Full force of NATO peacekeepers to remain in Kosovo

The NATO peacekeeping mission in the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo (KFOR) has no plans of reducing the number of troops stationed there in the coming year, outgoing KFOR Commander Lieutenant General Roland Kather said on Tuesday.

Full force of NATO peacekeepers to remain in Kosovo
The NATO peacekeeping mission in the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo (KFOR) has no plans of reducing the number of troops stationed there in the coming year, outgoing KFOR Commander Lieutenant General Roland Kather said on Tuesday.

Kather, who steps down as KFOR commander on Friday, said that the peacekeeping mission is making very diligent plans in case violence erupts during this volatile time for the province.

The German Kather steps down Friday. He is to be replaced by his deputy, French Lieutenant General Xavier de Marnhac.

Currently, there are some 15,500 international peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo, and according to Kather, that number is not expected to change in 2008.

Kather said that KFOR intelligence services do not have any leads on possible violence or planned attacks in Kosovo, but would be prepared in case ethnic tensions flare in the coming period.

After failed negotiations throughout 2006 between Belgrade and Pristina, new talks on the future status of Kosovo are scheduled to begin in Vienna on Thursday.

While Serbia is demanding the right to retain sovereignty over the province and preserve its territorial integrity, Kosovo's majority Albanian population is demanding independence.

Neither side appears willing to compromise.

"KFOR will stay with this force until the status question is resolved," Kather said. "People here are concerned and worried about their futures, and we think that KFOR is still needed here," he added.

Kather also said that KFOR would not hesitate in using military force to combat any outbreaks of violence, stating that the March 2004 riots in Kosovo, in which minority Serbian communities were attacked and both Serbs and Albanians were killed, must not be allowed to repeat itself.

NATO bombing ended bloody conflicts between the Serbian military and Albanian rebels in 1999, pushing Serbian forces out of the province and making Kosovo a virtual United Nations protectorate.

International peacekeepers have been stationed in the province ever since the conflict.

DPA
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 10:11
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