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French, Maybe U.S., Troops To Kosovo

February 23, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ France is sending 600 to 700 more troops to help quell the rising violence in a divided city in northern Kosovo, and the United States may send in a Marine unit, U.S. and French officials said Wednesday.

``We have already decided″ to dispatch a French Army battalion to the city of Kosovska Mitrovica, in a part of Kosovo controlled by French peacekeepers, French Defense Minister Alain Richard said at a news conference with William Cohen, the U.S. defense secretary.

Cohen said no decision has been made on whether more American troops would go. But a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Marine Expeditionary Unit was on standby for possible movement into the French sector of Kosovo.

The rising tensions in Mitrovica over the past three weeks prompted the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body, to call a special meeting for Friday in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia from which Yugoslav forces were pushed by a NATO bombing campaign last spring.

A U.S. official said Army Gen. Welsey Clark and the German general in charge of the NATO peackeeping operation in Kosovo had requested three additional NATO battalions for the French sector. That would be roughly 1,800 to 2,000 soldiers, in addition to the approximately 30,000 NATO troops in all of Kosovo now.

Richard said France immediately would dispatch one battalion. NATO authorities were to meet later this week to decide how to allocate the other two battalions Clark said are needed to control the ethnic violence.

Several NATO countries had designated units as a strategic reserve in case a problem such as the one in Mitrovica arose. They reinforcements include units from Italy and Poland, plus the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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