U.S. Troops Join NATO in Kosovo
U.S. Troops Join NATO in Kosovo
Jun. 14, 1999
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ More than 1,200 U.S. Marines began entering Kosovo today to take up positions in what will become the U.S.-controlled zone of the Yugoslav province. Diplomats struggled to find a compromise with Russia over its role in the operation.
NATO said more than 14,300 allied troops have entered Kosovo in the three days since the international peacekeeping mission began, with up to 200 flowing in every hour.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the deployment was slightly ahead of schedule, and played down the standoff with Russian soldiers who have taken control of the airport in Pristina, the provincial capital of Kosovo.
Shea said British commander Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, who helped negotiate last week's peace deal with Yugoslavia, would be holding talks today with the leader of the Russian troops in Pristina to resolve the impasse.
``There is no friction at all,'' Shea said, denying Russia's control of the airport was hindering NATO's deployment. ``For NATO, the airport is not needed at this stage.''
NATO said the allies' peacekeeping operations would set up its forward tactical headquarters south of Pristina.
Shea said from NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, that NATO troops already in Kosovo included 4,300 British, 2,800 French, 2,500 German, 2,300 Italian and 2,100 American.
He confirmed NATO soldiers shot to death two Serbs who threatened them Sunday and said the response was a ``clear signal'' to anyone thinking of attacking allied troops.
The weekly newsmagazine Stern identified two journalists killed Sunday in southern Kosovo by unidentified gunmen as a staff photographer and reporter. The magazine said the reporting team's translator was missing.
German soldiers, meanwhile, found the body of a third person carrying German press credentials today, the Foreign Ministry said. The body was found near Suva Reka, in the same area where the Stern reporters were found shot.
The ministry said the press credential on the body was not legible.
Stern identified two staff members killed Sunday near Dulje, a town 6 miles northeast of Suva Reka, as photographer Volker Kraemer, 56, and reporter Gabriel Gruener, 35.
Kraemer died of gunshot wounds at the scene, while Canadian soldiers who found the pair rushed Gruener to a hospital in Macedonia, where he died. Stern said it did not have further information about the incident.
``We are shocked and at a loss. The two colleagues were among the most experienced and sensible reporters at Stern. The deaths are an unimaginable loss for our newsdesk,'' Stern's chief editor Michael Maier said in a statement.
The Marines' convoy moved at first light this morning from Macedonia and headed to southeastern Kosovo, the base of U.S. operations.
President Clinton planned to speak again today with Russian President Boris Yeltsin about Russia's role in the Kosovo peace operation.
In a hour-long conversation Sunday, the two leaders agreed that their generals should work out a role for the 200 Russian soldiers already in Kosovo while negotiating arrangements for a larger Russian contingent, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said.
Russia deployed the troops from Bosnia into Pristina in a surprise move right before NATO troops entered the province Saturday morning. They have since barred allied peacekeepers from the capital's airport.
The NATO peacekeeping mission saw its first casualties Sunday: two armed men shot dead by soldiers in separate incidents.
British paratroopers fatally shot a Yugoslav police reservist Sunday in Pristina after the man fired at a NATO patrol and refused to drop his pistol, the alliance said.
In Prizren, the province's second-largest city, German troops responded to heavy sniper fire, killing an armed man and wounding another. They also had to cool a confrontation between rock-throwing Albanians and retreating Serb militiamen.
Serb troops prevented NATO soldiers from reaching abandoned homes set ablaze in an ethnic Albanian suburb of Pristina. There have been reports of Serb troops setting fire and looting ethnic Albanian homes before pulling back.
``We have the authority to go in, but we don't want to fight our way in,'' British Lt. Damien Walker said. ``We want to do it peacefully.''
British troops reported finding 81 graves thought to contain the remains of massacre victims in Kacanik, a town in southern Kosovo. Earlier accounts spoke of about 98 bodies being found.
Under an agreement reached between Yugoslavia and NATO, Yugoslav troops and Serb paramilitaries are to withdraw from Kosovo by June 20. The alliance said about 10,000 Serb military personnel had left the province _ one-quarter of the forces in Kosovo before the agreement.
The Kosovo Albanian fighters were quick to use the Serb pullout to take control of as much as possible of the province.
In a sweeping move against a government-run mine near Pristina, the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army kidnapped three Serb miners and a driver.
KLA rebels took control of the Morini crossing point on the Albanian border, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.
Meanwhile, the impasse over the airport continued between NATO and Russian peacekeeping troops. On Sunday, British and French military vehicles were again turned back from Pristina's airport by the Russians.
Russia's role in the envisaged 50,000-strong peacekeeping force, which includes 7,000 Americans, was not clearly defined when the peace deal was struck with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said the United States was considering giving the Russians ``a zone of responsibility'' under NATO command.
Russia wants to control its own sector in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs are concentrated. But NATO fears that would lead to the partition of Kosovo.
The 78-day air war that was suspended last week was over a province where 2.1 million people lived until NATO intervened following 13 months of a Serb crackdown against the majority ethnic Albanians. Some 860,000 refugees fled Kosovo, mostly to Albania and Macedonia.