Serb-Ethnic Albanian clashes escalate in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) — Backed by helicopter gunships, the Yugoslav army clashed Monday with ethnic Albanians and reported killing three insurgents. Albanian reports said up to a dozen people — none of them militants — were slain.
The latest violence further hampered the chances of a negotiated solution to the future of Kosovo, where Albanians — the 90 percent majority in the Serbian province — want independence. That option has been ruled out by the government of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia.
The violence began early Monday when a group of militants attempted to smuggle weapons into Kosovo from neighboring Albania and fired at troops, the Serb government said Monday.
The army fired back, killing or wounding seven and forcing the others to flee. Yugoslav troops found large quantities of weapons and ammunition at the site of the clash, said the report, which quoted army sources.
Despite the weakening chances of bridging differences through negotiations, the Serbian government called Monday on the leader of Kosovo’s Albanians to hold direct talks on the province’s status within Serbia.
Ethnic Albanians have so far refused 11 such offers, demanding foreign mediation in any talks with Serbian officials. Serbia rejects any international presence.
About 150 people have been killed in Kosovo since Feb. 28, when Serb security forces first launched a massive sweep they say was aimed at wiping out militant ethnic Albanian separatists.
Tensions escalated in 1989, when the Serbian government revoked Kosovo’s autonomy.