Fighting for Kosovo roads rages despite calls for peace

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) — Heavy fighting for control of Kosovo’s two most important roads broke out Sunday even as Russian diplomats made a new attempt to calm the conflict in the secessionist Serbian province.
Sources affiliated with both Serb forces and ethnic Albanian militants said the two sides were battling for control of the main east-west and north-south arteries.
The separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, which claims to control about 40 percent of the province, appeared to be trying to secure a corridor along the east-west road.
Fighting reportedly was raging near that road Sunday outside the town of Klina, about 30 miles west of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. The Albanians’ Kosovo Information Center said four Albanians were wounded. The Serbs said Albanians killed an 18-year-old Serb villager.
Meanwhile, ethnic Albanians claimed Serb police and army forces had opened fire on three villages in the south, sending civilians fleeing to nearby woods.
The reports could not be independently verified.
In another sign the situation was deteriorating, Serb and Albanian villagers exchanged fire northwest of Pristina, the Kosovo Information Center said.
More than 300 people have died since fighting escalated earlier this year between government forces and guerrillas who enjoy increasing support among ethnic Albanians, who account for 90 percent of the province’s 2.2 million people.
World powers have accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of excessive brutality against ethnic Albanians. Despite threatened NATO intervention, Milosevic has refused to comply with demands to withdraw his estimated 45,000 to 50,000 police and Yugoslav army soldiers from the province.
Russia, a traditional Serb ally, has promised to try to persuade Belgrade to ease up on its attacks but says the West must get the Kosovo Liberation Army to halt fighting as well.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky flew to Belgrade, Yugoslavia’s capital, on Sunday and met with Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic. Russian diplomat Alexander Avdeyev went for talks to Yugoslavia’s neighbor Albania, considered a vital source of support to the ethnic Albanian separatists.