May 30, 2001 - June 4, 2001

Macedonia Chief Suggests Early Vote Posted June 4, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010604/8/rsth.html
Monday June 4, 8:45 PM

Macedonia Chief Suggests Early Vote
By MISHA SAVIC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Troops clashed with rebels outside Macedonia's second-largest city early Monday, just hours after the prime minister suggested that early elections may be needed to end a political impasse and the ongoing ethnic Albanian insurgency.

Ljubco Georgievski admitted in a television interview late Sunday that the broad-based coalition government, recently formed by majority Slav and ethnic Albanian politicians, may be a failure.

``The government is barely functioning,'' Georgievski said. ``We can't get on with any serious work because of daily squabbles'' over whether to use military or political means in dealing with the ethnic Albanian militants.

Soon after he spoke, fresh clashes erupted just outside of Tetovo, a city in the northeast near the border with Kosovo.

Rebels opened fire on army and police positions shortly after midnight, Defense Ministry spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov said.

``Our forces responded with strong fire,'' Trendafilov said, adding that there were no deaths or injuries on the government side.

In neighboring Kosovo, NATO-led peacekeepers said they were sending an unspecified number of troops to reinforce the border with Macedonia.

``We will further reinforce the border region with highly mobile troops to support the more static units and interdict logistics support for the armed extremists,'' said squadron leader Roy Brown, spokesman for the peacekeeping force.

He said the move was intended to help end the fighting in Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanian rebels launched the insurgency in February, saying they are fighting for broader rights. Slav leaders call them ``terrorists'' bent on seizing control of a large piece of the country.

``It would be best to hold early elections as early as September'' to end a current impasse in fruitless talks with ethnic Albanian political representatives, Georgievski said.

There was no immediate comment from ethnic Albanian political leaders who met Sunday with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

Ethnic Albanians, who form a third of Macedonia's 2 million people, are demanding that their status be upgraded to give them rights equal to those of majority Slavs.

Slavic parties in the government coalition shared with ethnic Albanian parties have offered to consider the demands - but only after the militants lay down their weapons. The Slav leaders have also offered amnesty for most of the rebels.

There has been no clear response from the rebels who, despite some losses, have endured nearly a dozen government offensives meant to wipe them out. NATO and the European Union fear the conflict could devastate Macedonia and spread to neighboring countries with ethnic Albanian populations.

Up to 40,000 people have been displaced since the fighting began, said Astrid van Genderen Stort, a spokeswoman for the United Nations' refugee agency. More than 20,000 have found shelter in Kosovo.

Macedonia is the part of the former Yugoslavia that separated peacefully after the end of communist rule.

On Monday, Yugoslavia's defense minister, Slobodan Krapovic, signed a protocol saying his government was ready to provide intelligence as well as weapons to Macedonia's fledgling army.

Belgrade offers aid to Macedonian army Posted June 4, 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1369000/1369273.stm
Monday, 4 June, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK

Belgrade offers aid to Macedonian army

Macedonia has relied mainly on long-range shelling

Yugoslavia has signed an agreement pledging military support for Macedonia's efforts to crush ethnic Albanian rebels.

It is not a secret that in this crisis we need offensive and defensive weapons - Macedonian Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski

The Yugoslav Defence Minister, Slobodan Krapovic, who is on a visit to Skopje, said his country would provide intelligence as well as weapons to Macedonia's fledgling army.

His Macedonian counterpart, Vlado Buckovski, said the two countries would work together to increase security along their borders.

Until last week rebels were also fighting to "liberate" Albanian-populated villages in southern Serbia, but retreated when the Yugoslav army returned to the area, under an agreement with Nato peacekeepers.

Stalemate

The insurrection began in February, with fighting concentrated in Albanian-populated areas in the north and north-west of the country.

The army will buy weapons directly from the Yugoslav Government

A stalemate has arisen around a string of villages near borders of Serbia and Kosovo, where the Macedonian army says concern for civilian casualties has forced it to delay an all-out ground assault.

It has instead restricted itself largely to ineffective long-range shelling.

The Red Cross was given a few hours on Monday to enter the villages, where it estimates that several thousand civilians are trapped.

Nato pledge

"It is not a secret that in this crisis we need offensive and defensive weapons," Mr Buckovski said.

We will further reinforce the border region with highly mobile troops - Nato spokesman, Roy Brown

"We will seek to buy military equipment directly from the Yugoslav Defence Ministry without intermediaries."

He added: "We will work for increased security for our borders and exchange information in fighting terrorism and organised crime."

Also on Monday, Nato-led peacekeepers renewed pledges to try to stop the Macedonia rebels from receiving support from their ethnic kin in Kosovo.

"We will further reinforce the border region with highly mobile troops... and interdict logistics support," said Squadron Leader Roy Brown.

Cart bomb

In one of several overnight clashes in the north of the country the rebels loaded a bomb onto a riderless horse and cart, and sent it cantering towards government forces.

Soldiers opened fire, igniting a boiler full of explosives, just 20m or 30m from their positions, said an army spokesman.

There were also clashes near the country's second largest city, Tetovo, the unofficial capital of the ethnic Albanian community.

Western governments fear that the fighting could start a slide into civil war.

Squabbles

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski warned on Sunday that the coalition government, which includes the country's two main ethnic Albanian parties, was not working.

He said it was consumed by squabbles about whether to use military or political means in dealing with the rebels, and said it might be necessary to hold elections as early as September.

The rebels say they are fighting for equality for the ethnic Albanian minority - up to a third of the population - but they are widely believed to want to annex parts of Macedonia to Kosovo or Albania.

Macedonian PM in favour of early legislative poll: TV Posted June 4, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010603/1/rkiv.html
Monday June 4, 3:48 AM

Macedonian PM in favour of early legislative poll: TV

SKOPJE, June 3 (AFP) -

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said on Sunday he was in favour of holding early elections to find an alternative to the fractious multi-party government cobbled together two weeks ago.

"I have got nothing against this coalition collapsing," Georgievski said in an interview with the private A1 television channel, adding: "I have no intention of being prime minister of a coalition of this sort for very long."

Macedonia has since May 13 been run by a fragile coalition of four main parties -- two Macedonian and two ethnic Albanian -- which has been characterised by infighting and minimal communication.

The national unity government was formed to try to ease a simmering ethnic conflict between Macedonia's ethnic Albanian population and the dominated Macedonian Slavs which was sparked by an uprising of ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the north of the country, on the border with Kosovo.

"Let's not wait until January 27," the date fixed next year for the legislative poll, Georgievski, head of the moderate nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, said.

He added that he had found it very difficult to communicate with the social democratic SDSM party in the coalition, another Macedonian party and longtime rival of Georgievski's party.

The two parties have, since the formation of the national unity government, accused each other of being ineffective in the ongoing fight against the ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

Georgievski, who has accused the SDSM of not being tough enough in the fight against the rebels, said that he would continue with an offensive to dislodge the fighters from their strongholds.

The military offensive, he said, would "scatter the terrorists to the last, without amnesty, without direct or indirect discussion."

However, Macedonia's presidency, led by Boris Trajkovski, recently put forward a plan for a partial amnesty for rebel fighters, excluding only "its leaders, ideologues and those responsible for massacres" of Macedonian police.

Trajkovski also called a meeting with the political leaders from the national unity government on Sunday in an effort to renew dialogue between the players.

The meeting was the first such assembly since ethnic Albanian parties signed a deal with a political representative from the rebels on May 23 aimed at finding a mutual resolution to the conflict.

Meanwhile, Macedonian helicopter gunships launched a fresh attack on Matejce, a village partly controlled by ethnic Albanian rebels, in the north of the country.

Colonel Blagoja Markovski said the Macedonian army would use "all possible means" to retake the village, where the army has fought a series of inconclusive battles every day for the past week.

Macedonian forces hit rebel villages ahead of crisis talks Posted June 3, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010603/3/rj87.html
Sunday June 3, 11:34 PM

Macedonian forces hit rebel villages ahead of crisis talks
By Anatoly Verbin

LJUBODRAG, Macedonia (Reuters) - Macedonian artillery and helicopters blasted ethnic Albanian rebels in a string of villages on Sunday before fresh talks among government coalition partners aimed at ending the crisis.

The army said it "destroyed" a column of some 20 to 30 guerrillas trying to take up positions at the mediaeval monastery above the village of Matejce. A rebel commander named Shpati denied the claim.

In its latest assault, the army targeted four northeastern villages held by guerrillas since a five-month-old insurgency flared up again in early May.

Long-range artillery pounded Matejce, Otlja, Slupcane and Orizare on the lower slopes of mountains.

Several houses on the outskirts of Vistica were also hit. The army said last week there were no rebels there.

The government accuses the guerrillas of using the mainly ethnic Albanian civilians as human shields. It says concerns for their welfare has resulted in slow progress on the battlefield.

There was no sign of a ground assault or fighting around the village of Lipkovo, where some 8,000 civilians are believed to be trapped with short supplies of food and water.

Giving details of the army attack in the Matejce area, defence ministry spokesman Georgi Trendafilov told reporters in the town of Kumanovo:

"Army helicopters spotted a column of Albanian terrorists who were trying to take positions near the monastery. The column was destroyed. There were between 20 and 30."

The rebels denied this.

"This is Macedonian propaganda. They want to win the war with words," Shpati told Reuters by mobile telephone, adding that his forces were holding their positions and one guerrilla soldier had been lightly wounded.

FEARS OF EPIDEMIC

Many civilians are holed up in basements in the rising summer heat and there are fears of an epidemic.

"The civilians don't have food, they don't have water and they don't have medicines," the mayor of Lipkovo, Hysamedin Halili, told Reuters by telephone.

"If we don't get help soon, things will be very bad."

Trendafilov said the government wanted to evacuate civilians with the help of the Red Cross.

"We hope this will be possible in the coming days but obviously the authority of the Red Cross means nothing to the terrorists," he said.

President Boris Trajkovski was to resume talks on Sunday evening with the main parties in Macedonia's ethnically mixed coalition, with the aim of ending the violence.

The dialogue is to address the grievances of the country's ethnic Albanian minority, who say they face discrimination in all walks of life, including education and employment.

But a leading ethnic Albanian politician said the rebel National Liberation Army (NLA) should join the talks.

"We can only end the war by negotiating with players in the war, and that includes the NLA," Arben Xhaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians and a key partner in the national unity government, told Reuters.

Xhaferi was last week persuaded by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to set aside a peace pact he signed with the guerrillas which threatened to wreck the coalition.

Sunday's talks were expected to include discussion of Trajkovski's proposal for a partial amnesty for guerrillas, which would exclude the ringleaders.

"We cannot give amnesty to killers," Interior Minister Ljube Bojkovski told reporters close to the battle zone on Sunday. "The amnesty is envisaged for those not directly involved in the attacks but those who were forced to shoot."

Macedonian Gov't to Consider Peace Posted June 3, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010603/8/ridv.html
Sunday June 3, 7:45 PM

Macedonian Gov't to Consider Peace
By JOVANA GEC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Army helicopter gunships pounded northern rebel positions and ground troops fought insurgents at close quarters Sunday as the president prepared to discuss his peace offer with leading politicians in the government coalition.

Military officials told Macedonian television that the troops used their ``entire combat arsenal, including the helicopters,'' responding to rebel attacks from the northern villages of Matejce and Slupcane.

The two villages appear to be key strongholds of the militants in the area. Macedonian security troops have managed to regain control of few other villages, but the rebels remain dug into several more.

``The situation is very hard, there is street fighting going on in Matejce,'' Interior Minister Ljuben Boskovski said.

President Boris Trajkovski called a Sunday-evening meeting of key ethnic Albanian and majority Slav political leaders. He was expected to discuss his offer of amnesty for the rebels if they agree to lay down their arms and end the three-month insurgency.

The meeting will mark the resumption of talks among the country's key politicians, following a government crisis earlier this month that divided them along ethnic lines.

The rebels have not yet publicly reacted to the offer, which would apply only to militants who have not committed major crimes or helped organize assaults.

Faced with Western pressure to end the rebellion, Macedonia's leaders have signaled their readiness to offer concessions to the rebels in exchange for peace. Macedonia's prime minister said last week that his government was ready to change the constitution to upgrade the status of the ethnic Albanians, a key rebel demand.

The militants say they are fighting for more rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, who make up more than a quarter of the population and frequently complain of second-class treatment. The government contends the rebels are more interested in grabbing territory.

Matejce and Slupcane was already the focus of government artillery attacks on Sunday. The shelling followed fierce fighting in Matejce, 15 miles northeast of the capital, Skopje, said spokesman Col. Blagoja Markovski. He said the rebels suffered heavy losses in a street fight with police and army troops.

International aid groups in Macedonia have expressed concern about 8,000 civilians trapped in Lipkovo and other villages near Kumanovo.

Buckovski said about 70 percent of the civilians already have been pulled out of the region. But thousands remain stuck in Lipkovo, he conceded, again blaming the rebels for refusing to allow the remaining civilians to leave - an allegation the insurgents repeatedly have denied.

Macedonian Army, Rebels Resume Battle Over Village Posted June 2, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010602/wl/balkans_guerrillas_dc_67.html
Saturday June 2 12:37 PM ET

Macedonian Army, Rebels Resume Battle Over Village
By Radu Sigheti

LJUBODRAG, Macedonia (Reuters) - Macedonia's troops and ethnic Albanian rebels resumed a battle on Saturday for control of Matejce village, the latest focus in a month-old confrontation.

Artillery methodically shelled Matejce and two nearby villages, Slupcane and Otlja, part of a line of rebel-held settlements on the lower slopes of northeastern mountains 13 miles northeast of the capital Skopje.

Smoke billowed into the sky. Occasional bursts of automatic fire were heard and both sides said they were confident of victory.

``Success is certain, a lot of patience is needed. Time is working against the terrorists,'' Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski told state radio.

``According to our information, they suffer from lack of weapons, ammunition and they are being worn down by continuing fighting.''

A rebel commander who uses the name Shpati responded immediately. ``No it is not true, time is working against Macedonian soldiers, while morale of our soldiers is very high,'' he told Reuters by mobile telephone.

``We have good arms and ammunition.''

Villagers of Ljubodrag, a Slav Macedonian village less than 1.8 miles away, used to the shelling, continued working in their fields.

The fate of at least 8,000 mostly ethnic Albanian villagers trapped in the northeastern mountains since the latest bout of fighting began on May 3 is the biggest immediate concern in the conflict, which threatens to degenerate into civil war and spark a wider Balkan crisis.

CIVILIANS IN DESPERATE CONDITION

President Boris Trajkovski is due to resume talks on Sunday evening with the main parties in the government coalition, which was on the brink of collapse last week after ethnic Albanian leaders met Ali Ahmeti, political representative of National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas.

Macedonia's leading ethnic Albanian politician said on Saturday the talks were doomed to fail as they excluded the NLA.

``We can only end the war by negotiating with players in the war and that includes the NLA,'' Arben Xhaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians and a key partner in the ethnically-mixed national unity government, told Reuters.

Talks are likely to cover Trajkovski's proposal of a partial amnesty to persuade guerrillas to lay down their arms.

As the fighting raged, most civilians were concentrated in the village of Lipkovo, sheltering in basements and cellars.

Although it has not been hit in recent days, mayor Hysamedin Halili told Reuters the situation was desperate. ``People do not have enough food and medicines. There is no drinking water and general water supplies are low,'' he said by telephone.

The last humanitarian aid delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived five days ago, he said.

Annick Bouvier, spokeswoman for the ICRC said it would make renewed attempts to reach the civilians.

``We are still trying to get access to the civilians but we still do not have enough security guarantees,'' she told Reuters.

The mayor said an epidemic was possible because hundreds of animals have been killed. ``The smell is very bad and the temperature is very high,'' he said.

Buckovski said the most important task for the army was to get civilians out, reiterating Skopje's stance the rebels used them as human shields.

The NLA denies the charge. Some of the refugees who have moved out of the area say their relatives would rather stay in the crossfire than face unfriendly Macedonian troops.

The UNHCR refugee agency said on Friday nearly 40,000 mostly ethnic Albanian villagers had fled their homes since February, including some 25,000 in the last month. Most go to Kosovo, despite government appeals to come deeper into Macedonia.

Albanian 'Peace Deal' Controversy: The Macedonian government may have squandered its last chance for peace Posted June 1, 2001
http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/bcr/bcr_20010530_2_eng.txt

Albanian 'Peace Deal' Controversy
The Macedonian government may have squandered its last chance for peace

By Colin Soloway in Pristina (BCR No. 251, 30-May-01)

Once again, it appears that the Macedonian government has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

With its denunciation of a ceasefire pact worked out on its behalf between the leaders of the National Liberation Army, NLA, and leaders of the leading Albanian parties in Macedonia, the government may have squandered its last chance for peace.

President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski, and the Macedonian language media all dismissed the agreement, apparently without having seen it, and called on the leaders of the Albanian parties in the national unity government - the Party of Democratic Prosperity, PDP, and the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA - to renounce it.

The state news agency ran a headline asking if the deal was "a new anti-Macedonian conspiracy" aimed at the "protection of the terrorists and their ideological and political cause for Greater Albania".

The hysterical reaction of the Macedonians was matched by that of the EU, NATO, and the US embassy in Skopje, which described the deal as a "totally unacceptable...effort to bring this group (NLA) into the state structures. There should be no accommodations made for violence or violent groups".

The pact was reportedly brokered, or at least encouraged by US ambassador Robert Frowick, a retired state department veteran leading the OSCE mission in Macedonia. Frowick brought Macedonian and Albanian parties together to build a national unity government earlier this month, and was eager to win a peace agreement before fighting between the army and police and the NLA got out of hand.

Frowick left Macedonia last Thursday, having faced a barrage of criticism from Macedonians, the international community, his own government, and even the OSCE, which claimed that he had been "acting on his own".

But what was actually in the agreement between the NLA and the Albanian parties in Macedonia? According to Albanian language media in Kosovo, the NLA reconfirmed their recognition of the territorial integrity of Macedonia, and specifically repudiated the carve-up of the country into federal units.

The more troubling aspects of the pact, as described by Macedonian officials, included an NLA veto over policies related to Albanian rights, and integration of demobilised NLA fighters into police and army forces in Albanian-majority areas.

While the last two conditions may be unacceptable to the government and the international community, the agreement was at least a starting point for realistic talks to end the violence.

Earlier this month, when the national unity government in Skopje was being formed, senior NLA officials approached moderate Albanian figures in Kosovo, asking for advice.

"They told me that they felt they were in pretty good shape militarily, but that they were politically isolated," said a Kosovar who met some of the NLA leaders, and who asked not to be named. "They genuinely weren't sure what to do next."

The Kosovars they talked to advised the NLA to start acting like statesmen, to declare a ceasefire, come up with some reasonable demands for the government to meet, give a reasonable deadline for the demands to be met, and, in the meantime, either start their own party or prepare to get involved in Macedonian politics.

"These guys are wacky," said the Kosovar who met them. "Most of the leaders have never really done anything but plot and fight and make trouble all their lives. They don't know much of anything else, and they need to be persuaded that there are better ways than fighting to solve problems for Albanians in Macedonia.

"These guys fought in Kosovo and didn't really get anything out of it. Thaci and the Kosovo Liberation Army, UCK, got some power and gas stations and nice cars, and some respect, but the Macedonian guys couldn't even go home.

"They want something for themselves - power, money, respect, and are willing to wreck the country to get it. They need to be engaged in such a way that they can see a future for themselves in Macedonia without war and chaos. Kosovars and the Macedonian Albanian parties were working on them to get them on board."

Moderate Kosovars met Ambassador Frowick and persuaded him that someone, preferably someone from the United States, needed to talk to the NLA leaders.

Frowick encouraged the leaders of the DPA and the PDP, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri respectively, to go to Kosovo to try to make a deal with the NLA that could bring an end to the fighting before the situation in Macedonia spun out of control.

It is unclear how the news of the deal, reportedly brokered in Prizren last Wednesday, leaked out. Wire reports claimed the Macedonian state news agency broke the story.

Despite protests from Xhaferi and Imeri that the Macedonian parties were well aware of their meetings with the NLA, the prime minister, Ljupco Georgievski, accused the two of calling on their people to "wage war on Macedonia".

While the international community has denounced the deal, some Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, believe the government has missed an important opportunity.

"The reaction from the Macedonians, the EU and the Americans has been unbelievably stupid," said one official. "Do they imagine they can just wish these guys [the NLA] away? Frowick was the only one down here who actually had a clue what was going on. Now he's gone, and it is back to amateur hour."

Despite all the sound and fury surrounding the deal, the question remains, what else was there to do to avert further violence? It is easy for Lord Robertson and Javier Solana to preach against negotiations with terrorists, but other than emboldening the Macedonian army and police to shell villages more heavily, their tough talk has yielded no visible results.

The reality in Macedonia is that while few people really want a war, and while the national unity government may be genuinely committed to improving the civil rights situation for its Albanian citizens, the NLA remains in a position to scuttle any progress towards peace and multi-ethnic stability.

Last week, there were reports that as many as a dozen Albanian civilians may have been killed in artillery attacks on the villages of Slupcane and Vaksince near Kumanovo. Every Albanian civilian casualty guarantees more recruits for the NLA and hardens Albanians' conviction that the Macedonian government is not serious about improving their lot.

Every dead Macedonian policeman or soldier deepens the Macedonian belief that all Albanians are intent on dividing the country.

In an atmosphere of intense fear and distrust on the part of Albanians, and almost hysterical paranoia on the part of Macedonians, the national unity government could better serve the country by working with the international community to try to broker a ceasefire with the NLA.

It might be humiliating to finally acknowledge that yes, the government did talk with "terrorists", but it is important to note that in Kosovo and in southern Serbia the West encouraged talks with "terrorists".

Lord Robertson may tell the Macedonians not to negotiate, but his own country, Britain, with much greater resources and especially military resources, ultimately had to bring the political wing of the Irish Republican Army into the government to end the violence in Northern Ireland.

If the guerrillas decide to open up new fronts in Gostivar and Debar, as they have threatened, the army and police might find themselves stretched thin and unable to prevent "free territories" being established.

In the event of the fighting escalating this summer, the Macedonian government may look back at the last few days as a last chance for peace. President Trajkovski, Prime Minister Georgievski, and their European allies should remember Winston Churchill's admonition, "Jaw jaw is better than war war".

Colin Soloway is a Balkans-based journalist. He founded the OSCE's Journalist Protection Program in Kosovo last year and previously worked in IWPR's Bosnia Project.

Macedonia Told to End Ethnic Strife Posted June 1, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010601/wl/macedonia_103.html
Friday June 1 3:43 AM ET

Macedonia Told to End Ethnic Strife
By JOVANA GEC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Western officials are urging Macedonian leaders to step up efforts to end an ethnic Albanian insurgency peacefully, but the country's politicians are once again split over how to deal with the crisis.

The latest crack in Macedonia's three-week-old national unity government developed after Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said the country's constitution would soon be changed to upgrade the status of its ethnic Albanians - the chief demand of the rebels fighting government troops.

``We have an obligation toward the international community to create a Macedonia that will suit the (ethnic Albanians),'' Georgievski said Wednesday, acknowledging pressure from international officials who fear Macedonia's violence could spill beyond its borders if it is not stopped soon.

His remarks were a major shift from the government's tough position on the demands of the ethnic Albanians. They angered a key Slavic leader in the governing coalition and left ethnic Albanian leaders unconvinced about Georgievski's sincerity.

Ethnic Albanian politicians said the prime minister's change of heart was the result of Western pressure rather than a realization that it was time to grant Macedonia's minority ethnic group the same rights as enjoyed by majority Slavs.

The government crisis is the second this month and illustrates deep divisions among the parties in the emergency government, formed earlier this month - at the urging of the West - in an effort to end three months of fighting between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.

Earlier this week, a top European Union (news - web sites) envoy managed to bring the key politicians back together after a different issue divided them. But Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy and security chief, warned that time is running out on Macedonia to deal with its ethnic problems.

``The sooner they agree ... the better for all of them,'' Solana, said Thursday in the Czech Republic. NATO (news - web sites) Secretary General Lord Robertson also urged Macedonia's government to ``grasp the opportunity they have and move forward on a platform of firmness but also reforms.''

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels to Georgievski's statement, and clashes in northern Macedonia continued as the government pressed its drive to defeat the rebels. One soldier was killed and two were wounded in a land mine blast.

The rebels claim they only want better rights for the ethnic Albanians who make up about one-third of Macedonia's population. Macedonian leaders say the rebels are terrorists who want to create an ethnic Albanian state and refuse to include them in any talks.

Georgievski's statement, however, suggested a major shift in the government policies. He said constitutional changes would make ethnic Albanians an equal, constituent nation alongside the country's majority Slavs and would make their language official, as Macedonian is now.

Officials close to President Boris Trajkovski said the Macedonian leadership was also working on an amnesty plan under which most insurgents who abandon their weapons would be pardoned unless they are proven to have committed serious crimes or organized the rebellion.

A similar plan - backed by NATO and its troops in Kosovo - helped defuse an ethnic Albanian rebellion in the southern part of the Yugoslav republic of Serbia this month, raising hopes Macedonia could follow suit.

Since the fighting began, up to 35,000 people have been displaced in Macedonia or fled to neighboring countries, an official with the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday. Several thousand more are still trapped by fighting in rebel-held villages in the north.

Macedonia still wracked by fighting as government splits deepen Posted May 31, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010531/1/qp8l.html
Thursday May 31, 11:50 PM

Macedonia still wracked by fighting as government splits deepen

SKOPJE, May 31 (AFP) -

Fighting raged on in Macedonia on Thursday as ethnic Albanian rebels rejected offers of an amnesty and splits within the ruling coalition deepened.

An army captain was killed when his vehicle hit a mine and government forces responded with artillery fire when rebels in two villages north of Skopje opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers, an army spokesman said.

As the fighting continued, the slow progress on the military front and the near deadlock in the political process continued to drive wedges between the members of a fragile government of national unity.

Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian parties were already at loggerheads over the latters' support for dialogue with the rebels, but on Thursday tensions between rival Slav movements boiled to the surface.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski claimed that the Social Democrats (SDSM), the ex-Communist party led by former prime minister Branko Crvenovski had undermined the Slav position on reform by being soft on military action.

The heads of the four main parties in the coalition are in talks led by President Boris Trajkovksi to discuss ways of meeting ethnic Albanian demands for greater minority rights.

Georgievski, who wants to defeat the rebels with military force, said the SDSM, which controls the defence ministry, had failed in its task to such an extent that it was now almost inevitable that every Albanian demand would be met.

"It is probable that we will have to drop the preamble to the constitution, or announce a second constitutive nation. It is very likely that we will have to announce a second official language," complained Georgievski.

Georgievski accused the defence ministry of witholding supplies from front-line units.

But Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the SDSM, placed the blame for the crisis squarely on Georgievski, who led a previous governing coalition of his nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

"We have only been in the government for two weeks. No-one is stopping Georgievski if he wants to solve the crisis with war," he told reporters.

Georgievski brought the SDSM and the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) into the coalition to form a government of national unity and isolate the rebels.

But the DPA and PDP have always opposed using military force to dislodge the guerrilla National Liberation Army (NLA) from its strongholds in hills north of Skopje, splitting the coalition along ethnic lines.

The preamble to Macedonia's constitution stipulates that "Macedonia is the nation state of the Macedonian people", and relegates the ethnic Albanians, who make up between a quarter and a third of the population, to minority status.

Elected ethnic Albanian leaders have long demanded that their community be given equal status as a constitutive nation of Macedonia, and that their language be officially recognised.

Their political frustration has fed the flames of an armed uprising, which since mid-February has pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas against government troops and police.

In a bid to defuse the crisis President Boris Trajkovski was on Thursday preparing to draw up a deal on a "partial amnesty" which would allow rebels not suspected of "serious crimes" to lay down their arms without fear of arrest, an official in his office said.

Georgievski said of the proposed amnesty, "in principal, if it is part of a peaceful solution, it has to be supported", but has always rejected the idea of direct talks with the rebels.

But the rebels dismissed the offer before it was even officially on the table.

"We do not accept the amnesty. We are still fighting for all our demands to be met," said Nazim Beqiri, a member of the NLA's general staff, "One of the key conditions to end this conflict is that the NLA takes part in discussions on the future of Albanians in Macedonia."

The amnesty being floated is similar to a deal offered last week to ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in southern Serbia, who were offered an amnesty if they laid down their arms and surrendered to NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Hundreds did so, including their leader, and on Thursday Yugoslav troops entered the last pocket of territory once controlled by the guerrillas.

Trajkovski has written to NATO Secretary General George Robertson with an outline of his amnesty idea, the official said.

The amnesty plan follows an offer from Interior Minister Ljube Georgievski to allow the "citizens" of the rebel stronghold of Lipkovo, where some 12,000 villagers, rebels and refugees are said to be holed up, to leave for Kosovo.

If the people accepted an humanitarian escort to the frontier they would not face "police formailities" he said, in a plan which senior officials admitted amounted to giving the rebels a back door out of the conflict.

But on Wednesday there was no sign that anyone from Lipkovo had heeded his call, and village officials said that the civilians were too frightened of falling victim to alleged Macedonian police brutality to leave.

Macedonian Slav parties clash in new split in unity coalition Posted May 31, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010531/1/qouf.html
Thursday May 31, 9:56 PM

Macedonian Slav parties clash in new split in unity coalition

SKOPJE, May 31 (AFP) -
The two main Slav parties in Macedonia's national unity government clashed Thursday over how to deal with the armed ethnic Albanian rebellion that has threatened to push the country into civil war.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said Wednesday that the Social Democratic Party (SDSM) had undermined efforts to defeat the rebels by force, obliging the government to contemplate making concessions on ethnic Albanian demands.

"It is probable that we will have to drop the preamble to the constitution, or announce a second constitutive nation. It is very likely that we will have to announce a second official language," complained Georgievski, head of the Slavic VMRO-DPMNE party.

He said that discussions were underway on constitutional reform and that the SDSM's weakness could force the government to cede to all the key ethnic Albanian demands.

"It is high time the SDSM tell us how long they are going to keep stopping the military from dealing with the terrorists, blocking supplies for the army, and tell us when they expect us to start talks with terrorists," he demanded.

The SDSM has been allotted the defence ministry in the government of national unity created earlier this month by Slav and ethnic Albanian parties to deal with the crisis.

Georgievski accused the SDSM of starving the army of the equipment needed to defeat the guerrillas militarily.

But Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the SDSM, placed the blame for the crisis squarely on Georgievski, who led a previous governing coalition of his nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

"We have only been in the government for two weeks. No one is stopping Georgievski if he wants to solve the crisis with war," he told reporters.

Georgievski brought the SDSM and the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) into the national unity coalition in hopes of isolating the rebels.

But the DPA and PDP have always opposed using military force to dislodge the guerrilla National Liberation Army from its strongholds in hills north of Skopje, threatening to split the coalition along ethnic lines.

Government spokesman Antonio Milososki said Thursday that discussions had been going on within the coalition for some time about the reforming the constitution to accord ethnic Albanians greater rights.

But he said no decisions had yet been taken.

The preamble to Macedonia's decade-old constitution stipulates that "Macedonia is the nation state of the Macedonian people", and relegates the ethnic Albanians, who make up between a quarter and a third of the population, to minority status.

Elected ethnic Albanian leaders have long demanded that their community be given equal status as a constitutive nation of Macedonia, and that their language be officially recognised.

Their political frustration has fed the flames of an armed uprising, which since mid-February has pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas against government troops and police in Macedonia's northern hills.

Macedonia still wracked by fighting as government splits deepen Posted May 31, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010531/1/qp8l.html
Thursday May 31, 11:50 PM

Macedonia still wracked by fighting as government splits deepen

SKOPJE, May 31 (AFP) -
Fighting raged on in Macedonia on Thursday as ethnic Albanian rebels rejected offers of an amnesty and splits within the ruling coalition deepened.

An army captain was killed when his vehicle hit a mine and government forces responded with artillery fire when rebels in two villages north of Skopje opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers, an army spokesman said.

As the fighting continued, the slow progress on the military front and the near deadlock in the political process continued to drive wedges between the members of a fragile government of national unity.

Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian parties were already at loggerheads over the latters' support for dialogue with the rebels, but on Thursday tensions between rival Slav movements boiled to the surface.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski claimed that the Social Democrats (SDSM), the ex-Communist party led by former prime minister Branko Crvenovski had undermined the Slav position on reform by being soft on military action.

The heads of the four main parties in the coalition are in talks led by President Boris Trajkovksi to discuss ways of meeting ethnic Albanian demands for greater minority rights.

Georgievski, who wants to defeat the rebels with military force, said the SDSM, which controls the defence ministry, had failed in its task to such an extent that it was now almost inevitable that every Albanian demand would be met.

"It is probable that we will have to drop the preamble to the constitution, or announce a second constitutive nation. It is very likely that we will have to announce a second official language," complained Georgievski.

Georgievski accused the defence ministry of witholding supplies from front-line units.

But Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the SDSM, placed the blame for the crisis squarely on Georgievski, who led a previous governing coalition of his nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

"We have only been in the government for two weeks. No-one is stopping Georgievski if he wants to solve the crisis with war," he told reporters.

Georgievski brought the SDSM and the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) into the coalition to form a government of national unity and isolate the rebels.

But the DPA and PDP have always opposed using military force to dislodge the guerrilla National Liberation Army (NLA) from its strongholds in hills north of Skopje, splitting the coalition along ethnic lines.

The preamble to Macedonia's constitution stipulates that "Macedonia is the nation state of the Macedonian people", and relegates the ethnic Albanians, who make up between a quarter and a third of the population, to minority status.

Elected ethnic Albanian leaders have long demanded that their community be given equal status as a constitutive nation of Macedonia, and that their language be officially recognised.

Their political frustration has fed the flames of an armed uprising, which since mid-February has pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas against government troops and police.

In a bid to defuse the crisis President Boris Trajkovski was on Thursday preparing to draw up a deal on a "partial amnesty" which would allow rebels not suspected of "serious crimes" to lay down their arms without fear of arrest, an official in his office said.

Georgievski said of the proposed amnesty, "in principal, if it is part of a peaceful solution, it has to be supported", but has always rejected the idea of direct talks with the rebels.

But the rebels dismissed the offer before it was even officially on the table.

"We do not accept the amnesty. We are still fighting for all our demands to be met," said Nazim Beqiri, a member of the NLA's general staff, "One of the key conditions to end this conflict is that the NLA takes part in discussions on the future of Albanians in Macedonia."

The amnesty being floated is similar to a deal offered last week to ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in southern Serbia, who were offered an amnesty if they laid down their arms and surrendered to NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Hundreds did so, including their leader, and on Thursday Yugoslav troops entered the last pocket of territory once controlled by the guerrillas.

Trajkovski has written to NATO Secretary General George Robertson with an outline of his amnesty idea, the official said.

The amnesty plan follows an offer from Interior Minister Ljube Georgievski to allow the "citizens" of the rebel stronghold of Lipkovo, where some 12,000 villagers, rebels and refugees are said to be holed up, to leave for Kosovo.

If the people accepted an humanitarian escort to the frontier they would not face "police formailities" he said, in a plan which senior officials admitted amounted to giving the rebels a back door out of the conflict.

But on Wednesday there was no sign that anyone from Lipkovo had heeded his call, and village officials said that the civilians were too frightened of falling victim to alleged Macedonian police brutality to leave.

Macedonian Police Abuses Documented: Ethnic Albanian Men Separated, Tortured at Police Stations Posted May 31, 2001
http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/05/macedonia0530.htm

Macedonian Police Abuses Documented
Ethnic Albanian Men Separated, Tortured at Police Stations

(Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2001) Macedonian forces are systematically separating out ethnic Albanian males fleeing fierce fighting in northern Macedonia, and severely beating some of the men at police stations, Human Rights Watch said today. In the most severe cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the ill-treatment appears intended to extract confessions or information about the National Liberation Army (NLA) and amounts to torture. The fear of violence at the hands of the Macedonian police is also stopping many ethnic Albanians from fleeing to safety into government-controlled territory.

"Ethnic Albanian men fleeing the fighting in Macedonia face severe ill-treatment by the police," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "We have documented serious beatings and torture of ethnic Albanians at the Kumanovo and Skopje police stations in the last week. The victims we interviewed have the bruises and injuries to back up their claims of abuse."

On May 22, Macedonian forces launched an offensive against ethnic Albanian fighters of the NLA who had seized control of villages located in the vicinity of the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo. An estimated fifteen thousand civilians remain in the NLA-controlled territory, sparking concerns of significant civilian casualties if the fighting continues. Since the beginning of the renewed offensive, Macedonian forces have separated out men from the civilians fleeing the fighting and have severely beaten some of them.

Human Rights Watch researchers have documented cases of severe beating at the Kumanovo police station, located in the region where the latest fighting is taking place, as well as at the Skopje police station, located in the capital city of Macedonia. Some of the tactics involved hundreds of blows to the soles of the victims' feet-a torture technique known as falanga which causes severe pain and swelling and can lead to kidney failure-as well as extended beatings on the hands, buttocks, arms, and heads of the victims. The men interviewed by Human Rights Watch indicated that they had heard the screams of many other beating victims at the police stations, suggesting that the scope of such abuse may be widespread and condoned at the police stations.

Human Rights Watch said that the ill-treatment violates international human rights law, and in the most severe cases amounts to torture.

Many of the ethnic Albanians are reluctant to talk to international observers because they fear further retaliation from the Macedonian police, and have in some cases been warned by their abusers not to discuss their maltreatment. For this reason, identifying details are withheld from the testimonies summarized below. Some of the men were forced to sign confessions under torture and to implicate others in NLA-related activities. Large numbers of men continue to be separated out from convoys of fleeing civilians and taken to police stations.

On Tuesday, May 29, Human Rights Watch researchers observed a group of approximately thirty-five ethnic Albanian men from the village of Matejce who were separated from their female relatives and taken into the police station at Kumanovo.

"Jevit Hasani," (not his real name), a seventeen-year-old villager from Vaksince, an NLA-controlled village recaptured by government forces over the weekend, was arrested and taken to the Skopje police station after fleeing fighting in the village. He described the treatment he experienced in the police station:

They took us in a corridor. Suddenly I was hit on the head with a wooden stick, and then ten or so people began beating me until I fainted. When I came to, I was in a room. They were swearing, insulting my mother and sister, calling me an NLA fighter, a terrorist nationalist. I was lying on the ground on my side, facing the wall when I woke up, and my shoes were off. They started beating me on the feet and the buttocks. At the beginning they would just beat me. They would count ten hits as one, and went all until fifty or sixty [i.e. five hundred to six hundred hits]. This was before they asked me questions.

[After being questioned and beaten more], they wrote a confession. Then they made me read the confession in front of a camera in another room. I had to confess I was a spy, and they made me read a list of names of people in the NLA which they had prepared, and say that the NLA had refused to let the civilians go out and abused us.

"Jevit Hasani" was released after forty-eight hours in custody. He showed Human Rights Watch researchers the deep bruises and hematoma on his buttocks caused by the severe beatings, and explained he had continued to suffer the after effects of beatings to his private parts. According to "Jevit Hasani" many other people were undergoing beatings while he was being detained at the police station: "I heard other people screaming while I was being interrogated, in other rooms. They were screaming in pain, there were a lot of them." A second witness interviewed by Human Rights Watch offered an essentially similar account of his beating at the Skopje police station, and also had deep bruises and hematoma on his buttocks and swollen hands, but did not want his ordeal publicized out of fear of police retaliation.

"Ymer Aqifi," (not his real name) a fifty-one-year-old father of six from Slupcane, was beaten at the Kumanovo police station on Sunday, May 27. He described the beatings he and eight other men he was detained with sustained:

We were taken into a corridor. Four [police investigators] made me lie down flat on my stomach. They beat me with an iron bar on the wrists, a wooden stick on my head, a [police] baton on my buttocks, and kicked with their feet however much they wanted. They were swearing, insulting my mother and sisters, all kinds of curses. They were asking who is NLA, where the Imam [religious leader] of the village was, where the civilian defenses were, where the headquarters were. But no one wrote down anything, they didn't wait for answers.
That lasted for about an hour I lost consciousness. Then they poured water on me. Two policemen came when I regained consciousness and they took me and the others to another corridor. Down there, all night long, there were screaming people beneath us. You could hear how they beat them.

"Ymer Aqifi" showed Human Rights Watch researchers the deep bruises and hematoma on his buttocks, deep bruises on his arms, bruises on his forehead and the sides of his head, and his swollen hands.

Twenty-five-year-old "Adem Yimeri" (not his real name), a farmer from Vaksince, was also beaten at Kumanovo police station. He described the beating to Human Rights Watch:

They took us to offices and there were three [police investigators]. They took me to an office by myself. He said to write down who is in the NLA. They asked me about my relatives in Kosovo. A person entered with a wooden stick covered with tape and he hit me on the back. Then they hit me on the sides of the head [above the hairline] so the bruises wouldn't show. They hit me twice on the hands with the bat. Then they said, "If it doesn't hurt like that, put them on the table and we will make sure you never pick up a rifle again." Then they hit me ten more times on the hands.

Then they made me bend over a chair. One of them would hit me in the kidneys, and another hit me on the head. They said they would destroy my kidneys so I could never work again. From 12 to 4 p.m., they beat me like that.

"Ethnic Albanian men remaining in the villages under NLA control fear ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Macedonian forces," commented Cartner. "There is little doubt that this fear is one of the reasons why so many ethnic Albanian men are refusing to leave their homes in the conflict zone."

Police forces have also abused ethnic Albanian civilians this past week during raids against suspected NLA sympathizers in Tetovo, the scene of earlier fighting between the NLA and government forces. Human Rights Watch researchers documented the cases of ten ethnic Albanian men who were beaten during police raids in the villages of Dzepciste and Poroj on May 25. During the raid on the Dzepciste home of Naser Junizi, a schoolteacher and village leader accused by the Macedonian government of assisting the NLA, police commandos beat Naser Junizi, two of his brothers, his sixty-eight-year-old father, and his eighteen-year-old son. Police also entered the Poroj compound of the Saiti family, kicking and breaking three ribs of thirty-six-year-old Rami Saiti and attacking his seventy-three-year-old father and seventeen-year-old cousin before apparently realizing they had entered the wrong home and rapidly leaving.

Human Rights Watch noted that police abuse of ethnic Albanians, as well as of Macedonian Slavs who run afoul of the police, is endemic in Macedonia, as documented in two earlier Human Rights Watch reports issued in 1996 and 1998. The NLA has claimed that one of the main reasons for its armed rebellion is the failure of the Macedonian government to address police abuse as well as other forms of discrimination against ethnic Albanians.

Although the Macedonian police appear responsible for the majority of beating cases, Macedonian military forces have also been implicated in beatings. Macedonian military troops appear responsible for the beating of a family of seven in the village of Runica, in which many houses were reportedly burned down by Macedonian troops on May 21, 2001. Human Rights Watch called for an immediate end to torture and other ill-treatment at police stations and urged the international community closely to monitor the treatment of ethnic Albanians by the Macedonian forces.

"The international community must do its part to bring an end to police abuse of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia," said Cartner. "International support for the Macedonian government should not mean remaining silent in the face of such severe ill-treatment."

Macedonia Mulls Constitution Change Posted May 31, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010531/wl/macedonia.html
Thursday May 31 9:01 AM ET

Macedonia Mulls Constitution Change
By JOVANA GEC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - In a major policy shift, the prime minister said in comments broadcast Thursday that Macedonia could rewrite its constitution to upgrade the position of ethnic Albanians.

The offer by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski would meet a key ethnic Albanian demand set to end an insurgency that has threatened to push the country into an all-out war.

``We have an obligation toward the international community to create a Macedonia that will suit the (ethnic) Albanians,'' Georgievski was quoted as saying by state television. ``That is our only solution at the moment. That is an agenda for peace.''

Georgievski's comments, made late Wednesday but broadcast Thursday, marked a sharp shift from the government's tough position of the past several months, since ethnic Albanian rebels took up arms saying they are fighting for more rights for their people.

The government had earlier said the constitutional changes would lead to a division of Macedonia into an ethnic Albanian and a Slav-dominated part. Ethnic Albanians make up about one-third of the population.

Georgievski said the constitution might be rewritten to declare the ethnic Albanians a constituent nation and their language official. So far, the constitution defines Macedonia as the country of Macedonian people and other citizens, and the only official language is Macedonian.

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels to Georgievski's statement. An ethnic Albanian politician suggested that the prime minister's offer is the result of Western pressure rather then good will, and as such could only aggravate the situation.

``We cannot accept the way Georgievski speaks about this,'' said Azis Polozhani, from the Party of Democratic Prosperity. ``That is inflammatory talk that could push us into an even deeper crisis.''

The United States and its allies have supported the Macedonian government in its struggle against the militants, but also have urged it to address the ethnic Albanian concerns.

A top European official, Javier Solana, helped end a government crisis earlier this week in Macedonia, urging the government to negotiate a way out of the crisis.

The insurgency that started in February has claimed nearly two dozen lives, and led to heavy fighting in northern Macedonia along the border with Kosovo. International officials fear clashes could engulf much of the Balkans.

Military and police sources in Macedonia reported relative calm in the battlefields Thursday, following a night of sporadic mortar, machine gun and sniper fire exchanged by the two sides.

Up to 35,000 people have been displaced in Macedonia or fled to neighboring countries, an official with the U.N.'s refugee agency said Thursday.

More than 12,000 people have moved to other parts of Macedonia, 19,600 have fled to Kosovo and 3,000 to southern Serbia.

``UNHCR is very concerned that the continuing fighting will prevent further access of the humanitarian organizations to the region in order to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid,'' said spokeswoman Astrid Van Genderen Stort.

The fighting in northern Macedonia has left several thousand civilians trapped in the rebel-held villages, raising international concerns about their condition. Government troops in the area have been on an offensive for the past few weeks.

Only a handful of civilians have responded to a police appeal to evacuate the besieged villages. The Macedonian government claimed that the rebels were using the civilians as ``human shields'' and would not let them go.

Questions linger, rumors abound in torching of Bitola's Albanian businesses Posted May 31, 2001
http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/480fa8736b88bbc3c12564f6004c8ad5/2d299843c1fe91c0c1256a5c005c4721?OpenDocument

Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Date: 30 May 2001

Macedonia: Questions linger, rumors abound in torching of Bitola's Albanian businesses

By Jolyon Naegele

Four weeks ago, in two consecutive nights of violence, crowds of Macedonian Slavs ransacked Albanian-owned shops, cafes, and homes in Bitola, Macedonia's second-largest city. Two days later, clashes began between the Macedonian army and ethnic Albanian fighters, in an armed conflict that has yet to abate. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele visited Bitola in a search for answers about who was behind the rampage.

Bitola, Macedonia; 30 May2001 (RFE/RL) -- It has been almost a month since Macedonian rioters smashed and set fire to a string of Albanian-owned pastry shops and cafes in Bitola. The incident followed the funerals of four local policemen, killed along with four soldiers in an ambush by Albanian insurgents a few days earlier in the Sar Mountains in northwestern Macedonia.

Since then, broken shards of plate glass outside the shops have been carted off. Graffiti -- crosses and the words, in Macedonian, "Death to the Albanians" -- have been scrawled on some shop facades. The blackened interiors remain a scene of devastation, with rotting cream cakes and baklava lying amid smashed mirrors and display cases.

During the traditional Sunday afternoon promenade ("corso"), Albanians are nowhere to be seen. Many have left to stay with friends or relatives elsewhere in Macedonia or abroad.

Bitola, known to Albanians as Monastir, had a flourishing Albanian population until the mid-20th century. The town is revered by Albanians as the place where in 1908 and 1909 they adopted a standardized alphabet for the Albanian language using Latin letters, ending the practice by some of using the Greek alphabet and by others of using Arabic script to write in Albanian.

However, Bitola's Albanians have been a dwindling minority for the last half-century. Some 30,000 emigrated from the city and its surroundings to Turkey as part of a Yugoslav policy to reduce the Albanian population in Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia by offering Albanians the opportunity to leave.

According to the 1994 census, which many Albanians boycotted, Albanians make up only 2,000 of Bitola's population of 86,000, or just over two percent. An additional 2,600 live in surrounding villages. But the main ethnic Albanian political party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, or PDSh, estimates the Albanian population is nearly double the census figure.

Ljubco Taskovski is a 35-year-old ethnic Macedonian and a reservist in the Macedonian army. He has a job at the local dairy plant and owns a trailer from which he sells fresh doughnuts on the corso. He says it was the brothers, sisters, and friends of the four murdered policemen who were the "organizers" of the rampage in the early hours of 1 May. They were joined, he adds, by others they met in the street:

"It went on for about two hours, from shop to shop. We know whose shops these were. The people doing this were purely on a raid. They weren't carrying anything more than stones to break glass. They turned things upside down, but [did] nothing else."

Taskovski says some 50 people -- from Bitola and from the villages of the dead policemen -- participated in the violence:

"They rose up in response to the deaths of innocent soldiers, and as a warning to the Albanians who are in Bitola -- not that we are going to kill people, but that we are going to draw the line. We can kill, but before [we do] that we will warn them. [If] we break glass and smash [their] workshops, [Albanians] will stop killing soldiers and policemen."

Taskovski's remarks echo an unsubstantiated report, broadcast at the time by a private TV station, which alleged that Albanians in Bitola and nearby villages celebrated the deaths of the four local policemen by firing off their guns in celebration. Several people interviewed said the TV report was one of the factors that incited Macedonians to riot.

Taskovski accuses some of Bitola's Albanians of being "terrorists" and of battling the Macedonian army in the north of the country.

Macedonia's Deputy Health Minister Muarem Nexhipi is politically the senior member of Bitola's Albanian community. A Zagreb-educated medical doctor, he is a leader of PDSh and a possible successor to the ailing party chief Arben Xhaferi. Nexhipi was in Bitola during the unrest. He says a total of 42 shops and businesses, as well as about 10 kiosks, were attacked the first night (between 00:20 and 04:30 local time) as the police watched and did nothing.

Nexhipi says that about an hour after starting to set fire to Albanian businesses in the center of Bitola, the crowd moved to a pastry shop near his house, setting it on fire as well. When the fire department arrived, he says the crowd attacked the firemen, who Nexhipi says turned their hoses on the demonstrators, dispersing the gathering and saving the Nexhipi home from attack. He says that "a large number of police" intervened to protect his house from two subsequent attempts to set it alight.

Macedonian attackers demolished 17 more Albanian-owned or managed businesses the following evening. Nexhipi says that after authorities declared a curfew the third evening, attackers burned down two Albanian-owned homes. One belonged to a man working in Switzerland, the other was owned by a lawyer who had agreed to take up the cases of people whose businesses had been torched. Fire inspectors subsequently suggested that the fire had been due to an electrical problem.

Bitola's Social Democratic mayor, Zlatko Vrsakovski, appeared on TV after the first two nights of violence had passed and appealed for calm. Almost three weeks passed before he lifted the nighttime (2300 to 0500) curfew on 20 May.

Nexhipi suspects the real reason for the unrest can be found in Bitola's legacy as a key garrison town of the former Yugoslav People's Army, or JNA, due to Bitola's proximity to the Greek border, 16 kilometers to the south. When the army withdrew to Serbia nearly a decade ago, Nexhipi says the majority of ethnic Serbian JNA officers and their families stayed behind in Bitola. He says they now have Macedonian citizenship and have been active in the past in organizing what he terms "anti-Albanian initiatives and demonstrations." Nexhipi estimates that between 30 and 50 Serb former JNA officers currently reside in Bitola.

"There has been something grave going on Bitola for years. Groups of [Serb] people are at work, conducting operations. So because of all of this, we were afraid when we learned about the murders of the four [policemen] from Bitola. We knew from past experience that whenever anything, clashes or whatever, occur involving the Albanian question in Macedonia or Kosovo, it will be reflected in Bitola. We knew that there would be broken shop windows, that someone would make a show of power toward a symbolic number of people."

Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski told RFE/RL today he has not previously heard the allegations that former JNA officers might be involved in the Bitola unrest. But he suggests there may be a connection if the former officers, rather than retiring from the military, joined Macedonia's security forces:

"I don't see how they could organize the events if they're retired. If they are active, it will be good for all of us here to know what positions they are in now, and to investigate such rumors. It's [more effective] to be in a position to be active, and to be employed formally in the ministries [of Defense or Interior] or in some of our [secret services], and in that way have an impact on that kind of movement, of the rebellion in Bitola."

Vladimir Milcin is executive director of the Macedonian branch of the Open Society Institute, based in Skopje. In a recent essay, he wrote of his own suspicions regarding the Bitola incident:

"There is something smelly in this dim story, something that stinks much more than the burnt shops in the bazaar in Bitola. Power and money are the agent of movement of this death game. [Someone] is encouraging enmity to incite voluntary or violent ethnic cleansing."

Milcin says the aim is to divide Macedonia into ethnically pure regions, enabling partition. He predicts that what is left of Macedonia will not be able to survive as an independent country.

The Open Society Institute chief adds that the Bitola residents involved in the attacks on Albanian businesses were provoked by the fact that, despite an official order for all four caskets containing the remains of the dead policeman to remain sealed, the brother of one of the dead men insisted his coffin be opened. The mourners, he says, were horrified by the sight of a burned body.

Milcin says he is convinced the unrest was organized:

"On the day of the funeral, the state secretary at the Interior Ministry was there, Ljube Boskovski, who has since become [on 13 May] minister of the interior. And he remained [in Bitola] overnight, until the next day. The mayor of Bitola, [Zlatko Vrsakovski], asked police to intervene. The police didn't do anything except protect the house of Mr. Muarem Nexhipi [from PDSh], the deputy minister of health."

Milcin says the police did nothing to stop the violence during the first two nights of unrest and notes the curfew was only introduced on the third day. He says members of a private Macedonian security agency, Kometa, led the mob in the unrest. He accuses Kometa of having very close relations with the nationalist party of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, known as VMRO-DPMNE.

"I don't believe that what happened in Bitola [was] something spontaneous. I think that basically, [the incident was] stimulated and supported by some people close to VMRO, to the government."

Interior Ministry spokesman Pendrovski, when asked whether any evidence has been found confirming suspicions that the unrest was organized, says that until now there have been "only rumors:"

"I have heard some rumors, or 'semi-information,' about the so-called Macedonian organizations -- 'Lions' and 'National Front for the Liberation of Macedonia,' or something like that -- that are behind the events [in Bitola]. But until now we have not confirmed anything."

The Lions and the National Front are previously unknown groups which have claimed credit for the attacks. Pendarovski says there are suspicions at senior levels in the Interior Ministry that local police chiefs in Bitola may be close to these secretive groups. But so far, Pendarovski says, investigations of the unrest have not gotten very far -- in part, he says, because the ministry is concentrating its efforts on the fighting around Kumanovo in the north of the country.

"Unfortunately, we've had only four charges brought against four people -- criminal charges -- and all of them, according to our law, are released and can defend themselves [while] being free. And after that it's up to the court in Bitola, the local court in Bitola, to proceed further with criminal investigations."

Milcin of the Open Society Institute says Bitola has been impoverished since 1997, when Albania's TAT pyramid investment scheme went bust, leaving many residents to lose their life savings. Bitola, says Milcin, "is a town which is easily pushed into being involved in events like a pogrom."

Worry Rises for Balkans' Civilians Posted May 30, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010530/8/qkv5.html
Thursday May 31, 7:07 AM

Worry Rises for Balkans' Civilians
By JOVANA GEC, Associated Press Writer

KUMANOVO, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonian authorities lined up dozens of buses Wednesday to evacuate villagers trapped in fighting in the north, but blamed ``terrorists'' for thwarting the humanitarian effort by keeping people from leaving.

The police and the army issued an appeal to residents of villages scattered along the rugged border with Kosovo to join the internationally supervised evacuation.

Authorities said they had dozens of buses ready, and the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was prepared to supervise efforts to bring the civilians out.

But by evening, as heavy fighting broke out between the ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces, there were no reports of a large-scale exodus from the towns in the north.

Macedonia's interior minister, Ljuben Boskoski, told state television Wednesday evening that the evacuation didn't occur because of ``terrorist pressure'' on the population, suggesting the rebels were preventing civilians from leaving.

The Red Cross in a statement urged the warring sides ``to find a solution which means that civilians are not exposed to hostilities in this way.''

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people are ``trapped'' in rebel-held villages besieged by government forces, said Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He said some had been ordered by the rebels to stay, while thousands had managed to pull out.

For several weeks, government forces have been waging an offensive aimed at driving out the rebels, who they contend are terrorists bent on seizing territory and carving out an ethnic Albanian mini-state.

The insurgents say they are merely fighting for greater rights and recognition for Macedonia's minority ethnic Albanians, who make up one-third of the population of 2 million and complain of treatment as second-class citizens.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was sending observers to the villages Wednesday, said European Union security affairs chief Javier Solana.

Macedonian television showed footage Wednesday evening of three Macedonian Slavs who said they had been released from rebel captivity in the village of Matejce. They had bruises, and a local doctor treating their wounds at Kumanovo's hospital said they apparently had been beaten and suffered injuries that included broken ribs and a concussion.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding that Macedonia investigate claims by refugees from the northern village of Runica that government forces beat some of that community's civilians and set their homes on fire earlier this month.

European Union policy chief Javier Solana, attending a meeting of NATO and EU foreign ministers in Budapest, Hungary, said Wednesday that the militants must either lay down their arms or face the consequences.

But Solana, who brokered an agreement on Tuesday saving Macedonia's unity government, also urged Macedonian forces to show restraint.

``We made it very clear that if they used force, it has to be proportional force,'' he said. ``Nothing can be done that would put the lives of civilians at risk.''

Macedonia mulls amnesty for guerrillas Posted May 30, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010530/3/qki1.html
Thursday May 31, 6:26 AM

Macedonia mulls amnesty for guerrillas
By Rosalind Russell

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonians on Thursday mulled their president's proposal to offer a partial amnesty to ethnic Albanian guerrillas with the hope of extinguishing an insurgency which has trapped thousands of civilians in the crossfire.

President Boris Trajkovski's potentially controversial amnesty would exclude guerrillas involved in organising the five-month-old insurrection or those responsible for killing Macedonian soldiers and committing other atrocities.

In a letter sent to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson on Wednesday, Trajkovski presented a plan modelled on a pact which has dissolved most of another ethnic Albanian guerrilla force in neighbouring southern Serbia.

While it falls short of their hopes of a blanket amnesty, it will be welcomed by Western diplomats, who said such a proposal could be crucial if a wider Balkan conflict was to be averted.

Heavy fighting that broke out on Wednesday despite an earlier commitment by the Macedonian army to halt fire to allow trapped civilians to escape the northern battle zone served as another reminder of how close the country was to civil war.

Macedonian tanks and artillery pounded the mainly ethnic Albanian village of Matejce as night fell, after the army said its positions were attacked by guerrilla mortars.

A plan to evacuate up to 8,000 civilians from the rebel-held village of Lipkovo, where supplies of food and water are said to be running low, was scrapped. The army blamed the guerrillas for sparking the fighting and thwarting the operation.

But ethnic Albanian community leaders in Lipkovo, 25 km (15 miles) north of the capital Skopje, said civilians wanted to stay put for fear of mistreatment by Macedonian security forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the civilians, many of them sick and elderly, were caught in a "desperate situation".

"The ICRC urges all those involved to find a solution which means civilians are not exposed to hostilities in this way," the Geneva-based organisation said in a statement.

AMNESTY PROPOSAL MAY ENRAGE SLAVS

Despite Western encouragement, Trajkovski will have to tread carefully with his proposal to grant even a partial amnesty to the guerrillas, who say they are seeking to end discrimination against Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority.

A young coalition government of Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian parties is still fragile, with Slav leaders smarting over a secret peace pact negotiated between ethnic Albanian leaders and rebels.

On Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana persuaded the two sides to forget about the pact, but hardline Slavs are still dead set against making any concessions to the guerrillas.

Western diplomats say they are trying to smooth a path towards a deal similar to that brokered by NATO in southern Serbia that has flushed out ethnic Albanian guerrillas with scarcely a shot being fired.

The agreement there included confidence-building measures including the establishment of a multi-ethnic police force.

Trajkovski's security adviser, Nikola Dimitrov, said the amnesty proposal would be worked out in the coming days with NATO, which has troops in the neighbouring Yugoslav province of Kosovo where Macedonia's guerrillas have rear bases.

At the same time, the "national unity" government is under heavy pressure to press ahead with reforms aimed at healing ethnic divisions in the former Yugoslav republic.

Macedonia's one-third ethnic Albanian minority says it has been suffering state-backed discrimination in all walks of life, including education and employment.

Trajkovski has vowed the government will make substantial progress on addressing inter-ethnic tensions by mid-June.

Prime minister backs change in Macedonian constitution Posted May 30, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010530/1/qk6g.html
Thursday May 31, 5:21 AM

Prime minister backs change in Macedonian constitution

SKOPJE, May 30 (AFP) -

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of Macedonia said Wednesday that the republic's constitution would "probably" have to be changed to appease the demands of the ethnic Albanian minority.

"It is probable that we will have to drop the preamble to the constitution, or announce a second constitutive nation. It is very likely that we will have to announce a second official language," he said in a television interview.

Macedonia Proposes Amnesty As Fighting Rages Posted May 30, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010530/wl/balkans_guerrillas_dc_54.html
Wednesday May 30 3:40 PM ET

Macedonia Proposes Amnesty As Fighting Rages
By Elisaveta Konstantinova

SKOPJE, Macedonia (Reuters) - Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski proposed a partial amnesty for ethnic Albanian guerrillas Wednesday as fighting raged in the Balkan state's northern front.

In a letter to NATO (news - web sites) Secretary-General George Robertson, Trajkovski suggested an amnesty for guerrillas -- excluding those involved in organizing the 5-month-old insurgency or those responsible for killing Macedonian soldiers.

The plan is modeled on a pact that disarmed and disbanded ethnic Albanian guerrillas in southern Serbia in a deal brokered by NATO, said Trajkovski's security adviser Nikola Dimitrov.

It will be welcomed by Western diplomats, who earlier Wednesday said such a proposal could be a crucial if a wider Balkan conflict was to be averted, although the proposal fell short of their hopes of a blanket amnesty.

``If the government of Macedonia takes a decision on this subject, then of course we will cooperate with the government,'' Javier Solana, the European Union (news - web sites)'s top foreign affairs representative, said at a joint EU-NATO meeting in Budapest.

Dimitrov said details of Trajkovski's proposal would be worked out over the coming days with NATO, which has troops stationed in neighboring Kosovo, a breakaway province of Yugoslavia, where guerrillas have rear bases.

CIVILIAN EVACUATION THWARTED BY FIGHTING

Macedonian security forces and the guerrillas, who say they are seeking to end discrimination against the country's Albanian minority, battled as darkness fell after a plan to evacuate civilians from the conflict zone was scrapped.

The Macedonian army had earlier said it would hold fire to allow safe passage for the thousands of civilians trapped in the northern hills, near the border with Kosovo.

But it said fighting began after its forces were fired on by rebels with mortars and machine guns. The army replied with tank and artillery fire in and around the contested village of Matejce.

Around 8,000 people have fled to the village of Lipkovo, 15 miles north of Skopje, from the surrounding hills where the army has been blasting suspected rebel positions in an effort to crush the guerrilla campaign.

The government has accused the guerrillas of using the mainly ethnic Albanian civilians as human shields.

But local ethnic Albanian community leaders said that despite dwindling food supplies the civilians had stayed put for fear of mistreatment by security forces.

``The offer of the Macedonian government (to evacuate) was not accepted by the people here because it does not provide security guarantees,'' Lipkovo Mayor Husamedin Halili told Reuters by telephone.

``The government did not give assurances that men will not be separated from the women and beaten at the police station.''

POLITICIANS PUT ASIDE DIFFERENCES

The fighting flared anew a day after Solana brokered an agreement between coalition parties from the Balkan country's Slav majority and large ethnic Albanian minority.

Solana succeeded in rescuing the fragile crisis coalition, which had appeared to be on the verge of collapse over a dispute about a secret peace pact ethnic Albanian leaders signed with rebels.

A joint NATO-EU statement Wednesday urged the unity government to press ahead quickly with reforms aimed at healing deep ethnic divisions in the former Yugoslav republic.

Macedonia's one-third ethnic Albanian minority says it faces state-backed discrimination in all walks of life, including education and employment.

Trajkovski has vowed the government will make substantial progress on addressing inter-ethnic tensions by June 15.

Skopje has been asked to submit a progress report to EU leaders at their summit in mid-June, or at the latest by the end of the month.

More fighting in offing as Macedonian govt closes ranks Posted May 30, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010530/1/qffa.html
Wednesday May 30, 2:28 PM

More fighting in offing as Macedonian govt closes ranks

SKOPJE, May 30 (AFP) -

More clashes were expected between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in northern Macedonia on Wednesday after Skopje announced a deal to paper over cracks in the republic's ethnically mixed coalition.

President Boris Trajkovski announced late Tuesday that both ethnic Albanian and Macedonian party leaders had signed a deal on pushing forward a political reform agenda and isolating violent extremism.

But while the accord might serve to shore up Macedonia's fragile government of national unity, fighting is likely to continue in the hills north of Skopje, where the rebels and the army have been locked in a month-long battle.

Trajkovksi said the party leaders "have all agreed that the future of the Republic of Macedonia can only be decided by democratically elected representatives, working through a peaceful process."

But his statement side-stepped the key issue of a deal signed last week between ethnic Albanian party leaders and the rebels' political chief, which had outraged Macedonian Slav coalition members and threatened the government.

Trajkovski merely said that "the document in question is no longer relevant".

Tuesday's agreement between the coalition partners was brokered by the European Union's foreign affairs chief Javier Solana, who visited Skopje for the second day running to offer his support to a government which the international community believes is the best hope of stopping the republic sliding into civil war.

As fierce fighting continued around a string of villages north of Skopje, Solana urged politicians to bury their differences before it was too late.

"The time that is left is not very long," he said.

Relations within the fractious coalition were frozen when last week the leaders of two ethnic Albanian parties signed a deal with the political leader of the rebel movement to work together to promote ethnic Albanian rights.

But the accord, which is thought to have proposed the rebels lay down their arms in return for an amnesty, was bitterly criticised by Macedonian Slav leaders, who branded it a deal with "terrorists".

In a separate development, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovksi called on people living in the village of Lipkovo, a rebel stronghold, to leave the village.

He said that the International Organisation for Migration would supervise the exodus and promised that any refugees choosing to head for Kosovo would not "face police formalities".

A senior government official told AFP that the offer amounted to a back door to allow rebels to escape the fighting unmolested.

Meanwhile fighting raged in and around the village of Matejce, which is partially controlled by ethnic Albanian guerrillas and has been the scene of fierce clashes over the past three days.

Some 2,000 civilians fled the area during the fighting, in which rebels armed with sniper rifles and rocket launchers fired at government forces trying to retake part of the village taken by guerrillas at the weekend, officials said.

Since the fighting began in mid-February some 18,000 refugees have fled Macedonia and 9,000 more have been displaced within the country, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

Macedonian parties end spat over rebel pact Posted May 30, 2001
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010529/3/qdst.html
Wednesday May 30, 5:23 AM

Macedonian parties end spat over rebel pact
By Rosalind Russell

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonia's ethnically mixed coalition government agreed on Tuesday to set aside differences over a secret peace pact and work together to end an insurgency by ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana brokered the agreement ending a week-long row which threatened to tear apart the crisis coalition of ethnic Slav and Albanian parties.

The politicians agreed to speed up efforts to address the grievances of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority, who complain they are treated as second-class citizens. They set a deadline of June 15 for achieving substantial progress.

Last week guerrilla chief Ali Ahmeti signed a secret peace deal with ethnic Albanian political leaders which would have brought the insurgents into the political process.

But the pact was met with horror by the West and ethnic Slav politicians who called on Albanian leaders to repudiate it.

Although the Albanians did not go that far, all government partners issued a statement saying the "status of the document in question is no longer relevant" and only democratically elected representatives could decide the country's future.

"All political leaders present expressed their commitment to work together for the well-being of all Macedonian citizens," President Boris Trajkovski said after the talks.

SOLANA RESCUES COALITION

Solana's rescue mission has for now averted a descent into civil war that many fear would accompany the collapse of the government of national unity.

But his efforts are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the battlegrounds of northern Macedonia where rebels have kept up resistance to government bombardments.

The guerrillas on Tuesday returned fire in the face of an army assault by artillery and helicopter on their positions in the village of Matejce.

A defence ministry spokesman said around 2,000 civilians fled their homes in and around Matejce on Tuesday morning on foot or by car and tractor.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimates that up to 10,000 civilians could be trapped by fighting in villages in the hills north of the capital Skopje.

Thousands of villagers have headed for rebel-held Lipkovo, out of reach of humanitarian agencies, where conditions are deteriorating rapidly, said local mayor Hysamedin Halili.

"We are running low on food and water," he told Reuters by telephone. "We have reduced food rations to the elderly people so there is more for the others."

ALBANIAN GRIEVANCES

The guerrillas say their five-month-old insurgency is aimed at securing greater rights for Macedonia's one-third Albanian minority, who claim they face state-backed discrimination in education and employment.

While taking a tough line against what they call terrorism, and ruling out negotiations with rebels, Western diplomats have also urged the Slav majority to improve opportunities for ethnic Albanians.

A rebel leader said earlier in the day fighting would continue unless politicians accepted the terms of the peace pact, signed in secret in the Kosovo city of Prizren on May 22.

"I think Macedonia can now only take two roads, either the peace and concrete dialogue offered by the Prizren agreement or the prospect of a civil war," the commander named Sokoli said.

Solana headed back to the Hungarian capital Budapest to brief EU and NATO foreign ministers on the outcome of the talks.

Alliance diplomats expect NATO and the EU to issue a joint statement on Wednesday -- the first of its kind -- strongly condemning ethnic Albanian extremism.