New squeeze on Serbs

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AT least three ethnic Albanians have been killed in renewed clashes between separatist guerillas and police in the strife-torn Serbian province of Kosovo, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The fighting erupted as the major Nato countries yesterday imposed a ban on investment in Serbia in a new bid to force President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia to begin real talks on the future of the province.

This latest sanction was endorsed at a meeting in London of foreign ministers of the G8 group of leading powers - but, as in the past, without the assent of Serbia's historic ally, Russia.

As feared, Kosovo and the growing risk of another bloody chapter in the unravelling of the former communist Yugoslavia dominated the foreign ministers' discussions ahead of the full G8 summit in Birmingham next weekend. The hope is that, by hitting at Mr Milosevic's plans to reinvigorate the crippled Serbian economy, the investment freeze may succeed where previous sanctions have failed and urge Belgrade to return the autonomy in Kosovo it took away in 1989.

The short-term prospects of success are bleak. On Friday, Yugoslavia refused to accept the former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez as an intermediary for future negotiations. It has already moved to sidestep another measure - a freeze on assets held abroad by Serbia and the former Yugoslavia.