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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK

World: Europe

KLA 'ready to guarantee Serb safety'

Mr Thaci said the KLA would abide by their commitment

The Kosovo Liberation Army says it will shortly issue a statement guaranteeing safe passage for Serbian forces withdrawing from Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
The announcement came from the KLA's political leader, Hashim Thaci, after talks with the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

"Very soon, the KLA will declare that it will refrain from attacking any retreating Serb forces," Mr Thaci said.

Madeleine Albright: We are united in our determination
The declaration would be made "either today or tomorrow" and he was confident that all elements of the KLA would abide by the commitment.

Pressure on Belgrade

[ image: Mr Thaci says the KLA will become a political group]
Mr Thaci says the KLA will become a political group
The announcement will add to the diplomatic pressure on Belgrade to move quickly towards an agreement on withdrawing some 40,000 Serb and Yugoslav troops from Kosovo.

It came shortly before the announcement of a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for the deployment of a 50,000-strong peacekeeping force in the province.

Also attending the meeting with Mrs Albright was Kosovar Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova - seen by many of the thousands of refugees to have left the province as Kosovo's president-in-exile.

Both men gave Mrs Albright an assurance that they would respect the principles of the Rambouillet accord, which they signed in March, but which was rejected by the Serbs.

Transforming the KLA

Under the accord the KLA has promised to give up its military functions after the deployment of the peacekeeping force.

"The KLA will demilitarise and enter into a process of transformation," Mrs Albright said after Tuesday's meeting.

"Kosovo's political leaders will, I hope, cooperate to make Kosovo truly democratic," she added.

Mr Thaci said the KLA would change into a political force and would continue to work closely with the international community.

The KLA has been fighting for full independence from Serbia, but Mrs Albright said the proposed settlement offered Kosovo autonomy whilst remaining part of Yugoslavia.

"The issue is a high degree of autonomy and self-governance, not independence," she said.

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