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[AMCC-News] Rebel Head in Macedonia Gives Order to Disband

Mentor Cana mentor at alb-net.com
Fri Sep 28 16:45:47 EDT 2001


  "Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the National Liberation Army, said
   he gave the order to disband at midnight on Wednesday, hours after NATO
   agreed with the Macedonian government on the mandate for a new task
   force to deploy here to keep the peace effort on track."

  "NATO has been particularly concerned about Macedonian Slav paramilitary
   groups that emerged a few weeks ago. They have been accused of starting
   firefights at night around several frontline villages and harassing
   ethnic Albanian villagers by day."

  "Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the main Albanian political party, said
   that if the Macedonian Slav parties tried to change a small part of the
   political agreement, then his party would reject the whole package."

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/28/international/europe/28MACE.html
September 28, 2001

Rebel Head in Macedonia Gives Order to Disband
By CARLOTTA GALL

SIPKOVICA, Macedonia, Sept. 27 Ethnic Albanian rebels declared today that
they have formally disbanded and are returning to civilian life, ending
their eight-month insurgency for more rights in Macedonia.

Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the National Liberation Army, said he
gave the order to disband at midnight on Wednesday, hours after NATO agreed
with the Macedonian government on the mandate for a new task force to
deploy here to keep the peace effort on track.

Surrounded by former fighters, now all dressed in dark suits, Mr. Ahmeti
was speaking in this mountain village in western Macedonia that has been
his headquarters. In a conciliatory speech, he vowed to cooperate with the
peace effort and said he was sure that with the help of the international
community the ethnic Albanian minority and the Macedonian Slav majority
could overcome all security problems. "We should not create conditions that
could reactivate the National Liberation Army," he said.

Despite the talk of peace, the potential for a resurgence of violence is
very real.

Sandbagged checkpoints on the roads in western Macedonia have been
abandoned, and children play in the trenches and foxholes. But an invisible
front line remains along with off-limits areas between government
controlled and rebel-held territory.

While the rebels have by all appearances handed in their weapons and
disbanded, the Macedonian Parliament has yet to ratify the political
agreement that would grant the Albanian minority in the country broader
political rights. Nor has the government yet organized an amnesty for the
rebel fighters as was promised during the peace negotiations. These final
steps are expected to last at least another two weeks.

NATO, meanwhile, is moving out. It has ended its 30-day mission to collect
and destroy rebel weapons, and the first of its 4,500 troops began
departing today. A new force of 1,000 troops will take over, but there are
concerns that trouble may break out before the new force is ready. "The
next two weeks are perhaps the most critical," a NATO spokesman said.

"We need these guys right now on the ground," said Maki Shinohara,
spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency in Skopje. "Numbers are
not so important, but we want a very effective presence that would
discourage people from taking up weapons for self-defense, and reduce the
fear that is very real in these communities."

NATO has been particularly concerned about Macedonian Slav paramilitary
groups that emerged a few weeks ago. They have been accused of starting
firefights at night around several frontline villages and harassing ethnic
Albanian villagers by day.

Their presence threatened to derail the rebel disarmament process until
finally President Boris Trajkovski was persuaded to order their removal.
NATO troops have swarmed into the area, and regular units of the Macedonian
Army and police have taken over security of the Macedonian Slav villages,
but these paramilitary groups are a potential danger, NATO troops say.

Another potential danger is that former rebels admit that, while they have
handed in most of their weapons, many have kept a side arm. Independent
analysts estimate that the rebels have handed in only half of their weapons
and can procure more on the black market.

A member of Parliament, Nikola Popovski, argued that any flare-up of
fighting would prove that NATO's weapons collection mission had been a
failure. If so, he said, Parliament should not give final approval to the
political agreement and thus effectively stop the peace process dead.

Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the main Albanian political party, said that
if the Macedonian Slav parties tried to change a small part of the
political agreement, then his party would reject the whole package.

The rebel leader, Mr. Ahmeti, said the Macedonians could not renege on the
peace deal. "It would be the same as us asking for our broken and destroyed
weapons back from NATO," he said. "You know it is not possible."

In the next two weeks, the two most taxing issues will be the return of the
displaced Macedonian Slavs to their homes in western Macedonia, and the
re-entry of Macedonian police officers to the rebel-held areas.

Macedonian legislators are insisting both happen soon, before the approval
of the peace accord.




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