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Lubbers: new humanitarian drama threatens Balkans

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Lubbers: new humanitarian drama threatens Balkans

16 March 2001

GENEVA - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today warned that intensifying fighting between Albanian separatists and the government forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could lead to a major population displacement and threaten the stability of the entire region.

"We simply cannot afford another humanitarian tragedy in the Balkans, where millions of people were uprooted by a string of violent conflicts in the last decade," said High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers.

Lubbers called on all parties, especially ethnic Albanians, to show restraint in order to prevent a further escalation of fighting. He also urged all international actors active in the region to do their utmost to try to calm the situation and prevent the outbreak of another Balkan crisis.

"My organisation has been dealing with the humanitarian fallout from the Balkan wars for the past 10 years - from Croatia and Bosnia to Kosovo. We are still working to undo the tragic outcome of those conflicts," said Lubbers.

News reports from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Friday spoke of fighting around the city of Tetovo and several other areas, raising the spectre of ethnic violence in the only one of the former Yugoslav republics to have escaped war in the 1990s.