BITONJA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- 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 yesterday 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 L. 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 1992-95 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.
An air search was called off at nightfall, but foot patrols continued into the evening, said Captain Dave Sullivan, spokesman for NATO-led peacekeepers aiding the search. Reconnaissance aircraft aiding the effort were to resume efforts at daybreak today.
"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," Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of Macedonia said in a nationally televised address.
"The loss is huge," he said. "We should mourn, but we shouldn't be afraid. Macedonia is a strong and stable country."
Macedonia's government met in emergency session yesterday 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.
"All institutions are functioning normally and the security of the state is not in question," government spokesman Saso Colakovski said. Today was declared a day of mourning in both Macedonia and Bosnia.
Trajkovski's presumed death comes at a critical time for Macedonia, a tiny Balkan republic still tense after six months of ethnic conflict in 2001. Trajkovski was hailed for his efforts to get Macedonians and rival ethnic Albanians to live together peacefully.
European Union and NATO leaders urged Macedonia's government to carry on Trajkovski's work to secure lasting stability.
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. Bosnian police initially said they found wreckage of the US-made twin-engine turboprop near the village about 50 miles south of Sarajevo. But Sullivan later denied that the wreckage was located, and police backed away from their earlier statement.
Macedonia's civil aviation authority said Trajkovski's plane was in full working condition and was flown by an experienced pilot. The 25-year-old plane was Macedonia's sole government aircraft for transporting officials.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said through a spokesman that Trajkovski, who called for including more ethnic Albanians in state bodies and institutions, would be remembered "for his crucial role in preserving the unity of his country and laying down the basis for the stability of a multiethnic Macedonian state."