Nato ultimatum for Serbs

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The Independent Online
AS FIGHTING continued in Kosovo, with Serb forces pounding villages once again, Nato's two top commanders told Slobodan Milosevic yesterday he faced the threat of air strikes if he did not stick to the October ceasefire agreement. They also demanded full access for war crimes investigators to probe last week's massacre of ethnic Albanians in Racak.

General Wesley Clark, Nato's supreme commander, and General Klaus Naumann, chairman of the alliance's military committee, were due to hold a second round of talks in Belgrade last night with the Yugoslav President before reporting back to Nato ambassadors in Brussels - at which point a decision on the use of force could be taken.

In Washington, senior officials warned that the "activation order" which brought the alliance to the brink of air strikes three months ago was still in force, and that Nato attacks could start "within days". Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, told the Commons that the British component of the force could be ready within 96 hours.

The Yugoslav government announced that William Walker, the American head of the international monitoring mission in Kosovo, could stay in the country an extra 24 hours, after originally being ordered to leave by today. Otherwise there was no immediate hint of breakthrough in the Belgrade talks, while Serb security forces and ethnic Albanians allowed no let-up in their conflict.

Yugoslav army artillery continued to pound the hillsides around Racak, scene of the slaughter of 45 Albanians last weekend. One Serb policeman was killed and two were wounded in separate clashes with the Kosovo Liberation Army.

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