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Powell Praises Macedonian President - 2002-02-05

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held talks Monday with Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski -- praising him for progress made in Skopje to implement the peace plan reached last year to end warfare with ethnic Albanian rebels.

The State Department considers the peace accord -- that was signed last August and ended six months of hostilities in Macedonia -- one of the major success stories in the Balkans, in recent years. And a U.S. spokesman said that in their meeting, Secretary Powell welcomed progress made since then to implement the deal and was "particularly strong" in his praise for President Trajkovski's leadership.

Mr. Trajkovski helped push legislation that was called for in the peace agreement, through the parliament in Skopje. The measure gives a greater political voice to the country's ethnic-Albanian minority, and more recently helped in negotiations for an amnesty law for rebels who fought government troops.

In a talk with reporters here, President Trajkovksi said he raised with Secretary Powell the needs of his financially hard-pressed government. But he said Macedonia's main requirement is investment and the country does not want to be dependent on foreign charity. "We don't want to be addicted to the international aid. But we seek direct foreign investment," he says. "We'd like to see our strategic partners invest in Macedonia, to invest in peace."

U.S. officials say the budget President Bush sent to Congress Monday includes $50 million for Macedonia, as part of the administration's strategy to support Balkans stability. It is expected to be the U.S. pledge at an international donors conference for Macedonia, to be held in Brussels, March 12.

In his comments here, Mr. Trajkovski also predicted an early end to the long-running dispute with Greece over his country's name. Greece has objected to the Skopje government's use of Macedonia, saying it implies territorial ambitions over the northern Greek territory of the same name.

As a result, the country became a United Nations member in 1993 as "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and it is still referred to as such at some international gatherings and in legal documents.

Mr. Trajkovksi -- who said he raised the matter with Secretary Powell -- said his country has a right to decide what it calls itself and that he expects the issue, which is under U.N. mediation, will be settled this year.