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Ex-Kosovo Rebels in Kosovo Corps

January 21, 2000

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Dozens of former rebels were inducted Friday as the first leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a group charged with conducting rescue missions and helping rebuild the province’s tattered infrastructure.

The first 44 members of the Corps _ many of whom were members of the formally disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army _ were sworn in by the top international civilian and military officials in the province.

NATO set up the corps last fall, hoping that a multiethnic organization would help heal the divisions in the province by bringing together representatives of all of Kosovo’s ethnic groups working together for a common purpose.

The first group of inductees was made up of ethnic Albanians, including one woman, but Gen. Agim Ceku, who heads the corps, appealed to ethnic minorities to join.

``Their participation in KPC at this moment shows an act of maturity and it is the only proof for them to show that they are ready to take the responsibility for the creation of peace and stability in Kosovo,″ Ceku said.

Serbs claim the corps is little more than an extension of the KLA, which fought for Kosovo’s independence from Yugoslavia.

Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, head of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, reminded corps members that they are to play no role in maintaining law and order.

``I am confident that you will approach your new mission as a multidisciplinary, multiethnic, civil emergency service with the same dedication and commitment you demonstrated in your fight for a fair and equal Kosovo,″ Reinhardt said.

By September, the corps is to consist of 3,000 active members and 2,000 reservists.

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