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New Kosovo Police Officers Graduate

October 16, 1999

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The first cadets to graduate from Kosovo’s new police academy received their diplomas Saturday and heard an admonition from their class leader to fight crime without regard for personal or ethnic interests.

``The Kosovo police will be the protector of human rights and will fight against any type of crime or corruption,″ the class leader, Nuredin Ibishi, a former Kosovo Liberation Army officer, told the 173 graduates in the ceremony, a symbol of international attempts to bring normality to Kosovo.

Ibishi said the tragic experience with the Serbian police force should make the new officers aware of their responsibility to treat all the province’s citizens with respect and fairness.

``There will never again be deportations, massacres or rapes by uniformed men,″ Ibishi said. ``This will be a police which will respect the law, and above everything, will respect the human factor.″

The graduates, wearing blue uniforms with the insignia ``Kosovo Police Service,″ received their certificates from Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. administrator in the province. The group, mostly ethnic Albanians, included 39 women, eight Serbs, three Bosnians and three Turks.

``With you lies a real possibility to break with the past, from the hardship and intolerance that has prevailed for too long in Kosovo,″ Kouchner told the graduates.

Training began Sept. 7. The average age of the graduates is 33 years, the youngest being 20 and the oldest 46. Many of the new officers have a military background.

The ceremony, attended by families, international officials and Kosovo political leaders, was held in the sports center of the University of Pristina. Also present were Hashim Thaci, political chief of the officially disbanded KLA, and Rexhep Selimi, the minister for public order in the KLA-backed provisional administration.

The ceremony came a day after violence erupted in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica, when ethnic Albanians tried to force their way across a bridge to the Serb side of town, leaving more than 100 people injured.

Braving a shower of stones, French-led peacekeepers used tear gas and percussion grenades Friday to drive back hundreds of ethnic Albanians.

The town was quiet Saturday, and there were plenty of NATO soldiers and police officers guarding the bridge.

Most of those injured Friday were ethnic Albanian demonstrators hurt by the percussion grenades and tear gas. Two Danish U.N. soldiers and five police officers were wounded, but none of the injuries were serious, NATO spokesmen said.

Kosovska Mitrovica’s ethnic Albanians say they are being kept from their homes, schools and a mine in the Serb part of town by the NATO forces. However, allowing them to cross would spark far greater violence, the peacekeeping forces say.

Albanian Foreign Minister Pascal Milo, on a two-day visit to Kosovo, obliquely criticized the rioters, urging Kosovo Albanians ``not to lose″ the unprecedented international support they enjoy through unwise actions.

He met with Kouchner, Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, the commander of NATO-led peacekeepers, and ethnic Albanian leaders.

Milo said Albania would soon set up an office in Pristina.

In the Bosnian Serb city of Banja Luka, a Kosovo Serb leader, Momcilo Trajkovic, said Kosovo’s dwindling Serb community will decide Monday on whether to form a ``protection force″ in response to the U.N. and NATO-endorsed Kosovo Protection Corps.

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