Thaci In 'Secret Signing'

Senior KLA sources in Albania say the KLA leader finally signed the peace-keeping deal in a secret ceremony in Kosovo.

Thaci In 'Secret Signing'

Senior KLA sources in Albania say the KLA leader finally signed the peace-keeping deal in a secret ceremony in Kosovo.

Hashim Thaci, head of the Kosovo Liberation Army, reportedly met with his General Staff in Kosovo in secret shortly before midnight on Thursday, to sign the Rambouillet peace agreement.


According to the KLA's Albanian government representative here in Tirana, Thaci and his bodyguards began their trip from the Albanian side on Wednesday, having to take a long route into Kosovo to avoid landminds and Serbian forces looking out for him. Belgrade put out an arrest warrant for the 29-year old leader and other KLA leaders earlier this week. A spokesman for the military group here says the warrant seeks him either dead or alive.


It is claimed that Thaci finally met up with his General Staff and three unnamed members from the Albanian Rambouillet delegation at 11.15pm in Kosovo, from where, according to very senior Albanian government sources, "the KLA signed the agreement".


As Thaci and his men were reportedly trekking to Kosovo over the snow-capped mountains, former US Senator Bob Dole was speaking live from Washington D.C. on the Worldnet Television programme screened live in both Tirana and Pristina. In it, Dole expressed his anger and disappointment with Thaci and the KLA. "They promised me in Skopje last Friday that they would [sign] do so on Sunday," he complained. "Now it's Wednesday. Their [KLA] so-called leader, Mr. Thaci, has become invisible - a mystery man who never shows up."


Thaci and the KLA leadership had initially planned to meet with Dole as scheduled in Skopje, but were unable to do so, sources here say, because there "was no assurance for his security". And while Xhavit Haliti, a General Staff member based in Tirana was deputised to go in his place, his flight into Skopje was allegedly delayed. The KLA insists that the flight was not delayed by bad weather as was first suggested locally, "but by the Macedonian government."


The KLA points to three factors beyond their control that have irritated the US and slowed the process--geography, communications and Thaci's fears for his life. The leaders of the KLA are based both in Albania and Kosovo. Those operating from inside Kosovo are largely restricted to KLA strongholds, which makes it difficult for them to move in and out without confronting Serbian forces or coming upon minefields. The only safe passage way through is a tortuous way through the rugged mountainous terrain. With its superior forces and logistical support, Belgrade enjoys better communications than the KLA which relies largely on temperamental mobile phones and hand-held radios. Finally, the warrant seeking Thaci's arrest and his security fears have forced the KLA leader into hiding.


Explained an Albanian government representative authorized by the KLA to explain the break-down in the communication between the US and the KLA: "A combination of these three factors have, mistakenly, given the impression that the KLA is not willing to cooperate with the US."


Fron Nazi is a IWPR senior editor


Albania, Kosovo
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