LONDON, Dec 3, 1999 -- (AFP) NATO Secretary General George Robertson said Thursday the Luxembourg-based Eurocorps should assume command of the NATO-led mission in Kosovo (KFOR) next year but denied the move would create a European army.
"It would certainly be a step forward in European defense if the Eurocorps were to be deployed" in the embattled province, Robertson told BBC radio.
Created in 1993, the Eurocorps -- which groups Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain -- has some 60,000 military personnel and more than 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles.
"The Eurocorps ... believes that it can form a headquarters for the operation. But of course it would still be a multinational operation and it would still be under the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe," the NATO chief said.
Robertson sought to reassure Washington, worried by recent moves to reinforce the "European defense pillar," that a Eurocorps deployment would not constitute the creation of a European army.
"We're not talking about a standing European army, what we are talking about are national forces who can fight together, keep peace together, so that more of Europe doesn't mean less of America. It means a stronger alliance," he said.
When asked about European Commission President Romano Prodi's proposal to create such an army, the former British defense secretary shrugged off the idea.
"Well, Mr. Prodi may well have his own opinion on the long term but Mr. Prodi is in charge of the European Commission, which doesn't have any remit so far as the common foreign and security policy is concerned," he said.
Robertson made his comments as NATO defense ministers convened their biannual meeting Thursday in Brussels, with Kosovo topping the agenda.
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