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  • EU says can take Macedonia (sic) mission after NATO deal
  • Yugoslav army frees former general in spy scandal


  • Rumsfeld says expansion of peacekeeping force in Afghanistan ‘not going to happen’
  • Polish troops leave for Afghanistan to join U.S.-led war against terrorism



  • EU leaders agreed on Saturday that the 15-nation bloc should soon be ready to take over peacekeeping duties from NATO in Macedonia (sic) if the mission needs to be continued. The EU wants a planned rapid reaction force to make its debut in the former Yugoslav republic but it must first reach a deal with NATO on access to the alliance’s facilities. A row between historic rivals Greece and Turkey is blocking an accord. "(The EU) expressed its availability to take responsibility following the Macedonian (sic) elections and at the request of the government to follow the (NATO) mission," the leaders said in a communique after a two-day summit in Barcelona. Such a mission would only go ahead, however, if the EU had reached "a permanent arrangement" with NATO on facilities, the leaders said. "This is a matter of considerable urgency," the host, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, told a news conference. "It is difficult to believe 12 or 13 of our countries can deploy troops in Afghanistan when we can’t even sort ourselves out closer to home," he said, clearly frustrated. Aznar said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would step up efforts to clinch an agreement "in the next few weeks". On Friday, Solana told Reuters he hoped an agreement would be possible by the end of the Spanish presidency on June 30.(Reuters 1429 160302 GMT Mar 02)


  • The Yugoslav army freed on Saturday a top Milosevic-era general whose arrest with a U.S.envoy on spy charges this week sparked a furious row with the United States. An army court released Momcilo Perisic, a former Yugoslav army chief of staff and now a Serbian deputy prime minister, but sent criminal charges to army prosecutors who will consider making a formal indictment, state news agency Tanjug said. Plain-clothes officers roughed up the U.S. envoy and interrogated him during a 17-hour incarceration, the U.S. embassy said. "I expressed my personal apology and that of the Yugoslav government (to U.S. ambassador William Montgomery) over the procedure against the American diplomat," Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told radio B-92. (Reuters 1725 160302 GMT Mar 02)




  • Western nations have little enthusiasm for expanding an international peacekeeping force outside of Afghanistan’s capital, though the security force in Kabul probably will stay there until the end of the year, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said. "The line of countries volunteering to step up and do that is a very short one, which suggests to me that that is not going to happen," Rumsfeld said. Rumsfeld said there is little money and little immediate need to expand beyond Kabul the British-led contingent of 4,500 troops. "The situation in Afghanistan is relatively peaceful," he said. "Now I use that word ‘relatively.’ That is to say, there is not a serious security problem generally in the country." Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai repeatedly has called for a larger peacekeeping force that would deploy outside Kabul, and humanitarian groups have said there is an urgent need to improve security. "An expanded peacekeeping presence is also the only means to restrain outside influences and allow the country’s internal political process and security forces time to develop,"said Gareth Evans, president of the private International Crisis Group. In a report published Friday, Evans’ group called for expanding the ISAF to 25,000-30,000 troops and moving them beyond Kabul to other cities. The report said U.S. reluctance to participate or to press for an expanded mandate "chills the commitment of other nations."(AP160841 Mar 02 GMT)


  • A group of 27 Polish troops, the first to be deployed in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, left for the Afghan capital Saturday. The soldiers were seen off from the southwestern city of Wroclaw by Prime Minister Leszek Miller. The rest of Poland’s 87-strong contingent, which includes military engineers and specialists in logistics as well as members of the elite GROM commando unit, is to leave Monday. Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski stressed that "GROM’s task and the place where they will be stationed are a secret." (AP 161646 Mar 02 GMT)



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