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Friday, April 30, 1999
Milosevic releases six-point plan
By ARNAUD de BORCHGRAVE
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, April 30 (UPI) -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has called for an end to military hostilities, including simultaneous withdrawal of all but about 12,000 Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and of NATO forces bordering the province, introduction of a U.N. peacekeeping "mission" that would include Russia, and the return of all refugees.
In an exclusive two-hour interview with United Press International, conducted Thursday in an unassuming house in a residential part of the capital, Milosevic, speaking in flawless English, outlined a six-point peace plan. The White House in response today called the plan "clearly inadequate."
"First, cessation of all military activities," Milosevic said. "Second, simultaneity between the withdrawal of NATO troops now concentrated on our borders in Albania and Macedonia, on the one hand, and the decrease of our own troops in Kosovo from their present level of 100,000 to the normal garrison strength of between 11,000 and 12,000, which was the regular Pristina Corps."
However, Pentagon officials in Washington said today they estimate Serbian regular army troop strength in the Kosovo region at between 40,000 to 46,000 and police forces in the province at 15,000 to 16,000.
Milosevic also called for a U.N. peacekeeping force that could be armed with "self-defense weapons" and would include Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and non-NATO members of the European Union.
Milosevic also called for the return of all refugees, "regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation," and free access for the monitoring of refugees by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Milosevic also called for a continuation of the political process started with Ibrahim Rugova, the moderate Kosovar Albanian leader, with the international community present as observers and with a view to achieving the widest possible autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia.
The sixth point is an economic recovery plan for Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro that have been "heavily damaged by NATO aggression."
In Washington, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Milosevic's proposal is "clearly inadequate." Lockhart said only a complete withdrawal and agreement to NATO terms would end the airstrikes.
While offering his six-point plan, Milosevic reiterated that, "We are willing to die to defend our rights as an independent sovereign nation."
Milosevic also warned that sophisticated weaponry "will not always be the monopoly of high-tech societies. And with the example it is now setting, we can see the day when lesser nations will be able to retaliate."
He said weaponry is developing so quickly that "there is not a single spot on the planet that cannot be reached. America can be reached from this part of the world."
Milosevic said direct negotiations with Rugova had been under way since April 1. NATO has contended Rugova has been under virtual house arrest, which Milosevic flatly denied: "He was not a prisoner or under duress."
Milosevic said after the introduction of a U.N. mission, these negotiations could continue "in the presence of the international community."
"They can listen to every single word that is spoken, but they cannot act as mediators. We want to achieve the widest possible autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia," he said.
The fifth negotiating session between Belgrade and Rugova took place in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, this week. In a joint statement, the president of Serbia and Rugova called for "respect for the equality of all citizens" and direct negotiations for the formation of a temporary "joint executive board" for Kosovo to be composed of representatives of all national communities in Kosovo.
"This first joint statement with the Albanian Kosovar leader is the first joint victory in our struggle for peace," Milosevic said.
Milosevic strongly denied that Yugoslav forces had been engaged in ethnic cleansing in Kosovo "as was done with the expulsion of 500,000 Serbs from Croatia" in the early 1990s, but they had been fighting a war to rid Kosovo of KLA terrorists. He said he now considered the KLA a spent force with a few isolated bands still operating in the mountains near the Albanian border.
But Milosevic did admit that "bad things happened" in Kosovo, "as they did on both sides during the Vietnam War, or any war for that matter." He said houses were torched but not whole villages as claimed by NATO and Pentagon briefings.
"We are not angels. Nor are we the devils you have made us out to be. Our regular forces are highly disciplined. The paramilitary irregular forces are a different story....We have arrested those irregular self-appointed leaders. Some have already been tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison."
After the collapse of the Rambouillet diplomatic talks last February, Milosevic said Yugoslav troops were deployed in Kosovo with orders to liquidate the KLA terrorists who thought they had been given a green light for eventual independence. He said the number of Yugoslav troops was increased to 100,000 when a land offensive by NATO troops into Kosovo became a threat to the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.
Milosevic reiterated his opposition to any kind of NATO involvement in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Asked if he was prepared to face several more weeks of intensive NATO bombing as the diplomatic haggling continues, Milosevic replied: "One day is too much. But what choice do we have if NATO insists on occupying Yugoslavia. To that we will never surrender."
He added, "We Serbs are as one on this life and death issue of national honor and sovereignty."
Copyright 1999 by United Press International.
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