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Macedonia Fires Ethnic Albanian Police Chief

April 19, 2001|From Associated Press

SKOPJE, Macedonia — The Macedonian government on Wednesday fired the police chief of Tetovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian city that was the scene of a failed rebellion by insurgents.

There was no official explanation for the sacking of Rauf Ramadani, an ethnic Albanian, but state radio speculated that he was fired "because of suspected involvement in extremist activities."

The move reflected assertiveness by the majority Slav government after driving the rebels back toward the north last month. It came on the eve of a visit by Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign and security policy chief.

Solana is trying to encourage talks between the Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian community, which makes up at least a quarter of the population of 2 million.

When fighting subsided last month, President Boris Trajkovski set up talks aimed at satisfying ethnic Albanian demands for more rights in the former Yugoslav republic. However, four meetings have produced little progress.

Following the monthlong insurgency that threatened to trigger a new Balkan war, Macedonia is now in a "state of nervous peace," Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska said Wednesday.

She said that despite the government's success in "pushing [ethnic] Albanian extremists out . . . the situation remains fragile."

"We still have elements of terrorist groups active on Macedonian territory," Dimovska said. "Everything is now in the hands of the politicians."

The ethnic Albanians demand that the constitution be changed to give them rights equal to those of the Slav majority, as well as more representation in government institutions.

The government has ruled out changing the constitution, arguing that doing so would eventually lead to the division of Macedonia.

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