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A Macedonian army helicopter gunship fires rockets towards ethnic Albanian rebels positions in the hills above the village of Vaksince, Macedonia, 20 miles north east of the capital Skopje, Saturday May 12, 2001. Macedonian government forces launched artillery and helicopter gunship attacks on ethnic Albanian rebels positions Saturday. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)


Macedonian soldiers look from a T-55 tank heading for position near the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital Skopje May 12, 2001. The Macedonian Army resumed artillery attacks on ethnic Albanian guerrillas on Saturday, ending a one-day ceasefire called to help draw rival parties into a national unity government. REUTERS/Oleg Popov


A Macedonian soldier greets local farmers from a T-55 tank heading to its position near the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital Skopje May 12, 2001. The Macedonian Army resumed artillery attacks on ethnic Albanian guerrillas on Saturday, ending a one-day ceasefire called to help draw rival parties into a national unity government. REUTERS/Oleg Popov


Two teenagers drive in front of a Macedonian army T-55 tank heading to position near the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital Skopje May 12, 2001. The Macedonian Army resumed artillery attacks on ethnic Albanian guerrillas on Saturday after a two-day lull. REUTERS/Oleg Popov


Two teenagers look at a Macedonian army T-55 tank heading to its position near the village of Vakcince, northeast of the capital Skopje May 12, 2001. The Macedonian Army resumed artillery attacks on ethnic Albanian guerrillas on Saturday, ending a one-day ceasefire called to help draw rival parties into a national unity government. REUTERS/Oleg Popov



Macedonian security forces Saturday undertake military operations in wider Kumanovo region upon new positions of the Albanian terrorist groups.

Spokesmen of the Ministry of Defence and the Macedonian Army HQ, Gjorgji Trendafilov and Blagoja Markovski, this morning at 10:00 undertake heavy artillery attack on uniformed terrorists which were in vehicles, in the area of Slupcane.

"At 14:30 Macedonian helicopters have been engaged in attack on a group of terrorists west of Vaksince," Trendafilov and Markovski said.

Today, Macedonian security forces did not undertake any military operations in the area of Tetovo, this denies all of the speculations.

Spokesman of Macedonian Army Colonel Blagoja Markovski stressed, "Fridays deadline for withdrawal of the civilians from the Lipkovo villages has been again used by the Albanian terrorists for re-grouping and moving to new positions in order to stop the civilians from leaving the villages. They let only 70 civilians to evacuate," he said.

"The permission of the Macedonian security forces for humanitarian organisations to deliver aid for the populations Friday again has been misused by the humanitarian organisation El Hilal," Markovski said.

He explained that four vehicles of El Hilal join the vehicles of the Macedonian Centre for International Co-operation that has permission to transport aid to inhabitants. Macedonian security forces were ready to let the vehicles near the check point near Lopate but they noticed when checking the specification of medicaments, that there were 20 to 50 times more materials than registered, so the package of El Hilal has been sent back."

Markovski also informed that the Macedonian security forces south of the village of Vaksince have captured two Albanian terrorists, whereat one possessed weapon. The terrorists are handed over to police in Kumanovo. Macedonian security forces succeeded to save to foreign journalists that were questioned in the police.

Regarding the remark that the operations in Tetovo were more efficient than those in Kumanovo region, Defence Ministry Spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov said that reason for that is the presence of the numerous population in the villages and the attempt to avoid civil victims and material damages.

"Macedonian Army morally with international conventions and Macedonian laws is obliged to operate in such manner. When the time comes and when commanding structures will estimate the situation we are to act according to the plans," Trendafilov said.




Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski received Saturday Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Yelchenko, who pays a one-day visit to the Republic of Macedonia.

Satisfaction with the previous development of the co-operation between the two countries and determination for its further strengthening has been expressed at the meeting. Full implementation of the free trade agreement will contribute in this, which is to be ratified soon by both parliaments.

President Trajkovski expressed gratitude for the whole engagement and support that Macedonia receives from Ukraine on bilateral and multilateral plan, especially the UN Security Council on the plan for management with the crisis caused by the terrorists upon the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Deputy Minister Yelchenko said that Ukraine as reliable friend to the Republic of Macedonia will continue to support Macedonia on bilateral level and on multilateral plan will give maximal contribution for precise definition of the problems that the country faces with. In that context, it has been mutually agreed that the security problems in the region comes from Kosovo, for which international community should make additional efforts for the province not to be source of instability.

The concrete support and assistance that the Republic of Macedonia receives form Ukraine at this critical period is a result of the good and friendly relations between the two countries, this has been concluded at Saturday's meeting between the Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski and Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Yelchenko.

Deputy Minister Yelchenko understanding the real situation in Macedonia said that Ukraine will continue to support our country not only politically and morally but also in concrete efforts for defeating the terrorism.

Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski thanked for the previous support and expressed hope that Ukraine will continue to support Macedonia. He clearly stated the determination political dialogue with the legitimate Albanian political parties to continue but he also stressed that Macedonian security forces will severely oppose to terrorism.

They discussed also about the bilateral co-operation which together will signed free trade agreement will be significantly improved.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia Srgjan Kerim receives Saturday Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Volodymyr Yelchenko.

Further improvement of the relations and co-operation between the Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine and the need for closer co-operation within the frameworks of the system of UN have been discussed at the meeting.

Minister Kerim thanked for the previous support from Ukraine to the Republic of Macedonia stressing the constructive role and assistance regarding the current situation in the country and wider in the region.

Deputy Minister Yelchenko informed that Ukraine will soon ratify the free trade agreement with Republic of Macedonia, which has been signed on January.

Both interlocutors greeted the manifestation Days of Macedonia in Ukraine - 2001, which will take place on May 23-26 in Kiev.

Delegations of the Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine led by under-secretary Viktor Gaber and Deputy Minister Volodimir Yelchenko exchanged ideas regarding the positive development of the relations and co-operation between he two countries and reviewed the possibilities of further their improvement on bilateral and multilateral plan.

Economic co-operation between the two countries in context to improvement of the trade exchange with Ukraine and decrease of the large trade deficit has been also discussed.

Macedonian army 'kills 30 rebels'



Tanks, artillery and helicopters were used on Saturday.

The Macedonian army says its troops have killed at least 30 ethnic Albanian rebels during a major assault on Saturday - one day after the country's political leaders agreed to form a national unity government.

An army spokesman said artillery, tanks and helicopters had been used against the rebels in the northern villages of Slupcane and Vakcince.

There has been no confirmation from the rebels.

The renewed hostilities came as politicians were locked in negotiations on completing a new cabinet.

The coalition deal became possible after the Albanian opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) dropped a demand for a government ceasefire in its offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels.

The rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA) dismissed the deal for not including any of their representatives.

Parliament is due to vote on the new government on Sunday.

Politics and fire

"Today we have a massive operation. At 10.20am (0820 GMT) we hit a column of uniformed terrorists to the north of Slupcane... We were most active at about 2.30pm, when we hit a column to the north-west of Vakcince," Macedonian army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski told reporters.

"We used artillery and tanks in the morning and helicopters in the afternoon," he said.

Reporters saw three Soviet-made T-55 tanks arrive to reinforce army positions less than two km (1.2 miles) below Vakcince.

They slammed shells into the already ruined hamlet after a short burst of automatic fire from rebels.

In the mainly Albanian city of Tetovo, the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity was meeting, but there has been no response yet.

PDP dropped its objections to joining the coalition after the government declared a 15-hour ceasefire, extending an initial lull in its bombardment to allow civilians to evacuate from rebel-held villages.

Western leaders have welcomed the coalition deal, hoping it could lead to an extended and internationally monitored ceasefire as well as the withdrawal of the militants.

But the BBC's Nick Thorpe says they show no signs yet of a willingness to leave the swathe of land they control.

Ethnic Albanians - both the politicians and the militants - are calling for improved rights and representation for their population, including representation in the constitution and increased recognition of the Albanian language.

Villagers terrified

Our correspondent says the new government, sooner or later, will want to reassert its authority over at least four villages currently held by uniformed NLA soldiers.

Eight days of shelling by the Macedonian army have failed to dislodge the rebels, and there is a growing humanitarian crisis in those villages.

The Red Cross evacuated 72 people on Friday.

Around 9,000 civilians have fled across the border into neighbouring Kosovo.

But the village doctor in Slupcane told the BBC that he believes that at least 3,700 of its pre-war population of 4,200 are still there, hiding in shelters.

New fighting as Macedonian rebels reject unity government.


SKOPJE, May 12 (AFP) -

Fighting erupted Saturday between Macedonian troops and ethnic Albanian rebels, after the announcement of a government of national unity failed to calm tensions in the fragile Balkan republic.

Colonel Blagoja Markovski, the Macedonian army spokesman, said that tanks and artillery were used against guerrilla positions following a "provocation from terrorists". Rebel leaders confirmed there had been fighting.

The renewed fighting will increase fears of another Balkan bloodbath, as western leaders have warned that the guerrillas are seeking to provoke a civil war.

The fighting broke out after the expiry of an army ceasefire called to coincide with the announcement of a government of national unity, aimed at isolating the rebels politically.

But the decision by both major ethnic Albanian parties to work with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's mainly Macedonian Slav government was dismissed by rebel commanders, who vowed to continue their campaign.

"The government will not calm the situation. The coalition will bring nothing. Nothing will change, the combat will continue," Commander Hoxha, one of the rebels' leaders, told AFP by telephone as his men joined battle.

The temporary ceasefire Friday, which was called to calm tensions as coalition talks continued and to allow civilians to flee the fighting, had been opposed by army generals, who had previously bombarded rebel-held villages for eight days.

Markovski said Saturday that the lull had been exploited by the rebels.

"The rebels used that time to reorganise themselves into new positions. We are acting against these new positions," he said.

The renewed fighting will increase fears for the fate of thousands of ethnic Albanian civilians thought to be trapped in the dozen villages situated in the 150-square-mile (400-square-kilometres) zone in rebel hands.

On Friday an AFP reporter who visited the rebel held village of Slupcane, which has born the brunt of the army bombardment, found hundreds of old men, women and children sheltering in cellars under bombed out houses.

Amanda Williamson, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that the organisation had managed to evacuate around 70 civilians during Friday's ceasefire, but had not been able to return on Saturday.

"Urgently needed medical assistance was also delivered to th civilians who continue to seek shelter in their cellars and whose situation remains precarious," she said.

Markovski said Saturday that government guns were targeting rebel positions north of Slupcane and in the nearby village of Vaksince, where civilians are also sheltering, according to the Red Cross

Red Cross officials had been able to visit a Macedonian soldier captured by the rebels nine days ago and enabled him to exchange letters with his family, Williamson said, without giving details of the soldier's condition.

The Red Cross had had no access to two civilians reported captured at the same time, she added.

The Macedonian army deployed tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships on May 3 to bombard rebel positions 26 miles (25 kilometres) north of Skopje after the self-styled National Liberation Army (NLA) seized control of a dozen ethnic Albanian villages and killed 10 soldiers and police.

The guerrillas, whom western analysts believe have mobilised around 800 fighters, claim to be fighting to defend the rights of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority.

The Macedonian government has in turn branded them "terrorists" and refused to enter into direct negotiations with their representatives, instead pursuing a dual policy of co-opting elected Albanian leaders into a programme of reform and opposing the guerrillas with military force.

Georgievski's policy has received the backing of the European Union and NATO, whose Secretary General George Robertson condemned the NLA as a "gang of murderous thugs".

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