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Macedonia: Soldiers Clash With Ethnic Albanian Fighters

Skopje, 16 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Army sources say Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian fighters clashed with machine-gun fire and artillery overnight in a village north of the capital Skopje. Army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said the clashes occurred in the village of Slupcane. No further details were immediately available.

Macedonia's new national unity government yesterday gave the ethnic Albanian rebels that are holed up along the northern border a 48-hour deadline -- until noon tomorrow -- to leave the country or lay down their arms.

Macedonian forces have been shelling and firing on suspected rebel positions in the north for the past two weeks, leaving thousands of civilians trapped in nearby villages.

A troika of senior top European Union officials is scheduled to arrive today in Skopje for talks with the government on the security crisis.