PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP)--The U.S. is planning to close one of its military bases in Kosovo and relocate its troops to its main base in the disputed province, a NATO official said Monday.
The plan, however, wouldn't affect overall U.S. troop numbers, the official said on condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing the issue.
The U.S. troops would be transferred from Camp Monteith to Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S. base in the province.
"That process may eventually bring a decision to close Camp Monteith later this year," the official said.
Camp Monteith is located in Gnjilane, 50 kilometers east of the capital, Pristina. Camp Bondsteel is some 45 kilometers southeast of Pristina.
A U.S. military spokesman in Kosovo, Maj. Paul Pecena, confirmed the relocation of the soldiers over the past two weeks, but declined to speculate on whether the base would be closed.
The NATO official said a small troop presence would be maintained at Camp Monteith until a final decision is made on closing it.
Some 1,700 U.S. peacekeepers are part of the 17,500-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force, down from a high of 5,000 U.S. soldiers deployed here after the war.
Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since mid-1999, when a NATO air war halted a Serb crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians fighting for independence, and forced Belgrade to relinquish control of the province. Kosovo officially remains a province of Serbia.
U.N.-sponsored talks in Vienna are attempting to resolve the province's future status. Ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 90% of the population of 2 million, insist on full independence. But Serbia, and Kosovo's Serb minority, say Belgrade must retain some control.