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The BBC's Nick Thorpe reports
"The gathering comes at a time of growing tension"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Nato boss warns Milosevic
K-For peacekeepers put up barbed wire in Mitrovica
K-For troops put up barbed wire in Mitrovica
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson has called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to lift the economic pressure he is exerting on Montenegro.

"I would publicly call on President Milosevic today to end an economic blockade of Montenegro," he said.

Kosovo: Special Report
"That blockade is a provocation and it seeks to undermine the authority of the elected government of Montenegro."

Serbia almost sealed off the border with its junior partner in the Yugoslav federation earlier this month, preventing any trade between Serbia and Montenegro.

I hope those who might be seeking trouble will see that we will be ready for them

Lord Robertson
Belgrade has never officially acknowledged the blockade, but Montenegro - which has been trying to distance itself from Serbia - has accused it of an attempt at destabilisation.

Lord Robertson was speaking in Hungary in advance of a meeting with the prime ministers of five countries neighbouring Yugoslavia.

Regional reconstruction

Their purpose is to discuss reconstruction and the stabilisation of the region, a year after the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia over its repression of the ethnic-Albanian majority in the southern province of Kosovo.

K-For soldier
K-For: attempting to reduce tension in Mitrovica
The Nato secretary-general said the alliance was ready to face any new conflict in Yugoslavia - either in Kosovo or Montenegro - but added that there seemed to be no current risk of a flare-up.

"I hope those who might be seeking trouble will see that we will be ready for them if they did," he said.

"In Kosovo, we have enough troops to deal with any flashpoints, and to deter extremists who might want to cause trouble," he said.

Training exercises

Nato is poised to send another 2,000 troops to Kosovo for a training exercise. It denies any direct link to the simmering violence in the divided town of Mitrovica, insisting that the manoeuvres have been planned since September.

Similarly, the Budapest meeting is being described as part of routine talks with Balkan countries, to help rebuild and stabilise the region.

K-For troops have stepped up border checks
But fears have been growing of a renewed conflict in Kosovo since the emergence of a new Albanian militia in southern Serbia.

The Yugoslav army has deployed troops near the buffer zone on the boundary with Kosovo, in what it too says are routine exercises.

Lord Robertson and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana are joining leaders of half a dozen Balkan countries in Hungary.

Also present will be the EU special representative for the Balkans, Bodo Hombach.

On the eve of the meeting, it was announced that German prosecutors are investigating him for alleged embezzlement. He has denied the charges.

I have asked again and again for more police

General Klaus Reinhardt
The meeting comes a day after United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the international community to send more money, police and troops to counter the rising tension in Kosovo.

On Wednesday, US peacekeepers swept through eastern Kosovo, seizing caches of arms, ammunition and uniforms in an attempt to seal the border with Serbia.


K-For's commander said on Friday that the 40,000-strong force might have to stay in Kosovo for a decade or more.

"I am talking five years and it could be 10," General Klaus Reinhardt told Reuters television.

"Look at Northern Ireland and how long that is taking. Look at Sinai and Lebanon and you see how difficult that is."

But General Reinhardt said he was confident that peaceful co-existence between the minority Serb community and the majority ethnic Albanians could be achieved.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Europe
Kosovo one year on
16 Mar 00 | Europe
Nato troops seize Albanian arms
17 Mar 00 | Europe
EU envoy under investigation
15 Mar 00 | Europe
Violent clashes in Kosovo
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