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Macedonia: Landmines Cause Death Of Nine Soldiers

Skopje, 10 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Nine Macedonian soldiers were killed and five others wounded when their truck ran over landmines today close to Skopje. Earlier reports put the death toll at eight, but an army spokesman (unnamed) told Reuters one of the injured soldiers later died of his wounds.

The deaths came as Macedonian families in the southern town of Prilep buried 10 soldiers killed in a rebel ambush two days ago.

The upsurge in fighting threatens a peace deal aimed at ending six months of ethnic Albanian insurgency. Political leaders were expected to formally sign the Western-mediated deal on Monday (13 August).

The U.S. and European Union peace mediators for Macedonia both said today that a political solution to the conflict is still possible, despite the recent violence.

U.S. envoy James Pardew, speaking in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, called for an end to the violence and said it is "entirely possible" that the peace accord will be signed on Monday.

"No one supports the Albanian extremists. Certainly not the United States, nor any of our European allies. The use of force by the Albanian extremists in Macedonia is unacceptable and is totally rejected by the United States."

NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson said there could be no military solution to the crisis.