Cautious optimism heard around the world
Web posted at: 9:27 p.m. EDT (0127 GMT)
(CNN) -- Great progress has been made to end the Kosovo conflict, but the war will not be over until the last Serbian forces have left the province, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Wednesday.
Fischer said the signing of an accord by NATO and Yugoslav military officials for the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo was the result of intensive diplomatic efforts -- a "very good day" for peace.
"The war will only be over when the last armed units have been withdrawn, when the peacekeeping force has been deployed and has brought the situation in Kosovo under control so that the U.N. Security Council resolution can take effect," Fischer told ARD television.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday received a verbal commitment from her Russian counterpart to agree to the language of the U.N. Security Council resolution on Kosovo, a senior State Department official said.
Until Wednesday afternoon, Russia had resisted agreeing to put the resolution "in blue," meaning in permanent language -- raising concerns among U.S. officials that Moscow could delay the vote.
Specifically, U.S. officials were concerned that a delay in voting on the resolution would stall the arrival of the international security force in Kosovo and possibly create a security vacuum, giving Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a chance to balk at withdrawing his troops.
Under the terms of the military technical plan signed Wednesday by NATO and Yugoslav officials, up to 10,000 Russian troops could be sent to join a Kosovo peace force which NATO insists on leading.
The plan abandons Russia's long-held positions that NATO not take a leading role in a Kosovo peace force and that Yugoslavia be allowed to keep a significant force in the rebel province.
Russia is still pushing for control of one of the peacekeeping sectors in a post-war Kosovo.
A NATO delegation and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott are expected to discuss that issue during talks Thursday with Russian officials.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien saluted his NATO allies Wednesday for sticking it out in the conflict over Kosovo.
"What impressed me most is that the 19 (NATO) countries stuck together in that. It's the first time we have a situation like that where there's a real collective effort," he said. "We got the results we were hoping for."
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy earlier announced Canada would send eight Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers to Kosovo to investigate atrocities and gather evidence that could be used at the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
The eight Mounties would join detectives from other nations, perhaps including the United States' FBI, in assisting U.N. war crimes chief prosecutor Louise Arbour of Canada.
Some diplomats see the peace agreement as the beginning of another process: rebuilding Kosovo.
"We'll have to take Kosovo from virtually nothing to practically everything in the next few years, and that entails entire administration, the rebuilding, bringing the refugees back," said Carl Bildt, U.N. envoy to the Balkans.
He said the magnitude of that task "is well beyond any previous operation of this sort."
Reuters contributed to this report.
Yugoslavia agrees to withdraw Serb forces from Kosovo
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