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Serb Border Guards Kill Eight

December 3, 1998

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ In the worst breach of the Kosovo cease-fire, Yugoslav border guards killed eight ethnic Albanians on Thursday, adding new urgency to the efforts of the U.S. envoy who is trying to negotiate a permanent peace.

Several other armed incidents were reported as envoy Christopher Hill presented Serbian President Milan Milutinovic with a revised plan for the future of the Serb province.

Hill said some progress was being made, but warned that time was at a premium because of fears that fighting, which had been at a lull as winter approached, could resume by spring.

``I feel a sense of urgency,″ Hill said. ``Spring should be the time for plowing and not for fighting.″

The eight armed ethnic Albanians were killed near the town of Prizren when nine of them fired on Yugoslav soldiers guarding the border with Albania, the pro-government Serbian Media Center said. Yugoslav troops were not injured, the center said

Yugoslavia’s army command confirmed the deaths and said the ethnic Albanians were trying to cross the border into Kosovo illegally.

Ethnic Albanian rebels, who have been fighting for Kosovo’s independence, have frequently used illegal border routes to arm themselves in neighboring Albania.

The clash came a day after three ethnic Albanians were gunned down in their car in Kosovo’s capital Pristina. A woman pedestrian was injured. Serbian police said they found three automatic weapons and two hand grenades in the car, which was raked by machine-gun fire.

On Thursday, rebel spokesman Adem Demaci blamed the killings on Serbia’s secret police, saying one of the victims was a leading member of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army while the two others were civilians: a journalist of the main Albanian language newspaper Bujku and a university student.

The journalist, Afrim Malici, had complained he was being followed by Serbia’s secret service, his colleagues said.

Before meeting with Milutinovic, Hill said the new draft reflects previous comments by rival Serb and ethnic Albanian officials on how to achieve a settlement for the ethnic Albanian-majority province in southern Serbia.

Kosovo’s Albanian leadership wants independence from Serbia but is willing to settle for full autonomy as a first step. Serbia and the Serb leaders of Yugoslavia are strongly opposed to any plan on Kosovo that would sidestep Serbia.

Hill did not elaborate, but said the new plan does not explicitly specify whether Kosovo will become the third Yugoslav republic or would remain a Serb province. Republic status for Kosovo would give it equal say with Serbia and Montenegro, the two republics that make up Yugoslavia.

Hill planned to present the plan to ethnic Albanian officials on Friday.

In a statement after meeting Hill, Milutinovic said he would ``carefully study″ the new U.S. proposal, but added the Serbian position should be ``the main basis for the political solution″ of the Kosovo crisis.

Hundreds of people were killed and up to 300,000 were left homeless after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown against Kosovo separatists in February.

Bloodshed abated after Milosevic promised U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on Oct. 12 to end the Kosovo campaign and begin political negotiations on the province’s future. The cease-fire was reached under threat of NATO airstrikes.

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