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NATO Sends Warning to Kosovo

January 28, 1999

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ NATO’s secretary-general warned the warring parties in Kosovo today that they must begin negotiating peace immediately or face allied military action.

``NATO stands ready to act and rules out no option,″ Javier Solana said in a statement read to reporters at NATO headquarters.

The warning comes a day ahead of a meeting in London of the six-nation Contact Group, made up of the the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Italy, over the new political initiative to bring peace to Kosovo.

``We are at a critical turning point in the Kosovo crisis,″ the NATO chief said of the year-long conflict, which has left some 2,000 people dead in fighting between rebels and Serb and Yugoslav forces.

``We are ready to act if necessary,″ Solana said.

NATO has been beefing up its forces in southern Europe preparing for eventual action in Yugoslavia. Naval forces have been positioned off the Yugoslav coast and scores of allied aircraft have flown to bases in Italy, joining about 200 already on standby.

Speaking on behalf of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top policymaking body, Solana said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must withdraw his forces in Kosovo, the poor southern province of Serbia, reducing them to levels agreed to in an Oct. 12 cease-fire.

The 16-nation Western alliance also demanded that all armed ethnic Albanian forces in the province immediately cease hostilities and any provocative action.

NATO, the statement said, ``has decided to increase its military preparedness to ensure that the demands of the international community are met.″

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