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Thursday, July 30, 1998 Published at 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK

Kosovo: Financing The KLA

The KLA's funding comes mainly from western Europe

By Gabriel Partos

The Kosovar Albanians have suffered two setbacks this week: the loss of their main stronghold, Malisevo, and the freezing of two bank accounts in Switzerland.

Three weeks ago the six-nation Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia demanded an immediate end to the financing and training of the Kosovo Liberation Army outside Kosovo, following the KLA's repeated rejection of a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Kosovo conflict at a time when its fighters were gradually extending their hold over Kosovo.

[ image: Captured KLA weapons]
Captured KLA weapons
While the international community had already imposed economic sanctions on Belgrade and threatened possible Nato military action against Serbian military targets, the only way it could put pressure on the KLA was through restricting supplies to the guerrillas in Kosovo.

The bulk of the money needed to buy arms and other supplies for the KLA comes from western Europe. No one knows the exact size of the expatriate Kosovar Albanian community made up of immigrants, guest workers and refugees but estimates vary between 400-500,000 .

In addition to money sent home to relatives, Kosovo's internationally unrecognised government-in-exile has been collecting a tax of 3% of earnings. Its Prime Minister, Bujar Bukoshi, who is based in Germany, has repeatedly denied that the money is used to buy arms - he says that it's spent on running the health and education services.

Nonetheless, other - more radical - organisations have emerged in recent years and one of them, the Popular Movement of Kosovo or LPK, is widely regarded as the political wing of the KLA.

In recent weeks the authorities in several countries, including Germany and Sweden, have launched investigations into the KLA's funding. But none have gone as far as the Swiss authorities who this week froze two accounts .

The blocking of these accounts, particularly if followed by similar moves in other countries, could cause some problems to the KLA - though not so much in the short term since in recent months it has been extensively re-supplied across the border from Albania. Indeed, following last year's uprising in Albania and the seizure of a huge arsenal of arms, the UN now estimates that up to 200,000 weapons have been sold abroad - most of them to Kosovar Albanians.

Because of security concerns and poor banking facilities, much of the money pouring into Kosovo and Albania has always gone in the form of cash. Now if Western governments begin to crack down on suspected KLA accounts, KLA sympathisers will have to adopt the same procedure - cash only - at an earlier stage in the funding process.

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