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Yugoslavia: Serbian Troops Reported In Albania; Albright And Ivanov Meet


Tirana, 13 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - Albanian government leaders held an emergency meeting today following reports that Serbian troops have crossed the border into Albania from Kosovo. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko met in Tirana with Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga and Army Chief of Staff Aleks Andoni. A spokesman said they discussed a reaction and will coordinate any response with NATO. Albania's Interior Minister Petro Koci said the Serbian troops had crossed the border, had exchanged fire with Albanian border police and had seized control of the village of Kamenica. Reports said artillery fire could be heard in the district.

In Belgrade, Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic denied reports that Serbian forces had crossed into Albania. Vujovic said such allegations are nothing more than Albanian propaganda. A spokesman in Vienna for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that, according to OSCE monitors in Albania, the advancing Serbian infantry units had burned a number of houses and other buildings.

It's unclear whether the Serbs then retreated or are still on Albanian territory. Serbian units have reportedly made brief incursions over the border on previous days, apparently in pursuit of guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

In Oslo, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said NATO will consider with "utmost seriousness" any attempt by Yugoslavia to widen the Kosovo conflict.

Also in Oslo, the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers met today and said they find it "good and useful" to continue discussions on ending the Kosovo crisis but still disagree on the method to achieve that end.

Speaking at a joint press conference, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, agreed that settlement of the crisis required the fullfilment of several principles. These include the immediate end of violence in Kosovo, withdrawal of police and paramilitary forces from the province, return of Kosovo Albanians and opening up possibilities for international humanitarian groups to work with displaced people.

Ivanov said the two sides also agreed that a settlement could only be achieved throught political means and that the international community will have to play a major role in reaching that goal. But both Albright and Ivanov said they failed to reach agreement on an international force to monitor peace and enable refugees to return home.
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