Tony Borden on Sun, 18 Apr 1999 18:29:06 +0200 (CEST)

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KLA FIGHTS TO BLOCK PARTITION. Albanians are concentrating military
efforts in the north, to try to prevent Belgrade from realising their
biggest fear: partition of the province. Fron Nazi reports.

SKOPJE'S UNITED FRONT HOLDS. The influx of Kosovo refugees has caused
ethnic tensions to rise. But Gordana Icevska says that, for now,
Macedonia's ethnically mixed government is maintaining a united front.


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Albanians are concentrating military efforts in the north, to try to
prevent Belgrade from realising their biggest fear: partition of the

By Fron Nazi in Tirana

Fighting in northern Kosovo between Yugoslav security forces and the
Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) marks a critical strategic battle over the
ultimate settlement for the province.

According to a KLA commander, some 10,000 KLA fighters have been defending
250,000 Albanian civilians in the Lapski and Shalja region in northern
Kosovo. Along with trying to protect Kosovo Albanians, the KLA fighters
are trying to prevent Yugoslav forces from completely depopulating it and
securing the northern region as part of a potential partition offer.
Fearful of such a deal between Belgrade and the West, KLA sources say they
are concentrating their men and materiel in theses strategic areas in the
north, which Belgrade would need to control before suing for peace.

Under the partition scenario, Albanians believe that Belgrade will offer
the West a truce and hand over most of Kosovo to the Albanians in exchange
for the province's strategic, economic and historical assets in the north.
These includes valuable mines, as well as monasteries important for the
Serbs. As a result, fighting between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and
Serbian security forces is especially intense in the Lapski and Shalja
region (Llap and Shala, in Albanian) of northern Kosovo. In the increased
refugee flows over the Albanian in recent days, many appear to be from
this region.

The Shalja region contains the Trepca copper and zinc mines where, in
1989, Albanian miners staged an underground hunger strike following
Belgrade's removal of Kosovo's autonomous status.

Before 1989, the Trepca Mines were Europe's second most productive lead
and zinc mines. In 1995 Belgrade leased the mines to the Greek company
Mytilineos. But because of political instability, Mytilineos has made
little investment and the mines are no longer operational.

Albanians believe the separation line will stretch from the north-western
city of Pec (Peja) to the southeastern region of Kraj Morave (Anamorave).
This line will encompass the major cities of Pristina, Mitrovica, parts of
the Drenica region, and Kosovo Polje, site of the infamous 14th century
battle the Serbs lost to the Ottoman empire.

Speaking by satellite phone, the KLA commander, who refused to give his
name, claimed that the morale of both the fighters and the civilians is
high. "So far we are doing well but we are concerned about the supply of
food and medicine, which is running very low," he said.

Indeed, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea has referred to the KLA as "rising from
the ashes." He claimed that the KLA "is able to mount a number of attacks
still inside Kosovo." Speaking at a recent press conference in Brussels,
he said that the Yugoslav Army is "being forced to . . . step up its
counter-insurgency operations" against the KLA, which is gaining thousands
of new recruits.

Fighting has been concentrated around Mitrovica, in an area surrounded by
hills and heavy forest. In order to force the KLA into the open, Serbian
forces have been shelling heavily, the KLA commander said.

Economically, Belgrade is believed to be aiming to secure not only the
mines but also the major highways that lead west to the Montenegrin port
of Kotor via Pec. By taking the region of Kraj Morave, Belgrade will build
a buffer to the major highway that currently skirts Kosovo and leads, via
Macedonia, to the Greek port of Thessaloniki.

In order to secure the eastern highway, Belgrade may have to extend its
offensive beyond Kosovo's frontiers into the ethnic Albanian populated
town of Presevo, located in Serbia proper, just across Kosovo's eastern

Belgrade's partition plan is believed to envisage an ethnically pure Slav
border between Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. This would entail pushing
the Albanian population of that region into Albania proper.

According to Ylber Hysa, of the Kosovo Action and Civic Initiative,
formerly a Pristina-based think tank, "If the West buys into any part of
this scheme for ending the war then they will set a precedent for the
region. Aggression will have been rewarded and it will be clear that
territories can be divided according to both ethnic and economic lines."
This would fuel Albanian demands to partition Macedonia and link with
Albania and a rump Kosovo. Like most Albanian analysts, Hysa wants to see
the deployment of NATO ground troops to end the war and the creation of an
international protectorate in Kosovo.

Fron Nazi is a senior editor for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.


The influx of Kosovo refugees has caused ethnic tensions to rise. But for
now, Macedonia's ethnically mixed government is maintaining a united

By Gordana Icevska in Skopje

Ask an ethnic Macedonian what he thinks of the refugees from Kosovo and
the answer is likely to be that he sympathises with the plight of these
people, but that they shouldn't stay because in a few years time, ethnic
Macedonians will become a minority in their own country.

Ask an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia the same question and he will
probably say that his ethnic kin from Kosovo should be allowed to stay in
Macedonia and that they should be helped in every possible way.

These attitudes are mirrored in Macedonia's coalition government where
power is shared between one ethnic Albanian party, Arben Xaferi's
Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and two ethnic Macedonian parties,
Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party of
Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE)and Vasil Tupurkovski's Democratic
Alternative (DA). Ljubco Georgievski, the leader of the dominant
VMRO-DPMNE, holds the post of prime minister.

All politicians, irrespective of their ethnic origins, are torn between
the necessity to declare publicly their support for NATO and the European
Union and the political desire to satisfy the wishes of the ethnic
community they represent.

The slow response of the Macedonian authorities to the influx of refugees
is said to be a consequence of disagreement within the government about
how to deal with the situation. The ethnic Macedonian part of the
coalition government wanted to dispatch the refugees to western Europe,
while the ethnic Albanian part maintained that the refugees should stay in

Xaferi's position was supported by Tirana, which supports the idea that
Albanians should stay in areas which are predominantly ethnic Albanian.
Unofficially, the DPA threatened to pull out of the ruling coalition if
this demand had been refused.

Initially, the Macedonian authorities had hoped to limit the number of
Albanian refugees entering Macedonia to 20,000 and to have them all put up
privately by their ethnic kin. But as numbers swelled above 100,000 in the
wake of the NATO bombing campaign, this was no longer realistic.

In the absence of preparations for so great an influx, conditions for
refugees deteriorated alarmingly. At the Blace border crossing, some
80,000 Kosovo refugees were obliged to wait 10 days crammed in a muddy
field, without drinking water and food. The threat of disease was real.

Stung by international criticism of Macedonia's treatment of the Kosovo
refugees, Georgievski turned the tables and accused EU member states of
failing to respond adequately to the crisis. His stance has been supported
by the ethnic Albanian ministers in the government, refuting speculation
that they are ready to leave the ruling coalition.

But if neither the DPA nor VMRO-DPMNE wish to leave the
government--feeling that they can continue to balance their positions
vis-a-vis their respective electorates--there is speculation that they are
both reconsidering the alliance with Tupurkovski's party.

Though both the DPA and VMRO-DPMNE are viewed as nationalistic, they seem
willing for now to make compromises in the interest of maintaining
stability in Macedonia. The speculation is that there has been a
compromise agreed over the refugees, namely that some stay in Macedonia,
while others go abroad.

Officially, therefore, the Macedonian government has maintained a united
front. Nevertheless, the refugee question is likely to remain a potential
point of conflict, likely to be exploited when battling over other issues
in the government.

Gordana Icevska is a journalist with the Skopje daily Dnevnik.

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