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Macedonian security adviser Nikolai Dmitrov
"The major threat is the possible consequence for inter-ethnic relations inside Macedonia"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 12:56 GMT
Clashes empty Macedonia villages
Flight into Kosovo
Villagers flee the scene of Monday's clashes for Kosovo
By Balkans correspondent Paul Wood

Villages on Macedonia's border with Kosovo lie deserted, following Monday's two-hour gun battle between the security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

Boris Trajkovski
Trajkovski: Call for Nato help
Underlining the gravity of the situation which now faces Macedonia, President Boris Trajkovski addressed the nation, appealing for help from Nato and the international community to preserve the republic's stability.

The Macedonian authorities describe the gunmen as mainly Kosovo Albanians, but they are in reality mostly ethnic Albanians holding Macedonian citizenship.

Many can't return to their homes in Macedonia because they fear arrest by the Macedonian police.


The night was quiet, there were no incidents, no shooting

Defence Ministry spokesman
Nevertheless, they have dedicated themselves to waging a new separatist struggle inside their home state and they have formed a new organization - the National Liberation Army - to do it.

These latest clashes arise because of the movement of these men, some with weapons, back and forth across the border.

Blame

They are comparatively few in number, but fears of a new conflict in Macedonia overshadowed the Balkan summit in Skopje last week, and the Macedonian government says it is a prospect the international community must take seriously.

map of region
Both sides have blamed each other for Tuesday's clashes.

Nikolai Dmitrov, a security adviser to the Macedonian president, told the BBC that army units came under fire as they tried to prevent the separatist forces penetrating further into Macedonian territory.

He said the clashes threatened to create inter-ethnic hostility, undermining what he said was years of work by the government to create a tolerant and civil society.

Sporadic incidents

A Western diplomat in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, said both sides were waiting for a response from the international community.


Most of the women, children and the elderly have been persuaded to leave the villages

OSCE spokesman Harold Schenker
"We may expect sporadic incidents like yesterday's and we cannot predict this will be limited to just one village," he said.

The Macedonia mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said it would continue monitoring the border.

Spokesman Harold Schenker said most villages near the border had been deserted by civillians.

"Most of the women, children and the elderly have been persuaded to leave the villages. Most of them have gone to villages in Kosovo," he said.

The Macedonian authorities have previously 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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