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Yugoslavia: Work On Peace Verification Force Begins

Pristina, Yugoslavia; 11 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - U.S. diplomat William Walker arrived in Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina, today to plan the start-up of a 2,000-strong mission to verify the recent peace deal. Walker says his arrival marks the start of what he called an "unprecedented international effort" to bring peace and stability to Kosovo. He did not say when the unarmed verifiers will formally begin their work. The mission is sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Walker's mission is to verify that Belgrade is abiding by pledges made by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in a deal struck last month with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke. Milosevic agreed to withdraw special police forces from the Serb province and to allow the return of refugees, as well as to begin status talks with ethnic Albanian leaders.

Meanwhile, more clashes between Serb police and ethnic Albanian guerrillas are being reported. An OSCE spokesman today warned Serbian security officials and ethnic Albanian rebels that continued violence threatens the peace deal.

NATO also expressed concern about the surge in violence in Kosovo and condemned the increasing number of incidents, alliance officials said today.

While the situation on the ground is better than it was prior to the agreement, alliance officials speaking on condition of anonymity said they are worried that retaliatory attacks could rekindle the fighting that originally broke out in February.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is also Washington's chief envoy in the Kosova crisis, has drafted a plan for an interim political settlement in Kosova that will give the province wide-ranging autonomy, the "International Herald Tribune" reported today.

Under the plan, Kosova will have its own president, laws, police, and courts as well as one-fifth of the seats in the federal parliament. The proposal also includes a wider range of "human rights and fundamental freedoms" than Serbian citizens currently enjoy.

The draft does not cover several thorny issues, such as how much power to grant the Serbian minority and who will obtain the profits from privatization. Hill is using the same negotiating tactics the U.S. delegation used at the 1995 Dayton conference, namely to begin with the least complex issues and leave the most difficult ones for last.