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Macedonia: Government Extends Cease-Fire

Skopje, 18 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Macedonian government has indefinitely extended a cease-fire in its battle with ethnic Albanian fighters in northern Macedonia. The government had earlier set a deadline of noon yesterday for the fighters to disarm or face a major government offensive.

In a statement yesterday, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said the cease-fire is producing results, enabling hundreds of civilians to leave villages in the conflict zone.

Trajkovski warned that postponing the assault should not be viewed as hesitancy on the part of the government.

The government has been under international pressure to avoid an assault that would almost certainly inflict civilian casualties.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson yesterday accused the ethnic Albanian fighters of using villagers as "human shields" and called on them to end their armed insurgency. Robertson said NATO will give military assistance to the Macedonian government. He did not provide details.