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Yugoslavia: Kosovars Urged To Release Yugoslav Soldiers

Belgrade, 11 January 1999 (RFE/RL) - The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has urged Kosovar separatists to release eight Yugoslav army soldiers they have held since Friday. The OSCE's international observers are trying to persuade the ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to free the soldiers it captured near the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica. The UCK said it would free the soldiers in exchange for the release of ethnic Albanians held prisoner by Serbian authorities.

Knut Vollebaek, the Norwegian foreign minister and new chairman of the 54-member OSCE, spoke after talks in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Vollebaek urged Yugoslavia to show maximum restraint and said Milosevic had agreed to allow more time for negotiations before taking any action in response to the hostage-taking.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic earlier today warned that his government's patience and restraint has limits.

In Brussels yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana demanded the immediate release of the Yugoslav soldiers. He also urged Milosevic to end what Solana called an "excessive" Serbian military buildup in northern Kosovo.