International force opposed

Thursday, September 13, 2001

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Rebuffing international pressure, an influential government minister said Wednesday there was no need for a multinational force in Macedonia after NATO completes its weapons collection mission.

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski's comments reflected continued resistance among hard-liners in the government to international efforts to bring long-term stability to the Balkan nation.

NATO's operation to collect weapons surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels is to end Sept. 26, and it has said it would not extend that deadline. But European Union nations agreed over the weekend that a multinational force is needed in Macedonia after NATO completes its mission.

Such a contingent would be used to protect civilian monitors and act as a buffer between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in tense regions. Though led by the 19-nation Western alliance, it would be open to Russian, Ukrainian and other non-NATO troops, as is the case in neighboring Kosovo and in Bosnia.

"After Sept. 26, NATO should leave Macedonia and return only after Macedonia feels the need that they should be present here again," Boskovski said.

Any international force under a U.N. mandate would have to be restricted to the borders with Kosovo and Albania, the main supply countries to the rebels, he said.

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