CEOL
YU army chief denies reinforcing troops near Kosovo

BELGRADE, Mar 11, 2000 -- (AFP) Yugoslavia's most senior army officer, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, denied Friday reinforcing his troops in a tense southern region of Serbia which borders Kosovo, the state agency Tanjug reported.

"There is neither general mobilization nor any reinforcement of the troops in the southern part of our country," Tanjug quoted Pavkovic as saying during his visit to the 3rd Yugoslav army, which based in the region.

His comments followed an increase in tension in the Presovo border zone between Serbia proper and Kosovo, where Serbian police and a UN official have come under attack in recent days.

The attacks were attributed to ethnic Albanian fighters, calling themselves UCPMB -- the Albanian acronym for the Presevo-Medvedja-Bujanovac Liberation Army, a reference to the three towns in southeastern Serbia, due east of Kosovo.

The Presevo valley is home to an estimated 75,000 ethnic Albanians, although the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said 6,000 of them have fled to Kosovo since the end of NATO's air strikes on Yugoslavia last year.

Pavkovic, who led the Yugoslav troops who were forced to withdraw from Kosovo last year after NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, also dismissed reports of "possible new aggression" against the country, Tanjug said.

According to the agreement signed last June between NATO and Belgrade, only local Serb police are allowed into the zone set up after NATO's air war on Yugoslavia.

Last week, Yugoslav army general Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the 3rd army also dismissed reports of the troops reinforcement in the area, saying that units were "performing regular duties and observing what is happening in Kosovo."



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