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|Wednesday, March 21, 2001, updated at 11:59(GMT+8)|
Macedonia Issues Ultimatum to Ethnic Albanian RebelsThe Macedonian defense and interior ministries Tuesday issued an ultimatum to ethnic Albanian rebel forces, demanding that they surrender or withdraw from their positions within 24 hours, the Albanian news agency ATA reported.
The Macedonian security forces would refrain from attacking the guerrilla positions in Tetovo city within 24 hours starting from 11:00 p.m. (2200 GMT) Tuesday. Once the deadline is broken, the Macedonian forces would use all weapons available to attack and destroy the "terrorist positions," the ultimatum said.
The ultimatum was issued after government forces used for the first time tanks in their offensives against the rebels Tuesday afternoon. After days of fierce fighting, government forces had pushed closer to the city proper.
The government Monday sent reinforcements to Tetovo, which included special police forces and heavy arms like tanks and armored vehicles.
Also on Tuesday, at the suggestion of EU diplomacy and security representative Javier Solana, Albanian Democratic Party and the Party for Democratic Prosperity, the two ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia, signed a joint statement to urge the ethnic Albanian guerrilla forces to lay down their arms and return to their hometowns.
However, the newly-established National Democratic Party, another ethnic Albanian political party, did not sign the statement.
The conflict around Tetovo has lasted a week with government troops firing onto the mountains above the city supposed to have been used by rebels as a front position to launch attacks against government troops and police.
The current situation in Macedonia has alarmed the international community which fears of an escalating war in the Balkans that threatens regional stability.
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