Facebook Twitter

Arms harvest in Macedonia surpasses goal

SHARE Arms harvest in Macedonia surpasses goal

SKOPJE, Macedonia — NATO has surpassed its target for gathering arms voluntarily surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels as part of a peace agreement for Macedonia, the alliance's chief said Tuesday.

"The weapons are still being collected today, but we can confirm that 3,381 . . . have been collected, and the final figure should be higher still," said NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson.

The monthlong mission, Operation Essential Harvest, is scheduled to end Wednesday. NATO said Monday that the quota of 3,300 weapons had already been met.

During his one-day visit, Robertson urged the Macedonian government and parliament to play their part now in implementing a peace plan for the troubled Balkan country.

The rebels surrendered their weapons in exchange for promised political reform.

Macedonia's parliament — which tentatively approved constitutional changes meant to increase ethnic Albanian rights — on Tuesday discussed putting the changes to a referendum, a move that could derail peace efforts by drawing in an electorate dominated by a Macedonian majority opposed to concessions to the minority.

Robertson urged legislators to "remain focused on the parliamentary procedure that is required to fulfill" the peace deal, particularly the constitutional amendments.

He also singled out amnesty for rebels as a key part of such a deal, urging parliament to "enact that amnesty so that peace can return."

Trajkovski has promised amnesty to rebels not implicated in criminal acts during their six-month insurrection, but no action has been taken beyond that pledge.

"The world is watching and the politicians of this country know they have an obligation that they must fulfill," Robertson said. "NATO has delivered — it is now up to the parliamentarians to deliver again."

He also pledged continued NATO engagement in Macedonia, saying discussions would include establishing a follow-up force to the arms collection mission. The government has requested such a force, and rebels have welcomed troops as a means of maintaining security in the still-tense country.

The new NATO mission would be a "lean but effective force," Robertson said, providing no details on size, composition or deployment.