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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 02:45 GMT
Analysis: Will the violence spread?
US K-For troops check ethnic Albanian man
US troops could become more involved
By Balkans correspondent Paul Wood

A couple of weeks ago few outside Macedonia had heard of Tanusevci, or the rebel National Liberation Army.

Now the fate of this tiny border village, population 800, is being discussed by Nato, the UN Security Council and the OSCE.

The composition and intentions of the NLA, meanwhile, are the subject of anxious speculation in western capitals.

The first crucial question is whether the violence in Tanusevci will spread.

One source close to the NLA leadership told me that the organisation was preparing to strike throughout Macedonia.

It is not clear if this is a propaganda claim, or if the NLA really does have the capability to act in this way.

Former glory

However, the Macedonian media has already carried reports of incidents in villages outside the immediate area, where the fighting has been taking place.

The second question is how much support the NLA has in Macedonia and from outside.

Serbia troops near Kosovo Macedonia border
Serbia guards keep on eye on the border
The critics, even on the Albanian side, portray the NLA as former Kosovo fighters anxious to rekindle the glory and excitement of bearing arms in a struggle of national liberation.

One ethnic Albanian commentator told me he thought of the NLA as a small group of fanatics, who did not realise that their time had passed.

It is significant perhaps that no prominent former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has voiced support for the group.

Small membership

And the biggest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia has issued strong condemnation.

But, while it may well be that the NLA only has a handful of members, that was true of the KLA in the early days as well.

Ethnic Albanian man in village of  Deballde
Life goes on despite border tension
To many the violence in the Macedonian border village of Tanusevci does seem like the early days of the Kosovo conflict.

There are, though, some important differences between Kosovo under the Serbs and Macedonia today.

Legal avenues

Chief among them that there is an ethnic Albanian party in the Macedonian coalition government and ethnic Albanians there do have constitutional and legal means of furthering their political aspirations.

Macedonia survived the upheaval of the war in neighbouring Kosovo and it could be that the violence in Tanusevci flares up and then dies away.

But tensions in Macedonia are at unprecedented levels and the situation remains volatile and unpredictable.

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06 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia blasts rebel base
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