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Yugoslavia: Kosovars Boycott Talks, Urge International Role

Pristina, 13 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Ethnic Albanian leaders in Serbia's Kosovo province refused again today to meet a delegation sent by Belgrade. The delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic, waited in a building in the provincial capital Pristina, but gave up after Albanian leaders failed to arrive for a second straight day. Markovic restated Belgrade's dismissal of demands for independence for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the population. But he said the Serbian government remains fully open for discussions anywhere in Serbia and at any time.

Ethnic Albanian groups had earlier dismissed the delegation's trip as a ploy, and said any talks must include international observers and include discussion of Kosovo's political status.

The leader of the main group, Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosovo, told reporters in Pristina that Serbian police continue to maintain a large presence in the central Drenica region. Police actions in the region earlier this month left some 80 people -- mostly ethnic Albanians -- dead.

Rugova repeated his call for Kosovo independence, and called for a "deeper and faster engagement" in the conflict by the international community, particularly by the U.S. and the European Union.

Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian students in Kosovo say they plan street protests today against the Serbian government.