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Serb Compliance With Kosovo Deal Falls Short, West Says

October 23, 1998| From Associated Press

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — Western envoys said Thursday that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic still has not complied with demands for ending the crisis in Kosovo and that continuing violence threatens the peace process.

In Belgrade, the Yugoslav government repeated claims that it has withdrawn all the special troops it sent to suppress ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Such a withdrawal is a key condition of a recent U.S.-brokered agreement to achieve lasting peace in the province.

A senior U.S. envoy, Christopher Hill, told reporters in Pristina, Kosovo's capital: "We are not satisfied with the level of compliance."

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said the departure of Serbian forces was "very advanced, but that is not enough."

There were further signs that tension remains high in the province, despite the agreement reached last week between Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Laura Boldrini of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said ethnic Albanians who returned two weeks ago to the village of Poklek fled again this week because of intimidation by Serbian police.

International observers in the field said that, after three days of relative calm, they heard increased tank and artillery fire in some areas.

Also, the Kosovo Information Center, which is run by ethnic Albanians, said four members of an ethnic Albanian family--three of them children--were killed and two wounded early Thursday when Yugoslav soldiers opened fire near Djakovica on the Albanian border.

The center said the victims were trying to return to their homes from Albania. There was no confirmation from government officials.

NATO has given Milosevic until Tuesday to comply with U.N. demands or risk airstrikes.

Milosevic also agreed to talks with ethnic Albanians on the future of Kosovo, which is part of Yugoslavia's larger republic, Serbia. The U.S. and the Europeans back some form of autonomy for Kosovo.

Meanwhile, efforts to organize the 2,000-member team to verify compliance with the peace deal appeared stalled because the nations providing the observers are concerned about safety and want the U.N. Security Council to endorse the plan first.

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