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Yugoslavia: U.S. Moves To Punish Belgrade Over Kosovo

Washington, 6 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has moved to punish Belgrade over its crackdown of ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province.

State Department spokesman James Foley said Thursday that Washington is withdrawing recent concessions granted to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. These concessions, now lifted, were given for Belgrade's support of a moderate new government in Bosnia's Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

One of the concessions allowed Serbia -- which forms federal Yugoslavia along with Montenegro -- to join an international effort designed to promote Balkan cooperation. Also scrapped were a consideration for permitting an increase in Serbian staff at the United Nations's former Yugoslav observer mission, permission for Serbia to open a consulate in the United States, and U.S. landing rights for the country's national airline.

The State Department spokesman said the United States condemns the recent violence in Kosovo, "particularly the excessive use of force by Serbian police." He said this violence resulted "from the failure of Serbian authorities to recognize the legitimate grievances" of the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo, a province of Serbia.

According to eyewitness accounts, Serbian police and troops shot Albanian civilians in the village of Likosane in retribution for the reported killing of four Serb policemen by ethnic Albanians.

About 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. Many favor independence or autonomy within the republic.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said earlier this week that while the United States does not favor independence for Kosovo, ethnic Albanians are entitled to greater rights.

Foley told reporters that Washington has received "credible reports" of continuing law enforcement operations in Kosovo by Serbian authorities. He said Kosovo's Albanian sources have reported the presence of "artillery fire in the region." The spokesman said he had no information on new casualties. "We view the situation in Kosovo as very serious and are investigating those reports," Foley said.

Foley said Albright is scheduled to meet in London with the foreign ministers of Russia, Britain, France and Germany on Monday to consider stronger economic penalties against Belgrade. He said Serbian authorities would face the "severest consequences" if they continue their crackdown on ethnic Albanians.

Foley declined to say whether the U.S. and its allies would consider using military intervention as a possible option.

"I'm not addressing that option in either a positive or negative way," he said. "I'm being very careful in choosing my words. Our choice also will depend on what may happen in the days ahead."

At the U.S. Defense Department, spokesman Kenneth Bacon said he knows of no plan for the United States or NATO to send troops to Kosovo.

Bacon said the administration is focusing on a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis.