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Swiss troops to be deployed in Kosovo in September

About 160 Swiss troops will be deployed in Kosovo in mid-September and will work in the sector controlled by the German contingent of the NATO-led KFOR troops in the Balkans, top army brass said Wednesday.

This content was published on July 7, 1999 - 12:24

About 160 Swiss troops will be deployed in Kosovo in mid-September and will work in the sector controlled by the German contingent of the NATO-led KFOR troops in the Balkans, top army brass said Wednesday.

Corps Commander Hans-Ulrich Scherrer made the announcement at a news conference in Berne, as the military gave detailed information about the planned deployment of the Swiss unit.

The Swiss company, known as SWISSCOY, will work closely with the Austrian contingent of about 450 soldiers and will take up position in the region between Prizren -- shown above -- and Suba-Reka.

SWISSCOY is to provide logistical support for KFOR troops and will also help rebuild roads, water, electricity and gas installations in Kosovo.

Swiss army staff emphasised that SWISSCOY would not be under the command of NATO and would not take part in any KFOR missions aimed at enforcing peace in the war-ravaged Serbian province.

While the Swiss government insists that Switzerland retains its neutrality, Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi has repeatedly underlined the importance for Switzerland of actively supporting peace and reconstruction efforts in the Balkans. The government approved SWISSCOY in June.

Conservative and right-of-centre political groups in Switzerland have strongly criticised the move, saying the SWISSCOY deployment would effectively end a neutrality policy which has served Switzerland well for decades.

The Swiss army unit will be unarmed, except for a small group carrying light weapons only. Overall security for SWISSCOY will be guaranteed by the Austrian KFOR forces.

The military operation is scheduled to last until 2000 and will cost an estimated SFr55 million ($36.6 million).

Sources: APD, sda-ats

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