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Yugoslavia: Ethnic Albanians Must Respond To Autonomy Offer

London, 25 June 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov says it's up to ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province to respond to a formal offer of autonomy from Yugoslav authorities. Speaking on a visit to London, Primakov says the ball is now in the Albanians' court. He said Moscow achieved a breakthrough last week in talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by getting him to accept Kosovo autonomy based on international norms.

Primakov's comments come as Western leaders have increased pressure on ethnic Albanians to renounce demands for full independence for Kosovo and return to the negotiating table.

Earlier today, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Germany would not support independence for Kosovo, but only autonomy. Kinkel held talks today with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

Rugova said after the meeting the climate was "not right" for talks with Serbs. He repeated that independence was the only solution.

In Belgrade, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, the architect of peace accords in Bosnia, is holding talks with Milosevic for the second time in three days. There was no word on progress.

Also today Primakov said that Iraq should stop denying it prepared VX nerve gas for use on Gulf War missiles, and instead cooperate with UN arms inspectors to get sanctions lifted.

Primakov said it is pointless for Baghdad to deny that traces of the forbidden nerve gas showed up on samples of destroyed warheads.

He said the weapons should be destroyed, and stressed the difference between preparing weapons for use and actually using them.