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Macedonia: Russia Refuses To Send Troops

Moscow, 2 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says Russia will not contribute to any international peacekeeping force in Macedonia. Interfax today quoted Ivanov as saying Russia did not "see any sense" in participating in a deployment that may be called upon to police a peace accord in Macedonia.

Ivanov, who was visiting the Siberian city of Chita, also said that Moscow may reduce its military contingent in Kosovo, saying the decision will depend on "how the situation develops there." But he said there was no possibility that Russia will completely withdraw its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo or Bosnia-Herzegovina.

NATO, which leads a peacekeeping force in Kosovo, has said it is willing to supervise a disarmament of ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia if a political agreement is reached to end an ethnic Albanian insurgency in the Balkan country.

Meanwhile Western mediators in Macedonia say that despite an important breakthrough in negotiations, much difficult work remains to secure a political agreement aimed at ending the ethnic Albanian insurgency in the Balkan country.

Envoys from the European Union and the United States yesterday announced that Macedonian politicians had reached a provisional agreement on what has been seen as the toughest issue in the negotiations -- the future official use of the Albanian language in Macedonia.

U.S. envoy James Pardew said that under the plan, Albanian would be accepted as an official language alongside Macedonian in areas where 20 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian. Albanian will also be acceptable in parliament.

Officials stressed, however, that the deal depends on progress being made on the next topic of negotiations -- ethnic Albanian demands for more control over the appointment of local police commanders.

Negotiations have been adjourned until tomorrow as Macedonia today marks its National Day holiday.