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Milosevic Expects Ethnic Kosovo

December 31, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Despite a conciliatory New Year’s message from the president of Yugoslavia, his government allies vowed today to defend Kosovo ``with all means″ and fight against NATO if it intervenes in the troubled Serbian province.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday predicted a political solution for the Kosovo conflict would come next year.

Milosevic, in a year-end message read on state television, said he expected 1999 to lead to a ``multi-ethnic Kosovo, based on the principles of equality for all.″

But his government ally, ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, said Serbia is taking continued NATO threats of intervention in Kosovo very seriously, and ``we are ready to defend it.″

He chastised NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who this week said NATO won’t tolerate violence in Kosovo and was ready to intervene.

``Warnings of Javier Solana remind me of one-time threats by Adolf Hitler,″ Seselj told reporters. He said, ``NATO is an aggressive military force threatening the whole mankind.″

In his year-end address, Milosevic said no ethnic group would be favored in Kosovo. ``Not the Serbs, but not the Albanians either.″

But he again ruled out independence for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the population, saying any efforts to secede would ``come up against the will of the people″ of Yugoslavia. Serbia is the dominant republic in Yugoslavia, which also contains the republic of Montenegro.

In an interview with state-run Serbian Television, Milosevic’s foreign minister, Zivadin Jovanovic, said, ``We are obliged to use all means to oppose the rush of terrorism and separatism″ in Kosovo.

Jovanovic’s and Seslelj’s comments heightened concerns that the October truce between Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas fighting for Kosovo’s secession _ mediated by American diplomats _ could collapse altogether.

Four days of fierce fighting last week in northern Kosovo claimed at least 15 lives and sent thousands fleeing.

Serb officials accuse the guerrillas, the Kosovo Liberation Army, of triggering the clashes by attacking police and army units. Jovanovic on Tuesday urged the United Nations to declare the KLA a terrorist organization and crack down on its support network abroad.

The KLA asserts that it is only responding to attacks on it.

A Serb crackdown against the KLA earlier this year claimed more than 1,000 lives and left about 300,000 people homeless. Milosevic ended the aggression after NATO threatened airstrikes.

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