Nato puts off Kosovo reinforcementFriday, 25 February, 2000
Nato ambassadors have decided not to send troop reinforcements to Kosovo for the time being, saying the situation there is under control.
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson said the divided town of Mitrovica was a "potential flashpoint" but said the Nato-led Kosovo Force (K-For) had "dealt with the unrest quickly and decisively."
Recent clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Mitrovica have left nine people dead.
Several thousand Serbs, monitored by a heavy K-For presence, protested peacefully in the north of the town on Friday against the international community's policies in Kosovo.
Military request more help
The ambassadors put off until next week a decision on a request for reinforcements by Nato's supreme commander in Europe, US General Wesley Clark.
He is reported to have asked for an extra 2,000 soldiers for K-For, but a Nato spokesman said after the Brussels meeting that he had not finalised his requirements.
France had already promised to send an extra 700 troops to the province, and has called on other Nato countries to do likewise.
Italy, Belgium and the UK were reported to have expressed willingness to send reinforcements if needed.
Mr Robertson referred on Friday to the French offer saying: "Additional forces have already been offered and force levels are under constant review."
A US Marine contingent is standing by in the Mediterranean Sea to reinforce the peacekeepers if need be. A Pentagon spokesman said no specific request had been received yet.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright left open the possibility of more American troops going to Kosovo, but noted that the US already had the biggest contingent.
Protesters want to stay
About 3,000 Serb residents of the town held a demonstration on Friday in protest at the international community's policies in Kosovo and to demand the right to stay in the province.
There was a strong K-For presence with about 10 armoured vehicles forming a barricade on the bridge across the River Ibar, separating the Serbs in the north from the Albanians in the south.
Hundreds of troops deployed in the Serb sector's streets, blocking road junctions and preventing some people from reaching the meeting.
Local Serb leaders addressed the crowd in the main square. Community leader Oliver Ivanovic accused the international community of failing to understand that that Serbs were now the endangered ethnic group in Kosovo.
He said they would stay in Mitrovica because they didn't want to share the miserable fate of thousands of Serb refugees who are now living in temporary accommodation in southern Serbia.