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Yugoslavia: German Minister Calls For NATO Force On Kosovo's Borders

Palermo, Sicily; 4 June 1998 (RFE/RL) - German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said it is time for NATO to decide quickly to send troops to Kosovo's borders to prevent the violence there from spilling over. Kinkel, speaking at a conference in Sicily, stressed that the alliance's first option is to send troops to Albania and Macedonia to create a "cordon sanitaire." But he warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that once NATO troops are stationed on Kosovo's borders, they could then intervene in Kosovo itself if the situation there becomes "absolutely chaotic."

Kinkel also said measures must be taken to prevent the flood of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo from spreading across Europe. The number who have fled the violence in Serbia's southern province is growing by the hour.

Albania now estimates that 12,000 people from the ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo province are now on its territory. Reports from Montenegro, Serbia's partner in rump Yugoslavia, indicate that as many as 7,000 people have fled there. Estimates by the UNHCR and ethnic Albanian officials in Kosovo indicate that as many as 50,000 people have been driven from their homes by recent attacks by the Serbian military.

A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said in Geneva today that the UNHCR is in close contact with NATO to help deal with the refugee crisis. She said NATO could assist by securing paths for UNHCR convoys.

Albania, Europe's poorest country, which is struggling under the flood of refugees, today urged the Contact Group on former Yugoslavia to take political and military steps against Belgrade to end the violence in Kosovo.

However, Russia, which is a member of the Contact Group, rejected proposals for NATO involvement. It proposed instead using a UN preventive force already in Macedonia to monitor the border between Albania and Serbia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin said any operation in the region should be done through the UN.