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Sunday, June 6, 1999 Published at 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK


UK

Extra British troops arrive in Balkans

Thousands more troops will soon arrive in Macedonia

The first of the extra British troops being sent to Macedonia en route to Kosovo have arrived in the Balkans.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nearly 2,000 paratroops flew to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire on Saturday night, to become part of Nato's peacekeeping force.

Early on Saturday, 200 men from the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

They were being followed by a further 800 paratroopers leaving the base during Sunday, and a further 1,000 troops - including Gurkhas and troops from the Royal Irish Regiment - who will fly out on Monday.


The BBC's David Bottomley: A firm commitment to use force if necessary
On Monday, the number of daily flights of British troops to Skopje will be stepped up from 10 to 20.

The troops will be part of a 13,000 strong British force which will be poised to enter Kosovo by next weekend, including 5,500 British soldiers who were already in place as part of Nato's ACE Rapid Reaction Corps.


British Army spokesman Gordon Skilling: "They will be there as long as it takes"
Around 11,000 troops will be ready at Macedonia's border with Kosovo by Thursday, and a total of 13,000 by next Sunday.

It means the number of British troops in the region will have more than doubled over the next week.


[ image: Warm welcome for soliders]
Warm welcome for soliders
Paratroopers waiting to leave RAF Brize Norton said that morale among the men was good, and that they were eager to begin operations.

Corporal Mick Rayner from Harrogate, Yorkshire, said: "We just want to get out there and see what's going on for ourselves.

"We may be out there for six months and obviously the guys are going to miss their families, but it's part of the job and probably the hardest part of the job.

"I'm leaving my wife and six-year-old daughter. It's difficult for them as well, but they're getting used to it."

Lieutenant Sean Phillips, from Leicester, said: "This is the paras' first foreign operational tour other than Northern Ireland since the Falklands.

Prepared to postpone wedding

"We've trained hard and we're ready to go. Our role may well be changing from a potentially aggressive one to more of a passive role, but the men are eager to see for themselves the extent of the problems out there.

"I know it's difficult for those with families but we've been waiting a long time for a tour."

Lance Corporal Jonothan Edwards, from Llanelli, South Wales, said he expected that he would miss his own wedding, scheduled for September.

"I don't know how the fiancée's feeling about it," he said.

"We don't really know how long we're going to be away, but we're both realistic and prepared to postpone the date.

"It's difficult for us both but it's something you learn to expect."



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