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The BBC's Biljana Georgievska in Skopje
"The talks never stopped in Macedonia"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Nato in Macedonia peace drive
Macedonian special forces in Sipkovica village near Tetovo
The army says the rebellion is over
The Nato Secretary-General, George Robertson, is due to meet Macedonian leaders in Skopje on Tuesday in a further attempt to ease tensions with the country's ethnic Albanians.

Lord Robertson is accompanied by the ambassadors of all 19 Nato members.

The meeting follows Monday's all-party talks aimed at addressing Albanian grievances.


We are going to continue a dialogue that will allow all sectors, all inhabitants of this country to benefit

President Boris Trajkovski
Meanwhile, Albania's prime minister has told the BBC that Tirana would have zero tolerance for anyone supplying the Macedonian rebels with arms.

Ilir Meta said the situation was totally different to that in Kosovo two years ago, adding that his government would give no support to the rebels.

Police checkpoints have been set up on main roads between Albania's coast and its border with Macedonia.

A 48-hour lull in fighting with rebels in Macedonia was ended by new gunfire in the village of Selce, above the flashpoint town of Tetovo.

BBC correspondent Nick Thorpe says the recent fighting has hardened the positions of both Macedonian Slavs and Albanians.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who chaired Monday's talks, said more discussions would follow on proposals which he had put forward.

He has the delicate task of satisfying the Albanians' demands for more rights without provoking a backlash from the Slav majority. There is pressure from the outside world to turn the country back from war.

Boycott

The EU's foreign affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, and security chief, Javier Solana, travelled to Skopje on Monday for more talks with the president.

Ethnic Albanian women in Macedonian village of Sipkovica
Ethnic Albanian leaders are pushing for better rights
"We don't want to be mediators but Mr Solana hopes to find a way of reinvigorating the process and solidifying the national consensus at this time of trouble," said Mr Solana's spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach.

Monday's talks were attended by the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, which is in the governing coalition.

But they were boycotted by the main ethnic Albanian opposition party, the Party for Democratic Prosperity.

Demands


The leader of the DPA, Arben Xhaferi, has threatened to pull out of the government unless its demands are met within a month.

He has also warned that the rebels will return if progress is not made.

On Monday morning, the army had reported a completely quiet night, and the authorities said the revolt was at an end. The border with Kosovo is due to reopen on Tuesday.

However, their claim a week ago to have successfully driven rebels from the hills around Tetovo proved premature.

It is not clear whether the rebels are dead, have fled into Kosovo, or have blended back into the civilian population.

But correspondents say the brief rebellion has changed the political situation in Macedonia. The government now accepts that the grievances of the Albanian minority have to be addressed, and the hand of Albanian politicians strengthened.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Europe
Nato's Kosovo challenge
27 Mar 01 | Europe
EU call for dialogue in Macedonia
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Military forces in Macedonia
18 Mar 01 | Europe
Greater Albania question
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