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Yugoslavia: German Foreign Minister Holds Belgrade Talks

Belgrade, 8 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says his meetings with Yugoslav officials in Belgrade today focused on ways to implement the international peace plan for Kosovo, as negotiated last month in Rambouillet, near Paris. Fischer talked to reporters in Belgrade after meeting with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He confirmed that the Rambouillet peace plan would not be renegotiated, adding that Milosevic was aware of that position.

Belgrade has so far refused to embrace the plan, and in particular its call for a large NATO-led force to ensure peace in Kosovo.

Fischer said Milosevic had told him that U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke was to arrive in Belgrade tomorrow for talks with Yugoslav officials. Holbrooke negotiated a Kosovo ceasefire last October.

Fischer is to travel later today to Kosovo's provincial capital Pristina to meet with ethnic Albanian leaders to impress upon them the need to reach a speedy settlement in the province.

Unnamed Western diplomats have said that leaders of the armed separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), in meetings in the province with U.S. special envoy Christopher Hill, have continued to raise objections to the deal outlined in Rambouillet. The UCK is said to object particularly to disarmament requirements. They are also reportedly objecting to suggestions that Russian troops should be involved in a NATO-led peace force for Kosovo.

Meanwhile, the international community's deputy high representative for Bosnia reiterated today that the Bosnian Serb president, Nikola Poplasen, was dismissed for abusing his powers.

Deputy High Representative Simon Haselock told RFE/RL that Poplasen was using illegal means to try to dismiss the caretaker government in Bosnia's Serb entity.

He also said his office had received complaints from moderates in the parliament of the Bosnian Serb entity that Poplasen was blocking the democratic process by preventing the enactment of laws that had been passed.

Poplasen has refused to step down and the Bosnian Serb parliament voted yesterday not to accept his dismissal, which was ordered Friday by Carlos Westendorp, the high representative for Bosnia.

Haselock told RFE/RL that he believes the parliament's initial reaction represented an outpouring of indignation, rather than any substantive support for Poplasen.

The Bosnian Serb parliament also voted last night to withdraw all Bosnian Serb representatives from the country's federal institutions to protest an international arbitration panel's ruling on the town of Brcko. The decision means that the town, formerly run by the Serbs under international supervision, will now be administered by Serbs, Croats, and Muslims.

Haselock said the decision to share power in Brcko will be followed by close international supervision to ensure that the rights of all the ethnic communities in the area are protected.

Moderate Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik today said he would reconsider the threatened resignation of his government over the Brcko decision. Dodik spoke after a government meeting in Banja Luka.

His remarks have lessened the prospect of a breakdown of relations between Bosnia's Serbs and international officials. Moreover, Dodik also expressed satisfaction over Poplasen's removal.