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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Northern Macedonia
"There have so far been sporadic outbreaks of violence"
 real 56k

Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Zarco Korac
"They cannot treat us as a Milosovic government"
 real 28k

Nikola Dmitrov, Macedonian national security adviser
"Most of these people are former KLA"
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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 17:41 GMT
Ceasefire agreed in southern Serbia
UCPMB rebel in trench near Trnovac
The rebels have set up bases in the buffer zone
Ethnic Albanian rebels have signed a temporary ceasefire agreement, following months of clashes with Yugoslav forces in southern Serbia.

Map of area
The ceasefire is scheduled to last for one week, during which the Albanians want to see preparations for political talks on their long-running grievances.

The BBC correspondent in Belgrade says the Yugoslav side also signed a ceasefire at roughly the same time.

The deal comes after three days of talks brokered by Nato, and allows Yugoslav forces to enter a small section of the demilitarised zone near the boundary with Kosovo.


If someone shoots at the Serbs, we will not take responsibility

Guerrilla chief Shefket Musliu
The guerrillas had earlier rejected a plan which envisaged the return of Yugoslav forces to a village inside the 5km zone, created in June 1999 to separate Kosovan and Yugoslav forces.

After signing the ceasefire on Monday, guerrilla chief of staff Shefket Musliu warned: "If someone shoots at the Serbs, we will not take responsibility."

Buffer zone deal

A political representative of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, Sejdullah Kadriu, said: "An agreement was signed for a ceasefire until 19 March. During this week preparations for negotiations have to go on."

Serbian special forces on reconnaissance
Serbian forces have continually monitored the buffer zone from outside
Earlier, the commander of the Nato-led K-For peacekeeping force in Kosovo, General Carlo Cabigiosu, said Yugoslav forces would enter a small southern stretch of the buffer zone "within days".

Their aim will be to block off routes to the south between the Presevo valley and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where ethnic Albanian guerrillas have also been clashing with government forces.

The fighters in both Presevo and Macedonia are supported by ethnic Albanian militants from Kosovo, and include former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought against Serb forces until they were driven out of the province.

Conditions

Their aim is to "liberate" Albanian-populated villages, with the aim of creating a "greater Albania". However, the Albanian leadership last week denounced guerrilla activities in Macedonia.

Buffer rules
Villages out of bounds
No shelling, without Nato consent
No armoured cars
No helicopters
No mines
No rocket launchers
Mortars allowed
In the last 10 days, the rebels have killed three Macedonian and three Serbian soldiers.

K-For peacekeepers have stepped up border patrols between Kosovo and Macedonia to prevent militants travelling backwards and forwards.

One reason for the decision to allow Yugoslav forces into the buffer zone is Nato's fear that peacekeepers will be sucked into the conflict.

In an interview published on Monday, K-For commander Lieutenant-General Carlo Cabigiosu said a ban on armoured vehicles inside the zone would be one of the conditions the Yugoslav forces would have to accept.

"We have demanded that they do not occupy houses, do not enter villages, do not receive backing from armoured cars or use rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons," he told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"On the other hand, we have allowed them to use mortars and they will also be allowed to intervene, in co-ordination with our command, with artillery from behind their lines.

"Finally, there will be no helicopters and above all no mines," he added.

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