EU, Macedonia disagree over NATO mission extension


NATO troops collected more weapons from ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia today while the Skopje government and the European Union appeared at odds over the future role of the alliance in the Balkan state. A senior government source said Macedonia's Security Council of top officials had decided last week that the NATO mission should not be extended.


"At the moment there is no mood for accepting an extended military mission. Only civilian monitors are acceptable."

A defense ministry source also said a new NATO mission was not acceptable.

NATO has said its 4,500 troops would pull out when the "Essential Harvest" operation to collect 3,300 weapons from the rebels ends on September 26.

But European Union foreign ministers, saying their aim was to avert a security vacuum that could lead to a relapse into civil war once NATO's mission expires, agreed Sunday on the need for a NATO-led security force to stay on.

Diplomats said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer proposed a smaller but robust NATO-led force with a UN mandate to protect international monitors overseeing the return of refugees to their homes.

The force should be open to non-NATO countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Sweden and Finland, he said.

Diplomats said Fischer warned of the risk of a "silent coalition of extremists" exploiting the dispute over a future role for NATO to resume fighting and partition the country.

Several countries said they did not want their troops to come under UN command because of bad experiences in the 1990s.