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08/06/1998 19:31:44 FOCUS-West warns Milosevic on Kosovo

By Jeremy Gaunt

BELGRADE, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The United States warned Yugoslavia on Thursday

to stop a Serbian offensive in Kosovo, while the European Union demanded that

Belgrade cooperate with an investigation into an alleged ethnic massacre.

NATO and U.S. Defence Department officials formally announced a series of

planned military exercises in Albania next week, painting them as another

reminder to Belgrade of the West's military might.

As United Nations aid workers moved deep into the hills of Kosovo with food

and provisions for tens of thousands of refugees camped there, fighting in the

province appeared to have eased from recent levels.

There were reports of only sporadic clashes between Serbian forces and

ethnic Albanian separatists. Western observers, however, again reported

incidents of burning houses in villages left empty by residents who had fled to

escape fighting.

The Albanian Foreign Ministry in Tirana accused Serbian forces of conducting

"ethnic cleansing" while Albania's parliament called on the West to intervene

militarily.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and visiting Russian Deputy Foreign

Minister Nikolai Afansyevsky said they wanted a political solution and steps to

be taken to bring Kosovo refugees home, according to the official Yugoslav news

agency Tanjug.

Kosovo Serbs, a group whose plight has been overshadowed by that of their

ethnic Albanian counterparts, protested in Pristina for the return of as many as

171 relatives allegedly abducted by Kosovo Liberation army (KLA) guerrillas.

In Washington, the State Department said Secretary of State Madeleine

Albright had let Milosevic know through diplomatic channels that Serbia's recent

actions in Kosovo were "unacceptable" and increased the chances of NATO

intervention.

Serbian security forces launched a fierce offensive more than a week ago

against KLA guerrillas demanding independence for Kosovo, a Serbian province

with a 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority.

They failed to let up even after Milosevic had promised the EU that it was

over.

A U.S. Defence Department spokesman said the NATO excercises next week

should be a sign to Milosevic of the ability of the West to move quickly.

The West, however, has appeared divided about how to deal with Milosevic and

Kosovo.

Austria, the EU president, reacting to reports in one of its newspapers of

mass graves of more than 500 ethnic Albanians in the central Kosovo town of

Orahovac, said it wanted Yugoslavia to grant forensic scientists access to the

site.

EU observers who visited the site on Wednesday found no immediate evidence

of mass graves but said they were not sure how many people were buried there.

Serbian officials said they were the graves of 40 KLA fighters.

"We want to say to the Serbs, let the experts in so that you can then prove

that such mass graves do not exist," an Austrian spokesman said.

Die Presse, one of the newspapers that published the report on Wednesday,

said it stuck by its story and again quoted eyewitnesses to the alleged mass

burial.

In the hills of western Kosovo itself, U.N. aid workers brought 13 trucks of

provisions to refugees huddled in the hills and woods.

In Lapcevo, convoy trucks unloaded several tonnes of wheat flour, hundreds

of food parcels, hygienic and sanitary items, disinfectants, detergent, baby

clothes and toys including teddy bears "to keep the kids' morale up".

On the way to Lapcevo, the convoy stopped in Malisevo, a town untouched a

week ago when it was seen by reporters after it had been overrun by Serbian

security forces.

A Reuters reporter accompanying the convoy on Thursday said the town was now

uninhabitable -- a wreck of looted and burned houses and businesses.

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