The Yugoslav government worked Friday to stave off international sanctions over its crackdown on restive Kosovo, even as Kosovo Serbs demanded tougher action against the province's ethnic Albanian separatists.
Chanting, "This is Serbia," thousands of Kosovo Serbs marched in the town of Istok, smashing windows of shops owned by ethnic Albanians. Protesters shouted "Death to Rugova!" - a reference to Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's agreement late Thursday to pull back his special police from the Albanian-populated province, as demanded by world powers, appeared to have won his government a reprieve from the threatened international sanctions.
More than 80 people have died in the southern Serbian province this month in a Serb crackdown aimed at increasingly violent ethnic Albanian militants. Serbia is the larger of two republics that make up the remainder of Yugoslavia.
A Serbian delegation scheduled more meetings with minorities in Kosovo and invited ethnic Albanian leaders to talks, as Serbs have repeatedly over the last week.
The Albanians again rejected any negotiations without an international mediator present, although such talks may take place next week.
"International mediation is not a precondition, but a prerequisite for the talks," Rugova, president of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo, said at a news conference. "It's indispensable and critical in helping to bring the two sides closer."
He condemned the "brutal intervention" of Serbian police two days earlier at a peaceful protest rally in Pec in which an ethnic Albanian was killed. "We urge and call on all for maximum restraint during protests against Serb repression."
The Contact Group, composed of the United States plus five European nations, held consultations Friday in Brussels, Belgium, on whether new sanctions should be slapped on Yugoslavia.
The six nations had set a Thursday deadline for Belgrade to withdraw special police from the besieged region in Kosovo and meet other requirements.