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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK


World: Europe

Kosovo peace plan agreed

Mr Ahtisaari said the plan offered Yugoslavia a new beginning

President Milosevic has accepted an international peace plan for Kosovo committing Yugoslav forces to begin leaving the province within 48 hours, with full withdrawal in seven days.

Kosovo: Special Report
US President Bill Clinton welcomed the move, but said the bombing would continue "until the Serbs begin a verifiable withdrawal from Kosovo".

Earlier, the joint Russian-European Union peace plan won the backing of Serbia's parliament.

European Union envoy Martti Ahtisaari said Yugoslavia's acceptance of the Kosovo peace plan represented only a first step towards a resolution of the crisis.


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He said: "There is a lot of hard work that still needs to be done, but I believe the first step in building peace has been made."

He added: "The proof of the pudding is in eating it and the same goes for peace processes."

He said the details of the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo had to be worked out between military officials but he expressed optimism that this could be done quickly, clearing the way for Nato's air campaign to be suspended.

"We're talking about days rather than weeks," he said.


The BBC's Peter Hunt: The devil is in the detail
BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason says an unofficial text of the document, approved by Belgrade, indicates that key Nato demands have now been accepted.

These include an international security presence in Kosovo under united command with a "fundamental" role for Nato.

Prior to its deployment, all Yugoslav security forces would withdraw from Kosovo.


John Simpson reports: "There is a melancholy feeling on the streets of Belgrade"
The peace plan also requires the KLA to disarm. KLA leader, Hashim Thaci, told Germany's ZDF television that the rebels were "ready to co-operate in the transformation process" of converting the guerrilla movement into a political party, but avoided an explicit promise to disarm.


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One Serb deputy said approval for the plan came after a "big row" in parliament, another described it as a capitulation. In the end the majority for the agreement was 136 votes against 74.

The Serbian Radical Party - the second largest party with 82 of 250 seats - voted against the proposals, and stormed out at the end of the session.


Michael Williams reports on an "explosive" parliamentary session
Radical Party deputy premier Vojislav Seselj has said he would resign if Nato troops entered Kosovo.

Other deputies emerged from the session in jubilant mood, shouting "The war is over".

Mixed reaction


Bridget Kendall reports: "The war isn't over yet"
Russia, whose envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin brokered the plan alongside Mr Ahtisaari, is now urging Nato to send military officials to Belgrade in the next few days to implement the plan and bring the bombing to an end.

However, hard-line deputies in the lower house of the Russian parliament have accused Mr Chernomyrdin of betraying Russian and Yugoslav interests and giving too much away to the West.

European Union leaders meeting in Cologne have given the news a cautious but positive welcome.


Jeremy Cooke reports: "Most of the refugees seem to give a cautious welcome to what has been agreed"
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped the agreement would be backed by action. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook added: "We don't just want fine words, we want action. We want to see the Serbs withdrawing from Kosovo - that is the real test."

With the joint Russian-EU peace mission in town, Belgrade was spared any bombing overnight and instead Wednesday night's Nato air strikes concentrated on Yugoslav telecommunications, attacking sites in Serbia and Kosovo.

(Click here to see a map of latest Nato strikes)

According to Yugoslav media, television transmitters were targeted in the towns of Srbobran, 125km (80 miles) north of Belgrade, and Kraljevo, 100km (65 miles) south of the capital. And in Kosovo, a transmitter site in Pristina was attacked.

Nato continued to target Serb ground troops in action against KLA forces in southwestern Kosovo, near the Albanian border.


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Internet Links


Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Kosovo Crisis Centre

Eyewitness accounts of the bombing

Nato

Serbian Ministry of Information


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