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Macedonia: Fighting Continues Amid Government Crisis

Skopje, 25 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonia says its security forces have moved into Vakcince after hours of heavy shelling yesterday in the north of the country. A rebel commander, Sokoli, said seven civilians had died in the fighting. The mayor of nearby Lipkovo told our correspondent the number was eleven. Macedonian Interior Minister Ljuben Boskoski said Macedonian troops were trying to avoid casualties. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said the situation suggested the country would defend its territory "with no mercy."

The fighting comes amid a crisis in the country's national unity government formed two weeks ago to defuse tensions in Macedonia. Two leaders of the Albanian parties participating in the government -- Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri -- have met with Ali Ahmeti of the rebel National Liberation Army, and reached an agreement on a peace formula and a common political platform.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has demanded that the two leaders renounce the deal. The European Union, NATO, and the United States have issued strong statements opposing the talks.

Reuters news agency reports the Western diplomat who allegedly helped negotiate the deal, American Robert Frowick of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has left the country. OSCE representative Carlo Ungaro said in Skopje that Frowick had been "acting on his own." The OSCE has also condemned the deal.