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Macedonia: NATO Proceeds With Weapons Collection

Skopje, 28 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO today carried out the second day of its 30-day program to collect weapons voluntarily surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. NATO spokesman Major Barry Johnson said that the operation is taking place near the village of Brodec and is going very smoothly.

Yesterday, the rebels handed in some 400 weapons, including assault rifles and machine guns.

Some Macedonian government officials say, however, that the rebels have tens of thousands more arms and that NATO's weapons-collection operation is only symbolic.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw are to visit Macedonia later this week.

Robertson is to arrive tomorrow to meet with NATO officers and Macedonian political leaders. He is also to visit the site where NATO is storing weapons collected from ethnic Albanian rebels.

Straw plans to fly in on 30 August to hold talks with Macedonian officials and to visit British troops.

British troops suffered the first casualty yesterday, when soldier Ian Collins died after being struck by a chunk of concrete thrown by Macedonian youths.