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Sunday, August 16, 1998 Published at 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK

World: Europe

Last KLA stronghold falls to Serbs

Yugoslav soldiers near Junik

Serbian forces have taken control of the last major Kosovo Liberation Army stronghold in the Serb province of Kosovo.

Jeremy Cooke: Junik has fallen
Western journalists who visited the village of Junik, near the border with Albania, said nearly all the civilian population had fled, and many buildings were damaged.

Junik had been under siege for nearly three weeks.

Serb forces, supported by tanks and helicopters, have been waging a major operation in the area against several villages held by the ethnic Albanian separatist KLA.

Jeremy Cooke: "It's not over yet"
Ethnic Albanians have been fleeing the fighting, adding to the estimated quarter of a million refugees in Kosovo.

A BBC correspondent in Kosovo, Jeremy Cooke, says the fall of Junik is a major blow to the KLA, which has been pushed back from territory it controlled in recent weeks.

A Serbian police spokesman Colonel Bozidar Filic has said Serbian forces now have free movement throughout Kosovo.

However, the Serbs appear to lack the manpower to keep territory under their control. In the village of Glodjani, which fell to the Serbs last week, the KLA is once again moving freely.

The KLA has said it is regrouping and will continue fighting.

For the past few months Serbian forces have been waging an offensive against the separatists in Kosovo, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.

Fears for talks

Journalist Lydia Popovich of indepedent radio station B-92 on reporting the conflict
Ethnic Albanians say the latest operation has reduced the likelihood of peace talks taking place.

Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo's main ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), said he would only enter discussions if there was a cease-fire in Kosovo.

The Belgrade Government has invited Mr Rugova's team to start negotiations as early as next week.

However, the DLK said the offensive showed that hopes for peace talks with Belgrade were futile.

In a statement it said hopes that the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, would "start to act seriously, once again turned out to be futile."

Mr Milosevic has repeatedly said the offensive would end.

Another prominent ethnic Albanian politician, Adem Demaci, whom the KLA has said can represent them, said the Serb offensive proved there was no alternative to independence for Kosovo.

On Thursday, Mr Rugova named a negotiating team for talks to try to end the conflict in the province. But this did not include representatives of the KLA.

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