Reuters Kosovo Albanian Leaders Against Buffer Zone Cut
Kosovo Albanian Leaders Against Buffer Zone Cut
PRISTINA, Mar 1, 2001 -- (Reuters) Kosovo Albanian political leaders said
on Wednesday they opposed NATO's proposal to reduce the buffer zone with
Serbia in which ethnic Albanian guerrillas operate.
Kosovo Albanian political parties signed a declaration demanding a widening of
the five kilometer (three mile) strip, Hashim Thaci, head of the Democratic Party
of Kosovo and former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said.
In comments broadcast on television he said narrowing the zone could increase
tension in Kosovo if it let the Yugoslav army come closer. His views were
echoed by Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the moderate Democratic League of
"We agreed that the safety ground should not to be reduced because it can
endanger the safety of Kosovo and also NATO soldiers' lives," Rugova said,
referring to the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
NATO imposed the sanitary belt around Kosovo in June 1999 as a no-go area
for almost all Serbian forces, but unintentionally created a safe haven for
guerrillas in Serbia's Presevo Valley just east of Kosovo.
NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels earlier this week said they were
accelerating efforts to help Serbia peacefully regain control of the Presevo
Valley, scene of repeated clashes between guerrillas and police.
The allies were "prepared to implement a phased and conditioned reduction of
the Ground Safety Zone" but they were "still working on the details of how this
will be done", NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said on Tuesday.
He said on Wednesday that Serbia must pull back troops before NATO starts
ceding control of the buffer zone.
"We will move as quickly as we possibly can but we will also do it with
prudence and with care because this is a dangerous situation and we don't
intend to make it worse," Robertson said in Brussels.