- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2001

Special correspondent Jury Sigov traveled to Macedonia this month where he interviewed Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, and Stojan Andov, president of the National Assembly, among others, for The Washington Times. Following are excerpts.
Question: Minister Buckovski, what do you think about the possibility of closer military contacts between Macedonia and the United States in fighting international terrorism in the Balkans?
Answer: I think that the current situation in Macedonia shows we cannot defeat these terrorists with airplanes, heavy guns or submarines. In order to beat them, we need special military hardware and specially trained forces. We had a number of instructors for our special units from Germany, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, France and the United States. These forces … [were] created in Macedonia just three months ago, and we would appreciate U.S. help in this field.
Q: What is the foreign policy orientation of Macedonia now? Do you want to be a small independent country in the Balkans or … become a member of NATO, for example?
A: The strategic goal of our foreign policy is to become a full member of NATO. We are already participating in its "Partnership for Peace," and we are also planning to use the NATO weaponry standards in … [the] near future. We understand that a lot needs to be done for Macedonia to be admitted to this organization, but we believe that it can help defend our country and protect our territorial sovereignty and independence.
Q: National Assembly President Andov, what is your assessment of the political situation around Macedonia after the peace that was signed in Ohrid several weeks ago?
A: The situation around Macedonia remains very tense and complex. Yes, several political parties in Macedonia signed the so-called "Ohrid truce," but it is just a framework document, not a legal one that the government should follow according to the constitution.
Only a constitutionally approved document can regulate relations in our country, and we have to admit that the overall majority of Macedonians don't approve it, so we have to debate amending this agreement.
Q: What is your assessment of the international participation, including of the EU and NATO, in Macedonia after the summer outbreaks of violence between the Macedonian Slavs and ethnic Albanians?
A: I can tell you frankly, we are not satisfied with KFOR's [NATOs Kosovo Force] work in Macedonia. We don't understand why we are not allowed by the international community to crush terrorists on our soil, and why our police are not allowed to come to the areas where the terrorists are harboring.
When I discussed this issue with the NATO command in Skopje, I was really shocked. The logic of my interlocutors was very simple. We Macedonians have been told that we cannot use aircraft against the terrorists because they don't have … [these] kind of arms. We are not allowed to use mortars against them for the same reason.
But listen, if we follow the same strange logic, the U.S. military cannot use against the Taliban terrorists any weapons except old-fashioned rifles and pistols.
We already said to our European and American partners that this conflict should be resolved by peaceful means. However, the truce should [be] observe not just [on] one side, but [on] both sides. Macedonia is not a protectorate of any country or organization, and will not allow itself to become one in the future. The only thing that we need is peace, and the sooner the international community understands it, the better.
Q: Interior Minister Boskovski, how do you explain the fact that one-sixth of Macedonian territory is under the control of terrorists, and the Ministry of Interior is not able to regain control there?
A: The police of Macedonia are not allowed to come to the areas of Tetovo, Kumanovo and Anichkovo where the ethnic Albanians and their terrorists groups are operating. If we were allowed to do this, we could crush them in one day. When we got helicopter gunships from Ukraine, we destroyed the terrorist immediately.
But after that, the international community demanded from us to stop the so-called bloodshed, and we still cannot control this area because our police are not allowed to go there.
I told my counterparts from the United States and NATO: "You are supporting the inviolability of international borders, so let's start with this for Macedonia." We are ready for talks but we will never agree to the partition of Macedonia.
Q: You say that Macedonia is fighting guerrillas from all over the world. How do they get here?
A: Very simple. They are coming from Arabic (sic) countries to Paris, after that through Slovenia they are going to Albania and Kosovo. We have seen here in Macedonia mercenaries from Bosnia, Chechnya, the [Persian] Gulf countries, so it is an international fight.
Israeli intelligence says that Osama bin Laden supporters have a headquarters in Kosovo, and the head of this group is Ayman Zawahiri. He is also wanted in the U.S. for leading the radical group [Egyptian] Islamic Jihad. … As you can see, we are fighting against the same terrorist threat.
Q: Is there any threat that Macedonia may lose a part of its territories, which are demanded by Bulgaria and Greece respectively? You just settled your border disputes only with Yugoslavia, but all other neighbors of Macedonia have territorial claims to your country?
A: I don't think that Bulgaria and Greece will make any territorial claims to us because Bulgaria wants to become a EU member, Greece is already a EU member, and this organization will not allow them to change the borders on the continent.
We are not afraid of our neighbors, and we need allies not just from [a] geographic point of view but in a fight against international terrorism.

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