Yugoslav Leader Committed To Peace
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Following another NATO warning, Yugoslavia’s president said today he remains committed to the Kosovo peace pact despite what he called ``terrorist″ attempts to sabotage it.
President Slobodan Milosevic’s comments came after talks in which NATO military chief Gen. Wesley Clark and U.S. envoy Christopher Hill told Milosevic what he still must do to fully comply with an Oct. 12 deal that averted NATO airstrikes.
U.S. and NATO officials complain that Milosevic has not withdrawn all the special police units sent to Kosovo in a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists of the Kosovo Liberation Army. He must do so by Tuesday or face a renewed threat of NATO airstrikes.
Milosevic told the American officials that ``despite armed provocations by the terrorist groups ... Serbia and Yugoslavia stand firm in their determination for a peaceful solution of the Kosovo problem by political means″ the official news agency Tanjug reported today.
Fighting between Serb forces and ethnic Albanians _ who make up an overwhelming majority of the population of Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia’s main republic Serbia _ has killed hundreds of people and forced around 300,000 from their homes.
Last week Milosevic agreed to halt the crackdown, which began in February. But rebel attacks and a subsequent buildup of Serb forces have threatened the deal, in which the Yugoslav president also pledged to allow international agencies to help refugees and to agree with ethnic Albanians on a timetable for restoring self-rule.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook warned Milosevic not to make the mistake of imagining the world will forget its commitment.
``We will be watching very carefully to make sure he sticks to the agreement,″ Cook said during a visit to neighboring Macedonia.
But other Western officials have been quick to point out Milosevic’s progress toward compliance in recent days, adding to speculation that the Tuesday deadline _ already extended by 10 days _ will again be pushed back.
Washington says that despite nightly small-arms fire in several Kosovo towns, the cease-fire is generally holding.
International deliveries of humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of refugees continue. The U.N. refugee agency sent a first shipment of shoes today for refugees in Djinovce, 40 miles south of Pristina.
Many refugees have returned to their villages but leave them at night for their temporary settlements, fearing shelling.
Also today, efforts moved forward on setting up the ground force in Kosovo to verify the status of Yugoslavia’s pledges.
The 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it will formally approve the monitoring force on Thursday.
OSCE spokesman Mons Nyberg said the vote will authorize the first of the verifiers _ about 50 Americans, Europeans and Russians who are already in Kosovo as part of a diplomatic mission.
American diplomat William Walker, the mission chief, will head to Pristina next week to officially launch the mission, Nyberg said.
U.S. officials say the countries involved have volunteered about 1,500 monitors.