Macedonian leader dies in plane crash

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The Independent Online

Boris Trajkovski, the President of Macedonia, was killed yesterday when the plane in which he was travelling crashed in dense fog and heavy rain in southern Bosnia.

Mr Trajkovski, 47, was en route to an international investment conference in the Bosnian city of Mostar when his plane, with six of his closest aides and two pilots, went down in rugged terrain near the village of Bitonja shortly after 8am. Zeljko Obradovic, the chief of police in Stolac, said the wreckage was located in the early afternoon and there were no survivors.

Speaking from Mostar, Paddy Ashdown, the high representative for Bosnia, said that although the thoughts of the participants were with the family of Mr Trajkovski, the meeting should go ahead as it was "the conference of hope" for the region.

Dragan Covic, the Bosnian President, said: "We lost a dear friend who was supposed to share the joy of this conference."Branko Crvenkovski, the Macedonian Prime Minister, said his country had "suffered a great loss".

Mr Trajkovski, a Methodist preacher and career lawyer, was regarded as an extremely important Western ally in the region. It appears that the crew of Mr Trajkovski's plane were unaware of the poor weather conditions around Mostar. The presidents of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia had already cancelled flights they were due to take.

Macedonia was due to make a formal application yesterday to join the EU and a ceremony in Dublin to mark the occasion was cancelled.