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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Macedonia asks US to train commandos
US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, right, speaking with his Macedonian counterpart, Vlado Buckovski, in Skopje
Buckovski: Appeal to help stop influx of money to rebels
Macedonia has asked the United States for help in training special military commandos to fight ethnic Albanian rebels in the north of the country.

The request was made by Macedonian Defence Minister Vlado Buckovski during a meeting with US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, who made a brief stopover in Skopje on his way from the Ukraine to Kosovo.


Your willingness to answer the call to duty allows our country to contribute peace and stability in this still-dangerous and untidy world of ours

Donald Rumsfeld to US troops
The Macedonian minister also appealed to the United States and Europe to help stop ethnic Albanian émigrés in the West from sending money and other support to the rebels, a Macedonian defence ministry spokesman said.

About 500,000 ethnic Albanians from Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo live in Western Europe and hundreds of thousands live in the United States.

Kosovo

After the stopover Mr Rumsfeld flew to Kosovo, where he met with American troops.

"Your willingness to answer the call to duty allows our country to contribute peace and stability in this still-dangerous and untidy world of ours," Mr Rumsfeld told several hundred members of the US peacekeeping contingent in south-eastern Kosovo.

He did not, however, discuss the future US role in Kosovo.

Earlier in the day, Mr Rumsfeld met the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, in Kiev.

The beleaguered Ukrainian president assured Mr Rumsfeld that his country would continue its transition from communism to Western-oriented democracy.

Mr Rumsfeld is the highest-ranking member of the Bush administration to visit Ukraine.

President Leonid Kuchma
Leonid Kuchma: Embroiled in case of missing journalist
His visit came shortly after the Ukrainian parliament ousted the country's pro-Western reformist prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, and amid signs of strengthening Russian influence.

Mr Rumsfeld met the new Prime Minister, Anatoly Kinakh, and renewed a series of military agreements with Defence Minister Alexander Kuzmuk.

Caution

Ukraine has regularly hosted and taken part in Nato peacekeeping exercises, though analysts have said future exercises may be in doubt because of recent military agreements between Kiev and Moscow.

Mr Rumsfeld wished Ukraine's leaders well, but cautioned that the world would judge them by the progress they made towards democracy.

"We recognise that no book has been written as to exactly how a country moves from communism to free political and free economic institutions," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters.

"There is no question that how a country manages [its] difficulties ... is important to how the rest of the world views the country."

Instability

He also urged Ukraine to carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the killing last year of opposition journalist Georgiy Gongadze.

President Kuchma came under pressure to resign earlier this year as protesters filled the capital's streets accusing him of ordering the killing.

Officials admit the investigation of the crime has been confused and inadequate.

Analysts say that instability in Ukraine - the fourth biggest country in Europe with a population of 50 million - could jeopardise the security of central Europe.

Correspondents say the country has been riddled with corruption, and that little progress has been made on economic reform.

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See also:

04 Jun 01 | Americas
Rumsfeld: 'No troop cuts in Europe'
27 Feb 01 | Media reports
Kuchma rejects Ukraine murder claims
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Ukraine seeks FBI help
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