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Yugoslavia: Cohen Calls For Strong NATO Threat To Belgrade

Belgrade, 28 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen called today for NATO to issue a strong and credible threat to Belgrade to withdraw forces from Kosovo and prevent the risk of death to thousands of refugees this winter. Cohen spoke at the same time Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic announced that Serbian security forces have defeated the ethnic Albanian separatist insurgency in Serbia's Kosovo province and ended their offensive there.

Cohen's remarks came after talks in Rome with Italy's Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta.

Marjanovic offered an amnesty to all ethnic Albanians who turned in their weapons within 10 days and could prove they were innocent of criminal activities.

Marjanovic made the statements during a special parliament session on ways to resolve the seven-month conflict. The conflict has caused about 800 deaths and driven 300,000 people from their homes in the mainly ethnic Albanian populated province.

Marjanovic warned Serbian forces would renew their offensive only if what he called "bandits and terrorists" resumed activities.

But the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army issued a statement pledging to continue its "holy war" against Serbia and demanding an urgent NATO action in Kosovo.

A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later said the Alliance would check for itself whether Serbian forces had ended their crackdown in Kosovo.