- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Terror stalks Macedonia

Islamic extremists left no doubt about their intent when they attacked a Macedonian consultant in Pakistan last week and killed three diplomats, Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said yesterday.

A message they left on a wall of the mission read, "Infidels will be killed. This is only a warning," Mrs. Mitreva said at a forum sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace.

"That was the first attack ever on a Macedonian mission," she said, adding that Macedonia was "added to the list" of countries targeted by Islamic terrorists.

Mrs. Mitreva said that some officials suspect the attack might be retaliation for the deaths of two Pakistanis in Macedonia in March. They were among seven terror suspects killed while trying to ambush a police patrol. The suspects, armed with hand grenades and rocket launchers, had been planning attacks on the U.S., British and German embassies, according to press reports.

Macedonia suffered domestic terrorism in conflicts with ethnic-Albanian Muslims but reached a peace accord with the rebels last year. The new government led by the Social Democratic Union, which won 60 of the 120 seats in parliament in a recent election, includes an Albanian party with only 16 seats that is led by former rebel commander Ali Ahmeti.

"The decision to invite his party into the government was not made on a mathematical basis," Mrs. Mitreva said.

"The new government is under the observation of the international community," she added.

The foreign minister said her visit, at the invitation of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, is an indication that the Bush administration remains concerned about the future of the Balkans, after a decade of war during the 1990s.

She meets with Mr. Powell today to discuss the continuation of U.S. peacekeeping troops in Macedonia and efforts to preserve Jewish heritage there.


Nigerian peace mission

Nigerian Ambassador Jibril Aminu has left Washington on a mission to quell the violence that has broken out in his rural homeland between nomadic tribesmen and villagers, Nigeria's state radio reported yesterday.

Mr. Aminu was due in the Song region in the northeastern state of Adamawa, where 10 persons have been killed in a dispute that erupted after a farmer said that a nomad's herd of cattle destroyed his crops.

The ambassador will try to mediate between the two communities and help restore peace before returning to Washington.

Nigerian newspapers, meanwhile, are reporting that Mr. Aminu, a 63-year-old former oil minister, is a leading contender for vice presidency in elections next year.


Lebanese bailout

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon urged Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday to "press forward" with fundamental economic reforms, after international donors last month pledged $4.4 billion in loans and credit to prevent the nation from going bankrupt.

Ambassador Vincent Battle delivered a message from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and outgoing Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, who urged Mr. Hariri to "take full advantage of the breathing space that this financing will provide for Lebanon and move forward without delay on implementing policies that will lead to debt sustainability and economic growth."

The principal and interest on Lebanon's $31 billion in debt exceed the country's annual gross domestic product.

The emergency bailout package was crafted in Paris at a conference organized by French President Jacques Chirac. The United States sent representatives but did not provide any loans or credits for Lebanon, citing concerns about the lack of economic reforms there.

After his meeting with Mr. Hariri, Mr. Battle told reporters, "I shared [with him] the view from Washington that this is a really positive opportunity for the Lebanese government to press forward with its economic reform."

He said they talked about the "optimism and the positive psychology in the marketplace" created by the so-called Paris II conference. Mr. Battle also said that a congressional delegation is planning to visit Lebanon next week.

"We look forward to a good conversation with the delegation and the leadership here in Beirut," he said.

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