CEOL - Belgrade forces to return to Kosovo 'most likely in June'

BELGRADE, Dec 28, 1999 -- (Reuters) Belgrade forces will return to Kosovo "most likely in June," General Nebojsa Pavkovic, head of the Third Yugoslav Army, in charge of the province, said Monday, the Tanjug news agency reported.

"Our army will certainly return to Kosovo. This will most likely happen in June, when the mandate of the U.N. forces expires," Pavkovic said in an interview with the television station Antena in Jagodina, south of Belgrade, Tanjug reported.

The NATO-led international force KFOR is deployed in the province under U.N. Security Council resolution 1244.

On Sunday, another general of the Third Yugoslav Army said Belgrade police and army would "certainly" return to the Serbian province, by force if necessary.

General Vladimir Lazarevic, the commander of the Pristina corps based in the Kosovar capital before Belgrade's troops were forced to withdraw from the province in mid-June after NATO's air campaign, said his units "will, without fail, return to Kosovo."

Under a military agreement struck between NATO and Belgrade in June, a small, lightly armed contingent of Yugoslav soldiers and police is to return to Kosovo to guard culturally sensitive sites and Yugoslavia's borders.

But Belgrade, accusing Western officials of being biased against Kosovo's Serbian population, of which an estimated 300,000 have fled since June, has increased demands for a return of its security forces to Kosovo.

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