- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

President Bush, who Monday sent U.S. troops to rescue ethnic Albanian rebels from Macedonian military forces near Skopje, yesterday barred the rebels from entering the United States and tried to choke off their funding.
The president issued a statement "strongly condemning the terrorist violence perpetrated by armed extremists determined to destabilize the democratic, multiethnic government of Macedonia."
To put some teeth into his condemnation, Mr. Bush barred rebels and war criminals from entering the United States. He also forbade Americans from funding the rebels, who have come under increasing fire in recent days from Macedonia's Slavic majority.
The White House sees no inconsistency in rescuing the rebels one day and condemning them another. While the administration deplores the aggression of the ethnic Albanians, it decided that escorting them to safety Monday would cool escalating tensions near Skopje.
The rebels had been holed up in the village of Aracinovo and taking fire from Macedonian government forces for several days. Mr. Bush decided to send in 81 GIs, who are part of a NATO peacekeeping force, to escort 350 ethnic Albanians to a rebel-controlled area of the Black Mountains.
Benjamin Works, director of the Strategic Issues Research Institute, said the Bush administration was not contradicting itself by condemning the rebels it had just finished rescuing.
"The actions were consistent and here's why: The situation on Monday was a real emergency," Mr. Works said. "Aracinovo overlooks the airfield and it's in mortar range of the city of Skopje. The rebels were digging in there and forcing more refugees out."
Still, the rescue mission infuriated the Macedonian Slavs, who rioted in the streets and expressed growing animosity toward the United States and NATO. Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Skopje ordered 30 Americans to leave Macedonia as growing tensions sparked fears of ethnic violence.
Meanwhile, at the White House, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer blamed the strife on the ethnic Albanian rebels.
"Their violent tactics threaten U.S. and international efforts to promote regional peace and stability and pose a potential danger to U.S. military forces and other Americans supporting peacekeeping efforts," Mr. Fleischer said.
Yesterday's condemnation by the White House came in response to a call for help from Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski. Various countries in Europe and the United Nations also heeded the call.
Mr. Bush issued a proclamation shutting U.S. borders to ethnic Albanian agitators and people "who otherwise seek to undermine peace and stability in the region." Also barred are "those who are responsible for wartime atrocities committed in the region since 1991."
At the same time, Mr. Bush issued an executive order forbidding Americans from financing the ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. The order bars "U.S. persons from transferring, paying, exporting, withdrawing or otherwise dealing in the property or interests in property of persons involved in violent or obstructionist actions."
While Mr. Works hailed the president's action as "a very important turnaround in U.S. policy," the effect was not immediately clear.
"The purpose of these two actions is to send a clear message to the extremists and their supporters in the region … that such tactics are unacceptable," Mr. Fleischer said. "We will use the means at our disposal to isolate these groups and individuals and cut their access to financial support."

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