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Yugoslavia: NATO To Consider Provisional UCK Paramilitary

Brussels, 22 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO has pledged to consider letting Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters form a provisional paramilitary force for Kosovo using as the model the United States National Guard. A NATO press spokeswoman in Brussels, Christine Gallach, confirmed in a phone conversation with RFE/RL today that the pledge was included in an accord reached yesterday between NATO and the UCK that provides for the rebels' demilitarization and eventual disarmament. The pledge, which was inserted in the document on UCK insistence, stopped short of giving a timetable for creating the Kosovo force and of providing details for its size and or mission. A New York Times report said the pledge ensures that the UCK is likely to remain an organized and military force even after it disarms.

Meanwhile, NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark today urged that deployment of alliance peacekeeping troops be sped-up. Speaking with reporters by telephone from Brussels, Clark said there are not enough troops now in Kosovo to ensure order and safety for the population.

In Russia, President Boris Yeltsin today formally asked Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, to approve the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to Kosovo. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said Yeltsin's request envisaged up to around 3,500 Russian peacekeepers serving in the international security force in Kosovo until June of next year. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said today the troops were ready to leave as soon as all the legal formalities had been completed. Interfax news agency said the Federation Council would convene on Friday to consider the request.

There are currently just over 17,000 NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo, with their number planned to reach 55,000. But there have been numerous incidents of reprisal attacks by ethnic Albanians against Serbs. NATO officers say that revenge shootings appear as an almost daily occurance in places such as Pristina or Pec. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says a group of some 50 Serbs were sheltering today in a monastery in the town of Prizren, after being freed from UCK detention. The UNHCR said that two Serbian civilians were found yesterday in Prizren, one of them decapitated.

Yesterday, two British soldiers, two UCK members and a civilian were killed in the village of Negrovce after attempting to remove unexploded cluster bombs from a local school building. UNHCR said today that more than 50,000 Serbs have left Kosovo since NATO troops moved in. The agency has been encouraging those Serbs to return.

UNHCR said that more than 170,000 ethnic Albanians have gone back to Kosovo in a little more than a week. The agency says that thousands more are returning daily from both Albania and Macedonia.