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Stakes Rise in Kosovo Conflict As Yugoslavia Protests Probe

By Paul Watson
Los Angeles Times
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia

As Yugoslavia does its best to block an independent probe into the massacre of more than 40 ethnic Albanian villagers in the separatist province of Kosovo, foreign monitors are hinting that they have damning evidence from the killers' own mouths.

Information gleaned from eavesdropping on Serbian police radios may be the ace up the sleeve of U.S. diplomat William Walker in his high-stakes confrontation with the Yugoslav government.

On Monday, Belgrade had ordered Walker, who leads an international monitoring team in Kosovo, to leave the country within 48 hours after he accused Serbian police of mass murder in the village of Racak, but on Tuesday the Yugoslav government extended the deadline by 24 hours.

NATO's two top generals kept up the pressure Tuesday by warning Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to rescind the expulsion order altogether and restrain his security forces or else brace for airstrikes.

U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander, and German Gen. Klaus Naumann, the chairman of NATO's military committee, met with Milosevic for several hours and delivered what Clark called "a very blunt" warning that the alliance is prepared to attack.

But after the talks in Belgrade with the generals, there was no immediate sign that Milosevic is about to back away from the brink, as he did when NATO first issued its threat.

Serbian police and separatist Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas clashed in Racak again Tuesday, the Serb-run Media Center said. A local deputy police chief was killed and two other police officers were wounded, the center said. They were guarding Yugoslav authorities who are investigating Friday's killings in Racak, which Walker called an "unspeakable atrocity."

In explaining the massacre, Yugoslav authorities insist that police were fighting terrorists who had killed a police officer five days earlier, and Serbian leaders have labeled Walker a guerrilla supporter and protector.