Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Blair reveals refugee return date
Ethnic Albanian children welcome UK troops at Podujevo
Prime Minister Tony Blair has told MPs that the organised return of refugees to Kosovo will start on 1 July.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians have already begun the journey home despite the advice of Nato and the United Nations.
His announcement follows the formal declaration of the end of Nato's air campaign after the early completion of the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo.
But Defence Secretary George Robertson said Nato forces remained "in theatre" and would be kept on "long-term alert" in case of possible further violence.
"We are not dropping our guard," said Mr Robertson. "We will still have sufficient air forces available in theatre and on short notice to deter any attempts at adventurism or intimidation, from whichever quarter."
Blair hails 'extraordinary progress'
He told MPs that it had illustrated the improvement in relations with Russia, following earlier disagreements between Nato and Moscow over Kosovo.
"The progress made in the few days since Milosevic finally caved in has been extraordinary - on the withdrawal of Serb forces, on the deployment of ours, on the role of the Russians, and now the agreement to demilitarise the KLA," he said.
Mr Blair also reiterated that the UK would not provide aid to allow Serbia to rebuild while President Milosevic remained in power.
Renewing Russian relations
Earlier, addressing the MoD briefing, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook hailed the agreement for Russian participation in the peace implementation force as a firm basis for peace in Kosovo.
And he revealed that the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had accepted his invitation to visit the UK next month for talks on strengthening ties between London and Moscow.
'Hope is now taking root'
Mr Cook, who plans to visit Kosovo later this week, said that there were already the first signs that life in the war-torn province was returning to some sort of normality .
"Hope is now taking root, " Mr Cook said.
He added: "It is those signs that the population of Kosovo is returning once again to their villages and homes and going about its business in peace which provide the reward for all of those who have taken part in the military campaign for the last three months."
The UK was prepared to do its bit to help reconstruct Kosovo to turn it into a peaceful and democratic society he said.
And he revealed that 60 UK police officers would be sent to recruit, train and monitor a new civil police force.
"A police force which will not feared by the local people as the Serb special police were, but a police force that they can regard as their guarantee of their personal safety and security," he said.
Final cost unknown
Mr Robertson said the government was still calculating the total cost to the taxpayer of the Kosovo conflict.
Mr Robertson also said it was only now possible to begin to accurately estimate the cost of rebuilding Kosovo.
Some predictions have already put the final bill for reconstructing the region at $100bn.
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