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Macedonia: President Rejects Federalism

Skopje, 5 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski today ruled out changing the country's constitution to turn it into a federal state. Federalization has become one of the main demands of ethnic Albanians politicians in the country. Trajkovski, speaking in Skopje, said the government was ready for political dialogue with ethnic Albanians. But he said the past ten years had shown demands for federalism were in reality calls for separatism.

Earlier today, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, also in Skopje, said his country will supply military equipment to help Macedonia fight ethnic Albanian rebels. Cook said the equipment will cover field satellite navigation devices, and bomb and mine detectors. The aid also is to include body armor.

Cook said Britain wants to help Macedonia defeat the ethnic Albanian militants whom he called "terrorists".

Cook told British reporters traveling with him that Macedonia should change its constitution to provide for equal treatment of ethnic minorities. But he added that constitutional revisions remain Macedonia's internal business.

Cook met later today with ethnic Albanian leaders in the northwestern town of Tetovo.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is among those due in the Macedonian capital, along with his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana, current head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Their visits coincide with a regional security conference in Skopje, bringing together ministers from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.

Officials from the international community visiting Skopje today urged the government there to fully integrate the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini appealed to the Macedonia government to make every effort to integrate Albanians into Macedonian society after meeting yesterday in Rome with Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim.

While visiting Skopje yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson urged Kosovo Albanian leaders to condemned the "armed extremists" in Macedonia, saying they were hurting the cause of Kosovars.

Macedonia has returned to calm after its forces quelled a month-long insurrection by ethnic Albanian fighters it said were bent on breaking the country. The fighters said they were battling for greater rights for ethnic Albanians.

For more on this story, please see: Macedonia: Government On Shaky Ground As Talks Hit Snags.