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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Nato brings hope to Macedonia
Macedonian village cafe
The main topic of conversation is the troops' arrival
By Nick Thorpe in Macedonia

The first food convoy for nearly a month has arrived in the village of Dradnize, an isolated ethnic Macedonian enclave in the overwhelmingly Albanian north-west of the country.


We can only eat if somebody brings in food from outside. The shop is empty...We have nothing

Sava Spirovska, Villager
The whole village turned out to unload the trucks full of beans, rice, soap powder, and nappies for the children.

After the months of fear and conflict it is like a festival day for the villagers.

Among those watching the unloading was 77-year-old Sava Spirovska who explained just how badly the convoy was needed.

"We haven't got any sugar, oil, flour or any of the things we need. We can only eat if somebody brings in food from outside. The shop is empty...We have nothing," she said.

Rebel threats

Ethnic Macedonians have fled from many of their villages in this region - driven out by the threats of the rebel Albanian army the NLA, which controls much of the area.

At Dradnize, there is still a beleaguered outpost of the Macedonian army, but it could not protect all of the villagers.

British troops arriving in Macedonia
Most Albanians want the troops will stay longer than 30 days

In the mayor's office in Dradnize a woman was weeping with worry for her 28-year-old son.

Earlier this year, he served briefly as a reservist in the Macedonian army, but when he returned to the village and went back to his old job at the gravel extraction plant on the outskirts of Dradnize he was kidnapped by NLA gunmen.

He has not been seen since. His mother has heard that he is in an NLA prison.

Last hope

While many Macedonians resent the arrival of Nato troops in their country, this woman desperately hopes their presence will save the life of her son.

"I've heard that Nato are arriving. They are my only hope...the only hope I have that I will ever see my son again," she said.


I think that Nato should stay longer than 30 days, because we don't know what may happen afterwards. We are afraid - afraid of mortars, bullets and reprisals

Village mayor

The next stop for the convoy was an ethnic Albanian village a few kilometres up the road across no-man's land, in an area controlled by the NLA.

There all thoughts are focused on the arrival of the Nato troops, but the mayor, like most Albanians, fears the 30-day limit on their stay is much too short.

"I think that Nato should stay longer than 30 days, because we don't know what may happen afterwards. We are afraid - afraid of mortars, bullets and reprisals," he said.

But Nato's mission is very limited.

Its mandate is only to collect NLA weapons - and Nato commanders acknowledge that they are just one part of the wider peace process.


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See also:

23 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia mission gathers pace
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Is Nato's mission impossible?
17 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia mission 'too short'
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