NATO's peacekeeping force will remain in Kosovo after the new country's constitution comes into force next month, the secretary-general said Friday, the AP reported.
Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the 16,000-strong force, known as KFOR, will remain in Kosovo after June 15, when Kosovo's authorities are to take over control of the country from U.N. administrators. A European Union policing mission will be sent in to mentor the fledgling country's leadership.
NATO has not yet set a final deadline for its mission in Kosovo, and Scheffer's announcement that the force would remain was largely expected. It is also good news to Kosovo's leaders, who depend on NATO to help maintain security in Europe's newest country.
Scheffer, on a brief visit to the Bulgarian capital, also told reporters that it is important that the U.N. and the European Union determine their responsibilities in Kosovo after June 15.
The U.N. has run Kosovo since the war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb troops ended in 1999. Kosovo's Parliament declared the province's independence from Serbia this year.
The NATO-led force includes more than 1,000 U.S. troops, mostly National Guard members.