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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK

World: Europe

KLA: Demilitarised but not disarmed

KLA troops see the Serbian withdrawal as their moment of victory

By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

As Yugoslav troops and police withdraw from Kosovo, the fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army - or KLA - are coming down from the hills to savour what they see as their moment of victory.

Kosovo: Special Report
Inevitably, incidents have occurred as individuals seek retribution against local Serbs.

As Yugoslav forces withdrew, an incident where British paratroops arrested a number of KLA men who shot a Serb illustrated K-For's desire to be seen as even-handed.

It also highlights the problems that may lie ahead.

Kosovo, like so much of the Balkan region, is awash with weaponry and small arms. A forced disarming of the KLA is simply not an option as rifles can easily be hidden rather than turned in.

This is one reason why the annexe to the UN Security Council resolution that provides the mandate for K-For, speaks more generally about a demilitarisation of the KLA.

Kosovo police force?

K-For's aim is to be the sole provider of security and stability, backed up by a closely-monitored local police force that may well incorporate some elements of the KLA.

[ image: K-For will not allow another armed force to maintain security]
K-For will not allow another armed force to maintain security
But once K-For is established and the Yugoslav withdrawal is complete, Nato troops are unlikely to tolerate the casual carrying of weapons or any dispays of organised military activity.

It is hoped that once the initial excitement at the Serbs departure subsides, many of the KLA's amateur fighters will simply drift back to their homes.

What is not clear is how the core elements of the organisation will respond.

Many KLA officers support an independent Kosovo; some even back a greater Albania, taking in parts of neighbouring countries.

Nato's hope is that the task of rebuilding and establishing new civil institutions will concentrate minds on the immediate task in hand.

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