U.S. envoy tries shuttle diplomacy in Kosovo crisis
Holbrooke meets with Milosevic, Rugova
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Web posted at: 6:55 p.m. EDT (2255 GMT)
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke shuttled across Yugoslavia Saturday, trying to broker a settlement to end violence in the disputed province of Kosovo.
In Belgrade, Holbrooke met for five hours with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, then traveled to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, to meet with Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the largest ethnic Albanian political group there.
"The U.S. believes that the solution of the Kosovo problem must be peaceful," he said, speaking alongside Rugova.
But while appearing to give strong U.S. backing to Rugova, Holbrooke also held talks with his more radical rival, Adem Demaci, and members of the Albanian Democratic Movement, which split away from Rugova with ambitions of becoming the political wing of the Kosovo Liberation Army, an armed group fighting for Kosovo's independence from the Yugoslav federation.
Holbrooke was expected to have further meetings during the weekend in both Belgrade and Pristina.
Asked about recent statements by Milosevic that he might consider granting some degree of autonomy to Kosovo, Holbrooke said he could not discuss any confidential details of his talks with the Yugoslav leader.
"We covered most everything, discussed Bosnia, the implementation of the Dayton agreements, which we both agreed were moving forward, and a lot of attention to the crisis in Kosovo," Holbrooke said.
Kosovo is a province in Serbia, one of two republics that make up the Yugoslav federation. Ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the population in the province, have been seeking autonomy or even outright independence.
But in February, Yugoslav troops and Serbian police began a crackdown on separatists, particularly the KLA, which officials in Belgrade consider to be a terrorist group.
In the wake of the crackdown, which has claimed more than 300 lives and prompted thousands of refugees to flee into neighboring Albania and Macedonia, the KLA has been gaining support at the expense of Rugova, who opposes the use of violence.
Asked Saturday if the KLA should be included in the peace talks, Holbrooke said the United States wanted "everybody who has a legitimate role in the destiny of Kosovo" to have a place in the negotiations.
"But how that works out remains to be seen," he said.
The German news magazine Spiegel quoted KLA spokesman Jakub Krasniqi as saying his group would never take orders from Rugova because his efforts at peaceful secession have proven to be a failure.
Even as Holbrooke shuttled from Belgrade to Pristina, another top U.S. diplomat, Richard Gelbard, said in a speech in London that NATO military planners were drawing up contingency plans on "an accelerated basis" in case Western military intervention is needed to stop the Yugoslav crackdown.
"We are keeping all options open. We are not being cute when we say that," said Gelbard, a special envoy for Balkan issues. "We are very serious about it. We have learned from Bosnia."
Gelbard also made it clear that while the United States would prefer strong U.N. Security Council backing for any military intervention, the U.S. position is that such backing would not be a prerequisite.
On Saturday, new clashes were reported in southwestern Kosovo. Yugoslav sources said police pushed back Albanian militants who attacked Serb villagers at Movljane, a village 30 miles (48 km) south of Pristina. An Albanian report said police and armed Serb villagers attacked Gornja Krusica, a nearby Albanian village, killing one person.
In a separate incident, the Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug, reported that border troops exchanged fire with arms smugglers crossing over from Albania. But Kosovo Albanian sources gave a different version of events, saying the army targeted three Albanian villages near the border.
On Friday, Yugoslav forces scored an important military victory when they broke a two-week siege by the KLA of the town of Kijevo, a strategic point on the province's main east-west road.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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