- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

TETOVO, Macedonia The government mobilized reservists yesterday to reinforce troops fighting ethnic Albanian rebels but rejected pleas by protesting Slavic Macedonians for martial law after an Albanian party threatened to quit the ruling coalition.

Thousands of Slavic Macedonians from the mainly Albanian northern city of Tetovo demonstrated in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, over the weekend, demanding tougher measures against the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army who have been besieging Tetovo since Wednesday.

Some of the protesters asked President Boris Trajkovski to provide them with arms so they could defend themselves.

Special security troops from the Macedonian police force again blasted the fighters with mortars and heavy machine guns for much of yesterday but made only minor gains despite claims by an Interior Ministry spokesman that authorities were planning a major offensive.

Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski announced the mobilization of army reservists in a live television address to the nation at the end of a three-day, closed-door emergency session of Parliament.

He also rebuked the United States and Germany for not ordering their peacekeepers in the region to intervene and stop ethnic Albanian rebels battling for greater rights, the Associated Press reported.

"You cannot convince us that the chieftains of these gangs are unknown to your governments, nor can you persuade us that they cannot be stopped," he said.

European Union foreign ministers, fearful of an all-out war as Slavs and Albanians rally behind opposite sides in the fighting, were to meet today with Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim. EU security affairs chief Javier Solana was to visit Skopje.

Political sources said Mr. Georgievski asked members of Parliament yesterday to consider declaring a national state of emergency, but that the Albanian Democratic Party had threatened to leave the coalition if that happened.

The legislators argued that ethnic Albanians who make up at least 30 percent of the population in Macedonia would be vulnerable if martial law was imposed and the army effectively took control of the country.

A Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed that reserve mobilization had begun but declined to say exactly how many men were being called up to bolster the army, which numbers between 15,000 and 20,000 ground troops.

An Interior Ministry source said that between a third and a half of about 100,000 people on the reserve list were being called up. They will relieve regular army troops from frontier-protection duties so they can be thrown into the battle for Tetovo.

"Police forces in Tetovo are making steady progress against the rebels but are hampered by the difficult terrain," said the Interior Ministry spokesman, Stevo Pendarovski.

Mistrust between the Albanian population and police battling the rebels has deepened since the Albanian police commander in Tetovo, Rauf Ramadini, was dismissed two days ago and replaced with a Slavic Macedonian commander, political sources in the city said.

Mr. Ramadini's dismissal followed the resignation of an Albanian intelligence officer who had been the head of the Tetovo station of the Drjavna Bezbednost, the Macedonian State Security Service, the sources said.

Both men had been appointed in an attempt to make the ethnic Albanians, who make up 80 percent of the Tetovo population, feel more secure.

The intelligence chief resigned over an incident in the mainly Albanian village of Tearce near the border of Kosovo in January. Three police officers were murdered following complaints that police had attacked Albanian citizens who had called for help to stop harassment by Slavic Macedonians.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide