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Macedonia: Security Forces Stem Escalating Violence

Skopje, 15 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian security forces are on guard today after clashes with ethnic Albanian rebels escalated yesterday. The rebels exchanged heavy fire with security forces outside the city of Tetovo, a mostly ethnic Albanian town about 40 kilometers west of the capital Skopje. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said late last night that one person was killed and 13 people, including 11 police officers, were wounded in clashes between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian policemen in and around Tetovo. Georgievski said a civilian man was shot dead by a sniper while passing by a police station.

Yesterday's clashes marked an escalation of violence in Macedonia. Before yesterday, the rebels' activities had been confined to an area near the border with Kosovo in northern Macedonia.

Macedonian Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski warned the escalating violence threatens to grow into a war that could destabilize Europe.

Meanwhile, a cease-fire between ethnic Albanian rebels and Yugoslav forces in southern Serbia appeared to be holding early today.

Yesterday, hundreds of Yugoslav troops moved into a small area of a buffer zone where Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia meet. No incidents were reported. The forces moved in the zone in a bid to cut off the rebels' supply routes.