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Ethnic Albanians say no to Serb’s offer of talks

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Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders on Wednesday rejected an offer of renewed talks by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as fresh fighting was reported in the troubled province.

Separatist fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army told of renewed attacks on their positions by Serbian forces overnight, with at least one guerrilla said to have been killed.In their stronghold of Malisevo, about 30 miles southwest of the Kosovo capital Pristina, KLA fighters were extending their network of trenches and bunkers.

On the nearby main road south from Pristina, Serbian police and army units were present in force and in a state of high alert.

A Yugoslav army tank accompanied by half a dozen armored vehicles patrolled the highway and soldiers could be seen moving through woodland on foot at one point.

The highway south of Pristina has long been strategically important, linking the capital with border areas.

The Serbian troops must have been uncomfortably aware that they were operating in the same place where Albanian partisans staged a famous World War II ambush on a German convoy killing 30 soldiers.

Serbian forces have clashed twice with the KLA along the highway since the weekend.

At least 10 people have been killed or wounded in the past few days in Kosovo, where the death toll is now more than 300 and about 65,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

Talks last month between leaders of Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian population and Milosevic's government quickly broke down, with the Albanians saying they would not return to the table while violence against them continued.

Milosevic renewed his offer of talks after meeting President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on Tuesday. But Albanian leaders want Milo-sevic to pull out his special police and army units from Kosovo first.

"Before Milosevic makes easy promises that he is for dialogue with the Albanians, he has to withdraw special units from Kosovo and stop the ethnic cleansing," said Xhemail Mustafa, spokesman for ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

Mustafa said the withdrawal of Serbian forces had been a key demand of the six-nation Contact Group on former Yugoslavia. A declaration issued in Moscow on Tuesday by Milosevic and Yeltsin "does not give evidence that Milosevic is ready to fulfil this demand."

Mustafa added in his written statement: "Without fulfilling this demand it is not serious to talk about negotiations."

Milosevic agreed in his Moscow talks to meet many of the demands made by the major powers if intervention by NATO is to be avoided. But he failed to agree to an immediate withdrawal of Serbian forces, saying only that they would return to barracks if the KLA ceased its "terrorist activities."

The United States has said that Milosevic has not gone far enough to meet the demands of the major powers and preparations for NATO intervention will continue.

Mustafa said that only NATO intervention could create the conditions for serious talks between the Albanian and Serbian sides.

Other Albanian politicians also rejected Milosevic's offer of talks. Fehmi Agani, an adviser to Rugova, said the problem was not talks but the conditions under which they were held.