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Yugoslavia: U.S. Envoy Says Time Not Right For Talks With UCK

Washington, 17 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The following is an edited transcript of an interview last night in Washington with U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia and special envoy Christopher Hill. Hill was interviewed by Tibor Purger, a contributor to RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service. RFE/RL: Ambassador Hill, what is the next step when you go back to Belgrade?

CH: I'll be leaving Washington (Friday) and coming back to Belgrade on Monday and plan to go to Prishtina on Tuesday. I'll bring a small team of people. We'll be talking about ideas for addressing some of the political features of (the Kosova conflict) and we'll be sharing some ideas with the people in Belgrade.

We'll do the same in Prishtina but there's an added problem in Prishtina. That is we need still to try to focus the Albanians there on putting together a team of people who can really come to the table. That's been a difficult process (but) we've gotten some hopeful signs in recent days that they might be ready to organize themselves for this kind of negotiation. We'll be pushing that in the days ahead.

RFE/RL: What about contacts with the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK)?

CH: I think the important thing to keep in mind is that this is not a problem that can be solved out in the battlefield. This is a problem that has to be solved politically. We work with the Albanian leadership there under (Ibrahim) Rugova to forge a position and to negotiate it. We're not interested in trying to solve this out in the field. Obviously the people out in the field need to understand that they've got to find a political voice. I think they can find a political voice in Prishtina, if they try. And that's what we encourage them to do.

There'll be times when one has to have contacts, but those are tactical issues. What we really need is a political process and the political process starts with the folks in Prishtina.

RFE/RL: Can you imagine that there will be some negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina and will those negotiations include foreign mediators?

CH: Well, the Serbs held a referendum where they said they do not want foreign mediators. Obviously a situation that has produced refugees, international refugees, that has produced a lot of violence, a lot of deaths, is something the international community is not going to be indifferent to. It's going to be very involved, and I'm very involved on behalf of the United States government. I talk to both sides, I share ideas with both sides, and we're simply going to keep working at this. I'm very busy and I'm doing a lot of traveling.