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Reuters Macedonia suggests NATO action against rebels

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  • Snezana Lazovic
    http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010810/3/1b5qw.html Saturday August 11, 7:23 AM Macedonia suggests NATO action against rebels By Alister Doyle SKOPJE (Reuters) -
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 11, 2001
      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/010810/3/1b5qw.html

      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.

      STREET PROTESTS

      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
      killings.

      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
      religion.

      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
      negotiate.

      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.
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