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08/06/1998 17:18:44 Russia, Yugoslavia, call for peace in Kosovo

(Updates with report from the meeting)

BELGRADE, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Russia and Yugoslavia called on Thursday for a

peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis and said steps were needed to allow

refugees in the province to return home, the official Tanjug news agency

reported.

They called for an urgent start to new negotiations between ethnic Albanians

and Serbian officials.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister

Nikolai Afanasyevsky for talks as the Russian launched another diplomatic effort

to end the separatist uprising in Serbia's Kosovo province.

The meeting -- in a Serbian hunting lodge that was the late Yugoslav

communist leader Josip Broz Tito's favourite holiday resort -- follows similar

talks on Wednesday between Milosevic and U.S. special Kosovo envoy Chris Hill.

Tanjug said the two men had agreed that a political solution to the crisis

was necessary.

They said Serbia should ease the return of the refugees in Kosovo and

provide material assistance, Tanjug said.

Russian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Both Moscow and Washington have been urging Milosevic to find a peaceful

solution in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanian separatists have been engaged in

fierce fighting with Serbian security forces.

But Russia, a longstanding ally of Belgrade, has ruled out military

invtervention while the United States has warned Belgrade that NATO might become

involved if the fighting goes on.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador-designate to the United Nations, said on

Cable News Network (CNN) that Milosevic and Hill had met for six hours on

Wednesday. He gave no details of what was said.

Russian sources said Hill and Afanasyevsky may meet during his stay in

Yugoslavia. They said the Russian would stay in Yugoslavia for about a week and

would visit Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, on Friday.

"I would like to hope that eventually the escalation of the armed conflict

will be stopped and that negotiations will start," Afanasyevsky told Russian

reporters on his arrival in Belgrade on Wednesday.

He added he thought the situation in Kosovo was still very contradictory.

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