Peace negotiations for Kosovo province were back on track, a Western diplomat said Saturday, as a heavy Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists appeared to be winding down.
Both sides were reviewing a blueprint for talks, with one faction of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army already agreeing in principle to an alliance with politicians that would form the basis for an ethnic Albanian negotiating team.Diplomats in the past two days also handed both sides a proposal outlining models for how autonomy might work in Kosovo, a province of the Serb republic of Yugoslavia where ethnic Albanians are a majority.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has agreed to restore Kosovo's autonomy, which he revoked in 1989, and ethnic Albanian politicians have said they would accept that arrangement as a first step to independence.
But the loosely organized KLA has so far rejected anything besides outright secession.
In the Albanian capital Tirana, a Rugova-allied politician said Saturday that a moderate KLA faction had "agreed in principle" to enter an alliance with ethnic Albanian politicians headed by Ibrahim Rugova.
Ilaz Ramajli told The Associated Press the KLA had not yet announced its final decision, "but they are examining all the proposals made to them in a positive way."
A Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that Ramajli's statement showed that U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at starting talks was again moving forward.
The blueprint was drafted by the so-called Contact Group of six international powers - Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the United States and Russia - which has been trying to secure a political solution for Kosovo since fighting between Serb forces and the KLA escalated in March.
International powers have rejected independence for Kosovo, fearing it would encourage extremist groups to annex parts of Macedonia and the smaller Yugoslav republic, Montenegro, to form - along with Kosovo - a "Greater Albania."
While the recent Serb offensive against the rebels has been subsiding, Serb forces on Saturday continued attacks on villages in the Drenica region, a hotbed of ethnic Albanian nationalism. The operation appeared designed to secure Serb control of KLA strongholds seized in recent days.
Meanwhile in Tuzla, Bosnian land mine victims and relief workers on Saturday launched a two-day conference on land mines, paying a tribute to the late Princess Diana.