24 March 2006

UN mission chief appeals against possible U.S. troops cut in Kosovo

XINHUA, UPDATED: 14:11, February 04, 2006


Chief of the UN mission in Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen appealed on Friday against possible U.S. troops cut in Kosovo as the Serbian province is facing the future status talks, said reports reaching Belgrade from Pristina.


Jessen-Petersen made the appeal in response to press reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to reduce the number of U.S. soldiers in Kosovo.


 "We are all working together in Kosovo and the Balkans. Of course, we all went in together, and we have said we will come out together," Rumsfeld said in an interview with the Financial Times. "I am personally hoping that we can continue to reduce some of our forces there."


Rumsfeld's comments come as the U.S., Russia and major European countries step up efforts to find a political solution for Kosovo, which has been run by the United Nations since mid- 1999.


Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants outright independence while ethnic Serbs side with Belgrade to insist on Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo. The first face-to-face status talks, which was originally set for Jan. 25 in Vienna, was put off until February due to the sudden death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova on Jan. 21.


Jessen-Petersen said he had made repeated appeals to the U.S. and NATO to maintain the current level of military presence in Kosovo at the crucial time of future status talks.


The United States has about 1,700 troops attached to a 16,000- strong NATO mission, which is designated to provide security support to the UN mission in Kosovo.