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Cabinet extends Swiss mission in Kosovo

Swiss troops are to remain in Kosovo Keystone

The 160-strong "Swisscoy" mission in Kosovo is to be extended by a year, following a cabinet decision to remain engaged in the Yugoslav province until the end of 2001.

The cabinet’s decision, announced on Wednesday, comes a day after the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, called for Switzerland to prolong its mission in Kosovo.

A spokesman for the defence ministry, Philippe Welti, said the KFor peacekeeping force had brought stability to the region, and that preserving that stability remained the top priority.

Swisscoy was first deployed in Kosovo in October 1999 to provide logistical support to the Austrian contingent, which forms part of KFor.

Swisscoy must operate under the protection of Austrian soldiers, because Swiss law does not allow troops to carry arms abroad.

The Kosovo mission has cost the Swiss government SFr33 million ($18 million), and it expects to spend a further SFr27 million in 2001.

In addition to the Swisscoy troops, a further 100 Swiss volunteers are helping to rebuild the war-torn province. Some are involved in the reconstruction of damaged buildings and infrastructure, while others are working with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to build democratic institutions.

The Swiss decision to extend the mission follows a similar move by Austria.

swissinfo with agencies

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