Reuters Macedonia suggests NATO action against rebels
Saturday August 11, 7:23 AM
Macedonia suggests NATO action against rebels
By Alister Doyle
SKOPJE (Reuters) -
Macedonia's foreign minister has
suggested tougher international action
to help end an uprising by ethnic
Albanian guerrillas, saying the rebels
will never agree to a plan to hand arms
to NATO troops.
Macedonia's government declared
Saturday a day of national mourning
after seven Macedonian soldiers were killed in a landmine attack
blamed on the guerrillas as surging violence pushed the Balkan
nation closer to full-blown war.
Ten soldiers died in a rebel ambush on Wednesday, the bloodiest
attack of the six-month rebellion. And five rebels were shot dead in
the capital Skopje on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said the violence showed the
guerrillas would never accept a plan to disarm voluntarily even
though leaders of the main Macedonian and ethnic Albanian
political parties are to sign a peace plan on Monday.
"This is an act of courage," she wrote in an open letter to the
United Nations, NATO and the European Union. "We expect the
same virtue from the international community.
"It is natural to assume that following everything that has happened,
the so-called NLA will not proceed with voluntary disarmament,"
she wrote. "Perhaps this should be a sign for redesigning the
process and plan for disarmament."
NATO has said it will send up to 3,500 lightly armed soldiers once
the peace plan is in place, an amnesty is agreed and the ethnic
Albanian National Liberation Army has pledged to hand over
weapons voluntarily to alliance soldiers.
"Now is the moment for the international community to act
energetically," Mitreva said. She did not spell out her suggestions
but NATO nations have been highly reluctant to get involved in a
third, robust Balkan peacekeeping mission.
Several hundred youths marched through the capital late on Friday
to protest at the killings of the seven soldiers, waving Macedonian
flags and shouting "Albanians to the gas chambers".
Some people smashed windows of a few shops in a suburb with
metal bars. Riot police kept protesters, roaming in groups of
several dozen, at bay and back from the U.S. embassy.
The violence fell well short of some recent riots spawned by rebel
But the surging death toll has cast doubt on the planned signing of a
peace deal in Skopje on Monday to improve the rights of the
one-third ethnic Albanian minority in everything from education to
NATO said that Secretary General George Robertson had yet to
decide whether to fly to Skopje to attend the ceremony.
But Macedonians in the government have a twin track of talking
peace while keeping up a battering of the rebels, who similarly
continue attacks on the security forces while their politicians
Rebels and soldiers clashed in northwestern Macedonia late on
Friday and several homes were set ablaze.
"There was intensive fire," a rebel commander codenamed Leka
said. Macedonia dropped bombs on villages on Thursday from
Sukhoi Su-25 jets in a serious escalation of the conflict.
A late-night meeting on Friday of top Macedonian ministers
resulted in a decision to continue action to "destroy threats to the
safety of citizens and the security forces".
Television station A1 said that one issue under discussion at the
security council had been possible ways of getting NATO to step
its involvement in restoring Macedonia's security.