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[ALBSA-Info] Slavs Protest NATO Deal in Macedonia

Gazhebo at Gazhebo at
Mon Jun 25 22:24:03 EDT 2001

Slavs Protest NATO Deal in Macedonia

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - A NATO-brokered peace deal sparked riots in Skopje 
Monday by thousands of Slavs, some chanting ``gas chambers for the 
Albanians'' as they demanded that ethnic Albanian rebels be destroyed. 

The rebels pulled out of a strategically important suburb near the capital 
earlier Monday under the NATO deal designed to revive peace talks here. 

That prompted about 5,000 Macedonian Slavs - who outnumber ethnic Albanians 
by more than three to one - to gather in front of parliament in Skopje, 
nosily demanding harsher action against the rebels. Reservists in uniform 
among the protesters squeezed of bursts of submachine gun fire, but there 
were no reports of injuries. 

Some of the chanting protesters pounded two police cars - one belonging to 
Interior Minister Ljuben Boskoski - while dozens broke into the parliament 
building, destroying furniture. A group made its way to a balcony and 
displayed the former Macedonian flag, replaced more than half a century ago 
by the communists when the country was still part of Yugoslavia. 

The rebel withdrawal came just days after government forces began an 
offensive against ethnic Albanian militants holed up in the suburb not far 
from the country's airport. 

Buses headed out of Aracinovo carrying ethnic Albanian rebels, said U.S. Maj. 
Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeepers. The alliance then 
sent at least four trucks to the village to take out the weapons belonging to 
the rebels. 

But de-escalation of Macedonia's crisis was short lived. New fighting, near 
Tetovo, cast a pall at the success of the negotiated end to the Aracinovo 
standoff, and tensions rose as thousands of angry Slavic Macedonians demanded 
a more hard-line approach against the rebels. 

Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said rebels attacked 
police positions on the outskirts of the city and government forces returned 
fire, with fighting then moving away from Tetovo and near the village of 
Gajre in the hills overlooking the city. 

In a smaller protest, a crowd near Kumanovo blocked a road, preventing empty 
buses from moving shortly after they were used to take some of the rebels 
from Aracinovo to Umin Dol, just outside Kumanovo. U.S. soldiers were with 
that convoy, along with Macedonian police who tried to negotiate their way 
through the crowd. 

Johnson said more than 300 people, most of them rebels, were taken out of 

Talks had broken down last week after President Boris Trajkovski declared 
that ethnic Albanian negotiators were unwilling to budge on key sticking 
points in the negotiations. 

The lack of progress has dismayed European Union leaders, who have been 
trying for months to persuade the Macedonian Slav leadership and ethnic 
Albanian political leaders to compromise and avert civil war. 

To back up that point, the EU told the country's foreign minister on Monday 
not to count on new financial aid unless the government and ethnic Albanian 
opponents settle their differences. 

The EU foreign ministers held 45 minutes of talks with their Macedonian 
counterpart, Ilinka Mitreva, who pleaded for help. 

EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten reiterated that was only 
possible if progress is made in national reconciliation talks. 

``We would like to support confidence-building measures, but it is difficult 
to build people's confidence when money, which is very clearly in short 
supply, is being spent on bombs and rockets,'' Patten said. 

An American, meanwhile, was wounded by gunfire. 

The man's status was unclear - NATO officials suggested he might have been 
part of a monitoring mission or a diplomat. The man, overheard identifying 
himself as John Green, was emerging from the woods with two other Americans 
near the rebel-controlled village of Grusinovo when Macedonian troops fired 
warning shots. 

Two of the shots wounded Green, one in the arm and the other in the leg, but 
apparently not seriously. In Washington, meanwhile, the Pentagon said a U.S. 
army sergeant was wounded in the hand by gunfire on a road northeast of 
Skopje. Aracinovo is southwest of Skopje, but NATO officials could not rule 
out that the Pentagon report also referred to the man identifying himself as 

NATO-led peacekeepers are in Macedonia to provide logistical support to 
forces in Kosovo. It was not immediately clear which NATO countries were 
taking part in the operation. 

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