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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin To Press Serbia on Kosovo




BONN, Germany -- President Boris Yeltsin vowed Tuesday to use his influence with Balkan ally Slobodan Milosevic to end Yugoslav attacks in Kosovo, but remained firmly opposed to any Western military intervention.


Yeltsin said he would try to meet the Yugoslav leader in person and made clear he prefers friendly diplomacy over any military threats or economic sanctions to resolve the Kosovo conflict.


"The more softly I speak, the better the chances of a meeting," Yeltsin said at a news conference following two days of broad-ranging talks with German officials. "We will meet and discuss the question of how to get out of this situation without getting into a big war."


Germany had sought to get Russia behind the Western efforts to get Milosevic to talk peace with the Albanians by boosting the NATO presence in the region and imposing an investment ban on Yugoslavia's main republic of Serbia.


NATO officials in Brussels said Tuesday they were even considering direct military intervention. NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss the possibility in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. At the United Nations, diplomatic sources said the United States and Britain plan to ask the Security Council to approve the use of force against the Serbs.


Ethnic Albanians form a 90 percent majority in Serbia's southern province. More than 250 have died this year in clashes between government forces and the pro-independence Albanian militants, known as the Kosovo Liberation Army.


But Russia, still smarting from NATO's expansion into its former sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, has been reluctant to support heavy-handed measures there.


Before leaving Bonn, Yeltsin said any military deployment in Kosovo would be "very dangerous" and could spark a wider Balkan conflict.


Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he was pleased that Yeltsin was willing to "use his big influence in Belgrade so that the bloodshed ends as quickly as possible."


But the Germans secured no Russian pledges to join NATO efforts or sign on to the investment ban announced Monday.


As the international outcry to halt the bloodshed in Kosovo grew Tuesday, ethnic Albanian leaders took steps to prepare for extended warfare against Serb forces in the secessionist province. Exiled Kosovo Albanian political leaders announced they would collect an extra tax from an estimated 400,000 Kosovo Albanians living in the West to finance the "defense of our people" from attacks by government forces. They did not elaborate.


The announcement by the Germany-based Kosovo Albanian government-in-exile underscored the apparently deepening commitment of both sides to the conflict.


The Serb-led Yugoslav army shipped in a trainload of 46 armored personnel carriers and about 1,000 soldiers to Kosovo's capital, Pristina, in a fifth straight day of such reinforcements, ethnic Albanian sources said.


There also was no sign of a letup in clashes between Serb police and army forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in western Kosovo, where the United Nations human rights chief described a "grave and worsening human rights and humanitarian situation."


Speaking in Geneva, Mary Robinson urged warring Serbs and ethnic Albanian separatists to "curb the spiral of violence."


Yugoslavia denounced the new sanctions. In a statement issued to the official Tanjug news agency, they called the imposition of sanctions a "strange and unreasonable decision."


The comment came in response to decisions made by the European Union and the United States within hours of each other Monday, banning new investments in Serbia and freezing its assets abroad.


The U.S. government had planned to adopt the sanctions earlier but deferred action after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said he was willing to open a dialogue with Kosovo Albanian leaders.


Officials decided that sanctions were appropriate after Yugoslav forces stepped up hostilities against the ethnic Albanians.


A senior official, asking not to be identified, said that as a result of the investment ban Yugoslavia will not be able to secure foreign resources to move ahead with its privatization plans. No estimates were immediately available on the amount of Yugoslav bank accounts and other assets in the United States.


Yugoslavia's Supreme Defense Council, the top commanding body for the country's army, met Tuesday in Belgrade to discuss Kosovo. The panel, headed by Milosevic, "concluded that the Yugoslav army and the police entirely control the state border and successfully take measures that guarantee the safety of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," Tanjug reported.