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Yugoslavia: Situation In Kosovo Tense After Peace Talks

Pristina, 25 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - A senior cease-fire monitor says the situation in Serbia's Kosovo province is "extremely tense" and that international monitors have stepped up patrols to prevent outbreaks of fighting. Canadian Brigadier General Michel Maisonneuve was speaking today after his team managed to end a potentially violent standoff in the area between Orahovac and Suva Reka in the south.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking in Spain, warned Yugoslavia against launching a military offensive in Kosovo in the weeks before a second round of peace talks.

Negotiations in Rambouillet, France, between Yugoslav authorities and Kosovar Albanian leaders, mediated by the international Contact Group, recessed on Tuesday after failing to reach a deal. They are set to resume March 15.

Ethnic Albanian delegates to the peace talks returned today to Kosovo after a one-day delay. Members of the 16-member Kosovar Albanian delegation have said they were blocked from flying back to Pristina yesterday because Yugoslav authorities said some of them did not have Yugoslav passports. Officials with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has hundreds of monitors in Kosovo, said today that they could not confirm that claim.

In comments published today in the Albanian-language Koha Ditore newspaper, Adem Demaci, a political leader of the armed separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, rejected plans to set up a provisional Kosovo government together with moderate ethnic Albanian leaders until elections can be held. Demaci did not take part in the peace talks.

Meanwhile, the chief of NATO's military committee warned today that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is exploiting disagreements among Western mediators to avoid a peace settlement in Kosovo.

General Klaus Dieter Naumann told German Radio Hesse that as long as the Serbs can tell there are divisions and splits within the Western community, they will be less convinced than if it were to show a resolute front.

Naumann also said that Serbian forces are building up their troop presence compared to what he called a "poorly organized" Kosovar Albanian resistance.

Naumann described Kosovo as a "powder keg" and said NATO must maintain pressure on the Serbs and be prepared to mount air strikes and to deploy peacekeeping troops.