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NATO Charts Kosovo Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 3, 1999 – While the world is stunned by some of the acts of ethnic violence still occurring in Kosovo, NATO officials are pointing to significant accomplishments since the end of Operation Allied Force in June.

Six months ago, 850,000 Kosovars had fled the province and another half million had deserted their homes and fled to the mountains. Neighboring Albania, Bosnia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia faced the humanitarian crisis of dealing with the refugees. Countries around the world began offering safe haven.

NATO officials paint a much different picture today. The alliance's Kosovo Force of almost 50,000 troops from 34 nations, including about 6,000 Americans, has a "robust presence" throughout the province, they said.

NATO forces have been working closely with the U.N. Mission in Kosovo. Officials said electrical service has resumed in the province and now-revived electrical pumps have restored water supplies for the population as well.

NATO's home-heating "winterization" project is about 70 percent complete. German Lt. Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, commander of the Kosovo Force, defined the goal as all Kosovar families being able to heat at least one room of their homes. The alliance is seeking monetary help from the international community to complete the project.

The general told NATO defense ministers meeting here Dec. 2 that more than 810,000 refugees have returned to the province. The weekly return rate of about 4,500 refugees includes an increasing number of ethnic Serbs, he said.

Reinhardt's troops have demined 544 schools, allowing classes to resume in the province. Explosive ordnance disposal teams report clearing 7,408 bomblets, 6,130 anti- personnel mines and 3,481 anti-tank mines.

The Kosovo Force reports it has a handle on provincial security and that the general trend for crime is down. In his update, Reinhardt noted his troops are taking up slack caused by a shortage of police. When NATO moved in last summer, the murder rate in Kosovo was an estimated 190 per 100,000 population -- the rate today is 25 per 100,000, or down more than 85 percent.

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