US 'disappointed' with Presevo guerrillas

WASHINGTON, Mar 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United States said on Tuesday it was disappointed that ethnic Albanian guerrillas in southern Serbia appear to have broken last week's agreement to renounce military action against the Belgrade government.

If violations continue, KFOR peacekeepers in neighboring Kosovo could take action against the guerrillas, who have trained in Kosovo but fight in the mainly ethnic Albanian Presevo valley, across the border with the rest of Serbia.

Belgrade has accused the ethnic Albanians of carrying out two armed attacks on Sunday, injuring one person.

The Washington Post, in a report from the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane, said on Tuesday that the guerrillas continue to wear military uniforms and train with assault rifles.

The United States last week helped persuade the guerrillas, who call themselves the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, to oppose armed confrontation and seek a political solution to the problems in their region.

But U.S. State Department James Foley said on Tuesday: "We are indeed disappointed in the failure of these parties to live up to those commitments, commitments they freely undertook and that we welcomed as an initial positive step.

"We continue to stress to the Albanian leadership in Kosovo that we are serious about the messages of zero tolerance for violence and extremism. KFOR has backed these messages with appropriate concrete action and remains capable of doing so as necessary in the future," he added.

Earlier this month U.S. troops in KFOR seized caches of arms, ammunition and uniforms in eastern Kosovo in an attempt to stop the Presevo guerrillas using the province as a base.

Foley told his daily briefing: "We continue to call on all parties to act responsibly and to refrain from any actions that might provoke violence and instability in the region."

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