GRACANICA, Kosovo, July 21 (UPI) -- A U.S. admiral said NATO will reduce its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo by about 4,000 within the next six months to a year, Serbian officials said Tuesday.
U.S. Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, commander of the NATO joint force command in Naples, Italy, said the peacekeepers will continue to provide security for about 200,000 Serbs in Kosovo, the Serbian news agency Beta reported.
Fitzgerald met with Rada Trajkovic, a prominent leader of the Serbian minority in Gracanica in northern Kosovo on the plan.
NATO commanders have said they plan to reduce the number of troops from the current 14,000 to less than 10,000 next year. The commanders said the security situation in Kosovo is relatively stable.
NATO troops have been in Kosovo since 1999 when the alliance sent peacekeepers to curb ethnic Albanian-Serb conflicts.
Leaders of ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population, declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 despite vehement opposition from Belgrade.