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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 00:33 GMT 01:33 UK
Macedonia urges Nato action
Mother kisses dead son
Macedonia has seen two series of burials in two days
The Macedonian Government has demanded Nato action to stop the alleged infiltration of armed rebels from across the border in Kosovo.

Government sources said they had evidence that rebel infiltration from Kosovo had led to the latest outbreak of fighting in Radusa.

Macedonian helicopter gunship
Reinforcements were sent to the scene of the fighting
Saturday's fierce fighting in the north of the country - both in Radusa and in the volatile town of Tetovo - has cast further doubt on Monday's planned signing of a peace agreement between the Macedonian and ethnic Albanian leaders.

A government spokesman, Antonio Milosovsky, accused the Kosovo Protection Corps - the civilian successor to the ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army - of making armed incursions into Macedonian territory.

No proof

But a Nato spokesman, Major Barry Johnson, said that while the Macedonian allegations were being taken seriously, there was no evidence of rebel infiltration from the UN-administered territory.

The defence ministry said security forces in the village of Radusa came under sustained attack for several hours. Troop reinforcements were flown in by helicopter and Sukhoi SU-25 ground attack jets also flew over the village.

Ethnic Albanian surveys damage to shop
Macedonians turn their anger on ethnic Albanian shopkeepers
Heavy machine-gun and mortar fire was also reported in the north-western town of Tetovo, which has in the past been the scene of repeated clashes between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.

At least three people, including one policeman, were reported to have been hurt in Tetovo and nine security personnel were injured in Radusa.

National mourning

Meanwhile Macedonians mourned the deaths of seven soldiers in a landmine explosion just outside Skopje on Friday.

Correspondents say fighting is still sporadic but has been getting progressively heavier since the peace deal with ethnic Albanians was agreed on Wednesday.

International mediators from the European Union and the United States have said it is critical that the deal is signed on schedule.

Every report of further fighting makes the peace process look even more vulnerable.

The Macedonian Government believes the latest fighting is proof that the ethnic Albanian rebels will never agree to surrender their arms to Nato as the deal demands, although it has pledged to go ahead with the signing on Monday.

Eulogies

Crowds gathered at several cemeteries in Skopje to bury the seven soldiers blown up in Friday's mine explosion.

Officials delivered eulogies to the dead men, whom they praised as heroes who died for their country.

It was the second series of burials in two days.

Another 10 soldiers, killed on Wednesday in the worst single attack by rebels so far, were buried on Friday.

Macedonian troops
The president has said that the offensive will continue
Macedonians angry at the killings rioted in Skopje, looting ethnic Albanian businesses and protesting outside the US embassy.

Senior Macedonian ministers decided on Friday night that military action against ethnic Albanian rebels would continue.

The Macedonian foreign minister has called for tougher international intervention to avoid full-blown civil war.

Torture allegations

BBC correspondent Chris Morris says the authorities are determined to portray the rebel movement as the aggressors in this conflict.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, accused the rebels on Saturday of torturing, sexually abusing and mutilating five Macedonian road workers whom they abducted and released this week.

The US human rights watchdog said the workers were beaten and had the initials of their names carved on their backs with a knife.

The rebels are believed to still be holding more than a dozen other Macedonians.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams reports from Skopje
"The situation is quite critical"

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See also:

10 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia buries ambush victims
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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