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Fri, Feb 27, 2004

Plane Crash Kills Macedonia's President

King Air Hits Mountainous Terrain

Macedonia's president was killed on Thursday when his plane crashed in a mountainous part of southern Bosnia en route to an international investment conference, an official with Trajkovksi's party said. Vlatko Djordjev, a spokesman for Trajkovski's party, VMRO-DPMNE, said he was told by party headquarters in Skopje that the 47-year-old Macedonian president was killed in the crash. The aircraft was a Raytheon King Air. Bosnian search-teams scoured the rough terrain in salvage operations.

The president's party initially said he died in the crash, which happened in a remote, rocky area - 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 president was officially considered missing and presumed dead. An air search was called off at nightfall, but foot patrols continued into the evening, said Capt. Dave Sullivan, spokesman for NATO-led peacekeepers aiding the search. Reconnaissance aircraft aiding the effort were to resume efforts today at daybreak.

"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.

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.

Macedonia state radio switched to classical music and the government declared a day of mourning after President Boris Trajkovski was declared missing and later presumed dead.



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