More death in the valley
An ethnic Albanian guerrilla leader was killed this week by a landmine in a rebel-controlled area within the buffer zone in Southern Serbia, according to the political wing of the guerrilla force.
Agim Elchani, also called commander Malisheva, was the head of a top unit known as the Eagles. He was killed on Wednesday by a landmine in the Muhovac area, according to Jonuz Musliu, a member of the ethnic Albanian political leadership in Southern Serbia.
NATO gets talks going again
Serbian officials resumed NATO-mediated talks with ethnic Albanian rebels seeking self-rule in the south of the country, according to a spokeswoman at the government press centre.
The talks opened in Lucane, a village half controlled by Serbian special police and half by the rebel Liberation Army for Preševo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB), said spokeswoman Milena Kovačević. Present at the negotiations was NATO special envoy Pieter Feith, who on 12 March managed to broker a ceasefire in the rebel-held Kosovo buffer zone in Southern Serbia.
The Belgrade delegation was headed by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Čović while the Albanian negotiating team included rebels in civilian clothes. A first meeting between the two sides was held on 29 March in the village of Merdare on the northeast administrative boundary between the UN-run Kosovo province and the rest of Serbia.
But negotiations on a long-term solution to the conflict did not take place as expected after Belgrade insisted the rebels first release six Serbs, including two army officers, they are holding captive. Čović said Thursday there were still "some problems to settle in regard to violations of the ceasefire and the free movement of Serbs."
Little hope the guns will fall silent
Even if a deal is reached, it is unlikely to bring an end to fighting in all areas. In more tense parts of the five-kilometre wide buffer zone the ceasefire is in tatters, but local leaders are optimistic that a new round of NATO-mediated talks between Serbian officials and ethnic Albanian rebels set for the coming week would go ahead.
Rebels and refugees
German soldiers of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force have detained 44 suspected Albanian guerrillas in Southern Kosovo and handed them over to the UN police in the province, according to UN officials.
The 44 were arrested for illegally crossing into UN-administered Kosovo from Macedonia and for illegal possession of arms, the UN police spokesman said, adding that they were being detained in the towns of Prizren and Peč. He added that the UN police "do not know for sure" whether those detained were Albanians from Macedonia or from Kosovo.
A KFOR spokesman in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren said the 44 were among a group of 79 people arrested earlier this week in the region. The others have been released. Those detained were among refugees who had fled earlier from fighting in the Northern Macedonian town of Tetovo, crossing the border on foot after marching over mountains.
More than 3000 people have arrived in the region of Prizren following the ground offensive launched by Macedonian troops against ethnic Albanian rebels in the Tetovo region.
Dan Damon, 30 March 2001
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