Kosovo's Thaqi denies links with rebels



PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, March 2 (Reuters) - The political leader of the officially disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army on Thursday denied links with a shadowy ethnic Albanian guerrilla group operating on the internationally-controlled province's border with Serbia.

Serb officials alleged the KLA was directing the activities of the new group, which has reportedly claimed responsibility for an attack on Serb police on Saturday which killed one officer and injured three on the border.

An ethnic Albanian was also killed in the clash, one of a series of violent incidents in the region. A United Nations employee was shot and wounded in the area on Tuesday.

"The murder of a policeman in the territory of Bujanovac municipality shows again in the most brutal way the intention of the big patrons of the KLA to keep this organisation active as a source and perpetuator of crisis in Kosovo and Metohija," Nikola Sainovic, spokesman for the ruling Serbian Socialist Party, told a news conference in Belgrade.

But Hashim Thaqi said the KLA was not involved.

"There is no more KLA. As you know, I was one of the KLA commanders. My impression is that the problem of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac and the appearance of uniformed people has been exaggerated in the media," he told Reuters.

The Kosovo Albanian daily Zeri said on Wednesday that a man claiming to be a commander of the "Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac" -- three ethnic Albanian border villages -- had told it the group had attacked the police.


Two Kosovo Albanian military analysts, both former members of the army of Socialist Yugoslavia who later fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army, said the new guerrilla group could not hope to drive Serb forces from the border region.

"I don't think that Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac could have a military solution. The territory there is not good for guerrillas, because it is very narrow," one analyst said.

"I'm not against self-organisation, but it must be on a political level," he told Kosovo's Koha Ditore daily.

The KLA fought Yugoslav troops and Serb police for a year before NATO launched air strikes last March to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the majority ethnic Albanian province, but made few military gains.

Belgrade only withdrew its forces after almost three months of NATO bombing. NATO-led troops and United Nations administators now control the province.

The other analyst said the rebels on the border would not be able to provoke international intervention on their behalf.

"There is no way the international community will react to troubles on other parts of Yugoslavia," he said.

Thaqi said he wanted to resolve the tensions.

"We and the international community are observing the situation in order to solve the problems in accordance with the rights of the citizens who are living there to overcome armed confrontations which are dangerous for the region."

Original article