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NATO Reinforcements Sent To Curb Clashes In Kosovo

Belgrade, 19 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- NATO countries are sending about 2,000 more troops to reinforce the some 18,500-strong KFOR contingent already deployed in Kosovo as the alliance seeks to clamp down on unrest there.

Britain started sending what will be a total of up to 750 more of its soldiers today. Germany is to airlift 600 of its troops over the weekend. And Italy has pledged 130 more paratroopers.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said in Berlin that the increased military presence will help to end violence in Kosovo. "I hope that the increased presence of German troops, which were sent following a formal request from the German commander of KFOR, will calm the situation," he said. "We know after the recent events that ethnic clashes between Albanians and Serbs can not be resolved as easily as we hoped a couple of months ago."

Some 460 soldiers from SFOR were transferred to Kosovo from Bosnia yesterday.

Human Rights Watch urged NATO and the UN to make protection of minority Serbs in Kosovo their priority. Ethnic violence has left 31 people dead and about 500 wounded since Wednesday.

Thousands of people marched across Serbia today to show support for Kosovo Serbs following the ethnic fighting. In Belgrade, the protest was led by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Riot police prevented hundreds of students from reaching the Albanian Embassy in the Serbian capital.