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Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Washington. ŠEPA
Dobrich - Dam Lakes. Despite this winter's snow and rain, the level of the dam lakes in Dobroudja is dropping. Some of the smaller dam lakes in the villages of Smolnitsa, Vratarite and Zlatiya, are drying up. On photo: The level of the largest dam lake in the region - Odrintsi, has dropped by 4.5 m, reducing the lake's volume eight-fold. Pressphoto, BTA Photo: Grigor Marinov
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
It is relatively calm in Tetovo region Tuesday morning differently from Monday night when peace has been violated with much bigger intensity of shootouts than the previous days.
Series of shootouts have been registered at 01:00 hours from Karaorman street and Gorna Carsija settlement. Around 22:30 hours the shootouts and tracer bullets came from the area of the city centre. Fifty shootouts have been registered during the night from Radusa, Dervenska klisura and Dolno Orasje.
Police and army sources say the peace has been violated with sporadic and rifle shootouts from 15 villages in Tetovo region since late Monday until early Tuesday morning.
The movement of the citizens in the town during the night was free for the first time after one year due to lifted curfew by the Minister of Interior Ljube Boskovski Monday.
A group of about 300 persons of Albanian nationality, gathered 15 minutes after midnight in the area of Semsevo village, Tetovo area, opening frequent fire from infantry weaponry.
According to Colonel Blagoja Markovski, Macedonian Army HQ spokesman, the villagers gathered to welcome the amnestied representatives of the so-called NLA, released from prison on Monday.
The terrorist groups in Kumanovo - Lipkovo region keep on provoking, mainly in the afternoon an evening hours, reports MIA's correspondent.
Monday by midnight, around 13 sporadic shots were registered, coming from the area of the villages of Vaksince, Ropaljce and Nikustak. A rifle shot and two lightning missiles were launched from the village of Matejce. Movements of terrorist groups were not noticed and the provocations were not responded by the Macedonian security forces.
The ethnically mixed police teams patrol in the villages of Matejce, Otlja, Orizare and Lipkovo regularly as planned and without hindrances.
Disbanded, Disarmed And Amnestied People Celebrated The Liberation Of The Terrorists.
Tetovo, March 12 (MIA) - A group of about 300 persons of Albanian nationality, gathered 15 minutes after midnight in the area of Semsevo village, Tetovo area, opening frequent fire from infantry weaponry.
According to Colonel Blagoja Markovski, Macedonian Army HQ spokesman, the villagers gathered to welcome the amnestied representatives of the so-called NLA, released from prison on Monday.
Yugoslav Army inspection team visits Macedonia SKOPJE, March 12 (Tanjug) - Yugoslav Army inspection team led by colonels Milun Ljubicic and Bozidar Maljkovic, will visit Macedonia on March 12-15, the Macedonian Defence Ministry said in Skopje.
MACEDONIA RECEIVES EURO 307 MILLION AT THE DONORS' CONFERENCE.
Macedonia received Euro 307 million Tuesday at the Donors' Conference in Brussels, attended by representatives of 38 countries and 19 financial institutions.
The donor pledged Euro 173 million to meet the urgent needs of the country in macro-economic support, Euro 85 million for reconstruction of the conflict-affected areas and Euro 49 for implementation of the Framework Agreement.
The donors announced additional Euro 271 million for an overall economic development in 2002.
Reinhardt Priebe, Director of the Directorate General on External Relations at the European Commission, Christian Portman, Coordinator for Macedonia and World Bank Regional Coordinator for Southeast Europe and Central Asia, and Amin Awad, Chief of Mission at the UN High Commissariat for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country were co-chairmen of the confrence.
Ministers of Finance, Labor and Welfare, Nikola Gruevski and Bedredin Ibraimi were members of the Macedonian delegation to Brussels, led by Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski.
"The purpose of this conference is to help Macedonia to return at the road it has been before the conflict and to continue with implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement," Priebe said in his address at the conference.
"This meting is an expression of the strong and constant support of Macedonia and its people, offering a chance for prosperity," he added.
Macedonia should continue with the economic reforms in order to improve the living standard of its citizens and to heal the wounds from the recent crisis, Poortman said.
"Long-term economic development will be a significant element for the country's integration and the World Bank is willing to help Macedonia to achieve this goal," Poortman said.
At a press conference, Macedonian Finance Minister Gruevski extended his gratitude for generosity of the donors that pledged more funds than expected in order to bring the country back at the road it was before the crisis.
He gave credit to the donors' support of the Macedonian Government efforts to implement the Framework Agreement, restore peace and continue to work on the economic development.
Gruevski also expressed hope that this would be a;st Donors' Conference for Macedonia.
"The next one is going to be an investment conference, focused on presentation of favorable conditions for investing in the country," Gruevski said.
As the US Embassy to Macedonia said Tuesday in a press release, the United States pledged US 116,381 million in assistance to Macedonia at the Donors' Conference in Brussels.
"The US total contribution includes a pledge of $ 39,618,424 against the needs sought for this conference; $55,081,997 in economic development assistance; $11,550,000 in 2001 funds supportive of the Framework Agreement; and $10,130,483 in humanitarian assistance," the press release reeds, quoting excerpts from Donors' Conference statement by Ambassador William Taylor, US Coordinator for Assistance in Europe and Asia.
The US specific pledge against the needs sought for this conference consists of: $16,500,000 in balance of payments support; $12,153,424 for reconstruction and rehabilitation in conflict-affected areas; and $10,965,000 to support implementation of the Framework Agreement.
"The United Sates remains committed to joining with others in the international community to ensure that the promise of the Framework Agreement-enduring peace and stability as the basis for a renewal of democratic and economic reforms of the international community's resolve to do its part to support Macedonia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic self-sustainability, and to promote its integration into Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions," Taylor said.
The US would work along with the Macedonian Government and all of Macedonia's citizens to see that each element of the Framework Agreement was implemented.
"This must include, with equal leadership and resolve, the rejection of all who call for violence as a means to resolve political differences. By such measures, by such political stamina and courage, the Macedonian Government and all of Macedonia's residents are making an invaluable contribution to the global war on terrorism-they are embracing peace, progress and prosperity within their own country," Taylor said.
ASSISTANCE FROM THE DONOR'S CONFERENCE IS IMPORTANT FOR RESTORING PEACE AND SECURITY.
"I am deeply convinced that with this donor's conference we will leave the political and security instability behind and we will turn new page of economic prosperity and accelerated economic development for Macedonia and the entire region," Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in his address at the Donor's conference for Macedonia, which was held Tuesday in Brussels.
"In the past decade our country confirmed its determinacy for comprehensive development of the democratic values and principles of peaceful foreign policy, and in that respect the nurturing of the good neighborly relations, which are particularly important for the stability of the entire region," Georgievski stressed.
According to MIA's special reporter from Brussels, Premier Georgievski stressed that with the status of associate member of the European Union according to Stabilization and Association Agreement and being an aspirant country for gaining NATO membership, the strategic determination of Macedonia for integration in the European and the Euro Atlantic structures is gradually realized in practice.
"Unfortunately, in February 2001 as a result of the signing of the Border Delineation Agreement with FR Yugoslavia, Macedonia was exposed to series of terrorist and extremist activities and we decided with the support from the international community and the four major political parties in the country, to canalize them within the institutions of the country and to reach Ohrid agreement," Georgievski said.
Reminding of the victims and injured persons during the crisis, the demolished homes and the historical facilities, as well as the displaced persons, the Prime Minister expressed his assurance that after the signing of Framework Agreement, the amendments to the Macedonian Constitution, the adoption of the Law on local self-government and the Law on amnesty, the main preconditions for peace, security and economic prosperity of the country and all Macedonian citizens are met.
"For us it is particularly important to reintegrate the territory and sovereignty of Republic of Macedonia and most important is the return of the citizens, which are still out of their homes," Georgievski stressed, adding that the assistance that Macedonia requests at the donor's conference is of crucial importance for the state and for restoring the peace, security and multiethnic co-life.
"This is vitally important in order to keep the pace with the economic development and prosperity, what is a desire of all citizens of Macedonia," Georgievski emphasized.
Stating that we are aware that we have abandoned the track of true reforms and we had to deal solely with the security issues, Georgievski said "there are bright lights in front of our country that give us hope that with the help of this Donor's conference we will succeed to get back to where we used to be prior to the crisis."
He reminded that at the end of 2000 the Gross Domestic Product in Macedonia was 5,5 percent, what is a record for the country in the past 20 years, with DM 400 million suffice and underlined that in IBRD's report for 2000 Macedonia was placed on the first place regarding the intensity of the reforms and macro financial results in the 24 countries from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
"In that respect, if our requests are supported that would be a double favour for Macedonia. We will put the country back to the normal economic courses, and in the same time we will contribute towards stabilization and restoring of the multiethnic co-life," Prime Minister Georgievski said, thanking at the end once again for the support that has been granted to Macedonia during the crisis as well as to the all participants at the Donor's conference.
WE WANT TO PROVE THAT MACEDONIA HAS ITS OWN CAPACITY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
Republic of Macedonia does not want to become a country that will be dependent on the foreign assistance, Macedonian Finance Minister said in his address at the Donor's conference, held Tuesday in Brussels.
"We want to prove that we are country with its own capacity for economic development, which will be based on the openness and the development of solid, competitive economy. But, unfortunately at this moment we are not there, where all Macedonian citizens and I would like to see our own country.
Although we have mobilized all internal resources, they are not sufficient to surpass the consequences of the crisis. Therefore, we believe that the international community would show understanding for this situation and will support our efforts to create conditions necessary for economic prosperity, peace and stability in Republic of Macedonia," Gruevski said.
Speaking of the Macedonian economic development, Gruevski stressed that the country "was exposed to strong external shocks, which along with the inherited problems significantly burdened and slowed the process of transition towards modern, market economy." But, despite all these difficulties, in cooperation with IMF, the World Bank, the European Union and the other international institutions and associations and bilateral agreements, Macedonia has succeeded to maintain the macro economic stability and to accomplish low, but continuous economic growth.
Speaking of the consequences caused by Kosovo crisis, Gruevski said that the direct and indirect damages on the Macedonian economy were $ 650 million or around 18 percent from the GDP.
Gruevski also reminded that at the Donor's conference held in Paris in May 1999 international assistance of $ 255 million was promised out of which $ 149 million in credits, $ 81 million as nonrefundable means and $ 25 million as postponing the reimbursement of the liabilities towards Parisian Club of creditors. "The accurately directed foreign assistance from all kinds and the own resources along with the coordinated fiscal and monetary policy and the relatively short crisis on Kosovo contributed not to disturb the macroeconomic stability in 1999, but it was impossible to cover the economic damages," Gruevski said.
"After five years of positive economic growth and intensive reforms in Republic of Macedonia, and especially after the successful results in 1999 and 2000 we expect even better results," Minister Gruevski said, adding that these expectations are due to the economic reforms undertaken by the Macedonian Government. He stressed that as a result of the satisfactory achievements in developing the market economy and the successful democratization of the country the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union was signed in April 2001 and the Interim Trade Agreement was enforced in June 2001.
Gruevski reminded that parallel with the economic reforms, the Macedonian Government continued to work on improving the interethnic relations, the number of the Albanians employed in the public administration was increased and the first private University was established, so institution for higher education for the Albanians was provided.
"But with the beginning of the security crisis the period of growth and development was halted, and instead of the projected GDP of 6 percent, it has been reduced for 4,6 percent," Gruevski stressed, adding that as a result of the crisis deficit of around 6 percent of GDP was realized.
According to Gruevski, besides the direct damages from the conflict, the Macedonian economy has suffered enormous short-term and long-term indirect damages, which will be felt in the next years through the loss of the potential growth of GDP and the increased risk for the foreign investors. He reminded that parallel with the reforms in the public administration that were not halted, also the reforms in the financial sphere i.e. the reform in the payment system, the improved supervision of the banking sector and the struggle against the criminal and corruption continued. In that respect the Law on money laundry was adopted and special Administration was established.
Also we succeeded to maintain the macroeconomic stability and to reduce the budget expenditures for more than 3 percent, Gruevski said. "The exchange rate of the denar remained stable, and the inflation rate was at relatively low level of 5,5 percent with tendency to be stabilized at 3 percent on a medium run," Minister Gruevski said.
He expressed assurance that with the signing of the Framework Agreement and the adoption of the laws on amnesty and local self-government as well as the constitutional amendments will contribute to restore the peace.
Parallel with the calming of the security situation, the first signs of normalizing the Macedonian economy were registered in the last months of 2001. In that respect, he reminded on the agreement reached by the Macedonian Government and IMF in the beginning of December on the Program on monitoring in the period January -June 2002, the approved credit for urgent economic reconstruction from the World Bank as well as the second installment of EU's macroeconomic assistance.
"IMF program was very helpful for successful designing and implementation of the appropriate economic policies in the very sensitive post-conflict period," Gruevski stressed, assessing that the implementation of the program in the first two months is successful i.e. the incomes and the expenditures are within the scheduled. He underlined that the Macedonian Government strongly believes that the successful realization of the Program would open the path to Stand By arrangement with IMF.
"Maintaining of solid macroeconomic environment and accelerating the structural reforms are the two most important pillars for promoting the economic climate, the restoring of the economic growth and creating new job positions," Minister Gruevski said, adding that these are the main preconditions for improving the living conditions and reducing the poverty that would enhance the social and ethnic cohesion.
According to Gruevski, the Government will maintain the fiscal deficit for 2002 at the level projected with IMF program, will continue to monitor and analyze the reimbursement of the liabilities and will continue to control the budget's expenditures.
In the address, Gruevski emphasized that it was expected the confidence of the customers and the entrepreneurs to be restored, what will increase the investments and the personal expenditure, which will be generators of the projected economic growth of 4 percent. "The Macedonian Government will do everything in 2002 to restore the reputation of the country with lowest inflation rate among the transition countries," Gruevski said.
"The average annual inflation calculated through the life costs is around 2,5 percent what is on the level of the member-countries of the European Monetary Union. The consolidated budget deficit will be slashed on half, and the exchange rate of the denar will remain stable and will be the main anchor of the macroeconomic policy," Gruevski was decisive.
According to him, in the field of reforms the Government will enhance its activities in order to compensate the delays from 2001 and to eliminate the structural weaknesses, which "hinder the development of the fast growing private sector." He informed that the reforms in the public administration were realized, which were precondition for holding the negotiations with the World Bank for concluding an arrangement on supporting the reforms in the public administration. Emphasizing that the negotiations were successfully completed, he said that it is expected this extremely important credit to be submitted to World Bank's Board of Directors at the beginning of April 2002.
"Running sound fiscal and monetary policy consistent with the realization of the sustainable external position and completing the already begun reforms in all areas, enhancing the economic growth and reducing the poverty are goals that the Macedonian Government in cooperation with the international financial institutions and donors will try to and will succeed in realizing them on medium run," Gruevski emphasized.
According to him, the Macedonian Government will face great challenges in the next few years and these are "stabilizing the economy and going back on the track of growth, return to the displaced persons in their reconstructed houses and implementation of the Framework Agreement." "Only by full realization of the three tasks the crisis could be resolved, and Macedonia can return on the path of prosperity and could meet the criteria for fully-fledged membership in EU. The Government is firmly determined to realize them despite the serious financial limitations," Gruevski said.
He explained that the foreign reserves bore the burden of the high external imbalance in 2001 and they were the key factor in maintaining the internal balance.
Minister Gruevski emphasized that Macedonia in the hardest year of its existence did not halt the regular foreign debt service. "The projections of the payment balance developed in cooperation with IMF, indicate that the expected financial gap for 2002 will be $ 165 million. The provision of donor's means for covering the projected financial gap will prevent the further erosion of the domestic reserves, which would have destabilizing effects on the value of the domestic currency and would jeopardize the economic stability of the country," Gruevski said.
Also important is the return of the displaced persons to their homes. According to Gruevski only if all displaced persons from crisis regions return, the multiethnicity, peace and stability could be restored. "But it would be impossible without the reconstruction of the destroyed and burned houses, the restoring of the vital infrastructure, electricity and water networks as well as the roads. Only in the health care the losses were around $ 15 million. Considering the limited financial resources, it is expected that the Government will not be able to finance the reconstruction costs estimated to at least $ 40 million," Gruevski said. He stressed that the assistance in financing the reconstruction will be an investment for peace and multiethnic character of Macedonia.
"Framework Agreement is maybe the key factor for long-term and lasting peace and stability in the country. In respect of implementing the provisions from Framework Agreement the Government has already realized several initiatives, and most of them are underway. Around 70 laws should be passed, amended or supplemented in order to complete the reforms in the local self-government and decentralization of the authority," Gruevski said.
According to him, one of the most important laws in this area, the Law on financing the local self-government is being developed in collaboration with domestic and foreign experts. However, he believes that the full realization of the obligations arising from Framework Agreement is related with direct costs that are stated in the European Commission's report. The total amount is $ 70 million by 2004, out of which around $23 million are necessary for 2002.
"The participation of the international community in covering some of these expenses will significantly contribute to surpass the economic and financial difficulties of Republic of Macedonia in the post-crisis period and will confirm its commitments for supporting the peace and stability in the country," Gruevski said.
Due to the significance, the intensity and the volume of the activities for realization of the Framework Agreement, according to Gruevski the Department for coordinating the foreign assistance as operational service of the National coordinator for foreign assistance within the Macedonian Government will be enhanced by establishing new Unit for coordinating the assistance for implementation of the Framework Agreement.
Gruevski said that everyone was aware that donor's means are collected from taxes and therefore the gratitude also goes to the nations of the donor's countries. "We assure you that every investment is a stake for the future what would mean peace and security for Republic of Macedonia and the region to which it belongs. The investment in such future is definitely the best investment," Macedonian Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski said in his address at the Donor's conference for Macedonia, held Tuesday in Brussels.
PRIME MINISTER GEORGIEVSKI AND MINISTER GRUEVSKI ON DONOR'S CONFERENCE.
"The Donor's conference is a new approach towards Macedonia and this is first so serious political and economic step of the international community towards our country since the beginning of the crisis," Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski said late Tuesday upon his arrival from Brussels.
Donor's conference for Macedonia was held Tuesday in Brussels, where the country received 307 million, and the donors have announced additional 271 million for economical development in the country.
Stating that Netherlands, Germany and Japan were the greatest donors for Macedonia, Georgievski stressed that it was not important which country gave more or less, because Macedonia has friendly relations with all countries.
Explaining the "generosity" of Netherlands, he said that we are in the same group with Netherlands in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and it favors Macedonia because "it recognizes the results we have achieved."
Explaining the aim of the additional 271 million, Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski said that these means should assist the implementation of various projects. "This is usually money for certain projects they have reviewed, have been already financed or they will begin to finance them. For better implementation of these projects, the assistance from the Government and first of all from the Transport Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Office for European Integration is necessary. The projects include Studencica, Lisice and other water supply capacities, roads and infrastructure facilities," Gruevski informed.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski held a brief press conference on Tuesday evening after his returning from Brussels, referring to several topics including the report of the International Crisis Group, Macedonia's nomination for NATO membership and the statements of the Kosovo political leaders regarding the Macedonian-Yugoslav border in the Kosovo section.
Commenting the past ICG reports for Macedonia, Georgievski said that the ICG had complete policy for the Balkans. "That policy must be completely analyzed so we can see the goal for Macedonia. The ICG policy cannot be partially analyzed. I believe that their policy toward the Balkans is not in order," he said.
Georgievski reported that the meetings with NATO Secretary General George Robertson and with EU High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana were focused on the scheduling of early elections, in which context they both pointed out that they would not interfere in this matter.
They are only interested to be informed on time about the date of the elections so they can prepare the monitors that will be deployed.
"They are interested in the elections date only due to god organization, because we all insist on that there to be many monitors. They pointed out that they would not like the elections to take place on September 21, because that is when the elections in Kosovo will take place," he said.
Regarding the statements of the Kosovo leaders regarding the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, Georgievski said that the Brussels diplomats take this issue very seriously and that they would do everything to prevent such "excursions."
"I believe that the provocations are not coming by chance," Georgievski said.
"According to the Kosovo leaders, the Macedonian government could not make the agreement with the Yugoslav authorities without them, and second they deny specific territory. First they mentioned 400 hectares, then they said 2,500 hectares, and tomorrow they may say its 5,000," he stated.
Regarding Macedonia's nomination for NATO membership, Georgievski said that "realistically, we have lost this year," adding that he did not want to spread false optimism.
"We have lost this year based on many lines, however many things can come as surprise. Let us say that everything functions well, perhaps it will be politically attractive for NATO to make some move toward Macedonia, however that is 90% uncertain. What we just heard is that there are talks in Brussels that the next round of NATO expansion would take place in 2004, which is a very positive thing," Georgievski said.
EURO 4,845,900 PROVIDED FROM MACEDONIAN BUDGET FOR PERSONS IN COLLECTIVE CENTERS.
"With the beginning of the crisis in Republic of Macedonia, most of the residents from Skopje, Kumanovo and Tetovo regions of crisis left their homes and were sheltered throughout the country and some of them even abroad," Macedonian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Bedredin Ibraimi said in his address at the Donor's conference for Macedonia, held Tuesday in Brussels.
Most of the displaced persons were placed in host families and in collective centers in Skopje, Kumanovo, Tetovo, Dojran and Gevgelija. According to Ibraimi, the number of the displaced persons was variable, but the peak numbers were registered in August in 2001, when 72,134 persons were placed in host families and 3,912 in collective centers. The number of the displaced persons at this moment is 17,192 persons, out of whom 14,287 are sheltered in host families and 2,905 in collective centers.
"In order to coordinate the humanitarian activities more successfully, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy along with the Macedonian President has established Coordination Humanitarian Body to establish control and to develop plan for delivering the humanitarian assistance," Ibraimi stressed.
He informed that humanitarian assistance was provided from several sources, among which the International Committee of the Red Cross, INTERSOS organization and "International Action Against Famine," US Red Cross and the European Bank for Development. According to Ibraimi, financial assistance was received from the Office for Humanitarian Assistance within the Swiss Embassy, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Development program (UNDP) and the Agency for Reconstruction within the European Commission.
In his address, Minister Ibraimi emphasized that the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, "El Hilal" and the other domestic non-governmental organizations have contributed in the delivery of humanitarian assistance as well as UNHCR and UNICEF, which were permanently involved in the delivery of assistance.
Minister Ibraimi reminded that Euro 4,845,900 were provided from the Macedonian budget for the persons placed in the collective centers, adding that according to the estimations around Euro 2,350 million will be necessary for this purpose until June 2002.
He emphasized that due to the crisis the number of the users of social assistance and the unemployed persons has also increased and Euro 1,625,600 were used for that purpose.
Ibraimi also said that due to the overall situation in the country, the Ministry of Labor and Social policy suggested to continue the delivery of humanitarian assistance in food, clothes, footwear and hygienic packages for the displaced persons and to provide means for compensating the expenditures from the Budget, for single assistance to the displaced persons, for assistance to the students that cannot be accepted in the student dormitories, where the displaced persons are placed as well as for the collective centers where the displaced persons are sheltered.
Ibraimi also thanked to OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel for establishing the "SEE University in Tetovo, where mostly the Albanians study," adding that however "this University does not meet the educational needs of the Albanians in Republic of Macedonia."
At the end of his address, Ibraimi emphasized that he was convinced that the donors would grant complete assistance and support to Macedonia that would enable the realization of the strategic goals and determinations of the country to integrate in the Euro Atlantic institutions.
THERE IS POSSIBILITY TO RESOLVE THE DISPUTE WITH SEPARATED CHURCHES IN AUSTRALIA.
At the press conference held after his one-month stay in Australia, Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church His Holiness Stefan estimated that there was a possibility for resolving of the dispute between the Australian-New Zealandean eparchy and the several other churches.
The Macedonian delegation also included the Metropolitan of Bregalnica Agatangel, High Priest Dimitar Belcovski and President of the Commission for relations with the religious communities Gjorgji Naumov.
As His Holiness Stefan said, purpose of his visit was the celebration of the 35th anniversary since the resurrection of the Ohrid Archbishopcy this time through the Macedonian Orthodox Church, as well as the activities for overcoming of the problems that have been present for quite some time in this eparchy.
The Macedonian delegation paid a visit to the orthodox churches in Melbourne, Sydney, Ilavara, Wolongong, Canbera, Qwindian and Perth.
"Since this problem is a problem of all orthodox people, we have invited the separated orthodox churches to have a meeting with us on three different occasions. Only the representatives of "St. Petka" church from Radocel responded to our appeal, and I believe that this church has realistic possibilities to make the first step for returning under the MOC protection," His Holiness Stefan said.
He reported that according to the scheduled program, liturgies were served on almost every day during his stay, however, he said, much more should be done in regard to the religious education of the youth, in regard to the enhancement of the Macedonian national unity."
"Perhaps some 20 years ago someone could have found explanations for what was happening due to the neighboring influence, but now it is strange if we cannot overcome some problems that should have been resolved long ago," he said.
The Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia said that "still, not everything is lost and there are realistic possibilities for overcoming of the problem, but only through talks."
"Most of the problems are in regard to the legal registration of our church communities in Australia, and especially concerning are the information that someone can confiscate their property, and to take their capital in Macedonia.
No one wants to do that, nor that is allowed by the Australian authorities," he said.
Gjorgji Naumov said that the need from spiritual and national unity was highlighted at the meetings with the Macedonian Diaspora, as well as the need from issuing Macedonian passports to the new generations born in Australia.
Asked which are the separated churches, His Holiness Stefan said that those were: "St Gjorgji" from Melbourne, "St. Kiril and Metodij" and "st. Nikola" from Sydney, "St Bogorodica" from New Castle and "St. Naum Ohridski" from Adelaide.
Mujahedin In Macedonia, or, an Enormous Embarrassment For the West.
Reality Macedonia - Antiwar
by Christopher Deliso
March 12, 2002
THE CAT'S OUT OF THE BAG - BUT THE WEST TRIES TO STUFF IT BACK IN.
Macedonia has always maintained that Islamic mujahedin are fighting for the Albanian NLA. Yet somehow, the proof presented was never quite good enough for the West. After all, the stakes were mighty high. For the UN, OSCE, NATO and sundry NGO's, it remains of the utmost importance to minimize signs of "blowback" whenever possible. In other words, to show that their presence – and their coddling of the NLA – were indeed positive contributions to the stability of the country. Yet the shocking developments of the past two weeks in Macedonia have left the West stunned, in disarray. While the story is still unfolding, this much is certain:
Macedonian security forces claim to have liquidated seven mujahedin planning attacks on the American, German and British embassies. The men – at least two Pakistanis and several Albanians – were found with multiple weapons, Arabic prayer-books, and NLA uniforms. A strong connection was also confirmed between one of the Pakistanis and a NLA brigade. The police action was precipitated by the earlier capture of two Jordanians and two Bosnians, in front of the German Embassy:
"Upon the arrest, the police confiscated computer disks containing 12,000 pages of information about the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Analysis of that material revealed some of the intentions of the terror network: committing attacks on the Macedonian government officials and foreign embassies."
As if that weren't enough, three Iraqi terrorist suspects have also been arrested in Macedonia, reported a Bulgarian news source (3 March).
According to the Washington Post, the Bosnian and Jordanian suspects have already been turned over the Americans – and sent straight to Guantanamo Bay. Of course, the US Embassy completely denies this, and anonymous sources deride the validity of the charges. But what else could they possibly say? That Macedonia is experiencing the domino effect of destabilizing intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo? That the presence of mujahedin in the Balkans is partially the fault of NATO and the other intervening Western forces? In short, that this is a case of "blowback" par extraordinaire?
Folks, the NLA-mujahedin connection is clear and well-established. And try as they may, those who have abetted the NLA can no longer conceal this fact. Indeed, despite the enormous embarrassment of the "International Community," it is now in their best interests to cooperate with the Macedonian government. As this latest and most dramatic incident has shown, the mujahedin are no longer under the control of their Albanian minders. They have gone AWOL, and Westerners – not merely Macedonians – are stuck right in the bulls-eye.
Mujahedin from Turkey, Kosovo, Albania.
Yet hubris, it appears, is all-powerful. According to our sources, Macedonia's Sitel-Television has just announced new Western threats: "the latest is that Carla del Ponte told Boskovski and the government that if they do not stop chasing terrorists, they will be sent to the Hague."
After September 11th, Macedonia disappeared almost entirely from the journalistic radar. It is more than a little ironic that its return to the limelight owes exclusively to the newfound "war on terror" angle. But should it really have required an exciting shootout, and embassy intrigue, for the BBC and Associated Press to return to Macedonia? After all, the case for mujahedin in Macedonia has been there for months. Even outside of the country, a reciprocal connection has been exposed. For one, take the December 2001 arrests of four Macedonian Albanians in Pakistan. Indeed, a Kosovar Taliban was also arrested the week before; he had spoken enthusiastically about blowing up Disney World.
According to the Scotsman, the West is waking up – however sheepishly – to the very real threat of Islamic terrorism in the vulnerable heart of the Balkans:
"Western security officials believe there are serious concerns about the Pakistani, Jordanian, Bosnian and other Muslim fighters operating alongside and independently of rebel groups such as the self-styled National Liberation Army and the Albanian National Army.
…These fighters are those who have been least amenable to the idea of disarming and participating in Macedonia's ongoing peace process," said one European security official. "They want to keep on fighting, whether it's the Macedonian government or western embassies who may be the target."
TIMING, UNFORTUNATELY, IS EVERYTHING.
It was bad timing that ruined things for Macedonia. Immediately after September 11th, precisely when it have seemed to be most pertinent, the Macedonian government and media reminded the world: mujahedin are fighting for the NLA. Yet the apparently self-serving nature of this attempt irritated the pro-interventionist sector of the media, which skewered the Macedonians. Charging them with spreading "propaganda," these reports – citing mostly US officials, NGO types, and Albanians – denied even the possibility of imported mujahedin in Macedonia. Among those who scoffed at the claim was IWPR (28 September 2001). Another was the RFE/RFL Newsline (28 September 2001). Accusing Macedonia of "disinformation," this American institution also attacked the Yugoslav government, which had presented evidence for mujahedin in Kosovo and Macedonia.
"Official" NLA identification cards recovered by Macedonian intelligence.
The organization with the most to lose, of course, was NATO. The alleged protector of regional peace and stability made a mockery of the allegations at a press conference (20 September 2001). Spokesman Mark Laity cracked jokes about suspicious men with beards, and wisecracked, "I'm a little concerned because a mujahedin just entered the room. I hope that's a camera. Just don't point that thing at me too obviously." Throughout, NATO categorically denied that there had been mujahedin present in Aracinovo – to the surprise of Macedonians who had been there.
For the Macedonians, this was a bitter blow. Despite the documented presence of mujahedin in Bosnia and Kosovo, the West's "experts" could scarcely imagine a similar phenomenon occurring in Macedonia – though Albanian and Arab extremists alike have continued to regard the struggle as Muslim liberation from "Slav oppression."
This opinion, coincidentally enough, is shared by the most influential Albanian politician in Macedonia – Arben Xhaferi. He recently maintained that the Albanian uprising is merely a new stage in "Slav decolonization" – a meritorious campaign also underway in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya.
Considering that the "holy warriors" admit to it themselves, it should be easy to prove mujahedin activity in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. As a matter of fact, it's not just easy – it's like shooting ducks in a barrel, and I don't have the space to even begin. Therefore, those interested should visit the new antiwar.com research page for Islamic terrorism in the Balkans. There readers will find plenty of information documenting the activities of foreign mujahedin – and their Bosnian and Albanian cohorts – in the Balkans.
Indeed, given the activity of Islamic fighters in Bosnia and Kosovo, why on earth would there not be mujahedin in Macedonia as well? While the burden of proof should fall upon the naysayers, the question has never been posed in this way. As such, every Macedonian claim has been scuppered. Now, in the wake of a narrowly-averted plot on the embassies, this failure has become more than a tragedy of Macedonian public relations; it has become a tragedy of the West's inattention. For while there is plenty of evidence for mujahedin in Macedonia, few have studied it. It's time for the West to take heed – before the jihadis exact their misplaced vengeance on Westerners in the Balkans – and beyond.
THE "MAD MULLAH" OF SLUPJANE, AND THE "LONG HOOKS" OF MATEJCHE.
During the summer, according to Macedonian intelligence, up to 200 mujahedin were based in the mountainous villages near Kumanovo (in north-central Macedonia). Bin Laden had been directly involved: according to the about Washington Post, he gave the NLA $6-7 million. The primary reason for a mujahedin presence in the Kumanovo area, however, has to do with certain homegrown talent, and the local encouragement of extremism.
Slupjane is a small and volatile village in the Kumanovo area. It is also one of the most anti-Macedonian villages in the entire country. Its imam (spiritual leader) is armed with fiery rhetoric, and carries a WWII-era Luger on his belt. According to one local of Kumanovo, this "mad mullah" is a 50 year-old Albanian named Mullah Jakup Asipi. In his vitriolic sermons, he exhorts the Albanians to fight for their religion and nationhood. Educated in Egypt, Asipi travels every year to Saudi Arabia as a pilgrim: "for this purpose, every villager from the area contributes $15." The mullah is also famous throughout the country for his hard-line, fundamentalist stance. Slupjane was the epicenter of NLA activity early last summer, and therefore it was heavily shelled. It's not surprising that this area would be a hotbed of extremism.
Matejche is another nearby village, also under the influence of Mullah Asipi. According to Macedonian refugees from that village, the mullah in the Matejche mosque "was sent from Slupjane, probably by Asipi himself." The Kumanovo man who told me of Mullah Asipi added lurid details about Matejche's "house of prayer":
"The mosque was the site where several villagers were taken as hostages and beaten up. A young man who stayed in the village during the fights said that there are women who were raped but they wouldn't talk, being afraid to admit the rape. I talked to two villagers who were taken hostages in the mosque for 6 days. They were beaten up by local villagers and by an unknown man with a beard, who was called "a boxer." There were some other men with beards around the village wearing black uniforms but they don't know where they were from. Definitely, they were not locals."
Ramizi Adem (center), Mujahedin from Turkey, was allegedly a member of the NLA's 113th brigade in Kumanovo.
Another report from the same village, Matejche, chronicled a suspicious battle during Summer 2001:
"They (the Macedonian policemen) all confirmed that during the fight one night, several terrorists with long beards had been killed. The policemen who took the bodies were fiercely attacked by all possible means. They said that there had never been such strong resistance and determination from the terrorists' side as during that night. Since their lives were in danger, the police left the bodies on the field and retreated. The terrorists used long hooks and managed to drag the bodies back to their positions."
During an earlier period of fighting, residents of the nearby village of Vaksince were evacuated by bus, after they called the police and told them "…that the terrorists, in particular the foreign mercenaries and mujahedin, wouldn't let them leave their houses, and also tormented them."
MUJAHEDIN IN WESTERN MACEDONIA.
Information about the west of Macedonia, with its impenetrable mountains and fortress-like NLA villages, is a lot harder to come by. The majority of Macedonian refugees have been evacuated from the city of Tetovo and the villages above it. Nevertheless, some locals of the area were able to confirm the story. Several people claim to have seen bearded fighters of distinctly foreign appearance during the summer. Some were spotted during battles in Tetovo itself; one businessman saw several foreign fighters rush past in the street beyond his house. A reservist active in one early battle spoke of obviously non-Albanian opposition fighters. Finally, a representative of KISS TV in Tetovo claims that some mujahedin were present in the villages above Tetovo. The only Macedonian-language TV station in Tetovo, KISS suffered a famous kidnapping last summer, when the station's director was abducted by the NLA in the village of Semsovo. It was only the intercession of a German general that brought about his release. The NLA views the station as a threat – not least of all because of the specials it has broadcast on mujahedin in western Macedonia.
In January I spoke with the coordinator of a refugee action group, who disclosed a specific incident from summer 2001. It occurred in the village of Tearce:
"The date to remember is the 22nd of July. At 1:30 PM, shooting started from Drenovice, above Tetovo, towards Neproshtino and then Leshok. At that point we knew that Leshok and the other Macedonian (majority) villages had gone under control of the NLA.
…All this fighting happened around the church of St. Nikolas, which is now burned. When they (the NLA) attacked near the police station, foreign mujahedin with beards were seen…there were seven or eight of them, and these appeared to be the leaders. When the (Macedonian) people saw the NLA guys who were coming in to rob them, they noticed their heavy beards and foreign appearance… some of them are still there in Tearce – we know this from the few elderly (Macedonians) who still live there."
A CHANCE ARREST LEADS TO AN INFORMATION BONANZA.
All of these anecdotes pale in comparison, however, to one overlooked source. The real breakthrough came last Fall, when Macedonian security forces arrested an Albanian, Sedula Murati, in a taxi cab in Arachinovo. With him, says the Reality Macedonia report (6 October 2001), were also found "…several computer CDs, a hard disk, photographs of NLA members and lists of Albanian terrorists from the "Ismet Jashari" brigade 113 operating in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region."
Foreign Mujahedin in Macedonia: (l-r) Rifat Mujota, Kosovo; Jetula Chari (Commander "Guri"), Kosovo; Mohameda Ali N., Saudi Arabia; Isa N., Kosovo.
This report is corroborated by Macedonian intelligence documents and photographs. This information is a gold mine for establishing a link between mujahedin and the NLA. It chronicles, in particular, the activities of the NLA's 113th brigade – dubbed the "Ismet Jashari."
The 113th brigade, operating in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, fostered a close relationship with the mujahedin. According to the same Reality Macedonia report, the man arrested in the taxi cab had played an important role:
"…(Murati) was in charge of the computer processing of data on all the structures of the brigade 113. He recorded the presence and the activity of the mujahedin unit within the 'Ismet Jashari' brigade, the activities of the special units, and also kept data on the brigade's formation and commanding personnel.
Sedula joined the terrorists on March 22 this year at the personal request of Hajrula Misimi, known as commander Shpati. During the fighting against the Macedonian security forces, the arrested was stationed in the Kumanovo village of Lipkovo where he was processing information for the needs of the brigade 113. According to the data in Murati's captured computer records, a mujahedin unit of about 120 fighters operated in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region. This unit was not included within the "Ismet Jashari" brigade. The mujahedins arrived in the area of Kumanovo in May of this year upon previous agreement among Xhezair Shaqiri – commander Hoxha, commander Sokoli and Daut Haradinaj. Only these two had direct contacts with the mujahedins.
The members of the mujahedin unit were natives of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Turkey. However, the unit also comprised persons from Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia who used to live in the Arab countries and were trained in their terrorist camps. Selim Ferit from Skopje was the commander of the mujahedin unit, while Bekjir Halimi was his deputy. The activities of this unit were videotaped by Adem Ramzi, a mujahedin from Turkey. The principal activities of this unit were surveying the terrain, discovering positions of Macedonian security forces and conducting ambush attacks."
OTHER ACTIVITIES OF THE 113TH BRIGADE.
The 113th Brigade seems to have been large and self-contained, having security details, special forces, and logistics units. According to government sources, it numbered about 1400 soldiers. Even taking into account the typical over-estimating associated with all governments' figures, the 113th Brigade still appears to have been a formidable fighting force. Within it, the seized records show, there was a special group of 25-30 mujahedin, under the direction of one Sabedini Selmani from Lipkovo. "He graduated (in) theology in Saudi Arabia, and participated in the war in Bosnia." also associated with this unit was one Jakup Asipi, mullah of Slupjane, who had spent a month in Saudi Arabia and Switzerland to raise funds for the NLA. Among the captured gear were official NLA identity cards and uniforms. We should remember that the seven mujahedin recently killed were also found with NLA uniforms.
Halil Ahmed, Mujahedin from Jordan.
In short, the Albanians thought they could use the foreign fighters for their own purposes – but the recent mujahedin plots against Western installations show how badly they were mistaken.
BUT COULD THE ALBANIANS BENEFIT FROM THE SCANDAL?
Through it all, the Albanians have been vociferous in denouncing the mujahedin claims. Although bin Laden's operations in Albania have been conclusively proved, they still continued to deny it: the Albanian ambassador even wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Times. On 25 January 2002, a Saudi businessman with ties to bin Laden was indicted in Tirana. Yet the problem has not been just the flow of mujahedin into the Balkans; Albanians from Macedonia had also been trained in foreign camps. Indeed, many were veterans of other Islamic crusades. According to war reporter Scott Taylor,
"Albanian guerrillas eagerly admitted they had gained combat experience in previous conflicts. Twenty-three-year old Commander 'Jimmy' claimed he was a veteran of Chechnya and Kosovo, while 'Snake' Arifaq bragged of service in Bosnia and displayed a scar he received during the fighting in Croatia. Both of these Albanians acknowledged the involvement of Arab/Afghan 'volunteers' in training members of the UCK."
This does not speak well for the Albanians. Yet how could admitting a mujahedin presence actually work out to their benefit?
Mujahedin from Kosovo.
Consider the reports that atrocities last summer were carried out by foreign fighters. Take the particularly horrible Vejce massacre, when eight Macedonian policemen were killed, "…their bodies viciously dismembered to provide the victors with grisly trophies."
According to Taylor, the Albanians sought to distance themselves from such tactics: "…Commander Jimmy said such an atrocity could "only have been committed by the Foreigners [Mujahedin serving in the UCK] because Albanians do not cut up bodies."
He may be right, if we take into account Georgian accounts of Chechen atrocities: these mujahedin were known for cutting off the ears of Georgians, and wearing them as necklaces. When it comes to creative murder, the Albanians are thankfully less experienced.
A TARNISHED LEGACY.
In the end, this might be the only solution the West can stomach. Faced with choosing between their Albanian allies, and the less cooperative mujahedin, the West will go with the former every time. In its heart of hearts, the West knows that the NLA uprising was never really about righting the wrongs of oppression, nor about gaining "human rights." Regardless, this pretty illusion can be fostered easily enough, so long as the West can portray itself as mediating a Macedonian-Albanian spat. However, when we throw into the mix a dangerous and uncontrollable influence (that is, the imported mujahedin), it becomes clear that the Albanians made a serious error of judgement. In recruiting religious zealots for their ethno-mafiocratic cause, they have unwittingly rolled out the red carpet – er, the green carpet – for the expansion of Islamic terrorism in Europe. If the most recent incident in Macedonia is anything to go by, the NLA's "guests" have grown bored with their simpleminded, nationalistic hosts. Go all the way, they argue – go for the jihad. In the end, the mujahedin presence in Macedonia will come at the peril not only of the Macedonians, not only the Westerners – but even of the Albanians.
One hopes this gloomy prediction will not come true. If the West decides to take notice – for once – of what has been going on under its very nose in Macedonia, there may be a solution yet. Most likely, however, they won't. Pride is precipitating a pretty big fall. As it stands now, feelings of vindication are of little solace to the Macedonians: they would appreciate some results.
Sofia, March 12 (BTA) - LTC General Metodi Stamboliski, Chief of the General Staff of the Macedonian Army, arrives on March 13 on a two-day visit to Bulgaria, the press office of the Ministry of Defence said Tuesday. The visit is at the invitation of General Miho Mihov, Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army.
The two sides will discuss the progress of the reform in the Bulgarian army, broadening cooperation in the military sphere and Bulgaria efforts to join NATO.
LTC General Stamboliski will visit Fifth Corps Artillery Brigade in Samokov.
Simeon Enters White House.
Only ex-premier Kostov paid visit to the USA at the end of his term in office and had a short talk with President Bush. However, the meeting on April 23 has not been planned, it was arranged at the last moment. The date of the visit has not been specified as yet, said press attache to the Council of Ministers, Tsvetelina Uzunova. She confirmed that the visit of Simeon Saxe-Coburg will take place in April or May, "depending on the agreement". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs knew nothing about the invitation, although according to protocol the ministry should have received the letter of invitation. It is their job to send it to the Council of Ministers. The visit has not been confirmed, said Ambassador of Bulgaria to the USA, Elena Poptodorova. She accompanied Minister Solomon Passy during his visit to the USA. Passy is in New York to take part in the ceremony in commemoration of victims of the terror attack on September 11.
BULGARIA - USA.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Passy Meets US Senator Luger; Passy Scheduled to Meet Madeline Allbright, Senators, Congressmen.
Washington, D.C., March 12 (BTA Special Correspondent Roumyana Kinkina) - "I am encouraged by the good ties between Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Greece and hope this cooperation will continue," Senator Richard Luger (Rep.) said on Tuesday, emerging after a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.
Passy arrived on a visit to the United States on Saturday.
Tuesday's schedule of the Bulgarian Foreign Minister started with the meeting with Senator Luger, member of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee and prominent supporter of NATO's enlargement. Luger is one of the authors of a bill that envisages support, including financial aid, for NATO applicants.
Speaking to Bulgarian reporters Senator Luger said he was a prominent supporter of NATO's enlargement and that a final position on the issue has not yet been decided in Washington.
After his meeting with Senator Luger, Passy participated in a news conference in the National Press Club where he answered questions about Bulgaria's relations with NATO and the EU.
Later on Tuesday Passy is scheduled to meet former US secretary of state Madeline Allbright, US Under Secratry of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, and senators and congressmen.
BULGARIA - FOREIGN MINISTER - US.
Foreign Minister Meets US Deputy National Security Advisor, World Bank Vice President.
Washington, March 12 (BTA special correspondent Roumyana Kinkina) - Meeting with Foreign Minister Solomon Passy on Monday, Stephen Hadley, Deputy Assistant to the US President for National Security Affairs, gave high marks to Bulgaria's role in the international anti-terror coalition and the country's participation in the SFOR and KFOR missions in the Western Balkans.
Passy gave a news briefing after meeting with Hadley at the White House.
Passy said that Hadley had commended Bulgaria's efforts to meet the NATO membership criteria. The United States wants Bulgaria to be a NATO member, Hadley reportedly said.
Passy handed his host a written account of Bulgaria's accomplishments in the drive to fulfil NATO's requirements and of the things that remain to be done before the November 2002 NATO Summit in Prague.
The reform in the armed forces, internal stability, and relevant legislative initiatives, particularly measures against corruption and for protection of classified information, are some of the major points in this account. The document also discusses anti-terror measures and the involvement of Bulgarian intelligence institutions in identifying bank accounts held by persons suspected of affiliation with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
The February 19-20 visit which US Permanent Representative to NATO R. Nicholas Burns paid to Sofia met with a very positive reaction in the US, Hadley reportedly said. Back then, Ambassador Burns gave high assessment to Bulgaria's preparation for NATO membership.
The meeting with Hadley did not discuss the possible dissolution of the informers' records commission in Bulgaria, Passy said. In end-February US experts said in Sofia that the issue can be settled in various ways, and that the essential thing is to prevent leakage of information, Passy said.
Earlier in the day Minister Passy conferred with Johannes Linn, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. Passy briefed Linn on a formal Bulgarian-Macedonian letter concerning the construction of a link section for the Sofia-Skopje railway. The document, which was signed by Passy and his Macedonian counterpart Slobodan Casule on March 4, requests political and financial support for the project.
The funds for the railway project should be raised through the European Investment Bank, Passy said, adding that his principal objective in Washington is to draw attention to the initiative.
Also on Monday, Passy gave a talk to students, lecturers and analysts at Georgetown University. He said that a substantial NATO enlargement will make the world a better and safer place.
Passy's lecture was entitled "The NATO Enlargement: America's Strongest Move Against Terrorism." Many Bulgarian students currently pursuing their university studies in Washington attended the lecture and conferred with Passy.
Attending were also former US ambassadors to Bulgaria Sol Polansky and Avis Bohlen.
Passy presented arguments in favour of NATO's enlargement and discussed Bulgaria's and Romania's role. The two countries' future accession to the Alliance will contribute to the formation of a strong shield against the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan and against international terrorism.
One of the key points in Passy's speech was that by formally admitting Bulgaria as a member, NATO will recognize the country's current role as a de facto member state.
On Tuesday Passy is scheduled to meet with US congressmen in order to present Bulgaria's case about NATO membership. The Foreign Minister is expected to give a news conference around noon, US Eastern Time. Passy will also meet with former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
PM To Send Greetings.
The Premier congratulated Nadezhda Mihailova on her election as UDF leader with a telegram yesterday, the news office of the government informed. 'Like all others, who are aware of your career, I hope that you will work further for the European integration of Bulgarian and for the prosperity of our people,' Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha writes. Parliamentary chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov also sent congratulatory letter.
There Wouldn't Be U-Turn in the Party.
I don't think at all that the change in the UDF is effected as an u-turn. I said that the people of Philip Dimitrov and Ivan Kostov choose all by themselves the manner of action and place, where they could be useful. After the establishment of NEC I'll present my visions to the rulers and people with whom I'll work. Kostov taught me how to struggle, which is very important. In my capacity of a Foreign Minister I had an opportunity to learn to fight. I myself also intend to give a chance to people close to me. Ekaterina Mihatlova will be in the NEC, I spoke with her.
Nadezhda Mihailova Invites Foreign Ministry Employees to Her Team.
Newly Elected UDF leader Nadezhda Mihailova invited two key figures of her former team in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Peter Stoianovich, ex-director of her office, and ex-parliamentary secretary Miroslav Borshosh. Nadezhda Mihailova is expected to propose deputies Nikolai Mladenov, Ivo Tsanev, Valentin Vassilev, Nikola Nikolov and Mihail Mihailov as members of the National Executive Council (NEC). Ekaterina Mihailova has not answered if she's to accept the invitation to become a NEC member. N. Mihailova will go on chairing the UDF PG. Today, the new UDF National Council is to gather at its first sitting to elect the NEC members. Vili Kavaldjiev, Philip Dimitrov, Edvin Sougarev, Victoria Vassileva, Peter Raphailov, Nanio Tsonov, Plamen Ivan are elected to the National Council, it transpired yesterday.
BSP Leader Invited N. Mihilova to Conversation.
BSP leader Sergei Stanishev invited Nadezhda Mihilova to a conversation in his letter of congratulation on the occasion of her election as the UDF leader. In it, he also suggests that experts of the two party headquarters should exchange opinions about issues crucial for this country. Stanishev said he was to put up his candidature for the BSP chairman at the forthcoming congress of the Socialist Party. "One can't back a government if it does its best to be ousted," Stanishev answered to a question if he supported Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's cabinet.
Balkan Lobby for NATO.
A new summit of the Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey is prepared to take place in Athens on March 29, said Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Solomon Passy after having dinner with the ambassadors of six countries in Washington yesterday. Ex-president Peter Stoyanov also attended the dinner. In Athens, Passy and his counterparts are to discuss the idea to form a strong Balkan lobby to help Bulgaria and Romania receive an invitation to the NATO summit to be held in Prague in November. The foreign ministers of the four Balkan countries had talks in Istanbul last month.
Mayors Want to Become Sheriffs.
Rulers of small municipalities insist on collecting duties and taxes themselves.
The mayors of villages and small municipalities demand to carry arms officially to defend the fields from thieves and tresspassers, it transpired yesterday. The request was sent to the Chief Secretary of Interior - Gen. Boiko Borissov on May 5, by the Association for Protection of Population, founded yesterday in Sofia. Sixty five rural mayors and 25 deputy-mayors from northern Bulgaria are members in the association, Chairman Borislav Hadjiev said. The association will insist that the mayors should have a status of corporations, to be entitled to collect local duties and fees, of which a certain percentage will replenish the villages' budgets. Moreover, the rural authorities will require from the MPs to have the right to control the activity of the agricultural cooperatives, stores and eateries. The village mayors declared they will boycott the fines for uncleared litter, which the Ministry of Environment levied on them. In early-March, Dolores Arsenova obliged the local authorities to organize cleaning of the inhabited places. We can't pay for machines to shovel out the waste, so we won't pay the punitive acts, the mayors are unanimous. The fine for uncleared waste is from 100 to 500 levs.
BG Companies to Quarrel about Pipeline's Layout.
Firms to contest the LUKoil demand to be majority investor into the project.
Bulgarian companies made a row about their stake interest in the joint venture, which will take part in the construction works of Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, only a few days before its establishment. Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Kostadin Paskalev, should in a week take the decision about the allocation of interest of the Bulgarian companies. 'Minstroi Holding' JSC, 'Glavbolgarstroi', 'Gasstroimontazh', 'Overgas' and 'LUKoil - Bulgaria' are the candidates. They should pay $40 million in total. LUKoil insists on the majority stake in the venture. Yet, the other participants in the project consider that this will reduce the Bulgarian participation, since LUKoil is a subsidiary of the Russian oil giant. The selection of Bulgarian construction companies as subcontractors of the project will be questioned, experts maintain. Consortium 'Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline' AD for building the road-bed will be founded till end-April. Bulgaria, Greece and Russia will participate with equal shares. The final agreement on the Bulgarian participation in the project will be sealed by May 10.
'Kozloduy' NPP Will Stop, If We Decommission 4 Units.
The electricity will become unsalable, its current price is 1.4 cents only.
If we switch off number 1 and 2 reactors of 'Kozloduy NPP in 2002, and number 3 and 4 - in 2006, we will be forced to stop the whole power plant, since the electricity produced by the two 1000-megawatt reactors, will become unsalable, CEO Yordan Kostadinov said yesterday. He met a business delegation from Sweden, headed by Sten Ask, ambassador of the Kingdom to Bulgaria. Kostadinov specified that now 1.4 cents is the price per 1kWh. It's much lower than the prime cost of the electricity, produced by other nuclear power plants worldwide. NPP's expenses on modernization and reconstruction of Units 5 and 6 are not included into the price. The chairmen of 'Kozloduy' should submit to the parliamentary energy committee three business plans on decommissioning of the NPP's units before the debates on the energy strategy.
Finance Intelligence Director Replaced Finally.
A new chief is to be selected after a contest and in concert with the parties.
Vassil Kirov is appointed an acting director of the 'Financial Intelligence Bureau" agency (ABFI). He will be in office till the new director is chosen after a contest , Finance Ministry sources said. Hitherto director Nikolay Ivanov was dismissed on Friday under the order of Finance Minister Milen Velchev. The Finance Ministry will make a preliminary selection of candidates who will participate in the contest for head of the ABFI, well-informed sources elaborated. The nominations will be concerted with the political forces and the specialized institutions in Bulgaria.
UDF Made Good Choice.
Prof. Georgy Karasimeonov
The delegates at the 13th conference of the UDF made a good choice. Nadezhda Mihaylova doesn't symbolize only the wish for change inside the UDF. Most of all, this is a good sign for the opportunity to establish new relationships between the Bulgarian political parties. It's high time for the BSP and UDF to adopt a civilized and democratic way of communication. They should not treat each other like enemies but simply like competitors and when it's necessary - even like partners who offer the voters different ways for the achievement of one and the same aim - making Bulgaria an inseparable part of the Europe and Euro-Atlantic Alliance.
Patriarch Maxim Wants to Be Legalized.
Parliamentary chief Ognyan Gerdzhikov drank brandy from Troyan together with the bishops, he promised them a new law.
Patriarch Maxim asked PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Parliamentary Chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov to be registered as the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Bishop of Sofia at a meeting in the Synodal Palace yesterday. The Church is unable to fulfil its educational, missionary and social role after the Department of Ecclesiastical Matters with the Cabinet deprived it of registration on May 2, 1992 and thus the schism started. It is the civil power to again settle the problem with the legal statute of the Church, Father Maxim was flat. PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, however, didn't promise him anything in particular. This week I'll appoint an extraordinary sitting of the parliamentary commission to settle the problems of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Zograph ephoria on Mount Athon, Parliamentary Chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov said.
BULGARIANS - ISRAEL -RECOGNITION.
Names of Exarch Stefan, Patriarch Kiril Added to Those on Wall of Honour in Garden of Righteous Gentiles in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, March 12 (BTA) - A special room dedicated to Bulgaria will be opened at the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research in Jerusalem. It will house the archives evidencing the rescue of Bulgarian Jews from the death camps during World War II, the Bulgarian National Television said in its evening news programme on Tuesday evening in a despatch from Jerusalem quoting Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria Emanuel Zisman.
At a special ceremony two Bulgarian metropolitans, who later became Exarch Stefan and Patriarch Kiril, were recognized Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute, honouring them for helping rescue the Bulgarian Jews during World War II. Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov sent a special message to the participants in the ceremony, National Television said.
The names of the Eastern Orthodox Church dignitaries were added to those on the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. They were awarded the highest honour by the Jewish community.
The ceremony in Jerusalem was attended by about 200 Bulgarian Jews from all parts of Israel.
"What happened today is not only an expression of our respect, but of our love for and gratitude to the whole Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church," one of the 49,000 rescued Bulgarian Jews told the National Television correspondent.
By tradition, the certificates of honour were handed to the Inheritors of Exarch Stefan and Patriarch Kiril, Maria Popova and Associate Professor Kiril Markov.
Ilinden Border Checkpoint, March 12 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Sikonko Holding construction company expects to finish the new Ilinden border checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Greek border in April, representatives of the company told BTA.
At present the builders are completing the hall for customs inspection and the 19 booths for customs officers. The buildings and premises for passport and visa control, for customs control, for phytosanitary control with two laboratories and the disinfection hall are ready. Construction work started a year and a half ago and the 4.9 million euro extended by the PHARE Programme of the EU have almost been utilized. The international tender for building the checkpoint was the first in this country won by a Bulgarian company.
The Bulgarian builders expressed satisfaction with their excellent cooperation with the Greek Proodeftiki company building the 13-km road section on Bulgarian territory of the future Gotse Delchev Drama road. According to them, the section may be completed by mid-year.
The two companies building the checkpoint and the road intend to take part in the construction of a tunnel or border crossing of a closed trench type to solve the problem of the brown bear population raised by Greek environmentalists. The Bulgarian part of the tunnel has already been designed.
Representatives of the European PHARE programme and other international institutions, as well as of Mot MacDonalds exercising full investment control and consultancy in the building of the new border crossing and customs house, praised the construction work carried out so far.
BULGARIA - IRAN - ECONOMIC COOPERATION.
13th Session of Joint Bulgarian-Iranian Economic Commission Ends; Sides Initial Posts, Telecoms Cooperation Agreement.
Sofia, March 12 (BTA) - Bulgarian Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov and Iranian Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram agreed that a coach service will be opened between Sofia and Tehran. Petrov and Khoram co-chaired the 13th session of the Joint Bulgarian-Iranian Economic Commission which took place in Sofia on Monday and Tuesday.
The sides initialed an agreement on cooperation in posts and telecommunications. The document was signed by the two countries deputy transport ministers, Bulgaria's Lyubomil Ivanov and Iran's Sayet Mumeni. Co-chairs of the Commission Petrov and Khoram signed a memorandum on the issues addressed during the session.
The sides agreed to open a coach line between Sofia and Tehran. The line will be serviced by Bulgaria's Kaleya and Iran's Sima Safar firms.
Talks will be held by the end of April to restore passenger air service between the two capitals.
The participants in the 13th session agreed that the sides will update the bilateral accords and regulations.
Khoram said that accords on cooperation in customs and tourism will be signed within a month. Other pending agreements include one on avoidance of double taxation and on cooperation among banks and financial institutions.
Bulgaria and Iran will make joint efforts for continuation of the work on the gas pipeline between Iran and Turkey which can be extended through Bulgaria to bring gas to the countries in Central and Western Europe.
Construction joint ventures will be able to take part in projects for the reconstruction of Afghanistan's road infrastructure. Petrov said that such companies from Bulgaria will most likely be those transformed in the state company Transport Troops.
I'll Ask Absolution From God Only.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Stella Bankova
May the entire people be recanted, asks independent MP, Stella Bankova.
- Mrs Bankova, are you ready to repent together with the other four deputies, who left the NMS parliamentary group, and join the majority again?
- I've seen such interpretations in the press. I could tell you flatly that I can ask forgiveness from God only. The only people who have the right to pass judgment on me are those who voted for me.
- If I understood you rightly, to you there's no way back to the NMS parliamentary group?
- If you embrace a cause and work for it, you must tell the truth. Moreover, our electorate supports us. We have voiced people's wishes and concerns. For this reason the PM insisted that we should be recanted. Then, a question suggests itself - can you recant the entire people?
- In this sense, do you think that people are disappointed by Simeon both as the PM and the King?
- I would maintain that people ARE disappointed.
- If Plamen Panayotov remains the chief of the parliamentary group, do you think that it will split?
- I cannot forecast anything. I just wish to God to give my colleagues strength and foresight. And once again I'd lie to remind and make it clear - only from God may I ask absolution and only those who voted for me may pass judgment on me.
Ask UDF if They Are to Change Their Attitude Towards us.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
I am to call Nadezhda Mihailova to congratulate her. It sounds a bit ecclesiastically that those of the MPs who walked out of the NMS PG should repent, Prime-Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
- Mr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, how are you to comment on the fact that Nadezhda Mihailova was elected the UDF leader?
- Well, I'll have to call her and congratulate her.
- Will there be any change in your relations with the UDF?
- You should ask the UDF leadership. I've always insisted on having a dialogue.
- The deputies who walked out of the NMS PG said they were to work for the NMS cause and were not to form a parliamentary group of their own. Do you find it a good approach?
- It is you who broke me the news.
- Will you let them back if they would apologize and repent? There were such opinions as well.
- It sounds a bit ecclesiastically, don't you think?
(Questions of other media have also been used.)