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UN refugee agency concerned about fighting in FYR of Macedonia

UN refugee agency concerned about fighting in FYR of Macedonia

The United Nations refugee agency today expressed concern about the plight of civilians caught in fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and armed forces of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the Geneva-based UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said that between 5,000 and 10,000 people were believed to be trapped in villages engulfed by fighting in the northern part of the country. An estimated 18,000 people had sought refuge in southern Serbia and Kosovo, the spokesman said.

"We have urged all sides in the conflict to show respect for civilians and their freedom of movement," Mr. Janowski said. "They should neither be forced to leave their homes nor remain in them against their will."

Meanwhile, UNMIK, the UN Interim Administration Mission in the province, has promulgated a regulation that limits the legal boundary and border crossing points to 19 designated sites. UNMIK spokesperson Susan Manuel said on Monday that the regulation, aimed at thwarting the movement of extremists into and out of Kosovo, made all other crossings subject to criminal prosecution.