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Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse
July 26, 2001 Thursday
Domestic, non-Washington, General News

"US troops placed on alert after violence in Macedonia"



An unspecified number of US troops in Europe were on alert Wednesday after attacks by irate protesters threatened the US and other Western embassies in Macedonia, a US defense official said.

"We do have units which have been alerted," the official said on condition of anonymity, refusing to elaborate.

Any decision whether to seek extra protection rests with US ambassador to Macedonia, Michael Einik, the official said, though the State Department was unaware of any such request late Wednesday, an official with that agency told AFP. The troop alert follows attacks late Tuesday by violent protesters on embassies in the Macedonian capital of Skopje. A mob of angry Slavs, incited by allegations NATO tacitly supports ethnic Albanian rebels, damaged the US and other embassies with hurled projectiles, State Department officials said.

Despite the attacks, the United States remained determined in its efforts to help bring peace to Macedonia, though US officials and Balkan experts privately voiced concern the escalating strife and emergence of anti-NATO sentiment could complicate facilitating any settlement.

"We continue to reach out to all the political parties in the multi-ethnic Macedonian government to continue promoting their working together to find a peaceful solution to this," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.

Reeker added that US special envoy for the Balkans, James Pardew, met earlier Wednesday with Macedonian President Boris Trajkowski to discuss the situation.

The mob violence came as clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels flared anew, while refugees streamed out of the contested northwestern town of Tetovo as rebels advanced across northern Macedonia.

The Slav-dominated Macedonian government neither condemned the violence nor appealed for restraint Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, an opponent of Trajkovski's, has accused NATO of siding with the rebels and of seeking to turn Macedonia into an international protectorate under the control of the Western alliance.

The State Department refuted the charge.

"These kind of irresponsible press reports... irresponsible, immature statements from certain political leaders, are not helpful to the situation," Reeker said, denying that the United States or other NATO countries backed Albanian rebels.

The administration of President George W. Bush supported Macedonia "in its territorial integrity, in its sovereignty and in a future as a multi-ethnic state," Reeker insisted.

Washington has become all too-aware that the feud between Georgievski and Trajkovski is increasingly compromising the search for peace, with a top administration official warning that "political agendas aren't going to have anything to do when they are in the midst of a civil war and fighting for their lives."

Former National Security Council Balkans analyst Ivo Daalder directly accused Georgievski of trying to extract political mileage from the conflict.

"He has no interest in negotiating because he thinks he can win through the use of force," Daalder told AFP.

"He doesn't want a compromise," making a settlement in Macedonia "more difficult but not impossible."

(C) 2001 Agence France Presse * Posted for educational purposes only


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