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The BBC's Ben Brown in Tetovo
"One of the Albanians seemed to throw a handgrenade... local people ran for their lives"
 real 56k

Sir Paddy Ashdown MP in Tetovo
"We should do as much as we can"
 real 28k

Croatian ambassador to the UK Stevo Crvenkovski
"We have not asked for military help"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 17:00 GMT
Macedonia advances against rebels
Macedonian soldiers
The government says the army is in full control
Macedonian government forces have advanced into the hills around the northern town of Tetovo, sending ethnic Albanian rebels into retreat, according to officials.

Field commanders have been given the authority to taken whatever action is necessary to end the rebellion by the rebels along the border with Kosovo.

The attacks from their side were an obvious response to our ultimatum

Antonio Milosovski, government spokesman
"From now on our response will be clear and every action will depend only on the decisions of our field commanders," said spokesman Antonio Milosovski.

He said the offensive had been launched in the face of repeated attacks by the rebels in the last 24 hours on security forces in several areas on Macedonia.

"The attacks from their side were an obvious response to our ultimatum," he said, referring to a 2300 GMT deadline on Wednesday that the government set for the guerrillas to surrender or leave its territory.

Thursday's offensive began at 0900 GMT, exactly 10 hours after the expiry of that deadline.

In Tetovo itself, two ethnic Albanians were shot dead by Macedonian troops.

Reports say they were killed when they tried to throw a grenade at a police post near the town's main barracks.

Macedonian police said fighting had also broken out in the village of Gracani, near Skopje. At least one policeman is reported to have been wounded.

The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, says about 20,000 people have been displaced by fighting over the last four weeks.

Unilateral ceasefire

Shortly before the deadline expired, the rebels proposed an unlimited, unilateral ceasefire to permit talks aimed at resolving the crisis - but they showed no sign of withdrawing from their positions.

President Boris Trajkovski
President Trajkovski said the rebels would be "eliminated"

The Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, said he had wide cross-party support for isolating the rebels and re-establishing security along the border with Kosovo.

An emergency meeting of Macedonian leaders had agreed that all legitimate political parties would work together to address multi-ethnic issues, he added.

UN condemnation

In New York, the United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned what it called terrorist violence in Macedonia and demanded that ethnic Albanian leaders throughout the Balkans use their influence for peace.

The resolution also called on the Nato-led peacekeeping force in neighbouring Kosovo to do more to prevent rebels from smuggling weapons across the border.

Nato has decided to send a reported 1,000 extra peacekeepers to Kosovo to patrol the border.

The alliance has also reinforced its presence on the border to prevent Kosovo from being used as a base for attacks into Macedonia.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Cook condemns Balkans 'terrorists'
20 Mar 01 | Europe
Nato raises Macedonian profile
19 Mar 01 | Europe
Analysis: Macedonia stands alone
17 Mar 01 | Europe
Tension in Tetovo
18 Mar 01 | Europe
Greater Albania question
20 Mar 01 | Europe
Coalition under strain
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