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Sunday, 18 March, 2001, 17:51 GMT
Greater Albania question
An ethnic Albanian rebel of the National Liberation Army (UCK)
Macedonian Albanians deny they want to join Albania
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt looks at the aims of the Albanian nationalists backing the uprising, and of other Albanians in the region.

Log on to the internet and look at websites run by patriotic Albanians overseas, and you will see maps of a notional Albanian nation.

Present day Albania is at the heart of it, but it has been expanded in all directions to take in Kosovo, parts of Serbia and Greece, and the region of Macedonia where the fighting is now taking place.

Is this what the young men in the hills are fighting for? They say not.

Journalists who have visited their hideouts report that their declared aims are all about the situation within Macedonia - a fairer share of the country's senior positions, more control over areas where Albanians are in the majority, and, above all, their own public university, where they can teach and study in their own language.

They deny wanting to join Albania, which is a much poorer country.

The sentiment appears to be mutual.

Violence condemned

The Albanian Government has condemned the use of force by the Macedonian Albanians and says it has no claim on any part of Macedonian territory.

It is in any case too weak to be thinking of territorial expansion and in no position to incur the international disapproval this would bring.

But if the fighters do not want to join Albania, might they want to join Kosovo, and the other parts of the former Yugoslavia with a majority Albanian population?

The final status of Kosovo is still unresolved, but one possible eventual outcome might be a looser alliance with Serbia and Montenegro.

For the Albanians of Macedonia to join fellow Albanians within some new form of confederation might be a possibility, but it is still likely to be a poor second to taking what they consider is their rightful place within Macedonia.


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18 Mar 01 | Europe
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