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Yugoslavia: Kosovar Albanians Conditionally Accept Accord

Rambouillet, France; 23 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - Kosovar Albanian negotiators today conditionally accepted a political agreement on autonomy. But U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said their agreement is subject to a two-week delay that would allow them to consult supporters and separatist fighters. Rubin says Serb negotiators have raised "significant obstacles" to the political aspect of the peace plan and continue to reject the use of NATO troops in Kosovo to police any accord.

The agreement was reached in a meeting of Kosovar Albanian delegates at peace talks near Paris after expiration of today's deadline for an accord on the future of the Serb province.

U.S. President Bill Clinton told reporters in Washington that he hopes the talks can be resolved today and he called on Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to exercise restraint.

The talks are aimed at ending the ethnic violence in Kosovo, the largest of Serbia's provinces but one dominated by ethnic Albanians, including many who are demanding outright independence. The U.S. and its international partners do not support that goal, but they are insisting on more autonomy for the Kosovars.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says recent fighting in Kosovo has created the biggest wave of refugees in the province since December.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the agency, said some 9,000 people left their homes in villages northwest of Pristina yesterday and over the weekend. Janowski said UN staff were told only men remained in a number of villages. They also saw at least five ethnic Albanians wounded by gunshot or shrapnel.