Macedonian police find arms destined for Kosovo

SKOPJE, Feb 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Macedonian police have uncovered a cache of weapons destined for Kosovo in an Albanian-populated village in the Balkan country, Macedonian television reported on Friday.

Privately-owned SITEL television said 120 cases with Kalashnikov automatic rifles and Skorpion handguns and two tonnes of ammunition had been found in a hotel in the southern village of Kravari.

The hotel owner and an Albanian citizen had been arrested, the television said, quoting police sources. Another private television station, A-1 TV, carried a similar report.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

Both stations said the weapons were smuggled in on mountain tracks from Albania and were bound for Kosovo, the Yugoslav province to the north which is now under de facto international rule.

Police had also found 40 kg (88 lbs) of marijuana, they said.

A-1 TV said the police acted after a routine check near Skopje revealed 10 Kalashnikovs in a car driven by an Albanian man. SITEL said police searches for more weapons were under way.

Kosovo has seen a recent upsurge in ethnic violence, particularly in the northern town of Mitrovica, a major flashpoint between hostile Serb and ethnic Albanian communities.

Earlier this week, the Macedonian army said it had raised its level of combat readiness along its border with Serbia.

Albanians account for about one third of Macedonia's population of roughly two million people.

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