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Kosovo Albanian Rebuffs Peace Mission

July 15, 1998

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sought Wednesday to set up a permanent mission in Kosovo aimed at mediating an end to fighting in the separatist province.

But a hard-line ethnic Albanian politician in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, said the OSCE effort comes six years too late.

Yugoslavia was suspended from the OSCE and other international organizations in 1992 for allegedly fomenting ethnic conflict in Croatia and Bosnia. Belgrade has resisted the organization’s attempts since then to set up permanent offices in the country.

This is the first OSCE mission in six years that is exploring ways to reinstate Yugoslavia’s membership.

Hansjoerg Eiff, a German diplomat, said after meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic that ``we came to talk about all aspects of relations between OSCE and Yugoslavia.″

In Pristina, Bajram Kosumi, considered among the more hard-line Kosovo Albanian officials, criticized the OSCE for sending a mission after the conflict has advanced to such a bloody state.

``The return of the OSCE mission in Kosovo could be a symbolic gesture, which would stress the concern and interest Europe and the international community in general have for Kosovo,″ he said. ``But effectively, it will have little influence in the field.″

After strong pressure from the United States and Russia, their greatest ally, Yugoslavia agreed last Thursday to let an initial fact-finding mission visit Kosovo, where fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians has killed more than 300 people since February.

Other areas where OSCE would like to see permanent missions include the Muslim Serbian region of Sandzak and Vojvodina, a Serbian province with a large Hungarian minority, Yugoslav media reported.

Meanwhile, fighting flared Wednesday in several areas of Kosovo.

The pro-government Serb Media Center said a group of armed ethnic Albanians attacked a police checkpoint near the southwestern Kosovo town of Decani, 45 miles west of Pristina, wounding one policeman. Police repelled the attack, the center said.

The ethnic Albanian Kosovo Information Center said three Albanians were killed in an attack by Serb forces near Decani late Tuesday. Serb forces also attacked two villages on the road leading to the border with Albania, setting fire to seven houses before KLA fighters forced them to retreat, the center said.

Fighting also continued Wednesday in two other regions, Djakovica _ where one Albanian was killed and five were wounded Monday _ and the KLA stronghold of Drenica, the center said.

No independent confirmation was available.

The leadership of the political party that supports Ibrahim Rugova _ elected Kosovo president in elections Serbia did not recognize _ met in Pristina Wednesday to decide when the ethnic Albanian assembly, also elected unofficially, is to convene. No date was agreed on.

Attempts by world powers to rally the splintered ethnic Albanian politicians behind Rugova have been unsuccessful. With political efforts to gain independence faltering, the Kosovo Liberation Army continues to gain support.

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