State Department Issues Macedonia Warning

Macedonian governement forces hunted rebels in several villages, including in Nikustak, where the rebels in Aracinovo were were taken by NATO before further relocation, according to news reports.

Robertson, the NATO secretary-general, urged that a cease-fire be extended across the country. "I stress what I have said before: There is no military solution to the current crisis. The cessation of violence must now be made permanent."

Efforts to Make Peace

For more than a week, U.S. and European diplomats have been attempting to broker a cease fire agreement between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian guerillas, hoping to prevent an all-out civil war in the country. NATO announced last week a peace agreement would be enforced with the introduction of NATO peacekeepers into the country.

The evacuation Monday signaled a surprising improvisation of U.S. policy. Reluctant to further involve U.S. forces in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, the Bush administration has lately suggested U.S. forces would play only a supporting role in NATO peacekeeping operations in Macedonia.

U.S. officials said the U.S. troops and vehicles were used because they were the most quickly available.

"NATO requested the countries on an urgent basis, contribute vehicles to that effort, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher at a press briefing. "We had some assets that were available for that purpose. And after approval by our chain of command, we deployed them for that use."

U.S. officials said the White House approved the operation. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters President Bush was informed of the mission ahead of time. But he did not answer directly the question of who in the administration had authorized using American troops.

Pentagon spokesman Quigley told reporters the evacuation did not signal a formal change in U.S. policy. "This particular event, I would not point to this … as a turning the corner and proceeding down a path where we will now continuously provide this level of support."

There are currently between 500 and 700 U.S. military personnel in Skopje, introduced in 1993 to symbolize U.S. opposition to instability spreading from neighboring Kosovo and Serbia proper. They provide logistical support for NATO forces in the region, and also include a contingent of combat troops for force protection.

U.S. military planning continues for supporting a peacekeeping mission, if there is a peace agreement. They are, so far, considering offering logistics, airlift, intelligence and communications support, but not direct troops for assisting in disarmament.

Rioting in the Capital

In Skopje Monday night, several angry Macedonian reservists stormed the parliament building, made their way to the balcony, and fired gunshots into the air, cheered on by the crowd of about 5,000 outside.

Others destroyed furniture inside the building, or hung the former Macedonian flag from the building. The flag was replaced more than half a century ago by communists when the country was still part of Yugoslavia.

Outside, crowds pounded on police cars and shouted: "Gas chambers for the Albanians," "Traitors, traitors," "Give us weapons" and "Death to the Albanians!"

In separate incidents, a U.S. Army soldier patrolling the Kosovo side of the Kosovo-FYROM border stepped on a land mine Monday while on routine. The wound was not life-threatening, according to Quigley, but the soldier lost his foot.

Also, a U.S. Army soldier in Macedonia was wounded southwest of Skopje, when the unmarked vehicle that he and some Macedonian officials were riding in received some small arms fire. The soldier was struck in the hand and possibly elsewhere and is being treated.

Albanians in Macedonia are outnumbered by Slavs more than 3 to 1. Armed rebels have been demanding more autonomy. Moderate ethnic Albanian leaders have been demanding greater participation in Macedonian civil society.

ABCNEWS' Barbara Starr, Terry Moran and David Ruppe contributed to this report.

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