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The BBC's Jim Fish
"The new US president may want no part in a further Balkan engagement"
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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"We have had a very shaky ceasefire"
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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Nato presses for Macedonia peace
Macedonian police checkpoint, near Aracinovo
A fragile truce has been holding - so far
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson and the European Union security chief, Javier Solana, are due in Macedonia on Thursday to bolster efforts for a political solution to the conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and the government.

I don't believe [Thursday's] talks will be a success

Arben Xhaferi
Ethnic Albanian leader
They will be meeting Macedonian and Albanian political leaders to discuss a peace plan proposed by President Boris Trajkovski.

It allows for a partial amnesty for the guerrillas in return for their disarmament, and Lord Robertson and Mr Solana are expected to urge Macedonia's leaders to maintain a fragile truce, in place since Monday.

A government spokesman said the authorities still considered a ceasefire to be in effect, although there were reports of an exchange of fire between Macedonian forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in the northwestern city of Tetovo late on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, shooting broke near the village of Aracinovo, only seven km (four miles) from the capital, Skopje.

Talks setback

The president's plan, which has the firm backing of Nato and Western leaders, would allow the military to continue their offensive against Albanian rebels.

Macedonian police checkpoint, near Aracinovo
Tensions are still high
At the same time, it would address the core grievances of the ethnic Albanian community in the country.

Albanians want the constitution rewritten to give them and their language formal status, more jobs in public administration and more state-funded media and education.

But a key ethnic Albanian political leader, Arben Xhaferi, was pessimistic about the meeting, being held at Lake Ohrid in southwestern Macedonia.

"I don't believe [Thursday's] talks will be a success," he said.

No Nato troops

At a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, French President Jacques Chirac said that the alliance must "rule nothing out" to restore peace to Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanian refugee
Ethnic Albanians are continuing to flee into Kosovo
He said the conflict between ethnic Albanian fighters and the Macedonian army was threatening the stability of the region, and a strong message had to be delivered.

However, he later denied that he intended any military intervention by Nato, a position reinforced by visiting US President George W Bush.

"Most people believe there's still a political solution available before troops are committed," Mr Bush told a news conference after his talks.

"The sentiment I heard is that there's still a possibility for a political settlement, a good possibility, and we must work to achieve that settlement."

Meanwhile Macedonian police spokesman Steve Pendarovski said that the authorities have started arming a number of men, as part of a "mobilization of police reservists".

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Europe
Panic sparks refugee exodus
15 Mar 01 | Europe
Nato's Macedonian headache
12 Jun 01 | Europe
Macedonia army chief resigns
31 May 01 | Europe
Macedonia's road to peace?
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