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Macedonia: New Clashes Erupt, Ethnic Albanians Consider Govt Offers

Skopje, 1 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian army and ethnic Albanian rebels clashed today in various parts of the country, from the northwestern city of Tetovo to the Kumanovo area farther east. Western reporters say the Macedonian army resumed shelling the villages of Matejce and Slupcane, near Kumanovo. Those villages were the scene of repeated clashes in the past few days.

Army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said the troops were responding to "provocations by terrorists."

Clashes were also reported near Tetovo, which was the scene of fierce fighting last March but enjoyed a relative lull during recent weeks.

The army said rebels opened fire from the villages of Sipkovica and Brodec. There have been no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

There has been mixed reaction in Macedonia about Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's suggestion yesterday that constitutional changes could be introduced to upgrade the status of the ethnic Albanian minority -- a key demand of the rebels. One Slavic party in the ruling coalition rejected the idea. Some ethnic Albanian politicians have said the suggestion results from Western pressure rather than goodwill by the Slavic majority.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski met today with leading ethnic Albanian politicians to discuss an offer of partial amnesty to most ethnic Albanian militants in exchange for peace. Few details of the offer were made available.

Arben Xhaferi, a key ethnic Albanian politician, said the proposal was "interesting," however he said it should also be discussed with ethnic Albanian rebel leaders.

For more on the situation in Macedonia, please see Macedonia: Possible Turning Point In Macedonia's Interethnic Conflict.