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Macedonia: New Government Faces First Day

Skopje, 14 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonia's new government of national unity faces its first day of work today -- its main task to end an insurgency by ethnic Albanian militants. After being overwhelmingly approved by parliament late last night, the cabinet of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski now consists of the main ethnic Slav and Albanian parties.

The vote late yesterday had been delayed by several hours after one of the Albanian parties -- the Party for Democratic Prosperity, or PDP -- walked out to protest a speech by Georgievski in which he said the ethnic Albanian rebels were a "cruel enemy that had to be crushed." But the PDP later agreed to take up its seats.

The new cabinet will now have to deal with the issue of political reform. Both ethnic Albanian parties in the government want Macedonia's Constitution changed to grant ethnic Albanians full linguistic and cultural rights. Slav politicians have so far resisted the demand.

For most of the day, the Macedonian army and police halted their assault on rebel positions. But an army spokesman later said that rebels had attacked government troops later in the day near the villages of Slupcane and Orizare and that the army had fired back.

The Macedonian army reported no casualties. There is no word on rebel casualties.