GUARD Macedonian deaths cloud peace deal
THE GUARDIAN (UK)
Saturday 11 August 2001
Macedonian deaths cloud peace deal
Killing of security forces by landmines strengthens
hand of hardliners urging war against guerrillas
Nicholas Wood in Skopje
Macedonia's security forces lost another seven soldiers
yesterday, killed when their truck struck two landmines outside
the capital Skopje.
The attack, believed to have been launched by ethnic Albanian
guerrillas, came just two days after the ambush of an army
convoy in which 10 soldiers were killed, making this week the
bloodiest yet in the conflict.
The explosion took place on a dirt road five miles north of
Skopje. Six soldiers died in the initial blast at 8am. A seventh
died on the way to hospital.
The deaths became immediate fuel for hardliners in the
government who are in favour of waging all-out war against the
ethnic Albanian guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army.
The prime minister, Ljuko Georgievski, issued a statement
saying Macedonia was capable of defeating the gunmen.
"Personally, I am convinced that with complete unity, and an
avoidance of earlier mistakes, Macedonia has the strength to
win the fight for its own defence."
However, the prime minister's office denied later that Mr
Georgievski had distanced himself from the peace deal.
"On the contrary, he is prepared, together with the other political
leaders, to put his signature to the final agreement on Monday
so the international public can get a clearer picture of who
stands for peace and who stands for war in Macedonia," an
official told Reuters.
An army spokesman said he believed the mines were "most
probably laid on Thursday night or early on Friday". Another
spokesman said the mines had been laid on top of each other
for maximum impact.
The troops had been on their way to replace a post on the
border with Kosovo. Nine soldiers were injured.
The increased violence is also eroding hopes for a political
settlement aimed at ending the crisis. A signing ceremony is
due to take place on Monday, paving the way for Nato troops to
come into the country to help disarm the rebel army.
Mr Georgievski's spokesman, Antonio Milososki, said the NLA
was clearly opposed to the peace deal.
"Instead of backing the peace agreement, the NLA is trying to
find a reason to refuse it. The UCK [Albanian initials for NLA] is
prepared to make a funeral of the peace agreement. This is a
proposal for war."
In Skopje, police were preparing for protests outside the
parliament in reaction to the latest killings. A curfew was
announced for 9pm.
Previous attacks have seen violent mobs run through the city
centre, attacking Albanian businesses and western institutions.
Before the mine attack, much of the country's attention had
been focused on Prilep, in central Macedonia, home to several
of the reservist soldiers killed in Wednesday's ambush.
Two funerals were held yesterday afternoon.
"I know he was not afraid," the mother of one of the dead
soldiers told Reuters.
"I want it to be mentioned in history, my child was a hero and he
died heroically, and that's why he will live forever."