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Kosovo Peace Talks Open in France

February 6, 1999

RAMBOUILLET, France (AP) _ After a three-hour delay due to a Serb refusal to let ethnic Albanians leave Kosovo, the parties to the bitter conflict in Serbia’s southern province opened peace talks Saturday, under international pressure to hammer out a deal.

President Jacques Chirac opened the negotiations at a 14th century chateau in this town south of Paris.

``There are times when history is in the hands of a few men,″ Chirac said. ``That is the case today.″

But there was a cloud hanging over the talks from the start. Even as they gathered in France, Serb negotiators said they would refuse to negotiate with ``terrorists″ _ referring to the Kosovo Liberation Army.

``If the (KLA) shows up at the plenary session, we won’t attend,″ said Vojislav Zivkovic, a member of the Serb delegation.

After a standoff that began late Friday, the ethnic Albanian negotiators finally left Pristina, the capital of Kosovo province, several hours late. The late departure forced mediators to move the opening of the talks back three hours.

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