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VOA Interview: Macedonia President Concerned About Radicals - 2002-01-11

Macedonia's president Boris Trajkovski Thursday voiced a ringing endorsement of the recent peace agreement with the Albanian minority and warned of renewed conflict unless the accord is fully implemented and ethnic tensions reduced.

Mr. Trajkovski worries that radical elements could still try to sabotage the framework agreement. That accord, championed by the president, was negotiated last August and grants increased powers to the Albanian minority. Albanian insurgents handed over 3,000 of their weapons to Nato peacekeepers in return for amnesty. Mr. Trajkovsky said during an interview in Skopje if warfare resumes, the conflict in Macedonia could be as brutal as in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"If people will not calm down, if they really won't follow what was agreed during the discussions at [Lake] Ohrid [in August] it might happen," he said. "A lot of animosity still exists. I regret to say this but unfortunately there are existing a lot of forces that are not for peace."

The Macedonian president has little constitutional power. Mr. Trajkovski, a Protestant clergyman from a Macedonian community that is overwhelmingly orthodox, assumed office because of support from ethnic Albanians. The president wants to be a force for unity and a moral voice against corruption.

In a pointed display of displeasure, Mr. Trajkovski this week stayed away from a charity ball attended by government and business leaders associated in the public mind with corruption. He also stayed away from Wednesday's ceremony promoting police officers because he thought inappropriate for the orthodox church to be so prominently featured.

"I don't want to be part of authorizing any kind of religious groups or ethnic groups," he said. "And I think it is better for the police to stand aside from all the intentions, even the good intentions, to be blessed or to be part of some religious circles."

President Trajkovski hopes Macedonia and its neighbors will be integrated into European Union and Nato structures. He calls for U.S. and Nato assistance to prevent illegal border crossings between Kosovo and Macedonia and endorses self government in Kosovo.

"We would like to have United States support, and other countries support, in faster democratization of Kosova," he said. "And to pay more focus to the Kosovo situation. Because a more stable Kosovo will be better for us."

Mr. Trajkovski is not in favor of early elections in Macedonia. He believes time is needed for reconciliation and for passions to cool. He hopes national elections will occur only towards end of this year.