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U.S. KFOR troops patrol the Kosovo and Macedonian border.
UNITED NATIONS -- NATO is considering allowing Yugoslav soldiers into a buffer zone that borders Macedonia in an effort to stamp out ethnic Albanian violence.
Three soldiers have died in two days amid spiralling disturbances between ethnic Albanians seeking unification with Albania and security forces.
Western officials and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's neighbours fear ethnic conflict could shatter the fragile stability of the region if the troubles continue.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said after a meeting of the United Nations' Security Council that a decision on allowing Yugoslav troops into the safety zone could be taken this week.
He added: "Any tension in this part of the world has got to be looked on gravely."
The ground safety or buffer zone runs around the outside of the province of Kosovo's internal boundary with the rest of Yugoslavia, from the Montenegrin border in the north west to the Macedonian border in the southeast.
NATO has already decided to shrink the zone, which was created after the conflict in Kosovo in June 1999, to protect NATO peacekeepers and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
Sections of the zone have instead provided territory for between 200 and 800 ethnic Albanian rebels to launch attacks.
Macedonia, which has already asked for a larger NATO presence, threatened on Tuesday to take action with or without international help to avoid territory being yielded to rebels.
President Boris Trajkovski told a parliamentary session: "I can assure you that not an inch of Macedonian territory will be given to extremists.
"We have enough force to deal with terrorism but every assistance from the international community is welcome."
His call for more NATO troops was supported by the security and human rights watchdog, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Romanian Ambassador Liviu Bota, whose country holds the chair of OSCE, said the violence "can only complicate and deteriorate the fragile equilibrium in the region... In the absence of appropriate action, the risk of destabilisation of the entire region will further increase."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called on both ethnic Albanians and Macedonians to exercise restraint.
"I hope that both sides will realise this (violence) is not the solution to any problem and that Macedonia should be free to live in peace without being attacked."
Bulgaria has offered to send troops to Macedonia in an effort to keep stability in the region, while Albania's President Rexhep Meidani said in a television statement that he condemned all acts of violence in Macedonia blamed on ethnic Albanian extremists.
NATO has said it will send more peacekeepers to the border region and it has stepped up patrols to prevent the rebels from using Kosovo for raids into Macedonia, Robertson added.
The rebels are believed to have ties with ethnic Albanian rebels fighting Yugoslav forces in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia about seven miles (10 kilometres) to the northeast.
Ethnic Albanians in Macedonia have demanded more rights since the former Yugoslav republic became independent in 1991.
Defence Ministry spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov denied Tuesday speculations over the Macedonian Army's undertaken actions in the Tanusevci area.
"This information is false and malicious. There is a media war against Macedonia," Trendafilov stated at the press conference.
Trendafilov presented several media reports with photos of military vehicles that Macedonia does not own and even soldiers from other countries and other conflicts.
"Such media propaganda is present ever since Macedonia got its independence and always follows after such situations, which endanger the Macedonian stability and security.
There were no shootings Tuesday in Tanusevci area. ARM engineering unit was engaged to detect and remove the land mines in Ramno and Tanusevci area.
According to the ARM Staff, the soldiers noticed a group of terrorists getting out of Tanusevci, which will probably scatter on Kosovo territory.
We assume that these terrorists will do the same but on other location along the Macedonian - Kosovo border. There are certain indications that dead bodies are gathered in the Kosovo hospitals and we would not be surprised even if the terrorists shoot women and children in order to transfer them on the Macedonian territory. This is a script that is already seen," Trendafilov explained.
In that respect it was stressed that ethnic Albanian women and children left their homes during the day.
Macedonian President's Security Counselor Nikola Dimitrov has appealed to the residents to return to their homes. "The Macedonian security forces are present in order to protect them," Dimitrov stated.
ARM troops are deployed along the border and they are prepared to react if the Tanusevci case repeats on other Macedonian location.
Regarding the information that ARM has no control over the Malina area, Trendafilov stated that Macedonian police controlled that region, as it is not in the border zone.
Trendafilov stated that there were no KFOR troops along the Macedonian - Kosovo border and added that KFOR arrested several persons for weapon possession
Balkan war fear as Bulgaria offers troops to Macedonia.
Tuesday 6 March 2001
By Anton La Guardia in Belgrade
BULGARIA offered to send troops to Macedonia yesterday, raising fears that the fighting on the border with Kosovo could spread into a regional conflict.
Officials in Sofia said President Petar Stoyanov told his Macedonian counterpart, Boris Traikovski, that he was ready to send "Bulgarian armed forces if Macedonia asks its neighbours or international organisations". Later, Mr Boiko Noev, Bulgaria's Defence Minister, sought to play down the president's remarks, saying there was no need to send troops. But the offer revived fears in the West of a pan-Balkan conflict centred on Macedonia.
Macedonia has been largely spared the past decade's convulsions in the region. But it was the object of contention in the two Balkan wars early last century, and there have long been fears that it could be dragged into the strife that has accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia. Albanians make up about a third of the population of Macedonia. The majority are Slavs who speak a variant of Bulgarian. Other groups include Vlachs, who speak a language related to Romanian, Turks and Gipsies.
Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria have in the past all made territorial claims on what is now Macedonia. But the latest threat comes from Albanian militants seeking to create a "Greater Albania", or at least a "Greater Kosovo". The ethnic conflict in Kosovo has spilled across the border into southern Serbia and northern Macedonia. Albanian militants have used Kosovo and its buffer zones as safe havens from which to launch attacks. The United Nations Security Council is expected to hold an emergency session, and Macedonia is calling on Nato to create a buffer zone on its border.
Nato has called on Macedonia to exercise restraint. But the American ambassador in Skopje, Michael Einik, said: "We understand the need and obligation for Macedonia to respond to this threat on its territory." President Vojislav Kostunica of Yugoslavia, who overthrew the dictator Slobodan Milosevic last October, sent a message of sympathy to his Macedonian counterpart. Belgrade has so far responded cautiously to similar trouble around the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia, but Mr Kostunica faces criticism from hard-line Milosevic supporters for not allowing security forces fully to take on the "Albanian terrorists".
Yugoslavia has expressed a readiness to negotiate a ceasefire in the valley. Albanian political leaders have called for expansion of the Nato buffer zone and an internationally supervised demilitarisation of the valley, essentially extending Kosovo's protected status to southern Serbia. The Albanian government has, for the moment, condemned the violence and appealed to Kosovo's Albanian political leaders to distance themselves.
Croatia condemned extremist attacks.
Croatia sharply condemned extremist attacks at the Kosovo section of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border and expressed concern about the possible escalation of conflicts which aim at subversion of security in Macedonia and which would paralyze the normalization of the situation in Kosovo.
The Croatian Government expressed its condolences for the human lives lost in the terrorist acts and condemned the incidents along the Macedonian border with Kosovo.