Commander In Kosovo: Unease, No Violence
SOJEVO, Serbia (AP)--The commander of U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo said
Wednesday he expected unease when a U.N. envoy makes a proposal on whether
the province should become independent, but said he didn't believe violence
Brig. Gen. Douglas Earhart, who is in charge of some 1,500 U.S. troops
deployed in eastern Kosovo, said he believed Martti Ahtisaari's report
"will be very broad."
"Most likely there will be folks that are not happy with parts of it,
there will be folks that will be very happy with some parts probably,"
he told The AP.
"But, with any compromise situation, no one will get everything that
they want," he added.
Speaking outside the sprawling U.S. military base Camp Bondsteel, Earhart
said he is appealing to people to be patient and tolerant to allow for
the process to evolve.
"There's been a lot of personal investment by citizens in this province
and all that investment will be lost if folks just turn to violence," he
said. "I've got to ask myself 'What will that violence gain?' - and I just
can't see it."
Kosovo has been administered by a U.N. mission since mid-1999 following
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's air war that halted Serb forces'
crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
The province's status has been a point of dispute between ethnic Albanians
in Kosovo who are seeking to secede and Serbia, which offers broad autonomy
but wants to keep the province within its borders.
With the two sides deeply divided, U.N. envoy Ahtisaari, who facilitated
year-long talks on the issue, is set to present his recommendations following
Sunday's parliamentary election in Serbia.
Diplomats say the province will likely get some form of independence,
supervised by an international presence, while NATO is set to keep troops
in Kosovo for several years.
There have been fears Ahtisaari's report could spark renewed violence
between the ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb minority. Earhart played
down those fears, saying his forces are anticipating small groups of troublemakers
and pledged that the peacekeeping force was prepared to stave off any violence
that may arise.
U.S. troops in Kosovo are part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force which
has patrolled the province for nearly eight years. The force is down to
16,000 troops from the original 50,000.
U.S.-controlled eastern Kosovo has several ethnically mixed villages
and borders Serbia.
"This mission in a lot of ways demonstrates where we'd like to be in
Iraq and Afghanistan," Earhart said.
January 17, 2007 07:52 ET (12:52 GMT)