|Saturday, 27 February 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 57, 01-03-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 57, 22 March 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR GREATER INTERNATIONAL ROLE IN KARABAKH MEDIATION...Addressing students at a Yerevan business school on 21 March, President Robert Kocharian said international mediators should take the leading role in the search for an acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He admitted that while he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev have during their face-to-face meetings over the past two years come to understand each other's concerns quite well, major points of disagreement between them remain and the prospects of making further progress in such talks are minimal. Kocharian said that the co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group engaged in mediating a solution of the conflict "have a much better understanding...of the framework within which it is possible to find a compromise solution." He characterized attitudes in Yerevan, Stepanakert and Baku as "fairly favorable," and said that his talks with Aliev and Minsk Group officials in Key West early next month may be followed by a similar round of talks in Moscow. Kocharian also stressed that Armenia has no intention of starting a new war with Azerbaijan over Karabakh as "he who begins a war loses," according to Interfax. LF
 ...AS DOES HIS AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPARTAlso on 21 March, President Aliev similarly said at a meeting in Baku with U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson that international mediation efforts should be intensified in order "to end everything peacefully," AP and Interfax reported. But in an address the same day at a celebration to mark the Novruz spring holiday, Aliev said that if efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict fail, "the Azerbaijani people will display all their strength and power and liberate occupied Azerbaijani lands by military means." "We will never support a peace settlement that does not meet Azerbaijan's national interests," Aliev added. LF
 UN HAILS ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN ACCORD...In a statement issued in New York on 21 March, the UN Security Council expressed its approval of the confidence-building measures and nonaggression pledge adopted during the 15-16 March Yalta talks between Abkhaz and Georgian government delegations, Reuters and AP reported. But at the same time, the council condemned as "illegitimate and unhelpful" the local elections held in Abkhazia on 10 March. Also on 21 March, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told a visiting German Bundestag delegation that it is impossible to resolve the conflict in such a way that Georgia's territorial integrity is preserved, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the central Georgian government and the international community argue that a settlement should bestow on Abkhazia broad autonomy within a single Georgian state. LF
 ...AS LAND MINE EXPLOSION CLAIMS MORE VICTIMSThe driver was killed and two passengers seriously injured on 21 March when a bus ran over a land mine near the village of Khurcha in western Georgia, close to the internal border with Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. The Tbilisi-based Abkhaz Security Ministry in exile blamed the incident on Abkhaz militants who it claimed laid the mine the previous evening in retaliation for a 18 March attack on five Abkhaz police officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2001). LF
 FBI DIRECTOR VISITS GEORGIALouis Freeh held talks in Tbilisi on 21 March with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, Prosecutor-General Gia Meparishvili, and National Security Council Director Nugzar Sadjaya, Caucasus Press reported. Freeh told journalists after those talks that the FBI plans to open a permanent office in Georgia in order to make bilateral cooperation, especially in combating drug-trafficking and international terrorism, more effective. Freeh said he is impressed by Georgia's anticorruption program and hailed the Georgian government's reform of the judiciary and the Prosecutor-General's Office, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 KAZAKH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS LAW ON REPATRIATION OF CAPITALThe Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) on 21 March referred back to the Mazhilis (the lower chamber) the bill allowing the repatriation of capital illegally transferred to foreign bank accounts, after dropping the amendment proposed to that bill by the Mazhilis that would have imposed a tax of up to 12 percent on capital returned to Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 March 2001). The Mazhilis approved the revised draft the same day. Interfax on 21 March quoted Kazakhstan's Finance Ministry as estimating the total capital in question at up to $500 million. LF
 KAZAKH MINISTER CHIDES INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUMFirst Deputy Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov on 20 March took to task the international consortium developing the country's huge Karachaganak gas field, accusing it of violating the law by failing to employ the agreed number of Kazakh contractors in the metallurgy and services sectors, the "Wall Street Journal" and Interfax reported. Akhmetov added that the Kazakh government "cannot tolerate" that situation and "will take all possible measures" to ensure compliance by the consortium with its commitments and with the country's laws. But consortium General Director John Morrow explained that frequently Kazakh companies fail to participate in tenders for supplies and services because they are unequipped to undertake such work. LF
 ISLAMISTS IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN CALL FOR CALIPHATEOn the eve of the Nooruz spring holiday, members of the unregistered Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir party pasted hundreds of leaflets on walls in the Sputnik raion of the southern town of Djalalabad, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 21 March. The leaflets called for the overthrow of the Kyrgyz authorities and establishing a caliphate in Central Asia. The leaflets were in the Kyrgyz language, but a note said they were printed in Jordan. LF
 TURKMEN RELIGIOUS ACTIVIST SENT BACK FROM HOSPITAL TO PRISON CAMPBaptist Shageldy Atakov was sent back to the Seydy labor camp in northeastern Turkmenistan on 1 March, just weeks after being hospitalized, and has been placed in a punishment cell, Keston News Service reported on 21 March. Atakov is serving a four-year sentence on charges of deception. A senior Turkmen official denied last month Amnesty International's claims that Atakov has been forcibly treated with psychotropic drugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 28 February 2001). LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES OFFENSIVEMacedonian forces in the Tetovo region have begun shelling the Kale district, which is held by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), dpa reported on 22 March. The UCK rejected a government ultimatum which expired at midnight (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2001). The guerrillas instead announced their own unilateral cease-fire. In recent days, there has been speculation in some Croatian and Serbian media about a possible mediating role for Croatian President Stipe Mesic in the conflict. PM
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT, PARTIES AGREE ON PLATFORMPresident Boris Trajkovski met in Skopje late on 21 March with representatives of the parties represented in the parliament, including the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD). Trajkovski then made a televised address, in which he said: "The President of the Republic Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, and the leaders of the parliamentary parties, call for the rapid and efficient neutralization of the armed group of extremists and in the sharpest terms condemn resorting to weapons to achieve political goals. It is necessary for the Army of the Republic of Macedonia to take control of the [Macedonian side of the] border and for KFOR to take measures for thorough control on the other side... After the conclusion of the operations to neutralize the armed groups of extremists, political dialogue should be intensified with all legitimate political parties to look into questions concerning interethnic relations and find responsible solutions," RFE/RL reported. PM
 GUERRILLAS: WE HAVE BEEN PREPARING FOR TWO YEARSUCK spokesman Sadri Ahmati told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 22 March in Selce that the guerrillas have been getting ready for a conflict for two years. The UCK's goal is "to free our entire [Albanian-populated] territory from the grip of the Macedonian security forces." There are several cities and towns in this territory, including Skopje, he added. Ahmati said that media outside Macedonia initially took over the "rhetoric" of the Macedonian government and called the fighters "terrorists." "But now everyone can see that we have the people's backing. Nobody can call someone a terrorist who has popular support." The traditional parties have lost popular backing, he added. Ahmati said that the guerrillas have 7,000 fighters who control an area populated by 4,000 civilians. The UCK "shoots only at uniforms" and does not care if the person in question is Macedonian or Albanian. Ahmati argued that his own weapon is Yugoslav-made and that the guerrillas do not get their weapons from Kosova. PM
 UN SECURITY COUNCIL PASSES RESOLUTION ON MACEDONIAThe council approved a French resolution on 21 March which "strongly condemns extremist violence including terrorist activities" in Macedonia and southern Serbia. It appeals to the UCK to "lay down their weapons and return to their homes," Reuters reported. The text calls for a political dialogue between all "legitimate" parties, Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service reported. The resolution appeals to NATO to better control the border between Kosova and Macedonia. The resolution does not explicitly say the violence is being exported from Kosova into Macedonia, as Skopje and Moscow claim. The text simply notes that the "violence has support from ethnic Albanian extremists outside these areas [of Macedonia] and constitutes a threat to the security and stability of the wider region." Articles in "Le Monde," "Die Welt," and the "Financial Times" note that the UCK has domestic Macedonian roots and cannot be eliminated in a quick military operation, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM
 GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER: THE ALBANIAN QUESTION IS OPENForeign Minister Joschka Fischer told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 22 March that the Albanian question is "open" but the solution must come in a "European perspective." He stressed that "all responsible political leaders of the Albanians must decide whether they want to be a part of this region which is moving in the direction of Europe, or whether they want to stay on the sidelines." He added that "the international community will not permit any alteration of borders by force," and that proposals for a greater Albania will not win international support. PM
 TURKISH PREMIER: BALKANS CANNOT ENDURE ANOTHER WARSpeaking in Istanbul on 22 March, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said: "We hope that the Albanian guerrillas stop this negative operation as soon as possible. The Balkans cannot endure a new war," AP reported. The Turkish authorities have repeatedly expressed support for Macedonia's territorial integrity. PM
 UNHCR: NUMBER OF MACEDONIAN REFUGEES ON THE RISEUNHCR spokesman Chris Janowski told RFE/RL in Geneva on 21 March that "we have now close to 15,000 people [in or from Macedonia] who have moved in various directions, a lot of them within Macedonia itself, but also some people who have gone to Albania. Some people have gone to Turkey, some people have gone to southern Serbia. Some are headed via these countries to other countries -- Western Europe some of them, some of them to Bosnia and Croatia. So it's sort of a mixed picture. It is not really a very dramatic flight. It's basically people going to safer places to take themselves and their families out of harm's way to basically wait and see what happens" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2001). Janowski added that many of the up to 3,000 people who entered Albania have transited the Kukes region in order to get to Kosova. The Macedonian border with Kosova is closed. PM
 PROTESTS GREET RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ALBANIAAbout 100 pro-UCK demonstrators gathered in Tirana on 21 March to protest the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2001). Ivanov had previously visited Serbia, Kosova, and Macedonia, where his rhetoric was regarded by many as anti-Albanian. After meeting with Ivanov, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said that "the situation [in Macedonia] has reached the point where a great deal of caution is needed to prevent the conflict from turning into an ethnic conflict." Ivanov called on Albania to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis. Observers note that Russian Balkan policy, like former Soviet policy in the Middle East, is less than effective because it is widely seen in the region as completely partisan toward one side. Russia has little to offer its friends except rhetoric and arms sales, but it drives a hard bargain in its natural gas sales to Serbia. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PARTY FORMS PRO-INDEPENDENCE COALITIONPresident Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has formed a coalition for the 22 April parliamentary elections with the pro- independence Social Democrats led by Zarko Rakcevic, "Vesti" reported from Podgorica on 22 March. The coalition's name will be Victory for Montenegro. DPS Deputy Chairman Svetozar Marovic will head his party's list. The Liberals, who favor independence, will not join the coalition. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS GOVERNMENT TO 'RE-EXAMINE' CONTROVERSIAL ORDINANCE...President Ion Iliescu on 21 March asked the government to "re-examine" a recently issued governmental ordinance that expands the prerogatives of the Interior Ministry's intelligence-gathering activities. The ordinance has been criticized by opposition parties and the media, which pointed out that the prerogatives granted by the ordinance to the ministry's Military Unit 0962 (also known as "Two-and-a quarter" under the unit's communist nickname), duplicate the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). Iliescu said some of this criticism is "justified" and that the ordinance should have first been examined by the Supreme Council on National Defense. The parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the SRI on the same day said it "disagrees" with the ordinance's provisions, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ...VETOES LAW ON FOREIGNERS' STATUSIliescu on 22 March asked the parliament to "re-examine" a law on the status of foreigners in Romania that has recently been approved by the parliament's two chambers, Mediafax reported. The president is objecting to a stipulation in the law that allows refugees to be expelled after a court of justice has turned down their asylum application, even if those affected have appealed against the court's decision. In line with constitutional procedure, the Senate must debate the presidential objections within 30 days. MS
 SRI CHIEF ASKS ROMANIAN COMMISSION TO REFUTE ALLEGATIONS OF LINKS TO KGBRadu Timofte, who was appointed SRI director in January, has asked the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) to clear him of allegations in the media that he had worked for the KGB, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The CNSAS on 22 March distanced itself from reports in the media, according to which Patriarch Teoctist had been a Securitate agent, Mediafax reported. The CNSAS said it has not completed the examination of files of the heads of recognized churches and that the information delivered to the media by one of its employees "dates prior to the setting up of the CNSAS." It also said the employee has "infringed on his civil servant status." MS
 PREMIER SAYS ROMANIA 'DOES NOT NECESSARILY NEED IMF'The government continued on 22 March to examine the draft budget for 2001. On 21 March, members of the IMF delegation visiting Bucharest said they object to the cabinet's intention to grant tax breaks to some state enterprises facing difficulties, considering those breaks to be "disguised subsidies" that would increase inflation. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, in an interview with AFP on 21 March, said Romania "does not necessarily need the IMF", but hopes to reach an agreement on a new standby loan with the international lending organization. MS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY INCREASESA public opinion survey conducted by the Institute for Marketing Analysis (IMAS) shows Premier Nastase is the country's most popular politician with the backing of 69 percent of respondents. Iliescu is in second place, with 64 percent, followed by Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, with 62 percent. A majority of respondents (56 percent) are of the opinion that the government is performing better than its predecessor. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT VOICES STANCE ON 1990 EVENTSPresident Ion Iliescu, visiting Calarasi county on 21 March, said in Oltenita that it was "not the miners who first resorted to violence in 1990." Iliescu said the first to have done so had been his then-political adversaries, who "had introduced violence in political confrontation." The president said it is only due to "the people's wisdom that we avoided a Yugoslav-like tragedy" at that stage. Iliescu also criticized the performance of the cabinets in office between 1996 and 2000, saying that "restructuring meant for them no more than layoffs" and that "privatization" had been turned into "primitive selling." He said those responsible for the "national pillage" during that period "must pay for their deeds." MS
 PASTUKHOV MEETS VORONIN...Party of Moldovan Communists Chairman Vladimir Voronin on 21 March told Boris Pastukhov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, that the dispute over the status of the Transdniester region is "useless," ITAR- TASS reported. Whether Moldova should be "a federation or a confederation," Voronin said, should be decided in the course of the negotiations. "A baby has to be born first and then we will agree on its name," he said. Voronin also said Moldova is prepared to offer Tiraspol "constructive alternatives" for solving the conflict. Pastukhov confirmed that Yevgenii Primakov, chairman of the Russian State Commission for the Transdniester settlement, will visit Moldova soon after the new president is elected. MS
 ...AND TRANSDNIESTER LEADERSHIPAfter talks with Pastukhov in Tiraspol, Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, said it would be "premature" to convoke the OSCE meeting in Bratislava on 27-28 March, which is scheduled to discuss the Transdniester conflict. That meeting, he said, must await the election of the new Moldovan president, who should then meet with separatist leader Igor Smirnov to agree on the conditions under which negotiations can be resumed, Infotag reported. Valerii Litskay, who is "foreign minister" in the breakaway region's government, said Pastukhov did not discuss any planned visit to Tiraspol by Primakov. Marakutsa said that before Primakov had come out with his proposals for solving the conflict "we had made some progress" on the Ukrainian proposals for "a gradual rapprochement." It is therefore necessary to decide, he said, "on which proposals we should work" before negotiating at the upcoming Bratislava OSCE meeting. MS
 ...BUT IS EVASIVE ON RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWALSPopular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said following his meeting with Pastukhov in Chisinau that the Duma CIS Committee chairman told him that "too little time" is left for Russia to be able to withdraw all of its weapons from the Transdniester region by the end of this year. Pastukhov also said the withdrawal was made difficult by opposition from the Transdniester leadership to the plan. Rosca cited Pastukhov as saying Russia intends to honor its Istanbul commitments "but it might not be able to do so within the time framework." agreed on at the 1999 OSCE summit, AP reported.
 EU COMMISSIONER SAYS BULGARIA'S ACCESSION MAY BE ACCELERATEDGuenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, said after talks with Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in Sofia on 21 March that Bulgaria has made better progress than expected and could complete accession talks by 2004, the English-language daily "Monitor" and Reuters reported. "The message of my visit," Verheugen said, "is that we are ready for Bulgaria, and it is now up to Bulgaria to be ready for us." In order for the talks to be successfully completed, "political stability must be maintained and there must be a strong consensus that European integration is a priority." Instability in neighboring countries must not affect Bulgarian preparations for membership. "We need Bulgaria as an anchor of stability in a strategically very important region" and Bulgaria does "exactly what we want it to do -- act as a factor of stability," Verheugen said. MS
 ALBANIAN REFUGEES FROM MACEDONIA TRANSIT BULGARIAThousands of ethnic Albanian refugees from Macedonia are transiting Bulgaria on their way to Turkey, "Monitor" reported on 21 March, citing "Sega." The daily wrote that some 2,500 Macedonian citizens have entered Turkey from Bulgaria in the last three days, and more are expected. Bulgarian border police said 1,057 Macedonian citizens entered Bulgarian territory alone on 18 March. The refugees travel mainly in their own cars or by bus. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 21 March said Macedonia will be able to quell the Albanian insurgent's uprising by itself, "if extremism and terrorism is not imported from outside" and if supplies and reinforcements for them from Kosova are cut, AP reported. Kostov spoke after telephone conversations with his Macedonian counterpart Ljubco Georgievski and Arben Xhaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians in Macedonia. MS
 BULGARIA CUTS ARMYBulgaria cut its army from 85,000 to 72,000 troops last year, and is planning an additional reduction of 8,000 in 2001, Defense Ministry official General Lyuben Pandev was cited by AP as saying on 21 March. Under the military reforms aimed at compliance with requirements for NATO accession, Bulgaria intends to reduce its conscript army to 45,000 by 2004, transforming the military into a semiprofessional force. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIESThe parliament on 21 March partially heeded President Petar Stoyanov's veto and amended the recently passed law on political parties. Legislators struck from the law a provision that would have required parties garnering less than 1 percent in the 1997 elections to reregister and prove they have at least 500 members. Stoyanov had sent the law back to the parliament for reconsideration, stating that it was curbing political pluralism, "Monitor" reported. But the lawmakers overrode Stoyanov's objection to anonymous donations, which the law allows for. They limited the amount of a single anonymous donation to 25 percent of the subsidy received by parties from the state. Subsidies are based on the electoral performance of parties in the last elections. MS
 TURKISH PARTY IN BULGARIA TO MOVE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN PARLIAMENTThe ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms announced it will move in the parliament a vote of no-confidence in Kostov's cabinet, "Monitor" reported on 21 March, citing the daily "Dnevnik." The movement says the motion derives from its general opposition to the government's policies. Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces lost its majority in the parliament two weeks ago, when seven opponents of the premier split and set up a separate faction. To survive in office, the government now depends on the support of its junior coalition partner, the Popular Union. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ALBANIAN REBELS FLEX MUSCLES IN MACEDONIABy Jolyon Naegele
A week after fighting erupted between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian security forces near the western Macedonian town of Tetovo, the leaders of the insurgency have begun explaining their reasons for resorting to violence, while simultaneously rejecting an ultimatum by Macedonian authorities to surrender or withdraw from positions in the mountains overlooking the town.
A commander of the rebel National Liberation Army (UCK) told reporters by telephone that the rebels intend to advance and open new fronts. The commander, who calls himself "Sokoli," says the guerillas will not leave their positions until their demands have been met. He says they are prepared to defend themselves against any attack. In a 17 March telephone conversation with RFE/RL's Albanian Service, Sokoli said that the rebels are fighting for freedom and equality and are not demanding that Macedonia's borders be changed. He said "We are not attacking. We are defending. If the Macedonian government agrees to resolve the problems by political means, why are they attacking us? They are to be blamed. So far they have not shown any will to negotiate." Sokoli said 80 percent of the guerillas are from Macedonia, and the remainder from Kosova and other regions inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
The shooting and shelling between Albanian rebels in the Sar mountains above the primarily Albanian-populated town of Tetovo and Macedonian security forces first erupted on 14 March and has since grown in intensity, with the Macedonian army using tanks on 20 March for the first time to try to intimidate the rebels. Security forces have also begun patrolling the area with helicopters. But the following day the shooting died down as government forces allowed civilians to leave. In the longer term, however, the Macedonian army, with just 16,000 soldiers, is poorly prepared to deal with the small but rapidly expanding guerilla force of the UCK.
In the capital Skopje, the government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski appears in danger of collapse. The ailing chairman of the ethnic Albanian party in the coalition, Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of Albanians, said his party will withdraw from the government if civilians are wounded or if the Macedonian government adopts what he terms "the Yugoslav way of war." By that, he means if the army begins targeting civilians and residential property.
The authorities say they have no intention of letting the ethnic Albanian fighters get the upper hand. In the words of Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski: "we will not lose one meter of our territory." He added that the fighting will be "harsh" and may last for months with "many casualties on both sides."
It is not clear how many ethnic Albanian fighters the army is facing. A member of the UCK's general staff, Sadri Ahmeti, said there are around 2, 000 fighters in Tetovo and around 6,000 in the country as a whole. Other reports say there are far fewer.
The Italian daily "La Repubblica" on 20 March quoted Ahmeti as saying the rebels have been training for at least six months "in [the towns and cities of] Gostivar, Skopje, Kumanovo, and Kicevo," all of which have large Albanian populations. He said others are joining their ranks following a recent appeal by the UCK for all able-bodied men.
Ahmeti told the Rome daily "this is a war that is being fought in order to win rights that have been denied for too long -- and all of us Albanians are in it." He said the UCK is ready at any time to take the fighting into the streets of Skopje.
Ahmeti is a veteran of the of the former UCK's (Kosovo Liberation Army's) war against Serb forces in Kosova in 1998 and 1999. He told Reuters that he favors annexing the Albanian-inhabited districts of western Macedonia to Kosova. In his words, "this is my desire and that of my soldiers, but our general staff has the last say on that issue." He denied that the present UCK leadership favors introducing a federal system in Macedonia, saying no decision has yet been reached.
Ahmeti said the UCK already controls "about a dozen villages" on the heights above Tetovo. He added "If we had wanted to capture Tetovo, we would already have done so -- but we want to avoid a civil war that would turn into a bloodbath. We want only to negotiate."
The Bulgarian daily "Monitor" carried an interview on 20 March with Macedonian Prime Minister Georgievski in which he said the Albanian fighters had organized the campaign over a long period of time. He said their logistical support, weapons and organizers come from Kosova and that they number from 500 to 1,000.
In Georgievski's words: "The international community is afraid of acknowledging that the current situation in Macedonia is the result of the spread of the Kosovo crisis [because] its admission would make it clear that the NATO intervention [two years ago] and the policy of the international community have failed to produce results." Georgievski ruled out talks with the Albanian fighters. He said: "No one is considering starting such talks. Our only wish is to root out terrorism."
But Xhaferi, the chief of the Albanian party in the Georgievski government, disagreed. He told the Macedonian government news agency MIA the crisis has what he called an internal character. He said the Albanian fighters' key demand is to change the Macedonian Constitution to give Albanians equal status with Macedonians as a "state-forming" people and to place the Albanian language on par with Macedonian as an official language.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty