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Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT

World: Europe

UN peacekeepers prepare to leave Macedonia

UN soldiers could be transferred to Nato authority

The United Nations peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has ceased all activities after China vetoed the renewal of its mandate in the Security Council.

A spokesman said the 1,000 soldiers who make up the force are setting in hand preparations to leave, and are waiting for instructions from their respective countries.

The dismantling and packing process could last about two months.

China refused to extend the mandate after Macedonia established diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province.

The UN Preventive Deployment Force, Unpredep, was set up in 1993 to prevent war in Bosnia-Hercegovina from spilling over into Macedonia.

Kosovo Section
Its mandate was originally due to expire in August 1998, but the UN extended it for six months because of increasing violence in neighbouring Kosovo.

Correspondents say there are suggestions that the UN soldiers could be transferred to Nato authority.

Other side of the coin

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Taiwan, Jason Hu, is on his way to Macedonia with a delegation from government and private businesses to follow up their promises of economic aid and investment.

Mr Hu has pledged $230m in grants and loans to develop small businesses and farms in Macedonia, the poorest of the former Yugoslav republics.

The BBC Balkans Reporter, Paul Wood, says it was perhaps the size of the promised cash injection which led Macedonia to take the risky step of angering the Chinese Government.

Furthermore, Skopje hopes that as a result of establishing diplomatic relations with Taipei an additional $1bn of investment will flow into Macedonia.

Diminishing importance of Unpredep

The cost is sacrificing Unpredep, the first and only purely preventative troop deployment in the history of UN peacekeeping.

[ image: Nato already has a presence in Macedonia]
Nato already has a presence in Macedonia
But our correspondent says the new reality underpinning Macedonian foreign policy is Nato's presence. Now that Macedonia is also host to the large Nato force protecting the Kosovo verification mission, Unpredep's importance is diminishing.

However, the recent Serb shelling of ethnic Albanian villages near the Macedonian border has driven hundreds of refugees into Macedonia.

This led Skopje to accuse Belgrade on Saturday of trying to drag Macedonia into the conflict.

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