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The BBC's Ben Brown
"This latest Balkans war seemsto be over"
 real 56k

Kfor spokesman Lieutenant Colone Mssimo Fogari
says it is difficult to distinguish between refugees and terrorists
 real 28k

The Macedonian Interior Ministry's Stevo Pendarovski
"The situation is under control"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles in Tetovo
"Tetovo is now largely quiet"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 March, 2001, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Macedonian army claims success
House in Gajre
Macedonian offensive has raised international concerns
The Macedonian authorities say they have successfully completed their military operation against ethnic Albanian guerrillas near the city of Tetovo.

The government says the guerrillas have been driven across the border into Kosovo and they will now become the problem of the K-For Nato-led peacekeeping force there.


I want to be blunt - it is a united Macedonia or another Balkan bloodbath

Lord Robertson
Earlier the rebels abandoned their headquarters in the hills above the city.

An announcement of the Macedonian army's withdrawal from the conflict zone was expected following talks in Skopje between President Boris Trajkovski, Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

After the talks, Lord Robertson urged the Macedonian Government to intensify dialogue with the ethnic Albanian minority.

"I want to be blunt," he said. "It is a united Macedonia or another Balkan bloodbath."


He commended the "firm but restrained way" the government reacted to the crisis.

However, BBC correspondents say that while the operation has been considered a success inside Macedonia, the intensive bombardment of the rebel-held areas raised international concern about the military's use of force.

Ideally, government sources said, the army needed another two weeks to complete the operation before handing over to police.

Nato reinforcements

The BBC's Paul Anderson says if Western leaders suggest an early withdrawal, Macedonia, one of Europe's poorest countries, would be in no position to say no.

He says the Macedonian Government will argue that Nato-led peacekeeping troops in the Serbian province of Kosovo are still not doing enough to prevent the rebels from crossing the border.

Macedonian army
Manpower: 17,000
98 battle tanks
14 aircraft
5 helicopters, including two Soviet-designed gunships
50 air defence guns
30 surface-to-air missiles
Mortars and heavy artillery
112 armed vehicles, most in poor condition
Shortage of basic supplies
Estimates from International Institute for Strategic Studies

On Sunday, Nato tried to reduce the flow of weapons to the NLA by allowing hundreds of Yugoslav troops and police into border areas.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that he is sending 120 more troops to southern Kosovo who will operate unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

And Mr Blair said some British troops already in Kosovo would join forces with Swedish troops to form a 400-strong unit to help patrol the Kosovo-Macedonia border.

Albanian withdrawal

Reporters who reached the headquarters of the National Liberation Army (NLA) rebels, in the mountain village of Selce, found it deserted.

Albanian rebels
Manpower: 300-700
Light anti-tank weapons
Kalashnikov rifles
Chinese-made machine guns
Sniper rifles and mortars

The AFP news agency reported from the scene that the rebels appeared to have left in a hurry, abandoning weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns by the road side.

But there were no signs of Macedonian troops in the village.

Meanwhile, hundreds of refugees fled across the border into Kosovo after a 12-hour night trek through snow-covered mountain passes.

Some said they had come under fire.

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See also:

26 Mar 01 | Europe
Military forces in Macedonia
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Yugoslavia beefs up buffer force
23 Mar 01 | Europe
In pictures: Death in Tetovo
25 Mar 01 | Europe
The Tetovo advance
18 Mar 01 | Europe
Greater Albania question
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