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Yugoslavia: Thousands Of Kosovar Refugees Enter Macedonia

Blace, Macedonia; 24 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - UN refugee workers early today persuaded Macedonian government officials to allow more than 3,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees to enter Macedonia after a standoff at the border. Late last night, Macedonian officials loaded at least three buses with about 200 refugees on each bus at the border crossing at Blace. UN envoy Dennis McNamara said the officials intended to send the refugees to Albania. McNamara said the move was in violation of an agreement with the Macedonian government. The Associated Press reports workers with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, blocked one bus with a UN sedan. The report said another 3,000 to 4,000 refugees, who were apparently among the reported 7,000 who arrived from Kosovo at the Blace crossing yesterday, stood or sat between the border crossings of Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

McNamara spoke with Macedonian officials at the border, and arranged an end to the standoff. The buses were later allowed to enter Macedonia and were driven to a refugee camp near the border. McNamara said he was assured that the other 3,000 to 4,000 remaining also would be allowed in.