Serbia angered over new Kosovo security force
The Serbs say they will use all diplomatic means to have this decision undone.Pristina -- The Kosovo government has launched its own security force in a new sign of its claim to independence.
The launch, which happened Wednesday, was immediately condemned by Serbia.
The NATO peacekeeping force in the territory is supporting the search for hundreds of members of the Kosovo Security Force (FSK).
Lieutenant Henrik Kristensson of the NATO force said the FSK aims to have 1,500 members by September, with an eventual full operational size of 2,500 full time members and 800 reserves in two to five years.
He said the force would be recruited from majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs and would come under the control of the Kosovo parliament.
Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in February last year. More than 50 countries, including the United States and much of Europe, have recognized it. But Serbia, backed by Russia, still considers it a Serbian province.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic called the FSK "an illegal paramilitary group" and said its creation was "totally unacceptable".
"The force is a direct threat to national security, peace and stability in the entire region," Jeremic said, speaking on B92 television during a visit to Ljubljana.
He said Serbian President Boris Tadic would protest the force launch to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. "Serbia will use all diplomatic means to have this decision undone."
The FSK will replace the Kosovo Protection Force, which had been mainly made up of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), the separatist guerrillas who fought Serbia during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
FSK commander, General Sylejman Selimi, told the first recruits at a midnight rally for the launch of the force that the force's deployment would be made "in full cooperation with our international friends."
"We're at the beginning of a new phase; this force has become a reality," the former UCK commander told the press.
The force is part of a plan for Kosovo drawn up by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The plan called for independence under international supervision and has never been approved by the UN Security Council because of Russian opposition.
Under the Ahtisaari plan, the FSK will have civil protection functions and will possibly help in emergency situations but it is not intended to be a fully-fledged police force straight away.
Kristensson said the KSF could "assist civil authorities in responding to natural and other disasters, conduct explosive ordinance disposal and assist civil authorities for civil protect operations."
International civilian and military officials would decide at a later date when the force can assume wider functions.