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Macedonia Fires Tetovo Police Chief

April 18, 2001

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) _ The Macedonian government on Wednesday fired the police chief of Tetovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian city that was the scene of a failed rebellion by insurgents.

There was no official explanation for the sacking of Rauf Ramadani, an ethnic Albanian, but state radio speculated that he was fired ``because of suspected involvement in extremist activities.″

The move reflected assertiveness by the majority Slav government after driving the rebels back toward the north last month. It came on the eve of a visit by Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign and security policy chief.

Solana is trying to encourage talks between the Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian community, which makes up as much as one third of the country’s population of 2 million.

When fighting subsided last month, President Boris Trajkovski set up talks aimed at satisfying ethnic Albanian demands for more rights in the former Yugoslav republic. However, four meetings have produced little progress.

Following the monthlong insurgency that threatened to trigger a new Balkan war, Macedonia is now in a ``state of nervous peace,″ Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska said Wednesday.

She said that despite the government’s success in ``pushing (ethnic) Albanian extremists out ... the situation remained fragile.″

``We still have elements of terrorist groups active on Macedonian territory,″ Dimovska said. ``Everything is now in the hands of the politicians.″

The ethnic Albanians demand that the country’s constitution be changed to give them rights equal to those of the Slav majority and more representation in government institutions.

The government has ruled out changing the constitution, arguing it would eventually lead to the division of Macedonia. It accuses the ethnic Albanians of trying to carve out part of the country and unite it with neighboring Kosovo.

Fallout from the ethnic Albanian rebellion continued Wednesday as a district court in Skopje handed down a 13-year prison sentence against Xhavit Hasani, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia who became a war hero in the restive Serbian province of Kosovo. He was convicted in absentia of attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms.

Hasani was formerly a prominent commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army that battled Serbian troops in Kosovo. His extradition to Macedonia last year by the U.N. mission in Kosovo angered ethnic Albanians on both sides of the border.

Hasani had been released on $100,000 bail and fled back to Kosovo, where he was received as a hero.

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