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Macedonia: NATO Orders Preparations For Deployment

Brussels, 20 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO announced today it is ready to send troops to Macedonia to help disarm ethnic Albanian rebels fighting government forces. A NATO statement issued after a meeting in Brussels of ambassadors from the 19 allied countries said NATO military planners had been ordered to prepare the mission.

NATO said it was prepared to act swiftly, but only if Macedonia's ethnic Albanian and Slav political parties agree on a political solution to end the fighting.

A NATO official speaking on customary condition of anonymity said NATO had reached tentative agreement to send up to 3,000 troops to Macedonia. The aim of the NATO troops would be to collect arms surrendered voluntarily by the rebels.

Germany and Spain expressed a readiness to send troops.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski says six-day-old peace talks aimed at defusing the crisis over armed Albanian rebels are deadlocked.

Trajkovski, who initiated the talks, blamed the two ethnic Albanian political parties in the governing coalition for the breakdown of negotiations.

He accused the two parties of having radically changed their position and of seeking the practical federalization of multiethnic Macedonia into a "two-nation" state.