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KFOR troops in Kosovo until Milosevic quits - UK

LONDON, Mar 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) Britain said on Tuesday that NATO-led peacekeeping troops would not leave Kosovo while Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remained in power in Belgrade.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said the international community needed to help find a status for Kosovo, still a Yugoslav province, that was acceptable to all its inhabitants and neighbours.

"That in turn needs a government in Belgrade that is truly democratic," he said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London. "Kosovo will be a long haul.

"You have no place in this future," Hoon said in a message to Milosevic. "Your place is in The Hague."

Milosevic has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) based in the Dutch capital and risks arrest if he leaves Yugoslavia.

Hoon said a key role for the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping troops was to deter further threats from Serbia. "We have to guard against a repetition of (Milosevic's) actions," he said.

The defence minister said ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who had left last year must be allowed to return but the right of Serbs to live in the shattered province must also be recognised.

"We will not stand by and watch a new intolerance replace the old," he said.

An armed ethnic Albanian group has recently emerged in the Presevo Valley area just inside Serbia, pledging to defend the region's Albanian majority from alleged brutality by Serbian security forces.

Western officials fear the group wants to provoke a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian civilians in the belief NATO will then intervene to help them, as it did in Kosovo last year.

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said British judges and prosecutors would start work in Kosovo next month to help revive the justice system there, and 60 British police officers were being sent out, adding to 60 already there.



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