Europe

Nato to halve its force in Kosovo within months

K-For helicopters on an exercise, October 2010
Image caption Nato and allied troops combine to make up K-For

The mainly Nato peacekeeping force deployed in Kosovo is to be halved from around 10,000 to 5,000 soldiers over the next few months.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the security situation had improved and local institutions were increasingly able to assume security tasks.

At the end of its war with Serbia in 1999, Nato had 50,000 soldiers in the Serbian province.

Sporadic clashes continue between ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs.

Kosovo's Albanian majority declared the province to be an independent state two years ago but its secession has never been recognised by Serbia, which was forced to withdraw its security forces during the war.

Since the war, the peacekeeping force, or K-For as it is known, has guarded the province's numerous, mainly Serbian, ethnic enclaves.

"Security conditions in Kosovo continue to improve, which is a positive sign not only for Kosovo, but for the whole region," Mr Rasmussen said in Brussels.

"Local institutions are increasingly capable of assuming responsibility for security tasks."

Nato intends to reduce its presence in Kosovo further, to 2,500 soldiers by 2012, depending on security conditions.

There was no immediate reaction from politicians inside Kosovo.

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