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The BBC's Colin Blane
reports from Skopje
 real 28k

EU's Foreign Policy chief, Javier Solana
"Macedonia is a country that is making a tremendous effort"
 real 28k

Arif Pollozhani, Vice President of the DPP
"We hope that the international community... will be now more engaged in the situation"
 real 28k

RUSI Balkans analyst Jonathan Eyal
"It is and it will always be a fragile coalition"
 real 28k

Hysamedin Halili, mayor of rebel-held Lipkovo
"We are running out of food and medicines"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Solana breaks Macedonia deadlock
Macedonian helicopters fire at the Albanian rebels stronghold of Slupcane
Macedonian forces are bombarding rebel-held villages
EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana has brokered an agreement between the parties in Macedonia's coalition government.

President Boris Trajkovski said that the government would resume talks to end the conflict in the north of the country.


We ask the government in Skopje to exercise firmness with restraint but flexibility with their politics

Lord Robertson
The country's national unity cabinet has been deadlocked since last week, when ethnic Albanian leaders signed a peace deal with the rebels.

The parties had also disagreed over the degree of force being used against the rebels, and whether there should be direct negotiations with them.

News of the deal came as Nato Secretary-General George Robertson urged Macedonia to show restraint in its battle with ethnic Albanian rebels.

Security forces said the conflict had entered a decisive phase.

Both Nato and the European Union have supported Macedonia in its battle with the National Liberation Army (NLA).

'Too much hatred'

But Mr Robertson said Macedonia must also respect the concerns of its ethnic Albanian minority.

Macedonian refugees
More than 9,500 refugees have fled to neighbouring Kosovo
Mr Robertson told Nato foreign ministers in the Hungarian capital, Budapest: "We ask the government in Skopje to exercise firmness with restraint, but flexibility with their politics in order that a solution can be found to this troubled situation."

He added, referring to the Balkans in general: "There is still too much hatred and revenge and still too much readiness by some to resort to force and violence in pursuit of the nationalistic illusion."

Key phase

Latest reports from northern Macedonia speak of continued fighting around rebel-held strongholds.

troops
Government troops are said to have entered Matejce
Government troops are said to have entered one of the villages, Matejce, but were meeting resistance from the insurgents.

Matejce, along with Vaksince and Slupcane, have been severely damaged by artillery and helicopter attacks.

Some civilians have been hiding in basement shelters for up to three weeks, and thousands are still pinned down in rebel strongholds like Slupcane and Lipkovo.

"We are entering a delicate, key phase in our action" to drive out the rebels, a senior police official told the Associated Press news agency on Tuesday.

"The next 48 hours will be decisive."

Civilians trapped

The clashes in northern Macedonia first began in February and flared with renewed intensity nearly a month ago, endangering thousands of civilians trapped in rebel-held villages.

The UN refugee agency estimated on Monday that 9,500 people had fled to neighbouring Kosovo to escape the fighting since it began.

An additional 2,500 others had fled to other parts of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia.

The Red Cross say they have been unable to reach thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting.

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28 May 01 | Europe
Macedonia blasts rebel village
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