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The BBC's Jim Fish
"The uprising has opened up a divide within Nato"
 real 56k

Nato's Secretary-General Lord Robertson
"Nato strongly condemns the armed attacks that have taken place against soldiers and policemen from Macedonia"
 real 56k

Monday, 19 March, 2001, 10:52 GMT
Diplomacy quickens over Macedonia
Burning rebel position
Macedonian forces pound rebel positions around Tetovo
Fighting is continuing in northern Macedonia between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas, as diplomatic moves intensify to end the crisis there.


Those who armed Albanian separatists do not now know how to handle them. The situation is out of control

Vladimir Putin

The sixth day of conflict dawned with plumes of smoke rising from the hillsides to the north of the town, which is resounding to the sound of mortar fire.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim, meeting EU foreign ministers in Brussels, said he hoped the fighting could be halted, despite every sign that the situation in Tetovo is getting worse by the hour.

'Tougher action' call

He said: "I believe that the EU with its measures, combined with those that the Macedonian Government is undertaking on the diplomatic, political and security level, will manage to resolve a very grave situation in my country."

Ljubco Georgievski
Mr Georgievski criticised Nato troops in Kosovo
Anna Lindh, Foreign Minister of EU presidency holder Sweden, said: "We do not accept any violence and our support for the Macedonian Government is clear."

Mr Kerim will return to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, with the European Union's security and foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Yugoslav leaders are also meeting in Belgrade for talks on the crisis.

And Russian media quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying that the situation in Macedonia was out of control.

BBC correspondent Peter Biles says that many Macedonians are calling on their government to take tougher action against the guerrillas.

'Taleban in Europe'

But despite calling up the country's reservists, the security forces have not yet been able to end the violence.

Skopje has instead tried to shift the blame on to Western peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said the West was permitting the creation of "a new Taleban in Europe", and accused the US and Germany of refusing to act against ethnic Albanian rebels attacking targets in his country.
Javier Solana
Mr Solana condemned attacks by ethnic Albanians

''You can't persuade anyone in Macedonia today that the government of the US and Germany do not know who the terrorist leaders are and what they want,'' he said. ''They could stop them acting.''

US and German forces head the K-For peacekeeping forces in the eastern and southern sectors of Kosovo which border on northern Macedonia.

The Russian president also appeared to attack the West's role in Kosovo.

"Those who armed Albanian separatists do not now know how to handle them. The situation is out of control," Vladimir Putin said.

Curfew

Mr Solana said in a BBC interview that he strongly condemned the attacks by ethnic Albanians.

He described the Albanian guerrillas as men of violence who must accept the democratic process and he praised the Macedonian Government for the restraint it had shown so far.

On Sunday, Tetovo fell under a government-imposed curfew.

The correspondent says that from now on, only emergency services will be allowed to operate at night.

But despite the fighting, residents appear to be getting used to the situation, with some shops and cafes reopening for business.

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See also:

17 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia battle rages on
17 Mar 01 | Europe
Eyewitness: Tension in Tetovo
18 Mar 01 | Europe
Eyewitness: Fear in Macedonia
15 Mar 01 | Europe
New Macedonia fighting erupts
15 Mar 01 | Europe
In pictures: Macedonia rebellion
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