Struck: NATO Needs to Stay in Kosovo Beyond 2006 | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.03.2004
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Struck: NATO Needs to Stay in Kosovo Beyond 2006

German Defense Minister Peter Struck has said peacekeepers will have to remain in Kosovo much longer than previously expected after recent clashes between Serbs and Albanians in the region.


The funeral of two Albanian boys took place under tight security.

In an interview with German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, Struck described the situation as extremely unstable and warned both sides not to attack Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. "They should know that NATO and the German military will defend themselves with all possible means," Struck said. "NATO will win this conflict with its military might."

Verteidigungsminister Peter Struck 20. Juli Gedenkfeier

Peter Struck (left)

Struck (photo) said he didn't expect NATO troops to leave the province by the original departure date of 2006. "We'll have to stay much longer," he said. "We'd planned to withdraw bit by bit, but that's not going to happen now."

Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, began sending additional soldiers to Kosovo on Saturday. Altogether, 600 troops will be added, bringing the German presence to 3,800 soldiers.

No violence at funeral ceremony

While tensions in the province had eased on Saturday after several days of fighting, there were fears that violence would return in connection with the burial of two Albanian boys on Sunday.

Serbisches Haus brennt in Kosovo

A Serbian house on fire south of Mitrovica on Saturday.

Serbs had allegedly thrown three boys in the river Ibar in the town of Mitrovica on Tuesday, causing them to drown. The boy's deaths sparked the recent clashes between Serbs and Albanians during which at least 28 people were killed, 600 were wounded and thousands were displaced from their homes, according to UN officials.

Two of the boys were be buried on Sunday, the third has not been found so far. About 8,000 Albanians attended the funeral ceremony in the town of Cabra. It took place under tight security, with hundreds of soldiers from Germany, Denmark and Pakistan as well as Italian police officers on guard. An unmanned surveillance plane, three helicopters and German snipers also observed the area.

Meanwhile officials in Montenegro, which forms a union with Serbia, said they were willing to serve as mediators between Serbs and Albanians in the conflict. Ranko Krivokapic, the president of Montenegro's parliament, said on Sunday he planned to make the offer at a Kosovo conference on Friday in Lucerne, Switzerland. He added that he believed Montenegro could better help along negotiations as the conflict in Kosovo was a "conflict of two nationalisms."

Political solution needed

Commenting on the situation in Kosovo on German public radio Deutschlandfunk, The former head of KFOR said he believed increasing the military presence in Kosovo would not solve the problem. "You can't solve social conflict with the military, you have to do away with the causes," Klaus Reinhardt said. "Something happens and what do they do? They send in more soldiers."

KFOR Soldaten in Kosovo

German soldiers of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo guard the UNMIK United Nation Mission In Kosovo regional headquarters in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren on Friday.

Reinhardt added that little had been done to improve the situation in Kosovo since the war in 1999. Without a political solution to the problem, the province's economy could not be privatized, keeping away outside investors that could create jobs. This lack of a political solution would lead to frustration, which would turn into violence, Reinhardt said.

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