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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov Gets No Deal From Serbs




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Hours of talks Tuesday between Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic apparently failed to bring a breakthrough that would end NATO attacks on Serbian forces accused of eradicating ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.


A statement from his office read out on state-run television, after the six-hour meeting with Primakov, repeated his past demands that the NATO bombing must stop before he would halt operations in Kosovo or agree to peace talks.


"To open the space for negotiations, [NATO] aggression on Yugoslavia has to stop immediately," the Milosevic statement said.


That position seemed certain to be rejected by Western officials, who demand an immediate halt to Serbian operations in Kosovo.


Milosevic also called for NATO troops in neighboring Macedonia to be removed and a halt in alleged NATO support for the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian rebel group.


He called ending the NATO attacks and finding a peaceful solution for Kosovo "of utmost importance for the future of the Balkans, which is at the brink of a new explosion."


But while the talks were going on and despite facing a seventh straight day of NATO missile and bombing raids, Milosevic's forces reportedly continued what appeared to be a systematic offensive against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.


After Primakov's meeting with Milosevic, the highest-profile diplomatic effort yet to stop the conflict, the Russian prime minister flew to Bonn, Germany, for talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der.


On arrival in Bonn, Primakov told reporters that Milosevic was "ready to find a political solution to all issues if the bombardment stops."


He said Milosevic wants the goal of the talks to be "that the interests of all groups in Kosovo must be maintained" - a reference to the Serbian minority in the largely ethnic Albanian province of Yugoslavia.


Milosevic also pledged to reduce Yugoslavia's military presence in Kosovo if NATO stops its strikes, according to Primakov. Primakov indicated that Milosevic is insisting on steps to disarm ethnic Albanian rebels.


Schr?der said Milosevic's offer was unacceptable.


"This is no basis for a political solution," said Schr?der, speaking for the 15-nation European Union, of which Germany now holds the six-month rotating presidency. The chancellor, after meeting with Primakov, said he would be talking with NATO representatives later Tuesday but he was certain they also would reject the overture.


"The signal that the international community expects is the withdrawal of Yugoslav military and paramilitary units from Kosovo," the German chancellor said.


Amid the diplomatic activity, air-raid sirens went off as darkness fell in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kraljevo, Nis and Trstenik, indicating more NATO missile and bombing attacks were imminent.


Reports of mass killings and forced removals by Serbian forces, with entire villages being burned and cities cleared of ethnic Albanians, have increased since NATO forces began the bombing and missile campaign last Wednesday.


A Yugoslav official for the first time acknowledged that atrocities may have been committed by Yugoslav troops and Serbian police and paramilitary forces in Kosovo.


"Emotions rise up extremely, and it's possible that there are circumstances to crack down, maybe atrocities, but it is not a state strategy," Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on Israel's Army Radio.


But German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Tuesday that Milosevic "will try over the next two to three weeks to turn Kosovo into a region of destroyed villages where the adult male population will have been interned or killed and the rest driven out or fleeing."


With international monitors having left Kosovo and virtually all foreign journalists kicked out, the reported atrocities are impossible to verify.


Kosovo Albanian refugees continued pouring into neighboring territories, with the tens of thousands in Albania overwhelming the meager services available in one of the world's poorest countries.


Macedonia and the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro also had more refugees than they could handle, and officials called for other nations in the region to take in some of the flow.


French Defense Minister Alain Richard said Tuesday that NATO airstrikes had so far halved Yugoslavia's capacity to strike and defend itself by air. Jean-Pierre Kelche, the French army chief of staff, said NATO enjoyed "mastery of the airspace."


Only one NATO plane - a U.S. F117A stealth fighter - has been confirmed lost in the first six days of attacks.


But on the ground, reports of alleged atrocities and fighting continued.


A rebel source said Serbian forces launched an attack on the Pagarusa Valley, where at least 50,000 ethnic Albanians have been living since they were chased from their homes in last summer's Serbian offensive.


Ramush Hajredinaj, a regional commander of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, said the attack appeared intended to drive Kosovo Albanian civilians out of the valley and into neighboring Albania.


"This is part of the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo," Hajredinaj told The Associated Press in Vienna, Austria, by telephone from Kosovo.


This week, NATO expanded its attacks to Serbian ground units in Kosovo. Yugoslav media, both independent and state-run, have reported civilian buildings such as schools and factories were hit, along with the targeted military installations.


The international charity CARE said at least nine ethnic Serbian refugees were killed when NATO airstrikes hit buildings near centers housing them from earlier conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia. In Geneva, the U.N. relief agency said it was unable to confirm the CARE information. Russia's military repeated its claim Tuesday that 1,000 civilians and more than 50 Yugoslav or Serbian fighters had been killed by the airstrikes. Yugoslavia hasn't given an overall estimate, and it was impossible to independently confirm casualty figures.