NATO's collection of weapons from Albanian insurgents in Macedonia is now in its second phase. The latest collection point is near the village of Brodec, north of Tetovo close to the Kosovo border. The NATO spokesman in Skopje is American Major Barry Johnson: "We began establishing it yesterday and it opened at 08:00 this morning," he said, "and it is now actively collecting weapons and ammunition." And, he added, "that is the French-led battle group with German and Spanish troops as well."
Major Johnson says NATO's Macedonia force is on schedule toward its goal of collecting 3,300 insurgent weapons by September 26. "I will tell you that our expectations are being met for this phase," he said, "and we are very confident that we are moving forward at the pace we had anticipated."
With a late-August cease-fire generally holding, ethnic Albanian refugees are continuing to return to their homes. U.N. officials say 7,000 refugees have returned to Macedonia from Kosovo in recent days, but 44,000 remain there. The seven-month-old insurgency has displaced more than 100,000 people. A peace agreement working its way through the Macedonian parliament grants increased powers to ethnic Albanians, who comprise nearly one third of Macedonia's population.
The cease-fire is still fragile, and Western European countries are considering extending their military presence in Macedonia beyond its late September deadline.
With amnesty for the insurgents a critical component of the peace agreement, ethnic Albanians favor the protection offered by a continued NATO presence, something opposed by most Macedonian politicians.