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The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"The problems facing the new administration are immense"
 real 56k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 06:14 GMT 07:14 UK
Macedonia coalition gets to work
Macedonian army helicopter
Hostilities resumed as parliament voted
A new government of national unity in Macedonia is due to begin efforts on Monday to end the ethnic Albanian insurrection which has led to heavy fighting in the north of the country.

The parliament in Skopje overwhelmingly endorsed Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski's new government, which includes the two main parties of the ethnic Albanian minority.

A BBC correspondent in Skopje says the main task of the new administration will be to restore peace to a country teetering on the brink of civil war.

PM Ljupco Georgievski
Ljupco Georgievski: "Rebels must be crushed"
But he says the government faces a difficult task in persuading the rebels to withdraw without more bloodshed, while striking a deal to improve relations between Macedonia's ethnic communities and preparing for new elections.

Deputies voted 104-to-one in favour of the new government. There were four abstentions.

The parliamentary approval vote was delayed by several hours after one of the Albanian parties - the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) - said it was opposed to harsh language used by Mr Georgievski when submitting his cabinet before deputies.

Fiery speech

In his speech, Mr Georgievski said the ethnic Albanian rebels were a "cruel enemy that had to be crushed".

The prime minister said: "The Republic of Macedonia is facing a difficult test, perhaps the most difficult since the proclamation of independence.

Ethnic Albanian members of the National Liberation Army
The rebels have pledged to continue fighting
"We shall make maximum preparations - political, organisational, military and financial - to crush the force of this dangerous enemy whose activities our state has to endure."

The BBC's Nick Thorpe says the PDP, which reluctantly agreed to join the government under intense international pressure, was clearly upset by Mr Georgievski's language.

The party said it was the speech of a party leader, not of a man leading a whole nation in a time of crisis.

Ahead of the session, the Macedonian army stopped shelling villages where the militants were believed to be positioned. But heavy exchanges subsequently resumed.

Army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski told reporters that the rebels had attacked government troops later in the day near the villages of Slupcane and Orizare and the army had fired back, using heavy artillery and tanks.

There were no casualties on the Macedonian side. There has been no word from the rebels of the National Liberation Army.

The spokesman said hostilities had ceased by the evening.

The Macedonian army said it had killed 30 rebels during a massive operation on Saturday, but the militants have denied losing any fighters.

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See also:

12 May 01 | Europe
Macedonian army 'kills 30 rebels'
11 May 01 | Europe
Macedonia coalition deal clinched
03 May 01 | Europe
Macedonia army begins offensive
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