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Contact Group agrees to Kosovo resolution

Gligorov and Talbot
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot (R) meets Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov Tuesday in Skopje  

Text to be circulated to U.N. Security Council Wednesday

In this story: March 17, 1998
Web posted at: 9:40 p.m. EST (0240 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of the six-nation Contact Group have agreed to a resolution that would threaten an arms embargo and other measures on Yugoslavia unless it acts to reduce tensions in the turbulent province of Kosovo.

"Our understanding is that the Contact Group in New York has agreed to a consensus text of a U.N. Security Council resolution," said U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin.

U.N. diplomats confirmed that a text was agreed to by the Contact Group and would be circulated to the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday in hopes it would be adopted on Thursday or Friday.

Serbia has used police in recent weeks to crack down on a separatist movement by ethnic Albanians in its Kosovo province. At least 80 Albanians have been killed, raising fears that the conflict could spill over into neighboring countries.

British diplomats said the resolution would encourage dialogue between the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population in Kosovo. Serbia is the dominant part of Yugoslavia.

The resolution would also condemn terrorism, including attacks by Albanian extremists on ethnic Serb police, and "sets the stage for an arms embargo," one diplomat said, if the parties refuse to abide by the council's call.

The Contact Group is composed of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

China holds the key

Albanian women hold loaves of bread aloft in symbolic defiance of Serb police in Pristina  

The key, however, will be China, which considers the crisis in Kosovo an internal matter in which the Security Council should not become involved. China, as a permanent council member, can veto any resolution.

A spokesman for the Chinese U.N. mission, Chen Ranfeng, said China hoped the matter could be resolved peacefully, but did not say whether China would block the resolution.

Last Thursday, China's foreign minister, Qian Qichen, said China may support an arms embargo against Yugoslavia but does not want the issue discussed in the United Nations. Diplomats believe China sees parallels between Serb rule in Kosovo and China's 47-year control of Tibet.

Qian added that China wanted to see the legitimate rights of all ethnic groups protected in Yugoslavia and measures taken to prevent "splittist activity by some extremists."

The U.N. resolution would formalize a decision March 9 by foreign ministers of the Contact Group to take four immediate steps against Yugoslavia. They include:

  • Security Council consideration of a comprehensive arms embargo.

  • A ban on supplies or equipment that could be used to repress Albanian separatists.

  • The denial of travel visas to Serbian officials responsible for the crackdown in Kosovo.

  • A freeze on government-financed export credit support for trade and investment.

Russia reportedly did not agree to the last two measures.

The group also agreed that if Milosevic did not take measures to defuse the crisis within 10 days, the group would try to freeze Yugoslav and Serbian funds held abroad.

Rubin warned that "if there hasn't been a change (in Milosevic's approach) in the next three days, the Contact Group's decision to impose an asset freeze will begin to be implemented."

'World unanimity' against repression

 aid shipment
Aid from U.S. donors is being distributed in the Drenica region  

At a meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva Tuesday, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Ushakov called for an end to the violence in Kosovo.

And Tony Lloyd, Britain's state minister for foreign affairs, said it was important for Yugoslav authorities to realize that they face "world unanimity" condemning violence against ethnic Albanians in the troubled Serbian province.

Ushakov reaffirmed that any settlement of the crisis must be based on respect for the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

He also said, "We are convinced that only mutual concessions and compromise can bring an end to the inter-ethnic confrontation in Yugoslavia and prevent the spreading of conflict."

Ljerka Mintas-Hodak, Croatia's deputy prime minister, expressed concern about the human rights situation in Kosovo. "Only immediate and decisive action in Kosovo on the part of the international community can stop an acceleration of the negative developments and human rights violations," she said.

Kinkel urged an end to "the spiral of violence and counter-violence. ... The peace and stability of the entire region is at stake."

France, Germany weighing concessions?

Jospin said France was not encouraging "terrorists" in Kosovo, nor questioning the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. "At the same time, it is clear that the massive repression used by the Serbian police cannot be accepted and is heavy with new threats for this part of the region," Jospin said.

Lloyd, speaking to a news conference after addressing the U.N. rights talks on behalf of the European Union, said that violence by separatist ethnic Albanians was also unacceptable.

"The only way Kosovo can avoid violence ... is to move to the negotiating table," he said.

And in Paris, French diplomats said French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and Kinkel might offer Yugoslavia cooperation agreements when they visit Belgrade this week in return for concessions over Kosovo.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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