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US, NATO Condemn Kosovo's Plans to Turn Security Force Into Regular Army


FILE - Kosovo President Hashim Thaci waves to the crowd during a ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia, May 29, 2016.

The United States said Wednesday that it was "concerned" by Kosovo's plans to convert its security force into a regular army without a constitutional amendment — a move sure to infuriate Serbia.

"We support the gradual transparent transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into a multiethnic force in line with NATO standards," a statement from the embassy in Pristina said.

"However, this transformation should be done in accordance with the Kosovo constitution and through an inclusive and representative political process that reflects Kosovo's multiethnic democracy," it said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called such unilateral steps "unhelpful."

But Kosovo President Hashim Thaci called the move "unstoppable."

"Will the citizens of Kosovo wait an eternity for this transformation?" he asked Wednesday. "I don't believe they will. So, we want to be a part of NATO? We cannot be a part of NATO without an army."

Thaci pointed out that Kosovo is making its own decisions, the way everyone who recognizes it has said it should.

The president introduced a bill earlier this week that would bypass amending the constitution by extending the powers of the current members of the Kosovo Security Force. Serbian minority members of parliament would certainly have vetoed changes to the constitution allowing the country to have an army.

Kosovo and its ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The Serbs refuse to recognize an independent Kosovo, and relations between minority Serbs and ethnic Albanians are tense.