- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

President Bush is coming under increasing pressure at home and abroad to escalate the American military role to deal with the crisis in Macedonia, in what would be the third major U.S. deployment in the Balkans in a decade.
Both the Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian armed groups they have battled for months appealed yesterday to NATO to broker an end to the fighting, a day after the leaders of Britain and France suggested the alliance must be prepared to do more to contain the violence.
Mr. Bush, in the middle of a five-day European tour, so far has stood firm against a bigger military role, saying he believed there was still a chance diplomatic efforts to end the fighting would succeed.
Following talks yesterday in Gothenburg, Sweden, with the leaders of the 15-nation European Union, Mr. Bush confirmed that he was not ready to consider the military option for Macedonia.
"Together, we are endeavoring to prevent extremism from undermining the democratic process and stress the need for political, not military, solutions," said a joint statement released by Mr. Bush and the EU leaders.
But influential lawmakers in Congress and several analysts argued that any further delay in Macedonia intervention would only repeat the patterns of Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, where ethnic violence increased as diplomatic efforts failed.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac also have suggested NATO must be prepared for a bigger military role in ending the Macedonia fighting, although neither has said publicly alliance troops should engage the Albanian rebels on the ground.
"History in that part of the world has taught us that it is better for us to make preparations to stabilize the situation rather than wait," Mr. Blair said Wednesday after a meeting with Mr. Bush and other NATO leaders in Brussels. British defense officials said yesterday they had offered to send training teams to help Macedonias army.
The Albanian rebels have cut off the water supply to Kumanovo, creating serious health problems in the northern Macedonian city of 100,000, said an unconfirmed report issued over the Internet. Kumanovo was the site of the signing of the June 1999 Military-Technical agreement between NATO and Yugoslavia ending the NATO bombing over Kosovo.
Richard Perle, who has served in the Reagan administration Defense Department and is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Balkans on Wednesday that time is running short in Macedonia and that the major European powers cannot solve the problem.
"Macedonia today looks very much like Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo," Mr. Perle said, "and if we should have learned anything from a mistake made three times, it is that delay and indecision do not produce solutions. They only make matters worse and thats the situation were in today."
At that hearing, both committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and former Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, predicted that U.S. leadership and U.S. military forces ultimately would be required to enforce an end to the Macedonia fighting, which they said threatens to spill over into other countries in the region.
For different reasons, both the Macedonian government and the rebels have appealed to NATO to intervene in recent days.
In Skopje yesterday, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski asked visiting NATO Secretary-General George Robertson for help in disarming the rebels if a lasting cease-fire can be negotiated.
The shadowy Macedonian rebel force calling itself the National Liberation Army has pressed NATO to guarantee a permanent cease-fire.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide