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CNN Today

Yugoslav Army Prepares to Return to Kosovo

Aired September 4, 2000 - 2:29 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: United Nations says it will not help Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with his plans to include Kosovo in national elections September 24. But U.N. troops will provide security for voters. An international security force essentially controls Kosovo, as you know, although the province legally remains part of Yugoslavia.

CNN's Alessio Vinci looks at Yugoslav soldiers who are preparing to go back there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In pouring rain, a newly formed special unit of the Yugoslav army trains for what military officials call its next mission: the return to Kosovo. Using live ammunition, hundred of troops and special police forces exercise roughly 60 miles east of Kosovo, the southern province the Yugoslav army was forced to leave in June last year after 78 days of NATO bombing.

In front of military attaches from 12 countries, including NATO members Italy and Greece, the Yugoslav army chief of staff told his soldiers that NATO and the United Nations failed to restore peace in the province. Therefore, he said, it was time for the Yugoslav army to return.

GEN. NEBOJSA PAVKOVIC, YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): We expect the United Nations Security Council to realize the incapability of KFOR, and that it will take the honorable decision that parts of the Yugoslav army and police forces be allowed back in Kosovo.

VINCI: Pavkovic said these army units would operate in a joint mission with the already existing military presence in Kosovo, saying soldiers would help clear minefields, secure borders, and create the conditions for normal life in the province.

PAVKOVIC (through translator): We simply want to go back where we belong and fulfill our constitutional obligations. We would like all of those who fled Kosovo to return and those who came uninvited to leave.

VINCI: But NATO says it is premature to discuss any return of any number of Yugoslav security forces to Kosovo. (on camera): According to a recent opinion poll conducted by the army, 9 soldiers out of 10 are ready to defend the country at any cost. Still, the possibility that these soldiers will return to Kosovo as long as NATO remains there is highly unlikely.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, with the Yugoslav third army in southern Serbia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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