The commander of NATO forces says U.S. and French units have been moved to a key outpost in Kosovo to help prevent violence in what he calls the "most volatile" region the alliance is dealing with. But the officer, U.S. General Bantz Craddock, also says community leaders in Kosovo are helping in the effort to avoid violence when the deadline for negotiations on the province's future passes next Monday. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Washington.
General Craddock told reporters at the National Press Club the American and French units have moved to Camp Nothing Hill in northern Kosovo, just 17 kilometers from the Serbian border. The general says those units should be "a very stabilizing factor," but he is also prepared to send additional forces to Kosovo, if necessary.
"There will be those who want to create mischief, and that will be manifested as strife and potentially violence, in Kosovo. There will be, then, those who will respond to that, against the advice of, I think, calmer heads to not respond," he said.
General Craddock says community leaders in Kosovo want to avoid violence.
"My conversations with the leaders in Kosovo tell me that they are sincere. They sincerely want to avoid violence, and they will work diligently to preclude it," he said.
The NATO commander also expressed concern that if the political situation changes in Kosovo the United Nations mandate for the NATO-led force there might no longer be valid. There is some concern that if Kosovo's government declares independence, it could not only spark violence, but it might put the status force, known as K-FOR, in some doubt.
"We can conceive of circumstances whereby an adjusted political landscape could pose questions that would have to be raised to the political level urgently, in order to get the necessary guidance for commanders to respond. We at allied command headquarters, my headquarters and K-FOR, are looking to the North Atlantic Council to make decisions and give us the authority, if you will, again, in this very complex, nuanced situation," he said.
The K-FOR commander made a similar appeal last week.
General Craddock says the force has extensive plans for nearly any sequence of events, and has rehearsed its responses to various scenarios. He said he is concerned about paramilitary groups in Serbia that are reportedly preparing for violence, but he says there is good cooperation between the NATO-led force and the Serbian military.