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Yugoslavia: Clinton Says NATO Will Back Peace Plan

London/Washington; 29 January 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton says the NATO military alliance will use force if necessary to enforce an international agreement aimed at ending ethnic violence in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Clinton spoke to a White House audience today shortly after the six-nation Contact Group, which has been trying to negotiate peace in the Balkans, agreed in London to summon Serb leaders and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to peace talks in France with the goal of a negotiated settlement by the middle of next month.

Clinton said the talks offered a chance to end a war he says neither side can win. He says the peace talks will lead to more self-government for the Kosovars and to an end to the bloodshed in the province.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who chaired the Contact Group meeting, is to present the group's demands to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade as well as to ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it is essential to push for an agreement now because of what she called a spiral of violence building to a new humanitarian catastrophe and all-out war.

The Contact Group -- the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia -- said the Serbs must stop all offensive action and repression in Kosovo and promote the safe return of thousands of civilian refugees.

The demands include that Yugoslavia grant "substantial autonomy" to the ethnic Albanians who make up nearly 90 percent of Kosovo's population of almost two million.

The talks between the Yugoslav government and representatives of ethnic Albanians are to begin February 6 near Paris and end within seven days.