Brussels, 22 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO has authorized the deployment of 3,500 allied troops to Macedonia. NATO troops are to collect weapons handed over voluntarily by the ethnic Albanian rebels. They also will oversee the destruction of the arms. An advance party of 400 has been in place since the weekend, following an earlier NATO decision.
The decision to fully deploy came after a briefing by NATO's top commander in Europe, U.S. General Joseph Ralston. He said that a cease-fire between Macedonian forces and ethnic Albanian rebels was basically holding.
Today's authorization means the main body of troops can be under way within 48 hours. The full deployment is expected to take 10 days to two weeks.
NATO has a self-imposed 30-day time limit for the mission.