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KFOR Works to End Ethnic Violence

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo, May 3, 2000 – NATO-led forces are working hard to quell continuing ethnic violence in Kosovo, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

"(Yugoslav President) Slobodan Milosevic will take advantage of any potential conflict in the region," Cohen told reporters during a May 1 visit here. "We have extremism on both sides. That's something we're trying very hard to discourage (among) the ethnic Albanians and, at the same time, not give Milosevic any kind of excuse to try to respond to that.

In recent weeks, NATO-led forces discovered a significant cache of weapons, Cohen said, and prior to that had put down local insurgence without any significant casualties.

"We understand that there are still some flash points that we have to contend with," he said. "We are strengthening our capability of interrupting the flow of weapons that may be transported illegally. We will take whatever measures are necessary to maintain peace and stability in our sector."

About 6,100 Americans are among the 42,000 troops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Cohen stressed NATO's success in driving out Serb forces, allowing more than a million refugees to return home.

"We're hoping that we will provide the basis for the people of Kosovo to establish institutions that will make them self-governing, that there will be local elections held this fall. We want to see institutions built that will allow the people of Kosovo to function in an autonomous way. That's our hope and that's why KFOR is here."

U.S. and NATO officials are looking forward to the United Nations providing more international police so U.S. troops won't have to engage in so many police activities, Cohen said. As things stabilize, U.S. officials expect to see the United Nations take over the major responsibilities, "but we can't put a time frame on that.

"Overall," Cohen said, "we believe the mission is being successfully carried out."

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