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Yugoslavia: Yeltsin Opposes Increased Pressure On Belgrade

Moscow/Pristina, 30 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin said today he opposes the use of economic sanctions to force Belgrade into talks with ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province. The comments come a day after the six-nation Contact Group agreed to an immediate freeze of Yugoslav assets abroad and to halt investment in Yugoslavia if Belgrade does not start a meaningful dialogue with Kosovo Albanians in ten days.

Russia, a member of the Contact Group, condemned the use of force by Serbs in Kosovo, but said it would not take part in the sanctions. Yeltsin told Italian prime minister Romano Prodi on the telephone he thinks sanctions will not ease tensions in the province.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told reporters today the Contact Group should concentrate on offering what he said is "real help" in promoting dialogue. He said such action, and not economic action, is the key to an effective effort in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Serb police say ethnic Albanians in Kosovo attacked a police station overnight, killing one policeman and seriously wounding another. They say members of the Kosovo Liberation Army fired a mortar at a police station near Prizren.

In recent weeks scores of ethnic Albanians have been killed in Kosovo province -- where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs by 9 to 1 -- in a crackdown by the Serbian police and the Yugoslav army.

There is concern that further unrest in Kosovo could undermine the moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and lead to the spread of violence beyond Serbia's borders, particularly into neighboring Macedonia.