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Russia/Yugoslavia: Clinton, Yeltsin Agree On End To Attacks On Kosovar Albanians

Washington, 20 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin appears to have taken a more conciliatory approach to the Kosovo crisis.

During a telephone conversation on Monday, the White House says Yeltsin reaffirmed to U.S. President Bill Clinton his intention not to get involved militarily in the conflict. Spokesman Joe Lockhart says Yeltsin also reassured Clinton that Russia has no plans sending any more warships to the Balkans.

Russia currently has a small reconnaissance ship in the Mediterranean to keep an eye on allied naval activities against Yugoslavia. It has kept several warships on a standby basis.

The call was placed by Clinton and lasted for 45 minutes. It was the first telephone conversation between the two leaders since NATO began its bombing of Yugoslavia more than three weeks ago.

Lockhart said: "President Clinton and President Yeltsin spoke for about 45 minutes this morning. They reviewed the situation in the Balkans. It was a quite a constructive call. Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reaffirmed key areas of agreement between the U.S. and Russia on Kosovo."

Lockhart said both nations agree on the need to immediately end attacks on Kosovar Albanians, withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, the safe return of refugees and unhindered access for humanitarian relief organization.

The White House spokesman noted that Russia continues to oppose the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia and there is disagreement about a proposed NATO-led international security force to implement a peace accord for Kosovo. Both Belgrade and Moscow are against that idea.

The Kremlin said Yeltsin urged Clinton to facilitate an immediate NATO ceasefire against Yugoslavia. The White House did not comment on that request but top U.S. officials have said earlier there can be no halt to the air campaign until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic embraces peace for the Serb province that is largely populated by ethnic Albanians.

Earlier Monday, Clinton talked about Kosovo to a group of educators.

Clinton said: "We got by the Cold War, thank goodness, without any nuclear weapons falling, and now we've found that the future was threatened by the oldest demon of human society, which is our fear of people who are different from us."

Clinton said: "It would be ironic indeed if after two world wars and a Cold War being fought on the continent of Europe, and all the lessons we have learned over this century, that it would be in southeastern Europe in the Balkans where our vision of the 21st Century would come apart. So this conflict in Kosovo in a fundamental way is either the last conflict of the 20th Century or the first conflict of the 21st Century."

The president said he was sending to the U.S. Congress an emergency funding request to pay for U.S. military and humanitarian needs stemming from the Kosovo operation. White House and Congressional officials put the figure at $6 billion.

Meanwhile, NATO was studying how to further cripple Yugoslavia's war-making capabilities.

At the State Department, spokesman James Rubin said NATO is looking at ways to further cut off oil supplies to the Yugoslavia. Rubin said no decision has been made about whether to impose a naval blockade of Yugoslavia to halt oil deliveries. He said the idea is being examined from legal and technical aspects.

NATO already is engaged in bombing campaigns against Serb oil refineries and storage facilities. But oil deliveries by sea - via ports in Montenegro - have continued. Montenegro is a republic in the federation dominated by Serbia.

Lockhart said existing U.N. Security Council resolutions already prohibit supplying Yugoslavia with military materials. He said that petroleum is an essential element in carrying out a military campaign.