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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 04:06 GMT 05:06 UK

World: Europe

General sent to stop troop mutiny

Concessions: General Nebojsa Pavkovic

The Yugoslav general in charge of the war in Kosovo has been called in from the military campaign to placate thousands of mutinous troops and protesters, according to reports reaching the republic of Montenegro.

Kosovo: Special Report
Protests are continuing in several towns in Serbia where the families of dead and wounded soldiers are calling for an end to the fighting.

General Nebojsa Pavkovic spent Sunday in the Serbian town of Raska, where many of the dead and wounded have been arriving over the past few days.

Protesters rally

He promised that those men who were sick or needed to provide for their families could stay at home, but others would still have to go to Kosovo to fight.

His concessions did little to placate the more than 1,000 protesters reported to be rallying against him.

In another town, Aleksandrovac, two Yugoslav army colonels sent in from Nis were said to be held by a crowd until they promised to deliver a petition to Belgrade.

[ image: Up to 1,000 Serb soldiers reportedly deserted last week]
Up to 1,000 Serb soldiers reportedly deserted last week
This attempt by the army to negotiate is evidence of the concern these very personal anti-war protests are causing in Belgrade.

They have been going on for more than a week now and if anything show signs of spreading rather than letting up.

It was reported on Wednesday that some 800 to 1,000 Serbian soldiers had deserted their units and returned to Krusevac in Yugoslavia after anti-war protests there.

Offer refused

Last week the former mayor of Belgrade Zoran Djindjic said a state of emergency had been declared in the region around the town because of the protests.

Montenegro's independent daily Vijesti said on Thursday that Gen Pavkovic, who was dispatched to Krusevac to talk to the men, had failed to persuade the deserters to return to Kosovo.

Gen Pavkovic said the army would view their return home as temporary leave, but Vijesti said this offer had been refused.

"(The soldiers) want a permanent end to the war," the newspaper said in an article headlined "Not even Pavkovic can make the troops return to Kosovo."

The way that President Milosevic chooses to handle this rebellion by his own citizens could well determine the outcome of the Kosovo crisis.

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