U.N. endorses peacekeeping force for Kosovo
NATO suspends bombing
June 10, 1999
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- With a NATO cease-fire in place, the U.N. Security Council gave its backing Thursday to a NATO-led force that will enter Yugoslavia as peacekeepers while Yugoslav troops withdraw from Kosovo.
The vote on a resolution came just four hours after the Western alliance announced it would suspend its 11-week-old air war against Yugoslavia. The council approved the plan 14- 0, with China -- one of the most implacable critics of the NATO airstrikes -- abstaining.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO's top commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, confirmed the Yugoslav withdrawal was genuine and that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had complied with the international community's demands.
Solana warned that NATO would resume its bombardments 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.
In Belgrade, Milosevic said Yugoslavia had preserved its territorial integrity in the conflict and that the question of independence for Kosovo -- which prompted more than a year of ethnic strife in the Serbian province -- was no longer an issue.
"Dear citizens, I wish you a happy peace," he said.
Yugoslav armored vehicles began heading northward from Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina, about 1 p.m. Thursday (1100 GMT/7 a.m. EDT) as part of the troop withdrawal.
Soldiers laughed and flashed a Yugoslav victory sign as they left. Hundreds of troops were on the move, along with ammunition trucks, communications gear and other equipment.
Milosevic said the Yugoslav army and special police forces in Kosovo lost fewer than 600 men during the fighting, which began March 24. That number is about a tenth of the estimates that NATO released last week.
He said Thursday he was proud of the army for its defense of Kosovo.
On what appeared to be the last day of the air war, NATO pilots flew 443 sorties, including 60 strike flights and 22 anti-air defense missions. And as late as 10 a.m. (0800 GMT/4 a.m. EDT) Thursday, Clark said there were signs of Yugoslav forces shelling areas in western Kosovo.
All NATO aircraft returned safely from Thursday's missions. The alliance lost only two fliers during the war -- both U.S. Army helicopter pilots who died on a training mission in Albania when their Apache helicopter gunship crashed.
As the cease-fire was announced, the vanguard of a 50,000- strong peacekeeping force -- dubbed KFOR -- prepared to move into Kosovo. Solana said the first KFOR troops could set foot on Yugoslav soil by Friday.
Leading the way will be the 18,500 troops in Macedonia under the command of British Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson. It was Jackson who announced Wednesday that Yugoslavia had agreed to a "phased, verifiable and orderly withdrawal from Kosovo."
When Jackson's force crosses the Yugoslav frontier, "They'll find horrors which nobody should have to face," British Defense Secretary George Robertson said Thursday.
"They'll have to work their way through minefields and booby traps. They'll have to face the risk of attacks by way of individuals who disregard their orders to leave," he said.
"They'll have to cope with human misery and starvation that has been left behind by the Serbs, and I fear that they will find evidence of atrocities, which will shock and sicken even them."
A United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague has indicted Milosevic and several government officials, accusing them of being responsible for a campaign of mass murder and the forced resettlement of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.
In addition to Jackson's troops, a contingent of 1,900 U.S. Marines landed in Greece on Thursday to join the peacekeeping force. The Marines went ashore shortly after dawn from ships anchored off the Greek coast.
Among other requirements outlined by the agreement, Yugoslav forces must:
End all military flights over Kosovo and end all use of air defenses, radar and surface-to-air missile systems within 24 hours.
Remove all anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles and military aircraft from Kosovo within three days.
Hand over all records indicating the placement of land mines, explosive devices, unexploded ordnance and other booby traps in Kosovo within 48 hours.
Once the Yugoslav pullout is complete, "several hundred" troops will be allowed to return to Kosovo to protect religious shrines and border locations.
Talks between U.S. and Russian special envoys on Russia's participation in KFOR continued in Moscow on Thursday as Russia's parliament condemned President Boris Yeltsin's point man on the Balkans.
The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, asked Yeltsin to fire Viktor Chernomyrdin, his special envoy on the Balkans. The vote has no legal force, but reflects the 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 were trying Thursday to settle the peacekeeping issue. Talbott said it would not be possible for Russia to have a separate sector in Kosovo when peacekeeping forces move in. Russia is not a member of NATO.
Asked whether a Russian zone was possible in Kosovo, as Moscow had proposed, Talbott said: "The short answer is no. We feel very strongly and I think our Russian colleagues agree unity of command is very important, and unity of command means all of Kosovo will be under one command arrangement."
Yugoslavia agrees to withdraw forces from Kosovo
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