Milosevic's Tactics Hurting Talks
Feb. 22, 1999
RAMBOUILLET, France (AP) _ Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pressured ethnic Albanians today to sign a Kosovo peace accord, so the full focus of diplomacy could be aimed at the recalcitrant Serbs.
A U.S. official at the peace conference said the future of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army remained a sticking point for the ethnic Albanians. Under the proposed three-year interim plan, the KLA would be disarmed.
The ethnic Albanian delegation, made up of KLA members as well as more moderate politicians, was apparently split on disarmament.
Albright's spokesman, James P. Rubin, said the secretary spoke by telephone with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Albanian officials in Tirana. She also planned to call President Clinton.
But Rubin reported no progress in the talks today.
The phone calls, he said, were to work up support for ``the emerging agreement'' of the Kosovo Albanians. He said their demand for a referendum on independence was also a major sticking point that needed to be worked out.
``Kosovo Albanians continue to move forward toward an agreement,'' Rubin said. ``The Serbs are not engaged seriously on the military part, which is an integral part of the agreement.''
Serb negotiators say they are prepared to sign a deal giving Kosovo Albanians wide autonomy, but they refuse a military annex to the agreement that calls for up to 30,000 NATO troops to enforce the deal.
Serbian President Milan Milutinovic arrived today at the 14th-century chateau where the negotiations are being held, and was scheduled to meet with Albright. Milutinovic has consistently rejected any possibility of stationing foreign troops in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population.
That position threatens to be the deal-breaker, and could result in NATO airstrikes on Serbia.
``The Serbian side believes it can have half a deal,'' said Albright. ``There are not two documents. There is one document with two parts to it.''
An estimated 2,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes in Kosovo over the past year.
``If we have a yes from both sides, we will have an implementation force,'' Albright said Sunday evening. ``If the talks crater because the Serbs do not say yes, we will have bombing. If the talks crater because the Albanians have not said yes, we will not be able to support them and in fact will have to cut off whatever help they are getting from the outside.
``If it fails because both parties say no, there will not be bombing of Serbia and we will try to figure out ways to continue trying to deal with both sides.''
Russia has adamantly opposed NATO air strikes on Serbia and has been noncommittal about stationing NATO troops in Kosovo.
``With regard to NATO airstrikes, we were against them from the beginning, and we are still now,'' Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in Tokyo. ``If the airstrikes took place, all the effort and all the talk conducted up until now would be wasted.''
The 15-nation European Union added its pressure on the Serbs today, saying it is ready to lift trade and other sanctions against Yugoslavia gradually if a deal is reached.
These sanctions include an arms embargo, a ban on new investments and travel visas for Yugoslav government officials, a freezing of Yugoslav assets abroad and a ban on commercial flights to and from Yugoslavia.
Meanwhile, in Kosovo, Serb forces backed by tanks battled ethnic Albanian rebels northwest of Pristina today.
Television crews reported police were blocking access to the area, where several houses were burning in the aftermath of the exchange of fire.