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Yugoslavia: Albright Tours Kosovo, Urges Cooperation

Pristina, 29 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today became the highest-ranking U.S. official to tour Kosovo since the end of NATO bombing and the return of many of the province's ethnic Albanian refugees. Immediately after her arrival at Pristina airport, Albright had talks with the commander of KFOR forces in Kosovo, British General Sir Michael Jackson and the chief UN administrator of the province, France's Bernard Kouchner. Albright called on the international community to fully support Kouchner in the difficult task of reconstructing Kosovo. She said the allies now need, in her words, to exhibit "the same kind of cooperation in peace as we had in war." Albright later met with the political head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), Hashim Thaci, and representatives of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Rugova briefly returned to Kosovo two weeks ago, but has since returned to Italy. The two men are vying to lead the province once elections are held.

Albright is also due to meet representatives of Kosovo's Serbian community. Serbian confidence in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission has plunged due to anti-Serb violence by ethnic Albanians, which has followed the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the province. Albright urged Serbs ahead of the meeting to place their trust in the UN and she said the international community wants a multiethnic Kosovo. But she also recalled that no one must forget that "disgusting" events were perpetrated by Serbian forces when they controlled the province.

Earlier today, the spokesman for British forces in Kosovo, Colonel Robin Hodges, said three suspects in the killing of 14 Serbian farmers last week have been jailed for up to a week of questioning. They have not been charged but investigators believe there is enough justification to formally detain them.

Also today, world leaders are gathering in Sarajevo to launch a Balkans "stability pact" aimed at ending the war and strife that has dominated the region this decade.

Leaders from some 40 countries, including U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, are expected to meet tomorrow in the Bosnian capital to promote a strategy aimed at bolstering economic and political reforms and bringing southeastern Europe fully into the process of European integration.

Regional leaders, including the pro-reform president of the Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, are expected to hold talks today to discuss the situation in the region following NATO's 11-week war to halt Serbian repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

The Yugoslav government of President Slobodan Milosevic has not been invited to the Sarajevo meeting. Western leaders have said no rebuilding aid will go to Serbia so long as Milosevic remains in power, and have urged Milosevic's replacement by democratic leaders.

Ahead of the Sarajevo meeting, more than 60 countries and international organizations yesterday pledged some 2 billion dollars to help feed and house refugees returning to Kosovo and revive the province's war-shattered economy.