UN Kosovo policeman shifted after slamming French
Kosovoska Mitrovica, Mar 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) The deputy commander of the U.N. police in the flashpoint Kosovo town of Mitrovica was relieved of his duties on Thursday after criticising French peacekeepers earlier in the week, the United Nations said.
U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said British policeman John Adams was reassigned by regional United Nations police commander Svend-Erik Larsen of Denmark, who had condemned Adams for alleging that French troops had impeded investigation of a clash between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
Adams, of Northern Ireland's Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), had been "relieved of duty" and was recalled to Pristina, capital of the Serbian province, Okabe said.
A Western diplomat in Kosovo told Reuters that Adams had "gone from his post in Mitrovica and is now here in Pristina".
"Given the nature of his comments and the depth of French feeling on the matter it was impossible for him to remain in Mitrovica," the diplomat said.
"But so far as I know there is no possibility of his being sent home before the end of his tour."
The incident exposes friction between NATO-led peacekeeping troops and U.N. police sent to Kosovo, particularly in Mitrovica where police have criticised soldiers of being slow to respond to disputes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
Adams had charged that French soldiers impeded a U.N. police investigation of clashes in Mitrovica on Tuesday in which 40 people, including 16 French peacekeepers were wounded. He said the French troops had destroyed physical evidence that might have been used in future prosecution of the perpetrators.
Four ethnic Albanians have been arrested.
DISPUTE OVER PROCEDURE
Larsen and other U.N. officials said police needed to wait until peacekeepers cleared the area of explosive devices. Adams said the French soldiers were ignorant of "police procedures".
Chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said it was standard procedure and "appropriate" for peacekeepers to secure a site before a joint investigation with U.N. police began.
"I think they regret the comment made by the police officer in Mitrovica complaining about KFOR," Eckhard said.
In Paris, Colonel Henri Pelissier, a spokesman for the French High Command, said he could not understand why Adams, who complained at delays before police were able to interview the wounded, should have trouble carrying out his duties.
He said Albanian casualties were in a Moroccan-army hospital in southern Mitrovica, Serbs were in their own zone of the city and French wounded were in a local military hospital.
"He has no mandate to speak in the name of the U.N. police and his own chief, who is on excellent terms with the French area commander, has made absolutely no mention of any such incident," Pelissier said.
The French have the military lead in Mitrovica, where thousands of peacekeepers backed by armour maintain security against crowd violence and weapons wielded by extremists on both sides.
"What he (Adams) said may have been God's honest truth but he had no business saying it," the Western diplomat in Pristina said.
"These sorts of differences of opinion should be sorted out behind closed doors, not in the press."