Pristina/Belgrade; 21 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - The commander of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo says he is confident the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) will abide by an agreement made earlier today to neutralize the UCK as a military force. General Michael Jackson said efforts were made to ensure that all UCK commanders would agree to the terms, which include handing over all automatic weapons within 90 days. UCK political leader Hashim Thaci -- who signed the document yesterday in a tent at Jackson's field headquarters -- said the UCK understood the pact meant renouncing plans for an independent Kosovo.
Jackson also urged Serb civilians to return to their homes in Kosovo and vowed increased security for them. Fearing reprisals from the UCK and other ethnic Albanians, about 50,000 Serbs have fled following the Serb military withdrawal from Kosovo.
AP reports about 70 Serbs returned today to the Kosovo city of Pec under heavily armed NATO escort, while two helicopters hovered overhead.
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said today that Russia's presence in Kosovo could halt the flight of ethnic Serbs from Kosovo. About 3,500 Russians are to be deployed in the U.S., French and German sectors, but in areas where mostly Serbs live.
In Budapest, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said Serbia would face difficulties reintegrating into Europe so long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.