Macedonia’s president praises Bush directive to restrict funds and mobility of ethnic Albanian rebels
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) – Macedonia praised U.S. efforts to choke off funds to ethnic Albanian rebels, appealing Thursday to European nations to follow the same path.
President Boris Trajkovski applauded an executive order by President Bush that bars Americans from any transactions involving the property of known rebel leaders. In a separate proclamation Wednesday, Bush restricted their entry to the United States.
Singling out Germany, Belgium and Switzerland as countries used by rebel movement organizers as safe havens for their accounts, Trajkovski and other officials appealed to European leaders to follow Bush’s lead.
Trajkovski seemed particularly gratified that Bush’s action zeroed in on the rebels – a move he claimed indicated that the militants were at fault for the Balkan country’s slide toward civil war.
”I honestly hope that the world will recognize the root of the crisis in Macedonia,” Trajkovski said.
Still, other Western officials expressed some exasperation with Macedonian officials. Peter Feith, NATO special envoy to Macedonia, was quoted in the Dutch paper Allegemine Dagblad as saying that although Trajkovski is ”ready to seek a peaceful solution … many ministers in his government think that a military solution can be imposed.”
”The problem is the Macedonian government,” Feith was quoted as saying.
The Bush order came just days after the NATO peacekeepers – including some American troops – extricated 300 militants from the besieged village of Aracinovo in an effort to restore calm. The intervention triggered riots by Macedonian Slavs outraged that Western forces had taken part in what they saw as a rescue of rebel forces.
There has been no further violence in the capital since Monday night’s riots, but the United States, Britain and Germany, among others, issued travel warnings Wednesday.
No clashes were reported anywhere Thursday except near Tetovo. Army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said a helicopter gunship fired back after two helicopters and a government airplane were fired on.
Amid rising anti-Western sentiment, the European Union’s new envoy for Macedonia launched a permanent mission Thursday aimed at finding a peaceful solution to this nation’s 4-month-old ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency.
Francois Leotard, a former French defense minister, will attempt to jump-start peace talks that broke down after fighting last week. He is acting as EU security chief Javier Solana’s personal envoy in Macedonia.
Leotard’s mission faced a rocky start after he was quoted in France as saying Macedonian officials should negotiate with the rebels. But he emphasized in comments to local television that only political leaders should be included.
”The only people with whom I will talk are the legitimate party leaders,” Leotard told Macedonia’s private A-1 television.
Fighting in Macedonia broke out in February, when militants began taking over villages near the border with Kosovo – where the population is predominantly ethnic Albanian – to demand more rights.
Ethnic Albanians who found themselves banned from the United States seemed unmoved by Bush’s directives.
One man named on the banned list is Emrush Xhemajli, a senior member a political party known as the Popular Movement of Kosovo. The party, which boasts of its close ties to the ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in Macedonia, said that he understands Bush’s move.
”I am not concerned at all,” he said. ”This move was undertaken in order to bring Trajkovski back to the negotiating table. Although our names are on this list, we are partners in this war.”
Bush’s list also named five high-ranking members of Kosovo Protection Corps, a group created to deal with civilian emergencies after the war ended two years ago in Kosovo, which is the southern province of Serbia, Yugoslavia’s dominant republic.
The group is comprised of former members of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel force that fought former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for independence.
Also named were two members of Democratic Party of Kosovo, which is led by Hashim Thaci, a former Kosovo rebel leader turned politician.
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