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Yugoslavia: NATO Not Ready To Send Troops To Kosovo Area

Brussels, 3 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- NATO said today it will not rush into sending allied troops to Albania or the flashpoint southern Yugoslav province of Kosovo because any such military operation would have to be thoroughly planned. After a meeting of the alliance's 16 permanent ambassadors in Brussels today, an official told reporters that they all agreed they cannot proceed until they have "solid, well thought-out military advice." The official was speaking on the customary condition of anonymity.

There have been calls from many quarters for NATO to send a force either to Kosovo itself (a Serbian province within Yugoslavia), or to its neighbors, Albania and Macedonia.

AFP reports that NATO decided to send new military reconnaissance teams to Albania and Macedonia to look into a possible military deployment to prevent the Kosovo crisis from spilling over.

NATO defence ministers will meet in Brussels next week (June 11) to discuss future strategy.

Meanwhile, further details continue to emerge about the recent Serbian military action against alleged ethnic Albanian militants and their supporters in Western Kosovo.

Iljaz Ramajli, an aide to Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said today in Tirana, the capital of Albania, that Serbian shelling over the weekend has reduced the Kosovo town of Decani to rubble. Other reports say Serb forces have shelled whole villages and then used flame-throwers to burn down houses so inhabitants cannot return.

Mons Nyberg of the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that recent Serb actions have forced more than 45,000 Kosovar Albanians from their homes and that more than 3,000 of these have fled the country for neighboring Albania.