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[ALBSA-Info] Britain ready to commit 1,000 troops to Macedonia

Gazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Thu Jul 5 11:37:12 EDT 2001


Britain ready to commit 1,000 troops to Macedonia

By Mike Collett-White

  
LONDON, July 4 (Reuters) - Britain will provide around 1,000 troops to a 
proposed NATO force of 3,000 in Macedonia to collect arms from ethnic 
Albanian rebels, a defence official said on Wednesday. 

But its commitment to send a battle group -- comprising a battalion of about 
800 soldiers plus logistical support and artillery -- was not indefinite, 
particularly with a major exercise in the Gulf due this autumn. 

"At the moment we have indicated that we would provide a brigade headquarters 
and one of a total of three or four battle groups," the Defence Ministry 
official said, adding that any mission was expected to last around two 
months. 

NATO says it will send in the force only after a political settlement was 
reached between political parties representing the Macedonian majority and 
the ethnic Albanian minority. 

Talks between the sides resumed this week but are being complicated by 
hostilities between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian government 
forces in the north of the former Yugoslav republic. 

"This is not disarmament, but a benign job of collecting weapons," the 
British official said of the planned mission. 

He said Italy, France and Greece had indicated willingness to commit a 
significant number of troops to the NATO expedition. 

But he also warned that other commitments facing the British army, air force 
and navy this autumn meant NATO's contingency plans now in place for 
Macedonia may have to be reviewed. 

The services are to commit over 20,000 personnel to a major overseas exercise 
later in the year in Oman. 

"If this (Macedonian operation) is not done by September, then we must assess 
it again against the other things the British armed forces are doing at the 
time," he said. 

"But our ministers do give Macedonia the highest priority." 

He said that current plans indicated there would be around 15 arms collection 
points set up by NATO in Macedonia, with an average of 200 troops committed 
to each. 

Extreme elements both among Albanian rebels and Macedonian forces could pose 
a threat to NATO forces, the official added. 



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