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Yugoslavia: NATO Brokers Temporary Cease-Fire

Belgrade, 12 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO officials say they have brokered a temporary ceasefire between ethnic Albanian militants and Serb forces in southern Serbia. Reports say the cease-fire is to last until 19 March. Ethnic Albanian negotiators refused yesterday to sign the cease-fire. But they agreed to the accord today after NATO announced it would let Yugoslav army troops return to parts of a buffer zone between UN-administered Kosovo and the rest of southern Serbia.

The 5-kilometer-wide exclusion zone was created under the cease-fire deal between NATO and Belgrade in June 1999 to bring an end to NATO's air strikes on Yugoslavia over the Kosovo crisis. Under that deal, the only Serb forces allowed inside the buffer zone were lightly armed police.

NATO has confirmed that ethnic Albanian militants have been using the exclusion zone as a base for attacks on Serb police in the Presevo Valley to the east of Kosovo.

Italian Lieutenant General Carlo Cabigiosu, the commander of KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo, says Yugoslav troops will start to enter the exclusion zone in the very near future.

NATO's mediator for the Balkans, Peter Feith, has been working in southern Serbia today to finalize the deal. The agreement was reached despite the refusal of ethnic Albanian militants to sign a cease-fire deal with Belgrade.

(For more on this story, please see the report from our correspondent Jolyon Naegele: Yugoslavia: NATO To Allow Serbian Troops Into Part Of Buffer Zone)