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Friday, March 19, 1999 Published at 12:08 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo peace talks adjourn

Serb women in Kosovo give food to their troops

Talks aimed at ending the conflict in Kosovo have been adjourned at a session in Paris, following the refusal by Serbia to sign the international peace plan for the province.

Kosovo Section
"The negotiations are adjourned. The talks will not resume unless the Serbs express their acceptance of the accord," a statement by talks co-chairmen France and Britain said.

BBC Correspondent Fergus Nicholl: Negotiators come to another dead end
The statement accused the Yugoslav delegation of trying to "unravel the Rambouillet accords", referring to parts of the plan that mediators said were already agreed upon during 17 days of negotiations at Rambouillet last month.

A day after the ethnic Albanians signed the agreement, Serbia was still refusing to budge an inch over the autonomy plan, dismissing it as a "fake".

Jim Fish: "Nato and its partners will engage in immediate talks over how to act"
As the peace process teetered on the brink of collapse and the threat of Nato air strikes against Serbia gained momentum, Belgrade launched a new offensive in northwestern Kosovo, fuelling fears that it was gearing up for confrontation.

According to the US State Department, the Serbs have placed six large concrete barriers on a key road in Kosovo, in an apparent attempt to block an exodus of international cease-fire monitors or the entry of Nato peacekeeping troops from Macedonia.

[ image: Refugees are fleeing Serb forces]
Refugees are fleeing Serb forces
Correspondents said that Yugoslav forces appeared to be consolidating their positions around the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) stronghold of Drenica and civilians were fleeing in their thousands to escape an expected onslaught.

On Thursday, US Defence Department spokesman Ken Bacon warned Belgrade that 400 allied aircraft were ready for action.

Correspondents say that in the next few days, Kosovo is likely to witness the withdrawal of the 1,400 international monitors stationed there. US and British citizens have been strongly urged to leave.

In the US, President Clinton will hold an emergency meeting with Congress leaders on Friday to discuss the crisis.

Mediators split

East-West divisions became increasingly apparent among contact group members as the Albanians signed the peace accord.

Delegates from Russia - a traditional Serbian ally - refused to put their names to the deal.

According to correspondents, the tension between Russia and the West could become acute over the next few days as Nato increases pressure on the Serbs and attempts to make its threat of air strikes credible to President Milosevic.

James Robbins: Some degree of stalemate over how to go forward
Western officials say military action cannot be taken for about a week. One reason for this is thought to be next Wednesday's visit to Washington by the Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov.

On Thursday, Hashim Thaci, the KLA's political director, moderate political leader Ibrahim Rugova, newspaper editor Veton Surroi and politician Rexhep Qosja signed an 82-page document, entitled "Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo", on behalf of the ethnic Albanian delegation.

The accord gives the ethnic Albanians - who represent the majority of the province's population - extensive autonomy from Yugoslavia, but not the outright independence they had been seeking.

It also obliges the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to put down their weapons if a Nato peacekeeping force ever enters the province.

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