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NATO denies troop cuts in Kosovo
March 04, 2009 10:49 AM
BRUSSELS, Mar 04, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- NATO on Wednesday denied that it will cut its troops in Kosovo (KFOR), saying there is no such a plan.
"There is no plan and no decision for any reductions to KFOR," said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer through his spokesman James Appathurai.
"Those who are speculating on any reductions to KFOR, including those in uniform, do not speak for NATO on this issue," said the NATO chief.
"Any changes to KFOR will only be made on the basis of a political decision by all allies. Such a decision will only be taken if all allies are assured that a possible reduction of KFOR will not jeopardize the safety and security of Kosovo. And that time has not come," said de Hoop Scheffer.
The NATO chief was obviously responding to remarks by KFOR commander Italian General Giuseppe Emilio Gay that KFOR troop numbers will be cut this year.
"We are in the phase of reducing our troops and this will happen in every corner of Kosovo," Gay told reporters on Tuesday in the Kosovar capital of Pristina.
The NATO-led KFOR has 15,450 troops today. KFOR entered Kosovo in 1999 under a UN mandate. NATO decided to keep the peacekeepers in the region to deter violence that may arise from the unilateral declaration of Kosovo from Serbia in February 2008.