- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

NEW YORK The international community has long worried that the Balkan conflict could spill across the border from Kosovo into Macedonia, so much so that the United Nations until two years ago maintained a protective force on that frontier.
That operation was scotched by China in February 1999 for reasons having nothing to do with the Balkans conflict.
Weeks before the U.N. Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia (Unpredep) was to have been routinely extended for another six months, the Macedonian government established diplomatic ties with Taiwan. China had warned it might veto the extension if the Skopje government went ahead. On Feb. 25 it did just that.
"The U.N. peacekeeping forces have completed its designated mission in Macedonia and there is no need for an extension there," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the next day in Beijing.
"The U.N. is faced with a serious financial crisis, and the limited resources of the U.N. should be used in places with more urgent need."
Russia abstained on the 13-1 Security Council vote.
U.S. and other diplomats had appealed to Beijing not to pull the plug, citing the instability of the former Yugoslavia.
The mission was established in March 1995 to monitor and report any developments in the border areas that could undermine confidence and stability in the territory. That mandate was later expanded to include the monitoring of arms smuggling.
"Until now, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia has not been adversely affected by the conflict in Kosovo," Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote in February 1999 when he urged the council to extend Unpredep for another six months.
"However, the potential serious repercussions that continued violence in Kosovo could have upon the external and internal security of the country cannot be ignored, given the large proportion of ethnic Albanians in the population" of Macedonia.
One-third of Macedonia's 2 million citizens are ethnic Albanian, and until recently have lived in comparative harmony with the nation's Slavic majority. But six days of fighting around the city of Tetovo have begun to polarize the nation into ethnic camps.
Energized Slavic Macedonians from around the world flooded some U.S. media outlets with hundreds of e-mail messages over the weekend, urging the United States, the United Nations and NATO to come to the nation's defense.
The majority of e-mail messages had the same text, telling NATO, Britain and the United States: "You opened this horrible Pandora's box by your Kosovo adventure… .
"Instead of running away from the looming catastrophe in Macedonia, I implore you to live up to your responsibilities and not abandon this monster of your own making."
A few were more personalized, with the writers taking great pains to explain Macedonia's precarious situation.
"Albanian extremism sets the stage for yet another showcase of fleeing refugees, many innocent lives being lost, suffering of all people just for the sake of their radical aspirations," wrote Daniel Jakimovski, a Macedonian living in France.
The Security Council and Mr. Annan have condemned the renewed fighting, but so far have shown no desire to act on Macedonian Ambassador Naste Calovski's appeals for military assistance.
"It would have been very useful to have it now," Mr. Calovski said of Unpredep. "The main thing is that Kosovo should not spill over their problems to Macedonia. What we are witnessing now is a kind of aggression from paramilitary terrorists."
During the Serbian attacks on Kosovo, Mr. Calovski pointed out, his nation opened its borders to fleeing Albanian Kosovars, offering them what little shelter it could.
"And now, instead of saying 'Thank you,' look what they are doing," he said yesterday.
Kristina Stefanova in Washington contributed to this article.


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