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Sunday, March 14, 1999 Published at 00:05 GMT


World: Europe

Kosovo blasts threaten peace talks

Rescuers work in Kosovska Mitrovica market

Bomb blasts in two Kosovo towns have cast a shadow over peace talks due to resume in France on Monday.

Kosovo Section
At least seven people have been killed, and over 50 injured, in explosions which came as ethnic Albanian delegates were waiting to leave for the talks.

Ahead of Monday's talks, the European Union warned Kosovo's conflicting factions that the failure of the negotiations could lead to all-out war.


Angus Roxburgh in Pristina: Bombs in market places - indiscriminate killing
Tensions are already growing in the province, and on Saturday an explosion in a market in Kosovska Mitrovica, northwest of Pristina, left at least four dead and 30 injured.

In nearby Podujevo, a further three people were killed and 28 wounded as two bombs went off within 15 minutes of each other. One of the dead was reported to be an ethnic Albanian shot under unspecified circumstances in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.

One bomb went off near the main market at the busiest time of the week, and the other near the post office.


Nick Childs reports: Kosovo remains a crucial test for the international community
Monitors said two men had been arrested in connection of the bombing, but it was not known which ethnic group they were from.

The BBC's correspondent in Pristina, Jacky Rowland, says the bombs appear to have been intended to spread fear and confusion before peace talks resume on Monday between the warring sides.

European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Germany, on Saturday stressed the need for a speedy peace agreement on Kosovo.


Jonathan Beale: No one is prepared to guarantee that either side will sign up to a deal
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, co-chair of the Contact Group which is convening Monday's talks, said the warring factions would be warned that the international community's patience was wearing thin.

"We have made it clear that there is no reason why the second round should go on as long as the first round," Mr Cook said.

The 17-day first round of talks at Rambouillet last month had achieved agreement on 90% of the constitutional and political issues at stake, he said.


[ image:  ]
"What we want to get down to now is serious talking about how we implement that accord on the ground."

Officials from the Contact Group, which comprises five western powers plus Russia, were reportedly due to meet in Paris on Sunday ahead of the talks' resumption.

Ethnic Albanian delegates flew into Paris on Saturday. Their Serbian opponents were expected in the French capital on Sunday after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic pledged to send a delegation to the talks.

KLA's 'best intentions'

Before leaving Pristina, Hashim Thaci, the head of the Albanian delegation and a senior official of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), said the rebels had reached a decision on whether to sign up to the peace plan.


[ image: Hashim Thaci: Definitive answer in Paris]
Hashim Thaci: Definitive answer in Paris
"The definitive answer will be given in Paris. We are going to Paris with the best intentions to make this work."

But Mr Thaci stopped short of saying the rebels would sign. Other members of his delegation said they would put their names to a deal.

Western diplomats had been hoping that Mr Thaci and the KLA would back the accord well in advance of the Paris talks, enabling them to pressure Yugoslavia into agreeing to the deal.

President Milosevic has continued to reject the presence of 30,000 foreign troops in Kosovo to police a peace accord.

At a meeting in Paris, Nato supreme commander General Wesley Clark said President Milosevic understood the damage air power could inflict on his country.

The West has threatened air strikes if the Yugoslav president fails to drop his opposition to the Nato-led troops.



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