PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- NATO and the Kosovo Liberation Army early Monday signed an accord providing for the demilitarization of the KLA, effectively ending its existence as a military force.
The pact was signed after midnight by British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson, head of alliance forces in Kosovo, and Hashim Thaci, political head of the KLA. Also present was State Department spokesman James Rubin.The signing ceremony was held shortly after midnight in a mud-floored tent, at Jackson's headquarters outside Pristina. A small group of reporters was summoned to witness the event.
"Thank you, very much indeed," Jackson murmured as the two men signed the document.
The signing occurred less than half an hour after the final deadline for the pullout of Serb forces from Kosovo, which was Sunday at midnight.
Determining the future of the rebel army had been considered a crucial element of the Kosovo peace plan.
Under the demilitarization agreement, rebels must turn over their heavy weapons and stop carrying weapons in many parts of Kosovo. Anything bigger than a sidearm or hunting rifle must be placed in storage within 30 days.
The agreement also calls for the rebels to maintain a cease-fire, expel all foreign members and respect the peacekeepers' authority on security matters.
KLA fighters in the western city of Pec stopped carrying the rifles and assault weapons that earlier had seemed almost part of their uniforms. At one checkpoint, peacekeepers confiscated grenades from rebel fighters.
The agreement came on the heels of NATO's declaration that it had formally ended its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Towing broken-down military vehicles behind them, the last of 40,000 Yugoslav troops rolled out of Kosovo on Sunday, which prompted NATO's declaration.
Jackson received written confirmation from the Yugoslav military Sunday that all troops had withdrawn to beyond the 3-mile "ground safety zone" along the Kosovo border, said peacekeepers spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Louis Garneau of Canada.
The G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany ended Sunday with a final communique that did not specifically ban reconstruction aid to Yugoslavia while President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.
However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and several of the other leaders remained adamant that while the province of Kosovo will be rebuilt, the rest of Yugoslavia will receive only humanitarian assistance as long as Milosevic is in charge.
Under the Kosovo peace plan, all Yugoslav troops had to be out by midnight.
On Sunday afternoon, after the departure of the main Serb convoy, a line of Serb transport trucks returned to haul off broken-down tanks and armored vehicles.
In the hamlet of Livadica on Kosovo's northern border, Avdyl Avdullahu sat on his wooden horse cart and watched the Serb soldiers trundle northward.
"In my 70 years, never have I had a happier day," the ethnic Albanian said.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has tried to conceal the Serb exodus, which he reportedly sees as a sign of defeat his enemies could use to unseat him.
The government has prevented the refugees from getting near Belgrade, blocked their attempts to set up tent cities and urged them to go home to the province many Serbs consider the cradle of their culture.