NATO's Top Commander Visits Troops In Kosovo

NATO's supreme commander Tuesday was visiting alliance peacekeepers in Kosovo, where tensions have been high in anticipation of proposals for the disputed province's future status.

U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock was making his first inspection of the 16,000-strong, North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led force since taking charge of the alliance last month, after heading the U.S. military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a NATO spokesman said.

The chief envoy for the U.N., which is mediating the Kosovo status talks, plans to issue his recommendations for the province in a report soon after Serbian elections this Sunday.

Many fear the report by Martti Ahtisaari could spark renewed violence between Kosovo's Serb minority and its majority ethnic Albanians, who want independence from Serbia.

NATO's commander in Kosovo pledged last week that NATO peacekeepers, known as KFOR, would respond to any security threat in the runup to an announcement on its future status.

Craddock - accompanied by Adm. Harry Ulrich, commander of NATO's Joint Force Command based in Naples, Italy - was to meet with Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

Kosovo has been administered by a U.N. mission since mid-1999, when NATO launched an air war to halt a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels. Belgrade insists Kosovo should have autonomy but remain within Serb borders.

[Source: Associated Press, Pristina, Serbia, 17Jan07]

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