Macedonia refuses deal to keep US out of area: Skopje steps up its UN campaign for international recognition

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton will achieve his goal of a risk-free troop deployment to the former Yugoslavia after President Kiro Gligorov of Macedonia refused a private deal with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia to keep the Americans out, the UN commander in Macedonia said yesterday.

Mr Milosevic, who visited Skopje earlier this week, offered the Macedonian leader mutual recognition of their two republics in exchange for Mr Gligorov refusing to accept an American UN deployment, General Finn Saermark-Thomsen said before holding talks with Douglas Hurd, the visiting Foreign Secretary.

Mr Gligorov will accept the US deployment in addition to General Saermark-Thomsen's existing 700- strong Nordic battalion, provided that a new UN resolution is adopted to place the UN operation in Macedonia under a separate mandate from that in Croatia and Bosnia. This, in Mr Gligorov's view, would enhance the impression of Macedonia, as it struggles for international recognition, as an independent nation.

Diplomats said Mr Gligorov's wish to accommodate the US and Britain, which supports Mr Clinton in this endeavour, was stronger than any benefits ensuing from recognition from Serbia, essentially regarded as an unreliable neighbour.

The diplomatic juggling highlights the length to which the allies will go to accommodate Mr Clinton's wish to avoid a risky troop commitment to the 'safe area' in Bosnia while still being seen to contribute in a visible way, as one British diplomat put it addressing the need to avoid further tension between the US and the European allies: 'Better American troops in Macedonia than no American troops anywhere.'

Other countries have criticised Mr Clinton for failing to contribute to existing peace-keeping efforts in Bosnia and Croatia. An earlier plan to move the Nordic battalion to the front in Bosnia to make way for an American deployment was abandoned after the Nordic foreign ministers met three days ago to make clear they would not agree to move. 'We will not be sent to Bosnia,' said General Saermark- Thomsen. 'We have made it clear that if we are moved from here, we go back to our respective Nordic countries.' General Saermark-Thomsen added that Macedonia was 'the cheapest alternative' for Mr Clinton. It fulfilled the four criteria spelt out by Warren Christopher of a clear goal, the ability to sustain domestic public support, an exit scenario, and likelihood of success.

Mr Hurd reiterated the risk of the war spreading to Kosovo and Macedonia if sanctions and other pressures were not maintained. The general said he saw no threat from Serbia in Macedonia at the moment.