- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

The U.S. military will provide medical support, transport helicopters and pilotless reconnaissance aircraft if NATO decides to send troops to Macedonia to collect rebel arms.
But the United States will not be involved directly at the several locations where weapons are to be collected, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley.
The North Atlantic Council, NATO's ruling body, is to hold a special session today to discuss when to deploy a force of 3,500 troops.
An advance party of about 400 British troops was to arrive in Macedonia today, to be followed over the weekend by about 350 more to assess the conditions on the ground.
The State Department urged all sides to respect a cease-fire and reported relative calm in the Balkans nation.
An enduring cease-fire is a prerequisite for sending in allied troops, said Philip Reeker, a department spokesman.
The accord aims to end an insurgency the rebels initiated in February, saying they were fighting for more rights for minority ethnic Albanians.
However, sporadic cease-fire violations, reported since the peace agreement was signed Monday between ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political parties, have raised questions about whether the agreement will hold.
A Macedonian police officer was killed by a sniper at a checkpoint near Tetovo yesterday. Police blamed the rebels for the attack, and the government also reported sporadic shooting around the Tetovo area overnight.
Adm. Quigley said UH-60 helicopters equipped for medical evacuation will be available from Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S. peacekeeping base in Kosovo. Medical teams already at Bondsteel could be sent with the helicopters if required, he said.
Also, CH-47 helicopters for transporting people and equipment will be available from Bondsteel, he said.
The Army's Hunter unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, based at Camp Able Sentry, the U.S. support base at the Skopje airport in Macedonia, would provide aerial monitoring of the arms collection operation, he said.
Other officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the number of U.S. troops who might get involved in supporting the NATO effort in Macedonia was unlikely to exceed 200.
Meanwhile, an ethnic Albanian rebel commander said in an interview yesterday his men will surrender their weapons to NATO troops, as called for in the peace deal, but could still defeat government forces if Macedonia doesn't keep its promises.
"We want to resolve the problem through peaceful means," said the commander, who goes by the name of Clirimi and heads the rebels' military police in the ethnic Albanian majority region near Tetovo, Macedonia's second-largest city.
"But if arms are needed, we can do that, no problem," he told the Associated Press in an interview in the Macedonia village of Dobroste.
"We have been and still are in a position to deal with the Macedonian forces in any situation at any time," Clirimi said. "We have the morale, sufficient numbers and the support of the people. We have no doubts of a victory over government forces."

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