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Macedonia: Fighting Intensifies Near Second Largest City

Tetovo, Macedonia; 16 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonia's army turned cannon, mortar, and heavy machine guns today on ethnic Albanian insurgents in hillside positions overlooking Macedonia's second-largest city, Tetovo. The guerrillas responded with automatic weapons. Government troops reported progress today around the border village of Tanusevci, where fighting first erupted last month. They said they cleared Tanusevci and two other volatile border villages of land mines, and the government urged ethnic Albanian villagers to return home.

Local news reports said police repelled an attack near the Tetovo suburb of Strmno. RFE/RL's correspondent says eyewitnesses reported mortar rounds were fired on the village of Lojane northeast of Skopje.

AFP quotes a rebel commander (unnamed) as saying the fighting will continue until officials recognize rebels' demands for equality for Macedonia's Albanian minority.

In Athens, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson denounced the ethnic Albanian violence. But Robertson said NATO has no plans to intervene. He praised Greek political and military aid to Macedonia and said other NATO nations, acting individually, will want to do the same.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement today that it feared Macedonia could become another Kosovo. The statement said Russia supports the Macedonian government's efforts to put down the insurgency.

(For details please read the report in our Weekday Magazine from our correspondent Jolyon Naegele -- Macedonia: UCK Insurgency Shifts Focus To Tetovo)