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[ALBSA-Info] State Department Daily Briefing

Agron Alibali aalibali at
Wed Jun 6 23:53:15 EDT 2001

Q: Have you seen the reports for Macedonia? The president wants to ask parliament for a declaration of war in response to the latest casualties suffered by the Macedonian forces. 
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say a couple things, and starting with the terrible ambush, the attack by extremists on late Tuesday. We strongly condemn this attack and these killings. We certainly express our sympathies to the soldiers that were tragically killed. It is a reprehensible act of violence. We understand the insurgents attacked an ambulance, that it arrived to provide medical attention to the wounded soldiers. 
These actions by armed extremists must stop now. Ethnic Albanian extremism is harming greatly the interests of Macedonia and of all people in Macedonia, including the Albanians and people throughout the region. 
Even in these most difficult moments, we think Macedonia's legitimately elected government and party leaders should press forward on the path that they have chosen, which we see as the correct path, and that is the path of inter-ethnic dialogue, to address the concerns of all citizens of Macedonia together with a continuation of their measured response to extremist provocations. 
During his visit to Macedonia yesterday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld repeated our strong U.S. support for Macedonia, and for the National Unity Government. Secretary Rumsfeld joined regional defense ministers today in Thessaloniki in condemning the extremist violence. 
So we believe a continuation of the path that has been chosen is the way to go forward and the way to move forward with this. We don't see that a declaration of a state of war would serve to advance this kind of political reconciliation, 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 forward with this dialogue. 
Q: The declaration of war is against insurgents who were never included in this ethnic dialogue. I mean, are these two things mutually exclusive? Can they prosecute a war against a radical element of Albanians while continuing a reconciliation dialogue with more mainstream and moderate Albanians in the country? 
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly the armed actions that they've taken are not incompatible with the political dialogue. We think they have chosen a correct path and they have been following the right mix, the right balance, between dealing militarily with the extremism and the reprehensible acts of violence that we've seen and dealing politically with the legitimate concerns of the Albanian community. So there is no inherent contradiction between the military action and the political dialogue. 
I guess the question would be, does the declaration of a state of war advance that process or not. We don't see that it particularly does. 
Q: What do you think of the comments by your former colleague Mr. Walker in The Washington Post and to various reporters, saying that it's probably shortsighted to ignore the NLA as an element in the -- in getting a political settlement in Macedonia? 
MR. BOUCHER: I guess it's been a while since Mr. Walker was one of our former colleagues, 
or since he was one of our colleagues -- yes, that doesn't make sense at all. Anyway, he is a former colleague. 
The situation, in our view, has been quite clear all along. The needs, concerns, interests of the Albanian community need to be accommodated to the political process. I think we agree on that. We do not see a place in that process for armed extremists: people that are holding civilian hostages; people that are attacking ambulances; people that are seeking to disrupt the peaceful, normal life of the Albanian community in Macedonia. We have never seen a role for them in the political negotiations and don't see one now. They seem to prove every day that they are not interested in addressing real concerns and needs of the Albanian community. 
So the issue of addressing the needs and concerns of the Albanian community is important. But in Macedonia, there are legitimate avenues. There are legitimate representatives. There are legitimate opportunities to address those concerns and especially this latest step of forming a National Unity Government provides the appropriate mechanism of doing that and we have encouraged the government to work together and to use this opportunity to address any legitimate needs of the Albanian community. 
Q: Richard, can you speak to how this is different than the situation in southern Serbia where armed extremists were encouraged to begin a dialogue with the Serbs? 
MR. BOUCHER: The situation is politically different and militarily different as well. In Macedonia, you had an inclusive government that already included Albanian leadership, that already had avenues for Albanians to express their political needs and their political concerns. And we encourage people in the Albanian community to take advantage of that and we encourage people in the government to provide legitimate satisfaction to those grievances. 
Given the history of Serbia and the Yugoslav Government under Macedonia, there were people with Albanian interests and concerns who were outside that system and who needed to be brought in. 
Q: Since we're doing comparisons -- 
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I never should have started. (Laughter.) 
Q: How does it differ from Northern Ireland where -- 
Q: Or Chechnya? 
Q: -- where there were always legitimate avenues and yet the United States was very much in favor of dialogue with the IRA? 
MR. BOUCHER: We are not going to try to compare every, to contrast every situation in the world. I think exam season is open, it's time for graduation. Let's -- 
Q: You let one in. 
MR. BOUCHER: I know, I let one in, but that's enough. One a day. One comparison a day -- that's a new rule. (Laughter.) 
Q: This proposition has some serious support. Ambassador Walker's piece the other day in the Post -- 
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, there is one fact, I think, that is repeated in some of the press articles and repeated, I think, by Ambassador Walker, at least in some of the articles about him that are, as far as we understand, just plain not true. And that's that Ambassador Froelich did not negotiate with the NLA and did not endorse any document that others might have signed with it. And somehow the whole edifice of criticism seems to be based somewhat on that fact. 

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