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Security tightened at Skopje embassy

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WASHINGTON — The United States increased security at its embassy in Macedonia, sending in more Marines to protect against another attack prompted by anti-American sentiment.

The precaution was prompted by protests this week during which mobs of Macedonian protesters, angered by reports that Western mediators had sided with ethnic Albanian rebels, stoned the U.S. Embassy. Demonstrators also damaged the entrances of the British and German embassies.

The U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorist Support Team arrived Wednesday night in the Macedonian capital of Skopje "to augment security there," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Thursday. He said the measure was "a fairly standard step."

The unit is a quick-reaction Marine force trained in protecting and evacuating embassy personnel. They were sent in from a U.S. base in Italy.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said the Marines were requested by the ambassador and sent to Camp Able Sentry, just outside Skopje.

U.S. forces on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo have been using the camp as a staging base.

"They are in place, awaiting developments," Quigley said.

Western diplomats, meanwhile, met today with senior government representatives on ways to negotiate an end to the ethnic Albanian insurgency.

The State Department has advised Americans against traveling to Macedonia and suggested to U.S. citizens already there to "review their personal security situations, exercise caution and, if appropriate, depart the country."

Reeker said some U.S. personnel have left voluntarily, and others may follow.

The administration welcomed news that Albanian rebels pulled back from Tetovo, Macedonia's second-largest city, which allowed peace talks between ethnic Albanian and Macedonian leaders to resume.

"We call on all sides to respect the cease-fire agreement they signed and exercise restraint, because there's no military solution to this," Reeker said. "We're very pleased to see just recently announcements that the political dialogue will continue."

U.S. envoy James Pardew remained in Skopje to help NATO and European Union officials mediate talks between the two sides, Reeker said.

"We've continued to urge the Macedonian government and all the party leaders, all the parties from all the various multiethnic parties in Macedonia, to seize this initiative for peace and to continue the dialogue and press forward with negotiations," he said.

On the Net: U.S. Embassy, Skopje: usembassy.mpt.com.mk/