Like the Russians, KLA Knows Value of Speed

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The political spoils of the Kosovo conflict are few, which may be why competition to claim them is fierce. With the Yugoslav army and Serb civilians pouring out of the province, armed KLA units are moving quickly to take control of as much of Kosovo as they can get their hands on. Although this supposedly was precisely the scenario the peace agreement was designed to avoid, NATO’s ambiguous relationship with the KLA -- which was a de facto ally against the Serbs until two weeks ago -- and the movement’s political agenda may have made it inevitable. "NATO knew from the start that demilitarizing the KLA would be a problem," says TIME Central Europe reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "Their goal is to become the sole political authority in Kosovo, which is why they’re moving in so quickly to establish a position of strength from which to negotiate with NATO." Although British troops arrested five KLA members for kidnapping and killing a Serb in Pristina Monday, shooting incidents reportedly continue and KLA units have shown little inclination to hand over their weapons to NATO.

The return of the KLA underlines the fears that have thousands of Serb civilians fleeing Kosovo, and provides yet another political headache for President Milosevic. In addition to the refugee problem, the Serbian Orthodox Church called Tuesday for his resignation, a demand echoed by opposition parties. "Milosevic and the church have been on bad terms for the last three or four years," says Anastasijevic. "Partly it’s because he’s a disaster for the country, but partly it’s because the Serbian church was the big loser in this war -– Kosovo was its birthplace, and now its access to some of its most sacred sites has been jeopardized." But don’t expect to see Yugoslavia's president take a retirement package anytime soon –- playing off liberals against nationalists is how he consolidated his power in the first place.

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