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Saturday, December 19, 1998 Published at 21:56 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo Albanians 'need unity'

KLA man Adem Demaci (left) and Ibrahim Rugova; Different methods

Diplomats from the six nation Contact group on the former Yugoslavia have urged leaders of Kosovo's pro-independence ethnic Albanians to unite for broad-based talks with the Serbian government.

Led by French and Austrian diplomats, the group of international officials arrived in the provincial capital, Pristina, to try to bring together the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and more moderate followers of Ibrahim Rugova.

[ image: Another  funeral in Kosovo]
Another funeral in Kosovo
Wolfgang Petritsch, Austria's Ambassador to Belgrade, said: "We want to give a strong signal to the Kosovo Albanian side [that] it's time now to start real negotiating at a broad base ... that represents all the Kosovo Albanian political forces."

The KLA says it will accept nothing less than full independence for Kosovo, while Mr Rugova's followers have indicated they will accept autonomy without statehood.

Mr Petritsch and the French Ambassador to neighbouring Macedonia, Jacques Huntzinger, first met Fehmi Agani, the head of Mr Rugova's negotiating team.

Mr Petritsch said they had a "positive response" from Mr Agani, but differences with the KLA remain.

The representatives of the Contact Group, which includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Russia also had talks with KLA spokesman Adem Demaci.

Before the meeting, Mr Petritsch warned the KLA must give up violence before it can be included in the negotiations with Belgrade.

Afterwards he was more positive. He said: "There are signals that the KLA is realising ... that it has to decide whether to continue on the military path or if they want to join political negotiating process."

Bloody week

[ image: The body of Zvonko Bojanic - time for talks]
The body of Zvonko Bojanic - time for talks
The talks came at the end of the bloodiest week in Kosovo since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to scale back his troops in October.

More than 40 people died in the province, including the Deputy Mayor of Kosovo Polje, Zvonko Bojanic, whose body was found dumped beside a road on Friday. He had been badly beaten and shot between the eyes.

The Serbs blame the KLA for the killing, but Mr Demaci has denied any involvement, suggesting the Serbian secret police may have been responsible.

On Saturday, hundreds of Serbs attended the funeral of Mr Bojanic, just outside of Pristina.

Relatives of 36 ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighters killed in a border clash on Monday are preparing to bury them in a collective ceremony on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and up to 300,000 forced from their homes in Kosovo since fighting escalated early last year.

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