Pristina, 29 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -Serbian security forces launched
a major offensive today against ethnic-Albanian insurgents in Serbia's Kosovo province in a rebel-held area just outside the provincial capital, Pristina. Western news agencies say Serbian police, backed by armed personnel carriers,
sealed off the road to the mining town of Belacevac early this morning.
Some time later, explosions and automatic gunfire could be heard
the sealed-off town. Smoke billowed overhead. News agencies report civilians
were fleeing on foot. Police were seen surrounding a Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA) entrenchment just outside the village.
The Belacevac mine is strategically important because it supplies
coal to a
nearby power plant, which in turn powers most of Kosovo. The Belacevac
the closest area to Pristina held by the KLA, who seized it about a week ago.
Meanwhile, tension remains high in the town of Kijevo, some 40 kms
Pristina. About 200 Serb civilians and 20 policemen are estimated to be in the
village, surrounded by KLA fighters.
The KLA holds large areas north and south of the road that passes
Kijevo and connects the main Kosovo cities of Pristina and Pec.
Meanwhile today U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged swift international
steps to prevent a "second Bosnia" in Kosovo, but reiterated that the Security
Council must approve any military action.
Speaking in Vienna, Annan said the focus remains on diplomacy, and
possibility of military action should be considered carefully. The Security
Council is set to take up the Kosovo issue later today in New York.
Also today the European Union said it will not conduct talks with armed
Albanian separatists in the Serb province of Kosovo. British Foreign Minister
Robin Cook, chairman of the EU's Council of Ministers, said the international
community should deal with Ibrahim Rugova, the "legitimate elected leader" of
ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Rugova follows a non-violent policy in quest of
autonomy for ethnic Albanians Kosovo.