French defense minister calls for troops to beef up Kosovo police

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia,, Jan 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) French Defense Minister Alain Richard said Sunday that NATO-led troops in Kosovo should perform more police work, notably to halt organized crime.

During a New Year's visit to French peacekeeping troops in the troubled Serb province, Richard said: "We have to accept the fact that the UN police force will take months and months before it adapts to laws on the ground."

"Soldiers will therefore have to do more," he said.

Of the roughly 6,000 police officer slated for Kosovo, only around 1,800 have deployed, and those are hampered by logistics problems.

"We know that fraud but also racketeering continues to develop. If we do not find a practical solution, it means we are resigning ourselves to a reign of mafias," Richard warned.

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