BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The ceasefire may not last"
 real 56k

Carlo Ungaro, head of the OSCE mission in Skopje
"People feel they should move to safer ground"
 real 56k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 01:28 GMT 02:28 UK
Refugees flee as ceasefire holds
Ethnic Albanians flee their village of Matejce
Feeling refugees fear a renewed assault
Refugees have been leaving rebel-held villages in northern Macedonia after the government indefinitely extended a deadline for ethnic Albanian rebels to lay down their arms.

The government on Thursday stated 1,500 refugees had left, who said they could no longer stand the army's shelling and the fear of a renewed assault.

Speaking to the BBC, the Nato Secretary-General, George Robertson, reiterated the alliance's support for Macedonia, but urged the authorities in Skopje to show restraint.

Trapped children in a cellar in Slupcane
Villagers have faced worsening conditions
He said a disproportionate use of force would alienate the civilian population and might lead to similar conflicts elsewhere in the region.

A BBC correspondent in Macedonia says the rebels are under intense diplomatic pressure to lay down their arms, and have been told they can have no place at the negotiating table until they do so.

If they relent, they are being promised some kind of amnesty, and the chance to set up their own political party, or to join existing Albanian political parties in Macedonia.

However, no Macedonian Government official or representative of the international community are willing to engage in direct dialogue.

All messages to them, under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, must go via Albanian politicians in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, or Tirana, the Albanian capital.

There is no proof yet that they will react favourably.

If civil war is avoided, the impatience of ethnic Albanians for more rights in Macedonian society will have to be speedily addressed, correspondents say.

Deadline extended

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said that security forces would not launch an immediate offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels, despite the expiry of a deadline issued earlier this week.

"We believe that the ceasefire is producing results," he said in an official statement.

Western diplomatic sources say a breakthrough is close in efforts to persuade ethnic Albanian fighters to lay down their arms.

"We are close to peace," said one official, requesting anonymity.

Macedonia's new coalition government had warned on Tuesday the rebels would be "eliminated" if they failed to lay down their weapons by noon on Thursday.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE

Key stories

Features

Viewpoints

AUDIO VIDEO
CLICKABLE MAP
 (Launches new window)
See also:

17 May 01 | Europe
Macedonia says ceasefire working
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories