From a special Defense Department briefing yesterday by phone from Skopje, Macedonia, with Brig. Gen. John Craddock, commander of the U.S. peacekeeping force in Kosovo:

Q: General . . . what instructions do your soldiers have when they encounter armed KLA? We've seen some reports that at least one checkpoint one of your soldiers asked the KLA for their Kalashnikovs [rifles] and received them. Is that their standard instruction, to disarm them of small arms as well? . . .

Gen. Craddock: With regard to the KLA, we do not have an agreement in place at this time, but we expect one very, very soon. . . . I think that we approach it in a fair and evenhanded manner in that we will assess each situation. You know, our soldiers are not instructed to routinely disarm. However, we have got to make sure that we defuse potentially explosive situations. We don't want armed KLA in proximity of withdrawing Serbs. So we assess the situation.

When that occurs, our soldiers will intervene and ask KLA to back off, because we have designated routes of withdrawal for the Serbs. And if they comply, then they go about their way. If not and if they are, in the assessment of the soldier, the leader at that location, a threat to good order and discipline, and knowing that they have law enforcement establishment requirements, then they are instructed to -- in their judgment, if needed -- disarm the individual. Whether it be a Serb, a KLA, whoever, we cannot, with any possibility of hostile acts or hostile intent, let the situation go unchecked.