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Rival Parties Meet In Macedonia

Damon Dash and Rachel Roy attend MoMA's 39th Annual Party in the Garden on May 15, 2007, in New York. The party, sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, honored director Martin Scorsese.
GETTY IMAGES/Andrew H. Walker
Leaders of Macedonia's main Slav and Albanian political parties met Monday for the first time since riots a week ago nearly plunged the country into full-scale civil war.

The meeting came after the new U.S. envoy, James Pardew, met with President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski on the first full day of his mission to jump-start the stalled peace talks.

The confidence-building talks Monday focused on a new draft constitution, but did not touch on Trajkovski's peace plan, which calls for amnesty for most rebels who disarm voluntarily and greater inclusion of ethnic Albanians in state bodies and institutions.

Although the rebels and the ethnic Albanian parties largely share the same stance on key issues, there are no formal ties between the insurgents and the parties.

Meanwhile, the government reported clashes around Radusa, about 18 miles west of Skopje, on Monday night. Ethnic Albanian rebels, defying new international efforts to help reach a negotiated peace, appeared to be continuing their grab for new territory in their four-month insurgency against the Slav-dominated government.

Government forces responded with helicopter fire, dispersing the rebel group of about 30, an army spokesman said. No injuries were reported.

A state radio report said Sunday the rebels took control of the villages of Otunje, Jedilarce, Setole and Brezno, ordering Slavic Macedonians they accuse of suppressing the ethnic Albanian minority to leave the area northwest of Tetovo, about 25 miles west of Skopje

A resident of Jedilarce said at a news conference in Tetovo that civilians were told to leave the area on Saturday.

"On Sunday, two residents went to the area to see what was going on and told us everything had been destroyed. All of the houses have been destroyed except 10," Kosta Jakimovski said.

Political leaders from the Tetovo region blamed government officials in Skopje for neglecting the region while they focused their energies on Aracinovo, a suburb of Skopje that the rebels held for two weeks.

The armed insurgents were escorted by U.S. soldiers out of the town and released near Nikustak, in the region where the rebels made their advance this weekend.

"This is no longer a war to change the constitution," said Tomislav Stojanovski, leader of the Democratic Party of Macedonia, an opposition party representing Macedonian Slavs. "It is a war to gain territory."

The militants launched their rebellion in February, demanding the constitution be changed to guarantee ethnic Albanians equal status with the Slavic majority in Macedonia — something the government rejects, contending this would lead to the division of the country.

Macedonia's leadership says the rebels' real goal is to carve off parts of the country under plans to create a "Greater Albania," that would link predominantly ethnic Albanian parts of Macedonia with Kosovo and Albania.

Ethnic Albanians make up close to a third of Macedonia's million population.

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