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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 15:30 GMT
Putin hardens Balkan stance
Igor Ivanov and Vojislav Kostunica
Mr Ivanov (left) is on a tour of the region
By Paul Anderson in Belgrade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly said he will back international military intervention in Macedonia, if it is needed.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who is on a crisis trip to the Balkans, is believed to have passed on this message in a note to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.

German K-For troops on their way to Tetovo
The international presence in Macedonia is still small

Mr Ivanov was sent to Belgrade, Kosovo and Macedonia for urgent talks on the escalating crisis.

President Kostunica confirmed that he had received a written message from Mr Ivanov and that Yugoslav officials would be studying it.

But neither he nor Mr Ivanov disclosed to journalists what was in it.

'Resolute political action'

However, in Moscow the official Russian news agency Itar-Tass, quoting a Kremlin spokesman, said Mr Putin wrote that only resolute political action by the international community and, if necessary, the use of force could prevent the conflict from spreading across the Balkan peninsula.

Vladimir Putin
Putin is reported to have called for resolute political action
Mr Ivanov echoed his president's fears after an hour long meeting with Mr Kostunica.

He said the international community must now accept that the crisis in Macedonia was about the aggression of international terrorism which, if unchecked, could explode across the Balkans.

Mr Kostunica suggested the conflict was of the international communities own making since international peacekeepers and administrators had moved into Kosovo after the bombing in 1999.

He said the province had become a base for terrorism.

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