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Yugoslavia: Demonstrator Killed In Kosovo As U.S. Envoy Arrives

Pristina, 18 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Kosovo Albanian Information Center says Serbian police today opened fire on a pro-independence demonstration in the restive Kosovo province, killing one ethnic Albanian and injuring many others. The information center, run by the leading ethnic Albanian political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), identified the dead man as Qerim Muriqi. It said the shooting happened in Pec, about 80 kilometers west of the provincial capital Pristina, where some 40,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated peacefully this morning in favor of independence for the southern Serbian province. The demonstrators, carrying placards criticizing recent police violence in the province and calling for its independence from Serbia, dispersed after half an hour.

The report of the shooting could not immediately be independently confirmed. It comes as U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard arrived in Pristina to try to convince ethnic Albanian leaders to participate in talks with Serbian authorities.

Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, speaking in Sofia after talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, accused Belgrade today of summary executions and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and said the viability of the Yugoslav state depended on its ability to solve the crisis. He indicated that Washington was ready to impose more sanctions against Yugoslavia if it did not open up a dialogue with the Kosovo Albanians.