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A Macedonian policeman uses his gun sight to check rebel ethnic Albanian positions in Aracinovo village June 9, 2001, as Macedonian army and special police forces surrounded the village. The self-styled National Liberation army rebels solidified control in Aracinovo village, situated only 10 kilometers away, bringing war to the doorstep of Macedonia's capital Skopje. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Macedonian army soldiers hold their weapons as they sit on top of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) driving along the motorway towards Skopje June 9, 2001. The self-styled National Liberation army rebels solidified control in Aracinovo village, situated just 10 km from the village, bringing war to the doorstep of Macedonia's capital Skopje. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Ethnic Albanian refugees pass a sign marking the border between Macedonia and Kosovo in the town of Blace June 9, 2001. A fresh wave of ethnic Albanians poured into Kosovo on Saturday, fleeing a conflict in neighbouring Macedonia and increasing the number of refugees to almost 4,000. The latest influx on Friday and Saturday came mostly from the town of Aracinovo, just 10 km (six miles) east of the Macedonian capital Skopje, where rebels from the National Liberation Army (NLA) were seen for the first time on Friday. REUTERS/Hazir Reka
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana talks with Macedonian officials in Skopje June 9, 2001. Solana said the country's fractious parties agreed to back a peace plan aimed at ending a four-month insurgency by ethnic Albanian guerrillas. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
ALL POLITICAL LEADERS HAVE AGREED WITH PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI'S PLAN, SAYS SOLANA.
After the meeting with the Macedonian officials at the Parliament, Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the discussions in overall during his two-day visit to the Republic of Macedonia.
"The most important conclusions at the yesterday's and today's meetings are that all the political leaders support the security issues and the President Trajkovski's plan, displayed yesterday before the Assembly, as well as that they have agreed to continue and intensify the on-going political dialogue," said Solana. Following to that, he said he had invited all the Macedonian relevant political leaders to participate in the EU Summit, which is to take place in Luxembourg on June 25, 2001, in order to evaluate collectively once again the situation in the Republic of Macedonia.
"Once again I would like to say that nothing politically can be achieved through violent means. The people and NLA have to know that the only way to achieve political achievements is through politics, diplomacy, dialogue and meeting such as this one today," stressed Solana.
On the journalist's question whether there were some misunderstandings during the dialogue, Solana answered positively, saying that they will be surpassed.
About the casualties in Macedonia inspite of the fact that a political dialogue is on, Solana said that all attendants at this meeting have agreed that the civilians have to get the necessary humanitarian aid.
"When this issue is concerned, we will cooperate with the international community and the European Union," said Solana, who is about to set out for Jerusalem Saturday afternoon.
VMRO - DPMNE, SDSM MEETING.
Highest officials of VMRO - DPMNE and SDSM met Saturday, where the security crisis and the ways out of it were discussed.
The overall situation in the country, especially the regions of crisis as well as the current international position of our country were reviewed. Special emphasis was put on the military, political, diplomatic and other measures, which should be undertaken for gradual and complete resolution of the crisis.
It was assessed that the preserving of the Macedonian territorial integrity is the most important issue and that no compromises or alternative plans could be made in that respect. The presented plan on disarming of the terrorist groups was supported.
They agreed on several issues as well as on undertaking certain steps for joint action in surpassing the crisis. They discussed about the modalities of the security measures undertaken by the institutions in charge, the approach of the both parties toward the upcoming talks within the political dialogue on interethnic issues and resolving the problems in the regions of crisis.
The joint assessment is that there are no conditions yet for proclaiming state of war in the country. This does not rule out the decisive respond by the Macedonian Army and Police on the terrorists and the high cautiousness not to spread the military operations.
The both parties agreed that they would cooperate intensively on other activities as well in order to surmount the military crisis.
'NLA' IS MARXIST'S AND LENINIST'S 'LOBBY'
Counterintelligence forces of Taiwan have certain proofs that influential political and financial circles from Peoples Republic of China, North Korea and at least two north European countries are involved in the recent developments on the Balkans, including Macedonia and Greece - one respectable Taiwanese politician and analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, reported for MIA.
Asked whether this statement has something to do with the announcements that Skopje will cease the diplomatic relations with Taipei, the Taiwanese source commented that that issue is relatively irrelevant and the only interest of Republic of China - Taiwan is to prevent the ultimate restoration of the communist's regimes on the Balkans. The Macedonian authorities as well as the authorities in the other Balkans' countries can easily examine the validity of this information if they contact the authorities in Taipei.
"It seems that only the state officials in the Balkans' countries do not realize that the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), National Liberation Army (NLA) in Macedonia and Liberation Army of Chameria (LAC) in Greece resulted from the idea for restoring the communism in this region. The fact that terrorist are related with the protection of the criminal interests in the region is part of their Balkans mosaic, already seen in the other parts of the world," the Taiwanese politician explained for MIA.
Ethnic Albanian rebels hold fast in Skopje suburb.
ARACINOVO, Macedonia, June 9 (AFP) -
Ethnic Albanian rebels were still firmly in control of the Skopje suburb of Aracinovo Saturday, a day after moving into the strategic town less 10 kilometres (six miles) from the centre of the Macedonian capital.
A special police checkpoint was preventing all but local traffic entering the ethnic Albanian part of the town, where a group of at least 10 heavily armed guerrillas of the self-proclaimed National Liberation Army (NLA) were seen controlling the road late Friday.
Interior minister spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said that at least 100, but possibly far more, guerrillas were in Aracinovo and had probably set up a checkpoint at the exit of the town.
"To have a checkpoint in a town of 10,000 people you need at least 100 men. Some sources say there are several hundred," Pendarovski told AFP.
Pendarovski said that 3,000 people, both Slav Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, had already fled the suburb, most heading for Kosovo but also for other cities inside Macedonia.
Police said the night passed calmly, with no reported incidents.
Control of the Albanian side of the town puts the rebels within mortar range of the edge of Skopje, while the city's airport lies just seven kilometres (four miles) to the southeast.
The rebel commander in Araconovo told AFP that his men had entered the town to protect the ethnic Albanian inhabitants, accusing the government forces of having fired mortar rounds near the town earlier in the day.
Commander Hoxha said his men had been joined by 163 armed villagers, and said his force was capable of moving on Skopje.
But he said he had no immediate intention of advancing, instead planning to stay put until the government opens a dialogue with the forces, which it has so far refused to do.
The authorities had cut off electricty to the town, he told AFP by telephone.
Fighting was also underway again around rebel-held villages north of Skopje, where the army has been battling for more than a month with tanks, artillery and tanks to drive the NLA out.
Around 12,000 ethnic Albanian civilians are hunkered down in cellars and shelters in a string of villages along the foothills of the Black Mountains, living in increasingly squalid conditions.
President Boris Trajkovski declared Friday that rebels of Macedonian origin would be given an amnesty if they laid down their weapons, but said their leaders, who Skopje says are troublemakers from neighbouring Kosovo, would be "eliminated."
The amnesty was set to be discussed during a visit with EU High Representative Javier Solana, who was meeting with government officials on Saturday.
Albanian rebels are ready to strike Skopje.
By Christian Jennings in Aracinovo.
MACEDONIA'S war against ethnic Albanian insurgents moved to the edge of the capital yesterday as fighters from the self-styled National Liberation Army took control of a town within striking distance of Skopje and the national airport.
By nightfall, 150 rebels were poised to launch assaults from positions in Albanian-dominated Aracinovo, two miles from Skopje. A rebel commander calling himself "Hoxha" said: "Tomorrow we will move towards the capital, unless the government immediately accept our demands for dialogue and a settlement."
Rebel forces moved into the town on Thursday. It is their furthest advance towards Skopje since their campaign began in February. Javier Solana the European Union's security chief arrived in Skopje last night to press for a solution to the conflict. Macedonia's President, Boris Trajkovski, said rebels could lay down their arms and leave the country, but their "leaders would be eliminated unless they went back to where they came from".
Ethnic hatred rising in Macedonia-rights group.
By Alister Doyle
SKOPJE, June 9 (Reuters) - A rise in ethnic hatred in Macedonia is an unnerving sign that a four-month-old rebellion by minority Albanians could lead to a new Balkan war, a leading human rights activist said on Saturday.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said the government must halt what he said were beatings of civilians suspected of being rebel sympathisers as an urgent step to prevent ethnic conflict gathering momentum.
The government denies abuses by the police or army.
Bouckaert said that a rise of ethnic intolerance spawned by the conflict was worryingly similar to the prelude to wars in other Balkan countries in the 1990s. "The early warnings signs are here," he told Reuters.
"What we're concerned about are the lessons of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. In all these cases the accelerator of the conflict was ethnic hatred and the participation of the civilian population," Bouckaert said.
But he added that the Macedonian conflict was still limited and so might be defused. He estimated that fewer than 30 members of the Macedonian security forces have died in the fighting and that rebel casualties were probably similar.
The rebels say they are fighting for more rights for ethnic Albanians, saying they suffer discrimination by the majority Slavs. Albanians amount to up to a third of the population but fill only 10 percent of public sector jobs, for instance.
The government, which has broad backing from major western powers, calls the rebels terrorists trying to wreck the state.
RIOTS FAR FROM FRONT LINES
Anti-Albanian rioting by ethnic Slavs in the southern city of Bitola, about 150 miles (240 km) from the battlefront, was the most disturbing sign of intolerance so far, Bouckaert said.
Rioters in the city torched about 50 homes and businesses on Wednesday after three soldiers from Bitola were among five Macedonian troops killed in rebel attacks. He said ethnic Albanians accused Macedonian police of taking part in attacks.
Ethnic Slavs also rampaged in Bitola in late April when four local soldiers were among eight killed in the worst single clash in the conflict.
"This can only serve to radicalise ethnic Albanian communities which have so far largely stayed clear of this conflict," he said. He said Albanians were readying weapons to defend their homes in Bitola in case of new attacks.
In some rebel-held areas, he said the insurgents were turning on minority Serbs.
In Matejce, a rebel-held village about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Skopje, he said that eight Serb men were beaten recently in the village mosque. Four of them had sons in the Macedonian armed forces.
Krunislav Filipovic, 60, was one of four men in a group kicked and punched and beaten with gun butts. The four were subjected to a mock execution with guerrillas sharpening knives in front of their eyes.
He said the Macedonian security forces often used beatings and even torture of civilians -- for instance by beating the kidneys or the soles of the feet with canes -- in interrogating ethnic Albanians leaving villages under rebel control.
U.S. warns citizens against travel in Macedonia.
WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department warned American citizens on Saturday against unnecessary travel in Macedonia, where government troops and ethnic Albanian rebels were engaged in armed clashes near the capital, Skopje.
The situation in the northwest region of Macedonia is potentially dangerous, especially in the village of Aracinovo, near the capital, the Department said.
The travel warning said although American citizens had not been targeted in the violence, those traveling or living in the region needed to be extremely careful.
"They should exercise caution throughout Macedonia by avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, monitoring local news sources and reviewing their travel plans accordingly," the statement advised.
The rebels on Saturday solidified control of the village of Aracinovo, just 6 miles (10 kms), east of Skopje. A guerrilla commander said his forces were within striking distance of strategic targets like the international airport and an oil refinery.
Vowing to retake the village, the army pounded rebels with tank and artillery fire in fighting that brought war to the edge of the Macedonian capital for the first time in a four-month conflict.
Balkans centre stage at Central European summit.
By Suna Erdem
STRESA, Italy, June 9 (Reuters) - Central European heads of state, ending a two-day summit in Italy on Saturday, urged restive Macedonia to respect the rights of its Albanian minority and oversaw a new accord between Yugoslavia and Croatia.
"We consider the Balkans a test case for Europe's ability to guarantee security in this part of Europe," Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said, reading a declaration by the 14 leaders, many of whom hold largely ceremonial office.
An agreement signed in the northern lakeside resort of Stresa by Presidents Vojislav Kostunica of Yugoslavia and Stipe Mesic of Croatia marked a "turning point" in relations between the former adversaries, Ciampi said.
Belgrade and Zagreb will now cooperate on returning refugees and tracing those missing after years of Balkan warfare and have pledged to normalise their relations.
The leaders also expressed solidarity with another Balkan leader, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, as he struggles to quell an uprising by ethnic Albanians.
But the members of the Central European Initiative also urged him fully to recognise the rights of minorities.
"(We) express...our commitment to the security, stability and integrity of (Macedonia)," a statement read. "The heads of state express their expectations for the rights of minorities to be fully and justly recognised, first of all through an inter-ethnic dialogue undertaken by the Macedonia government."
At the summit on Lake Maggiore, Ciampi urged the European Union not to alienate prospective members in the east: "The EU represents an objective for some of these countries and a model for all -- that is something the EU cannot ignore."
Seven of the countries represented -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria -- are EU candidates. Germany, Austria and Italy already belong.
The presidents of Ukraine and Moldova were also there, along with the Yugoslav and Croatian heads of state.
Ciampi said the group would expand at next year's annual summit in Slovenia -- the ninth -- with Macedonia invited.