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EU reaffirms support to Macedonia

Macedonian refugees
The fighting has prompted thousands to flee Macedonia.  

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- European Union leaders have reaffirmed their support for Macedonia as it continues to fight ethnic Albanians rebels.

But they also urged Macedonia to deal with the grievances of its ethnic Albanian population.

In a statement issued at the end of a two-day conference in Stockholm, the leaders said: "We reaffirm our solidarity with you 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," the 15 leaders told Macedonia in their statement.

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"Effective internal political reforms and consolidation of a true multi-ethnic society are indispensable," they said, adding that the EU would provide help in areas such as border management, aid for refugees and judicial reform and training.

The EU leaders also urged ethnic Albanian leaders in Macedonia and neighbouring Kosovo to use political means to end the conflict, rather than violence.

They commended the ethnic Albanian leaders for distancing themselves from the guerrillas.

"To the Albanian political leaders in Kosovo, we call on you to continue to dissociate yourselves unambiguously from the extremists, to condemn violence unconditionally and to respect the principle of the inviolability of borders," they said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would probably return to Macedonia on Tuesday, diplomats said.


Javier Solana: More EU troops if necessary

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The rebels, branded by Macedonia as terrorists, say they are fighting to improve the lot of all ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, where they make up about a third of the population.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who met with EU leaders in Stockholm on Friday, ruled out negotiating with the rebels, but conceded his ex-Yugoslav republic of two million still had some way to go to integrating its Albanian citizens.

Though the Stockholm summit was ostensibly devoted to economic issues, analysts say Trajkovski's presence underlined the depth of the EU's concern over developments in Macedonia.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Macedonian Government
European Union

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