Tags: U.S. | Commander | Wary | Serb | Soliders' | Return | Kosovo

U.S. Commander Wary of Serb Soliders' Return to Kosovo

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

U.S. Army Brig Gen. Kenneth Quinlan said his command would enforce existing movement restrictions in the Presevo Valley area between Kosovo and Serbia, which in recent months has been used by ethnic-Albanian guerrillas in their fight against Serb police. Until recently, Serb forces could carry only small arms in a 3-mile-wide band along the border. An agreement between KFOR and Serbian military officials over the weekend was meant to allow Serb forces to return to the area this week.

The agreement, signed by KFOR commander Lt. Gen. Thorstein Skiaker and commander of Serbian joint security forces Lt. Gen. Ninoslav Krstic, keeps most of the limitations in Serb actions in the region intact and makes several others, such as occupation of private property, dependant on prior KFOR approval. KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the region, would still regulate other military movements in the region.

"This step, enforcing the boundary, aims to prevent passing the violence into Kosovo," Quinlan was quoted to have said.

While some ethnic-Albanian leaders have attempted to persuade guerrilla commander Muhamet Xhelili to accept the agreement, Xhelili said he would attack Serb forces if they return to the area. Two soldiers were recently killed in the northern part of the sector believed to be controlled by Xhelili.

Serb forces were expected to return to the border area Thursday. KFOR planned to allow the guerrillas to freely enter Kosovo until then.

Officials in the Albanian Foreign Ministry did not make any comment on the agreement, but Kosovo leaders said they considered the Serbs' return premature and said they feared increased tensions there.

Albanian analysts said NATO went ahead with its plan to allow the return of Serb forces to the Presevo Valley as they believe the new leadership in Belgrade wishes to solve problems through dialogue. They also said the conflict in Macedonia, in which other ethnic-Albanian guerrillas were pushing for changes in that country's constitution, pushed NATO to speed up the Serbs' return to the valley to help stem the weapons supply lines from Kosovo to Presevo Valley and from Presevo and Kosovo to Macedonia.

Nebojsa Covic, a deputy Serb prime minister who signed the weekend's agreement, has introduced a plan to integrate ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley into the political life of Serbia and Yugoslavia. -- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

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U.S. Army Brig Gen. Kenneth Quinlan said his command would enforce existing movement restrictions in the Presevo Valley area between Kosovo and Serbia, which in recent months has been used by ethnic-Albanian guerrillas in their fight against Serb police. Until recently,...
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2001-00-21
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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