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Yugoslavia: Troops Deployed To Kosovo Buffer Zone

Bujanovac, 24 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav forces today began moving into the last part of the buffer zone between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. The army press center in Bujanovac said the troops met virtually no resistance from the ethnic Albanian rebels who had been based in the area but the deployment was slowed down by landmines.

The only incidents reported were when troops came under small-arms fire near a border village and when a military vehicle exploded a landmine. There were no injuries in either incident.

General Ninoslav Krstic, commander of the joint police and army force involved in the operation, said he hoped his troops would soon be at the Kosovo boundary.

"We are at a distance of about one kilometer from the administrative border of Kosovo and I hope that we will be there by the end of the day."

The security zone was set up as part of a peace deal that ended NATO's 1999 campaign against Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian rebels seeking to split the area from Serbia have used it to launch attacks on Yugoslav forces.

Ahead of the NATO-approved deployment, the ethnic Albanian rebels agreed to disband. A spokesman for the KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo said that more than 400 rebels have surrendered under an amnesty.

The deployment is planned to end 2 June, with a total of some 4,000 troops moving in.

For more on this story, please see Yugoslavia: Smooth Start For Advance Into Kosovo Buffer Zone.