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GUARD Macedonian deaths cloud peace deal

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  • Snezana Lazovic
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,535199,00.html THE GUARDIAN (UK) Saturday 11 August 2001 Macedonian deaths cloud peace deal Killing of
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 11, 2001

      Saturday 11 August 2001

      Macedonian deaths cloud peace deal

      Killing of security forces by landmines strengthens
      hand of hardliners urging war against guerrillas

      Nicholas Wood in Skopje

      Macedonia's security forces lost another seven soldiers
      yesterday, killed when their truck struck two landmines outside
      the capital Skopje.

      The attack, believed to have been launched by ethnic Albanian
      guerrillas, came just two days after the ambush of an army
      convoy in which 10 soldiers were killed, making this week the
      bloodiest yet in the conflict.

      The explosion took place on a dirt road five miles north of
      Skopje. Six soldiers died in the initial blast at 8am. A seventh
      died on the way to hospital.

      The deaths became immediate fuel for hardliners in the
      government who are in favour of waging all-out war against the
      ethnic Albanian guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army.

      The prime minister, Ljuko Georgievski, issued a statement
      saying Macedonia was capable of defeating the gunmen.

      "Personally, I am convinced that with complete unity, and an
      avoidance of earlier mistakes, Macedonia has the strength to
      win the fight for its own defence."

      However, the prime minister's office denied later that Mr
      Georgievski had distanced himself from the peace deal.

      "On the contrary, he is prepared, together with the other political
      leaders, to put his signature to the final agreement on Monday
      so the international public can get a clearer picture of who
      stands for peace and who stands for war in Macedonia," an
      official told Reuters.

      An army spokesman said he believed the mines were "most
      probably laid on Thursday night or early on Friday". Another
      spokesman said the mines had been laid on top of each other
      for maximum impact.

      The troops had been on their way to replace a post on the
      border with Kosovo. Nine soldiers were injured.

      The increased violence is also eroding hopes for a political
      settlement aimed at ending the crisis. A signing ceremony is
      due to take place on Monday, paving the way for Nato troops to
      come into the country to help disarm the rebel army.

      Mr Georgievski's spokesman, Antonio Milososki, said the NLA
      was clearly opposed to the peace deal.

      "Instead of backing the peace agreement, the NLA is trying to
      find a reason to refuse it. The UCK [Albanian initials for NLA] is
      prepared to make a funeral of the peace agreement. This is a
      proposal for war."

      In Skopje, police were preparing for protests outside the
      parliament in reaction to the latest killings. A curfew was
      announced for 9pm.

      Previous attacks have seen violent mobs run through the city
      centre, attacking Albanian businesses and western institutions.

      Before the mine attack, much of the country's attention had
      been focused on Prilep, in central Macedonia, home to several
      of the reservist soldiers killed in Wednesday's ambush.

      Two funerals were held yesterday afternoon.

      "I know he was not afraid," the mother of one of the dead
      soldiers told Reuters.

      "I want it to be mentioned in history, my child was a hero and he
      died heroically, and that's why he will live forever."
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