Pristina, 21 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - Hashim Thaci, political leader of what was once the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), says the new civilian force replacing the UCK will help foster democracy in the province. He told reporters today that the new Kosovo Protection Corps will be an open formation and will contribute to the building of a democratic society in Kosovo. Leaders from the UCK and the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) last night signed an agreement completing the UCK's demilitarization. Serbs today criticized the agreement, claiming it is just another name for the UCK. In the Kosovo town of Mitrovica -- a hotspot of tension between Serbs and ethnic Albanians -- local Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said Serbs will meet later in the day to consider a response. In Belgrade, the official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug called the UCK-KFOR agreement on the Kosovo Corps "a farce."
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana yesterday called the agreement a milestone for ongoing peace implementation efforts by the international community in Kosovo.
Under the agreement, the UCK is to transform itself into the 5,000-member Kosovo Protection Corps under the command of Agim Ceku, the former military chief of the UCK. KFOR commander General Mike Jackson will supervise the new corps, which will perform humanitarian and rescue missions.
UCK commanders have said that they want the new corps to be the basis for the future national army of an independent Kosovo.