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NATO Sends More to Balkans Troops Will Attempt To Cut Supply Lines Of Ethnic Albanians

By Carol J. Williams
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BERLIN

NATO vowed Monday to deploy more peacekeepers to Kosovo’s border with Macedonia in an effort to cut ethnic Albanians’ supply lines and prevent another full-scale outbreak of Balkan bloodletting.

NATO and European Union officials assured Macedonia of their full economic and diplomatic support to hold the landlocked former Yugoslav republic together. But Russian President Vladimir V. Putin warned that the fighting was already spiraling out of control.

The limits of Europe’s power to effectively intervene in what it fears is an attempt by Kosovo and Macedonia Albanians to seize territory for a separate state was apparent in the conflicting reactions to the latest regional security crisis. The violence, if not controlled, threatens to send a new wave of refugees from the Balkans into Europe’s more developed countries.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson pledged more troops for the alliance’s Kosovo peacekeeping mission after meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Sergan Kerim in Brussels, Belgium. Macedonian leaders in the capital, Skopje, have harshly criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for failing to cut the supply lines between Kosovo’s predominantly Albanian population and its ethnic brethren in northwestern Macedonia, where troops and tanks have been doing battle for the past six days.

“We’ll be asking individual members to add to the troops they have in Kosovo in order that more flexibility can be given to the task,” Robertson told reporters in Brussels. He declined to say how many reinforcements would be sent or what their mandate would be. He said only that the additional troops would pursue their objectives “with considerable vigor.”

Peacekeepers from NATO member nations and other countries still patrol parts of divided Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo, which is a province of Serbia, the larger republic of Yugoslavia. Kosovo remains an international protectorate two years after NATO forces waged an air war to halt the mass killing and “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovo Albanians.