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Yugoslavia: Progress Reported In Kosovo Diplomatic Efforts

Bonn/Belgrade/Brussels, 1 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Germany today said it has received a letter from Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, reportedly confirming Belgrade's acceptance of general principles of the Kosovo peace plan developed by the G7 states plus Russia. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann declined to provide any details of the letter's content, but the official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said earlier that it contained the acceptance by the Belgrade government of a plan that calls for a troop withdrawal from Kosovo and a deployment of an international peacekeeping force. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said at a EU meeting in Berlin that the Kosovo conflict may be approaching its final days. Germany currently chairs the G7 and holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, Russian Balkan envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott today met in the German town of Petersberg near Bonn to discuss proposals to end the conflict. If the discussions are successful, Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin could travel to Belgrade tomorrow for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Meantime, the commander of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo, General Nabojsa Pavkovic, said in Belgrade that a political solution to the conflict may be in sight but there will be "tough" negotiations on the scope of the Yugoslav withdrawal from Kosovo and the make-up of an international peacekeeping force.

In Brussels, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the alliance would turn down any Yugoslav proposal for it to maintain its forces in Kosovo and that bars NATO allies from a peace implementation force. NATO military spokesman General Walter Jertz said at a briefing that there are still an estimated 40,000 Yugoslav troops in Kosovo. Jertz said NATO had destroyed about 30 percent of Yugoslav heavy weapons and two-thirds of heavy surface-to air missiles. But Jertz stopped short of estimating Yugoslav military casualties, saying it is still impossible to do so with any accuracy.

Jertz said that today's NATO strikes hit military targets around Belgrade and in Kosovo, including attacks on Yugoslav troop concentrations in southwestern Kosovo near the Albanian border.

Concerning the continuing refugee crisis in Kosovo, United Nations officials say they are making preparations to care for more than a million refugees this winter.

The U.N. is already hosting more than 780,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees in Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro.