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Macedonia: NATO Debates Deployment

Brussels, 21 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ambassadors from NATO member states met in Brussels today to discuss the findings of NATO's top commander in Europe, U.S. General Joseph Ralston, regarding security conditions in Macedonia. Ralston visited Macedonia yesterday to assess the prospects for a planned NATO mission to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels.

The 19-member ambassador-level North Atlantic Council is to make a decision whether to deploy some 3,500 NATO troops in Macedonia.

It is not certain, however, whether the council will make the decision today or whether it will merely propose a deadline for member nations to raise objections to the deployment.

An advance NATO unit is currently in Macedonia to assess the security situation and the methods for collecting weapons from ethnic Albanian insurgents.

The Macedonian government says rebels destroyed an Orthodox monastery today and violated a cease-fire in the northwest of the country.

Defense Ministry spokesman Marjan Gjurovski said that the incident at the monastery in the northwestern village of Lesok was a "dangerous provocation."

There has been no independent confirmation, however, that the rebels were responsible for the explosion.

Gjurovski also said there were sporadic exchanges of fire this morning between Macedonian troops and the rebels in several northwestern villages.