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Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo parades new police

A UK policeman hands out orders via a translator

By BBC South-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

Recruits for Kosovo's multi-ethnic police force have just started training at Kosovo's new police academy.

The opening of the academy on Tuesday followed reports that the Nato-led peacekeeping force, K-For, has reached an outline agreement with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on the transformation of the former ethnic Albanian guerrilla army into something like a civil defence force.

[ image: The KLA could form a civil defence force]
The KLA could form a civil defence force
But the future of that post-KLA force is a much more controversial issue than that of the soon-to-be-formed police.

Since the withdrawal of Serbian forces in June, Kosovo has been under the control of the 40,000-strong Nato-dominated K-For.

It is being complemented, rather slowly at the moment, by an international police force under UN command, which will eventually have 3,000 officers in its ranks.

Solana tribute

The UN police will be working side-by-side with a newly-recruited local community police of about the same size whose first members will go on duty in five weeks' time following their initial training at the Vucitrn academy in Northern Kosovo.

Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana, who visited Kosovo on Monday, paid tribute to the new force.

Kosovo: Special Report
"The UN - which is responsible for creating this police force - is doing their best to select a well-trained and well-balanced police force.

"We can guarantee that the police force will be backed for a long time - I hope and I think - by the K-For soldiers there.

"So the environment of security, once the police is deployed, will be a secure environment as it is in other cities in the world."


The KLA, which has undertaken to hand in most of its weapons by 19 September as part of its demilitarisation process, has been keen to provide the bulk of the new police force.

But its fighters have received no preferential treatment during the recruitment campaign; and the international administrators have been careful to select a multi-ethnic group of police cadets with Serbs and other non-Albanians accounting for over 15% of the recruits - roughly in line with their pre-war proportion of the population and well above their current overall strength.

Meanwhile, the KLA has been insisting that, along with the police, Kosovo should also have some kind of a military force which would act as a peacetime successor to the wartime guerrilla army.

Potential threat

Indeed, the KLA's unilateral undertaking on disarming itself contained an appeal to the international community that it should give due consideration to the establishment of a Kosovar army, along the lines of the US National Guard.

But K-For - and the international community in general - never made any promises about establishing such a force.

That was partly because it would be seen as a potential threat by Kosovo's minority communities and partly because it might open to the way to Kosovo's independence while the UN still regards the province as part of Yugoslavia.

Rapid reaction

Now it is being reported that K-For has reached an agreement with the KLA on the creation of what international officials describe as a civil defence force.

The new organisation, probably to be known as the Kosovo Corps, will have a range of functions, such as dealing with natural disasters, a rapid reaction force with a helicopter unit and a guard of honour.

Some, at least, of the planned 3,000-strong Kosovo Corps' members would be armed, though the emphasis would be on the primarily civilian nature of the new force.

Russia opposition

As such, it would be a face-saving measure for the KLA to show that it has not given up its weapons without getting something in return.

However, senior KLA officers have already implied that whatever the nature of the Kosovo Corps, they would regard it as an embryonic army which would take over responsibility for security when K-For leaves Kosovo.

It could also act to defend Kosovo from Serbia should Kosovo decide to go for independence.

For that same reason, Serbia is strongly opposed to the formation of the new force, and it has received firm backing from Russia on this issue.

Indeed, Russia could block the establishment of the new organisation during debates at the UN and in the coming days it may well try to water down even further the military aspects of the planned Kosovo Corps.

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