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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 19:05 GMT

World: Europe

Renewed fighting in Kosovo

Serb policeman in sourthern Kosovo where fighting occurred

Hundreds of ethnic Albanian civilians have been forced to flee the village of Studencane south of Pristina, after it came under sustained artillery fire by Serb forces.

International officials say there could be new offensives by both Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels if ceasefire monitors pull out in the coming days.

Kosovo Section
The fighting follows earlier reports of two separate attacks by the rebels against police in southern Kosovo. The semi-official Serbia media centre said the attacks took place around the same time but there were no police casualties.

There were also reports of fighting near Podujevo to north of Pristina.

International officials in Kosovo say a head of steam is building up across the territory as Serbs and ethnic Albanians wait for the result of the peace talks in Rambouillet and the possibility of the monitors leaving.

[ image: Rebel KLA waiting for developments]
Rebel KLA waiting for developments
Evacuation plans are at an advanced stage, although no-one is expected to leave until Sunday at the earliest.

For the time being, the monitoring mission says its teams are carrying out their patrols as usual, but there are serious concerns about what may happen once the monitors pull out.

The BBC Correspondent in Belgrade, Jacky Rowland, says many Western officials believe Kosovo will descend into unchecked violence with the inevitable civilian casualties.

Now that the deadline has expired for an agreement on Kosovo, our correspondent says both sides in the conflict are preparing to take advantage of the void that will be left if international monitors pull out.

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