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Yugoslavia: Milosevic, Kosovo Leader Hold First Talks

Belgrade, 15 May 1998 (RFE/RL) - Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today opened unprecedented, direct talks with the leader of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova. The meeting aims to defuse escalating violence in Kosovo and set up a regular negotiating process on the future of the province.

The U.S.-brokered meeting opened at midday at the presidential palace in Belgrade. Neither side commented ahead of the talks, which will be conducted without outside mediation -- a key demand of the Serbs.

With Kosovo's majority Albanians continuing to press for independence -- something the Yugoslav side rules out -- little concrete is expected to immediately emerge from the talks.

Turmoil continued on the eve of the meeting, with fighting reported southwest of Kosovo's capital Pristina. Serbian forces launched a crackdown on Kosovo militants in late February, prompting fears of a new Balkan conflict.