Deployment of Russian contingent in Orahovac will take time

BRUSSELS, December 3 (Itar-Tass) - German General Klaus Reinhardt, the KFOR commander, told Itar-Tass that the Russian contingent's deployment in the Kosovo town of Orahovac would take time, just as the settlement of the problem of Kosovska-Mitrovica, which is divided between the two communitie -- the Serbian and the Albanian. Stressing the difficulty of the Kosovo problem, the general, who attended the meeting of defence ministers at the NATO HQ here, joked that he came to Brussels to take a bath, because there was no tap water in his Pristina house for nine days running.

According to the general, the four Russian battalions and the Russian logistics unit in Kosovo Pole are discharging very professionally and impartially their tasks of keeping the peace and rendering humanitarian aid to the population of Kosovo. However, the predominantly Albanian population of Orahovac is preventing the Russian troops from entering the town, where they are to be deployed in accordance with the international agreements in force. The KFOR command, the general stressed, has opposed most resolutely the attempts to be led by the Albanians and to find another place for the deployment of Russian units. However, he made it clear that no forcible steps would be taken to deploy Russian troops in Orahovac.

General Rheinhardt, just as the defence ministers of other NATO countries, who met here, tried to paint a rather positive picture of the current situation in Kosovo. He confirmed the conclusion, contained in the official communique of the North Atlantic Council, that the situation in Kosovo is now much better than before the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the province thanks to the invervention of NATO. The general stressed that the Serbs, who fled from the province together with the Serbian army and police, were now returning en masse to Kosovo.

Rheinhardt claimed that KFOR had fulfilled most of the five tasks that were set before it: to ensure the withdrawal of Serbian troops and police from Kosovo; to demilitarise the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) by turning it into a civil non-political organisation, charged with public works; to guaranteed the safety of Kosovo's population; to render assistance to the U.N. provisional administration; and to give humanitarian aid to the population. He expressed regret in connection with the recent murder of a Serbian professor by an Albanian mob, but described it as an individual criminal case, which happen from time to time, but do not spoil the overall picture of the improving situation.

The general admitted that he came also to get money, especially to pay wages to the servicemen of the so-called Kosovo Defence Corps, formed of KLA separatists. Journalists noted that men from this corps are clad in camouflage uniforms of the American army, instead of the originally planned orange overalls of rescuers.

The NATO defence ministers called in their communique to put an end to ethnic violence in Kosovo and stated that they would tolerate no aggressive attacks on national minorities and the emergence of parallel structures, contradicting the goals of the U.N. civil administration the KFOR peace-making forces, as well as the principles of a law-governed stated.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]