US 'disappointed' Spanish troops leaving Kosovo

21st March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The United States said Friday it was disappointed and surprised by Spain's decision to withdraw its forces from the NATO-led force in Kosovo, adding it had expected allies to act as one.

WASHINGTON - "We're deeply disappointed by this decision taken by Spain," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

"If you recall, in 1999 NATO allies agreed on the principle of 'in together, out together.' So we are surprised by this decision. We were warned just before it was announced publicly," Wood told a media briefing.

Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon said Thursday some 630 Spanish troops with the KFOR force would be leaving the territory in stages by August in coordination with its allies, saying: "It's time to go home."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero insisted Friday he was pulling Spanish troops out of Kosovo because security had improved and Madrid's role made no sense as it did not recognize the territory.

"A year ago, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, and as is well known, Spain did not recognize this," he told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels.

"For this reason, our role in this scenario lost some of its sense, especially once stability in the zone improved," he said.

Later, the prime minister's office in Madrid called for understanding from Washington.

"We respect the position of other countries, but at the same time we ask for respect for our position," said a source at Zapatero's office.

In Washington, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell told AFP that "the decision by the Spanish government with regards to their forces in Kosovo does not in any way impact our forces there."

He said the Pentagon did not anticipate any change to the mission of the 1,500 American soldiers in Kosovo, part of the NATO-led force of 15,000.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in October said that US troops would stay in Kosovo at least through the end of 2009.

AFP / Expatica

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