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More Monitors Arrive in Kosovo

December 29, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ More international monitors headed into Kosovo on Tuesday to shore up a fragile truce following the worst outbreak of fighting between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in months.

NATO, meanwhile, repeated warnings that it stands ready to intervene if the two sides fail to respect the Oct. 12 agreement between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, which ended seven months of fighting and averted NATO airstrikes.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking in Brussels, Belgium, cautioned both sides ``not to endanger the fragile security situation.″

The October agreement was severely strained by four days of fighting that began Christmas Eve between government forces and the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. At least 15 people died.

Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia’s main republic of Serbia, was generally quiet Tuesday.

In Washington, a group of senators urged President Clinton to change his Balkan policy and actively seek Milosevic’s removal from power as a solution to the region’s violence.

The seven members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, said Clinton should try to provide incentives for Milosevic to step down and accept exile to a third country.

They proposed a number of measures to weaken Milosevic’s authoritarian rule, including a ban on contacts by U.S. officials and a lifting of sanctions against Montenegro, Serbia’s reform-minded partner in the Yugoslav Federation.

Milosevic, blamed by Washington for the 3 1/2 year war in Bosnia, launched a police crackdown in Kosovo to suppress separatists this year and agreed to a truce only under threat of NATO airstrikes.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which already has some 600 monitors in Kosovo, said an unspecified number of American, Canadian and European observers arrived in Kosovo late Tuesday.

More are expected in a day or two, bringing the total of new arrivals to about 100. The OSCE expects to have a full complement of 2,000 verifiers by mid-January, according to spokesman Sandy Blyth.

Verifiers, however, do not carry weapons, and critics among ethnic Albanians and Serbs have questioned whether the mission could prevent a new round of fighting, possibly in the spring.

Although Kosovo was largely quiet Tuesday, there were reported pockets of tension. The ethnic Albanian-run Kosovo Information Center reported some shooting on the outskirts of Kosovska Mitrovica, 20 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Pristina.

International and Serb sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said five bodies were found Tuesday in widely scattered areas of Kosovo, including two in Kosovska Mitrovica.

Rebel spokesman Adem Demaci said the guerrillas will respect the cease-fire ``but we will defend ourselves with all means, if necessary.″

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