Fighting resumes in Macedonia

The Macedonian army has resumed its bombardment of ethnic Albanian rebel positions in the hills around the town of Tetovo. The renewed assault comes within hours of the expiration of a government ultimatum for the rebels to surrender or leave the country. The hillsides just north of Tetovo, close to the border with Kosovo, have seen the worst of more than four weeks of fighting between government forces and members the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA). The army has moved at least 10 Soviet-made tanks, along with hundreds of troops and artillery, into the area, according to BBC. The Macedonian authorities rejected a unilateral ceasefire offered by the rebels on Wednesday evening before the 2300GMT government deadline expired. The guerrillas said they were offering an unlimited, unilateral ceasefire to permit talks with the government to reach a peaceful solution to the current crisis. But Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said the rebels had to be "eliminated" and ordered the army "to establish order" on Macedonia's borders. The president did not comment directly on the ceasefire and brushed aside the rebels' offer of talks. He said negotiations would be intensified on "the open questions in inter-ethnic relations" in Macedonia. They would be held after "the end of the operations to neutralise the terrorists" and would involve "all legitimate political parties". In the meantime, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed in New York a British and French-sponsored resolution condemning "terrorist violence" by the rebels in Macedonia and Serbia. It also called on the Nato-led peacekeeping force in neighbouring Kosovo to strengthen efforts to stop arms being moved across the border. Nato had already decided to send a reported 1,000 extra peacekeepers to Kosovo to patrol the border. The alliance has already reinforced its presence on the border to prevent Kosovo from being used as a base for attacks into Macedonia.

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