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Serbia violence condemned at summit

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- Violence in southern Serbia has been condemned by neighbouring countries as they examined ways of improving security in the Balkans.

The presidents of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey called for "an immediate and complete cessation of violence" in the area at a summit that ended on Friday.

The statement came a day after Belgrade presented a 63-page peace plan for ending the violence between ethnic Albanians extremists and Serb forces in a buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia.

Presidents Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria, Ion Iliescu of Romania and Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey condemned attacks by ethnic Albanians and said the NATO-led KFOR force must stay in Kosovo.

The statement said the presidents "reaffirmed ... their commitment to a multi-ethnic and undivided Kosovo."

Violence has dogged the buffer zone in Serbia's Presevo Valley since November when ethnic Albanian rebels launched their campaign, seizing control of much of the area.

Serbian police and Yugoslav troops have been targeted in the extremists' effort to reunite the zone with Kosovo as part of a future independent Albanian homeland.

Iliescu said helping Yugoslavia to develop its economy after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic would help to create economic and political stability in the Balkans region and reduce the risk of new outbreaks of violence.

Organised crime

He said: "Security and stability of the Balkans are directly linked to security in Europe. Our problems are pan-European problems."

The three presidents also discussed how to fight organised crime, including drugs, arms and human trafficking, as part of their moves towards membership of the European Union.

Stoyanov said: "Strengthening security at our borders is part of the conditions we must fulfil on our way to EU membership."

Bulgaria and Romania were among six countries to start full EU membership talks last year. Turkey became an EU candidate in 1999 but has been told to make political and human rights reforms before membership talks start.

Turkey's Sezer said he would back the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania to win membership of NATO next year.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Peace proposals for Kosovo buffer zone
February 15, 2001
Presevo peace plan receives cautious welcome
February 15, 2001
Tensions rise in Kosovo border-zone
February 6, 2001
Troops clash with ethnic Albanians
February 1, 2001
NATO acts on Albanian extremists
February 1, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Bulgarian President
Romanian Government
Romanian President
Turkish Government
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Serbian Information Ministry
NATO
KFOR

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