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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 19:58 GMT
Dispute mars Kosovo inauguration

KLA The KPC leaders all belonged to the KLA

By Balkans correspondent Paul Wood

The formal inauguration of the Kosovo Protection Corps has taken place in the capital, Pristina.

By next September, it will consist of some 3,000 active members and 2,000 reservists.

Forty-three of the KPC's leaders were sworn in, all former members of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

They say that the KPC is a security force and the nucleus of the army of a future independent Kosovo.

However, the Nato-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, K-For, and the UN mission, Unmik, insist that the KPC is purely a civil protection body to assist in civilian emergencies, such as fires or floods.

Wrangle over rank

The international community's problems in Kosovo are perfectly illustrated by the lengthy wrangling over the KPC and whether it will look anything like an army-in-waiting.

Hashim Thaci Hashim Thaci: 'Ready to defend borders'
The latest dispute, which delayed the inauguration ceremony for two days, was over ranks and insignia.

A K-For spokesman said that 11 levels of increasing seniority had been designated and there would eventually be descriptions such as commissioner or warden, which would suggest a strictly civilian role.

This was, however, undermined by members of the KPC giving out leaflets at the inauguration ceremony, explaining that the numbers correspond to military ranks, such as major, captain or general.

The KPC is allowed only 200 side arms, but would like many more and there are no Serbs - something the UN is trying to change.

Long-running dispute

These problems all stem from the beginning of the Nato-led mission in Kosovo.

There were never any round table peace talks - just an ultimatum to Belgrade, which was eventually accepted, followed by discussions with the KLA after Nato had arrived in the province.

The KLA was grudgingly given a future role as the Kosovo Protection Corps, but the aims of its members and of the international community remain very different.

Hashim Thachi, the KLA's former political leader and now head of the self-appointed provisional government, said after the ceremony that the KPC would be ready to protect the security and borders of Kosovo.

That was denied by K-For.

It is a dispute that will continue until the final status of Kosovo - independent state, or international protectorate - is resolved.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Kosovo's uncertain new year
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Kosovo's elusive peace
16 Sep 99 |  Europe
Kosovo Corps - an army for Kosovo?
22 Sep 99 |  Europe
KLA deal a 'milestone' for peace
20 Sep 99 |  Europe
KLA signs weapons pact

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