NATO: No plans to reduce troops in Kosovo

April 28, 2006 at 12:03 PM

SOFIA, Bulgaria, April 28 (UPI) -- NATO foreign ministers agreed Friday they will keep the number of ground troops unchanged in Kosovo until the future of Serbia's province is decided.

"There is a general stand that the troops of KFOR (Kosovo Force) should remain at the present level until talks on the status are completed," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters.

NATO announced its decision at the end of a two-day meeting of its foreign ministers in Sofia, the RTS Serbian radio-television said.

Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO strongly supports the work of Marti Ahtisaari, the U.N. chief envoy chairing talks between Serbs and ethnic-Albanians on the future status of Kosovo, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

The talks are to enter a fourth round in Vienna, Austria, May 4-5.

Formally, Kosovo is still part of Serbia, but the province has been under U.N. administration and NATO ground troops protection since 1999, when NATO air attacks forced Serbian troops to withdraw from the Kosovo.

NATO forces reacted to stop persecution of Kosovo ethnic-Albanian separatists by police and military forces of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Most ethnic-Albanians say they want a Kosovo independenct of the Serbian government.

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