Liberation of Kosovo: KLA Arms Handover

ONE OF the most crucial deadlines in the Kosovo peace process passes today when Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers have to hand over weapons and uniforms or move to special assembly areas, writes Andrew Buncombe.

Under terms of the undertaking agreed last week between the KLA commander- in-chief, Hashim Thaci, and the K-For commander, General Sir Mike Jackson, by midnight tonight the KLA must also have cleared all its minefields and booby-traps. From then on, only senior KLA officers and their bodyguards will be allowed outside the assembly areas.

The deadline marks one of the key stages in the demilitarisation process. K-For realises that to have any chance of creating confidence among both Albanians and Serbs, it must be seen to be the only military force operating in Kosovo. "The KLA have committed themselves to bringing all their people with guns or uniforms into these areas. If they then wish to leave these areas they will have to leave their uniforms and weapons behind," a K- For spokesman said.

"If we find KLA people in uniform or carrying guns outside these areas, they will be arrested."

Last week's undertaking gives the KLA 90 days completely to disband as a military force. K-For said many KLA soldiers in the south of Kosovo had already handed over their arms.