- Title: SERBIAMONTENEGRO: German troops arrive for military exercises in Kosovo
- Date: 17th March 2006
- Summary: SOLDIERS LINING UP VARIOUS OF SOLDIERS SIGNING FOR FLAK JACKETS (2 SHOTS) SOLDIERS RECEIVING BULLETS IN PLASTIC CUPS (2 SHOTS) SOLDIERS WAITING CLOSE UP OF SOLDIERS LINING UP BULLETS SOLDIERS PUTTING BULLETS IN CARTRIDGES (2 SHOTS) SOLDIERS STANDING WITH KIT CLOSE UP OF SOLDIER FIXING RIFLE
- Embargoed: 1st April 2006 13:00
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVAA0YIU84ZE22JK4MZBXTXDUUQ3
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Germany on Thursday (March 16) began deploying 600 troops for military exercises in Kosovo, the disputed Serbian province in the early stages of delicate negotiations on independence.
The German reserve battalion will stay until May, when troops from other nations will deploy as part of an "operational rehearsal" continuing throughout the year.
"This is the first part of 30 soldiers arriving today. They are the advanced team who will prepare the ground for the others who are coming. There will be 600 in total arriving," said Lieutenant Colonel Detlef Schachel, a spokesman for the German contingent of the 17,500-strong NATO peace force in Kosovo, KFOR.
"Reinforcements are coming as part of NATO and the aim is to show that NATO is capable of reacting fast if needed, here and in the region," Schachel said.
The 30-nation force was heavily criticised for its weak and slow response to Kosovo-wide riots in March 2004, when 19 people died and 800 homes were torched as NATO-guarded Serb enclaves were overrun by ethnic Albanian mobs.
NATO is keen to avoid a repeat, with U.N.-led negotiations under way to decide Kosovo's "final status".
Legally part of Serbia, the province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of killing and expelling Albanian civilians as they tried to crush a guerrilla insurgency.
The 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority is now pushing for independence, something Serbia says is impossible.
Direct negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians began last month in Vienna. The two sides are due to meet again on Friday (March 17) to discuss devolving power to ethnic minorities.
U.N. officials have warned that extremists on both sides could try to spark violence to derail the process.
A first unit of 40 soldiers will deploy by military aircraft on Thursday. Schachel said the operation had been planned last autumn.
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