over the city. Rebels were reported to have taken the stadium in the north part of the city and to have reached within 20 yards of police positions, firing mortars into the city barracks.

Albanian political leaders last week accepted a political agreement drafted by Western mediators for constitutional and legislative reforms. The agreement is intended to address some of the grievances of the Albanian minority in Macedonia and pave the way for a NATO force to enter Macedonia and oversee the disarmament of the Albanian rebel force.

But Macedonian Slav leaders have rejected the draft agreement as it stands, refusing to accept the local approval of the appointment of regional police chiefs and the largely symbolic elevation of Albanian to the status of the second official language.

The prime minister condemned the plan, saying it was aimed at dividing the country. The president has nevertheless requested that international mediators continue their efforts to find an agreement.

Fierce Battles Mar Macedonia Truce Posted July 24, 2001
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000060332jul24.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection
July 24, 2001 Talk about it E-mail story Print

THE WORLD
Fierce Battles Mar Macedonia Truce
Balkans: Rebels are warned to withdraw to positions of July 5 or face all-out assault.
By DAVID HOLLEY, TIMES STAFF WRITER

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- After a day of fierce battles between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian security forces in this country's second-largest city, the defense minister warned rebels on Monday to withdraw from territory occupied during an 18-day truce or face an all-out assault.

"If the terrorists do not withdraw to their positions of July 5, we will have no option left but an offensive by Macedonian security forces to restore the previous situation," Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski told reporters.

An 11-year-old girl was killed, at least 27 civilians were hospitalized and five soldiers were wounded in fighting in and around the northwestern city of Tetovo, authorities said. In a separate incident farther south, a Macedonian soldier patrolling the mountains bordering Albania was killed by guerrillas who had crossed from Albania, the Defense Ministry said.

Rebels kidnapped 22 Macedonian civilians in villages around Tetovo, army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said. State-run television also reported that guerrillas had burned the houses of eight Macedonian Slav families in a village near Tetovo.

The fighting in Tetovo was focused around a soccer stadium at the edge of the city. The stadium had marked the front line between rebel and government forces since a cease-fire took effect July 6. There were also exchanges of mortar fire between the two sides, with the rebels hitting the city center and an army base in Tetovo, and the army shelling villages and guerrilla positions in the mountains above Tetovo.

Sniper shots could be heard in the center of the primarily ethnic Albanian city. Mayor Murtezan Ismaili said one bullet narrowly missed his secretary, who was not injured. Some civilians took shelter in basements. At least 100 carloads of residents fled the city headed toward Skopje, the capital.

The army used infantry, artillery and tank units in the Tetovo fighting, Markovski said.

By nightfall, an eerie silence had descended over the center of the city, although the sounds of fighting could be heard in the distance. A curfew was to be in effect from 11 p.m.

Each Side Blames the Other for Violation

Each side blamed the other for provoking the largest violation yet of the cease-fire, which had been declared under strong Western pressure in an effort to improve the atmosphere for negotiations over political reforms.

The guerrillas say they are fighting for greater rights for ethnic Albanians, while the government charges that they want to split the country. At least one-quarter of the nation's 2 million people are ethnic Albanian, most of whom live in the western region close to Albania or Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia's dominant republic, Serbia.

The talks, which do not directly include the guerrillas, are deadlocked primarily over whether Albanian should be made an official language. Ethnic Albanian politicians are believed to be in touch with the rebels over what terms would be acceptable to them.

If agreement is reached in the political talks, the rebels would be asked to agree to a peace deal that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would help implement.

"The guarantor of the cease-fire was the international community," Buckovski said. "We expect NATO to use its authority. The terrorists should immediately end their attacks and go back to the positions of before July 5. If they don't, it's known what will follow."

Buckovski added, "There are two alternatives: One is to find the strength to continue with the cease-fire and the dialogue, and the other is to take your hands off everything that leads to a peaceful solution and go for a military one."

Buckovski, who charged that the guerrillas have violated the cease-fire 267 times since July 6, met Monday evening with NATO representatives and with U.S. special envoy James Pardew.

Pardew and European Union envoy Francois Leotard issued a statement condemning the violence, without placing greater blame on either side.

"Violence is unacceptable and does nothing to further the cause of the people of this region," they said. "It could only undermine the peace process while the political talks are still ongoing."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said that "the cease-fire is absolutely vital."

"Any breach of the cease-fire we consider unacceptable," Reeker said. "All sides, including the armed ethnic Albanian separatists who have taken to arms and fighting, as well as the government of Macedonia, must exercise restraint and respect the cease-fire agreement that they signed."

Support for Guerrillas Is Extremely Strong

While ethnic Albanians and Macedonian Slavs generally continue to live peacefully in Skopje, fears are growing here that the current political reform talks are the last chance to avoid all-out war. Support for the guerrillas among ordinary ethnic Albanians is extremely strong.

"The situation here is like playing the lottery--nobody can guess what really will happen," said Sulejman Rushiti, a 29-year-old ethnic Albanian theater director in Skopje. "We have reached the high point of trying to find a compromise. If the negotiations fail, then everybody [among ethnic Albanians] will take a decision. I as a person will have two choices: leave Macedonia, or go to the mountains and try to fight."

Bush Urges Respect for Macedonian Cease-Fire Posted July 24, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010724/ts/bush_kosovo_dc_5.html
Tuesday July 24 7:45 AM ET

Bush Urges Respect for Macedonian Cease-Fire

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) called on rival groups in Macedonia on Tuesday to observe a crumbling cease-fire and urged Kosovo Albanians to stay out of the conflict.

``The greatest challenge today is in Macedonia, where armed insurgents threaten peace and stability,'' Bush said in a statement issued before he gave a speech to U.S. peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.

``I call on the parties to maintain the cease-fire,'' Bush said in the statement. ``I call on Macedonia's leaders to work with EU envoy (Francois) Leotard and Ambassador (James) Pardew to overcome the remaining differences to achieving a settlement that will keep Macedonia at peace and on the road to Europe.''

U.S. envoy Pardew and European Union (news - web sites) negotiator Leotard are trying to help forge a deal on greater rights for the one-third ethnic Albanian minority that would that would end a five-month rebellion by improving their status.

The statement came as violence between ethnic Albanians and government troops continued in Macedonia, threatening the fragile, NATO (news - web sites)-brokered truce.

Bush warned ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who are contributing to the violence in neighboring Macedonia to keep away.

``Some here in Kosovo are trying to help the insurgents. Let me be clear: the United States stands against all who use or support violence against democracy and the rule of law,'' he said.

``Those here in Kosovo who support the insurgency in Macedonia are hurting the interests of ethnic Albanians throughout the region. The people of Kosovo should focus on Kosovo.''

Bush urged NATO states and partner countries which have sent peacekeeping troops and civilian staff to Kosovo to re-energise their efforts to build civil organizations so the international forces can eventually pull out.

``NATO's commitment to the peace of this region is enduring, but the stationing of our forces here should not be indefinite,'' he said.

Death Toll Rises As Macedonia Crisis Widens Posted July 24, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010724/wl/balkans_macedonia_dc_171.html
Tuesday July 24 10:29 AM ET

Death Toll Rises As Macedonia Crisis Widens
By Daniel Simpson

TETOVO, Macedonia (Reuters) - The casualty toll from Macedonia's ethnic violence rose on Tuesday and the scope of the crisis widened as Albanian rebels declared for the first time they were fighting in the west of the Balkan state.

Hospital officials in Tetovo, 24 miles west of the capital Skopje, said a Macedonian civilian man had died from wounds suffered in heavy fighting between rebels and security forces in and around the predominantly Albanian town on Monday.

A 12-year-old girl was also killed and some 31 people were injured, five of them Macedonian military personnel, in combat that left an 18-day internationally-brokered truce in tatters.

Sporadic shooting continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning, with mortar blasts echoing through the night in the mountains towering above Tetovo and machine gun exchanges audible from dawn in the eastern district of Cetinska.

But the violence died down and a semblance of calm returned by mid-morning. Western officials have been working frantically to patch the cease-fire back together in meetings with Macedonian leaders and in behind-the-scenes contacts with rebels.

But they will have to contend with a broader conflict. The ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army said its units were involved in a clash with a border patrol in western Macedonia, in the first acknowledgement it was active in that area.

One Macedonian soldier died in the confrontation and the Ministry of Defense said it had sent a letter to Tirana to protest at what it termed a terrorist border incursion.

NLA General Staff member Nazmi Beqiri said its 116th and 112th brigades were now operating in the area of the town of Gostivar, which lies in the middle of the largely Albanian western strip of Macedonia bordering Albania proper.

And in Tetovo itself, armed and uniformed NLA men could be seen for the first time in the suburb of Tece, to the west of the center, extending the gradual rebel move into the town.

MACEDONIAN ANGER

Macedonia has complained bitterly that the NLA used the cover of the truce to extend its grip on territory. Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski late on Monday said the rebels would face an all-out assault unless they went back to old positions.

But Western envoys say it is not clear what territory the rebels held on July 5, the start date for the truce, which was supposed to help end the five-month rebellion by clearing the way for talks on granting more rights to the Albanian minority.

In neighboring Kosovo United States President George Bush, visiting American peacekeepers, urged the rival communities to restore calm. ``I call on the parties to maintain the cease-fire,'' he said in a statement.

Russia said it blamed the rebels for provoking fresh fighting.

Diplomats worry that hard-liners, particularly among the Macedonian elite, may prefer a total collapse of the cease-fire and another bout of fighting to making the unpalatable compromises that are needed to secure peace.

Talks have been at a standstill since last week, when Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievksi angrily denounced Western peace proposals as tantamount to destroying his state.

Macedonians have agreed to devolve some power, grant some local control of the police and extend other political rights to the one-third Albanian minority but have balked at extending the right to use the Albanian language in official business.

Many Macedonian leaders view the primacy of their native tongue as pivotal to the identity of the 10-year-old country and have stoked nationalist fervor against diminishing its role.

The NLA denied it started the fighting. ``The NLA has no reason for military operations at a time when we are expecting a political agreement to be signed,'' Beqiri said in a statement.

And mainstream Albanian politicians expressed skepticism over a return to the negotiating table.

``We are waiting for something to be decided on the military side,'' said Imer Imeri, leader of the second largest Albanian party. ``If a new cease-fire is not established then there is no reason for the talks to continue,'' he added.

Bush Urges Macedonian Rivals to Observe Cease-Fire Posted July 24, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010724/ts/bush_kosovo_dc_4.html
Tuesday July 24 7:28 AM ET

Bush Urges Macedonian Rivals to Observe Cease-Fire

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) on Tuesday called on rival groups in Macedonia to observe a crumbling cease-fire and urged Kosovo Albanians to stay out of the conflict.

``I call on the parties to maintain the cease-fire. And I call on the elected leaders to work... to overcome the remaining differences to achieving a settlement that will keep Macedonia at peace and on the road to Europe,'' Bush said in a statement issued during a visit to U.S. peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.

``Those here in Kosovo who support the insurgency in Macedonia are hurting the interests of ethnic Albanians throughout the region. The people of Kosovo should focus on Kosovo.''

The statement came as violence between ethnic Albanians and government troops continued in Macedonia, threatening the fragile, NATO (news - web sites)-brokered truce. Bush urged NATO states and partner countries which have sent peacekeeping troops and civilian staff to Kosovo to re-energise their efforts to build civil organizations so the international forces can eventually pull out. ``NATO's commitment to the peace of this region is enduring, but the stationing of our forces here should not be indefinite,'' he said.

Macedonia issues rebel ultimatum Posted July 24, 2001
http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/07/24/macedonia.offensive/index.html
July 24, 2001 Posted: 1:55 AM EDT (0555 GMT)

Macedonia issues rebel ultimatum

TETOVO, Macedonia -- The Macedonian government is threatening to launch an offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels unless they withdraw from Tetovo.

Clashes broke out between the rebels and government forces on Monday, violating a fragile 18-day ceasefire.

Western diplomats struggled to salvage peace talks as ethnic Albanian rebels battled government security forces in the worst fighting in months, reviving fears of full-scale civil war.

Fighting raged just outside the centre of Tetovo, Macedonia's second-largest city.

A police official said the militants seized control of the soccer stadium and were just a few metres from government positions.

Government spokesman Antonio Milososki said an 11-year-old girl was killed and six security force members were wounded. Macedonian television said at least 25 others were wounded.

Colonel Blagoja Markovski said 22 Macedonian civilians were abducted by ethnic Albanian insurgents in villages around Tetovo.

The fighting, which eased at nightfall, was by far the most serious violation of a cease-fire brokered by NATO and the European Union that took effect July 5.

There was sniper fire and exchanges of small-arms and machine gun fire throughout the day around the sports stadium, where rebels had advanced on government lines.

"Today we have real war in Tetovo," a 38-year-old called Nuriman told Reuters in the eastern district of Drenovec. Tetovo's hospital director said 13 civilians had also been injured, along with five Macedonian troops.

Macedonian Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski warned the rebel National Liberation Army to withdraw from ground it has taken during the truce or face an all-out attack.

"If the terrorists do not retreat to their positions of July 5, there's no alternative but an offensive by the Macedonian security forces to restore the previous situation," he said.

A senior police official in Tetovo, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the rebels had taken the soccer stadium and were within 50 yards of government troops trying to keep them from the city centre.

"There's ongoing shooting with very high intensity," Tetovo Mayor Murtezan Ismaili told AP. "One bullet hit my office, right next to my secretary. She's not injured."

Shells were directed at villages in the mountains above Tetovo, from which the rebels have advanced.

Reuters reported fighting along the road to the Kosovo border.

South of the area, a Macedonian soldier patrolling the mountains bordering Albania was killed in an attack blamed on the NLA.

Monday's battle in Tetovo, the second in as many days, began while U.S. and European envoys were meeting President Boris Trajkovski in the capital Skopje, 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the west.

Talks on a peace deal which would give greater civil rights to Albanians stalled last week amid Macedonian criticism.

Rebels say their five-month campaign of violence, which has raised fears of all-out civil war, aims to end discrimination against Albanians.

But the Macedonian majority accuses the rebels of trying to seize ground and split the state.

Ethnic Albanian girl dies as Macedonian violence flares Posted July 23, 2001
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Tuesday July 24, 12:38 AM

Ethnic Albanian girl dies as Macedonian violence flares

TETOVO, Macedonia, July 23 (AFP) -
A 12-year-old ethnic Albanian girl was killed in heavy fighting and 16 people were injured, including five members of the security forces, in Tetovo in northwest Macedonia on Monday, the director of Tetovo hospital told AFP.

The explosion of violence came a day before US President George W. Bush made his first visit to the UN-run province of Kosovo across the northern border and as Western envoys stepped up efforts to revive stalled talks on political reforms to end the six-month conflict.

Ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the self-styled National Liberation Army (NLA) fought a pitched battle with Macedonian security forces, lobbing mortar bombs on to an army barracks on the edge of town.

The army said the guerrillas had opened fire first and that their troops had responded.

The young girl killed was identified as Jehina Saliu. She died from injuries received in the rebel-held village of Poroj on the eastern edge of Tetovo, said hospital director Rahim Thaci.

The defence ministry also said a soldier was killed at an observation post on the western border with Albania.

Among the wounded in Tetovo were four soldiers and one police officer, Thaci said. One of the soldiers was critically injured and was transferred to a hospital in the capital Skopje, 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the east.

Two soldiers were also slightly injured Sunday when fighting erupted on the edge of Tetovo.

The flare-up was the heaviest since NATO brokered a tense truce between the two sides on July 5 to allow talks to continue between Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian political leaders to hammer out reforms giving the large Albanian minority greater rights.

US and EU envoys James Pardew and Francois Leotard, who met President Boris Trajkovski to find a way to restart the political dialogue, issued a joint statement condemning the renewed fighting.

"We are very disappointed by the outbreak of violence in the area of Tetovo and we strongly condemn those attacks and any use of violence. We urge those responsible for these actions to respect the ceasefire," the statement said.

One Western diplomat said the international community was "very worried by these clashes which will increase hostilities."

"We don't know where this will lead, but it will certainly raise pressure" on talks to find a political settlement, said the official.

The fighting started at 11:35 am (0935 GMT) was still underway six hours later, with the army firing on the rebel-controlled village of Gajre on the hills overlooking Tetovo, an AFP journalist on the scene said.

Heavy mortar and artillery fire could be heard, Western officials said.

The renewed combat dealt a severe blow to Western efforts to quell the conflict, which started in February when the NLA launched an armed campaign demanding more rights. Heavy fighting rocked Tetovo in March when the guerrillas occupied the hills above above the town.

The government says the rebels used the ceasefire to reinforce their positions around Tetovo, going as far as setting up their own checkpoint near the town stadium, just a few hundred metres (yards) from a police checkpoint.

The slow-moving political talks ground to a halt last Thursday when leaders of the two ethnic Albanian parties in the government walked out, accusing their Macedonian Slav coalition partners of trying to start the discussions over from scratch.

The Macedonian Slavs rejected their demands for Albanian to be given the status of second official language after Macedonian, and for more powers to be devolved to local police.

Government officials in Skopje said it was possible, but not confirmed, that Trajkovski would meet President Bush when he makes his first visit to Kosovo on Tuesday, where he is due to address US troops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force.

They said the meeting could either take place at Skopje airport or at the US headquarters of Camp Bondsteel in southeast Kosovo.