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Cablegate: Macedonia: Ahmeti Rates State of Affairs a "Four

VZCZCXRO8167
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSQ #0411/01 2331320
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211320Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY SKOPJE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8480
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE 0549
RUESEN/SKOPJE BETA
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SKOPJE 000411

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MK
SUBJECT: MACEDONIA: AHMETI RATES STATE OF AFFAIRS A "FOUR
OUT OF TEN"

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PHILIP REEKER FOR REASONS 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Following the commemoration of the 8th
Anniversary of the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement,
Ambassador Reeker joined DUI leader Ali Ahmeti at his family
sheep station deep in the mountains of western Macedonia on
August 16. Ahmeti was critical of Prime Minister Nikola
Gruevski, expressed concerns over Intelligence Chief Sasho
Mialkov's disdain towards the ethnic Albanian community, and
noted President Ivanov's relative lack of power. Ahmeti
assessed the country's current state of affairs and commented
on Menduh Thaci's latest antics. He also expressed his
dissatisfaction with Gruevski's religious agenda and had
harsh words for Islamic Community of Macedonia (ICM)
President Sulejman Rexhepi. Ahmeti presented two project
ideas to the Ambassador and asked for U.S. support. (End
Summary)

------------------------------------------
Critical of Gruevski and His Inner Circle
------------------------------------------

2. (C) Prime Minister Gruevski is too young and his youth is
reflected in his decision making, according to Ahmeti.
Ahmeti said that he warned the Prime Minister to resolve the
name issue with Greece and establish diplomatic relations
with Kosovo a long time ago, otherwise relations with Serbia
and Bulgaria would also become problematic. Ahmeti asked
Ambassador Reeker to put more public pressure on the PM to
resolve the name issue. The Ambassador noted that we need to
calibrate public comments to avoid exacerbating Gruevski's
insecurities and that behind the scenes actions can often be
more effective.

3. (C) Ahmeti was also concerned that Security and
Counter-Intelligence Director Sasho Mijalkov has too much
influence over his cousin, the PM. He noted that Mijalkov
has made remarks in government meetings expressing his deep
disdain for the ethnic Albanian community. He is worried that
Mijalkov has the contacts and desire to provoke rogue ethnic
Albanian elements in Macedonia into creating problems, which
Mijalkov could use to justify broad action against the ethnic
Albanian community at large. Though mostly critical of
Gruevski's inner-circle, Ahmeti said President Ivanov
actually seemed like a "good guy," but felt that he was "more
of a professor than a president" and lacked real power as a
de facto subordinate of the Prime Minister.

----------------
How's it Going?
----------------

4. (C) When asked to rate the current state of affairs in
Macedonia between one and ten (ten being ideal and zero being
2001) Ahmeti rated Macedonia a 4 or 5. He said ethnic
Macedonians still believed the country was theirs alone. He
pointed to the lack of official use of the Albanian language
throughout the country and the lack of equitable
representation of ethnic Albanians in leadership positions in
government as the two biggest issues for the ethnic Albanian
community. He noted that during DUI's previous government
coalition with SDSM, DUI controlled stronger Ministries than
it controls now. Ahmeti said overcoming the name issue and
joining NATO would make it easier to focus on the other
interethnic issues and would alleviate a lot of the mounting
frustrations in the minds of ethnic Albanians.

---------------
Thaci's Antics
---------------

5. (C) DPA leader Menduh Thaci's New Agreement (proposed to
replace the Ohrid Framework Agreement), his most recent
boycott of Parliament and his announcement that he will ask
Albania to veto Macedonia's NATO bid are all indications of
Thaci's gradual marginalization, according to Ahmeti.
However, he believes Thaci's behavior has become more erratic
and could threaten the stability of Macedonia. Ahmeti noted
he would meet with Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on
August 19 and said he would reiterate that the ethnic
Albanian community in Macedonia did not support Thaci's call
for a NATO veto. (Comment: Overall support among citizens of
Macedonia for NATO membership remains around 95% according to
recent IRI polling. Among ethnic Albanians, the figure may
be closer to 100%. End Comment) Ahmeti told the Ambassador
that he preferred New Democracy leader Imer Selmani to Thaci
as the primary ethnic Albanian opposition voice. He felt
Selmani at least represented a constructive and reasonable

SKOPJE 00000411 002 OF 002


opposition. He also said Selmani was very close to Gruevski
and the two visit each other's homes.

-------------------------------
"More Churches Than Believers"
-------------------------------

6. (C) Ahmeti said he has a very different perspective from
the PM on matters of religion. He does not agree with the
PM's political-religious agenda and insistence on erecting
ever more churches and religious symbols. There are more
churches and mosques in Macedonia than believers, according
to Ahmeti. He believes government money could be spent more
effectively on other projects. Ahmeti also asserted that
Islamic Community of Macedonia (ICM) President Sulejman
Rexhepi-- who recently criticized the Ambassador for meeting
with the Sufi Islamic Bektashi Community-- was everything but
a believer. Ahmeti called the ICM "God's bureaucracy" and
said he does not support it.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Consolidating Higher Education and Cleaning the Water
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (C) Ahmeti mentioned two projects he was considering and
asked Ambassador Reeker for his feedback and support. First,
Ahmeti said he felt the State University of Tetovo and the
private South Eastern European University in Tetovo were
essentially duplicating efforts and unnecessarily competing
with one another for limited resources. Ahmeti wanted to
merge them into one university with state funding and
international support. Second, Ahmeti mentioned that he had
met with the Mayors of six municipalities located in the
mountains south of Skopje to discuss cleaning up the
contaminated rivers and lakes that flow into Macedonia's
popular local tourist destination, Matka Lake, and eventually
into Skopje by way of the Vardar River. He asked the
Ambassador if he and EU Special Representative Fouere would
also be willing to meet with the mayors and support such a
project. Ambassador Reeker made no firm commitments to
either project but offered Ahmeti advice on ways to proceed
and said the Embassy would consider other ideas as the
projects progressed.
REEKER

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