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Yugoslavia: Presevo Mayor Criticizes Serb Peace Plan

Presovo, Yugoslavia, 14 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The ethnic Albanian mayor of Presevo in southernmost Serbia today criticized elements of the Yugoslav and Serbian government-approved peace plan for the region. In particular, Mayor Riza Halimi criticized the plan's threat of "anti-terrorist actions" against Albanian insurgents.

Halimi praised Belgrade's call for a peaceful solution to the confrontation between Serb authorities and armed ethnic Albanian militants. But he said Serb leaders are presenting the plan as a completed arrangement before any talks have even started.

He also said the international community should act as a mediator in the crisis -- something Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has ruled out.

The mayor spoke in favor of a level of autonomy for the region that would not entail a change of borders.

The mayor's remarks at a news conference in Presevo represented the first official ethnic Albanian reaction to the peace peace plan, which was made public last week.

The author of the plan, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, is due to present the plan to NATO leaders in Brussels tomorrow. The plan offers local ethnic Albanians more rights and integration into Serbia's institutions, but rules out any kind of autonomy.