Kosovo city needs more than military - KFOR
PRISTINA, Feb 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) General Klaus Reinhardt, commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo, said on Tuesday his troops could only do so much to bring normality to the volatile city of Mitrovica.
Reinhardt said the way to solve the problems of the ethnically divided industrial city, where deadly violence has erupted twice in the past two weeks, lay as much in restarting its war-ruined economy as in imposing security measures.
"Whatever we do as military, we only can lay the ground for a security situation," he told an evening news conference. "I cannot solve the economic and social problems."
The German general said international officials were putting together a comprehensive package to deal with all aspects of the Mitrovica problem. "The key thing will go into the economic support of the city," he said.
Reinhardt stressed, however, that his troops in Kosovo's French-led northern military sector would continue with special measures to maintain order, such as a night curfew and frequent checkpoints as long as was necessary.
He was speaking after KFOR reported finding a major haul of weapons in an ambulance, abandoned on the main road between Pristina and Mitrovica after the driver spotted a checkpoint.
The ambulance contained 14 anti-tank rocket launchers, 182 explosives grenades, two hand grenades, an AK-47 rifle and a large quantity of ammunition, KFOR said.
Kosovo's U.N. administrator Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile, accused a former French Cabinet colleague of failing to send enough French police to the province because he opposed the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Kouchner told visiting French journalists that Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement was holding back French police that other leaders wanted to send because he had opposed last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Quiet on who responsible
Reinhardt declined to say who he thought was responsible for Sunday's outbreak of gunbattles and other violence in Mitrovica which drew in Serbs, ethnic Albanians and KFOR troops.
Two French peacekeepers were wounded by sniper fire. One ethnic Albanian - identified by KFOR as a sniper - was shot dead by KFOR troops and several people were wounded as battles raged in Serb-dominated northern Mitrovica for about two hours.
The general, in charge of the 50,000-strong force since last October, described the fact his troops had come under fire as "very strange and bizarre", perhaps implying a level of organization behind the attacks, but would not be drawn further.
"We are still investigating and as long as I don't have the entire picture, as long as I have only bits and pieces, I will not disclose them because that would not be fair," he said. "I need more information."
The French commander of Kosovo's northern sector, General Pierre de Saquis de Sannes, said he was convinced the majority of both the Serb and Albanian communities wanted peace.
Most people had stayed calm and not reacted while gunfights raged around northern Mitrovica on Sunday, he said.
"The fighting took place only between the extremists and KFOR forces," the general told reporters on Tuesday, standing in the middle of the bridge which has become a symbol of the city's ethnic division.
He also defended his soldiers against Albanian accusations that they had shown a pro-Serb bias by arresting far more Albanians than Serbs in the aftermath of the violence.
He said most of the fighting had taken place in an Albanian area so it was natural most of those detained were Albanian.
"I know there are many innocent people among them. People just used them for protection," he said, adding suspects would be released as soon as it was clear they were not guilty.