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Monday, March 8, 1999, 2:30 PM.

Armed clashes in the villages of Kaçanik

Kaçanik, March 8 (Kosovapress) Armed clashes between UÇK Units and Serbian military forces have started today at 05.30, in the village Pustenik near Hani i Elezit municipality of Kaçanik. At 06.00 Serb forces started to shoot towards Pustenik from Goranca. These shootings had stooped for a while but continued later. UÇK Units are replying in self defence. Large convoys of serbian troops have gone in the direction of Kaçanik, Hani i Elezit and Pustenik. A similar convoy consisting of 20 heavy military vehicles, tanks, APC and military trucks, at around 03.30, has gone through Dubravë in Glloboçicë while form Glloboçicë, four tanks and other weaponry have left for village Gorancë. Another convoy made of 4 tanks, 2 APC and other military vehicles has gone in the direction of Hani i Elezit. While passing through Kaçanik, Serb forces were shooting from high calibre ammunition, in different directions. At around 07.10, another convoy, made of 20 military trucks and armoured vehicles, also went in the direction of Hani i Elezit. The siege of Kaçanik and attacks against it’s inhabitants was almost announced, by Serbian regime, under the umbrella of a so-called military exercise.

Fierce clashes between UÇK and Serbian military forces

Kaçanik, March 8 (Kosovapress) Fierce fighting is taking place between UÇK and Serb military and police forces, since today at around 08.00, in the Livadhet e Shtrazës near village Globoçicë of Kaçanik. Fighting is very intense and the distance between the warring sides is very small. There are no information about casualties. Meanwhile, since the early hours of this morning, a village Shtrazë has been shelled from a distance and a smoke is coming out of the houses. At 09.00 shelling started from Livadhet e Shtrazës at Kotlinë and Ivajë. OSCE Verifiers have been stopped and turned back from the road of Gajre which is blocked by Serb forces.

One killed and four wounded in today’s clashes in Kaçanik

Kaçanik, March 8 (Kosovapress) In the high intensity clashes that are taking place in the highlands of Kaçanik, until now there are reports of one killed and four wounded soldiers of UÇK. Only one of the wounded is in critical state. We know that on the enemy side there are casualties also, but we do not know the details. Serbian forces have attacked , apart from heavy artillery, with infantry but they could not penetrate. Serb forces have attacked form two directions, from Hani I Elezit towards Pustenik and from Globoshtica towards Shtrazë, Kotlinë and Ivajë. UÇK Units are resisting bravely, while not giving any of their positions up. Serb forces are using all their weaponry such as , tanks, armoured vehicles etc.

Hashim Thaçi, the Mandatar of the Provisional Government of Kosovë is in Tiranë

March 8 (Kosovapress) Member of the General Headquarters of UÇK and Mandatar of the Provisional Government of Kosovë, Mr Hashim Thaçi, met yesterday, in official visit in Tiranë, Officials of the Republic of Albania. This is the second meeting, within a week, with President Mejdani, with whom they discussed issues of national interest and especially the issue of Kosova. Prime minister Majko has spoken with Mr Thaçi, according to Albanian TV, regarding temporary Rambouillet agreement on Kosova. At the end of these meetings Mandatar Thaçi and Foreign Minister Milo gave a brief declarations in front of the media and journalists. Both of them have valued the meetings as a continuation of contacts and collaboration between National Institutions. Answering a question regarding Rambouillet deal not been signed yet, Mr Thaçi said that the deal has entered it’s positive phase and it will be signed when the time is right.

German Foreign Minister Fischer Meets with Kosovar Leaders in Prishtina

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - The Foreign Minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer, was expected to meet President Ibrahim Rugova and other Albanian leaders in Prishtina today (Monday) afternoon to discuss the Rambouillet Accords in the run-up to the resumption of negotiations on an interim settlement for Kosova in France next week.

Meanwhile, reports said the UÇK (Kosova Liberation Army) commanders were to meet today to discuss the plan, which received approval in principle by the Kosovar delegation last month.

Serbian Forces Shell Two Hani i Elezit Villages in Southeastern Kosova

Three Albanians reported wounded by Serb forces

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - Serbian forces shelled two villages of Hani i Elezit, Strazhë and Ivajë, with heavy artillery pieces since 8 o'clock in the morning today (Monday), local LDK sources in Kaçanik said.

Serbian forces have been pounding Albanian villages from their positions in locations known as "Ferina" and "Guri i Zi".

Many Albanian houses have been reported in flames today amidst the continued heavy shelling by Serbian forces.

The village of Pustenik was reported fired by Serbian forces from 8:40 through 9:00 CET today.

A convoy of Serbian military, backed up by twenty tanks, armored vehicles and APCs, headed at 3:00 a.m. today towards the Glloboçicë village of Kaçanik municipality, local human rights (CDHRF) sources said. Three armored vehicles parted ways with the convoy heading to Goranc village, whereas four others in the direction of Kotlinë village.

At 8:00 CET today, Serbian military troops raided five Albanian households at Glloboçicë, local sources reported.

In the past few days, Serbian forces vandalized a number of Albanian-owned businesses in the small town of Hani i Elezit and in Seçishtë village, local LDK sources said.

Meanwhile, two Albanians were shot and wounded by Serbian forces along the Kosova-FYROM border yesterday, local LDK sources in Hani i Elezit said. One of them was named as Adem Curri. He was taken to FYROM for medical treatment. The identity of the second wounded Albanian has not been made known.

Meanwhile, sources told the KIC a wounded Albanian, Avni Neziri, in his mid-twenties, was brought by Serb police to the Prishtina hospital early today morning. Avni, who sustained grave wounds to the legs and the stomach, has been operated upon. The Albanian, wearing civilian clothes, was dubbed a 'terrorist' by Serb police who took him to the Prishtina hospital.

Serbian Forces Shell Vushtrri and Mitrovica Villages Sunday Evening

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - Mid-evening on Sunday, Serbian military forces stationed at Bukosh and Dolak pounded with heavy artillery the villages of Pantinë, Okrashticë, Liqej, Balinc, Oshlan, as well as a number of other Albanian settlements on the other side of the Çiçavica massif in the Vushtrri municipality, local sources said.

Today (Monday) morning, Serbian forces were reported stationed in the crossroads between the villages of Novolan and Dubofc.

Meanwhile, for three and a half hours on Sunday evening, Serbian forces shelled the villages of Vaganicë and Pirç, municipality of Mitrovica. Mitrovica citizens spent the night in anxiety, to the sound of artillery fire pounding Albanian villages. Sporadic fire was reported overnight.

Fresh Serb troops and armor, including four tanks and five lorries, have joined the Serbian military base at Frashër i Vogël ('Svinjare') village of Mitrovica today.

Serbian Forces Shell Albanian Villages in Podujeva Area

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - Serbian military and police forces shelled Sunday evening the villages of Godishnjak and Peran, in the northern Podujeva municipality.

Meanwhile, Serbian forces resumed a heavy attack against a number of Podujeva villages at 6:00 CET today. After 10:00 there was sporadic fire, local sources said.

A volatile situation has been reported in the town of Podujeva today, with a heavy police presence.

At 7:45 CET, a column of Serbian forces on board 15 buses, 9 lorries and 2 APCs arrived from Serbia, heading towards capital Prishtina. A bit later, a convoy of Serb military troops and combat equipment left the Dumosh airfield near Podujeva, a Serb military base for three months now, heading to Podujeva and Lupç directions, respectively.

At least eight Albanian houses have been burned during the Serb shelling of Majac, Godishnjak, Penuhë and Buricë villages.

Prishtina Neighborhood of Emshiri Sealed off by Serb Police

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - The southern Prishtina neighborhood of Emshiri was sealed off by Serb police for a second day in a row today morning, local sources said.

Albanian residents of the neighborhood are being ill-treated. Police hit an Albanian, Ymer Olluri (20) with a glass full of water and caused him grave injuries in a shop. Another Albanian, Bajram Sopi, a passer-bye, was beaten up unconscious and had his jaw broken by police, local sources said.

Two Serb police were killed and one wounded in an unsolved incident in the Emshiri neighborhood yesterday. Serb paramilitary police, backed up by armored vehicles, terrorized Albanians in their homes afterwards. At least 17 Albanians were reported to have suffered injuries during the Serb police crackdown against the people there yesterday. Local LDK sources publicized their names.

Albanian Woman Dies in Serb Police Checkpoint

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - Mrs Naile Kalludra (56), resident of Gremnikë village of Klina, died on Saturday at a Serb police check-point at Dollc village, because police prevented her from being taken to hospital, local human rights sources claimed.

The sick Naile was on her way to visit a doctor in Gjakova, together with her husband, Brahim. The man was ill-treated for two hours in the Serb police checkpoint. Naile died there, CDHRF sources said, "of pain and indignation over her husband's ill-treatment".

Two Bodies Found in Gjakova Area

PRISHTINA, March 8 (KIC) - Serbian police took yesterday the body of a person to the town morgue in Gjakova. The unidentified body was found by the Gjakova - Bizhtazhin roadside.

The body of a killed person was found in Rezhinë village along the Gjakova-Peja road yesterday, Serb media reported.

Meanwhile, local human rights activists in Gjakova said the fate of two Albanians, Latif Arifaj, resident of Gjakova, and Rrustem Aliaj, resident of Gërgoc village, who had been abducted six weeks ago, remains unknown.

KLA Raises Objections To Kosova Peace Deal

By Kurt Schork

PRISHTINA (Reuters) - Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) chiefs have raised serious objections to an international peace plan for the Serbian province and are not willing to sign the deal for now, a Western diplomat said Monday.

``There are some problems,'' the diplomat told Reuters. ''There is not a 'yes' and I have to say an early signing does not look likely. Maybe, just maybe, on the 12th or 13th.''

The decision by ethnic Albanian military leaders will dash Western hopes for a quick agreement by separatist forces that would have cleared the way for pressure to be applied to Belgrade, which opposes the military element of the peace deal.

Senior U.S. figures had predicted the KLA would sign by last Sunday but their hopes have proved premature.

Talks between U.S. peace envoy Chris Hill and KLA leaders at a secret location in Kosova Monday had not gone as well as expected, the diplomat said, with the separatists objecting strenuously to two key parts of the peace arrangements.

``I think they can get over the referendum issue but disarming is a real problem for them, even though they know they may be missing out on the chance to get NATO in their court,'' said the official.

``The other big problem is the Russian ground troops who would come in with NATO,'' the envoy said. ``It was not in the Rambouillet agreement and so far they are not prepared to accept it.''

The peace plan set out in France last month promises a three-year period of extensive autonomy for the southern Serbian province and a large NATO presence to guarantee the withdrawal of Serb forces from the region, which has a 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority.

But it also requires the KLA to disarm and disband, a blow to members of an army which is only a year old and is proud of its fledgling capacity to fight Serb forces for independence.

The West has accepted the presence of Russians alongside NATO soldiers in Kosova to please Moscow, a traditional ally of the Serbs, and as a concession to Belgrade, which has steadfastly refused to accept an alliance peace force.

KLA objections will complicate Western efforts to have both sides agree to the peace deal before talks resume in Paris on March 15.

The KLA refused to sign the deal last month after 17 days of talks at the Rambouillet chateau outside Paris, saying they had to consult fighters on the ground before accepting less than the full independence than they had been fighting for.

Western pressure on Belgrade is set to intensify in the run-up to next week's talks, with U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke likely to see Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Josckha Fischer said Monday.

The U.S. embassy in Belgrade could not immediately confirm the visit. Holbrooke last visited Belgrade in October, when he forged a deal for Serb forces to halt an offensive in Kosova in exchange for the lifting of the threat of NATO air strikes.

The diplomatic maneuvering came amid reports of renewed fighting in the troubled province where around 2,000 people have died and some 400,000 been made homeless, at least temporarily, over the last year.

Truce monitors said clashes between the KLA and Yugoslav troops erupted close to the General Jankovic border crossing into Macedonia in the south of the province.

They reported a build-up of Yugoslav army troops to the west of the frontier post in an area where violence in the last weeks drove thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes.

KLA sources said one of their soldiers was killed in the area Monday and four were wounded.

Fighting as Kosova diplomacy falters (BBC)

Fischer failed to persuade the Serbs to accept peacekeepers

Fighting has broken out between Serbian security forces and the rebel Kosova Liberation Army in southern Kosova.

The new violence is concentrated in villages near the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

It comes as the Serbs and ethnic Albanians separately voice their objections to elements of a peace agreement for Kosova.

Western diplomats are continuing in their efforts to persuade both sides to sign the deal.

International monitors say shelling started early in the morning near the town of Kacnik, as Serbian security forces continued an investigation into the killing last week of a local police commander.

Small arms fire

The Yugoslav army has surrounded the area, while Serbian police are carrying out the operation. The security forces have been exchanging mostly small arms fire with fighters of the KLA.

Some reports say rebel fighters have moved into the area from the district of Stimlje, about 30km to the north-east.

Diplomats are meanwhile continuing their attempts to persuade the Yugoslav government and ethnic Albanian rebels to agree to the peace deal that was negotiated at Rambouillet in France.

Leaders of the KLA voiced serious objections to the peace plan during a meeting with US mediator Christopher Hill, Western diplomats said.

But Western diplomats are still optimistic that the Albanian side will sign the peace deal soon.

Rebel leaders think it would be politically wise to sign the deal, although that would involve temporarily putting aside their goal of independence.

Serbian objections

Negotiators are also trying to work through objections from the Serb side.

The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Monday that international troops in Yugoslavia will be an essential part of any peace deal.

But Mr Milosevic repeated his refusal to accept such a force.

The Yugoslavs' refusal to allow foreign peacekeeping troops on its territory was a major sticking-point during recent peace negotiations at Rambouillet.

'No renegotiation'

Mr Fischer said there was no question of going back on the agreements that were reached during peace talks.

"There will be no reopening of the political agreement, no renegotiation of the results of Rambouillet," Mr Fischer told journalists after his meeting with Yugoslav leaders.

"We have to talk about the implementation and the signature. I believe that Milosevic and Belgrade authorities are very well aware about Nato positions and decisions."

The United States special envoy to Yugoslavia, Richard Holbrooke, is expected in Belgrade on Tuesday to meet Mr Milosevic.

Mystery Surrounds Kosova Rebel Chief Meeting

PRISHTINA (Reuters) - The whereabouts of Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) chiefs due to meet to discuss a Western peace plan remained a mystery Monday, journalists and international cease-fire verifiers said.

The ethnic Albanian separatist army's seven regional commanders and four members from KLA headquarters were expected to gather in the hills west of the regional capital Pristina to consider a plan granting autonomy to the southern Serb province.

Hashim Thaqi, head of the KLA's political directorate and effective leader of the ethnic Albanian delegation to last month's peace talks in France, would take part by telephone, sources close to the KLA told Reuters Sunday.

But journalists could find no KLA conclave at the expected locations deep within rural territory controlled by KLA guerrillas, who have fought a year-long battle with Yugoslav forces for independence of the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs by nine to one.

Observers suggested the meeting could be taking place at a spot out of the reach of the world's press and held out hope that a KLA decision could be announced during the day.

Confusion over the KLA's meeting came amid reports of renewed fighting in the troubled province.

Truce monitors said clashes between KLA forces and Yugoslav troops had erupted close to the General Jankovic border crossing into Macedonia in the south of the province.

They reported a build-up of Yugoslav army troops to the west of the frontier post in an area where violence in the last weeks drove thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes.

KLA sources said one of their soldiers was killed in the area Monday and four were wounded.

U.S. diplomats had said they expected a KLA decision on the peace plan Sunday and put the delay down to organizational problems and doubts over the deal's merits.

At the peace talks in France, KLA delegates balked at signing the deal -- which envisages an interim three-year period of autonomy and a NATO force to guarantee Serb troop withdrawals -- because it failed to promise eventual independence.

U.S. diplomats have since put pressure on the KLA to sign in the hope they can then turn their attention to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who has steadfastly refused to accept a NATO deployment in Kosova.

``Of the 12 people who will be participating (in the KLA meeting) we believe only two are still unwilling to agree to this deal,'' a senior ethnic Albanian figure with links to the KLA said Sunday.

Thaqi, who went to Albania after the talks in France, said Sunday that discussions on the plan had taken a ``very good direction'' but declined to indicate whether the guerrillas would sign soon. Other officials suggested no signing would come before the resumption of peace talks in France on March 15.

U.S. peace envoy Chris Hill is due to meet the KLA Monday to hear their views but the location has not been announced.

How They Live Squeezed Together, Separately


PRISHTINA, Yugoslavia -- The vibrant cafe scene in Pristina can make one forget there is a war going on in Kosova. Through a fog of cigarette smoke and against the pounding of pop music, fashionably dressed students drink small cups of strong coffee or glasses of local cognac.

Yet the upheavals of the last decade, a year of fighting and Kosova's relentless ethnic divide dictate even where the young go to drink their coffee. Ethnic Albanians frequent Albanian-run cafes and local Serbs Serb-run cafes. The two almost never mix, socially or otherwise, coexisting in a sort of silent, sullen apartheid that first took root in the 1980s and is now the hallmark of this forlorn region of southern Europe.

Since President Slobodan Milosevic stripped away Kosova's autonomy in March 1989, and especially since his security forces started cracking down a year ago against the armed Albanian rebels of the Kosova Liberation Army, both ethnic groups accept segregated life as inevitable, and permanent. The estimated 2 million people of Kosova, 90 percent of them ethnic Albanian, conduct their lives entirely within their own ethnic group.

Mimoza, a dark-haired 22-year-old piano student who declined to give her last name, studies at the music faculty in the Albanian university in Pristina. "The alternative university," she stressed, tapping ash off her cigarette at the bar of a busy cafe. She was referring to the university set up by ethnic Albanians for ethnic Albanians after the Serbian authorities expelled teachers and professors from state-run schools and the university in 1990.

The pattern was repeated in all state institutions, from hospitals to most factories. Ethnic Albanians who were not fired from such jobs simply quit, and joined the "alternative" institutions funded by the Albanian diaspora.

The university has various faculties, all crammed into one building in central Pristina. The hundreds of Albanian schools are mostly located in houses dotted across the province. A rudimentary alternative health system functions out of small one-room clinics built with donations.

In the town of Glogovac, for example, Bedin Halilaj works in a tiny room sponsored by the local Mother Theresa charity. The only doctor in miles for the local Albanians, he writes prescriptions on scraps of paper even though he has virtually no drugs to give out.

Mimoza says she has no ethnic Serb friends, or even acquaintances. "It is because I went to an Albanian school and now the Albanian university. I would not want them anyway, after all that has happened," she said. Like many others in the Albanians' clannish, tight-knit society with its ces large emphasis on extended family, she has lost a relative in the fighting in Kosova last year that killed some 2,000 people.

The older generation in Kosova, brought up under communism in the old Yugoslavia, tended to mix more. Most education was in the Serbian language, and those who did their military service or worked in state organizations were thrown together with other ethnic groups of the state created by Josip Broz Tito, which severely punished any expressions of nationalism.

But today's students, like Mimoza, were separated throughout their schooling, attending either Albanian-language or Serbian-language schools. Most Albanians can speak Serbian and many local Serbs know at least a little Albanian. But both ethnic groups insist on only speaking their native tongue.

Professor Asllan Murati, the imam of the main mosque in the town of Mitrovica in northern Kosova, says that while segregation was forced upon ethnic Albanians by Serbian government policy, it in fact merely consolidated natural differences.

"When the Serbian authorities threw them out of their state jobs, the Albanians were forced to organize their lives as they could, creating schools in houses and setting up private clinics," he said. "And because of that, Albanians and Serbs are now living in separate worlds. The Albanian majority is ruled by a minority. And we Albanians have no connection to them, we have a different culture, a different religion and a different language."

Sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of his mosque, a tall red hat wound with white cloth on his head, the imam said the current war in Kosova is a national, and not a religious struggle pitting Muslims against the Eastern Orthodox Serbs.

''Although 90 percent of the people in Kosova are Muslim, we want a national government and to give the same rights to all religious confessions and minorities," he said.

"It is possible to live again together," he added, noting however that "those people who have blood on their hands must be charged and punished."

But few ordinary people believe that they can return to any state of good neighborliness. People flooded out of the mosque at the end of prayers, old men in traditional white felt caps, wound round with a colored scarf, and young men, dressed in new jeans and down jackets.

Vedat, a 20-year-old ethnic Albanian from the village of Prekaze in northern Kosova who also declined to give his last name, said he does not know any Serbs and never mixes with them. He had walked an hour and a half to attend Friday prayers at the mosque. Even if chance threw him together with an ethnic Serb on the way, he would not chat to him, he said.

In the villages of Kosova, the ethnic divisions are only too evident. There are few mixed settlements. Even if a Serb village lies close to an Albanian one, there is little contact between the two.

Serb villagers like the residents of Velika Hoca in central Kosova say they live in fear of the Albanians' rebel army, which they said had sent written warnings not to leave the village even to till their fields.

The Albanians in turn say they fear to travel because of constant checks by the Serbian police. Police in dark blue camouflage uniforms, armed with automatic weapons, are a frequent sight on the roads as they check the papers of men of all ages.

Always among the poorest regions of the former Yugoslavia, Kosova has a low standard of living. Few villagers seem to own cars. Most people get around on foot or by tractor or horse cart. The men come in to sell chopped logs from their horse carts or potatoes from wheelbarrows in the town markets.

In the main market in the northern town of Mitrovica last week, ethnic Serbs stood in a separate line. They are refugees from the Serb-Croat war in Croatia, driven from the homes they and their ancestors had for centuries in lands known as the Krajina that the Serbs seized, then lost, earlier this decade.

They were selling a few belongings laid out on the ground. Milica Skrobouga, a 71-year-old woman, had a pitiful collection of tinned food, part of her refugee rations, spread out on a piece of sacking.

She said she lived in an old barracks on the edge of town along with 60 other refugees and was past caring if war would make her move again. "I am not in my own home so it does not matter," she said. She said she had had no problems with local Albanians, but more than half the refugees from her barracks had left for Serbia proper in the last few years. "I do not trust anyone anymore after what happened in Krajina," she said with a dark look.

Mitrovica is an ugly industrial town, full of communist-era apartment blocks and dominated by a grotesque Soviet-style monument to the local zinc mines on a hill above.

Blerin Gjota, the co-owner of a cafe on the main shopping street, said business was bad.

"I have to close at 5:30 in the evening because there are no customers. No one goes out because people are afraid," he said. "They are afraid of the police, afraid of kidnapping, it is a difficult time."

Although Mitrovica is 80 percent Albanian, Serbs dominate the police and the government offices. A few days before, the local Serb reservists had been mobilized, Gjota said, and for several hours hundreds of them, armed and in uniforms, paraded from the town barracks past his cafe to a Serb district of the town, drinking and singing nationalist songs.

"Until 1989, we lived together, but since then we have split apart," he sighed. "It would be really hard to live together again. We cannot be indifferent to the war."

Fighting Flares In Kosova Near Macedonian Border

KACANIK (Reuters) - Fighting erupted in at least two places in Kosova Monday while international mediators scrambled to persuade Serbian and ethnic Albanian antagonists to sign a proposed interim peace accord.

Shooting and shelling was audible southwest of Kacanik, 16 km (10 miles) north of the Macedonian border, from Monday morning and Serbian forces reinforced the region with a column of armored vehicles and troops around mid-day.

Ethnic Albanian sources said one Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) soldier had been killed and four others wounded. No independent confirmation was available.

International truce monitors were unable to carry out a planned evacuation of 450 ethnic Albanian villagers who fled their homes in the Kacanik area because of recent fighting.

The monitors, who work for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), were blocked by Serbian police from gaining access to the area of fighting.

The U.N. said last week that about 4,000 people had been displaced from their homes by recent fighting in southern Kosova and that another 1,200 had managed to cross the border into Macedonia.

A swathe of villages in the rugged mountains running southwest from Kacanik through Gajre to the border crossing at Globovica have been active for more than a week.

Separatist guerrillas of the KLA's 162nd Brigade told Reuters they were forced to come down from mountain redoubts to try to protect ethnic Albanian villages when Serbian forces, including armor and artillery, began reinforcing the area.

Analysts believe the Serbian forces deployed in a show of strength to discourage NATO from any thoughts of sending ground forces into Kosova without an invitation.

An internationally sponsored peace plan under consideration by Serbian and ethnic Albanian authorities includes 28,000 NATO ground troops as an implementation force. Belgrade objects strongly to the provision.

U.S. envoy Chris Hill was in Kosova Monday trying to persuade the KLA to agree the peace plan. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also met Yugoslav officials in Belgrade in an attempt to sell the deal to them.

International monitors also reported shelling Monday afternoon of several hill villages west of Vucitrn, north of Kosova's capital, Pristina.

That area has also been active for some days, with Serbian armor and artillery occasionally engaging KLA units, forcing many civilians to flee their homes.

Screw turned on Milosevic


The United States special envoy Mr Richard Holbrooke plans to go to Yugoslavia to bolster the big powers' attempts to force President Slobodan Milosevic to agree to a peace plan for Kosova as a new deadline for a settlement approaches.

Mr Holbrooke will go to Belgrade as soon as ethnic Albanian leaders confirm they will sign the plan. They have indicated they are close to resolving disagreements in their ranks and may sign as early as today.

Ethnic Albanian agreement to the peace plan would allow the major powers to again assert maximum pressure on Mr Milosevic, with NATO planning for military strikes resuming unless he accepts a peace deal.

Divisions among ethnic Albanian leaders over the past fortnight have taken the sting out of a NATO threat to use force against Mr Milosevic if he did not agree to the peace plan.

Mr Milosevic has refused to accept a 30,000-strong, NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosova to implement the plan, whereas the main ethnic Albanian leaders have made such a force a condition of accepting the plan.

Mr Holbrooke's visit is aimed at convincing Mr Milosevic to accept an international peacekeeping force and to warn him that NATO threats of military strikes will be acted on if he becomes the last obstacle to peace in Kosova.

International negotiators are trying to get both sides in the conflict to give in-principle agreement to the peace plan before talks - which were put on hold two weeks ago - resume in Evreux, France on Monday.

Mr Holbrooke is a veteran of Balkans negotiations and is regarded as the chief architect of the Dayton accord which ended the war in Bosnia.

He negotiated last October's ceasefire agreement with Mr Milosevic which resulted in international monitors being allowed into Kosova, preventing the resumption of full-scale war in the province.

Mr Holbrooke has not been involved in the peace process since then. He has been tied up in a battle with the US Congress over his nomination as the US ambassador to the United Nations, and has reportedly had a difficult working relationship with the Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright.

However, Western officials believe his experience in dealing with Mr Milosevic is going to be needed to push the Yugoslav leader to accept a peace deal.

With Mr Holbrooke's intervention, the final push for peace has virtually been taken over by Washington. The US had already taken charge of efforts to get the ethnic Albanian side to sign the peace deal ahead of next week's talks.

The chief ethnic Albanian negotiator at last month's peace talks in Rambouillet, France, Mr Hashim Thaci, said on Sunday that his side's consultations had taken "a very positive direction towards signing a deal".

The ethnic Albanian political leadership was due to meet the US envoy Mr Christopher Hill and Germany's Foreign Minister, Mr Joschka Fischer, in Kosova yesterday.

Kosova Liberation Army leaders are also due to travel to Washington this week, and some reports said they might sign the peace deal there.



ELVIR MURIQI is a skilled boxing prospect: a 1998 Golden Gloves champion, now 19 years old and unbeaten after four pro fights.

His trainer is Teddy Atlas, the Michelangelo of the gym who trained Mike Tyson as an amateur.

Elvir's father is a boxing fan, but he has never seen his son fight as a pro. The father - Ramiz - is a commander in the Kosova Liberation Army, a volunteer from New York, driven by patriotism to risk his life.

Elvir's father is somewhere in Kosova, where each day there are new murders, kidnappings and massacres in an unfathomable cycle of revolution, criminality and personal revenge.

The province of Kosova is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, but is under Serbian control.

"My father is fighting to create a nation," Elvir told me. "He is proud to be Albanian. If he gets killed, I know he died for his country.

"I wish I could be with him," the young fighter added, "but he says I can do more for my people by winning the championship, by having Albanian flags wave in Madison Square Garden."

There has never been a world boxing champion of Albanian heritage.

Elvir's father is not your average guerrilla fighter. He was once a wealthy businessman in Kosova, owning several restaurants and a large house.

When the civil war began, the Serbs put a contract out on Ramiz, looted his home and kidnapped his driver, holding him hostage until Ramiz surrendered.

"We can make a house again," the son said with a touch of poetry. "But you can't make people again if they get killed."

The young fighter, naturally, misses his father, who is another kind of fighter. He sends the father tapes of his bouts, and has seen him for only six days in the last 14 months.

"My last match was on an Army base in Augusta, Ga.," Elvir said. "I was riding in a van to the ring and saw tanks and soldiers all around. That made me think I was going to see my father.

"My brother is only 5 years old," he continued, "and asks me all the time when Dad is coming to see him. It's hard to explain to someone 5 years old."

With Ramiz absent in a remote war, Teddy Atlas, 42, feels himself becoming the surrogate father to the sensitive teen-age fighter.

This development has the symmetry of a movie, since Atlas adopted the mythic Cus D'Amato as his own substitute father when Atlas was struggling through a two-felony adolescence, trying to get his father's attention. Atlas also won the Golden Gloves - in 1976.

Dr. Theodore Atlas, who died in 1993, was a real hero to his son, just like Ramiz is Elvir's real hero.

Dr. Atlas got up before the sun every day, put on a truss because he had a double hernia, and made house calls in the Staten Island projects.

He treated sick people for free. He drove patients home in his beat-up car.

Dr. Atlas had a code of conduct he lived by. It was based on making sacrifices, accepting responsibility, never complaining, doing what you say you're going to do and honoring the purity of work.

This is the code that Teddy Atlas is trying to pass along to Elvir Muriqi each day in the Rocky Marciano gym.

It's a code for all professions and all people.

The day Teddy Atlas buried his father, he went to the gym to train Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight championship - because that was what was expected of him.

I asked Elvir how Atlas became his trainer.

"I was a detective," he replied. "I knew Teddy had trained Tyson. I found out Teddy's wife is Albanian. I figured he must like Albanian people.

"Teddy tells me to be the ocean, not the log," the fighter said. "That means I have to control my opponent like the tide."

Elvir Muriqi yearns to hug his father and worries about his safety.

But he has Teddy Atlas, who knows all about fathers and sons and is teaching him to be the ocean at 19.

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