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An ethnic Albanian man drives a tractor with two recently shot wolves on top, passing by a German officer, right, who is a member of the NATO Amber Fox Operation, in the village of Matejce, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2002. Ethnically mixed police units of Macedonian and ethnic Albanian officers took over this former ethnic Albanian rebel stronghold, Sunday, in another step toward restoring normalcy in the troubled Balkan country. (AP Photo/Maja Zlatevska)
Ethnic Albanian children stand on a destroyed army tank in the village of Matejce, 16 km (10 miles) north of Macedonia's capital Skopje, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2002. Ethnically mixed police units of Macedonian and ethnic Albanian officers took over this former ethnic Albanian rebel stronghold, Sunday , in another step toward restoring normalcy in the troubled Balkan country.(AP Photo/Maja Zlatevska)
Skopje, January 27 (BTA) - Macedonian Defence Minister Prof. Vlado Popovski will pay a two-day visit to Bulgaria on January 29 and 30, Skopje diplomatic sources said.
During his visit Popovski will discuss bilateral cooperation in defence and the progress of the two countries on the road to NATO membership with Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov.
A protocol on cooperation between the defence ministries of the two countries in 2002 will be signed within the framework of the visit.
Opposition Parties to Organize Protests During PM's Visit to Kozlodoui, Generating Units Three and Four Can Work Safely Until 2010-2012, Bulgarian Nuclear Society Says.
Sofia, January 27 (BTA) - Deputy National Assembly Chairman Assen Agov MP of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) demanded the resignation of the management of the Kozlodoui N-plant for not having officially distanced itself from the statement of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on an early closure of generating units three and four of the N-plant. The Prime Minister's statement takes Bulgaria further away from Europe and verges on betrayal, Agov told reporters in Vratsa (Northwestern Bulgaria) Sunday.
Preparations for decommissioning generating units one and two of the N-plant are also lagging behind, Agov said. According to a Memorandum of 1999, signed between Bulgaria and the EU, the first two generating units of the Kozlodoui N-plant should be closed by the end of 2002. The deadlines for decommissioning generating units three and four should also be agreed on by the end of this year.
The leader of the UDF organization in Kozlodoui, Ivo Simeonov, said the UDF will hold a protest rally on Monday when the Prime Minister is expected to visit the N-plant.
In a press release IMRO-Bulgarian National Movement says that its local structures in Vratsa will protest on January 28 against the closure of the reactors during the Prime Minister's visit.
According to the Bulgarian Nuclear Society (BNS), the decommissioning of the reactors should be bound to their safety and should take place when this is economically expedient. More than 70 million US dollars have been invested in upgrading the four 440 MW generating units so far. The units have operated without any problems for a total of 80 reactor years, these nuclear experts recalled.
Generating units one and two should be decommissioned in 2004-2005 when their life span expires, BNS members argued. The deadline for closing generating units three and four is 2010-2012, according to these experts. The four reactors have a 30-year efficient fuel lifetime which is not equal to 30 years. Now generating unit one has entered its 22nd lifetime and generating unit two its 23rd fuel lifetime.
The first two generating units can operate by 2007 -2010 without further investment, according to the BNS.
The decommissioning of the first two generating units at the Kozlodoui N-plant will increase electricity prices at least two-fold, according to the BNS. This would affect state revenues from electricity export and the financial state of the N-plant.
The decommission of generating units three and four will coincide with the building of a Bulgarian high voltage electricity transmission network which will provide access to cheaper electricity from Western Europe and Russia. At the same time Bulgarian electricity will not be competitive, according to experts.
The BNS recommends that the new law on the use of nuclear energy guarantees the independence of the regulating body by setting up a State Committee on Nuclear Power Engineering, BNS Chairperson Krassimira Ilieva told a news conference Sunday. According to her, this is one of the conditions the EU has set Bulgaria.
If the Government decides on the building of the Belene N-plant now, the facility can be completed by 2010-2012, BNS members claim. Missions of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1999 and of the producers of the equipment for the plant site of the Belene N-plant from Russia and Czechoslovakia established that it is being stored according to all technical requirements and can be used.
Experts of the BNS recalled that the Bulgarian N-plant differs from the Chernobyl one and asked not to speculate with its safety.
Nato plans to admit five states as members.
By Judy Dempsey in Brussels
January 27 2002 20:27
Nato is preparing to include at least five new countries in an enlargement that will require radical changes in the role and functioning of the US-led military alliance.
Military planners and diplomats said a majority of the 19 Nato countries want to include the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as Slovenia and Slovakia at Nato's summit in Prague in November.
A greater enlargement would be a significant shift for Nato, which is still grappling over how to deal with Russia and unsure what role, if any, it can play in the US-led fight against international terrorism.
But, given the pace of reforms among the applicant countries, such as restructuring defence ministries and reducing the size of armies, diplomats said they saw no reason why these five countries could not be admitted in November.
Nato, concerned about Russia's reaction, had originally considered admitting only Slovenia and Slovakia, which would join Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - members since 1999.
But Washington has shifted ground, partly in response to pressure from lobbies supporting the inclusion of the three Baltic states, but also to the September 11 attacks on the US.
In his visit to Poland last summer, President George W. Bush spoke openly about a large expansion of Nato, brushing aside objections by Russia. "There will be no red lines [on expansion]," he said.
This was despite objections from the Russian defence ministry. It has repeatedly warned Nato of the security consequences for Europe if the alliance included the three Baltic states. However, Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has told the Bush administration he would not veto such an expansion.
But if Turkey, France and other countries have their way, enlargement could also include Bulgaria and Romania.
Turkey wants both countries included since it could strengthen security in the Balkans, provide Sofia and Bucharest with an incentive to modernise and reform their armies and help to establish a belt of Nato countries in the southern Mediterranean region stretching from Portugal to Turkey.
France wants to give Bulgaria and Romania some political incentive since it is unlikely both countries will be ready to join the European Union by 2004. This is the timetable set by the EU for admitting up to 10 countries, the majority from central and eastern Europe.
The enlargement debate coincides with a range of issues confronting Nato. There are already differences within Nato over how to bring Russia closer to the alliance in a relationship that would not restrict any of Nato's military actions.
There is also uncertainty over how at least five new countries could be integrated into an alliance that makes decisions on consensus. Some countries, for example, want decisions to be made unanimously.
International troops pouring into Afghanistan.
AFP [ SUNDAY, JANUARY 27, 2002 4:35:51 PM ]
KABUL: Troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are starting to pour into Afghanistan, with a record 19 flights arriving on Saturday and more expected later on Sunday, an official said.
More than half the total expected deployment of 4,500 soldiers from 17 countries are already on Afghan soil with the remainder due by mid-February, British military spokesman Graham Dunlop said.
"As long as the airport remains open and the weather is good, we can maintain this level of incoming flights," Dunlop said on Sunday.
Many planes are carrying supplies only, with 210 tonnes arriving on Saturday alone.
Dunlop could not say how many troops were expected to arrive over the weekend. "They are arriving all the time," he said
Since Kabul International Airport was reopened on January 16 the number of ISAF troops in Afghanistan has increased dramatically.
When the deployment began just before the inauguration of the new interim administration on December 22, all flights had to use the former Soviet air base at Bagram, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital.
Due to the poor facilities at the airport and the wretched state of the road linking it to the capital, only five or six flights a day could be accommodated.
But with the repair of the huge craters in the runway at Kabul's airport -- caused in November by the US bombing campaign against the former Taliban regime -- military and civilian flights are arriving sometimes at a rate of one every half hour.
On the streets of the capital, ISAF troops are conducting more patrols, surrounded by crowds of welcoming Afghans.
The ISAF deployment has been mandated by the United Nations with a specific task of helping the new interim administration secure Kabul and its surrounds.
The interim administration initially wanted only 1,000 foreign troops in Kabul with their job limited to safeguarding government buildings.
But after agreeing later to a deployment of 4,500 with greater powers, the government is now saying it is open to the idea of further increasing the deployment so other major centres in the country can be stabilised.
Interim leader Hamid Karzai said people from the provinces had been imploring him to secure the services of the international soldiers.
UN officials have expressed increasing concern about security conditions in Afghanistan following the US-led offensive to topple the Taliban and root out Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Francesc Vendrell, the UN's deputy special envoy to Afghanistan, has said he believed up to 30,000 peacekeepers would be needed.
Dunlop said there were now 2,542 ISAF troops in Afghanistan.
They comprise four from Austria, 11 from Denmark, 15 from Finland, 519 from France, 241 from Germany, 189 from Italy, 243 from the Netherlands, 43 from Norway, 37 from Spain, 29 from Sweden, nine from Turkey, 1,166 from Great Britain and 36 from the United States.
Britain is heading the ISAF for the first three months of its six-month deployment.
Saudi 'charity' troubling to Bosnian Muslims.
By Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent, 1/27/2002
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Saudi Arabian charities have spent millions of dollars to help rebuild Bosnia. But their generosity comes with a catch: The Saudis are also promoting a fundamentalist version of Islam here that is anathema to most Bosnian Muslims, who practice a more tolerant form of the religion.
The activities of Saudi and other Islamic charities in Bosnia have come under increased scrutiny since Sept. 11, and specifically since the arrest in October of six Algerians suspected of being part of a terror network plotting attacks against US interests here.
Five of the six, who US officials say are tied to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, worked for various Muslim charity organizations. Western and Bosnian officials say they suspect some of these relief agencies may be front organizations for terrorism.
Whether or not the terrorism allegations prove accurate, officials and analysts here say Saudi-funded aid groups in Bosnia are spreading an intolerant and anti-Western form of Islam, undermining the country's rich and diverse religious heritage, and provoking conflict with Serb and Croat minorities.
''We have a big problem with the Saudis,'' a senior Bosnian official said. ''They are spreading around huge amounts of money to help rebuild Bosnia. But they are also building mosques and spreading a version of Islam that is alien to our Bosnian Islam.''
That different version of Islam was on display here earlier this month, when hundreds of angry Muslim protesters, many in veils and headscarves, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the six Algerian suspects from being turned over to US authorities.
Chanting ''God Is Great,'' the protesters pounded cars and blocked streets around Sarajevo's Central Prison before riot police dispersed them. Some called the US-led war on terror a war on Islam and claimed that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Officials here said they strongly suspect a fundamentalist group called Active Islamic Youth organized the demonstration and bused in the protesters. The group's leaders, while allowing that their members may have participated in the two-day protest, deny they organized the demonstration.
''Active Islamic Youth did not organize the demonstration,'' Almin Foco, head of the group told the weekly Bosnian newsmagazine Slobodna Bosna. ''We try to invite people to Islam.''
Active Islamic Youth, which local media say has Saudi ties, was founded in 1995 to spread a stringent version of Islam called Wahhabism. The Wahhabis are a strict Islamic movement founded in the 18th century by Abdul-Wahhab. He converted the Saud tribe, which now rules Saudi Arabia.
Bosnian officials announced last week they would begin investigating about 120 relief organizations here for possible terror ties.
At the top of the list, officials say, is an organization called the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sabir Lamar, one of the six Algerian terror suspects turned over to the United States last week, worked for the High Commission.
''Nobody here supports terrorism,'' Fahd Al-Zakari, the High Commission's director, recently told the Associated Press.
But the group is spreading around a lot of money to promote its version of Islam.
The High Commission was founded in 1993 by Saudi Prince Selman bin Abdul-Aziz and says it has spent more than $600 million in aid to Bosnian Muslims. It has been caring for 500 war orphans, and paying the utility bills for many Bosnian families impoverished by the country's 1992-95 war.
Its Sarajevo headquarters cost an estimated $9 million, and includes a massive mosque that accommodates 5,000 people, modern classrooms, a library, restaurants, and a sports hall.
But according to a report by the International Crisis Group, an international think tank, ''female beneficiaries were required to cover their head, and their children to attend classes in their faith.''
Bosnian officials say Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism is more widespread in Bosnia's rural areas than in its cosmopolitan capital, Sarajevo.
''This is destructive to Bosnia morally and culturally,'' said Rusmir Mahmutcehajic, a Sarajevo-based sociologist.
Mahmutcehajic and other Bosnian intellectuals say everything from the Wahhabis' strict dress codes for women to the severe architectural styles of their giant mosques, and their claim to be the sole true Islamic faith, contradicts - and even offends - Bosnian tradition.
The new Saudi-built mosques, huge, boxy structures, stand out from the centuries-old Ottoman-style mosques that characterize the urban and village landscape in Bosnia.
''There is a conflict here between a Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and an Ottoman perception,'' said Jacques Paul Klein, head of the UN mission in Bosnia.
Bosnian officials also say the Saudis are provoking conflict with Serbs and Croats as well.
In the city of Mostar, local media reported graffiti reading: ''Bin Laden, brother, send a 767 against the Croats.''
And the Bosnian Foreign Ministry recently sent a formal protest to the Saudi Embassy over anti-Croat statements in one of the Saudi High Commission's brochures distributed in the northern Bosnian town of Bugojno.
Mahmutcehajic called the attraction to fundamentalism, specifically among rural youth, ''an emotional reaction to social problems'' caused by decades of communism and the trauma of war.
''You will find among many Muslims in Bosnia a great need to reconstruct their lost identity,'' Mahmutcehajic said. ''Young people have found themselves in an empty space after the moral destruction of nationalism and communism.''
The fundamentalist influence, Mahmutcehajic added, is as deadly to Bosnia's diverse multireligious culture as the destruction wrought by Serb and Croat militias during the war.
''All our experience in Bosnia is living with other traditions,'' Mahmutcehajic said. ''This kind of epistemic modesty is the basis for the Bosnian experience. What we have is valuable.''