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US Condemns Macedonian Ambush - 2001-08-08

The United States has condemned an ambush in Macedonia in which ten government soldiers were killed. A State Department spokesman also said the United States hopes the the warring sides in Macedonia will sign the tentative peace agreement announced Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the United States condemns the ambush on government troops near the city of Tetovo. He said, "The ambush this morning by the insurgents was really an outrageous act of violence."

It is the worst violence of a six-month insurgency by ethnic Albanians fighting for a greater say in how Macedonia is run. Mr. Boucher says the ambush comes at a critical moment for the country as European and American mediators work out the details for a peace deal that is now expected to be signed Monday.

Macedonia has agreed to key points in the plan, including granting the Albanian minority a greater role in the police, parliament, and education.

Under the plan, more than 3,000 NATO peacekeepers would be deployed in Macedonia to disarm the militants. But that is only if the ceasefire holds. Mr. Boucher says it is important to close this political deal before the violence gets worse.

He continued, "We think the importance of doing that is made all the more apparent by the attacks and difficulties of the last few days, and we would like to point out once again that the conclusion of a political arrangement, the final conclusion and signature of a political arrangement, would actually open many doors for Macedonia and opportunities for Macedonia."

The arrangement includes a framework for constitutional reform and a selective amnesty for members of the National Liberation Army who carried-out Wednesday's ambush. Guerillas opened fire with machineguns and mortars 20 kilometers west of the capital, Skopje, killing eight soldiers and two officers who burned to death in their vehicle.