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South Slavic: September 13, 2001

13 September 2001, Volume 3, Number 32


The participants in this program of Radio Most (Bridge) are: Aleksandar Damovski, the director of "Dnevnik," which is the daily newspaper with the highest circulation in Macedonia, and Iso Rusi, the editor-in-chief of "Lobi," a Skopje weekly in Albanian. It is moderated by Omer Karabeg.

Omer Karabeg: Is the Ohrid agreement fair? There is a widespread feeling among Macedonians that the agreement has made too many concessions to the Albanians. Do you agree, Mr. Damovski?

Aleksandar Damovski: I find the constitutional changes that improve the civic character of our state necessary, and that they would have come into being even without the military pressure of the Albanians. The main problem is that it all happened as a result of the aggression by the Albanian terrorists in Macedonia, and therefore the agreement signed in Ohrid looks like the result of those terrorist activities.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Damovski, does it mean that you agree with those who think that the Albanian rebellion has been rewarded, that the Albanians have, in effect, obtained more rights through the barrel of a gun?

Aleksandar Damovski: Yes, yes. This is what the Ohrid agreement is all about.

Iso Rusi: It is, unfortunately, true that the Albanian demands -- as set down in the Albanian parties' programs -- were met under armed pressure and after a military conflict. But none of this would not have happened if the problems concerning the position of the Albanians in Macedonia had been resolved earlier.

Omer Karabeg: Do you agree that the Albanians have obtained more rights for themselves through the barrel of a gun?

Iso Rusi: This is what it looks like. But with more wisdom and cool-headed discussions, and if stereotyping had been avoided, the Albanian demands could have been met in a more normal way.

Aleksandar Damovski: It is true that the demand for constitutional changes was set down in the Albanian political parties' programs, but it is very interesting that after the 1998 elections, none of the Albanian parties raised the issue, nor did they demand that the problem be resolved during that government's term in office [until this past May].

The main demand of the Albanian parties was the creation of a university [with instruction] in Albanian, and that problem has been resolved. However, none of the Albanian leaders -- neither Arben Xhaferi nor Imer Imeri -- raised constitutional changes as a key issue, although it was included in their parties' programs. This is reason to suppose that the terrorist actions would have taken place, even if the constitutional changes had been adopted earlier.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Rusi, are the Albanian leaders responsible for the outbreak of the military conflict, at least indirectly, since they did not raise the issue of constitutional changes in due time?

Iso Rusi: In a way, they have already paid for what they did. The appearance of the Macedonian National Liberation Army (UCK) discredited the Albanian politicians in the eyes of their electorate.

I think that after the Ohrid agreement, the Albanian politician leaders and their parties will face a big crisis. For instance, I find Arben Xhaferi already history, and the position of his party, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), has been seriously shaken, just like that of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) [of Imer Imeri]. Some members of that party acknowledge that the Albanian political parties have been totally discredited, and this is why they are looking for a way out by bringing new people in.

The two parties even tried to flirt with Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the UCK. At the beginning, they were [each] openly offering to become [the guerrillas'] political representatives. This shows that they came to realize that their inefficiency [in representing Albanian interests] has, in effect, helped to create a military organization such as the UCK.

Omer Karabeg: Do you find the political leader of the National Liberation Army, Ali Ahmeti, in effect the most important Albanian leader in Macedonia now?

Iso Rusi: I think that in a certain way, after all that has happened, he has become the most popular person among ordinary Albanians in Macedonia. In view of his Marxist-Leninist background, he could hardly ever become a strong, modern politician. But the fact is that he is quite influential right now and that he will have an important role during the next parliamentary elections -- behind the scenes and without having to create his own political party.

Aleksandar Damovski: After all that has happened, it is normal that Ali Ahmeti has become one of the most influential personalities among the Albanians. But a political role for him on Macedonian territory might be questionable, not only because of the reaction of the Macedonians, but also because he lacks the qualities a politician needs to have.

Omer Karabeg: But don't you think that the situation is becoming paradoxical: the most popular Albanian leader, Ali Ahmeti, will not have his own party, but the success of all the Albanian political parties will depend on him?

Aleksandar Damovski: That could easily be resolved if, for instance, Ali Ahmeti became a member of the Democratic Party of the Albanians. This is what people are talking about. In any event, that party will have to change, first of all because of Arben Xhaferi's health problems.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Damovski, I have a feeling that anti-Western attitudes are growing stronger in Macedonia, and that the Macedonians are not very enthusiastic about having a NATO mission in their country.

Aleksandar Damovski: You are right. One of the main reasons for that attitude is the so-called revolution that has been imported from Kosovo. I do not agree with Mr. Rusi's claim that the Macedonian UCK is indigenous, that it was created by Macedonian Albanians.

In February, we saw how terrorism was imported from Kosovo into Macedonia -- partly because Macedonian political leaders were not able to stop it -- which provided the foundations for strengthening the UCK in Macedonia.

Omer Karabeg: You think that the rebellion was organized in Kosovo?

Aleksandar Damovski: That is where it all started, and that is the main reason for the anti-Western feelings in Macedonia, since KFOR and NATO troops are in Kosovo. This is what ordinary Macedonian citizens think.

Iso Rusi: Frankly, I do not like conspiracy theories. I do not think that this development would have been possible if there were not fertile ground for it. One might talk about the imported revolution, or about the aggression from Kosova -- as Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski likes to do. But he, too, recently acknowledged that some 80 percent of the members of the UCK are young Albanians from Macedonia.

Of course, one can talk about some connections with Kosova. It is no secret that Ali Ahmeti and other leaders of the Macedonian UCK, born in Macedonia, were once involved in the creation of the Kosova UCK and in collecting money for that army.

This is why I believe that Ali Ahmeti and all those people [around him] know well the former commanders of the Kosova Liberation Army. But I am also informed by very reliable sources that Ali Ahmeti and the military leadership of the Macedonian UCK refused to accept advice from those commanders when the Kosovars were asked by the West to put pressure on the Macedonian UCK.

Aleksandar Damovski: I really do not think that Ali Ahmeti operates on his own, that he is a sort of deserter from the [civilian] Kosovo Protection Corps, which is what the former Kosovar UCK has become. I think that the actions of the Kosovo Protection Corps, the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, and the UCK in Macedonia are very well coordinated.

Omer Karabeg: You think that there is a common idea behind it all? What is that?

Aleksandar Damovski: The idea of conquering territories in Macedonia.

Omer Karabeg: Are you talking about the idea of a Greater Albania?

Aleksandar Damovski: Yes, I am talking about uniting Kosovo, a part of western Macedonia, and Albania. That [this is happening] is being confirmed with every passing day. The Macedonians, not the Albanians, are being exposed to ethnic cleansing in Macedonia.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Rusi, what do you make of the thesis that the rebellion of the Albanians in southern Europe is aimed at creating a Greater Albania?

Iso Rusi: I would offer some facts [to the contrary]. There was a party running in the [October 2000] local elections in Kosova, whose program was aimed at unifying all Albanians. That party failed to win one single seat in local governments. Another such party did reach the run-off, but it still remains one of the most insignificant parties in Kosova.

As far as Albania is concerned, a party there tried to make gains [in the June elections] by insisting on unifying all Albanians, but they, too, did badly. This is why I find the idea of a Greater Albania and a Greater Kosova to be the invention of external forces and not a goal or a program of the Albanians.

Aleksandar Damovski: In Macedonia, there are some 60,000 Macedonians who have been forced out of their homes by Albanian extremists.... The pressure on the Macedonians is growing stronger every day in areas with an Albanian majority. Macedonians in Tetovo and Gostivar are confined to their homes, they cannot go outside.