Ethnic Albanian militants rejected the latest call to stop their fight for an independent Kosovo, and international observers Thursday fanned out for a firsthand look at battle zones.
In western Kosovo, ethnic Albanian fighters held their ground a few miles from the Albanian border. Their deputy commander, Gani Shehu, said Serb police have failed to dislodge the guerrillas in two days of attacks that ended Wednesday night, but added the fighting left "many dead" on both sides. He did not elaborate.The United States and European countries trying to stop the fighting demanded an immediate cease-fire Wednesday and for the first time called on governments to crack down on the flow of funds to the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.
But the call, issued by the six-nation "Contact Group" that coordinates international policy for the Balkans, appeared to have little effect on the militants.
The Geneva-based Popular Movement of Kosovo, which claims to bankroll the KLA, said nothing short of independence would satisfy the guerrillas.
Spokesman Mahmuti Bardhyl said the KLA would agree to a cease-fire only if the Serbs withdrew all armed units from the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs nine to one.
That stance was repeated by Naim Maloku, a top KLA commander in western Kosovo in an interview published by the Albanian language daily Koha Ditore.
"The war has been imposed on us," Maloku said. "We had no other way out."
He also rejected calls by the Contact Group - the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy - for the KLA to accept the leadership of the province's leading nonviolent Albanian politician, Ibrahim Rugova.
The Contact Group wants the KLA to allow Rugova to negotiate the future of the province with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Kosovo is a province of Serbia, which together with Montenegro forms Yugoslavia.