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Yugoslavia: EU Envoy Says Kosovo Talks Running Out Of Time

Paris/Pristina; 17 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - A European Union mediator says the talks in Paris on a peace accord for the Serbian province of Kosovo are running out of time. EU envoy Wolfgang Petritsch of Austria told reporters that the Serbian side continues to refuse a Western-backed draft agreement and that the talks appear to be in their final hours. Negotiators for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority have said they will accept the plan which would give Kosovar Albanians three years of interim autonomy. The plan would be policed by a NATO-led force. The Serbian side has ruled out NATO-led forces on its territory. The Serbs have also been seeking changes to the political part of the agreement. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic today accused international mediators of trying to impose what he called a "fraudulent" peace on Kosovo.

The continuing impasse in the talks comes amid a buildup of some 30,000 Serbian troops in or near Kosovo and new reports of clashes between Serbian and ethnic Albanian forces.

Meanwhile, a forensic team investigating the deaths of more than 40 Kosovar Albanians concluded today that the victims were unarmed civilians. But the report by the Finnish team stopped short of calling the killings a massacre or directly blaming the Serbs. It said many questions will remain unanswered because of the one-week delay before officials were able to investigate the bodies.

The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Knut Vollebaek, said today that the report reinforces that the Racak killings were an atrocity against unarmed civilians and called for the perpetrators to be found and prosecuted.

Today's OSCE statement criticizes the delay in allowing the EU forensic team to begin its investigations.

William Walker, the American head of the monitoring mission who visited the site the morning after and called it a massacre, said today on CNN that nothing in today's report contradicted his findings. The killings were branded a civilian massacre at the time by international observers in the Serbian province. The Serbs claimed the victims were members of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army who had been killed in battle.