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Yugoslavia: Contact Group To Consider Kosovo Agreement

Paris/Belgrade, 14 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - The six-country Contact Group plans to meet in Paris tomorrow to discuss the Kosovo deal that put off threatened NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. The French Foreign Ministry said foreign ministers of the group will look at ways to implement the agreement worked out by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today neither NATO nor the British government trust Milosevic, and that Britain would push for a U.N. Security Council resolution binding him to his word on Kosovo.

Cook told BBC radio that a Security Council resolution is "the critical element" to ensure Belgrade's compliance with the agreement to end fighting in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and allow refugees to return to their home, among other provisions.

The Contact Group on former Yugoslavia is made up of the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said earlier that Milosevic bowed to international demands on Kosovo only after he saw that NATO was serious about launching air strikes against his country. Western and NATO officials have said that the threat still stands if Milosevic fails to honor his promises.

Meanwhile, Holbrooke said he is worried that the international community will be too slow in deploying what is being called the "verification mission" to Kosovo. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is supposed to send 2,000 "verifiers," and Holbrooke called on major governments to offer personnel to the OSCE as quickly as possible.

Milosevic's acceptance of the verification mission -- which includes both NATO aerial reconnaissance flights and monitors on the ground -- was a key concession aimed at avoiding the threatened NATO airstrikes.

Also today, the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned as an act of "dictatorship" the decision by the Yugoslav government to ban two independent newspapers.

Belgrade radio B-92 reported earlier that the independent Yugoslav daily "Dnevni Telegraf" was banned and its assets "temporarily" seized on orders of the Serbian information ministry.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Belgrade reported that the daily newspaper "Nasa Borba," which also has been critical of the government, received a warning from authorities late last night threatening it with closure if it continued to use reports from foreign sources.