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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 17:35 GMT
Gunfire breaks out on Kosovo border
Skopje summit
Trajkovski (fifth from left) at last week's Balkan summit
Heavy gunfire has broken out on the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, according to reports from the area.

The exchanges continued for at least an hour near the village of Tanusevci and appeared to involve anti-aircraft weapons and automatic rifle fire.


Witnesses said ethnic Albanian fighters appeared to be locked in a gun battle with Macedonian security forces.

Tension has increased in the border area recently, and at least two Macedonian-based groups have been set up to fight for ethnic Albanian independence.

'Army exercises'

The Macedonian president, Boris Trajkovski, has confirmed that the army is, as he put it, on exercises in the area.

He said the security situation was deteriorating badly.

Separate ethnic-Albanian splinter groups from the former Kosovo Liberation Army are being accused of taking part in the fighting both in Macedonia and southern Serbia.

Warning sounded

The Macedonian Government warned the international community at a Balkans summit only a few days ago that fighting involving ethnic Albanians, in and around Kosovo, could destabilise the entire Balkans region.

The two Albanian separatist groups set up inside Macedonia are separate from the Kosovo fighters, but sympathetic to their aims and are believed to be receiving weapons from them.

The Macedonian authorities have expressed the hope that they will be spared a Kosovo-syle conflict because ethnic Albanians make up only a third of the population, and are represented in the government.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Europe
South Serbia alarm divides summit
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Albania
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Guerrillas threaten fragile peace
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