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Macedonia: U.S. Condemns Violence Aimed At West

  • Frank Csongos

The United States says this is not the time to float Balkan conspiracy theories. State Department spokesman Phil Reeker, in making the statement Wednesday (25 July), was referring to allegations by some Macedonians that the U.S., or its NATO allies, has been siding with ethnic Albanian rebels against the Skopje government. Reeker says this is simply not true. Our correspondent, Frank T. Csongos, reports from Washington.

Washington, 26 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has condemned violent attacks in Skopje against the American Embassy and other diplomatic establishments and called on the Macedonian government to redouble its efforts to protect foreign missions and businesses.

The condemnation was issued on 25 July by State Department spokesman Philip Reeker. Reeker said:

"I would like to very strongly condemn last night's (24 July) violent attacks in Skopje against diplomatic establishments and international organizations. Those diplomats, those international organizations are in Macedonia working at the invitation of the Macedonian government and trying to help Macedonia."

Mobs threw rocks and smashed windows at the U.S. Embassy and other international offices in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, in anger over the West's handling of a rebellion by ethnic Albanians. The Macedonian government said if Western powers did not acknowledge that Albanian guerrillas broke the cease-fire, it would be clear they were protecting the ethnic Albanians.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to categorically deny once again any allegations that the United States or NATO has supported the ethnic Albanian extremists in any way. I'd like everyone to listen to what the president of the United States said yesterday (24 July) from Kosovo."

President George W. Bush has said there can be no military solution to the Macedonian crisis. He urged both the government and ethnic Albanian leaders to carry out a political dialogue. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Skopje was closed for public business on 25 July.

Reeker also said:

"The allegations that have been made in some quarters about our supporting ethnic Albanian extremists are unfair, they're inaccurate, and they are wrong. This is not the time for Balkan conspiracy theories, this is the time for all of the leaders in Macedonia of all ethnicities to work together on a political solution."

In the Macedonian city of Tetovo, thousands of people fled the country's second-largest city after the government handed ethnic Albanian rebels an ultimatum to pull back or face the threat of a new army offensive.

Scores of cars and buses packed with people and their belongings left Tetovo and headed for Skopje. The government said more than 8,000 people fled the area during the past 24 hours.

The exodus widened after Macedonian ministers issued an ominous statement yesterday, warning that military action was possible if the insurgents didn't retreat.

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said it is time to focus on initiatives to secure peace in Macedonia.

"The president does not believe there is any military solution to the problem of Macedonia. There is only a peaceful solution, and that reinforces the result of the president's visit to Kosovo. Kosovo is a reminder about the dangers that can take place throughout the world as a result of ethnic tension, ethnic strife, and that's why the president is again urging the parties of Macedonia to come together, to honor the cease-fire and take the steps necessary to continue the political dialogue. There is no alternative to a political dialogue in Macedonia."

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said he and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana would fly to Macedonia today for mediation to prevent the country from descending into a full-scale civil war.