Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Greek PM warns FYROM, Turkey of their EU prospects

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday sent a message to Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding their European prospects.

Athens News Agency quoted Karamanlis as saying that Greece supports the European prospects of all countries in southeastern Europe.

All European Union criteria must apply for every candidate member country, he said.

The Greek prime minister stressed that FYROM should "enrich its positions" on the issue concerning its name in order to "reinforce its approach to the European family."

Greece is at odds with FYROM, demanding a change in the land- locked republic's constitutional name "Macedonia," on the grounds that its adoption conceals irredentist designs against the northern Greek province Macedonia.

Karamanlis said Greece has shown good will, adding that it is time for the other side to do the same. "Our views are very clear, " he said.

The prime minister reiterated that he was in favor of Turkey's European prospects and noted that he was following developments in the neighboring country.

He said a functioning democracy is a fundamental criterion for the EU. The Turkish government and other democratic forces, he said, will guarantee and safeguard democracy in the country, which cannot be influenced by other forces.

Karamanlis has also promoted during the summit Greece's proposal for the establishment of a Center of Regional Development based in Thessaloniki, second largest city in Northern Greece, a proposal which was received positively by the other Balkan leaders.

Bitola police officer dies after shot in head

Milojko Bochvanoski, 45, employed in Bitola's Police, who was found shot in the head this morning, has succumbed to the injuries this afternoon, Makfax's correspondent reported.

After receiving a call from a citizen, the Emergency Medical Unit rushed to Bitola's outskirts where they found blood-covered Bochvanoski seating in his car.

His police gun was found lying next to him. Unconscious, but still alive, Bocvhvanoski was ferried to the Bitola Clinical Center, where he passed away this afternoon.

The preliminary findings suggested that Bochvanovski committed suicide, nevertheless, an investigative judge ordered autopsy of the dead policeman's body.

Milojko had been Chief of the Police Precinct at Medzitlija border crossing until last October, when he was transferred to Bitola's branch office of the Interior Ministry to the post of independent analyst.

Macedonia expects NATO invitation and EU entry talks in 2008

Macedonia expects to get an invitation to NATO membership and starting date for EU entry talks in 2008, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski told Polish news agency PAP.

"We expect NATO membership invitation along with Croatia and Albania - the so-called Adriatic Group members - next year. Furthermore, we also expect to be given a starting date for EU accession negotiations next year, as there is no other alternative for Macedonia," Crvenkovski said.

"We still have some inner political-transitional problems, particularly between the government and the opposition, but most important is that the citizens of Macedonia pledge a full support to country's integration into Euro-Atlantic community.

As regards the Kosovo status issue and the eventual impact on Macedonia, Crvenkovski said the quality of the interethnic relations holds a key to Macedonia's stability.

"The stability of the Republic of Macedonia does not depend on the future status of Kosovo but on the quality of interethnic relations in our country. Thus, Macedonia is neither part of the issue nor part of solution to the future status of Kosovo," Crvenkovski said.

Serbia extradites cocaine smuggling suspect to Macedonia

SKOPJE, Macedonia: Serbian officials on Thursday extradited to Macedonia a woman suspected of organizing a record €45 million (US$61 million) cocaine shipment confiscated in January in this small Balkan country.

Stanislava Cocorovska-Poletan was arrested on an international warrant in Belgrade four months ago.

Under heavy security at the Tabanovce border crossing, black-masked Serbian special police officers handed over Cocorovska-Poletan to Macedonian authorities.

She faces drug smuggling charges for allegedly masterminding the shipment of 483 kilograms (1065 pounds) of cocaine seized in a truck near Macedonia's border with Kosovo. The truck driver, a Macedonian national, has also been charged with drug smuggling.

It was the largest quantity of the drug ever seized in Macedonia.

Police said the cocaine was from Venezuela, and was being transported from the Macedonian port city of Bar to Greece.

Cocorovska-Poletan, who is suspected of links with the powerful Serbian underworld, had lived in Belgrade for the past 15 years.

Brothers charged with plotting terrorism trace roots to Macedonia

PHILADELPHIA: The three Duka brothers, Eljvir, Shain and Dritan, not only prayed at Al Aqsa Islamic Center here, they also were slowly repairing its roof.

The work came naturally to them, as members of a large family of ethnic-Albanian immigrants who own more than a dozen roofing companies in New York and New Jersey. They fixed the roof for free, at the prodding of their imam and in the hopes of accruing good deeds.

But the job remains half finished after the brothers and three other Muslim men were arrested Tuesday, charged with plotting an attack against soldiers at the Fort Dix military reservation in New Jersey. Their arrests reverberated through the extended Duka family, as far as Debar, a village in Macedonia near the Albanian border that is the family's ancestral home.

"It's fine to be a religion man," said Murat Duka, 55, a distant relative of the six and the first of about 200 Dukas to move to the Northeast United States, arriving in 1975 to work as a roofer. "But if you get too much to religion, you get out of your mind and you do stupid things."

In Debar, where the influence of U.S. émigrés is seen in restaurants named Manhattan, Dallas and Miami, Elez Duka, a first cousin of the three suspects, expressed disbelief that they could have been involved in a plot inspired by Islamic radicals.

"This has to be political propaganda," said Elez Duka, 29, who has opened an Internet café there with money sent by his brothers in the United States. "America has always helped us."

A portrait is emerging of the five who face charges of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel, which could send them to prison for life. The men vowed in taped conversations "to kill as many soldiers as possible" in the name of Islam, the federal authorities said. They had no other clear motivation. Much less is known about the sixth, Agron Abdullahu, 24, who faces lesser charges, carrying a possible 10 years' imprisonment.

Serdar Tatar, 23, a Turkish immigrant who lives in Philadelphia, had grown so religious over the past two years that his father, Muslim Tatar, said they had become estranged. Serdar Tatar's wife, pregnant with twins, said he was so busy working he rarely had time to pray, but sometimes read the Koran and helped her 11-year-old son with his homework.

Mohamad Shnewer, 22, a Palestinian born in Amman, kept up an exhausting routine of work, sleep and prayer for the past year, his mother said. He drove a cab at night in Philadelphia, had recently dropped out of college to help the family pay two mortgages and attended services occasionally at Al Aqsa.

And there were the Dukas, 23, 26 and 28, who came to the United States illegally more than a decade ago. The brothers, like so many of their relatives and fellow ethnic-Albanian immigrants in the area, have owned a pizzeria and two roofing companies.

The brothers are not from an Arabic-speaking nation - although one is married to a woman from Jordan - but they sometimes used Arabic names for their roofing businesses: Qadr, which in Arabic means "destiny," and Insalah, a variant of inshallah, "if God wills it."

The lives of the Dukas and the other defendants began to intersect as early as 1999, when Tatar, Shnewer and Eljvir Duka were enrolled at Cherry Hill West High School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

One of Shnewer's five sisters married Eljvir Duka and is pregnant. On Wednesday, Lamese and Israa Shnewer, 12 and 14, stood on the threshold of their house in Cherry Hill holding tabloid newspapers with their brother's picture on the front. Cars slowed as they passed. People snapped pictures with their cellphones.

Israa pointed to a neighbor's house and said, "They hated us to begin with."

The criminal complaint portrays Shnewer as the leader of the group, speaking most frequently in taped conversations about tactics. But his mother, Faten Shnewer, said in an interview that the charges "made no sense."

She said that televised images from the war in Iraq had angered him and she wondered whether, while he was watching the news, he had said something that was misinterpreted by the authorities.

"He's a good boy," she said as she stood in the doorway of a relative's home. "I'm proud of who we are."

Co-workers and relatives described him as shy with a sweet nature. "Mohamad was like a teddy bear," said Jaime Antrim, manager of a restaurant in Marlton, New Jersey, where Shnewer once worked. He showed his religious devotion in some ways - he would not eat pizza cut with a knife that had been in contact with pork - but served alcohol and did not break for daily prayers.

Muslim Tatar, who owns the SuperMario's Pizza restaurant near Fort Dix from which the authorities assert the suspects took a map of the base, said his son Serdar had gravitated to radical Islam in recent years, opening a rift between them.

"I'm not a religious person," he said. "I don't want my son to be a religious person, but he was a religious person."

The family came to the United States from Turkey in 1992 and settled in Cherry Hill. Muslim Tatar said he believed that his son fell in with the wrong crowd in high school, when he met some of the others now in jail with him. On one occasion, Tatar said, his son brought one of the others to visit him at the pizza parlor in Cookstown, New Jersey.

"I told him, 'I don't like this kid, I don't want you together,' " Tatar recalled.

Although the criminal complaint says Serdar Tartar became familiar with Fort Dix from delivering pizzas to the base and procured the map in November, his wife said he had not worked at the restaurant in two years, and his father said SuperMario's had been delivering to the base for only three months. "Nobody took a map," the elder Tatar said.

After quitting SuperMario's, Serdar Tatar went to work for a 7-Eleven and recently became manager of one of the chain's stores near Temple University in Philadelphia. His wife of one year, Khalida Mirzhyeiva, who was born in Russia, said he had worked long shifts and rarely gone to the mosque.

"He planned to have a child and a good family," Mirzhyeiva, 29, said by telephone in an interview that was translated from Russian by a neighbor. "He isn't a terrorist. He follows his religion, the Muslim religion, and he cannot kill."

Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka were all born in Debar, Macedonia. The extended family's trek to the United States began with Murat Duka, who opened a roofing company in New York in 1980, five years after he arrived. When conditions in Macedonia deteriorated in 1985, a stream of relatives began coming to New York, where some learned the roofing trade from him, he said.

Today, about 40 to 50 Duka families live in New York and New Jersey. Many of them settled on Staten Island, a borough of New York City that is home to a thriving mosque for ethnic Albanians.

"Everybody's shocked from this," said Ferid Bedrolli, imam of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Staten Island where the Duka brothers and their father used to pray before moving to Cherry Hill in the late 1990s.

Cocorovska-Poletan due to be extradited to Macedonia today

Stanislava Cocorovska-Poletan, wanted by the Macedonian Police for attempted drugs smuggling, is due to be delivered to Macedonian authorities today, after Serbia finally approved her extradition.

Cocorovska-Poletan is suspected of masterminding the transportation of large cocaine shipment that was seized at the Blace border-crossing last January.

A shipment of nearly half a tone of cocaine destined for Greece set out from Venezuela, passing through customs and border police authorities in Croatia, Montenegro and Kosovo before being uncovered by the Macedonian customs officials.

Macedonian Interior Ministry denied yesterday the information published by the Belgrade's daily Politika suggesting that Cocorovska-Poletan might be granted a status of a protected witness in exchange of information about the assassination attempt on the ex-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov.

"There is no law that authorizes Police to offer a status of protected witness", the Ministry's spokesman Ivo Kotevski said.

He declined to comment the speculations on possible involvement of Cocorovska-Poletan in the assassination attempt or her ability to produce any relevant information.

According to Politika, Stanislava Cocorovska-Poletan reportedly had to offer reliable leads on the perpetrators of the attack and their motives as she herself was allegedly involved in the logistics of the entire operation.

Skopje Fortress – 3500-year-old clay kazoo and pig found

Archaeological excavations on the Skopje Fortress (Kale) have come up with a number of clay items in the pre-historical sections including a 1100-year-old kazoo and a 3500-year-old pig. The kazoo belonged to the Late Bronze Age. The two items were discovered at a really short time span, which shows with certainty that there was continual life there 3500 years ago, Dragisa Zdravkovski, the head archaeologist of this section says.
The kazoo and pig were found beyond the Kale walls indicating that there was a Neolithic settlement outside the walls as well. Another section on that stretch belonging to pre-history was found. Remains of a triangular tower, a component part of the wall towers was unearthed there. Those are the only points where excavations have reached back pre-historical times. Other points, which are much richer in items unearthed, have only come to the mediaeval and the Otttoman times.

Maestro Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra due in Skopje

Indian conductor of classical music Zubin Mehta will be the special guest to this year's Ohrid Summer festival, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is likely to perform on 2 June in Skopje.

The agent representing one of the world's greatest conductors of classical music has agreed to terms offered by Macedonian organizer although the Ohrid Summer directorate has not yet signed the contract, Macedonian media said.

The famous conductor is scheduled to stage concerts in two other cities of the former Yugoslavia in June.

In the course of his musical career, Maestro Zubin Mehta (70) has staged around 1.500 concerts across the world. He works within Israel Philharmonic Orchestra since 1977.

He was music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

European Reconciliation Day on Bitola’ military cemetery

Skopje. Yesterday French, German, Bulgarian and Serbian delegations lead by the Macedonian Parliament Speaker Ljbisa Gjorgievski, visited the WWI military cemetery in the town of Bitola (Macedonia) during the European Reconciliation Day, the Macedonian newspaper Vreme wrote today.
They visited the Monument of the Bulgarian soldiers that died in WWI, as well as German, Serbian and French graveyards.
Serbian Ambassador in Macedonia Zoran Popovic made a statement at the Bulgarian cemetery and Bulgarian Ambassador to Macedonia Miho Mihov delivered a speech at Serbian military cemetery. They both appealed to forget the past and focus on the European family. In the spirit of the European reconciliation the French military attaché Colonel Fabris Duda and his colleague from the German embassy Henrich Kindiger made their statements too.
Ljubisa Gjorgievski defined the speech as a letter to dead heroes and scarified youth of Europe, the edition points out.
“In that way those us, who were born on the Balkans, we looked for Europe, as our mother, and we found her. At some points we searched badly, in a bad way, but we looked for it and we found it for good”, Georgievski said.

OSCE voices very positive opinion on Framework Agreement implementation

OSCE appraises highly the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and encourages the Government to push ahead with full implementation of the same.

Rolf Ekeus, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, said this at the meeting with Imer Aliu, the Macedonian Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Framework Agreement, an official announcement says.

According to Ekeus, "the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement is realized in a practical manner to improve the situation of the Albanians and other nationalities working in the state and public institutions".

Aliu briefed the OSCE delegation led by Ekeus about "the government's activities relating the equal representation of the Albanians in the state in public institutions, singling out the latest public announcement for employment of 250 public servants", says the announcement released by the Cabinet of the Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Framework Agreement.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

3 Albanian brothers held over plot to attack US hail from Macedonia

DEBAR, Macedonia-Three Muslim brothers who allegedly helped plot to kill soldiers at a U.S. Army base have roots in one of Europe's most pro-American corners, a region that remains grateful to the United States for ending the Kosovo war.

Dritan Duka, 28, Shain Duka, 26, and Eljvir Duka, 23, who were arrested in New Jersey this week in what U.S. authorities said was a bungled scheme to blow up and gun down soldiers at Fort Dix, were born in Debar, a remote town on Macedonia's rugged border with Albania.

Relatives in the ethnic Albanian-populated town of 15,000 said they had not seen the brothers in more than two decades, but expressed disbelief Wednesday that the three would attack the United States.

"We all have been supporters of America. We were always thankful to America for its support during the wars in Kosovo and Macedonia," a cousin, Elez Duka, 29, told The Associated Press.

"These are simple, ordinary people and they've got nothing to do with terrorism. I expect their release and I expect an apology," he said, waving his hands. "I see injustice. These are ridiculous charges."

His indignation captured the mood among Muslims in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, places that have repeatedly expressed gratitude to the United States for intervening in the 1998-99 Kosovo war and a 2001 ethnic conflict that pushed Macedonia to the brink of civil war.

Albania was among the first countries to answer Washington's call for troops to help support U.S.-led military offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, which many expect to gain independence from Serbia later this year, U.S. flags are commonplace. The main avenue is Bill Clinton Boulevard, renamed to honor the president who ordered airstrikes that halted former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's brutal crackdown in the province.

Like many Europeans, ethnic Albanians staged a big demonstration after the U.S. led the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but theirs was a pro-America rally, not an anti-war protest.

In and out of Debar, people struggled to reconcile those feelings with the indictment of the three brothers and a fourth ethnic Albanian suspect, Agron Abdullahu, 24. Two other men also were arrested: Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, a Palestinian born in Jordan, and Serdar Tatar, 23, born in Turkey.

It was unclear whether Abdullahu also came from Debar, but U.S. authorities said he served as a sniper during the Kosovo war, which pitted ethnic Albanian separatists against Serbian troops loyal to Milosevic.

U.S. authorities have not given details of the alleged plot, or said if a date had been set for an attack. They said only that the accused were training and buying weapons.

Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku wrote a letter to the U.S. mission in Pristina on Wednesday expressing the "extraordinary feeling that Kosovo's people have for the U.S." Ceku also denounced what he called "the disgusting idea" that Albanians could be involved in an attack "against a nation that has been very generous so far."

The Duka brothers' grandmother, Naze Duka, was visibly upset as word of their arrests spread through the modest two-story brick houses in Debar, about 110 miles southwest of the Macedonian capital, Skopje.

"America is good, you work, you earn money there," the 88-year-old said. "I have no idea where this all came from. How did this happen?"

"I don't believe that my kids would do anything like that. I know my kids, they were committed to supporting their families, their house," she added.

Elez Duka, the brothers' cousin, said their father took the family to the U.S. via Italy in 1986 or 1987.

American officials say the brothers were in the U.S. illegally. The cousin said they had not been back because they didn't have the necessary papers for returning to the U.S.

He said the brothers occasionally phoned. Over the past two years, Elez Duka said, his cousins told him they had grown long beards and had become more devoted to Islam, but he insisted they were incapable of involvement in a terrorist plot.

"They live in America and grew up in the American culture. How can you say they are anti-American? These accusations are totally unfounded," he said.

Few ethnic Albanians embrace militant Islam. Most are moderate or secular.

Even those in Debar who described themselves as devout Muslims denounced the Fort Dix plot.

"They must have been crazy. They shouldn't dare throw a stone at America," said Rrahmi Duka, 70, a distant relative of the brothers, as a loudspeaker blared Muslim prayers in Debar's main square.

"Who saved us? America," he said. "We are in America's hands."

Three of Albanians arrested in US were born in Macedonia

Three of the Albanians arrested in USA under suspicions of plotting a terrorist attack were born in Macedonia.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a source of the Macedonian Interior Ministry confirmed this information to Makfax Agency.

Duka brothers were born in Ohrid, i.e. Debar, and lived in the Debar's nearby village of Spas.

Four of the arrested men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Jordan and one came from Turkey, US authorities said. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently; and the sixth is a US citizen.

The six - Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Dritan "Anthony" or "Tony" Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; Eljvir "Elvis" Duka, 23; Serdar Tatar, 23; and Agron Abdullahu, 24 were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday.

One drove a cab, three were roofers. Another worked at a 7-Eleven and a sixth at a supermarket.

One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father's pizzeria - Super Mario's Restaurant - in Cookstown and made deliveries to the base, using the opportunity to scout out Fort Dix for an attack, authorities said.

Greece considers name of Macedonia as outstanding issue

Greece considers the name of Macedonia as one of the "outstanding issues" the country seeks to resolve in a peaceful manner through a dialogue.

Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis said this in his address to a two-day seminar organized by one of Greece's inter-branch officers' school in Thessaloniki.

"Greece supported the entry of Balkan countries in Euro-Atlantic structures, the development of regional cooperation, consolidating good neighborly relations and the peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, such as the name of Macedonia", Meimarakis said.

He stressed that Greece is taking a leading role in the effort to transform the Balkans into a neighborhood of peace, stability and growth.

"We must not allow things to backslide and Greece is working systematically to establish an environment of trust, mutual understanding and cooperation. Because the requirement is chiefly to create an atmosphere of mutual trust, so that there is honest and substantive dialogue for the solution of problems," the Minister said.

Spanish soldier found dead in Macedonia hotel

A 29 year old corporal from Baños de la Encina (Jaén) was found dead in a Macedonia hotel room today.

His body was discovered by a group of fellow soldiers also enjoying a few days off from their duties with the 620 man strong Spanish contingent that is part of NATO's KFOR peacekeeping force.

Most of the Spanish contingent is stationed near Istok where they are helping to protect the Serbian population living in the Osojane valley.

The dead soldier belonged to the 12th Armoured Brigade based in El Goloso, near Guadarrama (Madrid).

An autopsy will be performed to confirm cause of death.

Fight against piracy in Macedonia to intensify

n Macedonia, it's easy to find the latest Hollywood blockbuster -- the DVD can be bought from street vendors in most large cities, typically for around 1.5 euros. At that price, the version is sure to be a pirated one. Legally produced CDs and DVDs, with tariffs paid, cost at least 12 euros.

Macedonia has rules to halt copyright violations and intellectual piracy. However, as the situation on the street demonstrates, implementation has been a problem. Inspection agencies say they simply don't have the staff.

In late April, police, customs officials and Culture Ministry inspectors seized 3,000 CDs and DVDs in Veles. They found pirated copies of hit movies, as well as illegal CDs and non-licensed Microsoft software. Four shops were closed down and misdemeanour charges were filed. The material seized will be destroyed after court proceedings are completed.

The action was the third since the start of the year. The other two were carried out in Skopje and Bitola.

The Culture Ministry says it plans to step up the fight across the country, starting next month. The intensified action will begin as soon as an amended version of Macedonia's copyright law, providing for stricter penalties and broader powers for inspectors, goes into force.

Besides music, movies and software, other types of pirated merchandise are widely available. Customs officials say they have confiscated some 44,500 counterfeit items of clothing and perfume, sold under brand names such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and Lacoste. The phony products come to Macedonia via illegal routes from China and Turkey through Bulgaria, officials say.

Meanwhile, legitimate industries are suffering. The number of movie theatre visits has declined sharply because of pirated films, and fewer CDs are being released. Moreover, the problem could hamper Macedonia's bid for EU membership. The bloc is currently providing assistance, via the CARDS programme, in an effort to cut back on piracy.

Macedonia will cover it’s duties to IMF

Skopje. Macedonia will pay all of its due payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The due sum amounts to USD 51,7 million. The decision was taken during the last government session, the Macedonian newspaper Nova Makedonija writes today.
Covering the due payments ahead of schedule and deciding to pay in advance Macedonia’s debts to the Paris Club, part of the country’s debts to the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, the foreign debt of the country will decrease by USD 292 million, the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said in a statement at a news conference.
He specifies that this cabinet’s decision will save the state USD 9,4 million.
The rest USD 51,7 million will be covered with funds from the National Monetary Reserve.

Alleged human trafficking victims gave testimonies in Tetovo Court

Ten women of foreign nationality, including Bulgarians and a Serb, were brought in for questioning before an investigative judge in a competent Tetovo Court relating the Oriental As case, Makfax's correspondent reported.

The girls were found during a police raid in the Oriental As bar located in the Tetovo's nearby village of Zherovjane.

Although Police raised allegations of sexual exploitation, today's questioning was focused on other lighter crimes that were allegedly committed.

The girls gave statements in the frameworks of the ongoing investigation against Oriental As's owner Ali Arifi from Bogovinje, who is accused of illegal confinement and violation of the labor rights.

If found guilty on these charges, Arifi would face a sentence ranging from pecuniary fine to one-year imprisonment.

The women of foreign citizenship aged 22 to 27, were illegally employed as waitresses in the bar. The Police suspect their freedom of movement was limited to the premises of the bar as they found a room that served as a girls' living quarter.

European Parliament Delegation visits Macedonia

Skopje. A delegation of the European Parliament will pay one-day working visit to Macedonia today, says an official announcement, the Macedonian Makfax informs.
According to the announcements, the members of the delegation will visit Skopje and Kavadarci, where several projects funded by EU and managed by the European Agency for Reconstruction, are under way.
After completion of the visits, the MEPs are expected to hold a press conference.

Macedonia imposes stricter driving rules

New driving rules are in effect in Macedonia following parliament's adoption, in late April, of a new road traffic law. According to the Interior Ministry, the legislation is in harmony with the laws of other European countries, and will help improve overall traffic safety.

"In drafting the new law, the lawmakers relied on driving experience in Slovenia, Croatia and Denmark," Interior Ministry Senior Inspector Toni Stefanovski said. "The goal is to improve traffic safety, elevate traffic culture and comply with the European laws."

One innovation is the new beginner's category, which applies to all drivers with only two-years of driving experience. Between 10pm and 6am, they will not be allowed to drive unless they have an experienced driver with them.

The allowable blood alcohol level is also lower for beginners, and they are only allowed to drive cars with a maximum of 90 horsepower.

Restrictions on night driving also apply to beginning motorcycle operators. Those without sufficient experience are prohibited from driving at night a motorcycle with more than 125 cubic cm of volume.

Demerit points have also been introduced for drivers who do not pay fines immediately after committing a driving misdemeanor. If a driver accumulates 100 demerit points within three years, he or she will be required to retake the driving test.

For example, failure to obey a traffic sign leads to a fine of 25 euros or 15 demerit points. This principle will not apply to serious traffic offences. If a driver runs a red light, there will be no increase in demerit points, but the offender will be fined 300 euros.

The new legislation also stipulates changes to driving tests. Instead of taking a standardised test at a licensed driving school, new drivers must first receive training at a driving school and then take their test before the Interior Ministry's driving commission.

Cocorovska's extradition to Macedonia slated for May 10

Serbian authorities will extradite drug smuggling suspect Stanislava Cocorovska on 10 May, Macedonian official said.

Justice Minister Mihajlo Manevski said Serbian Ministry of Justice responded positively to extradition request by the Macedonian authorities.

Manevski voiced hope that Metodija Smilenski will be extradited to Macedonian authorities.

Stanislava Cocorovska is the alleged mastermind of smuggled cocaine shipment, which was seized by the Macedonian customs officers at the Blace border crossing. This was the largest-ever cocaine shipment seized by Macedonian authorities.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

REK Bitola's former executives get seven-year jail sentence

The former executives of thermal power plant REK Bitola have been sentenced to a total of seven years in prison, as the court found them guilty of "abuse of power" and "bribery", Makfax correspondent reported.

Bitola District Court has sentenced Vlado Sugareski, the former director of REK Bitola, to four-year-and-six-month imprisonment. Vlatko Kocinski, the former commercial director of REK Bitola, has been sentenced to two-year-and-six-month imprisonment.

In the period of 1999-2002, Sugareski and Kocinski had breached the law on public procurement on several occasions. They signed contracts with "Sokol i Elen" company for waste rock excavations although they knew that the company was insolvent.

Mishko Milenkovski, the owner of "Sokol i Elen", who was sentenced to one-year-and-six-month imprisonment on bribery charges, gave Sugareski an Audi-A4, worth 1 million denars.

Sugareski, who was VMRO-DPMNE's Representative in parliament in the period of 1999-2002, was using REK Bitola's vehicle although he took bonus from the parliament as if he had driven his own car. Thus, he inflicted 380.000 denars loss to state budget.

The verdicts for the three defendants wrap up the three-year investigation and two-year trial.

Briton Morley still in temporary detention

The British citizen Nicholas Morley will remain in temporary detention, decided the Criminal Chamber of the Struga Court.

Morley's lawyer, Dragan Goxho, also confirmed this information to Makfax Agency.

According to Goxho, Morley offered 25.000 euros to be released on bail.

The lawyer pointed out that no formal charges have been filed against Morley so far, adding that the investigative procedure is still under way.

Macedonian Police arrested Nicholas Morley, a participant in the Gumball 3000 rally, after his Porsche collided head-on with a vehicle of a Macedonian citizen at the Struga-Qafasan road on Wednesday. Vladimir Chepunjoski died immediately after the accident, while his wife, Margarita, on Friday succumbed to the injures she sustained in the crash.

On Thursday, an investigative judge of Struga Court ordered 30 days of temporary detention to Nicholas Morley.

Police in Macedonia save underaged girls from a prostitution ring

Skopje. A 15-year-old girl was saved from the claws of a mobster from Tetovo area, who was forcing her to provide prostitution services, and another six underage girls were uncovered during police inspection in Tetovo and its surrounding, Makfax reports.
The Police announced today they uncovered the procurer in the village of Kamenjane and filed formal accusation against him for human trafficking. Another 14 girls were found during the last weekend's inspection of several bars in Tetovo area.
The Police suspects that the young women; all Macedonian citizens, except one Serbian; have been victims of human trafficking. Six of the girls are minors, however, the Police has not revealed their age.
J.D., 38, an owner of a pizza parlor in Kamenjane, has been accused of human trafficking. The girl was subject to severe harassment and forced to entertain the guests, as well as to offer sexual services to the customers in the bars "Ata" and "Bili 9" located in Tetovo after her working hours in the pizzeria.
The Police also tracked down four persons, who sold the girl to J.D. last February.
The rest of the girls were found in the bars "Cobra", "Tango & Cash", "Dashurie" and "Europe". All victims have been transferred to the Transition Care Center in Skopje.
The agency points out that there was no immediate word if formal accusations have been filed against the rest of the bar owners, besides the one from Kamenjane.

Government allocates site for ZELS House of Municipalities

Macedonian government has allocated a construction land in the municipality of Karpos for the construction of ZELS House of Municipalities.

At today's press conference in Skopje, Minister of Local Government Zoran Konjanovski said the decision was made upon request of the Association of Local Government Units (ZELS).

"By making this decision, the government reconfirmed not only declarative but also a genuine partnership with ZELS, as unique association of the units of local government in Macedonia," Konjanovski said.

The construction of the House of Municipalities - administrative headquarter building - is a joint project of the ZELS, the Government and the European Union, which will assist the construction of the facility.

U.S. members of Congress slam Skopje for violations of interim agreement with Greece

Washington, DC - Co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe Robert Wexler (D-FL), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Europe Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and fellow co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced last week a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should cease its use of propaganda and work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually-acceptable name for itself.

"This resolution sends an important signal to the FYROM that concrete steps must be taken to eliminate the use of propaganda, including textbooks, that show a large portion of Greece are actually part of the FYROM," Rep. Maloney said. "I would hope that the FYROM would meet the conditions established in 1995 that directed it to stop using these materials, and work with Greece to find a mutually-acceptable name for itself."

A statement by the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes states that “The bill points to a television report showing students in a state-run school being taught that parts of Greece are rightfully part of FYROM. The legislation also points to recently-published textbooks of their military academy that contain maps showing ‘Greater Macedonia’ extending many miles into Greece and into Bulgaria. According to the legislation, the UN Accord requires them to not ‘support claims to any part of the territory of the other party or claims for a change of the existing frontiers.’”

“The legislation asks FYROM to adhere to its UN agreement and stop its schools and others from irredentist teachings, such as that northern Greece should be part of their country. As well, the bill urges FYROM to adhere to UN and US policy and reach agreement with Greece on a name for their new country – one that does not encourage FYROM irredentism”.

“American concerns about this irredentism began in 1944 when U.S. Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius said, ‘This Government considers talk of a Macedonian ‘nation’… representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.’ That aggression subsequently killed thousands of Greek citizens”.

“Like the ‘Confederate Flag’ issue in the US, the ‘Macedonian nation’ movement in FYROM brings memories and fears of terrible suffering. Adherence to the UN agreement, to American policy regarding a name agreeable to Greece and to historical reality regarding Alexander the Great and the ancient nation of Macedonia is in the best interests of the United States, the people of FYROM and Greece and the Balkan region”.

The Macedonian issue, along with Cyprus, Turkey’s violation of religious freedoms and property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Greek national issues, will be discussed with key members of Congress and administration officials during the PSEKA, CEH and UHAC conference, that will take place in Washington D.C. from May 16-18.

The leaders of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes include Andrew A. Athens, Chairman, National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH); National Chairman, United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC), Honorary President, World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE); Andrew E. Manatos, President, National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH); Philip Christopher, Vice Chair, National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), President, International Coordinating Committee--Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA); President, Pancyprian Association of America; Executive Board Member, UHAC and PSEKA, Panicos Papanicolaou, Supreme President, Cyprus Federation of America; and Nikos Mouyiaris, Executive Vice President, Pancyprian Association of America.

Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), said Friday that "we do not face interstate relations with the outdated and outside European reality logic of 'winners' and 'vanquished'. Even more so when it is a question of relations with neighbouring countries."

Koumoutsakos was commenting on the fact that a recent decision by the House of Representatives of the United States condemning propaganda exercised by Skopje against Greece was a "defeat", as it was termed by the press in Skopje, for the government of FYROM.

"Greece steadfastly desires good relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," the foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that "in any case, our country was and remains a basic supporter of the neighbouring country's stability."

Lastly, the spokesman said that "we are constructively pursuing a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name, through the process of the UN, in accordance with Resolution 817 of the Security Council. We are awaiting the response of FYROM that necessitates the abandoning by various state or not circles of practices of irredentist propaganda towards a member-state of NATO and the European Union, with the use of symbols, maps, brochures, etc, as well as the adoption of an attitude that is compatible with the acquis communautaire. A mutually acceptable solution on the issue of the name will have positive repercussions at bilateral and regional level and, mainly, for the smooth Euro-Atlantic course of the neighbour."

Premier of South Australia says Macedonia belongs to Greece

Macedonia belongs to Greece, like the Acropolis does, Mike Rann, the Premier of South Australia, said today in Athens.

In the course of his visit to Greece, he met with the Minister of Macedonia & Thrace, Georgios Kalantzis, and the regional prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis.

According to Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia, Rann said that no nation should steel the history and insignia belonging to another nation.

Macedonia’s EU entry requires more work and less politics

Skopje. Macedonia’s EU integration process requires a lot of work and less politics, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Grievski said during a panel discussion "We Learn about the European Union" at the Economy Faculty in Skopje, FOCUS News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje, Dejan Nikolovski reported.
Gruevski added that EU integration is a priority of the government and is backed by 90% of the citizens. He also presented the government’s activities and the future plans aimed at boosting the process.

Bulgaria ready to help Macedonia to fulfil NATO membership criteria

Skopje. We are ready to give Macedonia an expert help so that it can fulfil the criteria for a full-fledged NATO membership, Bulgarian Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov told journalists in Skopje after he met with his Macedonian counterpart Lazar Elenovski, the press office of the Ministry of Defense announced. Mr. Bliznakov is paying a working visit to Macedonia.
Macedonia has made significant steps towards the fulfilment of the NATO membership criteria, Bliznakov said. He stressed that Bulgaria and Macedonia should also boost their cooperation in economy, infrastructure and etc.
Mr. Elenovski stated that Bulgaria is the country that can help Macedonia for its NATO membership. He thanked for the help by that moment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

1 Bulgarian Killed, 2 Injured in Macedonian Gas Station Blast

One Bulgarian citizen died and two other were injured after an explosion of a gas bottle on a gas station in the Macedonian town of Tetovo on Friday, Darik News reported.

The killed person is Petar Mitev, 48. Svetoslav Prodanov was heavily injured and was transported to the nearest hospital for treatment. The third victim is Stoycho Nikolov, who suffered minor injuries. All the three men are citizens of the Stara Zagora town.

Prodanov was later transported to Skopje to undergo a surgery of his injured right eye. Doctors from the Skopje hospital said his life is out of danger.

The accident happened on Friday at noon when the three men were working close to a gas bottle when suddenly its lid tore off, causing a huge blast at the Hit Oil gas station.

The three were sent to Tetovo from the company they work for, Kalvacha Gas, to test the Tetovo gas station and remove a technical defect of an underground tank for petrol derivatives.

Shortly after the accident the place was visited by officials from the Macedonian Interior Ministry to inspect.

Macedonian top officials pay respect to Delcev

Macedonian top officials gathered today at Goce Delcev's tomb on the occasion of 104th anniversary of his death.

A representative of the President Branko Crvenkovski, Parliament President Ljubisha Georgievski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski placed wreaths at Delchev's tomb in "Sveti Spas" church in Skopje.

Among those attending the ceremony were members of the Skopje City Council, military officials and representatives of state institutions and organizations.

The Goce Delcev Prize awarding ceremony took place in the parliament building. The Skopje-based Folklore Institute "Marko Cepenkov" as well as publicists Naume Radicevski and Miodrag Labovic won this year's prize.

Delcev was killed in 1903 in a skirmish with Turkish soldiers in the village of Banica. The recent historigraphical data leave little doubt that Delcev was betrayed, although no clear evidence as to the traitor has emerged yet.

Just few days before he was killed, Delcev visited Thessaloniki, where he tried to convince Dame Gruev and Ivan Garvanov that the decision an uprising in Macedonia would be premature and futile move.

Charges dropped for co-driver after Gumball death

A prosecutor has dropped charges against a British co-driver following a deadly crash in Macedonia during the Gumball 3000 rally, authorities said Friday.

Matthew McConvile, 32, was released Thursday and charges of endangering traffic and abandoning an accident victim were subsequently dropped.

British driver Nicholas Morley, 30, was taken into 30-day custody on those charges, pending further testimony to a public prosecutor. He was taken to a prison in the town of Ohrid.

Police said Morley and McConvile were driving a Porsche 911 on the 4,825-kilometer (3,000-mile) race across Europe when the crash occurred Wednesday near Struga, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Skopje.

Vladimir Cepuljoski, 67, died while his wife was critically injured.

"After being questioned, McConvile was free to go," his lawyer Dragan Godzo said.

The rally, based on the 1970s road trip movie, was canceled on Thursday as a mark of respect for Cepuljoski, race founder Maximillion Cooper said in a statement.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened in nine years of traveling through over 40 countries with thousands of drivers," Cooper said.

The race started on Sunday in London, and was to wound through 16 countries before ending in London on Saturday.

Second person dies in Gumball crash, driver stopped trying to leave Macedonia

SKOPJE, Macedonia: A second person has died following a crash during the Gumball 3000 rally, and a British race driver blamed for the accident was stopped trying to leave the country.

Hospital officials in Skopje on Saturday said the wife of a man killed in Wednesday's accident had also died after suffering critical injuries.

British driver Nicholas Morley, 30, was charged with endangering traffic and abandoning an accident victim. He was released from custody in the southern town of Ohrid late Friday after being granted bail set at €25,000 (US$33,900).

Within hours of that decision, authorities said they stopped Morley at an airport in Skopje as he was preparing to board a private jet.

"He was prevented from leaving the country at Skopje's airport late Friday. Morley had his passport back but we stop him," police spokesman Ivo Kotevski told The Associated Press.

The deadly crash occurred near Struga, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Skopje.

Police said Morley and Matthew McConvile, 32, were driving a Porsche 911 on the 4,825-kilometer (3,000-mile) race across Europe. They had been heading to neighboring Albania.

The rally, based on the 1970s road trip movie, was canceled on Thursday as a mark of respect for Cepuljoski, race founder Maximillion Cooper said in a statement.

The race started on Sunday in London, and was to wound through 16 countries before ending in London on Saturday.

The victims of the crash were identified as Vladimir Cepuljoski and his wife Margarita, and elderly couple from Struga. The husband was buried Friday.

Their death has drawn nationwide sympathy. The couple's son dead of a heart attack a year ago, while their daughter is seriously ill.

WHO welcomes health sector reform in Macedonia

World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the health sector reform in Macedonia and called for strengthening of healthcare system and disaster management capacity.

The visiting Regional Director of the WHO European Office, Dr. Marc Danzon, met today with the Macedonian Health Minister Imer Selmani.

"This morning I had an excellent discussion with the minister and experts. I am confident that health reform is moving in the right direction," Danzon said.

Dr. Danzon called for additional stimulation of medical staff to ensure that the reform be fully implemented. He mentioned the capitation system in this context.

He also mentioned the equality of patients, i.e. the solidarity with patients not covered by health insurance.

"This problem exists in other countries, but there are extra efforts to help these patients," Danzon said.

Minister Selmani stressed that Macedonia's health system pledges solidarity despite the high number on non-insured citizens, ranging 200.000.

'This year only, 2 million euros have been set apart for patients not covered by health insurance," Selmani said, adding that the citizens may receive medical treatment if one member of the family pays health insurance.

Among the problems and part of government's policy, Danzon mentioned the non-revision of the positive drugs list.

Selmani stressed that he supports the revision of positive drugs list, but made it clear that "the state should provide what it can pay".

They both mentioned the incidence of counterfeit medicines and illicit sell of cancer-treating medicaments.

"This is a problem present in many countries across the world and the WHO urges the countries to inform the patients about this phenomenon in order to prevent it," Danzon said.

Macedonia with positive assessment on terror fight

Macedonia has been positively appraised in terms of the battle against terrorism in the annual report of the US State Department.

The main points contributing to the positive appraisal include Macedonia's continuous support to the international troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, active implementation of the Act on control of export of goods and technologies with double use and the country's persistency in preventing the sale of potentially dangerous technologies.

The report further says that Macedonia has canceled five out of seven restriction orders relating the troops deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq, while US has carried out defensive and anti-terror trainings on several hundreds of police officers and soldiers.

As regards the remaining countries in region, Bosnia-Herzegovina acquired the lowest grade, although the report says this country has made some progress in the efforts for stamping out terrorism activities.

"BiH remained a weak state, susceptible for using of its territory for planning terrorist operations in Europe", says the US Department's report published Wednesday.

The Serbian Government, on the other hand, demonstrated high commitment in fighting terrorist activities.

"Serbian authorities are concerned by the increasing transit of terrorists from the Middle East through Serbian territory", the report says.

The part referring to Kosovo says "the local extremists, acting individually or in organized groups, are continuing their violent actions, sometimes targeting the institutions of the local Government or the UN facilities".

Kosovo's efforts in fighting terrorism are hampered by "the porous borderlines, used by the individuals pursuing illegal human and goods trafficking", the report says.

Generally speaking, the European countries are working continuously with USA in the global anti-terror campaign and keep on with the individual or joint operations in facing the internal or external terrorism threats.

The contribution of the European countries includes largely exchange of intelligence data, detention of terrorist cells members and blocking the terrorists' financial resources and logistics, says the State Department's annual report.

Economic reforms in Macedonia are impressive: Czech PM

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that the economic reforms in Macedonia were impressive, the Macedonian newspaper Nova Makedonija reported. During a meeting on Monday with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski in Prague, Topolanek stressed that Czech investors were very interested in Macedonia. Gruevski stated that the economic reforms in the country progressed well and expressed hope that Macedonia, together with a few Balkan countries, would become attractive investment destinations in the next few years.

Stavreski says Macedonia needs a boost for economic boom

A boost for launching of economic boom is what Macedonia needs right now, Macedonian Vice-Prime Minster Zoran Stavreski said in an interview with the German paper "Die Presse".

He underlined that the entry of US and British companies engaged in the automotive industry as well as the recent entry of Société Générale in the Macedonian banking sector, opens a possibility for attracting a large number of smaller-size investors.

According to Stavreski, the current situation of the Macedonia's economy is far behind its real potentials.

"The two European Corridors - 10 and 8, top the list of priorities. Bulgaria-Albania link of the Corridor 8 is particularly difficult to execute. The necessary funds totaling 750 million euros surpass the capacity of a country of 2 million citizens. Therefore, we plan to award concession agreements on the parts of the road network to private investors", Stavrevski told "Die Presse".

The Vice-Prime Minister also pointed out at the energy shortage the country is facing, especially after shutting down of the Bulgarian nuclear power plant Kozloduy.

Media in Macedonia partly free

Macedonian legal framework contains most of the basic laws protecting freedom of the press and of expression, and government representatives generally respect these rights.

The study "Freedom of the Press 2007", released today by Freedom House on the occasion of Free Media Day, May 3, shows that media in Macedonia are partly free.

In January 2006, the parliament approved a freedom of information law that required government agencies to release information so long as the public interest is greater than any harm that might result. The law gave some protection to whistleblowers, limiting punishments for public employees who reported corruption or a significant threat to human health or the environment, the report says.

The parliament in May 2006 passed legislation that eliminated imprisonment as a penalty for libel and defamation. Nevertheless, investigative journalist Zoran Bozinovski was sentenced that month to three months in jail for defamation in a December 2003 newspaper article.

He spent several days behind bars in November before being released, reportedly as a result of intervention by the European Union. Bozinovski, who still faced the possibility of a retrial as well as numerous other pending libel cases, had been physically attacked in the past for his reporting.

While the number of libel and defamation cases are of particular concern to press freedom advocates, Macedonian journalists have been relatively free from physical harassment and abuse since 2001.

Nonetheless, most of the country’s numerous and diverse private media outlets are tied to political or business interests that influence their content, and the state-owned media tend to support government positions, Freedom House says in the report.

Macedonia has a high density of media outlets for its population, including five private nationwide television broadcasters, more than 50 local stations, some 160 radio stations, and nearly 20 newspapers. The resulting competition for advertising revenue and audiences has led to low pay, small staffs, and a general lack of professionalism.

Observers have noted the prevalence of speculative reporting and anonymous sources.
Minority-language media have relied primarily on foreign aid, which has not proven to be sustainable. There are no major state-controlled print media, but private ownership is concentrated, with the German group WAZ owning the three major dailies.

Even though the government does not place any restrictions on access to the internet, its usage remains relatively low, at just under 20 percent of the population, owing to lack of access and high prices, Freedom House said in its annual report.

Press freedom suffered continued global decline in 2006, with particularly troubling trends evident in Asia, the former Soviet Union and Latin America. A major study of the state of media freedom released today by Freedom House also warned of a growing effort to place restrictions on internet freedom by censoring, harassing, or shutting down sites that provide alternate sources of political commentary.

Swedish parliamentary delegation visits Macedonia

A delegation of the National Parliament of Sweden, led by Parliament President Per Westerberg, kicked off a two-day visit to Macedonia.

Westerberg today will meet with Macedonian Parliament President Ljubisha Georgievski.

On Friday, Westberg will meet with the heads and members of the Parliamentary Group for Cooperation with the Parliament of Sweden, the External Relations Committee, the Committee on European Affairs, the Legislative Committee, as well as with the head and the members of the Permanent Committee on the Protection of Freedoms and Rights of the Citizens.

Victims in Tetovo blast are Bulgarian citizens

The victims - one killed and one severely injured in the blast that took place this morning at a gas station in Tetovo - are Bulgarian citizens.

Petar Georgiev died and S.Prodanov sustained heavy injuries in the explosion of a gas tank of the Hit Oil gas tank, located at the road leading to the ski cable railway.

The two Bulgarians were immediately rushed to the Tetovo Medical Center, where Georgiev succumb to the injuries.

Man dies in gas blast in Tetovo

One man died and other was injured in gas blast that ripped through a petrol station in Tetovo early on Friday.

Makfax correspondent in Tetovo said the initial reports indicate that explosion was caused by car gas leak at Hit Oil petrol station, situated on the road to cable railway.

According to preliminary findings, the victim and the injured are citizens of a neighboring country.

Switzerland voices positive opinion on Framework Agreement's implementation

The Swiss Ambassador to Macedonia voiced a positive opinion on the Macedonia's path to the European Union and NATO, it was announced in Skopje.

Ambassador Thomas Füglister said this at today's meeting in Skopje with the Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Framework Agreement's implementation, Imer Selmani.

"Füglister hailed the Government's activities aimed at full implementation of the Framework Agreement", the announcement says.

Aliu on his part briefed Füglister on the Government's steps "regarding the equal representation of the ethnic communities in the state institutions, which is one of the pillars of the Agreement".

"Equal representation stands as a prerequisite for effective support of interest of all citizens living in a modern state", Aliu said.

Injured woman in Struga car accident still in critical condition

The condition of Margarita Chepeljoska, who was hit near Struga by a speeding car, driven, according to witnesses, by two Britons, remains critical.

The spokesman of the Skopje Clinical Center confirmed this to Makfax on Thursday afternoon.

The Director of the Center, Borce Georgievski, gave similar statement few hours earlier. "Chepeljoska's condition is highly critical... the doctors are struggling to save her life", he said.

"It is difficult to speculate as to the prognosis. I keep constant contact with the doctors from the Department, who are briefing me continuously on her condition", Georgievski said.

Chepeljoska, who was urgently transferred to the Anesthesiology, Reanimation and Intensive Care Department, has suffered multiple fractures of the ribs, pelvis as well as severe lung injuries.

Her husband, Vladimir Chepeljoski, succumbed yesterday to the injuries he sustained in the car accident, involving two British citizens, participants in the international rally Gumball 3000, who tried to run from the scene of the incident.

Chief of Macedonian Army General Staff visits USA

The Chief of the General Staff of the Macedonian Army General Miroslav Stojanovski continues his visit to the USA, Macedonian media report.
Today General Stojanovski is scheduled to visit the Pentagon, where he would meet high ranked presenters of the US army.
Miroslav Stojanovski has also taken part in a conference of the Coalition Forces about Iraq.
Macedonia is now part of the Freedom for Iraq mission, as it has sent 40 troops, 35 in the division for special operations and 5 staff officers.

Briton reported for accident near Struga gets 30-day temporary detention

An investigative judge of Struga Court ordered 30 days of temporary detention to the British citizen Nicholas Morley, Makfax's correspondent reported.

Morley has been detained for the purposes of the investigation into yesterday's traffic accident that took place at Struga-Qafasan road, which left one Macedonian citizen dead. The victim's wife, who has suffered heavy injuries in the accident, is in critical condition.

The tragic traffic accident occurred on the Struga-Qafasan road near KMR Petrol station. The speeding Porsche, driven by the Briton, crossed over the center lane and crashed into Golf with Ohrid registration plates.

Immediately after the collision, Morley tried to escape into Albania with a BMW, but the
Police stopped them at Qafasan border crossing after receiving a tip from a witness of the accident. Another UK citizen, identified as Matthew Convell, was aboard a Porsche along with Morley.

In a statement given to Macedonian electronic media, spokesman of the Interior Ministry Ivo Kotevski said that a thorough probe into the case is necessary in order to establish the responsibility of the two Britons.

The Police filed a formal accusation against Morley for "heavy violation of traffic safety" and "failure to provide help to an injured person".

The two British citizens were participating in the international car relly Gumball 3000. They entered Macedonia yesterday and were heading to Albania.

The international contest is organized by personalities of the world jet set.

Two Britons arrested over death in Macedonia; rally canceled

Police arrested two Britons competing in the Gumball 3000 rally following a collision that killed an elderly driver and critically wounded his wife.

Police said Nicholas Morley, 30, and Matthew McConvile, 32, were driving a Porsche 911 in the Gumball 3000 rally — a 4,825-kilometer (3,000-mile) race across Europe — when the crash occurred near Struga, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Skopje, on Wednesday.

Following the collision, Vladimir Cepuljoski, 67, died of injuries while being transported to a hospital in Skopje. His wife, Margarita, remains in critical condition.

The Britons were arrested on provisional charges of endangering traffic and abandoning an accident victim, police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said on Thursday. The offenses could lead to a one-year prison sentence if convicted.

Kotevski said Morley was in police custody for a maximum of 30 days after being questioned by a magistrate in Struga. McConvile was released, but it was not immediately clear whether charges against him would be dropped.

"Two British citizens left the scene of an accident. Shortly afterward, border authorities found them in another (car) ... at the Qafasan border crossing with Albania," Kotevski said.

The rally, based on the 1970s road trip movie, was canceled on Thursday as a mark of respect for Cepuljoski, race founder Maximillion Cooper said in a statement.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened in nine years of traveling through over 40 countries with thousands of drivers," Cooper said.

The race started on Sunday in London, and was to wound through 16 countries before ending in London on Saturday.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Religious service in honor of killed defenders in Vejce

A religious service in honor of eight defenders, killed in 2001 near the Vejce village was held Saturday at the Church "Ss. Kiril & Metodij" in Tetovo. In addition to the families of deceased, in attendance were Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska and Minister of Transport and Communication Mile Janakieski.

- Macedonian Government has been making efforts to support the families of killed defenders. Yesterday, PM Gruevski presented them with keys of apartments, granted in 2002. We shall keep supporting this category of citizens, as they have done a lot for Macedonia, Jankuloska said after the sermon.

Macedonia inflation up by 3.2%

Skopje. The Council of the Macedonian National Bank has registered a moderate 3.2-percent inflation increase, the Macedonian newspaper Nova Makedonija writes. The bank’s report says that the stable process and the intensity in the sphere of credits have been favorable for the economic activity. The reduction of the state foreign debt, as well as the direct foreign investments have led to a rise in the Gross Domestic Product by 3.1%, the report shows.

One killed in Skopje shooting

One person was shot dead Friday morning in the vicinity of Rade Konchar factory, in the Skopje's District of Aerodrom, the Police announced.

According to the same source, Sh.Sh., 43, fired several rounds at 62-year-old Koshuta Musa from Skopje, killing him on the spot. Koshuta Musa's son K.Xh., 20, was injured in the incident.

The event took place at about 11:00 hrs, when the victim and his son noticed Sh.Sh. and approached him intending to start a fight. However, Sh.Sh., the estranged son-in-law of Koshuta Musa, drew a handgun and opened fire. Musa dropped dead immediately, while his son managed to run away, but only after being shot in the right forearm.

The Police tracked down and caught the killed in the Zelezara District.

Police officers found the handgun TT-762 mm and two magazines at Sh.Sh. He had no license for the weapon.

The killer is facing two criminal charges - one for murder and one for attempted murder.

Embezzlement charges against ex-health minister Dimov

Interior Ministry filed embezzlement charges against the former minister of health Vlado Dimov.

Dimov is suspected of having embezzled 2.5 million denars in 2005 and 2006. Referring to alleged deal between Dimov and the then minister of finance, the former health minister had authorized a full-time employment of 17 persons at the Health Center in Strumica.

The then director of the Strumica Health Center, T. T.-C. (45), upon consent of minister Dimov and without prior consent of the Ministry of Finance, had employed 17 persons and ordered payment of salaries, contributions and personal tax amounting 2.5 million denars at the expense of Strumica-based Health Center.

The former health minister and the former director of Strumica Health Center are accused of abuse of power.

School boy drowns in Skopje swimming pool

A schoolboy drowned Wednesday afternoon in the Skopje's swimming pool "Mladost" during a swimming class, electronic media reported.

The cause of drowning of Delon Mustafov, a sixth-grade pupil of the primary school "Rajko Zhinzifov", is still unknown. He attended a swimming class along with 27 pupils of the same school.

The physical education teacher organized the class, and the children were reportedly watched by a swimming teacher employed in the object.

The Police is conducting an investigation into the case. No one knows any details as to how did the drowning occur since the boy's lifeless body was found floating in the pool after his classmates went to change in the dressing rooms.

Corruption in Macedonia still rampant - courts inefficient

The rate of corruption in Macedonia is still high, mainly because of dependability and inefficiency of courts, said the Transparency International HQ coordinator in Berlin, Jana Mittermeier at today's workshop set up by Zero Corruption in Skopje.

Mittermeier arrived in Macedonia on a monitoring mission of the Macedonian NGOs.

"The corruption is a serious problem in Macedonia, which means the battle against this negative phenomenon has to continue", Mittermeier said, expressing support to Zero Corruption's activity.

The statement of the representative of Transparency International for South East Europe and Asia was positively appraised by Slagjana Taseva, the President of the Zero Corruption's Programme Council, who expressed hopes that her organization will return soon within the Transparency International.

The participants of today's workshop dedicated to the corruption in the private and public sector, singled out the corruptive activities in the public procurement sector.

"The audit reports indicate that Macedonia is a reach country, but the problem lies in irrational expenditures", the Chief State Auditor Dragoljub Arsovski said, pointing out at public procurements in health sector as the most vulnerable area.

"Non-transparency in unsealing of the offers and the failure of the high posts holders to even read out the commissions' reports are the biggest problems", said Zivko Temelkovski, an expert in public procurements.

According to professor Borce Davitkovski, the solution for the public procurements should be sought in adoption of an Ethic Code.

"A moral condemnation as well as sanctions should be included in the future Ethic Code", he said.

He pointed out at the England's Code of Ethics, which contain as much as 450 pages, envisaging sanctions against those who violate the rules.

Baba Edmond Brahimaj, A Balkan Sufi

The RAND Corporation’s Center for Middle East Public Policy recently issued a report we may hope will become a standard reference on the desks of Western policy-makers for years to come. Titled Building Moderate Muslim Networks, and composed by a team led by Dr. Angel Rabasa, the document maps out a strategy for the democratic nations to identify and enlist, as allies in the defense of civilization, adherents to a peaceful vision of Islam as a normal religion.
Western non-Muslims often ask, with apparent justification, why moderate Muslims appear silent in the face of terrorism and other atrocious expressions of radical Islamic ideology. But a fair examination of the global Muslim community would, I believe, lead more justly to criticism of the mainstream media (MSM) for failing to adequately report on anti-extremist Muslims. Many moderate, anti-radical, and most certainly anti-terrorist figures speak out in the Muslim world. But the MSM has failed to locate them or enable them to be heard worldwide. Is the fault, then, with the moderate Muslims, or with the MSM?
The RAND report points out appropriate moderate Muslim partners for the democratic nations, including, as leading elements, Muslim institutions and organizations in the Balkans and in Indonesia. At the geographical extremes of the Muslim world, moderate traditions have remained strong, even if they encounter suppression in the Arab core.
Sunni Muslims in the U.S. and UK suffer under the oppressive domination of a Saudi-financed and Pakistani-recruited fundamentalist leadership, but many ordinary believers detest radical Islam and want to be rid of the bullying and manipulation of groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Yet the struggle to break through the monopoly exercised by these demagogues, already complicated by media ignorance, indifference, or deliberate hostility, is made more difficult by U.S. and UK government collaboration with Islamist groups.
Every time naïve or disingenuous representatives of the U.S. and UK authorities publicly treat Islamists as legitimate partners in the war against terrorism, these governments, we should hope unwittingly, tighten the hold of extreme ideology on the Anglo-American Sunni communities. In the latest such example, early in April, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, Democrat of California, called a hearing under the rubric of the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment.
The proceeding, held in Torrance, Calif., welcomed Sireen Sawaf, a female representative of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), an organization recklessly defending radical Islam, alongside David Gersten, Director of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Program in the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Mr. Gersten made a serious error by appearing on the same platform with an MPAC representative. Mr. Gersten has, unfortunately, previously distinguished himself by his enthusiasm for an ongoing U.S. and British endorsement of Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the former screeching preacher of America-hating Islamist extremism, who has sought to reinvent himself as a spiritual Sufi. I have dealt with Hanson’s outrageous case in many columns for FSM and other venues.
Hamza Yusuf Hanson has taken on the Sufi cloak to cover his past as a fundamentalist rabble-rouser. In contrast with such publicity-seeking and superficial “spirituality,” Baba Edmond Brahimaj, leader of the Bektashis Sufis in the mountains of Western Macedonia, is a real Sufi, deeply cultivated and dedicated to teaching peace, interfaith respect, and an understanding of the common interests of all believers around the world.
Baba Mondi, as he is known, presides over a Bektashi Sufi complex in Tetovo, Western Macedonia. The large compound, including numerous buildings for meditation, collective meals, and other purposes, is called the Harabati Teqe. The Harabati Teqe is so familiar a landmark that is the official symbol of the city of Tetovo. Its name appears in the RAND report, where it is described as a major Muslim institution, “now under siege by Wahhabis.”
Wahhabis in Macedonia are vagrant and pathetic mercenaries recruited by the terror-financiers of al-Qaida, based on plentiful distribution of Saudi oil cash and pretexts derived from the dogma preached in the Saudi kingdom, where Wahhabism, the most extreme and violent form of Sunni Islam, remains the state religion.
These disreputable elements have an agenda: to spread the Wahhabi-incited Sunni terror, now shaking Iraq, throughout the Muslim world. In addition to hating Shia Muslims, the Wahhabis also bear a genocidal enmity against Sufis. In 2002, after a brief ethnic conflict in Macedonia, the Wahhabis saw a weak link and chose to test it: armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols, they seized one of the buildings in the Harabati Teqe from the Sufis who administered it.
The Sufis appealed to the Macedonian government, to opposition politicians, to foreign diplomats, and to others for help, without avail. The Macedonian authorities argued that since property titles had not been clarified in the aftermath of Yugoslav Communism, the controversy could not be quickly resolved. In the intervening period, the Wahhabi occupiers, still backed up with guns, have seized more structures at the Harabati location. They took over one building and turned it into a so-called mosque, from which they blast out a muddy-sounding recording of the Muslim call to prayer, delivered by a man who seems not even to know the correct order of the recitation, in a failing, croaking voice. They occupied another of the central monuments, which had large glass windows, and covered them with black paper on the argument that women would pray there and did not want to be observed. They also began cutting down trees on the property, a violation of the Sufi practice of respect for growing things.
I met Baba Mondi in Tetovo last month, and he made clear to me not only that the Bektashi Sufis want to drive the terrorist infiltrators out of their properties, but that he and his brothers and sisters are committed to a progressive vision of Islam, in which women have equal rights with men, secular government is recognized as the foundation of a just political order, and popular education is a supreme priority. Bektashi leaders have repeatedly offered to help the U.S. and other governments in tracking down terror propagandists, recruiters, and funders.
During the same Balkan tour, I was pleased to hear words that further reflect the commitment of the Bektashi Sufis to mutual respect between faiths and ethnicities. Eight years ago, I appealed to the head of the Bektashis in Kosovo, my friend and mentor Baba Mumin Lama, to sit down with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in an interfaith dialogue. Baba Mumin told me then that it was too soon after the Kosovo war, in which he and other Albanians were pitted against Serbs. Last month, Baba Mumin told me quietly that the right moment had finally arrived for such colloquies to be held, and that he had attended a large inter-religious gathering with the main Serb Orthodox clerics in the territory. There, he noted, he had urged that all present remember first that they were people of religion, and that all believers should put peace before politics.
Moderate Muslims like Baba Mondi and Baba Mumin need our help, just as we need theirs – especially when, as in Tetovo, they are faced with armed aggression.

Police officers found their colleagues in "Oriental As"

Three policemen were caught in the night bar in the Gostivar's nearby village of Zherovjane during the police action against human trafficking.

A high-ranking police officers confirmed this to Makfax, adding that an investigation is under way as to the reasons for policemen's presence in the bar Oriental As.

The police officers found someone else's police badge in the pocket of one of the three caught colleagues, who was under temporary suspension from work.

In just two days, the police located in Gostivar and Tetovo area as many as 24 girls with foreign citizenship and one Macedonian - victims of sexual exploitation.

Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska visited the girls in the transition center in Skopje.


Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (pop. 2,022,547; an independent state on the Balkan peninsula) Karolina, Mojot Svet

Macedonia, you may have the best flag in the world, but you're effing hopeless at Eurovision. Macedonia's Eurovision representative this year is the same as Macedonia's Eurovision representative in 2002 - Karolina, former child-star, dandruff model and one of the biggest-selling female artists ever in Macedonia, having sold upwards of 14 albums in her career. All that plus she has a slightly-too-large mouth. Karolina's Eurovision song Mojot Svet is a weird choice - it has a funny beat that sounds intrusive and it's all about… well actually we don't know what it's about because we can't find a translation anywhere, but phonetically Karolina is saying "niner niner nanana-niner, nock ooh arr sa skanki manchuvert" Hope that helps. Oh, the song's rubbish, by the way. Current Eurovision betting odds - 50/1