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Yugoslav Army Warns West Over Kosovo

Balkans: Separatists must be pressured to give up or face war, military says. Voters apparently back Milosevic.

April 26, 1998| From Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Mired in clashes with ethnic Albanians in restive Kosovo province, the Yugoslav army warned of war Friday unless the West pressures the separatists to "give up."

The warning came as officials claimed a victory for President Slobodan Milosevic's defiant policy. Final figures from a referendum Thursday showed 95% of Serbian voters rejected foreign mediation over Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs, 9 to 1.

Serbia, the dominant republic in Yugoslavia, is determined to quash rising independence sentiment in the southern province.

This is the West's "last moment to put pressure on the leaders of Kosovo Albanians to give up and denounce terrorism if they really want to see a peaceful and political solution of Kosovo problems," the army command said in a statement.

The command, after meeting with foreign military attaches, also said the international community "should stop Albania in its activities in training, infiltrating and illegally arming the terrorists."

It said it will "energetically" act against any further "provocations and armed attacks" from the Albanians.

Albania has denied supporting the Kosovo insurgents.

In fighting Wednesday and Thursday, the Yugoslav army reported it had killed 23 ethnic Albanian militants on the country's border with Albania. The toll was the highest since a March sweep by Serbian police against insurgents left more than 80 dead.

The West fears a Kosovo war could engulf the Balkans.

The U.S. said Friday that it would push for a freeze on overseas Yugoslav assets and an international ban on foreign trade with Belgrade as punishment for the repression of Kosovo Albanians.

The twin sanctions will be proposed by Robert Gelbard, the chief U.S. mediator for the Balkans, at a meeting Wednesday in Rome with officials from Germany, Britain, Russia, Italy and France.

It was impossible to confirm independently the official referendum results released Friday, as there were no foreign observers present. Some Serbian opposition observers told independent radio B-92 of massive fraud. But Serbs have long been wary of foreigners.

Milosevic can now point to strong public backing in resisting world powers.

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