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Yugoslavia: Fighting Reported At Kosovo Mine

Pristina/Brussels, 9 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug says Serbian police battled ethnic Albanian rebels at a gold and zinc mine in Serbia's troubled Kosovo province today. Tanjug says fighting began after members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) attacked police and guards at the Stari Trg mine, about 30 kilometers northwest of Pristina, the provincial capital. Tanjug says a mine employee was killed. There is no independent confirmation of the report.

Much of the fighting in recent weeks has been to the southwest of Pristina, with Serbian police and Yugoslav army units seeking to push UCK rebels out of their strongholds in the area. The area around today's reported fighting is also a guerrilla pocket.

Hundreds of people have been killed since Belgrade began a crackdown on separatists in Kosovo in February. More than 250,000 other people have been forced to flee their homes.

In Brussels today, NATO said it has completed contingency planning for a full range of military options to support diplomatic efforts aimed at securing peace in Kosovo.

Also today, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic condemned a European Union (EU) flight ban against the Yugoslav airlines, JAT, that went into effect today.

The EU said on Sunday it would prohibit JAT flights to its 15 member states in response to a crackdown by Yugoslav and Serb forces on ethnic Albanians fighting for independence in Kosovo.

In a statement issued today in Belgrade after a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derycke, Sainovic said unilateral threats and measures would lead to unwanted consequences and indirectly support the aims of Albanian separatists in Kosovo.

Earlier today, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic called off a meeting with Derycke, in apparent protest against the JAT flight ban.