NATO OKs Plan for Troops in Macedonia

From Reuters

The members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gave final approval Friday to a plan to send up to 3,000 troops to Macedonia to collect and destroy the weapons of ethnic Albanian rebels there if a political settlement can be reached.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said it is up to the Macedonian government to conclude political negotiations to resolve ethnic Albanian grievances and observe a truce so the alliance can provide assistance.

"The ball is now firmly in the court of the Macedonian government to deliver on the political dialogue and the cease-fire in order to allow NATO's help to come into effect," Robertson said during a visit to London.

In Brussels, NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur said the alliance had approved the "Essential Harvest" operational plan for troops to deploy in Macedonia for about 30 days to collect weapons from disarming Albanian guerrillas once the conditions are met.

Fifteen of the 19 NATO member countries, including the United States, have committed troops, Brodeur said.

He declined to identify the other countries involved, but NATO sources have said Britain, France, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Norway are among possible contributors.

Western nations have been engaged in intensive diplomacy to try to prevent the 4-month-old rebellion in Macedonia, which is being fueled from the neighboring NATO-patrolled Yugoslav region of Kosovo, from turning into a new Balkan war.

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