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5, March-2001.


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DEBELDE (Reuters) - Balkan governments and NATO (news - web sites) officers watched anxiously as Macedonia tried to snuff out a pocket-sized conflict on its border with Kosovo Monday, fearing it could ignite new turmoil in the region.

Gunmen were seen apparently pulling out of the ethnic Albanian border village of Tanusevci after exchanging fire with Macedonian troops, said U.S. peacekeepers across the frontier in Kosovo.
The gunmen headed toward Kosovo but stopped short of U.S. peacekeeping troops who reinforced their positions on the Kosovo border and vowed to detain anyone who tried to cross.
The retreat did not seem to mark an end to the crisis, which Macedonia's Slav-led government said was triggered when ethnic Albanian fighters in the isolated mountain village began attacking its forces a week ago. It escalated dramatically Sunday with the killings of three Macedonian soldiers.
Jim Marshal, spokesman for the U.S.-led contingent of KFOR, told reporters in the Kosovo village of Debelde, where U.S. troops are monitoring the trouble, that some of the gunmen appeared to be dumping their uniforms and weapons as they pulled out of Tanusevci.
Marshal said there were believed to be between 70 and 150 men in the group, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. He said they may have a weapons cache inside Kosovo.
It was not clear how many had withdrawn.
Asked if he thought the gunmen were retreating, Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Georgi Trendafilov said: ``They may be just going for a holiday.''

Macedonian women comfort each other as they cry during the funeral of Macedonian Army officer Kirce Dimitriev in the town of Stip March 5, 2001. Dimitriev was among the three Macedonian army soldiers killed March 4 near the village of Tanusevci on the border with Kosovo, during clashes along the border. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)

Russia Backs Macedonia's Call for UN Debate on Clashes.

Agence France Presse

MOSCOW, Mar 5, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia will back Macedonia's call for a emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss setting up a buffer zone between it and Kosovo, RIA Novosti quoted Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as saying Monday.

Skopje on Sunday made the request for a buffer zone within Kosovo, the UN-run Serbian province, following border clashes with ethnic Albanian gunmen in which three of its soldiers were killed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Kosovo in a telephone conversation with his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski, expressing concern at the resurgence of Albanian guerrilla activity in southern Kosovo, the news agency said.

Skopje has closed the Macedonia-Kosovo border following the clashes around the northern village of Tanusevci, during which the three Macedonian soldiers were killed. ((c) 2001 Agence France Presse)

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