NEWS

Provocateurs killed police, says Ahmeti

Ali Ahmeti has set up his political headquarters in Mala Recica in Tetovo, and is running his election campaign from there. Since early last week, when tension heightened after two police officers were murdered in Gostivar and a warrant for his arrest for genocide was issued, Ahmeti has not been to Skopje, where he plans to hold meetings. Western diplomats in Skopje don’t rule out the possibility of his arrest, and speak of a nationalist ferment among extremist circles in the ruling party. If nationalist Interior Minister Ljube Boshowski is to catch Ahmeti, the police first have to get into Mala Recica, which is impossible since the Albanians hold power in Tetovo. Any attempt to arrest Ahmeti will certainly lead to war. «The elections must be held in a calm atmosphere, because the future of the country depends on them, and we are doing whatever we can to help in that direction,» he told Kathimerini on a visit to his party’s office two days after the murder of the policemen, a crime the government promptly blamed on the ethnic Albanians. «This action was the work of criminals and was aimed at poisoning the pre-election period,» he added. The discussion centers on the bloody episodes that have continued to take place ever since the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) disarmed and, according to Ahmeti, disbanded. Who is responsible for these actions? «They are common criminals. The entire NLA accepted the signing of the Ohrid accord. They all agreed; no one was against the decision.» Yet from time to time there is news of armed activity by the Albanian National Army or the Army of the Illyrian Republic. Ahmeti does not believe there are any such organizations formed along military lines and with political goals. «These criminal gangs that are involved in smuggling weapons and other things simply adopt different labels whenever they commit murders or other actions.» Concerning the murder of the two police officers at Gostivar, he hints at plans for provocation and scenarios circulated by extremists in the government. «Is it by chance,» he asks, «that the murder of the policemen took place on the eve of a visit to Skopje where I was going to speak at a meeting?» The same question is raised by members of the international community in Skopje, who do not hesitate to speak in private about suspect connections of Boshowski with Albanian criminals. The former rebel leader is without doubt the personality of these elections. The nationalist VMRO-DPMNE has attacked him to stir Slav-Macedonian opinion and to benefit electorally by presenting itself as opposing the so-called Albanian terrorists it claims are trying to dismember the country. It also wants to avert potential cooperation between Ali Ahmeti and the Together for Macedonia coalition of Branko Crvenkovski. «We’ll try for post-election cooperation. Some people are trying to prevent it, but it’s what the people say that matters,» says Ahmeti. As for the scenario which sees his party participating in government with that of Crvenkovski, but without his own participation, Ahmeti replies, «I am the leader of the party, and I decide on its policy.» Ahmeti supports the Ohrid accord, which he says must not be brought into question by these elections.