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The BBC's Andrew North
"Some suspected rebels have already been detained"
 real 56k

Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson
"There has been huge restraint shown by Macedonia"
 real 28k

Macedonian Ambassador to Britain, Stevo Crvenkovski
"What we want is some action on the other side of the border"
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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 01:31 GMT
Yugoslavia may help stop rebels
K-For tanks near Debelde
K-For peacekeepers are monitoring the border
Nato is considering allowing Yugoslav troops into a buffer zone to help deter attacks on Macedonia by ethnic Albanian fighters.

The Nato Secretary-General, George Robertson, said he hoped a decision would be taken "this week" on whether to allow Yugoslav troops into the zone.

The demilitarised zone, five kilometres (three miles) wide and 300 km (180 miles) long, runs along Kosovo's border with the rest of Serbia, down to where it joins Macedonia. Nato established it after Yugoslav forces left Kosovo in June 1999.


"We are looking very closely now at the possible decision to allow Yugoslav forces into the ground safety zone," Lord Robertson said in New York.

He said Nato was determined that the area "will not be used as a safe haven for extremists to launch attacks".

Clashes

There have been more clashes between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian security forces in Tanusevci, a disputed village on Macedonia's border with Kosovo.

There are also reports of fighting in a village near Kumanovo, in northeastern Macedonia, and of rebels digging in along the border.

K-For troops observe Tanusevci from Kosovo
K-For troops observe Tanusevci from Kosovo

The Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, has said "not an inch of Macedonian territory will be given to extremists". Macedonia is keeping its border with Kosovo closed.

There has been strong international condemnation of the rebels' activities. They want to unite parts of Serbia and Macedonia where ethnic Albanians live.

The Yugoslav Interior Minister, Zoran Zivkovic, said that allowing Yugoslav forces into the border area would provide the "best protection" for Macedonia and southern Serbia.

Threat of ethnic strife

The BBC's Paul Wood, in southern Kosovo, says there are signs that the conflict may be spreading. There are fears in Macedonia that the republic may suffer the ethnic strife that devastated other former Yugoslav republics.

A dead Macedonian soldier is mourned by his wife and son
A dead Macedonian soldier is mourned by his family

But the rebels have already suffered a diplomatic defeat, with the international community telling Macedonia that as long as it does not use excessive force, it can do whatever is necessary to oust the rebels.

The Macedonian Government hopes to get the UN Security Council on Wednesday to back its proposal for the Nato-led Kosovo peacekeeping force, K-For, to create a buffer zone along the Kosovo border.

But Lord Robertson said on Tuesday that Nato did not support the idea.

Macedonia's main task has been to seal off the area where sporadic clashes have been taking place for the last two weeks.

K-For role

K-For has already been assisting the Macedonians, using sophisticated imaging equipment to spot the rebels as they flee into Kosovo and arresting them.

Serb forces on border with Macedonia
Serb forces are closely watching the situation

Our correspondent says this has come as both a surprise and a bitter disappointment to the rebel group, which calls itself the National Liberation Army.

Its members say they are involved in a war of self-defence, like that of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo under Serb rule.

Many of them fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army, even though they were Macedonian citizens.

About one-third of Macedonia's population is ethnic Albanian, culturally close to the Kosovo-Albanian majority in Kosovo.

But although relations between Macedonia's Albanians and Serbs have been tense on occasion, there is no history of the kind of violence Macedonia has seen in the last two weeks.

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06 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia blasts rebel base
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