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Macedonia: NATO Peacekeepers Clash With Albanian Rebels

Skopje, 7 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo clashed today with suspected ethnic Albanian rebels near Kosovo's border with Macedonia. The U.S. military said the American troops wounded two armed men in a brief exchange of gunfire near the Kosovo village of Mijak. No U.S. soldiers were injured in the battle, which involved small arms. The U.S. troops detained one of the wounded rebels, while the others escaped.

The incident occurred across the border from the Macedonian village of Tanusevci, where Macedonian troops and ethnic Albanian guerrillas clashed earlier this week.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said Bulgaria will start dispatching military supplies to Macedonia to help it deal with the crisis.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson says NATO may allow Yugoslav troops to start patrolling part of a nearby buffer zone in southern Serbia to prevent ethnic Albanian fighters from moving between southern Serbia's Presevo Valley and Macedonia. Robertson was due to discuss the issue with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington later today.

Serbia's Information Ministry issued a report from Presevo which says two Yugoslav Army soldiers were killed and two others wounded today when their vehicle ran over a landmine in southern Serbia.

The soldiers were traveling in the village of Oreovica, on the edge of the 5-km buffer zone with Kosovo. The area has seen heightened activity by ethnic Albanian rebels in recent weeks. No further details were immediately available.