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U.S., Russia Confer On Kosovo

With its air-power demonstration and possible armed intervention, NATO is sending a message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he should halt attacks in Kosovo, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Friday.

Cohen, in an interview with ABC Television, said he and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Igor Sergeyev, agreed "the situation is dangerous in terms of its capacity to expand even further, sending thousands of refugees into neighboring countries."

Russia opposes the military options NATO is considering for the Serbian province. Cohen said Sergeyev urged that a diplomatic solution must be found to the crisis and pointed to a meeting Monday in Moscow between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Milosevic.

But Cohen warned that NATO's dim view of the crackdown in Kosovo not be taken too lightly.

The NATO alliance agrees "the bloodshed has to stop; that very strong message has to be sent to Mr. Milosevic that he has to cease and desist the slaughter, the shelling of villages and killing of innocent people and to resolve this peacefully," Cohen said.

"We're sending a signal that ... an air exercise will demonstrate that we have the capacity to mobilize very quickly and demonstrate rapidly deployable power. But secondly, it also demonstrates there is solidarity of support and consensus throughout NATO and beyond NATO itself," Cohen said.

Cohen met for 45 minutes with the Russian at NATO headquarters.

The meeting came a day after the NATO alliance approved a show-of-force air exercise over Yugoslav neighbors Albania and Macedonia. NATO also ordered options be drawn up for possible intervention in Kosovo, including direct air strikes or the use of ground troops.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said Thursday that Russia advised the alliance it would not participate in NATO's plans for an air exercise over Albania and Macedonia.

On Thursday, NATO ministers approved a package they hope will persuade Milosevic to pull back his Serb-led army and police forces in the province.

Under the measures, NATO will conduct simulated air attacks in Albania and Macedonia, probably next week, and study options for further actions ranging from accelerated planning for military exercises to direct air strikes inside Yugoslavia and use of ground troops.

This is aimed at persuading Milosevic to do three things: declare a cease-fire in Kosovo; withdraw his forces and end the repression of the ethnic Albanians; and open serious negotiations with the opposition.

In other developments:

  • Albania has asked the United Nations to support a plan for collecting tens of thousands of weapons looted from army barracks in last year's civil unrest, a senior official said on Friday. More than 600,000 weapns were stolen in the riots. Some of the weapons are being smuggled to ethnic Albanians fighting Serbian forces in neighboring Kosovo.
  • At least two Serbian policemen were killed and another wounded in clashes with ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, Serbian and Albanian sources said Friday. The killings occurred near the town of Obilic, six miles from the provincial capital Pristina. Albanian sources said as many as four police may have died and one Albanian was wounded.
  • The Norwegian Air Force will begin airlifting emergency supplies Saturday to northern Albania, where at least 12,000 people have fled to escape fighting in Kosovo, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday. In all, about 65,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Kosovo since fighting in the Serbian province began in March, according to the Geneva-based agency.