Peter Rebernik on Sun, 18 Apr 1999 16:34:19 +0100


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Syndicate: Dallas speaking


Since I lived in Dallas, Texas, USA, when I was very young, occasionally I
read the Dallas Morning News in the Web. I just stumbled over the following
article, giving you an impression about the information the US gets about
Makedonija.

Peter Rebernik

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 Refugee influx raises concerns in Macedonia
Officials believe 100,000 trying to leave Kosovo

04/17/99

By Gregory Katz / The Dallas Morning News


BLACE, Macedonia - Several thousand newly arrived refugees jammed border
crossings Friday morning, raising Macedonians' concerns about the impact of
another large wave of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

The refugees are believed to be the first of an estimated 100,000 people
trying to cross into Macedonia, which has already taken in more than 130,000
refugees.

The border has reopened after it was closed by Yugoslav authorities for
unspecified reasons late last week. Several thousand refugees arrived at the
border by train Wednesday.

Most of the refugees waiting to come to Macedonia are believed to be from
the Urosevac region of Kosovo, which has been set afire by Serb forces
trying to purge Kosovo of ethnic Albanians.

Paula Ghedini, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, said
that about 6,000 ethnic Albanian refugees entered Macedonia on Friday, the
largest number in more than a week. She said roughly 3,000 came in at Blace
and 3,000 used the second border crossing at Jazince.

"Most of them seemed to be in good health and had ample supplies of food,"
she said. "They told us that it's the people who are still hiding in the
woods in Kosovo who are going to be the worst off."

She said the refugees told of a large number of people from Urosevac seeking
to use the Jazince border station.

The prospect of a new exodus from Kosovo sparked scare stories in the
Macedonian press, which is largely opposed to the influx. The mood was
summed up in the front page headline of Macedonia Today that read: "Urosevac
is Moving to Macedonia."

Macedonians are becoming angrier about the large numbers of ethnic Albanians
who have arrived in recent weeks, said newspaper editor Vasko Arsovski. They
are increasingly opposed to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which has
threatened to engulf Macedonia in a regional war.

He said many Slavs, who make up the majority in Macedonia, fear that the new
arrivals will join forces with the ethnic Albanians already there and take
up arms against the government of Macedonia with the goal of establishing a
"Greater Albania" with Kosovo and Albania proper.

"The United States has made a big mistake trying to solve this by bombs," he
said. "It has made [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic stronger, and it
has made Macedonia weaker. With all these Albanians here, in five years
time, we will have a war, too. Macedonia will be just like Kosovo."

He said the bombing had only served to unify the Serbs, who are proud of
their fighting tradition and willing to stand up to the military might of
the NATO countries.

Other Macedonians simply shook their heads at the border situation and said
their country was descending into chaos.

Anti-NATO and anti-American sentiments led to violent demonstrations in
Macedonia shortly after the bombing campaign started more than three weeks
ago, and the government moved quickly to control the situation by banning
protests.

Nonetheless, supporters of Yugoslavia have announced plans to challenge this
ban by calling for a mass rally Saturday evening in the main square of
Skopje, the Macedonian capital.

The resentment against the NATO attack has been fuelled by graphic
television footage showing the loss of civilian life inside Yugoslavia and
by the nearly constant sound of NATO jet fighters flying overhead on their
bombing runs.

These public sentiments have led Macedonia's leaders to publicly announce
that they would not allow the country to be used as a staging ground for a
possible NATO invasion of Kosovo should the airstrikes fail to convince Mr.
Miloshevic to capitulate.

This represents a blow to NATO contingency planners because Macedonia offers
by far the best terrain for a possible land invasion of Kosovo, military
analysts say.

Unlike other countries bordering Kosovo, Macedonia has a modern highway that
connects it to Pristina, the Kosovo capital, and is also close to
Thessaloniki, a Greek port that could be used for bringing in troops and
heavy equipment.

The leaders of Albania have, by contrast, ceded control of their airports
and seaports to NATO and made it clear they would allow an invasion to be
launched from their soil. But the country's geography and location are far
from ideal for the use of a large ground force.

"If Macedonia doesn't want any part of it, NATO has real problems," said
Paul Beaver, military analyst with Jane's Defense Weekly in London. "An
invasion force from Albania would be very difficult. There are only two good
roads and very few airfields."

Albania would also pose a severe logistical challenge because the few
existing road routes into Kosovo are at mountain passes that would slow the
advance of infantry units.

There are similar drawbacks to using other neighboring countries as the base
for an invasion, making Macedonia the favored choice among NATO planners -
but for the political situation.



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