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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 17:17 GMT
Nato's Macedonia mission extended
Nato troops in Macedonia
Nato's mission will continue for six more months

Nato is to extend its mission in Macedonia for a further six months.

The extension came after the European Union acknowledged it had still not been able to reach an agreement which would allow it to deploy its own peacekeeping force.

However, a compromise deal means the EU may take over the Macedonia mission in three months time if it is ready.
Nato troops
The EU isn't ready yet to take over peacekeeping responsibilities

What began as a one-month mission is now well into its second year.

There is no sign of an imminent withdrawal, although this latest mandate is likely to cut the number of troops deployed, from 700 to 400.

Dispute

The European Union, which was hoping to take over peacekeeping responsibilities, isn't ready yet.

An ethnic Albanian rebel
Incidents of gunfire are still commonplace in Macedonia
Preparations to deploy the new EU Rapid Reaction force have been held up by a dispute between Greece and Turkey over the sharing of information and security structures between Nato and the EU.

Greece is a member of both organisations, Turkey of Nato only.

But the door has been left open for the EU to take over halfway through, if an agreement can be sorted out.

The mission will be reviewed in February.

Vulnerable

Macedonia has pulled back from the brink of war, but incidents of gunfire are commonplace.

A new report from the International Crisis Group says Macedonia remains vulnerable: to organised crime, to extremists based in nearby Kosovo and to the parties which lost the recent elections.

The think tank, which produces regular reports on the Balkans, says the re-deployment of ethnically mixed police patrols has been largely a cosmetic exercise.

There remain "no-go areas" which, the report says, were not policed even before the outbreak of violence in early 2001.

See also:

14 Oct 02 | Europe
16 Sep 02 | Europe
22 May 02 | Europe
07 Feb 02 | Europe
26 Sep 01 | World
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