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Tuesday, November 24, 1998 Published at 15:53 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo monitor mission gears up

Mission gets harder as bad weather sets in

Dozens of international monitors are beginning training in the Serbian province of Kosovo before going into the field to verify last month's ceasefire agreement.

Kosovo Section
By the terms of the deal brokered by the American envoy Richard Holbrooke on 12 October, up to 2,000 unarmed monitors are to be deployed in the province to determine whether both the Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanian separatists are complying with the accord.

There have been fears about their safety because they do not carry weapons.

An OSCE spokesman said there is also a need to co-ordinate the methods of verification, as the monitors come from up to 35 different countries.

"It is important that everyone does the training here so that everyone does the same kind of verifying," said Simon Gerry.

[ image: Local children help OSCE officials unload]
Local children help OSCE officials unload
The monitors will undergo five days of classes on security, landmine awareness and the situation in the province.

The BBC Correspondent in Pristina says the OSCE is under intense pressure to get the observers out into the field as soon as possible.

More than 200 monitors from Russia, the United States, Canada and the European Union are already in the region, operating as part of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission.

They will eventually be trained and absorbed into OSCE operation.

Serb hostage freed

Following mediation by United States' observers, ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo have freed a Serbian policeman a week after they abducted him.

The policeman, Goran Zbiljic, was handed over by Kosovo Liberation Army fighters near Podujevo, northeast of the capital Pristina.

He told journalists he had not been mistreated, and all he wanted to do was go home, adding that the war in Kosovo was wrong and must stop.

Several hundred people have been killed and up to 300,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, displaced since Serbia launched a crackdown on Kosovo separatists in February.

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