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Yugoslavia: Ethnic Albanians Expected To Sign Peace Accord Today

Paris, 18 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - A delegation representing Kosovo's ethnic Albanian community is expected tonight to sign a Western-backed peace plan for the southern Serbian province. Reports from the fourth day of peace talks in Paris say the delegation from Belgrade is continuing to reject the agreement, however. The accord gives ethnic Albanians limited autonomy in Kosovo. The plan also calls for NATO-led troops to enforce the deal -- a condition the Serbs also reject. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is appealing to the Serbs to sign on to the political part of the agreement. He warned that failed peace talks could lead to a larger Balkan conflict.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is also calling on the Serbs to sign. He said NATO is prepared to take action against Serbian forces massed in and around Kosovo to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

Ethnic Albanian delegate Veton Surroi said that once the ethnic Albanians sign the accord, his side will consider the Paris stage of the process finished.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin says it will be up to the co-chairs of the talks -- French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook -- to decide the next step. Meanwhile, NATO's supreme commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark, arrived in Macedonia today to visit troops gathering for the possible peace-keeping mission in Kosovo. Clark is expected to meet with top Macedonian officials.