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U.S. 'Disappointed' By Spain Troop Withdrawal From Kosovo

Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon (center) at the Djakoviva military base in northeast Kosovo
WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) -- The U.S. government has said that it was surprised and "deeply disappointed" by Spain's decision to pull troops out of Kosovo.

Spain said it intended to pull its more than 600 troops from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo by the end of the summer.

"We are deeply disappointed by this decision taken by Spain," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

The NATO-led peacekeeping mission was launched in 1999 after the end of the war between Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

"In 1999 NATO allies agreed on a principle of 'in together, out together,' and so we were surprised by this decision," he said.

Spain is among five of the 27 European Union member countries that have refused to recognize Kosovo as independent.