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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Analysis: Macedonia's born-again nationalist
PM Georgievski
Georgievski: Hardline statements throughout peace process
South-East Europe analyst Gabriel Partos examines what lies behind the hardline rhetoric from the Macedonian prime minister.

Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski has delivered harsh new words on the country's tenuous peace process, as Nato's weapons collection mission gets under way.

His comments followed the blowing up of a Macedonian-owned motel in the village of Celopek on Sunday and an earlier attack on the Orthodox Christian monastery at Lesok.

Both acts have been blamed - despite their denials - on the ethnic Albanian fighters of the National Liberation Army, or NLA.

Emerging from a Macedonian Security Council meeting, Mr Georgievski declared the attacks "barbaric", and said he had called for retaliation.

Hotel blast was called "barbaric" by prime minister
Mr Georgievski's threat - just as the the weapons-collection programme was about to begin - was not the first time his intervention held out the prospect of disrupting the peace process. On several previous occasions, he has contributed to delays in the negotiations.

In recent months, the prime minister's rhetoric has returned to that of his nationalist roots during his rise to political prominence in the early 1990s.

Subsequently, when his centre-right party, known by its initials as VMRO-DPMNE, gained power in 1998, Mr Georgievski changed his tune to a much more pragmatic policy.

He included the Democratic Party of Albanians, the DPA, in his coalition government to give him a comfortable majority in parliament - and later he needed the help of ethnic Albanians to ensure that his party's candidate, Boris Trajkovski, was elected president.

Ethnic Albanian rebels
Rebel weapons include this captured tank
Mr Georgievski's reversion to nationalism followed his sense of betrayal after the conflict broke out this year.

Although he had made concessions to the ethnic Albanians, the DPA - itself under pressure from the NLA guerrillas - failed to give its backing to his government.

And the prime minster's tone turned even more hardline after he was persuaded by Western governments in May to include all major parties, including his main rivals, the Social Democrats, in a government of national unity.

Since then the Social Democrats have once again been burdened with the responsibilities of power, and they have not been able to criticise Mr Georgievski for betraying Macedonia's national interests to the ethnic Albanians.

An unofficial election campaign is already under way - and the prime minister does not want to be accused of being soft on the ethnic Albanians

By contrast, Mr Georgievski has, at times, been behaving more like an opposition leader. He has, on occasion, denounced not only the ethnic Albanian parties that are in his government but also the Western mediators who have been trying to move on the peace talks.

One reason Mr Georgievski has become a born-again nationalist is to do with the election timetable.

Under the deal that produced the government of national unity, the elections have been brought forward - to be held by the end of January 2002.

Election looming

An unofficial election campaign is already under way - and the prime minister does not want to be accused of being soft on the ethnic Albanians. In a sense, he is returning to his core support among Macedonian nationalists.

Mr Georgievski's renewed espousal of nationalism would not be eliciting so much support if it wasn't being spurred on by the violence that the NLA guerrillas have inflicted on Macedonians.

Indeed, it is not clear to what extent the NLA is fully committed to the peace deal - let alone what some of its hardline splinter groups might do in the future.

At least some of the recent incidents suggest that there are ethnic Albanian militants who want to derail the peace process.

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See also:

24 Aug 01 | Europe
Putin warns on Macedonia
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Is Nato's mission impossible?
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