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Serbia: Albright States Opinion On Kosovo Conflict

Washington, 5 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the United States does not favor independence for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian community but it can neither accept the current situation there.

Testifying Wednesday before a U.S. congressional panel, Albright said Washington is "deeply concerned" with the recent wave of violence in the Serbian province.

At least 20 people died in Kosovo last weekend in clashes between Serbian police authorities and ethnic Albanians. Four of the casualties included Serbian policemen suspected to have been killed by independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, who make up 90 percent of the population, say they are deprived of their rights such as using the Albanian language in schools.

"The United States supports neither the untenable status quo nor the demand for Kosovo's independence," Albright said.

The secretary of state spoke at a hearing called by the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The panel is reviewing President Bill Clinton's proposed budget for the new fiscal year beginning in October.

Albright warned Belgrade that any use of force would deepen the isolation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. She urged both sides to enter into an unconditional dialogue.

"We have made it clear to President Milosevic that making progress on Kosovo is a precondition of lifting the so-called 'outer wall' of sanctions against his country," Albright said. The measures include U.S. opposition to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's access to credits by the World Bank.

"The use of force to resolve what is a political problem can only deepen the isolation of his (Milosevic's) regime," Albright said.

She also urged Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership to distance itself from those who use violence for political means.

Albright said the United States is working to increase American support for Kosovo's humanitarian needs and for the growth of civil society there.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, warned Milosevic the United States is "prepared to find new and other tools" to make sure Belgrade does not use massive force against Kosovo.

Gelbard predicted in a speech to a gathering of defense writers "very serious action by the United States and our allies dealing with (Yugoslavia) and the Kosovo issues."

At the White House, spokesman Micheal McCurry said the United States is hoping for a peaceful solution. He said any discussion of use of U.S. military force there would be hypothetical.

Foreign ministers of the Contact Group on Yugoslavia are set to hold emergency talks in London Monday on the Kosovo situation. The meeting will be chaired by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and will also include the United States, Russia, France, Germany and Italy.