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Yugoslavia: Outgoing German Cabinet Approves Planes For Kosovo

Bonn, 30 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - Germany's outgoing government today approved use of 14 jet fighter planes in a NATO force being prepared for possible use in Serbia's Kosovo province. The decision, which still must be approved by parliament, follows a decision by NATO last week to step up military preparations. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said his country is prepared to act on Kosovo despite weekend elections which saw defeat of its conservative government.

The Yugoslav ambassador to Germany, Zoran Jeremic, called the cabinet's decision "illogical and illegal."

Meanwhile, international officials are calling for an investigation into recent reports of massacres of civilians in Kosovo. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was "appalled" by reports that some 30 civilians were deliberately killed in recent days near Gornje Obrinje west of the provincial capital Pristina and further north near Vucitern. He demanded that Belgrade allow an independent investigation into the reports.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and the Austrian government also called for an investigation.

A Serbian Interior Ministry spokesman denied its forces were involved and said the ministry would investigate.

Cook also said officials from the six-nation Contact Group will meet in London on Friday to discuss Kosovo.

It remains unclear whether Serb forces have ended a seven-month crackdown on Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians, as Belgrade claims. Hundreds of people have died and some 270,000 have been forced to flee the violence.

In related news, Bosnian Serb Stevan Todorovic told the international war crimes tribunal on former Yugoslavia in The Hague today he was too ill to enter a plea on charges of rape and murder, saying he received a heavy blow to the head during his abduction from Yugoslavia.

Judges ruled the court should enter a provisional plea of "not guilty" for Todorovic, who is a former police chief. He is charged with 15 counts of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, violation of the customs of war and crimes against humanity over atrocities against Croats and Muslims in the northern Bosnian town of Bosanki Samac in 1992.