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European Commission President Romano Prodi, front second left, stands with EU and enlargement country ministers and heads of state during a group photo at the end of an EU Summit in Seville, Spain, Saturday June 22, 2002. Front row left to right, Cyprus' President Glafkos Clerides, Romania's President Ion Illiescu, Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet. Middle row, left to right, Romania's Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoanae, Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean ClaudeJuncker, Latvia's Prime Minister Andris Berzins. Back row left to right, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Lydie Polfer, Ireland's Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Antanas Valonis, Bulgaria's Prime Minister Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha, and Austria's Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero Waldner. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Intelligence: The US Betrayed Us In Macedonia.
By Christopher Deliso
SKOPJE - The US government was accused Friday of subsidizing and training Albanian paramilitaries in Macedonia, in a secret European report leaked to Dutch National Radio.
The furor over a clandestine connection- frequently alleged, but never proven- further worsens transatlantic relations that have already been strained by an ongoing trade war. The Dutch report comes at a particularly sensitive time for President Bush, who is currently seeking to solidify international support for a wider war on terror. The US Embassy in Skopje was not aware of the charges by late Friday evening, and could not yet make an official statement.
Because specific details were not permitted to be leaked, the report was filtered through the Clingendael Institute (a respected Dutch military analysis firm). Clingendael in turn gave the salient information to Dutch Radio, which also interviewed several individuals who had been involved in Macedonia. The investigation centered on several controversial episodes, including the battle of Arachinovo (26 June 2001), and the Essential Harvest weapons collection mission in September.
Even before this new report, American involvement had long been suspected at the three-day battle in Aracinovo, a heavily Albanian town northeast of Skopje. As the battle progressed, the Macedonians claimed to be on the verge of eliminating NLA forces. Yet suddenly they were given the order to pull back, and NATO buses rolled in to escort the heavily-armed Albanians out.
At the time, NATO claimed that this intervention was vital, because the Albanians were coming dangerously close to victory, and mediation was needed.
The story from many witnesses, however, was very different. German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt reported that 17 American military advisors from MPRI (the Virginia-based private military company) were also evacuated with the Albanians. This, Macedonians declared, was the real reason for NATOs intercession. But while MPRI had an official contract as Macedonian Army advisors, suggestions of a similar presence with the Albanians were vigorously denied.
The Dutch report confirms the link, however, and quotes the German reporter who filed the original story. Apparently one of the MPRI men had been captured by the Macedonians. He panicked, and, waving his US passport, shouted diplomatic immunity! Through heavy US intercession, the man was freed and evacuated together with his comrades and the NLA fighters.
European sources identified this particular individual as having been active in training Bosnian fighters in the 1990s.
According to the Dutch report, there are still many unanswered questions about Operation Essential Harvest. At the time, NATO decided that collecting approximately 3,500 weapons would sufficiently disarm the Albanians. Yet after the collections began, Macedonians charged the NLA with giving up only their oldest and least useable guns. Museum curators in Skopje sarcastically asked that the Albanians WWII-era pistols be donated to their collection.
The Europeans claim that NATO was well aware that antiquated guns were being surrendered- and further, that not even four percent of these weapons could be fired.
More damning still is testimony from Macedonian intelligence services, who claim that NATO merely exchanged the Albanians old weapons for new ones.
This story comes independently of the Dutch report, from one individual who secretly watched Essential Harvest through binoculars from a nearby mountainside.
[ Scott Taylor, Canadian military expert and investigative writer, reported on Albanians' U.S. supplied high-tech weapons well before the "Harvest" began, also.]
During the war, the Dutch report also states, constant telephone connection was maintained between Albanian rebels and high-level American officials.
Some of these conversations were taped by European intelligence. At some point the Americans became aware that they were being tapped, and discontinued direct phone contact. At this point, the Europeans claim, America purchased computers with phone technology for the NLA. Thus communications were restored.
This stunning report comes at a time when Holland is taking over NATOs Macedonia command from the Germans. Some analysts are viewing the denunciation of the US involvement as a direct invitation to the Hague for American leaders- just as the US has been reiterating its opposition to a world court.
Last years war in Macedonia was started by the self-declared National Liberation Army (NLA), an Albanian militant group originally denounced by NATO spokesman George Robertson as murderous thugs. As the war proceeded, however, the terrorists were legitimized into freedom fighters.
Heavy Western pressure forced a restrained response from the Macedonian army. As a result, the war was dragged out, and the Macedonian government was forced to negotiate with the NLA and its chief, Ali Ahmeti [, through the representatives of local Albanian political parties].
Despite winning new rights across the board, such as an amnesty for NLA members, use of Albanian language [in governmental institutions, for documents, besides already existing right to education in Albanian language] and devolved local government, Albanian kidnappings, shootings and bombings have continued after the cease-fire. The heavy NATO and OSCE presence has been unable or unwilling to solve many of these crimes. Although he remains on George Bushs terrorist blacklist, Ali Ahmeti has started his own political party, and is now becoming acknowledged as a political player in Macedonia.
PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha: Final Document of Seville European Council Is Very Positive.
Seville, June 22 (BTA special correspondent Kalina Ljubomirova) - The final document of the European Council in Seville is very positive, and there were encouraging statements by many presidents and prime ministers on the role of Bulgaria, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said at a final news conference after the European Council forum in Seville Saturday.
Asked whether a new pass for Bulgaria's accession to the EU can be expected at the next summit in Copenhagen, the prime minister said there will probably be "a new road map to speed up the accession".
Commenting a story in the Saturday issue of the Madrid newspaper ABC that the EU did not increase the pre-accession funds available for Bulgaria and Romania despite the Spanish wish, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said that sometimes newspapers are wrong.
Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said that after the text of the final document was made public, it is clear that the five big ambitions of Bulgaria have been accomplished.
The first ambition was to get a recognition for Bulgaria's progress. According to Passy, this is done in the very first sentence of the document. Second, a new road map is expected in Copenhagen. Third, Bulgaria obtained the full support of the European Council for faster accession negotiations. Fourth, there is a strategy for pre-accession support and also a new timetable for accession, which is fifth.
In Passy's words, Bulgaria's "super best-case scenario" has come true and it "could not hope for a better text" for a final document.
He also said that in his speech to the European Council Saxe-Coburg-Gotha expressed a wish that Bulgaria is admitted to the Union in late 2006.
According to the prime minister, the country has not set itself the task to go faster.
The words of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also encouraged the Bulgarian government leader, as well as the promise of firm support by European Commission President Romano Prodi, said Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He added that after all the good words Bulgaria only has to do its job well.
Asked whether any problems have been identified for Bulgaria, European Affairs Minister Meglena Kouneva said that no country-specific problems were mentioned for Bulgaria other than those valid for all membership candidates. There were the invariable recommendations to improve the administrative capacity and carry through the reforms in the judicial system, but according to Kouneva these recommendations applied to all countries and not only Bulgaria.
Asked whether the early closure of power units at the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant was brought up, she said that such fora do not discuss problems of this kind.
Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said of his Saturday meetings that they were unofficial. He had talks with many of the participants in the Seville meeting but would not disclose details saying it is not proper to do that after informal talks.
Foreign Minister Passy said that Bulgaria has always had "a constructive approach" to the process of negotiations.
Accession to NATO Will Not Burden Bulgaria With Additional Expenses, Finance Minister Says.
Sofia, June 22 (BTA) - The financial aspects of Bulgaria's accession to NATO will dominate the agenda of talks of Finance Minister Milen Velchev in the United States. Velchev said that to the press before his departure for the US Saturday.
He does not expect any additional expenses for Bulgaria other the 2.8% to 2.9% of the GDP that are normally set aside for defence spending.
The expected benefits from the NATO membership, which Velchev said will be connected with investment, outweigh the costs.
In the US Velchev will be meeting with the President of the US Committee for NATO Bruce Jackson, as well as with IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria Gerald Schiff and World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn.
He will present to the financial institutions the tax policy of the Government for the next three years. In his words, cooperation with the IMF so far has been very fruitful and will hopefully stay at the same good level.
Kosovars Don't Need Passports to Enter Albania.
CHANGE IN BORDER DOCUMENT REQUIRMENTS.
The UNMIK Border Police have changed the document requirements for Kosovo residents traveling between Kosovo and Albania.
Effective immediately, Kosovo residents may use the Cafa Morina, Cafa Prushit, and Vrbnica border crossing points with Albania after presenting a current, valid, government-issued ID card. This change is in response to the announcement by the Albanian government that Kosovars will not need a passport to enter Albania during the tourist season. This change is in effect until the date the Albanian government suspends their tourist-season policy.
This change does not apply to people traveling via Pristina Airport, even those using the direct flight to Tirana. Various international agreements require UNMIK to ensure that passengers exiting Kosovo by air have a valid passport or Travel Document.
Deputy Chief of Press and Public Information
Border Police Press Officer
Office of Press and Public Information
UNMIK Police HQ, Pristina
NATO Bombs TV, Station Head Gets 10 Years.
Serb gets 10 years over NATO bombing.
BELGRADE: Former Serbian TV chief Dragoljub Milanovic was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in jail for failing to order the evacuation of staff during a 1999 NATO bombing raid on his station that killed 16 people.
The attack, which took place while journalists and technicians were working in the building and also injured 16 people, was part of the NATO air campaign to force an end to Belgrade's repression in Kosovo. [sic!]
A Belgrade court found Milanovic "did not give the order to evacuate (television) workers" despite being "aware that the building could be targeted and that a strike would necessarily cause a loss of human life."
His lawyer Branimir Gugl called it the "the most shameful verdict in the history of Belgrade justice" and said he would appeal. Milanovic said he was "not surprised" by the sentence.
The court ordered Milanovic, who will remain free until the verdict is confirmed, to remain in Belgrade.
A NATO missile hit the central Belgrade station on April 23, 1999 during the Atlantic alliance's 11-week air war against Yugoslavia.
NATO insisted the station was a legitimate military target because it was a "propaganda mouthpiece" for the regime of former president Slobodan Milosevic.
The lawyer for the victims' families, Slobodan Sisic, said the verdict was "a comfort of sorts for the families, and a great victory for justice in Belgrade".
Mirjana Stoimenovska, the mother of one of the victims, called the ruling "a half-victory, because no one can give us back our children."
Judge Radmila Dragicevic-Bicic said the verdict against Milanovic does not absolve NATO, which remains directly responsible for the strike.
"The court is adamant that NATO committed a serious criminal act against humanity, the customs of war and international law," she said.
Milanovic is the second of close former ally of Milosevic, who is on trial at the UN war crimes court in the Netherlands, to be sentenced to jail and the first to receive a long prison term. He was arrested last year.
The European Court of Human Rights in December threw out a complaint by six Yugoslavs who charged that the NATO bombing of the station violated their rights.
The plaintiffs, mainly relatives of the 16 victims killed in the attacck, alleged the bombing of the station violated the European Convention of Human Rights, particularly their right to life and and freedom of expression.
But the case was dismissed on the grounds that the Convention did not apply to Yugoslavia because it was not a member of the Council of Europe.
The war crimes court in The Hague has also refused, for lack of evidence, to charge NATO for its bombing campaigns in ex-Yugoslavia, which reportedly caused more than 1,500 civilian deaths.