30 Irish officers to monitor peace in Kosovo

 

Ireland will initially send 30 Army officers to take part in the international peace-monitoring mission in Kosovo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, said yesterday. If the mission is expanded, Ireland has made clear another 20 officers will be available.

Four officers will be sent immediately to Vienna to join the planning team for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe "Kosovo Verification Mission".

The full mission of 2,200 unarmed observers will be deployed in two equal groups throughout the province as soon as logistics teams have prepared the ground for their arrival.

The deployment of international monitors had been agreed by the Serbian authorities in response to threats by NATO to use force unless troops were withdrawn from Kosovo. It was authorised by a UN Security Council resolution on Saturday night which also sanctioned unarmed overflights by NATO aircraft to monitor troop movements.

But the resolution does not explicitly sanction the use of force to protect the mission, an issue raised by Mr Andrews at yesterday's EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.

Ministers, who expressed their concern at the pace of Serb withdrawal, also heard a report from the Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Ms Emma Bonino.

Ms Bonino said conditions were not yet safe enough for refugees to go home. She told reporters before briefing ministers: "These people had their homes burned down. Now it's snowing."