Albanians agree to cease-fire in south Serbia
NATO and Serbia agreed on a deal Monday that will allow Serbian police and Yugoslav army troops to return to a buffer zone on Kosovo's border. Hours later, ethnic Albanian rebels said they agreed to a cease-fire in the region.
"The final agreement has been reached," said the commander of NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo, Italian Lt Gen Carlo Cabigiosu. "I hope that Albanians in the ... area will understand that this is the time to move from armed conflict to peace."
Albanian fighters' commander Shefket Musliu said he had signed a 20-day cease-fire with the Yugoslav side, in a deal mediated by NATO. Musliu said, however, that they remained opposed to the Yugoslav army and strong Serb police forces entering the zone. "If someone shoots at the Serbs, we will not take responsibility," he said.
The buffer zone was established in 1999 when NATO-led peacekeepers entered Kosovo after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which ended former President Slobodan Milošević's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the province.
Yugoslav deputy premier Nebojša Čović pledged that Yugoslav and Serbian forces "will not misuse the trust" shown by NATO. "We are not for war, and we will do everything necessary to solve the problem peacefully," he told reporters.
Leaders of the Albanian community in south Serbia said on Sunday they were against a NATO decision to reduce a buffer zone along the border with Kosovo and allow Belgrade to partially re-occupy it. KFOR announced that on Wednesday 14 March the FRY forces started their return into the designated 5 km by 5 km area on the border of south Serbia and the FYROM in accordance with the agreed conditions and proceeded without incident.
In the afternoon, the movement of the FRY forces stopped one kilometre from the administrative boundary with Kosovo. The activity of the FRY forces were carefully monitored by the presence of KFOR liaison teams who maintained communication with the FRY commanders.
Kosovo Serbs attack UN police
NATO-led peacekeepers fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a crowd of ethnic Serbs, after they attacked a police station in the Kosovo town of Mitrovica. Demonstrators surrounded the UN-run police station, trapping police officers inside, and setting a vehicle on fire. They also blocked all access roads to the town.
Several people, including one international peacekeeper and a United Nations police officer, were injured. "This is a riot situation. They are behaving very aggressively, two people are injured and one police car is burning," said Dmitry Karportsev, a spokesman for the UN police in Kosovo.
The Serbs are believed to have been protesting against recent arrests of ethnic Serbs over an assault on UN police officers.
Kosovo calls on Macedonia to reopen border
Kosovo's Interim Administrative Council asked the authorities of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia "to re-open the border crossing points to normal traffic immediately."
The body expressed its concern "over the negative consequences for the people of Kosovo" of the border's closure, as well as its grave concern "at the social and economic consequences of the situation," according to a statement released today by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
At the Council's meeting, the commander of the international security force (KFOR), General Carlo Cabigiosu, said that KFOR was controlling the border with the FYR of Macedonia in the area of conflict, and that the country's authorities had no reason to continue the closure of the international border crossing points.
UN suggests precaution at Kosovo DU sites
After analyzing the environmental impact of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition used in Kosovo in 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the risks associated with the substance were "no cause for alarm," but recommended precautionary measures to guarantee that the areas struck by DU remain risk-free.
"These scientific findings should alleviate any immediate anxiety that people living or working in Kosovo may have been experiencing," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "Under certain circumstances, however, DU [depleted uranium] can still pose risks. Our report highlights a series of precautionary measures that should be taken to guarantee that the areas struck by DU ammunition remain risk-free."
UNEP's findings are based on a field mission, carried out by the agency in November 2000, that visited 11 of the 112 sites that were identified as being targeted by ordnance containing DU. The team, consisting of 14 scientists from several countries, collected soil, water and vegetation samples and conducted smear tests on buildings, destroyed army vehicles and DU penetrators.
And in other news...
- Top officials of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) and KFOR met with representatives of the Kosovo Serb community from the divided town of Mitrovica, who were accompanied by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebošja Čović. The head of the UN mission, Hans Hækkerup, and KFOR Deputy Commander General Georgeos Ledeveze, discussed with the Serb representatives further implementation of the declaration on Mitrovica of 1 February 2001, including increased freedom of movement between the two sides of the city.
- Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Hans Hækkerup went to New York to address the Security Council and then he goes to Washington. Gary Matthews, the Principal Deputy to the SRSG, said yesterday to the Interim Administrative Council that he believes that the meeting with the Security Council will be difficult as the image of Kosovo is now as a source of instability by the international community.
- Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo left for a visit to Germany where he was to meet German foreign, defence and interior ministers. He will also meet German MPs.
- In an interview in the Kosovo daily Koha Ditore Albanian writer and Nobel-prize candidate Ismail Kadare expressed his disappointment with the violence taking place on Albanian lands in the Balkans. "Let us admit that it is not the first time that the Albanians are destroying themselves. With their own hands, they reject the chance offered to them. With their own acts, they destroy what was achieved with such effort."
- UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said that as of 14 March the number of registered arrivals from FYROM in Kosovo stands at 1150. Most of the refugees are in Viti/Vitina municipality and a smaller number has found shelter in Ferizaj/Urosevac and Kacanik.
Llazar Semini, 14 March 2001
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