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Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

President missing after plane crash

February 27, 2004

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— Macedonia state radio switched to classical music and the government declared a day of mourning after President Boris Trajkovski was missing and presumed dead in a plane crash Thursday in southern Bosnia.

Mourners lit candles in front of Trajkovski's office in the capital, Skopje, and condolences poured in from world leaders. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the moderate Trajkovski "a great friend of the United States" who helped put his ethnically divided nation on "a stable footing."

The president's party initially said he died in the crash, which happened in a remote, rocky area of mountainous southern Bosnia -- treacherous in the bad weather and heavily mined from Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

However, NATO peacekeepers said the wreckage was not found, contrary to a report by Bosnian police, and Macedonia's government said the 47-year-old president was officially considered missing and presumed dead.

"We still don't have official information from Bosnian officials that there are any survivors ... but they are saying that the chances of anyone surviving are minimal," Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said in a nationally televised address.

"The loss is huge. We should mourn, but we shouldn't be afraid. Macedonia is a strong and stable country."

Macedonia's government met in emergency session Thursday evening and said parliament speaker Ljubco Jordanovski was the acting president.

The Defense Ministry said security was tightened along the former Yugoslav republic's borders and at key state and army institutions.

Trajkovski was en route to an international investment conference in Mostar, Bosnia, when his plane carrying six other officials and two pilots went down near Bitonja, officials said.

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