KLA rushes to fill security vacuum

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The Independent Online
SERBIAN FORCES are leaving Kosovo so fast that they may complete their withdrawal by noon today, 12 hours ahead of the deadline, raising fears that the Kosovo Liberation Army will move to fill the vacuum, unleashing a new reign of terror against the remaining Serbs.

Negotiations are continuing between Nato and the KLA over disarming the guerrillas, but there appear to be discrepancies among alliance powers in dealings with the group.

British and American forces have largely sought to disarm the KLA, but the Germans appear to be giving them more leeway. In and around Prizren, in south-western Kosovo, guerrillas are still carrying guns, and in some areas are reported to be controlling distribution of fuel.

In Kacanik, on the route south to Macedonia, the KLA has taken control one of the few buildings standing and is insisting that returning refugees should register with them. The same is happening in many other towns, and Serbian civilians have repeatedly complained to Nato that they are being intimidated by the KLA.

It also emerged yesterday that thousands of Albanian political prisoners may have been spirited out of Kosovo to prisons inside Serbia before the arrival of Nato troops.

G8 leaders, meanwhile, are promising sweeping aid for rebuilding Kosovo and the Balkans, but may warn today that no aid will go to Yugoslavia while Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.

On the second day of their annual summit, the leaders of the world's economic powers were seeking a strongly worded statement on Kosovo, making it clear that Serbia would not qualify for aid until it embraced democratic reform. Russia was resisting, however. Referring to the evidence of atrocities coming to light daily, British officials

warned that until the Serbian people repudiated those responsible, "they cannot expect our peoples, who feel repulsed, to come to their help". War crimes investigators have begun their task of gathering evidence for prosecutions. The International War Crimes Tribunal wants to get as much of the work done as possible before the return of more than 800,000 refugees from Albania and Macedonia.

Yesterday the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said more than 100 bodies had been found at Velika Krusa in southwestern Kosovo, a five-fold increase on earlier estimates. Investigators intend to exhume victims reburied by relations.

The US Secretary of State, William Cohen, visited suspected mass graves in the American sector of Kosovo yesterday, and President Bill Clinton is due in Macedonia on Tuesday.

Last night, officials at the summit were starting to agree details on the "stability pact" for south-eastern Europe - in effect a Marshall Plan for the Balkans. Yesterday the EU approved a three-year 1.5bn euro (pounds 1bn) emergency aid programme. Estimates of the help required range from $20bn (pounds 13bn) to $100bn over five years.