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News Briefs I

Time Running Out for Milosevic

The Washington Post

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright warned President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia Thursday that "time is all but gone" for him to comply with international demands to withdraw his forces from Kosovo province before NATO launches punitive airstrikes against his country.

At the same time, however, Albright dispatched U.S. special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke back to Belgrade for a fourth round of negotiations with Milosevic aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution to the crisis stemming from Yugoslavia's brutal repression of Kosovo's independence-minded ethnic Albanian majority.

Albright said she was ordering Holbrooke, who held three lengthy sessions with Milosevic earlier this week, to convey a final warning that the Yugoslav leader faces "the gravest of consequences" unless he accepts the terms of a cease-fire stipulated by United Nations resolutions.

In a sign that Holbrooke may be making some progress toward reaching a deal with Milosevic, he will be joined at Friday's meeting with Milosevic by James O'Brien, a State Department lawyer who helped write two U.S. draft proposals to grant Kosovo partial autonomy under the ethnic Albanian majority.

Civilian Casualties High in Colombia

Los Angeles Times
BOGOTA, Colombia

Civilians here are under attack from three guerrilla forces, seven private armies and even the national army and police force, which all systematically violate the rules of war, according to a two-year study released Thursday.

The report by Human Rights Watch found that civilians are now the biggest casualties of Colombia's prolonged conflict. Last year, 2,183 civilians were killed for political reasons, compared with the 1,250 lives lost in actual combat.

"Indeed, battles between armed opponents are the exception," the study noted. "Instead, combatants deliberately and implacably target and kill the civilians they believe support their enemies."

The lack of respect for civilian lives and rights does not bode well for the success of this country's nascent efforts to end three decades of fighting, human rights activists warned. "For Colombia to build a lasting peace, it is imperative to incorporate protections for civilians," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Americas.

The report is the first to strongly criticize all parties involved in Colombia's civil war. Previous documents had focused on the role of the army and police, and increasingly called attention to abuses by the private armies that call themselves "self-defense forces".

Yeltsin Has No Plans of Resigning

Los Angeles Times

Responding to calls that he resign, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin came out of seclusion Thursday to insist that he has no intention of ending his reign early.

Greeting senior police and military officers in the Kremlin, Yeltsin made a point of reminding them that he is still their commander-in-chief - and "until 2000, it will remain so."

Yeltsin's appearance - one of only a few in recent weeks - came a day after more than a million Russians marched in the streets and walked off their jobs in one of the largest displays of social discontent since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Police, who initially said only 615,000 people took part in street protests, more than doubled that estimate Thursday to 1.3 million.

That would make the national "day of protest" one of the biggest since 1991, although still smaller than the 1.8 million turnout for a similar protest last year.