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The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Belgrade
"It was the first time in more than two years that a meeting of this kind had taken place"
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Tuesday, 26 December, 2000, 01:04 GMT
Yugoslav ultimatum on guerrillas
Yugoslav soldier monitoring Serbia-Kosovo border
Yugoslavia is threatening to take measures on the border with Kosovo
The Yugoslav Government has called on the United Nations to clear armed Albanian militants from the demilitarised zone between Kosovo and Yugoslav-administered territory.

And it warned that it would take action itself if the UN did not act quickly.

UCPMB rebels
Ethnic Albanian rebels are active in the zone
The Yugoslav statement was issued at a meeting of the Supreme Defence Council, which called for changes in the agreement with the UN setting up the demilitarised zone.

The agreement permits only lightly-armed police patrols in the zone.

But ethnic Albanians have been infiltrating the area, killing Serbs.

Serbs freed

The news of the statement coincided with a report by the Yugoslav news agency Tamjug that four Serbs apparently abducted by Albanian separatists had been freed.

The four disappeared while travelling to Kosovo to visit their families over the weekend.

The Yugoslav authorities had urged Nato and the peacekeeping forces in Kosovo to ensure their release.

'Legitimate right'

A statement by the Supreme Defence Council urged the UN Security Council to set the "tightest possible deadline" for the guerrillas' withdrawal.

Kostunica has already urged Nato to step up security
Otherwise Yugoslavia would solve the problem on its own "using all internationally permitted measures in fighting terrorism, which is its legal and legitimate right and obligation", the statement said.

The demilitarised zone was established in June 1999 before Nato-led peacekeepers and a UN mission took control of Kosovo.

Its aim was to prevent the Yugoslav Army from threatening the peacekeepers.

But ethnic Albanian guerrillas took advantage of the situation to occupy several villages and key areas in the zone.

And last month they launched an offensive which led to the deaths of four Serbian policemen.

Strained relations

The council brought together senior officials from Serbia and Montenegro for the first time in two years to discuss Yugoslav-wide issues, two days after President Kostunica's reformist coalition won the Serbian general election.

Milo Djukanovic
Milo Djukanovic: warned against unilateral moves
But BBC correspondent Jackie Rowland says that despite the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power in the autumn, relations between the two republics remain strained.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica had talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic on the fringes of the council meeting.

According to Serbian radio, President Kostunica warned Mr Djukanovic against any unilateral move to change the status of Montenegro within the federation.

The break-up of what remains of Yugoslavia would have serious consequences for the region, he said.

Montenegro has been edging towards independence for the past two years and a referendum on its future relations with Serbia now seems inevitable.

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See also:

17 Dec 00 | Europe
UN under fire near Serbia hotspot
29 Nov 00 | Europe
Presevo's uneasy peace
17 Dec 00 | Europe
Serbs shot during Kosovo protest
24 Dec 00 | Europe
Milosevic 'to face justice'
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