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BETA: Profile of Macedonia's NLA Leader Ali Ahmeti

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    BETA WEEK Beta News Agency General Manager: Ljubica Markovich 11000 Beograd Editor in Chief: Dragan Janjich Srpskih vladara
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2 9:51 AM
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      BETA WEEK

      Beta News Agency General Manager: Ljubica Markovich
      11000 Beograd Editor in Chief: Dragan Janjich
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      BETAWEEK (E)
      August 2


      A Career: Ali Ahmeti

      POLITICIAN OR TERRORIST

      The political leader of the organization that calls itself the
      National Liberation Army of Albanians, Ali Ahmeti, is the key ethnic
      Albanian figure in resolving the crisis in Macedonia, where a war
      between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian security forces has been
      raging for months.

      The organization led by Ahmeti was set up following the model used to
      form the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought against Serbian
      and Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and the Liberation Army of Presevo,
      Bujanovac, and Medvedja that was active in southern Serbia. These
      formations had the task of increasing tensions in the region,
      mobilizing the local population, and launching guerrilla operations
      against the army and police. Armed groups in southern Serbia, but also
      in Kosovo and Macedonia, are linked to drug dealers and the slave
      trade.

      As a rule, guerrilla operations were always followed by strong
      resistance to the security forces and the beginning of negotiations.
      The armed guerrillas had open or tacit support from local Albanian
      leaders from the very outset. In the final phase, the so-called
      political leaders of the armed groups would enter the scene, wanting
      to impose themselves as a key factor and sideline other local Albanian
      politicians.

      The National Liberation Army has ignited a true war in northwestern
      Macedonia. Macedonian forces failed in their attempts to suppress the
      guerrillas, who have successfully organized channels for supplying and
      transporting weapons from Kosovo. The guerrillas correctly foresaw
      that the international forces, which guard the borders, would not
      engage them in open armed conflict and thus put the lives of their
      soldiers at risk. All this led to the National Liberation Army's
      success in the field.

      Although Ahmeti's attempt to impose himself as a side in the ongoing
      negotiations failed, the platform advocated in Ohrid by Albanian
      political leaders is very similar to a controversial all-Albanian
      declaration signed in Prizren. In a statement to the Macedonian
      Albanian-language daily Fakti, Ahmeti underlined the importance of
      cooperation between the National Liberation Army and ethnic Albanian
      political leaders, because the National Liberation Army would fail in
      its struggle without their support.

      Among other things, Ahmeti recently told the Skopje daily Utrinski
      Vesnik, that ethnic Albanians in Macedonia "were forced to go to war"
      and that before the armed conflict broke out, "no government official
      sat down with the Albanians in Macedonia to talk about meeting their
      demands and needs." Ahmeti claims that the National Liberation Army
      cannot be described as terrorist, "because it only shoots at people in
      uniform." He is definitely benefiting from the lack of unity within
      the Macedonian leadership, i.e. from their different views of whether
      they should negotiate or fight, with the Social Democrats led by
      Branko Crvenkovski favoring the former option. In the meantime, the
      Albanians are getting more weaponry, thus buying time and, with
      negotiations dragging on, strengthening their forces.

      Among the NLA fighters are many who are very well trained and who
      fought in the wars in former Yugoslavia, especially in Kosovo and
      southern Serbia and who, until recently, used to freely cross
      Macedonia's borders with Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia. Most of them
      entered Macedonian territory after KFOR arrived in Kosovo and after
      the clashes in southern Serbia ended.

      At the end of June, the U.S. administration announced a list of
      Albanian organizations and Albanians who are banned from entering
      the U.S., which includes the leaders of the National Liberation Army
      and the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja, that is,
      Ahmeti and his assistants as well.

      EU foreign ministers recently agreed that there should be a ban on
      visas for Albanian extremists and the decision on implementing this
      measure will be made by the EU high representative, Javier Solana.
      Ahmeti is among the 38 ethnic Albanian extremists who might face the
      ban.

      Alija Isam Ahmeti was born on Jan. 4, 1959, in the village of Zajas,
      near Kicevo, where he finished elementary and secondary school. He was
      a student at the Faculty of Philosophy in Pristina, but never
      graduated.

      He entered politics as a student, at a time when Kosovo and Metohija
      was part of the former Yugoslavia. At 20 he was sentenced to six
      months in prison and served his time in Macedonia, in one of the
      prisons for dissidents who rejected communist ideas. After leaving
      prison, Ahmeti fled to Switzerland and later returned to the country
      to organize, together with other Kosovo nationalists, demonstrations
      in the province.

      In 1980 Ahmeti became a member of the separatist organization called
      Marxists-Leninists of Kosovo, and was one of the organizers of the
      student demonstrations in Pristina the following year.

      Afterwards, he again emigrated to Switzerland, where he joined the
      illegal Movement for an Albanian Socialist Republic in Yugoslavia. In
      1985 he formed the Marxist-Leninist of Kosovo sub-committee for
      Macedonia.

      Ahmeti points out that he was ideologically influenced mostly by his
      uncle, Fazli Veliju, an Albanologist and former high school teacher,
      who also emigrated to Switzerland and is wanted by the Macedonian
      authorities.

      According to what the U.S. Washington Post reported in March 2001, the
      KLA idea was born in 1992, at a meeting in a Zurich club, attended by
      Ahmeti and his uncle, a minister of Kosovo's shadow government, Ramush
      Tahiri, and other Albanian activists, including Ermush Xhemaili, now
      the National Liberation Army's military coordinator.

      When the KLA was formed in 1994, its leaders saw parts of Macedonia
      mostly inhabited by ethnic Albanians as a natural base for their
      operations. Macedonia was used as a transit zone for transferring
      weapons from Albania and Greece to KLA fighters in Kosovo.

      The same group concluded that the Albanian question in Macedonia could
      not be resolved without war, so in 1993 Ahmeti went to Macedonia and
      formed a local branch of the illegal National Committee for Kosovo.

      Until 1997, Ahmeti spent most of his time in Tirana, where he
      organized guerrilla groups, which entered Kosovo and attacked the
      police. In March 2001, the British daily Independent said that Ahmeti
      himself participated in the clashes in Kosovo as a KLA fighter.

      After the war in Kosovo ended, with the help of NATO's air raids on
      Yugoslavia, Ahmeti returned to Macedonia. As one of the founders of
      the National Liberation Army, he is now at the top of the formation.

      In an interview to TV Kosova, Ahmeti explained the forming of the
      National Liberation Army as a consequence of the pushing of Albanian
      representatives in the Macedonian parliament to the margin, i.e.
      disregarding of their demands. "Albanians in Macedonia are
      discriminated against and are denied even the basic rights which any
      nation is entitled to," he said.

      Ahmeti recently opened a new chapter in the crisis in Macedonia,
      announcing the appointment of "diplomatic representatives" of this
      paramilitary formation to seven European countries (Germany,
      Switzerland, and the countries of the Benelux and Scandinavia).

      The Skopje public prosecutor indicted Ahmeti and 10 of his closest
      associates on July 30, 2001. The leaders of the National Liberation
      Army are accused of the crimes of "endangering the territorial
      integrity of the country," "armed rebellion," "terrorism and
      subversive activities," and Ali Ahmeti, his uncle Fazli Veliju, and
      Gezim Osteni, from the leadership of the National Liberation Army,
      with the crimes of "genocide, and war crimes against civilians and
      prisoners of war."

      Ahmeti is married and has two children.
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