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[ALBSA-Info] Macedonia PM Seeks War Declaration

Gazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Wed Jun 6 22:30:12 EDT 2001


Macedonia PM Seeks War Declaration

By MISHA SAVIC

  
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - A day after ethnic Albanian rebels killed five 
Macedonian soldiers, the prime minister gave word Wednesday that he wants 
parliament to formally declare war, deepening a four-month crisis. 

The European Union and the United States hurried to discourage Prime Minister 
Ljubco Georgievski from making the formal request to parliament. EU foreign 
policy chief Javier Solana said declaring war against the rebels ``would only 
be playing into the hands of extremists.'' 

Tuesday's fighting, which left another seven wounded, was the most serious 
escalation of violence in weeks. It underlined the government's tenuous hold 
on areas near the border with the southern Yugoslav province of Kosovo. 

Late Wednesday, riots erupted in the southern Macedonian city of Bitola, 
destroying dozensd of ethnic Albanian businesses. Slav rioters outraged over 
the slain members of the security forces broke into small groups and eluded 
police efforts to quell the violence, state television said. 

The rioters set fire to about 100 shops and 10 private homes, state 
television reported. Three people were injured, witnesses and a hospital 
source said. 

Georgievski's intention to demand parliament declare war came via his 
spokesman, Antonio Milososki. Milososki also urged the legislature to call 
for war, ``because it is not possible to respond otherwise to the threats 
against Macedonia's security and sovereignty.'' 

Besides imposing a draft, calling a state of war would give President Boris 
Trajkovski the ability to rule by decree and appoint a government of his 
choosing. Borders could be sealed, a nationwide curfew imposed and 
demonstrations banned. 

Beyond giving the government more authority, however, such extreme measures 
could also radicalize the country's ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up 
as much as one-third of the population. European officials fear such a move 
could further destabilize this former Yugoslav republic by pushing more of 
its ethnic Albanians to support the rebel cause. 

Such a measure would be difficult to pass. It would need more than two-thirds 
majority approval - or 81 of parliament's 120 deputies. But 24 deputies in 
Macedonia's parliament are ethnic Albanian, and they would likely vote 
against. 

The country's Slavic leaders regard the rebels as terrorists bent on grabbing 
a piece of Macedonia's territory to unite it with neighboring Albania or with 
Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-populated province of Serbia, the larger Yugoslav 
republic. The rebels say they are fighting for more rights for the country's 
ethnic Albanian minority. 

Amid escalating tensions, gunmen fired two shots at the president's office 
Wednesday evening, officials said. The gunfire hit the bulletproof windows of 
Trajkovski's office, but didn't penetrate the glass. No one was injured. 

Though fighting between troops and ethnic Albanian rebels began in February, 
the leadership has forgone a formal declaration of war for fear it would make 
things worse. 

Macedonia's leaders had suggested such a declaration last month. But 
international officials persuaded them to expand negotiations rather than 
escalate attacks on the militants. The call for restraint came again 
Wednesday. 

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, whose country holds the rotating EU 
presidency, condemned Tuesday's killings - what she called a ``cowardly 
attack'' - but urged Macedonia not to call for war. 

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush 
administration does not see how a declaration of war would advance a 
political solution. 

``We reiterate, once again, the importance of the measured response that the 
government has taken, showing maximum concern for the safety of civilians and 
pressing forth with this dialogue,'' Boucher said. 

The increasing tensions were sparked by a rebel assault on a vehicle bringing 
food to government forces near the village of Gajre late Tuesday, Milososki 
said. 

The attack in the village just outside the second-largest city, Tetovo, 
killed one soldier and wounded three others. An ambulance carrying a military 
escort was dispatched to rescue them, but the vehicle also came under fire 
and the rebels killed four more soldiers. 

Fighting later wounded four more policemen. 



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