Nato chief urges more civilian police officers in Kosovo

LONDON, Feb 27, 2000 -- (AFP) NATO Secretary General George Robertson on Saturday appealed to the international community to send more civilian police officers to help keep the peace in Kosovo.

Robertson told BBC Radio it was proving difficult to combat the "legacy of hatred and violence" between the province's Serb and ethnic Albanian populations, and argued that a stronger civilian policing presence was needed in the war-torn Serbian province.

"We need more police in there, and the international community through the UN is not providing enough," said the former British defense minister.

Robertson's comments followed weeks of clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica, where tensions have been high since a grenade attack on a UN bus on February 2 killed two elderly Serbs near the town.

Nine people have been killed in various clashes since then, prompting the NATO-led KFOR military force to carry out massive searches to seize weapons.

After NATO last year successfully ejected Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces from Kosovo, 42 countries said they would provide a combined force of nearly 4,800 civilian police officers to help return law and order to the province.

But fewer than 2,000 are currently in place, of which around 60 are from Britain.

On Saturday, a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP that Britain would double the size of its civilian police deployment in Kosovo to 120 officers following a decision by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon agreed earlier in the week.

"Training will begin as soon as possible. A time has not been given for their deployment. All depends upon selecting officers and getting them trained up and ready," the spokesman said.

UN administrator in Kosovo Bernard Kouchner called on Friday for as many as 2,500 extra police in the troubled province.

Kouchner told France's Europe 1 radio: "The smallest arrivals would be a gift for us. We will reinforce the UN police presence in Mitrovica. It is not enough. We want 300 in the town itself."

As for soldiers, Robertson reiterated Saturday that NATO's troop presence in Kosovo was sufficient, while more could be deployed if necessary.

"(NATO force in Kosovo commander) General Klaus Reinhardt has enough troops to be robust and even-handed. And KFOR is capable of dealing with all troublemakers at the moment," Robertson said.

"If more troops are necessary, the NATO council yesterday (Friday) said they will be provided."

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