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Sunday, January 17, 1999 Published at 20:16 GMT


World: Europe

New fighting around massacre village

Villagers wanted to bury their dead but were forced to flee the fighting

Mortar and machine-gun fire has erupted around the village of Racak in southern Kosovo, where more than 40 ethnic Albanians were killed on Friday.

Kosovo Section
Serbian security forces were firing towards the village from the surrounding hills where they had taken up positions several hours earlier, and units were seen moving into the village. The police have also sent large numbers of armoured vehicles into the area.

Meanwhile in Brussels, 16 Nato ambassadors and ambassadors from the EU accession countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, are meeting for an emergency session to decide what course of action to take after the massacre.

The threat of airstrikes, which Nato issued last October, remains a possibility to curb the recent escalation of violence.


The BBC's Paul Wood in Racak: Villagers fled as soon as the Serbian police moved in
In Racak, BBC correspondent Paul Wood says the firing has been continuous but it is unclear if the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are returning fire.

International monitors and local people have fled the village. The monitors of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been in the village since Saturday trying to give people the confidence to stay.


[ image:  ]
Earlier the Serbian authorities said they wanted to carry out their own inquiry into events in Racak.

The monitoring mission had told the authorities that no more than a few civilian experts should attempt to enter the village. They urged the police and army not to follow for fear this would enflame an already volatile situation, but the Serbian forces ignored their pleas.

Later on Sunday, Serb forces were reported to have sealed off other villages in the area. OSCE monitors reported houses burning in villages west of Racak.

Nato response


The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Brussels: "Nato can merely remind that an activation order for strikes remains in force"
The BBC correspondent in Brussels, Angus Roxburgh, says the meeting of 16 Nato ambassadors is intended to send a signal to the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, of the West's resolve.

Earlier, US President Bill Clinton and other Nato leaders condemned the killings - Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana said it would not tolerate a return to all-out fighting and repression in Kosovo.


[ image:  ]
Nato suspended threatened air strikes against the Serbs last October, after Yugoslav President Milosevic and US envoy Richard Holbrooke reached agreement on a ceasefire in Kosovo.

Nato forces are still in the area but our correspondent says the alliance's room for manoeuvre is restricted by the presence of the unarmed OSCE monitors in Kosovo, who were sent in after the October agreement.

Serb denial

The Racak massacre prompted the International War Crimes Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia to open an urgent inquiry.


[ image: Mourning the loss of a husband and son]
Mourning the loss of a husband and son
Local villagers say the slaughter of the victims, mostly men aged between 18 and 65, was carried out by Serb forces who rounded the group up on Friday night.

President Clinton and the head of the international observer mission in Kosovo, William Walker, both blamed Serbian forces for the killings.

But Serbia dismissed reports of the massacre as media manipulation and said its forces came under attack while they were investigating the murder of a policeman.


The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Racak: "Another sign of the Serbian authorities' scant respect for the international monitors"
Serbian President Milan Milutinovic on Sunday described statements by Mr Walker as "a series of lies and fabrications".

He said that Mr Walker had violated his mandate by blaming the Serb side for the killing and by "protecting terrorism and the terrorist organisation", the KLA.

Mr Walker "took advantage of the absence of judicial and other state authorities to make a statement containing falsehoods and personal assessments which are totally baseless," President Milutinovic said in a statement carried by the official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug.

Mr Milutinovic added that such behaviour by an international representative would not be allowed.





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