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[ALBSA-Info] Macedonia PM Seeks War DeclarationGazhebo 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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