Thursday, September 01, 2005

Italian general takes over command of NATO force in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - An Italian general took over the command of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo on Thursday as the province enters the delicate phase that could lead to talks on its long-term future.

In a ceremony attended by the defense ministers of Italy and France and in the presence of senior NATO officials, Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Valotto took charge of the 17,500-strong force for one year.

Valotto, the force's tenth commander since it deployed in the province in mid-1999 after battling Serb forces, replaced the French Lt. Gen. Yves de Kermabon and said he will focus on working jointly with the U.N. officials running the province "to resolve the most important problems of Kosovo."

Adm. Harry Ulrich, the commander of NATO's Joint Force Command based in Naples, Italy, said Valotto takes command at a time when "the hopes of many are at stake."

In a sign of the alliance's improving relations with Serbia, the Serbia-Montenegro's army's chief of staff, Gen. Dragan Paskas, was also present at the ceremony for the first time.

But Kosovo's government issued a statement shortly after the ceremony expressing its "deep resentment" at the presence of the Serbia and Montenegro military delegation in the command handover.

"The participation of a general of an army that has committed crimes in Kosovo and which up to the day has not even apologized ... is an offending act to the feelings of the citizens and an unacceptable act to us," the government said.

Some ethnic Albanian leaders, including Lt. Gen. Agim Ceku, who commanded the former ethnic Albanian insurgents during the war, did not show up at the ceremony.

Ethnic tensions remain high in Kosovo six years after the war. There are fears that these tensions could escalate into violence if there is delay in talks or the outcome is disliked by either side.

Kosovo is dominated by ethnic Albanians seeking independence from Serbia, while Belgrade wants to retain at least some control over its southern province.

Talks to determine its future could begin this fall if the province meets internationally set standards on democracy, rule of law and civil rights for the Serb minority.

Michele Alliot-Marie, the French defense minister, warned of the sensitivity ahead "because there's always a risk that extremists are trying to impede on the smooth implementation of decisions and events."

As he congratulated the new commander, Italian defense minister Antonio Martino said the situation in Kosovo called for "the international community's unwavering attention."

Italy recently took over the command of the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and is also due to take a lead role in peacekeeping in Bosnia.

The United Nations and NATO-led peacekeepers moved into Kosovo in mid-1999 after the alliance bombed Serbia for 78 days and halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.


Anonymous said...

Spaghetti and meat balls...

Anonymous said...

pizza anyone?

Anonymous said...

Thank God the Italians are there!

Anonymous said...

From French to Italians, they're wimps... Look where their bombs ended in 1999 during the NATO bombing campaign. They should be kicked out of NATO for treason!

Italian fishermen injured by unexploded bombs dumped by NATO in the Adriatic Sea

21 May 1999
Two Italian fishermen have been injured after unexploded NATO bombs, dumped into the Adriatic Sea, exploded in their fishing nets. At least 30 unexploded NATO bombs have now been caught up in fishing nets on the Venetian coast close to Aviano, which is NATO's main air base for the launching of attacks into Yugoslavia.

Fishermen in Venice have been on strike over the last week to try to force the Italian authorities to dispose of the bombs, which have made fishing in the area impossible. Italian authorities have asked NATO to explain why the unexploded cargo has ended up in Italian waters.

NATO's response has been dismissive and arrogant. A NATO spokesman was quoted as both acknowledging and defending the dumping of unexploded bombs on several occasions. He claimed that the bombs were dumped in "designated areas in international waters," and that it was common practice for planes which had mechanical problems to jettison unexploded bombs.

A meeting was held in Chioggia last Saturday between 200 fishermen and Italian government officials to discuss the situation. Chioggia is situated east of Venice and is the port where most of the area's fishing boats are based.

The Italian national fishing co-operative president, Enzo Fornaro, rejected NATO's claims that the bombs were disposed of in internationally designated areas. "It would be absurd because once explosives are dropped in the water they risk drifting to other parts of the sea." Massimo Coccia, president of a fishermen's association, also rejected NATO's response. "It's intolerable ... that an arm of the sea regularly crossed by fishermen has become a depot for war material."

The situation in Chioggia has intensified anti-NATO sentiment in Italy. Tens of thousands staged a silent march last Sunday from Perugia to Assisi in central Italy, protesting against the NATO bombing. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said earlier this week that the bombing had "certainly not produced the results that had been expected".

The economic effects on the fishing and tourist industry in Chioggia are part of the growing costs to the Italian economy for its part in NATO's war effort. It is estimated that in the first month of the campaign Italy had spent over 2,700 billion lira as a strategic country in the NATO alliance.

Anonymous said...

A Short Plane ride to Pristina
Zero Dollars

Limousine Ride from Airport
Zero Dollars

Albanian reaction to General Dragan Paskas chief-of-staff of the Serbia and Montenegro army attending ceremony attending a ceremony in the Kosovo capital Pristina marking the handover of command over the NATO-led peacekeeping force from France to Italy….

Anonymous said...

to 1:21AM Poster

Just so you are aware, some of those bombs were dropped there by the US and UK Airforces also.

Do you want to kick them out too?