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McG
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posted 11 March 2021 23:25     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
U.S. troops, Albanians clash
Two rebels wounded in incident near Kosovo-Macedonia border,
raising heat in Balkans
ALAN FREEMAN
Globe And Mail
Thursday, March 8, 2021


LONDON -- Tension in the Balkans rose yesterday after U.S. peacekeepers clashed with ethnic-Albanian rebels in a village near Kosovo's border with Macedonia, injuring two of the gunmen.

The incident, the first armed skirmish involving international peacekeepers since they began reinforcing the border last week, raised fears that the still-simmering Kosovo conflict could spill over into neighbouring Macedonia and other countries in the region.

"It's potentially a very dangerous situation because it's inflaming the passions of three players" -- the Serbs, the Macedonians and the Kosovo Albanians, said Brenda Pearson, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, a think tank that studies the Balkans.

Yesterday's clash took place in the hamlet of Mijak, just across the border from the Macedonian village of Tanusevci, where Macedonian soldiers and ethnic-Albanian guerrillas fought for two days earlier this week. Three Macedonian soldiers were killed on Sunday and several hundred ethnic Albanians fled over the border into Kosovo.

Yesterday, the U.S. troops, part of the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo, opened fire after they encountered a group of five or six men who pointed their weapons at them. One of the injured was detained while the other one fled across the border with the rest of the group.

"We will not allow Kosovo to be a safe haven for armed groups," KFOR spokesman Richard Heffer said. "I think the incident today shows that where necessary KFOR will take robust action against illegal activity on our side of the border."

Adding to the tensions, two Yugoslav soldiers were killed and two others were injured yesterday when a land mine destroyed their vehicle 10 kilometres to the northeast.

Two years ago, the international community intervened on the side of the Kosovo Albanians against the army of Yugoslavia's former president Slobodan Milosevic. Now it is Kosovo Albanian insurgents who are seen as the troublemakers, and the newly democratic Yugoslav government is regarded as more reasonable.

Initially, the trouble was concentrated on the border between southern Serbia and Kosovo, where the ethnic-Albanian rebels control several villages in the Presevo Valley and have had running battles with Yugoslav forces.

The spillover of tensions into Macedonia is of particular concern because of the volatile ethnic mix in this former Yugoslav republic of two million people that gained independence a decade ago. Ethnic Albanians, who are Muslims, make up about one-quarter of the population, which is primarily Macedonian Slav and of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

"Now that the Albanian KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] is moving into Macedonia, this means that the international community, including the U.S., can no longer stand by and watch," said Jacques Rupnik, a Balkan specialist and research director of the Paris-based Centre d'Études et de Récherches Internationales.

"Macedonia is a state whose stability the international community considers crucially important for the region," he continued. "If the internationals don't look after this problem, others will."

Already, there are signs that Belgrade is moving closer to the Macedonian government. And in a further sign of support for Macedonia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said yesterday that his government will send military supplies, including ammunition, to Macedonia beginning today.

"We clearly state that we do not accept the terrorist activity in the region . . . as it undermines efforts for finding a lasting peaceful solution to the whole knot of problems in Kosovo," he said.

It is unclear what the ethnic-Albanian rebels from Kosovo want, although there are those who believe in a greater Albania, which would encompass enclaves in Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia as well as Albania proper.

Mr. Rupnik said what the rebels are worried about is losing Western support and their dream of an independent Kosovo now that Mr. Milosevic has been overthrown. They are telling the international community that "any talk of bringing Kosovo back into Serbia will only bring you unrest and violence," he said.

Mr. Rupnik said it's essential to clamp down on the insurgents to reassure the new government in Belgrade that it is being integrated into the West.

"Everybody understands that if you want to help Serbia revert to nationalism, just allow this to continue," he said. "This is the time to show clearly to the Kosovo Albanians what the limits are."


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McG
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posted 11 March 2021 23:29     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Ethnic-Albanian gunmen driven from town near Macedonian border

PHILIPPA FLETCHER
Reuters News Agency
Globe and Mail; Friday, March 9, 2021


SKOPJE -- U.S.-led peacekeepers in Kosovo drove ethnic-Albanian gunmen yesterday from a hamlet they had used to attack Macedonia, but the gunmen appeared to strike back inside the country when a Macedonian police officer was killed by a grenade.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization directed another blow at the rebels, agreeing to let Serbian security forces into the buffer zone adjoining Kosovo and Macedonia, to curtail rebels who have seized control of parts of the zone.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica welcomed the decision to let his troops into the zone, but accused the alliance of sending his forces into the crossfire instead of dealing with the problem itself.

Russia said it is sending its Foreign Minister to the region soon and neighbouring Bulgaria also stepped in, promising "hundreds of tonnes" of military supplies to help Macedonia in its fight against the shadowy group that has threatened to bring a decade of Balkan ethnic conflict to a hitherto peaceful country. Macedonia raised the alarm two weeks ago after a clash between its security forces and ethnic-Albanian gunmen who had occupied the village of Tanusevci on the border with the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, under international protection since 1999.

A week later the crisis escalated when three Macedonian soldiers were killed, one by sniper fire and two by a land mine well inside the country. Yesterday saw a fourth victim, a police officer killed in his Jeep by a shoulder-launched grenade as he led a convoy of officials through the border area.

The NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo moved right to the border with Macedonia yesterday, into part of Tanusevci, where they found the gunmen's hastily abandoned headquarters in a school building, stocked with food and explosives.

"We have just concluded a successful operation by eliminating a safe haven for armed groups here in Kosovo," U.S. Brigadier-General Kenneth Quinlan, commander of Kosovo's Multinational Brigade East, said in nearby Debelde.

But as far as the confused local ethnic-Albanians were concerned, the peacekeepers had crossed into Macedonia.

"I don't want to be a citizen of Kosovo. I am a citizen of Macedonia," said villager Bajram Sinani, 55.

Unlike their Kosovo counterparts, most of Macedonia's ethnic Albanians feel their future lies in improving their position inside the state, rather than breaking away.

Diplomats say the main problem is preventing the insurgents from operating freely across the unmarked mountain borders between Kosovo, Macedonia and southern Serbia.


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McG
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posted 12 March 2021 00:06     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
NATO continues attempts to mediate ceasefire in Serbia's Presevo Valley
(From CBC Online, 11 Mar 01)

BUJANOVAC, Yugoslavia (AP) - Ethnic Albanian rebels refused Sunday to accept NATO plans to let Yugoslav soldiers return to a buffer zone along the boundary with Kosovo, complicating efforts to forge a ceasefire in the volatile region.

The Western alliance wants to send Yugoslav troops into the southern end of the five-kilometre-wide buffer zone to curb weapons smuggling from Kosovo to ethnic Albanian insurgents in Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic, and in nearby Macedonia.

However, the alliance first needs to negotiate a ceasefire between Yugoslav forces and ethnic Albanian rebels of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, who operate in the zone.

A NATO special envoy, Pieter Feith, failed Saturday to win ethnic Albanian approval of a plan to let a Yugoslav special police unit close to the village of Trnovo, at the edge of the zone, near the spot where Kosovo, the rest of Serbia and Macedonia meet.

Feith met with Yugoslav authorities in Bujanovac on Sunday and was expected to confer with ethnic Albanians again Monday. But the NATO plan faced stiff opposition.

The ethnic Albanian mayor of Trnovo, Galip Beqiri, said Sunday the rebels saw "no point in continuing talks" that would bring Yugoslav troops into the zone. He claimed Yugoslav police robbed and beat ethnic Albanian residents when they evacuated the village last year.

A rebel leader known as Commander Leshi told reporters the guerrillas were "categorically against the Serbs coming back" into the buffer zone. However, he left open the possibility that they might accept some form of Yugoslav presence "monitored either by (Kosovo peacekeepers) or the international community."

The buffer zone was established in 1999 when NATO-led peacekeepers entered Kosovo after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which ended former president Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the province.

The area was generally quiet Sunday, although Yugoslav government spokesman Milan Kerkovic said ethnic Albanians fired on a police post in the buffer zone after sunset. He said troops "neutralized two bunkers" of the ethnic Albanian fighters overnight. He gave no details.

Yugoslavia and Macedonia have blamed the renewed ethnic Albanian insurgency on NATO's failure to disarm militant groups in Kosovo. Serbia's new, democratic prime minister warned that NATO peacekeepers eventually must deal with the Albanian extremists.

"The international forces need to realize that they will either confront ethnic Albanian extremism or be defeated . . . and humiliated," Zoran Djindjic told the newspaper Glas. "(NATO) is facing the situation in which the baby it once nursed is now beginning to bite."

Meanwhile, in Macedonia's capital Skopje, hundreds of armed riot police backed by armoured vehicles stood guard for a soccer match between a team supported mostly by ethnic Albanians and another whose fans are mostly from the Slavic majority.

The match was supposed to have been played Wednesday but was postponed because of ethnic clashes in the north. The ethnic Albanian team, Sloga Jugomagnat, beat its rivals, Vardar, 2-0.

Earlier Sunday, about 500 people gathered in Skopje to launch a new ethnic Albanian political party, the National Democratic Party, to press for political changes in favour of the ethnic Albanians.

U.S., Albanian and European Union flags decorated the hall, but there was no Macedonian flag.


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Yard Ape
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posted 12 March 2021 11:02     Profile for Yard Ape   Email Yard Ape     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
What a bunch of jokers! A handfull of Kosovo Albanians decide a few years back to employ violence to seek independance for their province; the Yugoslav responds by taking retribution against the civilian population; the west steps in to protect the helpless; and now the same group who origionaly resorted to violence is using the KFOR ocupation as an excuse to spread thier violence into other territory. They may have had good cause for their initial struggle against the Serb dominated government, but this newest turn of events is equally unacceptable as the plight they found themselves in. Ethnic Nationalism is the same stupidity that triggered the first world war, and from the same part of the world. It is time these people grow-up, on all sides.

There is a new government in Yugoslavia, they should be directed to put forward a plan for how they will police the situation in Kosovo. If the plan is judged to be reasonable, the KFOR should be downgraded to an armed observation force and the Yugosav government should return to the responsibility of controlling within its boarders. There are many other European countries that can share experiences with Yugoslavia on controlling terrorist problems without resorting to civilian retribution (Brits in N.Ireland, Spain and the Basques, etc). If Yugoslavia returned to its old ways the observation force would be able to intervien, and reiforcments quickly flow in. A commitment to integrate Albanians as equal citizens would be the only other condition, and a plan would be required withing a given time period.

Yard Ape


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McG
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posted 12 March 2021 18:59     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Ceasefire signed in Balkan hotspot
WebPosted Mon Mar 12 12:30:42 2001
Written by CBC News Online staff

MERDARE, YUGOSLAVIA - Albanian rebels agreed to a ceasefire in a hotly-contested zone along Kosovo's border on Monday, shortly after NATO announced plans to let Yugoslav troops back into the area for the first time since the 1999 Balkan conflict.

The deal allows Yugoslav forces to patrol an almost five-kilometre wide zone which up until now has been patrolled solely by lightly armed police.
The rebels have been active in southern Yugoslavia and neighbouring Macedonia during recent weeks, raising fears of renewed instability in the region. They want more rights for ethic Albanians in Macedonia and Kosovo.

Macedonia and Yugoslavia blame the unrest on what they call NATO's failure to disarm the Albanian rebels in the first place.


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McG
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posted 14 March 2021 16:31     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Tuesday March 13 9:43 AM EST
New fighting in Macedonia, a day after ceasefire in nearby Serb zone

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonian soldiers battled ethnic Albanian insurgents in fierce fighting near the Kosovo border Tuesday, though a ceasefire agreed to by the rebels in neighbouring southern Serbia appeared to hold.

The new outbreak of violence in northern Macedonia set back hopes for a quick end to unrest around Kosovo after NATO succeeded Monday in winning important new agreements with the conflict's players aimed at defusing the threat of a wider Balkans war.


Macedonian police said clashes began in the morning at Malinovo Malo and Brest, two villages near the Kosovo border. Government forces were trying to "isolate" the guerrillas and "force them to retreat from the area," said Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski, suggesting that the Macedonian army had initiated the fighting.


Army officials had reported fighting the night before in the border village of Tanusevci, near the scene of Tuesday's clashes.


Ethnic Albanian rebels agreed Monday to a ceasefire in the Presevo Valley, a region of southern Serbia located in a buffer zone adjoining Kosovo. That ceasefire, however, did not apply to the nearby area of northern Macedonia where guerrillas have been fighting troops in recent weeks.


The ceasefire came into effect at midnight Monday, and southern Serbia was calm Tuesday morning.


Parallel to the ceasefire, NATO reached a deal Monday with its former enemy, Yugoslavia, to allow more heavily armed Yugoslav troops into the Presevo Valley, from which they have been barred since the end of the 1999 war in Kosovo.


The Yugoslav troops will patrol the area, relieving some of the pressure on NATO peacekeepers - particularly American soldiers - who have been trying to stop the flow of guerrillas and equipment to both fronts of the conflict, Macedonia and southern Serbia.


Belgrade also promised to adhere to the ceasefire with guerrillas, who have overrun parts of the Presevo Valley. "There will be no violation of the ceasefire because we won't fire first," said Nebojsa Covic, deputy prime minister of Serbia, Yugoslavia's main republic.


The valley lies at the southern tip of a buffer zone set up outside Kosovo in June 1999 to keep the Yugoslav army apart from NATO-led peacekeepers who took control of Kosovo.


Because only lightly armed Serbian police were allowed in the zone, ethnic Albanian insurgents were able to establish control in the strip of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia.


In recent weeks, rebels began attacking soldiers in Macedonia - raising fears the unrest could destabilize the government of that country, which has a large ethnic Albanian minority, and lead to a wider Balkan war.


The ultimate aim of fighting in both regions appears to be to link them to an independent Kosovo run by the ethnic Albanian majority, despite international opposition to sovereignty for the Serbian province.


The commander of NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo, Italian Lt.-Gen. Carlo Cabigiosu, said the accord meant that "in the very near future" Yugoslav forces would be able to move into the buffer zone.


Cabigiosu gave no timeframe for the Yugoslav deployment and few details about the size and weapons of the Yugoslav and Serb forces, but that "there will not be tanks in the buffer zone."


Covic said that the deployment would be subject to monitoring by UN officials and NATO-led peacekeepers as well as ethnic Albanian observers.


It was unclear what prompted the rebels to sign on to a truce. But the quick agreement between NATO and Belgrade might have left them off guard.


Over the weekend, rebel commander Shefket Musliu had threatened to "fight to the last man" to keep Yugoslav troops out of the zone. But hours after the deal was signed between NATO and Belgrade, he said he had agreed to a 20-day ceasefire mediated by NATO.


Still, he said, the rebels remained opposed to Yugoslav army and strong Serb police forces entering the buffer zone. "If someone shoots at the Serbs, we will not take responsibility," he said.


Covic said the return of Yugoslav troops into the area was "a first step toward the reintegration" of the zone into Yugoslavia. "The entire action will be performed cautiously and in accordance with the international rules."


Yugoslav troops pulled out of Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia, following the NATO air campaign, which was launched to force then-president Slobodan Milosevic to halt his crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo.


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McG
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posted 14 March 2021 16:48     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Wednesday March 14 1:27 PM EST
Under deal with NATO, Yugoslav units fan out in buffer zone near Macedonia

MIRATOVAC, Yugoslavia (AP) - With NATO helicopters overhead, Yugoslav troops on Wednesday fanned out in a buffer zone overrun by ethnic Albanian rebels, a deployment the Western alliance hopes will quell violence that threatens to escalate into a new Balkan war.

But tensions mounted in the zone as the Yugoslav forces deployed, and fighting erupted in neighbouring Macedonia. Columns of trucks and armoured personnel carriers with mounted machine guns moved past fog-shrouded hills, as hundreds of elite troops entered the southern tip of the zone.

Entering at Presevo - located in Southern Serbia - they moved south toward the villages of Norca, Trnava and Miratovac near the Macedonia border.

The deployment brings the heavily armed troops close to rebels who are their sworn enemies and an ethnic Albanian population that deeply resents the Serbs. Though NATO mediated a ceasefire, the rebels have already said they can't guarantee all their fighters will follow it.

Meanwhile, violence and shooting erupted Wednesday during a pro-rebel rally in northwestern Macedonia, near Kosovo. About 5,000 ethnic Albanians rallied in Tetovo, protesting "state terror" and urging a "joint front" with the rebels.

Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said about 15 rebels had opened fire in Kale, about 1.5 kilometres north of downtown Tetovo, and the nearby village of Selce.

A Tetovo hospital official said at least nine policemen were injured. Ten ambulances were seen rushing toward Kale, witnesses reported.

"Police are being shot at, and they are responding," said Blagoja Markovski, a Macedonian Defence Ministry spokesman.

Before and during the rally, intense gunfire was heard in Tetovo's neighbourhood of Kale, in the direction of the Kosovo border. With every burst or thud of fire heard from the distance, the protesters cheered loudly.

Several reporters at the rally were injured by angry protesters and sought shelter in a police station. A cameraman working for Skopje-based A1 Television sustained head injuries.

Macedonian forces also were fighting ethnic Albanian rebels Wednesday outside the border villages of Malino Malo and Brest.

Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said the troops were trying to isolate the guerrillas and force them to retreat. "The guerrillas are regrouping and fighting back," he said.

Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 per cent of Macedonia's 2 million people. The guerrillas in Serbia and Macedonia share a demand for more rights for ethnic Albanians, and some advocate joining the regions to an independent state in Kosovo.

Riza Halimi, the political leader of the 60,000-member ethnic Albanian community in the Presevo Valley, said the arrival of the Yugoslav troops brought made residents nervous.

"Painful memories from the last two years" remain fresh, said Halimi, recalling former president Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo.

Halimi demanded a "full demilitarization" of the area, followed by deployment of a new police force composed of mostly locals.

A rebel leader, who identified himself only as Commander Profi, said the Yugoslav deployment was "unacceptable."

"Everyone in the world knows that Serbs don't protect Albanians," he said. "How can it be that those Serbs that have killed tens of thousands of Albanians today come to protect them?"

Also Wednesday, hundreds of Serbs clashed with NATO-led troops in the ethnically divide town of Kosovska Mitrovica. The demonstrators were protesting the arrest of three Serbs overnight for assaulting a Canadian and a Danish police officer on March 1.

For the Yugoslavian military, Wednesday's deployment was the chance to regain control over part of the buffer zone in southern Serbia.

The five-kilometre-wide demilitarized zone was established in June 1999 to put distance between international peacekeepers in Kosovo and the Yugoslav army, after NATO air strikes forced Milosevic to halt his crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Because only lightly armed Serb police were allowed in the zone under the peace agreement, ethnic Albanian insurgents were able to establish control in its southern tip and move with relative ease into neighbouring Macedonia.


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McG
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posted 15 March 2021 16:25     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Heavy gunfire in Macedonia
Globe and Mail Update
With reports from Reuters News Agency and Associated Press
POSTED AT 8:03 AM EST Thursday, March 15

A heavy gunbattle erupted on Thursday between Macedonian troops and guerrillas in the northwest Macedonian town of Tetovo.

Reuters TV crew in Tetovo said heavily armed Macedonian police opened mortar and heavy machinegun fire from Tetovo suburbs in the direction of a nearby mountain from their armoured personnel carriers. Gunmen returned fire.

It was the second day of fighting near the ethnic Albanian city of Tetovo.

One civilian died on Wednesday and two were wounded, while 15 Macedonian policemen, three of them ethnic Albanians, were hurt, officials said. There was no word on the rebels' losses.

Soldiers and ethnic Albanian guerrillas clashed outside Macedonia's second-largest city for a second day Thursday as the government tried to bottle up an insurgency that spread from the countryside toward urban areas.

Macedonian police reported clashing with the extremists early Thursday on the slopes of Mount Sar Planina, north of Tetovo. Fighting in three villages started at daybreak and subsided by early morning. There were no reports of casualties.

There were long lines at gas stations in Tetovo as some Slavic and ethnic Albanian residents began to flee the predominantly ethnic Albanian town of 80,000. Shops remained closed Thursday and most residents stayed indoors. Macedonian forces also fought rebels outside the border villages of Malino Malo and Brest.

Southern Serbia remained edgy but calm early Thursday, a day after Yugoslav troops moved into an area held by ethnic Albanian insurgents. A NATO-brokered ceasefire between the rebels and Belgrade appeared to be holding.

NATO allowed the Yugoslav troops to deploy in the 26-square-kilometre area near the boundaries with Kosovo and Macedonia to stem the guerrillas' insurgency there and the movement of weapons and fighters into Macedonia.

But the successful deployment was overshadowed by the fighting in Macedonia.

Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said the clashes Wednesday began when about 15 rebels opened fire at police in Kale, a suburb of Tetovo just over a kilometre north of downtown, and in the nearby village of Selce.

"The situation is exceptionally serious," Mr. Pendarovski said.

One person was killed Wednesday, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said. Raim Thaci, director of Tetovo hospital, said at least 14 people were wounded, including 11 policemen.

Mr. Georgievski said that on Thursday the authorities will discuss the introduction of a countrywide state of emergency because of the deteriorating security situation.

Ethnic Albanians account for at least a quarter of Macedonia's two million people, dominating western regions of the country and a large section of the capital.

Until Wednesday, rebel activity had been limited to villages on the border with the Serb province of Kosovo. Government troops had hoped to keep the fighting away from urban areas.

About 5,000 ethnic Albanians had rallied in Tetovo's main square Wednesday in support of the rebels. With every burst of fire heard from the distance, they cheered loudly, looking north toward Kale and the mountains beyond that form the Kosovo border.

The unrest in Macedonia is linked to Kosovo and the insurgency in a NATO-established buffer zone that separates the province from the rest of Serbia, the main republic of Yugoslavia.

The area where Yugoslav forces deployed Wednesday is located inside the buffer, from which the troops had been barred. Their presence there now created tension for the area's ethnic Albanian population.


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Yard Ape
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posted 16 March 2021 10:38     Profile for Yard Ape   Email Yard Ape     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
The KLA better realize that this time the world will see them as the "Bad Guy" and the wrath which saved them last year will now be coming down on their heads.

Yard Ape


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Yard Ape
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posted 16 March 2021 11:26     Profile for Yard Ape   Email Yard Ape     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
I remember seeing a report in Maclean's, Newsweek, or The Times a few years back, when was when the war in Bosnia was still young. It predicted that the war would spill over into all of Yugoslavia, Albania, Macedonia, and even as far as Greece and Turkey. It seems that the author's predictions my have been too accurate and only overestimated the rate at which the war would spread.

Yard Ape
---------------------------------------------

Troops, rebels clash outside Macedonia's second-largest city
Friday March 16 9:20 AM EST

TETOVO, Macedonia (AP) - Mortar explosions shook the outskirts of Macedonia's second-largest city Friday as government troops fought ethnic Albanian rebels near the Kosovo border for a third day.

State radio spoke of "real war in Tetovo." Meanwhile, government commandos fired mortar and heavy machine-gun rounds at rebels on the slopes of Mount Sar Planina. Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said police on the outskirts of Tetovo and army units on the mountain were trying to push the guerrillas toward Macedonia's border with Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians account for at least a quarter of Macedonia's two million people, and the rebels among them are fighting a guerrilla battle here for causes that range from more rights to independence. The volatile situation has sparked fears of a new Balkan war.

On Friday, news reports said police repelled an attack near the Tetovo suburb of Strmno, where rebels had come within 18 metres of homes. Troops also reported progress Friday around the border village of Tanusevci, where fighting erupted last month.

The Macedonian government said Tanusevci and two other volatile border villages were cleared of land mines. It urged ethnic Albanian villagers to return to their homes.

A new conflict appeared to be building elsewhere in the country. Pendarovski said there was overnight shooting just outside Kicevo, about 113 kilometres southwest of Skopje, the capital, and a police station was targeted in the village of Zajas, near the border with Albania.

Fighting outside Tetovo ended shortly after daybreak, but residents who feared further violence continued to flee. Police said that by Thursday evening 400 families had left.

One Tetovo resident said some ethnic Albanian men were seeking refuge with Slavic Macedonian neighbours because they were afraid they would be forcibly recruited by the guerrillas.

On Thursday, the government lifted a restriction that had barred the army from fighting in highly populated areas. Later, the National Security Council - a panel of top government and defence officials - said the government would "take additional urgent and efficient measures for the Macedonian security forces to neutralize the terrorist groups."

On Thursday, two ethnic Albanian civilians were wounded by stray bullets, Macedonian state radio reported. One person was killed Wednesday and at least 14 others were wounded, 11 of them policemen.

The unrest is linked to Kosovo, a heavily ethnic Albanian province in southern Serbia administered by the United Nations and NATO-led peacekeepers. Yugoslav troops were deployed Wednesday in a buffer zone adjoining the province.

While stepping up border patrols inside Kosovo to stop the flow of fighters and supplies, NATO refuses to be drawn directly into fighting. But Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said the government might ask for "direct involvement" by NATO anyway.

"In case it is necessary, we will ask them to directly confront the terrorists," he said.

On Friday, Russia urged NATO to work harder to defuse tensions in the Balkans. In the past, it has blamed the renewed insurgency on NATO's failure to disarm militant groups in Kosovo.

"It is necessary to without delay take measures for preventing the unravelling of the crisis and extremism in the region," the Russian foreign ministry said Friday.

On Thursday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan claimed progress in rebuilding Kosovo in a report to the UN Security Council but expressed frustration with the continuing violence.

"Most (Kosovo) residents abhor the violence that troubles the province, yet they remain unwilling to co-operate fully with (the UN mission) in tackling the causes and perpetrators of such violence," the report said.

The report said Serb communities in Kosovo suffer disproportionately from crimes of ethnic hatred, and that Roma communities have suffered violent attacks involving hand grenades and arson.


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McG
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posted 19 March 2021 01:20     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Sunday March 18 9:26 PM EST
Yahoo! News

Macedonian government campaign intensifies as rebel support widens
By BRIAN MURPHY

TETOVO, Macedonia (AP) - Fighting between government troops and ethnic Albanian rebels sent residents scurrying for cover Sunday on the outskirts of Macedonia's second-largest city - and mixed the sounds of gunfire with chants of churchgoers praying for peace.

Macedonian gunners unleashed sustained artillery and mortar strikes Sunday for the fifth straight day, targeting the wooded foothills where the rebels have been hiding and returning fire on Tetovo. Government forces fired large-calibre mortars, sending 120-millimetre rounds looping behind a mountain ridge in an attempt to reach insurgent positions farther back.

In an address to the country Sunday, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski announced new measures to crack down on the rebels' fight for greater rights and recognition, including a curfew and restrictions on movement in the Tetovo region.

He rebuked the United States and Germany, whose troops patrol the neighbouring Yugoslav province of Kosovo as part of NATO's contingent there, of not doing enough to stop the rebels. Meanwhile, he said, "Macedonia is rapidly arming itself."

"You cannot convince us that the chieftains of these gangs are unknown to your governments, nor can you persuade us that they cannot be stopped," Georgievski said.

While stepping up border patrols inside Kosovo to interdict fighters and supplies to the zone and to Macedonia, the NATO alliance refuses to be drawn directly into fighting that could lead to casualties.

Only a handful of people and a few cars with their headlights off crept through the streets Sunday evening as a curfew in Tetovo came into effect and the sound of heavy weaponry fire echoed through the deserted streets.

Despite the ferocity of the Slav-led government's assault, there was evidence the insurgents were winning over some ethnic Albanians. Although ethnic relations in Macedonia have been relatively trouble-free, substantial numbers of the minority feel they are being treated as second-class citizens.

But although the National Liberation Army urged ordinary citizens to take up arms and join their struggle, some ethnic Albanians remained suspicious of the rebels and their motives.

"I don't know what to say about them. I do not know even if we can trust them or not," said Shefik Azizi, 25, after guiding a group of fellow ethnic Albanians fleeing the threat of violence into neighbouring Albania.

The rebels insist their battle is not being instigated from neighbouring Kosovo by the former Kosovo Liberation Army, but the latest uprising shares the aspirations for ethnic Albanian self-determination, if not outright independence.

In some neighbourhoods, no more than 46 metres separate government troops huddled in fortified positions on the outskirts of Tetovo and rebel units hidden in scrub-covered slopes.

Near the old bazaar section, residents hid behind walls and cowered in doorways during sporadic fire fights. A small girl cradled a pink stuffed rabbit, covering its ears during the gunfire.

But security forces still were unable to leave their fortified bunkers in the city, and the army remained on the sidelines with the exception of several units of special anti-terrorist squads and a partial mobilization of reserve infantry.

Rebels control the few roads snaking into the steep mountains around the Popova Shapka ski centre near the border with Kosovo, and were on the watch behind roadblocks of branches and tree limbs.

A bit farther into the city, in Tetovo's Slav neighbourhood of Koltuk, about 30 people gathered for Christian Orthodox service at Saint Nicholas church. They held twigs of dried sage during chants of the Lenten Liturgy, drowned out by the sounds of battle less than a kilometre away.

"Pray for the Christians of Macedonia and especially here in Tetovo," intoned the priest.

The sharp smell of the burning woodlands, carried by a north wind coming from the direction of Tetovo, drifted into the church and mixed with the earthy odours of incense.

"I don't often go to church," said Dimitri Kolovski. "But how can you not pray at a time like this?"

Outside, more people packed their cars and headed away from the main Slav enclave in Tetovo. Hundreds were reported to have fled from Tetovo and Skopje, the capital, among them about 350 Slavic Macedonians who arrived Sunday in southern Serbian areas neighbouring Macedonia.

The rebels said they had killed 11 policemen and wounded 18 others, while suffering no casualties of their own, since the conflict began a month ago on the border with Kosovo. But government officials said only five of their forces were killed as a direct result of the hostilities - three soldiers who drove over a land mine and two policemen shot by rebels.

-------------------------------------------
More details can be found in this cut from an earlier Globe and Mail posting of what was mostly the same article:

(POSTED AT 6:09 PM EST, Sunday, March 18
Globe and Mail
Macedonia steps up attacks on rebels)

For a second day, thousands of protesters demonstrated Sunday in Skopje, gathering outside Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's office to demand stability so that those who have fled can return home.

The government ruled out direct contact with the insurgents. "We will never hold talks with the terrorists," declared government spokesman Antonio Milososki.

Despite the ferocity of the Slav-led government's assault, there was evidence that the insurgents were winning the support of ethnic Albanians who say they are being treated as second-class citizens.

In an interview published in Germany on Sunday, the ethnic Albanian leader whose party is a partner in Macedonia's government warned that the conflict will turn into a "blood bath" without Western intervention.

"If the West doesn't take care of our problems, the fighting will escalate," Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Albanian Party told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "There could very soon be vicious bloodshed with many dead. Many are armed in the Balkans."

Even some highly influential leaders sense that a violent showdown may be the only way to challenge a system they claim fosters discrimination and harassment against ethnic Albanians, who account for at least a quarter of Macedonia's two million people.

"This is becoming a kind of holy war," said Fadil Sulejmani, rector of the once-outlawed University of Tetovo.

The rebels insist their battle is not being instigated by the former Kosovo Liberation Army, but the latest uprising shares the aspirations for ethnic Albanian self-determination, if not outright independence.

In a session that ended early Sunday, the Macedonian parliament overwhelmingly adopted a resolution blaming the crisis on "armed groups of extremists." The resolution also urged North Atlantic Treaty Organization peacekeepers in Kosovo to increase efforts to intercept fighters and arms.

[ 19-03-2001: Message edited by: McG ]


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Macedonian army tanks move into besieged city, ready to fight
Monday March 19 6:35 AM EST

TETOVO, Macedonia (AP) - The Macedonian army sent four tanks rolling into the country's second-largest city Monday, signalling the military was ready to engage ethnic Albanian rebels fighting for greater rights and recognition in Slav-dominated Macedonia.

The tanks entered Tetovo shortly before noon, accompanied by an armoured personnel carrier and two military trucks, one filled with government soldiers. They arrived as clashes decreased in intensity after a night of bombardments.

Macedonian police and army units were bringing in infantry reinforcements, including armoured vehicles, field artillery pieces and howitzers, the independent Yugoslav radio station B92 reported.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said Monday that the international force in Kosovo would be moving more troops up to the border with Macedonia to cut off the supply lines to ethnic Albanian rebels who have attacked government forces there.

Fighting was especially fierce overnight in the village of Drenoec on the outskirts of Tetovo, where the rebels fired on police, state-run media reported. Insurgents also targeted the Tetovo soccer stadium with mortars. The neighbourhoods of Teke, Mala Recica and Gajire were rocked by fighting.

Some cars and city buses returned to the streets, but most stores remained shut after an overnight curfew ended Monday morning.

Sunday night, only a handful of people, and even fewer cars crept through the streets. But the curfew ordered by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, along with restrictions on movements in the region, did nothing to stop the booming volley of fire between government forces and the insurgents.

"Macedonia will win this battle without giving up a single foot of our territory. And after the victory, Macedonians and Albanians will continue to live together - as they must," Georgievski declared in a Sunday address to a country he said "is rapidly arming itself."

Georgievski accused the United States and Germany, whose troops patrol the neighbouring Yugoslav province of Kosovo as part of NATO's contingent there, of not doing enough to stop the rebels.

"You cannot convince us that the chieftains of these gangs are unknown to your governments, nor can you persuade us that they cannot be stopped," he said.

Zekir Bekteshi, spokesman for the opposition ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity, said party activists were in the field to try to stabilize the Tetovo region.

"We are optimistic that this can still be resolved by political means and diplomacy," Bekteshi said.

EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels, Belgium, promised to boost financial and other aid to Macedonia to help reduce tensions. The EU's security affairs chief, Javier Solana, also was heading to the Macedonian capital of Skopje later in the day.

Russian Foreign Minister Igo Ivanov arriving in Belgrade on Sunday for talks with Macedonian and Yugoslav leaders on ways to avert all-out war.

"We are deeply convinced that the international community now needs to unite efforts to establish stability and stop the terrorism," he said.

Ethnic Albanians account for at least a quarter of Macedonia's two million people, and although ethnic relations in Macedonia have been relatively trouble free, substantial numbers of the minority feel they are being treated as second-class citizens.

But although the National Liberation Army urged ordinary citizens to take up arms and join their struggle, some ethnic Albanians remained suspicious of the rebels and their motives.

"I don't know what to say about them. I do not know even if we can trust them or not," said Shefik Azizi, 25, after guiding a group of fellow ethnic Albanians fleeing the threat of violence into neighbouring Albania.

The rebels insist their battle is not being instigated from neighbouring Kosovo by the former Kosovo Liberation Army, but the latest uprising shares the aspirations of Kosovar Albanians for ethnic Albanian self-determination, if not outright independence.

The rebels said they had killed 11 policemen and wounded 18 others, while suffering no casualties of their own, since the conflict began a month ago on the border with Kosovo. Government officials said only five of their forces were killed as a direct result of the hostilities.

German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping told SWR radio that talk of a new Balkan war was unjustified. He added there were no plans to pull German troops out of Tetovo, despite their base being targeted Friday by gunfire


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Ethnic crisis revives Balkan map debate
Diplomats working in area say redrawing would be dangerous, unrealistic move
PAUL TAYLOR
Reuters News Agency
Saturday, March 17, 2021

LONDON -- The spectre of fresh ethnic conflict in Macedonia has revived debate in the West about redrawing the map of the Balkans, but diplomats directly involved warn that would open a can of worms.

The violence by ethnic-Albanian guerrillas has raised fears that the most southerly former Yugoslav republic, which stayed calm throughout the 1990s despite being regarded as a potential powder keg, could be the next Balkan state to explode.

While officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have played down the seriousness of the fighting, United Nations Balkans envoy Carl Bildt says this week's clashes around Tetovo, Macedonia's main ethnic-Albanian city, mirrored events that plunged Bosnia and then Kosovo into war.

"What is happening in Tetovo is one of the most alarming events in the Balkans during the last 10 years," Mr. Bildt said.

Lord Owen, a former British foreign secretary who was the European Union's peace envoy on Bosnia in the early 1990s, called this week for a redrawing of the map to create more viable states in the Balkans, including an independent Kosovo.

Breaking every Western taboo, Lord Owen wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "What is needed today is a Balkans-wide solution, through a present-day equivalent of the 1878 Congress of Berlin, with preagreed boundary changes endorsed by the major powers."

He said NATO's peacekeeping mission in Kosovo is becoming impossible. U.S. President George W. Bush should demand a reappraisal of whether NATO could hold the province within Yugoslavia against the will of 90 per cent of its inhabitants, who are ethnic Albanians.

Some Western analysts predict that ethnic-Albanian hard-liners will eventually turn their guns on the NATO forces who drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999, if the West comes to be seen as the last obstacle to Kosovo's independence.

Faced with a choice between endless war and independence, the West should do what it takes to secure peace, Lord Owen argues.

That would mean accepting Kosovo's independence, redrawing the boundaries of Bosnia along the lines of a three-republic plan he drafted in 1993, and transferring some territory from the Bosnian Serb republic to Serbia. In return, Serbia's sister republic, Montenegro, would be allowed to secede from Yugoslavia.

But Lord Owen sees no geographical solution for Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians make up about a third of the population (the other two-thirds are mainly Orthodox Slavs).

"There is politically little room for even the smallest of boundary adjustments in Macedonia," he wrote, saying it is up to the European Union to give the country more economic and political help, and possibly military support.

Diplomats involved in current Balkans peacemaking describe Lord Owen's ideas as unrealistic and dangerous, saying they could encourage radicals in Kosovo and Macedonia and undermine efforts to rebuild a multiethnic state in Bosnia, the other country where NATO leads a peace stabilization force.

In Macedonia, where NATO has no peacekeeping role, the West's only practical course is to help the ethnically mixed government control its borders with Kosovo and southern Serbia, they said, and support its clampdown on the gunmen. "To start calling into question borders in the Balkans would open Pandora's box. It's the height of irresponsibility," a senior European diplomat said.

Mr. Bildt was more diplomatic: "There is no logical end point to that carve-up. . . . It would be likely to lead into a second wave of disintegration in the coming months."

Diplomats say that no outside power has the authority to redraw borders in the Balkans and that a grand negotiation among all the countries and communities of the region is hard to imagine.

But they acknowledge the status of Yugoslavia is bound to come up for discussion this year, with Montenegro planning a referendum on independence perhaps as early as next month, and Kosovo due to hold elections for a provincial assembly.

While Belgrade hopes to preserve a federal Yugoslavia, the leaders of both Montenegro and Kosovo want nothing less than full independence.


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U.S. ponders 'non-military' assistance for Macedonia
Globe and Mail, 1:10 PM EST, Monday, March 19
Reuters News Agency

Washington — Washington is studying "non-military" ways to help Macedonia, the White House said on Monday, as clashes continued between ethnic Albanian guerrillas the country's armed forces.

President George W. Bush is "concerned" about the violence in the country, a spokesman said, and observers fear that more tension in the volatile Balkans could spark a wider war in the region.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said on Monday it was sending more troops to Kosovo's southern border with Macedonia as that country battles a rebellion by guerrillas it believes are infiltrating from the troubled Serb province.

"The President is concerned about the actions taken by Albanian extremists and that's another reason why the President and NATO authorized stepped-up patrols," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"The President is concerned about the level of violence there," he added.

Ethnic Albanians make up one-third of Macedonia's population of two million. Both the Macedonian government and the West are worried about the risk of a slide toward ethnic conflict that could not only tear the tiny Balkan republic apart but ultimately drag in neighboring Bulgaria, Greece, Albania or Yugoslavia.

On the ground in Macedonia, government tanks and truckloads of troops headed for the mainly ethnic Albanian city of Tetovo, where paramilitary police pounded rebel targets for a sixth day with mortar and machine-gun fire.

National Security Council spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman said Washington was "looking at non-military actions" to help, adding, "We support the Macedonian government's efforts to defend their border."


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Macedonian Tanks Shell Rebels, Solana Urges Talks
Tuesday March 20 1:01 PM EST
By Fredrik Dahl

TETOVO, Macedonia (Reuters) - Macedonian tanks started shelling ethnic Albanian guerrillas for the first time outside the northwestern city of Tetovo on Tuesday following a government pledge to flush the rebels out in a final offensive.

"The army got involved with all its power after 1600 hours (1500 GMT)," said an army source. "We expect results overnight," he added, as diplomatic efforts to stop the week-old fighting continued.

A steady thunder of tank fire echoed around the mountain slopes above Tetovo and thick smoke rose from the woods and several houses.

The army moved at least 10 Soviet-made tanks, as well as hundreds of troops and artillery to Tetovo on Monday in what authorities said was preparation for a "final operation" against the rebels.

There has no immediate sign on Tuesday of troops moving up into the hills under cover of the tank fire.

European Union security chief Javier Solana, visiting Skopje to back the Macedonian government, told the rebels they would achieve nothing by force and advised his hosts not to start talk with the guerrillas.

"Nothing, and I mean nothing, will be obtained by violent means," Solana told reporters. "It is a mistake to negotiate with the terrorists and we do not recommend it," he added.

REBELS DEFIANT

A rebel commander said his troops in the hills over Tetovo were dug in and had not been dislodged by Macedonia gunfire.

"We are not afraid of them," Sadri Ahmeti, a leading member of the self-styled National Liberation Army told Reuters at his base in the mountain village of Selce.

Macedonia's two main Albanian parties -- one of them a member of the ruling coalition -- on Tuesday signed a statement urging ethnic Albanian guerrillas to lay down their arms.

The statement was signed in front of Solana, EU sources said. Solana termed it a first step toward isolating the NLA rebels.

Nearly 8,000 people have fled their homes in Macedonia to escape the fighting, with half of them crossing into Albania. Most of the refugees had found shelter with friends and family, relief organizations said.

A German newspaper said Berlin was to send paratroopers to Macedonia to protect its peacekeeping garrison there. A Defense Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, to appear in the newspaper Bild.

Macedonian troops pounded wooded hillsides with mortar fire and raked houses with machinegun bursts near Tetovo's city football stadium. A 20-mm cannon and a heavy-caliber machinegun punched holes in the white-plastered walls and set fire to the roofs of a cluster of three walled homes.

Thick black smoke belched skywards and orange flames licked the roof-timbers just 300 meters (yards) away from two armoured personnel carriers and a wall of white sandbags.

The rebels were believed to be well dug-in in hillside trenches and tunnels belonging to old Turkish fortifications. Any assault against them was likely to cause serious casualties.

There has been little recent return fire from the rebels.

"The intensity of the attacks against our forces is slowing down," said Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski.

REBEL LOSSES

A government spokesman in Skopje said on Monday that security forces had destroyed the main guerrilla stronghold on a hill overlooking Tetovo, a town of around 70,000 people.

There was no independent confirmation of this claim and rebels denied they had lost any ground.

"We are able to stick to our positions because we are getting volunteers coming every day," said the NLA's Ahmeti.

Macedonian forces have mortared and machinegunned rebel targets since Wednesday in an effort to dislodge what Macedonia says is a force of several hundred guerrillas of the NLA.

Although observers said the guerrillas had returned little fire in the past three days the rebel chief remained defiant and refuted Macedonian claims that they were on the run.

Ahmeti said the guerrillas had repelled several attacks and that they still held the Ottoman-era fortress on the top of the hill, controlling the entrance to the Sar valley where the ethnic Albanian village of Selce is located.

The guerrillas had lost one soldier in the Tetovo area since the fighting started and seven were wounded, he said.

Condemned by the West as a small group of extremists without broad popular support, the guerrillas say they are fighting for better rights for Albanians in Slav-dominated Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanians make up one-third of Macedonia's two million population. The international community is worried Macedonia could slide gradually into ethnic civil war unless the violence is quickly halted.

Some 2,300 ethnic Albanians have crossed from Macedonia into Albania and a further 1,300 into Serbia, while some 4,000 more Macedonians have been displaced within their country.

NATO said on Monday it was sending more troops to help prevent guerrillas infiltrating Macedonia from Kosovo, where the Western security alliance has stationed 38,000 peacekeepers.


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NATO to send extra troops to Kosovo, Macedonia
Globe and Mail Update
With reports from Murray Campbell and Reuters News Agency
POSTED AT 10:58 AM EST Wednesday, March 21

NATO announced Wednesday it will be sending more troops to southern Kosovo to help cut off supply routes into Macedonia used by ethnic Albanian rebels.

The news comes as Macedonian officials reported to Reuters News Agency that the rebels had so far shown no sign of surrender or retreat from the mountains above the town of Tetovo following an ultimatum from the army. Macedonia had given the rebels until the end of Wednesday to lay down their arms and surrender or leave the territory of the state shattered by a week-old conflict.

A rebel commander who uses the name of Kusha told Reuters by telephone: "We are not going to quit our positions even if other ultimatums are given or cease-fires offered."

NATO had already announced Monday that it planned to boost its numbers in the region. Wednesday's announcement means the alliance plans to further increase its presence as tensions in the area grow.

Alliance ambassadors, meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, approved a series of measures to stabilize the southern Balkans and demonstrate international support for the Macedonian government.

"We have sent extra troops to the border area and increased patrolling," an alliance statement said. "A further review has shown such activities can be further increased and more troops will now be sent to the border area."

The European Union warned the rebels Tuesday there would be no negotiations over their demands for better rights for ethnic Albanians living in Macedonia. Even the two main ethnic-Albanian political parties in Macedonia, wary of the prospect of a civil war, urged the guerrillas to lay down their arms and return to their homes.

Lenard Cohen, a Simon Fraser University political scientist, said that this month's insurgency should prompt states in the region, including Albania, Greece and Bulgaria, to form a rapid-reaction force that could be deployed to deal with similar situations that are certain to arise in the Balkans.

But he warned that the long-term solution should be forged by diplomats, not military commanders. He suggested that the million or so ethnic Albanians outside Albania — including more than 500,000 in Macedonia — will remain discontented until their territorial aspirations are met. Some analysts suggest that the ethnic Albanians want to bring parts of the former Yugoslavia, such as Kosovo, into some sort of federation.

It is unlikely that Canadian troops would be used to stop the fighting. Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley said from London Tuesday that Canada supports Macedonia's defence of its territorial integrity, but that there has been no request from NATO for Canadian help in stabilizing the situation.

Canada has 1,700 troops in Bosnia, and Mr. Manley said he doesn't believe they can be moved. "I can't see how it could be done with the same number of forces as we have currently committed to the region," the minister said at a news conference after a speech to the Royal Institute for International Affairs. "It's unlikely that we can commit additional forces, and so it's a little difficult to foresee."


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Macedonian rebels declare ceasefire
Reuters News Agency
Globe and Mail, POSTED AT 12:06 AM EST, Thursday, March 22

Skopje — Ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia on Wednesday declared an unlimited, unilateral ceasefire to permit talks on a peaceful solution to the crisis threatening civil war in the former Yugoslav republic.

But the government on Wednesday said it had decided not to comment.

"We have agreed not to comment," President Boris Trajkovski told waiting reporters after a lengthy closed-door meeting with the leaders of the main political parties in the capital, Skopje.

The move by the rebels came just hours before the expiry of a Macedonian government ultimatum to the rebels to give up their positions or face a full-scale offensive by the army any time after midnight.

"We think it is better to talk rather than start a fight between the two peoples because blood will be shed and then there will be no room for talks," said Ali Ahmeti, political spokesman for the National Liberation Army (NLA).

"In order to pave the way for a peaceful solution, the NLA declares an unlimited, unilateral ceasefire," he told Kosovo's RTK television, broadcast from Pristina.

Mr. Ahmeti said the guerrillas would not abandon their positions in the mountainous hinterland behind the republic's second city, Tetovo, scene of heavy bombardment by government forces for the past week.

"We shall respond to force if fired upon," he added.

An aide later told Reuters that the ceasefire decision was "made unanimously by the general staff of the UCK (NLA)."

"There has been extraordinary co-operation between all commanders in the last 48 hours. It is not true to say that regional commanders might not respect the ceasefire," said the aide to Mr. Ahmeti, who declined to have his name published.

He said in response to a question that Mr. Ahmeti had made no direct contact with Skopje to present the rebel proposal.

In Brussels, NATO said it would send more troops to southern Kosovo to help cut off guerrilla supply routes across the border of the restive Serbian province into Macedonia, which is faced with its worst crisis since independence from old socialist Yugoslavia a decade ago.

A German patrol of the Kosovo KFOR peacekeeping mission exchanged fire overnight with gunmen caught trying to smuggle weapons into Macedonia by mule-back. The shipment was seized but the gunmen escaped over the frontier.

In Skopje, one policeman died and another was wounded after being shot at a shopping mall, a police source said.

It was not known whether the incident was linked to the fighting near the border with Kosovo but it looked certain to further raise tension in the ethnically mixed Balkan state.

A tense calm descended in Tetovo after the government on Tuesday gave the guerrillas 24 hours to surrender or leave the territory of the state rattled by a week-old conflict which has triggered fears of a new Balkan war.

"The ultimatum is being respected by our side but there has been no sign that they are retreating," government spokesman Antonio Milosovski told reporters.

"This ultimatum will be the first and last words spoken to the terrorists, after which we will speak with them in a manner everyone speaks to terrorists," he said before the truce offer.

Macedonian forces have pounded hillsides overlooking the city of 70,000 since guerrillas moved in a week ago and began shooting at police. But they have not advanced up the slopes.

The rebels say they are fighting to improve the rights of the large ethnic Albanian minority in Slav-dominated Macedonia, and to "defend" people in the mountain villages they occupy.


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NATO to hand back safety zone to Serbia
By MELANIE SEAL and OLIVER MOORE
Globe and Mail Update
With reports from Associated Press and
Reuters News Agency
POSTED AT 8:21 AM EST, Thursday, March 22

NATO gave permission Thursday to its top commander in Kosovo to allow Serbian forces back into several tracts of the buffer zone surrounding the province, an alliance official said.

"The commander of KFOR now has release authority on Charlie West and Zone A," the official told Reuters. He said the Serbians would be allowed in on Saturday at the earliest. Charlie West is in the mountains of Montenegro, where the five-kilometre-wide buffer zone meets the border with Albania. Zone A runs all the way along Kosovo's internal boundary with Montenegro and Serbia.

The Ground Safety Zone was introduced when peacekeepers took over in Kosovo in June, 1999, but parts have been used by ethnic Albanian guerrillas operating in southwestern Serbia and northern Macedonia.

Earlier this month, KFOR allowed Serbian forces back into a 25-square-kilometre block of territory at the junction of the borders of Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo.

Macedonian security forces rejected a unilarteral rebel ceasefire Thursday, bombarding guerrilla-held positions in the hills overlooking Tetovo. Heavy artillery fire in the territory abutting Kosovo began about 4 a.m. (EST) and was followed, according to some reports, by rapid troop advances.

A Macedonian police official said the ethnic Albanian insurgents had retreated without a fight, throwing away their uniforms and trying to melt back across the border into Kosovo. The official, insisting on anonymity, said government troops had overtaken empty trenches and machine-gun posts and had seized a large quantity of weapons. There was no rebel comment on his claim.

European Union security chief Javier Solana flew into the Macedonian capital of Skopje on Thursday for talks with the government. He appeared optimistic on arrival, telling reporters that "the situation in Macedonia is getting better." Mr. Solana had said Tuesday that there could be "no negotiations" with terrorists.

Another European leader, German Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer, called Thursday for Kosovo Albanian leaders to condemn the uprising across the border, issuing them a stark warning at the same time.

"The entire Albanian political leadership must decide whether they wish to be a part of this region which is moving in the direction of Europe, or whether they wish to stay on the sidelines," Mr. Fischer told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. "The international community will not permit any alteration of borders by force."

The rebel ceasefire offer came five hours before a 24-hour truce extended by the Macedonian government expired. "We have repeated constantly and will repeat again that we are for dialogue," said Ali Ahmeti, spokesman for the self-styled National Liberation Army. "We are not for a war that would create rivers of blood between two nations, because the reason for dialogue would be lost in that case."

The government of Macedonia ignored the offer of talks. When Skopje's own truce expired, President Boris Trajkovski issued a brief statement saying that "it is necessary to neutralize and eliminate the extremists."

"It is necessary that the Macedonian army take control of the Macedonian side of the border," he added. The President said his government was only willing to reach a peaceful settlement through parliament or other established institutions, and ruled out direct talks with the rebels.

The United Nations Security Council late Wednesday denounced rebel attacks in the region and called on NATO to step up its efforts to curtail weapons smuggling. The same day, NATO announced plans to send more troops into Kosovo in an attempt to cut off guerrilla supply lines across the border into Macedonia.


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Macedonia strikes hard at rebels

TOM WALKER
Special to The Globe and Mail; with reports from Reuters and AP
Monday, March 26, 2021

TETOVO, MACEDONIA -- Western powers will press the Macedonian government today to pocket the military gains from its northern offensive against ethnic-Albanian rebels and open talks with ethnic-Albanian leaders on the grievances of their people.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and European Union security chief Javier Solana are both due in the capital, Skopje, today.

Yesterday, ignoring calls for restraint, Macedonian forces launched an all-out assault on rebel positions in the hills above the besieged city of Tetovo.

Tanks, artillery, infantry and helicopter-borne commandos stormed the guerrillas after 12 days of skirmishes.

While not claiming all-out victory, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said government forces were doing well, asserting that the thrust to "clear the terrain of terrorists . . . is being carried out successfully, and already key positions have been taken."

A source close to the guerrillas conceded that they had lost control of two villages, including their former headquarters at Selce, and that one rebel was killed. But he said that the National Liberation Army still controlled a ruined Ottoman fortress overlooking the city.

Tetovo hospitals last night reported five civilians wounded but there was no information on casualties in outlying villages.

The government's move to flush out the rebels began with a ferocious helicopter gunship and artillery assault before dawn yesterday. It was the biggest security operation mounted by the fledgling Balkan nation, and one that could make or break its favourable image with the international community.

By afternoon, the boom of artillery and rattle of machine guns died away in the Shar mountains that separate the contested territory from the neighbouring Serbian province of Kosovo.

The crumbling Ottoman walls of the old city reverberated to the sound of artillery and howitzers as the assault continued. Journalists staying in the city's most beautiful hotel, the 16th-century Tekke, found themselves unwittingly on the front line as special police combat units took up positions in the hotel garden.

Helicopter gunships roared overhead, pounding rebel positions on the hillside overlooking the city with salvos of rockets.

The helicopters -- Russian Mi-24 gunships hired from Ukraine and paid for by the Macedonian mobile telephone company, Mobimak -- gave the security forces the edge in what previously had been a stalemate, and armoured personnel carriers began pushing their way up the hillside toward rebel positions.

At the Tekke, police and journalists were pinned down by rebel sniper fire and the hotel's wooden balconies provided a grandstand view of the fighting. The police, sitting around crates of beer and smoking nervously, commandeered reporters' binoculars as they searched in vain for the rebels in the woodland above. Later, journalists made a four-hour trek from Tetovo to the rebel-filled town of Selce, hit hard by the shelling.

An ethnic-Albanian man who was helping women and children to stay in cellars through the barrage, worried about civilian casualties. "How can any army do this to its people in the 21st century?" the man said. "And to think we voted for them."


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Macedonia troops launch offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels
Monday March 26 8:40 AM EST

TETOVO, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonian forces dug in overnight after piercing rebel lines and retaking ground held by ethnic Albanian insurgents, and vowed that their offensive would continue until the rebels were driven out of the country.

The former Yugoslav republic's ragtag infantry punched through rebel positions in a day of fierce battle Sunday that raged in the hills just outside Tetovo, Macedonia's second-largest city, spraying houses with bullets and forcing the guerrillas to pull back.

In the most intense fighting in six weeks of conflict with the rebels, the army broke through a roadblock and moved into the ethnic Albanian village of Gajre, four kilometres northwest of Tetovo, setting afire homes suspected of sheltering rebels. Two helicopters strafed the thickly forested hillsides.

With an overnight calm holding into Monday, a handful of peasants ventured back to their homes in Gajre, walking along the main road littered with spent cartridges and pocked with mortar craters. Dead sheep and other livestock lay on the ground, and smoke billowed from a house and scattered brush fires.

After taking Gajre, troops regrouped and set up positions overlooking Lavce, another rebel-held village just north of Gajre. The army said it had also taken Tetovo Kale, an ancient Turkish fortress cresting a hill that it said had been a rebel stronghold.

Two soldiers, one police officer and four civilians were slightly injured, government spokesman Antonio Milososki said. Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said the four civilians were a family riding in a taxi that entered an area of intense combat. He said the army had "captured several terrorists."

While not suggesting all-out victory, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said government forces were doing well, asserting that the thrust to "clear the terrain of terrorists . . . is being carried out successfully, and already key positions have been taken."

But the army acknowledged that the rebels, who have ties to ethnic Albanian militants in the neighbouring Yugoslav province of Kosovo, were formidable and well-armed opponents. Pendarovski said a police vehicle was sprayed with machine-gun fire in an ambush north of the capital, Skopje, although the five officers inside escaped injury.

"The commanders on the ground confirmed that we are facing an organized terrorist resistance, including sophisticated weapons, cannons and mortars," Army Col. Blagoja Markovski said Sunday.

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson was heading to Macedonia later Monday along with European Union security affairs chief Javier Solana for talks on the crisis. They planned to reiterate their support for the Macedonian government, but also urge moderation and restraint, said Solana's spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach.

The opposition ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Prosperity Party, announced it was boycotting parliament beginning Monday. Party leader Imer Imeri demanded that President Boris Trajkovski end the army offensive and that the rebels lay down their arms.

Milososki said Sunday's offensive, which the government had threatened last week to "neutralize and eliminate" the rebels, had gone according to plan.

"Several terrorists positions have been taken," he said. "We will go on until the final takeover of all terrorist positions."

Hundreds of refugees streamed across the border into Kosovo early Monday. Many told of Macedonian helicopters firing on them as they fled their homes.

"While walking through the hills, helicopters came above our heads and started firing into the woods which were filled by refugees," said Arif Azemi, 35, after walking for 10 hours to Kosovo with his five children in tow.

The rebels in Macedonia say their goal is limited to more rights for ethnic Albanians within Macedonia, who are outnumbered by Slavs three to one. The government accuses them of seeking independence and drawing on Kosovo for fighters and weapons.

Although ethnic relations with the majority Slavs had been relatively trouble-free, substantial numbers of the ethnic Albanian minority felt they are being treated as second-class citizens. The struggle appears to have radicalized a large segment of Macedonian Albanians.

"This is a fight against the terrorists, not against any single ethnic community," national security adviser Nikola Dimitrov said in Skopje.

Gjorgji Trendafilov, a Defence Ministry spokesman, said the army was "doing its best to avoid unnecessary destruction of civilian homes." But ethnic Albanians in Gajre expressed outrage at the army attack, asserting the assault targeted the houses of innocent civilians instead of insurgent positions.

"They think that every house is a bunker," said Nuri Junozic, 46.


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NATO Chief Praises Macedonian Restraint
Monday March 26 7:24 PM EST

SKOPJE (Reuters) - NATO Secretary-General George Robertson praised Macedonia for what he said was commendable restraint in the weekend assault to flush out ethnic Albanian rebels in the hills above the town of Tetovo.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell cautioned in Washington that the battle was not "anywhere near over," although Macedonian forces had made some progress against ethnic Albanian extremists.

Robertson and European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana held two hours of talks with the Macedonian leadership, including President Boris Trajkovski, in the capital Skopje late Monday.

Macedonian government officials earlier said rebel-held villages and all key positions had been captured in Sunday's ground offensive carried out by tanks, artillery and infantry.

Macedonia's flag flew over the ancient Ottoman fortress above Tetovo, the most visible sign of the government's grip on the hills 24 hours after a military operation to push out rebels who say they fight to improve the rights of local Albanians.

But tensions throughout northern Macedonia remained high and sporadic shelling could be heard in the mountains beyond Tetovo, Macedonia's unofficial ethnic Albanian capital. Two policemen were shot and wounded when their patrol van was machine gunned on a road between Skopje and the border with the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

DIPLOMATS SEE DISMAY AMONG NATO ALLIES

Diplomatic sources earlier said there was "considerable dismay" among NATO allies at Macedonia's decision to send the army into the Tetovo hinterland.

NATO allies had feared that Macedonia's precarious ethnic balance could be shattered by a Kosovo-style offensive steam-rollering through Albanian communities.

But Robertson said Macedonia had shown commendable restraint and urged the government to intensify inter-ethnic dialogue.

"I want to be blunt: there are two options for the people of this country -- it is a united Macedonia or another Balkan bloodbath," Robertson said, referring to the violent collapse of old socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

"I strongly commend the government of this country for the firm but restrained way they have reacted to the provocations of the last few weeks," he said. "Terrorism is not going to prosper."

The rebels say they are fighting to improve the rights of Macedonia's large ethnic Albanian minority, many of whom feel they are treated as second-class citizens.

Skopje denounces them as terrorists who it says come from ethnic Albanian dominated Kosovo and seek to join the U.N.-ruled Yugoslav province to create a Greater Albania.

Trajkovski said the army offensive was launched to protect Macedonia's territorial integrity and "to avoid losing control over inter-ethnic relations and to avoid Macedonia and the international community becoming hostages of these groups."

Western powers favor a two-pronged approach to the conflict -- a proportionate military response coupled with measures to address Albanian grievances.

Robertson said Macedonian forces had taken the physical high ground, adding: "The opportunity is now there to take a political high ground."

In Washington, Powell said Macedonian forces "have launched an attack and it seems they have had some success getting part way up that hill."

But, he added, "I don't think the battle is anywhere near over or that the crisis is yet resolved."

In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said British and Swedish soldiers serving in the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo would form a 400-strong unit for quick deployment along the province's border with Macedonia.

KFOR soldiers are patrolling the Kosovo-Macedonian border in a bid to stop rebels and arms crossing over.


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Macedonian troops launch fresh offensive; Albanian rebels vow to attack again
Wednesday March 28 6:23 PM EST

KUCKOVO, Macedonia (AP) - As Macedonian troops launched a fresh offensive with artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships, ethnic Albanian rebels said Wednesday they were regrouping and vowed to attack again.

The government assault focused on the village of Gracane and was meant to drive ethnic Albanian insurgents from remaining strongholds along the border with Kosovo. Macedonian police said the village had been emptied of civilians before the bombardment began.

Artillery shelling lasted for most of the day. The Macedonian forces rolled in tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and two helicopter gunships hovered overhead. Artillery booms could be heard 10 kilometres away in the capital, Skopje.

Late Wednesday, one Macedonian soldier was killed and two were injured when their vehicle drove over a landmine in contested territory, military officials said.

U.S. peacekeepers in neighbouring Kosovo used Humvees, surveillance equipment and two Apache helicopters to monitor clashes in the mountains above Gracane. Heavy mortar fire was heard, followed by large clouds of smoke rising from the woodlands.

"This is our final operation to ... establish control of this stretch of land," government spokesman Antonio Milososki said. "We want to create conditions for continuation of political dialogue."

Commander Sokoli, one of several regional rebel leaders, told The Associated Press that commanders decided at a meeting Wednesday that they would strike back to reverse the government's latest push.

"We are ready to fight a war in the areas we control," he said, and gave the government until midnight to change its strategy of excluding rebels from talks on Macedonia's future.

But Macedonia's government refused to budge on the issue. Milososki declared that "the terrorists will always get the same response from us."

The government's attacks have met with little obvious resistance in recent days. While the army and special police units have peppered the hills outside of the country's second-largest city, Tetovo, with mortar and artillery barrages, insurgents first responded only with occasional machine-gun fire and then with nothing at all.

The government is claiming victory, but the rebels suggested they had merely pulled back into the largely inaccessible hills near Tetovo.

"We have more volunteers," Sokoli said, contending that the rebels were gaining in strength. It was not immediately possible to confirm the claims.

The rebels say they are fighting for greater rights and recognition for the former Yugoslav republic's minority ethnic Albanians. They say they should be part of any talks to resolve the country's troubles.

Their cause won a defection from the country's parliament as Hysni Shaqiri, an ethnic Albanian deputy, opted to join the fighters known as the National Liberation Army in protest of the continuing government crackdown.

Meanwhile in Tetovo, dozens of ethnic Albanians gathered for the funeral of Servet Hajredini, 35, who died in an offensive Sunday. A hospital official said he died of a shrapnel wound and was brought to hospital in a uniform, but Hajredini's father, Isa, insisted his son was a civilian.

He was the only known casualty from Sunday's offensive. Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said more than 30 people have so far been detained in connection with the clashes, but no charges had been filed.


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Kosovo Peacekeepers Fired at Near Macedonia Border
Tuesday April 10 8:04 AM EST
By Beth Potter

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - A joint U.S.-Polish peacekeeping patrol has come under fire near the Kosovo-Macedonia border, a U.S. army spokesman said on Tuesday.

Monday's shooting, which injured no one, occurred about 15 km (nine miles) south of a helicopter crash the same day that killed two British members of the KFOR peace force. But U.S. Major Jim Marshall said the two incidents were unrelated.

The spokesman for U.S.-led peacekeepers said the patrol had returned fire before leaving the southeastern pocket of Kosovo, where KFOR is trying to neutralise ethnic Albanian guerrillas who attacked Macedonia last month.

"The shots were directed at KFOR," Marshall said. "We're trying to determine, if we can, the origins of this fire."

Two British pilots were killed and five British soldiers aboard were injured in the helicopter crash. London's Defense Ministry said the crash had occurred in inclement weather and there was no indication that it was caused by hostile fire.

Marshall added: "There's no connection between the shooting incident southwest of the town of Krivenik and the helicopter crash (near) Kacanik."

A statement from British KFOR forces said the helicopter had been on a routine patrol aimed at "eradicating the extremist activity that has threatened to destabilize the region."

British Lieutenant Colonel Nick Brohaut said the helicopter had been carrying soldiers who had just been picked up after a foot patrol in the mountainous, wooded area.

'INTERDICTING' GUERRILLAS

Normal KFOR foot patrols continued, Marshall said. Last weekend, Polish troops found four truckloads of weapons, tents and more than 100 sleeping bags believed to belong to rebels.

"This is part of our continuing effort to interdict any flow of personnel, equipment and supplies crossing the border illegally," Marshall said. "We cannot seal the border, but we're making life very difficult (for guerrillas)."

Fighting between Albanian guerrillas and the Macedonian army has abated in the past 10 days since a shelling incident that left four dead, including a British television news producer.

"Our assessment is that our interdiction efforts have been successful in that area," Marshall said. "They're not able to move the men and supplies they want to get through there."

KFOR is still investigating the shelling incident. Some NATO officials in Brussels have said privately they believe the Macedonian army is responsible, something the army has denied.

Ethnic Albanian rebels calling themselves the National Liberation Army materialised inside Macedonia last month, saying they were fighting for equal rights for the small Balkan republic's large Albanian minority.

The Macedonian government says the insurgency was exported by Kosovo Albanian militants bent on dismembering the country, and accused KFOR of failing to secure the border.

Kosovo remains legally part of Yugoslavia but has been a de facto international protectorate since June 1999, when NATO-led peacekeepers and a U.N.-led civilian administration replaced repressive Serbian minority rule.


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NATO to Return More Kosovo Boundary to Serbia
Tuesday April 10 12:23 PM EST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO will allow Yugoslav forces back into a further section of the five-km-wide (3.1 miles) buffer zone that surrounds Kosovo, an official said on Tuesday.

The area, known as Sector D, runs from a point opposite Ogoste in eastern Kosovo to a point level with Medvedja in southwestern Serbia, he said.

The commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo will be allowed to release the territory to Yugoslav forces from April 12, a NATO spokesman said.

The precise timing of the operation will depend on talks between KFOR and the Yugoslavs.

The move, approved by NATO ambassadors on Tuesday, is the latest phase of the plan to allow a gradual return of Yugoslav forces to the buffer zone which the alliance imposed when it entered Kosovo in the summer of 1999.

The official said the area contained some ethnic Albanians. "But there has been very little trouble in the area and we don't expect any," he said.

Over the past year, ethnic Albanian guerrillas have been using some sections of the so-called Ground Safety Zone as a safe haven from which to launch operations against Serbian forces.

Yugoslavia has now been allowed back into most of the buffer zone surrounding Kosovo.

But it has yet to be let into the most contentious area in southwestern Serbia, where guerrillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac -- the UCPMB -- are observing a cease-fire with Yugoslav forces after a year of clashes.


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