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Glimmer of hope for peace in Kosovo
Yugoslavia ready to accept principles to end crisis

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Yugoslavia signaled acceptance Tuesday of Kosovo peace principles set down several weeks ago by the G-7 and Russia, while NATO airstrikes continued for a 70th day. Fighting spilled into northern Albania when the allies mistakenly bombed government bunkers.

Military officials from more than 30 nations were in Belgium Tuesday, drafting plans for an international security force in Kosovo that would ensure ethnic Albanians return to their homes safely.The group meeting at NATO's military headquarters -- 19 NATO nations and 12 partner countries -- will help create a force of 50,000, nearly double the number originally envisioned more than two months ago.

President Clinton stressed Monday that a large majority of the troops in the force will come from NATO nations and perhaps countries outside NATO like Russia and Ukraine. The American force is expected to number about 7,000, he said in a Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I know that many Americans believe that this is not our fight," Clinton told an audience of active-duty and retired military personnel. "But remember why many of the people are laying in these graves out here -- because of what happened in Europe and because of what was allowed to go on too long before people intervened."

The details of a possible peace accord came as envoys from Russia, Finland and the United States met Tuesday at a German hotel overlooking the Rhine River to discuss several remaining obstacles -- NATO demands for foreign troops on Yugoslav soil to police the peace deal among the most serious.

The Kosovo conflict has forced more than 850,000 ethnic Albanians from their homes and homeland since March -- mostly to tent camps in Albania and Macedonia.

In a new twist, Serb authorities are allowing only ethnic Albanians with valid passports to cross into Macedonia, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said only a trickle of people crossed into Macedonia on Monday because of the new controls. Some 286 people arrived in Albania amid shellfire and rockets.

"We don't know what sort of game they're playing, whether it's some sort of trick or uniform policy," Janowski said in reference to the Serbs.

On the diplomatic front, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin expressed optimism that the talks including U.S. Deputy of Secretary of State Strobe Talbott could lead soon to a political solution.

But Britain's defense secretary said NATO is far from satisfied with President Slobodan Milosevic's latest stratagem.

"He has broken promise after promise," George Robertson said at the Defense Ministry. "His track record leads to one conclusion: We must not and cannot trust his words."

If the German talks are successful, Ahtisaari would travel with Chernomyrdin to the Yugoslav capital to meet with Milosevic on Wednesday.

Before leaving Moscow for Bonn, Chernomyrdin would not give details about "new proposals worked out by the Russian side" but said he expected that the talks would bring progress.

"This week must be decisive in the search for a compromise on how to direct the military conflict into a political channel," Chernomyrdin said. "All sides, including the United States, Europe and Russia, have an enormous desire to find a political solution."

While Milosevic said dozens of civilian deaths in recent days from NATO bombings endangered peace efforts, his foreign minister reiterated that Belgrade would accept the general principles set down by Russia and the seven top industrialized democracies for ending the Kosovo crisis.

The private Beta news agency said Zivadin Jovanovic had sent a letter to German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer accepting the principles, "including the presence of United Nation troops" in Kosovo.

Robertson said the Yugoslav acceptance was not enough -- that Milosevic also must sign on to NATO troops in any international Kosovo peace force -- but Milosevic was starting to bend.

Alliance officials insisted there will be "no negotiations" with Belgrade until the Yugoslav government halts the violence in Kosovo, withdraws 40,000 troops from the province and allows 50,000 NATO-led troops in to secure the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

NATO pressed ahead with its escalated air campaign. In Kosovo, U.S. A-10 "Warthog" jets struck Serb forces clashing with ethnic Albanian rebels in the hills along Albania's border.

Belgrade and large parts of northern Serbia suffered another blackout after two transformer stations were hit on the outskirts of Belgrade, Beta said.

NATO said its jets struck the presidential villa at Dobanovci just outside Belgrade, where Milosevic has a command bunker, and the military police headquarters in Pristina, Kosovo's capital. Army barracks were hit in seven different locations, including Belgrade and Pec. A highway bridge was hit at Raska.

Fighting spilled across the Kosovo frontier into Albania early Tuesday as NATO warplanes apparently bombed government bunkers by mistake and villagers fled Serb shelling. Western journalists joined the exodus after jets attacked as they were filming bomb damage on the Albanian side.