08/07/1998 20:34:53 NATO says ready for Kosovo action, Russia balks
By Jeremy Gaunt
BELGRADE, Aug 7 (Reuters) - NATO said on Friday the 16-nation military
alliance was ready to act to halt the fighting in Kosovo, but Russia again
rejected military intervention.
The Western military alliance had finalised planning for possible air
operations, a senior NATO diplomat in Brussels said. Another Alliance source
said a full arsenal of other military options was "in a high state of
But in Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky said NATO intervention would not help bring peace
to Kosovo. He appealed to Serbian authorities and Albanian separatists for a
"We believe there is no military solution here. This includes possible
military action from outside," Afanasyevsky said after meeting Ibrahim Rugova,
the self-styled president of Kosovo.
In a departure from his normal hardline stand, a leading ethnic Albanian
official said the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), fighting for independence from
Serbia, had agreed to join Rugova's moderate Kosovars in a "government".
"They have been talking about the makeup of the new government for 10 days --
there should be an announcement within days," Llaz Rmajli, head of the office of
the Republic of Kosovo said.
France and Germany said they were sending their own delegation to Belgrade
to put more diplomatic pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose
offensive against ethnic Albanian separatists has sent tens of thousands of
refugees fleeing from their homes.
Fighting in Kosovo itself was again sporadic, but security forces appeared
to be tightening the noose around KLA strongholds in the west.
A day after the United States warned Milosevic to end his offensive or face
military intervention, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said he was ready to
back international efforts to bring an end to the conflict.
Solana, on a Warsaw visit, issued a joint statement with the Polish
president expressing "disquiet" and disappointment that Milosevic had not kept
an earlier promise to stop his offensive.
In Tirana, the capital of Albania, Rugova told reporters a peace dialogue
was impossible as long as Serbian forces kept pounding separatist guerrillas and
Russia's Afanasyevsky also met U.S. Kosovo envoy Chris Hill. Both had
recently had long talks with Milosevic.
Hill said he had told the Yugoslav leader that destruction of homes in
Kosovo -- many of which are reported burnt -- had to end.
"I told him this has to stop and that to say that you are interested in
refugee returns at a time when we see houses burning is simply not a meaningful
statement," Hill said.
The Beta news agency, citing Serbian sources in Pristina, said the interior
ministry planned to investigate alleged excesses by security forces, including
Milosevic has said he is ready to negotiate with Kosovars on autonomy, but
the ethnic Albanians have been unable to agree a negotiation team among
But this may soon change, as Rugova's "government", when it is formed, is
expected to be the basis for the negotiating team to meet with Milosevic on