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UAE to Keep Troops in Kosovo

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Yugoslavia Today/Reuters
March 14, 2000


Vucitrn (Yugoslavia) - The commander of the United Arab Emirates military vowed on Monday to keep its peacekeepers in Kosovo for at least two more years, a mission that has raised the Gulf Arab state's international profile. "We are committed to this operation and will stay for sure here until at least the end of 2001," Lieutenant-General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zaid al-Nahayan said in the north Kosovo town of Vucitrn. Sheikh Mohammed and Jordanian King Abdullah on Monday inspected the UAE and Jordanian peacekeeping soldiers based in the French-controlled sector of the Yugoslav province, a de facto UN protectorate since mid-1999.

The UAE, which has gained international attention by joining Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeeping force, has about 1,200 troops in the area along with 15 French-made Leclerc main battle tanks and 50 Russian-made BMP-3 armoured fighting vehicles. Another 250 UAE troops, including special forces, and six Apache helicopters are operating in Kosovo in the US-run zone to the southeast, in addition to medical facilities. The troops, the second contingent from the Gulf Arab state since peacekeeping operations started last June, are due to be rotated in April.

Sheikh Mohammed said the Kosovo deployment was offering the UAE troops actual military experience. "This mission also offers our troops real-life operational experience and the chance to operate closely and integrate with the best militaries in the world," he told Reuters. "You can't choose better than NATO. We are also operating in a different weather and terrain" than in [our] hot, desert homeland. "This is a unique experience for us. We are dealing with very serious military personnel from around the world who are dedicated to their work," said one UAE pilot stationed in Vucitrn, 35 kms (20 miles) from the provincial capital Pristina.KFOR has an estimated 37,000 troops in Kosovo.

The UAE is one of the most active arms buyers in the wealthy Gulf region, where its forces are gradually emerging as one of the best equipped militaries. Last week it announced a deal worth $7 billion for 80 state-of-the-art F-16s made by Lockheed Martin of the United States. Earlier models of the aircraft were used by NATO in its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year.

"It is not costing a lot of money," said Sheikh Mohammed of the troop deployment in Kosovo. "Compared to what we are learning and the experience we are receiving, this campaign is not costing too much." Jordan has a smaller deployment in Kosovo. Between 150 and 200 troops and medical personnel are operating in the French zone and 55 troops are attached to the US force.


Jordan's King Says Much Still
To Be Done In Kosovo

Reuters
March 14, 2000

Vucitrn (Yugoslavia) - Jordan's King Abdullah said on Monday the world had rushed to Kosovo's aid last year but added that the job was only half done. "I think the international community delivered ... (but) what is happening now in Kosovo is very important to us," the king told Reuters in an interview aboard a flight back from a visit to Jordanian peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. "Most of the world stood by Kosovo but this is only half of it," the king said.

King Abdullah and the commander of the United Arab Emirates military, Lieutenant-General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zaid al-Nahayan, on Monday inspected Jordanian and UAE peacekeeping soldiers based in the French-controlled sector of the Yugoslav province, a de facto UN protectorate since mid-1999. The king said last May in Washington that US success or failure in the Kosovo crisis would be seen around the world as a measure of its resolve.

Citing the American experience of pulling forces out of Lebanon in the 1980s and Somalia in the 1990s after the deaths of US servicemen, the king at that time raised the question of whether the United States would carry through on what he described as "the final round" in Kosovo. NATO last year carried out a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia to end Serbian repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority. The Jordanian monarch said on Monday that in his conversations with the United States he had made it clear that "new rules" for the world were being set in Kosovo. "This is a symbol of what the future of the world will be like," he said.

King Abdullah said that during his conversations with military and other officials in Kosovo it had been made clear to him that the United Nations "has to deliver". "The Kosovars need to have general security," he said. "We have to help them rebuild their infrastructure. In Kosovo unemployment is at 85 percent. We must help them help themselves."

The UAE, which has gained international attention by joining Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeeping force, has about 1,200 troops in the area along with 15 French-made Leclerc main battle tanks and 50 Russian-made BMP-3 armoured fighting vehicles. Another 250 UAE troops, including special forces, and six Apache helicopters are operating in Kosovo in the US-run zone to the southeast, in addition to medical facilities. Jordan has a smaller deployment in Kosovo. Between 150 and 200 troops and medical personnel are operating in the French zone and 55 troops are attached to the US force.


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