Macedonia To Allow NATO Deployment
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) _ Two senior NATO generals met with Macedonian leaders Wednesday in a prelude to the deployment of an alliance force designed to protect peace monitors in neighboring Kosovo.
The NATO rapid reaction force aims to rescue any of the 2,000 international observers who come under threat from Serbian forces in Kosovo, a Serbian province in Yugoslavia.
Under a U.S.-brokered deal with the Serbs, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to let civilian monitors ensure his compliance with a pledge to stop fighting against ethnic Albanian separatists.
Macedonia’s President Kiro Gligorov said Wednesday he had received a NATO request to let the force be based in Macedonia. He said he supports such a move due to the ``humanitarian aspect of the mission″ and Macedonia’s ``strategic plans toward NATO.″
U.S. Admiral James O. Ellis, commander-in-chief of NATO’s Allied Forces Southern Europe, and French Gen. Marcel Valentin held talks with Gligorov and the man expected to become the country’s next premier, Ljubco Georgievski.
Macedonia’s outgoing government said Wednesday it could not approve the NATO deployment until a new government is formed later this month. The incumbent ex-Communists lost October’s elections to a conservative center-right coalition.
But sources close to Georgievski said his new government would invite the NATO force to be based on Macedonian territory. The French-led force would include tanks and helicopters.
In Lisbon, U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO’s top commander in Europe, warned Wednesday that diplomatic efforts to secure a lasting settlement in Kosovo must proceed quickly because the cease-fire there is shaky.
``Despite all our best efforts ... we probably have only a two-to-four month window of relative peace,″ Clark told a news conference. ``We must use this respite to achieve a just and durable political settlement.″
Yugoslavia lodged an ``energetic protest″ to Macedonia on Sunday, warning that any agreement to serve as a base for any military action against Yugoslavia would run counter to the two countries’ interests.
Macedonia delivered a counter-protest to Yugoslavia on Wednesday, saying the deployment of foreign troops is its own internal matter.
Macedonia is the only former Yugoslavia republic to secede without bloodshed from the six-republic federation.