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Yugoslavia Prepares for NATO Attack

October 8, 1998

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Threats of NATO airstrikes only dim the chances for peace in Kosovo, President Slobodan Milosevic warned as the United States tried to rally support for a tough stand against him.

While the government began to prepare Yugoslavs for war, Milosevic again rebuffed efforts Wednesday by special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke to strike a deal to end the crisis in the troubled province. Afterward, Milosevic said in a statement that ``threats, which are delivered to our country, jeopardize the continuation of the political process.″

Holbrooke briefs Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO officials today in Brussels, Belgium. Albright plans to travel on to London later today for a hastily called meeting of the major powers most deeply involved in the negotiations.

The countries involved in mediating the 7-month-old crisis _ except the United States and Britain _ have indicated varying degrees of misgivings about using force to make Milosevic to end his crackdown against ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

Kosovo is a southern province of Serbia, the main republic of Yugoslavia.

About 90 percent of Kosovo’s 2 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanians, and most favor independence or substantial self-rule. Hundreds have been killed and more than 270,000 people have been driven from their homes since Milosevic began a crackdown on the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army in February.

Milosevic’s reference to the ``threats″ undermining chances for peace appeared aimed at exploiting international divisions over the wisdom of airstrikes.

Despite mounting evidence that Milosevic has not complied with international demands for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Serb troops, and the return of refugees to their villages, Washington seemed to lack the international consensus needed to bomb Milosevic into compliance.

``We are continuing to push for military action against the Serbs,″ State Department spokesman James Rubin said. ``NATO is not there yet.″

Holbrooke did succeed in negotiating safe passage for Selman Morina, the sole survivor of a massacre last week in which 13 other ethnic Albanian males were allegedly shot and killed by Serb police. The police deny involvement.

Morina, who was wounded in the leg, left the country Wednesday with 10 family members and will be interviewed by U.N. war crimes investigators in The Hague, Netherlands, said a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Serbia, meanwhile, announced measures Wednesday that brought the country nearer to war footing. It ordered government departments to increase security and threatened punishment for those who spread ``fear, panic and defeatism.″

Detailed maps showing locations of 46 main Belgrade underground shelters were published in newspapers, including instructions on ``what to do in case of an attack.″

Yugoslavs went on panic shopping sprees _ causing shortages of flour, sugar and other staples.

Foreigners as well prepared for possible NATO airstrikes.

Britain, France and Germany recommended their citizens leave Yugoslavia. Canada has already evacuated nonessential diplomatic staff and their families. U.S. officials said dependents of embassy employees would soon be evacuated.

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