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Belgrade and Podgoritsa agreed on a new federal state in the place of Yugoslavia. It will be called Serbia and Monte Negro. The agreement was reached with the mediation of the EU and was signed by Yugoslav President Voislav Kostunica, Monte Negro's President Milo Jukanovic and the EU Supreme Commissioner Xavier Solana. On the photo - Solana announces the agreement. Photo Reuters (SB)
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, front left, shares a word with Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar, front right, prior to a group photo at the EU Summit in Barcelona, Friday, March 15, 2002. EU leaders and leaders of EU candidate countries met Friday for the first day of a two-day summit to discuss finance, the Middle East and Zimbabwe. Standing rear is EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, right, and Bulgaria's Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg. (AP Photo/Paul Hanna, Pool)
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
There are no shootouts Friday morning in Tetovo town and its area, unlike the night, when the peace was violated in several occasions with rifle and sporadic shots from various types of infantry weapons.
According to police and army sources, the firing got more frequent and more intensified in comparison to the previous night. A series of rifle and sporadic shots were fired from the Teke of Tetovo and from some other town districts, as well as from the villages of Miletino, Radiovce, Tenovo, Mala Recica, Lisec, Gejre, Selce, Odri, Dobroste and Prvce.
Several lightning missiles were also noticed, launched from the village of Miletino.
The shots had undetermined targets and the Macedonian security forces did not fire back.
President Under Pressure for Second Veto.
UDF MPs called on President Georgi Parvanov yesterday to once again use his right to veto the Foreign Debt Act. If the President is not to do that, we will attack the Act in the Constitutional Court, Mouravey Radev said. To him, the law passing was unprecedented breach of the majority. We have all grounds to be suspicious that the Finance Minister does not defend the interests of Bulgaria, Radev elaborated. The center-right MPs are discontent that the contract on the debt was given to them in the last moment and lacks the stand of the Justice Minister. Ivan Iskrov - head of the budget committee with the parliament, rejected the accusations, saying that a discrediting campaign had been underway against Finance Minister Milen Velchev ever since eight months.
MACEDONIA - BULGARIA - LIBRARIES - COOPERATION.
Skopje, March 15 (BTA) - SS Cyril and Methodius National Library of Sofia and the St Kliment Ohridski National and University Library of Skopje signed a cooperation agreement in Skopje on Friday.
The agreement was signed by the directors of the national libraries, Boryana Hristova for the Bulgarian one, and Paskal Gilevski for the one in Macedonia.
According to Gilevski, the document is of historic importance for Macedonian culture since it is the first one the library has signed with an European country.
Under the agreement, the libraries will exchange for free publications and books by authors of the two countries. They will exchange experience in the introduction of new information technologies in the operation of libraries, too.
BULGARIA - SERBIA-MONTENEGRO - REACTION.
Sofia, March 15 (BTA) - "Bulgaria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the agreement on Principles of Restructuring Relations between Serbia and Montenegro, signed on March 14, 2002," the Ministry said in a statement made available to BTA.
"The agreement was signed through the mediation of the European Union and is seen as an important step towards normal functioning of their shared state. It opens better prospects not only to Serbia and Montenegro but also to the region as a whole," the statement reads.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry expresses the conviction that "during the three-year transitional period envisaged in the agreement the parties will express willingness to act in the name of the common objectives and interests of the Serbian and Montenegrin people, and of peace and security in Southeastern Europe."
Simeon: General Borissov To Be Premier Only on April 1.
Stoyan Ganev will help me from America, the premier claims.
I had a conversation with Stoyan Ganev and naturally, if there is something that may be of interest, he will help us from the USA, premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha stressed yesterday before his departure for the EU summit in Barcelona. The premier received with laughter the publication that by April 6 he would have handed over the premiership to general Boiko Borissov. Please, this is something to be connected with April 1, he pointed out and qualified the rumor as fantastic. Shame on those who disseminate rumors and disinform society, it is very ugly concerning society and the readership, the premier commented. In his opinion part of the chaos in the state comes from unproved statements. The conflict in the IM is inseparable from the speculation, thanks God, he added. I have authorized each one of my ministers that he be responsible for his ministry and report to me, the premier added further. IM chief Georgi Petkanov reported to him on the reshuffle in the ministry.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Had Dinner with Juan Carlos.
Last night in Barcelona the PM had dinner with the Spain's King Juan Carlos with whom they are friends from childhood. He himself said the news to the journalists in order to show them that sometimes he liked to speak. I don't think that the rights of the MPs who retired from the NMS were violated, the PM said. That's how he commented the threat of the splinter group to approach with the Constitution Court that they had been dismissed from the parliamentary commissions. They were in this commissions as NMS MPs. Since they are no more NMS MPs the posts in these commissions remain for us, he explained. It would be correct if they had retired after they were discontent and didn't understand the things, but not to join another political forces, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
PM To Report before BNT, Reshuffles to Be Announced.
PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will most probably voice his report before the Bulgarian National TV his report about his one-year participation in the Bulgarian political life on April 6, NMS MPs said yesterday. The report of the PM will be very critical, most probably in it he'll announce the reshuffles in his team, they said. According to sources from the NMS it was possible that two thirds of the ministers were replaced. The PM is preparing to take some very painful steps, because after April 6 our country will find itself in a different situation, close to the PM people say. It's not by chance that the adoption of the Buy-Back of the Brady Bonds Act is speeded with, nor the attacks of the UtdDF and the 'For Bulgaria' coalition are accidental. They know that in this report the PM will probably announce the truth of Bulgaria's foreign debt, how it was made and who are the people who robbed the country, Nikolay Buchkov, MP from the NMS said yesterday.
UDF and BSP to Defend NMS Splinter Group.
The five NMS MPs who walked out of the PG were ousted yesterday from all parliamentary committees, though the UDF and BSP MPs stood by them. The scandal lasted for 3 hours. Elka Anastassova, Stela Bankova, Siyka Dimovska, Nadka Pangarova and Vladimir Dimitrov - expelled from the King's PG, boycotted the vote for the committees' castling. The UtDF and Coalition "For Bulgaria" left in sign of protest, for the Constitution and the parliamentary standing order were violated. The quorum was threatened. Finally, Prof. Assen Dourmishev replaced Elka Anastassova as the head of the education committee. Dr. Stamen Stamenov took the office of deputy-head of the complaints committee replacing Stela Bankova.
Powell Gave Passy Book with Autograph.
U.S. secretary of state - Colin Powell presented Foreign Minister Solomon Passy with his book 'My American Travel' at the end of their 30-minute conversation in Washington the day before yesterday. 'To Solomon, with admiration and best regards', reads the autograph of the host. Powell had sent the thankfulness of the U.S. government for the active position of Bulgaria on solving the Middle East conflict. Passy gave Powell a list with already achieved and impending commitments of this country as a candidate-member of NATO. U.S. secretary of state explained that he was already well-informed about Bulgaria's progress and gave clear signals, that the NATO enlargement is something fully realistic.
Council for Economic Growth Set Up.
The business organizations - with one representative each.
The cabinet voted for founding of the new Council on Economic Growth yesterday, after more than 3 month adjourning. The Council will consider the combat against corruption, the communication between government and business, the privatization, the capital markets and foreign investments - all of them needing prompt discussion within business and cabinet. The Council will consider also certain important laws, like the budget and the taxes. The Premier may also take part in the sittings, as well as guest also can be invited. Vice-Premier Nikolay Vassilev chairs the Council on Economic Growth. Ministers Lidia Shouleva, Plamen Petrov, Milen Velchev, Kostadin Paskalev, Milko Kovachev are members of the Council. The business organizations: Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Bulgarian Employers' Union, Club 'Vazrazhdane' (Revival) and BIBA (Bulgarian International Business Association).
The Generals With Russian Diplomas Are to Retire.
An amendment to the Armed Forces Act will transfer Moscow's graduates to the reserve.
The Bulgarian army will be commanded only by generals trained in NATO academies, if parliament votes a last minute submitted amendment to the law of the armed forces. The motion came from NMS MP Tsonko Kirov and envisages that the maximum age for army service of the senior ranks be decreased by 3 years. In practical terms however, it will transfer to the reserve all the 16 incumbent generals who were trained in Russia and Bulgaria, senior officers commented. This is an elegant way to assign the army command only to NATO graduates. According to sources from the defence ministry the alliance hadn't issued such an explicit directive.
Bulgaria's NATO Membership - Matter of Marketing.
Foreign minister Solomon Passy has been successfully lobbying for Bulgaria, it remains for us to finish what we've started.
For four days the Bulgarian foreign minister was persuading politicians in the USA, that NATO needed Bulgaria. During his meetings Solomon Passy chose as his interlocutors congressmen who are not convinced that Bulgaria should join the alliance, and also have some reservation concerning the future of that organization in general. This is why they don't see any particular point in its expansion. Our foreign minister chose the right time for this - he was in Washington when America marked six months of the September 11 terrorist hell. And he was the only Number One Diplomat at the ceremony in the White House. It was there that he stretched a hand to US President George Bush and reminded him that small Bulgaria was in deed and not only in words one of the Americans' allies in the struggle against terror. If need be, I'm ready to come to Washington every week to mobilize support for Bulgaria's membership of NATO, said Solomon Passy on the last day of his visit. In this way he decoded what he had been doing, in case it was misunderstood. And it is that the Bulgarian diplomacy begins to confidently float in the sphere of the political marketing. Which is never based only on verbal messages extended once and somewhere. But of a campaign supported by precisely calculated moves at the right time and in the right place. The campaign in support of Bulgaria for NATO membership would be in vain if we don't complete what we've started at home, as both the president and premier keep repeating. From Washington Passy left for Spain where he will take part, along with his colleagues from the EU member countries, in the sitting of the EU Council of Ministers. The lesson is that everything is a matter of marketing. Which, luckily, is already being acquired by the Bulgarian diplomacy too. We only have to finish successfully what we've started at home.
IM Investigating Arms Affair.
There is no war between me and General Borissov, claims minister Petkanov.
The IM is investigating an arms deal, admitted Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov yesterday. The contract was pointed to by the media as one of the reasons for the dismissal of the logistics chief in the ministry Yordan Kovachev. According to publications in the media he objected to the deal from which the IM lost $200 000. However, the IM chief declined to give any details before completion of the checkup. In his view no other department chiefs are being investigated at the moment. However, regular inspections and internal control are carried out. To date I haven't submitted to the president a report on the crime level, Petkanov said. At the latest sitting of the National Security Consultative Council Georgi Parvanov demanded such a reference. The analysis is almost ready, it will be submitted to the presidency and considered at the next council, the minister explained. Last Wednesday, after a meeting of General Boiko Borissov with the head of state it became clear that the sitting of the Council on crime would be convened earlier than envisaged. Petkanov hasn't as yet had a personal meeting with the president on the latest developments in the IM. There exist no contradictions, or war between me and the chief secretary, the minister pointed out.
Students' Parcel Brought Together Ivan Ivanov and His Wife.
The mother-in-law vaccinated her future daughter-in-law.
We married for love and for 18 years already love fills our lives. Thus in several words Dr. Lilyana Stavreva, wife of Ivan Ivanov, new chief of the UDF party, tries to say many things about her family happiness. They met by accident while she was a student in the Sofia Medical Institute and he - in the Economic Institute. They don't even remember how exactly it was but the one received a parcel from the parents and the parcel was delivered by the other and that was their first unexpected meeting. The students' love gave birth to a students' baby. In Sofia we shared one room with one of the grannies, who took care of the baby. While we studied for exams, our son Vladimir, now student in eighteenth class, was constantly crying. Many people think that they had good luck in their life. The silent economist is a famous politician today. His wife heads the psychiatric ward in the Montana hospital. And we are all the same, the doctor says. When we are together we immediately start to discuss the problems in the work of the two of us. I understand that politics is like a drug, it engages. Ivan is a very responsible man. No matter what he undertakes, he does it with selflessness. That's why I haven't tried to divert him. I know that he will spare no effort now and will do his work in the UDF. As well as that with his election to the new post he'll have even less time.
KAPITAN ANDREEVO - VETERINARY BORDER CONTROL.
Kapitan Andreevo, March 15 (BTA) - The construction of a post for veterinary inspection was officially launched at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint, on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, on Friday.
Agriculture Minister Mehmed Dikme and Dimitris Koukoulis, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria, attended the ceremony.
The project is implemented with Phare assistance under the European Union's pre-accession programme.
A new and modern border inspection post for veterinary control will be built at Kapitan Andreevo. There will be a 30-km long fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border. An area of 1.6 ha is designed for laboratories, warehouses, facilities for animals, loading and unloading ramps and a covered disinfection facility. The construction will be completed in 11 months.
The project marks the start of a strategy of the Agriculture Ministry and the National Veterinary Service for exercising extensive control to protect the territory of Bulgaria and of united Europe from contagious diseases that may expose to a risk animals and people's health. and for bringing veterinary border control into line with the EU requirements.
Another seven veterinary inspection posts will be built in the Black sea ports of Varna and Bourgas, at the Zlatarchevo, Gyueshevo, Kalotina and Bregovo checkpoints, and at Sofia Airport.
The purpose is to bring veterinary border control into line with the EU requirements.
Since 1992, the EU's Phare has provided about 24 million euros for Bulgarian agriculture, 5.5 million euros of which designed for the veterinary sector.
End of Groups and Groupings in the UDF.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Vladimir Kissyov
I want to see the 'Kostov' style in every politician, says Vladimir Kissyov.
Vladimir Kissyov is deputy chairman of the UDF. He was chief negotiator of Bulgaria with the EU under the 'Kostov' cabinet. He left the post in protest against the policy of the new authorities. He was deputy minister of the industry and deputy foreign minister. At the XIII National Conference of the UDF last Sunday he was elected a member of the UDF National Council.
- Mr Kissyov, how would you describe the spirit of the conference? What helped turn the attitudes on the two days of the forum?
- That conference was very close to the hearts and sentiments of the participants.
- Yet, Mrs Nadezhda Mihailova won. Was it only the emotion that helped her?
- She made a very good speech on the second day and in it she set forth stands on the past and on the future. In a very clear and explicit way she touched upon responsibility and morality and was guided by a desire to end with all forms of clientelism, with those groups and smaller groups, because what counts more is Bulgaria's future.
- Was the 'Kostov' style and his attitude to the other political subjects the main reason for UDF's loss at the elections?
- Mr Kostov is the man who firmly stands behind the European project, with the clear conscience that in it is the guarantee for the prosperity and future of this people. Whether he was understood in the best possible way and whether his communication with society was the best is another matter. I'd like to see the 'Kostov' style in every politician.
- What would you like to see your leader Mrs Mihailova like? What should she repeat and what to change of this style?
- The opening to and contact with the people are the major tasks on a short-term basis. And the implementation, at any rate, of Bulgaria's priorities: our admittance to NATO, the Eurointegration.
- Who will the UDF partner with? Where to will it open?
- We are ready to develop partnership on the public priorities which are crucial for Bulgaria. Partnership - yes. But assuming someone else's responsibility or legitimizing the BSP as opposition - no.
- Mr Kissyov, would you commit yourself to any forecast on NATO's summit in Prague?
- The criteria must be met. I don't believe that we'll get the invitation only by means of shuttles and meetings. This is what we are concerned with.
U.S. supported al-Qaeda cells during Balkan Wars that fought serbian troops.
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network has been active in the Balkans for years, most recently helping Kosovo rebels battle for independence from Serbia with the financial and military backing of the United States and NATO.
The claim that al-Qaeda played a role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s came from an alleged FBI document former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic presented in his defence before the Hague tribunal last week. Mr. Milosevic faces 66 counts of war crimes and genocide.
Although Hague prosecutors have challenged the veracity of the document, which Mr. Milosevic identified as a Congressional statement from the FBI dated last December, Balkan experts say the presence of al-Qaeda militants in Kosovo and Bosnia is well documented.
Today, al-Qaeda members are helping the National Liberation Army, a rebel group in Macedonia, fight the Skopje government in a bid for independence, military analysts say. Last week, Michael Steiner, the United Nations administrator in Kosovo, warned of "importing the Afghan danger to Europe" because several cells trained and financed by al-Qaeda remain in the region.
"Many members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were sent for training in terrorist camps in Afghanistan," said James Bissett, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia and an expert on the Balkans. "Milosevic is right.
There is no question of their participation in conflicts in the Balkans. It is very well documented."
The arrival in the Balkans of the so-called Afghan Arabs, who are from various Middle Eastern states and linked to al-Qaeda, began in 1992 soon after the war in Bosnia. According to Lenard Cohen, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University, mujahedeen fighters who travelled to Afghanistan to resist the Soviet occupation in the 1980s later "migrated to Bosnia hoping to assist their Islamic brethren in a struggle against Serbian [and for a time] Croatian forces."
The Bosnian Muslims welcomed their assistance. After the Bosnian war, "hundreds of Bosnian passports were provided to the mujahedeen by the Muslim-controlled government in Sarajevo," said Prof. Cohen in a recent article titled Bin Laden and the war in the Balkans. Many al-Qaeda members decided to stay in the region after marrying local Muslim women, he said.
They also set up secret terrorist training camps in Bosnia -- activities financed by the sale of opium produced in Afghanistan and secretly shipped through Turkey and Kosovo into central Europe.
In the years immediately before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the al-Qaeda militants moved into Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia, to help ethnic Albanian extremists of the KLA mount their terrorist campaign against Serb targets in the region.
The mujahedeen "were financed by Saudi and United Arab Emirates money," said one Western military official, asking anonymity. "They were mercenaries who were not running the show in Kosovo, but were used by the KLA to do their dirty work."
The United States, which had originally trained the Afghan Arabs during the war in Afghanistan, supported them in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. When NATO forces launched their military campaign against Yugoslavia three years ago to unseat Mr. Milosevic, they entered the Kosovo conflict on the side of the KLA, which had already received "substantial" military and financial support from bin Laden's network, analysts say.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on the United States, NATO began to worry about the presence in the Balkans of the Islamist terrorist cells it had supported throughout the 1990s.