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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Macedonia buries ambush victims
Funeral of Macedonian soldiers
The attack was the worst single incident yet in the conflict
Ten Macedonian soldiers killed in an ambush by ethnic Albanian rebels on Wednesday have been buried, as the country's Western-brokered peace plan appeared increasingly under threat.

Thousands of mourners marched through the central town of Prilep, the soldiers' home town, many vowing to take vengeance on the rebels.

There was fighting around the mainly ethnic Albanian city of Tetovo, and another eight soldiers were killed when their truck blew up on three land mines near the capital Skopje.


Personally I am convinced that Macedonia has the strength to win the fight for its own defence

Prime Minister
Ljubco Georgievski
Political controversy flared as well, with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski describing the peace plan as a "shameful capitulation" and saying the country's security forces could win against ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

The prime minister's office later denied that Mr Georgievski was distancing himself from the peace plan, but Western diplomats have expressed doubts that a deal can be salvaged.

Air strikes

Macedonian soldiers exchanged fire with ethnic Albanian rebels on the outskirts of Tetovo.

The director of the city's hospital, Rahim Thagy, told the BBC that 10 injured civilians were being treated there.

Macedonian helicopter gunship
Helicopter gunships were said to have been used near Skopje
And there were reports that the Macedonian army used helicopter gunships to attack an ethnic Albanian village near the scene of Friday's mine explosions.

Ethnic Albanian sources in Ljuboten, speaking to The Associated Press, said at least one house was "levelled" in the ethnic Albanian village, which was sealed off by government troops.

Diplomats have described the use of aircraft as a serious escalation of the fighting.

Optimism

US envoy James Pardew, speaking in Sofia, Bulgaria on Friday, condemned the violence, saying "the use of force by the Albanian extremists in Macedonia is unacceptable and totally rejected by the United States."

Prilep mosque
Macedonians destroyed the mosque in Prilep
But he said that he remained optimistic that a peace deal would be signed in Skopje on Monday as agreed by Macedonia's rival parties on Wednesday.

However, the BBC correspondent in Macedonia says the upsurge in fighting has left the peace deal agreed on Wednesday in tatters.

Diplomats said that the next few days would be crucial if the peace accord is to be salvaged.

"It doesn't look good," one said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Macedonia's second largest city is now a war zone"
Major Barry Johnson, NATO
"Emotions are running high"

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See also:

06 Aug 01 | Europe
Nato ready for Macedonia action
04 Jul 01 | Europe
Viewpoint: Macedonian identity
20 Mar 01 | Europe
The military balance
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