NATO Collects Weapons in Macedonia

Article excerpt

On August 27, NATO launched a mission to collect 3,300 weapons that ethnic Albanian rebels in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia agreed to surrender in exchange for expanded political rights. The mission, known as Operation Essential Harvest, is expected to last 30 days.

After months of escalating conflict between Macedonian troops and ethnic Albanian guerrillas, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski-fearing a civil war-requested June 14 that NATO help disarm the rebels. NATO agreed but predicated its support on four conditions: a ceasefire; a political agreement among Macedonia's main political parties, including representatives from both the majority Slav and minority Albanian populations; a voluntary disarmament plan acceptable to the rebels; and an agreed understanding on how NATO would conduct its operation.

After determining that these conditions had been met, on August 22, NATO authorized the full deployment of its weapons collection task force, numbering close to 5,000 troops. The United States did not supply any ground forces, but it is providing medical and logistical support.

Some estimates put the total number of rebel-owned weapons in Macedonia at more that 80,000. …