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Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 00:51 GMT

World: Europe

Milosevic defies Nato pressure

Serbian police have been in action again in Racak

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has vowed to continue fighting "terrorists" in Kosovo.

Kosovo Section
A strongly worded statement from the president's office said "pressure from abroad" would not alter his Kosovo policy.

The statement was issued shortly after a meeting with two senior Nato generals who delivered a strong message calling for Yugoslav restraint.

BBC Correspondent Stephen Gibbs: Serbs argue that a withdrawal will lead to Kosovan independence
Initially, the meeting appeared to have brought immediate results.

Yugoslav state and independent media reported that William Walker, head of the international observer mission in Kosovo, would be allowed to remain in the country for a further 24 hours.

The Yugoslav authorities had originally ordered that he leave the country by Wednesday evening.

Belgrade Correspondent Jacky Rowland: "Games of double bluff"
Mr Walker had blamed Serbian security forces for a massacre at Racak village, in Kosovo, in which 40 ethnic Albanians were killed.

Generals Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann flew to Belgrade after Yugoslavia ordered the expulsion of Mr Walker.

But as they returned to Brussels, where they will brief Nato ambassadors on Wednesday about the talks, Mr Milosevic's office issued its statement. It defended Yugoslavia's "legitimate right to fight terrorism".

The statement added that "this right cannot be taken away from our country by any kind of outside pressure".

Generals' demands

The two generals had warned Mr Milosevic he was risking Nato air strikes over his actions in Kosovo.

[ image:  ]
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said: "President Milosevic has been told in no uncertain way that he has to stop the policy of repression in Kosovo, reduce his police force in Kosovo back to reasonable limits and concede to the demands of the international community.

"The two generals will tell us about Mr Milosevic's intentions - whether he is prepared to back down or whether he is hell bent on a course of confrontation."

US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said that if Mr Milosevic continued with "atrocious acts" then he could not see the international community standing by.

The two Nato generals also called on Mr Milosevic to grant access to international investigators and reverse his decision to expel Ambassador Walker.

International condemnation

Mr Walker's expulsion - and the killings that preceded it - have been internationally condemned.

US State Department Spokesman James Rubin said the move appeared to be a "transparent attempt to divert attention from the tragic massacre in Racak".

OSCE Chairman Knut Vollabeck's spokesman: "International community behind pressure"
OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek told the BBC that the expulsion was totally unacceptable and threatened the whole mission.

Both Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the threat to use military force against Yugoslavia was still active and they were prepared to exercise it.

Nato poised

Nato has been ready to launch punitive raids against Serbia since last October, when President Milosevic escaped military action by agreeing to a moratorium on the use of force in Kosovo.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said: "The planes remain on 96 hours' notice."

General Clark said his forces were poised for action if the order was given by Nato governments.

Diplomatic Correspondent James Robbins: Real risk of descent into war
He said he would not want to speculate on the likelihood of action, but added "the plans that were made in October are very much alive".

The US, UK and Italy have said they are ready to contemplate air strikes and France has said military action cannot be ruled out.

But Russia and a number of Nato countries have voiced varying degrees of opposition.

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