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Macedonia: Army Suspends Operations In Kumanovo-Lipkovo

Skopje, 11 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian state radio says the army has been ordered to suspend its military operations in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, effective at noon today (1200 Prague time). The Macedonian army suspended its shelling of ethnic Albanian rebel positions after a morning of fighting. The radio says fighting around the villages of Slupcane, Orizare, and Matejce had subsided.

Ethnic Albanian rebels had threatened to attack the capital Skopje, along with the airport and an oil refinery if the Macedonian army continued its operations.

But Nikola Dimitrov, national security adviser to President Boris Trajkovski, said the cease-fire around the northern village of Slupcane had nothing to do with an ultimatum issued by the rebels.

Dimitrov said the halt in shelling was called to allow international officials to enter the area and inspect the damage to pumps supplying water to the city of Kumanovo.

Most European airlines providing services to Skopje canceled their flights today as international concern about the fighting in Macedonia mounted.

Meeting in Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers expressed growing concern at the escalating violence in Macedonia and demanded that ethnic Albanian rebels end their insurgency.

In a statement, the 15 ministers said they were concerned at the "serious deterioration" of the situation in Macedonia and urged what they called "ethnic Albanian extremists" to lay down their arms.

For more on the situation in Macedonia, please see Macedonia: Army Declares Cease-Fire After UCK Ultimatum.