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Warning over Macedonia peace

George Robertson
Robertson brought a tough message for Macedonian leaders  

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Western leaders are warning that Macedonia could slip back into violence unless its leadership delivers on promises made under a peace deal signed in August.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, were in Skopje to try to kickstart the peace process.

It ran into trouble when lawmakers failed to enact reforms to expand rights for the ethnic Albanian minority.

"There could easily be in this country a return to violence unless everything that was agreed on is implemented," Robertson told The Associated Press on arrival at the airport.

The peace deal, signed by the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanians, halted six months of bitter clashes between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian army troops.

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Under the deal a 4,000 strong NATO force collected 4,000 weapons from the rebels in "Operation Essential Harvest."

The rebels agreed to stop fighting and hand over their arms in exchange for promised reforms in parliament.

The package, including wider use of the Albanian language, more jobs for ethnic Albanians in the police force and greater recognition of Islam, aims to improve life for ethnic Albanians who make up about 30 percent of the two million population.

But so far there has ben so sign of parliament even starting to debate constitutional amendments designed to upgrade minority rights.

Macedonian nationalists have moved to block the reforms saying the government had surrendered to international pressure and granted too many rights to the ethnic Albanian minority.

Robertson and Solana were expected to talk with the leaders of both ethnic communities.

But their main thrust was to tell the Macedonian government that NATO and the EU had delivered their side of the bargain, now it was time for the Macedonian government to keep its promises -- especially if the country had aspirations to join both organisations.

They were expected to press President Boris Trajkovski into delivering to parliament his drafts for 15 constitutional amendments designed to implement the peace accord. So far, Trajkovski has submitted reviews for only nine amendments.

"It is now up to the Macedonian government and parliament to deliver on their part of the bargain, on promises solemnly made," Robertson told AP.

If Macedonia wishes to become a member of NATO and the European Union, he added, it must also accept "obligations that go along with that."

Also on Thursday, the Yugoslav army said it would give some of its weapons to the Macedonian military and enhance a joint fight against ethnic Albanian "terrorism."

AP reported that the Yugoslav military plans to hand over to Macedonia some of its surplus weaponry and other unspecified military hardware, said Yugoslav Defence Minister Slobodan Krapovic and his Macedonian counterpart, Vlado Buckovski.

When Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the former Yugoslav Peoples' Army withdrew taking all its military hardware -- including training and fighter jets.

The move suggests Macedonia is seeking back some of those weapons which had been part of the country's former joint defence force.


• Macedonian government

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