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Yugoslavia: Ethnic Albanian Delegation To Sign Peace Accord Tomorrow

Paris, 15 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - The ethnic Albanian delegation at the Kosovo peace talks in Paris says it plans to sign a peace agreement tomorrow aimed at ending the conflict in the Yugoslav province. The head of the Kosovo Albanian delegation, Hashim Thaci, said that his side intends to sign up to an agreement allowing Kosovars broad political autonomy for the next three years. The agreement, however, does not grant Kosovars outright independence from the Serbian authorities.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, co-chairmen of the Paris talks, welcomed the news and said they remained hopeful that the Serbian side would also sign up to the deal and accept all aspects of its implementation

Earlier today, the Serbian delegation told international mediators that they needed more time to consider the plan. Serbian leaders are still reportedly objecting to plans to deploy a 28,000-member NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo to enforce the deal.

U.S. President Bill Clinton says Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic risks NATO air strikes if he refuses to agree to the terms of the peace accord.

Meanwhile, in Kosovo, there are reports of escalating violence. A spokesman for international monitors in Kosovo, Heinz Nitsch, said that villages in northern Kosovo were bombarded by Yugoslav army tank and artillery fire. He said seven Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters were injured in a firefight with the Yugoslav forces. UCK soldiers were also accused of violence today, reportedly attacking an army post in the north early today.