Skopje, 5 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslavia has offered to help Macedonia in its battle against ethnic Albanian fighters, as the Yugoslav and Macedonian defense ministers, Slobodan Krapovic and Vlado Buckovski signed an agreement in Skopje under which Yugoslavia could provide intelligence and weapons to Macedonia's army. The deal also aims at boosting security along the border of the two countries. Buckovski's visit came amid fighting between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in northern Macedonia, along the border with UN-administered Kosovo.
Macedonia and Yugoslavia say pro-independence forces in Kosovo are backing ethnic Albanian separatist movements in Macedonia and southern Serbia proper.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross rescued 66 civilians from the northern Macedonian village of Lipkovo yesterday during an arranged pause in the fighting. Red Cross spokesman Olivier Chow said it is hoped more civilians can be brought out today under similar security guarantees.