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Kosovo peacekeeping force to maintain full capability

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Meeting in Brussels on 9 June, NATO Ministers of Defence confirmed that KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, would maintain its full operational capability of around 17,000 troops.

Speaking at a press conference, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters that KFOR would maintain its combat capability as the province enters the sensitive period of the so-called 'standards review'.

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A UN-led review of the province's compliance with international standards - including the rights and freedom of movement of minorities - is due this summer. Depending on its outcome, it could lead to the initiation of negations on the final status of Kosovo and is widely regarded as a very important moment for Kosovo's future.

The sensitivity of the situation in the province was highlighted dramatically in March last year, when 19 people died in widespread riots that NATO has assessed to have been orchestrated largely by ethnic Albanian extremists.

Since then, KFOR has significantly improved its capability to handle such disturbances, tripling its crowd control capability.

Member countries have also removed a number of caveats on how their troops can be used, providing the KFOR Commander with greater flexibility in responding to any such situations in the future and moving troops to hot spots.