Carrington on mission to avert war in Kosovo

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The Independent Online
LORD Carrington moved in earnest to seek to prevent the Yugoslav bloodbath spreading to Kosovo yesterday by holding talks in London with the leader of the ethnic Albanians in the Serbian-controlled province. Having won agreement from the ethnic Albanian side to 'talks without pre- conditions' mediated by his peace conference, Lord Carrington goes to Belgrade today to ask President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia to join the negotiations.

Ibrahim Rugova, President of the self-styled republic of Kosova, told reporters after his talks with Lord Carrington in London: 'Let us try to have a dialogue. It will be difficult, but we are ready to try.' He said he was not prepared to meet President Milosevic face to face, but would rely on mediation from Lord Carrington. Hitherto, he said, the Serbian side had 'imposed on us the position of slave rather than equal partners involved in a conflict'.

Lord Carrington's latest move marks a shift from the desperate cobbling together of ceasefires in the former Yugoslavia to an attempt at preventive diplomacy. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, told an EC meeting in Brussels yesterday after visiting both Albania and Yugoslavia that Kosovo was 'a disaster waiting to happen'.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 per cent of Kosovo's 2 million population, have adopted a Gandhi-style passive resistance towards their Serbian rulers. Dr Rugova, whose independent republic is not recognised by the EC, says the Serbs want to reverse the ethnic distribution of the province. The ethnic Albanians say they are being summarily dismissed from their jobs and lack educational structures. The ethnic Albanians have in turn sought to establish a 'parallel society' of education and services.

But as the ethnic Albanians have no police force, no army and no arms, Dr Rugova insists his people will not be provoked into rising against Serbian repression. He has called for international observers to be deployed in the province. 'The Serbian population of Kosovo is fully armed,' he said yesterday. 'Even a small peaceful manifestation is not possible.'

As Mr Milosevic insists that Kosovo is an internal Serbian matter, Lord Carrington will face problems in persuading him to accept EC mediation. He will seek to persuade the Serbian leader that it is in his interest to prevent a further spread of the conflict if he wishes to avoid the Serbs being further ostracised by the international community.

A conflict in Kosovo risks dragging in the ethnic Albanians who comprise more than a fifth of the population of Macedonia, so involving Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Turkey. Asked if he sought a unification of all Yugoslavia' ethnic Albanians in the future, Dr Rugova said: 'The best solution would be unification. But we have to accept the political realities, the position of the EC, and so on.'

Dr Rugova said he would not go back on Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence even though the Europeans refused to recognise it: 'We have to get on with what we have started,' he said. It is understood that Lord Carrington will take a block-building approach by focusing on the specific ethnic Albanian demands for educational structures and an own police force. Getting Mr Milosevic to agree to the latter promises to be especially difficult.