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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"The great hope is that (the ceasefire) will hold"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Woods in Macedonia
"A relatively quiet night here, not too much fighting"
 real 56k

Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 01:02 GMT
Albania warns of Balkan crisis
Macedonian soldiers watching near border
Macedonia wants a buffer zone on its border with Kosovo
Parliament in Albania has criticised Macedonia's moves against ethnic-Albanian guerrillas as border clashes continue.

In a statement adopted unanimously, the parliament described as "unreasonable" Macedonia's decision to close its border with Kosovo and its call for an internationally-patrolled buffer zone on the border to prevent rebel incursions.


The border closure, even if temporary, and the demands for a buffer zone on that border, are unreasonable

Albanian parliament

The statement warned that the Macedonian Government risked turning a few isolated incidents of violence into a general Balkan crisis.

The deputies said the proposed buffer zone - an extension of one already existing between Kosovo and Serbia - would infringe ethnic Albanians' right of free movement.

The deputies also said they condemned the recent fighting and wanted stability in Macedonia.

Rebel ambush

Earlier on Friday, a Macedonian Government convoy that was trapped for hours by rebels near the Kosovo border escaped and returned to the Macedonian capital Skopje.

One policeman and one rebel were killed in the exchange of fire involving artillery and heavy mortars.

Click here to see a map of the area

Macedonia, one-third of whose people are Albanians, closed its two border crossings with Kosovo after Friday's clashes, for the second time in a week. The closure cut off supplies and created huge queues of lorries.

Nato, which spearheads the Kosovo peacekeeping force K-For, has rejected the Macedonian call for a buffer zone between Kosovo and Macedonia.

Macedonian pressure

But Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim insisted in Brussels that Nato intervene in the border area.

"We don't insist on forms, we insist on effective measures," the minister said.

Yugoslav troops in buffer zone
Yugoslav troops are moving closer to Kosovo to stop the rebels

K-For has acted to curb rebel movements near Tanusevci, a mountainous village in north-western Macedonia.

But the rebels of the self-styled National Liberation Army are reported to have just moved their positions to other nearby Albanian-populated villages further west.

US K-For troops are reported to have taken over a hillside elementary school in the Kosovo village of Mijak, which was being used as a base for the rebels.

Nato has already decided to allow Yugoslav troops back into part of the buffer zone alongside Macedonia which divides Kosovo from the rest of Serbia.

Yugoslav officials said their troops would be ready to enter the zone in two days.

Disputed area

One Serb policeman was killed and three others injured in an exchange of fire near Lucane, just outside the buffer zone. Ethnic Albanians reported three people injured.

Ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the Presevo area of southern Serbia say their aim is to protect the local Albanian community from what they call Serb persecution.

Their attacks have caused mounting international concern.

Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson said: "We want to prevent what can be limited, localised skirmishes becoming bigger or spilling over into the wider region."

The rebels have warned that opening the buffer zone to Yugoslav forces will aggravate the violence.


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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Europe
Fighting flares on Kosovo border
08 Mar 01 | Europe
Q&A: Kosovo flare-up
09 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonian convoy escapes ambush
06 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia blasts rebel base
08 Mar 01 | Europe
Analysis: Nato's Kosovo dilemma
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