Wave of Yugoslav troops, trucks leave Kosovo
June 11, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- A military exodus of Yugoslav trucks, troops and civilians streamed north out of Kosovo, while NATO troops prepared to enter the war-torn province on Saturday.
The convoy moving into the main part of Serbia included Yugoslav armored vehicles and mobile anti-aircraft weapons. Private cars full of Serbs followed. The Serbs fear reprisals by Kosovar Albanians, hundreds of thousands of whom are expected to return over the next three months.
An estimated 40,000 armed Serbian troops or special forces in Kosovo are scheduled to withdraw from the province. They have 11 days to leave, according to a NATO-backed peace deal approved by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.
Deployment to begin Saturday
NATO troops are poised to enter Kosovo to verify and enforce compliance with the peace agreement, and assist refugees as they return.
The commander of NATO's peacekeepers, British Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, declined to discuss a timetable, but other officials said the troops would begin moving in Kosovo on Saturday, 24 hours after originally planned.
Early Friday, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the troop deployment was moving ahead on schedule.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington, asked if the peacekeeper entry was delayed because U.S. troops were not in position, said "absolutely not."
NATO officials said British and French troops would initially move into the southernmost Serbian province, followed quickly by U.S. Marines and soldiers.
About 18,000 NATO troops had been waiting just outside Yugoslav territories for orders to enter the region. The Kosovo force will eventually grow to some 50,000 troops.
Advance teams of NATO troops plan to enter Kosovo on Friday, alliance officials said. The scout units plan to check roads, bridges and tunnels for damage or booby traps before the main forces arrive on Saturday, according to NATO.
NATO officials said the main units of British and French troops would initially move into the southernmost Serbian province, followed quickly by U.S. Marines and soldiers.
U.N. Security Council approves NATO plan
Alliance ambassadors issued the final activation order for the Kosovo force on Thursday, soon after the U.N. Security Council gave its backing to the peace plan.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana earlier announced to the United Nations that the alliance had suspended its air campaign.
Speaking to the council before the vote, Yugoslav U.N. Charge D'Affairs Vladislav Jovanovic said his country was the victim of "brutal aggression" by the United States and NATO, who he said targeted civilian targets in their bombing campaign in violation of international law.
Shen Guofang, China's deputy U.N. ambassador, said his country would not use its veto to block the peace plan approved by the Group of Eight nations and Yugoslavia.
China has bitterly criticized NATO's attacks, particularly after a NATO bomb destroyed its embassy in Belgrade, killing three of its citizens. Shen said the war has been a political disaster for the alliance.
"It shows that in the future any use of force should get the authorization of the Security Council," he said.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov concurred, adding that he hoped the vote would deter NATO from acting on its own in the future.
"I hope this is a change not only on this, but on other issues as well," Lavrov said.
The council approved the resolution 14-0 with China abstaining.
Clinton, Milosevic each claim victory
In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton said NATO had "achieved victory for a safer world" in Kosovo. He warned Serbs that the United States will not help them rebuild from the bombing "as long as your nation is ruled by an indicted war criminal."
Clinton added: "But we are ready to provide humanitarian aid now and to help to build a better future for Serbia, too, when its government represents tolerance and freedom, not repression and terror."
In Belgrade, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic declared a sort of victory: He said Yugoslavia had preserved its existing borders in the face of massive aerial bombardment.
"The territorial integrity of our country can never be questioned again," he said. "We survived and defended the country and raised the entire problem to the pinnacle of world authority -- the pyramid -- the United Nations."
Milosevic said the question of independence for Kosovo -- which prompted more than a year of ethnic strife in the Serbian province -- was no longer an issue.
The leader said the Yugoslav army and special police forces in Kosovo lost fewer than 600 men during the fighting. That number is about a tenth of the estimates that NATO released last week.
"We demonstrated our army cannot be defeated," he said.
The alliance lost two fliers during the war -- both U.S. Army helicopter pilots who died on a training mission in Albania when their helicopter crashed.
Agreement followed diplomatic marathon
The cease-fire agreement outlines a strict timetable that Yugoslavia must follow. Yugoslav and NATO generals on Wednesday agreed to details of the troop withdrawal from Kosovo, following marathon talks along the Yugoslav- Macedonian border.
Under the terms of the agreement, the withdrawal must be complete by June 21.
The war began after Yugoslavia rejected a peace agreement for Kosovo similar to one it accepted last week. The accords were aimed at ending a year of ethnic conflict in the mostly ethnic-Albanian province of Yugoslavia's dominant republic of Serbia.
Solana warned that NATO could resume its bombardment if Yugoslavia reneged on its agreement to withdraw. And he added that separatist rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army must also stand down during the withdrawal.
"Violence or noncompliance by any party will not be tolerated," he said.
KLA plans to lay down arms
KLA leader Hassim Thaci said on Thursday that the rebel force would become demilitarized under the terms of the Kosovo agreements. The KLA will develop a political organization, he said.
Thaci said the KLA will "not attack Serbian troops that are withdrawing, but we reserve the right to defend ourselves."
Kosovar refugees on the Albanian border welcomed the news of peace, but their enthusiasm was tempered by the shock of the past, and anxiety over the future.
The refugees tuned the radio to news of the dead and missing.
"I just don't believe that the Serbs will pull out," said one man.
Another bitterly said, "I don't want to see a single Serb alive. They killed four of my family."
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Kris Janowski expects a total of 400,000 Kosovar refugees to return to the province within the next three months.
NATO repeatedly accused Yugoslavia of unleashing the army on ethnic Albanian civilians once the air war began. The reports of atrocities in Kosovo led to Milosevic's indictment by a U.N. war crimes tribunal.
Russia ties with NATO suspended
On Friday President Boris Yeltsin said Russia's ties with NATO remained "frozen" despite the end of the bombing, according to Russian news agencies.
Moscow suspended relations with NATO after the alliance began airstrikes in late March. Also Friday, talks continued in Moscow on Russia's tole in KFOR, the peacekeeping force.
On Thursday, Russia's Duma, the lower house of parliament, asked Yeltsin to fire Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin's special envoy on the Balkans. The vote has no legal force, but reflects anger toward Chernomyrdin from communists and others on the political left, who accuse him of selling out to NATO.
Chernomyrdin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott tried to resolve the issue of peacekeeping forces in Yugoslavia. Talbott said it would not be possible for Russia to have a separate sector in Kosovo when peacekeeping forces move in.
Correspondents Jim Clancy, Walter Rodgers, Steve Harrigan, Patricia Kelly, Richard Roth,Chris Burns and Reporter Bill Neely contributed to this report.
Russia says relations with NATO 'frozen'
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