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Serbs Attack Albanian Guerrillas

July 25, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Serb forces attacked Albanian guerrillas Saturday along two Kosovo highways in what military sources said was an attempt to clear major transport arteries and push the rebels back into their rural strongholds.

Serb and Albanian sources reported fighting in numerous locations along the main highway linking the provincial capital, Pristina, with Pec, about 45 miles west near the border with Albania. Pec is the province’s second-largest city.

A second Serb thrust was underway along the road between Pristina and Prizren, 40 miles south, the two sides said.

Sources close to the military, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the operations were designed to secure major communications and transportation links and to contain the Kosovo Liberation Army, which is fighting for independence for Kosovo.

If true, the operations could be designed in part to make the KLA more amenable to allowing moderate ethnic Albanian politicians to begin talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on the province’s future.

Milosevic has offered to restore autonomy, which he withdrew in 1989, but opposes independence _ the goal of the KLA and the moderate Albanian politicians.

The United States and the Europeans also oppose independence, but hope a compromise can be worked out once the fighting stops. Albanians form 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, a province of Serbia.

Serbia and Montenegro together form the Yugoslav federation.

The latest attacks began as the United States stepped up its diplomatic efforts to arrange peace talks. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill met Friday with moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

The Americans and Europeans are promoting Rugova as a leader of the Albanian side in future talks because he opposes violence.

Hundreds of people have died and tens of thousands of others have fled their homes, since long-standing tensions erupted into violent clashes five months ago, following a crackdown by Serb-led security forces.

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