Serbia angry at visit to Ostrava by former KLA chief

03-03-2004

TV Nova claimed on Tuesday that Serbia and Montenegro is planning to complain to the Czech foreign ministry after the former commander of Albanian rebels in Kosovo was allowed to visit the Czech city of Ostrava. Former rebel commander Agim Ceku is now in charge of the Kosovo Protection Corps, and was in Ostrava to inspect a group of former KLA rebels being retrained as firemen under a UN-sponsored scheme. Rob Cameron reports.

Agim Ceku, photo: CTKAgim Ceku, photo: CTK Agim Ceku is the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA, the group which fought for independence from Serbia in the 1990s. The Serb authorities accuse the KLA of war crimes, and have issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ceku. However Mr Ceku is now leader of a UN-sponsored civil emergency body called the Kosovo Protection Corps. Former KLA rebels are being retrained as emergency workers, and one group is being trained by Czech firemen in Ostrava, north Moravia. Petr Vanek is the head of the Governor's Office at the Moravia-Silesia regional authority.

"The whole project of retraining KLA members into firemen and rescue personnel is organised and formed by the United Nations, and the whole project is under the direct auspices and patronage of the United Nations. On the Czech side the cooperating institutions are the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They provided the list of participants and the whole training was organised in training facilities owned by the Ministry of the Interior. So there's no direct involvement of the Moravia and Silesia region."

To see for himself how the training programme was progressing, Agim Ceku visited Ostrava in February. There he was shown the newly retrained firemen being put through their paces, and was also received by the deputy governor of the Moravia-Silesia region. Petr Vanek says as far regional officials were concerned, Mr Ceku was simply part of a visiting UN delegation.

"Mr Agim Ceku, the former KLA commander, was not listed among the participants. His visit was just an inspection and he was accompanied by two commissars from the United Nations. So nobody knew any details regarding his background, and it was just an official visit during the inspection of the facility, and there was a brief reception at the region. Mr Ceku was received by the deputy governor of the region."

TV Nova claimed the Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro is planning to file an official complaint with the Czech Foreign Ministry. A spokesman for the Ministry told Radio Prague whether Mr Ceku should have been allowed into the country or not was a matter for the Interior Ministry, not the Foreign Ministry. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told TV Nova that Czech police were unaware Mr Ceku had entered the country because he was travelling on a Croatian passport, and under the name Agim Cek, not Ceku.

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