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The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The fighting which threatens to plunge the Balkans into yet another civil war"
 real 56k

Kfor spokesman Squadron Leader Roy Brown
"Every man that lays down his weapon means there's one less finger on a trigger"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Ethnic Albanian rebel's fate unclear
Macedonian armoured vehicles
Macedonian forces are continuing their offensive
Confusion surrounds the fate of a key ethnic Albanian rebel leader in southern Serbia, who has refused to recognise a Nato-brokered accord aimed at ending the regional conflict.

Despite the uncertainty, officials from Nato and in Belgrade are confident that the deal, signed on Monday, will end southern Serbia's ethnic Albanian rebellion.

According to some reports, Muhamed Xhemajli - known by Serb forces as "Commander Rebel" - has been arrested by Serbian security units.

Other reports said Mr Xhemajli - who has refused to disarm and disband his force, despite the demilitarisation pact signed on Monday - had been detained by Nato K-For troops.

UCPMB soldier
Rebels are to withdraw from the Presevo Valley in Serbia
However a K-For spokesman that he was not in their custody, and that Nato had no knowledge of him being arrested by anybody else.

Belgrade has described Mr Xhemajli as one of the most militant guerrillas, while a senior Nato official has labelled him as a "rogue criminal element".

Reports of his arrest surfaced when Riza Halimi, an ethnic Albanian community leader, told a news conference that Mr Xhemajli had given himself up along with 40 guerrillas.

However, US military spokesman Major Randy Martin told the Reuters news agency: "He hasn't been detained...that is definite."

'Strong signal'

Monday's agreement was signed ahead of the scheduled deployment of Yugoslav forces into the final part of the buffer zone between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia on Thursday.

Macedonian soldier jumps from an APC in Kumanovo
The Macedonian Army has been ordered to hold fire for now
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said the deal "creates full conditions for the entry of our forces into the buffer zone".

Nato envoy Pieter Fieth said the deal sent a "strong signal to the region as a whole" and in particular to Macedonia, where a separate arm of the guerrilla movement is still fighting government forces.

Macedonia calm

Macedonia was reported to be calm on Tuesday following one of the heaviest exchanges of fire since the upsurge of violence in the region.

The village of Vakcince under bombardment
The village of Vakcince under bombardment
On Monday, Macedonian forces launched an artillery attack on the villages of Slupcane and Vaksince in response to an hour of rebel sniper and machine gun fire.

The Macedonian army has declared some progress in its offensive: advances in the village of Opae, right on the front-line, and targets - including a weapons dump - hit in other places.

However, the authorities remain concerned that Albanian rebels who have been fighting in Yugoslavia will cross Kosovo to join their comrades in Macedonia.

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See also:

19 May 01 | Europe
Clashes break Macedonia truce
18 May 01 | Europe
Macedonian ceasefire holds
10 Mar 98 | Monitoring
Serbia's neighbours voice concern
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