Milosevic calls for Kosovo vote

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The Independent Online
BELGRADE (Reuters) - The Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic yesterday called for a referendum to be held in Serbia to decide whether foreign mediators should help resolve the Kosovo crisis.

In a move to counter Western pressure for outside mediation, which he has rejected, President Milosevic told Serbia's president Milan Milutinovic in a letter that he was confident that his Kosovo policy enjoyed popular support. "An answer to whether this is true or not can only be given by the citizens," he said.

The United States and its European allies blame Mr Milosevic for police violence against the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, where at least 80 Albanians, including women and children, were killed in a police crackdown on village strongholds of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army in central Kosovo last month.

By urging a referendum to endorse the government, Mr Milosevic invited Serbs to repudiate Western support for Kosovo Albanians and accept the risk of further economic punishment.

The West has given Mr Milosevic until later this month to open talks on autonomy for the province.

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