NATO has condemned an attack on Wednesday by ethnic Albanian insurgents that killed 10 Macedonian soldiers, saying it was detrimental to all of the Balkan country's people. The deadliest single guerrilla attack against government forces since the insurgency erupted six months ago, nearly derailed the Western-sponsored peace talks between majority Slav and minority ethnic Albanian political parties.
NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur says NATO vigorously condemns the ambush by insurgents of a Macedonian military convoy and the death of the soldiers.
"This latest incident runs against the efforts of all those who are working so hard to try and achieve a political agreement in order to put an end to the crisis," said Mr. Brodeur. "This is not helping the cause of peace and is detrimental to the interest of the population of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a whole. Violence cannot win. Violence cannot bring anything good for anyone."
Mr. Brodeur says the only lasting solution to the Macedonian crisis is a political agreement. Emissaries from the United States and the European Union have been pushing a peace package that would grant ethnic Albanians more jobs in the police force and wider use of their language in exchange for the insurgents laying down their weapons. Ethnic Albanians make up about 30 percent of Macedonia's population.
Despite Wednesday's ambush, subsequent fighting in the northwestern town of Tetovo and a temporary withdrawal from the talks by the main Macedonian political party, EU envoy Francois Leotard announced that all of the political parties involved have pledged to sign a peace deal next week.
NATO has agreed to deploy 3,000 troops to Macedonia to collect weapons from the insurgents once a political agreement has been signed and a ceasefire respected by all parties is in place. But NATO officials admit they do not know how many weapons the guerrillas have nor whether the guerrillas will turn in all of their arms.