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Tuesday, August 18, 1998 Published at 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK

World: Europe

Serb talks offer rejected

The Yugoslav army remains alert as talks are rejected

Representatives of the ethnic-Albanian community in Kosovo have rejected an offer from the Serbian Government to talk peace.

Their chief negotiator, Fehmi Agani, said Belgrade must stop the violence against ethnic-Albanians and withdraw its forces from Kosovo before meaningful talks could begin.

His Serbian counterpart, Ratko Markovic, had offered to discuss the future of Kosovo at talks in the provincial capital, Pristina.

[ image: Receiving attention: A young Albanian refugee]
Receiving attention: A young Albanian refugee
After the Albanians failed to appear for negotiations, Mr Markovic issued a statement saying the invitation for dialogue "is still open".

Mr Agani said the Serb offer was "timed for propaganda".

Nato forces are exercising in neighbouring Albania as a show of force to the warring factions in Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians agreed to resume peace talks after a series of setbacks for the Kosovo Liberation Army, who were pushed back by Serb attacks.

Long road to peace

But the peace team does not include any representatives of the KLA and correspondents say it is unlikely to make any progress unless it can attract KLA support.

The KLA is demanding full independence from Serbian rule. The talks team, led by politician Ibrahim Rugova, is looking for a negotiated autonomy.

The US envoy, Christopher Hill, said: "The process has just begun. We have a long way to go.

"There are some substantial disagreements between the parties. We believe this is going to be a process solved through negotiations."

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