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Macedonia: New EU Envoy Dispatched To Skopje


Brussels, 26 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union's new envoy for Macedonia is meeting with top EU officials today before leaving for Skopje. Francois Leotard -- a former French defense minister -- was appointed by the EU yesterday to spearhead European efforts to end the conflict between the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. In Macedonia the situation remained tense after some 15,000 Slav Macedonians besieged the parliament last night in Skopje to protest what they see as the authorities' leniency towards the rebels. Army officials say rebels also attacked security forces overnight around the northern city of Tetovo.

But the EU said today that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski -- who was forced to flee the parliament building during last night's protests -- remained in control of the country.

European Union governments said that the bloc will continue to press for peace in Macedonia despite anti-government and anti-EU protests in the country.

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh -- whose country currently holds EU's rotating presidency -- today said the 15-nation bloc is supporting Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski. Lindh said the EU will be present in the Balkan country even though it is "not very welcomed at the moment."

Lindh also said the EU continues to support a political settlement in Macedonia.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today that the Macedonian government has his full support, despite his decision to postpone a trip there because of last night's rioting in Skopje.

Russia today also expressed growing concern over Macedonia. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, said the tension was caused by what he called "terrorists" -- a reference to ethnic Albanian militants.

In related news, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today launched an appeal for some $17.5 million in emergency aid to help over 100,000 refugees from Macedonia.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the aid would help some 65,000 ethnic Albanians from Macedonia who have fled to Kosovo, 6,000 Macedonian Slavs who went to Serbia, and another 32,000 displaced persons within Macedonia.

Redmond said the emergency aid will be used to buy food for ethnic Albanian families in the UN-run breakaway Yugoslav province of Kosovo who have accommodated ethnic Albanian refugees from Macedonia.

It will also help ensure that refugees can return to their homes when calm returns to Macedonia.

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