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Sunday, June 13, 1999 Published at 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK

World: Europe

German Nato troops face Serbs

Serb soldiers confront the German Nato contingent

There have been tense confrontations between German troops and Serbian army soldiers in southern Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
Battalions of German Nato peacekeepers entered the province from Albania on Sunday morning to secure the area for the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

But a few miles into Kosovo, they had to confront retreating Serbian soldiers.

The Germans had been greeted with cheers and applause as they drove over the same border crossing that for the past two months has been the main exit route for ethnic Albanians being expelled from Kosovo.

[ image: Out in the countryside, the German troops were cheered]
Out in the countryside, the German troops were cheered
Hundreds shouted "Nato, Nato". One man who had crossed the border into Kosovo tore down the Serbian flag and set it on fire.

The Serbian border post was looted and customs officials' uniforms were burnt.

Almost 100 Serbian soldiers, some of them snipers, came down from their positions in the hills and handed in their weapons.

BBC correspondent Clive Myrie, who witnessed the incident, decribes them as looking " tired and dejected - a defeated army."

Ethnic Albanians shouted obscenities at them as they walked up the road.

The BBC's Clive Myrie in Prizren:"Serbs will be taunted all the way to the border"
But in the town of Prizren, 14km from the border, a group of 20 heavily armed Serbian soldiers rushed towards a crowd of ethnic Albanians who had been taunting them as losers in the war with Nato.

One Serb soldier fired a round from his Kalashnikov into the air. Another attacked a man by the roadside, beating and kicking him.

All this was in full view of the German peacekeepers who stepped in.

[ image: A Serb soldier points his rifle at taunters]
A Serb soldier points his rifle at taunters
They did not draw their weapons, but the atmosphere was reported to be extremely tense.

The Serbian soldiers then retreated towards the border, jumping into trucks which were spat at by jeering crowds shouting "Fascists".

The Serb security forces have until Tuesday to leave the sourthern part of Kosovo and head north towards Belgrade.

German troops have the task of patrolling and making safe the southern area of Kosovo over the next few months in readiness for several hundred thousand refugees who will be returning home.

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