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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Macedonia marks tense anniversary
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski
Mr Trajkovski wished Nato troops a speedy departure
By the BBC's Paul Anderson in Skopje

The mood in Macedonia is sombre as it marks the 10th anniversary of the referendum which led to independence from Yugoslavia.

The streets of Skopje are festooned with the bright red and yellow flags of Macedonia.

The flags symbolise a burst of sun but seven months after the violent conflict with Albanian rebels broke out, no one here feels there is much to cheer about.

Happy celebrations, if you have anything to celebrate

Macedonian newspaper

"Happy celebrations, if you have anything to celebrate," read the headline in one newspaper.

Another said Macedonia was gaining a new political system but had lost its confidence, its faith and its love.

The President, Boris Trajkovski, in a dark and threatening address on the eve of the anniversary, warned the Albanian rebels they would be destroyed if they returned to arms after the current peace deal.

Shared fate

Ten years ago, 75% of the ethnic Macedonian majority voted for independence. The Albanians boycotted the process.

Six months later, all Yugoslav federal troops had withdrawn from the country, thus signalling Belgrade's acceptance of its sovereignty.

A Skopje street decked out for the holiday
It has been a quiet day in the Macedonian capital

Over the coming years, Macedonia managed to avoid the bloodshed seen in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Even Slovenia, which with Croatia led the break-up of Yugoslavia, did not escape some violence.

But eventually the Macedonian people's brewing differences with the Albanian minority caught up with them.

The hope now is that, by the end of September, the peace deal signed last month will have been ratified by parliament.

Eventually the Macedonian people's brewing differences with the Albanian minority caught up with them

Nato forces currently overseeing rebel weapons collection are planning to leave in less than three weeks but there is a long way to go before the deal is accepted by sceptical politicians.

And it will be even longer before the peace is secure in Macedonia.

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
reports on the prospect that NATO may remain after their current mission
The BBC's Paul Anderson
"The Macedonians have made it abundantly clear they do not want NATO to stay"

Key stories



See also:

07 Sep 01 | Europe
Nato: No Macedonia mission creep
01 Sep 01 | Europe
Macedonia's landscape of fear
31 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Macedonia: Wobbling Balkans domino
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