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Friday, March 12, 1999 Published at 22:53 GMT

World: Europe

Milosevic rejects foreign troops

Thousands more ethnic Albanians have been forced to flee

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has confirmed his opposition to the deployment of foreign troops in Kosovo.

Kosovo Section
In a statement released after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Mr Milosevic said a peace agreement could "only contain political solutions, not military ones".

However, Mr Milosevic's statement, broadcast on Friday evening on Yugoslav TV, said he would send a delegation to attend peace talks in Paris next week.

Jim Fish reports: "The prospects for peace could hardly be more ominous"
Mr Ivanov reported that the Yugoslav president had "decisively and finally" rejected deployment of a "multinational military or police" force in Kosovo.

The Russian foreign minister said Mr Milosevic had suggested that unarmed OSCE monitors, like those already in Kosovo, could oversee any political agreement.

The OSCE monitors proved unable to enforce an earlier ceasefire agreed in October.

General Clark: "Vast Nato air armada ready to strike"
It has been reported that the six-nation Contact Group on former Yugoslavia will meet in Paris on the eve of the peace talks.

The meeting will be held at the level of political officers of foreign ministries, according to Italian officials.

Contact Group member Russia, traditionally an ally of Serbia, has opposed the deployment of a Nato-led international peacekeeping force.

The other five members -- the US, UK, Italy, Germany and France -- have said an armed peacekeeping force is an essential component of any peace agreement.

Nato's Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, issued a stern warning to the Yugoslav president on Friday.

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"I think [Mr] 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.

The Serb and ethnic Albanian sides in the Kosovo conflict are due to meet in France on Monday to resume discussions about a peace plan drafted in February at Rambouillet.

Jacky Rowland in Pristina: "Mr Milosevic is not likely to climb down soon"
On Thursday, the US, UK and France indicated that they would launch attacks on Serb and Yugoslav targets if Belgrade continued to oppose the deployment of armed peacekeepers.

"The parties must come to the talks in France on Monday to finalise and implement the Rambouillet agreement, including military implementation," Robin Cook and Hubert Vedrine said in a statement after talks with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"If either party obstructs the agreement, it will be held responsible for its actions. In that case, we are determined to face all necessary consequences," the statement said.

[ image:  ]
Although threats of military action are directed at Belgrade, correspondents say the ethnic Albanian side remains sharply divided about signing the agreement.

However, correspondents say there is a reasonable chance the ethnic Albanian will sign the agreement on Monday, leaving the way open for military action against Serbia.

In Kosovo itself, there have been reports of continuing violence, with more fighting in the northwest of the province.

Serbian security forces clashed with rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army near the towns of Vucitrn and Mitrovica.

International monitors said they had seen a column of tanks heading northwest from the regional capital, Pristina.

There has also been evidence of more fighting near the border with Macedonia. Monitors reported hearing mortar fire near the village of Doganovic but were turned back at a police checkpoint.

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