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U.S. backs plan for new Kosovo army - paper

RIA Novosti

31/03/2008 15:09 MOSCOW, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - The United States backs the creation of a new army in Kosovo with NATO's assistance and on the basis of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a Polish daily reported on Monday.

Last week U.S. President George Bush offered Kosovo, which proclaimed its independence in mid-February, assistance in building its own army and providing it with weapons. He authorized on March 19 arms supplies to Kosovo, saying it would "promote world peace."

"Bush believes that this will strengthen the 'security of the United States' and increase the ability of the newly independent state to ensure peace, stand up to terrorism and respond to humanitarian crises," Gazeta Wyborcza said.

The Kosovo Protection Corps is a civilian emergency services organization created in 1999, and initially dominated by veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerilla group that fought for independence from Yugoslavia and Serbia in the 1990s.

The paper cited a plan through which the new army would have 2,500 active servicemen and 800 reservists, but no tanks, heavy artillery, combat aircraft or helicopters.

All Kosovo Protection Corps members invited to join the new army would be trained by NATO instructors.

Kosovo, with a 90% ethnic Albanian majority, declared unilateral independence from Serbia on February 17. The U.S. and the majority of EU states have since acknowledged its sovereignty. Russia, Serbia's traditional ally, along with China, have refused to recognize the "world's newest state" and pledged to block any attempt by Kosovo to seek UN membership.

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