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17 March 2004

NATO Chief Condemns Deadly Inter-ethnic Violence in Kosovo

Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer appeals for calm

The NATO Secretary General issued a statement March 17 strongly condemning the new and deadly inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the "senseless loss of life" would make it more difficult to meet the standards for a "stable, multiethnic and democratic Kosovo" laid down by the international community, and that only the extremists could hope to gain by it.

He said an investigation has begun into the deaths of several children in Kosovska Mitrovica, the incident that sparked the riots, and he urged Kosovo's ethnic communities to remain calm and avoid further violence.

Following is De Hoop Scheffer's statement:

(begin text)

NATO Press Release
17 March 2004

STATEMENT BY NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ON THE SITUATION IN KOSOVO

I strongly condemn the inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo that began yesterday and in which seven people have been killed and dozens injured. I also deplore the attacks on KFOR soldiers who have been operating at great personal risk to stop the violence and uphold law and order. These attacks are outrageous and must stop immediately.

This latest outbreak of violence and senseless loss of life will only make it more difficult for Kosovo to meet the standards that the international community has laid down for the creation of a stable, multiethnic and democratic Kosovo. No one except the extremists can hope to gain from such violence.

I urge all ethnic communities in Kosovska Mitrovica and in the rest of Kosovo to avoid further escalation, to act with calm and to refrain from demonstrations and road blocks. A legal investigation into the incidents leading to the death of children in Kosovska Mitrovica is under way by the Kosovo authorities and the perpetrators must be brought to justice through the rule of law.

My sympathies are with the victims of these incidents and their families. My particular concern is the condition of the French KFOR soldiers, of which some are reported to be seriously injured.

I salute the courage and professionalism of the KFOR soldiers who are there to help all the people of Kosovo and to maintain a safe and secure environment.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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