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Yugoslavia: U.S. Warns Belgrade About Kosovo Violence

Washington, 3 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has urged Belgrade to resolve the Kosovo crisis peacefully, warning that failure to do so would result in continued sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters Monday that Washington is appalled by violent clashes that during the weekend killed at least 20 people in Serbia's predominantly ethnic Albanian province. He singled out Serbian and Yugoslav authorities for much of the blame and urged them to act with "maximum restraint" in the future.

Serbia and tiny Montenegro make up federal Yugoslavia.

"Let me remind those authorities that the outer wall of sanctions (imposed during the Balkan war) against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia remains in place," Rubin said.

"Belgrade will live with these sanctions until Serbian and Yugoslav authorities have taken meaningful steps to address the legitimate grievances of the Kosovan-Albania community," the spokesman said.

He called on all sides to enter into "unconditional dialogue" and for Belgrade to implement immediately agreements dealing with education rights of the Albanian-speaking population.

At the same time, Rubin also urged ethnic Albanian leaders to condemn "terrorist action" by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

At least 16 ethnic Albanians and four Serbian policemen were killed in the weekend clashes between police and armed locals in Kosovo. It was the worst violence in the province since 1989 when Kosovo lost its autonomous status within Serbia.

Russia also called for a dialogue but tried to shift the responsibility away from Belgrade.

In a statement Monday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov expressed "deep concern about the deterioration of the situation in Kosovo." He said the events were triggered by "an attack by Albanian terrorists on a Serbian police patrol."

The statement also said any solution to Kosovo's problem must be based on the "territorial integrity" of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but taken into account the rights of Kosovo Albanians and other citizens in the province.

Meanwhile, Serbia's Interior Ministry warned that police will not tolerate any more demonstrations.

The warning came Monday as thousands of ethnic Albanians marched in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, to protest what they said was police brutality. The rally was forcibly broken up by riot police using batons, tear gas and water cannon. Several people were reported injured.

Meanwhile, Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic was reported as saying that he does not believe military intervention or the imposition of a state of emergency is necessary.

State Department spokesman Rubin said pointedly Washington expects the Yugoslav Army to stay out and to "take no action that might lead to further violence."