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Yugoslavia: NATO And UCK Close To Agreement On Kosovo Corps

Pristina, 20 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - Hashim Thaci, the political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), says an agreement is close on establishing a civilian Kosovo Corps that would include as many as 5,000 former UCK members, who would perform humanitarian and rescue missions. Thaci made the remark during a break in talks today with NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark. The NATO commander flew into Pristina after Thaci and UCK Chief of Staff Agim Ceku yesterday refused to accept KFOR's plans for the Kosovo Corps. Thaci also said that an agreement has been reached that will allow Ceku to head the Kosovo Corps. There has been no independent confirmation.

KFOR is seeking UCK acceptance of the Kosovo Corps plan as part of the transformation and demilitarization of the guerrilla army. KFOR spokesman Major Roland Lavoie says the UCK completed its promised disarmament on schedule by midnight last night. KFOR commander General Michael Jackson today extended a deadline for agreement on the Kosovo Corps until midnight Tuesday.

A key sticking point has been the nature of weapons to be kept by the civilian Kosovo corps. KFOR spokesman Lavoie said in Pristina that the UCK has failed to accept "a strict weapons regime" for the corps, but that the UCK had completed its promised disarming on schedule.

Lavoie also said KFOR now guards sites containing more than 10,000 weapons and more than five million rounds of ammunition handed over by the UCK fighters.

UCK commanders want the corps to be the basis for the future national army of an independent Kosovo. KFOR has refused, insisting that the peacekeepers remain the only armed force in Kosovo. The two sides also reportedly disagree on the corps' leadership, the manner of its recruitment and its insignia.