Albanian Daily News
Serb leader wary of UN-sponsored Protection Corps

Jan 27, 2000

PRISHTINA - Kosovo Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic has voiced reservations about the setting up of the Kosovo Protection Corps under United Nations auspices, arguing that the exclusively Kosovo Albanian corps would alienate the Serb and Albanian communities even further.

He expressed fears that the formation, originally envisaged as a combination of rescue team and fire brigade, could quickly be turned into an Albanian fighting force.

The commanders of the Kosovo Protection Corps - 44 former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army - took oath last week in the presence of the head of the UN-led administration, Bernard Kouchner.

Serb leaders have several times attacked the corps as a continuation of the KLA, which they regard as a terrorist group. KFOR and UN officials have responded by saying that it is better to bind the former guerrillas into the new democracy they are trying to create rather than risk making dangerous enemies.

"There is a time for everything - a time for arms and a time for tools," said Kouchner. "This is the time to build."

It has been announced that the formation will have 3,000 permanent and 2,000 reserve members and that its purpose will be to aid the civilian population in alleviating the consequences of natural disasters and fires.

The chairman of the Kosovo Serb National Council, Momcilo Trajkovic, told Belgrade-based B2-92 radio that the fact that there are no Serbs in these units will only widen the gap between the Serb and Albanian communities. Trajkovic recalled that the National Council had submitted a request for the forming of a Serb protection corps, adding that talks about this were under way.

"The current situation surrounding the Serb national corps is quite bad," he said. "They have rejected the idea to form a wing of the Serb corps as part of UNMIK, but they have offered us an alternative: that the Kosovo Protection Corps, i.e. the Albanian protection corps, does not take part in any operations in areas populated by Serbs, but exclusively in Albanian-populated territories."

"If the international community believes that this is how things should be, we will not complain, even though we have proposed that the Kosovo corps be dismantled because neither the Kosovo Albanians nor Serbs need any military formations or formations such as this one, because this is essentially a continuity or a future military formation of the Albanians in Kosovo," Trajkovic said.

The Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) would deal with helping the population remove the consequences of natural disasters and fires.

"They had the opportunity to extinguish the fire in Kosovo B (steam power station), but unfortunately none of them took part in this," Trajkovic noted. "Moreover, with the arms the Albanians have kept and with a legitimate formation they can become a powerful military force at any given time, capable of performing military tasks."

The Serb leader said he didn’t believe in the demilitarisation of the KLA "because the situation on the ground is extremely bad."

General Agim Ceku, the commander of the new force who served as the KLA’s chief of staff, pledged his corps would serve all the people of Kosovo regardless of their background.

"The whole image of the KPC will depend on our work," he said in his speech. He said his force would devote itself to "the protection and security of life and property of all people of Kosovo."

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