Home > 1997-1999 from the Balkans, Kosovo, Serbia, Yougoslavia > ETHNIC ALBANIANS REFUSE OFFER BY SERBIA TO `TALK’


March 13, 1998

Article from: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Article date: March 13, 1998

byline: Guy Dinmore

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — Serbia sent a government delegation to the troubled province of Kosovo Thursday, but ethnic Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova rejected the offer of talks and called for international help. A crackdown by Serbian police has claimed at least 80 lives in the province the past two weeks.

Western diplomats suspected that Belgrade’s offer of dialogue was aimed at discrediting Rugova, saying the offer would not be enough to remove the threat of further sanctions on Serbia.

In the full glare of the media Thursday, four government ministers waited in Pristina, the provincial capital, but no ethnic Albanian politicians arrived to meet them. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic said no conditions were attached to Belgrade’s offer. But he made clear his delegation would not discuss demands for independence.

Officials of Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo said they had received no invitation to the talks and first knew about the visiting delegation from watching CNN.

“This offer is not at all serious. It was made just to ease outside pressure on Serbia,” said Rugova, president of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo.

Western governments on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yugoslavia and gave President Slobodan Milosevic a 10-day deadline to halt his police offensive and start talks.

“If it is a sign of genuine readiness to talk, it would be welcome,” commented one western diplomat. “But if it’s a publicity seeking gambit, then we will not be satisfied,” he added.

Serbia said its crackdown was aimed against “terrorists” of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, but about half of the dead have been women, children and old men. Police have sealed off several villages.

Several thousand people have already fled the region and there are fears of an exodus from Kosovo into the small Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, as well as Macedonia and Albania itself.

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