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Renewed Fighting Threatens Macedonia Peace Agreement - 2001-08-09

Fighting continued in Macedonia Thursday, one day after ethnic Albanian guerrillas killed 10 government soldiers. Responding to the killings, Macedonian leaders said they are going to intensify their military effort against the rebels. The government warning comes one day after the two sides reached a preliminary peace agreement.

A Macedonian policeman was killed and another injured in the latest fighting Thursday between government forces and ethnic-Albanian rebels.

Government forces shelled rebel positions in villages near Tetovo in northwestern Macedonia, and local radio reported the guerrillas fired mortars and sniper rifles at police checkpoints and an army barracks in the city. The radio also said that the rebels burned down dozens of previously vacated Macedonian homes.

The government proclaimed Thursday a day of mourning for the 10 soldiers killed by the rebels Wednesday. All of the soldiers were army reservists from the central Macedonian town of Prilep.

Following news of the deaths, rioters in Prilep targeted the town's only mosque and several ethnic Albanian shops and homes. Local television also reported that Macedonians stormed an arms depot in Prilep, looting the weapons.

In the capital, Skopje, gangs of youths looted Albanian and Muslim owned shops and cafes in the city center.

EU envoy Francois Leotard said he could not guarantee that the preliminary peace agreement reached Wednesday will hold up until a formal signing set for Monday. "If the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, what has been agreed and concluded on paper could be thrown into question," he said.

The agreement between political leaders is a package of reforms granting greater status to ethnic Albanians and is part of an effort to end the six-month conflict