Albanian Daily News
'UN solve problems on Protection Corps'

Albanian Economic Tribune - Jan 20, 2000

PRISHTINA - International officials and former guerrillas said on Wednesday they had settled their differences over the creation of a civilian protection corps for Kosovo.

Leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which is being set up to provide a new role for ex-rebels who had battled Serb rule, will be sworn in at a ceremony on Friday after talks late into Tuesday night removed the last obstacles to creating the new unit, officials said.

"All outstanding issues were ironed out," said Nadia Younes, spokeswoman for the United Nations-led administration charged with running Kosovo since last June, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces repressing the ethnic Albanian majority.

As part of the agreement, the former guerrillas gave up their insistence that the corps should have military ranks. Leaders will, however, wear insignia denoting their seniority in the organisation, a deputy commander of the new corps said.

The ceremony had originally been scheduled for Wednesday morning. The dispute over ranks highlighted the difference between how international officials and Kosovars view the corps.

International authorities said earlier on Wednesday they had postponed the oath ceremony. The United Nations and the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force would say little about why the ceremony was postponed, but they have been at odds with the former guerrillas over whether the new force should have military ranks.

"There are some administrative details to work out," said Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido, a KFOR spokesman.

While the United Nations and the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force insist the new entity must be a civilian body dedicated to disaster relief and reconstruction of war-shattered infrastructure, many former guerrillas see it as the nucleus of a new army.

Too Much Work to Be New Army

But Ramush Haradinaj, the Kosovo Protection Corps’ deputy commander, said any discussion about an army was irrelevant. The corps would have its hands full repairing war damage and helping people in need for the next few years, he said.

"Then we should ask for new tasks - but not before," he told Reuters at the organisation’s general headquarters, a former vehicle registration centre on the outskirts of Prishtina. "It’s going to take one, two, three years."

Major diplomatic powers oppose independence for Kosovo, which legally remains part of Yugoslavia although it has been under de facto international control since June.

Haradinaj, a former regional commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said it was more important to get the corps up and running and rebuilding the territory than to get held up on issues like ranks. "We need to start to work," he said.

NATO and UN officials drew up plans for the corps as part of a deal sealed last year to disband and disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian guerrilla group which fought against Serb rule.

The corps is to consist of around 3,000 full-time members and 2,000 reservists. Its commander is General Agim Ceku, the former KLA chief of staff who also served in the Croatian army.

Officials have struggled to recruit members of Kosovo’s Serb minority to the corps to balance its strong links to the KLA, which many Serbs view as a terrorist organisation.

But Haradinaj said one Serb was among 120 members of ethnic minorities so far selected to take part in the corps. Younes said one of Ceku’s three deputies would be a non-Albanian.

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