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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK

World: Europe

New K-For leader looks to rebuild

Gen Reinhardt says his priority is a "safe and secure environment"

General Klaus Reinhardt has taken command of the K-For operation in Kosovo, the first time a German officer has commanded a Nato mission abroad.

The BBC's Mark Laity:"K-For must hold the line against the flood of violence"
The handover from British General Sir Mike Jackson was completed at a ceremony in the Kosovan capital, Pristina, on Friday.

The change of command is seen as the end of the first phase of the K-For operation.

Where Gen Jackson presided over a military expedition, Gen Reinhardt will focus on rebuilding civil society in a land devastated by war.

Kosovo: Special Report
"My first priority is to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo. By this I mean all the people of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic origin, religion, or where they live," Gen Reinhardt said.

The situation on the ground will become increasingly harsh as winter approaches.

Gen Reinhardt said he did not agree with those people who said the problems of the Balkans were insoluble, and was prepared to "play tough" to end the continuing ethnic violence in Kosovo.

[ image: Gen Jackson was popular among many Kosovo civilians]
Gen Jackson was popular among many Kosovo civilians
Nato forces are beginning to hand over many of their responsibilities in Kosovo to the United Nations.

The change of command also completed the transfer of Nato headquarters staff, with troops from Gen Reinhardt's Land Forces Central Europe division replacing Gen Jackson's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

At the handover ceremony, Nato's Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, paid tribute to Gen Jackson, saying he had done his mission extremely well.

On the eve of his departure, Gen Jackson told the BBC: "We have achieved what we set out to do. Kovoso is now a very different place indeed."


Looking back at the start of his tour of duty, Gen Jackson said that the first achievement had been to get his troops into Kosovo, following Nato's air campaign.

He had to overcome an early setback, when Russian troops from Bosnia beat Nato forces to Pristina airport, as part of a dispute over K-For's command structure.

The BBC's John Leyne: "General Jackson is extremely popular among troops and Kosovo Albanians."
He said things were now going "pretty well on the whole", but conceded that civil order had not yet been fully restored.

"It is unrealistic to expect everyone to be tolerant and forgiving in one day," he said.

"There are still too many incidents of crime based on ethnic hatred."

Political will

He said people were paying more attention to political solutions, which was important because the military could do little without a political will for change.

[ image: With Prince Charles at Pristina airport]
With Prince Charles at Pristina airport
Gen Jackson said he did not believe the new Kosovo Protection Corps was a threat to the Serb population, despite the fact that it was dominated by Kosovo Albanians.

He said that setting up the force had been the best way to prevent armed elements going underground after the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Despite continuing problems in Kosovo, Gen Jackson said the fact that 800,000 people had been able to return home was a significant achievement in itself.

Gen Jackson also said it was vital that people were brought to justice for violence crimes.

Asked whether that would be possible, he said: "I very much hope so, because without that the job of reconciliation is much more difficult."

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