Kosovo Surprises Itself

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BELGRADE: It's not exactly an exchange of ambassadors, but it's a start -- Kosovo's ethnic Albanian rebels were jubilant Thursday over a prisoner exchange with the Serb authorities. The reason? "By agreeing to exchange prisoners with the rebel KLA, the Serbs are effectively recognizing them as a legitimate warring faction," says TIME Yugoslavia reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "Until now the Serbs had dismissed the KLA as terrorists and treated KLA prisoners as criminals."

In a deal painstakingly negotiated by European monitors, the KLA released eight captive Serb soldiers after the Serbs agreed to hand over nine KLA prisoners. The deal surprised many observers, who expected the Serbs to maintain a hard line. "This is a major step forward for the KLA and may signal further diplomatic progress in the region," says Anastasijevic. But with the KLA committed to fight for full independence and the Serbs dead set against letting them go, even today's breakthrough won't stop further violence.