24 March 2006

Kosovo's leadership and UN administration urge NATO to stay



Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA)

Date: 03 Feb 2006


Pristina_(dpa) _ The leadership and UN administration of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province on Friday appealed to NATO not to downsize its troops stationed in the province.


The appeal comes in response to reports that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wanted to reduce the number of US servicemen in Kosovo and to have NATO allies assume more responsibility in the province.


"I have on more than one occasion urged NATO to stay the course, to maintain the current level, the current size and capacity, in view of this decisive moment for Kosovo," said Soren Jessen-Petersen, head of the UN Mission in Kosovo.


UN-mediated talks on the future status of Kosovo began last November, while the first direct meeting of Pristina and Belgrade delegations, scheduled for late January, was postponed after the death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, who led Kosovo's negotiating team.


To Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians, full independence for the province is the only acceptable option, while Serbia wants to retain sovereignty and offers far-reaching autonomy.


Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi also urged the US administration not to downsize its forces in the province.


"I appeal to the US, if it has such plans, to postpone them until the final status of Kosovo is settled, because I reiterate that the US KFOR enjoys great respect and trust among Kosovan citizens," Kosumi said.


NATO's peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, currently has 16,000 troops, 1,700 of whom are from the US.