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Macedonia: Bulgarian Official -- Peacekeepers Needed To Prevent War

Sofia, 23 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian Defense Minister Boiko Noev called today for an international peace force to deploy in Macedonia to prevent all-out war between government forces and ethnic-Albanian insurgents there. Noev spoke to reporters in Sofia before a Bulgarian government security council meeting on Macedonia. He said that the need for an international force is urgent because Macedonia may be unable to manage the growing crisis.

In Macedonia, Interior Ministry officials said security forces continue to use artillery and machine-gun fire to flush out ethnic-Albanian rebels in the country's northwest. The rebels are holed up in several villages and thousands of civilians may be trapped by the fighting.

Yesterday, at least six policemen were wounded near the village of Lisec, near the northwestern Macedonian town of Tetovo, when their cars were targeted by mortar fire. Reports also said detonations were heard this morning in the hills around the town.

To the northeast, the Kumanovo area was quiet today after renewed artillery and machine-gun fire continued into late last night.