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Kosovo Leader Seeks Intervention

July 24, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A top ethnic Albanian politician demanded international action to stop fighting in Kosovo today and warned violence could spill into neighboring regions.

``Serbian military and police forces continue with attacks and massacres against the Albanian population,″ said Ibrahim Rugova, a moderate leader of ethnic Albanians in separatist Kosovo province.

``We demand international protection for Kosovo and its people in order to stop further conflict that could spread to a wider region,″ he said .

Rugova was to meet with Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Macedonia, who is trying to kickstart stalled peace talks. Hill arrived in the provincial capital of Pristina today.

The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army indicated it would not recognize any agreement worked out with Rugova. In an interview published in the ethnic Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore, a KLA officer identified as Lum Haxhiu said the ``KLA cannot be controlled by any Albanian political force because it’s a national army, a people’s army, and its policy is national, not a party policy.″

He reiterated that KLA would settle for nothing less than full independence for Kosovo, a southern province in Serb-led Yugoslavia that has a population of 2 million people _ 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians. Hundreds of people have been killed since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic started a crackdown on Albanian militants in late February.

Rugova also wants independence, but does not advocate violence.

As well as the United States, the European Union is trying to get the two sides together and has scheduled a peace mission to Kosovo next week. Washington has said it supports that effort but has not ruled out military force to stop the killing.

``We are prepared to act alone if necessary,″ Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, said Thursday following word of the EU mission. U.S. participation in a NATO operation in the southern Serbian republic also is possible, he said.

In neighboring Macedonia, NATO’s secretary general said the military alliance continues planning ``a wide range of options.″

``Our obligation is to be prepared if necessary,″ said Secretary-General Javier Solana.

Serbs and Kosovo Albanians accused each other of summary executions, beatings and other atrocities during the fierce fighting in the last week for the central town of Orahovac. With areas around the town inaccessible because of road blocks put up by both sides, it’s difficult to assess the conflicting reports.

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