NATO: Kosovo Force Not Intended for Policing

PRISTINA, Kosovo-- A NATO spokesman in Kosovo says the military alliance is urging local authorities not to give policing duties to the country's civil emergency force made up of former rebels.

Capt. Hans Wichter, the spokesman for the force known as KFOR, said the organization is monitoring Kosovo authorities' move to give the Kosovo Security Force, or KSF, rights to detain suspects and deploy troops to control riots and demonstrations.

Wichter said the role of the 3,000-strong, lightly armed NATO-trained force is to help in humanitarian and natural emergencies, "not riot control and policing."

The top KSF official, Agim Ceku, said Wednesday the joint memorandum with the Interior Ministry is intended to provide support for the 8,000-member local police force in emergency situations. "There is nothing bad in the draft memorandum," Ceku told reporters in the capital, Pristina. He said a new draft would be presented to NATO before any decision is made.

The move, however, has alarmed NATO officials who already are sensitive to any attempts by the KSF to present itself as an army and stretch its mandate beyond responding to civil emergencies. They also expressed unease at having the NATO-trained security force take up law and order duties.

Last year NATO suspended the training of the security troops after a military-style parade that broke the force's agreement to focus only on civil emergencies. It halted its support for the KSF following the appearance of an armed honor guard at a parade marking the 12th anniversary of the killing of the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian rebel force that fought Serbia in 1998-99.

Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians regard the KSF as the nucleus for Kosovo's future army. The organization was created as part of an international deal that paved the way for Kosovo to declare independence from Serbia in 2008 in return for broad rights for the Serb minority.

Kosovo's statehood is disputed by Serbia and recognized by 75 countries.