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Saturday.

Enter content here

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Thousands of worshipers went to church on Good Friday to crawl under the table symbolizing Christ's tomb. At the Alexander Nevski Cathedral Sofia citizens queued to be granted bunches of wild geranium and kiss the Holy Cross. Photo Marina Angelova

SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
 
MIA
 
It is relatively calm Saturday morning in Tetovo crisis region, although many shots from various infantry weaponry were registered overnight and early in the morning.
 
According to the Interior Department in Tetovo, a fire was opened towards some undetermined targets from the direction of the settlements of Gorna Carsija and Kupenik, as well as from the residential complex no. 82.
 
Some shots were heard also in the area of the elementary school Kiril and Methodius, the SEE University and the unstructured residential area near the river and the railway.
 
Series of rifle and sporadic shots were registered overnight, coming from the villages of Dolno and Gorno Orasje, Odri, Prsovce and Dobroste.
 
No violations of the public order and peace were registered within the last 24 hours in Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, reported MIA's correspondent.
 
The patrolling of the multiethnic police units proceeded through six out of seven Lipkovo villages that were included in the police's General plan for redeployment to the crisis region. Due to security reasons, the Macedonian security forces did not patrol in the village of Slupcane, as the members of the former NLA and the local inhabitants celebrated the 1st anniversary since the military activities in the Lipkovo crisis region.

NLA's Involvement in Sex Slavery.
 
MSNBC - Reality Macedonia
 
In a lenghty series of articles, MSNBC reveals the tragedy of women sold as slaves into prostitution. The testimony of Olga, the Moldovan with the breast wound, who was virtually kidnapped when she played hooky from school in rural Moldova and then raped, beaten into submission and humiliated until she no longer had the will to challenge her horrible fate, is only one of the horrible stories told to the NBC reporter.
 
Thorough exposure, interviews with the victims, as well as exclusive (hidden camera) photos of members of Albanian mafia that run the brothels in Veleshta make this feature a must-read for anyone truly interested in the larger picture of the situation in Macedonia.
 
[excerpt start]
 
Ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo, Macedonia and south Serbia long the masters of drug running in the Balkans are deeply involved in the human smuggling business, using the flesh trade to fund their separatist movements.
 
[excerpt end]

msnbc_sex_slavery.jpg

According to MSNBC, Ahmeti's "rebel army is proffiting from sexual slavery"
 
The multimedia section even contains an audio recording of an interview with NLA's Ali Ahmeti, presenting both his opinion that the NLA worked against sex trade, alegedly closing brothels, but also revealing his admittance that some of the money that pay for his campaigns may 'unwittingly' come from ethnic Albanian bosses of the slavery underworld. The caption reads "This man's rebel army is profiting from SEXUAL SLAVERY" - an indication on level of trust earned by Ahmeti's statements.
 
[transcript start]
 
Q: These owners of brothels in Veleshta, are very pro-UK... And there were some individuals with UK uniforms around, [we believe]. So these individuals may be giving money to you, to support your cause?
 
A: There is a chance that money could reach us from these brothel-owners. We are not so fanatic [?] to say that such money could not reach us, we can not verify it. But the rule is that no money in UK should be received through such channels.
 
[transcript end]
 
It seems that the tide is turning: Western opinion-makers start doing some real journalism, instead of PR for NATO's pet proxies. The article even mentions Macedonian state officials in a non-particularlt-demonizing manner. Although, Minister of Interior is still labeled as "hardline," and Macedonians are still called "Slavs," (hate speech alert!).

Lipkovo Albanians Celebrate Anniversary of Terror Start.
 
Utrinski Vesnik - Reality Macedonia

Ethnically mixed police patrols failed to enter Slupchane village, due to security concerns, day before yesterday. "Disbanded" NLA members and local Albanians obstructed police in doing their duty, because of a celebration of the anniversary of start of hostilities in Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, and making of so-called "liberated Albanian territory" in the area. Similar celebration took place in nearby Vaksince village.

Military crisis in Kumanovo-Lipkovo region started on May 3 2001, when an armed terrorist group attacked three Macedonian Army soldiers on patrol, between the villages Slupchane and Vaksince. Albanian terrorsts killed two soldiers and wounded and captured the remaining one. The same day, Albanian terrorists kidnapped two Macedonians from Matejche village, also. Afterwards they occupied the monastery "Saint Mother of God" in Matejche.

Non-Albanians from the villages of Matejche, Opae, Ropaljce and Dumanovce, who now live in Kumanovo as refugees, organized a press conference, informing the journalists that May 3 2001 meant beggining of the torment for Orthodox Christians from Lipkovo region.

RESSURECTION OF CHRIST - EASTER CELEBRATED.
 
MIA

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In honor of the great Christian holiday Resurrection of Christ - Easter, Second Easter liturgy was organized at the "St. Kliment" temple in Skopje, led by Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, His Holiness Stefan.
 
H.H. Stefan also led the midnight liturgy held at St. Kliment last night.
 
The note from the Archpriest Synod, red by Protoyerey Dragi Kostadinovski reads that "even on such a holiday we can not avoid mentioning the ethnic cleansing and molesting that is still being done over the orthodox population in Macedonia, and the destruction of their homes."
 
Having in mind this "fragile situation," the Archpriest Synod calls all Macedonian parties "to act as builders of the Macedonian unity, because that is one of the conditions for the future survival of the Macedonian nation, state and Church."
 
The Synod reminds that this year's Easter is even greater due to the 35th anniversary since the re-establishment of the Ohrid Archbishopcy through the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
 
In honor of the great Christian holiday Easter the citizens of Tetovo gathered in the St Kiril and Metodij church where the Tetovo archpriest synod held a ceremonial service.
 
The Metropolitan of Polog and Kumanovo, His Holiness Kiril held a liturgy devoted to the St. Jovan Zlatoust.
 
Addressing the orthodox believers, H.H. Kiril said that "it is high time the violence, fear and terror against the Orthodox population to stop, as well as the destruction of the Christian temples."
 
Macedonian Minister of Interior Ljube Boskovski was also present at the liturgy, as well as a group of German intellectuals who are on a study stay in Macedonia. They were informed about the enormous damages made by the Albanian terrorists on the monasteries and churches in the Tetovo area.
 
A formal ceremony in honor of Easter was also organized at the "St. Virgin Mary" church in Gostivar.
 
Besides the numerous orthodox believers, the ceremony was also attended by Macedonian Minister of Interior Ljube Boskovski and 15 German intellectuals who are on a study stay in Macedonia.
 
On this occasion, Minister Boskovski said that "the peace is slowly returning in Macedonia."
 
"There has been strive for federalization and cantonization of Macedonia, however, learning from the history, this time we realized that if Macedonia was divided that would have been a fault of the Macedonian citizens. That is the reason why we stood against that idea and we stressed that the Macedonian sovereignty and integrity are priceless," Boskovski said.
 
In honor of the great orthodox holiday, resurrection of Christ - Easter, a formal ceremony was organized in the church "St. Virgin Mary Perivleptos" in Ohrid, headed by Metropolitan of Debar and Kicevo, His Holiness Timotej. The ceremony was attended by about 2,000 guests.
 
Ceremonies were organized in all churches in this parish, and the total number of believers who gathered to celebrate Easter reached above 10,000.
 
This afternoon, in the cathedral church St Sofia, a second Easter ceremony will be organized in presence of all priests and monks from the Debar and Kicevo area.
 
In Veles, the central celebration took place in the "St. Pantelejmon" church, headed by Metropolitan of Veles and Vardar area, His Holiness Jovan.
 
Total of 5,000 believers gathered at this ceremony, and 5,000 more gathered in the church "St. Spas."
 
The Bregalnica eparchy held the central ceremony at the "St. Nikola" church in Stip. Metropolitan of Bregalnica His Holiness Agatangel read the note from the archpriest synod in front of the numerous believers.
 
In Bitola, the metropolitan for Australia and New Zealand and administrator of Prespa and Pelagonija His Holiness Petar headed the ceremony held at the "St. Velikomacenik Dimitrija" church. In Strumica the central ceremony took place in the "St. Kiril and Metodij" church, headed by Metropolitan Naum.
 
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski was among the numerous believers.
The Macedonians in Albania celebrate on Sunday the great Orthodox holiday - Easter.
 
The central ceremonies in Mala Prespa took place in the churches in Vrbnik and in Pustec attended by Priests from Macedonia and representatives of the Macedonian embassy in Tirana.
 
In honor of Gjurgovden, May 6, the Association of Macedonians from Drac will organize a picnic.
 
Thousands of Macedonians in Perth, Australia, celebrated the day of Christ's resurrection - Easter.
 
At the Macedonian orthodox church "St. Nikola" in Perth, Priest Stanko Jovanovski read the note from the Archbishop Synod and announced the Christ's resurrection.
 
The 99th anniversary from the death of Goce Delcev was also marked in the St Nikola church in Perth, and the Orthodox believers paid their respect to the members of the Macedonian security forces who were killed last year while they defended the Macedonian sovereignty and integrity.
 
The great Christian holiday Easter was also marked by the Macedonians who live in Sweden and in the USA.
 
The Macedonians from Gothenburg gathered in the "st. Kiril and Metodij" church, and those who live in Malme gathered in the "st. Naum" church to mark this great holiday. The ceremony in Malme was held by the Metropolitan of the European eparchy, His Holiness Gorazd.
 
H. H. Gorazd pointed out the need from unity among the Macedonians and respect for the orthodox tradition.
 
The Macedonians who live in the USA celebrated Easter in the newly built church "St. Virgin Mary" in Detroit. Some of the U.S. TV stations broadcastedtt this ceremony, attended by more than 2,000 Macedonians.

TURKEY - BULGARIAN HOSTAGES.
 
BTA
 
Istanbul, May 4 (BTA exclusive by Nahide Deniz of BBC Bulgarian Service) - Six Bulgarian citizens (two men and four women) have been released after being taken hostage at Istanbul's Marmara Hotel on Saturday. They are now interviewed by Istanbul Police, after which they will be released and will leave for Bulgaria, police said.
 
The six were among some 20 Bulgarians, Japanese, Turks and Russians who were briefly taken hostage by a 25-30 year old gunman at the centrally located hotel at 10:30 a.m. Bulgarian time on Saturday.
 
Bulgaria's Consul General in Istanbul Branimir Mladenov said the six Bulgarians were not hurt but were scared to death.
 
In a separate development, it transpired that President Georgi Purvanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha have personally enquired about the condition of the Bulgarian citizens and have talked to them.
 
The six include "24 Chassa" correspondents Georgi Loukanov and Kalina Vlaikova.
 
Loukanov had the following to say about the incident: "We were in the hotel lobby, ready to leave, when a man with an assault rifle burst in, started firing at the ceiling and pushed us towards the bar. Apart from us, there were about a dozen people there. He held us at gunpoint for an hour and a half. We were unable to do anything during that time. The man demanded that journalists come so that he could make a statement. They brought him a TV set, while the police were negotiating with him. Then the policemen blitzed the assailant, disarmed him and took him away. I think the Turkish police are acting very professionally.
 
But we were scared to death."
 
Istanbul Police named the assailant as Mustafa Yildirim, 30, of Chechnya, who said he mounted the action in a bid to draw attention to the struggle of his Chechen brothers.
 
Local sources say it may have been a well planned terrorist action. The five-star Marmara Hotel, which stands in Taksim Square in the city centre and is frequented by numerous foreigners, is closley guarded, especially after a bomb went off at the hotel several years ago, killing two people.
 
This is not the first Chechen hostage-taking incident in Istanbul.
 
Last year Chechens took a group of hostages at another luxury hotel in Istanbul, Swissotel, and Chechens seized the ferry "Eurasia" off the Turkish coast in January 1996 and held over 200 people for three days.
 
The Chechen actions stir tensions between Ankara and Moscow.
 
Russia has repeatedly protested to Turkey over the Chechen operations. Last year the Russian Ambassador in Ankara accused Turkey of turning a blind eye to the Chechens' terrorist activities.
 
Participants in "Bulgaria's Easter" to Demand Resignations Again.
 
Standartnews
Nevena Mircheva
The sister of poetess Petia Dubarova will inaugurate the forum at the National Palace of Culture today.
 
Some of the participants in the new edition of the "Bulgaria's Easter" - the meeting of young Bulgarian emigrants will demand the whole Supervisory Board (SB) of the Privatization Agency (PA) to resign at the National Palace of Culture today. One of the reasons is the last decision of the SB to sell out Tchukurovo mine for bank guarantees rather than for cash payment, economist Vladimir Karolev elaborated. He himself and a group of Bulgarians living abroad asked the AP SB to resign as early as end-2001, when the deadline allowing payments in compensatory vouchers was prolonged. It was the same decision of the Kostov's cabinet that made Lyubka Katchakova bring out a T-shirt reading "Shame on you". Elitsa Dubarova, sister of poetess Petia Dubarova, will open the third edition of the "Bulgaria's Easter" this morning, "Standart" learnt. Elitsa lectures Ancient and West-European Literature at the University of Bourgas. "On April 25, Petia Dubarova would have been 40. We invited Elitsa to open the forum because her sister's poetry expresses the ideals of many young Bulgarians," the organizers elaborated. PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg and Parliamentary Chairman Ognian Gerdjikov will attend the inauguration of the "Bulgaria's Easter" forum.
 
Gorbachov Welcomed with Lamb Soup and Icon.
 
Standartnews

Mihail Gorbachov will be presented an icon of St. George the Victor during his forthcoming visit in the town of Lukovit. The father of the perestroika will guest there on St. George's Day. The best culinary experts of Lukovit will cook the lamb soup, traditional offering for health, with which they intend to treat Gorbachov. He'll be welcomed by mayor Stephen Ninchev at the central square. After that Bishop of Pleven, Ignatius will serve a high mass. Mihail Gorbachov will land at the Sofia airport at 3.55 p.m. tomorrow. He'll be accommodated in the President's suite of the 'Sheraton' hotel. In the evening he'll guest in the 'Every Sunday' talk show.
 
(PY)
 
M. Chernoy makes a fantastic bid for "Bulgartabak"
 
Standartnews
Nevena Mirtcheva

He explained that the consortium has an ambitious plan to return the BG-made cigarettes on the Russian market. Their market share may reach 3.5-4 percent compared with the current 1 percent, added president of the "Soyuzcontract Tabak", Garegin Gevondian. He also warned that if "Bulgartabak" is not sold within 2-3 months, Bulgaria will completely lose the Russian market. The business plan of the "Metatabak" envisages to buy out 70,000 of tobacco yearly. We expect fair competition between the bidders for "Bulgartabak", Tassev said. We are content that such heavy investor as Michael Chernoy agreed to take part in our consortium, he added. When Chernoy bought "MobilTel" it was in a difficult financial situation, but he managed to turn it into a profitable company and then sold it out for almost 1 billion USD, said Tassev. He also reminded that in Bulgaria Chernoy paid about 500 million levs in taxes and made donations worth 200 million.
 
BULGARIA - BOOK - PRESS LAUNCH.
 
BTA
 
Istanbul, May 4 (BTA) - "Istanbul, Constantinople is incredible, fantastic: straddling two seas, two continents, more than 2,000 years old Getting to know it is the experience of a lifetime."
 
This is the opening passage of "Sacred Bulgarian Sites in Constantinople," the posthumous manuscript of Toncho Zhechev (1929-2000), which was press-launched in Istanbul on Saturday, BTA learnt from the publisher of the book Georgi Grozdev.
 
"It was time to take a fresh look at what happened in Constantinople at the dawn of our National Revival, and Toncho Zhechev did it," writer Gencho Stoev told BTA. "We are no going to Istanbul to pay homage to the lifework of the Constantinopolitan Bulgarians, to the Exarchate, and to celebrate the publication of this book." Bulgaria's Consul General in Istanbul Branimir Mladenov has confirmed that he will attend the press launch which is co-organized by the Federation of Bulgarian Orthodox Churches, chaired by Georgi Kostandov.
 
"The Sacred Bulgarian Sites in Constantinople" was published in a 5,000 print run after winning a grant from the National Book Centre at the Ministry of Culture. The Bulgarians living in Turkey are already showing interest in the book, Grozdev said.
 
"Paradoxical as it might seem, Constantinople was the largest Bulgarian city during the last [19th] century in the Bulgarian Revival Period," Zhechev writes.
 
"Until the Liberation [from Ottoman rule in 1878], Rousse and Plovdiv had a population of some 20,000 each, while not fewer than 40,000 Bulgarians lived in Constantinople, apart from the population of 31 Bulgarian villages in the environs which long supplied agricultural produce to the Bulgarian trading centre connected to Balkapan Han near Misircarsi."
 
Some of the sacred Bulgarian sites covered in Zhechev's book can still be seen in Istanbul. The St Stephen's Church took six years to build and was opened in the Fener Quarter in 1898. It was designed by Armenian architect I. Aznavur, and its all-iron frame was manufactured at the R.F. Wagner Works in Vienna.
 
Austrian workers assembled the 500-tonne metal structure in situ. The Metochion, built across the street from St Stephen's in 1851, was the hub of secular and education activities, turning into a sort of provisional Bulgarian government. Zhechev recalls that it was in the Metochion that Petko R. Slaveikov wrote his best poem, "The White-Legged Maiden's Fountain."
 
"A number of noteworthy figures were directly or indirectly involved in the Bulgarian cause in Constantinople, leaving records or securing a place in people's memory for their actions, their struggles or their diplomatic moves to which they had to resort in most cases," Zhechev writes. He argues that Constantinople "would not have been such a magnet for the Bulgarians had it not concentrated the intellectual power of Bulgarian National Revival giants" like Georgi Rakovski, Petko Slaveikov, Dragan Tsankov, Exarch Yossif, Metropolitans Avksentii of Veles, Paissii of Plovdiv and Ilarion of
Makariopol, Alexander Exarch, Dr Stoyan Chomakov, Todor Ikonomov, Count Ignatiev.
 
Touroperators: Slanchev Bryag Looks Like after a War.
 
Standartnews

ITS - one of the largest touroperator's companies in Germany, is considering to freeze and withdraw its investments from Bulgaria, because of the mess in Slanchev Bryag (Sunny Beach) resort. The investments may be re-directed to the neighboring countries, said company's vice-chairman. The first tourists are already on their way to the Black Sea resort, but it looks like after a bombardment, he elaborated. Although the season has already begun, the construction works in Slanchev Bryag continue. The German tourists to arrive in Bulgaria in a few days, will be re-directed to hotels along the northern Black Sea coast, or to the Mediterranean, ITS sources explained.
 
BG-Easter Runs Dry.
 
Standartnews
Velislava Krasteva

Those power-vested should never forget that people who oust or put forward cabinets take part in this forum. For a third time already Bulgarians living abroad are interested in the forum known as the "Bulgaria's Easter" after the famous book by Toncho Zhechev. Three years ago it was schemed to make the reputation of Kostov's ruling. If Kostov was ruling nowadays, there would not be a third edition of the forum. For the campaign is already running dry. The King's men should not, however, forget that it is dangerous to bring together young, prosperous and ambitious people. Moreover there are people among them capable of ousting or putting forward cabinets. Yesterday, participants in the forum demanded resignations. And one should know better than not bearing in mind that if losing temper they would get out the T-shirts reading "Shame on You".

(Abr)
 
Bulgarian Boxers with 5 Medals at 'Ahmed Komert'c.
 
Standartnews
 
Two silver and three bronze medals won the BG boxers at the traditional tournament 'Ahmed Komert' in Istanbul. Doctor's ban deprived Boris Georgiev (cat. up to 63.5 kg) of almost sure gold - for inflamed tooth and edema he was suspended and took the silver. Alexander Vladimirov (cat. up to 51 kg) lost at the final by Turkish boxer Ramadan Beioglu and also ranked second. Selim Selimov (up to 48 kg), Emil Krastev (up to 81 kg) and Kubrat Poulev (up to 91 kg) won bronze medals.

I've Killed Many Dragons in My Lifetime.
 
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Georgy Petrov

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I'm a victor rather than martyr.

Pavlina Zhivkova

Georgy Petrov was born 59 years ago in Lovech. He graduated in law from the Sofia University 'St. Climent of Ohrid'. In 1990 he was elected an MP in the Great National Assembly and after that in the 36th National Assembly. From 1991 to 1995 he was a member of the National Coordination Council of the UDF and a chairman of the BAPU 'Nikola Petkov'. Georgy Petrov is one of the NMS founders. From last year he heads the State Gambling Commission.

- Mr Petrov, are you a martyr or a victor?

- I'm a victor rather than a martyr for I've won more victories in my life and suffered just a few defeats.

- Which is the greatest victory of Georgi Petrov?

- I've known many victories in my lifetime - they are not great but just personal. One of them took place on October 13, 1991, when the UDF won the general elections thanks to the ballots of our "Nikola Petkov" Agrarian Union. At the time it was me who chaired BAPU (Bulgarian Agrarian Popular Union) "Nikola Petkov". The other agrarian factions walked out of the UDF and our ballots came to be decisive.

- Which is the dragon killed by Georgi Petrov?

- I've killed quite a number of dragons in my lifetime. I've killed all my ill-disposed acquaintances and traitors. I've written them off the book of my life. As for me, I killed the dragon of envy in my heart. I think that Bulgarians could live better and longer if coping with envy.

- Have you made an idol of someone?

- Alexander Stamboliiski is my idol.

- What is your most cherished dream?

- A better life for all Bulgarians.

(Abr)

Terrorism will kill the Christian world.
 
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Avigdor Lieberman

Israel Loosing Information and Diplomatic Wars.

I'm astonished at the hypocrisy of Western politicians, to whom petrodollars are more important than reason, says Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli minister of infrastructure who resigned recently.

Avigdor Lieberman is one of the best-known and influential politicians in Israel. He is the leader of the biggest "Russian" party - "Our Home Israel". In March 2002 Lieberman was the first to leave the government of Ariel Sharon, where he was the minister of national infrastructure. He insisted on a sterner policy against the terrorist attacks of the Palestinians. In his opinion, no negotiations with Arafat will be possible before the infrastructure serving the Palestinian terrorists is destroyed completely.

Yullee Moskov
Tel-Aviv Continued from previous issue

- The military operation is over, the army has withdrawn. What aims have been attained?

- The army is the principal institution in Israel, which can always give an accurate and detailed report about the achievements in military operations. For instance, Israel has compiled a list of 35 most dangerous terrorists. Thirteen of them were either killed or arrested during the operation. Numerous documents were found which prove that Arafat is directly connected with the terrorists. There are also documents bearing his signature ordering killing of women, children and peaceful civilians and attacks on our cities. Apart from that, documents have been discovered which are of great interest to the intelligence service. We have tracked down huge - but really huge - amounts of illicit arms and explosives. Among them many car-bombs ready to be dispatched to Israel. For all these reasons the presence of our army there abated the wave of terror attacks. There were practically no terror assaults in the regions where our army was deployed. For example, the Israeli army entered Hebron only after four people had been killed and 7 others wounded. Then I asked the Prime Minister why should we wait till our people die to launch a military operation in this or that region. Our army hasn't entered the Gaza region, whereas it is exactly from there that our southern settlements are shelled. Wherever the army was present the terrorist activity was reduced to nil.

- What are you expecting in the coming weeks? Will the terrorists step up there activity again?

- Certainly they will. As a result of our indecisive behavior the Palestinians won a moral and political victory now. Premier Sharon agreed to give a free hand to the Arafat's movement and lifted the blockade. In fact, the killers of Israeli minister of tourism, Reavahm Zeevi, or Gandhi, as all called him, had been set free. Another man, who made an attempt to smuggle in a huge amount of arms from Iran was also released. This gives a moral impetus to terrorists and we may well expect a new wave of terror attacks.

- How does Prime Minister Sharon explain his behavior? Why does he agree with some strange decisions?

- I cannot explain all this. Premier Sharon personally promised to me that he by no means will set free the killers of Reavahm Zeevi and that the blockade of Arafat will not be lifted. More than that - he not only told me so tete-a-tete, he made these commitments publicly. A whole month he has been supporting this stand in the mass media. He assured that there will be no compromise. Only three days ago he said on TV that to punish the killers of Gandhi he is ready to run for early elections, but wouldn't release them. But he did! Only 72 hours later he totally deserted all his positions and broke all his promises. I have no explanation to it. A person who is incapable of withstanding the pressure cannot be a prime minister. He must be banned from taking this post. That's why I think that the acting government is practically doomed. The government cannot exist when there is a crisis of confidence between the people and the Premier. Unfortunately, nowadays in Israel this crisis is really grave.

To be continued

Albania Becomes Hub for International Drug Traffic.
 
Times of India
 
TIRANA: The poorest country in Europe, Albania, has grown into a major transit point for the drug traffic between Asia and the west.
 
Albanian and foreign criminal groups fixed on Albania for its geographical position and turned it into a transit country for drugs being shipped to western Europe, said former Interior Minister Spartak Poci.
 
On Monday, the speaker of the Albanian parliament, Namik Dokle, resigned, complaining he was being harrassed from one side by "the barons of politics" and from the other by "the drug barons."
 
Dokle was protesting against a Constitutional Court ruling which revoked a parliamentary vote dismissing Chief Prosecutor Arben Rakipi for allegedly "protecting organised crime."
 
In 2001, two Albanian traffickers, Arben Berballa and Frederik Durda, who were said to have links with the Columbian narcotics cartels, secured the contract for computerising the Albanian prosecutor's office.
 
At the time, newspapers published a photo, taken in Greece, of the two accused in the company of the prosecutor's wife.
 
"Albanian dealers are linked to the international mafia, including Sara Corona Unita, Cosa Nostra, but also the Turkish, Russian and Macedonian mafia and the Columbian cartels, said Poci, who now heads a parliamentary committee supervising the secret police.
 
Last year, Albanian police destroyed an international cocaine-smuggling network shipping the drug to Italy and other western European countries via Albania.
 
Police arrested about 20 traffickers and seized eight tonnes of heroin and cocaine. That operation was carried out by the drug squads of seven south American countries and several European states, including Italy and Greece.
 
"But the quantities of drugs being moved through Albania are much greater than the amounts seized by the police," Poci admitted.
 
According to a secret police report recently presented to parliament, the traffickers hide their activities behind legal operations, while trying to penetrate the administration and political circles.
 
But the report did not name any politicians who might be implicated in drug dealing.
 
Albanian traffickers have a reputation for violence, not hesitating to kill off the members of rival groups so as to win market hegemony, said Fatos Klosi, a senior officer in police intelligence.
 
In recent months, more than 20 people linked to drug trafficking have been killed in inter-gang fighting in Albania, according to the police.
 
The post powerful groups operate in Tirana, Fieri, south of Tirana, Durres in the northwest, in Vlora and Korca in the south and in Shkoder, in the north.
"In these cities, drug money is recycled in the building industry and in tourism.
 
The authorities lack the means of financial control to stamp out the money-laundering", Poci said.

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