Soldiers from the Kosovo Liberation Army will be incorporated into an internationally trained police force in Kosovo, the newly appointed U.N. administrator of the province said today.
Bernard Kouchner, France's former minister of health who was named last week to oversee a multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort in Kosovo, said jobs on the police force will be open to all citizens of the war-torn Yugoslav province, including Serbs. But it is only natural, he said, that members of the rebel army will take many of the slots.
"Some people are coming from the [KLA]. Yes, why not?" he said. "The people need and want a police [force] that is close to them because they have been so badly treated."
The prospect of former KLA guerrillas in police uniform, however, is likely to complicate the U.N.'s effort to convince Kosovo's Serbian minority that it is safe to stay in the NATO-occupied province.
Kouchner is to arrive in Kosovo as early as Wednesday to begin a task he says he still can hardly comprehend. Asked how he intends to resolve a series of pressing challenges -- creating a functioning judiciary, rebuilding roads and infrastructure and reconciling hostile Serbs and ethnic Albanians -- he said: "My dear, I'm not completely God."
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's appointment of Kouchner to oversee the most ambitious reconstruction effort in Europe since the aftermath of World War II has generated some anxiety among U.S. officials, who privately question his administrative skills. But with Europe footing most of the bill, the Clinton administration agreed that a European should head the effort.
"This war was run by the Americans, but the peace will be run by the Europeans and the United Nations," said Ivo Daalder, an expert on the Balkans and a former National Security Council staffer.
The United States, however, may still influence the U.N. mission through Kouchner's American deputy, James "Jock" Covey, a former White House specialist on the region.
Kouchner said his immediate priority is to provide a secure environment for civilians in Kosovo. He noted that a unit of French gendarmes, the first element of a 2,000-strong international police force, has arrived. Several hundred more police officers are on the way from Italy and from the United States, which has pledged to contribute 500.
NATO troops, meanwhile, are conducting policing operations throughout Kosovo.
Kouchner said a police academy will soon be established to train a permanent local force. While conceding that the KLA will probably form the backbone of that force, he said Serbian candidates also would be welcome. He said all candidates will undergo background checks to weed out human rights violators.
CAPTION: Bernard Kouchner of France will oversee the rebuilding of Kosovo.