As this article goes to press, the situation in northern Macedonia takes on proportions which the world’s press has not yet fully understood: a calamity is near unless something drastic is done… and done fast. The Albanian extremists are fighting on three fronts in northern and western Macedonia, they are installed in the hills around Tetovo , 20 kilometres from Skopje, the capital, where there are between 150,000 and 200,000 residents. The ex-Minister of Internal Affairs in Macedonia stated that groups of Albanians are organising themselves in the capital to form a fifth column. The Albanian National Front for Ilirda, an extremist group fighting for a Greater Albania, has threatened to target Albanians in Macedonia who “collaborate with the government”, a clear attack on the Albanian Democratic Party, part of the coalition which makes up the Macedonian government. As the Albanians sweep into northern and western Macedonia and the Macedonian authorities attempt to control the situation, NATO’s position, after having let the Albanians out of their cage, is typically incomprehensible. A Senior NATO Official at Brussels said: “Conflicts in Macedonia are the country’s internal matter. The matter at issue is not an invasion from the outside, despite the claims that Albanian extremists are attacking territories outside Kosovo”. Such nonchalance is an affront to the intelligence. The United States’ Special Envoy to the Balkans, James Pardew, called on Albanian political leaders to stop aiding rebels outside Kosovo, since these were undermining the peace process. The Macedonian government has called a meeting of the National Defence Council to see how best to cope with the situation. Since NATO chooses to bury its head in the sand (they have nothing to bomb from ten thousand metres high) Macedonia is alone and it would seem that if ever there was a time for the international community to react, then now is certainly the time. Macedonia must be saved, intact. It is not enough to make comforting noises and issue promises from thousands of kilometres away. The population of Skopje lives in fear of a very real danger. Such a danger, if it is allowed to engulf Skopje, will soon sweep through the remaining hot spots in the Balkans like wildfire. Russia is seen by Macedonians as a natural ally and it is to Moscow that the residents of Skopje now look with hope. TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON

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