NATO sends 'signal' with exercises in Kosovo Area : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

NATO sends 'signal' with exercises in Kosovo area

Most of the 2,000-soldier strong NATO force will be staging out of Macedonia and then moving into various sectors of Kosovo to conduct their field training, according to the Pentagon

March 16, 2000 Web posted at: 9:16 p.m. EST (0216 GMT)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In this story:

Bridging tensions between Serbs, ethnic Albanians

France, Italy commit troops

U.S. forces seize weapons



From staff and wire reports.

(CNN) -- NATO is sending 2,000 troops, including 1,100 U.S. Marines, to the Kosovo area this weekend for exercises in what officials say is a symbolic show of its resolve to maintain peace in the Yugoslav province.

NATO also said Thursday that more than 500 additional French and Italian troops are being sent to Kosovo to bolster the ongoing peacekeeping effort. That operation began at the end of the NATO war against Yugoslavia over the Serb treatment of the province's majority ethnic Albanian population.

"This should be an unmistakable signal to all parties in the region (that) we will, in a very evenhanded way, continue to make clear to them that any kind of violence ... will not be tolerated," said Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley.

MESSAGE BOARD Rebuilding Kosovo "Considering the history of ethnic conflict in the region going back more than a decade, you can't expect that spigot to be turned off overnight," Crowley added.

The Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will join 900 soldiers from Argentina, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania to participate in the exercises, dubbed Dynamic Response, the Pentagon said.

Officials said the exercises have been planned for a while and were not scheduled because of confrontations this week in the province.

The Pentagon said the exercises, which will continue through early April, have been designed to test NATO's ability to reinforce KFOR, the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force.

Bridging tensions between Serbs, ethnic Albanians

Clashes in Kosovo have been on the rise this year between the majority ethnic Albanians and the shrinking Serb population, especially in the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica.

The city had been tense since the NATO peacekeeping mission started, but violence escalated last month after a rocket attack on a U.N. bus killed two elderly Serbs south of the city.

In the most recent clash, NATO peacekeepers fought with about 300 Serb civilians Wednesday in Kosovska Mitrovica. French troops used tear gas and stun grenades to drive back Serb protesters after NATO removed Serb guards from a bridge linking the ethnic Albanian and Serb parts of the city.

At least 15 Serbs and several peacekeepers and journalists were injured in Wednesday's melee. Nine of the injured Serbs were hospitalized. Dr. Radomir Jankovic, chief surgeon at the Serb-controlled hospital, said two of them had one foot each amputated because of injuries suffered from stun grenades.

French commanders later sought to ease tensions by agreeing to allow Serb guards join international peacekeepers in watching over the bridge.

Serb civilians consider the Serb guards their best defense against attacks by revenge-minded ethnic Albanians from the south bank.

Col. Patrick Chanliau, a French military spokesman, said NATO peacekeepers have shelved plans to remove Serb guards from a second bridge and to establish a security zone there.

France, Italy commit troops

The announcement of the training exercises followed a statement from NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson that more troops are going to Kosovo to deal with "short-term" tensions in the troubled province.

"Having analyzed the situation, NATO has called for these reinforcements, and nations have already responded to this call," Robertson said after a meeting with Croatian foreign ministry officials. "We will have enough troops to deal with the problems in Kosovo."

France reportedly says it will send about 150 soldiers, and Italy will provide 360 soldiers.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin told CNN Worldview that other countries will be considering the request for more troops.

"I don't think people are talking about doubling or tripling the overall troop contingent, but rather trying to make sure that everybody is doing what they can," Rubin said.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday during a trip to Paris that he would discuss the need for reinforcements in Kosovo later in the day with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

"I am in touch with several heads of state," Annan told LCI television. "We need money, police and troops. I hope not only France, but other states, and not only Security Council members, will help us."

U.S. forces seize weapons

U.S. soldiers on Wednesday raided five sites along the southeast Serb-Kosovo border. They seized 22 crates of assorted ammunition, as well as hand grenades, mortar tubes, blasting caps and gas masks. The soldiers discovered booby-trapped minefields and a staging base for possible guerrilla attacks.

They also detained nine ethnic Albanians.

Uniforms also were seized, including some bearing the black-and-red insignias of the "Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac."

A U.S. military spokesman said the sites "were clearly being used as cache sites for weapons, ammunition and supplies" for "fringe or extremist elements operating in Kosovo, Macedonia or the Presevo Valley."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

-- suzy (, March 17, 2000

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