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Yugoslavia: Serb Delegation To Remain In Pristina

Pristina, 12 March 1998 (RFE/RL) - A Serbian government delegation says it will remain in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo for another day in the hopes of meeting with ethnic Albanian leaders. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovich spoke in the provincial capital Pristina where ethnic Albanian leaders refused to meet his delegation after it travelled this morning from Belgrade. Markovich said he was repeating what he called "an invitation to dialogue" and said his delegation was "at the disposal" of ethnic Albanian leaders.

A leading member of the main ethnic Albanian group, Fehmi Agani of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), earlier dismissed the visit as "a mockery of a dialogue." He was quoted as saying that the agenda for any talks must be agreed to in advance. An LDK spokesman (Enver Maloku) said it wants an outside party involved in talks.

Up to 80 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, have been killed in Kosovo this month in what Serb authorities have described as an assault on suspected terrorists.

Western governments have pressed Belgrade to engage ethnic Albanian leaders in talks. Many have also suggested that the province's past autonomy, revoked in 1989, should be restored.

However, ethnic Albanian leaders are demanding independence, which Belgrade has rejected. Ethnic Albanians comprise some 90 percent of Kosovo's population.