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Friday, March 12, 1999 Published at 12:51 GMT

World: Europe

Milosevic rejects foreign troops

Thousands more ethnic Albanians have been forced to flee

The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, says that the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, remains defiant about the proposed peace plan for Kosovo.

Kosovo Section
Mr Ivanov was speaking at a news conference in Belgrade, after talks with the Yugolsav president.

Mr Milosevic "decisively and finally rejects any possibility of a foreign military or police presence in Kosovo", Mr Ivanov said.

But President Milosevic said a Yugoslav delegation would still travel to Paris next week to continue planned talks with the Kosovo Albanian leadership.

However,in view of the line he's taken with the Russians, and renewed fighting in Kosovo, hopes are fading that an agreement will be ready to sign when both sides return to the negotiating table on Monday.

Russian influence

On Thursday Mr Ivanov was in Tirana, where he urged Albanian leaders to persuade ethnic-Albanians in Kosovo to sign the accord.

The ethnic Albanians, who are sharply divided among themselves, have still not signed the agreement despite giving a commitment to do so four days ago.

[ image:  ]
Mr Ivanov also said the conflict needed to be solved peacefully. Correspondents say his comments reiterate Russian opposition to the threat of Nato air strikes against Serb and Yugoslav positions if there is no agreement.

Russia, traditionally an ally of Serbia, has also strongly opposed an international peacekeeping force.

The other five members of the Contact Group insist that a Nato-led force is an integral part of the proposed settlement.

Gen Clark: "A vast air armada"
Nato's Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, warned Mr Milosevic on Friday that Nato already had a "vast air armada" ready to strike.

"I think Milosevic has to understand that Nato does have the capability and means to make a very devastating series of attacks against him should that be required," he told the BBC.

Jacky Rowland in Pristina: "Mr Milosevic is not likely to climb down soon"
"He is not going to be given a free rein to smash the civilian populace and their villages in Kosovo."

President Clinton has pledged to provide 4,000 US troops as part of a NATO force.

And on Thursday the House of Representatives threw out a Republican-led move rejecting American involvement.

Fighting flares

Orla Guerin: Still more appetite here for war than peace
Aid agencies have been reporting renewed Serbian bombardments of ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says the security situation in Kosovo is getting worse by the day, creating difficulties for aid workers.

The agency believes almost 20,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in northern Kosovo because of recent fighting.

At the same time, a new emergency is looming near the southern town of Prizren, where about 300 people are stuck on a main road after fleeing a Serb military operation against ethnic Albanian rebels.

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