WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is not considering sending troops to Macedonia or increasing the number of U.S. peacekeepers in neighboring Kosovo, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.
"We have no plans to send troops to Macedonia," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference with his British counterpart, Geoffrey Hoon.
Asked about NATO's decision in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday to ask member countries to provide an extra 1,400 troops for the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo in response to the ethnic Albanian insurgency along Macedonia's border, Rumsfeld said the U.S. government is not considering additions. He also said he was not familiar with the details of NATO's decision.
In a statement issued at NATO headquarters after a meeting of the alliance's governing North Atlantic Council, Secretary-General Lord Robertson said Kosovo peacekeepers have recently increased their patrols along the border to detect, disrupt and deter the flow of men and weaponry into Macedonia.
Rumsfeld said American military hardware has been provided to the Macedonian government to aid in countering the ethnic Albanian insurgency, but he provided no details.
Hoon was asked whether Britain was considering sending troops to Macedonia.
"That's not something that is on the agenda for the moment," he replied, "because clearly it is a matter for Macedonia in the first place to resolve." If Macedonia asked Britain to provide troops, "we would be willing to consider that."
The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday editions that U.S. forces in Kosovo are providing aerial photos and other military intelligence to Macedonia army officers. Those officers are preparing an offensive against ethnic Albanian guerrillas.
The newspaper quoted Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley as saying he was "not aware of any unilateral U.S.-to-Macedonia exchanges." However, U.S. officials working with NATO might have provided the information outside of the U.S. chain of command, he said.
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