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Yugoslavia: British Leaders Say Action Needed On Kosovo

Blackpool, England; 1 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that it has become clear diplomatic efforts will not end violence in Serbia's Kosovo province. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said on a visit to Baku today that NATO "is prepared to act" with plans complete and forces ready. Kosovo will be the subject of an emergency session of the UN Security Council later today. It was called by Britain, which today took over the council's chairmanship.

Blair was speaking at a conference of his ruling Labour Party in the city of Blackpool. He said he wanted to put together the best possible group of nations to press Belgrade to end its crackdown in Kosovo. Earlier, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said his country is ready to take part in possible NATO air strikes.

Blair and Cook condemned the reported massacre of some 30 ethnic-Albanian civilians in Kosovo in two separate incidents in recent days. Belgrade has denied its forces were involved. The U.S. and other governments have also condemned the reported massacres. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel today said "the patience of the international community is exhausted."

It remains unclear whether NATO members are prepared to undertake operations in Kosovo without a mandate from the UN Security Council. Two of the five permanent members on the Security Council -- Russia and China -- have opposed the use of force.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin today said the use of force without UN approval would worsen the situation in the region and damage the United Nations.

In Kosovo, the pro-Belgrade Serbian Media Center today said that five Yugoslav soldiers had been killed in a clash with unidentified assailants on the Albanian border. The center said the incident occured yesterday and that mortar and machine gun fire had come from Albanian territory. The Albanian Interior Ministry confirmed fighting had taken place near the border, but denied any firing had come from its territory.