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Macedonia to 'isolate' rebels

President Trajkovski says he will isolate his country's enemies  

TETOVO, Macedonia -- Macedonia’s President Boris Trajkovski has told CNN that he plans to defeat rebels threatening his country by isolating them politically and militarily.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Trajkovski said he was happy that the international community is supporting Macedonia and condemning the rebels.

And he expressed confidence that the assistance of KFOR in preventing border incursions from Kosovo and the support of the European Union and other "international structures" would prove effective.

He said: “The only way to neutralise the rebels is to develop an isolation strategy combining political means and military means.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviews Arben Xhaferi on Albanian rebels in Macedonia

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CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviews Boris Trajkovski on the political and social climates in Macedonia

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E.U. Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana: The conflict must be isolated

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CNN's Chris Burns: Reduced political support for the rebels

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"We have to get all the international community and our allies and friends supporting us.

"We have to protect our interests and also protect any possibility that the situation can spill over.”

Trajkovski was speaking as Macedonian helicopters fired rockets in a sweep just south of downtown Tetovo on Saturday.

Two MI-24 attack helicopters thundered over Mount Sar Planina, the focus of attacks southwest of the city's centre, firing several rockets that sent up a large plume of dirt and smoke.

It was not immediately clear what the choppers were targeting or whether anyone was wounded.

The president refuted suggestions that the Albanian population of Macedonia are on the side of the rebels.

He told Amanpour he is seeking a constant dialogue with the ethnic Albanian political parties and that Macedonia has “proved itself” as a country that understands the needs of the various ethnic groups.

Earlier on Saturday, Macedonia renewed its bombardment of suspected ethnic Albanian rebel positions, despite international calls for restraint.

The army used tank and heavy machine-gun fire near Tetovo hours after EU leaders at a summit in Sweden urged Macedonia to "prevent an escalation of military activity."

A Macedonian interior ministry spokesman said the bombardment was in response to a guerrilla attack on police position in a Slav district of the town with mortar. Four Macedonian Slav civilians were taken to hospital with injuries.

At another flashpoint closer to the capital Skopje, tank and mortar fire were heard near the village of Gracani.

In a statement issued at the end of a two-day conference, the 15 EU leaders said: "We reaffirm our solidarity with (the Macedonian leadership) in the current crisis and urge you to continue to respond with restraint.

"Every effort should be made to prevent an escalation of military activity.

"Effective internal political reforms and consolidation of a true multi-ethnic society are indispensable."

Macedonia also received the backing of the U.S. President George W. Bush said on Friday: "The United States joins its allies and the United Nations in strongly condemning the violence perpetrated by a small group of extremists determined to destabilise the democratic, multi-ethnic government of Macedonia.

"The United States and its allies have a long-standing commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Over 20,000 flee Macedonian fighting
March 23, 2001
Two killed in Macedonia clash
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Bombing resumes in Macedonia
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Macedonia rebels declare ceasefire
March 21, 2001
Macedonia prepares for new assault
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Macedonian Government
European Union
United Nations

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