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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 11:02 GMT

World: Europe

Massacre prompts Nato warning

Identifying the dead: Over 40 ethnic Albanians were killed

Nato is sending two senior military officers to Belgrade to warn the Yugoslav authorities that they face air strikes if they do not end the violence in Kosovo in compliance with the cease-fire agreed last year. The mission was ordered after the massacre of more than 40 ethnic Albanians in southern Kosovo on Friday.

Kosovo Section
Renewed fighting has been reported in the village of Racak, where the killings took place. Machine gun fire and mortars have reportedly been used by Serbian military police.

An international monitor said other villages in the area were also coming under attack from the Serbs.

[ image:  ]
Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is expected to try to visit the village on Monday to inspect the evidence of the massacre.

Local villagers said the killings, mostly of men aged between 18 and 65, were carried out by Serb forces who rounded the group up on Friday night.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the body in charge of international monitors in Kosovo, has called an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the growing crisis. It is expected to reiterate demands for unimpeded access for the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM).

Investigators barred

Nato spokesman James Shea: "The focus is very much on President Milosevic at the moment"
Belgrade has so far refused to allow investigators from the tribunal into the troubled province but Ms Arbour has called on the Yugoslav authorities to allow her access to Racak.

Speaking in an interview with the French newspaper Liberation published on Monday, Ms Arbour warned that holding the position of head of state would not exonerate anyone held responsible for atrocities.

Jacky Rowland in Pristina talks to the Deputy Head of the KVM, Major General John Drewienkiewicz
"The international community did not set up this court to judge small fry," she is quoted as saying. "It expects it to make up for the inability of states to judge their own leaders if their responsibility was believed to be involved."

She said investigations by the ICTY were intended to reach "the highest possible level."

Tough message from generals

The two Nato Generals, Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, and Klaus Naumann, chairman of Nato's Military Committee, are expected to deliver a tough message to the Yugoslav authorities.

Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana: Milosevic knows that Nato is a very credible organisation
Generals Clark and Naumann would "impress upon the Yugoslav authorities the gravity of the situation and their obligation to respect all their commitments to Nato" Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana said. Washington has given its backing to the mission.

On Sunday Nato condemned Friday's massacre as a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law". The organisation is demanding full compliance with existing UN resolutions calling for an end to violence in the province and says that air strikes against Serbia, narrowly avoided last October, remain an option.

It is also seeking full and unrestricted access for Ms Arbour and a team of international forensic investigators to investigate reported atrocities.

"The council demands that the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia take immediate steps to ensure that those responsible for this massacre are brought to justice," Mr Solana said.

Serbs dismiss reports

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "Air strikes against Serbia remain a possibility"
Serbia has dismissed reports of the massacre and said its forces came under attack while they were investigating the murder of a policeman.

The Serbian deputy prime minister said the police at Racak had only shot at "terrorists" who had opened fire at them. Vojislav Seselj said on Sunday that the Kosovo Albanian fighters had tricked KVM chief William Walker and Western media.

However, US President Bill Clinton and Mr Walker both blamed Serbian forces for the killings.

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