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A new "Special Scout Troop" police unit on a road in Skopje on August 22, 2001. NATO launched its third Balkans operation in a decade on Wednesday after its 19 member states approved a plan to send thousands of troops to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Two Albanian boys admire the machine gun of an NLA rebel soldier at the village of Sipkovica, Macedonia, August 22, 2001. NATO launched its third Balkans operation in a decade after its 19 member states approved a plan to send thousands of troops to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. (Petr Josek/Reuters)
An ethnic Albanian NLA rebel soldier hugs a fellow fighter at the village of Sipkovica in Macedonia, August 22, 2001. NATO launched its third Balkans operation in a decade on Wednesday after its 19 member states approved a plan to send thousands of troops to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. REUTERS/Petr Josek
Two Albanian rebel soldiers stand above the town of Tetovo on August 22, 2001. NATO governments approved a plan on Wednesday to send thousands of troops to collect rebel arms in Macedonia. REUTERS/Petr Josek
A new Macedonian police unit "Special Scout Troop" on a road in Skopje, August 22 2001. NATO military officials have provisionally backed a plan to send thousands of troops to Macedonia, and alliance ambassadors are expected to give their final endorsement by Wednesday. The Macedonian government on Wednesday praised NATO's decision to install a 3,500-strong force to collect ethnic Albanian guerrilla weapons but most ordinary people seemed resigned or cynical about the mission. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta (R) speaks with NATO supreme commander U.S. General Joseph Raltson, in Tirana August 22, 2001. Meta assured General Raltson Albania would encourage the ethnic Albanian guerrilllas in Macedonia to apply the disarment deal they have signed. REUTERS/Arben Celi
NATO Secretary General George Robertson answers reporters' questions during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, August 22, 2001. Robertson said a NATO mission to collect rebel arms in Macedonia, expected to be approved later on Wednesday, would be limited to 30 days. REUTERS/Thierry Roge
At 3 p.m. Stoyan Ganev leaves the office building of the CM through the front entrance. He has already seen his office, but still hasn't been actually appointed by the PM. The order of his appointment was signed later, when the new director returned to the CM
Photo Nikolay Donchev Standartnews
NATO leader warns of Balkans bloodbath.
Wednesday, 22 August 2001 16:58 (ET)
By CHRIS WHITE
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson on Wednesday warned that if the organization's latest peacekeeping mission goes wrong, international troops sent into Macedonia could face a bloodbath.
Robertson said he welcomed the announcement Wednesday that NATO troops were to collect weapons from ethnic-Albanian rebels, but said that if they fail to hand guns over, "Macedonia would move nearer civil war and that would be a bloodbath."
He said the decision to go ahead with Operation Essential Harvest had not been easy, adding that there might be "hard times ahead" for the 3,500 NATO troops in Macedonia but the risks of not deploying the soldiers represented a greater danger.
Recalling that the head of Supreme Allied Command Europe, Gen. Joseph Ralston had warned NATO officials Tuesday that any delay would "only increase the risks" of the conflict escalating, Robertson added that NATO was still expecting the operation to take no more than 30 days.
Ralston was in Tirana, Albania, on Wednesday seeking Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta's support for the peace deal signed last week. Ralston got Meta's guarantee that he would influence ethnic-Albanian guerrillas to voluntarily surrender their weapons before NATO troops start deploying.
The force of British, Czech and French troops were to begin collecting weapons handed in by ethnic Albanian rebels "sometime early next week." Any extension of the timeframe would be "very difficult" for NATO, Robertson said.
He warned those "who believe in violence" that there would be no solution in violence and that any civil war in Macedonia would amount to a "bloodbath." If NATO troops are attacked, Robertson said "they will defend themselves. They have normal rules of engagement. They will respond robustly."
The decision to send a force into Macedonia is "historic," Robertson declared, adding: "The reason why today's decision is such a breakthrough is because it shows the international community acting before the conflict gets into a really difficult stage."
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said, "The United States welcomes the determination by NATO's 19-member countries that the preconditions for Operation Essential Harvest have been met, and that the deployment of NATO forces will begin in Macedonia."
The NATO mission will assist with the voluntary disarmament of insurgents, which is scheduled to be completed within 30 days.
"We look to the insurgents to cooperate with NATO and to fully comply with all their commitments, including to voluntarily disarm, to respect the cease-fire and to disband," said Reeker.
He reiterated the importance of the Aug. 13 framework agreement to avoid "a catastrophic civil war."
"The future of Macedonia will be determined by the actions of its people as leaders in the days and weeks ahead," he said.
The United States is to contribute to the mission with intelligence, medical and logistic support.
Reeker said the United States has not yet determined the specific number of troops that would be sent, but the United States will draw from forces already in Kosovo and Macedonia.
Civil war has shaken the country for several months.
Ethnic Albanians comprise more than one-third of Macedonia's 2 million population. Rebels and government officials signed the peace deal last week that led to NATO's decision to deploy troops and disarm the guerrillas. The deal has been violated several times since then.
The armed rebels said they were fighting for greater rights for the minority Albanian population, but many Macedonian Slavs believe they were fighting for a separate Albanian homeland.
(With reporting by Laura E. Chatfield in Washington.)
Macedonia says rebels have 40 times more arms than they admit, possible complication for NATO.
By Danica Kirka, Associated Press, 8/22/2001 14:20
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) Macedonia's government on Wednesday claimed that the country's rebels have 85,000 weapons far more than the 2,000 the militants say they'll hand over to NATO's new disarmament mission.
The announcement was a sign of the possible difficulties ahead for the 3,500-member NATO force, which began deploying Wednesday with the arrival of dozens of French soldiers.
Getting the two sides to agree on how many guns to turn in will be the alliance's first major challenge in an operation fraught with risks. Military and diplomatic officials want a deal before the weekend providing they can apply enough pressure to persuade both sides to accept a figure.
NATO officials rejected the latest government tally as political posturing by hard-liners. The mission's top military commander, Maj. Gen. Gunnar Lange, declined to speculate on the dispute, arguing that collection process itself was more important than the actual number of weapons handed in.
''The rebels can re-arm. They can start fighting again,'' Lange said. ''It's a lot more important that the trust and confidence that comes with the political process ... give them no wish to re-arm and start fighting again.''
NATO's ruling council last week authorized about 400 advance troops to lay the groundwork for the British-led Operation Essential Harvest, and on Wednesday it approved the full deployment despite continued sporadic violence.
Hundreds of NATO soldiers will be pouring into the troubled Balkan country in the coming days, moving quickly to take positions for the start of collections next week.
Both ethnic Albanian and Macedonian leaders welcomed the troops, who are coming as part of a peace deal to end an insurgency that began six months ago. Once their mission gets under way, it is envisioned to last 30 days.
The peace accord envisions a staggered process in which a cache of weapons is handed over in exchange for political steps by the government. Since the weapons are to be handed over in three installments, a figure must be agreed on in advance.
The rebels took up arms in February, saying they were fighting for greater rights for Macedonia's minority ethnic Albanians, who account for about a third of the country's population of 2 million. Although the rebels have said they are ready to give up their struggle, the government fears they will fight on for a state of their own.
The Interior Ministry, which controls the police forces, said the rebels have 10 times more firepower than they previously believed some 85,000 different weapons in all, not counting individual rounds of ammunition. The rebels say they have only 2,000 weapons.
The new figures, which police said came from fresh intelligence reports, suggested that the rebel arsenal includes 9,000 assault rifles, 8,000 handguns of various calibers, 10 howitzers of various calibers and 20,000 hand grenades.
Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Marjan Gjurovski dismissed the suggestion that the government was exaggerating the numbers.
''To say there's a million of pieces is wildest exaggeration,'' he said. But, alluding to the militants' vastly lower estimate, he added: ''To say there's only 2,000 pieces is ridiculous.''
NATO officials said they were confident that a mutually acceptable number would be reached.
''We know this process will not be easy,'' Lange said of the overall mission. ''But we also know this is the best chance the citizens of Macedonia have of avoiding a civil war.''
Violence in the country has subsided, but on Tuesday an explosion shook Sveti Atanasi Orthodox church in the town of Lesok.
On Wednesday, Macedonian security forces said they had destroyed a mosque in the town of Neprosteno over the weekend. Sources speaking on condition of anonymity said snipers were using the building for cover.
Macedonian Albanians near Skopje hope NATO will stay 100 years.
ARACINOVO, Macedonia, Aug 22 (AFP) -
In the shadow of the ruins of an old post office in Aracinovo on the outskirts of the Macedonian capital Skopje, a group of ethnic Albanians has faith only in the international community and its soldiers.
The Albanians have only just returned to the homes they fled in mid-June during heavy fighting between government troops and rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA) and they still do not trust the Macedonian authorities.
"We hope that things will get sorted out when NATO arrives. Their soldiers will have to stay here 100 years, because we don't feel safe," said 53-year-old Lauti Qami.
His friends take up Lauti's cry, "100 years" they all say.
More NATO soldiers were due to be deployed in Macedonia to supervise a rebel weapons handover by the end of the week, but the group doubted 30 days would be enough for the alliance to achieve the task it has set itself.
"NATO won't be able to do anything here in a month, they are going to collect the weapons and then what will happen to us after? We have no confidence in the Macedonian police," said another ethnic Albanian.
Most ethnic Albanians, who make up more than a quarter of the population, want an international protectorate established with their rights being guaranteed, similar to the arrangement in neighbouring Kosovo.
They see the arrival of the 3,500-strong NATO contingent as an opportunity to achieve that goal.
In Aracinovo, where neither uniforms nor signs of the rebel NLA are visible, the ethnic Albanians live in difficult, hot conditions without water and electricity in houses riddled with bullet holes or mortar damage.
Electricity pylons are intertwined with trees and the burnt out shells of cars line the main road. Only the watermelons laid out for sale offer colourful relief.
A night-time curfew is still in place in this town of 10,000 people.
"Life is terrible here. We felt safer when the NLA were here, but they have all left," said another Albanian, poking away at broken glass littering the pavement with a crutch.
Several hundred rebels who had occupied Aracinovo in June were bussed from the town with their arms by US NATO soldiers, who took them to territory under rebel control further north.
More than 70 percent of the residents, most of them Albanian, have since returned, but the UN refugee agency says only around 250 Macedonian Slavs are prepared to try to return.
Those that have in the past, have merely collected their belongings and left.
In the makeshift town hall, Aracinovo mayor Reshat Ferati, who himself fled the fighting in June, maintains that the town is now calm.
"There has been no incident since our countrymen have begun returning to their houses," Ferati said, making no mention of the displaced Macedonians.
Flags from the United States, the European Union, Germany, Canada, that of NATO but also those of Arab countries adorn his office.
"We have no more arms here, no NLA, we believe in God and NATO," the mayor said smiling through several gold teeth.
Albania rebels in Macedonia can rearm, NATO warns.
By Mike Collett-White
SKOPJE, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Ethnic Albanian rebels who have agreed to hand over weapons to NATO in Macedonia could easily rearm after the alliance winds up its mission in the tiny Balkan state, a top alliance commander warned on Wednesday.
Major-General Gunnar Lange, in charge of a 30-day deployment of 3,500 NATO troops to collect weapons, said that NATO's force in neighbouring Kosovo had intercepted large stockpiles of arms moving mainly south into Macedonia over the last two months.
KFOR is trying to seal the border between Macedonia and Kosovo because it is the main supply route for the National Liberation Army (NLA) of ethnic Albanian guerrillas who have been fighting Macedonian security forces in the last six months.
Lange said the force had intercepted 672 rifles, 60 support weapons, 1,060 anti-tank mines, 1,499 grenades and mines, 113 rocket missiles and 550 people along the mountainous frontier.
Asked whether the arsenal was being brought over to surrender to NATO's "Operation Essential Harvest" Lange replied "It is not because they want to hand them in to me.
"We know we are in a region where they (the rebels) can rearm, where they can buy new weapons," he said, hours after NATO ambassadors in Brussels gave the go-ahead for the mission.
NATO sources privately admit the rebels will never hand in all their weapons, but hope that a political peace agreement promising ethnic Albanians greater rights in the tiny Balkan state will combine with limited disarming to bolster stability.
But disputes could break out during disarmament over the wildly conflicting estimates of the number of guerrilla weapons.
The Macedonian Interior Ministry issued a report on Wednesday saying the rebels had more than 60,000 weapons. Guerrilla commanders have told Reuters the NLA has about 2,300. NATO's initial estimate was 3,000.
'DEEDS, NOT JUST WORDS'
Lange issued a stern message to both sides:
"This is a time when people will be judged not by their words, but by their deeds."
Daniel Speckhard, acting NATO assistant secretary-general for political affairs, said the alliance's third deployment to the Balkans in five years would be fraught with difficulties, but he saw no alternative.
"I honestly don't see any alternative for your country," he said. "We expect many, many more problems on the path of this difficult plan that has been undertaken. You can expect to see in the future further incidents of violence."
A ceasefire has broadly held over the last two weeks, although limited night fighting is often reported in the northwest and a church in the revered 14th century Christian Orthodox monastery at Lesok was destroyed on Tuesday.
Speckhard said the mission could succeed if it was bolstered by parliament's ratification of constitutional changes giving the Albanian minority greater rights.
There are concerns that hardliners in the government, including Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, could hamper the political agreement between Albanian and Macedonian parties which goes hand-in-hand with the NLA promises to disarm.
"I believe this operation does have his (Boskovski's) confidence...not because he has trust or faith in the armed extremists but that he believes this is the only option right now," Speckhard said.
Lange said the price of failure could be high. "We know this process will not be easy, but we also know this is the best chance the citizens of Macedonia have of avoiding civil war."
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI WELCOMES NATO DECISION TO DEPLOY ITS TROOPS IN MACEDONIA.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski welcomed Wednesday the decision of NATO to deploy its troops in the country, whose mission is collecting of arms that will be handed over by the so-called NLA.
"This is the crucial point of the overall plan for putting an end to the crisis. For the last several months, the country has suffered a great tragedy, but now, in cooperation with our international allies, we may hope for better future. The Ohrid Agreement means continuation of building just society for each citizen, while disarming of the so-called NLA will help us to annul the threat that has brought harm to all of us.
NATO troops will be here on a request of the Macedonian leadership to carry out a mission we have agreed upon. NATO is here to help us and we are grateful to soldiers who are coming to Macedonia in this decisive period.
The success of this mission will be a success for Macedonia, the region and NATO. It also refers to possible failure.
The NATO mission, despite its significance, is to be short-term and with strictly determined competencies. However, a decisive commitment of our international allies in many spheres will be necessary for complete surpassing of the crisis. A lot of things have to be done for returning of the displaced persons to their homes, restructuring of the country's economy, putting an end to criminal activities, and this day means a step forward in that direction," Trajkovski said in a statement.
GJUROVSKI: THE PATH TO PEACE IS LONG AND WITH OBSTACLES.
At today's press conference, Ministry of Defense spokesman Marjan Gjurovski hailed the launching of the operation for disarmament of the Albanian terrorists. The operation will be carried out by 3,500 NATO soldiers, who will come to Macedonia in the next 48 hours on an invitation by President Boris Trajkovski.
"We are on the way to peace, but the path will be long and there will still be obstacles," Gjurovski said, adding that arrival of the NATO troops represents strong condemn of the Albanian terrorists and commitment by international community for reaching the joint goal restoration of peace and stability in Macedonia and protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Gjurovski said that the disarmament would be monitored by civic representatives of the Macedonian authorities, and probably by certain members of the parliament.
Gjurovski reported that all of the collected weapons would be transported to Krivolak military polygon, where the ammunition and explosive devices will be destroyed. Other weapons will be destroyed outside Macedonia, in a NATO member country.
As he said, the weapons will be collected on 15 posts, most of them in Kumanovo and Tetovo regions. Only two to three posts will be located in Skopje region.
"NATO is not coming to Macedonia to create buffer zones or to establish division lines, but to help the country to disarm the Albanian terrorists," Gjurovski stressed.
At today's press conference, Gjurovski on behalf of the Ministry of Defense condemned yesterday's demolition of "St. Anastasij" monastery in Lesok.
Referring to the blockade on the "Blace" border crossing, Gjurovski said that it represented an obstacle for the "Essential harvest" operation and was used by Todor Petrov for realization of his personal political interests.
Parallel with the disarmament operation, the Ministry of Defense stands for returning of the displaced persons to their homes.
"The borderline will be secured as it was secured so far. No one is setting conditions that we should abandon our watchtowers," Macedonian Army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said.
Regarding the quantity of weaponry that should be collected, Markovski reported that the ministries of defense and interior together with the Army should make an estimation of the weaponry that the terrorists have. NATO experts will carry out their own estimation and probably today afternoon the findings will be compared.
Asked if the Albanian terrorists have heavy artillery vehicles seized from the Macedonian Army, Colonel Markovski reported that in the clashes near Radusa village two tanks of the Macedonian Army were damaged. The Macedonian soldiers, he said, additionally disabled the tanks.
On behalf of Macedonian Minister of Defense Vlado Buckovski, spokesman Gjurovski denied the information presented in the "Vecer" daily yesterday, in the article titled as: "Buckovski and Filipovski seek for understanding for demolition of the monastery."
Regarding the accusations from Public Prosecutor Stavre Dzikov, addressed to the ministries of defense and interior and in regard to securing of the convoy that went to Lesok yesterday, Gjurovski said that the Ministry of Defense did not organize yesterday's convoy and it should have been secured by the Ministry of Interior. He considers that the accusations from the public prosecutor are unsupported.
Spokesman of the Macedonian Army Col. Blagoja Markovski informed that the number of the armed provocations and violations of cease-fire by the Albanian terrorists has been reduced in the past 24h.
In Tetovo region the Albanian terrorists with ruffle and separate volleys fired from area of Ratae, Zelino and Falise towards the Macedonian security posts in Popova Sapka area.
They also fired from automatic weapons at 9.20h in Nikustak, Kumanovo - Lipkovo region.
According to Col. Markovski, representatives of the task forces "Harvest" in cooperation with the Macedonian officials made intense preparations, consultations and revisions on the terrain in order to create conditions for beginning the disarmament operation of the Albanian terrorists.
He emphasized that the mission of the task forces "Harvest" is "to undertake limited operations in Republic of Macedonia in order to collect and remove the weapons and ammunitions from the armed ethnic Albanian groups as part of the process for resolution of crisis in the country," Markovski said, pointing out that "the forces will be engaged in limited time period, that will not exceed 30 days and the multinational force will have the size of brigade."
Clarifying the operation, Markovski informed that official agreement for determining the status of the task forces and their personnel was necessary including agreements on the requested support from our country.
According to the agreement, the task forces are authorized to use force in self-defense, for protection of forces and for conducting the mission, including the option for detaining persons that obstruct the mission. The forces will collect the weapons passively and will coordinate the movement and destruction of weapons and ammunitions.
"Those that will surrender the weapons and ammunitions to task forces "Harvest" will not be detained. In the same time, KFOR will enhance their operations on Kosovo in order to cut off the supply lines and to seize the weapons," Markovski said.
Markovski explained that during the operation the state security forces would not be present at the weapons collection sites. In that respect, the Macedonian part has appointed persons to be in contact with NATO teams in order to notify them if the safety of the security forces is endangered.
"Republic of Macedonia claims the responsibility for security and freedom of movement of NATO forces and international personnel involved in the disarmament process," Markovski stressed.
"With the Action Plan, our forces will not be allowed to use heavy weaponry and armored vehicles, except in the military barracks. The so-called NLA is obliged to withdraw 2km from the road and from the residential areas," Markovski informed.
According to him, if the cease-fire is significantly violated or the safety of the members of the mission is directly endangered, the operation will be cancelled.
After the operation ends, the Macedonian security forces along with the ethnic Albanian policemen will continue to fulfill their regular duties in all parts of the country. "The security forces will stick to the international humanitarian standards and the general principles of human rights and will approve the monitoring of OSCE and EU missions," Markovski said.
Spokesman of the Army Col. Markovski reiterated that "the Macedonian Army will always protect the citizens of Republic of Macedonia, and will not allow the security of the northern border the integrity and the sovereignty of our country to be violated.
GUNNAR LANGE: DEPLOYMENT OF NATO FORCES BEGINS IMMEDIATELY.
"Today's decision of the NATO North- Atlantic Council for activation of operation 'Essential Harvest' confirms NATO's decision to support the peace process. It is very significant that the two sides continue to obey the cease- fire and let NATO troops to continue with their work i.e. weapon, ammunition and uniforms gathering from the members of the so-called NLA", NATO Ambassador and NATO Deputy Secretary General for politic issues Daniel Speckhart said at today's press conference.
"We have to cease this opportunity and continue with the process of transformation and integration. We want to work with the people from Macedonia in order to help this country to come out of this crisis and continue its process of integration in the European structures. It is high time the Macedonian people entered a new era and build a prosperous and multiethnic society", Speckhart stressed.
General Major Gunnar Lange announced that the deployment of the forces would start immediately and that the first soldiers are expected to arrive in a few hours, with the deployment continuing in the next few days.
"We will be able to set up places for gathering weapons at the start of next week despite the fact that a decision connected with the date of the weapon gathering has not been passed yet", General Major Gunnar Lange said.
He emphasised that everybody knows that the disarmament process will not be easy but "it should be accepted because it is the only opportunity for the Macedonian citizens to avoid civil war".
"Every soldier has a significant role. Soldiers come from all sides of the world and everybody will pray for their efforts to result in peace instead of another bloody and pointless war", General Major Lange said, emphasising that NATO soldiers are not the ones that should bring peace, but the citizens of Macedonia.
Asked if somebody shoots at the NATO soldiers, what measures would be undertaken, General Major Lange said "NATO forces are here to gather weapons, and if we have to, we will use force, but we will not use force in order to force the process of weapon submission".
In concern to the locations for weapon gathering, he answered "it will be gathered in five areas, where we will mark the exact locations of weapon gathering, as late as tomorrow evening".
Asked about the number of weapons that should be gathered, Ambassador Speckhart answered that the process of evaluation is still not over and "we think that it is too soon to give out any information about the number" and added "we have strong commitments and strong promises from the so-called NLA for submission of the weapons and we think that they will do that". He also concluded that in the past two months a large amount of weapons have been gathered, but that should not be taken in account, because one can procure weapons very easily in this region.
Asked whether they think the Internal Minister has confidence in the operation "Essential Harvest", Speckhart answered "he has faith in the operation, not because he believes the terrorists, but because he thinks that war would worsen the situation".
"We will not participate in any fighting other that self protection", Speckhart said, answering the question whether they would take any side if there is a cease- fire violation by the Albanian terrorists.
Asked when will the Macedonian population be able to return to their homes, Speckhart said that this does not depend only from the operation "Essential Harvest", but also from the ongoing politic process in the country.
"Only those who will voluntarily submit their weapons will be amnestied", General Major Lange said adding "the whole operation 'Harvest' should end in 30 days".
A Macedonian Style of Peace.
by J. David Galland
Peace is breaking out all over, in Macedonia, so they say! Some may call it an armistice. Others, a meeting and agreement of warring factions, still others, a halt to hostilities or a silencing of weapons. This is certainly like no peace that I have ever seen in the past. How is this different, one may ask, peace is peace, isn't it? A truce, or an armistice, means that military operations, focused on destroying the adversary, come to an end. Not, however, in the razor thin veneer of the unqualified and heretofore unsubstantiated tranquillity that prevails in Macedonia. Macedonia, and NATO's misinterpretation of the tactical situation on the ground, may well serve to redefine "peace treaty" forever.
As British soldiers flew into Macedonia, this past weekend, they were carefully warned that they could be drawn, quite easily, into the festering sore that the world knows as war in Macedonia. As if we, the common observers, are foundering about lost in the bliss of our own ignorance, waiting for someone to explain the meaning of peace. That is what faces Great Britain's soldiers, with their NATO coconspirators, in the latest human rot of the Balkans. Military leaders can "warn" all they want, however the world is not buying the "topsy-turvy" delusional belief of NATO, that they are going home in a month, after collecting the "rebel" weapons. As well, that peace has come to Macedonia.
Glitches are appearing everywhere. This, in spite of NATO's apparently stoic belief that the Albanian rebels, and the Macedonian forces, will soon be sipping Chardonnay, sharing brie, and hot-tubbing together. In essence, steadfastly applying themselves at letting bygones be bygones.
However, dear NATO, things are a bit rocky! For example, Macedonian fighter bombers have targeted and leveled ethnic Albanian villages, under the cloak of peace, just this past weekend. The CIA's renegade Albanian rebels, many from the New York City area, have launched routine infantry assaults and the "usual" kidnappings, rapes, and unique sport of carving their initials in people's backs. If one were bold, or stupid enough, to stop and engage the opposing factions in light banter, it would not take long to learn the truth: every Albanian and every Macedonian has a cache of armament at home. Nobody would dare trust anybody else. But, alas, we have peace!
With the defiant Albanian rebels entrenched on the hillsides, and government warplanes buzzing overhead, all the inertia that could easily lead NATO into its biggest and longest, subsequent war, in the former Yugoslavia, is firmly entrenched. As is common in the Balkans, instability spreads.
Reaction to the latest round of lunacy, which is unfolding in Macedonia, can now be seen in Serbia. Politically, Serbia's future and current standing is not all that stable. This may come as a surprise to some. We generally assume that Serbia's "West-leaning allegiance" which was recently bought and paid for, to the tune of 1.3 Billion Dollars, by the United States, will remain intact. This monetary consideration was showered on Serbia, just hours after Slobodan Milosevic was served up to the war crimes tribunal, like a ripe peach. Just this past weekend the "present" Yugoslavian President, Vojislav Kostunica, played a proverbial game of chess with his party's ministers. This constitutes a major governmental shakeup. His action could well result in a far less, "West-friendly" political administration in Belgrade. This is particularly significant because a large amount of the support that the Albanian rebels receive comes from the border area of Macedonia and Serbia.
As well, in this tranquil and peaceful land under the umbrella of a peace treaty, so we are told, more trouble cropped up. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, crowds showed up at the border crossing between Kosovo and Macedonia. Declaring themselves the "Macedonian World Congress" -- not a bad nickname if I do say so -- this gaggle blocked NATO vehicles from entering Macedonia. As a result of this grassroots hooligan action, I cannot lend great credence to the tactical stability of the NATO forces, who yielded to the group. And these are the "hard-chargers" who are going to disarm the Albanian rebels? Yes, Peace is breaking out all over.
There is nothing that the Albanian rebels want more than for NATO to remain in Macedonia. My prediction, in the long run, shall remain that Macedonia will become a NATO protectorate. This will ensure a healthy environment for the Albanian rebels to sustain, and enlarge, their military and political causes through autonomy and legitimization, via NATO's protective sphere. One can rest assured that the Albanian rebels will do their very best to keep NATO in Macedonia, even if it means killing a few, here and there.
So, now come the British troops. Ready or not, NATO is coming to town. They have legitimized their forced entry into Macedonia by convincing quasi-national leaders to capitulate and sign agreements. NATO arrives in this cesspool of death, mistrust, retribution and bloody reprisal, which their overt and covert actions have caused. The Brits are an advance mission and charged with securing entry points and gauging the sincerity of the former warring factions. Somehow, by conducting liaison with the rebels and government agencies, they will be able to determine if it is safe to deploy the remainder of the NATO force. I hope they packed their crystal balls.
Peace in Macedonia is an admirable concept. I would opine that peace can be declared as status quo, today! This, of course, as soon as all factions trust each other. Of course, all crew served and assault weapons must be relinquished, all heavy armored vehicles must be destroyed. As well, I think that honest honorable citizens ought to lead the country; of the people, by the people, and for the people, at the whim of their constituents. Until that level of peace is achieved, pack heavy, it is going to be a long rocky road. Peace is breaking out all over.
J. David Galland is the Founder and President of Bound & Overwatch The Military Observer, a 100% nonprofit organization which serves as the advocate for soldiers and their families, as well as for veterans. He is a veteran of The United States Army, with over thirty-two years military service. Since 1969, Mr. Galland has been in Military Intelligence and is a distinguished graduate of the U. S. Army Intelligence Center & School, Fort Holabird, Maryland. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama and of hazardous duty positions in Ulster, Northern Ireland, Zagreb, Sarajevo, in the Former Yugoslavia, as well as various missions in Croatia and Bosnia. Mr. Galland has spent most of his military career outside the normal command channels in classified assignments as an Area Intelligence Technician, Case Officer, and Desk Action Officer. He is a internationally respected Defense Analyst, Author & Columnist, and Subject Matter Expert on Intelligence Tradecraft in the HUMINT discipline. As well, he is an authority on the former East German Staatssicherheitsdienst (Stasi). He has been published by numerous news periodicals and newspapers, both in The United States and Europe.
A month is a long time in the Balkans.
Why do they always lie to us? This week some 1,000 paratroops will embark on Tony Blairs latest crusade to make the Balkans safe for humanity. They are going to Macedonia on the craziest mission British soldiers have endured at the hands of politicians. They are going to gather up 3,000 weapons volunteered by what was, until recently, a small band of Albanian insurgents. They may use no force and must retire home within 30 days. Nato says so. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, says so. Mr Blair presumably says so. After 30 days the troops are out, win or lose.
This is another Balkans lie. To tell any army, however raggle-taggle, to hand over weapons within a month or be allowed to keep them makes no sense. British troops know all about disarmament. They have been disarming warlords in Kosovo for 18 months, and in Ulster for 18 years. Key to their failure has been a conviction on the other side that Britain has no real stomach for a fight. Natos 30 days is like Mr Blair telling the IRA every six months that it must disarm, on pain of being given another six months.
Even in the light of Natos chaotic planning, the Macedonia mission is bizarre. The composition of the 3,500-strong Operation Essential Harvest embraces French, Italian, Spanish and Greek troops but is over a third British and is British-led. The Germans and Americans are keeping a low profile. This is Britains business. The force is to be lightly armed, since it is merely visiting 15 collection points to gather up listed weapons. Nato is not to hold a ceasefire line, police an agreement or otherwise act as peacekeeper. It will collect no arms that are not willingly surrendered.
This is not fighting but collecting for Oxfam. If the parties truly wanted peace, they would disarm among themselves. If not, a 30-day paratroop package tour can hardly make the difference. There are thousands of weapons in those hills. The reality must be that this is not about weapons. British troops are going to another Balkans theatre indefinitely as a symbol of Western commitment and an admission of Natos guilt. The Macedonian civil war is the direct result of Albanian expansionism, sponsored from within Nato-ruled Kosovo. Macedonia is a classic case of blow-back.
Nato, and particularly its Secretary-General, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, bears a heavy responsibility for this new conflict. In 1998 British and American Intelligence armed, financed and eulogised the separatist (and murderous) Kosovo Liberation Army as an ally against Slobodan Milosevic. The KLA is now master of Kosovo, albeit as a Nato puppet. Its brothers in the National Liberation Army (NLA), armed and funded from Kosovo, are playing the same game in Macedonia. Lord Robertson may try to depict them as insurgents and terrorists, but they see their cause as identical to that which he supported in neighbouring Kosovo, the cause of Greater Albania.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we should recall, has long been talked up as a success of Western diplomacy. So much else went wrong. The failure to intervene early in the Croatia-Serbia conflict was said to necessitate intervention in Bosnia. The failure to stop Bosnian partition was said to require intervention in Kosovo. Each dose of medicine was meant to stop the poison spreading. But each encouraged the next group of separatists to cause mayhem and thus win publicity and Nato sympathy. Puppet regimes in Sarajevo and Pristina depend wholly on Nato, European Union and United Nations support. The drip-feed must continue, we have been told, or Montenegro and Macedonia will be next.
They are next. Civil and military aid has been pumped into the Government in Skopje. One supranational impresario has only to leave for another to arrive, be it the EUs Javier Solana, his rival Chris Patten, Lord Robertson or a stage army of EU foreign ministers. Seldom in modern history has so much diplomatic talent been visited on so small a place to so little effect. Yet Macedonia is always cited as an interventionists promised land.
So why are 1,000 British paratroops being sucked into a classic Albanian honey-trap? The answer is clear. If I were an Albanian separatist being strafed by a Macedonian jet, I would yield my weapon, if at all, only if Nato guaranteed my security. Nato fell for this trap in Kosovo. Now the Albanians are demanding constant concession from Skopje and aid from Nato or they will not disarm. They are just like the IRA. Lord Robertson has made Nato hero-worshipped by separatists and destabilisers throughout the Balkans. That is why Nato is hated alike in Skopje and Belgrade.
These half-baked, short-term interventions merely turn local brushfires into major conflicts. Foreign powers cannot pretend to be impartial in domestic civil wars. Whatever they do takes sides. Disarming takes sides. Humanitarian relief takes sides. Shaking hands with one rebel or another takes sides.
The mystery is that nothing is ever learnt. Lord Robertson was the Defence Secretary who accepted the IRAs arms decommissioning pledge. He thus conceded the IRA its biggest postwar coup, the unconditional release of almost all its prisoners, whom British soldiers had lost their lives arresting. His lordships colleague, Robin Cook, sent British soldiers to Sierra Leone, promising they would stay only days to extricate British nationals. Within weeks they had to be rescued from a mission deep in rebel territory.
The same Mr Cook claimed that British troops were going to Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing and they have ended up as permanent praetorians to the KLA rulers. Ten years earlier his predecessor, Douglas Hurd, told Parliament that British involvement in Bosnia was strictly limited to escorting aid convoys. Soldiers would be there for only one year. There would be no mission creep. They are still there.
British ministers lie about the nature and duration of these adventures because they suspect that public opinion would not tolerate the truth. The British Army, which might object, accepts the deception because it has wars of its own to fight, for resources in Whitehall. It welcomes the role of international policeman because it is something to do. As long as some open-ended commitment is in the offing, soldiers can always plead overstretch. The devil makes work for idle hands.
I have not read a single commentator on the Balkans who regards this weeks Operation Essential Harvest as anything but a make-work scheme for Nato. General Wesley Clark, commander of the Kosovo intervention, is baffled by the one-month deadline. Writing in The New York Times this week, he points out that the only honest intervention is to engage as broadly as possible and stay as long as necessary. Experience suggests that means indefinitely.
Macedonia should be left alone to handle its own internal affairs. But if Nato must meddle, given its partial responsibility for this conflict, the Macedonian Government might reasonably excpect it to come down unequivocally on its own side. Nato should occupy the rebel areas, disarm the troops and keep the peace. Nato should side with an elected Government, not glamorise the NLA and its pectorals and bandannas. Yet this is precisely what Nato has said it will not do. It is fighting the War of Lord Robertsons Face.
Using British soldiers as Natos political mercenaries is immoral. They are not defending British territory, British citizens or British interests. They cannot argue that they are protecting Europe or promoting world peace. By bolstering the egos of a group of insurgents in a tiny Balkan state, this intervention has done the opposite. Any villain with a grouse against his government can cause mayhem and know that Lord Robertson will come running, cameras at the ready. This way there will be no peace anywhere. As for humanitarianism, some 300 Macedonians have already died and 100,000 been ethnically cleansed. This country was at relative peace until Nato started meddling.
The argument for Britains latest Balkan adventure has not been discussed or tested in public. It cannot go unchallenged. As presented so far, Operation Essential Harvest is a job for Securicor, not the British Army.
Secret arms supplies for Macedonia.
BY MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR AND ANTHONY LOYD IN SKOPJE
HUGE planeloads of arms from Ukraine and Russia are being delivered secretly at night to Petrovac airport in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as part of a build-up of arms by the Government, according to Western defence sources.
On the eve of Natos operation to start collecting one weapon from each member of the 2,500 to 6,000-strong ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, the Macedonian Government, with no part to play in the disarmament process, is rapidly increasing its stockpile of weapons.
Yesterday a bomb partially destroyed a 14th-century Orthodox monastery near Tetovo, northwest Macedonia. The Government accused ethnic Albanian rebels of launching the overnight attack and said that it could have serious consequences for the ceasefire that has reduced the level of fighting over the past week.
Western monitors said that it was unclear which side had planted the explosives. Its rather suspicious, a diplomat in Skopje said. The NLA is not known to have attacked religious sites before. If you wanted to pick one way to screw up the peace agreement, this would be one of them.
Under pressure from the European Union in recent peace negotiations, Ukraine, Skopjes main arms supplier, had agreed to consider suspending arms shipments to Macedonia, but since the settlement was signed giant Antonov transport planes have been spotted landing at night at Petrovac, defence sources said.
However, the NLA is also continuing with its arms-smuggling routes to ensure that, if the peace deal breaks down, it will have its own supply of weapons.
The Nato-led Kosovo Force (Kfor) has had significant success in catching smugglers using mountain trails to ferry weapons for the NLA from the Yugoslav province into Macedonia. In the past two months Kfor soldiers have seized more than 600 rifles, 49,000 small arms rounds, about 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 650 mortar rounds and 1,400 grenades and mines, as well as nearly 500 people and 24 horses and mules. It is estimated that there are still 600,000 weapons in Albania available for sale on the black market, stolen when the country slid into chaos in 1997.
Yesterday it emerged that the NLA has acquired three, not two, Russian T55 tanks as part of its armoury. Two are with the NLAs 115 Brigade at Radusa and the third is with 114 Brigade at Nikustak.
At Nato headquarters in Brussels yesterday, although all 19 Nato ambassadors indicated their support for Operation Essential Harvest, the 30-day arms-collection mission, they adopted the silence procedure, which delays a formal announcement for up to 24 hours to allow any government to raise last-minute objections.
General Joseph Ralston, Natos Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was said to be optimistic when he briefed North Atlantic Council ambassadors on the feasibility of committing 3,500 troops, predominantly British and French, to oversee a rebel disarmament.
Macedonian mission given go-ahead.
A forward detachment of parachute regiment soldiers drive through Skopje airport . Photo: Richard Lewis, AP
Go-ahead to collect rebel weapons
700 British troops head to Macedonia
Nato troops to total 3,500
Special report: Macedonia
Staff and agencies
Wednesday August 22, 2001
Nato today ordered the full deployment of troops to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia.
In a statement, the alliance said it had authorised the supreme commander for Europe, General Joseph Ralston, to begin Operation Essential Harvest.
The decision comes despite continuing fighting in the country and uncertainty over the size of the guerrilla arsenal that the 3,500 soldiers will be expected to destroy.
An advance party of 400 has been in place since the weekend following an earlier order. The full deployment is expected to take 10 days to two weeks.
Once the entire force is in place, the clock will start ticking on Nato's self-imposed 30-day time limit for the mission.
A vote to amend the Macedonian constitution and give greater rights to the ethnic Albanian minority is set for August 31.
Francois Leotard, the EU mediator who helped broker a political agreement in the country, said the coming weeks would be "decisive" for its future.
The mission is to be led by 1,800 troops Britain, with a further 1,700 drawn from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
General Ralston said today that all Nato's conditions for deployment have been met. Diplomats said he believed it was better to act now while a ceasefire is holding.
But recent fighting has again threatened the truce between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army and the Macedonian government.
An explosion yesterday hit an Orthodox church five miles from Tetovo, Macedonia's second city, in the town of Lesok.
The church crumpled behind its twin-towered facade. Blue-toned frescoes of saints lay in heaps of rubble, exposed to the elements for the first time in decades.
The culture minister, Ganka Samoilova-Cvetanovska, blamed the NLA, who later denied their responsibility. The Macedonian security forces today admitted they had destroyed a mosque in the village of Neprosteno over the weekend.
A claim from the Macedonian government that the ethnic Albanian rebels have a much larger arsenal than previously estimated will add further difficulties to the mission.
The rebels say they have 2,000 weapons but the government has put the figure at approximately 85,000.
Finding common ground on the issue and a figure that both sides will agree on will now fall to Nato. But British defence officials have admitted the ease with which Albanians could rearm makes the handover largely symbolic.
Operation Essential Harvest will be carried out in three phases. The first phase is the deployment, the second collection and the third withdrawal.
Nato readies troops for Macedonia despite tension over razed church.
By Kim Sengupta
22 August 2001
Hundreds of British paratroopers are due to fly into Macedonia tomorrow as Nato embarks on its biggest Balkan mission since the Kosovo war.
Western governments are expected to approve the deployment of a 3,500-strong force to collect arms from Albanian rebels after the US General Joseph Ralston said the latest peace deal in the country was "as good as it gets".
The Nato Council is certain to approve the sending-in of the force, say sources, after ambassadors consulted their governments yesterday.
But tension on the ground is high after one of the most revered Orthodox Christian churches in Macedonia was destroyed during the night, with the government blaming Muslim rebels. The church of St Atanasius, at Lesok monastery, was mined and blown up just hours after Gen Ralston, Nato's supreme commander Europe, had returned from a fact-finding visit to Macedonia to brief colleagues in Brussels.
A Macedonian defence ministry official said: "This barbaric attack was carried out by Albanian terrorists. This monastery has great historic significance. This is an extremely dangerous provocation."
But the Albanians denied responsibility and blamed agents provocateurs.
However, Gen Ralston and Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson told the Council that all of the alliance's pre-conditions for deployment have now been met and a move should take place as soon as possible.
Around 550 members of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, were waiting to fly out to Skopje to join an advanced British party.
The full British contribution to the Nato force will total 1,800 and Britain will provide the overall command and control of the mission with Brigadier Barney White-Spunner in charge.
Princess Kalina Bought Bulgarian Embroideries and Costumes.
The daughter of the PM departs in two days, her suitcases are full of mummer's masks.
Princess Kalina spends hours in shops and art studios, where they sell dresses and folk-style costumes with Bulgarian embroideries, disclosed yesterday Galya Dicheva, personal press-secretary of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The princess has already bought many kerchiefs, caps, vests, folk costumes and blouses with embroideries. Yesterday she was shopping again in the boutique of the craftsmen society. Kalina was well aware from which region of Bulgaria different folk costumes originate. She has studied the Bulgarian embroideries and the symbols they bare. The princess used the embroideries in the clothes she herself designed and sewed. She skillfully uses the folk embroidery motifs and her stylish and modern-looking dresses are a great success abroad. Not only Kalina, but also Simeon's daughters-in-law prefer to wear clothes decorated with Bulgarian embroideries even on gala occasions, Dicheva says. The princess thinks that the traditional Bulgarian art should be present in everyday life. They should be shown and valued. There are many mummer's masks in her suitcases, too. The interest of the princess to the Bulgarian folklore dates from long time ago. She knew many Bulgarian painters, musicians and applied artists with whom she preferred to meet and talk.
Gen. Johnson: I'm not Here Because of Macedonia.
We have no agreement with the Bulgarian government on using Bulgarian navy bases. When we need to visit any Bulgarian port we get a permit in the statutory diplomatic way, said yesterday three-star Admiral Gregory Johnson, Commander of the USA 6th Fleet. He is paying a three-day visit by invitation of the chief of the Staff of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Petar Petrov. My visit has no connection with the NATO operation "Necessary Harvest" in Macedonia, assured Vice-Admiral Gregory Johnson yesterday. He shared his personal impressions of the expertise of Bulgarian sailors. To him, the scheme of reforming the Bulgarian army was good. The American army experienced such a period after the fall of the Berlin wall - we had to downsize over 1 million of people from the three kinds of forces. He discussed the operative compatibility with Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov and first deputy of the Gen. Staff Lieutenant-General Ginyo Tonev.