Ahmeti: FYROM rebels want peace

The political leader of the ethnic Albanian rebels in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ali Ahmeti, says that the war is over and that his fighters will honor the peace agreement signed by the country’s government and political parties last month. In an interview with Kathimerini shortly before the parliament in Skopje ratified in principle the framework of the peace accord reached last month in Ohrid between Slav-Macedonians and the country’s ethnic Albanians, Ahmeti expressed his satisfaction with the accord and the conviction that the fighting had ended. We do not want the hostilities to continue. We are certain that the war is over and we will respect the agreement, he told Kathimerini’s correspondent Stavros Tzimas in his Sipkova headquarters, near Tetovo. Ahmeti dismissed the skepticism that had met the Albanians’ claims of having only 3,500 weapons, which NATO forces are now collecting in accordance with the terms of the agreement. And he said the NATO forces should remain in the country until the situation had stabilized. Rumors of huge arsenals are a myth. The authorities here talked about 80,000 guns, others have mentioned 18,000, 8,000 or even 700,000. We did not have the ability to amass so many weapons. Nor did we need to, as we had not planned to wage an all-out war. Our goal was not to seize territory, so we did not need a lot of heavy weaponry. We deliberately did not let the hostilities spread beyond the Tetovo area. Nor was our army large enough. It was a guerrilla struggle over a small area and the weapons were sufficient for that, claimed the Albanian leader. The framework of the accord was signed last Thursday, paving the way for ratification of each of the reforms agreed upon. When the disarmament process is complete, the accord in its entirety is scheduled to be be approved. Simitis is expected to carry out a major Cabinet reshuffle after the congress on October 11-14 and he was asked to comment about this. There is always interest in who will play what role, but I believe that this is not something that interests the people, he said. People are interested in the government doing its job well and this is where the government will be judged.

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