March 17, 2000Nato: Kosovo infiltrations may rise
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- NATO's top commander in Europe said Friday he had expected militant Serbs and ethnic Albanians to cross the Kosovo border when winter ended, posing a greater challenge to peacekeepers.
But Gen. Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, said he had not asked for more American troops to be assigned to the NATO peacekeeping force, and said it's unclear whether further reinforcements are needed.
"We knew when spring came there would be increasing efforts to penetrate the borders and do other things like this," Clark said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
He said the border incursions -- both by Serb agents infiltrating Kosovo, and Kosovar rebels entering Serbia -- would require that peacekeepers "work slightly differently than we did in the wintertime."
"But we expected there would be more police and that the money would be there so you would start to see some employment picking up in the Albanian communities."
However, Clark downplayed the need for more peacekeepers, noting recent reinforcements by French and Italian troops, and denied a report in The New York Times that he had requested an additional battalion of 700 to 800 soldiers for Kosovo to prevent Albanian cross-border raids.
"It's not true," he said.
"I've gotten some reinforcements already. I'm taking a longer-term look at the statement of requirements to see what's changed since August. It may require additional capabilities. It may not," he said.
The situation has been made difficult by mounting tensions between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the city of Kosovoska Mitrovica and increasing guerrilla activities in southeastern Kosovo.
American troops from the NATO-led Kosovo intervention force raided suspected Albanian rebel hideouts Wednesday along the province's boundary with Serbia, seizing weapons and ammunition and detaining nine people, the U.S. military said.
The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army has been officially disbanded, but Kosovo Albanian fighters are known to be reforming in some areas of the province.
Troops from the 1st Infantry Division seized more than 200 uniforms, 22 crates of rifle and machine gun ammunition, two mortars, 28 hand grenades, seven rifles, six land mines and other military supplies, the military said.
The United States and other Western governments are worried about cross-border raids by ethnic Albanian militants from Kosovo into the Presevo Valley, which has a substantial ethnic Albanian population.
The 37,000 NATO-led troops in Kosovo are trying to provide security so that the U.N.-run civilian side can restore order and a normal life to the province.
But U.N. administrator Bernard Kouchner says he has been unable to do his job for lack of policemen, judges and money to get a real start on restoring infrastructure.
Lack of progress in on the civilian side has led to the tensions, and that has meant trouble for the peacekeepers.