Spanish Kosovo pullout to be done in stages: Madrid

23rd March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The pulling out of Spanish troops from Kosovo will be done gradually, says the Spanish defence ministry.

MADRID – The withdrawal of Spanish troops from Kosovo, which has drawn US criticism, will be done in a "staged" and "flexible" manner, the defence ministry said Sunday.

Defence Minister Carme Chacon will meet NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels this week, the ministry said, to discuss Spain's pullout from the NATO-led force in Kosovo, a decision Chacon announced on Thursday.

The United States said Friday it was "deeply disappointed and surprised" by the planned withdrawal.

Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo said Sunday that Madrid has made concessions to the US on the timing of the pullout as well as on its involvement in Afghanistan.

Bernardino Leon, the top aide to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, promised US National Security Adviser General James Jones that the Kosovo pullout would be done gradually and that Spain would boost its contingent in Afghanistan, the papers reported.

Madrid has thus far appeared reluctant to increase its military presence in Afghanistan, saying that sending more troops, as sought by Washington, "is not a solution" to resolving the country's problems.

"The decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Kosovo, a territory whose independence Spain does not recognise, is firm and has been adopted by the government taking into account the operational necessities and the planning of our armed forces," the defence ministry statement said.

"This process will take place in a staged and coordinated manner with our allies" and in a "flexible" way so that "the bulk of our troops are back within the time limit indicated by the ministry," it said.

Unlike a number of European Union counterparts, Spain has declined to recognise Kosovo out of concern that it might set a precedent for separatists at home.

AFP / Expatica

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