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The BBC's Nick Wood
"The rebels' targets appear to be groups of Macedonian police"
 real 56k

The BBC's Gabriel Partos
"These are groups of ethnic Albanian militants"
 real 28k

The Macedonian Amb. to the UK Stevo Sirvencovski
"They are trying to create a political atmosphere in which the stability of Macedonia can be questioned"
 real 28k

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou
"We have seen an escalation of violence in the past weeks and days"
 real 56k

Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 15:33 GMT
New Macedonia fighting erupts
Macedonian police
Macedonian police take a break from the fighting
Clashes have continued for a second day between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas outside the country's second city.

BBC correspondent Nick Wood, reporting from Tetovo, says that gunfire can be heard from the hills above the mainly-Albanian city and that it is getting nearer.

Click here for a map of the region

Two civilians are reported to have been injured as fighting broke out in the suburb of Kale, where smoke can be seen rising.

The Macedonian Government is reportedly due to meet to discuss introducing a countrywide state of emergency.

Measures would include a general mobilisation of security forces, restrictions on movements and a possible curfew.

Appeal for help

Troop reinforcements were sent hurriedly to the area on Wednesday after fighting spread there.

But government spokesmen have also said that they do not have enough forces to deal with the crisis and have appealed for outside help.

Nato is urgently reviewing what help it can give to the authorities in Skopje.

The alliance has stepped up operations on the Kosovo side of the border with Macedonia, improved liaison with Macedonian units and allowed Yugoslav Army troops into a buffer zone between Serbia and Kosovo.

Flight

Panic buying of petrol and food has been reported in the city.

Albanian demonstrators
Thousands of Albanians demonstrated in support of the rebels
Local media say the shooting has prompted many families to flee the outskirts of Tetovo and head for the capital Skopje or elsewhere.

One of those fleeing said: "The situation in Tetovo is very tense. People are panicking.

"Everyone is trying to go where they can to save their family, children or wives."

Escalation fears

One person was killed and 13 were wounded in eight hours of clashes on Wednesday, which extended rebel activity more than 70 kilometres (40 miles) deeper into the west of the country.

The Macedonian Interior Ministry says it has information that new flashpoints could spread across the country. It believes weapons have been stockpiled in the Tetovo area for some time.

The rebels are believed to have a base inside the country, and the authorities fear that if the fighting spreads there may be a surge of support for the rebels among ethnic Albanians, who form at least a quarter of the population.

Thousands of ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Tetovo's main square in support of the guerrillas on Wednesday.

The militants say they are fighting for equal rights for the Albanian population, but are widely believed to be seeking to annex Albanian-populated areas to Kosovo, in a bid to create a "greater Albania".




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See also:

14 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia conflict escalates
15 Mar 01 | Europe
In pictures: Macedonia rebellion
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