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The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"A new stage of Western involvement in Macedonia has been reached"
 real 28k

Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Macedonia brings in war tax
Macedonian army tank
The tax will help to support the Macedonian war effort
The Macedonian Government is introducing a special war tax, intended to raise around $30m towards the cost of fighting ethnic Albanians rebels in the north of the country.

The tax will go into effect on Sunday and extends to the end of the year, the state news agency MIA said.

It will be levied at the rates of either 0.5% or 1% on most private-sector transactions.

Correspondents say that Macedonia's impoverished economy has been further weakened by the costs of buying weapons for the army.

Fresh fighting

A recent lull in the fighting ended on Saturday with clashes between Macedonian troops and guerrillas on the slopes of the Sar Mountain near the border with Kosovo.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict continue.

The United States has appointed a Balkans expert, James Pardew, as its peace envoy to the former Yugoslav republic.

Mr Pardew is expected to work closely with his European Union counterpart, Francois Leotard, who was appointed earlier in the week.

Francois Leotard
Mr Leotard: First meeting with President Trajkovski
The two appointments reflect growing international involvement in Macedonia, where the five-month-old ethnic Albanian rebellion threatens to unleash all-out civil war.

Mr Pardew has Balkans experience as a senior regional adviser at the US State Department, and was involved in negotiating a peaceful end to the conflict in Serbia's Presevo Valley, where ethnic Albanian guerrillas recently laid down their arms.

Mr Leotard, who arrived in Macedonia on Thursday, met President Boris Trajkovski for talks on the constitution on Friday.

Nato support

Nato on Friday gave final approval to a plan to send a 3,000-strong force to Macedonia, to help disarm ethnic Albanian rebels in case of a lasting ceasefire.

Nato spokesman Yves Brodeur said the alliance was ready to send the troops to Macedonia "provided the proper environment exists".

And the US State Department said Washington was prepared to offer logistical, medical and other support to the Nato force.

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See also:

29 Jun 01 | Europe
Nato approves Macedonia force
27 Jun 01 | Media reports
Macedonian president 'guilty of success'
26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Straw cancels Macedonia visit
28 May 01 | Europe
The Albanian fund-raising machine
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