Tensions soar over plans for Kosovo's national army

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
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Amid already high tension between Kosovo and Serbia, Serbia's prime minister suggested on Wednesday that any creation of a standing army in Kosovo could provoke a military intervention by Belgrade. The predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo parliament is set to vote on Dec. 14 on whether to transform the lightly-armed domestic Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a regular army. The draft laws envisage an army of 5,000 active soldiers and 3,000 reservists. The present KSF security force is a 2,500-strong force trained by NATO and tasked with crisis response, civil protection and ordinance disposal.

Though that process could take years, Serbian politicians maintain that a Kosovo army could be used to expel remaining minority Serbs from Kosovo, an accusation denied by Kosovar leaders who rely on European Union and U.S. support in reforms and development of the small Balkan state.

The landlocked Balkan territory of 1.8 million, which declared independence in 2008, is still guarded by stationed NATO troops nearly two decades after the end of the war. NATO on Wednesday warned it would have to reassess its security mission in Kosovo if Pristina goes ahead with plans to create its own army. Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Kosovo's plan was "ill-timed," went against the advice of many NATO countries and would have "serious repercussions."

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