Nato chief tries to reassure US Congress

WASHINGTON, Jun 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told members of the U.S. Congress that Europeans were bearing their fair share of the burden of peacekeeping and reconstruction in Kosovo.

At meetings on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where legislators have tried to set conditions for U.S. troops staying in the troubled province, Robertson said on Thursday he also tried to reassure them that Kosovo was beginning to stabilize.

The House of Representatives last month approved a measure requiring withdrawal of U.S. troops from Kosovo next year unless European allies meet their aid commitments.

The Senate, heeding objections from the Clinton administration, later killed a proposal to require a troop withdrawal next year unless Congress authorized them to stay.

Robertson told reporters: "I brought two strong messages (to Congress). One is that in Kosovo the European allies are carrying the bulk of the burden."

He said Europeans account for 80 percent of the 45,000 peacekeeping troops in Kosovo and Europeans were spending 10 times as much as the United States on development assistance to the countries of southeastern Europe.

"I also came to say that obviously things (in Kosovo) are going better than some people think. We're there for the longish haul, but not as long as some of the pessimists think... It may get in the area slightly trickier before it becomes easier," he added.

He said that there were grounds for optimism and that he expected the size of the peacekeeping force to decline over time, as it has in the similar case of Bosnia.

Members of Congress who met Robertson were not immediately available to say whether he had convinced them.

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