Life better in Kosovo despite violence, comments Nato chief

LONDON, Feb 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said on Saturday that the level of violence in Kosovo was unacceptable - but people are far better off there than they were a year ago.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo fired tear gas and imposed a curfew on Friday after an eruption of violence between Serbs and Albanians that caused deep international concern.

The peacekeepers used tear gas and booming percussion grenades to scatter a crowd of several hundred ethnic Albanians in the city of Mitrovica venting their anger after a night of grenade attacks and shootings which left six people dead.

"The level of violence is still unacceptable. It is still much too high," Robertson told BBC Radio.

"If you consider the violence going on this time last year by the Serb government - by its troops and paramilitaries all over that tiny province of only two million people in it - you begin to realize just how appalling it was," he said.

Robertson said an estimated 10,000 people were put to death and a quarter of the population was expelled. "Measured against that, life is immeasurably better (now)," he said.

This week's clashes, hard on the heels of a deadly rocket attack on a UN bus carrying Serb civilians, marked one of the worst spates of violence since international authorities took de facto control of the Yugoslav province in June last year.

Robertson said: "The international community is acting; a level of normality is coming back. For the ordinary Kosovar, life is much much better than it was a year ago."