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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK

World: Europe

Police ready to patrol Kosovo

K-For hopes the arrival of civilian police will release soldiers for other duties

Attempts to restore law and order in Kosovo are set to receive a boost on Saturday as armed civilian police start patrolling in the province.

Rebuilding the Balkans
The deployment comes as the K-For peacekeeping force voices concern over attacks on its soldiers and the United Nations names a new war crimes prosecutor.

The UN Police Commissioner Sven Frederiksen said 200 of 474 officers in Kosovo had been briefed and were ready to begin joint patrols with K-For troops.

He said their first priority would be to tackle the very high crime rate in Pristina.

[ image: K-For has come under attack]
K-For has come under attack
Kosovo has been plagued by armed violence since the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and police at the end of Nato's bombing campaign.

The 38,000 peacekeeping troops deployed by Nato have restored basic public order by day but lack the manpower or training to preserve it after dark, when much of the crime occurs.

About 3,000 UN police with weapons and arrest powers were designated to restore law and order, but have not started to arrive until now because of the summer holiday season.

Force deployment

About 50 officers have failed weapons handling tests and will be returning to Bangladesh and Nepal, the UN team in Pristina said.

The international force will be split into three divisions:

  • 1,800 officers fighting common crime and regulating traffic
  • 205 securing borders
  • 1,000 maintaining public order and crowd control.

    Mr Frederiksen said more than 17,000 applications for jobs on a separate 3,000-strong local force had been returned by Friday, including papers from 4,000 former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

    He said the domestic police force would reflect Kosovo's demographic makeup. Previously, about 10,000 Serbian security police had ruled the province, despite the fact that it had an 90% Albanian majority.

    Ethnic Albanian and Serb police will be expected to work together in ethnically-mixed areas, Mr Frederiksen said.

    But none would work unsupervised by UN police until they had proved their professionalism and even-handedness over a period of time.

    Mr Frederiksen said only about 500 of the job applications had come from Serbs, but he hoped for more.

    Attacks on K-For

    As the police prepared to start work, K-For expressed alarm at the number of attacks against its soldiers in the region.

    A spokesman issued a reminder that its troops would defend themselves if threatened.

    The warning followed an outbreak of violence on Thursday night which saw various attacks, including three on checkpoints controlled by the Russians. One soldier received a slight wound.

    The spokesman said peacekeepers had come under attack about 30 times since they arrived in Kosovo.

    New prosecutor

    For his part, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has proposed Swiss Attorney-General Carla Del Ponte as the new war crimes prosecutor in The Hague.

    [ image: UN says Rugova has promised to attend joint session]
    UN says Rugova has promised to attend joint session
    If the Security Council approves her appointment, Ms Del Ponte will replace Louise Arbour, who is leaving the post to join Canada's Supreme Court.

    Mr Annan is also backing another investigation into events in Kosovo, the Swedish Government said.

    Stockholm has proposed setting up a 12 member commission to investigate the Kosovo crisis before, during and after the war, and analyse the war's effects on the "victimisation and driving out" of people.

    The commission will be headed by Richard Goldstone, a former UN War Crimes Tribunal prosecutor, who also led an inquiry into apartheid-era political violence in South Africa.

    Hopes for government

    Paul Wood in Pristina: The UN is hopeful of bringing the main ethnic factions together
    UN officials said on Friday they hoped that the moderate ethnic Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, would attend a session of the transitional council in 10 day's time.

    The UN said that Mr Rugova made a promise to attend during a meeting with his chief rival, Hashim Thaci of the KLA, last Wednesday.

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