Europe's army chiefs discuss Kosovo tactics

STRASBOURG, France, Mar 17, 2000 -- (Reuters) The commanders of 10 West European armies discussed on Thursday how to cope with "no peace-no war" situations in Kosovo where protests are increasingly degenerating into outbreaks of shooting.

"There is a gray zone we have to think about and how to react when members of demonstrating crowds all of a sudden brandish rifles and throw grenades at our troops," said General Yves Crene, commander of France's land forces.

Crene said the Kosovo issue was one of the three main topics which would be debated over two days by members of the discreet but star-studded "Finabel" coordinating comittee composed of the ground forces commanders of France, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Britain, Spain, Greece and Portugal.

Finabel sub-committees meet through the year to exchange ideas and military doctrines and army chiefs meet annually to sum up conclusions. All 10 members countries belong both to the European Union and NATO.

Crene said the issue of controlling potentially violent crowds started becoming an issue for European armies in recent years in Africa.

The problem has occurred in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica where mostly French troops seeking to prevent clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians have themselves become targets with nearly 20 soldiers wounded.

Crene said some countries with troops in Kosovo had prepared their contingents for such situations, and he singled out a Danish battalion as being "perfectly prepared and particularly efficient."

He said France was uncertain as to whether it was better to commit regular troops, with some crowd control training, or gendarmerie paramilitary police, who carry out riot duties in France, to such situations.

Returning heavy fire is especially tricky because inflicting casualties among unarmed civilians would almost certainly cause the situation to deteriorate.

Amnesty International this week singled out French troops for alleged heavy-handed treatment of suspects arrested during one such outbreak of gunfire last month.

Original article