Nato's Robertson says Kosovo under control

ATHENS, Feb 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said on Thursday that alliance forces had the situation under control in Kosovo and would make sure a peaceful, multi-ethnic society was put in place.

He said NATO already had enough troops on the ground in the Yugoslav province to keep the peace but that alliance ambassadors would discuss the issue of troop strength in Brussels on Friday.

"We are firm, we are tough, we are fair," he told a news conference. "We are going to stay there until we have done the job."

Robertson was speaking as ethnic tensions rose in the Yugoslav province, particularly in the divided town of Mitrovica where NATO troops on Wednesday launched their largest operation to date to round up weapons.

He said the town was now calm. "The situation in Mitrovica is much quieter that it has been in the last week. The KFOR (NATO's Kosovo force) troops have the situation under control," he said.

"There is no panic. There is no trouble at the moment."

Robertson pledged not to allow activists from either the Serb or ethnic Albanian communities to disrupt progress towards peace.

"Their actions will not be tolerated," he said, referring to recent clashes.

A senior NATO military official told Reuters earlier this week that the alliance was asking for more troops to be sent to Kosovo to help contain the situation. He said NATO only had 30,000 troops in the province instead of the planned 49,000.

France said that it was sending in 700 new troops and the United States said it was considering beefing up its contingent.

Robertson said the current NATO force was large enough and flexible enough to get the job done by shifting forces from one area of the province to another.

"We have enough troops in Kosovo to deal with the situation," he said.

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