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[ALBSA-Info] "Kosovo scenario" repeated in Macedonia-PutinGazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Sun Jun 17 21:48:36 EDT 2001
"Kosovo scenario" repeated in Macedonia-Putin By Shaban Buza PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, June 17 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday the "Kosovo scenario" was being repeated in Macedonia and criticised the West for pressuring its Slav majority to agree to the demands of Albanian "extremists." Putin, the first Kremlin leader to visit Belgrade since the bloody breakup of the old Socialist Yugoslav federation, also criticised Western policy in Kosovo and called for an agreement to reaffirm borders in the volatile Balkans. "The situation in Macedonia is developing into a very difficult scenario," Putin told commanders of the Russian contingent in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo during a surprise visit to the Yugoslav province, a news agency said. "The leadership of the country is under serious pressure to force it to meet the demands of extremists. In fact the Kosovo scenario is being repeated...and we know where that could take us," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying. Ethnic Albanian guerrillas with backing from Kosovo began operating in Macedonia earlier this year, bringing the majority Orthodox Slav country to the brink of civil war. NATO has tightened its control of the Kosovo-Macedonia border to try to stop weapons and men crossing, and Western leaders are pressing its Slav and ethnic Albanian leaders to agree to constitutional changes to address the minority's concerns. PUTIN WANTS BORDER BLOCKED Putin said Macedonia's borders with Albania and the Kosovo part of Yugoslavia should be blocked. "It is necessary to undertake urgent measures to close channels of financing to the militants," he said. "And finally, on the political level it is very important that nobody in the region has illusions that the international community will accept changes of internationally recognised borders and attempts to solve political problems by force." Putin said his borders initiative aimed at promoting a comprehensive settlement to ethnic strife in the region through "mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity." Putin said earlier in Belgrade that Yugoslavia needed help from the entire international community and that Russians, who share Orthodox Slav roots with the Serbs, were ready to play a part. "Stability in the region is seriously threatened, above all from national religious extremism and intolerance, the main source of which today is in Kosovo," he said. Both leaders urged the international community to work to disarm Albanian "terrorists," referring to attacks on Kosovo's dwindling Serb population and gunmen in neighbouring Macedonia. The borders initiative is likely to infuriate Kosovo's independence-minded Albanians, who hope that the international community, which made the province a U.N. protectorate in 1999 after 11 weeks of NATO air strikes, will eventually agree. Putin also criticised a plan for self-government in Kosovo, saying it was approved "in circumvention" of the U.N. Security Council and that it had a number of significant drawbacks. "Too many concessions have been made to radicals," Putin said about the blueprint unveiled by the U.N.'s Kosovo governor Hans Haekkerup last month which paves the way for province-wide elections on November 17. "The legal framework of future self-government is raised almost to the standard of constitution," he said. Putin later held talks with the Haekkerup and a visiting delegation of ambassadors of the 15-member U.N. Security Council as well as the head of the peacekeepers, Norwegian General Thorstein Skiaker. Russia has some 3,000 troops in a force of about 40,000 peacekeepers who replaced Yugoslav forces in Kosovo after the NATO air strikes to stop Belgrade's repression of the province's ethnic Albanians.
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