YU army denies Kosovo incursion

BELGRADE, Aug 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army on Tuesday denied a report in a U.S. military newspaper that it had made an incursion into Kosovo, state news agency Tanjug said.

The Stars and Stripes paper had said U.S. forces used Apache helicopters to confront a group of armed and uniformed Serbs who crossed into the province in two all-terrain vehicles on July 28.

It said the Serbs then retreated back across the boundary line of Kosovo and into Serbia's tense Presevo valley, scene of clashes between Serb police and an ethnic Albanian group seeking to wrest the area from Belgrade's control.

"It is not true that the Yugoslav army entered the said area," Colonel Svetozar Radisic, the army spokesman, was quoted by state news agency Tanjug as saying.

Radisic said the local police, not the army, had entered a five-kilometer (three-mile) buffer zone along the boundary with Kosovo to carry out a task in Presevo, as allowed under international agreements.

Serb army and police units pulled out of Kosovo in June 1999 as part of an agreement that ended NATO's 78-day bombing campaign of Yugoslavia over its repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Yugoslav army units had to withdraw to more than five kilometers from the Kosovo boundary line, but police units from Serbia can operate within the zone.

The army said the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force that entered the province when Serb forces withdrew had overreacted.

"The report in the U.S. paper is obviously KFOR's attempt to justify a badly judged and arrogant action in which they used low-flying combat helicopters to force our policemen to halt their work because their lives were in danger," Radisic said.

"The Yugoslav army respects UN resolution 1244 and the military agreement as opposed to KFOR whose units daily deliberately violate these documents with their engagement on the Albanians' side," Radisic said.

NATO-led peacekeepers have stepped up security in the Presevo area to try and stop the ethnic Albanian Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac Liberation Army (UCPMB in Albanian) from operating.

Original article