KLA weapons on sale in Britain

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WEAPONS FROM the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that were supposed to have been surrendered to Nato troops are on sale in Britain.

The Independent has learnt that arms dealers in the United Kingdom have been offered up to 140 tons of high explosive as well as rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and illegal anti-personnel mines.

Inquiries in London and Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, have confirmed that the trade in arms is thriving, in spite of a commitment made by KLA leaders at the end of the Nato campaign to hand in their forces' weapons.

Last night, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, was urged to take immediate action to stem the flow of weapons. Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said: "I think the people of Britain will be horrified to find that the Kosovars we helped are now sending their armshere. It is up to the Foreign Secretary to remind the KLA that it signed an agreement at the end of the war to surrender its arms, not sell them for profit."

It is understood a number of dealers are acting as agents for the KLA. Last week, an Englishman based in the Channel Islands was offering to sell AKM and AK-74 assault rifles, Russian-made anti-tank RPG-7 rocket- propelled grenades, and M2HB Browning heavy machine-guns. In addition, he said Claymore anti-personnel mines were available at $60 (pounds 38) each, instead of the more usual price of $200. These above-ground devices, which unleash a wave of more than 4,000 ball-bearings when detonated, are illegal in Britain.

A British businessman with a legitimate history in ordnance was offered the weapons but turned them down. He told The Independent that more than 140 tons of TNT explosive was also on sale, at $20 a kilo. That, he said, was twice the usual market rate but he was told no licence or paperwork would be required. "The first thing I was told was that the equipment was from the KLA," he said. "I was surprised at the quality, amount and variety available - given that Nato said the KLA is supposed to be handing in most of its weapons.

"I had not expected Claymores and I certainly did not expect the more modern Russian assault rifles. I turned them down but they are being offered to other dealers. Without a shadow of a doubt, some of this stuff will find its way to the criminal fraternity." He said the middleman, reputed to be an established, "respected" dealer, promised delivery anywhere.

In Pristina, an agent involved in the trade confirmed that weapons were flooding out of the Serbian province and into the West. "There are plenty of supplies and no difficulties getting it out," he said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Hodges, a British Army spokesman in Pristina, confirmed that all the weapon types on offer in the UK had also been confiscated from KLA fighters in Kosovo. He added: "We are not surprised to hear reports of KLA arms turning up in Germany and Britain. Although the border with Serbia is policed by Nato, other borders are open, and there is no shortage of guns in Kosovo at the moment."

Under its agreement with Nato, the KLA is supposed to hand over all its arms, with some minor and specific exceptions, by 20 September.

Rachel Harford, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "This demonstrates the need for tighter international control of these weapons and shows the ease with which shady networks and brokers can peddle their wares to gangsters, dictators and oppressive regimes."

The Foreign Office and Customs and Excise said that they were not aware of KLA arms reaching Britain.

Weapons bazaar, page 3