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Macedonia: NATO Says First Weapons To Be Collected Next Week

Brussels, 22 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO said today it expected to begin early next week with the collection of weapons from ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told a press briefing in Brussels this was the estimate he had received from commanders on the ground. He declined to give an exact date or say where the first weapons would be collected.

"The North Atlantic Council has given authority to the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe to deploy Task Force Harvest and to start collecting and destroying the weapons of the ethnic Albanian insurgents."

NATO's 19 members agreed today to send a 3,500-man international force to collect the weapons in accordance with the peace agreement signed earlier this month between Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political parties.

Robertson said the ethnic Albanians had every incentive to honor the agreement because part of it gives them more political rights in Macedonia. These rights will come into force only if the weapons are surrendered.

For more on the latest developments in Macedonia, please see Macedonia: Church's Shelling Ratchets Up Propaganda War and Macedonia: Robertson Hails NATO Decision.