January 18, 1999
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LONDON (CNN) -- Britain is seeking an early meeting of the six-nation Contact Group on Yugoslavia to discuss the recent massacre of 45 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Monday.
Cook said Britain would chair the proposed meeting of foreign ministry political advisors from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.
Russia -- traditionally an ally of Serbs in the Balkans -- joined international condemnation of the massacre on Monday and demanded an "objective investigation of all the circumstances that have led to human losses" in the Kosovo village of Racak.
The massacre, allegedly carried out by Serb police in the southern Kosovo village of Racak last week, caused an international outcry and triggered intense diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing a return to all-out war in the separatist province of Serbia.
Moscow's call for a probe of the massacre came shortly after Yugoslav authorities blocked U.N. war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour and her investigative team from entering the country.
Belgrade maintains that the U.N. war crimes tribunal has no authority to investigate the massacre.
The open defiance by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic prompted Cook to call for the emergency session of the Contact Group.
The French foreign ministry backed Britain's proposal for the meeting and said it could take place within the next few days.
Cook described the Racak killings as "a war crime in any understanding of the term."
He said Britain would ask the U.N. Security Council to back London's demands that "individuals who are responsible for such murders must personally be brought to justice."
Europe's main security body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Monday that the Racak massacre was the worst setback to the ongoing efforts to solve the Kosovo crisis since Milosevic agreed to a truce in October.
"We continue to demand that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia get immediate access to Kosovo," said OSCE chairman Kai Eide after Arbour was turned back at the Yugoslav border.
The Yugoslav authorities have called the Racak massacre an elaborate hoax by the OSCE and a pretext for intervention by NATO.
Albania, which has repeatedly voiced its fears of the Kosovo conflict spreading to other countries in the Balkans, urged NATO to "strike today."
"Only an armed intervention by NATO will end the bloodshed and create conditions for the start of dialogue," said the Albanian parliament in a resolution passed on Monday.
The NATO alliance threatened airstrikes against Yugoslavia last year to stop a bloody crackdown by Yugoslav forces on ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo. The cease-fire agreement averted the airstrikes.
Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.
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