KFOR, UN say policeman should not have spoken out

PRISTINA, Mar 12, 2000 -- (AFP) International officials said Friday a UN police officer was removed from his post in the Kosovo town of Mitrovica because his public criticism of French troops risked inflaming a delicate situation.

John Adams, a British citizen, deputy regional commander of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) civilian police force in Mitrovica, was transfered Thursday following a public row with French KFOR peacekeepers he accused of barring his officers from a crime scene.

UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said in airing his grievances to journalists Adams "broke the trust of the relationship that was being established between KFOR and UNMIK."

"He brought a functional matter that should have been brought between the two organizations to the press," she told the news conference.

"One does not bring one's problems in such a sensitive situation," she said.

Adams told journalists in the town of Mitrovica on Wednesday that French KFOR troops had hindered a police investigation of a grenade attack by preventing them from getting quickly to the site and by tearing it up with an excavator.

KFOR spokesman Philip Anido said the force had had to deploy bomb disposal teams to secure the area before allowing civilian police through.

"What happened in the street was to allow for movement of the traffic and for better access," he said, adding "I would say that basically the forensic evidence was not compromised."

While granting Adams had a "professional right" to express criticism concerning UNMIK police operations, he criticized the officer for speaking to media, saying "we don't have to raise our linen in public." (sic)

While both officials spoke of Adams as a "highly-respected officer," Manuel said that the situation in Mitrovica was so fragile that the two organizations had to avoid squabbling amongst themselves.

"The situation in Mitrovica is of crucial importance to Kosovo," she said, adding that "the relationship between KFOR and UNMIK police is crucial to the success of Kosovo."

Ethnic hatred divides the mainly Serb population in the northern sector of Mitrovica from the Albanians in the south and the town has been the scene of violence between the communities and directed against peacekeepers.

Repeated clashes since early February have killed nine Albanians and two Serbs, while injuring scores, including French KFOR soldiers.

Each spokesperson stressed cooperation between KFOR and UNMIK was close and getting closer, with Anido saying that "if there is a way of improving that, anywhere at any time, that will be found."

Manuel said: "Cooperation is close because it's ordered to be close," before adding that "it has also developed that way."

UNMIK officers from 33 countries, she said, were "put there in the middle of a crisis," and had "been told to work out a relationship with KFOR," thus finding themselves in a situation "for which there is no manual."

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