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Macedonia: Boskovski Threatens Peace

Theatrical interior minister with shadowy past threatens Macedonian peace process.
By Saso Ordanoski

Frustrated moderates are finding it harder than expected to get rid of interior minister Ljube Boskovski, a political firebrand with a theatrical style who has emerged as a main stumbling block to the internationally-sponsored peace plan for Macedonia.


Sections of the Macedonian media have been demanding Boskovski's resignation because of his hard line views. But as a leading member of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party he enjoys solid political and popular support.


Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski backs Boskovski who ranks high in public opinion polls, largely because of his fiery rhetoric during this year's conflict in which ethnic Albanians demanded improved rights from the Macedonian majority.


If Boskovski refuses to resign and the premier declines to dismiss him, it would take a parliamentary vote of no confidence to force him out. Because of the complex political balance in Macedonia, it is by no means certain that a majority of the 120 members of parliament would vote against him.


"Ljube Boskovski can be removed from his post only by popular referendum," Boskovski said in a half-joking, half-serious tone to this reporter. The third-person reference to himself was typical of Boskovski's theatre-like persona.


His speech employs a bizarre pathos characteristic of Balkan patriots and nationalists. It closely resembles the inflammatory Croatian oratory associated with the Tudjman era.


Boskovski, now 41, forged his political beliefs and hard line views in the late Eighties and early Nineties while working in Croatia. He owned a number of sweet shops - his opponents often refer to him as the "candy man".


While in Croatia, he devoted much of his time to strenuous opposition to perceived Serb domination of Yugoslavia. He fought on the Croat side in the Serbo-Croat war of the Nineties. Intelligence sources say Boskovski was trained as a Zenga, or member of Croatia's paramilitary forces, harassing and intimidating ethnic Serbs and Albanians along the Dalmatian coast.


These intelligence sources, drawing on information from a file on Boskovski compiled by Macedonian secret police, claim it was during this period that he was first engaged to work for the Croat secret service. There is no independent confirmation of this.


"Fighting against the Serb aggression in Croatia was a fight for the independence of Macedonia," Boskovski told me in an interview for the Skopje Forum magazine.


In the Nineties, he was a close associate and friend to some of the most powerful Croatian politicians from the Tudjman era, including Gojko Susak, Sime Dzodan, Marko Veselica, Dalibor Brozovic and others.


From that period, too, dates his alleged friendship with Agim Ceku, former


Yugoslav army officer and current chief of the Kosovo Protection Corp, a kind of provincial defence force made up of former KLA soldiers. Today, in the light of the Macedonian-Albanian conflict, Boskovski angrily denies any acquaintance with Ceku.


A couple of weeks ago, some media in Skopje were speculating that Boskovski was involved in illegal arms trading for Macedonian security


forces. They published copies of faxed documents claiming Boskovski was paid one million German marks for his part in a deal with a well-known Bulgarian arms supplier.


At a press conference, Boskovski denied all these allegations. He stated that if any of it were true, he would "burn himself in the centre of Skopje as Jan Palach did in Prague". The minister was also connected in the press with some arms dealings with Croatia but no conclusive evidence was offered.


The biggest controversy surrounding Boskovski to date is the formation of the so-called "Lions" police reserve special force unit which is widely regarded as a Macedonian paramilitary unit. His political opponents are claiming that its 1,400 members will be used as a VMRO party militia.


More moderate members of VMRO, not including Prime Minister Georgievski, are convinced that Boskovski has become a real liability for their party.


Today, in Bale, a village in the Croatian province Istria, Boskovski's father and mother run his small hotel and restaurant and tend a few dozen goats. The name of the hotel is "Lion", the same as the label of his privately produced red wine.


Saso Ordanoski is IWPR's coordinating editor in Macedonia and editor of Macedonian weekly magazine Forum


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