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Macedonia: Balkan Leaders Call For End To Violence

Skopje, 23 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of nine countries from Southeastern Europe called today for urgent measures to put an end to violence in and around UN-controlled Kosovo. The meeting brings together leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and the Yugoslav Federation. Senior EU officials are also attending.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, at the opening of the conference, said that the conflict is escalating. And he said that it would be "very dangerous to underestimate" the urgent need to solve it.

Trajkovski and other Balkan leaders blamed the violence on ethnic Albanian militants. EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten said it was time for all Kosovars to "make a stand" and make clear they will not tolerate violence.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said he was confident a NATO foreign ministers' meeting (on Tuesday) and a EU foreign ministers' meeting (on Monday) will help to calm ethnic tensions in Serbia's Presevo Valley bordering Kosovo.

Greece is to present a plan calling for a stronger EU presence in the troubled Presevo Valley in southern Serbia.

The leaders were also due to discuss economic cooperation and hold bilateral meetings. Yugoslavia and Bosnia are to be formally integrated into the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Pact.