NATO approves 3,000-strong force for Macedonia plan


BRUSSELS, Belgium, AP

NATO ambassadors formally approved plans to send a 3,000-strong force for Macedonia to help disarm ethnic Albanian rebels if a lasting political agreement and cease-fire takes hold to resolve the country’s crisis.

“Essentially now, NATO is ready to implement the plan, provided the proper environment exists,” NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur said.

The operation will only take effect if the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian political leaders solve their differences, Brodeur said.

“Rebels also have to commit to laying down their weapons and stop fighting,” he added.

The force would supervise the disarming of National Liberation Army fighters who give up their weapons voluntarily. Brodeur added that NATO troops would not use force to disarm the rebels.

Fifteen of the 19 NATO member countries, including the United States, are to take part in the force. The United States was expected to provide only logistical support.

NATO ambassadors reviewed the plan on Wednesday but did not approve it until Friday.