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Fighting escalates in Kosovo

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Yugoslav army guns bombarded rebel positions, and Serb civilians were airlifted from a besieged village Saturday in central Kosovo, as fighting escalated despite stern warnings by a U.S. diplomat.

The intensifying war comes amid signs of Serb movements that hint at a possible crackdown in the works. It was a Serb police offensive against secessionist ethnic Albanian militants in March that unleashed the current round of fighting, which has killed 300 people.U.S. mediator Richard Holbrooke, who ended a four-day trip to the region on Friday, warned the two sides that their next major clash could have "tragic consequences." However, he acknowledged no headway in bridging the gulf separating Serb forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

He addressed the issue again on Saturday, telling a forum of political and economic leaders in Switzerland that "we are only a few steps away from a general war."

In defiance of Holbrooke's admonition, new fighting erupted Saturday in this central town of 1,000, with other skirmishes reported elsewhere.

And in a move that shows Kosovo's Albanians increasingly support a bitter fight against the Serbs, several top politicians founded a new movement intended to serve as the political wing of the once-isolated guerrillas.

International officials are particularly concerned about the worsening trouble spot of Kijevo, southwest of Pristina. Fighting has increased in recent days around the village, a key crossroads on the main east-west road between Pristina and the city of Pec.

On Saturday, with Serb police and civilians cut off for 10 days, police said four women and a child were flown out by helicopter and food and medicines were brought in.

Also, a new flashpoint was emerging to the north in Pantina, a mixed town of Serbs and Albanians that houses a Yugoslav army base.