Pristina, 10 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A senior U.S. official today said that the ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia and southern Serbia threaten stability in the Balkans and should put down their weapons. James Pardew, special adviser for the Balkans with the U.S. State Department, said the rebels are "destructive to stability in the Balkans" and to "all positive things that occurred in Kosovo and in the region." He also condemned recent violence in the two areas, which he blamed on ethnic Albanian rebels fighting there.
Pardew said ethnic Albanian rebels in southern Serbia, known by the acronym UCPMB, should lay down arms and leave the region.
"The United States does not consider the UCPMB forces in the ground (security) sector zone to be legal or legitimate. They should lay down their arms, disorganize, just get rid of their organization and leave, because their presence there is provocative."
Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic today said his government will work together with Macedonia to clamp down on ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Djindjic said after talks in Skopje with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski that a joint Serb-Macedonian commission to fight against terrorists and crime in the region is to be set up.
Georgievski gave the main ethnic Albanian opposition party today a 48-hour deadline for deciding whether to join a national unity government.
Georgievski said a parliamentary session to approve the new government will be held on Saturday.
The opposition ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) is expected to announce shortly whether it will join a proposed new government coalition to deal with the crisis. The party said it will only join the government if the army stops shelling rebel-held villages.
The proposed coalition would include all the main majority Slav- and ethnic Albanian-led parties in parliament.
Georgievski said the army would continue to shell villages because otherwise guerrillas would resurface elsewhere in the country for fresh assaults. He said that if the PDP does not join the coalition it risks international marginalization.
Macedonian forces shelled suspected ethnic Albanian militant positions for an eighth consecutive day today in villages in the north of the country.
The attacks on the village of Slupcane came after the expiration of another government ultimatum for the evacuation of civilians who remain in the conflict area.
Sweden and Britain issued calls today for Macedonia's parties to swiftly conclude the coalition deal.
For more on this story, please see Macedonia: UCK Commander Calls For Diplomatic Solution