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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 13:58 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo talks break off

Growing numbers of refugees are heading for Macedonia

Talks aimed at resolving the crisis in Kosovo have broken off, with no indication whether there have been any moves towards peace.

Kosovo Section
The United States envoy to Yugoslavia, Richard Holbrooke, has returned to the US embassy in Belgrade after talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Holbrooke would be telephoning Washington to report on the talks, an official said.

It was not clear whether talks would resume later, but a BBC correspondent in Belgrade, Nick Thorpe, says this is unlikely, after a senior official in Mr Milosevic's party told the Serbian parliament that Yugoslavia would not accept foreign troops on its soil.

Nick Thorpe in Belgrade: The picture remains gloomy
"We are not accepting foreign military troops on our territory under any excuse and at any any price, even at the price of bombing," the Socialist Party general secretary Gorica Gajevic told an emergency session of parliament.

"In case war is imposed on us, we will defend from the aggressors with all available means," she added.

Peace plan

[ image: Holbrooke: Reporting back to Washington]
Holbrooke: Reporting back to Washington
The presence of a Nato peacekeeping force is a key element of the internationally-brokered peace plan for Kosovo.

The plan, drawn up by the six-nation Contact Group on Yugoslavia would also give extensive autonomy to Kosovo.

Mr Milosevic has so far refused to sign the deal - despite the threat of Nato air strikes.

Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians, who are seeking self-rule for the province, have already accepted the peace proposals.

'Last chance'

Mark Laity: Nato watching and waiting
Tuesday's one-on-one discussions between Mr Holbrooke and Mr Milosevic were the last chance for a peaceful solution for Kosovo, European Union envoy Wolfgang Petritsch said earlier.

Mr Holbrooke had already spent more than three hours on Monday trying to get Mr Milosevic agree to the plan.

Ben Brown in Kosovo: "We could see Serbian tanks blasting away"
The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, who co-chaired recent peace talks in France, has said he now sees little prospect of avoiding Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia.

But Mr Vedrine said the international community wanted to do whatever was possible to avoid violence and he and his co-chairman, UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, were ready to go to Belgrade if it would help.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to address parliament on Tuesday afternoon to explain why British forces may have to be engaged in Kosovo, Mr Blair's spokesman said.

Nato ready

[ image:  ]
Members of the North Atlantic Council, Nato's top policymaking body, on Monday authorised the alliance's Secretary-General Javier Solana to order strikes on Yugoslav military targets if Mr Holbrooke fails to convince President Milosevic to accept the deal.

US President Bill Clinton added his voice to the threat of military action.

"If President Milosevic continues to choose aggression over peace, Nato's military plans must continue to move forward," he told reporters at the White House.

But in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov urged the US and its allies not to launch strikes against Yugoslavia.

Kosovo fighting

Fighting continues to rage in Kosovo itself, between government forces and the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Fighting was reported on Tuesday

  • in the KLA stronghold region of Drenica
  • in the northern Podujevo area
  • near Vucitrn, also in the north

Two people were reported killed and four injured in attacks on Albanian-owned cafes in the provincial capital, Pristina, on Monday night.

Refugees were reported to be stranded at the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, after the Macedonian authorities refused to let them cross.

Some 25,000 people have fled most recent attacks, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

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