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Kosovo Peacekeepers Agree to Ease Hold Over Buffer Zone

THE WORLD

August 18, 2001|From Times Wire Services

MERDARE, Yugoslavia — NATO-led peacekeepers Friday relaxed their control of a buffer zone that separates Kosovo from the rest of the country, allowing the Yugoslav army to deploy on the province's boundary, officials said.

The agreement is part of a NATO-brokered deal allowing the Belgrade government to gradually reclaim the volatile zone separating the Serbian province of Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian area, with the rest of Yugoslavia's main republic.

Lt. Gen. Thorstein Skiaker, commander of the peacekeepers, and Yugoslav Lt. Gen. Momcilo Momcilovic signed the agreement Friday at the boundary village of Merdare, about 20 miles north of the provincial capital, Pristina.

The agreement demonstrates that the Yugoslav army and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces--former adversaries--fully agree on the issue of securing the administrative boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia, said Howard Rhodes, spokesman for the KFOR peacekeepers.

The commander of the international force will retain authority over the 3-mile-wide strip and has the authority to revoke the agreement.

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